Goblinoids as Characters

Goblins
Art by Michael Bielaczyc

Character Development

Goblins

Barbarian: Goblin tribal society is marked by a tradition of chaotic “might makes right”—those who rise to the top are the most fearsome and intimidating warriors. The barbarian class is ideal to represent this archetype, with its emphasis on individual and undisciplined fighting. Mechanically, its rage ability more than makes up for a goblin’s lesser strength.

Bard: Goblins have no strong tradition in the performing arts, and even if they did their charisma penalty inhibits their ability to turn their art into magic. Goblin lorekeepers are better represented by the master class, or even druid, than by bard.

Cleric: Clerics are rare but not unprecedented among goblins. Worship of Hiddukel and Takhisis are the two gods most commonly worshipped by goblins, but what faith they have tends to be more shamanistic than clerics tend to provide for. Additionally, goblins’ charisma penalty reduces the effectiveness of the cleric’s turn undead ability.

Druid: Druidry represents a leader of the shamanistic religion of many goblin tribes very well. Tribal goblins are close to the land they live on, and a druid is a natural provider of divine guidance and power for them. Most divine spellcasters among goblins are druids of Hiddukel or Takhisis. Druid is also a very mechanically advantageous class for goblins; in addition to powerful spells, the druid’s wild shape ability renders their strength penalty irrelevant in melee combat.

Fighter: The NPC class warrior is the most common class among tribal goblins (aside from commoner); fighters are the naturally gifted or better trained among those warriors. Despite how frequently it occurs among goblins, the fighter class does not play to a goblin’s strengths. PC goblins might wish to consider an unconventional fighter; perhaps take the feat Combat Reflexes (enhanced by the goblin’s dexterity bonus) and a reach weapon to gain as many attacks of opportunity as possible, or consider specializing in a ranged weapon or mounted combat; many goblins ride into battle atop wolves. Players interesting in playing a goblin fighter might also consider playing a Sikk’et Hul fighter (Races of Ansalon, page 135); with its Mob Tactics and Take the Brunt alternate class features.

Mariner: In general goblins do not have a great seafaring tradition, but a goblin’s small size and high dexterity make them natural sailors, and the mariner class benefits from these advantages; mariner is an excellent choice for goblin characters in campaigns focusing on piracy or taking place in port cities like Palanthas.

Master: Goblin masters are rare but not unprecedented. For cultural reasons, neither master performer nor master crafter is a good match. However, master sages act as tribal lorekeepers and master professional makes an unconventional if effective itinerant merchant or perhaps a fence for goods stolen by his rogue compatriots.

Monk: Monk is not an appropriate class for goblins. In addition to the class not being mechanically advantageous to goblins, their tribal society does not provide the discipline and stability necessary to embark upon the path of a fighting monk. Any goblin monk would most likely have been raised outside goblin society.

Mystic: Mysticism is not widely practiced among goblins, but there is no mechanical disadvantage for them to take up the art. A goblin mystic would fit the role of the shaman or stone-teller of a godless tribe, or a shaman among a tribe of goblins worshipping a heathen god in the Fifth Age.

Noble: Goblin nobles are rare, if not completely unheard of. In their might-makes-right culture, the strongest warriors tend to rise to the top rather than those born into privilege. Challenges faced by goblin nobles include not only a charisma penalty, which inhibits their social adroitness, but also the fact that nobility of other races will never accept them as peers.

Paladin: A goblin paladin would be a true rarity, although it’s a concept a good player could turn into a wonderful character. It would be a fish-out-of-water character, a goblin that defends the weak among a society that despises the weak. It’s likely a goblin paladin would be associated with the Sikk’et Hul freedom fighters, although playing a goblin called by Habbakuk or Shinare from their chaotic and cruel tribal structure would be a unique and rewarding challenge. A DM with such a PC in her campaign might wish to allow the character to freely multiclass with ranger, if the player agrees, to give the character ranged combat advantages as well as a mount/animal companion. A goblin paladin’s mount would likely be a wolf.

Ranger: Goblin rangers are their tribe’s scouts and hunters. Goblin rangers should focus on ranged weapons due to their strength penalty; this, together with their small size, dexterity bonus, and bonus to Hide checks makes them excellent scouts and skirmishers. Goblin rangers should avoid the urge to stand and fight against larger foes, preferring instead to rely on their stealth to hit and fade. Goblins’ affinity for wolves is taken to a deeper level among their rangers. If you wish to consider joining the Sikk’et Hul freedom fighters, the ranger is given options for two alternate class features: Swift and Sure, and Deadly Precision (see Races of Ansalon, page 314).

