Monday, September 21, 2020

Blades Before the Storm: preliminaries

I really like Blades in the Dark, with one tiny exception: its setting, the fantasy-industrial city of Duskwall/Doskvol. For all of its metal album trappings (I mean, the tagline on the end of page 1 of the rulebook is "You’re in a haunted Victorian-era city trapped inside a wall of lightning powered by demon blood" - that's a Powerwolf song if ever I heard one), I find it strangely bland and uncompelling. This is doubly puzzling to me because Duskwall is clearly heavily influenced by the Dunwall of Dishonored, and I love those games to pieces.

I think it has to do with the thorny nature of default settings in rulebooks. They have to provide enough evocative detail to ignite the reader's imagination and make them want to play the game, and they have to be complete enough for a new-to-the-game GM to feel confident that they can present a consistent world to the players. But at the same time they can't be so detailed that they overwhelm the GM or players with all the stuff they have to master before they can play, or that they foreclose any room for freedom of choice amidst all of the fleshed-out people and institutions and events. It's a tall order, one that most default settings struggle to fulfill (the poor Forgotten Realms might fail to meet every single criterion above), and I don't want to pick on Blades - like I said, I really like the game. And I think its approach does a great job of empowering a new GM to make up details about the city on the fly.

But the fact remains - Duskwall doesn't do it for me. It doesn't excite me, as a player or as a GM. So for an upcoming game, I'm going to try to slot in something different. I don't think this qualifies as a hack - I'm not mucking around with any of the rules or playbooks. This is just gonna be Blades, but in a different place.

And that place is Paris, on the eve of the Revolution.

To my eye, these are the things I need to create or modify:

  1. City maps
  2. City gazetteer (keeping it brief, though)
  3. Factions (this is a big one)
  4. Some structure to help me keep track of events beyond the crew's influence (this'll be some work, too)
  5. Bits and pieces of setting detail, including the suggested NPC names (flavor is important!)

(No, don't worry, I'm not going to translate random words like the playbook names into French.)

At the start, I do think I need to address something in the Blades rulebook, though. It comments several times on how the setting has been crafted to support the playstyle. I can't say that I quite see how - the gonzo bits aside, it's a large, crowded city with a significant industrial base, major problems with corruption, poverty and crime, and a serious lack of trust in public institutions. That describes a whole lot of cities, past and present. Eighteenth-century Paris meets those criteria handily, as does eighteenth- or nineteenth-century London, and even republican or imperial Rome.

But what about those more fantastical setting details? Are they necessary to support the intended playstyle? Do any of them preclude changing the city or setting things in (alt-history, slightly mythologized) 1780s France?

  1. The sun has gone out.
    This is just flavor. It gets ditched.
  2. People come back as ghosts when they die unless properly laid to rest somehow.
    I'll keep this - it's a common folk belief even today (hell, I've got relatives who believe something like this).
  3. Demons exist, as do old gods.
    This conceit underpins any historical Call of Cthulhu game. No problem.
  4. People hunt oceanic leviathans for their valuable fluids.
    I liked this in Dishonored. Whaling was a thing, so whaling for magic whales can be, too.
  5. Some people can do some kind of magic, partially related to ghosts.
    Again, a common folk belief. People were still regularly tried for witchcraft in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries (the last execution for witchcraft in Britain was in 1727). Easy enough, and I don't want to remove the Whisper.
  6. Some technology is possible or practical which wouldn't be in the real world.
    This doesn't particularly bother me, either. I like clockpunk just fine.

Nothing there stands out as a problem, does it? I'm keeping most of the fantastical stuff because it's fun (isn't that weird? I like many of the individual fantastical details, but the setting as a whole seems to be less than the sum of its parts), but you could easily run a straight-historical Blades campaign and not find a hair out of place.

Now, one major detail singled out for comment in the rulebook is the lightning wall and the danger of the deathlands, which prevent players from even contemplating spending much time outside of the city. But this really isn't necessary - in the games I've played in, there was so much to do inside the city that the idea of leaving was never seriously entertained.

