On Goblins and Elves

The dominant races on Adralel are dwarves, elves, halflings, and humans. There are enclaves of other races, such as man-apes, high orcs, and ogres, to name a few. Goblins and elves mutually consider themselves to be separate races, though many outside of that strange relationship consider them to be kin.  

King of the Wood Elves, from the 1977 animated Hobbit
Source: Olde School Wizardry Blog

Relations between elves and the other dominant races are often strained. Elves keep to themselves, being out of step with the mortal affairs and mindsets of the other races, because they are ageless. Almost all elven settlements keep slaves, which is fundamentally opposed by any of the Good alignments. Though there are non-Good aligned City States or Holdings that legally allow slavery scattered throughout Adralel, elves are the only race in the four to view slavery as a cultural mainstay. As they predominantly keep their own offspring, goblins, as slaves, the other races have not intervened.

Elves rarely breed true, and the majority of their offspring are goblins. Goblins share an affinity for both magic and combat with their elven progenitors, though they are generally weaker and lacking in the strange grace of the elves. An elf often leaves their goblin child out in the open, to be taken in as a slave by a neighbor or die from exposure to the elements.

Goblins, when they manage to extricate themselves from slavery in elven society, can be bold adventurers. Free goblin societies spring up around an accomplished goblin adventurer, when he or she decides to build a Labyrinth.

A goblin, Big Ears, talking about his values as a Good-aligned character
Source: Goblins the Webcomic

The social structure and wealth division of Labyrinths is most often fiercely communist, in rejection of elven society. Typical goblin Labyrinths turn no one away when they seek aid or shelter, and they can be very good neighbors.  

Despite this, goblins are sometimes viewed with a mixture of suspicion and pity by other races. Humans in particular can be very suspicious of goblins. There have long been tales of free goblins stealing human babies and using dire magics to transform the babes into goblins.

Elves often do what they can to sow seeds of distrust between goblins and other races. They in particular make a show of wiping out the occasional goblin Labyrinth to “save” the surrounding countryside from goblin mischief. As they are out of step with the rest of the world, it is difficult to predict when they will take such action.

Goblins, unlike, elves, do have souls and age at a rate similar to halflings. How it is possible that a soulless being is able to produce offspring that is in firm possession of a soul is a matter hotly debated in academic and religious circles.

O’ahu Players Expedition 1, Play Session 3

Adventuring Troupe:

  • Fela the fighter
  • Mugi the Man-Ape
  • Lucia the halfling
  • Braum the cleric
  • Olg the high Orc
  • Princess Giblin the Free Goblin
  • Kelvyn the thief

On seventh-day of Week 20 Lucia, Olg, and Braum arrive at the Hot Springs to find not only Onida soaking in the water, but also several of the companions they had abandoned in town. Fela and Mugi relaxed in the water, and introduced a new adventurer they had befriended, Princess Goblin.

“The goblins need purpose and guidance. They suggested an animal fighting ring. They’re clearly smart. They know how to work in teams. Animal fighting is something that can be bet on, and it could draw attention to the local vendors.” Braum summarized to Onida, trying to secure her aid in this endeavor. “We don’t know how to build stuff and we don’t have any product. We want to see if the community will support this. Will you speak for us in Hullbeck?”         

Onida liked the idea, but not enough to attach her name to it.

Meanwhile, Mugi offered to clean Olg of lice. Olg had refused to bathe since the adventure began, and also would not enter the hot springs. He replied that his lice where “good where they are”, earning him the unofficial epithet of Olg the Unclean.

On eight-day of Week 20, the adventuring troupe set out back up the farm roads towards Gretchen’s place, while Onida returned to town. Reaching Gretchen’s in the late afternoon, nearly every member of the party decided to make some coin by asking for work.

