In my latest campaign I’ve been taking a careful look at some of the existing races and monsters and trying to come up with new twists. The goal is to create a unique version of a classic, while still allowing it to fill its usual archetypes, so that players know how to treat them. Having recently played in an online game where the goblins were being birthed from disgusting fungal egg sacs I decided to use that as the starting point.
So this is how it works in my current campaign. We have goblins, a race of sentient fungal creatures who deposit eggsacs in a safe place in their village. These eggs gestate away for a certain amount of time before hatching as a fully-grown goblin. They can also be cut open prematurely if the tribe desperately needs more troops. This gives us a life-cycle that ignores the childhood stage and avoids the tired fantasy debate of, “do we kill the goblin babies?”
I also wanted other goblinoid races, namely bugbears and hobgoblins, to be closely related. They are, after all, named goblinoids. I decided that an egg that was left to gestate long enough would have a chance at hatching as one of these superior goblinoids. Of course, most goblins don’t leave the eggs that long because they’re not really keen on having another person who can boss them around. This helps create the balance of numbers.
While thinking about goblinoids as a fungal creature I kept coming back to the idea that they would be able to infect others with their gross goblin DNA. This led me to the idea that exposure to goblinoids, and especially their eggs could give people a disease called Greenskin. This disease would slowly change the host into an orc. Bony protrusions and scaly growths would make their skin tough and their muscles would rapidly grow, all while they began to suffer violent rages and psychosis.
The beautiful thing about this setup is that it creates a space where an infected person, part of the way though their transformation, can display some of the traits of an orc, without being completely rabid. This gives us half-orcs, unfortunate adventurers or pioneers whose Greenskin has gone into remission.
The great thing about all of this is that these races are still filling the same achetypes that players will recognise. We have Goblins, as evil and cunning little bastards; Bugbears, as the muscle; Hobgoblins, as the perfect goblinoid form; Orcs, as animalistic and rabid brutes; and finally Half-orcs, as the afflicted outcast struggling to contain the beast within.