Friday, May 17, 2013

Behind the Screen: We Be Goblins, Part 1

Available as a free PDF here.
Spoiler Alert

The Behind the Screen series is intended for GMs looking for ideas on running We Be Goblins, or advice about running long-term campaigns. Posts will include information that my players already know about the We Be Goblins storyline, but may include spoilers for those who haven't played yet. You've been warned.

We Be Goblins! is a prologue to the Pathfinder Adventure Path, The Jade Regent. In We Be Goblins!, the players take on the role of goblin heroes looking for a stash of Tienese fireworks hidden in a landlocked ship near their village in the Brinestump Swamp.

I decided to run We Be Goblins! for three reasons: 1) my players are relatively new to Pathfinder, 2) we'll be using some optional rules: Wounds and Vitality, and Armor as Damage Reduction, and 3) it gives the group a chance to experience my GM'ing style, which includes heavy roleplaying, fast-paced fight scenes and lots of props.

My players are already voracious roleplayers, so the opportunity to play insane goblins was a great way to break the ice and introduce them to the new rules without them worrying about playing their freshly-minted PCs "right".

Which Character for Which Player

Clockwise L->R: Reeta, Poog, Mog, Chuffy
The PCs in our Jade Regent game include an Ophidian Dread (heavy melee), a halfling rogue (scout), a human summoner and a human alchemist, so dividing the four pre-generated goblins was a no-brainer:

John: Poog, Cleric of Zorongal
Lauren: Mogmurch, Alchemist
Mitch: Chuffy, Rogue
Victor: Reeta, Fighter

This gave the players something similar to their main PCs to practice with.


I love minis. I think it has to do with my mom owning a miniatures shop when I was a kid. Dioramas were my favorite thing to do in school and that love 'ports straight into gaming. The thing is, I don't paint. Well, I can paint and have painted, but it's not how I spend my off hours, so over the years I've collected numerous pre-paints as well as metal minis that my friends don't want anymore. I've picked up hordes of Mage Knight singles for cheap from websites like Troll and Toad and Miniatures Market, as well as my FLGSRebasing is simple and fast, providing me with an army of figures costing from $.25-$2.00 each. Big box games like Descent, the Dungeons and Dragons boardgames, and Heroscape also provide a range of minis that pull double-duty. Out of print wargames like Confrontation and Star Wars are excellent opportunities to get minis cheap.

Confrontation wolfen (gnoll) pre-paint, Heroscape elven archer, Mage Knight necromancer rebased
I also keep a gaming-specific Amazon Wish List. This gives my players alternatives to bringing SNACKRIFICE!* to game. Running games can be time consuming and expensive. Most players understand that and want to add to their own experience. Over the years I've received random packs of DnD, Pathfinder, Mage Knight and Star Wars prepaints (the latter being awesome for scifi and superhero games) to add to my collection.

For We Be Goblins, I used a mix of DnD plastic prepaints, metal minis painted by my friend Doug Easterly, a rebased Mage Knight goblinoid bloodmage, and a range of set dressings from Mage Knight Dungeons. As I've mentioned previously, Pathfinder's Adventure Paths have excellent support, including the upcoming We Be Goblins miniatures set. Unfortunately, they don't come out until next month.

Vorka and her pet, Cuddles

Dressing for Vorka's home, her pet Lord Longtung,
and two goblin pre-paints used for the PCs

Monster Prep and Visual Aids

I'm a fan of visual and tactile aids. Anything that involves your players in the game is crucial. Back when I started gaming we didn't have much. Even minis were tough to come by (not to mention poisonous). Maps were hand-drawn on 8.5x11 graph paper and pineapples stood in for dragons. Many of us think back on those times with reverence and respect. Our imaginations had to be in full-swing to make those games work. Still, I always wanted more. Since I now live in the future, I get to have it.

Almost everyone has a scanner/printer at home, so scans from published material are easy. Googling "We Be Goblins images" brings up everything you might need, ready to print. Describing a villain to your players can be fun, but those descriptions should be saved for behavior, personality and scaring the crap out of them. The work of Todd Lockwood, Wayne Reynolds and scores of artistic luminaries can portray your NPCs better than you can--"a thousand words" and all that. Let them do the work for you.

I often print monster stats on the bottom half of a page and put the image at the top. This makes it easy to hang the image on my screen for the players to see, keeps my stats handy and takes one more thing out of the clutter-pile behind my screen.

For significant NPCs, I print out just the image (ignoring game stats) and hang them during non-combat interactions. By putting the names below the images, the players find it easier to remember your supporting cast. We all know how random some of these fantasy names can be so putting a face to a name is helpful.

If you're using homebrew NPCs, Paizo's face-cards are very helpful. I've also collected a massive database of fantasy images from years of DnD supplements, including Wizard's 3.* art archive. Collecting images from the net takes time, but is worth it in the long run.

We Be Goblins, Part 2: Bringing adventure maps to the table, using item cards and more.


* SNACKRIFICE! = foodstuffs brought to the game by the players. GMs shouldn't have to provide food and drinks as well as prep for our entertainment. We owe them goodies.


  1. Awesome, but now all I can think of is awww spoilers!

    1. Lol. In fairness, I haven't posted ALL the secrets. I'll also be posting Behind the Scenes AFTER the games.