Boring but Mandatory History:
Shadoom the Fleshcrafter was an ancient and powerful wizard. The mysteries of the universe were Monday crosswords to him. At his touch, living flesh leaped up and swirled into new shapes so that it might be more pleasing to him. (He gave awful massages.)
He was also very evil. Like all evil wizards, Shadoom was continually inflicted with "do-gooders" and "heroes", the most durable and pernicious of which was Sir Hactor. This perpetually meddling paladin-creature went on to become Shadoom's nemesis (and eventually his slayer).
In his last decade of life, Shadoom noticed that Hactor was destroying his strongholds faster than he could construct them. He needed to find a way to build many, many hideouts cheaply and quickly. He applied his magic to goblin and fungus, and was happy when he his efforts eventually bore the first goblin—creatures with a complex and swift reproduction time and a genetic imperative towards making villainous strongholds.
It works like this. Shadoom would reach a remote location and plant what must have been the original spores. Those spores would germinate, and eventually grow to become a giant mushroom, called shroomamas by the goblins and motherfungus by the wizards. You can also call it a goblin mushroom if you think those names are stupid. (I sorta do.) After about a year and a half, before the shroomama is taller than a man, it will begin to give birth to goblins.
Most of the descriptions in books will describe goblins growing on a motherfungus like bulbous fruit that plop off when gestation is complete. However, I it may also be that the fungus gives live birth in a more mammalian fashion.
Whatever the case may be, the truth is that goblins are unfamiliar with more traditional methods of reproductions. (Many of them are terrified of vaginas. But I digress.)
However baby goblins enter the world, they are sickly pale. Only after do they get older do they get their distinctive yellow color and armpit smell.
As the shroomama grows larger, it will produce larger goblins more frequently. Since shroomamas grow throughout their lives, the older ones can produce a tremendous amount of baby goblins. Goblins can easily colonize a mountainside in only a few years, something that Shadoom was acutely aware of. In the years before his death, the evil wizard was canny enough to spread his spawn in every land he traveled through.
The goblins themselves are all male, and so reproduction among them is impossible. Instead of procreating through decent, normal sex, the body of every goblin born is riddled with the fungus that birthed him. After about a year, this dormant fungus forms a bud on the back of the goblin neck. That bud remains dormant until it senses that the goblin is dead, whereupon it activates and grows into a new fungalmother, using the goblin's body for nutrients.
So the cycle goes goblin -> shroomama -> goblin -> shroomama -> etc.
Funglybears are an exception to this. When a shroomama gets very old and mature (at least 10 years) it will have such a fat trunk that it can begin producing funglybears, which are the size of bears. Funglybears are huge, burly goblins with tiny heads. They speak only in idiot squeaks.
Another exception to this cycle are the mushroom shamans. These goblins are created by a process that the goblins call assna gliglig, which translates to "slapping your mother".
When an especially perspicacious goblin is noticed, the tribe will often intentionally damage the fungal bud, causing it to begin growing while the goblin is still alive. The mushroom on his back takes blood, making the goblin decrepit, while the mushroom releases a constant flow of mild psychotropics into the shaman's bloodstream. This give him the visions and strange mushroom powers that the mushroom shamans are known for.
When a mushroom shaman gets extra old and decrepit, all of the other goblins will bury him up to his neck and take turns kicking him in the face until he is dead. For whatever reason, this causes the mushroom growing out from between his shoulderblades to undergo some very strange changes. The resultant mushroom is a shaman mushroom. It is a little smaller than the fungalmothers, and it has arms, like a saguaro cactus. The goblins also believe that the shaman mushrooms still hold the mind and memories of the shaman that it grew from. During certain ceremonies, goblins will lick the shaman mushrooms and trip out for several hours.
It is also noted that shaman mushrooms exercise strange powers if the warren is ever threatened.
Goblins love filth. They intentionally maintain shallow pits throughout their lairs dedicated to the collection and fermentation of all sorts of nastiness. They stir the filth, put filth on bugs in order to better distribute the filth, rub filth on themselves, and will go to any length to avoid taking a bath. They have an entire vocabulary dedicated to the size and type of a particular pile of shit. Every goblin has a particular pile of filth. It is their prize possession. Inter-warren feuds often begin when one goblin steals a couple of buckets of filth from another. Once ripened, this filth is used to fertilize the mushrooms.
One room that is in every goblin warren is the filth gardens or filth library (although goblins don't really know what a library is). These rooms function as compost heaps, graveyards, and nurseries. The garbage feeds the mushrooms that grow from the dead goblins, which in turn gives birth to baby goblins. The circle of life!
Newborn gpblins are attached to the mushrooms that birthed them, and cling to it instinctively. Since the mushrooms have a "skirt" near their base, baby goblins will dig a clumsy burrow underneath for habitation. Baby goblins forage among the garbage and leavings for food, or scrambling around their older brothers begging for scraps. They are filthy little imps that occupy the same ecological niche as a city's rat population.
