Best of the Beastiary, D&D

Goblins: You Know ‘Em, You Love ‘Em

If you want soldiers or thugs, hire hobgoblins. If you want someone clubbed to death in their sleep, hire bugbears. If you want mean little fools, hire goblins.

Stalman Klim, slave lord

Weird question: what’s your default goblin sound? Is it odd cackling? Or a sort of high-pitched grunting? I always make a weird ‘hyegh-hyegh’ kind of noise in the back of my throat. Only not at all like that because describing it with text really doesn’t do it justice and- this whole tangent is a big waste of time, isn’t it?

Goblins are almost as much a staple in Dungeons and Dragons as beholders or dragons. While there are plenty of low-level enemies in the book, goblins are the most commonly picked ones by DMs. At least in my experience. That’s party why I try to avoid them whenever I start a new campaign with anyone.

Lore: Sneaky Power Mongers

Weak on their own but strong in numbers, these black-hearted creatures are a common plague across the land. Goblins dwell in caves, gathering in numbers until they become too overwhelming a force to deal with. They hunger for power, which they’d happily abuse the moment they have it. They belong to the same family of beings as hobgoblins and bugbears. Although they are much lazier and less disciplined than their cousins.

Goblins are motivated entirely by their greed and desire. Fortunately, they are too weak to often attain it. Which is why they’ll celebrate what few victories they do have in lavish celebrations. Once those have died down, they take to torturing other creatures, from small animals to those they achieved their victory over.

The smartest and strongest among a goblin clan are those that become leaders. There are many of these with many different titles. A boss, for example, might lead a single clan, while a king leads many (although they are mostly just a glorified boss). However, they are easily ousted and goblin tribes are often taken over by bugbears or hobgoblins.

Their lairs are riddled with traps and alarms, making it difficult for anyone to sneak inside. On top of that, they’re filled with very small tunnels that most humanoids cannot fit inside, allowing goblins to maneuver quickly and easily. These are shared by their favored pets and mounts: rats and wolves, respectively.

Maglubiyet is the god of goblins. Known as the Mighty One and the Lord of Depths and Darkness, he is envisioned by the goblins as an eleven-foot-tall goblin with scarred black skin and fiery eyes. They worship him out of fear rather than faith. They believe that their spirits join his army when they die, an honor that they fear.

The lore is here is fine, but you won’t get much out of it. At best, you’ll get one or two early game encounters and an easy dungeon. If you want to tell a compelling story out of it, you’re out of luck.

Design: A Nasty Classic

Dude, take a shower.

Yeah, that certainly is a goblin. It’s small, it’s nasty (I keep wanting to spell that with a G for some reason, is that weird?) and it looks ready for a fight. A perfectly fine, average looking goblin design.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s just a copy-paste goblin like you could find in any fantasy.

It’s a perfectly fine design. But nothing especially creative or interesting. Next.

Stats: CHAAAAAAANGE PLACES!!

Bree-yark!

Goblin for “We surrender!” (Or so they say)

We’ve got two flavors of goblins here. We’ve got regular goblins and goblin bosses. Let’s have a look at them, shall we?

Regular goblins are among the weakest monsters in the book. Their AC isn’t the worst ever, sure. But it’s HP is so low that it would be a miracle if you didn’t kill it in one shot. Even at level one. Bosses are slightly more durable, with a higher AC and triple the HP. Even still, they’re not incredibly dangerous.

Both have the Nimble Escape ability. With this, they can take the Disengage action or Hide action as a bonus action. Like mini-rogues!

The basic goblin has a scimitar and a shortbow. Both do about as much damage as you’d expect from a starting game enemy. Meanwhile, the boss has a scimitar and a javeline, the ladder of which does less damage than the basic goblin’s shortbow. And the boss has multiattack, but the second attack… has… disadvantage?

I thought the boss was supposed to be better than a regular goblin?

They do have the Redirect Attack reaction, though. When targeted, the goblin can swap places with another goblin within five feet of it. That goblin becomes the target of the attack instead.

Put together, this could make for a fun early-game encounter. Something to make your players feel strong while they cut down regular goblins with ease in pursuit of the cowardly boss. But if you want something challenging, interesting, or especially memorable, you’ll need something else. Goblins are the most basic bitches in the entire book.

Placement

Personally, I’m not much of a goblin fan. Their lore is meh, their design generic, and their stats uninteresting. Of all the enemies to start a campaign with, I find these to be the least interesting of the lot.

With all that in mind, let’s put Goblins on the Best of the Bestiary!

  1. Beholder
  2. Death Tyrant
  3. Dragon Turtle
  4. Green Dragons
  5. Red Dragons
  6. Blue Dragons
  7. Black Dragons
  8. White Dragons
  9. Silver Dragons
  10. Couatl
  11. Behir
  12. Aboleth
  13. Bronze Dragons
  14. Brass Dragons
  15. Copper Dragons
  16. Gold Dragons
  17. Chuul
  18. Gibbering Mouther
  19. Chimera
  20. Death Knight
  21. Fomorian
  22. Bone Devil
  23. Dracolich
  24. Faerie Dragon
  25. Ankheg
  26. Storm Giant
  27. Hill Giant
  28. Empyrean
  29. Efreeti
  30. Dao
  31. Cloud Giant
  32. Drow (all four of ’em)
  33. Shadow Demon
  34. Marilith
  35. Drider
  36. Aarackockra
  37. Azer
  38. Demilich
  39. Spectator
  40. Marid
  41. Cambion
  42. Fire Giant
  43. Animated Armor
  44. Banshee
  45. Basilisk
  46. Yochlol
  47. Bulette
  48. Cloaker
  49. Darkmantle
  50. Doppelganger
  51. Ghoul and Ghast
  52. Ettin
  53. Pit Fiend
  54. Erinyes
  55. Chain Devil
  56. Bearded Devil
  57. Barbed Devil
  58. Spined Devil
  59. Ice Devil
  60. Djinni
  61. Nalfeshnee
  62. Glabrezu
  63. Chasme
  64. Barlgura
  65. Horned Devil
  66. Balor
  67. Shadow Dragon
  68. Vrock
  69. Dretch
  70. Gnolls (all three)
  71. Goristro
  72. Hezrou
  73. Manes
  74. Frost Giant
  75. Duergar
  76. Quasit
  77. Dryad
  78. Flumph
  79. Goblin <————————-
  80. Githyanki
  81. Planetar
  82. Imp
  83. Flameskull
  84. Displacer Beast
  85. Carrion Crawler
  86. Githzerai
  87. Rug of Smothering
  88. Bugbear Chief
  89. Bugbear
  90. Vine Blight
  91. Twig Blight
  92. Needle Blight
  93. Bullywug
  94. Ettercap
  95. Gas Spore
  96. Cockatrice
  97. Lemure
  98. Solar
  99. Deva
  100. Cyclops
  101. Centaur
  102. Ghost
  103. Fire Elemental
  104. Water Elemental
  105. Air Elemental
  106. Stone Giant
  107. Deep Gnome
  108. Dinosaurs (All six of them)
  109. Earth Elemental
  110. Galeb Duhr
  111. Flying Sword
  112. Crawling Claw
  113. Violet Fungus
  114. Shrieker
  115. Gargoyle

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