How would the fighting population of a race of goblins be different from that of normal humans?

Let's name some parameters for these goblins, first:

  • Small tunnel dwellers: Probably not important to their demographic. Might affect the overall size of their population, though.
  • Low Sexual Dimorphism: Male goblins and female are so similar, outsiders can barely tell them apart.
  • High birth rates: Fewer women need to stay at home to have kids, under normal conditions.
  • Fast Maturation: Goblins grow up faster than humans do.
  • Unaging: Goblins do not age.
  • Death of the Weak: The disabled and weak rarely survive long in goblin society.
  • Violent Populace: Goblins are naturally violent, so most of the population can be recruited.

So, from this, we see that goblins have a lot more population to work with for military purposes, and they can more quickly replace their losses.

The question is, how might this affect things?

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. (This is the room that Johnny previously created; I relocated the comments from here to there so all the discussion will be together.) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2017 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps you are tackling this from the wrong angle. The amount of troops doesnt depend on the amount of willing hands but on the amount that can be kept alive if they stop working for food and materials. Any army lives on their stomach, and those supply lines are going to be the determining factor of your army size. if Goblins can move similar work as humans each day by using labor animals and such then the smaller size would allow many more to live on the same food. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 0:03

2 Answers 2


From what I can scrounge, it seems that France and Germany in the world wars ended up using about a third of their male (fighting age) population. As a rough estimate, that's about 11% of their total population. Of course, that's not counting all the boys and really old men who ended up fighting, including the Hitler youth towards the end of the second world war.

So the question is, how would the goblins compare to this?

Now, these examples are humans, in a modern industrial nation, which needs workers to keep making the ammo and farming the food for their armies (unless you're like North Korea, and you just stockpile that stuff ahead of time). If they were a barbarian tribe, burning their own fields as part of an oath to win or die, then you'd be able to muster most of your male population.

But with these goblins... they have a larger workerbase, too. Let's look into that.

Goblin Demographics

Using US population numbers, about 66% of the population are adults of 15 to 64 years, 14% are 65 or older, and about 20% are children of 0 to 14 years.

Using Nambia's population, you get 59% adults, 4% of people 65+, and 37% are 0-14.

We'll say goblins have 40% kids of 0-14 due to high fatality and birth rates. That'd leave 56% adults, and 4% elderly.

Goblins don't grow old, so that's an extra 4% of the population for labour, making it 60%.


We'll say working age starts at 7 for a goblin. That's means half of the 0-14 age bracket is added to their work force (that is an extra 20% of the population). That makes it 80%.

So while the USA has 66% of its population of working age, goblins have 80% of theirs of working age. That means for every five American workers, the goblins have six (per capita).

Replacing Women at Home

Something the Germans are often criticized for in the world wars, is not making use of their women in the war effort. Which is silly... the women were doing a lot of the farm work and other jobs necessary to keep a civilization working, the Germans had already exhausted all extra hands.

So, even though goblins have twice the available potential recruits, that doesn't necessarily mean twice the army size. Who is going to farm? Who will care for their kids and babies while they're away? Who will have children to replace war losses? If you send out all available adults, you better win that war fast--or your community will be destroyed.

You can get around some of this by details like having group homes for children, and wrangling up the infirm and too young goblins to perform various jobs. They won't perform them well, but then do goblins ever perform them well?

If half the population must stay at home

So, if we assume Germany could not spare one woman to fight (not without a man taking her place at home), we're looking at 13.34% of the goblin population able to fight.

On the bright side, the goblins have twice the recruiting pool to pick from, to increase the quality of their troops.

That is... if goblins ever do make quality troops.

If a Third of Women can Fight

Conversely, if you assumed that the Germans could've drafted a third of their working age women to fight, as well as a third of their working age men, then you'd be looking at an army of 26.67% of the goblin population, over a quarter.

Total War Population

So, if pushed to World War extremes, the goblins can probably muster between 13% and 26% of their population, depending on how you handle that last question. In the larger case, that's over twice the amount humans can muster (per capita). And in the smaller case, that's 118% of human troops.

