Lets Not Build a World - Goblins
Ahh, goblins. The bread and butter of western fantasy roleplaying, the creme de la creme of low level PC experience gain, the dudes you killed a bajillion times without even batting an eyelash in almost every video game with a remotely RPG element in it ever made. I have to say, fuck them.
Goblins are bland and overused. All too often they’re an easy out, taking the role of bandits or barbarians you can’t barter with in regular campaigns as well as an experience soak for underleveled players. What’s the fun in using something that literally everyone has experienced already? Especially when they don’t have any personality. D&D goblins are the biggest offenders in this department. While the index writes them as being the darkest, most violent part of a child’s mind, permanently trapped in the body of a vicious forest sprite, most DMs will simply write them into a campaign as a bunch of green dudes you run into in caves or random encounters. There’s no backstory for a goblin. No interest can be generated by a goblin. You see a goblin, you kill a goblin, move on. Lame.
Warhammer and Magic: The Gathering did fun things with goblins. 40K made them drug-addicted, suicidal monster herders that often sacrificed themselves because it was fun. Magic made the goblins dangerously stupid, and dangerously stupid in such a way that when a goblin army marches the collateral damage to every side involved is catastrophic. Ninety-Nine Nights made them a playable campaign race, and anyone who reads Tolkien knows that the goblins are a really fun bunch in that particular universe. Elder Scrolls at least tried: There was a side quest that describes how the goblins war among tribes, right before you kill them all and never use the mechanic again. Either way, they have too much exposure. Though I used them a lot in my early days, I can not and will not involve goblins in my campaigns. Period.
Let’s loot a chest: The Scepter Foolscap and the Wand of Wonder
Two very awesome wands with two very mercurial abilities. The Scepter Foolscap is a unique wand that is held by a certain character, with one end being black and the other being white. The white end heals all wounds, illnesses, lost levels, lost abilities, and amputated limbs. The black end, according to the index, does between 6 and 36 damage with a mere touch. In my campaigns I tend to make the effects of the black end a little more… colorful, shall we say. Though I have not DMed in almost a decade, none of my players have ever successfully acquired this little gem.
The Wand of Wonder is a Gemini’s best friend. As a joke (and punishment to the other players) a DM ended up awarding my wild mage a Wand of Wonder. Normally a wand that has a random effect every time you use a charge (from shooting daggers to turning peasants into flowers), she also gave me control over the wand. This was probably the biggest mistake anybody has ever made in a game of D&D, as I proceeded to completely ruin the campaign and fuck with every aspect of the storyline. Talk to king what’s his face? Not if his throne is made of bees! Fight a guardian hydra? Not if I’m three times his size and kick him into the sea! Whenever I award ol’ Wandy, I make sure I give it to the most unstable player at the table. Threats to give them control of the wand are usually met with people paying for my share of the pizza.
Let’s build a world: The Gnoll
Gnolls and my campaigns have a sort of lovey-dovey relationship that any one who knows me can instantly recognize. Hyena-men that I usually add into outcast societies alongside the Alligator Warriors, Gnolls are drooling, chittering, giggling crazies that hunt in huge packs and tear apart wayward players who dare fuck around in that strangely lit swamp all my NPCs told them not to fuck around in. I usually make it so that they’re borderline insane, laughing maniacally even as they die, drown, or burn to death… but especially when they continue to attack the unconcious bodies of knocked out players.
I told you guys not to fuck around in my swamp.
Let’s build a world: The Alligator Warrior
Alligator Warriors come from an old Sword and Sorcery monster compendium called the Creature Collection, and are an old favorite of mine when it comes to populating an interesting world. Territorial, hooting bipedal gator-men stalking their prey through a murky swamps, setting primitive traps and hurling javelins at Aaron’s stupid wizard. An interesting point about the gators is that they come from a culture that is half constant clan sparring and half creepy carnival, so with a little bit of story magic and my good friends the Gnolls I can make them a truly awesome part of a campaign.
Anybody who reads this thing or who knows me in more than a cursory sort of way has long realized that I am a horrible, horrible nerd. It’s why I have an opinion on robot ethics, why I know what a Space Marine is, and why for years I had a Dungeons & Dragons monster manual in the same drawer I keep my condoms. For this reason, I now present some of my nerdy treasures.
The Wearboar - Mage Knight Miniatures
Were-creatures are a bit of a gamble in Mage Knight. On the one hand, a Veteran tier Werebear can absolutely thrash many of the game’s hand-to-hand units once the transformation threshold has been reached. On the other, any respectable ranged unit can and likely will doubleshot were-creatures with 3-4 damage attacks in an attempt to kill them before they enter the “uh-oh” range of the click wheel. This generally succeeds, which makes them all the more problematic. You could try to Push them into transformation range with extra actions, but that’s just giving your opponent free chunks of health.
The humble Wereboar, first introduced in the “Mage Knight Dungeons” expansion, shares the traits of its mutant brethren in that it starts off with crap stats for a click or two before turning into a hulking monstrosity. Yet unlike the nigh-invincible Werebear or drive-by bastard Werewolf, the Wereboar just moves from a low level figure into a mid-to-high level figure. The Toughness ability helps in mitigating damage, and 16 Def is a nice touch, but the real issue is that crappy movement range. While your Wereboar is hobbling around at 4 moves per turn (even with Plow), just about everything else is placing themselves to tag-team his ass or dip around the back for a flank strike. Unless you’re running with an all-magespawn team or have some nasty support cannons waiting in the wings, this wannabe bruiser will be relegated to sitting in the corner of dungeon games until “Beard Grizzlefeet” comes along and nukes him for 40 gold.
Shamus Young’s DM of the Rings.