Campaign Background and Setting

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Campaign Background and Setting

Terel Hall, The Imperial War College at Estavar
25 Immeril, 968 IR

Half-hearted applause fills the lecture hall as a veteran pioneer from Caster Arentine stumbles to the end of his lesson on camp layout. Thirty years of enlisted service in the legions had certainly made the old boy an expert on how to make and break camp, and how to select the best sites for sludge trenches and latrines to prevent legionaries from having to sleep in their own filth every time there's a downpour.

"Thank you, Senior Pioneer Battiari. Most educational," rumbles Commandant Hirrius, visibly suppressing a yawn as the superannuated combat engineer vacates the speaker's stage. "Our final speaker this afternoon is High Sergeant Aleksander Timko, who joins us from Caster Adrag, where he is serving as the command high sergeant for the Third Legion under General Marco Raniosi, who has graciously agreed to allow him to join us here today for our 'Truth to Power' series of enlisted lectures. The sergeant is a decorated veteran of the Adrag Plateau campaign of 951, and a noted expert on goblinoid barbarians." Genially, the officer inclines his head to the fiercely mustachioed, eyepatch wearing half-orc to the left side of the stage. "Sergeant, the podium is yours."

Cadets in the front three rows stir as the looming figure of the High Sergeant stamps his way across the stage, its boards shifting audibly beneath the weight of his massive form, and grips the podium with both hands. Glaring out into the audience with his remaining eye, the non-commissioned officer raises a surprisingly high and reedy tenor voice, "Commandant, I thank you for your so-kind introduction. And good day to all of you, gentleman cadets. I am pleased to be allowed to speak to you today, concerning an underappreciated menace to the Empire. Of course I speak of the goblinoids. It is common that people of the Empire think about goblinoids and say, 'Oh, these are primitives who know nothing of civilization. They are ignorant and stupid.' But this is a wrong and foolish belief, and it is held only by stupidfaces who are ignorant of the facts. They are as smart as any of you. They see what civilization is good for: the food in plenty, the cities full of buildings with fireplaces to drive off the cold, the metal tools and weapons. They will take it for their own if they can."

Clearing his throat, the huge legionary continues, "Three kinds of goblinoids there are. The littlest of them is the worst, this being the goblins. Orange skins they have. Bandy legs. Long arms that reach past the knee. To look at them, you will think, 'Oh, here is a silly little monkey.' But a silly little monkey does not wind your arrogant guts upon the haft of a spear. Which is what the goblins do with legionaries." His knuckles whiten, and an audible creak escapes the wood of the podium.

"The awfulness of the goblins is that their numbers are many, no matter that you pile their dead into heaps around you. They breed with great rapidity. Eight years old, and a girl clemmie begins to drop offspring. Twice a year. Three times, if the winter is gentle, and there is no drought for the summer. And this continues until there is no food to support more clemmie mouths, and still it continues. And so they come against the Legions, with their hungry bellies and their pointy teeth and pointy spears and their WOLVES! HOWLING IN THE NIGHT LIKE DEMONS!"

The sergeant stops shouting, breathing hard for a moment as the cadets stare at him, and moderates his speech, "Yes, I should explain. The orange devils have cavalry. Wolf riders. They shoot you, and then they run away. And then they shoot you and run away again, over and over until you chase them like a stupid person. And then the clemmies without wolves to ride, you learn that they were hiding in the tall grass all along when they surround you and kill you in messy ways while your friends watch. This is called an envelopment, and is because they don't really want to fight you. You are just in the way, and what they really want to happen is to get past you and take the nice farmers' sheeps and cows and other food. And then they will make more baby clemmies and be happy little devils until the next pangs of hunger strike."

His mustache twitches a bit, but he continues, "So it is important that gentleman cadets do not grow up to become gentleman officers who sit in the command tent and drink too much brandy, and shout, 'Let's form ranks, and then run out there and make the nasty little cowards taste our steel! Tallyho lads, let's show these savages what the Aureshan Legions are made of, pip pip me old sparrow wot wot!' and then make bad orders that end with the slaughter of good legionaries along with stupidface officers. It's a stupidface mistake to decide that when the clemmies don't wanna fight, it's because the clemmies can't fight."

"So the best thing to do about goblins not wanting to stand and fight," explains Timko, now that he has registered his disapproval of stupidface officers, "is that you stand in a place where they have to pass if they are to get to the sheeps and moocows. The most appropriate place for this idea to work depends on conditions in the field, and you should pay close attention to your instructors in tactics and strategy so that you recognize the place when you see it for yourself. At Adrag, it was a river crossing, which was good because of two reasons. First is that cavalry is bad at fighting while it stands in water and can only get at you from the front. Second is that it kept the clemmies from coming at us all at one time. This was especially good because two thirds of the heavy infantry died of stupidface before we retreated to the fords, and we were outnumbered even before that."

