Why play Goblinoids?
That’s a very good question. I’m sure a lot of us loved Sam Riegal’s Nott from Critical Role. And some of us relish in playing the awkward, socially repulsive train wreck that the many of the goblinoids are. But, after the appeal of the funny voices and scaring the commoners wears off, what is there? Well, for both flavor and stats, there’s plenty.
Each of the three goblinoid races have their own wheelhouse to play in. And the options you take advantage of, what class you choose and how you build your character has a lot to do with whether you are going for optimum build or for more storyline or flavor.
As for optimum?
Goblins are built to be rogues. With a small build that can squeeze into tighter areas, Darkvision of 60, extra damage with Fury of the Small and the natural ability to take a bonus action Disengage/Hide, it’s hard to look any further. Add to that their plus to Dexterity and they make quick thieves. The new Rogish Archtypes in Tasha’s (SoulKnife and Phantom) would make great fits. My choice would be the Swashbuckler Rogue though for the ‘pirate’ flavor with the finesse weapons.
Bugbears make natural assassins. Although a lot bigger, they add 2d6 damage onto the first sneak attack every combat and have natural proficiency in the Stealth skill. Add to that their 10 foot reach on melee attacks and the ability to carry more loot and they make amazing partners in crime.
Hobgoblins are natural leaders for the goblinoids. This is mainly because they were chosen by their god ksldksdfj to be just that. Their smarter and sturdier than the others, they bring Martial Training with two weapons and light armor and gain bonus’ to an attack roll or ability check once per long or short rest equal to the number of allies they can see within 30 feet. This makes them generals among the rabble.
But maybe for flavor, character development and storyline you want to try something a bit different. Well, we, at The Magic Tavern. Like to think outside the box of optimization where we can build an amazing character that may not be the top build but can still be a fun, viable character.
Some might think shoving the Goblins into rogue is a bit wasteful; seeing that you make the rogue’s Cunning Action obsolete. Where else can we put the Goblin’s Dexterity to use?
Maybe a Goblin Beastmaster Ranger? Dexterity is the first suggestion in the quick build ala phb. A lone goblin could totally hold up in the deep of the forest; finding a friend and/or friends (or animal companions) in the strangest of places. My first thought is the Worg. I mean, it’s a natural fit but the Worg is a ½ CR and a bit big for an animal companion. I’d say take advantage of the option in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Art work via Paizo
The 3rd level option for Beast Master is Primal Companion which replaces the Ranger’s Companion feature. You’re given three options: Beast of the Land, Beast of the Sea or Beast of the Air. These are also given quite specific numbers which seems a bit odd, at first, but, then, I realized that you get to pick the form of the creature. THEREFORE, you may choose Beast of the Land and skin it to look like a Worg. Since it does what you say and your character is one size smaller, you can also make it your mount. It doesn’t hurt that you can change out your ‘Primal Companion’ when needed (between rests) for adventures that need air or sea companions. Pretty nifty.
ALSO, could you imagine a Goblin Ranger with the Blind Fighting Style option in Tasha’s?
Now, Fighter isn’t the first thing you think of when you think of goblins, but with that Dexterity bonus, it’s not that impossible. Just stay with finesse or ranged weapons and pick up some of the suggested builds from Tasha’s. Outrider or Skirmisher would work best using Archery or Thrown Weapon Fighting.
Pic from RPG Stock Art
If you can build a decent Wisdom score into your goblin character, Druid would be a good way to go. You already have the Con pump to help and pick the Hermit background to boot. Add to that the Circle of Spores which, to me, is SO goblin. Their short to the ground and mushrooms are found above and underdark so your goblin growing to become one with the fungus makes total sense.
Wizard is a bit rare among the Goblins. All magic is “Booyahg” to the goblins and can come in so many forms. But PCs are already the exceptions in their societies. So your character may have been an assistant to a Hobgoblin or other race of wizard and, seeing that the practice of such power is above your character’s pay scale socially, you had to sneak a peak and learn without alerting your higher ups.
Goblins, I think, have an attraction for bling of all sort. And one of the forms of Booyahg Volo’s mentions is the ‘Wielder’ (Volo’s Guide) which centers on your character finding a magic item. I could see a goblin wizard centering on Abjuration magic aka protection out of fear and a bad self-esteem and totally maxing out magic items to this end.
Bugbears may make great Assassin Rogues, but being stronger and having greater reach than everyone else also makes them amazing martial characters.
