I probably should gather all this info into a blog. But I love the contributions, assessments and additions, that other forumers can make to the topic. Maybe at some point, I will comb thru the various threads and compile the information in my blog.
Here is a folklore-accurate writeup by Dreamstryder from another thread, for the Oni, the Ogre-like spirit from among the nature-spirit Yokai of Japanese folk belief. I took the liberty of increasing the Charisma from 15 to 16, mainly to distinguish the score from Constitution to match the format here of two strengths and one weakness (or two). Incidentally, the excellent Charisma happens to emphasize their competence as a “mage”, in the tradition of the D&D “Ogre Mage”.
I have books about these at home, but I haven't finished translating some of them from Japanese, so I'll go with what I've seen so far:
Oni Large Giant
Armor Class 15 Hit Points 60 (8d10 +16) Speed 40 ft. Senses darkvision 60 ft.
Str 19 (+4)Dex 10 (+0)Con 15 (+2) Int 10 (+0) Wis 7 (-2)Cha 16 (+3)
Alignment neutral evil Languages Common, Giant
Traits Armor Piercing 4: If the oni's melee attack misses but the attack roll is at least 10, the target of the attack takes 4 damage of the attack's type.
Actions Melee Attack - Greatclub: +4 to hit (reach 5 ft.; one creature). Hit: 2d8+4 bludgeoning damage Melee Attack - Greatsword: same, Hit: 2d12+4 slashing damage
Cause Fear: At-will, any number of creatures within 20 ft. of the oni must make a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. Those so frightened must move on their turn to move away from the oni, but if dealt damage, they are no longer frightened.
Turn invisible and back at-will. Automatically becomes visible if it attacks. Polymorph at-will to any creature, plant, or object (no larger than the oni's original size?) A dead or unconscious oni reverts to its original, visible form.
An invisible or polymorphed oni's true form is visible in their reflection (and shadow, if you wish).
These abilities are isolated instances rather than common to most oni: Gaseous form and fly: Nue (a different monster) are more known for riding or taking the form of black clouds, and Raijin and Fuujin for riding on black clouds, than oni. However, these traits are occasionally thrown around in popular culture like pointed ears are for European monsters, tho' I suspect not as much. So if you like, oni may summon a black cloud or a pair of flaming chariot wheels that hover alongside their ankles to fly upon (speed 50 ft.). Oni can fall off their vehicle, and if the vehicle receives at least 10 damage at once, it dissipates, but the oni may summon it again their next action. Sleep Breath: I seem to remember this from a story, and sure enough it is under the Oni description in the 4e MM, but I can't find any source of it at the moment. It would be a 20 ft. cloud affecting 3d8 HD-worth of creatures within, starting with the smallest.
Appearance: Usually red, blue, brown or black skin, one or two horns, and sometimes more than 2 eyes. They have short claws, fangs, wild hair, and vicious faces. Oni often carry an iron kanabo (a huge club) or a giant sword. They tend to be dressed in tigerskin loinclothes.
[One may see a pairing of a red oni and blue oni (often the red oni has two horns and the blue has one). I'll let tvtropes explain.]
Habitat and Society: Oni work as wardens in Buddhist hell under direction from Enma. Rogue oni live in gangs in palaces, forts, or artificial caves hidden in islands or forests and are generally raiders, taking slaves, riches, and eating humans. [Even the attractive or playful ones are so boorish in personality, but most of the same had followers.]
Legends and Lore: Commonly, an oni has pride in excess of its terrible strength, the most subtle entertaining a taste for brutality, and the most crafty ever engaged in disguises and misdirections to keep victims coming. Oni are generally easily angered, and have a great appetite for earthly things like alcohol, food, sex, and raucous parties. For all their confidence in their physical strength and intimidation, some oni can be unexpectedly sensitive about their looks, their reputation, and their prospects for marriage.
Oni imagery is also used to keep away malignant forces, which may mean they're threatening by evil spirit standards, too.
