Until the Great Mage Wars, goblins mostly lived in the dark places of the world. Midgard’s populations dwelt below the Pytonne Mountains and the contested western range of the Ironcrags. The darkness and ruin brought by that great conflict gave the goblins some respite from the light of day. Fleeing the dwarves’ relentless westward push, the goblins finally emerged onto the face of the world. They have adapted well to their new lives in the Wastes, and innumerable goblin tribes call the badlands their home.
Welcome, friend, to the world of Midgard. Maybe you’re brand new to this world. Or maybe you’ve been around since the beginning. Either way, stay—all are welcome! Please, sit and listen to the tales. You see, the world has been changing, and oh, the sights to see. It’s a living, evolving realm where things happen after all. So why shouldn’t it have a life all it’s own? Where to start…
[From the Midgard Worldbook]
The most religious goblins worship the Dread Walkers and set up semi-permanent tent-and-wagon cities in their shadows. Tribal witches and prophet-oracles see signs in every twitch, shudder, and step of the abominations. These auguries and superstitions rule every aspect of these goblins’ lives. Aged family matriarchs dictate all the daily actions of even the lowliest dust goblin, from diet and mating decisions to feuds and war.
Huge drums thrum from deep within these goblin settlements, as the creatures attempt to communicate with their gods or influence their movements. From their tunnel-towns burrowed into the tail-mark trenches and footprints of the Walkers, or the mobile rope-pulled shanty-town fortresses lashed to the slowly lumbering abominations, these superstitious dust goblins preach their madness to everyone. They take slaves to “enlighten” them in the presence of alien gods. Most go mad.
Other tribes live as transient scavengers and salvagers that dig deep into the ruins to recover relics of a lost age. They inhabit burrows in the ruined cities and settlements, and many relic-rich territories see prolonged inter-tribal warfare. Adventurers take such fighting as a sure sign that treasures lie within. The zealous Walker-worshipping goblins and their more secular cousins wage bloody war for control of the old arcane academies and their artifacts. Other settled ruins—including those thought long plundered—are populated by goblins that encourage trade with outsiders. Signs of weakness can set entire gangs of goblins on arrogant or incautious visitors, however.
Interactions with goblin tribes can be touch-and-go affairs, but if approached respectfully, goblins can serve as knowledgeable and dependable guides to Wastes and ruins alike. Dust goblins have stoic personalities and carry themselves with a severe, upright bearing not found in their mountain-dwelling cousins. Quick to retaliate for any slight, these goblins can nevertheless become invaluable companions if other creatures earn their trust.
Dealing with tribal chieftains can be difficult, since the strongest keep caches of powerful weapons. Dust goblins have a knack for activating lost technology and powerful relics that remain inert even in the hands of gifted spellcasters, and they use strange incantations to awaken even greater magic in items that fail in human hands. Adventurers who underestimate the tribes end up as powder or petrified statues after an icy glare and a flick of the insulted goblin’s wrist. Their natural talent for repairing lost technology makes dust goblins valuable, and the more ambitious among them can even find lucrative work in the coastal city of Cassadega.
Beloved Leader of All Goblins
The dust goblins haven’t had a single leader since the death of their last king, Dizzerax, but that may be about to change. A new warlord has appeared in the Goblin Wastes with ambitions of reuniting the tribes under her red and black banner (see “Rise of the Beloved Leader” on page 235).
Braagezz, a cunning warrior of the Dust Diggers, became the chieftain of her tribe after her predecessor and half of his bodyguards died in an unfortunate accident involving a cache of newly discovered vril weaponry. Indiscreet members of the Dust Diggers talk in hushed whispers of Braagezz finding this cache a few hours earlier in the rubble of Molovosch, sabotaging it, and then burying it again where it would be easily discovered by the chief. Others point to the fact that Braagezz lost part of her face and right arm in the explosion as evidence of her innocence. Either way, Braagezz’s rise to power has changed things in the Goblin Wastes.
After taking control of the Dust Diggers, Braagezz led her tribe against the Bloody Tusk, then the Sand Bird’s Disciples, and finally the Bonewraiths. Proclaiming herself the “Beloved Leader of All Goblins,” she offered the dust goblin tribes she had defeated the choice of joining with her to conquer the Wastes, or suffering a slow, painful death. Most chose the former.
Braagezz is formidable in appearance. Missing most of her nose and her right ear, her face is covered in hideous burn scars, while her right arm has been replaced with a vril weapon graft capable of blasting anyone and anything with a 15-foot cone of magical fire (treat as an enhanced burning hands that deals 8d6 hp fire damage). She wears an ancient bronze powered Ankeshelian breastplate that gives off an electrical charge to enemies who gets too close (treat as shocking grasp that deals 2d8 lightning damage to creatures within 5 ft. when activated) and brandishes a magic orichalcum battleaxe (a prize taken in battle from Cragmaw of the Bloody Tusk) in her left hand. From a distance, Braagezz seems to be half-goblin, half-machine. Her weapon arm and breastplate are powered by vril batteries (see page 258).
