This is a continuation of my scalable NPC/monster series where instead of just creating all new monsters for Fifth Edition, I create rules to make it easy for anyone (including myself) to scale them up or down.
Hobgoblins in Fifth Edition
Hobgoblins definitely have to be one of my favorite monsters in D&D 5e. Although they’re an offshoot of another one of my favorite monsters–goblins–they have a cool dynamic in Fifth Edition. They’re militaristic and organized and the way that Fifth Edition’s artists created them have kind of a pseudo-Asiatic vibe to them. Like tall, samurai goblins.
Volo’s Guide to Monsters does an awesome job of explaining how they function in Fifth Edition. They’re basically the “bosses” of the other goblinoids and typically run the show.
So far in Fifth Edition, there are five variations for hobgoblins: hobgoblin (warriors), hobgoblin captains, hobgoblin warlords, hobgoblin iron shadows, and hobgoblin devastators. Volo’s Guide to Monsters also includes hobgoblins as a playable race.
What I hope to do with this scalable hobgoblin set is to expand upon the martial hobgoblins found in the Monster Manual. There are three levels detailed there: hobgoblins (CR 1/2), captains (CR 3), and warlords (CR 6). This gives me a rough idea of how hobgoblins should scale.
Interestingly, their “big boss” hobgoblin seems to top out at CR 6. Meanwhile, other humanoid warlords are CR 12 bad guys. I see one of two explanations for this. First, this could mean that hobgoblins overall are weaker than other humanoids. However, that seems unlikely as they have martial advantage which every other species in the game lacks. That leads me to my second conclusion: hobgoblins are a lot scrappier and can do way more with less. In other words, one hobgoblin is tough, two hobgoblins are deadly, and three or more hobgoblins are downright killer.
For further details on how hobgoblins work together, be sure to read Keith Amman’s take on goblinoids from the TheMonstersKnow.com
Synergy is the name of the game with this design. And we can see more of that in the hobgoblin devastators from Volo’s who also have their own form of martial advantage (called arcane) and army arcana which allows them to “carve out” their buddies a la the evoker’s sculpt spells feature. Hobgoblin encounters should rarely be solo.
Another thing I want to do is make the higher-up hobgoblins tied closer to their god, Maglubiyet and Maglubiyet’s co-war deity Nomog-Gaeya. Once a hobgoblin “ascends” and becomes a petitioner for their god, they can continue “the good fight” on Acheron. You’ll see that in its type changing to fiend and it gaining fiendish advantages on par with a demon or yugoloth.
How to Scalable Monsters work?
If you haven’t already seen my last article on scalable NPCs, be sure to check it out.
The long and short of it is that instead of creating a brand new monster for each and every challenge rating you have, instead, you just adjust the monster based on your target CR. It’s kind of like having “levels” but for monsters. So if you need a CR 9 hobgoblin, just reference the Hobgoblin chart below, see what adjustments you need to make and features you need to add and presto: a brand new hobgoblin.
Hobgoblin Scalable Monster
|CR||Prof.||AC||hp/HD||Atk. Bonus||Martial Adv.||Features|
|1/2||+2||18||11 (2d8 + 2)||+3||2d6||Martial Advantage|
|1||+2||18||16 (3d8 + 3)||+3||2d6||Multiattack (2 attacks)|
|2||+2||18||22 (5d8 + 5)||+3||2d6||
Mark of Nomog-Gaeya (+2 Dex. +2 Str, +2 Cha)
|3||+2||17||39 (6d8 + 12)||+4||3d6||Hobgoblin Title (Captain), Leadership|
|4||+2||17||52 (8d8 + 16)||+7||3d6||Ability Score Improvement (+1 Str, +1 Wis), Fighting Master|
|5||+3||17||82 (11d8 + 33)||+9||3d6||Strategic|
|6||+3||20||97 (13d8 + 39)||+9||4d6||Multiattack (3 attacks), Hobgoblin Title (Warlord), Shield Bash, Parry|
|7||+3||20||112 (15d8 +45)||+9||4d6||Improved Leadership (60 feet)|
|8||+3||20||135 (18d8 + 54)||+10||4d6||Ability Score Improvement (+2 Str)|
|9||+4||20||170 (20d8 + 80)||+12||5d6||Hobgoblin Title (Conquerer)|
|10||+4||20||187 (22d8 + 88)||+12||5d6||Heightened Reflexes|
|11||+4||20||212 (25d8 + 100)||+12||5d6||Innate Spellcasting (aid, compelled duel, detect evil and good,)|
|12||+4||20||247 (26d8 + 130)||+12||6d6||Ability Score Improvement (+1 Str, +1 Wis), Hobgoblin Title (Chosen of Maglubiyet), Maglubiyet’s Blessing, Legendary Actions (Move, Attack, Shield Bash)|
|13||+5||20||256 (27d8 + 135)||+14||6d6||Improved Leadership (90 feet), Magic Weapons|
|14||+5||20||275 (29d8 + 145)||+14||6d6||Improved Innate Spellcasting (branding smite)|
|15||+5||20||315 (30d8 + 180)||+14||7d6||Hobgoblin Title (Avatar of Nomog-Gaeya), Elemental Adaptation|
|16||+5||20||336 (32d8 + 192)||+15||7d6||Ability Score Improvement (+2 Str)|
|17||+6||20||346 (33d8 + 198)||+17||7d6||Improved Legendary Actions, Improved Innate Spellcasting (aura of vitality)|
|18||+6||20||346 (33d8 + 198)||+17||8d6||Hobgoblin Title (Spirit of Acheron), Magic Resistance|
|19||+6||20||346 (33d8 + 198)||+18||8d6||Ability Score Improvement (+1 Str, +1 Wis), Legendary Resistance|
|20||+6||20||402 (35d8 + 245)||+18||8d6||Improved Leadership (120 feet), Improved Innate Spellcasting (banishment)|
The hobgoblin’s starting statistics are identified on page 186 of the Monster Manual.
