THE REQUEST: An adventure involving goblins that are very comical but still effective for a weaker group of characters, perhaps the goblins can serve someone who is a capable villain.
Comical goblins, you say? Sounds right up my street.
|Left to right: Poot, Crybaby, Hamburger Soup, Hooch, and Clown-Shoes.
the GRIFFIN STREET ANGELS
by Erik Jensen
illustration by Gus from Dungeon of Signs
Five young, mischievous goblins have taken up residence in the attics, eaves, sewers, and barrels of Griffin Street. Having lived here nearly a year now, they have become an acknowledged part of the community, despite being rarely seen. The goblins have christened themselves the Griffin Street Angels, and they fancy themselves a sort of street gang which protects the residents and lives off of their largesse. Local residents and merchants sometimes put out milk or table scraps for the goblins, but the Angels could get by on trash alone if necessary. There is no ‘protection racket’ involved; the relationship is more akin to that of the traditional brownie, where the locals curry favor with the goblins and in exchange are not only unmolested by the dirty critters, but the Angels sometimes help out in unseen ways. The goblins have become fairly protective of their ‘turf’ and the people who live there, and at one point a few months ago drove off a rival (human) street gang. So, too, have many of the locals grown fond of their little helpers.
The ideas herein do not constitute an adventure on their own, but rather a short toolkit to create one, especially on the fly. Add a reason for the PCs to be on Griffin Street, or seeking the goblins, and perhaps a map of a steep and winding road, and improvise away! You may also want a handful of local merchants and residents handy, or ready for improv. Although written for use in a medieval or faux-Victorian fantasy city, a quick reskinning could make the Angels into escaped lab rats of extreme intelligence (for a modern or supers game), gremlins of some sort (horror), or even fluffy kawaii aliens (sci-fi).
RUNNING IT AS A COMEDY
The Griffin Street Angels should be a bit difficult to locate, then very difficult to pursue. The goblins themselves are no match for even novice adventurers in a straight fight; they are “just goblins” after all. However, dealing with the Griffin Street Angels may prove quite a challenge for any party seeking to avoid collateral damage or angering the local city-folk, who have come to appreciate the hidden goblins. To create this effect, the encounter is best run as comedy, and as broad as you care to make it, within the context of your game. Tussling with the Angels should be a bit cartoony, whether it’s comical combat or a hot pursuit through the streets. Below, the goblins and their unusual powers are described; several tables are provided to assist you in generating a madcap goblin encounter mid-game (and heaven help the party if they split up). You may also wish to employ the “Ouchies & Boo-boos” table, elsewhere in this volume, to amp up the cartoon feel.
WHAT DO THE PCs NEED FROM THE GOBLINS?
1 - Information. These goblins know something the PCs need to know.
2 - Their stuff back! The Griffin Street gang has pickpocketed (or blatantly stolen) money or an item the characters care about (perhaps a magic item, badge of office, or MacGuffin).
3 - Someone else’s stuff back! A non-Griffin Street resident claims “those blasted goblins” stole something of his...
4 - Directions. The Angels possibly know a secret way into some building to which the PCs need discreet access; could be sewer, secret door, etc.
5 - Something hidden. A treasure map or will sewn into an old coat donated to the goblins, for example.
6 - Mistaken Identity. These are not the goblins you’re looking for. Move along.
THE GOBLINS THEMSELVES
All of the Griffin Street Angels are plain old goblins, with all the requisite statistics; however, each of them has a comical quirk which may come into play (typically non-lethal in nature). The Angels can all speak Goblin and a smattering of Common (especially Hamburger Soup, who is near-fluent in Common). They can be Neutral or Evil or Chaotic (or a mix) as suits your game.
Hamburger Soup - the self-proclaimed leader of the gang, Hamburger Soup galavants about in a busted top hat and torn suit-jacket, constantly coming up with new schemes. He is quite selfish and vain, but also the cleverest of the goblins, and quite skilled at both trap-setting and the navigation of Griffin Street (optional: when Hamburger Soup is pursued, roll twice on the Pursuit & Mayhem table and choose the “better” result for the situation).
Crybaby - although his fellows often tease him for his childish ways, Crybaby is perhaps the most ‘angelic’ of the Griffin Street Angels. He is the goblin who leaves gifts or candy for children, or sneaks into their rooms to tell them stories late at night (often he is just a voice from the closet, or under the bed). Whether there is any real philanthropy in these acts is subject to debate - Crybaby loves positive attention, and he doesn’t get any from the other goblins very often. If cornered or wounded, Crybaby is certain to emit an ear-splitting wail which could daze or deafen those standing too close.
Poot - a rather tubby goblin in a dirty shirt, Poot enjoys eating, snacking, trying new ingredients, and eating. He has a bad habit of filling his constantly-empty stomach with chalk from the chalk processing facility at the low end of Griffin Street. This practice combines explosively with his eponymous flatulence; when he is frightened or under duress (for example, when in combat or held aloft by an angry adventurer) he may release a noxious cloud of gas and copious tiny chalk-particles which destroy visibility within a five foot radius of his position for 1d3 rounds.
Clown-Shoes - despite wearing an oversized pair of human boots (and large ones at that), Clown-Shoes is just as stealthy and sneaky and his fellows. He is the enforcer of the gang, and easily the most belligerent of the bunch, always willing to bring his massive clodhoppers to bear in a ruckus. Assume most attacks from Clown-Shoes are either foot-stomps or crotch-kicks, either of which may cause a temporary stun effect (and possibly loss of movement rate for a few rounds) to his victim.
