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TTRPG Review: Goblin Quest!

You wake in a green slime pit. The first thing you hear is grumbling, shrieking, giggling, and chattering from the other goblins around you, as they come to their own sentience. The first thing you see is the shambling mound of other goblins. You’re pulled from the pit by what your tiny brain says is an apprentice wizard. They sneer at you and toss you aside. AH! A pile of treasure! Your family heirloom must have been lost amongst the rubbish! You pull the gleaming artefact from the visual cacophony and can feel purpose course through your diminutive form. Your clutch of 5 goblins stand proudly around you. There is an understanding that settles, unspoken, between the five of you. There is a Quest. This Quest will be fulfilled.

Goblin Quest is a short-form role-playing game that takes about 2-3 hours to play, tops. It can take up to 6 players, but you can easily play it with 2 or even just one (probably not as fun). Each player creates their Goblin clutch of 5 goblins, and it is understood that most, and potentially all, goblins will not make it out of the quest alive.

The thing is, that there isn’t any number-crunching in this simple game, designed by Grant Howitt. Each goblin clutch is given an honorific (surname), an expertise (something their good at), a quirk (something weird about them), a dream (aspirations, go!), and a family heirloom (a bit of rubbish they found near the spawning pits, but has an epic name). Each goblin is also given their own “defining feature.”

EXAMPLE (mine from my last game)

Honorific: Slimington

Expertise: Tickling

Quirk: Very slippery

Dream: To read a book

Ancestral Heirloom: Box of mystery

MY GOBOS (with defining feature)

1) Feeeeesh, who wore a hula skirt.

2) Grung, who had a third arm.

3) Star, who was stunningly beautiful.

4) Smoosh, who was too clever.

5) Bubbles, who was apathetic.

As you can see, the expertise, quirk, and defining feature can be an idea or physical, etc. This game encourages, and rewards, creativity!

Once you have all these things for your clutch, it’s time to build your story! AS A GROUP, you decide what your quest is…. what your ultimate GOAL is! Your quest is divided into three parts (or tasks) and this becomes the structure of your story. Like a three-act structure of a play or movie. Each task (act) is then broken down into three stages. Once your group accomplishes each stage, they can move on to the next one, and eventually… maybe… accomplish their quest.

EXAMPLE (from one of the games I ran/played in)

The book comes with SOOOO MANY quest suggestions. So you can easily grab one of those if inspiration isn’t with you. We’ve liked to combine our goblins’ dreams to create our quest. One such game, our quest was to get to the pool that was on the top floor of the wizard’s tower (because they obviously have one… duh). This was because we had a goblin clutch who wanted to climb high things, another who wanted to be a swim team captain, someone else wanted to host a paid-per-view mud wrestling match, and two who wanted to swim in various things (food was one). So our tasks (1,2,3) involved collecting food/mud, breaking into the tower itself, and then setting all these things up.

BUT IT’S NOT THAT EASY! There are also complications that can be added! There are tables in the book that are great at making random things happen during your quest! You should have a few happen per-stage. So, we had a variety of insanity happen with my example. Hobgoblins with reams of paper work appeared, happy over-friendly dogs stood in our way, random magical effects occurred. All of these needed to be overcome to get to our goal.

How do you overcome these complications and succeed in your quest? Each player gets an Action Point to spend. Once everyone spends their action point, everyone gets it back. This makes sure that everyone gets a turn to act. There is no order, just make sure everyone gets a go. You decide what your goblin wants to do for any given situation, then you roll 1d6 to see if you succeed! If you use one of your features (expertise, quirk, heirloom, defining features), add an extra d6 for each thing used! Don’t add them together though, you read each number individually! This means you could succeed but also die in the same round! I love game mechanics like this. It makes for much more interesting stories and game play!

The thing I found most important about this game is that you have to come with your imagination keyed-up! There are no wrong answers in this one and the crazier the idea, the better! You can’t come into this game as a spectator. Out of the box thinking is needed and really enhances the story. We’ve had ghosts in the game, spontaneously appearing chickens, mud wrestling, goblins who were turned to stone, sent to the future, and put on a fashion show. Also, having a goblin “voice” really helps in the role-play and entertainment. You need to go into this game expecting Silly.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how amazingly well the system book for Goblin Quest is written. Mr. Howitt out-did himself with it as I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard reading about a system or setting before. The setting and monsters are well described and entertaining. The art work is really silly and fun. There is a lot to work with and I really do recommend picking it up. It also has some really fun “alternative” versions of the game that’s worth checking out. My only complaints is that the goblin quest suggestions are scattered throughout the book, and the complications tables could be more easily accessible. Also, we had to work out a bit about how the dice-rolling mechanics worked… so I might even still be wrong (it mentions rolling 7+, but when we played with adding the numbers together, there were pretty much no deaths and it wasn’t fun as fun. Reading each number individually is best in my honest opinion). But these are minor gripes.

I’ve run and played this game a few times now, and it’s been a riot every time. Check out our Events page for the next Round of Goblin Quest. You don’t want to miss the potential insanity.

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