Relatives (?): Oni are visually similar to the nioo, guardians at the gates of Buddhist temples who also scare away evil, and Fuujin and Raijin, the wind and thunder gods (who often fly on black clouds and come in a two-antler and one-antler pair). Oni may be more closely related to amanojaku or ko-oni, who look like small oni and provoke people's darkest desires.
This comes from another thread, where MindWandererB mentions how 13th Age handles racial and class abilities. It isnt too different from how the play test is doing, except the result is +2 bonuses to two ability scores, rather than +1 bonuses that might stack. What do you think?
I just got my hands on the 13th Age beta via their Kickstarter, and I see that I'm not the only one: it's constantly being brought up as a comparison to Next in many ways. I thought it might be a good idea to get a thread going on what WotC should consider stealing from them--though there are clearly many things they shouldn't.
• Races and classes each grant a +2 bonus to a single stat, chosen from a list. So dwarves get +2 to Con or +2 to Wis, and fighters get +2 Str or +2 Wis. And you can't choose the same stat for both race and class. I love this: each choice is meaningful and won't change an even number to an odd one, and if you choose a race without +1 to your primary stat, it's no big deal, you just want it to grant +2 to a stat that'll be helpful (so a high elf [+2 Int/Cha] fighter may not be the best choice). Sure, it means you could be playing a dwarf with low Con (say, a cleric), but that doesn't reflect on dwarves as a whole. Bonus: This makes the human problem easier. If you use this system for demihumans, and leave humans with the +1 all, +2 one system they currently have... well, it certainly feels a lot better to me.
Here is some info toward a folklore accurate Goblin. Altho many nature spirits translate into English as “goblins”, most of the stories about the actual Goblin come from Britain during the Romantic Era, late 1800s. They seem to emerge from a blend of the Celtic house spirit like the Lepreichan who is small and subterranean and the Norse troll like the thurs that is wild and subterranean.
(When I say “wild”, I mean prefer to live in the “wilderness” and specially love wilderness themes aesthetically. However, at least while not going beserk, they interact with eachother moreorless socially and civilly, like the Human do. An exception, may be those shapeshifting into animal form who take on the mentality of the animal to a noticible extent.)
The D&D Goblin can match up well with the folklore, especially when a player race.
• Typically: Very high Dexterity, high Intelligence, low Strength, low Charisma, very low Wisdom.
Goblins are stealthy and surprisingly spry. They are knowledgeable and clever, but tend to be oblivious to the obvious that is going on in front of them. They are capricious, cowardly, and difficult to take seriously. They are small, and their Strength suffers proportionally.
• The Goblins are fey, so a connection to magic is a given. They are knowledgeable about magic, and often use rituals.
• They have a vicious sense of humor, typically playing pranks that are mean, harmful, and fatal.
• They (most of them) hate Humans, and seek to destroy Humans in amusing ways.
• In physical appearance, they are small and grotesque. They lack toes, and find the sight of toes offensive and sickening. A French source has them with egg-shaped head and large pointy ears.
• The Goblins see themselves as much more refined than Humans, which is humorous.
• Nocturnal with darkvision and sensitivity to sunlight.
• Goblins live in caves and mines, with a Goblin King, plus intrigues of the royal court.
• Goblins abduct children. This can be a good plot hook, especially for low-level adventures. The adventurers need to rescue the children before they suffer the ritual that traps them into goblinhood. This is how Goblins increase their numbers, especially as spouses, slaves, and armies.
• But the most interesting Goblin trait is ...
Singing and poetry (specifically rhymes?) repels Goblins, till out of earshot. This is a quirky and fun trait that can make encounters with Goblin vivid and memorable. A great way to lighten the mood while in the context of evil monsters. It is necessary to come up with a balanced mechanic to represent this, but antipathy to singing and rhyming makes the Goblin unique.
I've always found it interesting that Goblins and Kobolds are shown to be so much more threatening in literature and lore than in the game mechanics.
