The Nentir Vale
Ancient Goblins and Enslavement
Goblins are believed to be descendants of the same race as the elves (although, no self-respecting elf would ever admit this). In ancient times, goblins had a rich oral tradition of story-telling, history, and music (the specifics of which are now unknown), and their ancestral lands covered most of what is now known as the Nentir Vale. Before humans, orcs, dwarves, and trolls settled in the Vale, goblins were the indigenous peoples of the area. Very little is known about the political and cultural beliefs and practices of the ancient goblins, other than that the fact that they worshipped the natural elements (fire, earth, air, and water).
As the war-like orcs settled in the Vale, they began to take advantage of the peaceful goblins. What started out as unfair trade negotiations for goods very quickly escalated to forceful taking of land and senseless slaughter of entire goblin villages. Soon, however, the orcs realized the potential of goblin labour and began massive enslavement campaigns that swept the entire Vale. Within a few years every single goblin camp and village in the area had been razed, and all but a tiny handful of goblins were slaves to the various orcish war-houses. Within the orcish war-houses, goblins took over the roles of manual labourers, cooks, cleaners, messengers, and servants. Contemporary orcish society, in which soldiering is honoured while menial labour is reviled, is a direct result of generation upon generation of orc never having to pick up a shovel, a broom, or a frying pan (currently, orcish children are tasked, at a very young age, with jobs deemed unfit for warriors—thus, only the most disgraced of orc adults fills one of these roles).
Although the orcs originally enslaved the goblins, and owned most of the goblin slaves in the Nentir Vale, the slave trade extended into troll territories, and even some humans and elves took on goblin servants bought in orcish markets. This life of slavery persisted for around 1000 years, until 91 years ago, when a massive goblin uprising earned the race their freedom.
Goblin Uprising and the Formation of the Unbound
Of all goblin legends, the legend of Chieftain Krogg is the most prominent. Krogg was the leader of the goblin uprising, and the first of the “Unbound,” a term used to describe the first generation of free goblins who fought to break free of their enslavement. The story of Krogg has likely been embellished through the years, but the legend tells of the former salt quarry worker’s rise to freedom after singlehandedly killing the dozens of orcish foremen and soldiers stationed at the quarry, and leading a rag-tag group of goblin miners, armed only with pickaxes and hammers, to the neighbouring orc village where they proceeded to kill every last one of their former slavers, including the elite warriors of the war-house of Ok’Tak (an orcish house which to this day carries the stench of dishonour with it). Krogg then rallied his troops and set out on a wave of destruction aimed at freeing every last goblin slave under orcish rule. Krogg’s initial campaign lasted for months, with heavy casualties on both sides; the sheer number of Unbound, however, resulted in the destruction of numerous orc cities and villages.
Eventually, in an unprecedented move, the leader of the orcs, General Talok, declared the goblin uprising an act of honour, decreeing that the goblin people had proven their worth and that all remaining goblin slaves were to be set free (soon afterwards, Talok’s seat was challenged and defeated, and a new orc became General). Other races, fearing a similar backlash from the goblins, followed suit and made similar declarations. Of course, some communities—orc, human, elf, and troll alike—didn’t get the message (or refused to comply), so small handfuls of goblin slaves still exist in remote settlements.
Goblins measure years with the uprising as the starting point, and the summer solstice as the new year (Krogg’s rebellion took place around the summer solstice), so a goblin calendar year is marked by the number of years after or before the unbinding. For example, fifty years after the unbinding would be recorded as UB 50, while fifty years before unbinding would be recorded as B 50. It is important to note, however, that due to the lack of records kept by goblin slaves, most dates prior to unbinding are only rough estimates (and the father back the dates go, the less exact they become). Ancient times are referred to as the “pre-binding,” but since no historical records exist, this period is only talked about in an abstract sense.
Goblin Culture and Religion
Every self-respecting goblin, regardless of his/her religious or political beliefs, is familiar with the story of Chieftain Krogg, and knows the poem “Rise of the Unbound” by heart. Goblin culture does not acknowledge intellectual property, as they see artwork as something that belongs to all of goblin-kind, so the specific poet is unknown. The poem was originally written in the tenth year following goblin liberation, upon the retirement of Krogg as High Chieftain (UB 10), and is sometimes referred to as simply “Ode to Krogg.” In typical goblin sonnet format (borrowed from human poets), the poem is written in iambic pentameter, but with the final rhyming couplet including an extra, corresponding internal rhyme on the fourth syllable. The poem was translated into Common by the Dwarven poet Jorgan Quillmind in UB 65, and since then, many goblins have come to recognize both versions of the sonnet as equally important, seeing that Quillmind’s translation immortalizes Krogg’s victory for cultures outside of goblin society.
