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Damage Modifiers in D&D: A Guide To Dispatching Goblins

Ever since D&D began – Goblins, Kobolds, Orcs, and goblinoids have made fantastic bad guys. If the traditional playable races – the Dwarves, Elves, Humans, Gnomes, and Halflings – all represent some form of order, then goblinoids represent the forces of chaos. They are disorderly, brutal, and barbaric. They reflect all the rubbish parts of humanity and, as such, have become one of the staple villainous monster groups of Dungeons and Dragons.

This article actually comes from a damage graph we looked at a few months ago. In the comments, it was suggested (by dave2718) that it would be an interesting idea to see how easily each weapon could kill a standard Goblin in Dungeons and Dragons, and that is the idea behind the article today. What if though, we didn’t just look at how easily each weapon group can kill goblins? What if, instead, we looked at how easily they could take down various different monsters in the game at different modifier levels?

Working Out Damage and Hits

When looking at how easily a weapon can take something out in D&D we need to look at a few different aspects. Realistically, damage is important; however, it is not the be all and end all. Instead, we are going to look at the average damage to work out the average number of hits to take down average monsters. This means we can, for example, look at the base damage groups within D&D and work out our average damage for each landed attack. These are:

  • 1D4 (eg. Dagger)
  • 1D6 (eg. Short Sword)
  • 1D8 (eg. Longsword)
  • 1D10 (eg. Glaive)
  • 1D12 (eg. Pike)
  • 2D6 (eg. Great Sword)
  • 2D8 (eg. Greataxe)

Once we have those we need to decide which monsters we are going to look at. It was originally suggested looking at goblins, and so we are going to take that theme to choose eight monsters that frequently get put together. These aren’t all greenskins or goblinoid, but they do all belong to the same similar group of chaos. This is so much so that some of these are within the same family in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar as well.

For these monsters we need to take their average hit point value. The monsters we will be looking at are –

  • Kobold (5hp)
  • Goblin (7hp)
  • Hobgoblin (11hp)
  • Orc (15hp)
  • Gnoll (22hp)
  • Bugbear (27hp)
  • Ogre (59hp)
  • Hill Giant (105hp)

What this does is give a good scope and, using that, we can take the average damage of various weapons, under various modifiers, to work out how many hits (on average) it would take to bring down each monster. Simple, eh?

The Results – How To Kill A Goblin (Amongst Other Things)

So, this gives us seven graphs – one for each of the weapon groups, and the results are proportional for all. This is what we would expect, but it is interesting to see anyway. For instance, this is looking at the dagger:


So, to take down a Kobold with a -1 dagger would take around 3.4 successful attacks to deal enough damage. With a +5 dagger however, a Kobold dies after just one hit – which is what you would expect since the minimum damage you can do with a +5 dagger is 6hp.

What is more surprising however, is that it would take around 70 hits with a -1 dagger to take down a Hill Giant. That’s 70 attacks that all hit (even with a -1 modifier) just to deal that 105hp damage.

Short Sword

The results are slightly better with a Short Sword, and they steadily improve from there. The Short Sword, on average, won’t kill a Kobold outright with no modifiers; however, once we start looking at a Short Sword +2, then we are looking at an average of 5.5 damage per attack. That will kill the average Kobold in one swing.


With the Longsword things aren’t quite interesting yet, but they are getting there. A Longsword +2 will, on average, kill a Kobold with one swing doing 5.5 damage; however, it takes a Longsword of +4 to, on average, take a Goblin down in one swing. Where this is more than possible for a Fighter or Barbarian, it is less likely for some of the subtler classes.


The Glaive is where we start seeing some really destructive power in Dungeons and Dragons as a +1 Glaive is the minimum requirements for killing a Hobgoblin outright with a very lucky shot. Also, a +5 Glaive can kill a Hill Giant in 10 average hits. That’s actually pretty good, as it is possible for a character to survive an encounter with a Hill Giant for 10 rounds if the character is a high enough level.


I mean…who carries a pike, right? Still, the Pike is pretty similar to a Glaive. Two hits with a Pike, even against the low to mid-level greenskins will take the majority out in one or two hits. The Pike is actually a pretty decent weapon in D&D, even if it is near impossible to use. Great Sword

When we start looking at the great weapons, things amp up pretty quickly, and this is due to the minimum possible damage score bringing up the average. Thus, on average, even a -1 Great Sword will kill a Kobold in one hit. On average, it will still take two hits to kill an Orc, but coming in with 9 landed and damaging attacks to kill a Hill Giant on +5 modifier, we’re starting to look at some really dangerous Fighters or Barbarians. Greataxe

Finally, we look at the Great Axe. Not only does it have a guaranteed Kobold kill, but it can kill a Hill Giant in less than 10 attacks on only a +2 modifier (on average). That’s phenomenal and really awesome.  Even without a modifier, it can dispatch Bugbears and anything lower on average in 3 hits or less.

Concluding on Damage Modifiers and Killing Goblins

So, today was a bit of an odd one. It’s expanding on a previous article to give some idea about the average number of hits needed to kill various types of greenskin creature. There isn’t a huge revelation at the end, but instead I hope the graphs could be some use to someone when looking at how easy it is to kill various different monsters with the base hand weapon stats in the game.

So there we have it – a series of graphs showing progressively better weapons and how many successful attacks it takes to kill a series of goblinoids in D&D. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and let me know if there are any articles you would like to see next.


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