The massive half-orc lapses into silence for a moment, possibly lost in the fog of memory, but abruptly returns to the present. "As I said at the start of my talk, the clemmies are the worst of the goblinoids in my experience. But the other kinds still are pretty terrible. Hobgoblins don't breed so fast because they get big. A short hob is about as big as an average-sized human. So they take longer to grow up, and they can't ride a wolf because they're too big! Already, this is better than the clemmies. But still, there is room for stupidface to make us all sorry to meet the hobs. For one thing, a hob is quick as an elf and tough like a dwarf. This is why the Emperor uses them for his bodyguards. For another, the hobs are even less happy to fight on even terms than the clemmies because they take twice as long to replace losses. For a third, they mostly fight as infantry, and they know it's harder to run away if things go badly for them. Hobgoblins are careful about picking the right time and place to fight, and they like to sneak around for flanking attacks because they're really quiet for their size. Really, this is something the goblinoids all have in common, this sneakiness. They just express it differently. I think that I hate the hobgoblins least of all the goblinoids because they are the most like civilized people, and this makes them easiest to understand and predict."

He sighs, and goes on, thoughtfully, "The bugbears are the strangest. They really look like bears, a little, but they can talk and they have hands. And they're strong like a full-blood orc. The good thing is that they are few in numbers, so that you will not see them in an army of their own. Instead they are petty raiders, or they are allied to other barbarians as mercenaries or shock troopers. They are terrible and fearsome as individuals, though. Of all the goblinoids, they're the best fighters, and the worst to fight man-to-man. Like the goblins, these creatures are driven by primal needs. Food. Living space. But they're like the hobgoblins, too. Reluctant to fight except if they can pick the time and place." Timko opines, heavy eyebrows knitting as he puts on a serious expression, "They're nasty characters because they're best of all at fighting in the dark or in fog and rain. This is from their noses being nearly so good as a hunting dog's. They will attack from downwind, so they can smell you and follow the scent toward you through the night. This makes difficulty for sentries on night duty, because they are therefore more likely to find you before you find them."

"I started out this lesson," the sergeant restates, "by saying that all the goblinoids are smart and cunning, and that they want what we have. They want civilization's blessings and they'll take them by force. But they also will trade for them. So it's important to keep an eye on your friendly neighborhood merchants, especially the ones who deal in arms and armor. The clemmies usually can't afford much, but hobs and bugbears are willing to save up for good Aureshan or dwarven steel of their own, and there will always be stupidface filthy merchants ready to sell to them. So you have to pay attention to what civilians in the area may be doing when you're not watching them to prevent stupidface and greed from getting the better of them. Also it's important to deny the enemy your supplies if you can't defend them or take them with you. Most goblinoids are desperately poor, poorer than a gentleman cadet can imagine. The clemmies are worst off by far, but none are rich. A goblinoid horde moves more slowly than the legions, even if they have wolf riders, because they have to forage. If you deny them the chance to seize your supplies, then you can predict where they'll go next. You lose the advantage if they can pack a few days' meals in a saddlebag and run free. They might go anywhere then, maybe even get behind you and cut you off from resupply and communication."

"Finally," he adds, "Do not be deceived because I make it sound simple, like the answers are all known. It is not enough to avoid being stupidfaces! Stupidface is certain defeat, but even with smart faces you must remember that the goblinoids know their own problems, and they pay attention to how the legions fight and plan for wars. And they are nasty sneaks no matter their size! So treat them with respect, like they aren't stupidfaces, yes? Now, are there questions?"

From somewhere in the back of the hall, "Yeah, why do you call them clemmies?"

Edited by: Talanall on 10/11/2018 - 13:30
Talanall's picture

Concerning Goblinoids

High Sergeant Timko is perhaps a little jaundiced about goblinoids, but as a veteran of a particularly terrible series of battles against them, he has reason. The fellow saw some bad things, and he's inclined to paint them in a pretty unflattering light. Despite his reliance on racial slurs, Timko's really not a hard-line bigot against goblinoids—he at least talks about them like they're people, which is what they are.

So what kind of people are they? Just like us, except orange? Well, no. But they're not the President of the United States, either. And they're not all the same as each other except for their sizes.


Timko started with these little orange fellows, so we might as well. As a side note, his favorite racial slur for them, "clemmie" is short or "clementine." Goblins are short, usually about three feet tall, with longer arms relative to their body than most of the Great Races. They display considerable variation in weight, but thirty-five pounds is approximately typical of a healthy goblin man; goblin women tend to be slightly shorter and finer-boned, usually standing just shy of three feet tall and tipping the scales at thirty pounds.

A typical goblin has a bulbous nose, deep orange skin that may tan to a reddish tinge from exposure to sun, and curly black hair. Their eyes can be any shade of red, orange, brown or black. Assuming that they don't die in battle or of illness or mishap, goblins live for about sixty years.