But we have another variable we'll want to add to this:


But now we need to consider people unable to work or fight due to medical conditions.

From what I can find, between 10% and 30% of the working age population is physically or mentally disabled, in modern states and countries.

The goblins, having poor medical care, health issues, work-safety issues, ought to have a high percentage (most would only be missing fingers or such, reducing their work efficiency but still letting them work).

At the same time, though, goblins disdain their weaker members. So we ought to see a lot less cripples, who end up starving or even being killed. Those disabled goblins who remain are probably tough as nuts and good at an occupation, or are living on the edges of society (virtually dead, to the system).

We could even try to calculate how much of the population is effectively lost to minor disabilities. Where, if ten goblins work 10% slower due to lost fingers, that's the same as having one less goblin, in theory.

In the end, I'll say goblins have 15% of their working population in cripples.

So 80% - 15% = 68%. 68% / 3 = 22.67% War population, or 11.335% if half the population must remain at home.

You can adjust the percentage of cripples in their society (Nazi goblins who kill off their cripples, for instance) to get different results. Even up to half the goblin population being crippled, so that only 13% of the population can be brought to war.

North Korean Method

And if they did decide to be like North Korea, and have all the able bodied persons fighting (using stockpiled food and ammunition etc):

At 15% cripples, that means a few months with about 68% of their population fighting.

Of course, that doesn't take into account things like the local garrison, caretakers for the children, and people needed for other jobs to stop your cities becoming inhabited with wild beasts and mildew.

Looking at North Korea, they apparently plan to raise about 30% of their population, relying on stored ammo and food.


By my reckoning, the goblins could muster between 26% and 11% of their population. Depending on how many people they want to stay at home, and how many have infirmities.

If they decided recruit their farmers and factory workers, relying on stockpiles of ammunition and food to fight, they might muster anything between 68% and 80%.

And that compares to an estimated 11% of the population, for industrial humans in a total war scenario. North Korea from what I hear plans to raise almost 30% of its population for war, by using stored food and ammo.

NOTE: This is for a World War/Total War situation. For smaller conflicts, armies tend to consist of much smaller percentages of the population.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What a stellar answer! Good real world analogies, good math. Well done. My only addendum: the crippled goblin expendable shock troops. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Will XD That's a reasonable point. I'm glad you like the answer. Largely, I think the cripples would be too much trouble to bring along as shock troops, as already the goblins have an awful lot of soldiers for their logistics to try and support. Though Russian style penal squads sent to charge across minefields would be a thing. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree with the basic idea. Yes modern wars need a lot of manpower in the war industries. But pre-modern wars required lots and lots of manpower just to keep the people feed (and the did not always succeed). The increase of productivity from industralization allowed bigger armies than ever to be raised, pre-modern armies could use only a smaller percent of their population. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 10:12

All of them, including the goats and chickens

If you've ever been attacked by an angry hen you'll know it's no laughing matter.

It's a hard life in the tunnels, they don't venture out into the daylight much but that doesn't stop murderhobos from wandering in in search of treasure and other easy pickings.

Goblins are short, nasty, and violent, just like their lives. They live permanently on the edge of survival. Every fight they get into is a fight for survival and everybody fights. They're not known to die of old age because almost always something gets them first. Whether the marauding "adventurers" from the outside or something even more horrible from the deeper darkness of the tunnels they live in.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Is this a reference to the D'reg in Disc World, where the men, women, children, and the hens would all charge their enemies at dawn? $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 13:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Johnny, it's a mix of the D'regs and the Goblins $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 13:55
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If I remember right the line is Nasty, brutish, and short, but also one of my friends had a cockerel, called Sue of course, that was absolutely savage. It was dangerous to go outside when he was out. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 13:56
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix I thought Nasty, Brutish and Short was a law firm specializing in divorce... $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion They also do contingency based personal injury...at least until Short got Dis-barred. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 15:18

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