Have there been any historical attempts at civilizing goblinoids on any scale in Golarion?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion


If so, what sources discuss this?

If not, is there a reason why this has never occurred to anyone?

Aside from people wanting to kill them on sight, the difficulties of deprogramming goblins of their barbaric and insane culture or raising them by hand depending upon their age, and the logistical difficulties of their metabolisms, what barriers would there be in terms of their nature rather than their categorically evil nurture?

What about the larger variants of goblinoid?


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In Golarion My Way, I have a Sarenite order of monks trying to set up orphanages in Isger to do precisely this... the barrier I have them encountering is a legal one- Isgeri are not too happy about people feeding and sheltering goblins of any kind...

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I don't see much of any nation or church wanting to make a concerted effort to civilize goblins, as it seems like a lot of effort that would be better spent on lifting up disadvantaged people of other races, like humans, halflings, etc.

Hobgoblins, on the other hand, would seem like logical recruits for certain groups of law-and-order types in Cheliax or Molthune. Funding the training of some elf-killing hobgoblin squads to harass elven communities could also be a thing that some Drumish merchants would be willing to very covertly back... Katapeshi slave-traders might be equally willing to (much less covertly) use them to ward off gnoll raids, under the logic of 'let the animals kill each other, instead of risking our own people's lives.'

OTOH, none of those groups would seem particularly likely to try and 'redeem' them, so much as exploit their natural tendencies to further their own goals.


No actual canon attempts as far as I know.

Molthune is apparently recruiting them into its armies. In Tian Xia, hobgoblins have conquered the nation of Kaoling. Though I don't think that's "civilizing them". More like the orcs ruling Belkzen, though more organized.

There are apparently more peaceful Orc tribes in the Mwangi.

Personally, I'm not really comfortable with the idea that certain species need to be "civilized" by force by their more enlightened neighbors.


In my home game I've built Belkzen - which I've combined with the Kingdom of Many-Arrows from Forgotten realms - into one of the strongest nations in the world in a "mongols go from steppe nomads to largest empire on earth in a stupidly short time frame" kinda way. Was basically my Wrath of the Righteous PC's(a half-orc gorumite fighter) retirement plan.

There isn't a concentrated effort by any outside nation to civilize them though the followings of several good and lawful deities are taking the opportunity to get some missionary work going. The primary work is being done by a handful of dragons - both good and evil - taking the opportunity to help shape a new civilization to their will.

But yeah, I'm not aware of any real attempts to do this in the lore.


Set wrote:

I don't see much of any nation or church wanting to make a concerted effort to civilize goblins, as it seems like a lot of effort that would be better spent on lifting up disadvantaged people of other races, like humans, halflings, etc.

Hobgoblins, on the other hand, would seem like logical recruits for certain groups of law-and-order types in Cheliax or Molthune. Funding the training of some elf-killing hobgoblin squads to harass elven communities could also be a thing that some Drumish merchants would be willing to very covertly back... Katapeshi slave-traders might be equally willing to (much less covertly) use them to ward off gnoll raids, under the logic of 'let the animals kill each other, instead of risking our own people's lives.'

OTOH, none of those groups would seem particularly likely to try and 'redeem' them, so much as exploit their natural tendencies to further their own goals.

Are you thinking of this as charity, then? Because I see a number of other motivations that would crop up well before altruism. Even a buffer of half-civilized goblinoids which don't attack at every opportunity and engage in trade between periods of raiding between the frontier and the fully wild lands would be something that even an Iron Age mindset could see the benefits of. Especially seeing as how not even Taldor with its vast armies of exploration ever seems to have made a concerted effort at extermination and instead just shrugged and accepted goblinoids as something to allow to live.

Even for entirely black hat motivations, goblins would present themselves as a candidate for making into a slave race for similar reasons as halflings, though more suited to industries with higher mortality rates due to the ease with which they're replenished.

