Saturday, August 13, 2022

Goblins, the Tree People

Deep in the forest live the goblins, the reclusive people of the trees.  They lie in wait to ambush their prey, making calls to lure them in.  Goblins are the reason outsiders fear the woods, but they fear outsiders in turn, only occasionally venturing out to investigate the dangerous world around.


Tree-goblins (nuruí noo-roo-EE as they call themselves) are a type of small primate, looking something like lemurs or raccoons.  Their hands and feet are well adapted for gripping branches, but they're also ready for a brief sprint on the ground.  Like a flying squirrel, a nuruí has a flap of skin that's revealed when they spread out their arms and legs, allowing them to glide through the air.  Their fur is usually striped, spotted, or mottled in some way, providing useful camoflage in the forest.


Nuruí are the smallest and weakest of the four peoples.  They avoid extended combat at all costs, preferring to rely on surprise and rapid movement.  Tree-goblins can remain vigilant and perfectly motionless for hours, waiting for the right time to silently glide down or burst out of hiding in a flurry of teeth and claws.  Their fights are won in moments, or else they sprint away and bound up into the trees to return to safety.  Goblins are fast, but they tire quickly.

To act like a tree-goblin, remember these two rules:

  • Go see for yourself.  When they say there's an enemy over the hill or some tasty soup in the pot or a trap full of spikes, give it a try yourself so you can learn what it's like.
  • Show while you tell.  When you tell about something, bring a little piece of it along for everyone to experience: a souvenir from the enemy camp, some meat out of the pot, a sharp spike from the trap.

Tree-goblins are particularly good at imitating sounds, like animal calls from the forest where they live.  Some are even good at imitating the accent and voice of other kinds of people.


Goblin homes are in hard-to-reach places, to keep them safe from predators.  Typically they build nests high up in the trees, made like woven baskets or rope hammocks.  Where trees aren't a good option, goblins sometimes make their homes in caves and clefts in the rock of high cliffs.

Their homes are near each other, forming a village of a dozen or so families.  Each village works together to shape the land around to discourage intruders and to make ambush points for prey.  Paths in the forest near a goblin village are no accident, but are deliberately constructed to lead you where they want you to go.

Each village belongs to a clan, a network of kinfolk that spans the entire continent.  Clans aren't geographically based (there's no country of the Red Tooth people).  There's no one in charge of a clan, but since they all see each other as kin, word gets around.  An enemy of one village is an enemy of the whole clan.

Tree-goblins make very few tools compared to the other peoples.  Their technology focuses on forest chemistry: making pigments, medicines, glues, hallucinogens, etc.  They make some pottery and rope for their own use, but they also trade with the giants for these.

Other People

Here's how the goblins see outsiders:

  • Giants are good to have nearby.  They make traps to catch prey and they don't check them too often, so if you're very careful you can get yourself a meal out of a giant's trap.  Giants also make good traders, showing up with a backpack full of goods and trinkets from the world around.
  • Elven settlements are dangerous but they have some of the most interesting treasures.  Their ruins tend to have bits of metal and glass that you can trade to the giants, but it's their inhabited settlements that have a wonderful variety of food and drink to take home for the whole village.
  • Humans are the worst neighbors to have.  They hunt most of the same prey as we do, leaving nothing for us to eat.  Humans also have dogs and bows, making it hard to hide from them and hard to stay safe up in the trees.

Outsiders are the reason to venture out of the forest on occasion, but they're also the reason to stay home most of the time.


Tree-goblins are inspired (in feel more than material culture) by the insular rural life of the northern Appalachians, wary of encroaching modernity and longing for the old days when they could live in peace without all this fuss and bother.  The signs they paint at their villages are based on Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs.

The language of the tree-goblins gets sound inspiration from the Arawakan and Cariban languages of South America, but its grammar is entirely different.


  1. Are we ever going to get more info on the languages of the four peoples? I am getting the sense that there's a lot more behind what we can see here.

    1. How much would you want to hear about languages? I always figure no one wants to hear me go on about that stuff, but then sometimes I'm surprised what people are actually into.

    2. I'd love to see whatever you've got. I'm not particularly skilled at conlangs but I do love reading about them.

    3. My phone won’t let me log in with my google account but I am another vote in favor of hearing about conlangs. It’s very interesting as an overall subject and your blog setting is my personal favorite

  2. Ha! We both went similar directions with goblins. I have have all goblinoids as another branch of the primate family that was initially in competition with the homo branch until humans left the forest. Goblinoids are ape-like hunter gatherers mostly, and kobold are goblinoids with tails and more pronounced snouts, looking more like Monkeys (or lemurs).