Endless Spite in a Tiny Little Package
Goblins are angry little monsters, usually eking out an existence raiding and stealing from the fringes of civilization. Each goblin is a tight wound little ball of spite and menace that lives for petty cruelty and selfish indulgence. But they have reason to be so angry. Goblins as a race are the butt of the joke and the runt of the litter and in a real cosmic sense the goblinoid people were left holding the short straw. Not all goblins seek petty revenge for their lot in life though and many goblin heroes have risen above their squalid origins. Playing a goblin can be a great excuse to be truly and selfishly chaotic, or it can be a powerful story arc as your little gribbly monster grows into something noble and selfless. Hold your valuables tightly and descend into the warrens as we go through everything you need to know.
In the eyes of most civilized races the goblins are on a borderline between person and vermin. They are perceived as savage thieves and opportunistic slavers, sadly, the goblins often reinforce this perception. Goblins are often enslaved by larger, smarter, and more cunning rulers, even their patron deity was enslaved making their souls forfeit from their ancestral afterlife. In turn, goblins take every opportunity to gain the upper hand, and relish every opportunity to enslave those weaker than themselves. Goblins test defenses by stealing objects, and when they find weakness, they start stealing people. Goblins perceive themselves as perpetually at the bottom underfoot, and they grasp tightly to any scrap of status or power they can find.
Outsiders are usually surprised to learn that goblin tribes are made up of a rigid caste system. At the top of each tribe is a boss, often a cleric to a goblinoid god or a cunning raid leader whose success has earned them respect, or a cunning backstabber who grabbed control when the last boss died.
Below the boss are the families of “lashers”, which are the closest thing to goblin nobility. Lashers have real skills, like war strategies, spellcasting, weapon forging, or any other skill that takes brains and genuinely helps the tribe survive. These skills make them worthy to hold the lash needed to whip the lower goblins into obedience.
Below the lashers are the “hunters”, goblin families that have the skill to wield a weapon but nothing further. They serve as actual hunters, wolf riders, and often as the soldiers and raiders in any goblin conflict.
Below the hunters are the “gatherers”, responsible for collecting beasts and unfortunate people from their traps. They also farm, gather local foodstuffs, and cook food for the tribe. They aren’t fighters though, they’re responsible for the stereotypical “goblin cowardice” as they will run from danger and leave the fighting to the lashers and hunters.
Below the gatherers are the “pariahs”, the weakest and dumbest that the goblin tribe has to offer. These outcasts are given the worst jobs, like muckraking and cleaning, and their status is barely above that of slaves. They however, in true goblin fashion, love to lord their position over any unfortunates the goblins have enslaved.
Goblins are short and wiry goblinoids with flat faces, red or yellow eyes, bulbous noses, pointed ears, and sharp teeth. Their appearance isn’t helped by their lack of hygiene and they’re usually dressed in dirty leathers or tattered rags. Their skin color ranges through various shades of yellow, orange, and red, occasionally verging into green. Goblin tribes usually have a strong familial link, and most goblins of any given tribe usually share the same skin color. Goblins adore status symbols, and most goblins will bear some item or mark that in some way elevates them in goblin society. This could be anything from a piercing or tattoo, to some precious accessory pilfered from the outside civilization.
When making your goblin character, consider how long your goblin has been adventuring. Have they integrated into another culture? Or are they fresh from their tribe and still covered in muck and grime? Do they have status markings like a nose ring or a stolen gnomish hat? Do they wear tribal tattoos with pride, or do they try to hide their goblinoid identity from the wary eye of authority?
Goblins may well take some roots from hobgoblin naming conventions but it’s difficult to tell what’s unique and what’s a degradation of the tongue. Generally, goblin names are only a few syllables long and favor hard consonants and “z’s”.
Goblin Male Names: Bozaak, Crord, Crurk, Drurrogz, Glalb, Greasz, Lenk, Plutork
Goblin Female Names: Glafsee, Imtiz, Jealx, Kex, Mezz, Nosrix, Qofzea, Vreldai
Your goblin character has the following racial traits.
Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 2 and your Constitution score increases by 1.
