Goblin literacy and other beliefs


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

Dark Archive

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While I did notice that there are references to Goblin's love of fire, tendency to sing and the use of the Dogslicer, with the change to Goblins becoming more civilized, have Goblins given up on some of their old beliefs? Namely, that writing steals words from your head or that a horse's hooves will steal your soul? One of my favorite details from the We Be Goblins series is that the Goblin Alchemist's formula book uses pictographs rather than words.


"Goblins abhor books" was never a thing that made sense to be universal to goblin all over. At most it should have been "Goblins lack any literary tradition, an illiteracy is common". With "thinks books steal your soul" being specific to like Varisian goblins.


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It says right in the (1E) Bestiary that goblins believe writing steals words out of your head. No mention of any region at all. Nothing is said about hooves stealing souls, only that goblins fear horses.

Liberty's Edge

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Speaking to 'all goblins' is impossible, but while Fumbus the Goblin Alchemist Iconic is literate and has no objection to taking the words from the heads of others by reading, he's still not comfortable with writing and also uses pictographs and other representational art in his formula book.


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"All goblins believe writing steals words out of your head" is like "all elves find ginger disgusting" or "All Dwarves find the color blue unfashionable". It's a thing that, if true, is ridiculous since there are all kinds of these folks on a bunch of different continents. If they all believed the same things about anything that would be bizarre.

Shadow Lodge

PossibleCabbage wrote:
"All goblins believe writing steals words out of your head" is like "all elves find ginger disgusting" or "All Dwarves find the color blue unfashionable". It's a thing that, if true, is ridiculous since there are all kinds of these folks on a bunch of different continents. If they all believed the same things about anything that would be bizarre.

At least in 1E, goblins were not meant to be taken seriously. From their first appearance, they were played for comedy as much as or more than for horror.

That said, they are probably meant to be taken more seriously now.

(Also, fantasy races are basically exaggerated human stereotypes anyway, and there is no reason to expect anything better.)


I mean, you could have a story where when the Dwarves emerged from the Darklands they considered wearing the color of the sky taboo. But it's been like 10,000 years since that happened and in the meantime sartorial preferences will have shifted- a Dwarf who was born under the sky and spent their entire life under it wouldn't feel the same kind of awe as someone who saw it for the first time in the 200th year of their life. We can preserve that story with something like "some particularly traditional dwarves believe the color blue is unlucky" rather than a statement about what all dwarves everywhere are like.

I don't think it's wrong to expect our imaginary people to fundamentally be people, even if they have nonhuman bodies.

Shadow Lodge

PossibleCabbage wrote:
I don't think it's wrong to expect our imaginary people to fundamentally be people, even if they have nonhuman bodies.

I don't disagree, but since most of the peoples all but an exceptionally creative few seem to be capable of imagining are humans in all but name, I question the utility of giving them non-human bodies.

Contrariwise, once you've given a thing a non-human body, if you're not going to do a rewrite you might as well embrace the inevitable goofiness.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

I mean, you could have a story where when the Dwarves emerged from the Darklands they considered wearing the color of the sky taboo. But it's been like 10,000 years since that happened and in the meantime sartorial preferences will have shifted- a Dwarf who was born under the sky and spent their entire life under it wouldn't feel the same kind of awe as someone who saw it for the first time in the 200th year of their life. We can preserve that story with something like "some particularly traditional dwarves believe the color blue is unlucky" rather than a statement about what all dwarves everywhere are like.

I don't think it's wrong to expect our imaginary people to fundamentally be people, even if they have nonhuman bodies.

OTOH, there are such things as dwarven gods who might continue to teach such traditions to all their people. There can be reasons in a fantasy world that such things don't necessarily parallel the real world.

In some cases it might be even be intrinsic to the psychology or biology of a particular race.


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I mean Torag says "do not worship Droskar" but that doesn't stop a great number of Dwarves...

Dark Archive

This stopped being about goblins pretty fast...

Putting aside the fact that there will be variations based on tribes or their own personal choice, do Golarion Goblins overall still have a fear of writing, dogs and horses?

Silver Crusade

I'm thinking of a goblin for my first 2e PFS PC, and I was wondering the same thing.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Horse hate is probably still a thing in 2e. The description of horses in the Bestiary implies that it's mutual.

Goblins probably still dislike dogs, as well. However, the goblins that are more integrated in "normal" society are likely to avoid them rather than attack/poison/etc.

Reading is probably one of those "most goblins are superstitious about writing, but some are not."

Silver Crusade

Dragonchess Player wrote:
Reading is probably one of those "most goblins are superstitious about writing, but some are not."

My concern is that it's usually assumed that Pathfinder Society members write reports of their adventures. Does that rule out illiterate goblins in PFS?

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Fromper wrote:
Dragonchess Player wrote:
Reading is probably one of those "most goblins are superstitious about writing, but some are not."
My concern is that it's usually assumed that Pathfinder Society members write reports of their adventures. Does that rule out illiterate goblins in PFS?

Give them a box of crayola. The big ones. We’ll get plenty of we’ll documented pictures.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

And besides, some of the wiser goblins (rare, I know) will probably tell you that learning isn't all that useful if it's just sitting on a shelf.

"Read them, have you?"

"Well, I..."

"Page-turners, they were not."