Even in the absence of a hard restriction on movement, handling players who do want to spend some time outside the city shouldn't be complicated. First, you clearly signal the consequences: they're gang leaders with valuable territory, and if they're away too long their rivals will start to horn in on their turf. And if one PC wants to try and lie low in the countryside for a few months to escape arrest, so what? They're unavailable for play for that period. Maybe I'll throw together something to mirror the incarceration and prison claim rules. Second, if the players want to try and run scores in the suburbs (like Versailles!) or even farther afield, why would I object? I might do something like penalizing the engagement roll pool or making it more difficult to gather information the farther they go from the city, but I don't anticipate it being a big issue.

So I think this is feasible, and shouldn't require any real changes to the rules. And I'm hoping I can get away with keeping setting prep limited - I'm not an historian, I don't want to bore my players, and I don't intend to write a thesis on revolutionary Paris. But I think there's real value to playing in a real city, particularly during an unbelievably tumultuous period of its history.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Goblin succulent

When water is plentiful, the succulent is content. Its leaves stand, plump and green, off of their petioles, limb-buds barely discernible. As its stored water dwindles, though, and the leaves begin to shrivel and droop, their body plan becomes better-defined. Eventually, some of them fall to the ground, stagger to their feet, and go hunting for water.

A hunting leaf is dull green and brown, and wizened. It has between three and six limbs, each ending in long thorn-claws, but no obvious head. It walks on two or three of its limbs. It's faster than you'd think.

Leaves can smell water. Any water, whether in the open or contained in living tissue.

They prefer exposed water to any other source. They immerse themselves in it, opening stomata across their waxy skin to absorb it quickly.

If the only water they can find is bound up within other plants or animals, they will attack, slashing with thorn-claws to free the water inside and grappling to get their "mouths" as close to the wounds as possible.

When it is full, a leaf's skin is taut, and a deep glossy green. It will totter back to the parent plant and pull an unoccupied petiole down to connect to a stoma. The plant drains it dry, and drops the desiccated husk. Larger containers of water - such as, say, the bodies of animals larger than a dog - might be dragged back to the parent plant to be drained directly, rather than absorbed by the leaves in situ.

The ground near a succulent will be strewn with the flammable husks of defunct leaves. Pouring water onto a husk may revive it, whereupon it will continue hunting.


Hunting Leaf: as goblin, unarmed.

Succulent: probably just a bag of HP. It takes no actions. It's a plant.

Special abilities

Smell Water: leaves are aware of all water sources on a clear scent-path within 100 yards.

Rehydrate: water poured on a leaf husk will revive it on 3-in-6.

Drain (parent plant ability): any water-filled creature (or object) attached to a petiole on the parent plant will take 1d6 damage per round until it is dead, drained, or forcibly detached. Dead creatures attached to a petiole for 3 rounds are damaged beyond easy resurrection.

Cultural notes

Steppe herders make a thick alcoholic mash from the flesh of the leaves. They will capture a hunting leaf, stake it to the ground, and pump it full of water (plus a little bit of mash as a starter culture). After a week or two of fermentation, the leaf is ready to be pulped into mash.

The yellow chariot riders protect the barrows of their dead with simple traps of natural materials. Covered pits full of hunting leaves have been found, as have more complicated setups involving water poured onto leaf husks.


The idea here is a monster that players can reason about.

I also like trying to gesture at ecology without getting bogged down in details that don't make it to the table.

If you want to be mean, give the leaves an anticoagulant venom on their thorn-claws (1d2 or 1d3 bleed damage for 1-3 rounds after a slash).

Are the leaves intelligent? I assumed not, but you might disagree. Maybe the longer they spend away from the parent plant, the closer to sentience they get. (This makes the steppe herder concoction above a lot darker, of course.)

There's no reason why the parent plant couldn't be intelligent enough to talk to.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Semyon's Books

What if a shop were a minidungeon?

I have to start with a bookstore.

This "store" is the private collection of Semyon, an ascetic bibliophile lich. They live (ha) for books, and spend all of their time acquiring them or reading. They hired a lamia, Antiope, to archive and manage the collection, and show it off to the public. She did, and then immediately turned around and started selling the books on the side. Semyon is oblivious to this - they have so many books that they never notice that the collection is in steady flux. Antiope has subcontracted out most of the sales work to a pair of goblin brothers so that she can focus on building the store into an intellectual salon.