I remember a novel that pulled heavily from... perhaps it was celtic lore, but it said goblins were "the special forces of the Faerie realm" because while not as powerful as other fey they were master tacticians and sneaky as hell. A squad of Goblin warriors was a serious threat not to be underestimated. It'd be interesting to find a way to show this in game, as goblins now seem to be such weaklings.
Kobolds as well. Master trappers with maze-like warrens. Outside of their homes they are relatively weak, though still cunning, retreating and setting traps. But go to their turf? You are in for an intense battle, before you even get to where their dragon god lives (kobolds are typically shown worshipping dragons as gods).
Plus both of these races have shamans and other magic-users which are supposed to be fairly powerful.
Give me an owlbear or a giant over these buggers (played intelligently and truthfully) any day
I'm grateful for the clarification of many of these creatures' lore. I currently suspect cow tails are actually from huldra, who may have been called trolls in the "enchanter" sense.
I'd like to point out that D&D hengeyokai are based on the idea in Chinese, Japanese, and probably Korean myth that, as some animals get older, they gain magical ability, and often grow more tails the more they age. The split-tailed nekomata is just an old cat that gains the power to animate the dead and disguise itself as human, for example. The nine-tailed fox is the oldest form of fox (kitsune), with the power to shape-change and curse people, but foxes are about as varied in their dispositions as humans. Tanuki (sometimes translated oddly as "raccoon-dog" or "badger") never gain tails, but are big trickster and jovial shapechangers. There are also at least two tales of cranes that take the form of humans to aid other humans. I've never yet seen an ill-willed crane; they are very compassionate, even when they have cause to be vengeful.
The idea that old things gather properties also applies to inanimate objects: old, worn umbrellas, paper lanterns, straw sandals, even buried coins, abandoned for many years may take on a life of their own, too, and are called tsukumogami.
Interestingly, in Japanese, I've seen the terms "youkai," "henge," even "youkai henge," but not "hengeyoukai."
The following terms crop up alot concerning Japanese oogie-boogies and appear to be general terms most of the time (like "Children of the Night," "apparition," "spook," and "monster"). This is what I currently make of them:
ayakashi: this word is written with the character for bewitching or calamity obake, bake, and bakemono: entity that transforms itself or appears in disguise henge: something that changes form or has unusual form mamono: an evil or magic entity mononoke: a vengeful (preternatural?) entity youkai: bewitching or calamitous enigma
"Youkai" seems the most summarizing, and not all are specifically tied to nature. Some youkai are the materialized sentiments of the dead or still living, ancient animals themselves, abandoned objects, or personifications of spiritual pollution. Some, like oni and kitsune, may serve as officials in an otherworldly hierarchy as well.
I hope this opens the door a little on new realms of mythology to enliven the game.
However it seems rituals (prayer rituals?) would play a central role in a E Asia folkbelief setting. These would be Daoist elements, but mages would especially hunt for and harness the numinous energy of ancient artifacts.
Oddly, it reminds of the Syfy movie “Lost Room” where everyday items take on curious magic properties.
Forumers complained the Goblin scores seem too low, and unfit in the darwinian sense. In folkbelief, Goblin lurk in the dark, avoid sunlight, use stealth, are often spry, and merit this +Dex. I still want to see Goblin be Intelligent. In folkbelief, they are always knowledgeable about magic, and use magic items and rituals. However, they are oblivious, and often outwitted, deserving well this −Wis. It does seem like Goblin are difficult to take seriously. The −Cha could be their ultimate flaw. The increase of Intelligence also remedies their darwinian fail. Goblins are an important tradition in folkbelief, and I hope they are similarly important in D&D. Moreover, many players want Goblin as a player race, so viability is important. For the sake of viability, I am using a standard array, from 13 to 8. This places Strength as surprisingly high for a small creature, but not exceptionally strong.
Because Goblin are too much like Kobold, Im wondering if really, the Intelligence should become primary, and the Dexterity secondary. This likewise reinforces their skill at ritual magic. Looking at this small switch, they feel more “goblinish”, and different enough from Kobolds.