And yes, I made this entire post for a Last Jedi reference and because I totally wanna play a goblin monk/druid who's basically just medieval Yoda! :P


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^I also wouldn't mind seeing a savvy Goblin Alchemist/Rogue who's basically Medieval/Renaissance/Baroque Maz Kanata.

Shadow Lodge

UnArcaneElection wrote:

^I also wouldn't mind seeing a savvy Goblin Alchemist/Rogue who's basically Medieval/Renaissance/Baroque Maz Kanata.

Complete with personal Blair Mountain?

Maz is Worst Character, full stop, just for that little stunt.


^I wonder if that dispute had more to it than at first appears. But either way, I didn't say that this would be Good, just that I wouldn't mind seeing this. (Insert guilty pleasure at seeing the latest batch of Star Wars movies.)

Shadow Lodge

UnArcaneElection wrote:

^I wonder if that dispute had more to it than at first appears. But either way, I didn't say that this would be Good, just that I wouldn't mind seeing this. (Insert guilty pleasure at seeing the latest batch of Star Wars movies.)

You have a business owner discharging firearms at her workers, and calling it a "labor dispute." What more do you need to know?

Liberty's Edge

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zimmerwald1915 wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:

^I wonder if that dispute had more to it than at first appears. But either way, I didn't say that this would be Good, just that I wouldn't mind seeing this. (Insert guilty pleasure at seeing the latest batch of Star Wars movies.)

You have a business owner discharging firearms at her workers, and calling it a "labor dispute." What more do you need to know?

Workers are not universally and inevitably correct in all disputes with their employers. Guns don't change that, especially when she seemed to be the one outnumbered. And particularly when one employs serous professional criminals, something she's been strongly implied to do.

Now, workers are in the right more often than not in conflicts with employers, but it's hardly a law of nature.


^And for starters, we don't know who fired the first shot, since the communication to Maz opened in what seemed to be the middle of the fight.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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Goblins have a broader range in where they fall on literacy now, because they've been influenced more by other cultures and societies. For many of the Inner Sea's goblins, reading is still strange and possibly distrusted, writing even more so, and dogs and horses can be trusted about as far as the average goblin can throw them.

Self-delusion, necessity, and curiosity can all warp and change those factors. One of the goblins in We Be Heroes has a "wolf" that is pretty obviously not a wolf, Fumbus is perfectly happy to rifle through other people's souls by reading their books and helping himself to their knowledge, and the goblin merchant Yigrig Moneymaker down in Katapesh (and one of the very few old goblins in all of Golarion) is pretty much over conceits like superstition and is perfectly willing to read or write as necessary to protect and advance his business.

And for Pathfinder Society specifically, some goblins get over their distrust of reading and writing, while others are technically literate but still prefer to just craft a goblin song about their explorations and let someone else write it all down.

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

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The Star Wars derail is heading a bit too far off topic, let's get back on track to the discussion of goblin literacy.


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Rysky wrote:
Fromper wrote:
Dragonchess Player wrote:
Reading is probably one of those "most goblins are superstitious about writing, but some are not."
My concern is that it's usually assumed that Pathfinder Society members write reports of their adventures. Does that rule out illiterate goblins in PFS?
Give them a box of crayola. The big ones. We’ll get plenty of we’ll documented pictures.

I have a PFS character who cannot read or write. He is learning and is getting better (I have had several folks at tables who have helped him and given him some lessons). His journal was mostly pictures early on, and kind of still is, but he is starting to be able to give more text reports.


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Once upon a time I seem to remember a goblin alchemist who used a scratch and sniff formula book.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
littlediegito wrote:
Rysky wrote:
Fromper wrote:
Dragonchess Player wrote:
Reading is probably one of those "most goblins are superstitious about writing, but some are not."
My concern is that it's usually assumed that Pathfinder Society members write reports of their adventures. Does that rule out illiterate goblins in PFS?
Give them a box of crayola. The big ones. We’ll get plenty of we’ll documented pictures.
I have a PFS character who cannot read or write. He is learning and is getting better (I have had several folks at tables who have helped him and given him some lessons). His journal was mostly pictures early on, and kind of still is, but he is starting to be able to give more text reports.

Yay!


I’d have the goblin language consist entirely of pictographs and hieroglyphs and what not all the while specifically claiming that it doesn’t count as written words.

(Basically goblins are hypocrites who think that everybody’s written languages but their own steals words from your head.)

Shadow Lodge

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Voltron64 wrote:

I’d have the goblin language consist entirely of pictographs and hieroglyphs and what not all the while specifically claiming that it doesn’t count as written words.

(Basically goblins are hypocrites who think that everybody’s written languages but their own steals words from your head.)

I mean, the line between alphabetic and other forms of writing is both broad and bright.


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So did Goblins invent Emoji on Golarion?

By the time Starfinder rolls around, everybody's text messages are going to be like 40% goblin.


^I keep having visions of a fantasy setting in which the common language (both spoken and written) is 13375p3@k . . . .

Silver Crusade

UnArcaneElection wrote:

^I keep having visions of a fantasy setting in which the common language (both spoken and written) is 13375p3@k . . . .

That would be more like an outer space science fantasy (like Starfinder) than pure fantasy. Maybe there could be a droid with the designation L3-37 or something like that.


^True, except that after seeing Make Love, Not WarCraft and Marge Gamer, I think it would be funnier in a fantasy setting.

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