If you’ve played Dungeons & Dragons 5E before, there’s a decent chance that you’ve seen or heard of hobgoblins. Traditionally, these guys are little more than early game bosses or a terror of a city. And yet, Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Eberron: Rising from the Last War allows for players and DMs alike to construct their own hobgoblins. Now, we have a better look at the world these Hobgoblins inhabit, and our Hobgoblin 5E guide will let you build one in style.
Hobgoblin 5E Lore
The Hobgoblins are the leader group of the Goblin army, lording over the tiny Goblins and the brutish Bugbears. They are by far the smartest of the three, becoming the tacticians and diplomats of the army. This is represented by their looks; of the three tribes, Hobgoblins tend to be as tall as humans, with almost primate-like facial structure. They are probably the most human of the three races, and thus can sometimes be made to see reason… Or make others see reason.
As leaders of some fairly rebellious and chaotic beings, Hobgoblins must flex their authority whenever they can. They use appeals to emotion, treasure, and even gods to keep their underlings in check. They understand that even a Goblin with enough free will can become an adventurer powerful enough to slay the entire legion. So, they ensure that those weapons are utilized in a way that ensures loyalty to the army. Bugbears are an entirely different threat, but can be easily kept under wraps with a good meal and a leash.
This authoritative stance forces them to see other races as unequal, and they are prone to enslavement and oppression. The only group that they see as above the typical Hobgoblin are arcane casters, and only those casters which are willing to devastate battlefields with war magic. They are also fairly religious, with a pantheon of gods in a strict hierarchy. To those gods, Hobgoblins promise to bear nor give insults, follow orders, and honor the gods.
A Hobgoblin does not leave their army in a clean or empathetic way. Most of the time, a Hobgoblin might become an adventurer because they survived an execution, or were simply exiled from their homes. Alternatively, they might still be part of the army, and are spying on an adventuring group to ensure their legion’s survival. Either way, a Hobgoblin’s respect is earned only after glorious action. Afterwards, an adventurer might be seen as equal, especially if the adventurer does more than the Hobgoblin.
Hobgoblin names are fairly simple. If you want name examples, check out our Hobgoblin naming guide.
Hobgoblins only have one possible list of attributes to work with. Unlike most lists, this suffers from rather specific stats.
- +2 Constitution, +1 Intelligence. Constitution is a fantastic stat to ensure that your character survives conflicts. Health is by far the most important defensive stat, since the more health you have, the farther from unconsciousness you are. That’s specifically nice! Constitution also houses one of the most important saves in the game. Intelligence is less useful; only two classes specialize in making Intelligence important. Otherwise, it is probably the least important saving throw of the mental stats, and one of the worst stats for skill boosting.
- Medium Size, 30 ft Speed. You’re not exactly special in terms of size and speed. These are the normal pair for races. However, you are a little heavier than the average human. That’s… nice?
- Darkvision. Darkvision is a fantastic ability to have. This lets you see without a torch. That can be big, since if you’re a non-frontline class, you don’t want anybody to keep their eyes on you. In addition, this makes ambushing and repositioning much easier.
- Martial Training. Unlike a lot of races, you get a ton of different options for your weapon proficiency. You can get longbows, spears, swords, greatswords… Whatever works best for your build! Usually, this will be ranged or finesse weapons, since you’ll be better off with high Dexterity. Light Armor is… Nice, but this only works with Sorcerer or Wizard. Otherwise, you already have that proficiency.
- Saving Face. The most unique skill of the Hobgoblin. When you mess up, you get, on average, a +3 to your roll. That’s legitimately insane! However, you have to guess that you missed by 3 or less. Otherwise, you whiff on this ability. That can be a bit tortuous, especially if your DM is stingy with telling you what DC you’re looking for. However, if your DM is nice about telling DCs, or you have a good understanding of 5E’s DCs, this ability is stupid. You can almost guarantee that it lands, which can be a lifesaver for your party. Make sure you have a good attack roll, so you can always spend this ability once per short rest.
- Languages. Goblin’s not too useful, but it can let you get an advantage in the very early game. You can listen to goblin plans, or try and talk with them in their native tongue. Good if you have some creativity, and later on, very few races care to learn Goblin, so you can use it as your Thief’s Tongue.
Hobgoblins are… Pretty particular in what classes they can usually be. They are absolutely insane at those classes!
Good Classes for Hobgoblins
- Artificer. Hobgoblin Artificers are perfect for the tank builds that the Artificer has. You’re usually wasting your weapon proficiencies, but your Constitution is perfect for frontlining. Then, you can use Martial Weapons to deal additional damage, Saving Face to ensure your usefulness in team-based situations, and Darkvision to see threats. You’re not the perfect Artificer, but you have some really good roll-affecting powers. Great support!
- Wizard. Hobgoblins make naturally insane Wizards. You get light armor so you can almost ignore Mage Armor and work towards Heavy armor over time. You get martial weapons in case you really don’t like cantrips for some reason. High Constitution is exactly what your Wizard is looking for. Saving Face will also keep your Wizard alive, or save your spell slots for spells like Disintegrate.
Bad Classes for Hobgoblins
- Barbarian. You don’t get a Strength increase, which is a huge problem. You need Strength to consistently hit your targets and deal massive damage. Saving Face doesn’t do nearly enough. You want to be more than a wall of flesh!
- Bard. Nothing here is great for bard. Saving Face is a great ability, but without Charisma or even Dexterity, you’re just not a useful Bard build. Artificer will be a more useful support build for you, if you want to be a Bard.
- Cleric. You’re not getting much useful here. Again, an Artificer will do the Cleric’s job fairly well, while also giving you much better spell power. The Constitution is nice for a cleric, and Saving Face will keep you in the fight. But it’s not worth it without even Strength to make you useful in the frontlines.
- Druid. Like Cleric, but worse. Without Wisdom, druids have nearly no spell power and utility. Saving Face doesn’t do nearly enough for you.
- Fighter. Fighter really relies on Strength or Dexterity to deal it’s damage, so you’ll be lagging far behind other classes on offense. Saving Face and Constitution are a good combo, especially for Eldritch Knight… But there are better Eldritch Knights in the game.
- Monk. Absolutely not. Constitution nor Intelligence will help a Monk with low Dexterity and Wisdom. You’ll do bad damage, and Saving Face doesn’t do much for your many, many attack rolls.
- Paladin. Paladin isn’t too bad, but they really would prefer either Strength or Charisma. The Intelligence just doesn’t help Paladin enough, and you don’t really need Saving Face for Paladin, most of the time. Sure, Saving Face might let you land good smites, but… Why not just have good Strength?
- Ranger. Rangers suffer for the same reasons Fighter does. No offensive stat that you care about, and Saving Face doesn’t do enough to help you. Saving Face and Hunter’s Mark almost makes up for things, but doesn’t do nearly enough to help you.
- Rogue. This one’s closer than most. Rogues don’t need too high Dexterity to deal massive damage, and the free martial weapons are useful. However… Your inconsistent attack rolls will make you less useful in the early game. You’d much rather have Dexterity over Constitution or Intelligence, and your utility is not good enough.
- Sorcerer. Why not be a Wizard?
- Warlock. Artificer or Wizard must have something for you. Your low Charisma won’t cut it in the Warlock industry, and Saving Face does not make up for your bad attack rolls and spell DCs.
The Hobgoblin suffers a lot for having only Intelligence and no way to swap ability scores. However, play a Hobgoblin and you’ll find an extremely interesting race to work with. Hobgoblins are fun to play as, and are insanely effective Artificers and Wizards. Try them out the next time you’re using an Intelligence class.