Goblin 5E Race Guide | Tips and Builds for the Goblin Race

goblin 5e

Goblins are the strange little gremlins that many players of Dungeons & Dragons 5E are used to splattering. These are some of the earliest foes that a player might be used to destroying. They are relatively well-known as small, green menaces in popular culture. However, the Volo’s Guide to Monsters allows us to play as monstrous creatures, including these little guys. Why might you want to play as a Goblin? This Goblin 5E guide will help you find out what their strengths and weaknesses are!

Goblin 5E Lore

Goblins are small, gray or green individuals. They are vicious, cruel, and selfish. They understand they are near the bottom of the pecking order, and will find whoever is below them to start kicking downwards.

Goblins may strike many as simple bandits that live in the woods and greedily attack the most vulnerable. And… Those many would be right in most cases. However, Goblins are also part of a relatively secret army of goblinoids. They are part of a caste-based system; Lashers are the nobility, who take care of captured slaves, taming beasts, and leading the herd. Hunters are what you tend to run into in the wild, responsible for most warfare and food getting. Meanwhile, Gatherers simply get berries and fruits, and run away from adventurers. Pariahs, as the name suggests, simply beg and hold a position barely above a slave.

Even the Lashers are considered jokes in the Goblinoid army. Bugbears and Hobgoblins alike walk all over their most basic soldiers. So, Goblins of all castes will do whatever they can to hold status symbols, like an orc piercing from a tribe they slaughter, or a frog in a jar given to them by a friend. These little symbols are all the power they can find in this rather powerful army, and they embrace it.

Goblin casters aren’t well cared for by their community, the superstition that “Booyahg Users” will destroy the army from the inside. They are usually outcast, whether their power was natural, from a patron, or from studying spellbooks. This is a common way for Goblins to start their own gangs, using their “firepower” to control others and convince them of their godly strength.

Goblins often leave their host after a wartime march. Hobgoblins and Bugbears use Goblins to soak arrows and swords, leaving many of the little menaces to feel used and abused by their betters. 

In this situation, it’s rare for a Goblin to ever gain an empathetic heart. Their own society is almost as evil to them as human or elven cities, so they learn quickly that fending for themselves is their only option.

Names aren’t too important for Goblins, but choosing a fun name for them might be worthwhile. Check out our Goblin Name Guide for more lore and ideas.

Goblin Attributes

There are only two types of Goblin, so no worries about juggling different subraces or variant options here! Just pure chaotic energy, unless your DM allows you to swap things around.

Base Goblin

  • +2 Dexterity, +1 Constitution. An extremely aggressive statline, and very versatile! +2 Dexterity is great, since you can make a ton of builds work with Dexterity. It’s a great stat, boosting your AC, attack rolls and damage with a ton of weapons, one of the most common saving throws, and some great skill checks. Constitution is required for most classes, since your HP being above 0 is the goal of most characters. So, Goblins have 2 fantastic ability increases.
  • Small Size, 30 ft Speed. Small is usually a benefit over being Medium. It lets you hide much easier and fit into tight spaces… but, it also lets you be the target of things like being swallowed or bodyslammed in more situations. Watch it! At least you move the standard speed.
  • Darkvision. Great! Goblins are naturally very stealthy, so you now don’t need to worry about lifting a torch with you when you’re walking around. Perfect for building ambush strategies or seeing creatures that are hiding just outside the light.
  • Fury of the Small. Dealing extra damage is actually just really nice. At the start, this isn’t much, but this can do up to 20 damage every short rest, guaranteed! That’s great for finishing off a boss, or just putting a lot of damage into an annoying enemy. However, you can only do it against creatures of Medium size or larger… So, if you’re raiding your old stomping grounds, this will only be so useful! Make sure you’re targeting a medium creature with this, or else you’re not going to be Furious against anything! Still, this is a great focusing tool.
  • Nimble Escape. Great way to be able to spend a bonus action! Disengage lets you skirmish, escaping from combat situations with no resources spent. Hide is more situational, but you’ll probably have acceptable stealth. So, both options will get you a ton of utility!
  • Languages. Goblin is one of the best early-game languages, but falls off once Hobgoblins stop being a threat. Still, this will be consistently useful for gathering intel or having a secret language.

Dankwood Goblin

Dankwood Goblins were introduced in the Adventure with Muk charity PDF. Please give it a buy if you want to support Extra Life! These Goblins are more attuned to the Wild and Fey than most Goblins tend to be. This subrace replaces the base’s Ability Scores Boosts and Fury of the Small.

  • +2 Dexterity, +1 Wisdom. Not much difference here! Wisdom is more niche than Constitution, but more useful as an offensive stat. Wisdom boosts your Wisdom save, which is really strong late-game. It also boosts some of the most-used skill checks in the game. Super useful!
  • Speak with Small Beasts. Really fun flavor, but compared to Fury of the Small, this is not very strong. Spells can do this much better, and with much more clarity. Still, very fun, and someone who is very creative could make this work well.

Class Options

Goblins are kinda forced into non-caster roles, though the Dankwood subrace allows for slight deviations to the Goblin’s normal fares!

Good Classes for Goblins

  • Cleric. Dankwood Goblins make fine Clerics. You’re not going to be as good as some other races, but your Wisdom and the ability to get out of bad situations easily is great. The move to Disengage to get close to the center of the room to cast a heal spell will come in handy. This is a fun Cleric build!
  • Druid. Once again, Dankwood Goblins can make this worthwhile. Good Wisdom, Darkvision by nature, and the Nimble Escape ability are all very important. You have some problems, though, including the fact that Speak with Small Beasts is going to become very outclassed… Though maybe you’ll save Spell Slots!
  • Fighter. Goblins make great frontliners. Put a Rapier and Shield in the hand, and bury your opponents with Fury of the Small! If that wasn’t enough, Darkvision and Nimble Escape will be incredibly important to your gameplan. You can chase down whoever you want, really!
  • Monk. Monk is fine. Both Base and Dankwood Goblins can be great Monks; Base Goblins have lower AC and DCs for their Ki powers, but better damage output and health. Dankwood has fun flavor, better AC and DCs for their Ki powers. I’m honestly unsure which one is better, but Nimble Escape lets Monks move from target to target without getting destroyed or spending ki.
  • Paladin. Paladin is in a weird middle ground. Dexterity and Constitution is actually fine, though you’re wasting that Heavy Armor proficiency just a bit. Your utility is actually quite strong, and Fury of the Small will cause a DM’s jaw to drop during a good Smite turn!
  • Ranger. Like Monk, you can go Base or Dankwood, depending on how aggressive you are. Base does damage, Dankwood has better utility. Either path you choose, the Goblin gets crazy utility… But suffers from the Small/Heavy restrictions, keeping Longbows out of their hand.
  • Rogue. Great! You’ll eventually lose Nimble Escape’s usefulness, but the stats are perfect. Fury of the Small will devastate enemies, and Darkvision is great for rogues.

Bad Classes for Goblins

  • Artificer. Artificers really, really want Intelligence. The Goblin does offer great utility for a ranged Artificer, from Nimble Escape to Fury of the Small. But, your low Intelligence is bad for you. The utility is just not worth it.
  • Barbarian. Small/Heavy is just too much of a problem. Dexterity Barbarians are fun, but Wizards of the Coast very clearly doesn’t want that to be a “good” Barbarian build. If you want to be a Dexterity Barbarian, then the Goblin is the best possible path… Though that’s not saying much!
  • Bard. This isn’t too bad. It’s actually fine. Bards love Charisma a bit too much to make Bard a good class for Goblins. But, you could use your Darkvision for searching, Fury of the Small to finish off foes, and Nimble Escape to hide during fights. Great utility, but probably not good enough for the lack of Charisma.
  • Sorcerer. There are too many races with Charisma to make Sorcerer a good pick here. You need Charisma to be a good Sorcerer. Your Dexterity and Constitution might be good, and Fury of the Small might let you blast a boss to death. But, your low Charisma will make it not worthwhile.
  • Warlock. Like Sorcerer, there’s just no reason to go it as a Goblin. Sure, the utility is nice, but it’s just not worth losing your accuracy and damage on things like Eldritch Blast. 
  • Wizard. Strangely enough, this is also like Sorcerer, but with Intelligence. You don’t have the spell accuracy to make use of Fury of the Small. Your utility is great, and your survivability is fantastic. But, it doesn’t really matter if you dodge an extra attack or live for another turn if you can’t deal with the problems in front of you.

Conclusion

Goblins are a great race, if you’re willing to deal with prejudice or a problematic past. If you’re a Dankwood goblin, you might deal with a tiny bit less prejudice, and you tend to be a more graceful person in general. Try them out for a Monk or something that likes Dexterity! It can be fun to play a redeemed bad guy every now and then.

About Jason Toro 424 Articles
An English-Game Design student at Northeastern University, Jason appends his love of video games by writing unfinished novels and short stories on the side.

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