As the hobgoblin’s CR increases, it gains the following special traits.
Starting at CR 1/2, once per turn, the hobgoblin can deal an extra 7 (2d6) damage to a creature it hits with a weapon attack if that creature is within 5 feet of an ally of the hobgoblin that isn’t incapacitated. The amount of damage that the hobgoblin deals with this trait increases as it gains CRs as shown on the Hobgoblin Scalable Monster table.
At CR 1, when the hobgoblin takes the Attack action it can make two melee attacks. At CR 6, the hobgoblin can make one additional melee attack, or it can make two ranged attacks in place of its three melee attacks.
Mark of Nomag-Gaeya
At CR 2, it is marked by the hobgoblin war god, Nomag-Gaeya, as a prototypical example of the species. The hobgoblin’s Strength score increases by 2, its Dexterity score increases by 2, and its Charisma score increases by 2.
When the hobgoblin reaches CR 3, and again at CR 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18, it gains a new title as noted on the Hobgoblin Scalable Monster table. When the hobgoblin gains a new title, its Constitution score increases by 2, its Intelligence score increases by 2, and its Charisma score increases by 2.
At CR 3, the hobgoblin can use its action to inspire its companions. For 1 minute, the hobgoblin can utter a special command or warning whenever a nonhostile creature that it can see within 30 feet of it makes an attack roll or a saving throw. The creature can add a d4 to its roll provided it can hear and understand the hobgoblin. A creature can benefit from only one Leadership die at a time. This effect ends if the hobgoblin is incapacitated. Once the hobgoblin uses this feature, it can’t use it again until it completes a short or long rest.
At CR 7, the range that the hobgoblin can affect nonhostile creatures with this trait increases by 30 feet (60 feet), and again at CR 14 (90 feet), and CR 20 (120 feet).
Ability Score Improvement
When the hobgoblin reaches CR 4, and again at CR 8, 12, 16, and 19 it increases one ability score by 2, or two ability scores by 1 as follows:
- CR 4: Strength +1 (16), Wis +1 (11)
- CR 8: Strength +2 (18)
- CR 12: Strength +1 (17), Wis +1 (12)
- CR 16: Strength +2 (19)
- CR 19: Strength +1 (20), Wis +1 (13)
At CR 4, the hobgoblin’s proficiency bonus is doubled for its attack rolls.
Starting at CR 5, the hobgoblin has proficiency in Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws.
At CR 6, if the hobgoblin is wielding a shield, it can use its action to make a melee weapon attack with its shield once per turn. On a hit, the shield deals bludgeoning damage equal to 1d4 + the hobgoblin’s Strength modifier. If the target is Large or smaller, it must succeed on a Strength saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + the hobgoblin’s Strength modifier + its proficiency bonus or be knocked prone.
Also at CR 6, the hobgoblin can use its reaction to add its proficiency bonus to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the hobgoblin must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.
Starting at CR 10, the hobgoblin has proficiency with Dexterity saving throws and it gains proficiency in the Strength (Athletics) skill.
At CR 11, the hobgoblin’s connection to Maglubiyet allows it to innately cast spells as noted below. Charisma is its spellcasting ability for these spells.
- At will: compelled duel, detect evil and good
- 1/day: aid
At CR 14, the hobgoblin can also cast branding smite once per day, at CR 17, the hobgoblin can cast aura of vitality once per day, and at CR 20, the hobgoblin can cast banishment once per day.
Beginning at CR 12, the hobgoblin’s type changes to fiend (goblinoid) and it gains resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons. Also, it learns to speak Abyssal and Infernal.
At CR 12, the hobgoblin can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The hobgoblin regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.
- Move. The hobgoblin can move up to half its movement speed without provoking opportunity attacks.
- Attack (Costs 2 actions). The hobgoblin makes one melee weapon attack as long as the attack is made with a sword.
- Shield Bash (Costs 3 actions). The hobgoblin makes one shield bash attack.
Starting at 17th level, the cost for Attack decreases by 1 (1), and the cost for Shield Bash decreases by 1 (2).
At CR 13, the hobgoblin’s weapon attacks are magical.
At CR 15, the hobgoblin gains resistance to cold, fire, and lightning damage.
Starting at CR 18, the hobgoblin has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
At CR 19, when the hobgoblin fails a saving throw it can choose to succeed instead. The hobgoblin can use this feature three times; it regains all expended uses at the end of a long rest.
Note: Hobgoblin Arms and Armor
The hobgoblins depicted here use the arms and armors standard for their title: basic hobgoblins use longswords and longbows and wear chainmail while wielding a shield. Meanwhile, captains wear half-plate and carry a greatsword. And warlords and beyond, the Hobgoblin Scalable Monster table assumes all hobgoblins are equipped like warlords with plate armor, shields, longswords, and javelins. Feel free to equip your hobgoblin however you like.
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Thumbnail art by Paizo Publishing