Chapter Two: Goblinoid Culture

Note: The contents of this chapter may, at some point in the future, have to be reduced from that which you see present. If that becomes the case, it will still contain basic information that could be ferreted out from the same sources I used to compile the Project, but not as much gap-filler, unofficial material as is here at present. The reason for the potentiality of removing this information is that a sourcebook that might, just possibly, get published sometime is in development at this time, that may yet (we still don't know quite yet) contain some as yet unofficial information broadly similar to some of that that presented here. Due to publishing constraints, and to keep open the possibility of publishing that information, I reserve the right to remove it from view here in due course.

The Goblinoid Tribe

The basic unit of Gobbo society is the Tribe. Tribes vary in size, but are typically made up of 100-200 individuals. Tribes smaller than this, say up to 50 individuals, are usually called a Band, while groups larger than the basic tribe are usually made up of several tribes to form a Horde. Bands are common in regions where the Goblinoid population is more scattered, such as the Old World forests, and less common in areas more or less controlled by the resident Gobbos, when several bands will usually amalgamate to form a tribe or even a horde. The formation of hordes is especially common when a Waaargh occurs (more on this later).

The smaller tribes and bands are usually composed of only a single Gobbo species, such as a tribe of Black Orcs or a band of Goblins, while larger tribes and hordes invariably consist of mixed species. The mix will usually be a relatively large number of the lesser species with a smaller number of the more dominant species, such as a tribe of Goblins with a smaller number of dominant Orcs. The larger hordes typically consist of all the Goblinoid species, the relative number of a species in the horde being roughly inversely proportional to the species' dominance.

Tribes and bands are usually nomadic, travelling the current area and raiding when it suits them or the whim takes them. The larger the tribe the more likely it is to set itself up in a fixed place, usually a set dug from the ground or a network of abandoned tunnels. Abandoned Lizardman, Dwarf or Skaven tunnels are the favourite.

Tribe Structure

The politics of a large tribe or horde is linked in very much with the Goblinoid caste system. As mentioned earlier, the larger the tribe the more likely it will consist of mixed species and the more likely the Gobbo caste system will swing into play. The idea is simple: the bigger or more powerful you are, the more heads you can knock together, and the more dominant you will be. There are seven castes:

  1. The Warlord. The highest rank a Gobbo can have, the Warlord is the grand high Warboss in charge of a Waaargh (which is typically named after the Warlord in charge). More on the extremely weird Waaargh phenomenon later.
  2. The Warboss. Except when a Waaargh is underway, the Warboss occupies a caste of his own, ruling over the tribe or horde. He makes all decisions of the tribe and is the one who leads the tribe into battle. He, of course, is never to blame for any blunder in a decision or battle strike, and it is his advisors or generals who are to blame... The Warboss is usually a Orc or Hobgoblin. When a Waaargh is underway the Warboss acts as general of his particular tribe.
  3. The Boss caste. Immediately below the Warboss in authority are the members of the Boss caste, those who might rise to power in time but for now act as his advisors and generals. It is often these who are blamed when the less-than-brilliant master plan of the Warboss goes wrong ("We's in dis gully, ryt. We charges from dis end and you charges from d' uvver end, and the Dwurfies 'ul be so surprised dat we'll bash 'em good!..." <and later> "We did good. It woz dat wezzles' boyz wot messed up..."). It is members of this caste and a few higher placed members of the Warrior caste who contest for the post when the Warboss, in his precarious position, falls from grace. The Boss caste is usually formed of Orcs and the higher rising Hobgoblins.
  4. The Warrior caste. The Warbosses crack troops. A large number of Black Orcs and Hobgoblins fall into this caste, as do the Stunty Slayurs. This caste also includes many Hobgoblin smiths, their skill in forging a blade often comparable to their skill in combat. The better warriors of the Orc species fall into this caste, as do Orc, Savage Orc, Black Orc and Hobgoblin Boar riders.
  5. The Shaman caste. This caste houses the Priests and Shamans of Goblinoid culture. Roughly equal in rank to those of the Warrior caste, those in the Shaman caste nevertheless enjoy the status of advisors to the Bosses, the most able Shaman being approximately elevated to a status equivalent to the Boss caste as advisor to the Warboss, as is a senior Priest (Goblinoids are particularly superstitious, and offending the Goblinoid gods is very bad form - never tangle with something that's got more Magic Points than you can shake a stick at). The Shamans do, unfortunately, have to take the blame for things going wrong higher up the chain as it descends from the ranks above them. The Warbosses Shaman usually has to do some fast talking to get out of sticky situations when things go awry in the magic department.
  6. The Mob caste. The majority of Goblinoid society will fall into this caste, giving the caste its name. This caste absorbs all those not big enough to be Bosses or tough/skilled enough to be Warriors, but with higher station than the poor wretches in the Slave caste. Notable members of this caste include the Runtherdz (slave and Squig herders) and Sneakin' Gitz (weird Gobbo spies), the lesser warriors among Orc, etc. kind and the majority of Wolf/Boar riders of Goblin size or smaller. NOTE: As the Mob caste lacks a proper 'natural' noun, I will refer to Mob caste members as Mobgobs in this project from henceforth.
  7. The Slave caste. The lowest of the low in Gobbo society, the down and outs. Those Snotlings and Lesser Goblins not lucky enough to have a large contingency in the tribe often fall into this caste, to be used as footstools and lackeys by their betters. Not a good caste to be born into.

