Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Making a Goblin Class for Dwimmermount

The short version: Even though a goblin NPC played a role in the original Dwimmermount campaign, the published version of Dwimmermount doesn’t contain rules for goblin PCs, so I wrote some and put them here

WHY GOBLINS?
The original Dwimmermount campaign included a goblin hireling named Brakk, who died when a bucket of acid fell on his head. James envisioned goblins as a replacement for halflings, which didn’t fit his vision of the pulp-fantasy inspired setting he was creating for his megadungeon. These goblins were less the twisted monsters of the Lord of the Rings movies and more the puckish fairy-folk of pre-Tolkien fantasy novels.

I always really like the idea of altering D&D in subtle ways to make it better fit your vision of a campaign. Especially with original D&D and its imitators, the rules are just light enough to allow you to fill in details, taking the game in different directions while not deviating from the spirit of the rules. Outlawing halflings just because you don’t like them is bad DM mojo in my book. Taking them out and then replacing them with another flavor of a similar archetype, however, is good stuff.

So, when I finally got my hands on the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System version of Dwimmermount, one of the first things I did was run a text search for goblin. When I didn’t find any rules, I hit up the ACKS message boards to find out why. As I suspected, someone had beaten me to the question. Where were the goblin PCs?

The answer was that Dwimmermount was already a really big book to put together and not everything that James mentioned or used could make the final cut. Autarch was confident, however, that the fans would come up with some cool homebrewed goblin classes. As I was digging around their message boards to find a couple that I could steal, it dawned on me that no one had yet made the class. Yup, the fan we were waiting on, in this case, turned out to be me. If I wanted a goblin class, I’d have to come up with one.

DESIGN GOALS
I didn’t make this class out of whole cloth. It wasn’t born out of an idea I had at all. Rather, it’s more like an homage to something someone else made. James M. already created a perfectly serviceable Labyrinth Lord version of the goblin that could definitely work in ACKS without too much effort.

I saw an opportunity to create something specifically tailored to the ACKS rules. The Player’s Companion contains rules for designer your own classes that mirror those found in the main book. I’ve always wanted to tinker around with those rules anyway and here was a great excuse to do so.

The first thing I did was distill game-stats out of James’ original description. The final list looked a little like this:

Goblin Generic Game Stats:
1. They are Fighter / Thieves
2. They have 90’ Infravision / -1 “to hit” in sunlight (subterranean goblin) OR 60’ Infravision / no “to hit penalty” (surface goblins)
3. Larger creatures suffer a -2 penalty to hit them
4. +1 bonus to Dexterity for initiative purpose

Next, I made a list of goblin traits that I think are either expressed or implied in James’ original.

Goblin Non-Game Stats:
1. Goblins live alongside and within human settlements. They have no lands of their own.

However…

2. Goblins are really damned arrogant about it.
3. There are still evil (read Chaos) goblins wandering around the mythic underworld (read dungeons)
4. If you need more abilities or ideas, turn to folklore ideas before you turn to D&D tropes.

Since goblins don’t have their own lands, it doesn’t make sense for them to enter the ACKS endgame the same way that other races do. To this end, I took inspiration from this thread and used creases’ idea of forcing all goblin builds to put four full points in the Race category, while keeping the actual cost of investing those points low

These goblins can fight, although their limited armor and lower hit points keeps them from outshining fighters. I also wanted them to be able to perform some thief abilities, but a lot of thief abilities coupled with infravision seemed like it might make the class too useful at stealth. Thus, I narrowed the list down quite a bit, gave them a racial stealth ability (making them better than thieves at first but eventually worse), and delayed pick pockets and read languages. The end result, hopefully, is a nice hybrid of fighter and thief that won’t outshine either, while retaining enough flavor to stand on its own.

Here are a few notes on the rest of their abilities:

Remove Traps: Note that they cannot necessarily find the traps. At least, they don’t have any better chance than just a standard PC using the Adventuring proficiency.

Hard to Spot: Deliberately added to make them better than thieves at early levels and worse as the XP divide grew.

Small Size: This was the hardest ability to assess as far as cost for the custom class rules found in the Player’s Companion. The bonus is pretty big (+2) but it doesn’t come up all the time (how often are you fighting things ogre-sized and up? Fairly frequently, but not all the time.) In the end, I decided it was worth 1.5 abilities and called it good.

Crafty: Shoemaker elves come to mind. I really like the idea that goblins are good at making things, but are too chaotic to really apply themselves.

Natural Linguists: According to the Dwimmermount book, the goblin language is very difficult to learn, but even the dumbest goblin picks it up with ease. This is just a natural extension of that idea. Goblins get less bonus languages than other demi-humans, but they can pick them.

Surly Attitude: This is based on the inhuman trait from the Player’s Companion, only goblins get no corresponding bonus to offset it. It was pretty clear in James’ original writeup that goblins are kind of insufferable jerks, at least when they know it won’t get them in too much trouble.

Loremaster: I just thought this was a cool addition to the race. After all, goblins have been around as a people longer than anyone else, so it stands to reason that they might know a few things from time to time. Also, Dwimmermount does not allow bard PCs by default, so this is a niche that wasn’t already being filled.

I ended up dropping a little from James’ writeup and adding my own, of course, but the end result is close to its inspiration. I also added a few rules to make it a bit easier (and cheaper) to hire goblins, since the original Dwimmermount goblin was an NPC hireling.

NAMING THE CLASS
The final challenge was naming the goblin class. Following the precedent in the main rulebook, I couldn’t just call them goblins. I had to do what the authors did with the dwarven craftpriest and elven spellsword and come up with a unique name for the class.

My original idea was to call the class a goblin sneak. Level titles would have been things like agent, specialist, and expert. I had a little epiphany, however, while searching for more obscure types of goblins from folklore. Apparently, there is a type of goblin in English folklore called a bluecap. Now, we’re all familiar with the murderous fey called redcaps, but I had never heard of a bluecap. What if, I reasoned, the bluecaps were the surface goblin answer to the redcaps? Rather than muderers, these goblins would be professional thieves, and their distinctive hats would tip off those looking to hire them.

So inspired, I set off looking for level titles. A surprising number of modern words for goblins and goblin-like creatures have all evolved from the same root words. This results in a lot of similar-sounded words for mischievous fairies. Surprisingly, with only a little modification, I was able to generate an entire list that all begin with the letter B.

Please check out my take on the Dwimmermount goblin, the goblin bluecap. Next time you’re looking to hire a locksmith with loose morals to sneak you into the local dungeon, you could save a little gold and hire a boggel-man. Just a suggestion. 

The finished class is here.

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