D&D 5e: Hobgoblin Race Guide

D&D 5e: Hobgoblin Race Guide

Intro

“Hobgoblins are relentless soldiers that cleave to rigid tactics and orders. I fear their less predictable scouts and spies more”. – Volo (from Volo’s Guide to Monsters)

The best thing I can say for someone wanting to dig into playing a Hobgoblin is to read Volo’s Guide to Monsters chapter “Goblinoids: The Conquering Host” and then, more specifically, the entry about Hobgoblins. This will give you the best possible understanding of a monstrous race that isn’t well-explored in popular media. 

If you want a quick look into what their lives are like, just think of a rigid, tyrannical system that prizes order and war above all. They worship the Goblin god Maglubiyet, but also swear fealty to a more specific god to the Hobgoblins, Nomog-Gaeya. His favored weapons are a longsword and a handaxe, and his priests (i.e. Clerics, Zealot Barbarians, Paladins as well) wield a flail with a head that’s been dipped into white paint. 

Mechanically, you’ll see below that while I think that Hobgoblins are extremely cool, what they bring to the table is sufficiently limited to make them useful in very few situations.

Guide Key

Epic

Good

Meh

Bad

Hobgoblin Traits

ASI: +2 CON and +1 INT. This is pretty solid if you’re going for a Wizard build or for martial classes that benefit from INT (say HELLO to the Eldritch Knight). However, not getting any boosts to STR, DEX, WIS, or CHA (the more common Ability Scores to build around) makes this race a bit of a challenge to build around.

–Age: All things considered, Hobgoblins age like much more hairy humans. They’re basically the same.

Size: You’re medium, between 5 and 6 feet tall, weighing between 150 to 200 pounds. 

Speed: 30 feet. Completely average (but frankly, average is much better than 25 feet).

Darkvision: 60 feet of dim/dark vision is an excellent little tool to have. 

Martial Training: Getting proficiency with two martial weapons (of your choice, mind you) and with light armor is a nice little thing to pick up at level one. Especially since you’re probably going to be leaning into a race/class combo that benefits from INT, getting some additional weapons proficiencies is nice to give you some versatility. However, most of the martial classes that you might be interested in likely already have proficiency with all martial weapons and light armor.

Saving Face: This is one of the more unique traits in all of D&D and really gives you a feel for the culture of Hobgoblin society. Up to a +5 bonus on a failed roll (which can then turn it into a success) depending on how many allies you can see, is pretty awesome. Depending on how your DM rules “allies”, you might be getting this bonus for your party alone. So for smaller play-groups, this whole race could be an utterly bad fit. However, you should be able to benefit from this ability if you’re fighting with friendly NPCs or charmed creatures. However, you only get this once per short/long rest which is a bit sad and makes the Hobgoblin a far less appealing race to play. CAVEAT: You might chat with your DM about expanding this ability to being used a number of times per long rest equal to your proficiency modifier (which is a design philosophy that Wizards of the Coast seems to be leaning into heavily in their most recent publications). If you can get that, this ability (and frankly, race as a whole) immediately becomes EPIC.

–Languages: Common and Goblin. 

Hobgoblin Subraces

There are no official Hobgoblin subraces. Wizards of the Coast has, however, released an unofficial full Hobgoblin variant race in Unearthed Arcana 77 – Folk of the Feywild. Since it is unofficial, I won’t cover it here. But discuss it with your DM as a possible option. It gives you a free +2 to ANY Ability score and +1 to any other… so, that’s insanely good.

Best Classes and Archetypes for the Hobgoblin

I’ll save you some time and share with you some of my favorite pairings and break down why I think there are some paths you just shouldn’t go down. At the end of the day, the reasoning comes down to three things:

1) Does the race satisfy the expectations of the class?

2) Does the race synergize with subclass abilities?

3) How easy would it be to get started with this race-class/subclass combo?

You can try to turn D&D 5e into as much of an exact science as you want, but at the end of the day, you need to figure out what works best for your playstyle, your campaign, and your playgroup. Alrighty, here we go!

