Empire of Ald
Vast cold steppes and arid deserts stretch for hundreds of miles beyond the empire’s western borders. These are wild lands, shunned by civilized people, yet hardy folk have always dwelt there. For centuries, these primitive tribesfolk – the goblinoids – looked upon the rich, prosperous lands of the east with envy. Their resentment of the Noble Races grew with each passing generation, until at last they could bear it no longer. A charismatic chieftain, the hobgoblin warrior-priestess Althac, arose among them, and at her urging the disparate goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears came together into a singularly powerful warhost that swept east across the steppes. Brokering deals with the clever kobolds and enslaving the clannish orcs and ogres on the empire’s borders, Althac’s Horde rushed like a mighty wave toward the unsuspecting lands of Ald.
And like a wave the horde broke as the folk of Ald met the invaders. The Goblin War lasted three long, bloody years as the goblin-kin made charge after desperate charge against the empire, penetrating deep into the interior, but at great cost. Caught between the dwarves and the elves as they crossed the borders, Althac’s Horde was cut into two separate hosts that had to contend individually with the empire’s grand armies. The western host faltered after two years as the orcs rose up against the goblinoids and quickly surrendered, while Althac’s own host lasted a year longer until the great priestess herself fell in battle, pierced by kithkin arrows.
Beaten in both body and spirit, the surviving goblinoids realized that continued hostilities would result in their complete destruction. The invaders sued for peace, and the empire grudgingly granted it. Removing to the wide, sparsely-populated prairies along the empire’s southern borders, the goblinoids finally found their new homeland, but at the cost of two thirds of their people. Coexisting uneasily with the few kithkin settlers on the southern plains, the goblin-kin started down the long, hard road to peace.
Sixty years have passed since the Goblin War, and thanks to their high birth rate the goblinoids have rapidly rebuilt their culture. Hard feelings still exist between the goblinoids and the Noble Races, but the goblins are bound and determined to prove their newfound loyalty to the empire as its vanguard against the newest wave of invaders, the serpentkin. The goblinoids live as a loose confederacy of autonomous semi-nomadic tribes but an elected high tribal council, currently chaired by Althac’s granddaughter Zhalk, serves as a formal liaison between the tribes and the imperial government. In addition, many goblinoids have begun to migrate into the more northerly provinces, integrating with the local races as farmers or workers.
As noted, some goblinoids still resent the empire, and rogue clans and warbands are not uncommon, especially along the borders. Rumors of a subversive cult, said to be led by one of Althac’s grandsons (she had several husbands and dozens of children), continue to spread, fostering paranoia in some of the more distrustful of the Noble Races; the tribal council is quick to deny such claims.
In addition to the children of the horde who settled within the empire, numerous hostile tribes (some descended from refugees of the war, others which never joined the horde in the first place) still eke out a meager existence in the western wilds, and raid the borders from time to time. Among these are some subraces which had no part in Althac’s ambition, including the peaceful bhukas, the savage amitoka, and the bizarre akki.
Goblinoids come in a wide variety of forms and sizes, but all (save the akki) tend to share certain features: A lanky frame with long arms and short legs, coarse hair, a snub nose, hairless jutting brows, angular cheekbones, thin lips, fang-like canines, and long wedge-shaped ears. Goblinoids culture is uniformly egalitarian (unlike the patriarchal orcs), with no distinction between men and women; goblin-kin women become pregnant more often than those of other races and often bear children in litters, but are remarkably quick to recover and return to work or war, and children are raised communally.
Of the many goblinoid races, only the goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears are found in great numbers within the empire’s borders.
In addition to the “civilized” goblinoids that have settled within the empire, a bewildering array of goblin races can be found outside Ald’s borders. Many of these races have a reputation for violence and barbarism, though how much this is a result of the Noble Races’ bias depends on who you ask. The kyren and bhukas, on the other hand, rule nations almost as developed as Ald.
A strange, divergent race of goblinoids, akki inhabit the arctic mountains far to the empire’s northwest. They are thought to have been altered from normal goblin stock by prolonged contact with the unearthly emanations of their mountain homes, and indeed their shamans possess uncanny control over the fire and ice of those distant peaks. Akki are dimwitted but fiendishly clever, utilizing the terrain to their advantage whenever possible. Few in the empire are even aware of the akki’s existance, though the western goblin tribes sometimes seek them out as mercenaries.
Akki are small creatures that vaguely resemble goblins, but with very long pointed noses, short horns, no external ears, and sharp claws. Their most prominent feature is their large, rocky, turtle-like carapace. Akki rarely bother with clothing other than light armor since they are resistant to the cold of their icy homes.Akki Racial Traits
- Usually chaotic.
- +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma.
- Small: As a Small creature, an akki gains a +1 size bonus to Armor Class, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, and a +4 size bonus on Hide checks, but uses smaller weapons than Medium characters use, and lifting and carrying limits are three-quarters of those of a Medium character.
- Akki base land speed is 20 feet. They can move at full speed even when carrying a medium or heavy load or wearing medium or heavy armor.
- Climate Tolerant (Ex): Akki suffer little harm from environmental extremes of heat or cold. They do not have to make Fortitude saves in extreme environments between -20 and 140 F (severe cold to severe heat). This ability does not provide any protection from fire or cold damage. This ability counts as if an akki had the Cold Endurance feat for purposes or fulfilling prerequisites for other feats or prestige classes.
