What is a “goblin”? Since they are fictitious creatures, it’s okay for there to be more than one answer to this question. However, while you’re here, I’ll share my take on them.
In silhouette, a goblin would look like a starving human child with an over-sized head and drooping, pointed ears. Skin tone varies, but is generally along the grey-to-green spectrum. Hair color is never light, but can go between dark brown and black, going a dirty grey in old age (somewhere in the area of 20 years old). An average adult goblin weighs between 35 and 50 pounds and stands stomach height to an average human. Physical differences between the sexes are not as apparent in goblins as in most humanoids, due to minimal secondary sexual characteristics; puberty among goblins is subtle, with distinct female traits only becoming obvious while with child and shortly thereafter. Males tend to be larger and stronger, but the disparity is so minimal that exceptions to this rule of thumb are commonplace.
Physical and Mental Ability
Goblins are weaklings by human standards. Given nearly any test of strength, a mighty goblin warrior would be bested by a bookish human 12-year-old. An eight-year-old human with older brothers could hold his own in a bare-knuckle pit fight free-for-all in goblin lands.
Brute strength aside, goblins have a number of other advantages that make them a force in the world. Most important of these is their intelligence. Goblins survive by their wits, both individually and collectively. Goblins learn quickly – a necessity considering their short lifespans – and generally excel at mathematics and spacial thinking. They have excellent manual dexterity as well, and combined with their intellect and a need for tools to compensate for their physical shortcomings, goblins are excellent inventors.
Goblin life is both communal and cutthroat. They live in close quarters in large numbers, with an elaborate bureaucracy keeping everything running (relatively) smoothly. Jobs are assigned based on skills, need, and politics. Rising through the ranks is more a matter of cunning and backstabbing rather than merit, though exceptions are made in certain professions.
The top of the food chain in goblin society is the priesthood. The goblins worship dragons, so their religion has a rather immediate and up-close look at divine wrath and damnation. Just having the ear of a dragon is an immense source of political power, even if their daily tasks range from the ceremonial to the humiliatingly mundane and biological (mucking out a god’s lair is a never-ending task).