Rogue: As the goblins’ favored class, most goblins with a PC class are rogues. The rogue class fits their culture and physical abilities very well; those tribal rurkas who are not barbarians are most likely scheming, backstabbing rogues unafraid to slit their rivals’ throats while they sleep. Urban goblins living outside tribal culture still benefit tremendously from the rogue’s skill set. A goblin’s dexterity bonus plays into the rogue’s strengths, and the goblin’s favorite tactics of striking from the shadows and hitting people while they’re down is matched by the rogue’s abilities perfectly. The only drawback is the class’s lack of wilderness skills, which many tribal goblins rely upon; if your goblin character is one of these tribal characters, consider multiclassing with ranger or barbarian.

Sorcerer: While goblins have never embraced ambient arcane magic in significant numbers, there have been cases of goblin sorcerers (often called stone-tellers) in the tribes. They are typically less powerful than sorcerers of other races due to the goblin’s charisma penalty, but they often hold a great deal of influence within their tribes. Players playing a goblin sorcerer should consider seeking out or crafting a cloak of charisma or some other item to raise their character’s charisma score.

Wizard: If the Orders have ever administered the Test of High Sorcery to a goblin, they aren’t admitting it publicly. Goblin wizards would face no mechanical disadvantage; in fact, their attribute penalties to strength and charisma are for attributes irrelevant to wizardry and their dexterity bonus aids their armor class and reflex saves. Socially, however, their chaotic natures and unstable, violent societies makes it nearly impossible for a young goblin to take up the practice.


Hobgoblins

Barbarian: Barbarian is ideally suited to most “monstrous” races, but hobgoblins are an exception. Their culture is a warrior culture, true, but it is perhaps best described as militaristic, emphasizing the strength of the whole rather than individual prowess. That said, the class fits their mechanical strengths exceedingly well; a hobgoblin barbarian might be a soldier constantly in trouble with his sergeant for undisciplined behavior or a mercenary who would not serve among armies of his own race.

Bard: Hobgoblin bards are extremely rare, but are not unprecedented. Hobgoblins have no strong tradition of fine arts, but hobgoblin lorekeepers have kept their tribes’ histories as oral stories for millennia; thus, a hobgoblin bard is more likely to be a storyteller or orator than a musician. The class is not a bad mechanical match to the race, given that hobgoblins have no charisma penalty.

Cleric, Druid: Few hobgoblins are true clerics or druids. A tiny handful throughout history have been blessed by the gods, most by Hiddukel or one of the others in the pantheon of Darkness. Mechanically, hobgoblins are at no disadvantage as clerics or druids, but there is little societal support for such a character. A hobgoblin cleric or druid has probably spent a great deal of time away from their own people.

Fighter: Hobgoblin militarism produces a large number of outstanding fighters. The hobgoblin’s constitution and dexterity bonuses benefit fighters greatly. Hobgoblin fighters serve in mercenary companies across Ansalon, protect their tribes from aggressive neighbors, and adventure on their own seeking fame and fortune. As the race’s favored class, fighter suits them extremely well.

Mariner: While there is little precedent for hobgoblin mariners, their dexterity bonus makes them mechanically well suited to the class. A hobgoblin mariner might be an outcast from his tribe, on the run from some crime, or simply an adventurer unsatisfied with life at home.

Master: Going hand-in-hand with their tradition of militarism, some hobgoblin tribes have learned to forge their own weapons and armor; masters with the craft focus have appeared among these hobgoblin smiths. Some tribes have also produced master sages, who advise their chieftains and keep their tribes’ histories.

Monk: While hobgoblin society does not produce warrior-monks, many of its warriors study unarmed combat as part of their martial training. Those who excel at this discipline can be represented by the monk class (DMs might consider allowing a hobgoblin monk to freely multiclass with fighter to better represent this cross-training). Mechanically, hobgoblins are well-suited to a dexterity-based monk character.

