Goblins in my setting are around four feet tall, with batlike ears, a keen sense of smell, and lithe, dexterous bodies. They are omnivores, eating slightly more meat than the average human, and their skin is tinted yellow-green or olive. What sort of environment would best suit them?
1$\begingroup$ Are they sapient? Do they have any other additional characteristics that differentiate them from baseline human? $\endgroup$– CumehtarMay 26, 2019 at 22:36
$\begingroup$ Related to this question: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/102815/… $\endgroup$– Liam MorrisMay 26, 2019 at 23:00
3$\begingroup$ Race horse jockeys, child-actor stunt doubles, and pickpockets come to mind. In other words, mostly criminal environments. $\endgroup$– user535733May 26, 2019 at 23:49
Lithe, dexterous, good hearing, short. I would place them somewhere that vision is less important and hearing more. I would place them someplace with many obstacles to straight movement where their dexterity can serve in good stead. A forest or "jungle" would work. If you have a D&D type underworld that would work. A more exotic environment like the stone needles in this answer would work. Tall grasslands might be a good option too, especially if goblins are nocturnal.
Goblins are social. Small omnivores can eat a lot of carrion, like skunks or opossums. There is not much need for them to be super quick or social. If you want them quick then they could catch their food and semi-arboreal hunters in an environment with lots of obstacles could catch birds. Sociality does not help with that kind of hunting. Social omnivores could mean pack hunters.
So: goblins can be pack hunters living in a visually and spatially obstructed / dark environment.
$\begingroup$ jungle even gives a benefit to the coloration. It is one of the few environments where green is good camouflage. $\endgroup$ Jan 11, 2021 at 23:07
A forest environment would be quite good, dense undergrowth blocks line of sight meaning that vision is less important than some other senses. Keen hearing and a good sense of smell would help,them detect prey and predators without seeing them.
Their lithe dexterous nature would help them climb like monkeys or lemurs and skin tone camouflage against some leaves.
2$\begingroup$ Jungle or dense forest would be best, short stature is big disadvantage in grasslands but in dense woods it can work in your favor. $\endgroup$ May 26, 2019 at 23:22
1$\begingroup$ @John: Depends on grass height and leg-power-to-weight ratios. The goblins of the Wherethehellarewi tribe do quite nicely by hiding in the long grass and periodically jumping in the air to check for predators. $\endgroup$ May 27, 2019 at 15:00
1$\begingroup$ @John: I wrote that mostly for the tribe name. I agree with you. :-) $\endgroup$ May 27, 2019 at 15:01
$\begingroup$ Ixalan's Goblins fit this description. $\endgroup$– aloisdgMay 27, 2019 at 15:13
I would assume that the goblins of your setting are sapient tool users. It means, essentially, that they could adapt to any environment, just as humans.
Most of the factors you describe - height, sense of smell, hearing, skin color - do not strike me as essential. What seems to be important are their dietary requirements. If they need more meat in their ration then human, it means they would develop animal husbandry over farming. Farming won't give them the essential nutrients, so it seems the Neolithic revolution won't happen to them - or it would look differently, if it did. So I would expect fishing villages, migratory hunting and herding communities and, possibly, mountain villages with transhumance herding.
It is hard to say anything else about them, because we don't know much about your world - what is the climate and continents, what is the population pressure of your goblins, are there other sapient races that compete for resources and land. If there are other races with farming and bigger population, you can expect your goblins to be pushed to less hospitable areas.
2$\begingroup$ This doesn't really answer the question. humans eventually conquered the world but their are environments we are better adapted for. $\endgroup$ May 26, 2019 at 23:23
$\begingroup$ @John I would say we need to wait for OP to clarify the question. The evolutionarily history of the species and their preferred environments, and the places the species with tool use and domesticated animals would prefer are two different and mostly unconnected questions. If OP wants the answer to the first question, I will take down my answer to avoid confusion. $\endgroup$– CumehtarMay 26, 2019 at 23:43
The homonin species that most closely resembles that was homo floresensis, which lived on a heavily-forested island. The goblins might have started off looking like the real-world “hobbits.” They’re that size and have large ears because they hide a lot; they might hunt fast animals by ambushing, or perhaps they’re not at the top of the food chain. Flores had giant komodo dragons. The sense of smell might be useful for scavengers and the coloration would be good forest camouflage.
Your Goblins are quite similar to Goblins from Goblin Slayer (great anime with a rough start), in GS they tend to live in forests with nearby mountains and human settlements, they make burrows by digging or use old mines/forts.
Just from the fact that yours are green or yellow tinted you can place them in forests, prairies for the green ones because that would help them camouflage, and the yellow ones can be from more arid places (even though the best camouflage color for desert is pink).
Since you haven't said which era your world is I assume that is a medieval one, so I would place them nearby human settlements which they would approach to steal supplies/food, which would make villagers ask adventurers to slay them, which as an story hook for a MC works great specially if you make goblins quite easy to kill if they are lonely but big bastards if they are in a group on a cave.
To add to the other great ideas with a keen sense of smell they also could live in underground tunnels and come only up to hunt. So underground tunnels under a forest in the forest itself they got the advantage because of their colour and because they don't need to see well and they can hide in their tunnels there they have the advantage over any enemy that depends on sight.
I'd say large cave systems. Being short and dextrous makes it easier to move around small tunnels and tight entrances. As most animals who thrive underground, they rely mostly on their hearing and smell than their sight. Light skin, greyish or greenish, also makes sense for environments with little or no light.
As for their diet, it really depends on what else is available in your world. But assuming they are somewhat smart, they could easily get outside (maybe at night, when hearing is enhanced and sight is less important) to hunt or fish.
In general, any biome that doesn't let you rely on sight (lots of obstacles, or lack of light) would work.