“Rise of the Unbound”
The moon is red with blood of fallen foes
The mists of fate enshrouded round our strife
Rise, Krogg, in glorious haste come to blows
By destiny’s vendetta trial by knife
Unbound, unbounded rage in blinding light
Unbinding in the pitch of midnight’s gaze
Unbound, unbounded hatred to ignite
Unbinding as the rising sun’s ablaze
Cast off thy shackles, kin of Krogg’s embrace
Take up your sword, your sling, your club, your fire
Your fist, till battered knuckles as a mace
Break bone to bone, our bones to stoke the pyre
Take back what’s ours through blood and bloody scars
Raze crushing towers of years in frenzied hours
Translated by Jorgan Quillmind (UB 65)
The current goblin language, ₭’řǣɃöҟ (pronounced “ka-ray-bok,” but referred to simply as “Goblin” in Common), is actually a corrupted version of Orcish, which was developed by the slaves as a way of communicating with one another without having to worry about their slave masters understanding them. Of note is the fact that Goblin has no gendered pronouns, largely due to the fact that, like the orcs, goblins make no ability or role distinctions between men and women.
Current goblin religion, as well, is mostly borrowed from the orcs. Because of their close proximity to the orc’s worship of Bane, many goblin slaves, knowing no other deities, adopted the vengeful, war-mongering god for themselves. Many of the Unbound took to heart the bloodthirsty dogma of Bane and used it to fuel their revenge during the uprising. More progressive goblins still follow Bane (there are very few goblin atheists), but rather than viewing his message of destruction, hatred, and tyranny as a call for war and chaos, they interpret the religious texts as calls for self-actualization, self-awareness, order, and discipline (albeit, sometimes necessitating violent means to reach those ends).
Most of the goblin tribes have made an effort to return to the pre-binding ways of life, so goblin shamans have incorporated aspects of elemental worship into their reverence for Bane. One prominent ritual incorporates the imbuing of elemental essences into young goblins. If an elemental creature or being is captured, the goblin shaman sacrifices it in an attempt to transfer its elemental powers into a new host (the host goblins are always infants). Frequently, the ritual ends with the death of both the elemental and the host, but if the ritual succeeds, the young goblin, who now retains some manner of elemental power, is raised as a “spirit walker,” an individual who acts as a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds.
As for cultural practices, goblin woodworkers are well known for their precise and intricate carvings, and totems and trinkets carved by goblin craftsmen carry a high value on the market. Goblin-trained wolves are also a hot commodity amongst other races, as it is said that a wolf trained by a goblin is ten times as ferocious and twenty times as loyal.
Goblin Politics and Race Relations
However prominent their reputations about skilled trades are, this does not change the fact that goblins face extreme prejudice from almost every other race. Most goblins have grandparents who were Unbound, so they still feel a very strong urge for revenge against their prior oppressors, hence the reason why most other races see them as evil, violent beings. Likewise, if they come across as disorganized or rag-tag, it is only because they have had less than a century to re-establish a society, a culture, and an infrastructure. Their situation has prompted goblins to value the art of scavenging, and they tend to be cave-dwellers or form settlements in ruins or dungeons because there are few other places to go.
Common racist slurs for goblins include “greenskins” (despite the fact that goblin skin colour varies from red to yellow to grey, with only about 70% of goblins actually sporting green-coloured skin), “scabbers” (based on the racist stereotype that goblins intentionally inflict wounds upon themselves so they can pick and eat their scabs), and “rust dogs” (based on their scavenging nature and often makeshift armour). Goblins are accepted or trusted by very few individuals outside of their own communities.
Current goblin society is split into about seventy different tribes. Each tribe is ruled by an underchief, and all tribes/underchiefs answer to the High Chieftain—a position which rotates once a decade, when a new Chieftain is selected by and from the current underchiefs, shifting central power to a new tribe. Despite their allegiance to the High Chieftain and the ruling tribe, each tribe acts as an autonomous nation, with each underchief capable of making any territorial decision as long as it doesn’t affect the goblin nation as a whole
The Radiant Order recently annexed three of the major eastern goblin tribes lead by underchiefs Dogat, Herros, and Galnuk. These tribes, whose faith in Bane was waning (they were also furthest away from original Unbound settlements), liked the idea of expanded borders promised by the Radiant Order. All goblins in these tribes who refused to convert were murdered. Of course, many goblins converted mostly out of fear, so loyalty within these tribes ranges from devout to lackluster, but even though the Radiant Order ideology may be questioned, the fear of punishment is overwhelming, so most goblins with a shred of sense keep their mouths shut. A couple smaller eastern tribes that refused the Radiant Order’s offer are currently in open conflict with the Order and their former goblin tribesmen.