I would think less redemption and more making them capable of interacting in ways beyond combat and theft.

thejeff wrote:

No actual canon attempts as far as I know.

Molthune is apparently recruiting them into its armies. In Tian Xia, hobgoblins have conquered the nation of Kaoling. Though I don't think that's "civilizing them". More like the orcs ruling Belkzen, though more organized.

There are apparently more peaceful Orc tribes in the Mwangi.

Personally, I'm not really comfortable with the idea that certain species need to be "civilized" by force by their more enlightened neighbors.

So you prefer worlds where the only rational, ethical, and practical solution is complete genocide, then?

I'm perfectly interested in hearing about non-forceful attempts, as seemingly doomed to certain failure via evisceration as they would be, if that's what you're getting at.

This is a game that is still in large part about going into dungeons, killing the inhabitants, and taking their stuff, so a certain amount of force would enter into most paradigms anyway.

As for Kaoling, is there anything more than a tiny snippet to go on?


Kaoling is completely civilized, it's just not the nicest of civilization. And aside from the overview in Dragon Empires, one of it's cities in Distant Shores.

Goblins on their own don't seem to be the type to make cities very often- Mediogalti Island's Monkey Goblins have a settlement of treetop huts but that's the closest I find in the modern day- but they as individuals can definitely be civilized in human or hobgoblin or orc civilizations. And Hobgoblins take to civilization pretty easily, and in the past there was the Kingdom of Zog, who's descendants are now in the Emerald Spire. They were lead by Barghests, but still, a goblin empire that lasted two centuries.


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Coidzor wrote:

If so, what sources discuss this?

If not, is there a reason why this has never occurred to anyone?

Aside from people wanting to kill them on sight, the difficulties of deprogramming goblins of their barbaric and insane culture or raising them by hand depending upon their age, and the logistical difficulties of their metabolisms, what barriers would there be in terms of their nature rather than their categorically evil nurture?

What about the larger variants of goblinoid?

Sounds like forced cultural assimilation too me. Devouring babies and slavery are important elements of goblin cultural identity after all.


There's an chapter about Kaoling's capital, Dhucharg, in Distant Shores. It's pretty civilized. In fact, its civilized enough to manage its huge military and even huger slave caste pretty well. Apparently the place as a whole is pretty peaceful and few people ever break the law because of just how strict they are. Slaves are treated rather badly though, like really badly, but the slaves at least get to abuse other slaves that are of a longer pecking order than them, so there's that I guess.

I suppose that's better than normal goblins who just try to kill you the moment you step into the woods. These guys instead efficiently conquer and enslave you. So in that way their a mix of Nazis, Confederates, and the Japanese military nationalists from WW2, which I guess makes them pretty civilized.


Coidzor wrote:
thejeff wrote:

No actual canon attempts as far as I know.

Molthune is apparently recruiting them into its armies. In Tian Xia, hobgoblins have conquered the nation of Kaoling. Though I don't think that's "civilizing them". More like the orcs ruling Belkzen, though more organized.

There are apparently more peaceful Orc tribes in the Mwangi.

Personally, I'm not really comfortable with the idea that certain species need to be "civilized" by force by their more enlightened neighbors.

So you prefer worlds where the only rational, ethical, and practical solution is complete genocide, then?

I'm perfectly interested in hearing about non-forceful attempts, as seemingly doomed to certain failure via evisceration as they would be, if that's what you're getting at.

This is a game that is still in large part about going into dungeons, killing the inhabitants, and taking their stuff, so a certain amount of force would enter into most paradigms anyway.

As for Kaoling, is there anything more than a tiny snippet to go on?

I'd rather not deal with it in game, because all the answers are bad if you take it seriously.

I love Pathfinder's psychopathic little pyromaniacs, but I can't pretend they're at all realistic - whether their behavior presented as cultural or just goblin nature. They should have exterminated themselves long ago.
If it's nature, then they're uncivilizable and likely not even useful as slaves - requiring far too much oversight to keep them from setting things on fire or murdering. Extermination is the only option.
If that's really just all culture, then the whole race becomes a horrifying tragedy where the only moral thing to do is a campaign to take all the goblin children from their parents to raise them safe from the abuse they were born into.

