Possibly one of the most confusing creatures to classify in all of mythology is one of the most highly encountered in tabletop gaming: the goblin. They have many names, numberless descriptions, and are often indistinguishable from other spirit folk, malevolent or benevolent. Many games break their heritage up in very specific ways. Goblins are small, weak, often green with long noses and ears, and stupid, so very stupid. Hobgoblins are treated as a more powerful and intelligent cousin, while the seemingly random addition of bugbears like a cave-man version. The original mythology is so much more nuanced and endlessly more entertaining. Looking at the definitions of each word and a few stories gives us a clearer idea of how amazing and interesting goblinoids can be in a game.
If there’s one thing playing through older games on Retro Roleplaying® has begun to illuminate is that video gaming has leaked into tabletop games quite a lot. In some ways, this is a good thing: many games have become a little more automated, leaving more time for roleplaying; however, in many other ways, not so much. On the screen, as much as tactics to overcome them can and do vary, adversaries outside of the main-plot villain are little more than a hammer. Their sole purpose of existing is only to drain party resources, provide gear, or as fodder for an experience grind. Unfortunately, this has translated to the table in the way of stale monsters. As exciting as the art is, and some of the descriptions, many creatures suffer from Videogamitis – useful only to grind levels and gear. Goblins, as an example, are used as a way for squishy characters to advance rapidly then are rarely encountered again. However, these low level encounters can prove the undoing of even advanced groups, if the strengths of the monsters are polished to shine. Three real world examples will be used show how deadly burrowing and trapping monsters can be to any character.
Two weeks ago, the post talked a lot about what a historical revenant was. However, because the nature of blogs, the internet, and not wanting to waste too much time for people, we didn’t include everything we wanted in the original article. There's such a wealth of information regarding this topic, it was so hard to pick and choose what we thought were the essential elements to tabletop gaming. Which is why we decided to break up the post into two section: one section focused more on describing what a revenant is, and the other on how they might behave at a game table. Hopefully, we give you enough insight and inspiration to use a historically-based version of this monster at your table. Suffer with us a little while longer as we return to this topic to discuss how a traditional revenant can be used in a tabletop game with a little more depth.
But first, the ten points found at the end of the previous article will be repeated for quick review:
A revenant is more than just the title of a recent Leonardo DiCaprio movie; it’s also the name of a frightening kind of enemy more terrifying than any zombie, even most vampires. It haunted medieval lives and destroyed entire villages. It caused plagues and death. It was accompanied by the dead or packs of baying hounds. It caused so much mischief that special rites and rituals at burial were developed to keep the fiends buried. Unfortunately, those didn’t always work and pain and suffering followed in their wake (a nice little double entendre) – other than the undead baker who tried to help his wife with the business after his passing but rolling out the next day’s bread (some people just can’t let their business go). Within the framework of tabletop roleplaying, or even video gaming, this creature that was so evil whole villages were deserted out of dread has now been reduced to little more than a glorified zombie. This is not only a gross disservice to the historical myth of revenants but our ancestors’ terror. Appealing to history, a small recounting of the definition and its etymology will be presented, as well a few short stories to illustrate the power of “The Returned.” Finally, a short analysis of these elements will follow to come to a consensus on the most important elements of this particular walking corpse (because the tales are all over the place with abilities and motivations). To conclude the article, we’ll give a few general guidelines on how to incorporate a historic revenant into tabletop sessions.
Niklas has been a dreamer for many years and has recently decided to join with long term his associate, James Curwen, to bring their dreams of cheap, fun games to the masses.
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