Age: Goblins reach adulthood at age 8 and live up to 60 years.
Alignment: Goblins are typically neutral evil, as they care only for their own needs. A few goblins might tend toward good or neutrality, but only rarely.
Size: Goblins are between 3 and 4 feet tall and weigh between 40 and 80 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision: You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Fury of the Small: When you damage a creature with an attack or a spell and the creature’s size is larger than yours, you can cause the attack or spell to deal extra damage to the creature. The extra damage equals your level. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
Nimble Escape: You can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of your turns.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Goblin.
Goblins have a great set of racial traits that work wonders for certain builds, let’s go through them one at a time.
Ability Score Increase: +2 to Dexterity, and +1 to Constitution. Both of these are useful to literally any class (better AC and more HP) but are especially useful to Dexterity-based martial classes like Rogues, Monks, Rangers, and many Fighters.
Age: The goblin lifespan is definitely on the low side. Adulthood at 8 means you can play an adult who isn’t even in their teens yet, or a venerable old codger of 50.
Alignment: Goblins are usually enemies and monsters and cooperating with an adventuring party at all means you’re going against type at least a little. It’ll be up to you to decide if you want to play as a rare “good” goblin, as a gribbly little monster tricked into helping a righteous cause, or as a goblinoid pilgrim along their road to redemption.
Size: You’re small sized, and while that doesn’t have a whole lot of mechanical effects in 5e it does open up narrative opportunities for a clever gribbly. You may find opportunities to gain cover where larger creatures can’t, or pathways too cramped for others to squeeze through.
Speed: I always imagine goblins as quick, but mechanically they have a standard 30 feet. I think this represents them running quite fast on short little legs.
Darkvision: Standard darkvision is always nice to have, but with the goblin’s emphasis on sneaky playstyles you’ll be thankful you can see without a torch.
Fury of the Small: This ability is pure gold. The vast majority of threats you’ll face will be larger than small sized and will be viable targets for your tiny wrath. It recharges on a short rest, and it works on spells, melee attacks, ranged attacks, whatever you’re working with you can just suddenly choose to pack some extra punch. I recommend you use it early and often since a short rest recharge usually means you’ll be able to use it every combat.
Nimble Escape: This is exactly ⅔ of the rogue “cunning action” ability, which presents some odd choices when making your goblin character. Having nimble escape means whatever class you play; you’ll be able to hide and disengage like a rogue. However, if you actually play a rogue this ability is essentially wasted. Goblins still make excellent rogues, but this ability also allows them to play other classes with a major touch of rogue-like playstyle.
Languages: Common and Goblin. Unless your adventure specifically involves a lot of goblins this’ll likely be a throwaway language but you never know what your DM will throw at you.
Playing any class as a goblin is like adding a big dash of rogue to whatever you’re playing. That bonus action hide or disengage can be useful no matter what you’re playing. Goblins lend themselves to Dexterity based martial classes but can also be used as the “sneaky mode” for many casters. Take a look at the following builds for some good starting points for your next goblin character:
Dexterity and Constitution are already good pickups for a ranger, but the “ambush sniper” build gains the most from the goblin’s abilities. Use a shortbow and take the gloom stalker archetype, you’ll be able to take your shots, then fade back into the darkness with the goblin nimble escape ability every turn. And because of the gloom stalker’s umbral sight ability, you’ll be essentially invisible in the darkness, even to creatures with darkvision! This sort of build would normally want to dip 2 levels into rogue to accomplish this but taking goblin as your race gets you to this “shots from nowhere” combat style as early as level 3.
Goblins make for excellent fighters to start with due to their bonuses to Dexterity and Constitution. To make the most of it though, try taking the battle master archetype and choosing the goading attack maneuver. When combined with the goblin’s nimble escape, you can pop into combat, smack your enemy with a goad, then use your bonus action to disengage away to safety. Now your enemy has disadvantage on all their attacks for a turn unless they charge past your allies and suffer all their attacks of opportunity! This build is great mechanically, and gives you ample opportunity to mock your enemies as you dance around the battlefield.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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