Monday, November 6, 2017

Campaign Design - Race: Šotek (Goblinoids)

Šotek (Goblinoids)
(adapted from the Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, and Midnight)

The šotek, or goblinoid, race is a humanoid race that displays many of the organizing habits of social insects. With limited exceptions, šotek live in hives under the rule of a kralovna hive queen. Every šotek in a hive is the child of their hive queen, with the only exceptions being in very newly established hives where the ruling queen hasn't yet been able to spawn her own brood. To a certain extent the other šotek in a hive exist only to implement the will of their ruling hive queen - although the individual goblinoids are not mindless creatures, they do serve out of an almost instinctual bond with their brood mother. All decisions in šotek society are made by the hive queen for the good of the hive as a whole, with little consideration given to the needs or desires of any individual member.

Although šotek are normally found in hives incorporating all of the strains of the race, one can sometimes find colonies or expeditionary forces sent out to either establish an outpost to further some design or some nefarious plan of their queen. Such subsidiary groups are often made up of one kind of šotek, usually prašotek or vyšotek, although once in a while khezotek or obříšotek expeditions are sent on some errand or another.

Once in a great while, a band of disaffected šotek, most often prašotek or vyšotek, rebel against their hive queen a strike out on their own, trying to form their own independent society and subsisting on hunting, raiding, or hiring themselves out as mercenaries. These rebellious factions are always short-lived, as they are unable to replenish their numbers, although there are reports of creative attempts by clever prašotek to steal an collection of eggs in an effort to raise a subservient kralovna. Such efforts have presumably all been completely unsuccessful.

All šotek have an affinity for monstrous vermin. Šotek may treat monstrous vermin as animal for all purposes, including abilities such as a druid's Wild Empathy or Animal Companion class abilities, or the Handle Animal skill. A goblinoid hive will inevitably be the home for a number of monstrous vermin who live alongside the šotek and serve as pets, mounts, guardians, and hunting beasts. A given šotek hive will usually only affiliate with one type of monstrous vermin, usually giant ants, giant bees, or giant wasps, but goblinoids have been known to cohabitate with pretty much any type of monstrous vermin such a monstrous centipedes or monstrous scorpions with the lone exception being monstrous spiders. The enmity between Ninkurra and Gangyn is deep and abiding, and the hatred the šotek hold for Gangyn extends even to a loathing of spiders.

The eight known strains of šotek are as follows. Details concerning the attributes of each strain, including ability score adjustments, special abilities, favored classes, and so on, can be found in the linked descriptions for each strain:

The prašotek, also known as goblins, are the smallest and most numerous of the various strains of šotek. In general, the prašotek are the workers of a goblinoid hive, doing the building, mining, crafting, and pretty much all of the other work that needs to be done in the service of their hive queen. Prašotek raise and train the monstrous vermin that live with the hive, and are even charged with maintaining the egg hatcheries and larva nurseries. Not all prašotek are workers, however, as they also serve as the spies, scouts, and skirmishers of the hive in times of war.

The vyšotek or hobgoblins are the soldiers of a šotek hive, who live solely to wage war on behalf of their queen. They are the hammer the kralovna queens wield in their conflicts with the rest of the world, and serve her will. It is possible that a vyšotek might have a role other than one directed at waging war, but in practice this almost never happens.

Šotek society is, by almost any measure, intensely religious. The kralovna queens claim to be the favored chosen of Ninkurra, the Queen of the Infernal Hive, and wield power in her name. The khezotek, colloquially known as bugbears, are the religious elite of the šotek hives. They are the priests of Ninkurra, the temple guards who defend her holy places, and the elite protectors of the inner sanctum of the hive: The queen's chamber, the egg hatcheries, and the potěr nurseries. Sometimes they serve as emissaries sent on diplomatic missions. Some khezotek are assigned elite soldiers to bolster the vyšotek battalions, but this is only rarely done.

Of the four primary strains of goblinoids, obříšotek, or greater goblins, are the largest and the rarest. For the most part, a kravolna queen will only spawn these monstrously large offspring when war is imminent and she needs shock troops to lead her forces. The typical obříšotek is too dumb to be much use for other purposes, and consumes enough provender that keeping any number of them around for any length of time would be an incredibly expensive proposition. Obříšotek are bred for war and for no other purpose.

Above all of the other strains of šotek in the goblinoid hierarchy are the kralovna hive queens. All of the queens claim descent from Ninkurra, and all of the šotek in a particular hive are, with extremely limited exceptions, the children of its ruling queen. The kralovna queens look nothing like the other strains of goblin, with an appearance that resembles a towering cone of insectoid horror supported by tentacles and sporting six insect-like arms and a set of three razor sharp mandibles. Most queens are found secreted deep within a goblin hive, catered to by a retinue of prašotek and guarded by a cadre of khezotek as they lay eggs and hatch plots and plans.

The only males in the šotek hive, the muzotek drones exist to fertilize the queen and ensure her ability to lay the eggs needed to perpetuate the hive. While other šotek exist to serve the will of the ruling queen, the muzotek must curry her favor so that they will be selected as her breeding partner. Consequently, the muzotek drones of a goblin hive spend much of their time scheming and plotting against one another, a situation that the kralovna encourages. In fact, if one muzotek manages to eliminate all of his rivals, a kralovna queen will spawn more so as to ensure that there are a number of suitors vying for her attention.