Mystic: Since mysticism’s rediscovery early in the Age of Mortals, it has been practiced among hobgoblins more commonly than other forms of divine magic. Hobgoblin mystics serve as shamans and healers in their tribes and among their warriors. While it doesn’t play to a hobgoblin’s strengths, hobgoblin mystics find themselves at no particular mechanical disadvantage compared to mystics of other races.

Noble: Tribal hobgoblin society is not structured to support nobility in the same way as human, elves, and other races. A few hobgoblins who live among the other races have schemed, strong-armed, or bought their way into the noble class of their adopted societies; it is likely that any hobgoblin characters with the noble class have achieved that status through criminal activity.

Paladin: A hobgoblin paladin would be a truly unique character. Much like goblins, their culture distains the weak and helpless that a paladin would defend and would quickly find themselves ostracized from their own society. Also like their smaller goblin cousins, a hobgoblin paladin would probably fight with the Sikk’et Hul freedom fighters.

Ranger: Hobgoblin rangers serve as their armies’ scouts. Some particularly unsavory examples might even have goblinoids as their favored enemy; these hobgoblins specialize in hunting down goblins who make too much trouble for their hobgoblin or bugbear masters, or are dedicated to wiping out the Sikk’et Hul. Mechanically, a hobgoblin’s dexterity bonus gives it an advantage in stealth over many other races, making ranger an excellent class choice.

Rogue: Hobgoblins are ideally suited to the rogue class; their dexterity bonus gives them the agility to perform so many of the tasks asked of rogues, and their constitution bonus gives them a bit of extra toughness to let them fight toe-to-toe with more stamina than the average rogue (thus making taking a full attack in flanking position a bit less risky). Rogues aren’t as common among hobgoblins as fighters, but rogue/fighter makes an extremely potent combination for a hobgoblin; many of their soldiers have rogue levels and use flanking tactics to great advantage on the battlefield. Chieftains and murzas often have rogue levels.

Sorcerer: In recent years, hobgoblins have taken to sorcery more frequently than any other sort of arcane magic. That said, it is still extremely rare to find one; they have no cultural tradition of spellcasting to draw inspiration from. Any hobgoblin sorcerer is likely to have learned his skill outside of his tribal society; alternately, he might have learned it from a traveling Steel Legionnaire, who view it as their mission to teach the practice of sorcery.

Wizard: It would be extremely improbable to encounter a hobgoblin wizard; their culture does not support the sort of academic and ritual discipline necessary to learn the art. However, the martial discipline that many hobgoblins learn is not without application, and an intelligent and creative hobgoblin would certainly be capable of learning wizardry if she could find a master willing to teach her. It remains to be seen if the Orders of High Sorcery would even consider granting a hobgoblin permission to take the Test, of course. Mechanically, they suffer no penalty with the exception of their level adjustment; spellcasting levels are so vital for a spellcasting character that this disadvantage would be noticeable throughout her career.


Bugbears

Barbarian: Bugbear barbarians are terrifying entities of pure rage. With their superlative physical attributes—especially strength—this class is ideally suited to a bugbear who lets his fury and aggression drive him. A bugbear barbarian is perhaps the ideal Krynnish raider and marauder.

Bard: As their culture does not lend itself to refined artistic expression, the bard class is not well suited to bugbears; their charisma penalty makes it difficult even were that not the case. While it is true that some bugbears show political acumen and appreciation for subtlety and guile, this is usually better expressed through other classes.

Cleric: Bugbears are more likely than other goblin races to show devotion to a god, Hiddukel and Chemosh especially. Their charisma penalty makes rebuking undead more difficult, but their great strength makes them fearsome war priests. Currently mystics outnumber clerics among bugbears, but the numbers of clerics (and druids) are growing. Most clerics serve as advisors to their tribal murzas, but it’s only a matter of time before a cleric takes control of a tribe for himself and his god.

Druid: As with clerics, bugbears are more likely to be blessed by a god (often Chemosh) to be druids than other goblin races. As bugbears are already staggeringly strong and tough, the druid’s wild shape ability is less advantageous to them than it is to other races, so a player thinking of a bugbear druid might wish to consider playing a cleric or mystic instead.

Fighter: Bugbears make outstanding fighters; their large size and great strength makes them juggernauts on the field of battle. They prefer large two-handed weapons that can cleave through enemies in one or two swings, and their tactics and fighting styles are far more individualistic than the hobgoblins’. As soldiers fighting for their tribe, enforcers keeping other goblins and hobgoblins in line, or mercenaries earning steel from bringing pain and death across Krynn, bugbear fighters are to be feared wherever they are encountered.