→ Goblin: +Int +Dex −Wis −Cha
Str 10 Dex 12 Con 11 Int 13 Wis 9 Cha 8
Orc: +Str +Con −Int
Unfortunately, these scores still seems too similar to Ogre (+Str +Con −Int). Relatedly, other forumers complained the Charisma of the Orc seems too high. It makes a lot of sense to make the Charisma the flaw, rather than Intelligence. Note, the Orc is relatively perceptive, with decent Wisdom, making them tactically competent in combat. Seems ideal for canon fodder. Orc seem to be both of goblin blood and of giant blood (specifically, ogre blood). Both goblinkin and giantkin (ogrekin). Still hoping for:
→ Orc: +Str +Con −Int −Cha
Str 14 Dex 10 Con 12 Int 9 Wis 11 Cha 7
Hobgoblin: +Cha +Con
“It seems that we can agree on hobgoblins as the organized, disciplined, regimented branch of goblinkind.” The hobgoblin leader in the bestiary has the Commander trait. The article description defers to the Bestiary which lists the above scores. I am happy to see Charisma as the most salient ability of the Hobgoblin or Hob, and this distinguishes them from Goblins proper. Not only Hob Leaders are charismatic, but Hobs generally are charismatic. I hope to see the Hob with a flaw, the “terrible ingredient” that makes them beautiful. To me, −Wis seems suitable as the flaw, corresponds to the weakest ability of the Hobgoblin Leader, and also aligns them with the Goblinkin generally. A less-worse weakness could be −Dex, relatively speaking - besides Wis all the other scores seem higher than Dex.
Problematically, I also see the Hobgoblin as very intelligent. Both Robin Goodfellow of folkbelief and Puck of Shakespeare, are leaders of the fae who have very high Intelligence. I guess it depends on whether one sees the Hob as charismatic warriors, in which case, the high Constitution works (with high Strength), or charismatic *leaders*. If leaders, the high Intelligence makes more sense. I feel the Hob are skilled strategic leaders, as well as charismatic leaders. These abilities also further the trope of Hobgoblins being leaders, who sometimes coopt Orc as troops and Bugbear and Goblin as special ops.
→ Hobgoblin: +Cha +Int −Dex −Wis
Str 10 Dex 9 Con 11 Int 12 Wis 8 Cha 13
Bugbear: +Str +Dex −Cha −Int
“If hobgoblins are soldiers, bugbears are guerillas - and I think that’s much more frightening than an attack by brutish orcs or ogres.” Yet personally, I would call the Orc the soldiers, Bugbear the guerillas, Goblin the skirmishers, and Hobgoblin the generals.
James defers to the Bestiary for scores, as above, but also notes the use of javelins as a missile weapon initiating the ambush. Bugbears dont seem especially tactical, but mainly count on the element of surprise. The Bugbear adds the “stealthy trait”. Obviously, stealth suggests high Dex, but Im comfortable with +Dex being secondary to +Str. Happily they seem distinctive from other races as is. The Bugbear is a higher level monster, level 6 [professional/squire/journeyer], and this explains their use of a higher-number array for their scores.
→ Bugbear: Same
Str 15 Dex 14 Con 10 Int 8 Wis 11 Cha 9
Kobold: +Dex −Wis −Str
The Kobold is a small hyper reptilian, possibly a Dragonkin. Dragonborn and Kobold make good contrasts for options. The article defers to the Bestiary for scores. Truly aweful scores: ranging from one 12 high and all others 8 with two 7 low. Strength and Wis are the flaw within their flaws. I probably want to see Str worse than Wis, since they are archetypal runts. I also want to see Intelligence as their secondary score ... relatively speaking. The +Int invests them with a propensity to make traps and gadgets, even if the tactics of employing them seems imperceptive. Kobold are a popular race, so a question of viability is in play. Indeed, in one adventure, a fellow hero played a Kobold Rogue as a PC.