They were written as dangerous, but funny monsters. As such they work wonderfully. Like many things in Pathfinder - or any RPG setting - that falls apart if you look at it too closely.


I've always just assumed that the reason goblins are pretty much all evil and haven't been exterminated long time ago is because the Goblin Hero Gods made them to be evil monsters (I think for goblins sanity/compassion is as rare and horrific as sociopath is for humans) and they keep spawning more of them onto Golarion whenever someone tries to wiping them all out.

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I know they are counted as citizens in Irrisen, so there might be some more civilized goblins up there just through acceptance.


thistledown wrote:
I know they are counted as citizens in Irrisen, so there might be some more civilized goblins up there just through acceptance.

Yea, it's like, they aren't dumb, they can join many cultures.

How well the culture accepts them is probably a large factor.


thistledown wrote:
I know they are counted as citizens in Irrisen, so there might be some more civilized goblins up there just through acceptance.

Oh? What's the source on that? Is there any level of detail given?

Davia D wrote:

Yea, it's like, they aren't dumb, they can join many cultures.

How well the culture accepts them is probably a large factor.

They may not have an Int penalty mechanically, but going off of how they're usually portrayed, I'm going to have to disagree with you about them being pretty dumb.

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Coidzor wrote:
thistledown wrote:
I know they are counted as citizens in Irrisen, so there might be some more civilized goblins up there just through acceptance.

Oh? What's the source on that? Is there any level of detail given?

Davia D wrote:

Yea, it's like, they aren't dumb, they can join many cultures.

How well the culture accepts them is probably a large factor.
They may not have an Int penalty mechanically, but going off of how they're usually portrayed, I'm going to have to disagree with you about them being pretty dumb.

In Irrisen monsters are considered citizens while humans are... Well, let's say that by Irriseni law, if troll gets hungry and eats human, its not troll's fault.


Coidzor wrote:


They may not have an Int penalty mechanically, but going off of how they're usually portrayed, I'm going to have to disagree with you about them being pretty dumb.

Smart enough to make a city. Just not naturally inclined to it.


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Coidzor wrote:
Davia D wrote:

Yea, it's like, they aren't dumb, they can join many cultures.

How well the culture accepts them is probably a large factor.
They may not have an Int penalty mechanically, but going off of how they're usually portrayed, I'm going to have to disagree with you about them being pretty dumb.

I'd probably actually give goblins a Wisdom penalty. Clever, but not prone to thinking things through.


CorvusMask wrote:
Coidzor wrote:
thistledown wrote:
I know they are counted as citizens in Irrisen, so there might be some more civilized goblins up there just through acceptance.

Oh? What's the source on that? Is there any level of detail given?

Davia D wrote:

Yea, it's like, they aren't dumb, they can join many cultures.

How well the culture accepts them is probably a large factor.
They may not have an Int penalty mechanically, but going off of how they're usually portrayed, I'm going to have to disagree with you about them being pretty dumb.
In Irrisen monsters are considered citizens while humans are... Well, let's say that by Irriseni law, if troll gets hungry and eats human, its not troll's fault.

That's not exactly "civilized".

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It was attempted in Korvosa (see Pathfinder Goblins #1 the second story)


thejeff wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
In Irrisen monsters are considered citizens while humans are... Well, let's say that by Irriseni law, if troll gets hungry and eats human, its not troll's fault.
That's not exactly "civilized".

I'd expect the troll to be charged with unauthorized destruction of property, if anything.

Most humans in Irrisen are chattel, with the notable exception of the Jadwiga ruling caste.

Irrisen is definitely civilization, just a casually horrifying one. Forx example, burying dead serfs is prohibited - rather, their corpses are supposed to be collected and sent to Whitethrone for processing into meat, fat, bone meal, etc. The eternal winter means everything keeps!