Mariner: With no strong seafaring tradition, bugbear mariners are few. Their natural hunter’s talents aren’t well-applied at sea, nor are their physical attributes well-applied to the sort of agility-based fighting of mariners where smaller sizes are a distinct advantage. That said, a bugbear’s natural marauder’s instincts lend themselves well to the life of a corsair, and a hulking bugbear pirate captain with blood on his cutlass would strike fear into the hearts of all but the most experienced Ergothian or minotaur crew.

Master: Bugbear masters are a rarity. Few bother with lorekeeping, and they tend to steal or trade for things they cannot easily construct on their own. The performing arts are not prevalent in their society, and there is no professional class among them. A bugbear master of and variety would have spent most of her time apart from goblin society.

Monk: Some bugbears make the study of unarmed combat a priority (you never know when you’ll be caught without your weapons at hand), but few, if any, have the discipline necessary to achieve the monk’s level of skill. Mechanically, the monk class does not favor them as their racial levels do not synergize with any monk abilities, leaving them behind in AC bonus and unarmed strike damage.

Mystic: Mystics are the race’s most common divine spellcasters, serving as shamanic advisors to their tribes’ murzas or, in rare cases, as murza themselves. Mechanically they are at a disadvantage in their level of spellcasting due to their racial levels; a bugbear mystic might wish to take the Practiced Spellcaster feat (from Complete Divine) to partially make up for this disadvantage.

Noble: Bugbears have no nobility in the sense represented by the noble class, and even those raised in wealth among humans in human lands are unlikely to take it. However, the basic bugbear psychology of needing to possess and desiring to dominate others makes the class strangely appropriate. Their charisma penalty would get in the way of being numerically optimal, but it would be an interesting roleplaying challenge for a player.

Paladin: The same things can be said for bugbear paladins as are said of goblin or hobgoblin paladins—any bugbear called by a god to be a champion of all that is good and orderly would quickly find himself cast out of his own society. Furthermore, as charisma and class level play such an important role in many of the paladin’s signature abilities, the class is a weak choice for a bugbear, with its charisma penalty and racial levels.

Ranger: Like other goblinoid races, bugbears make excellent rangers. Their great strength and dexterity bonus would allow them to expertly wield mighty bows with large strength bonuses, or to partially overcome the strength disadvantages of wielding two weapons. The only real disadvantage is that Survival and Knowledge (nature), the ranger’s signature skills, are not a class skill for the bugbear’s racial levels; however, the other skills associated with its racial levels do apply to an outdoors-oriented character, so this class is a strong one. Bugbear rangers might be scouts or skirmishers for a great army, slavers specializing in capturing smaller goblins, or bounty hunters for hire to the highest bidder.

Rogue Bugbears make fearsome rogues. Their racial levels take away from sneak attack progression, but this can be partially made up for with the massive strength bonus and bonuses to dexterity and Move Silently. As their favored class, many bugbears focusing on other classes have a level or two of rogue. The rogue class enhances just about any role a bugbear might fill; a grizzled warrior, a scheming murza, or a murderous assassin.

Sorcerer: There have been few, if any, practitioners of primal sorcery. Spellcasting is rare among them and the vast majority of those who to practice magic are divine casters (see Mystic above). Not only does the race’s charisma penalty hurt them, but their racial levels put them well behind other spellcasters of equivalent level in magical ability. A player considering playing a bugbear sorcerer would do well to consider taking only a level or two, and concentrating on playing a melee combatant or rogue with a bit of spellcasting ability.

Wizard: Much like other goblins, the Orders of High Sorcery would likely not stand for a bugbear attempting to join their ranks. They lack the intellectual discipline to pursue the art seriously, and that is the only way a wizard should approach his art. The wizard class is a slightly better fit for a bugbear; they have no penalty to intelligence, but still suffer from four racial levels which set them back compared to their peers. However, because of the lack of ability score penalty, wizard makes a better choice than sorcerer for a bugbear character who wishes to dabble in arcane spellcasting. It’s conceivable that a bugbear fighter or rogue might acquire a spellbook and either teach himself, pay someone, or intimidate someone (such as the former owner of the spellbook, for instance) into teaching him the basics.

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