Learn about the cunning creatures known as Goblins
What are Goblins in D&D 5e?
Goblins are creatures originally from the Feywild that have since spread throughout the Planes of Existence. They are small and aggressive creatures that take on the attitudes of their evil god Maglubiyet (though many Goblins have turned away from Maglubiyet and are integrating into wider civilisation).
Because of their diminutive stature, it’s difficult for Goblins to find their place in the world. Most other aggressive creatures are bigger and stronger than Goblins. This has led to Goblins adopting a couple of over-riding character traits:
- They bully those few that are weaker than them, often turning them into slaves.
- They tend to use cunning far more than brute strength when it comes to beating their opponents. This often means creating traps and using stealth as a means of hunting.
Goblins are a playable race in D&D 5e and quite an effective one too. You can learn more about them and how to use them effectively in our guide below.
Goblin Features in 5e
|Ability Scores||+2 to one ability score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different ability scores|
|Lifespan||About 60 years|
|Languages||Common and 1 other|
|Traits||Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, Fury of the Small, Nimble Escape|
|Book found in||Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse|
If you want to play as a Goblin, your character will have the following traits and abilities:
Darkvision – You are able to see up to 60ft in darkness as if it’s dim light and in dim light as if it were bright light, though can only do so in shades of grey.
Fey Ancestry – You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed.
Fury of the Small – When you damage a creature with an attack or a spell and the creature is of a size larger than yourself, you can cause extra damage equal to your proficiency bonus on the creature. This ability can be used a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus with all uses regained once you complete a long rest. This ability can only be used once per turn.
Nimble Escape – You can take the disengage or hide action as a bonus action on each of your turns.
How to play as a Goblin
Goblins are built to slip out of combat while adding a bit of extra damage. I’d focus on the below tactics when playing as a Goblin:
- Fight the big stuff – You don’t get your bonus damage from fury of the small if you attack something of your size (or smaller) so focus your attacks on larger creatures if you can. Fortunately, this isn’t too hard as most creatures are larger than Goblins.
- Keeping safe – Nimble escape is a slightly weaker version of a rogue’s cunning action (it doesn’t give you the dash option). It remains great though as you can still make an attack or cast a spell and then slip away from your enemy with disengage or hide from site without using up your action.
Best classes for Goblins
Really, we’re looking at classes that want to be causing damage, but don’t want to be overwhelmed by enemies. The classic versions of this playstyle are rogues and monks. Unfortunately, both these classes already have abilities geared towards slipping in and out of combat making some of a Goblin’s abilities redundant.
The other way to use nimble escape is for characters you wouldn’t want involved in melee at all to be able to slip away easily. Fury of the small is flexible enough that it can be used for weapon attacks or spell attacks so can be used by spellcasters too.
The classes with the most to benefit from this playstyle are:
The most effective pairings here are probably hexblade warlocks and artificers (especially armorers and battle smiths). None of them are as tough as most frontline warriors, but all of them are damage focused.
Fighters are perhaps the outlier here as they don’t need something like nimble escape much for protection as they’re the archetypal tank of the party. The tactics here are a little more complex though as fighters can more easily have access to a range of feats that make positioning on the battlefield helpful. Feats like sentinel and polearm master allow you to make great use of opportunity attacks and by moving out of range of enemies, they will then have to re-engage you, giving you the change to use that too rare reaction of yours.
For spellcasting melee classes like the Eldritch Knight, battle smith and armorer, booming blade can be used very effectively in conjunction with nimble escape. Just cast the spell, make the attack then move out the way, forcing the enemy to move to attack you and receiving the extra damage. Of course, once your extra attack kicks in, making 2 attacks becomes a more effective tactic, but before level 5, this is a great way to gain extra damage.
It’s also worth noting that fury of the small and nimble escape likely work while in wild shape making druids a great option too.
Worst classes for goblins
The big ability for goblins is their nimble escape. It’s very useful, but the same effect can be gained through rogue and monk abilities making this ability wasted on these 2 classes. Barbarians are also a poor option for goblins as you’ll rarely want to move in and out of combat though at least the small damage boost from fury of the small remains useful.
Goblins are short creatures, standing about 3-4ft high and weighing about 40-55 pounds. They have flat faces with pointed features and sharp teeth. Most goblins have green skin, though colour does vary between yellow, orange and red as well. Skin colour tends to match between members of the same clan.
Goblins live in a world filled with much larger creatures than they are. This has forced Goblins to find ways to survive despite their small size. On top of this, their god, Maglubiyet, often demands his subjects honour him through violence. This means, in order to fulfil Maglubiyet’s wishes, that many Goblins use stealth, deception and cunning to perform Maglubiyet’s violent desires. Of course, there are many creatures smaller and weaker than Goblins in the D&D universe. When Goblins come across such creatures, they enjoy nothing more than bullying them in the way others do to them.
More recently however, many Goblins have turned from Maglubiyet, instead choosing to strike out on their own or even worship other gods. Such Goblins typically retain their cunning and stealthy approach, but are not necessarily driven by such violent desires to please their god. This doesn’t mean that all such Goblins are good, simply that they aren’t bound by the whims of Maglubiyet.
In addition, Goblins have their own complex societies. Lashers and hunters (the noble and warrior castes of Goblin society) are quite aggressive. However, the other castes tend to be more placid like the gatherers and pariahs. This allows you a broad range of personalities to choose from when creating your Goblin.
Goblin names, at least to some degree, tend to reflect their hierarchy in the Goblin caste system. Goblins of lower station like pariahs, will tend to have shorter and softer names while Goblins of a higher position will have tougher sounding names that almost reflect what they do.
Male Goblin names: Srebnalk, Xiagluld, Trizick, Iz Iz, Hunter, Caatterd, Uu’rvath, Grutaat, Blung, Drarm, Shrabs, Tik, Riobs, Oiq, Hooq, Moka, Vic
Female Goblin names: Gliokkolsia, Kilzea, Fughszea, Hokoiszea, Bhaftaaz, Pakipak, Criotnalmee, Khinkea, Gryh, Tamif, Labuf, Ghrish, Duzz, Vanks, Zarl’uh, Sharx
Other goblinoid subraces
How to roleplay as a Goblin
If you’re playing as a Goblin, you’ll likely want to approach situations as the little guy. You’re probably not going to muscle your way through a situation. Instead, you’re much more likely to use a cunning plan to gain the upper hand. Perhaps that’s setting a trap, using stealth or avoiding conflict altogether.
When encountering smaller or weaker folk than yourself, you’ll likely come out of your shell a lot more, feeling more self-confident and brash. This may manifest as bullying behaviour, but it may also simply display itself as bravado depending on your Goblin’s outlook on life.
Below are a few ideas of how you could roleplay your Goblin:
- The bully – Like most bullies, you’ve learnt from experience. Maybe the Hobgoblins and Bugbears bullied you and this is your way of establishing some kind of control over your station. Of course, when you encounter someone tougher than you, your behaviour becomes borderline sycophantic! Be careful with this playstyle that you don’t ruffle the party too much. Perhaps there are opportunities here for character development as party members take you under their wing and you become more compassionate.
- Disillusioned – Maglubiyet is a nasty piece of work and you’ve decided he’s not worth worshipping. But without the religion you’ve been raised with your whole life, what is your purpose? Perhaps you seek a new god to worship, or maybe you’ve been put off religion altogether.
- Hero of the small people – There are many tales of great elven wizards, powerful dwarven warriors and heroes of humankind, but where are all the Goblin heroes? There aren’t many tales of the heroic small peoples of the land and even less of Goblins. You’ve set off to become that hero. The one Goblin mothers will tell their children about and inspire them to feats of great herosim.
If I hit multiple targets with an area of effect spell, are they all affected by fury of the small?
No. The extra damage from fury of the small specifically talks about the damage added against a creature, not extra damage to the attack. This means area of effect spells like fireball won’t add extra damage to each creature hit by the fireball as only 1 creature can be affected by fury of the small at a time.
Can you play as a goblin in D&D?
Yes you can. Although they’re often positioned as monsters and enemies, goblins do in fact have their own societies and are capable of advanced thought. They were first introduced as a playable race in D&D 5e in Volo’s Guide to Monsters and have since had their rules updated and republished in Monsters of the Multiverse. In D&D, Goblins are not always evil either and they actually have a very wide-ranging culture and individual personalities.