OSE Advanced Lore #1 – Goblins, Hobgoblins, Bugbears, and Thouls + Hello, World

After decades of RPG monster books, we have to remind our brains, stamped with the last 100 years of fantasy media, that the inspiration for these creatures is largely the same. 

Kobold, Goblin, and Orc are all words with very similar origins. You throw the name of a historically British type of elf/Goblin on the front and you get “Hobgoblin.” Then there’s the fact that an elf and a Goblin in English language folklore have often been interchangeable terms. (Not to mention hob is a diminutive of Robin, which is a diminutive of Robert. So every Hobgoblin is just Robert Goblin.)

So, as an exercise in crafting lore for my home setting, I will be writing my lore for every “Monster” entry in  “Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Referee’s Tome.”

Welcome to installment #1: Goblins, Hobgoblins, Bugbears, and Thouls. 

two 40k Gretchins choke on the gas from the puffball fungus

Goblins (Gobs) are a perturbing and dangerous menace.

Origins: Legends tell of a mischievous but friendly lineage of fae who, like many magical beings during the theurgic wars, gained the unwanted attention of a powerful caster. Her methods of transfiguration are lost to time but the results of her experiments reside in the darker regions of nearly every forest, meadow, and swamp.

Reproduction: The life cycle of the Gobs begins under the damp peat or mud of forests and bogs. Microscopic spores form underground rhizome networks that sprout patches of slimy green lumps shaped like cabbage that ripen and shrivel before bursting open and leaking out a fully formed Goblin.

Physiology: The Gobs have the unique ability to fuse with others of their kind. During the fusion process, a Gob will develop flatulence that spread its spores. The smaller of the two fused Gobs eventually absorbs into their bondmate creating a single oversized and war-like brute covered in short, red fur known as a Hobgoblin (Hob). A Hob can fuse with a Gob or other Hob creating a Bugbear (Bug), a brutish being with shaggy lightly coloured fur. The Bugs rule over the smaller members of their patch like murderous versions of schoolyard bullies.

On rare occasions, a Hobgoblin fusion will instead create a Thoul, a tall, gaunt being resembling a hairless Hob. Thouls stink of death and possess similar powers to ghouls. Thouls are always powerful spellcasters. Thouls are so rare most researchers believe they are a myth.

Secret:  some sages believe there is only one Thoul and when it dies it is reborn anew. Who “Thoul” is and what their ultimate goal could be remains a mystery.

Social behaviour: Gobs steal and wear a haphazard collection of clothing as trophies from their victims. Besides weapons, they prize coins, buttons, and any object they can be convinced is valuable to others. They will also “play humie,” a bonding exercise where they mimic the lives of their victims inside the villages and buildings they have successfully annexed.

Crunchier Bits: Gobs and Hobs have a 20% chance of being mid-fusion with a portion of a second Goblin body protruding from their chest. Gobs and Hobs in mid-fusion have 50% more hit points and can use their third arm to wield a weapon, gaining an extra attack per round.

Inspiration: The Warhammer 40k Orks for their spore-based reproduction. The Oatmeal webcomic “How The Male Angler Fish Gets Completely Screwed” for the horrifying body horror that is the male Angler Fish’s life. Kuato for living rent-free in my head for the better part of my movie-watching life.


Kuato from Total Recall
What do you want, Mr. Quaid?


PS: introductions are in order. I’m Josh and the fine folks at Wobblies and Wizards have given me access to this blog so I can share some of my favourite RPG hyperfocus rabbit holes with you. Thanks to them and thanks to everyone else for reading. please leave a comment if you’d like and you can find a link to some of my other projects + social media here.

Josh D.

No gods, no masters, hold the mayo.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dalillama

    I’ve been lately working on an idea of goblins as locust-apes. Locusts are just ordinary grasshoppers until the population density hits a certain point, then they suddenly grow twice the size and swarm together to eat all the plants in sight. Goblins are ordinarily harmless chimp-like creatures, which live in small bands, make nests out of grass, and occasionally use crude spears or levers. When the right environmental cues happen, they grow bigger, lose a lot of hair, grow more fangs, and develop a ravenous hunger for flesh. Then they go on a rampage, during which they often pick up weapons/tools from their victims and use them to stab future victims. Most people don’t connect the woods-apes with goblins because everyone who witnesses the transition is usually devoured immediately afterwards.

    1. Josh D.

      Oh, I love this idea. Any creature that can go from happy tree friend to horrible murder monster is fun to me. Plus, it lets you drop creepy hints to the players which creates tension.

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