Note that only the larger tribes and hordes will support all these castes. Smaller tribes will typically constitute a single Boss, a small number of crack Warriors and the remainder of Mobgobs. A typical band consists only of a Boss and an unstructured array of Mobgobs.

Ultimate power over the tribe is exercised by the Warboss - usually the Orc or Hobgoblin who bests those others contesting for the position in hand to hand combat. If another Goblinoid of the Boss caste contests the current Warbosses right to hold that position, one of two outcomes will occur. Either the current Warboss will command those loyal to him to lynch the unfortunate challenger or, if the Warboss feels his fighting prowess has been slighted, a one-to-one fight to the death will ensue, the victor claiming or retaining the position of Warboss. Of course, similar power struggles exist in smaller tribes, members of the Warrior caste usually being the ones to contest for the position of tribe Boss.

Tribe Politics

Goblinoid politics, if it can be called that, is based on one simple tenet: you can do anything if you're strong enough to carry it off. At the centre of the fray is the Warboss or Warlord who, as long as he stays in power, has absolute say over all decisions. Gobbo politics rarely takes the form of subtle plotting, usually taking the form of direct action and/or violence. The efforts of each Boss to become the next Warboss is a classic example.

Relationships and Marriage

Goblinoid society has a very high male to female ratio (about three males to every female, why this proportion endures in Goblinoid society no-one knows), and so females have a large choice of mate. Most females prefer to mate with those of their own species (Goblin with Goblin, Orc with Orc, etc.) although interbreeding between species is not unknown. The most attractive females (to Goblinoid eyes, at least) are usually claimed by those of the Boss caste, the Warboss getting the best. The females themselves vie for this, seeing it in no way degrading, it being a standard part of their culture. Most females would give their right arm to be one of the Warbosses mates, even if only temporarily.

Other females are left to find a mate for themselves among the lower castes. Often using all the Goblinoid guile and charm (!!) they can muster to attract their preferred mate(s), each female usually attracts a large number of potential suitors (even the unattractive ones - you'd be surprised how many desperate male Gobbos there are!). Marriage is unknown in Goblinoid culture - the very idea of having only one mate is completely alien to most Goblinoids - and the Goblinoid males that the female attracts fight each other to be one of her mates. The fact that most females mate with all those whom they attract within a short time anyway in no way puts them off.

The high male-female ratio does mean, however, that many males, especially the less attractive and virile ones, will rarely have a female to mate. These males often go out on raids to nearby Human settlements to capture Human women. These unfortunate women are taken back to the Goblinoid hold where the males have their sport with her. Older women are generally killed following this while younger women are often kept for this bed sport indefinitely, as long as the local food supply holds up. The offspring of those women who are pregnant and are allowed to live give rise to the Half Orc section of Gobbo society, those women who manage to escape their captors or are raped on a raid and not taken (who wants another mouth to feed in a harsh winter?) bolstering the Half Orc population of Human society. As might be expected, the more Goblinoid looking Half Orc offspring are usually killed summarily in such circumstances. A few more Human looking ones, however, slip through the net, some even rising to powerful positions. Many of these have a number of rather odd quirks or physical oddities developed later in life, but do not know of their true parentage.

Pregnancy, Birth and Child Rearing

Goblinoid females vary in their gestation period from four months (Snotlings), six months (Goblins and Lesser Goblins) to approximately eight months (Orcs, Savage Orcs, Hobgoblins and Black Orcs), the period being very much linked to the average height of the species. The period is shorter than normally the case for an equivalent sized human, and generally the smaller the species, the bigger the brood - goblinoids breed quickly. Snotlings can have broods of ten or more at a time.

