Childhood survivals and impulsive eBay purchases have left me with a large supply of 28mm goblins. Not, in the main, the zany, impish, smirking goblins that became popular from the later 1980s, but nasty, fearsome orcs. They're goblins in D&D terms of course: the goblins of the Monster Manual are essentially Tolkien's orcs while the pig-headed beastmen of that volume take their name and tribal affiliations from Tolkien but very little else.
|Goblins from Acropolis, Citadel, Ral Partha, Rieder* and Citadel|
*This one's a Rieder orc
In Middle Earth, of course, orcs and goblins are the same thing. The Uruk-hai are just as much goblins as the smallest snaga. Indeed, in the text of The Lord of the Rings, Uruks are described as "goblins" more often than are the smaller types.
|Citadel Grom's Goblin Guard trooper|
Early manufacturers of fantasy miniatures recognised this, probably because they were drawing on The Lord of the Rings directly rather than on derivative materials. So Ral Partha's Wizards, Warriors and Warlocks range featured "Giant Goblins" who were clearly the Uruk-hai of Isengard - complete with the White Hand on their shields and the S-rune on their helmets. They are a little bigger than the other goblins in the ranges, but are still squat, short creatures. And that's as it should be: it's clear from the text of The Lord of the Rings that Uruks are significantly shorter than Men - which is what makes the half-orcs (described as Men rather than Orcs) so remarkable.
|Citadel Fiend Factory Red Goblin|
Anyway, given all the goblins that I have kicking around, I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone: create a wargaming army of Middle Earth orcs and amass a huge supply of goblins for D&D. So I'm painting all these goblins from diverse manufacturers in the same simple style. I'm basing them all on 25mm squares so that they can be used in common-frontage wargames (MicroHotT, Book of War, perhaps Oathmark). Although that's 5mm wider than the traditional 20mm, a lot of these figures occupy the space quite nicely, as they're "squat and broad" (matching Tolkien's description of the Uruks at Helm's Deep).
There are a few goblins I'm throwing into this project that aren't really Tolkienesque - like this Metal Magic 'red goblin' with his hammer and sickle! But he'll work OK as a goblin smith or something in D&D.
|Metal Magic Red Goblin|
For the colour scheme, I wanted something that would broadly fit both Tolkien's descriptions and those of D&D. Tolkien's orcs are 'swart' and 'sallow', but they should also look appropriately subterranean. D&D goblins have livid skin in grey or earthy tones. I started with a grey base, washed it in sepia and then highlighted it in grey, buff and Vallejo's Pale Flesh. I think the end result reasonably covers all bases: they're sallow, thanks to the buff, and could reasonably be described as 'swart' too.
For the eyes, I went with a glowing red/yellow. This fits with D&D's 'glowing red eyes', but is perhaps stretching Tolkien's only description of orcish eyes as 'like coals'. When I was a child, I read this as indicating that the orc's eyes were glowing like red-hot coals, but that's clearly not the only reading. The eyes could be coal-black or simply burning with rage or malice. Still, eyes like glowing coals is still a valid interpretation, and it fits with the orcish ability to see in the dark. So I'm content to go that way. What I'm still not sure on is whether to give them pupils. I'll make a decision once I've got more done.
As far as liveries and heraldry go, I'm going with the Red Eye where no other emblem is present. Where there's a White Hand, or where one looks appropriate, I'll use that instead - and cheerfully mix them together until I have enough Isengarders to work separately. The Citadel Fiend Factory goblins have a wolf emblem, so I'm painting that in red and black to fit the description of goblin banners being red and black at the Battle of the Five Armies.