Goblins occupy an uneasy place in a dangerous world, and they react by lashing out at any creatures they believe they can bully. Cunning in battle and cruel in victory, goblins are fawning and servile in defeat.—Volo’s Guide to Monsters
What are Goblins in 5e?
Goblins are a class of creatures in DnD called Goblinoids.
They are generally thought to be malicious and stupid creatures, but this is not always the case. Typically goblins are considered a nuisance and they raid and attack those weaker than them.
If unprepared, Goblins can cause serious damage to others and property. When confronted they’ll attack if they have the advantage, but retreat if they feel that there is a risk of death or injury to themselves and they are generally considered selfish creatures.
When Volo’s Guide to Monsters was published, Goblins became much more in the DnD world. New rules were added as a playable species and they were introduced as more than angry little green creatures that attacked in the night.
Now Goblins can be heroes and villains in their own right.
Goblin 5e Lore
In the early incarnations of DnD, Goblins were cannon fodder. They were the dungeon guards creeping around in the gloom, the hordes that appeared as you reached the crucial part of an adventure.
They were just there to make up the numbers, never being allowed to develop much beyond the standard and unimaginative foe. But as the rules evolved and broadened, all beasts became playable characters, and the Goblin was one of those.
By their very nature, Goblins are angry little beasts who make their living on the fringes of civilization as raiders, thieves, and opportunists. As individuals, they are cruel and petty, full of spite, and prone to self-indulgence.
But then, after millennia of being looked down on and disrespected, you’d probably feel that way too. This is a race with a real chip on its shoulder and plenty of actual and perceived scores to settle.
And that is what makes playing a Goblin character such great fun. Either you can embrace all the vicious qualities and chaotic principles, or you can assume that we find your Goblin character in the adventuring line of work because they are trying to rise above their grubby background and better themselves.
Goblins live in dangerous burrows and will typically follow the strongest Goblin. The Goblins that fight their way to power are called Goblin Bosses. Goblin Bosses can be in charge of a single Goblin Burrow or 1000s of Goblins spread throughout a larger area.
This typically does not last long as another Goblin inevitably challenges and kills the Goblin Boss for power and they often turn to infighting afterward.
Goblin burrows are dangerous places for adventurers. They are filled with traps and murder holes. As a singular creature, a Goblin isn’t a match for the average human, but they will use any advantage that they can gain. This includes placing numerous traps, ambushing, and attacking and fleeing in numbers as they see fit.
Goblins typically only have a single name and it tends to be either a reference to an event in their lives or a guttural sound in their language.
Some example Goblin names include:
Goblin 5e Stats
For such an often-overlooked race, Goblins have some great attributes that make them both stronger than they look and fun to play.
Ability Score Increase: With a +2 to Dexterity and +1 to their Consitution, they are both nimble and tough. All classes would find those bonuses advantageous but any Dexterity-based Fighter, plus Rogues, Rangers, and Monks, are some more obvious choices.
Alignment: Goblins are usually found as the antagonists of any adventure, so any adventuring Goblin is going against type. Or so it would seem.
They might be a rare “good” Goblin, either somehow tricked into doing the right thing or perhaps more of a spiritual pilgrim looking to put their people behind them and strive for a better place in the world.
Size: Smaller than most adventurers, and whilst that doesn’t have any real disadvantage, your ability to squeeze through places your larger colleagues can’t is a boon.
Speed: Fast? Yes, but with little legs, you still move at the standard 30 feet.
Darkvision: A racially inbuilt ability to see in the dark will always be helpful, especially as Goblins tend towards more Roguish trades.
Fury of the Small: Most targets you encounter will be medium and above, making them viable targets. It applies to everything from melee to magic to ranged attacks, and the extra punch is always a distinct advantage. Use it early and as often as you can; the fact that it recharges after a short rest means you can use it once per combat encounter.
Nimble Escape: Like a slightly underpowered version of the Rogue’s Cunning Action, which means that often, the choice of Rogue implies that you are doubling up on some of the same abilities for no extra advantage.