Artificer

With a +1 to your INT and a nice big boost to your CON, you can be one of the more survivable Artificers out there. While this class doesn’t really fit easily into the lore of the Hobgoblin, there is no reason why you can’t break from the mold. Afterall, by playing a monstrous race, the game already assumes that you are operating outside of the norm of your Hobgoblin society. Go make magical items all over the place.

Alchemist: Pretty solid kit. Lots of variety and some explosive potential. Decent.

Armorer: Your CON will come in handy and your INT will help you with your efficacy. STR and DEX be damned! 

Artillerist: May want more of an INT bonus (just to get larger Temp HP boosts), but a solid option.  

Battle Smith: I think this is where you’ll really want to be. If you count your Steel Defender as an ally, this is a great way to more reliably get your Saving Face bonus.

Barbarian

While the CON is excellent, the INT is completely wasted on the Barbarian. Since you have no boosts to DEX or STR, you WILL struggle to make this class feel useful unless you’ve rolled for stats and got some incredible rolls. This also makes your racial abilities redundant: it has martial weapons proficiency and light armor.

Ancestral Guardian: I’m just going to recommend a masochistic workout regimen for your Hobgoblin to follow to get Barbarian ready

Battlerager: 50x burpees

Beast: 100x push-ups

Berserker: 100x sit-ups

Depths: 50x squats

Juggernaut: 2 mile run

Storm Herald: 50x sit-ups

Totem Warrior – Bear: 50x push-ups

Totem Warrior – Eagle: 25x burpees

Totem Warrior – Elk: 1 mile run

Totem Warrior – Tiger: 30 minutes yoga for stretching

Totem Warrior – Wolf: 15 minute cool down.

Wild Magic: Cry yourself to sleep.

Zealot: Maybe talk to your DM about getting a STR boost after you’ve done this for a few weeks/months.

Bard

While you don’t have CHA, the Saving Face ability screams of the self-doubt so prevalent in many performers. Think of someone that needs an audience to give them an extra boost… that’s a bard trait.

Creation: For the very creative Hobgoblin.

Eloquence: For the very talkative Hobgoblin. Best Bard.

Glamour: For the very flashy Hobgoblin. 

Lore: For the very capable Hobgoblin. Love the skills with INT.

Maestro: For the very versatile Hobgoblin.

Swords: For the very slashy Hobgoblin. Medium armor is nice, but you won’t have the DEX to make it useful.

Valor: For the very outdated Hobgoblin. Pass. Always.

Whispers: For the very edgy Hobgoblin. 

Blood Hunter

The CON is excellent and the INT is a valuable addition for the Blood Hunter (your Hemocraft ability is reliant upon this). Since you have no boosts to DEX or STR, you may struggle to be effective with this class unless you’ve rolled for stats and got some incredible rolls. This also makes your racial abilities redundant: it has martial weapons proficiency and light armor. This is an interesting combo for the Hobgoblin, though, considering that these are Blood Hunter Orders which fits very well into their rigid racial social system.

Ghostslayer: If you love fighting undead, this is definitely the path for you. Otherwise, your kit is limited.

Lycan: Really wants a high STR/DEX and a high CON, so this is not your strong suit. You need both to make it work.

Mutant: Massive versatility. I quite like this subclass. However, I might also recommend the Artificer-Alchemist. Either works out alright.

Profane Soul: And INT based Warlock… dude, solid. This is actually an amazing combo for you.


Cleric

No native WIS bonus is terribly sad. If your DM lets you swap INT for WIS, then this can work out alright, and it might even be excellent. However, as written, this isn’t a strong combo. Choose the following Domains only if…

Arcana: You want to feel like a bad wizard.

Blood: You want constant reminders of how bad your WIS is.

Death: You want to be a decent necromancer.

Forge: You want to unleash your inner Dwarf.

Grave: You want to make the undead more dead.

Knowledge: You want to flex your brain.

Life: You want to keep people alive.

Light: You want to purge the wicked.

Nature: You want to hug a tree then worship it.

Order: You want to speak with authority (probably what most Clerics in Hobgoblin society should be)

Peace: You want to break the game with math.

Tempest: You want to blast lightning.

Trickery: You want to be me.

Twilight: You want some of the most reliable abilities in the game.

War: You want to pray hard then hit harder.