The Kobold is in danger of being too much like the Goblin, and caution is necessary to distinguish them. So I recommend the Goblin exhibit a better Intelligence plus a Humanlike Strength 10, surprising for the small size but not incredibly strong. These tweaks help differentiate between Goblin and Kobold. Meanwhile Kobolds are more endearing, with higher Charisma.
→ Kobold: +Dex +Int −Wis −Str
Str 6 Dex 11 Con 8 Int 10 Wis 7 Cha 9
I will comment on the Liz, Trog, and Gnoll soon.
Think about which abilities make the Goblin and Kobold different from eachother.
The current Playtest2 monsters and recent designer articles about them, still have montsters that are two similar to eachother.
There is an interesting “continuum of species”, where a chain of monsters has each link too similar to the monsters before and after it. The extremes at each end are different enough, but the monsters at each link in between require more thought to differentiate them.
Hill Giant ↔ Ogre ↔ Orc ↔ Goblin ↔ Kobold
Ogre versus Hill Giant
Except for the degree of Strength and size, the Ogre and Hill Giant seem mechanically, visually, and conceptually identical. What makes this “Giant” a different kind of monster than an “Ogre”? Here it is the definition of “giant” (whatever the “ethos” is that is in play for one) that needs to be emphasized. For one thing, an ogre is hideous - grotesque - whereas a giant isnt. The Hill Giant may not be handsome, but still avoids being monstrous. This may lead to mechanical and conceptual differences between the Hill Giant and the Ogre.
Orc versus Ogre
Again, except for degree, the Ogre and the Orc remain mechanically indistinguishable. Both are victims of the general glut of “brutes”: high-Strength, high-Constitution, and low Intelligence. The designers have made their stories different enough, with the Ogres being clannish gluttons and the Orcs being amorphous masses of military swarms. But more needs to be done to distinguish their brutish mechanics. One way to distinguish them is Charisma. • The Ogre is always terrifying, demonstrating a strong personal presence, thus high Charisma. Moreover the visual “Hideousness” of the Ogre serves to boost the fear effects that its intimidating Charisma can inflict against those within line-of-sight. • By contrast, an Orc individually seems to lack personal presence, even lack respect from players and perhaps lack respect from other in-game denizens. They seem to lose themselves within their Orc masses. The concept of “orcishness” suffers from very low Charisma.
Goblin versus Orc
The role of Dexterity tries to distinguish the Goblin from the Orc. However the averageness of all of their scores makes them not so different after all. Also the Goblin like the Orc also suffers from poor Charisma. Despite mechanical differences, the main problem is a need to distinguish their conceptual spaces. Tolkien invented the concept of an Orc, and in his formative fantasy world, the Orc and the Goblin are identical, two names for the same creature. (Likewise, Tolkiens erroneous version of a Hobgoblin is identical with his Uruk-Hai Orc, and this creature inspires both the D&D Hobgoblin and Half-Orc.) In D&D, the Goblin and Orc are two separate creatures. However the pervasive influence of Tolkien continues to overwhelm any conceptual differences between Goblin and Orc. Their appearances are too similar, their behaviors are to similar, and their stories are too similar. Attempts to differentiate them, tend to fail back into a homogenous blur. The D&D game is best when Goblin and Orc differ vividly. Both are low-level monsters, and players encounter both frequently. The game is more entertaining when each brings its own spice!
The D&D Goblin and Orc already have important differences. These need to develop to help them speciate into nonsimilar races.
• D&D Orc continues the Tolkienesque vision of a militaristic swarm. • D&D Goblin reconnects more closely with reallife folklore about Goblins.
• Orc is humansize. • Goblin is small.
• Orc is physically grotesque - but brutish, with high Strength and Constitution, but average Dexterity. • Goblin is physically grotesque - but stealthy, with high Dexterity, but average Constitution and average or poor Strength (depending on array).
• Orc suffers poor Charisma, and ignorant low Intelligence, but enjoys perceptive Wisdom - and military competence. • Goblin suffers poor Charisma, and oblivious low Wisdom, but enjoys knowledgeable Intelligence - and formidable skill at magic.
