I love goblins, so I am always pretty happy when I get to write about them or any of the related races. This is exactly what I am going to do in this DnD Hobgoblin guide.
Hobgoblins are one of those classic monsters that any high fantasy story needs. It has been a staple in the Dungeons and Dragons monster manual for almost 50 years now, having appeared first in 1974. They are more than deserving of a guide on how to fight them, and a word or two on how to use them as a playable race.
I love to throw these monsters at my players. Most often in combination with some goblins as support. Players should not underestimate these guys. If you are underprepared to fight these in a group, you might get in some pretty big trouble.
In this guide, I am going to talk about what exactly Hobgoblins are, how to fight them and how to play as them. I write my guides from the DM perspective. I have been a Dungeon Master for years, so I have had hundreds of my Hobgoblins slain, but also claimed the lives of some foolish adventurers in the process. With that said, let’s find out what there is to know about Hobgoblins.
Hobgoblin Stats and abilities
We are going to start with the technical side of DnD and go straight into what these monsters can throw at us stat and ability-wise.
- Armor Class – Hobgoblins have a pretty decent AC. Since they have a chain mail and a shield to protect them from your attacks, they can take a hit or two. Their Armor Class is 18, making them one of the best monsters defense-wise that you can come across in the early game.
- Hit Points – Their hit points are a bit of a weak point in my opinion. Since they only have 11 hit points a party of 3 or 4 should not have a lot of problems trying to take down one of these humanoids if they are by themselves.
- Speed – Their speed is average and thus nothing to be wary about. Having only the base 30 feet speed, you can run away quite easily if you plan well and aren’t slowed down by magic (dragon magic or otherwise) or traps.
- These are some pretty average stats, only the Armor Class can give you some trouble. Their Hit Points make them an easy opponent if you can get a couple of hits in from long range (ranged attacks). Their speed doesn´t help them either, so they can not close the gap all that fast. The problem with Hobgoblins, however – if you have a smart Dungeon Master that reads lore – is that they are very seldom alone, and are often surrounded by other Hobgoblins or regular goblins.
- STR – The Hobgoblins their best stat is their strength, at 13 (+1). While it isn’t all that high they can still do some decent damage with their actions if you have a low Armor Class. They also get a +1 on their STR, which helps them a little.
- DEX – Their next best stat is DEX. They have a 12 (+1). This helps them dodge attacks and makes them pretty agile and dangerous since they are even more survivable now. Combined with their high Armor Class, this is their strong point in my opinion.
- CON – Their 12 CON (+1) equals their DEX, it gives them a couple of hit points but overall those are not enough to make them a dangerous foe. If you can attack them at long range, you are going to deal serious damage.
- INT – Their intelligence is really nothing special, at 10 it isn’t a treat and not really a liability either.
- WIS – The same goes for WIS. Just like their INT, it is nothing that you should be worried about.
- CHA – This is the Hobgoblins’ main weak point. Not only is their CHA only an 8, they also get a -1 disadvantage on it.
- Senses – They have some pretty cool senses for a DM to use. They have a dark vision of 60 feet which is a very good and passive perception of 10. If you are a dungeon master, I advise you to use Hobgoblins in either tunnels or forests at night. They make an excellent creature to surprise non-expecting beginning adventurers. Their DEX stat also helps if you need to be a little sneaky for an extra surprise effect and gives you the initiative roll advantage.
Actions and Feats
- Martial Advantage – One of the most dangerous weapons the Hobgoblin has in its arsenal is the Martial Advantage. If you are in a small group, or alone, this can be really dangerous. Every turn, the hobgoblin can deal an extra 7 – or 2 dices of 6 – damage to a creature with a weapon attack, if the creature is within 5 feet of an ally of the hobgoblin, and that creature has not been incapacitated. This feat makes hobgoblins extremely dangerous when they are in a group. Every Hobgoblin has this ability. In other words, if you are fighting against 3 hobgoblins, they can attack 6 times instead of 3 times.
- Longsword – the first weapon the Hobgoblin has in its arsenal is the longsword. It has a +3 to hit, and a reach of 5 feet. If the hobgoblin only uses one hand it hits a 5 or a 1d8 +1. If it is using both hands it will hit a 6 or a 1d10 + 1.
- Longbow – If you have an annoying DM, he will give every Hobgoblin a longbow. This covers their weakness of being slow and prone to long-range damage due to their speed. Due to their senses, this makes them a very dangerous snipers. A longbow attack has +3 to hit and a range of 150/600 feet. The damage is not so bad either. They hit 5 or a 1d8 +1.
Hobgoblin Appearance and Behavior
The Hobgoblin looks very similar to its weaker nephew. They do have another skin color. They are often dark orange or red-orange. Their eyes are brown or yellow and their faces look rough and square. Some male hobgoblins have a blue or a red nose, which is the desired treat. It symbolizes virility and power. Their lifespan is about the same as humans if they are able to survive the rough life full of fighting at least.
The Hobgoblin lives for war and conquest. They are not peaceful farmers or craftsmen, but warriors. In order to survive and get the materials, they need for their fighting they do raids and enslave prisoners.
They are mean and envious, they always try to become stronger and more powerful, no matter the cost to others. There is only one exception to this philosophy. When they are in a battle, they become a well-oiled machine. They put aside any differences they might have and become exemplary soldiers.
Their society is one where only the strong are taken seriously. A leader has to show he has the skill to fight and be cunning when in a battle. When you want to climb in Hobgoblin society, you do so by force. If you want to remain on top, you also do so by force.
While they seem like brutes, they are very skilled in a large variety of weapons (and weapon attack) and are good at making siege weapons and armor. The tribal bands are from the center of any hobgoblin society.
Using Hobgoblins as a Dungeon Master
I often see new Dungeon Masters using Hobgoblins completely wrong. They make them out to be a disorganized mess that attacks head-on in a group. That could not be further from the truth. If anything, the tactics of a group of Hobgoblins are going to be far superior to your makeshift party of beginning adventurers.
It is hard to be able to surprise Hobgoblins. They often have scouts so they can’t be ambushed or caught off guard. They are the ones laying traps for their enemies and make sure the terrain is favorable for them. They attack at night and make use of their skills with the bow and the sword.
The Hobgoblin works best when it is dark, and they have the range to hit a target with their longbow. That is why I advise you to attack your players with some Hobgoblins and a couple of weaker goblins as support when it is night or the lights are dim. Make sure they are in a setting like a forest.
Playing as a Hobgoblin in Dungeons and Dragons
I don’t think I have seen a lot of people play as Hobgoblins. While they don´t look as fancy as an Elf or as fierce as a lizardman, they are a lot of fun. They are pretty strong and are great warriors. I like them the most when the players decide to make a non-human party, or if there is some kind of army backstory and plot involved with the adventure.
- Age – How old does your Hobgoblin need to be approximate? Well, they age about the same way as humans do, so their age should be between 16 and 50.
- Ability scores – Being a warrior, and being quite smart in a battle, gives them some nice increases in their ability scores. They get a plus one in STR, CON, and INT.
- Size, Speed, and senses – We have gone over this already, but if you have missed it: Hobgoblins are medium creatures, their speed is average at 30 feet, and they have good Darkvision. They can see in dim light for about 60 feet as if they were in bright light. In the darkness, they can see as if there was dim light. This means you can only see shades of gray (iron shadow), no color.
- The hobgoblin has some pretty cool feats that you can use. Which one you should pick will depend on what your Dungeon master has in mind. If you have no idea how the general story is going to go, no problem. All three are more or less equal in my mind if you know how to use them well. Pick the one you think you will have the most fun with. If your DM allows it, you could also have all three. I do not think it would be overpowered, though I could be wrong depending on how creative you are.
- Hobgoblin Martial training – This gives you the ability to have proficiency with light armor and two weapons of your own choice. This is a pretty useful one if you pick a long-range weapon and a melee weapon (melee weapon attack). The DEX of the Hobgoblin is pretty decent, though you don’t get an ability bonus for it.
- Martial adept – Pretty straightforward, you get the benefits of being a martial adept and thus increase your proficiency with martial-related weapons and combat.
- Military genius – I love this one. Hobgoblins are quite smart if it comes to fighting. Whenever you miss an attack roll with the weapon, you get a second chance due to your vast knowledge of conducting warfare. You get a bonus to your roll equal to your INT modifier – this has a minimum of 1 – and has thus a chance to still hit. You can only use this once, and you need to take a short or a long rest if you want to use it again.
DnD Hobgoblin Guide: Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Are Hobgoblins honorable?
Answer: The average Hobgoblin is a lawful evil creature. Whether they are honorable depends on the situation and your relationship with the Hobgoblin. If you are their enemy, and you are waging war against them, they will destroy you whatever it takes.
If you are one of their allies, fighting shoulder to shoulder with them, they will be very disciplined and honorable. Fighting with all they have to make sure you survive and victory is theirs and yours.
Question: What languages do Hobgoblins speak?
Answer: Hobgoblins are oftentimes fluent in the common tongue. However, they are also fluent in the goblin language. This language called Ghukliak is spoken by Bugbears, Goblins, and Hobgoblins. They can also write, however, their written language consists of very complex pictographic.
Question: What are Hobgoblins afraid of?
Answer: The Hobgoblin only has one fear. They fear not being strong enough, both physically and mentally. Cowardice is the worst feature a Hobgoblin can have. In a society where honor and fighting are all that matters, there is no place for cowards. Hobgoblins fear being seen as cowards and weak. No matter if they are a commander or a common foot soldier, they crave to be strong.
Conclusion: Hobgoblins are Fun as Creatures and as a Playable Character Race!
If you are a player, and you have a campaign coming up where you are going to play as non-humans, you might be able to catch your dungeon master off guard by playing as a Hobgoblin.
They are plenty strong, have a good Armor Class, and they are almost impossible to be caught by surprise.
If you are a Dungeon Master, the Hobgoblin can be quite strong if you use them well. They shine the most when they have a couple of allies and are able to ambush their opponents.
Further Reading on DnD Races:
- Monks 5e Guide: How to Play as a Monk in D&D - September 13, 2021
- DnD Hobgoblin Guide [Creatures and Playable Race] - September 9, 2021
- The Ultimate DnD Yklwa 5e Guide: Everything You Need to Know - September 5, 2021