We craft layers between ourselves and our experiences. Goblins attacked the village is the immediate situation. Goblins make fireworks, they’re humorous, they work for orcs and are related to bugbears. We’re in a d&d game, there’s an expectation that gold is involved. These the layers upon this situation.
Forget everything about d&d. Your village was attacked by the strangers over the hill who you don’t understand. People you love have been hurt. It’s senseless and brutal. Strip it all away until only the emotions of the experience remain. Then evoke them. What is a goblin? There are at least 5 types of pop culture goblins. Strip away ephemera from the idea of a goblin. They’re small, cowardly and gross. Cruel in a way only children can be. I base them on urchin gangs, 7-year-old bullies and the hobby of pulling wings off flies. Find this essential element and strip off layers until it can be expressed more fully.
Self-referential d&d fiction removes us from the power of fantasy. A strong idea is diluted by decades of lore building until we only interact with situations by relating them to tropes or fiction we’ve read. We stop experiencing a gang of child-like monsters ambushing our loved ones in the woods and instead experience a generic goblin attack. We should all dive deeper than the toxic soup called nerd culture.