Civilizing goblins - probably perfectly doable if you're willing to take a bunch of babies and start from scratch. Reforming actual goblin society means you're running smack dab into the influence of Lamashtu and the Goblin Hero Gods, and that is one hell of a push back.


Zhangar wrote:
thejeff wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
In Irrisen monsters are considered citizens while humans are... Well, let's say that by Irriseni law, if troll gets hungry and eats human, its not troll's fault.
That's not exactly "civilized".

I'd expect the troll to be charged with unauthorized destruction of property, if anything.

Most humans in Irrisen are chattel, with the notable exception of the Jadwiga ruling caste.

Irrisen is definitely civilization, just a casually horrifying one. Forx example, burying dead serfs is prohibited - rather, their corpses are supposed to be collected and sent to Whitethrone for processing into meat, fat, bone meal, etc. The eternal winter means everything keeps!

Civilizing goblins - probably perfectly doable if you're willing to take a bunch of babies and start from scratch. Reforming actual goblin society means you're running smack dab into the influence of Lamashtu and the Goblin Hero Gods, and that is one hell of a push back.

If the idea of "civilizing monsters" means "put them in charge and let them do what they want, subject to being punished when they annoy something more powerful", it's not really "civilizing".

By that standard Belkzen's orcs are "civilized" and so is the average goblin tribe.

I'd have to look more closely at the Irrisen example. I don't have the Irrisen campaign books, but that's not the idea I got from the stuff in RoW. Some monsters yes, but not given that kind of free rein, to kill and eat people as they please.

Civilizing goblins, even by raising babies from scratch (with all the horrific implications that being a good thing has), is pretty GM dependent. How much that's goblin nature and how it's purely cultural is loosely defined at best. Possibly even contradictory.


Yeah, a lot of monsters in Irrisen serve the Jadwiga. And Irrisen has ongoing conflicts with monsters that refuse to bow down to anyone (and so they have patrols of human soldiers led by trolls or winter wolves that have to hunt renegade evil fey and whatnot).

The Ulfen peasants are a disposable resource, but they can't just be killed without getting permission first. After all, those serfs are still someone's property.


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thejeff wrote:

If the idea of "civilizing monsters" means "put them in charge and let them do what they want, subject to being punished when they annoy something more powerful", it's not really "civilizing".

By that standard Belkzen's orcs are "civilized" and so is the average goblin tribe.

I'd have to look more closely at the Irrisen example. I don't have the Irrisen campaign books, but that's not the idea I got from the stuff in RoW. Some monsters yes, but not given that kind of free rein, to kill and eat people as they please.

Civilizing goblins, even by raising babies from scratch (with all the horrific implications that being a good thing has), is pretty GM dependent. How much that's goblin nature and how it's purely cultural is loosely defined at best. Possibly even contradictory.

Civilized doesn't mean 'nice'. Civilized means lived in an organized city-based society.

Rome was civilized, and it was out conquering people left and right.

Sparta was completely horrible, keeping most of the population in slavery where it was not only free to kill them but something done as a right of passage, but it was civilized.

Irrisen's civilized, but the trolls really aren't a big factor in that, the Witches rule and keep the trolls in line. Some of the monsters who live there are more properly civilized, others just are given a spot.

Belkzen is semi-civilized. There is some cities and such, but most of the country is semi-nomatic tribes that sometimes take over a city. Give it time and I expect it'd become more-so with a more stable system.


Davia D wrote:
thejeff wrote:

If the idea of "civilizing monsters" means "put them in charge and let them do what they want, subject to being punished when they annoy something more powerful", it's not really "civilizing".

By that standard Belkzen's orcs are "civilized" and so is the average goblin tribe.

I'd have to look more closely at the Irrisen example. I don't have the Irrisen campaign books, but that's not the idea I got from the stuff in RoW. Some monsters yes, but not given that kind of free rein, to kill and eat people as they please.