With the strength bonus, you could turn this goblinoid into a Tank Fighter. You could start with picking up either Great Weapon Fighting, Two-Weapon Fighting or take on one of the options in Tasha’s; Superior Technique. That last little caveat creates a well-honed machine out of the Bugbear. Looking at the ecology of the goblinoids, Bugbears are the heart of the war machine. So making your Bugbear character a seasoned, trained warrior makes total sense. And, in some societies, seeing a massive Bugbear coming at you will bring on that intimidate roll.
On the same point, your Bugbear would make a great Paladin. Although they have no use for religious leaders (So a cleric seems out of the question), they are a devoted and determined sort. So taking an oath of any sort would be just a way of life for them. And, once the oath is taken, it would take heaven and earth to move the bugbear off of it.
Hobgolins could also be great Paladins; even more so than their cousins, the Bugbears. These goblinoids are a strong, rigid group. Once again, they would make great trained fighters, but also seemed disciplined enough to learn the magical arts. Also, where a Patron would be reluctant to lend power to a goblin, Hobgoblins are a more reliable to their word. Therefore, I believe a Hobgoblin Warlock would make grand sense.
As always, dropping these bad boys into any class can work. Some better than others. But it’s not always about optimization. A great deal of the time, it’s a lot of fun to just try something out of norm and build a unique character.
And speaking of ‘out of the box’ ideas. Let’s look at some options for Goblinoid from D&D past editions that would make great flavor for creating that PC goblinoid. Homebrewing these options may take a bit of work, but I believe it would be well worth it.
Now most of your janky options for Goblinoid come from the incessive experimentation upon them by more powerful, oppressive entities. The first of these entities is an Alhoon named the Beast Master. Now, an Alhoon is like taking your worst nightmare and giving it more power and a longer life. They are MindFlayers that defy the Elder Brain and, not only, learn magic, but achieve Lichdom. The end result is the nightmare of your nightmares. (Yes, I feel an article coming) One such nightmare who called itself BEAST MASTER experimented on goblins to make them a more adequate servant/slave.
Dekanter Goblins were developed to be fierce protectors of their master. Yes, I said fearless. Part of this courage came from the power of their boss. But, part of their breeding made them naturally ready to rush into battle. Besides that major point, the only other thing that really differentiated them from the run-of-the-mill goblin was a rhinoceros-like horn protruding from their face. Not surprisingly, the horn was not just an ornament and was a major reason for them to rush into the frey. The horn gave them a natural gore attack.
Dekanter’s may be goblinoid, but the seasoned adventurer would still be hard pressed to recognize them as such. They are as thick as they are wide with orange-red skin and a lion-like black mane. They tend to be stronger than their ancestors and just as sturdy.
As a Dekanter separated from his master, playing this creature as a PC would be as viable as any goblinoid. In fact, more so. This creature has been bred to fight without fear. So, any martial class would be an obvious. I’ve included a prototype stat block for starters. Seeing that the Alhoon was a rebel himself, he may have taken on one of his smarter servants as a student of the outlaw magic he mastered. Warlock would also make sense; taking Beast Master as his benefactor using the Undying Patron option. Although these goblinoids are distinct to Faerun, the power of your master could have dropped you in any world setting. Whether the Dekanter stays loyal is on you.
Source: Monstrous Comendium: Monsters of Faerun and Volo’s Guide
The dominant god of the goblinoids, Maglubiyet, made a grave mistake in betraying 17 oaths made to the General of Gehenna. The General’s response was the Barghest; fiendish, shapeshifting goblin hunters (See Volos p.123). But fate and nature went one step too far. Breeding occurred between the hunter and prey (goblins and Barshast) creating a fiendish subtype of goblin called the Worghest.
Sporting darker skin and hair, these fiendish goblin hybrids also had a limited ability to shapeshift into a wolf. If it was just that, there would be no reason to go any further. But the lineage of the Worghest may pass down more than a demonic look. Their ancestor, the Barghest, were created with a purpose to hunt goblins. On top of this, they each have been assigned to find and devour 17 goblin souls as well as their bodies. This ability, called FEED, is described thusly:
Feed: When a barghest/Worghest slays a humanoid opponent, it can feed on the corpse, devouring both flesh and life force, as a full-round action. Feeding destroys the victim’s body and prevents any form of raising or resurrection that requires part of the corpse. There is a 50% chance that a wish, miracle, or true resurrection spell can restore a devoured victim to life. Check once for each destroyed creature. If the check fails, the creature cannot be brought back to life by mortal magic.
The Worghest doesn’t gain the level raising part of this that the Barghest does. However, when they use FEED, they gain the attributes of Death Knell as they gain 1d8 temporary hit points and a +2 bonus to Strength.
Now, under caution, the Dm could allow a Worghest PC. They could easily fit as a Warlock with the General of Ghenna as their patron using the Fiend Patron. But giving a PC the ability to drain life force as well as the visual of them devouring their enemies could be a team breaker among most other PCs unless, of course, you’re running a purely evil campaign in which a PC Worghest Warlock might work.
They would fit better as a leveled up NPC minion (Pictured Above) attempting to assassinate one or more PCs for their master. What you did to piss of the General of Ghenna is on you. But, in an encounter with this vicious creature, if you fail to stop it, it may devour one of your team. An adventure where you have to chase this beast down before it fulfills his ancestor’s goal of devouring 17 beings equal or greater than it would be quite interesting. You run the gambit of having to chase this thing onto the plane, Ghenna, itself so make sure it’s worth it.
Sources: Dragon Magazine #350
These blue, furry goblinoids may be found living among their other cousins, but they are not subtypes of any of them. They are actually their own race, but not much is written about them which gives the DM and player alike a lot of room to work. What we do know is that they are born with psionic abilities and are both revered and feared among the goblinoid hoards. They are naturally paranoid and would be prone to flee their own if they feel threatened.
So playing a BLUE as a PC is not much of a stretch. You simply use numbers given in Volo’s for goblin and maybe flip the +2 from strength to intelligence. There isn’t much given for Psionics in 5E. But it’s very easy to reskin spells as psionic. The Aberrant Mind sorcerous origin would be perfect for this type of PC. Quite possibly, instead of some touch from some dark power, you were, instead, born with these abilities. But making the connection like those given in Tasha’s would make for some great storylines.
Source: 3E Psionic Handbook
Norkers are another cousin akin to the goblin and hobgoblin. There’s not much to thse creatures that you don’t get from the regular goblin. But, in the write up in Dragon, they are recorded as forsaking armor. But there’s a reason. These goblinoids are born with a naturally thick, tough hide. In an attempt to translate it to 5E, the bonus’ via racial traits would be +1 Dex, +2 Con. They retain all of the other traits of the goblin but switch the Nimble Escape with:
Unarmored Defense: While you are not wearing any armor, your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier. You can use a Shield and still gain this benefit.
This works like the Barbarian option and the pluses to Dex and Con will aid this. They make great fighters and rogues as well as Clerics. I think they would make great monks or wizards as they already shun armor, but as barbarians the variant ability above would be redundant.
Source: Dragon Magazine #343
I saved the best till last. Using goblins as servants or armed fodder can be a dangerous gamble. You never know if you’ll roll the dice and come up snake eyes. For there’s always a small percentage chance you will accidently invite a Nilbog into your midst. Goblin spelled backwards; they are truly everything you don’t expect out of the usual repulsive riffraff. In fact, the Nilbog isn’t a race or subrace. The Nilbog is a possessing spirit.
Pic from Volo’s Guide to Monsters
You see, Maglubiyet (as stated before) took great pleasure either destroying or beating into submission all of the other goblin gods. However, one rebel power remains. Never spoke of by name, a trickster deity lurks in the shadows and secretly leads a quiet rebellion. Its spirit possesses a chosen goblin and emboldens them to acts of sabotage and treason. They are chosen, not born; which makes this option a great choice for warlock. Better yet, a Nilbog would make a great cleric of this unseen trickster god empowered by the Trickery domain.
Playing a Nilbog as a PC, you could switch the Nimble Escape feature of the goblin traits with the Nilbogism power from Volo’s. Better yet, play a cleric of the trickery domain and switch the Blessing of the Trickster with this potent power. Or, as a Warlock PC, drop the Dark One’s Blessing for it. There’s plenty of ways to work it in.
Other than that, its stats are that of a common Goblin. And by all optics, your PC is a normal goblin. And, if you can convince others of this, they will be easier patsy’s or prey.
Source: Volo’s Guide to Monsters
This little journey of research has given me a whole hoard of ideas for future games and I hope it was a help to you also. If any of these options appeal to you and you would like to see these fleshed out, let us know. We’re gearing up our patron to do these types of things and would like some feedback. Also watch toward the beginning of the year for our unique Warforged options book.