Goblins – DM’s Pocket Guide
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Tricia: Today we are going to talk about goblins!
Rachel: Goblins. Gobbos.
T: Little gobbos! They are on page 165 and 166 of the Monster Manual. They are, you know, stereotypical goblins. It’s usually in the first couple of adventures that happen in a D&D party, you’re gonna run into some goblins. But how well do you actually know them?
R: I mean, I think pretty well.
T: Well, let’s see. We’re gonna start with their stat block and then move into the story. So goblins are small humanoids that are neutral evil.
Rachel: Oh, just straight out evil. But neutral about it.
T: Yeah, they’re not particularly lawful or chaotic, just out for themselves.
R: Middle of the road evil.
T: Yeah. They have an armor class of 15 with only 7 hit points.
T: Very squishy, and a speed of 30 feet. So pretty normal. As far as their individual ability stats go, they’re strongest in dexterity, and everything else is pretty average or bad.
R: Yeah, so if you’re thinking of them as small little nimble creatures.
T: Yes. And specifically stealthy, because their only skill is that they have a +6 to Stealth.
R: Oh, wow. That’s pretty good.
T: They also have dark vision and a passive perception of 9, which is not good.
R: No, that’s not. You can definitely sneak up on a goblin.
T: Yes. But they are going to be able to see in the dark, which you may or may not, especially if you’re playing like level one characters.
R: Okay. Oh, yeah. Darkvision up to 60 feet.
T: Yeah. They can speak Common and Goblin. So you can do what you want with that.
R: Oh, yeah, that’s interesting. I definitely had where I’ve had my players encounter goblins, and then had a language barrier between them. But I guess what this is saying is the goblins can make themselves understood to human or yeah, to speak Common if they want to.
T: And then they have a challenge rating of 1/4. So as we said before, extremely squishy.
R: It’s almost as low as it goes.
T: Yes. Goblins have a feature called Nimble Escape, which fits in with what we know of them, where the goblin can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
R: Oh, that’s cool. I can imagine like a goblin running up and attacking and then like kicking someone in the shin and running away and hiding, right?
T: Yes, yeah. So that’s going to be I think the thing that often is missed with goblins that we will come back to. These are not creatures that are just going to stand there and fight to the death. They’re going to try to get in, there get out.
R: Yeah, goblins have high sense of self-preservation.
T: Yes. And as far as actions go, they have both a scimitar and a short bow that they can use to attack. They only get +4 to hit and +2 on their damage. So they’re not the strongest, but they do have both melee weapons and long-range weapons.
R: And they’re rolling a d6 with the damage plus their Dex scores.
T: So as you’re playing goblins, I think the thing to note is they are not very strong individually. So goblins, if you’re using them in your games, it is going to be about the number – the quantity – of goblins, not the quality. They’re a good one to have waves upon waves if your characters accidentally wipe them out too quickly. You’re like, ah, six more goblins pour out of the tunnels!
R: Ambushes, I think. That works in the goblin favour. If you think of the sneakiness and their want for self-preservation. They’re always going to make sure that odds are in their favor before they do something.
T: Yeah, I think self-preservation is a good term to keep in mind with goblins. They are not going to just run out and die in big heaps. They’re going to try to overwhelm players and try to get out of there if they sense that they’re not going to win. So as far as the kind of lore around goblins goes, which is on 165 of the Monster Manual, goblins are described as small, black-hearted, selfish humanoids. They live in caves, abandoned mines and despoiled dungeons. So that makes them ideal D&D characters. This also specifically mentions that they’re individually weak, but they do gather in large groups. So that is where their power comes from. They have related beings like hobgoblins and bugbears that are their stronger cousins. These are the creatures that often end up as like the warlords or the chieftains of goblin tribes.
R: Yeah, I’ve definitely seen a few adventures with that kind of dynamic setup already.
T: I do think that’s a good way to go of, oh, it’s five goblins and one hobgoblin or mixing things up a little bit. Goblins are also just super cute, in my book, because the next section is called “Malicious Glee.” They’re motivated by greed and malice, and they can’t help but celebrate the few times they have the upper hand. They dance and caper with sheer joy when victory is theirs. So I think some of these qualities are why I have definitely played in a couple of campaigns where goblins were adopted by the adventuring party.
R: And once you get past a certain level of like, player character level and goblins just don’t pose any kind of threat, the lean towards adoption is very great.
T: Yes, yes. Some interesting bits that are also mentioned is the fact that goblins tend to festoon their lairs with alarms designed to signal the arrival of intruders. And they also have narrow tunnels, bolt holes, continuing with that theme of – goblins are always looking for a way out. So I think when designing places and locations where goblins are, it’s good to keep that in mind, that they are going to have some sort of system setup to try to like warn themselves of intruders and they’re going to have a backup plan of how to get away.
R: Yeah, for sure.
T: And then they also are noted to have an affinity with rats and wolves, which I feel like I have seen goblins and wolves, but not so much rats.
R: Oh, interesting. I think I’ve seen either, actually.
T: Like, you know, like goblins on wolves – wolf riders. Lord-of-the-Rings-esque, the wargs!
R: Oh, right. Yes. Okay. I think of those things as goblins. I suppose I should.
T: So I like that as just kind of flavor that you can always kind of have some rats and wolves in a goblin lair. That’s nice. And then the most unusual thing that I had never heard about was that goblins worship Maglubiyet.
R: Mag-what? I’m sorry.
T: The mighty one, the lord of depths and darkness.
R: Oh my goodness.
T: And so this is the god of goblinoids, which is pictured as an 11-foot tall battle-scarred goblin with black skin and fire erupting from his eyes.
T: He’s worshipped not out of adoration, but fear. And in fact, goblins believe that when they die, their spirits will join in his army. And they don’t want that to happen. They fear this.
R: Oh, so they want to live as long as possible. Yeah.
T: Yeah! Which is also really sad. These poor guys are anticipating, like, an eternity of service to this terrifying warlord.
R: Wow, that is really good motivation to stay alive.
T: Yes. And I do also like – I don’t ever think of goblins as religious creatures. So I think that is an interesting way to incorporate some of that in there. Like I’m picturing players dressing up as Maglubiyet and scaring the bejeezus out of them.
R: Oh, man, if we found your next Halloween costume?
T: Yes, Maglubiyet! And that is Goblins, on pages 165 and 166 of the Monster Manual.
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