Gretchen’s Place

Lucia acted as bar back, primarily moving barrels and other things up and down the stairs from the cool cellar. Fela and Olg chopped wood, creating a lovely pile of split logs neatly stacked. Princess Goblin put her languages to use, acting as an entertainer by reciting poetry in different tongues. Mugi, the most adventurous of the lot, took up the world’s oldest profession for the evening and consequently made the most profit by a wide margin.

“I see you’re good at finding purpose for people,” Braum commented to Gretchen, after stepping aside with her to a quiet corner of the bar. After some conversation, Gretchen agreed to talk to the local women about the goblin gambling establishment. She pointed him in the direction of Widower Stribe to ask about buying some land for the venture. None of his children survived into adulthood and his wife had recently passed away.

In the morning of ninth-day of Week 20, the troupe headed up north to meet with Goblin King Scrob. In the afternoon they made it to the entrance to the Labyrinth and were met by 3 goblin guards, who escorted them in to see the King.

“I hear you have been molesting my folk,” the King began. The party claimed it was not so, that they just had a strong-armed conversation. The three goblins the party met at the Stein’s farm were sent for and proved to be a sorry lot, beaten and bruised all over. The three goblins insisted that their current state was the fault of the troupe and their war beasts.

Regardless of these accusations, the Goblin King listened to the adventurer’s plans to build a boar fighting pit. Eventually Braum suggested the Goblin King meet with a human community leader, Gretchen, and the King agreed.

During the evening, Mugi showed the goblins a technique for sweetening and strengthening beer with molasses. Braum took the evening to preach the teachings of his god Zhong Kui, to an audience of six receptive goblins.

Tenth-day of Week 20 found the party, with the addition of the Goblin King and two retainers, on the way to Gretchen’s. Lucia and Mugi, hoping to scare up some game in the long grass, walked parallel to the cart trail. They instead stumbled into a mud wasp nest. Mugi, thinking quickly, picked up Lucia and hurled her out of danger and smack into Braum. Mugi then got himself out of danger, running full tilt towards the cart and other members of the party. The mud wasps did not pursue them, but the group decided that was enough excitement and everyone would stay on the trail.

As the day drew to a close, the group arrived at the brothel. Braum slipped inside to ask Gretchen for a private room and to let her know the Goblin King was here for a meeting. Aki sat at the bar, well in to a night of drinking. As the party went up the stairs to the meeting between local leaders, they hear Aki drunkenly shout, “A round for everyone at the bar!”

Though the Goblin King continued to be opposed to prostitution and inclined to see Gretchen as a villain, she was patient and understanding during their meeting. She revealed that anyone wanting to deal with the more discrete side of her business could ask for Gretchen the Good Witch.

“I’m a mouthpiece, happy to help the goblins get what they need. We all live in the same place. There’s no reason we couldn’t be good neighbors.” The Goblin King agreed with what she had to say about community. Gretchen gave him a carrier pigeon to bring back his decision on their tentative alliance. The goblins left that evening.

The adventuring party, heady with potential success and staying at a bar, proceed to carouse with abandon. All except Princess Goblin and Fela, who returned to their previous roles of entertainer and wood chopper, respectively. Braum was pleases to learn he had earned a local reputation as someone interested in peace and willing to put in the hussle to get there.

Aki, well ahead of the rest of the group in number of drinks, somehow managed to procure a fairy dragon. The little thing seems very upset with being held captive. Lucia, not to be outdone, ate something so spicy that she manifested literal fire breath. Olg, much to his subsequent discomfort, found that human spicy food did not agree well at all with his orc stomach.

Adralel Calendar System and Passage of Time In-Game

Age – 1,000 years. The current age is referred to as the “Modern Age”. Past ages are named based on great events that took place during that age. The names of recent past ages are mildly contested, and often vary by culture.

Year – 50 weeks, noted by number, such as “Week 19”.

Week – 10 days, referred to as first-day, second-day1 and so on.

The first day of the Adralel new year is the Spring Equinox, celebrating the fulfilled promise of the return of life after long winter.

It is currently seventh-day of Week 20 in Adralel.