Civilizing goblins, even by raising babies from scratch (with all the horrific implications that being a good thing has), is pretty GM dependent. How much that's goblin nature and how it's purely cultural is loosely defined at best. Possibly even contradictory.

Civilized doesn't mean 'nice'. Civilized means lived in an organized city-based society.

Rome was civilized, and it was out conquering people left and right.

Sparta was completely horrible, keeping most of the population in slavery where it was not only free to kill them but something done as a right of passage, but it was civilized.

Irrisen's civilized, but the trolls really aren't a big factor in that, the Witches rule and keep the trolls in line. Some of the monsters who live there are more properly civilized, others just are given a spot.

Belkzen is semi-civilized. There is some cities and such, but most of the country is semi-nomatic tribes that sometimes take over a city. Give it time and I expect it'd become more-so with a more stable system.

Adding to this from Irrisen - Land of Eternal Winter book:

The fey of the Feyfrost region are known child thieves and have a whole market island that deals in this trade. Baroness Pavlina is considered a black sheep and "exiled" to the peasant town of Badelund because she actually worries about the well being of servants and slaves. She has to personally pay for mercenaries to try to track down stolen children, as opposed to ordering soldiers to do it.

Sections like that heavily imply that the races involved with Baba Yaga's conquering armies are given a lot of leeway unless they upset a major Jadwiga.

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The Kingdom of Zog, led by Barghests.

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I meant that by Irriseni law, a troll killing human isn't murder because "that's just the troll's nature" so its basically humans fault for being in the way of hungry/angry troll :P


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Zhangar wrote:
Civilizing goblins - probably perfectly doable if you're willing to take a bunch of babies and start from scratch.

*Patronizing sniff*

A typically ignorant dismissal of our many, many contributions to the civilized world. Our poetry and music alone put us at the forefront of civilization!


I see no one's even going to make the attempt to advocate for the poor, misunderstood bugbears. Just shameful.


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Leingod wrote:
I see no one's even going to make the attempt to advocate for the poor, misunderstood bugbears. Just shameful.

Fun fact: Zirnakaynin's Mall of Cocyrdavarin is so big, it has two Build-a-Bugbear™ Workshops. (The one in the southeast corner on level 3, right next to the Fleshcrafters, is friendlier to surface folk.)


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Friendlier meaning they only hit them as much as needed to subdue them before enslaving them?

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Ataraxias wrote:
Davia D wrote:
thejeff wrote:

If the idea of "civilizing monsters" means "put them in charge and let them do what they want, subject to being punished when they annoy something more powerful", it's not really "civilizing".

By that standard Belkzen's orcs are "civilized" and so is the average goblin tribe.

I'd have to look more closely at the Irrisen example. I don't have the Irrisen campaign books, but that's not the idea I got from the stuff in RoW. Some monsters yes, but not given that kind of free rein, to kill and eat people as they please.

Civilizing goblins, even by raising babies from scratch (with all the horrific implications that being a good thing has), is pretty GM dependent. How much that's goblin nature and how it's purely cultural is loosely defined at best. Possibly even contradictory.

Civilized doesn't mean 'nice'. Civilized means lived in an organized city-based society.

Rome was civilized, and it was out conquering people left and right.

Sparta was completely horrible, keeping most of the population in slavery where it was not only free to kill them but something done as a right of passage, but it was civilized.

Irrisen's civilized, but the trolls really aren't a big factor in that, the Witches rule and keep the trolls in line. Some of the monsters who live there are more properly civilized, others just are given a spot.

Belkzen is semi-civilized. There is some cities and such, but most of the country is semi-nomatic tribes that sometimes take over a city. Give it time and I expect it'd become more-so with a more stable system.

Adding to this from Irrisen - Land of Eternal Winter book:

The fey of the Feyfrost region are known child thieves and have a whole market island that deals in this trade. Baroness Pavlina is considered a black sheep and "exiled" to the peasant town of Badelund because she actually worries about the well being of servants and slaves. She has to personally pay for mercenaries to try to track down stolen...

