So, I asked my players this weekend a fairly simple question:
What do you imagine when I say 'you see a goblin coming at you, describe what he looks like'
There were 5 players, and all of the answers were similar. Here's what was the same:
Short (although this varied from 3'-5')
pointy teeth/beady eyes
low quality equipment
green (with one player saying green-brownish)
4 of the players included some form of "bad hygiene" as well:
dirty and smelly and messy
greasy hair (if any)
and my personal favorite: very Tolkien-esque
Now, I asked this question with a specific goal in mind: to give the goblins of Mord Mar a distinctive flavor and description. But, it brought me to something deeper. The game we play and love is mostly inside of our imaginations. We don't all see the same thing from a description. Let me give an example:
Two humanoids are walking down the corridor toward you. One is wearing heavy armor, with a helmet covering their face. The other is dressed in all black and wearing a fedora type hat. Both are carrying weapons, sheathed but ready. The stop at the edge of your torchlight and wait, seeming to stare at you.
What weapon is the 'heavy armor character' carrying? What does his helmet look like? Do you imagine the fedora wearer as a rogue type character? Or a mage? What type of weapon is sheathed at their side? What sex are each of them? Please feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments, if you want.
Description makes and breaks an encounter. It is probably the most important skill of a game master. Therefore it is important to get any description right. With this in mind, here is the first official description of a Mord Mar goblin.
Goblins in Mord Mar are short, nimble creatures, standing about 3 1/2 feet tall. They have gray skin and small heads, which are barely humanoid. Their ears are small and pointed, similar to a cat's. Their armor and weapons are of low quality, usually scavenged from a corpse, or fashioned from primitive materials. Their stench radiates around them, a mixture of stale sweat and foul breath. A goblin's teeth are small razors that jut in crazy directions, and their mouths look much to big for their faces. Most goblins in Mord Mar have small, angular noses, with tiny nostrils. This makes them breathe through their mouths.
Goblins live in tribal units called 'warrens.' Life in a warren is chaotic and brutal. Most males live short lives, and are destined to die at the hands of their kin. Females are treasured prizes which are frequently gambled with, or fought over. It is not uncommon for a female to be killed by someone who just won her. Goblins fear anything stronger than themselves, and will flee, leaving behind anything they are not carrying when confronted with something more powerful.
Warren hierarchy is strongest to weakest. A leader only stays a leader as long as he can win battles. Most leaders will use poison to keep themselves on top of the warren. They will often employ the poison before a troublemaker can challenge them.
Feel free to comment about this description as well.