During the early stages of design for Mana Punk, one of the biggest creative problems I had to tackle was striking a balance in things. Balance in how the races behave, what their attribute modifiers are, and how many (if any) special abilities or penalties they may have. If humans are to be the ‘plain brown wrapper’ of races, then how is that best balanced against a Minotaur that can shake the very earth beneath his feet? There were several times, while glancing through all this information, that I felt I would have had an easier time juggling goblins for a living.
One thing that helps strike balance across the playable races available in a system is the tools available for a character. It can sometimes be far too heavy handed to just add more attribute bonuses, forcing a creator to use more subtle and extensible options in order to find the balance they want. If your system uses dice pools to help buffer the character’s abilities, maybe one race gets a slight bonus to them? Perhaps one race’s night vision can be offset by giving another race increased movement speed or bonuses to their athletic ability.
Back on the subject of goblins, tho not necessarily for the purposes of juggling. Goblins came out of the design process as a race that was shorter in stature, and not very brawny for their size to boot. Intellect and a winning personality can only carry a handsome goblin so far in life, so other things had to be contributed towards the construction of this playable race in order to make it a viable contributor in any party.
“Teeth” was the first thing that struck my brain, like a club to the back of my head. “Every time you see illustrations and artwork depicting the more ‘maniacal’ themed goblins, they always have a mouth jammed full of menacingly sharp teeth.” Pursuing this idea further gave rise to other things that helped be added in to the goblin race… adding not only ability to the goblin (and thereby increasing viability and appeal) but improvement in the over all theme. The end result is a devious little creature that is just as much intellect and willpower as it is menace and gnashing teeth.