As far as I'm aware, Feyfrost was literally given to the evil Fey who helped Baba Yaga, so it's not overly surprising that it's not human-centric. That may not be true for the rest of Irrisen :)


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Coidzor wrote:

If so, what sources discuss this?

If not, is there a reason why this has never occurred to anyone?

Aside from people wanting to kill them on sight, the difficulties of deprogramming goblins of their barbaric and insane culture or raising them by hand depending upon their age, and the logistical difficulties of their metabolisms, what barriers would there be in terms of their nature rather than their categorically evil nurture?

What about the larger variants of goblinoid?

In our Rise of the Runelords game, we befriended the local goblin tribe and taught them to make magically infused cheeses for us. We call them the Curdherders and we love them. Apart from trying to milk every creature they see they're rather well behaved.


I don't call it official, but I can recall at least 1 in-game attempt at making Hobgoblin Jannisaries (loyal slave-soldiers)...

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As I recall, Kaer Maga, so called the "City of Strangers," is open to all races or species willing to behave themselves and engage in trade. I don't have the campaign book in front of me, but I think I remember goblins acting as sort of gangs of perpetual street urchins.


Drakli wrote:
As I recall, Kaer Maga, so called the "City of Strangers," is open to all races or species willing to behave themselves and engage in trade. I don't have the campaign book in front of me, but I think I remember goblins acting as sort of gangs of perpetual street urchins.

Not to mention the famous Troll Augurs, who work as the city's premier fortune tellers/information network for hire.

Sovereign Court

Civilizing humanoids.

That would make for a great Asmodean villain story


there is a pathfinder comic that cover this in part

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Stereofm wrote:

Civilizing humanoids.

That would make for a great Asmodean villain story

Indeed. Orcs and goblins and gnolls might be a hard row to hoe, but hobgoblins and bugbears and possibly ogres would probably work well under Asmodean doctrine, with appropriate roles and motivations tailored to their own cultures (let the ogres think that they are feared and valued, while the bugbears actually *are*, etc.).

It would be intriguing to see something done with the blank slate that is lizardfolk. Ignored and neglected, they could be seen as ripe for an evil church / nation to cultivate and promise all sorts of 'come with us if you want to live' stuff (and then ruthlessly exploit and use as disposable arrow fodder and literally cold-blooded unblinking inhuman enforcers to terrorize their own human population). It wouldn't even have to be Asmodeans, which, in Cheliax, at least, are racist as heck. The church of Razmir could use some inhuman 'muscle,' and lives in a more lizardfolk-compatible marshy part of the world.


Set wrote:
Stereofm wrote:

Civilizing humanoids.

That would make for a great Asmodean villain story

Indeed. Orcs and goblins and gnolls might be a hard row to hoe, but hobgoblins and bugbears and possibly ogres would probably work well under Asmodean doctrine, with appropriate roles and motivations tailored to their own cultures (let the ogres think that they are feared and valued, while the bugbears actually *are*, etc.).

It would be intriguing to see something done with the blank slate that is lizardfolk. Ignored and neglected, they could be seen as ripe for an evil church / nation to cultivate and promise all sorts of 'come with us if you want to live' stuff (and then ruthlessly exploit and use as disposable arrow fodder and literally cold-blooded unblinking inhuman enforcers to terrorize their own human population). It wouldn't even have to be Asmodeans, which, in Cheliax, at least, are racist as heck. The church of Razmir could use some inhuman 'muscle,' and lives in a more lizardfolk-compatible marshy part of the world.

Some Asmodean societies might be able to pull that off, but others (like Cheliax) seem like they'd just go the road of trying to enslave most of them.

I think Asmodean societies in general would have the problem of becoming wrapped up in ideas of their own superiority, because that's the go-to explanation for any society that builds itself on slavery: we're the slavemasters instead of the slaves because we're inherently the best.

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