Hooch - so enamored of drink is Hooch that he’s practically pickled; some spells (including sleep and most mind-affecting or fear-causing sorceries) may just plain not work on him, or have altered effects. Hooch generally has some sort of bottle. wineskin, or stein in his hand as he stumbles about, and one might think this would make him an easy target and less stealthy than his companions, but it just isn’t so. Hooch is like a tiny, burping drunken master. Should he release an immense belch directly into the face of a melee opponent (an act which inevitably solicits a unison “Good one!” from any other goblins about), the victim must save vs poison or be nauseated (50%) or even become temporarily intoxicated themselves (50%; lasts 1d4 rounds).
GRIFFIN STREET LOCAL REACTIONS
(when it is obvious the PCs are seeking or pursuing the goblins)
1 - Belligerent (tough guy). “Oi! What you doin’ over there? You mess wif dem gobs, you mess wif alla Griffin Street, boyo!”
2 - Belligerent (matronly). “You cad! How dare you! What have those poor wee goblins ever done to you!”
3 - Subtle assistance (pro-goblin). “Ooh, so sorry, how clumsy of me! Am I in your way?”
4 - Neutral. “Meh. Goblins.”
5 - Subtle assistance (anti-goblin). NPC says nothing, but points furtively to a cabinet, then leaves the room...
6 - Hater (anti-goblin). “Too right! Get ‘em gobs up outta here! Little blighters...”
GOBLIN MAYHEM AND PURSUIT TABLE
DMs should improvise results and add stat checks or saves as necessary for various implied effects. Be sure to describe the environment of the street in a way that incorporates people, places, and things that just beg to be exploited by your players during a chase.
|While you were looking at one goblin, another one tied your shoes together. No laces on your boots? That’s fine; he tied fishing line from your belt to something heavy.
|Goblin effortlessly scoops up a road-apple and flings it - rather accurately - toward the pursuer; alternately, a banana peel is tossed underfoot.
|Goblin makes a sharp turn, causing pursuer to nearly barrel into a (small child, elderly lady) at top speed (a save or DEX check might be valuable here; neither Little Sally nor Granny Knickerbocker react well to plate mail collisions)
|The goblin nonchalantly grabs a stray cat and flings it right at your face. Being a cat, it adheres nicely and wails and claws nonstop
|Bouncing around, goblin knocks over (or pulls down) something heavy or awkward - a gargoyle, a rain-gutter, etc.
|Goblin slithers into a manhole in such a way that the heavy metal cover spins about noisily then slams down again just as you get there
|Goblin grabs fish from a cart and flings it like a boomerang; if it misses, make another attack roll as the fish boomerangs back at the target
|Goblin scrambles up a rooftop, knocking ceramic shingles down upon you
|Goblin shoves a pram (complete with baby) so that it begins rolling out of control down the street, picking up speed
|Goblin whistles, calling over a rather mean dog on a chain; whether the dog or the outstretched chain is the more serious issue is a matter for debate
|A pair of workers carrying (1-2 long ladder, 3-5 pane of glass, 6 something ridiculous like a piano or Christmas tree) between them steps between you and the goblin
|Goblin hides in a barrel, giant wicker basket, or large clay pot, one of several. Somehow he can stick his head out of a different pot while you’re checking the first one; you know how this goes.
|Is that a procession up ahead? Oh, crap, it’s a funeral. The goblin weaves in and out of the wailing mourners and even hops on (or in!) the coffin/bier if the opportunity presents itself. This is an opportunity for the PCs to be “those jerks who ruined that funeral” for years to come.
|Goblin hurls fruit or a dead duck (hanging in a stall) at a hulking thug, then ducks behind something so when the brute turns, it appears as though a PC threw the food. Trouble ensues.
|Goblin upsets an cart full of oranges or other reasonably-spherical fruit, with predictable results as the death-trap fruits cover a large area (time for DEX checks)
|Goblin sneaks under the skirts of (1-2 attractive young lady, 3-4 tremendously round lady, 5-6 nun)
|Goblin kicks the rickety wheel of a dung-cart, causing a nasty spill (and potentially a Biff Tannen incident if you’re not careful)
|Goblin grabs a bag of spices (1-4 black pepper, 5-6 crazy-hot pepper powder) and hurls it into the air, in someone’s face, or against a building as necessary to produce the desired sneezing or OH SWEET ODIN IT BURNS
|Goblin climbs up the beard of a passing wizard who was reading half-aloud from a book and not paying attention to where he walked; the book drops, spell components scatter everywhere from pouches, a bunny leaps out of a conical hat, and the old wizard blurts out random words of power. If you have a Wand of Wonder table handy, go for it.
|Goblin scurries up under the eaves of a building and disappears, ending pursuit.
THE GOBLINS’ SECRET
The Griffin Street Angels might be more than they seem; here are some ideas.
Mysterious ‘benefactor’. Hamburger Soup has been enlisted (and plied with wine and silver) to be on the lookout for a particular person (man dressed a certain way, child with a strange birthmark); if spotted, he has magical or mundane means of communicating with his patron - who may have evil designs.
Accursed. The goblins are actually people (knights? adventurers?) who were transformed and memory-wiped by a witch or other villain. If they manage to perform enough small good deeds (or one big one!) their bodies and minds will revert to normal.
Undercover. The Angels - all of whom are Lawful or Neutral in reality - are special agents of the monarch, a secret police, or are associated with one of the local churches, and are on a top secret mission...
Kid Brother. One of the Angels has an older brother who is a guildmaster, assassin, warlord, crazy shaman, or similar Person Who Would Be Very Cross You Killed His Kid Brother.
Wannabe. One or more of the goblins would desperately love to be the sidekick to an adventurer, or becomes obsessed with the idea of apprenticing under the party mage or cleric.