The store is in a series of connected basements, accessible from the street via a flight of stairs.


There's a lot of movement in the store. Roll for wandering monsters fairly frequently.

Roll 2d6 or pick:

  1. Angry Wizard: stats as 5th level magic-user (has Read Languages, Magic Missile, Continual Light, Phantasmal Force, and Lightning Bolt memorized). Seated on a stool or wandering blindly, reading. Will look up, eyes flashing, and hush anyone the first time they speak. Further sound in the room provokes an attack. He is wearing ink-stained robes and carrying 50gp.
  2. Elf Aesthete: stats as elf (dagger). Smoking a large water pipe carried by a halfling servant (unarmed). The billowing smoke he exhales is a powerful narcotic; save vs poison if in the same room to resist falling asleep. This will affect everyone except for the lamia and the lich. The elf acts normally, and is unaware that he's employing a chemical weapon. The halfling stumbles along, his eyes glassy. The water pipe is inlaid in chalcedony, and together with whatever the hell drug is inside it is worth 200gp. The halfling is carrying his master's purse of 100gp. The elf's vibrant brocade robes are worth another 50gp.
  3. Thief: stats as bandit (short sword). Startled by PCs, they drop several books they have secreted under their cloak, and try to enlist help in pulling off their heist. The charred corpse in the entry vestibule is their erstwhile partner. They have a counterfeit receipt chit. It won't work. They are carrying 10gp.
  4. Simple Customer: stats as normal human (unarmed). Believe it or not, they're just looking for a book.
  5. Bookstore Cat: stats as lion. Lazy. Adores the lamia.
  6. d8 Intellectuals (Students, Dandies, etc): stats as normal humans (knives). Belong to either the Blues or the Greens, who violently disagree about some bizarre point of artistic interpretation (perhaps the merits of the later plays of Voss Bender). Hostile if the PCs (or other nearby denizens) appear to be from the opposing side. Otherwise will try to enlist the PCs' aid. Each one is carrying 1d4 gp.
  7. Checkout Counter: two goblin brothers, one with an enormous ledger of book prices (and a dagger), one wearing what looks like a wooden vendor's stall (otherwise unarmed). A sign near his knees says "CHECKOUT." (If the lich enters the room, the goblin will kick the stall to drop a board to hide the checkout sign and start to shuffle away.) They will take money in exchange for any books the PCs wish to buy, and will provide receipt chits. If threatened or attacked, the stall-bearing goblin will blow a whistle to summon the lamia. The stall goblin is carrying 200gp, the ledger goblin 10gp.
  8. d6 Haughty Fucks: stats as normal humans (1 with knife, the rest unarmed). If any PCs are reading, the fucks will demand to know what they're reading, and then claim that the books the fucks read are better. They appear to consider this to be flirtation. Each is carrying 1d6 gp.
  9. Hustling Author: stats as normal human (unarmed). He is furtively setting up a small stand with copies of his book (a philosophical treatise on how human souls are in fact shaped like squid). The lamia will chase him out if she finds him. He will try to sell copies of his book to the PCs, and ask for their help in mollifying the lamia. He has 2gp.
  10. Antiope, the Lamia: (I had in mind the snake kind, not the lion kind.) Stats roughly as vampire (armed with dagger +1), minus all abilities except for mundane damage immunity and charming gaze. The primary proprietor of the establishment. She will accept money for books (she has the inventory and prices memorized) and a receipt chit, and will buy interesting books the PCs might want to sell. She will do everything in her power to keep the lich from learning that their books are being sold. Offers to improve the cultural cachet of the store will interest her. She is carrying 100gp and, on a silver chain, a sardonyx intaglio of her mother (whole piece worth 200gp).
  11. Semyon, the Lich: stats as Spectre, minus the reproduction, and the lich is corporeal. Casts as 5th level magic-user; has memorized Detect Magic, Read Languages, Locate Object (x2), and Hold Person. The owner of the collection, who doesn't know the lamia and goblins are selling the books. Rather absent-minded, so won't pick up on slips of the tongue, but will become very angry indeed if the point is made clear to them. If found wandering the store, they will be looking for a specific book and will ignore everyone else if possible. They are wearing a moth-eaten bathrobe and make no attempt to hide their nature.