There is one last permutation of the goblin genome: when exposed to great hunger and darkness, they turn grey, and become gribblies.
Every sentient creature dreams. And goblins dream of only one thing: Shadoom. The wizard somehow managed to imprint himself in the subconcious of their entire race. They have a lot of wizard-stuff in their DNA. Although each goblin will dream of only incomplete sections, but when the fragments are pieced together it becomes apparent that Shadoom "recorded" three separate sections, each between three and five hours long. These "sermons" contain instructions and threats, each of which has been repeated to countless generations of sleeping goblins.
The first sermon to his unborn goblins takes place in a laboratory, with Shadoom wearing a plain green robe. He tells the goblins that they are his children, and that the world is his. It ends with Shadoom bestowing the world upon the goblins. "Everything belongs to you, and you belong to me," he says.
The second sermon is in a different part of the same laboratory, with a balcony visible overlooking some mountains. Shadoom wears a purple and white robe, and seems to be in excellent spirits. He spends five hours giving a rapid-fire course in excavation and architectural engineering.
The sermon is interrupted only when Shadoom stops to eat a sandwich. (The goblins refer to this event as the "standing feast", and it is a prominent feature of their religious rituals.)
The third and last sermon takes place with Shadoom wearing a black and gold robe. He is standing on the Bastion of Medurak (an enormous, ancient dam) and seems to be drunk, or at least tired and angry. He throws a bag off the side of the Bastion, calling it the price of failure. The rest of the short sermon is a list of his demands. This sermon is rambling and unstructured, leading goblin-specialist wizards to believe that Shadoom did not plan the third sermon. Shadoom ends by telling the goblins that he will always be watching; he will always be waiting; and he will always find the failures and traitors.
Aside from his psuedo-religious impressions of grandeur, Shadoom presents a definite set of instructions for the goblins.
- Keep hidden at all times. Let no one discover you.
- Build a tower in a hidden place: two stories above ground, four beneath. This should be disguised as a natural rock.
- This tower should be large enough to fit 200 goblins inside without any two touching.
- They are to stock a alchemy lab with a full complement of reagents (no one alive knows what some of them are used for).
- Supply the stronghold with a wine cellar.
- Supply the stronghold with a swift horse.
- Supply the stronghold with a beautiful maiden.
- Supply the stronghold with a half-dozen lambs (Vega was a lover of veal).
- Stock the stronghold with more gold than the strongest goblin can carry.
What the Goblins Actually Stock the Stronghold With
Results differ, but a typical example would be:
- A few bottles of vinegar.
- A few bottles full of "stuff" that they labeled (usually correctly).
- An asthmatic donkey.
- Some hobo they kidnapped. (yoblins don't understand gender)
- A couple of nervous goats. (destined for the filth pits)
- A bag full of pennies and/or shiny rocks.
Although they tend to be smaller than Shadoom would have liked, the stoneworking skills of goblins are excellent--the strongholds are always well-built. Shadoom's rushed sermon on groined vaults and flying buttresses has been analyzed and retaught again and again. Since goblins are lectured on these things every night, they know them backwards and forwards. Even their prayers include a lot of architectural terms.
Goblins are expected to work to improve the master’s stronghold whenever they have time, and the tower is continually worked upon. Stocking an alchemy lab from the mountains requires luck and stealth, whereas hewing a stone into a block can be done with just a few tools. Goblins could be excellent masons if they could overcome their prejudices, narrow field of expertise, and that funky armpit smell.
Goblins are effectively born with a cursory knowledge of digging tunnels, reinforcing tunnels, flood-proofing tunnels, the manufacture of excavation equipment and explosives, different types of dirt and stone and the considerations of each. They also know of foundations, brickmaking, and several recipes for mortar. They also know how to read and write the alphabet and a few words, although only in Old Kaskalan (Gospeltongue wouldn’t be invented for another few hundred years).
Goblins in the World Today
Goblins live in most places and in hated in all. New tribes are constantly springing up in new places--wherever a goblin dies.
New tribes all follow the same pattern. Each one believes that they are the only tribe in the service of a wizard-god who is coming back any day now. Luckily, most authorities know to suspect goblinoid activity when goats, vinegar, and a single hobo go missing.
There is a permanent colony in Asria called the Bogenshy Warrens. The people of Asria have managed to turn a pitiable nuisance into a social experiment. They proved to the goblins that Shadoom is a vile man who happily condemned his creations to a lifetime of servitude for all time. More importantly, they managed to (mostly) prove that Shadoom is dead. (Although the possibility that he might still be alive is a source of constant existential dread for them.)
Even the enlightened goblins consider themselves cursed, no matter what the dark-haired man in the dreams says, no matter how many times he tells them that they are his forever, he is watching forever, and failures will be punished, forever. They will wake in a cold sweat for the rest of their lives.