Lifecycle of the Goblin

Goblins reach sexual maturity at the age of eight to nine. Unlike humans, dwarves, elves, and the other members of the seven Great Races, goblins have no recreational interest in reproduction (which is not to say that they don't enjoy mating, or that they're not intensely interested in reproduction). The female of the species suffers from a more pronounced estrous cycle than her pink-skinned counterparts, during which time she is interested in mating and able to conceive a child. The rest of the time, she has no real interest in sexual activity. This selectivity is shared by goblin men, who rely on a variety of physical and behavioral cues to recognize when a goblin woman is in readiness for mating. It's nearly impossible to arouse the ardor of a goblin man outside of the specific context of a mating liaison with a potentially fertile goblin woman.

There is no specific breeding season among goblins; most goblin women experience estrous about once every other month, provided they are reproductive age and are not pregnant. Goblins have a gestation period of about five months because they're so small, so it's entirely plausible for a single goblin woman to give birth twice in a single year. As I'll discuss in some detail below, their potential for explosive population growth is both a blessing and a curse.

Despite this difference from the Great Races, goblins aren't animals; goblin women are capable of deciding not to indulge their mating instincts when they're in season, and when they give in to nature's urging, they select a mate from the best of those available to them. Within a relatively stable band or tribe of goblins, this usually translates into a preference for one or two males, often those who display unusual cunning, aptitude at hunting or gathering food and other resources, or some other distinguishing characteristic that would make them better allies in child rearing. Good physical health, likewise, is a strong predictor of desirability as a mate, because it's indicative that a goblin man is adept at securing his physical needs. The most desirable goblin women, generally, are those who show evidence of being fertile. But secondarily, goblin men prefer mates who are healthy, similarly skilled at providing for food and resources, and so forth.

Goblin women choose whether to mate and with whom; this point is extremely important to understanding most other things about how goblin society works. But it's also important to keep in mind that most of the time, goblin women are more focused on who will be their next mate, and secondarily or not at all concerned about if they will mate at all. Food is an integral part of goblinoid courtship (see below for details), so catastrophic famine is the primary limitation on a goblin woman's interest in mating.

Male competition for mates, in particular, is a driver for goblin-on-goblin conflict, since a majority of goblin men consider it ideal to have access to as many potential mates as possible. Most of the time, this is expressed in relatively benign ways, through games and contests of skill, strength or cunning. Contests turn to violence and intimidation when established goblins monopolize the tribe's women, or in cases where goblin men outnumber women so thoroughly as to create a surplus of unattached males.

The reverse of this situation, in which there are more goblin women seeking mates than there are men willing and able to assist in raising offspring, is significantly less likely to erupt into violence. But it often sets its own pitfalls for future generations by contributing to the formation of a disadvantaged faction of unattached goblin women and their offspring, since goblin women with poor prospects of holding the attention of a steady male ally nevertheless try, fail to do so, and then find themselves without support. They and their children eventually become the basis of an underclass of especially poor goblins with a grudge against the better-off members of the tribe.

Regardless of its exact form, such internecine conflict over mating arrangements is an existential threat to most goblin tribes for its ill effect on their social cohesion. Most often, the problem is resolved by directing the tribe's aggression outward to try to seize more territory. When these attempts succeed, the extra resources help to defuse tensions by affording opportunities to young goblins and unattached women. When they fail, there usually are many fewer goblins left to the tribe. Often, this wipes out the tribe. But if it manages to retain most of its territory, the pressures of overpopulation temporarily ease a little.

The social upset that accompanies overpopulation usually also leads to some degree of churn in the mating relationships between goblin men and women in a tribe, as upstart males gain ascendancy in the tribe and established ones go into decline.

Family Life, Courtship and Households

In general, goblins think of family in terms of maternal kinship because goblin women commonly change partners during their reproductive years. Fatherhood, at least as the Great Races understand the idea, isn't important to goblins. Goblin families usually have an awareness of who fathered individual children, but this is significant primarily in terms of its relevance to a young goblin's chances of inheriting particular aptitudes or (more rarely, since good health is a predictor of mating success) heritable diseases, and with regard to the prevention of inbreeding.

Instead, a young goblin's primary male protector and teacher usually is one of his maternal uncles. After the mother-child relationship, sibling bonds are the strongest tie in most goblin tribal societies, and a goblin man usually feels more emotional connection with his sisters' offspring than he does with the offspring of whatever women choose him as mating partners. A male goblin's heirs are his siblings, or their children in the case of siblings who've predeceased their children.

Matrilineal relationships are a dominant feature of goblins' emotional life. Most goblins reside, for at least part of their lives, in the same households as their mothers. Matriarchal households of this kind usually are headed by the eldest living woman of a goblin family, along with her sisters, if any, her daughters and nieces, and possibly their daughters.

Goblin boys live with their mothers as a rule until they reach sexual maturity, and typically leave the matriarchal household soon after that. Most often, several brothers and cousins of approximately the same age leave together to set up an all-male household. These are temporary affairs; the young men instinctively dislike living in close proximity to other males who may be potential competitors for mating rights. As fledgling adults they are simultaneously eager to make a start on obtaining the wealth, reputation and power necessary to attract mates of their own, and reluctant to leave the shelter of their mothers' and sisters' hearths.

As you might expect, this tension between a desire for allies and comfort and the imperative that he distinguish himself as his own, man makes adolescence and early adulthood an especially stressful and important time of a goblin boy's life. Collective households are a compromise that draws on familial loyalty to help male goblins of the same extended family tolerate an unwelcome necessity, and they perform their role reasonably well so long as the young men of the household aren't competing for the attention of a potential mate—most male goblins cooperate with one another readily if they aren't set at odds by their mating instincts.

The cohort of young men in such a residence are inevitably given to quarrels, usually purported to be about something inconsequential even though they're really about competition over a woman, some of which color their relations with one another for the rest of their lives—many goblin children grow up with one or two uncles who hate one another over things that happened between them at this time of their lives. Most of the time, though, goblin men move on to establish individual households without starting a vendetta against a close kinsman.

Independent adult goblin men live alone as a rule, with the exception of invalids and the extremely elderly. With some regularity, they visit and entertain one another as dinner guests and at drinking parties, using these occasions as a venue to cultivate friendships as well as to settle the pecking order through displays of wealth, knowledge, and power. As a rule, goblin men don't socialize in this way when a woman in estrus may be present; when goblins' breeding instincts are activated, there's potential for dissent and tension even between close friends. Instead, mixed-sex gatherings that include several unrelated grown men are arranged so as take place in neutral spaces or under the control of a matrilineal household.

Despite their relatively inconsequential role in the lives of their children, it's usual that goblin men are on good terms with the mothers of their children. If the mother and father are of approximately equal social status, they usually are friends who make social visits independently of their status as breeding partners. In cases where the social dimension of their relationship is less egalitarian, they often are mentor and protege, master and apprentice, or business associates of some kind.

Goblins don't have an institution of marriage and aren't monogamous, but the overwhelming norm is that goblins like and respect their mates. The onset of estrus usually doesn't mean that goblin women magically forget that they can't stand a particular male, or that goblin men suddenly discover that a woman they thought was a virago is really quite charming. There are goblins who mate with people they don't like, especially for economic or political reasons. But it isn't the norm for most goblins, most of the time.

In addition to mating, goblins in a breeding partnership usually do favors for one another, provide gifts of food, money or goods, or act as partisans for each other in their tribe's political disputes. This behavior is socially accepted as an expression of affection or respect between mates, and repeated failure to engage in this kind of reciprocity usually is taken as evidence of poverty or unreliability.

But there are exceptions to the normal course of relations between mates. Sometimes, ill feeling between a goblin woman and one of her mates is the result of a simple disagreement or misunderstanding; this is the most common source of ill-will between equals. If one member of a mating pair is unable to provide a favor or gift when the other is in need, or cannot provide as much help as desired, it sometimes is misconstrued by the other as unwillingness, and taken as a signal of a cooling of relations between them. Matters can become more complicated, between unequal partners.

Socially unequal mating persists because both partners potentially derive benefit from them: the appearance of virility is a sign of status in male goblins, which encourages high-status men to cultivate additional breeding partners in order to make themselves more attractive (other than when they're directly competing for mates, goblin men and women don't get jealous). Lower-ranking males, similarly, derive a certain degree of prestige from mating with socially ascendant women. For their part, goblin women may mate "downward" on the social ladder when they notice a promising younger male and want to establish ties with him as an insurance policy against the future, or "upward" when they want to reinforce the status quo.

Especially in mating relationships that cross social boundaries, the more privileged member of the couple may set preconditions, either on the continuance of mating assignations or the favors and gifts that usually accompany them. In essence, mating becomes a sort of economic transaction in these cases. And especially in mating relationships where one member is dependent on the other for assistance, these situations can be coercive or abusive, either from their inception or after a downturn in the fortunes of the weaker party.

For this reason, goblin men and women without close ties to their maternal family are vulnerable to all kinds of discrimination and exploitation. For women, the problems posed by being alone and without the resources of a family are especially difficult: there is no way to extract child maintenance payments from a scoundrel who gets you pregnant and then decides to treat you like a stranger.

Regardless of social rank, goblin courtship is highly ritualized. When a goblin man recognizes the signs that a woman is entering her season, he signals his interest with an offer of food, often some kind of delicacy or confection, or by inviting her to join him for a private meal. If she accepts, this is tacit permission for him to proceed in his courtship, a process that he assists with liberal amounts of the best food and drink he can obtain.

Particularly wealthy or ardent suitors often provide goblin women with gifts of clothing or other luxuries in addition to meals. Social status is accrued by both goblins according to the quality and amount of the suitor's gifts; the male displays his wealth and connections by expending them on his would-be mate, and his expenditures underscore her perceived value as a potential breeding partner. When multiple suitors vie for a single goblin woman, their efforts to outshine one another may materially improve her economic situation.

The Education of a Goblin

Goblins learn quickly, and in particular, young goblins learn especially quickly. Between birth and the age of about eight years, most goblins learn everything they need to know to function as an adult member of goblin society—basic life skills, but also the basics of their religious practices and the fundamentals of whatever profession they'll follow as adults.

If the youngster is planning to start a career as a priest, mage, or some other life path that requires extensive training, then an additional couple of years' worth of apprenticeship may be in order, but in the majority of cases a young goblin's adult life is more a question of gaining perspective and experience, and learning to integrate the things he or she knows than of learning entirely new skills.

Most of the time, a young goblin's primary teachers come from within the matrilineal household into which she was born—her mother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, or even older siblings all take a hand in rearing her, and she picks up lessons from all of them in the course of growing up. By the time she's a year old, a typical goblin will have begun to demonstrate aptitude or inclination for at least one profession, whether that's warfare or healing.

If her family includes someone who's already well-versed in that trade, then she'll probably end up learning at her relative's elbow. A prominent second choice, if there's nobody in the family who's suitable to train her, is to send her to study with the mating partner of someone in her extended family—if your aunt or cousin is mating with a blacksmith, and you want to become a blacksmith, then he might take you as his apprentice as a favor to his mate.

In general, goblins don't observe a strong separation of labor according to gender roles. Goblin women often avoid becoming warriors because the last few weeks of pregnancy make it uncomfortable or impossible to wear armor, ride, or lift heavy burdens, but this is by no means a universal decision, and it's one of only two professions in which goblin women are notably less represented compared to men. Women who choose warfare as a profession usually don't choose to bear children, or do so much later in life than their peers.

Because food offerings are a prominent component of goblin courtship, professional cooking also is disproportionately a male pursuit. Women usually learn how to cook, but it's seldom a preoccupation for the fairer sex—at some point, most goblin women are courted by at least one skilled cook, since cookery is an extremely common pastime among goblin men at all levels of society. Males without a genuine talent for cooking usually purchase food from a professional for the purposes of a courtship, but there's a certain amount of prestige associated with being able to do one's own cooking.

Social Structure

The familial and mating relationships described above are the lynchpin of goblin society, but they aren't the whole story. Regardless of gender, goblins enjoy socializing outside of the circle of their families and mates: close ties between unrelated women, in particular, are an important shield against abuse from senior members of their own households. Goblin men, meanwhile, have many good reasons to cultivate friendships with one another. The most prominent is that friendship with another male is the simplest way to obtain an invitation to mixed-sex gatherings at your friend's familial home; goblin women pay close attention to suggestions from their brothers and uncles.

Goblins, furthermore, are inherently competitive. An active social life ensures opportunities to boast, challenge your peers to dares and contests, talk trash about your enemies, and otherwise draw positive attention to yourself. Social rank isn't just great for your sex life, if you're a goblin; it's also a huge advantage if you have any ambition to become a leader in your tribe. As a result, goblins of both genders have a marked tendency to organize tournaments and contests at everything from cooking, to board games and storytelling, to archery and wolf-riding. The goblin mania for gaming and competition is born from a desire to display excellence and discover shared interests at the same time.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

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In many ways, bugbears are the polar opposite of goblins. They're nearly seven feet tall; adult males weigh over ten times as much; females usually are somewhat smaller, at 300 to 350 pounds to a male's 350 to 400 pounds of body weight. Most of a bugbear's body, other than the face, is covered with a dense, shaggy pelt. The little skin that's visible usually is a shade of dark gray or black.

Bugbears have a more acute sense of smell than any other goblinoid race. Their noses aren't as keen as those of the wolves or worgs that often accompany bands of goblins or hobgoblins, but a bugbear is able to track by scent, and bugbears use scent as part of the mental snapshot they use to identify other people. Any disguise meant to fool a bugbear has to take account of the acuity of her nose.

Lifecycle and Psychology of the Bugbear

Bugbears can live for a bit more than 75 years, if they don't pass away younger from disease or some other mishap. Their usual lifestyle as semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers makes this a fair prospect, especially for infants and children. Infant and childhood mortality is relatively high, and combined with their relatively slower birth rate and maturation to adulthood, they usually aren't subject to the boom-bust-boom population fluctuations that plague goblins.

A secondary force to keep down bugbear populations is that they are highly territorial in several dimensions. The most obvious to non-bugbears is that bands of these goblinoids lay claim to swaths of land and water, and they defend their claims against all comers—violently, if need be. Neighboring bands often experience periods of low-level, sporadic fighting over the shared boundaries of their territories. Less obviously to other races, but still of great importance, bugbears also lay claim to one another as part of the familial life. See Family Life, Courtship and Households for details; for now, suffice it to say that after geographical territory, the next most prominent cause of intra-species violence among bugbears has to do with courtship.

Bugbears reach sexual maturity later than goblins, usually around the age of thirteen to fourteen for women and about fifteen to sixteen years for men. Gestation is much longer in bugbears than in goblins: a full ten months, even longer than humans. Newborn bugbears grow quickly, and are able to walk sooner than human infants—they usually can walk unaided by about a year of age. By the age of two, a bugbear usually has begun to experiment with climbing trees. Games of hide-and-seek are a mainstay of bugbear childhood, and youngsters also play apparently endless variations on tag, blind-man's-bluff, and similar games.

Like goblins, bugbear women experience estrus. Unlike goblins, they form strong pair bonds; a bugbear man and woman typically mate for life. Estrus occurs only once or twice a year for bugbear women; adult females usually experience a breeding season once in the summer and once in the winter, provided that they've been able to obtain proper nutrition.

Bugbear men are less likely compete with one another for social dominance in the way that's so common among their goblin cousins. This is partly a consequence of their pair-bonding tendencies, which discourage unattached males from challenging those already attached to a mate, and partly because of their tendency to congregate in smaller bands consisting of only two or three interrelated families. In such a small group, it's unusual for overt competition to be required in sorting out who's at the top of the heap.

Neighboring bands usually have a fair degree of social interaction, and such meetings usually include some degree of posturing between younger males who hope to attract a mate. Older bugbear men who aren't close relatives usually do their best to be polite without seeming weak or submissive.

Bugbear women usually have some freedom to choose their mate. They prefer mates who're successful hunters and foragers, with a strong secondary preference for physical robustness. Less important but still extremely prominent, they prefer a mate who has some other useful skill or aptitude, such as handicrafts or magic. Conspicuous bravery, an amiable temperament, and other intangible qualities also are important, but secondary to these concerns for most bugbear women.

Bugbear men prefer signs of physical health, but not necessarily outstanding physical strength: a thick, shining pelt and healthy weight are their top priorities. More practical males may also be interested in a prospective mate's skills as a hunter or forager, or in her facility in handicrafts.

As previously mentioned, bugbears mate for life. Widowers almost always find a second mate if their first one dies prematurely, unless they have developed a reputation as an abusive brute. Widows often remain single even if they are still of child-bearing age, unless they have young children—bugbears want a fertile mate, and a childless widow often appears at risk of barrenness if she's still fairly young. Conversely, a widow with nearly adult children is likely too old to be expected to bear more children. The presence of young children is virtually a guarantee of fertility, making such women perfectly acceptable brides—indeed, it can improve the prospects of a woman who might otherwise be considered a mediocre catch.

Bugbears usually don't care about possessions for their own sake. They're intellectually capable of understanding how money works, and they've no difficulties in using it to get things that they need or want. But a bugbear's conception of what he needs or wants doesn't always square with a dwarf or elf or human's ideas on the topic. It's extremely rare to encounter a bugbear who hoards wealth and supplies purely for the sake of having a reserve against the unforeseen and unforeseeable.

This said, bugbears are as capable of planning as any other sentient race. As a matter of course, bugbears who live in regions with harsh winters stockpile food, clothing and fuel against the certainty that they'll need these things. A bugbear who wants to acquire a specific tool or weapon can and will save up money for that purpose (assuming he's part of or near to a culture that uses money).

Family Life, Courtship and Households

Familial bonds are an important component of bugbears' emotional lives. Children usually feel a strong attachment to their parents and siblings. Most bugbears also feel similarly attached to their mates, and when their loyalties to family and spouse come into conflict, the usual result is a very unhappy bugbear. Fortunately, a typical bugbear parent feels the same intense sense of connection with his or her offspring, so that everyone in an extended family unit at least tries to get along.

Problems arising from this kind of divided loyalty are most prevalent when a bugbear's parents think that his or her mate is a poor match. As discussed in outline above, bugbears can be possessive of one another. This is especially true of how bugbear parents relate to their children. Bugbear mothers, in particular, remain viscerally interested in the welfare of their adult children. Fathers usually also care deeply about their children, but their concern typically has to do with the overall success and accomplishments of their offspring, especially as it reflects upon their own success as teachers and role models.

Possessive tendencies on the part of a bugbear's parents are especially likely to be a problem when the bugbear's mate isn't part of the same band or tribe. Bugbears are naturally standoffish toward strangers, and there's a tendency for them to find fault with unfamiliar customs or attitudes when their children intermarry with outsiders. What might be a minor annoyance, something that can simply be overlooked in someone from the elaborate network of cousins and shirttail relatives that makes up a bugbear band, could be a show-stopper in combination with xenophobia.

