Spot Hidden Review: Gobblin’ (Part 2)

The Spot Hidden Crew has more thoughts! Today we’re hearing from Marxist Moose, who has a lot to say about the nuts and bolts of the game. If last time got you excited about Gobblin’ then this time will give you more of an idea of how the game actually works.

There are serious games, games filled with heroic deeds and pathos. And then there’s Gobblin’, which invites players to embrace their worst murder-hobo tendencies and just be themselves. If you’re a fan of the wackiness of Gamma World and/or the good-natured backstabbing chaos of Paranoia then you’ll feel right at home.  

See, one day all the other fantasy races decided that goblins were more trouble than they were worth and cast a big spell to exile all of goblin-kind to some alternate dimension where they’d be someone else’s problem. As it happened, the goblins landed on a post-apocalyptic Earth, with no one to tell them what to do and a whole planet of cool junk to play with. Goblin paradise.

While it may be possible to run a campaign in Gobblin’, keeping the characters focused seems problematic. I think with the ease of character creation, the disposable nature of characters and the focus on the absurd, one shots or episodic play is the way to go. Goblins are stupid, keep the action at that scale.

Gobblin' Dragon
Image © Drunk and Ugly Games

Game Mechanics

Gobblin’ uses a simple d20 + modifier system. Or it would be except that goblins are kind of pathetic so they only get to use d12s (trouble if you run into one of the few remaining humans who DO use d20s). Most rolls the modifier is simply the goblin’s stat, with occasional additional modifications from perks or drawbacks.

Goblins have 6 stats, which are delightfully thematic. Goblins don’t need highfalutin terms like strength and dexterity. Instead they have Bash and Run (which is also used for perception checks as the goblin literally runs around looking at everything).

Goblins are tougher than they realize so constitution is irrelevant, what matters is how Brave they are to avoid flying into a blind panic when they get hurt or scared. This ties into one of my favorite bits in the game: imaginary (invisible) armor. This is the emperor’s new clothes, the goblin is tougher because they believe they have magic invisible armor or a special talisman that protects them. They are generally sold in markets by goblins skilled in pantomime. Goblins are all stupid, but some are a bit more clever than others. The most knowledgeable of them understand not only how to read human writings, but how to wear pants! Finally, goblins have two stats for influencing others. Laugh helps you cheer up goblins with undoubtedly inappropriate humour while Jerk is how good you are at being a jerk. Naturally.

Stats are allocated with a point buy system, typically 13 points, with starting stats ranging from 0 to 5. Alternatively players can roll a fistful of dice and assign a point to the corresponding stat rolled on each die (1’s become Bash, etc.). If your players don’t want to read anything then this option makes for quick character creation.

Gobblin' Car
Image © Drunk and Ugly Games LLC

Classes are a simple collection of perks and limitations, typically about half a page long. My personal favorite is the Shootomancer, the only goblin that understands how to reload guns. However their obsession cuts both ways and they refuse to use any non-gun weapons.

Alternatively, goblins can pick a perk from a table of 100 options, or roll for 2 random perks. This brings me to one of my few criticisms. The table is unnumbered, making it a headache to actually use this option. Hopefully this is fixed in a future update. The perks are for the most part as flavorful as the class abilities, and can make for a satisfying character.

Character improvement comes in discrete amounts called Goblin Greatness. Any time a player does something hilarious, awesome, or awesomely stupid. Goblins can spend points to roll a second die and add it to their previous result, buy a new perk from the table, or use two points to increase a stat (no maximum). From personal experience it can be difficult to remember this when your players have you doubled over laughing. If you’re good at handling fate points, willpower, bennies, etc then you’ll do fine although some additional guidance on avoiding power creep from over rewarding could be nice.

The World and the Stuff

Equipment is divided into broad groups which function the same mechanically, with players encouraged to flavor-text into whatever they like. Armor, for example, is light, heavy, unarmored, or the aforementioned imaginary. Heavy armor could be an actual suit of armor from a museum or a trash can with holes for the arms and legs. Weapons could be as mundane as a club or a laser pistol, or as silly as another goblin catapulted from a little red wagon (a player favorite).

GMs get minimal advice on running the system but the included introductory adventure will get you going. This adventure has enough material for one full night, or it can be padded with additional NPCs to fill two nights. Mostly as a GM your job is to just roll with whatever craziness the players come up with.

In addition to the adventure there is a significant page count dedicated to detailing monsters, NPCs, and locations of Goblin House. There is also a list of sample adventure hooks to inspire you. There are also delightful tables for quickly generating distinctive NPCs appearances. Skin color “Unknown. Rolls in mud as a hobby” being a personal favorite.

The Book Itself

Production quality is mostly good. As a relatively small kickstarter (weighing in at 118 pages), you won’t find a lot of art here but what there is will make you smile at the goblin antics. The unnumbered random perk table is an unfortunate oversight. There are a number of grammatical errors but most are trivial. I do have a few issues with the organization of material. The were a few points as I was reading where I had questions that wouldn’t be answered until much later in the book and a page reference would have been greatly appreciated. The most annoying one was in the section on secondary stats in character creation. The defense stat doesn’t tell you where you need to look to actually figure out what value it will be. It’s in the equipment section under armor. That said, when the included adventure references a monster or NPC they do a good job of including the page number.

One final note: If your group doesn’t try to do silly goblin voices, you’re seriously missing out.

Gobblin' - Fishcat
Image © Drunk and Ugly Games LLC

Where to Get Gobblin’

Additional information about Gobblin’ can be found on the Kickstarter page and there are several podcast episodes linked there for those who would like to see the game in action. I have only listened to Role Playing Public Radio’s interview with the designer, Greg Predmore of the Drunk and Ugly podcast, and an actual play of the included adventure. Gobblin’ is available on DrivethruRPG and possibly other places.

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