- +1 caster level on spells with the Cold or Fire descriptor.
- +4 natural armor bonus
- Unusual Anatomy: Due to their spiky shells, akki are considered nonhumanoid for the purposes of pricing armor.
- Natural Attacks: 2 claws (1d4).
- Automatic Languages: Common, Goblin. Bonus Languages: Giant, Ignan, Terran.
- Preferred Classes: Shaman, barbarian, rogue.
Aragobs are small humanoids who live on the tundras far to the empire’s northwest. Aragobs live in large nomadic clans that scour the tundras for sustenance. Unlike other goblinoids, aragobs are matriarchal; female aragobs are significantly larger than males and far more aggressive. The race has a reputation for belligerence and cruelty that is not undeserved; aragobs frequently raid human and uldra clans, and have been known to torture survivors and eat their corpses. Even other goblinoids shun them, save for the equally barbaric amitoka.
Aragobs are sometimes called “snow goblins,” and while there is a close resemblance between aragobs and goblins, the two are distinct races. Aragobs are about three and a half feet all; they have dark gray skin, but it is visible only on their faces, hands, and feet, as the rest of their bodies are covered in shaggy fur that changes from glossy black or brown in the summer to pure white in winter. Males have large canines that extend outward from their lower jaws. Their most distinctive feature is their large, prominent throat sacs that serve to amplify their voices, allowing them to communicate with each other over miles. Aragobs tend to make whooping monkey-like hoots when excited. They favor heavy fur clothes in the winter months, and prefer to fight with uncomplicated weapons such as morningstars and javelins.Aragob Racial Traits
- Usually neutral
- +2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence.
- Small: As a Small creature, an aragob gains a +1 size bonus to Armor Class, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, and a +4 size bonus on Hide checks, but uses smaller weapons than Medium characters use, and lifting and carrying limits are three-quarters of those of a Medium character.
- Aragob base land speed is 30 feet. They also have a climb speed of 20 feet; aragobs have a +8 racial bonus on Climb checks and can always choose to take 10 on Climb checks, even if rushed or threatened.
- Darkvision out to 60 feet.
- +4 racial bonus on Move Silently checks.
- Booming Voice (Ex): Aragobs can be heard up to two miles away if they choose, and their powerful voices can be quite intimidating, granting them a +4 racial bonus on Intimidate checks.
- Automatic Languages: Common, Goblin. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Giant, Orc.
- Preferred Classes: Fighter, rogue, barbarian.
The varags (“blood chasers” in their primitive Goblin dialect) are among the most primitive and feral of the goblinoid races. They dwell far to the west in the most distant steppes, close to the mountains that mark the borders of the kyren’s kingdom. Very few within the empire of Ald know of their existence.
The varags live in loose clans similar to lion prides, with a single alpha male headman. Below him are the pack’s female hunters, who do most of the fighting and labor; below them are the other males, who live off the females’ bounty and/or scavenge but join the females in arms in times of war. Varags are nomadic and have no understanding of permanent homes or buildings.
Many varag clans form symbiotic relationships with hobgoblin tribes, hiring their services as mercenaries in exchange for food (varags see no use in money). Varags require three times as much food as hobgoblins do, however, and only the wealthiest hobgoblin tribes can afford to keep them on for an extended period of time, but varag mercenaries are still highly sought after thanks to their exceptional strength and speed.
Varags vaguely resemble primitive hobgoblins. They are seven feet tall and walk with a hunched posture; they drop to all fours when running. Their tanned skin is mottled with dark brown splotches and bristly hair covers their arms, legs, and back. They have distinctly flat faces and jutting lower jaws with large, protruding canines. Their wedge-shaped ears are less elongated than those of other goblinoids. In the wild, they hunt with wooden clubs or whatever weapons they can scavenge, but varag clans that work with hobgoblins are usually provided more sophisticated weaponry.Varag Racial Traits
- Usually chaotic
- +4 Strength, +4 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, -4 Intelligence.
- Medium size.
- Varag base land speed is 60 feet.
- Racial Hit Dice: A varag begins with three levels of humanoid, which provide 3d8 Hit Dice, a base attack bonus of +2, and base saving throw bonuses of Fort +1, Ref +3, and Will +1.
- Racial Skills: A varag’s humanoid levels give it skill points equal to 6 x (2 + Int modifier, minimum 1). Its class skills are Jump, Move Silently, and Survival.
- Racial Feats: A varag’s humanoid levels give it two feats.
- +8 racial bonus on Move Silently checks, +4 racial bonus on Survival checks when tracking by scent (see below).
- A varag receives Run and Spring Attack as bonus feats.
- Keen Senses (Ex): A varag with the Track feat can follow tracks by smell, making a Wisdom (or Survival) check to find or follow a track. The typical DC for a fresh trail is 10 (no matter what kind of surface holds the scent). This DC increases or decreases depending on how strong the quarry’s odor is, the number of creatures, and the age of the trail. For each hour that the trail is cold, the DC increases by 2. The ability otherwise follows the rules for the Track feat. A varag tracking by scent ignores the effects of surface conditions and poor visibility. This does not confer any of the other abilities of the Scent ability.
- Automatic Language: Goblin. Bonus Languages: Common, Draconic, Orc.
- Preferred Classes: Scout, ranger, barbarian.