Game: The Slayer’s Guide to Goblins
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 24th, July 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 10
Average Score: 5.00
It seems like an age since I’ve looked at a Slayer’s Guide but if we’re only just at The Slayer’s Guide to Goblins then there must be plenty of mileage left in the series.
Goblins are green, right? No, of course not. Goblins are imaginary creatures. I imagine them as green, though. The Monster Manual says they come in many colours, ranging through yellow to red. The Slayer’s Guide says that they always come in a shade of red, yellow or orange. Yeah. I know. It’s far from being a big deal. It is about the only lingering gripe I have with the book.
As Yoda would say, “A lack of lingering gripes does not a good book make.” And yes, I had to throw some Yoda speak into a Goblin book review. The 32-paged Slayer’s Guide series often struggles to find enough space to fully do justice to the monster in question and then introduce bells and whistles by which to reach a better than average score. The Slayer’s Guide to Goblins is a classic example. It does the goblin race justice, getting the basics right first, and then tries to score a critical hit in the page space remaining. It’ll depend on where you’re reading this review as to whether you see the numerical rating for the book as a better than average, B grade, 6/10 or as a 3 star average ranking. I think the B grade makes more sense. If you see a C grade as a narrow pass then that doesn’t apply to this Slayer’s Guide, it comfortably does what it needs to do, nothing narrow about it. There’s nothing in the book, especially in today’s rich d20 marketplace, to warrant an impressive A rating either.
I like the front cover. Classic. Goblins on the prowl and the closer you look then the more goblins you spot. Vicious looking buggers they are too. The inside front cover has the typical Slayer’s Guide anatomical view of the goblin. Um. I’m not saying there’s an anatomically correct illustration of a goblin. Oh no. Let’s not trip up over that enthusiasm. We’ve an illustration of the goblin with flesh texture and bone structure on show. Unusually this is in colour. Nice. The inside back cover has an advert for the Dragon and Dungeon magazines. It’s probably a coincidence but this advert has started to appear in Mongoose books ever since they launched their own Signs and Portents magazine.
The book gets going with the usual look at goblin physiology. The colour issue pops up in the physical description. There’s a look at the goblin lifecycle; they’re walking in six months and an adult in nine years. Goblins are lucky to live more than 20 years but can live to be 50. The goblin mind seems simple enough, despite the book tossing in the odd reminder that they are more than brutal thugs. The strongest goblin in the boss, pick on people lower than you and expect to be picked on by those stronger than you. They hate beauty (okay, beauty is subjective but this probably isn’t a point you’d make to the goblins), live in filth (because they can and don’t care otherwise) and don’t bother making anything they can take. If they can’t take it then they’ll probably do without. There’s an interesting side note on goblin slaves. Goblin’s make pretty good slaves, okay, they’re evil and backstabbing but if you show them who’s boss then they’re not likely to try and escape the luxury of life as a slave for the horror of the warren and aren’t likely to cooperate long enough to escape anyway.
The goblin god is known as The Mighty One. He’s a heartless bugger and the goblins think he made them to foil the civilized races after sneering at the unremitting failure the orcs would be. He likes sacrifices. Goblins also think Worgs are animals with the spirits of powerful goblin warriors in them. There are even spells the goblins have to track down the nearest Worg so it can be asked to join their ranks. The Worgs often do.
There are a handful of new spells. They’re all available to priests of The Mighty One and all but one available to Adepts of various levels. How often do you see the unfortunate Adept class included in a spell’s level?
There’s a goblin only prestige class too. Only a 5 level prestige class but I think this is right for Goblins. We’re back to the “new look” for Mongoose class tables here, grey and light grey shading, boarded and decorated. The Goblin Skulk is an advanced rogue. Class specials on every level make it rather scary; Ambush Mastery, Poison Use, Tracking Mastery, Cover and Concealment Mastery, Lesser Surprise Mastery and Greater Surprise Mastery. Fortunately for heroes the requirements are fairly tough and life as a Goblin Skulk tends to be short.
There’s tip and tricks (a paragraph or so) on how to best portray goblins and run encounters with goblinoids before the Scenario Hooks and Ideas chapter begins. I think the Hooks and Idea chapter is the heart of the book. It presents a half dozen solid goblin based scenario ideas (as promised) and whereas someone like Wizards will give you only a single obscure line (in those awful 100 plot idea sections) there’s a healthy paragraph or two for each hook here.
Starting on page 24 there’s a sample warren/pre-written adventure. There’s a good, near page-sized map, just a little one that clearly depicts the warrens and contains a dozen numbered locations. If you want instant goblin location then this is it.
The book finishes with a collection of stat blocks for various goblins. I really couldn’t care for such crunch anywhere else than a Slayer’s Guide. It works here. I treat the books as thoroughly fleshed out entries for a fantasy beastiary.
There you have it. The Slayer’s Guide to Goblins isn’t going to rock your roleplaying world, it’s not going to inspire any campaigns but it will add a little more depth to the fantasy stalwarts and you shouldn’t see the race as empty cannon fodder again. I doubt anyone could really be disappointed with the book.