Ruthless, cunning, and determined to usher in a new “golden era” for the dust goblins, the Beloved Leader plots from the dungeons beneath the ruined Mercurial Tower in the southwestern hills of the Goblin Wastes. She still needs to bring the Ghost Head Goblins under her control before she can lay claim to the entirety of the Goblin Wastes, but once they are out of the way, she plans to turn her attentions westward to the remaining major tribes—the Scarlet Rovers, the Maimed Ones, and the River Rats— and those misguided dust goblins who still pay homage to the Dread Walkers. Braagezz also keeps a nervous eye to the southeast, wary of drawing too much attention from the Green Duchy of Verrayne. She has employed a dozen qwyllions as mercenaries to guard her stronghold.
Dust goblin tribes concentrate in the eastern half of the Wastes, so much so that the area is known as the Goblin Wastes. The tribal names were bestowed by human explorers. Though the goblins find these names insulting, they reluctantly use them with outsiders. Goblins refrain from revealing the names they use among themselves for fear of the power that may give visitors.
Bloody Tusk: The Bloody Tusk village hovers on a huge black slab of slate nearly 100 feet above the desert floor. These goblins raise dire boars for meat, draft animals, and war mounts. They occasionally move their home by lashing it to their dire boars. Their new chieftain is Fengrak, a brutish, squat goblin with glowing golden eyes who has reluctantly sworn allegiance to the Beloved Leader of All Goblins.
Bonewraiths: The cannibalistic Bonewraiths craft all their weapons and armor from the bones of great ancestors or enemies to harness the power of the fallen. Their previous leader was the mummified legendary goblin king Dizzerax, who was plotting to lead a huge army against Bourgund and claim the corpse of the Fallen One so he could animate it as an unstoppable siege engine. When Dizzerax was slain by Braagezz, the Bonewraiths swore fealty to her. A wiry Bonewraith spirit caller (shaman) with over-dilated pupils and a nervous twitch called Crackfang now leads the tribe in the mummy’s stead.
Dust Diggers: The Beloved Leader’s tribe owns more vril artifacts and technologies than any other, and Braagezz has a good understanding of how to use the strange weapons and armor. This edge in ancient weapons has helped her subjugate the other tribes. The Dust Diggers’ fortified encampments in the Goblin Wastes contain more war machines than they could possibly operate, some in perfect working order and the rest in various states of disrepair. More are being built in the tunnels beneath the Mercurial Tower for the upcoming conquest of the Western Wilderness.
Ghost Head Goblins: This infamous tribe contains as many undead goblins as living ones. They are led by Kamelk Twice-Killed, an unstoppable force who has been slain both as a living goblin and as a ghost, securing his legend when he returned each time. Many of his followers have undergone rituals to become undead “horrors”— treat these ghost goblins as zombies with the ability to affect a single creature with fear as the spell unless it makes a successful DC 12 Wisdom or Will saving throw. The goblin horrors can use this power once per day. Travelers should give these fanatics a wide berth, since their will is strong enough to defy death.
Maimed Ones: No one truly understands the fanatical Maimed Ones. Why would anyone willingly sacrifice a limb to join a tribe of maimed outcasts? Only their leaders— called the Bearers—know, since they offer the amputated limbs to various Dread Walkers. Each time they receive a secret revelation shared only with the still-bleeding goblin. Worse yet, these goblins collect the limbs of other creatures to offer up as well, for with each sacrifice, the Dread Walkers reveal more secrets of the universe.
River Rats: The pilgrims who try to reach the Seat of Mavros by water encounter at least one of the decrepit “warships” of the River Rats, some rickety platforms barely worthy of the name raft. The Rats see themselves as pirates. Most others view them as a nuisance. However, the pests are numerous, tenacious, and not to be underestimated, especially when they summon their allies from beneath the river’s waters.
Sand Bird’s Disciples: Living in a series of connected underground nests, these strange goblins once tried to emulate the Walkers in every aspect of their lives. The croaking voice of Ornis Ammos’s shamans was law, and their brainwashed followers blindly obeyed. When Braagezz and the Dust Diggers subjugated the tribe, the shamans were all killed and worship of the Dread Walkers quickly ended, but many of the Sand Bird’s Disciples still live beneath the creature out of habit. Like the plumage of the Sand Bird, their nests are shared with all kind of parasites, and they have domesticated stirges for use as guards and food. The Sand Bird’s plumes are used to build primitive gliders, so the goblins can swoop down to surprise trespassers.
Scarlet Rovers: When explorers see goblins wearing the red capes of Mavros, they face the Scarlet Rovers, one of the most dangerous tribes of the badlands. These disciplined goblins can vanquish experienced soldiers. Though their numbers are few and their intentions mysterious, their talent as guides and bodyguards is well known and sought after, though their reputation as assassins who can quickly double-cross their employers is not unfounded.
But this is where we must stop for now, my friend. My mind, it wanders so at times. Do come see me again, though, for more of the wonders and surprises of Midgard.