As most Goblinoids cannot know who their father is (free females generally sleep around shamelessly) or the father is too powerful to take notice (such as with females kept tightly under the belt of the Warboss and his highest ranking Bosses for their amusement), the males take no part in the birth or child rearing, and after the birth even the mother generally gives the child (or 'Sprog') into the care of the Nanneez (Goblinoid slaves used primarily as child rearers) and then generally takes little part in raising the child - especially if the females are controlled as part of the Warbosses harem - they have better things to do than raise the kids, like make more kids. Usually, the actual parents take no part in raising the sprog, leaving it to the Nanneez, who are expected to feed and care the infant in its early months.

The Nanneez, typically elderly Goblins too old for more active work, bring up the young for the first months of the sprogs' life. Goblinoid young develop surprisingly rapidly and are walking and talking within months. Soon after this stage the sprogs are left to fend for themselves and carve a place for themselves in Gobbo society.

It is not uncommon, of course, for the larger Goblinoid species to get a bit peckish and gobble up a nearby Squig, Snotling, sprog, etc., a practice known in Gobbo terms as 'runt noshing' and which has brought out distinctive features in the Black Orcs and, although to a far lesser extent, the other Goblinoid species also. It is in part thanks to this practice that the Goblinoids are such a hardy race as the weaker elements brought in with each new generation are weeded out. The custom also means only between a third and a half of those leaving the care of the Nanneez survive the transition period to become a part of the tribe, especially among the Snotlings, Goblins and Lesser Goblins.

Crime and Justice

Crime, as the Goblinoids define it, is surprisingly rare in a society as wild as that of the goblinoid race. Killing is not considered a crime at all, and petty stealing is often overlooked as routine. Few crimes in the Human sense of the word are defined as such in Gobbo society, with one simple reason: religion (see Chapter Three: Religion and Magic for more info on this). Gobbo justice operates by the law of the jungle, every Gobbo for him/herself. Waiting for a fellow Gobbo to pass, sneaking up on him, knocking him out and 'borrowing' the tasty Squig he was carrying is perfectly Ok - after all, it's good practice for when you do it to a Humie. Gork salutes those with melee prowess, so killing a fellow Goblinoid is perfectly fine. In fact, Gork smiles on you all the more when it's a superior. You've proved yourself better than a superior, so are ripe for a rise in social status. I'm sure you get the picture.

Despite an atmosphere of being able to get away with almost anything , things rarely progress beyond petty thieving, the occasional killing (which is, after all, an occupational hazard the higher up the chain you are), etc. When 'justice' is perceived necessary, it is of course up the victim to get it done. A trick just as sneaky as the 'crime' itself or perhaps just killing (or attempting to kill) the perpetrator are the usual methods. Those close to the 'victim' can give them a hand of course, or warn the perpetrator of the original 'crime' beforehand...

Food and Diet

The diet of a typical Goblinoid depends a great deal on the local surroundings (Badlands, Darklands, mountain, forest, etc.) and the species. Having very little info on the Badlands apart from the snippet of info in the World Guide of the rulebook, I imagine the Badlands as a barren, rocky, desolate sort of place (a lot like the Three-fold land in the Wheel of Time if you've read the series up to it's current incarnation of seven books), supporting little plant life. As such, I see the Badlands Goblinoids as living mainly on the meat of animals caught while on their nomadic travels. In fact, I see the Darklands as being somewhat similar, in terms of where the food comes from at least, although the Darklands Goblinoids would obviously have to be more careful in what they try to eat...

The forest dwelling Goblinoid bands would probably live off a number of food sources. The forest vegetation could feed them, game can be caught and raids on Humans passing through or on Human settlements could well provide food as well. The same sources would probably be available, albeit to a lesser extent, in mountainous regions.

The practice of 'Runt noshing', discussed above in the Pregnancy, Birth and Child Rearing section, also provides tasty snacks for many of the larger Gobbo species.

Arts and Crafts

Yes, arts, not that Goblinoid artists are particularly skilled - few Goblinoids ever become inclined to produce art, and fewer still are any good... The typical Goblinoid artist, usually an unhinged Goblin or Lesser Goblin, spreads whatever paint or ink he/she has available liberally on whatever surface he/she is using as a canvas (rocks, animal skin, whatever), almost always producing something that looks a mess with no artistic appeal whatsoever! It's no accident that Goblinoid art does not lead the world...