On the other side of the relationship, a bugbear's mate may feel slighted by his or her parents, even if there isn't cause—disappointment in a child's selection of mate isn't the norm among bugbears, even if the mate is from an unrelated band. But it's common enough to be a natural source of anxiety. A mate who is predisposed to worry about being excluded or insulted for being a newcomer to his or her mate's extended family often turns that worry into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Mating also causes tension between bugbears of approximately the same age. Although bugbear social units usually are of relatively equal balance between genders, there's still competition for mates, leading unavoidably to a certain degree of internecine conflict. When two bugbears vie for the same potential mating partner, there's always a chance for hard feelings, and in especially serious cases, the struggle may even lead to physical confrontation. If two bugbears kill one another over something other than territorial rights, it will happen during a mating-related dispute.

Physical conflict is most common between young bugbear men who hope to attract the affections of the same woman, but it isn't wholly unknown between young women. Often, an underlying struggle is masked as friendly competition: wrestling, foot races, hunting, climbing and similar tests of strength, agility, speed or endurance are a way to settle the question without anyone getting hurt. But it's not unknown for rival suitors to come to blows, and bugbears are strong enough and aggressive enough so that any such confrontation stands a fair chance of ending in injury or death for at least one of the participants.

The actual courtship process undertaken by most bugbears is similar to goblin courtship in its reliance on offers of food. Unlike goblins, bugbear men usually don't cook the food they plan to offer to a prospective mate. Rather, they show a preference for offering food of the highest available quality and freshness, in the largest quantity possible. It's usual that a bugbear suitor begins to make courtship offerings a week or two ahead of the time when his prospective mate enters estrus. The onset of breeding readiness intensifies this behavior, prompting more and more frequent food offerings until the bugbear man and woman seek out a secluded area in which to hunt and mate in private. Estrus lasts for perhaps two weeks. Afterward, the newly mated pair usually share a hearth and nearly always remain monogamous during future mating seasons.

Infidelity in bugbear pairings is uncommon but not unheard of. It usually is an incidental rather than an ongoing event; male bugbears have been observed to court and mate with a second woman. As a rule, this occurs when the woman lacks a mate or is mated to an absentee—no sane bugbear is prepared to risk the inevitable violence that would erupt if he were caught meddling with another's mate. It's more prevalent when the bugbears in question reside within an environment that provides ample food and other resources, and the male bugbears involved in such mating arrangements are typically the most prosperous men within the general area.

Bugbear men enjoying such an arrangement usually find it necessary to exercise special care about their scent, bathing with much higher frequency and taking care only to cultivate secondary mates who live at some remove from their primary mate—both sexes have a keen sense of smell that will otherwise pick up telltale traces of his infidelity. The stakes are very high; a jealous bugbear woman may well do injury to her mate, her competitor, or even her competitor's children.

Fatty or oily proteins are a particular favorite for courtship purposes, tilting the field in favor of accomplished hunters and fishermen with access to hunting or fishing sites that yield plentiful numbers of some appropriate wildlife.

Bugbear men from the same extended family often work together in concert to identify, maintain, and defend quality hunting and fishing sites within their band's geographic territory. A majority of them also maintain personal sites that they may keep secret or only share with their siblings and offspring; these especially good locations often are favored for mating assignations. This strategy is common because it helps to ensure not only the food security of the bugbears' band, but also the mating success of its male members against outsiders to both the band and the family.

Because of hunting and fishing's existential importance to most bugbears, joint expeditions for these purposes are an important means of interpersonal bonding between bugbears in general and males in particular. An invitation to join a bugbear man in these activities is tantamount to an offer of truce or alliance. It amounts to not only a proposal to share food, but also signifies trust—hunting, especially for large animals, is dangerous not only because of the possibility of being injured by your quarry, but also because there's an ever-present danger of accidental (or deliberate) injury at the hands of your hunting companions.

Socially, bugbears organize in hearth gatherings, usually headed by the patriarch of an extended family unit. Often, his decision-making in this role is exercised jointly with his mate, although the amount of influence she possesses may vary a great deal from one family to the next, from one band to the next, and from one tribe to the next. Some bugbear cultures are more egalitarian between the sexes than others, and it's rare but not unheard of for a band or even an entire tribe to be primarily matriarchal.

Within a bugbear hearth, it's usual to see two to three generations of a single family: the eldest male and his mate, their children and their mates, and often their children's juvenile offspring. Larger hearth gatherings may also include the patriarch or matriarch's siblings, especially if these lack a mate. Usually, leadership passes to the oldest son of the patriarch and his mate, but this is by no means guaranteed. Common alternatives include cases where the eldest couple's siblings take the lead instead, or where a younger but more successful offspring gains primacy.

Most bugbear bands are composed of only two or three hearths. They usually are interrelated families; the norm is for the heads of the hearths to be siblings, nephews, nieces, cousins, and so on. Almost always, they have shared ancestors. Mating between the members of neighboring bands usually is frequent enough to prevent inbreeding unless the local population of bugbears is extremely small; if there are only two bands of bugbears in a region, for example, then a long-standing feud between them could easily result in multiple generations of endogamous mating within both bands.

In general, bugbear family units care for elders who are no longer physically capable of hunting or fishing. Senescent bugbears, particularly women past the age of childbearing, often provide assistance to the rest of the family by watching over infants and young children, thereby freeing their mothers to gather food and perform other necessary tasks. This tendency also exposes the youngsters to the elders' accumulation of life experience, making an important first step in their education.

Aside from the male bugbear's tendency to take the lead in defending a band's territory while leaving the care of infants to women, there usually isn't a strong gender-based division of labor in bugbear society. Overall leadership of a band usually falls to the oldest, most prosperous, or most powerful male, or jointly to him and his mate.

Because most bugbears are hunter-gatherers, they tend not to have the time or spare resources for specialized roles or professionalization. A given member of a band or hearth may be especially good at fashioning weapons, tools or clothing from locally available materials, but this is a far cry from the intricate division of labor sometimes exhibited by goblins, hobgoblins or members of the Great Races.

This rule is most apt to be broken when a bugbear decides to wander among the civilizations of the Great Races. Contact with civilization brings with it exposure not only to agriculture and pastoralism, but also to metallic tools, cloth, and the other fruits of specialization. Bugbears often appreciate and desire these goods for their usefulness in the wilderness, and a surprising number of them cultivate some knowledge of smithing or textile-making in order to bring it home to their bands.

The Education of a Bugbear

Life in a roving band of hunter-gatherers is hard on infants and toddlers, and the landscape into which a bugbear is born is its first and harshest teacher. Lessons about poisonous plants, venomous snakes and insects, and other natural hazards are presented by word and example, starting when the bugbear is still an infant. All members of the infant's hearth pitch in for these early but very important lessons, and slow learners usually do not survive their second year.

Aside from these obligatory "how to avoid being killed by the environment" lessons, bugbear youngsters tend to learn through play. As mentioned previously, they especially enjoy games of tag, hide-and-seek, and other contests based around speed, stealth, and observation. Most also wrestle with similarly-aged children, and play-act at fighting. Older children usually begin to practice more seriously with weapons as a preparation for hunting. Practice gradually yields to participation in actual hunting as a tag-along with parents, older siblings, and other adult members of the band.

Young adults often put off mating even after they're physically capable, preferring to undergo a period of wandering. This usually involves a trek through the territories of neighboring bands (if they're friendly, anyway), but young bugbears whose territory lies near the highways, farms, mines or frontier villages of a settled civilization are just as likely to go exploring there . . . provided that the civilized folk are cosmopolitan enough not to kill them on sight. This kind of vagrancy is primarily a way to acquire knowledge of a band's neighbors: their customs, language, and the geography of their territory are of primary interest, regardless of whether the youngster is touring the territories of another band or the outskirts of a tolerant Elven kingdom.

But an important secondary interest is to identify and bring home new skills and crafts, provided that they'd be useful to the bugbear's band. As a result, wandering bugbears can be shockingly curious about all sorts of mundane things, asking detailed but naive questions about the materials, construction, and sources things as commonplace as a knife or a woolen cloak.

In a preceding section of this discussion, it was mentioned that bugbears aren't especially interested in wealth or property for its own sake. But this isn't to say that they're immune to the blandishments of civilized life. A bronze, iron, or steel ax is vastly superior to a stone one, for example, and the average bugbear is much more likely to appreciate just HOW MUCH better it really is, because he or she will have used a stone one at some point in the past.

Once a bugbear gets a fair grasp of the concept of money and figures out how to ask for a job (often as a caravan guard, porter, or in some other role that takes advantage of his vast physical strength), it often becomes a priority to buy as many such manufactured goods as he can carry home. The more insightful young wanderers often do their best to pick up at least rudimentary knowledge of how such goods are made, as well—they seldom learn how to smelt ore or make steel, but it's not unheard of for them to learn how to turn ingots of copper, bronze, or iron into tools on a makeshift anvil of stone or wood.

Just as importantly, these bugbears often return home to introduce the idea of trade with civilization. Human furriers and peddlers with the courage to deal with bugbears in the wilderness often make out very well because these goblinoids are extremely willing to trade quantities valuable, exotic furs, wild herbs, dried mushrooms, and other hard-to-get commodities for a few crude tools of steel or iron. The prosperity achieved by bugbear bands that can rely on such goods is such that they can support a larger population on the same territory, allowing them to expand by subsuming or evicting their neighbors.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold