Why Goblins are Awesome in D&D
From the murkiest dungeons to the brightest forests, Goblins have been a staple of the role playing genre for as long as high fantasy role playing games have been a thing. Whether being a small group of the little beasties, facing off against low level adventurers, or a horde to put an entire world at threat, Goblins are incredibly versatile and malleable creatures.
It can be all too tempting when starting a group off in D&D to have them face some of the wacky and weirder creatures of the role playing world – Grimlocks? Sure, why not. Shadows? Bring them on. Myconids? Let’s have thousands of them. There are hundreds of amazing creatures in the Monster Manual, and today we are going to ignore 99% of them. Today, dear reader, I am going to argue the case for Goblins.
Why Goblins are Awesome in Role Playing Games
So, shrug off the Shadows. Put away the Scarecrows. Forget your Stirges. Today we’re going to look at the humble Goblin.
Now, before we start, a serious note – this is not an article saying you should never use other creatures. You definitely 100% should. There are hundreds of creatures in the Monster Manual for a reason, and so you should create your world how you see fit. That being said, today, I want to make a case for Goblins, especially with players who are not necessarily veterans of the game.
Let’s look at the reasons why Goblins are awesome in D&D.
#1 Immediately Recognisable Foes
Okay, let’s jump right in with the first reason Goblins can be fantastic in D&D. They are immediately recognisable.
There is a very strong case that in D&D you don’t always want your characters to recognise the monsters. In fact, some of the best games I have ever played we have simply called the monsters “abominations” since we didn’t have the foggiest what we were facing. That being said, when introducing a new group to the game, you don’t necessarily want that to be the case. When introducing a new group, sometimes a little bit of grounding in something recognisable can be a good thing, helping make the game a little more relatable.
Now, this is only really a point if you want your players to know what they are facing; however, ever since before The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Goblins have been a relatively recognisable icon in pop culture. LoTR helped solidify that image with the beautifully visualised Mines of Moria (and the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, which is awesome for so many reasons). This helps introduce players to the game and the world of Dungeons and Dragons, without throwing them entirely in at the deep end.
#2 A Lineage of Foes
There is, as much as I hate to say it, one giant problem I have with games like Gloomhaven. Where it is easy to see certain creatures working together, there is no necessary coherence between the creatures players find themselves against. Instead, you find wild creatures with highly trained enemies, and other random pairings.
Greenskins are one of the greatest lineages in Dungeons and Dragons, with a whole host of monsters spanning a whole range of challenge ratings. What this means is that Goblins are a fantastic introductory enemy in campaigns where there is a larger threat, allowing for consistency and variety between enemies. It is possible to start with something as simple as Goblins, and work up through Orc, Gnoll, Hobgoblin, Troll, Giant and more.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t use additional monsters in a campaign. To give an example, in my current campaign, the overarching story includes a clan of Greenskins roaming across the land; however, the players often find themselves doing other quests. The Greenskins are just the background in the tapestry of the game.
#3 Versatile in Style
There is no doubt about it – horde enemies can be versatile in Dungeons and Dragons. Whether a zombie, a skeleton, an orc, or something else, there are certain enemies where whole cultures can be created for them to exist in. For Goblins, there can be a whole Goblin culture for the Goblins in your campaign to be a part of. They can have whole towns, cities, and, in certain cases, player characters.
Goblins allow for so much when used as enemies within the game. They can have magic users, Clerics, Rangers, and so much more. They can be buffed up and made weaker depending on what the player needs (yes, this can be done with any monster race, but in this case I’m using it in defence of Goblins). They are armed, by default in the Monster Manual, with short bows and scimitars, but it can be literally anything based on the needs of the DM (again, that can be said about anything, but ho hum).
Again, going back to a recent campaign, I used a Goblin Necromancer as an enemy. Buff Goblins used an Orc stat block, and my big bad was a Goblin homebrewed from mainly a Hobgoblin and some bits of Troll. Goblins are malleable and can be made into anything you want, without too much work.
#4 Easily Scale-able
From a housekeeping perspective, I am incredibly grateful for Goblins. Unlike some other monsters in D&D, due to having such a low Challenge Rating, Goblins are incredibly easy to scale. If you need to change the number of players quickly, then Goblins are incredibly easy enemies to add more to or take away from. With very little work an encounter for eight players can become an encounter for four.
#5 Intelligent Enemies
As a DM it is so much fun to play a race of an intelligent enemies. The humble Goblin is actually relatively intelligent (INT 10) despite popular belief, and so it is possible for PCs who can speak the language to have decent conversations with Goblins. I prefer to make it so Goblins can speak common, purely because I have a group who want to speak with every single monster on the map but only one can speak Goblinoid. It makes for a lot of squeaky conversations.
Intelligent enemies actually means two things. Firstly, they can have an entire community. An intelligent enemy can have their own civilisation – giving so much space for growth and opportunity. Players can come across entire villages, rather than war bands, with their own communities or beliefs – and that is really cool.
Secondly, Goblins are incredibly fun to role play. There is nothing more satisfying then seeing a player assuming Goblins are unintelligent and trying to persuade them of something only for the Goblin to turn around and put them in their place. Intelligence, after all, doesn’t mean street smarts. This is no more self-evident than with Droop, a Goblin from The Lost Mine of Phandelver campaign and how much people enjoy playing as him.
Being Intelligent is just the icing on the cake with Goblins. It means without breaking theme you can employ more complex tactics and really tests your players. Simply superb creatures.
A bit of a quick article today, just looking at some of the reasons I really like Goblins as enemies in D&D 5E, and what it is that makes them really awesome to have in a game. They aren’t the only awesome creature – as said various times throughout this article, there are plenty of great creatures in the monster manual – but I wanted to give Goblins a bit of a heads up today. All too often it can be easy to forget about the golden oldie monsters in favour for something new. There is a reason Goblins have stood the test of time, and today these reasons are but a few.
So, now over to you. What monsters do you like using in Dungeons and Dragons? What do you like to throw at your players, and why? Let me know in the comments below.