hen I was about four years old, our family lived across the street from an old woman who teased me by chanting, "The goblins are gonna get ya if ya don't watch out!" We lived on a small lake in northern Michigan, near thick woodlands. I used to imagine and dread the sort of things that might live at the bottom of that lake and in the midst of those woods. I heeded the neighbor's warning about the goblins, and I certainly did watch out. Those fears planted seed from which the banderhobbs would one day take root.
When I began to design my own fantasy setting in college, I wanted to distinguish it from what had been typical in my D&D experience. I eliminated monsters I considered core to D&D, such as orcs, kobolds, giants, and dragons. I thought back on childhood dreads, imagining a hulking goblin monster crawling from a lake or materializing from nowhere, stealing children away before vanishing into the mist. I sketched out my idea.
Version 1 (AD&D 2nd Edition)
Six years later, the creatures first appeared in play. The monsters teleported into a keep that the characters believed to be safe. The characters were accompanied by a child prophesied for a great destiny, and the "goblins" came to snatch him away. The monsters' mechanics were improvised. I'd always thought of them as creatures that could fade away at will, so they gained the ability to teleportat. In the fight, one of them grabbed the rogue with its tongue, and after a struggle, swallowed him whole. That was how the monsters gained their tongue grab and swallow abillities. A few rounds later, the rogue sliced his way through the creature's stomach (which is the inspiration for the similar account in the Ecology of the Banderhobb article).
Version 2 (D&D 3rd Edition)
In 3rd Edition, these creatures reappeared, only this time, they worked for a dark master created using the Epic Level Handbook. Like the Ringwraiths of Middle Earth, their task was to track down artifacts for their wicked master. When the characters obtained a powerful artifact, the goblins appeared to wreak havoc, devouring an unfortunate number of nonplayer characters. I improvised their statistics from slaads and giant toads. Admittedly, I think I misused them here.
Version 3 (D&D 3.5)
In 2007, I applied for a design job at Wizards of the Coast. One of my tasks on the design test was to create a monster from a partial template. I created a creature with long gangly arms, and jaws that unhinged, allowing it to consume prey larger than itself—sort of like the Violator from "Spawn." I ripped its background from my own goblin monsters and adapted their story to fit within the design template. "Banderhobb" was the name I gave the new creatures—a cross between "bandersnatch" and "hobgoblin" that sounded appropriately Grimm. The design test template specified that they were "Medium outsiders," so I placed them in the Plane of Shadow; these parameters transformed the banderhobbs from teleporting, froglike monsters into skinny goblinlike shadow raiders.
Version 4 (D&D 4th Edition)
In 2008, I applied for another design job at Wizards. That application garnered me freelance work on Monster Manual 3 under Mike Mearls. After turning in my work for the catoblepas, the kraken, the mimic, and the nymph, Mike let me create two entries of my choice. Naturally, I wanted monsters from my homebrew setting to become D&D canon, so I chose one of our howling arctic terrors and our setting's goblins. I added variations of the creature based on my original design and the one from the design test. The froglike monsters became the primary banderhobbs, gaining the name and the association with the Shadowfell. The banderhobb from the design test became the "banderhobb filch."
Version 5 (D&D 4th Edition)
The Ecology of the Banderhobb article offers a high heroic tier "banderhobb shadow raider," which is several levels lower than the banderhobbs in Monster Manual 3. This banderhobb is closer in level to the creature from our homebrew setting, and rather than using teleportation, it takes advantage of the shadow fissure terrain feature. I approached the article article as a "greatest hits of the banderhobb" compilation, drawing from all the banderhobbs' roots while exploring the newer and stranger aspects of the monster—specifically its stomach and the tower in no-place.
The creepy rhymes in the article are reminiscent of the singsong chant from the old lady who warned me of goblins, and they are a way of further linking the banderhobb to the boggle. When I worked on the boggle for Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale, I suggested they were fey goblinoid cousins of the shadow-dwelling banderhobbs. I began their entry with a short rhyme. The rhymes from the banderhobb article thematically link the two monsters.
As I was writing this column, I discovered the origin of the line that the old woman used to quote. It comes from the poem "Little Orphant Annie," by James Whitcomb Riley. It's cool how, 150 years ago, this girl who inspired the poem told stories to Riley just as they were told to me as a child. It turns out, the banderhobbs are not the only creatures inspired by the poem. They have at least two siblings: one a children's doll, and one that sings "Tomorrow."
The sun may come up tomorrow, but first comes the night. And with the night, the banderhobbs.