Time in the world of Adralel passes whenever games are in session. The O’ahu play sessions, for example, often take place over three or four days. Up to several weeks may pass in-game between play sessions for the more sporadic adventuring troupes. This is either treated as time in town, which can be spent on economic or research pursuits, or hand-waved if a troupe is mid dungeon crawl.

1. Based on the Faerunian The Calendar of Harptos tenday naming system, from Forgotten Realms.

O’ahu Players Expedition 1, Play Session 2

Adventuring Troupe:

  •     Lucia the halfling
  •     Braum the cleric
  •     Olg the high Orc

Second-day of Week 20 found three of the adventurers going to Onida’s tower to accompany her on her journey. Given that there was no answer at her tower door, Onida did not appear to be awake. The next logical course of action would be to lie in wait until the door opened, and barge in then, which the group did. The door opening took the form of Ollen the Apprentice arriving to complete morning chores. He was swiftly ambushed and the group thus won their way into the tower.

Onida was preparing to walk down River Road to meet an old friend traveling from the Spring at the head of the Gleam. Despite finding adventurers in her tower rather earlier in the morning than she had anticipated, she agrees once more that they may walk down the road with her.

Stopping to camp the first evening, Lucia goes foraging in the trees down by the banks of the Gleam. There she meets a ferocious snake, also foraging for its dinner. They engage in a fierce battle, wherein Lucia breaks her shield to avoid a likely lethal bite. Lucia emerges from the forest victorious, with enough snake meat to feed her party and the merchant caravan sharing the camp.

That night the camp is swamped by mist, save for the area around the two roaring fires set up by the caravan guards and Onida respectively. Braum sleeps the night through, untroubled by the mist. Both Lucia and Olg, however, are greatly troubled by the mist. Or perhaps what lurks within it?

Midday of third-day of Week 20 finds the little company at the Hot Springs, where Onida elected to stay until the next morning. Braum speaks with a traveling knight, telling him of kobolds near Hullbeck and thereby offending the knight by revealing knowledge of the tongue of dragons. The knight is disturbed to be sharing the hot spring with those who so readily consorted with evil monsters, and took himself off to Hullbeck.

Deciding this was a good a place as any to strike up into the hills searching for the source of the goblin rumor, the three adventurers asked Onida if she would likely be here to consult in three days’ time. Given that she was going to walk up and then back down the road with her friend, she allowed as how she might be. Plus that gave her a reason to linger at the hot spring, which was barely a thing that needed justification at all.

Pushing hard, the group traveled north along unnamed farmer cart trails and arrived at a brothel situated at a major crossroads well into the evening. Gretchen, the establishment’s proprietor, was happy to see new faces. This being the fall, most of the farmers hereabout were too focused on harvesting and putting away food for the winter to come get a drink or anything else at her establishment. Fall was always her slowest season.

Lucia took happy advantage of the offered company, hiring the two women currently available and having a lovely evening. Olg was approached for a similar offer by one of the men there, but rebuffed the offered company. Braum focused on talking to Gretchen, asking about where he might buy molasses and if she had heard anything about goblins cattle rustling. Gretchen expressed sympathy for the goblins, trying to set up a Labyrinth among superstitious farmers as they were.

To the east of the brothel the next morning on forth-day the little company found the Birbeckle’s farm just as Gretchen had directed them, selling molasses. Little Sally Birbeckle made a straw hat for Olg, on account of the sun bothering him so terribly. The hat turned out so pretty that Braum and Lucia asked for hats, as well. Lucia asked Sally to weave a ribbon into her hat, understandably neglecting to mention to the child that the ribbon was a token of affection given to her by one of the ladies at Gretchen’s place.

The elder Birbeckles tell the party that Mike Stein is the loudest mouth around for complaining about the goblins bothering his cattle, and the party wound their way across the hills and north to the Stein farm. Lucy Stein greeted them on the porch working on some mending, and agreed to allow the small group to sleep in her field or barn in hopes of catching goblins in the act of stealing a cow.

