Trash Goblins!

My review of Nine Worlds mentioned that I took part in a Design-An-RPG contest – originally conceived as “75 mins to make a game, 45 mins to create an expansion for someone else’s”. We ended up not following the second half in the end, because other participants got clingy, and didn’t want other people challenging their creative control. But the first part went exactly to plan, and I ended up being embarrassingly proud of the game I produced. So I’m publishing it here.

A few notes: the contest involved connecting your game to three elements, one of which was common to all entrants, two of which were randomly drawn from a selection created by all participants. I’ve included my required elements at the end of the game, so you can skip to the end if you want to see where my inspiration came from. (Incidentally, you’ve probably noticed that the “mechanics” of my game were heavily inspired by the “mechanics” of the contest, because apparently I’m just that easily led.) Also, whilst I am pleased with this, I should also emphasise that it was written in 75 mins, with no play-testing or, you know, THINKING of any kind behind it. I’ve not edited the original text at all, except for a single typo which I’ve marked in square brackets. Please adjust your expectations: this isn’t the new Fate Core.

Also, thank you very much for the team at Nine Worlds for putting on this event!

By Michael Duxbury

Hundreds of years ago, an advance and inscrutable alien race departed from the world of Garbagon. In their absence, the remaining civilisations of orcs, trolls and kobolds grew strong on their own, albeit without the advanced technology of their alien forerunners.

Now, prophets tell us that the aliens are returning, and it is feared they mean Garbagon’s inhabitants harm. In desperation, the people of Garbagon seek whatever forgotten knowledge they can about the aliens, in hopes it will give them the edge in the coming war.

And so it is that the people of Garbagon peer into the rubbish tip of the lost civilisation, and hope it will offer up treasure. They need… the Trash Goblins!


You are a Trash Goblin – a small but clever creature that usually resides in uninhabited areas, and specialises in finding value in things other people throw away.

Tell us about yourself!

Listen to what the other players say. They are your family. For each other character, tell them something that other people find undesirable about them. Also tell them what you think id valuable about them that other people do not notice.

Give some thought to your Trash Goblin’s career. Ideas include inventor, hunter, tinkerer, forager, scout, evaluator, weapon-crafter etc.


Next it’s time to build your trash pile!

Take a few sheets of paper and tear them up into small strips. On each strip, write a kind of item that you expect to find in a rubbish tip. Then screw up the paper into a ball, and chuck it into the centre of the table, along with all the snacks and general detritus that is probably already there.

You want lots of things in your trash pile! Think around 20 per player. If you run out of good ideas (you will), take inspiration from the random crap around you. (I love lamp.)


Mutually agree who you think in the most resourceful player. They go first.

The first player picks three random elements from the trash pile. They then narrate to the group their Trash Goblin discovering an alien and unfamiliar item amongst the rubbish tip that APPEARS to contain aspects reminiscent of all three contributing elements.

If your Trash Goblin decides to start player or experimenting with their find, point to another player. They decide what happens!

Your Trash Goblin is trying to answer three questions:

  1. What was your find designed to do?
  2. What does your find tell you about the civilisation that created it?
  3. How can [you] use this information to combat the returning aliens?

Go round the table clockwise until everyone has found something.


When everyone has found something, everyone should then pick another player’s find to take a closer look at (one each).

Your finds are pieces of alien technology that no-one really understands! Pick at random one of the elements that make up the find you’re examining. Chuck it back into the trash pile. Then pick up another element at random. That represents a new feature of the find that was previously not apparent.

Narrate your Trash Goblin discovering more information about the find. If appropriate, revise the answers the other players have in the “Digging…” stage. As in that phase, everyone takes turns doing this once.


After all finds have been re-examined, the Trash Goblins bring them back to the capital of Garbagon, and present them to the ruling council. Collectively, the players give a brief speech, in which they outline their recommendation for how to respond to the aliens’ return.

Based on your finds, and what they say about the civilisation that created them, you might suspect the aliens do not intend to wage war on their return after all! Maybe this will influence your recommendation to the council. Maybe they will listen…

You have now finished playing Trash Goblins!

Wilderness (universal theme)
Home Making OR Homecoming (unique theme)
Rubbish Tip of a Lost Civilisation

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