Abilities such as Nimble Escape means that Goblins playing non-Rogue classes will still feel like they are multiclassing to some degree without the obvious level restrictions.
Languages: Common and Goblin. As a Goblin who has left their community behind, speaking Goblin on top of Common is a bit of a throwaway. Have a chat with your DM and see if your character’s backstory would also give you some skill in another language.
Goblin 5e Subraces/Subspecies
There are many different Goblinoids, but the most common are:
In addition, Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse also altered their origins. Goblins and goblinoids are now descendants of creatures of the Fey Wilds.
As playable characters, they start with the following traits.
- Fey Ancestry
- Fury of the Small
- Nimble Escape
Darkvision and Nimble Escape are not new, but the addition of Fey Ancestry is an interesting touch to a species that was considered a nuisance in earlier editions.
The Fury of the Small ability was also changed in this update. Instead of this ability dealing damage equal to your level, it now deals damage equal to your proficiency bonus and can be used a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus as well.
Best Classes for Goblins
As mentioned above, thanks to the inbuilt racial traits, whatever class your Goblin character opts for, you will already feel like that class comes with a large side-order of Rogue. Disengage and Hide are always helpful, no matter your choice of class.
Goblins make suitable martial classes, especially if you opt for Dexterity-based choices. They also make excellent sneaky casters, with their natural stealth combining well with playing a spellcaster that is never where you expect them to be.
The Dexterity and Constitution bonuses are great for a Ranger, and if you take the ambush-sniper role, the Goblin brings a lot to that style of play. Take the Gloom Stalker archetype, grab a short bow and you can be a real pain in the enemy’s collective backside.
Step out of the shadows, fire a volley of arrows, step back and use Nimble Escape, and you can do this every turn or so. The Gloom Stalker’s Umbral Sight makes you invisible, even if the creatures you are targetting have darkvision. Your natural darkvision means that you can see clear as day… literally.
Again the Constitution and Dexterity bonuses make Fighter an obvious choice, and if you take the Battle Master archetype, you can use the Goading Attack significantly. Jump into combat, hit your target with Goading Attack, and then use your bonus action to disengage and slip away.
Of course, your enemy is disadvantaged on all their attacks for the next turn unless they want to charge past your allies and suffer all their invasions of opportunity! No, thank you. And whilst they are working out their next move, you get to mock your enemies and dance around the battlefield, making them ever angrier and more humiliated.
Wait! Just hear me out. Small in size and able to utilize Nimble Escape means that you will be more agile than your enemy will expect, and you can use your bonus action during your turn. The ability to do extra damage to most things that are large than you… which is most things… is also a great addition to a Barbarian’s punch.
I really like the idea of a Goblin Artificer. They remind me of the goblins in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.
Their natural abilities like Fury of the Small and Nimble Escape allow them to avoid damage and deal a little extra when necessary, but a Goblin creating magical items to blow things up on a battlefield just tickles my fancy.
The lore of the Goblins doesn’t necessarily sound like they would make good frontline fighters, but as the saying goes, “Good things come in small packages.”
Combining the Goblin’s natural talents to slip out of fights and the Fighter’s ability to punish those that come into melee range, you have a very scrappy goblin indeed.
While fighting in melee range, a Goblin fighter can simply move out of the way after hitting its target and wait for them to come back into range to gain opportunity attacks.
Goblin 5e FAQs
Is Goblin a playable race 5e?
Yes, goblins and goblinoids like Bugbears are playable races.
Can Goblins be good DnD?
Goblins are typically mischievous and violent creatures, but they are not inherently evil. Like all sentient creatures in the DnD world, their alignment can vary between good and evil and anywhere in between.
How much HP does a Goblin have?
Standard Goblins in DnD, according to the Monster Manual on page 166, have 2d6 HP (average 7).
Can Goblins be female in DnD 5e?
Yes, Goblins can be both male and female in DnD 5e.
Final Thoughts on Goblins in 5e DnD
Goblins might be best suited to being Fighters, but their inbuilt racial traits and small size mean they are already at least 50% Rogue. Agile around the battlefield, able to hide out of sight, and their ability to see in the dark means that they should never be underestimated.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages.