Our Goblins Are Different
Goblins are small, ugly creatures which tend to be evil
, crabby, and/or mischievous. While they're smaller and weaker than orcs
(when they don't refer to the same creature) and trolls
(most of the time), goblins may make up for this by being being dangerous in other ways. They may manufacture clever traps to trip up the unwary foe, or overwhelm him through sheer numbers
. Either way, goblins in folklore and fantasy fiction may differ almost as much as trolls do.
In folklore, goblins were diminutive household pests, or at best wild creatures, and were typically conflated with whatever trolls
fit the trope. A stronger form of goblin may be known as a hobgoblin, though the term originally denoted the friendlier
variety of goblin (the word 'hob' being derived either from the shelf at the back of a fireplace and thus indicating 'hearth and home' or from a Middle English nickname for "Robert"). English Puritans later started using the word 'hobgoblin', originally meaning a friendlier variety of goblin, to mean 'demon', which probably is why Tolkien used the word 'hobgoblin' to mean 'a bigger goblin'. Both goblins and hobgoblins, if they were viewed at all as a mythical race, instead of just monsters
or diminutive faeries
of the nasty sort, would be generally considered the "dark
in that culture.
In fantasy, goblins have gained a distinct purpose: their lack of size and strength makes any evil act they may commit seem comical by default
, and thus they tend to serve as the lowest rung of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil
, and are usually the first
kind of Mook
a budding adventurer
must overcome. "Hobgoblin" became the denomination for a stronger variety of goblins (which may or may not be conflated with the orc). This usage of the word was then propagated by Dungeons & Dragons
. Generally if you have both hobgoblins and
orcs, hobgoblins will be a more 'civilised' regimented evil while orcs will be dim, marauding barbarians — though, aesthetically, goblins will be the ones who grab their stuff from the scrap yard while the orcs will buy their equipment (or kill you and take it from your corpse).
Two new recent trends in modern fantasy is to make goblins have a slightly more fleshed out role by:
1) Turning them into a Proud Merchant Race
with a unique gift for managing your money
, or separating you from it
2) Making goblins the masters of technology, often shunned by other races in the setting (with gnomes
being possible exceptions). In accordance with the less-than-serious overall image of goblins, their inventions tend to be rickety and unstable
, hilariously violent
, or they simply explode spectacularly at a slightest provocation
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- Gold Digger The Gaoblins were once a race that fought with the Dynasty as their willing army. But when their masters ran for quasi-space, they abandoned the Gaoblins to the rest of the universe. In order to hide from the universal lynch-mob from killing them they slaughtered the Eldrich, Trolvic, Atlantian and Krynn. Then disguised themselves genetically as the ones they slaughtered. All except for the ones who resided on the Dynasty's base-station "Oblivion" remained true Gaoblin.
- Little Nemo in Slumberland gave us the Boomps. While most goblins in Nightmareland are evil, the Boomps are good goblins who are outcasts in Nightmareland and enemies of the Nightmare King.
- Spider-Man features a number of villains with goblin motiffs (mostly Green Goblins and Hobgoblins). They are usually just super powered humans with gadgets. The only exceptions would be Demogoblin who was a demon that was once bonded to one of the many Hobgoblins and the Ultimate Marvel version of Norman Osborn who could turn into a green brute that bore a closer resemblance of a goblin.
- Van Von Hunter volume 2 has the "darkness-loving goblins" in that world as "elves" corrupted by demonic magic. Hollow-tree, cookie-baking elves. Who still make great baked goods.
- In With Strings Attached, the goblins of Goblin Valley are “a burnt orange, big-headed, toothy folk, averaging three feet in height.” George has to become one, and to his great disgust he discovers that “he was weak, his head made him oddly balanced, his tongue was long enough that he could have made Gene Simmons cry, and almost from the moment he became the thing he started craving meat and got a permanent hard-on from wanting to screw everything in sight. He ended up having to *ping* turn himself into a eunuch and prayed to God he wouldn't get stuck that way.”
Films — Animated
- The goblins in The Princess and the Goblin have incredibly tough skin, to the point that boulders falling on their head don't bother them and swords bend when they strike. They're incapacitated by even light blows to their feet though, and cheerful singing repels them.
Films — Live-Action
- Master Yoda from Star Wars has a similar look to a classic goblin.
- Labyrinth features goblins as its villains. Most of them are straight examples of the trope, except the Goblin King, who looks like... well, David Bowie.
- Probably why fanon almost universally maintains that Jareth is a fairy, that and he fits the profile extraordinarily well.
- Troll 2, which has nothing to do with Troll and has no trolls in it, is about goblins in a town known as Nilbog. They are evil vegetarians who can disguise themselves as humans, which they like doing to trick people into consuming some kind of creepy green stuff that turns them into piles of spinach, so that the vegetarian goblins can eat them. The goblins are portrayed by little people wearing potato sacks and masks, which come in a total of three different designs, one of which is hilariously bug-eyed. They also fight with fishing spears, even when they're trying to hunt people.
- The Gremlins of the Gremlins films are basically goblins, though with a very odd life cycle (start off as a fuzzy creature, mutate into a green-skinned furless creature if they eat after midnight, reproduce spontaneously if exposed to water...)
- The Gremlin is a folkloric creature dating back to at least World War II. It jams guns, pokes holes in radiator hoses, tears engine gaskets, and performs other acts of technological sabotage. Gremlins feature in several Bugs Bunny propaganda shorts from the era.
- In Hobgoblins, they're plush-sized furry space creatures that can make your deepest fantasies manifest. They're also incredibly incompetent for monsters. They only manage to kill one guy in the entire film. They even failed to kill one of the main characters!