• Orc inhabits underground but swarms as armies, attacking like locusts anywhere anytime day or night, and can lose themself in bloodlust frenzy. • Goblin inhabits underground - in impoverished squalor even by Orc standards. However, unlike the rougher Orcs, the Goblin can occasionally use magic or theft to appear in splendid finery. Goblin swarms as skulks, attacking nocturnally and moving stealthily, but fleeing quickly when outmatched, and returning relentlessly when strategically advantageous to do so. It is difficult to get rid of Goblin. (The recent Dragons-Eye View article inspires the sense of Goblin living like psychopathic teenage runaways. If these urchins have magic powers, despise society, have mean humor, play deadly pranks, and like to ponce around as sophisticated adults, that could work.)
• Orc can borrow quirks that Tolkien inspires: Orc are bullies who attack those who are helpless, but cowtow obsequiously under those who are more powerful. Evil tyrants easily reshape Orc armies to accomplish military campaigns. • Goblin can borrow quirks that folklore inspires: Goblin have a sense of humor, albeit intensely malicious, and enjoy harmful pranks, including deadly slapstick. But Goblin also enjoy sadistic entertainment by inflicting tantalizing suffering as the Human dies over a period of many months without finding a way to remedy the situation. Despite grotesqueness, Goblin feel more refined than Human, despise Human, and seek passionately to destroy Human in amusing ways. Goblin have no toes on their feet, and the sight of Human toes disgusts them and provokes them. Goblin have a peculiar aversion to rhyming, poetry, and singing. (Maybe heroes, especially Bards, can improvise to try “turn” them?). Finally, Goblin increase their numbers by famously kidnapping Human, especially children, to permanently transform them into Goblin by means magical ritual, to serve as slaves, armies, or spouses. In these endeavors, the high Intelligence of Goblin plays a factor. However their imperceptive obliviousness - often not noticing the schemes that Human does right in front of them - allow Human to often outwit them.
• Orc are both giantkin and goblinkin, a hybrid inheriting the bloodlines from both, and inhabit the Human World (Nature, Prime Material Plane). • Goblin are goblinkin and the source of the bloodline of other goblinkin. Goblin are probably related to giantkin distantly, but dont classify as such. Goblin relate closely with Gnome. Where the Gnome are domestic and love Human activity, Goblin are wild and hate Human activity. Goblin are Fae and inhabit the Faerie (Feywild).
Kobold versus Goblin
The D&D Kobold and Goblin appear different enough visually. One is a dragonkin (maybe) the other is a fae. However, they seem to occupy nearly identical design space. Both in their racial mechanics and in their behavior as opponents. Both are small, both are relatively dexterous, both attack in swarms, both scurry away, both rely on stealth, both live underground, both rely on novelties of Intelligence (Goblin should be using magic, while Kobold kluge together traps and gagdets), both suffer from imperceptive poor Wisdom, and so on. They feel the same. (Ironically the reallife German name Kobold refers to a house sprite, in other words a gnome, and the French name “Gob∙e∙lin” probably derives from and refers to a wild malicious “Kob∙o∙ld”.) The D&D Kobold is something like a gnomish dragon, whose small size and tinkering with gadgets resembles the gnome tinkering. More needs to be done to distinguish the mechanics and encounters of Kobold versus Goblin. Mentally, Kobold seem more charismatic than Goblin. Kobold are sociable and tender with eachother, generally endearing. Goblin seem a bit smarter. Physically, Kobold seem “runtier” than Goblin. Probably, Kobold should never flee from combat, but rather fight suicidally and trickily like waves and waves of vicious lemmings.
As far as Kobolds vs Goblin, I think we can borrow a bit from the classic D&D lore of "Tucker's Kobolds" where the kobolds are more like guerilla fighters, using anything they have to get an advantage - traps, magic, ambush-and-retreat tactics. You also mentioned their affinity with dragons, which can be played up with their use of sorcery (as opposed to the shamanistic magic of goblins) and how they are often found as minions of a dragon or protecting a young dragon/dragon egg.