Norkers are an obscure species of goblinoid native to Dungeons & Dragons. Originating in the Fiend Folio for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition, they then went on to appear in 2nd edition (Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix), 3rd edition (Living Greyhawk Journal #3, Dungeon Magazine #98, Dragon Magazine #343) and 4th edition (Monster Manual 3).
Norkers are a particularly savage and primitive breed of goblinoid, which may be a primordial relative of the hobgoblin - it's certainly true that, like the varags, hobgoblins readily exploit norkers as shock-troopers in their goblinoid armies. For the most part resembling common goblins, norkers can be distinguished by their complete lack of hair, the 3" canine fangs that extend from their upper jaw, and the stony coloration and gloss of their skin; norkers possess a thick, almost carapace-like hide which is extremely tough - AC 3 in AD&D, natural armor +5 in 3rd edition.
Norkers are something of the black sheep of the goblinoid family tree. Whilst certainly tough and aggressive, they are considered dim-witted, lazy, quarrelsome and nasty even by regular goblins. Which is really saying something about the kind of jerks that norkers are.
These attributes are not mentioned in their Fiend Folio appearance, but did appear to some extent in all other portrayals of them. Norkers build nothing; they can't cooperate long enough and, frankly, they don't usually have the energy to try. As a result, they prefer to conquer small villages or inhabit ruins, which they quickly reduce to foul-smelling, battered squalors with their constant bickering and lack of sanitation. One could call them tribal by nature, but a norker boss's influence starts and ends within arm's reach; only those strong enough to bash heads and bully them into line can motivate some sense of work out of norkers. They can hunt for their food, but they dislike expending the effort, preferring to scavenge, raid and steal.
Incidentally, according to their 2e profile, norkers themselves are edible, if you can get through their hide first.
Stated in some sources to not breed as fast as ordinary goblins, still, the typical norker tribe will contain half-again as many females as adult males, and two or three norker children for every adult male.
Another factor keeping norker populations low is that different tribes of norkers absolutely detest each other. Whilst full-scale warfare rarely erupts, borderlands between two norker tribes quickly become a hotbed of guerilla warfare, with raiding parties fighting to the death and taking the fangs of their kills as trophies.
All in all, one must wonder whether hobgoblins consider norkers or varags to be the worse goblinoid to try and wrangle some use out of.
When norkers appeared in Dragon Magazine #343, they also received a PC writeup for D&D 3rd edition.
- +2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
- Small size
- Base land speed 30 feet
- Darkvision 60 feet
- +4 racial bonus on Move Silently
- +5 Natural Armor Bonus
- Natural Weapon: Bite (1d4 Piercing)
- Level Adjustment: +1? (Monster statblock mentions it, PC statblock doesn't)
- Favored Class: Rogue
In 4th edition, Norkers descend from goblins who stumbled through portals into the Elemental Chaos and sought refuge in earthen mountains and floating islands. There, the elemental energy transformed them into a kind of planetouched; the former goblins assimilated earthen elemental energy, and gained superior strength and their iconic stony hide as a result. They then crossed back into the mortal world, predominantly through the Underdark.
The 4e version of the norker is still aggressive, violent and stupid. However, they've also gained a prominent religious streak, which in turn makes them more servile than norkers of editions past. Norkers are natural worshippers of the malevolent Archomental of earth, Ogremoch, and likewise respond well to the commands of anyone who can demonstratably wield earth elementalism magic. They're prized as guards, frontline troops and laborers, as they combine sheer strength and endurance with fanatical ferocity, unquestioning loyalty, and being too stupid to give away valuable secrets.