Monday, 11 August 2008

Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Fair Folk (Goblins 2.0, Part IV)

In the range of hills which the dwarves call Annwn there is a goblin polity known (sarcastically) as the Tylwyth Teg - the 'fair folk'. Their king is called Gwyn ap Nudd (Gwyn son of Nudd) and he has reigned over the fair folk for a century or more. He is extremely old by goblin standards - no member of the race typically lives longer than 30 years - and the dwarves say that he has proved the old adage that 'unless you kill a goblin, he'll go on causing mischief forever'.

The truth of the matter is that Gwyn is not a full goblin. He is actually half elven. His father, Nudd, abducted many slaves from the nearby elven tribes, and had quite a harem by the time he was in his middle age. One of those unfortunate women bore him Gwyn, and the boy was from then on Nudd's favourite, and chosen heir.

Nowadays you would not know Gwyn had elven blood just to look at him. He could be mistaken for a hobgoblin or orog. But his unusually handsome appearance - a straight aquiline nose and firm jawline - and a certain sparkle in his eyes might betray his heritage. The best clue, though, is his supreme skill with the bow. He can fire an arrow at a target 100 yards away and loose another one while the first is still in the air, to have them both hit the centre. His favourite game is what the fair folk call making sport: allowing a handful of slaves their freedom - with the catch being that to get it they have to cross two hundred yards of open ground without being shot down by arrows from behind. When the king plays the game, the slaves very rarely make it.

Under Gwyn the goblins of Annwn have expanded their territory by half, and pacified the elven tribes into embarrassing concessional agreements. This is partly due to Gwyn's exceptional skill as a military leader but also because, when he rides to war, he is accompanied by powerful ghosts - ethereal black hounds called the Cwn Mamau (the 'Dogs of the Mothers'). Where they come from nobody knows (some dark pact with those who live in the underworld, perhaps) but they appear bound to the goblin king by something more than just a common agreement. Typically they are eight in number, although sometimes there are as many as sixteen or as few as four.

On rare occasions another figure is seen striding alongside him, keeping pace with his riding warg - a tall, willowy female spirit, draped in grey. Nobody knows who she is save Gwyn himself, and he calls her Mallt-y-Nos - 'Matilda of the Night'. Rumour amongst the goblins and their neighbours is that she is none other than the ghost of Gwyn's elven mother, come from the land of the dead to accompany her son to war.

Gwyn ap Nudd

HD - 7
THAC0 - 13
AC - 3 (chain, shield, dexterity bonus)
Movement - 12
Intelligence - 14
Morale - Fearless (19)
Attacks - 2
Damage per attack - By weapon +2
Special attacks - Gwyn gains +2 to hit when firing with a bow, and +1 to hit when using a long sword.
Special defences - None, although he has the standard elven resistances.
Alignment - Lawful Evil

Cwn Mamau

HD - 6+6
THAC0 - 14
AC - 3
Movement - 16
Intelligence - 1 (animal)
Morale - Fearless (20)
Attacks - 3
Damage per attack - d6/d4/d4
Special attacks - The Cwn Mamau's attacks are ethereal and ignore armour. Once per combat they can howl with the effects of a fear spell.
Special defences - The hounds are ethereal and can only be hit by magical weapons of +1 or better.
Alignment - Lawful Evil


HD - 8
THAC0 - 12
AC - 0
Movement - 12
Intelligence - 16
Morale - Fearless (20)
Attacks - 2
Damage per attack - d4/d4
Special attacks - Mallt-y-Nos is ethereal and her attacks ignore armour. She is a ghost, and the sight of her walking into battle causes aging and fear in the same way as a ghost does. This does not affect Gwyn and his warriors. She can also perform magic jar attacks in the manner of other ghosts, and her attacks drain life (d10x4 years per hit).
Special defences - She can be hit only by silver or magical weapons of +1 or better enchantment when in a semi-materialised state. She can be turned by a cleric of 7th level or higher, and can be damaged by holy water.

Gwyn is usually accompanied by bodyguards - the toughest and biggest warriors of the kingdom, who have the stats of hobgoblins. When going to battle he leads his forces from the back of a warg, with the best of his cavalry.


  1. Welsh mountain goblins? I've often dropped Welsh into my fantasy games, as barely anyone knows it, and it strikes the right fantasyesque sound. Can't place "Nudd" though.

    I also love the idea of a goblin-elf hybrid. Who says all half-elves have to be of human stock? And I like how his elvish heritage brings some of that mystical faerie stuff over with it. I'm really enjoying this series.

  2. I've sometimes thought about coming up for stats for a whole range of mongrel races - half-orc dwarves, half-goblin humans, half-orog elves... If all these races can breed together, the world should contain a fair few hybrids. Perhaps most of them would be sterile though, like mules.

    Anyway, I like Welsh in my fantasy too - and Gaelic, Manx and Cornish if I can get it. It definitely strikes the right tone, for some reason.

    Gwyn ap Nudd is actually the name of the supposed king of the underworld in Welsh myth. That's where the 'Annwn' hills idea comes from too - Annwn is the Welsh name for the afterlife.

  3. I've sometimes thought about coming up for stats for a whole range of mongrel races....

    This is true in Encounter Critical, in which you can play a hybrid of any of the player races. EC has more racial ability modifiers than D&D, so you just combine these to create a hybrid (though if both races have a penalty in the same stat you take the larger and if both have a bonus you take the smaller, making it trickier to min-max. Not that your average EC player is a big min-maxer!). You could even play a half-dwarven elf...bonus?

    Also: "half-orog elves?" I think an orog is a 2e thing? Aren't they orc-ogre hybrids already? Do they breed true?

  4. The MM just says that orogs "possibly" have ogre blood. I like to think of them as a genetic rarity amongst orcs that results in a bigger and more violent individual - maybe as a result of ogrish ancestry many generations ago.