- Hobgoblin is Hob Goblin, or Robert/Robin Goblin, also known as Robin Goodfellow or Puck. He's a cheerful sprite sometimes associated with the Devil. You call him Hob to avoid speaking his name and Goodfellow to avoid speaking offense.
- In NERO, goblins are green, small and have orange mohawks. Depending on the average player level of the franchise the can range from significant threats in large numbers to comedy relief. Hobgoblins are reddish-brown and have more hit-points and are less likely to be used as comedy relief.
- In Dagorhir, goblins and orks are a collective ("the greenskins"). Although the orks are the larger and more powerful folks and typically wield more authority and influence, the Big Boss is currently a goblin. Consequently their "cunnin' plans" tend to involve less brute force and more silliness. With the exception of a few, they are predominantly cannon fodder.
- Note that the spelling of "ork" with a K is intentional. Also note that here the difference between "goblin" and "ork" is predominantly a question of size, and that they are otherwise functionally identical.
- In Middle-earth, the word "goblin" is just the English translation for "orc" ("orc" being a Hobbit word, the Westron rendering of the Elvish orch).note The Movie implied that goblins are small orcs that live in the mountains, but this distinction is nowhere to be found in the Lord of the Rings book, and only arguably appears as one line in The Hobbitnote .
- Tolkien said elsewhere that he meant hobgoblin to mean 'larger goblin, orc' but ruefully added that he later looked up the etymology and found it in fact implied smaller goblin or other mischievous creature. Also, in his early drafts of The Silmarillion (The Book of Lost Tales) "goblin" is simply used to mean orc.
- In The Lord of the Rings Online, goblins are listed as orc-kind, but are smaller and craftier than their bigger and more brutish orc brethren.
- In one of the background information books written for the canon of the movies, the Goblins were originally orcs that fled under the mountains and evolved from Sauron's Second Era army. They worship the Balrog as their god, and the videogames imply that much of their weaponry and armor is scavenged or recycled men or dwarven weapons (elven magic repulses them).
- The goblins from Harry Potter are hook-nosed bankers which are slightly friendlier than other goblin examples listed here, but tend to have a sneaky streak.
- The History classes imply their past was filled with countless bloody rebellions until they arrived at some sort of compromise with the wizards.
- They also have a different concept of ownership than humans do (you cannot own something goblins made; any exchange of money for possession of a goblin-made thing is by default a rental), which causes problems at a crucial moment of the final book when some goblins with whom Harry and Co. have made a deal decide the terms have been met by the stingiest definition possible and try to take back the sword of Godric Gryffindor by force.
- "Goblin Market" is a long, long, long Narrative Poem by Christina Rossetti where the goblins are merchants who offer lavishly-described fruit to humans. One of the main characters eats some and starts to waste away, human food being no good to her any more. One interpretation is that the goblins represent foreigners, polluting the innocent protagonists with their eeeevil trade and cosmopolitanism; another is that the poem is a Coming of Age Story about a girl's sexual awakening.
- The goblins in Cecilia Dart-Thornton's Crowthistle Chronicles are completely different. They've been sealed up in a cave for so long that the folk tales about them have confused them with their diminutive, aggressive and stupid servants (Kobolds, so-called because they're some form of construct made of cobalt). The Goblins turn out to be more like traditional elves - tall, skinny, aristocratic. They're also vegan, but the whole book they appear in turns out to be thinly veiled propaganda for PETA...
- Also some fun back-to-front etymology there. The element cobalt is named after the mythical kobolds, because medieval miners blamed them for poisoning the mine when they got sick from inhaling arsenic-laden cobalt dust.
- Artemis Fowl goblins are reptilian and have fire powers. To quote the book: "Goblins; evolution's little joke. Take the stupidest creature in existence and give them the ability to conjure fire." Which isn't strictly true. Goblins clearly aren't very bright, but they are sentient, speak, have a culture, and are held individually responsible for breaking Fairy law. The quoted suggestion that they're stupider than animals is Fantastic Racism. They seem to be intelligent enough to be much more dangerous than a common animal, but almost impossibly stupid by the standards of sentient creatures—basically, a whole race of ditzes.
"Missed me," said the goblin, waggling his forked tongue. It was a testament to the goblin's stupidity that he could be trapped in a melting vehicle during a lockdown with an LEP officer firing at him, and still think he had the upper hand.
- Artemis asks why the LEP assumes the conspiracy has to be headed by non-goblins. Foaly explains that goblins are so stupid that they caught the head of the cartel because he signed his real name when using a fake ID.
- Bruce Coville's goblins (in Goblins in the Castle and the short story "The Stinky Princess"), while definitely weird, are mostly snarky and pragmatic, and tend to be a lot more decent than many human characters.
- Coville's book and children's stage play "The Dragonslayers" features "goons", which are plainly run-of-the-mill dimwitted goblins who serve as henchmen to the witch antagonist.
- Eldon Thompson's Asahiel trilogy played most High Fantasy tropes extremely straight, but was notable for putting fresh spins on several nonhuman races- such as goblins. In this world, rather than being small and weak, goblins are related to elves, human-sized, highly intelligent, and extremely fast. This last in particular makes them one of the most dangerous of the "monster" races in the trilogy, generally ranked by those with experience fighting them only behind giants and dragons.
- Lisa Shearin's novels (starting with Magic Lost, Trouble Found) feature "goblins" that are basically grey-skinned elves, with fangs, several levels in badass, and a tendency towards BDSM, cannibalism, and general nastiness. They're basically Dark Elves, but believably well-written.
- Discworld uses the term goblin occasionally, but it just seems to be an alternate name for gnomes. (The original version of "Theatre of Cruelty" uses "goblin", the online version has "gnome".)
- Unseen Academicals establishes goblins as a distinct — and extremely rare — species, similar in appearance to small and odd-looking humans. The only known literature about them is the anthropological text Five Hours and Sixteen Minutes Among the Goblins of Far Uberwald, which according to the author was five hours too long. Incidentally, orcs are introduced in the same novel, but are something else entirely (despite which, humans tend to confuse them).
- They are elaborated further in Snuff where they are presented as an entire race of Woobies, forced on the edges wherever they go, classified as vermin or property by law in most of the world. They are extremely skilled craftsmen in a very narrow field of making delicate, ornate pots, and they also demonstrate an unexpected skill for stunningly beautiful music.
- The pots are extremely important to what is essentially their religion and entire culture all in one, being something made by a magical process out of anything handy that can't be replicated by non-goblins. The religion is founded on the notion that if one's body is a temple then the things that come out of it are holy, and thus the pots are used to store things like snot and feces; this has given them a reputation for being unpleasantly obsessed with all things nasty and unhygenic.
- The one appearance of goblins in the Garrett, P.I. novels was surprisingly peaceful, in that the goblins in question were bounty hunters Garrett paused to chat with in the street. They were searching for a runaway wife, which was their main line of work: in this world, goblin males outnumber females seven to one, and the gobliness had grown sick and tired of over-macho oafs brawling over possession of her. Note that the goblins rode mangy, red-eyed wolves in the middle of a human city, without rousing any disturbance, thus both adhering to and subverting their usual LotR image.
- In Xanth, goblin males are ugly, rude, cruel, and stupid due to a curse by the harpies that made their females prefer goblins of that type and subsequent natural selection. Their females are essentially the opposite.
- The curse is eventually lifted and the normal selection pressures result in their breeding back to their ancestors, effectively ceasing to exist as goblins. This is shown as a good thing.
- George MacDonald's goblins in The Princess and the Goblin. Thoroughly nasty. Intending to kidnap the princess and marry her to the goblin prince.
- The Noddy series has two greedy and lazy goblins as recurring villains. They basically look like small inbred elves.
- The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams uses goblins as a stand-in for oppressed minorities, fitting with the "modern" Faerie setting.
- The trilogy of Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero, and Goblin War both plays cliches about goblins straight and subverts them. They are mostly depicted as mean, repulsive, and selfish, but they're not actively malevolent to anyone they don't think has antagonized them first, and the hero of the story is a goblin.
- Goblins in The Dresden Files are notably different, at least the ones under the Erlking. These goblins are not cannon fodder - they're professional hunters and warriors, and have ninja-like speed and silence; at one point they get the drop on an entire Red Court vampire commando team and take them down without making a sound.
- Harry describes them as ninjas... from Krypton.
- Brian Froud's Goblins paints them as something like mischievous fairies, intent on driving people insane with constant minor pranks like dancing on freshly cleaned floors with dirty feet or removing your ability to lie in social situations.
- The Goblin Wood takes this trope and runs with this trope to the point you can see the goblin themed gear it wears
- In the Tenabran Trilogy, goblins have a bad rap among humans because they made up the bulk of the Sorcerous Overlord's armies, but it turns out that they're really not that bad, they just suffer from a species-wide lack of resistance to sorcerous mind control. Left to themselves, they're a peaceful and artistic race — but good luck getting people to believe that, particularly since they're still definitely ugly by human standards.
- General Punk duology has goblins as protagonists. They're pragmatic warriors of roughly human size, with inherent magic talent and humanoiditarian reputation.
- Charles Dickens wrote a now-obscure Christmas-themed ghost story (which has strong shadows of that other one) called "The Goblins who Stole a Sexton", sometimes retitled "The Gravedigger and the Goblins" or similar such, about a mean-spirited gravedigger who is kidnapped by goblins on Christmas Eve and taught a lesson. Though the creatures are ultimately beneficial, they are also distinctly ghoulish and sinister. Received an even more obscure animated adaptation from Emerald City Films, which is probably more terrifying than the creators intended.
- In Eric Kimmel's "Hershel and The Hanukkah Goblins''' the goblins that haunt an old synagogue are much closer to demons in appearance and their ways of dealing them than typical goblins but are still referred to as goblins and their Goblin King is far from causing people to faint in his sheer attractiveness; this one would cause this out of fear and is even described as being "too horrible to describe", and outlined in shadow. The illustration shows a shadowy figure with horns shaped like a crown and large wings, and when lit by candlelight, a nearly skeletal, gaunt hand is shown, but not the face in clear sight. This brings some ideas to mind. The goblins seem to follow a hierarchy of Sorting Algorithm of Evil as the goblins first send an imp and send more and more scary goblins after him during Hanukkah until the Goblin King shows up. It is not made clear what they do normally, but on Hanukkah they tend ruin the townspeople's lives for their own amusement and to not have the candles lit.
- Caleb Carr's The Legend of Broken has the Bane who are human but who generations of inbreeding have from people exileed from the title city for falling short of it's religion's stamdards of beauty has resulted in a diminutive and largely unattractive (althogh at least one is handsome enough to play The Casanova among Broken's women) race who harbor great hostility towards said city. Unlike most examples of this trope they get a Sympathetic P.O.V..
- In the October Daye series the title character has a pet rose goblin which looks (and generally acts) like a cat only made of thorny vines.
- In the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, goblins basically look more or less human with random bestial mutations. Each new goblin king has to kidnap a human wife for himself to bring fresh genes into the gene pool.
- Phineas on Power Rangers Mystic Force was only half-goblin. But being half troll, both halves combined to make a really ugly guy, according to his explanation of his Back Story.
- Just as Vulcans and Klingons are basically Space Elves and Orcs respectively, so Ferengi are very much Space Goblins and may have helped inspire the recent interpretation of goblins as a mercantile race.
- Merlin had a literal goblin in Goblin's Gold. It was a small, greenish, bald creature that loved gold and playing tricks on people. It made several people fart, made Uther lose his hair and gave Arthur donkey ears. It could take over a person's body and control them, and the only way to get it out was to almost kill the host.
- Goblins in Dungeons & Dragons, being small, cowardly, and sneaky critters, usually fit the bill of first-level adventurer fodder. Kobolds (small lizard-like creatures related to dragons, Ret Conned from the original scaly but mostly doglike humanoids) serve a similar role, but can be somewhat more dangerous to unwary heroes due to their affinity for traps.
- Other goblinoids exist as well. Hobgoblins are larger and more orc-like, and tend to be militaristic and intelligent. Bugbears (which are even bigger) are brutal, savage thugs who enjoy attacking from ambush.
- In Eberron, Hobgoblins used to control most of the main continent. They had The Empire that fell due to extraplanar & Human invasions. In the current situation goblinoids range from working-class labourers to scholars or well-to-do merchants. There's also a country that tries to recreate some of the old empires' splendor. Goblins and Bugbears were also and integral part of the empire, though they were not the ruling class.
- Of course, with Eberron having no such thing as Always Chaotic Evil (except for planar/fiendish creatures), Goblinoids are not always evil. While they do practice slavery, Goblinoids are also more tolerant of other races than humans themselves (they will allow worthy humans, dwarves and even halflings to join their clans with full citizenship if they are badass enough).
- Another example of this is that the orcs are the ones who put up the barriers warding off the daelkyr, Eberron's Eldritch Abomination(s).
- Aside from standard goblins, Ravenloft has "goblyns": humans transformed by a curse or spell into scaly, fanged brutes who unquestioningly obey the evil master who transformed them. Gremishkas, furry snarling pests resembling rabid monkeys, are more animalistic than either, but match the fairy-tale "goblin" concept, being small aggressive creatures that enjoy thievery and sabotage.
- In Pathfinder, goblins are dangerously stupid pyromaniacs who loathe dogs and horses (the feeling is mutual), are terrified of writing (it can steal your soul!), and sing horrible merry songs about eating babies. Hobgoblins are as militaristic as the Dungeons & Dragons norm but are so universally ambitious that they can't hold an army together for long, being an entire race of Starscreams. Bugbears are psychotic Serial Killers who live for the smell of fear and are unnervingly good at hiding in places nothing that huge should be able to fit... like behind your door or under your bed.
- Overall, there are a TREMENDOUS number of small humanoid races that could fit the "goblin" profile, and might even be called goblins in other worlds. There's Measels, Xvarts, Norkers, Nilbogs (goblins with a bizarre inversion of reality - swing a sword at them or fireball at them, and they heal; cure them and they die), and many many more.
- Mites, phanatons, dark creepers, meenlocks, redcaps, blindheims...
- Warhammer goblins are small, weak, cowardly and cunning and probably a good deal cleverer than the orcs, having been the ones to come up with catapults and bolt throwers. They are, as mentioned before, extremely weedy, and as such usually spend their lives being bullied by any Orcs in the area, when they're not simply being bullied by a bigger Gobbo (and that's assuming they don't just knock you over the head and eat you).
- There are also Night Goblins, an underground dwelling sort who breed mutant (and carnivorous) mobile fungi and ingest magic mushrooms that turn them into frothing, super strong madmen.
- Snotlings are even smaller, weaker and stupider than other goblins. (An' dat's saying somefing!)
- Hobgoblins are a bit like big (human sized) goblins, but are even more deceitful and backstabbing. They have their own civilisation (a Mongol style khanate far to the east of the Old World), but are mostly seen in their role as slave drivers working for the Chaos Dwarfs - which is part of the reason even other greenskins will have nothing to do with them.
- Which is a serious downplay on how they were originally portrayed. In the older hardback book editions, Hobgoblins were not quite as tough as Orcs, but far more disciplined, and not only dressed like Mongols, they also rode around on animated stone temple dog guardians, of the Chinese style. They were also more humanlike in build and size, and were the only goblinoids in Warhammer to be able to grow hair. Now they're just bigger goblins.
- Gnoblars are large-eared (and nosed) Goblinoids who get bossed around by the Ogres.
- There's also the Gretchins and Snotlings—collectively called "Grots"—in Warhammer 40,000, who are bossed around, kicked, and occasionally used as helpers, ammo caddies, ammo, missile guidance systems, mine-clearing equipment, human... er, Grot shields, practice targets, and emergency food supplies by the Orks.
- They are also a fair bit more important than that. Gretchin are the societal organisers, making sure everything runs behind the scenes (Orks are noted many times as not having much energy for anything other than war, and during the sporing process, Grots arrive before the Orks, actually making sure the Orks have a society to inhabit when they arrive), being in most part responsible for the entire Orkoid Race's domestic and commercial (non-war related) endeavours. There are Grot entrepreneurs called "Dodgas" who seem to mostly have the talent for ripping off other Orkoids. Grots are rather understated in most Ork fluff, but their importance is less reflected on warfare, which in 40k is unsurprisingly not particularly well explored. Snotlings also have more importance, although most of it is implied. It seems Snotlings have some use in keeping the Squigs in check, and were at one point originally the most dominant and intelligent part of the race, and are now merely childlike organisms.
- Of course, there is the Grot Rebellion...
- GURPS Goblins (3rd Edition) features an entire alternate Earth exactly like ours circa the 1830's but inhabited only by Goblins. It comes off as a parody of Regency England. These particular Goblins are extremely varied, but alike in being base, crude, and vulgar, as well as standing up to cartoon levels of interpersonal violence.
- Another GURPS setting, GURPS Banestorm, features Goblins as short, green humanoids from the mostly arid desert world of Gabrook. They are intelligent, civilized and naturally curious, and actually fit well enough into human society. Hobgoblins are their larger, dumber cousins. While a few live amongst Goblins as servants, most remain hunter-gatherers living in small bands in the wilderness.
- Dominaria, of Magic: The Gathering, has rather orc-like goblins (usually associated with the Red color), as do about half the game's other settings; they're not evil, though, just rowdy and destructive, and serve as the game's comic relief race. The other half are more varied as to their depictions of goblins.
- Examples of the other half:
- Rath has Moggs, a genetically engineered strain of goblin which is larger, stronger and has a distinctive ridge on its head. They're still not very intelligent, though.
- The Kyren goblins of Mercadian Masques were inversions of the normal stupid headstrong goblin: They are the true rulers of Mercadia. They're actually more evil than most other MtG goblins.
- The Akki of the Japanese mythology-influenced plane Kamigawa are based on the kappa of Japanese folklore. In fact, the concept has often been described as "fire kappa".
- Lorwyn boggarts are more adventuresome and intelligent than most, but have a total lack of care for life—their own or others'. Shadowmoor boggarts are nearly mindless eating machines. Shadowmoor also has hobgoblins, who are basically angry hobbits with fangs.
- Goblins on the Alaran shard of Jund are ratlike creatures who simply live to be eaten by the dragons that dominate the shard.
- In terms of actual gameplay, most Magic goblins are small, cheap creatures that lend themselves well to Zerg Rush tactics or uses as convenient sacrificial fodder. Some even come with relevant abilities built right in.
- Changeling: The Lost has the hobgoblins, things that live in the dimension between Earth and Faerie. They're not quite as powerful as the True Fae, but they operate by the same fucked-up rules as them. They're also extremely diverse, ranging from will-o'-the-wisps to kelpies to cunning merchants to gigantic trapdoor spiders.
- While hobgoblins are monsters from the Hedge, it should be noted that "goblin" is a word signifying not the type of creature, but a type of behavior, so to speak. "Goblin" can refer to any fae being who is opportunistic and disloyal (whether a Changeling or a hobgoblin of any sort), or someone who works for a Goblin Market. There are also a lot of Changelings that could be described as "Goblin-like", especially those of the "Wizened" seeming.
- In Changeling: The Dreaming, on the other hand, the closest thing to goblins are the Nocker kith, wiry and foul-mouthed individuals with a tendency towards mad science (and Explosive Instrumentation). In folklore "nockers" or "knockers" are more or less the same as kobolds. Goblins later appeared as their own race, one of the Thallain, and part of the Shadow Court.
- In Dragon Dice, goblins are a race that is equivalent in strength to any of the other races. They are composed of the elements of Earth and Death, and find their home in the swamps of the setting. Instead of the usual warg or wolf mounts for their cavalry, they have trained leopards to serve as mounts.
- In the German Tabletop RPG Das Schwarze Auge aka The Dark Eye, goblins are creatures with reddish-brown fur. They still are clever, dangerous in large numbers and often get bullied by larger races like orcs. Instead of wolves, they ride wild boars, which is also how they depict their mother-goddess. In the latest edition of the game, goblins (along with orcs and lizardmen) became a playable race.
- Iron Kingdoms has Gobbers. Look like Goblins, act like halflings.
- In Exalted, you have hobgoblins. In fact, they are the low part of the fair folk people, and are referred by the name commoners. They can look like usual Goblins, but they also look like anything else, because, you know... Fair folk are in fact Chaos people.
- Warcraft goblins are smaller than orcs, but also have some knowledge of technology, particularly that which explodes. They first showed up in WarCraft II as the inventors of the Horde. They were characterized by their suicidal insanity and seem to be fighting for kicks. In WarCraft III goblins left the Horde, becoming a neutral force. They also gained a greedy side and more self-preservation tendencies, though some still were completely insane. By World of Warcraft they have been developed into their own culture and society, working under a dozen or so businesses, although their profits typically derive from their continued obsession with explosives. Despite originating from Azeroth and therefore not being related to orcs and ogres, and having previously been slaves to Trolls, they seem to have a preference for the Horde. Unlike most other High Fantasy goblins, WarCraft goblins are a civilized people and one of the most technologically advanced races. In the Expansion Pack Cataclysm, some of the goblins rejoin the Horde as playable characters.
- It's easy to explain the disappearance of the suicidal tendencies in the goblins of World of Warcraft; the suicidal ones all blew themselves up, and the survivors have a stronger sense of self-preservation.
- Hobgoblins also exist in White Wolf's WarCraft RPG. Once a tiny goblin, they have been transformed through mad science into huge, stupid, purple-skinned mutant goblins that were created by goblin alchemists as guards. They have acidic sweat. Blizzard possibly introduced their own interpretation of the species as part of the Alchemist Hero in WarCraft III. Hobgoblins spent most of World of Warcraft in the goblins' island nation of Kezan, but in a recent expansion they finally appear through the world as friendly go-fers and worker bees. Goblins themselves usually refer to them as brutes and look unkindly upon them. The other races have taken to calling them Lumbering Oafs and the name has started to stick, even in official ability text.
- The goblins of Warcraft are one of the most technologically advanced species on Azeroth, excepting the ridiculously advanced Draenei. They have built airships, fighter planes, mini-nukes, a submarine, rockets into outer space, Podracers, at least two intelligent species (gilgoblins and the new intelligent space raptors), have built cars, a rocketway, minefields, spy satellites, towns that fit in a box, and a mecha that doubles as a walking lumber mill. And yet all of this is Tim Taylor Technology that is very prone to Phlebotinum Breakdowns compared to their intellectual peak in lore history. Incidentally? The proneness to Phlebotinum Breakdown is intentional. Whether it's a toaster, a child's toy, or a bomb, modern Goblins tend to believe a machine is defective if it's not one or more of:
- Capable of exploding.
- About to explode.
- Currently in the process of exploding.
- Goblins also started out a bit more like goblins of old, dumb as a stump and used for dumb muscle. They were a slave race used by trolls native to Kezan, but the Kaja'mite the trolls had the goblins mine mutated them over time, making them intelligent, short, and very, very greedy, allowing them to overthrow their troll lords and become the bastards we know and love.
- They were short as slaves, as their appeal to the trolls was they could fit into spaces trolls can't. Whether goblins still looked like goblins or were something else (tiny trolls? Pygmies?) before they touched Kaja'mite is one of the lore's big mysteries.
- ...All of which reaches Fridge Logic when you realize that goblins also created the bio-mechanical Power Limiter for Deathwing, and even the Dragon Soul. And they did this ten thousand years ago when night elves had domain over much of the world.
- Though not specifically identified as such, the minions in Overlord fit the goblin archetype quite well, being an Always Lawful Evil species that gleefully follow the titular Evil Overlord. They are split between four tribes, each having their own skills. Although still ugly, their simple-minded loyalty and eagerness to smash and put things on their heads give them an Ugly Cute quality.
- In the first game a member of the Order of the Red Dawn actually refers to them as goblins when explaining to the titular character why he will not be let inside their "establishment".
- Recent Zelda games play this trope straight with Bokoblins, which are smaller versions of the orc-like Moblins that appeared throughout the series. Though in Skyward Sword they seem to resemble Trolls somewhat.
- Moblins count to some degree too as the manual for the first Zelda described them as goblins with bulldog heads (though sometimes they have pig heads in the newer games). While most are just generic monsters, a few have defined personalities. Most of the moblin characters are comical Card Carrying Villains. A friendly moblin in The Legend of Zelda is known for the phrase "IT'S A SECRET TO EVERYBODY."
- Another branch of the family is introduced in Twilight Princess called the Bulbins. Basically they're the smaller variety of their King Mook, Boss Bulbin. They don't seem to be too different from the Bokoblins aside from being green, and dressing in black.
- There's also Miniblins, the smallest member of the Blin species. They're little gremlins with pitchforks who make a weird honking noise often in unison. And infinitely respawn.
- Many goblins, like those in Final Fantasy XI, are perfectly willing to sell their mother for a nickel. The Moblins of Vana'diel, however, seem more in line with a religious sect than anything else. A Steam Punk sect, mind you.
- In the early Final Fantasy games, goblins were little ugly humanoids with knives who existed to give Level 1 Adventurers their very first experience points. Something either goblin-like or named a Goblin appears in pretty much every installment in the series. They are known for the "Goblin Punch" attack (usually falling under Blue Magic) which traditionally does weak physical damage with a powerful bonus if the attacker and target are the same level.
- In the Final Fantasy XIII games, goblins and their ilk appear to be cyborgs of some sort, with large metal weights for hands, wheels for feet, and a massive hole in the middle of their body.
- Goblins are basic troops in a few Heroes of Might and Magic games, usually aligned with the barbarian factions. In Heroes of Might and Magic V they're pretty much a race of Butt Monkeys, prone to cowardice, often used as sacrifices for the orc shamans, and a source of both food and ammunition for the cyclops.
- They also show up as a playable race in Might and Magic VII. They're roughly the size of a human, a bit dumb (though not excessively so — most of the goblin NPCs show no sign of being dumber than the average human NPC), and while most of the non-player (both monster mobs and actual characters) goblins are bad guys, or at least vaguely aligned with the bad guys, nothing hinders player goblins from aligning with the other side.
- There is a playable goblin in the game Enclave. That alone made it worth playing.
- The goblins in Goblin Commander were created by a wizard for the sole purpose of constructing a Great Machine, whose function they do not clearly understand. They come in five subraces, with different jobs: the Stonekrusher clan mines metals for the machine, the Hellfire clan harvests wood for the machine, the Stormbringer clan researches magic and energy for the machine, the Plaguespitter clan grows poisonous herbs to fuel the machine, and the Nighthorde clan's purpose is unclear until late in the game.
- Gobliiins is an Adventure Game series starring "goblins" as the playing characters, but they all look like small pointy-eared humans... except one that is purple and has a pteranodon-like head.
- Atlantica Online, going by the original myth, has goblins as a sort of demon that looks much like humans and are extremely strong for their level, completely inverting the usual portrayal.
- The original Rogue has Ur-Viles, a type of goblin leader (not sure of the source), represented by a capital U. They show up towards the end of the game, and are very dangerous-being hard to hit, and hitting hard in return.
- There are two main types of goblins in Runescape - surface goblins and cave goblins. Green surface goblins are less intelligent than pale green cave goblins. It turns out that surface goblins' lower intelligence is because of their lifestyle, not their natural intelligence which reaches human level.
- Hobgoblins are present too, although in here, they're the result of goblin and ork interbreeding. Hobgoblins are less civilized than goblins.
- Goblins were natives of the plane of Yu'biusk, a fey like place. However, during the God Wars, they were pulled off of it, and Yu'buisk was brought to ruin by Bandos, god of war, whom they served (and refer to as "big high war god"). After the wars, the influence of Bandos faded and they began to fight amongst themselves with no stronger ruler.
- Conkers Bad Fur Day has goblins called goblings as common enemies and NPCs. The first variation is water gobling, a green goblin that is found near water and wears a spiked ball for armor. The second kind are trash talking goblins made out of fire. The next two are a friendly lizard like monk goblin and an allied purple goblin who unknowingly wears a pack of Tn T on his back. An unnamed, invincible, flamethrower-using gobling is also present in one level.
- Dwarf Fortress goblins are vicious brutes that attempt to snatch babies to enslave, besiege fortresses, and generally cause mayhem and consternation to an ill-prepared fortress. They are ostensibly the evil race in Dwarf Fortress, although dwarves under the player's control are often even worse.
- Even more subverted when it's found (using a 3rd party tool that read the dwarves' emotions) that snatched children are ECSTATIC! Goblins are one of the most non-xenophobic race around. They regard the 'slaves' as the same as common goblins!
- Indeed, snatched children from other species can even become goblin military leaders. They're all about equal opportunities.
- Even world to world, goblins can be very different. Because they integrate abducted converts so completely they can be supplanted by them, in any given world, our goblins can be humans, elves, even dwarves, with few to no pure-blooded goblins to be found.
- Goblins in Dragon Fable and AdventureQuest Worlds are known as Sneevils. They're pretty annoying low-level minions that like to steal things, especially boxes. Sneevils do love their boxes.
- In Age of Wonders, goblins generally have cheap and weak units that make up for their weaknesses using poison. They are a filthy and evil race that prefers the underground, and they love to cause destruction and chaos even if it means they have to blow themselves up while doing it. They also have a twisted sense of aesthetics, as they hate the smell of perfumes, and try to stink up their caverns as much as possible by means such as wearing old socks as long as possible. Also, one goblin hero's profile describes her as a magic user who is skilled in altering her appearances, and she chose a form most hideous and repulsive to other goblins to strike fear into them. She happens to look like a slightly funny-looking little girl.
- King's Quest: Mask of Eternity has boar-like goblins.
- The Vorcha from Mass Effect are basically goblins IN SPACE! Like the standard fantasy race, they're small, ugly creatures that everyone else in the universe considers a pest. Aria, the leader of a Vorcha heavy area, even explicitly refers to them as goblins.
- You first encounter goblins in Vindictus on the quests from Boat 3, which take you to the destroyed town of Ainle, which you usually only reach at around the 20s in level. They're pale monsters roughly the size of humans that used to be part of the Fomors that make up your general enemies, but are now under the control of vampires. They are very slow, but their clubs which have nails through them pack quite a punch. The bosses among them are larger than humans and have such names as Servant of Twilight and Servant of Hell, with the only named one of the bunch being their leader, Information Chief Kalis, a big red goblin warrior who wields a scimitar, and who quickly earns the players' hatred when he brutally murders poor Ellis just before the boss fight in the fourth quest.
- The Elder Scrolls games present goblins in the unintelligent scavenger variety. They don't appear in Skyrim (the series has fairly consistently had more goblins in the more southernly provinces — the ones in Morrowind were imported — so this is not necessarily proof of their extinction), with the blind, subterranean Falmer as a rough equivalent.
- The Rieklings of Solstheim are Ugly Cute little blue goblin-like creatures with a primitive society of their own. The Nords believe they are the descendants of the Snow Elves, though Skyrim apparently jossed that theory. In Dragonborn the player can become the defacto leader of a tribe of Rieklings.
- In the Real Time Strategy game, Armies Of Exigo, Goblins are diminutive, greenskinned hunchbacks, who have a tribal culture, and fight with boomerangs. They form a part of the Beast-Man hordes, alongside the Kobolds, Ogres, Trolls, and Lizard Folk, and can be mounted on the backs of the cow-like Boron for greater effectiveness.
- In the Dungeon Siege expansion, Legends of Aranna, goblins aren't found until the end of the game, where they are one of the most powerful enemies around.
- Whereas in the original Dungeon Siege, goblins inhabit an Elaborate Underground Base containing a variety of spectacularly anachronistic Steam Punk machinery, weaponry, and magically-powered battle robots. Contrast the goblin footsoldiers, who are weak, fight with melee weapons and dress in loincloths, all the while fighting beside goblinoids that are wielding flamethrowers, lightning guns and gatling guns. This makes it more likely that the goblin leader - who is bespectacled, has hair, speaks Hulk and can teleport, all unlike his brethren - is responsible for the existence of the facility.
- Dungeon Siege III marks the return of the goblins, having been absent entirely from II. After the defeat of the mad leader of the goblins in the original, a more civilized group of goblins took over and gained citizenship in Stonebridge, creating a Steam Punk renaissance. Two of them are even on the city's ruling council at the time of III. There are still enemy goblins you have to face, but they're rogues and mercenaries rather than the evil madmen fought in the original.
- In addition to standard D&D goblins, Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir features jungle goblins called batiri. They play the role of stereotypical primitive tribes: stone tools and weapons, body paint, people-eating. They're also larger and more muscular than the common goblin.
- The Asura in Guild Wars and its sequel have the general appearance down, with small statures, large floppy ears, and razor-sharp teeth. However, they're a Proud Scholar Race that utilizes Magitek technology into their weapons, architecture, and everyday lives. They're also generally on the side of good, even if most of them are insufferable, and are just as tough as their larger allies.
- Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War's goblins are more closely related to the modern portrayal of orcs: big, burly green guys with big clubs. The game's actual orcs are boar people.
- Hobbs in the Fable series fit the "diminutive, semi-intelligent scavengers" mold.
- Of Orcs And Men has Styx, as well as other goblins as weaker enemies. Interestingly, Styx is apparently the only one to show any intelligence; other goblins in the game are unintelligent to the point of being viewed as animals.
- The Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes webcomic started out with goblins as being a Villains Out Shopping look at The Dungeons & Dragons world from their point of view. It has since mutated into a full blown Deconstruction of the normal D&D world and Character Alignment system.
- Alignment system is played straight in this webcomic: many villains even detect as Evil, and they are, well, evil - very much so. It is just that the main cast of goblins is Good and they are opposed by Evil, but self-righteous, humans.
- And yet there is a mysterious paladin who still retains his class powers despite murdering innocent children and cripples just because they are of monster races or even just had friendly contact with them.
- Paladins of the various extreme alignments are a variant rule in a few sourcebooks. Thus, you can have LE, CG, or CE paladins as well.
- A few comics showed a glimpse of an alternate universe where goblins are similar to but oh so very different from those in the main universe.
- The Order of the Stick has one high-ranking villain, Redcloak, who is actually just a goblin with a lot of character class levels.
- Goblins in The Order of the Stick are different from goblins in standard Dungeons & Dragons, being medium sized as opposed to small.
- There are also orange-skinned hobgoblins who serve as the villains' army. Early strips mention the two subraces not getting along, but more recent strips have painted them as part of the same unified goblinoid race (along with the as-yet-unseen bugbears).
- Though focused primary on the "good" races, Order of the Stick begins to seriously deconstruct goblin-based tropes, especially in Start of Darkness. Over time Redcloak is revealed to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Villain who thinks Utopia Justifies the Means, while the paladins are portrayed as Knights Templar from his point of view (due to the paladins' belief that the race's Evil alignment justifies the slaughter of their women, children, and other civilians).
- In Drowtales, humans and orcs are considered by many elves to be types of goblins.
- Goblinoid species seem to be a generalized term for humanoids that aren't of elvish origin - perhaps apart from the ferals.
- The webcomic Goblin Hollow features goblins that are small, fuzzy, have enormous pointy ears, improbably small functional wings, and are (though it's not obvious in the black and white strip) bright green. They are also capable of turning selectively invisible (though this can be thwarted by either an infrared camera, or blacklight, which makes them glow), and of teleporting (or "poiting" as they call it). Their lifecycle is similar to that of a cuckoo: after the female goblin lays her eggs, they will leave them either where an ideal "goblin parent" will find them or in close proximity to them. The unborn goblin basically reads the mind of whomever is near the egg: first their mother, then their "adoptive parent", absorbing knowledge and adding them to their own goblin race memories so that they are basically born full grown, mentally and physically. They are VERY loyal to their adoptive "parents" and will accompany and protect them throughout life.... though their mischief often makes their foster parent wish they weren't QUITE so doting.
- Subverted in Apple Valley where Gabbie, one of the main characters is a perky, attractive, cloyingly cute goblin girl. As she is frequently the subject of a fair amount of fan-art and one of the only characters to come even close to being drawn naked, there may also be a bit of Author Appeal at work here too.
- Goblins from the Porn With Plot webcomic Anathema are dark-skinned humanoids with Pointy Ears and Cute Littlefangs, and a More Dakka approach to Anti-Air (their flak cannons are so big they're difficult to manouver). Gas Mask, Longcoat uniforms.
- Roommates is a Mega Crossover prominently featuring Labyrinth so Jareth is the King of the Goblins, he is also called the King of the Unwanted, which means goblin is a catch all term for all creatures no other supernatural ruler would take (the stupid, the weak, the weird, the slow, etc. up to the dangerously unstable, which is Jareth himself)... they are also indestructible as it's part of the very concept they personify.
- It's also revealed that this wasn't always the case, because magical rulers are Fisher Kings. Under his predecessor the Goblins were basically The Fair Folk just uglier, and under their first king little more than Always Chaotic Evil monsters.
- The goblins in Dragon Mango are small, green comic-relief villains who raid nearby farms for chickens and get beaten up by the titular protagonist. They are ruled by Junior, the goblin king who does not look like David Bowie (this is lampshaded at one point) but is considerably bigger, buffer and tougher than his kin. (He uses steroids.) They later pull a Heel-Face Turn when they realize that humans are willing to give them chickens and anything else they want in exchange for some of their Worthless Yellow Rocks they have all over their mountain kingdom, and eventually found a powerful bank and get accepted among the civilized people.
- The Account, a podcast audio drama, features Nyro Guillome, a modern-day goblin squire who possesses a keen sense for magic and considerable one-on-one fighting finesse. She's also considered traditionally attractive, though the all-audio show makes it difficult to confirm that.
- Adylheim has goblins that can only be seen through the corner of the eye, and spend much of their time seemingly moving small objects around randomly. Oh and touching them is very, very bad luck.
- A goblin appears in every Halloween toon from Homestar Runner, but most of the time it just "looks around and does a dance" except for that time he saved Homestar from a zombie sheep.
- Tales Of MU has "goblinoids" as an order of humanoids that aren't mammalian or reptile. They aren't Always Chaotic Evil, but that hasn't stopped them from occupying the "adventurer fodder" role in times past. Goblinoids in Tales of MU often exhibit an extremely patriarchal culture while their method of reproduction can put just about anybody off the idea of kids forever.
- Goblins are short marsh-dwellers who worship/live in fear of sleeping Eldritch Abominations. Before becoming civilized by the human empire, they favored direct forms of problem solving, like throwing people into bogs or biting them to death.
- Kobolds resemble goblins, but with red skin instead of green. They live in mines beneath mountains and fight dwarves for territory while trying to protect their wealth from human looters. Their society is rigid and more stratified than goblins.
- Hobgoblins follow the "larger, stronger goblin" stereotype, but instead of being wicked and cruel they're slow and methodical, being seen by humans as reliable workers.
- In the Goblin's own language 'Hobgoblin' roughly translates as 'House-boy'. Hobgoblins make up the majority of the labor pool in goblin society; until the humans came and started mucking things up filling the poor impressionable hobgoblins' heads with such fantastic notions as being Paid for their work, cue the Unfortunate Implications.