The first night the troupe got nothing for their trouble but bags under their eyes. The second night, however, on the first watch the party surprised three goblins walking towards the cows, a pasture away. The goblins, very surly after being ambushed by trained fighting beasts and adventurers, largely fell back on elf-like metaphors to stymie the party.

“Who can say how drops of water come together to make the little streams,” they wheedle, when asked about their leader, and other such evasive answers. Eventually Olg used the power of law to compel one of them, and it was found that the goblins are “bothering” the cattle and other farm animals hereabout as entertainment, rather than for food as the party had assumed. It was then agreed that in 5 days’ time the party could meet with the local Goblin King at their Labyrinth, and each goblin was given a cask of molasses as a token of goodwill.

The goblins were sent on their way, much to the later dismay of Mike Stein. Lucy Stein, however, seemed at least open to the party’s idea of setting up a boar fighting pit or some such business to keep the goblins entertained and out of the way.

That morning, habitually short on sleep, the three adventurers again set out for the Hot Springs, to consult with Onida.

Kobold Storytelling

Around a half eaten carcass and surrounded by old bones, a circle of newcomers listen to Chief tell the stories of the tribe’s recent expansion. Most of the tales center around a figure depicted in the mural on the Southern wall. It shows a dragon-man tossing a boulder off of himself (the very stone block that lays in the middle of this room) and roaring. His words, in barely legible Draconic, are “The sky cannot kill me!”  

“Thems bigguns been comin’ here for two hands a days1, bringin’ nice meats and tasty beers n help us’n’s celebrate grown’ big n strong. Thems killie tha’ ogre monster tha kept us small! We boss of them stairs up now, and this whole place!

“We have more rooms fer livin’ in, an’ our very own Dragon named Smithy an’ his best friend th’ Glad orc! Our Dragon is so clever tha’ he made hisself almost look like a man an’ he goes inta town an’ takes th’ human’s shirts!”

Here the Chief points proudly to a pile of human shirts.

“Smithy has biggun minions too. A scary demonlady thing an’ a real dwarf! An’ th’ Glad orc. Th’ Glad orc made us tha’ nicy-nice2 song on th’ wall o’er there.”

The Eastern wall bears a song written in Common. “It’s raining, it’s pouring/The old man is drunk/He fell down and broke his head/And now I have a new bowl!”

“We be brave when they go down th’ scary stairs into th’ deep dark. We tells them about th’ ghost wind. It creeps up on you and you die! Buts they go anyways, so some of us go too. We all get so many shinies! Some die. It is sad. But many more wanta go fer th’ shinies! Such beautiful metals!

“Our Dragon Smithy chase away th’ ghost wind! An’ fights skelingtons, wiv our help. We gets short bows and arrows, an’ a sword an’ gold. An’ scrap metal, a’course. Down in th’ even deeper dark are dead-alive humans! We not be down there much.

“Much better to be up here! Wiv th’ beer and th’ meat! An’ now there are so many more of us, fer havin’ a better party an’ servin’ our Dragon Lord Smithy!  

“Vinra, you already made a good start on servin’ Smithy wiv maken tha’ human long legbone club. Tha’ll be so funny to beat a human in th’ face wiv! Even a  dead-alive human tha’ won’ get th’ joke.”

1. “Hands of days” is a term  from the Deltan in the Bobaverse, written by Dennis E. Taylor

2. “Nicey-nice” is a term from the trolls in The 10th Kingdom, a TV Miniseries that aired in the US on NBC in February of 2000.

Hullbeck Town Official Histories

Year 441 Modern Age

(Books available for public perusal at the Town Officiator’s Office. Recent years written in her clear hand.)

Week 19 Happenings of Note

Some say this shall ever after be known as the Year of the Earthquake. The great earthquake did open a mighty rent in the foundation of the cultivated forest to the west, where we had for many generations taken our timber, giving fiends of every description lodging in the ruins thusly uncovered. The Town Council did send out a call for adventures to come clean out the infestation, fearing for the children and our livelihoods.