No matter what kind of šotek a goblin becomes, they all come out of the egg as potěr larva. After their initial cannibalistic diet, the potěr larva are placed in nurseries where they are conditioned in such a way that after they pupate they emerge as one of the various strains of adult goblinoids. No one is certain how that process is managed, but scholars have speculated that the differences in adult goblinoids are the result of scent cues given off by the kralovna queen and their diet during their larval stage, although those are guesses at best. What is known is that the hive can influence this process at the behest of the kralovna queen, who essentially chooses what lives her progeny will lead when they are in their pre-pupae stage.

One of the reasons the muzotek struggle against one another so viciously is that the fate of a drone who loses out in the internecine struggle against his brothers is to become a staroztek, or great old one. Although the process is not entirely understood by scholars, a muzotek who falls sufficiently out of favor with his queen is transformed into a bloated, mindless monster who is then filled with eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the potěr larva then consume their host, feasting on his flesh for their first meal.

General Characteristics

Personality: Most šotek have almost no concept of privacy or even personal property. They live together, eating, working, and sleeping in communal areas, treating essentially everything as common property. In the rare event there are disputes over the use of an item, it is resolved by their hive queen. Šotek generally pay little or no attention to their appearance, emphasizing pragmatic and utilitarian concerns over all other priorities. Unless required by their surrounding environment, many šotek don't even bother with clothing unless it is needed for a particular purpose, such as providing pockets to hold needed items. Even then, many šotek are likely to opt for a utilitarian harness with buckles and pouches over actual clothing. The exception to all of this are the muzotek drones, who are vain, selfish, and obsessed with personal wealth and appearance.

Physical Description: With relatively minor differences, the primary distinction between prašotek, vyšotek, khezotek, and obříšotek is size. The prašotek are roughly the size of halflings, the vyšotek are about the size of a normal human, the khezotek are about the size of a tall, burly human, while the massive obříšotek approach ogre size. All of these strains of goblinoid have a hard, chitinous exoskeleton that runs in color from black to orange to red, often combining multiple colors - for example, a šotek might have black skin with orange splotches, or it might be dark red with black spots. They have sharp pseudoteeth that ridge their bony mouths, and multifaceted eyes that range from yellow to orange and occasionally red or even blue or green. A šotek's coloration is determined by their hive, and the members of a hive will all have similar coloration patterns. Except for the kralovna queens, the muzotek drones, and the staroztek old ones, all adult šotek are sterile females.

Relations: Šotek hives are reasonably reliable allies for other evil humanoids when they are either overmatched or roughly equal in strength to their neighbors. The hive queens will honor agreements they make with others to the letter, although they will almost always make sure that such agreements can be twisted to say whatever they want it to say. When they hold a dominant position, šotek queens are likely to push their advantage as far as possible, often simply enslaving weaker neighbors and putting them to work for the good of the hive.

Alignment: Almost all šotek are lawful evil. There are exceptions, and sometimes groups of šotek rebel against their rigid society, but such splinter groups are usually short-lived as they cannot perpetuate themselves save by recruiting others. Most splinter group of šotek drift towards chaotic in their evil, but almost never tend towards the good end of the spectrum. Some folktales include renegade šotek who aid or even join the heroes, but good-aligned šotek are so rare as to be nonexistent.

Šotek Lands: Šotek hives can be found throughout the Three Worlds, settling in almost any place where they can establish a base of operations and plunder the surrounding region en route to enslaving its populace. Although Karst is the only nation that is explicitly controlled by goblinoid hive queens, they can be found in most evilly-inclined nations including Polthia, Isakoti, and the Hallitsijainen Empire, as well as poorly settled areas such as Elizon. The inherent orderliness of the goblin hives makes them suitable allies and servants for other agents of evil, and as a result they are commonly found in the armies of evil overlords.

Religion: Within the hives, the šotek exclusively worship Ninkurra. Although any šotek can technically take up the cleric profession almost all priests of the Queen of the Infernal Hive are khezotek. Because the hive queens all claim descent from Ninkurra (which means, by extension, all goblinoids are), religion pervades almost all aspects of goblinoid society. Those few šotek who rebel against and leave the society of the hive sometimes follow a different faith, most commonly Kivutar, Kamla, Sirchade, or even Vassatar.

Language: Šotek all speak Karstish. Because the language includes scent cues that only šotek can pick up, no outsider can ever be truly fluent in this language.

Names: Individual identity is not an important concept in šotek society, so most šotek don't really have names as such, but rather as referred to by their role within the hive. Should a šotek's role change, their identifier also changes. The exceptions to this are the kralovna queens and the muzotek drones who all have their own unique names. Kralovna queens have names that identify their bloodline all the way back to Ninkurra, and the location of their hive. Kralovna names can be quite long and are generally only used in diplomatic negotiations and religious ceremonies. Muzotek drones, as they have no useful role in the hive other than breeding, choose their own names and try to make them seem as impressive as possible, often selecting names in Karstish that, when translated, are something like "The amazingly intelligent and handsome devil" or "The dashing and wealthy overlord".

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