Traps and hazards

Roll 2d4 or pick:

  1. Comfortable Chair: blocking access to the shelves in the corner of this room sits a large stuffed chair. A haggard man, stubble on his chin, sits reading. He is shaking a little. If addressed, he will look up, smile absently, and return to his book. He will refuse to leave the chair. If pulled out of the chair (he will struggle, but is very weak), he will come to his senses and remember that he has been sitting in the chair for several days. He was on an errand for his master (a local merchant) to obtain a book on viticulture. He will beg the PCs for any food they can spare, as he has not eaten in all that time. Anyone sitting in the chair will find that it is the most comfortable chair they have ever known, perfect in every way for reading, and their awareness of anything but the chair and the books nearby will fade. They will not want to leave the chair and will fight attempts to force them to, but the compulsion will quickly fade as soon as they are stood up.
  2. Potted Strangler Vines: hanging in pots from the ceiling of this book room are four strangler plants (6 tendrils per plant, each with 1hp and attacking at +1 for 1d2 damage; the plant bodies each have 10hp). A corpse lies on the floor, with a wand of Sleep (2 charges left) and 20gp. The plants will not attack the lich, who might be found watering them. A paper sign reading "Closed to the public" is lying on the floor of the room.
  3. Copious Dust: moving through or searching this room will kick up enough dust and mold spores to spark loud sneezing fits (save vs poison to negate), provoking a wandering monster check.
  4. Book Piles: varying heights, some reaching the ceiling. Navigating the room will knock one over on 2-in-6 (treat as trap, +1 to hit, 1d2 damage).
  5. Conspicuous Book: one book is sticking out from the rest on its shelf. Pushing it in triggers a magical trap (save vs spells) that curses its target to be unable to leave a bookstore without buying a book. (This is an experiment by the lamia to drive sales.)
  6. Alluring Book: one book in this room sparks an intense lust to own it (price 50gp, topic by room). Just passing through the room only incurs a 1-in-6 chance to trigger the effect, but searching the room will guarantee it. Save vs spells to resist the book's call.
  7. Ghost (in the Kempian style): the cover of one book (price 100gp, topic by room) in this room is made from the hide of a stag who used to be a man; this is obviously the corpse. Choose 1 PC to be affected.
    Premonition: you hear the baying of hounds. They're getting closer.
    Manifestation: every round(ish) you don't spend running as fast as you can, you take 1 damage from bites to your legs and belly.
    Propitiation: spend one minute moving through water (or anything similarly effective at masking your scent trail). Alternatively, you or one of your companions can place the book with an offering of meat or antler from a deer in a temple of the goddess of the hunt. (This latter method will permanently put the ghost to rest.)


This is all sort of loosey-goosey in my head - I don't have a layout in mind. I imagine some fixed points of interest, separated from one another (except where noted) by 1-3 other rooms, which are either cramped corridors or filled with bookshelves. For three-quarters of the rooms, you'd roll on the denizen or the traps and hazards table, or both.

Some fixed locations:

  • Entry Vestibule: scuffed yellow chalk line halfway across room. On side nearest door, a charred human corpse (2gp in its pockets). On the wall nearby is neatly written, in goblin, "Theft is a crime." Any creature crossing the line towards the exit while holding a book from inside the store without a receipt chit will trigger a fire blast from the ceiling (+2 to hit, 2d8 fire damage). A door with a barred window leads to the bag check room; it will hit a bell when opened.
  • Bag Check Room: a rat-man sits on a stool, sleeping (wakes if bell is tripped, or if people are loud). He will demand that customers exchange any bags they're carrying for wooden clothespins with numbers on them, which they can use to retrieve their bags upon leaving. If they refuse, he will call out to his six siblings (for all, stats as goblins with short swords) in the rat-folk-warren in the wall behind him and they will try to force the customers to leave the store. Bags left with him are safe, except that any food in them is eaten. Two open doorways (no doors) lead to book rooms. Each rat-folk is carrying 1gp. The warren is full of bags being held for customers, with a bunch of junk and 1d100 gp in them in total.
  • Cafe: a larger room free of shelves. Two tables with chairs. A barista stands reading behind a counter, which holds two plates of pastries, a large samovar of very hot coffee, and a half-dozen chipped ceramic cups. The barista is aloof, but will deign to sell the refreshments at extortionate prices (10gp each). One kind of pastry confers the ability to read a language for one hour, depending on the filling (d4: cherry (goblin), rhubarb (sea troll), pawpaw (dwarven), lemon (lizardfolk)), followed by an hour of dizziness. The other pastries are normal, as is the coffee. The barista has a well-developed acid tongue, and offending or bothering her will provoke a cutting remark upon the appearance, character, or parentage of the offender (+3 to hit, 1d6 psychic damage, save vs spells to retort and take only half damage; otherwise stats as normal human). She has a key to the bathroom behind the counter; it is attached by a chain to a large stone heavy enough to require two people to carry. She will lend the key if a valuable item is left as collateral. The barista is carrying 20gp. Two doors lead to book rooms.
  • Bathroom: locked door from a corridor near the cafe. No sign. Tiny. Floor is dingy black-and-white checkerboard tiles. A wooden board has been placed over the toilet seat. On the wall above the toilet is scrawled, "NO." On the wall above a hole hacked in the floor is scrawled, "YES."A buzzing sound can be heard from the toilet. If the wooden board is removed, a giant undead wasp (stats as killer bee, but undead) is freed to attack. The hole in the floor opens into a septic pit, but the room itself doesn't smell.
  • Lich's Room: accessible only via a tiny flight of stairs behind a secret door in a book room. Pitch black. Contains a comfy chair. Otherwise it is packed with stacks of books, many reaching the ceiling. Moving around the room causes a stack to topple on 3-in-6 (treat as trap, +1 to hit, 1d2 damage). The lich is in the chair reading on 2-in-6, and is not pleased to have intruders. No roll on denizen table in this room.
  • Flooded Room: one half-level below the other rooms. Two entrances, each with stairs up to the main level. The waist-high water is murky and stale, and the room reeks of mildew. The water will stain clothes and leave a stench that reduces NPC reaction rolls by 1. Empty bookshelves line the walls. Half-height empty shelves fill the interior. It is possible to cross the room by hopping between them. Green slime covers half of the bookshelves.
  • Meeting Room: one doorway from a book room. Benches and flimsy chairs provide seating for two dozen. 7 intellectuals (3 Blues and 4 Greens) are sitting, bored. An eighth, a Blue, is reciting some truly execrable poetry at the head of the room. The lamia is leaning against a wall near the doorway, wincing occasionally. Every five minutes spent in the room listening to the poetry incurs 1 psychic damage (save vs death ray to negate). The lamia will shush the PCs if they raise their voices, but will leave the room to speak to them on a non-hostile reaction roll. The recital lasts ten minutes, and ends with applause from the Blues and boos from the Greens. If the lamia has left the room, they'll start brawling when the reading ends.

How to shop

The proper abstraction for shopping is tricky. This would be my first stab at it, but it's provisional.

If at all possible, try to nail the players down on what they're looking for before they enter, so you can take some time (either between sessions or even a five-minute break at the table) to reduce the in-the-moment improv pressure.

If the PCs are browsing (generally or on a known topic), generate 1-3 topics per room (Cavegirl's got a nice subject matter table; it should be easy to adapt any result to your world). I might have some topics span multiple rooms. Unless the target topic is obscure, it should be somewhere; roll to determine which room. Titles are much harder (for me, at least) to generate on the fly, but preparing some snowclones can help (stuff like, "Benedictus's Gloss on ____", "Concerning ____ and Other Curious Phenomena", etc).

If the PCs are looking for a specific book, handle the topic as above, and then use your favorite rules for tossing the room (don't forget wandering monster rolls). If it's a rare book, I'd say it's there on 1- or 2-in-6; otherwise, on a 4- or 5-in-6. If it isn't there, the players might be able to convince the lamia to acquire it for them. The lich is another option, probably requiring more finesse.

The players can seek help finding a topic or book, too.

Either the goblin brothers or the lamia will accept payment for books.


There isn't a lot of explicit treasure here, but it's an entire store full of books, many of which are probably valuable. If the players just want to find some loot, I'd probably use Anne's rules for searching amid abundance. They're a good fit for matched sets of books (like the volumes of a longer work), respected works in a field, and the rare first editions that go unremarked by the casual browser. Some may even be more valuable than their list price.

Rumors and hooks

Tidbits to get the PCs interested in visiting:

  • a local wizard has gone missing, and their apprentice is worried. They were last seen heading to the bookstore. This is the corpse in the strangler vine room.
  • the barista's mother has heard worrying rumors that the bookstore is frequented by those no-good feuding Blues and Greens, and wants the PCs to convince the barista to quit her job.
  • the Greens want to disrupt the Blues' poetry reading.
  • the store hasn't renewed its business license. The lich is the owner of record (this will be news to them), and the PCs are to collect the fee.
  • a wine merchant's servant is missing. He sent him to buy a book. Go find him! This is the man in the Comfortable Chair.
  • a widow wants to sell her husband's book collection, and hopes the lamia might do an appraisal.

Of course, simpler barks are easy: steal a book, kill the lich, burn the store down, etc.


This is obviously not at all carefully level-matched, but it's perfectly possible for even level-0s to make it in and out in one piece.

There's a balance between making sure it's a plausible store (where PCs can get stuff they want) and also a plausible dungeon (where the PCs can get hurt). It leans towards the former, mostly to reduce the chances of unpleasant expectation mismatches. You can ratchet up the threat if that won't be a problem at your table.

If someone dies in the store, you've got a perfect opportunity to let the PCs find an entrance to the Stygian Library (man am I kicking myself for having missed the remaster Kickstarter earlier this year).

If I do five more of these, will that make d6 merchant dungeons?

Saturday, September 5, 2020

What are goblins? d102 answers

Lots of things are goblins. Kobolds are goblins. Xvarts are goblins. Bullywugs are goblins. Grimlocks and kuo-toa and grungs and redcaps and boggles are almost goblins. Orcs certainly aren't goblins (unless you're Tolkien), but they might be related and mutualistic (if you're Warhammer). (Of course, since Warcraft III, orcs aren't orcs either, but seem to be some sort of dwarves. Gnolls are the principal orcs now.)

I wanted to see what I could come up with. Other people's ideas are on here too because I liked them but needed to write them down to get them out of my head so I could think of different ones.

Roll a d102. Goblins are:

  1. Dropped water-storage leaves from an awful succulent.
  2. Actually raccoons. (From Fists of Cinder and Stone.) (Or lemurs, or possums, or ...)
  3. Degenerated humanoids - you become a goblin by being around them and acting like them. (From Goblin Punch.)
  4. Like or(c|k)s, a stage in the life-cycle of a complicated fungus. (From Warhammer.)
  5. Kidney stones from a god.
  6. The same thing as gnomes - they're only kept different because two gods are fighting over who gets to own them.
  7. The immune cells of dungeons. (Probably from somewhere else, but I forget where.)
  8. Children who are abandoned as too burdensome to feed.
  9. The literal embodiment of fear and revulsion.
  10. The occasional and random offspring of goats, accepted as a fact of life by goatherds and killed if found before they can run away (but they can run away within minutes of birth).
  11. What happens to bull testicles if not burned (or eaten) after castration.
  12. Dust, cobwebs, and grit that gathers in the corners of forgotten places, come to life. (This feels like I ran across it elsewhere, too.)
  13. An allelopathic defense mechanism of certain trees to fight off attackers.
  14. Droplets of a god's blood.
  15. Part of the life cycle of a dungeon or cave cactus; they congregate together because they often forget what their purpose is.
  16. The first servant species of a god, abandoned now that they made better servants.
  17. What gnomes look like when born. (Or when they get old.)
  18. A servant species invented by a wizard to keep their crazy demiplane clean - whoops, they got out.
  19. What sprouts from a murderer's grave (or corpse).
  20. The leftover hanging around after a wizard casts Unseen Servant.
  21. A devolution from the warlike orcs (or elves). (From Tolkien, obvs.)
  22. Orcish travel rations. (Warhammer-ish again.)
  23. The tragic heroes of the story, a fact which nobody else can acknowledge.
  24. Escapees from a simulation, who had been designed to stand in for the greed of humans.
  25. Organ donor stock.
  26. Godshatter. (Vinge's original idea, or literally shards of a god.)
  27. Operators of a massive long destroyed machine. (On reflection, similar to Goblin Punch's halflings.)
  28. Sentient chew toys.
  29. Commoditized, customizable servant species.
  30. Magpies (or pigeons?), somehow.
  31. Chaos - the vines climbing over the stonework that eventually pulls a building down.
  32. The stagehands of reality, moving about unremarked to set the next scene.
  33. Minor fairies, as thoughtless as they are cruel. (Closer to folklore, obviously.)
  34. The only creatures that can safely handle gold.
  35. The only hirelings dumb - or desperate - or weird - enough to work for dungeoneers.
  36. Components of the ur-machine; when enough of them gather in one place, reality shakes. (More tenuous, but still Warhammer.)
  37. Clumps of seaweed left on the shore by the tide, their bones driftwood shaped by the waves.
  38. Every dog that goes missing, who eventually turn up again, eager to feel and repulsed by the light, yearning for but doomed to rend and gnaw at human warmth.
  39. Fastidious little creatures, yet remorseless killers, willing to murder anything smaller for sport, and then to curl up near a fire, satisfied with a good day's work - really, a lot like a cat.
  40. Children's toys; they have a fondness for knives bigger than their heads.
  41. The basic unit of computation. (Maybe something like Seven Billion Humans?)
  42. Just, skaven. They're deffo goblins. (From, uh, Warhammer.)
  43. Escaped clones from a Prestige-esque traveling magic show; they probably ate the guy controlling it. (Um, I guess spoilers for The Prestige, whoops.)
  44. The original progenitors of technical society - they are Prometheus, and you can bet they're resentful.
  45. Clone soldiers who escaped their creator, their madcap individuality a desperate denial of their enforced uniformity. (A gobbo take on the Clone Wars guys. And I guess the Unsullied.)
  46. It is from their dreams that our world is woven - for proof, look to its unfairness and cruelty and unpredictability.
  47. Mischievous little fae, their antics (barely) tolerated by their noble cousins.
  48. Somehow, the most convenient form of currency.
  49. Every monster is really a bunch of goblins in a costume. (Dark Lord of Derkholm vibes here.)
  50. Ogre turds.
  51. Packing peanuts.
  52. Only ever found as trireme oar slaves for the reavers that hound the shoreline settlements.
  53. Eusocial honey-producing bipeds. (Is this an Arnold K thing too?)
  54. Made in the image of God.
  55. Animate thorns from a freaky rosebush.
  56. Demons from a pocket hell, unspeakably glad to be free from bondage.
  57. Actors in an extradimensional play, and their deaths here are simply their cues to come onstage.
  58. Bred as sacrificial victims.
  59. A wildly popular new indulgence - you grind them up and snort them.
  60. Condemned to eternal reincarnation until they attain enlightenment (which nobody else can achieve).
  61. The result of a curse placed upon the fields of a gourd farmer who once insulted a disguised goddess by not offering her a drink of watered melon-wine as she passed by his house, as was the custom in that country.
  62. What you get if you keep hacking off troll limbs without burning them.
  63. Counterfeit squirrels.
  64. The shed skins of lizards and snakes.
  65. The only source of a key component of health potions.
  66. Kept by rich nobles and used to hunt small, deadly animals.
  67. Anything that isn't an elf.
  68. What you become if your bank balance dips below 100gp.
  69. Anyone below 3rd level.
  70. Obsessed with gossip and drama amongst the "big folk."
  71. Assembled out of the scraps and leftovers from the meat foundries.
  72. Caught in a struggle between their sentience and their inexorable migratory instincts.
  73. The descendants of opportunistic scavengers and pack hunters who first crept closer to human refuse pits millennia ago and were slowly selectively bred and domesticated. (What? No, dogs don't exist, they're still wolves, goblins got there first.) (Why else would Paizo's goblins be so neotenous?)
  74. House spirits, fickle and silly but ultimately genial.
  75. Healing potions. You gotta bite the head off to get the benefit.
  76. Responsible for picking the choicest tea leaves.
  77. Human children before they age out of it at age 10.
  78. An alchemist's invention for reclaiming metal from waste material - they accrete lumps of it beneath their skin, sorted by element.
  79. The only creatures for whom gunpowder works.
  80. Both particle and wave - why do you think they're so good at tunneling?
  81. The traditional costume of devotees of the green thief god during the annual mystery plays.
  82. Due to a curious loophole, immune to the divine consequences of burglary and theft.
  83. What blooms when you plant pig teeth in good soil and water them lovingly.
  84. The discarded tails of lizards when they escape from predators.
  85. The motile egg sacs of huge freshwater turtles, driven to find new water sources and drown in them, spawning a new turtle.
  86. Just statues, which definitely do not ever move, ever.
  87. What springs out of the corpse of a wizard who has mastered a certain secret spell and who will reincarnate if the damn things would just all sit still in one place for ten minutes.
  88. A wizard's homunculus, created to perform all unpleasant bodily functions for him.
  89. A rain god's favored children.
  90. A wizard's homunculus, created to experience all earthly enjoyments for him, so that he can reach enlightenment via self-denial.
  91. A collective entity that together occupies the throne. (One's the king's eyes, one his voice, one his ears, one his ... you know what, never mind.)
  92. The source of a rare and delectable tea, brewed from their toenail clippings.
  93. All refractions of the same creature, which exists in 19 dimensions.
  94. Gigantic (by their standards) bio-mecha piloted by hyperintelligent ants.
  95. Exclusively hallucinated by starving and lost dungeoneers, the uniformity of their descriptions a matter of minor academic interest.
  96. Trellises for the husbandry of exotic fungi.
  97. A single entity named Jake, who will remember everyone he meets, and look at you quizzically if you ask him why there are 8 of him in the room, or how he can be here when you stabbed him in the gizzard three dungeons ago.
  98. Cheerful and tireless beasts of burden, if you can just collect enough of them to carry or pull anything of appreciable weight.
  99. Impersonating dwarves (2 or 3 goblins in a big cloak, lumpy beard, and godawful accent), since everybody treated dwarves pretty well and apparently nobody has realized that they died out years ago.
  100. The physical manifestation of each time someone sins.
  101. Not recognized as food by most dungeon dwellers, so they can come and go mostly freely.
  102. Just a weird shared cultural hallucination - during childhood, everyone has a goblin friend only they can see, but you grow out of it.

I wrote these up in groups of six (hence 102) on my phone over the course of a couple of months at work. I thought it'd be fun to follow some advice I saw in a comment somewhere (ah, found it) - basically, to write down ten ideas on a theme, throw them away, write down ten more, throw those away, and then you'd start to get creative (presumably once you'd flushed out the retreads).

But to my eye, just examining entries of my own, there's not an obvious gradient of quality or creativity in this list. (I make no claims about the absolute level of either, just their derivatives...) I like the idea of goblins being water-storage leaves more or less just as much as I like the idea of them being some sort of sentient packing peanut. So I think the advice may be as dubious as most general advice given to creative types is.

(It wasn't until I was polishing this up that I ran across Konsumterra's recent d100 goblinoid rumors post. (There is some absolute gold there, check it out.) I think we're aiming at different things - his post is an actually usable rumor table that seems to work within a single consistent world, while this one is mostly half-baked setting seeds masquerading as a table. In any case, the world can't be poorer for one more goblin table, right?)

The exercise was fun, but felt like a bit of a slog at times. I think there are probably a dozen or so good ideas here, and I might try and write them up in more detail someday.