There reported for the love of money a half-orc named Glad, a dragonborn named Smithy, a tiefling named Mirage, and a dwarf named Treay. They set in creating such a nuisance around the town as we has not seen in a generation. The troupe of adventures was then induced to be on their way to their calling in the forest to the west by a payment of gold by the Mayor.

The troupe returned that evening, having defeated an ogre. They brought pieces of the beast back with them, as proof of the kill and grim trophies both. That evening the adventures set to drinking with a fanatical determination, and great was the mischief that ensued.

Let it be known that now and forever after Glad Half-Orc is banned from the Temple of Tyr, for profaning morning services with a wine bottle, his ill tongue, and bodily fluids.

Let it be known that now and forever more Treay Dwarf is banned from the Temple of Sacnet, for profaning services of the Temple by impersonating a priest. 

Let it be known that of the 16 human foundlings and lost souls at the town orphanage, Mirage Tiefling has adopted every one. She pledges to house them and keep them well with all the fruits of her livelihood.

Thus it was that Mirage bought up all the tents in the market and set about to house the children who now were her charge. She clothed the children and gave them purpose, to run messages in the town and do other tasks for a small sum of coin. At a near street corner a child in a bright tabard can often be seen idling, waiting to be called upon to act as a runner. 

Joyous day! We hereby announce the wedding of Brizzelda to Smithy Dragonborn, “The Impenetrable” and “Conqueror of the Skies”. Long may their union flourish.

Upon subsequent days, the adventuring troupe made a habit of going out to the ruin in the cultivated forest in the morning and returning in the evening. They often took with them a cartful of the leavings from the butcher shop and caskets of cheap beer. They bring back tales that raise the hairs on even the most stoic head, of ghost winds that pick the flesh clean off of the bone of anyone unlucky enough to be caught in them, and roving packs of skeletons and zombies. Truly these uncouth adventurers are a blessing, lest we be faced with these monstrosities alone. They have become a part of our town, adopting orphans and marrying into our families.

O’ahu Players Expedition 1, Play Session 1

Adventuring Troup:

  • Fela the fighter
  • Mugi the Man-Ape
  • Kelvyn the thief
  • Lucia the halfling
  • Braum the cleric
  • Olg the high Orc

On tenth-day of Week 19, a group of adventurers wandered into Hullbeck in response to the call for heroes to come fight the recent surge of monsters after the earthquake split the ground of the cultivated forest to the west. Finding that another group of adventurers had already undertaken that endeavor, they asked about other troubles the locals might be facing and heard grumblings about a Goblin Labyrinth that might have taken up cattle rustling to the north, and a possible dragon sighting to the northwest above the mountains. Deciding those rumors were too far away to trouble with, the adventurers bought up all the fighting animals and equipment they could and went to lend their aid to the brave souls facing the death wind in the cultivated forest.  

On the way to the wood, the group came upon a flower emitting the most awful stench, which seemed to be attracting a swarm of insects from the trees on the horizon. Noting that discretion is the better part of valor, the party left the insects and the flower to one another and continued on.

Following a cart track into the forest, they came upon a cart and donkey, idling near a semi-hidden stairwell. Though the donkey was placid and calm, the cart bed was caked with an alarming amount of blood. The stairs too had layers of dried blood on them, some of which may have been almost a week old and some of which was quite fresh.

Venturing down into the bloody dark, Mugi discovered several bored kobolds, who spoke neither Common nor sign language. A rudimentary conversation was had through gesture when neither side seemed inclined to attack the other. Backing out, the group decided to explore the “rent” in the forest floor described to them by the townsfolk. After shouting down into the hole in Common, kobolds shouted back a reply in Draconic. The cleric, Braum, was able to translate the greeting for the group, as he speaks the dragon tongue.    

The party decided to camp at the entrance to the stair, hoping to catch the other adventuring party as they return to town. Or perhaps catch the monster that butchered them and left their blood all over the cart and stair, Lucia pointed out.

In the first watch, they instead found two more kobolds coming the join the enclave already living below the forest floor. Given that one of these kobolds spoke Common and seemed friendly, they elected to travel with the little lizard people down into the dark, in search of answers.

Chief, the kobold leader, and the other kobolds of this tribe had recently had the good fortune to come into the service of a Dragon Lord names Smithy. He tells the story of recent events to the two new members of his tribe, and the adventurers lining the back wall and hallway of the tribe’s nesting room.

The friendship with this new flock of adventurers was quickly cemented with bags of wine passed out from the adventurer’s packs. Inquiring after the first adventuring party to come through, they learned that there were more levels going down into the deep dark, where Dragon Lord Smithy was currently braving dead-alive humans and worse horrors with his friends. The group decided he was better equipped to fight such horrors than they themselves were. Rather than return to their camp on the surface, the troupe elected to spend the night partying with the kobolds. They learned several new songs, and a bone drum technique.   

The bleary early morning of first-day of Week 20 found the adventurers back on their way to town. There had been some debate about liberating the donkey, but ultimately it was decided that the donkey would stay where he was. Remembering the horrid flower from yesterday, the party found the spot and discovered that it had been eaten down to the ground. They dug up the root to sell in town.   

Stumbling back into town, the group immediately rented rooms at a local inn and took baths. They then sought out Onida, the local Sage (though she prefers the term Seer), and sold her the flower root. They learned that she was planning on leaving for an errand up The Gleam tomorrow, and secured permission to join her, with the intention of investigating the goblin rumor.

A Brief History of Adralel

Map of Adralel

“In the beginning was the Singer and the Song. The Song and the Singer wound around one another, inseparable. Our world, and every speck in the night sky, was Sung into existence. Pure notes coalesced into mist that sighed over the land and the jeweled dew drops that followed after.

“With time creatures came to roam the land as well. Some of these found their ways of being compatible. Some of them did not. This struggle went on for years uncounted, until the days of the Halflings, who came to make peace. Nimble of finger and quick of wit, the first Halflings brokered –“

“It weren’t the halflings that broker’d anythin’,” a human interrupted. He had paused in the marketplace to listen to the storyteller. Seated halfling children craned their necks to look back at the tall visitor as he continued to speak, oblivious to the glares from all around. “It’s the dwarves that sued fer peace, in’it. On account of they were dwindlin’ and afeared a’ dying out.”

 “It’s certainly true that no one can outbreed you humans,” the irritated storyteller snapped, before she thought better of it. More babies than brains. She clicked her teeth shut before that thought had a chance to escape out of her mouth.       

“I’m jus’ sayin’ you should tell the chil’en right,” the human countered, before moving prudently off into the crowd. The crowd being mostly halflings, it didn’t hide him. It did, however, provide a convenient reason for he and the storyteller to let their argument drop. 

“Why did he say it was dwarves, Mama Valda? Didn’t he have a Storyteller to tell him right?” one of the older children asked, watching the visitor disappear among the stalls of the marketplace.

“There are no surviving written records from that time, Riton. So much was lost when the first peace broke and the world burned. Even recorded oral traditions from that time are centuries distant from the time they report.” Storyteller Valda replied, trying to regain her composure and rhythm. “And humans live such short lives. Their oral traditions had to pass through the most heads before it was recorded, so it is the most distorted.”

The children stared up at Valda, uncomprehending. At such a young age, it was difficult to conceive of the practical difference between 60 and 100 years. Both seemed equally distant. Thinking for a moment, the Storyteller remembered a game from her childhood that might be useful now.

“Here, I’ll show you. Everyone sit in a circle. Riton, you sit here next to me. Now think of two words. Got them? Good. You are going to whisper them to Ziri sitting next to you. She’ll whisper it to Rosula and so on until it gets all the way to me. Does everyone understand?” Each child nodded when she made brief eye contact. She nodded at Riton to begin.