Born in a mountain citadel lorded over by a dragon of living lightning, Zekt, a goblin of no real importance, slaved away as menial labor. He wasn’t smart enough to work with the artificers that made the dragon’s constructs and not thought brave enough to lead or even be a part of the guard. It seemed that Zekt was destined to mop floors and carry food and water to the others the rest of his life.
That’s when one of the PCs in my current campaign came for a visit. Lost in another world, he was scoping out the dragon’s domain, motives and possessions. After all, this character had a couple of levels of Rogue on top of his Sorcery. It came naturally. Zekt was a simple NPC. A passible entertainment. A creature who was destined to become forgotten as the PC moved on in the adventure.
But that’s not how it went.
Let me ask you this: Have you every had an insignificant NPC become so well liked that suddenly it became a story element; an NPC follower? Of course, you have. It seems destined, right? You work so hard on an army of NPCs with brilliant back stories and helpful abilities, but your players latch on the seemingly useless goblin.
Now, at first, as the DM, it seems a slight you can’t work around. But, then, we remember that our story, our NPCs and our wants are only part of the equation. Something that I am very aware of and hope you DMs are too is that Dungeon & Dragons is the greatest collective storytelling device ever created. It’s what I live for as a DM. To see the players become engaged in my world, right? Them choosing a random NPC like that is their attempt to become part of this world.
So don’t deter them, if you can help it.
So, the random goblin that had been assigned to see to the PC’s needs, became an important part of the story. ZEKT became an important part of the story.
After surviving several encounters, including one with another very powerful dragon, Zekt came under the distinct impression that, since hadn’t died yet, he must be IMMORTAL. And he told people this at every opportunity. In fact, it became his battle cry. Screaming ‘I AM IMMORTAL!’ was his way of starting a battle. His insanity further endeared him to the group and his resilience made them wonder if he was, after all, incapable of death.
I had some rudimentary numbers for Zekt, but once they arrived back on the planet of their birth and survived a ship to ship battle with a whole fleet of pirate types, it seemed, since he, once again, survived, the little goblin was her to stay.
Our man PANDA, who was playing the PC in question and who loves making characters and optimizing the hell out them, went to work on some serious numbers. The PCs were level 12 now, so, in order for Zekt to be survivable, we made him 10th. Let’s break down our insane, rampaging goblin, shall we?
MOUNTAIN BORN GOBLINS OF THE STORM
First of all, Zekt was born high in the mountains of a storm world where just to survive was an amazing feat. His clan was a resilient bunch. So, even the least of these are dangerous and able. This is Zekt in one sentence. Just saying he was the weakest and most useless of them isn’t saying much. Taking that least one like Zekt and placing him among your run of the mill goblin hoard will make you realize quite suddenly that he is still the apex of your normal goblin.
He was raised in even rougher settings than most goblins (once again, saying something). So, he is already stronger and tougher than most goblins. Living in the heights amongst the constant storm, Zekt’s people had grown hair to keep them warm and to protect them from the constant rain. Now, although the old sourcebook, Unearthed Arcana, published back in 2004, lists an Artic Goblin, there are no pictures or descriptions of what they look like. And the racial traits leave a lot to be desired.
So, I realized we were in homebrew territory here. But I didn’t really have to alter his racial traits thanks to PANDA. He, of course, gets Nimble Escape and Fury of the Small, but everything else is the class build. But what Class build?
Although raised in a citadel, his upbringing was far less than civil. This was more a walled encampment than a city. The dragon tortured and abused each and every one either personally or through his guard. He made sure that every goblin that survived was tough as nails. So I began with the assumption that there were two classes that arose out of this warren: Artificers and Barbarians.
The Artificers got a bit of that goblin knack for tinkering with tools and automations. There was another NPC who worked for the dragon like all in these mountains. It was her job to make lightning powered sentries to bolster the defense and grow an army for takeover. The goblins that showed the intelligence and aptitude for this were immediately put to work in the shops.
As stated above, Zekt was not one of these. This placed him in the Barbarian Class.
Considering the savagery of his upbringing and his witnessed demeanor, PANDA decided to make him a Berzerker! Following the Path of the Berzerker, not only would the little dynamo fight fueled by his fathomless rage, but he would fly into frenzies and an absolute mindless rage. Watching his interaction with normal pirates, the intimidating presence also made sense.
Also I had totally handed the reins to PANDA as I totally trust his skill in character creation. You can’t just do that in any game, mind you. He used the class ladder to build his physical traits. Having a powerful strength, dexterity and constitution naturally grew from his previous life and the physical pressure he was constantly under. This left his nonphysical traits a bit lacking. But that too made sense. He wasn’t terribly smart or wise and he definitely wasn’t charismatic. So the build that PANDA came up with seems legit fair.
The first worry about a character with low wisdom is ‘but won’t they just get charmed all the time?’ Fortunately, Wotc worked in a solution. His MINDLESS RAGE ability ends any charm or control for the duration of the rage. And, most of the time, after the rage is over, the one doing the charm magic is usually dead.
However, being that dumb and unwise leads one to be terribly reactionary and impulsive. But, that’s the way I was playing him already. He began the last adventure on a balcony screaming epitaphs at the fleet of ships coming in. Not long after the aforementioned battlecry, “I am Immortal!”, a cannonball came whizzing right at him. He never moved or flinched. One of the PCs had to save him or he would have been blown up.
I allowed PANDA to treat him a bit like a PC build at level 10 which meant he got to look for a magic item. He chose the COILING GRASP tattoo from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. It’s more cool than functional, but we felt Zekt would be sparring with lackies the big bosses brought with them. So being able to grapple a creature around 15 foot near you might come in handy and keep some of those low level nuisances out the PC’s hair.
The esthetic of this goblin piercing his own skin and letting loose this spell effect should add a lot of flavor to the future games. We may even look into some of the other tattoos available or build some new ones.
It’s a pretty simple build. Share some of the NPCs in YOUR game that became a lot more engaged than you expected! Also if you have any unique goblin builds, share that too. Check out our Facebook. We are nearing 1000 Tavern Mages and would love to have you on board as we get ready for another giveaway!