Written by Michael Smith
The following review is for Dark Hold: Goblin Adventures by Rebel Minis. This game is dedicated to the small groveling races which scratch out an existence in the dark catacombs through which other heroes stride like unto gods. This book is Savage Worlds compatible allowing players and game masters to run a campaign revolving around low level goblin characters. Inside this book is a detailed history of the Dark Hold campaign setting, new character classes and templates to use goblins as player characters, and a short adventure to get the players started.
Clocking in at 72 pages, the reader is initially greeted with a stunning cover by artist, John Dotegowski. A party of 6 goblins gathers around a goblin alter, fresh after a fight as their enemy’s corpse lies at the base of the alter. While some consider their next plan of action, 2 goblins are seen trying to pry a gemstone eyeball from the alter! Mr. Dotegowski‘s cover pays tribute to the 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. The original image has been duplicated and reproduced in many different forms and fashions, but this has to be one of the best yet!
USING THE DARK HOLD IN YOUR CAMPAIGN
With the popularity of many of the newer role playing games on the market today, gone are the days of only being able to play ‘vanilla’ races. These games have given the players the means to now play the iconic monsters that they were used to fighting in the past. With Rebel Minis first foray into the RPG world, they decided to go with Goblins. While typically viewed as wretched, uncouth, and bumbling creatures, it’s hard to imagine caring about these loathsome creatures, yet somehow they are actually quite adorable. Adorable in the way like a dog so ugly you just can’t help but love it. And despite their shortcomings, many people love everything about goblins.
In short, goblin campaigns are great because they encourage players to let loose and have fun! They can explore being zany without losing sight of the larger task at hand.
The Dark Hold itself is not a land of men. It was once a home to the dwarves. They built and delved, creating an underground empire. But unfortunately, that empire was not to last. The long-abandoned, interlinked, underground fortresses give the land its name. The mountainous land is too harsh for even the dwarves to manage. Goblins though, are much better suited to the task, which is why the dwarves bred goblins as slaves. Once the empire collapsed, the goblins took over two high valleys and the upper levels of the Dark Hold itself.
A nice full-page map is supplied showing the valley surrounding the gate to the Dark Hold. While a map of the Dark Hold itself is not supplied, the rest of this chapter goes into detail giving a description.
CHARACTERS IN THE DARK HOLD
The next chapter spends some time talking about Goblin appearance, personality, and a little information about food and drink.
It then spends more time on one of the key strengths of the Goblins – the ability to safely carve the magical crystal found in the deepest parts of the world. Others can use them, but risk mutation, death, or worse from the uncontrolled magical energies. Goblins are especially skilled at shaping them and using them to create items of power, from fairly minor trinkets to world-warping artifacts. Rules are given for dealing with said Crystals, in both the Crystal Apprentice and Crystal Master. Like it was stated before, even when working without undue time pressure under the best circumstance, crystal carving is more art than science. Even success carries some hint of failure. Enter the Minor and Serious Flaws charts! Broken down into either physical, mental, or magical effects, these are all temporary but add some humor to the game!
An interesting note about Imitation is discussed. It is said that Goblins are easily enthralled by other cultures. If something catches their eye, they will become instantly obsessed by it, and such fads can sweep through a goblin city with terrifying speed. Sometimes this becomes part of the goblin’s culture permanently. For example, the book makes mention of the goblin Swine Cavalry which was inspired by a human puppet show featuring pig-riding knights!
Living in isolation for so long, the Goblins have developed their own degraded religion. A few of the gods that the Dark Hold goblins worship are the same as those prayed to by their former dwarven masters, though portrayed with debased and twisted visages. Reading through the descriptions, this is apparent. The Overlord of the goblin gods appears still as a dwarf, wielding a whip and staff. He is the very epitome of the former masters of the Dark Hold.
PLAYING LOW-POWER CHARACTERS
Goblins die – in droves. But you have to start somewhere. You’ll begin life as a Novice, just like everyone else, and only through great deeds and brave adventures can you hope to achieve Legendary status. The world around you is full of danger and peril, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to rise through the ranks and make a name for yourself. Or die trying! As a low-level Novice, you don’t have access to powerful spells or magical items. In fact, you won’t have much to start with at all. The strongest attribute and ally to the Goblin is his kin. There is safety in numbers. A cunning goblin war party can take down stronger opponents often with the most rudimentary of weapons.
“Who Wants to be an Adventurer” is the first adventure and is intended for 3 to 6 Novice rank characters. Much of the Dark Hold sits atop deeper mines and ruins, darker regions most goblins are afraid to explore. You take on the role of a goblin from a particular clan which has unknowingly settled near a set of old mines that were sealed from the surface long ago. These mines have since become a moldering maze, a dusty warren filled with undead, burrowing beasts, and traps laid to protect whatever dwarven treasure might have been left behind. It is a straightforward dungeon crawl, with the adventurers focused on a specific quest objective – reaching the end of the cave system.
“Goblin Faire” is the second adventure presented in this book. All the goblin clans have gathered for the annual faire, and events like belching, cow patty fling, hog jousting, grub hunting, and rat races. But this year is different. Whoever wins gets to marry the chief’s daughter. Each of the events is given detail, explaining how points are awarded and what skill is involved. This is one of the examples where the party can let loose and have fun as a goblin characters! At the end of the last event though, as the judges are tallying the final points, a great bellow is heard from the Grand Chief’s tent. It seems as if the chief’s daughter has gone missing into some nearby caverns and it is the future Chief’s job to bring her back safely. While no map of the cavern is supplied, instead the party uses an Action Deck. Results are given for each card drawn. Eventually though, the party locates the Chief’s daughter and her secret beloved, and must defeat the monster intent on killing the daughter. Depending on the outcome of this adventure and the total points each character has accumulated, there is still a chance one of the players becomes the chief’s heir.
“Pursuit of the Perfect Pig” is the third adventure in this book. Earlier the notion of Imitation was touched on. How ideas can be obsessed over and then swept thru entire goblin communities. This adventure is one such notion. The prospect of a flying pig mount, even of a race of flying pigs, has seized the imaginations of many goblin adventurers. They have decided to pursue the legend. Thru a series of events, both overland and underground, the party eventually finds that the legend is indeed true. Stats are given for the Pigwinglets and the Pigasus!
6 one page adventures are then supplied. Detailed mini adventures, these could easily be used as side quests when the party is in between adventures.
APPENDIX 1: NEW CREATURES
Detailed write ups and stats are presented here for monsters briefly mentioned throughout this book.
APPENDIX 2: NEW ITEMS
While only 5 new items are described here, the author continues to describe in a way where he draws from Goblin history itself. Things like this make the text fun to read and immerse the player/game master into the game!
APPENDIX 3: SAMPLE CHARACTERS
11 sample characters are supplied in this appendix. What is interesting to note here, is that with each different character, they are given their Class name and the fantasy equivalent.
And lastly, to end the book, there is a 1 page spread of Goblin miniatures available by none other than Rebel Minis! It is actually a nice selection, ranging from goblin adventurers, to henchmen, to pig riding goblin knights!
For a first out endeavor by Rebel Minis, it is clear they took the time to thoroughly do the prep work and supply a quality product! Dark Hold: Goblin Adventures is well done. It provides players and game masters alike the option to play one of the most favorite and loved monster races of all times, the Goblins! While you will need the Savage Rules core rulebook to use this product fully, the rules supplied within offer fun and humorous alternatives to playing the game.