Clannad Series Part 4: Goblins of the Folly

Like orcs, goblins started out as simple opposing forces in the Rasherochernon’s Folly games I ran for my spouse. And also like orcs, they’ve grown to be much more. The turning point came in Season 3, whose major campaign arc centered on the young noble Gaheris forging an alliance between humans, goblins, and kobolds in order to defuse an impending conflict with trolls moving in from the west. Since then, goblins have been friends more often than foes to the other clannad of the Folly.


Found in terrain from deserts to glaciers, goblins eke out a living in places where other clannad rarely venture, as well as in more hospitable forests and mountains. Their tendency toward small groups means they are mobile and responsive to environmental challenges. They usually split into smaller bands if their number grows beyond thirty. More sedentary groups might approach up to a hundred in number at most.

Goblins organize themselves into troupes rather than family units. Troupes will sometimes trade members when they meet, like trading baseball cards or Pokémon, decided on a whim. A goblin tracks her family relationships through means such as complex hair braids or beads strung on garment fringe. These family maps are examined closely by members of two troupes who meet. One troupe might offer a member for trade to the other because the offered member has a cousin in the other troupe whom she hasn’t seen since childhood; in return, that troupe might give over one of their number who has no family relationship to the first troupe in order to maintain the first troupe’s genetic diversity.

Troupes tend to organize their methods of support around the cycle of births. They hunt during periods where most of their number are available (late summer and fall in temperate climes) and put meat by for winter using mobile smoking racks or salt packs. Births are usually timed for early spring, and a troupe will stay in place until summer, sending long patrols to gather while the mothers and their caretakers enjoy the infants and do nearby gathering of their own.

The ordinary goblin agricultural model is a cultured nomadic gathering lifestyle. A troupe maintains fruit and nut orchards, edible ground plants and herbs, stocked ponds, and populations of small game over a broad region, moving between areas to prevent overtaxing any one zone. Carefully balanced goblin agriculture can appear to be wild foraging to other clannad, and conflict sometimes arises when those other clannad wish to settle and develop goblin territories because the goblins “aren’t doing anything with it”.

Many goblin troupes, however, thrive in more populated areas. They engage in brisk trade, act as scouts or guides, sell their services as mercenaries, or entertain with tumbling routines and witty plays. The term “troupe” is the Common word for a group of goblins precisely because of these interactions. Such gregarious goblin troupes are rarely comfortable in one place for too long, but they frequently circuit through familiar places, plying their trade of choice at each stop.

The governance of a troupe is more freeform than most other clannad societies. Small groups mean more opportunities for direct democracy, though most troupes still have specialized positions which hark to hierarchy. For example, a troupe might have a designated speaker who does the bulk of verbal interaction with outsiders, giving the impression that the speaker is a leader who can make decisions on behalf of the troupe. In actuality, a speaker might declare something only to have the rest of the troupe quickly offer their “votes” in the form of clamored agreement or dissent; the speaker may then confound her conversation partner by immediately offering a statement in stark contradiction to what was just said. This sort of dynamic is definitive of most areas of troupe decision-making, and while it gives goblins the appearance of flightiness or minimal intelligence, it actually points to their ability to quickly adapt to input and to the trust they have in themselves as a troupe.

Goblin lifespans usually fall between 30 to 80 years (though that span increases dramatically with intermixture; for example, a single recent kobold ancestor will easily add half again that figure). Counter to other societies, it is sedentary goblins who live longer than their nomadic cousins; nomadic goblin troupes are less protected from the dangers of the world, and their members are sometimes too curious or foolhardy for their own good. Overall, life is less difficult for goblins on the Folly than elsewhere, and they enjoy the same increased life expectancy as other clannad.

Goblins are generally not concerned with religion at the troupe level, and in some troupes it is considered troubling for a member to become too devoted to a deity. On the other hand, members of troupes which have plentiful contact with non-goblins often pick up some of their habits, epithets, and observances. “Loner” goblins who live in non-goblin society full-time have been known to become dedicants to one deity or another, especially Matzh, the deity of community and celebration.

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