Their crafts, however, fair somewhat better. Although nowhere near as skilled as Human, Elven or Dwarven crafts, Hobgoblins make proficient, if crude, craftsmen, and it is they who produce the armour and tools that their society requires (and which can't be scavenged from elsewhere). A typical Goblinoid forge in a Gobbo set is set up well enough to make things like swords and shields, with the occasional helm, but nothing much more complex. A mail coat, for example, would probably require facilities such as those commanded by Humans, Dwarves or Elves.


The Goblinoids, like the other races have their own language, best known to outsiders (non-Goblinoids) as the 'Goblin tongue' and to Goblinoids themselves as 'Ha^zhakh' (by which I mean 'Hazhakh' with a 'hat' over the first 'a' - this seems the best way of representing this accenting for cross platform usability and will be used on the dialects of the Goblinoid tongue also). Each Goblinoid species speaks its own dialect. The following table indicates the dialects spoken by each species:

        Snotlings :  Snotgob
   Lesser Goblins :  Gha^zhakh
          Goblins :  Gha^zhakh
             Orcs :  Orrakh
      Savage Orcs :  Gha^zorrakh*
       Hobgoblins :  Hargha^zhakh
       Black Orcs :  Ghaha^zhakh*
        Half Orcs :  Ha^zhakh* (common Goblinoid tongue)
 (The *-ed names were coined by me.)

The normal rules for understanding languages and dialects apply as for humans. A Half Orc may understand one of these dialects, but most speak only Ha^zhakh, the common Goblinoid tongue, and will not understand if a Gobbo chooses to lapse into his dialect (as normal language rules).

There also exists, of course, a written form of Ha^zhakh - several in fact, the problem is that different Goblinoid species use different forms. The simplest form is that of Snotling pictograms (depicting very basic concepts, comparable to the form of Human 'secret signs' - see the WFRP rulebook). Orcs and Savage Orcs use a slightly more advanced system, but still based on glyphs and pictograms (often termed GlyphScript). These 'symbolic' forms of the language are often tribe specific - different tribes will likely use different symbols leading to some interesting misunderstandings...

Goblins and some their smarter masters, however, have developed a different form of the written language, more akin to those of other races. This is usually known as Ha^zScript or GobScript, and with some minor exceptions, is usually portable between tribes. See the appendices for more info. A more complex form is, in turn, used by some of the more advanced and smarter tribal shamans and priests, culminating in the relatively complex form of the Goblinoid arcane language.

Some tribes have over the years discontinued the use of either Orc GlyphScript or Ha^zScript, and instead adopted a crude form of Human script, for example the Bloodaxe alliance of Doomstones fame. The Elven and Dwarven languages are generally too complex for the average Goblinoid to possibly emulate (with the possible exception of some highly exceptional shamans).

Internal and External Relations

Goblinoid relations, whether integral to their society or with other races, could never be said to be particularly rosy. Friction and animosity is common between individuals of differing species or from different tribes and while bloodshed does occur over this, it happens surprisingly rarely. Only when Goblinoids have cause to unite does the inter-species and inter-tribe friction lessen, and then not by much. Larger Gobbo species generally hold the smaller species in contempt or ignore them (except, of course, when peckish or they have a errand they want running). The smaller species, for their part, regard their larger cousins with a mixture of awe, pride and fear, depending on the exact species.

Relations with other intelligent races are strained at best. The mutual hatred between the Goblinoids and Dwarves does little to provoke anything but war between the two races and major conflict has occured several times over the course of their histories, most markedly in the period known by scholars as the Goblin Wars. The highly 'sexually active' society the Goblinoids have does little to douse the flames of this mutual hatred, going almost exactly against the Dwarven belief in maintaining a stable (polygamous) family unit. Elves regard the Goblinoids little more favourably, although coming into contact far less often. Humans see little of the Goblinoids other than the raids on the Border Princes and similar areas, and unsurprisingly hold them in little regard.

Money and Currency

There is no currency to speak of, and exchange of goods is often by barter. This is not to say that goblinoids do not understand or appreciate the concept of currency (in fact some tribes take money in tolls along the land trade routes that pass through the Badlands and other goblinoids will often trade with those human traders who dare to journey south below the Blood river).

And Finally: Religion, Magic and Warfare

Details of Goblinoid warfare and the military structure can be found separately in the Defence and War chapter, while Goblinoid Religion and Magic is presented, unsurprisingly, in the Religion and Magic chapters.

Up Back Next