Druid

No native WIS bonus is terribly sad. If your DM lets you swap INT for WIS, then this can work out alright, and it might even be excellent. However, as written, this isn’t a strong combo.

Choose the following Circles only if…

Dreams: You want to prance through Dreamland.

Land: You want to prance through Regularland.

Moon: You want to be a Hobgoblin less times during the day.

Shepherd: You want to make friends with every animal.

Spores: You want to make friends with every mushroom.

Stars: You want to stargaze.

Wildfire: You want to set a forest on fire.

Fighter

While the CON is excellent, the INT is an edge case for the Fighter. Since you have no boosts to DEX or STR, you may struggle with this class unless you’ve rolled for stats and got some incredible rolls. This also makes your racial abilities redundant: it has martial weapons proficiency and light armor.

Arcane Archer: Loves the INT. Otherwise, without a decent DEX ability score, you’ll be pretty sad.

Battle Master: Versatile options, but you don’t have the tools to make the most of them.

Cavalier: This might be the only time that I recommend the Cavalier because I don’t think it’s really a useful subclass ever. I think having a mounted Hobgoblin could actually be one of the more fun ways to build around the race, and you might be able to get a cooler mount if your DM lets you get a Warg to ride. 

Champion: The most basic of the fighters. You’ll feel like you’re missing out on a good STR/DEX score.

Echo Knight: Requires creativity but also a solid STR/DEX build to make it worthwhile. Pass.

Eldritch Knight: Loves the INT. Otherwise, without a decent STR or DEX ability score, you’ll be pretty sad.

Gunslinger: Sad DEX noises.

Psi Warrior: Loves the INT. Otherwise, without a decent STR or DEX ability score, you’ll be pretty sad.

Purple Dragon Knight: Technically a locked class, but it fits the sub-theme of the Hobgoblin of caring about your allies position on the battlefield.

Renegade: Sad DEX noises.

Rune Knight: Pass. About as rigid as Hobgoblin society.

Samurai: Probably the best straightforward offensive Fighter subclass, but you lack the STR/DEX or CHA to fit the warfare/socialite aspects of the class.

Monk

While the CON is excellent, the INT is a bit sad for a Monk. If your DM lets you swap, then this might work out. But as written, this isn’t a good combo. Since you have no boosts to DEX or STR, you may struggle with this class unless you’ve rolled for stats and got some incredible rolls. The class doesn’t give light armor or martial weapon proficiency, but you never want to wear armor to get access to monk abilities. Being a Hobgoblin Monk is a bold choice that will always be suboptimal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t think of interesting things to do with the character.

Here is a list of Bruce Lee movies/TV shows to inspire your Hobgoblin Monk.

Ascendant Dragon: Enter the Dragon

Astral Self: The Way of the Dragon

Cobalt Soul: The Big Boss

Four Elements: Fist of Fury

Kensei: The Green Hornet

Here are a few Jackie Chan Movies to inspire your Hobgoblin Monk.

Drunken Master: Drunken Master (One and two)

Long Death: Rush Hour (One, two and three)

Mercy: Police Story

Open Hand: Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights

Shadow: The Foreigner

Here is an awesome TV show to inspire your Hobgoblin Monk

Sun Soul: Warrior

Paladin

While the CON is excellent, the INT is wasted on the Paladin. This might work out if your DM lets you swap the INT boost for CHA, but with the rules as written, this is not your favorite combo. Since you have no boosts to DEX or STR, you may struggle with this class unless you’ve rolled for stats and got some incredible rolls. This also makes your racial abilities redundant: it has martial weapons proficiency and light armor. Realistically, the Oaths required to be a Paladin fits closely with the Hobgoblin vibe, but mechanically, they aren’t a good fit.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but here’s the thing…

Ancients: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You don’t have that. But, if you want to protect the trees, go ahead.

Conquest: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You don’t have that. But, if you want to conquer the world, go ahead. This is probably what all Hobgoblin Paladins would be.

Crown: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You still don’t have that. But, if you want to fit for King and Country, go ahead.

Devotion: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You don’t have that. But, if you want to be the basic Paladin, go ahead.

Glory: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You don’t have that. But, if you want to achieve fame and fortune, go ahead.

Oathbreaker: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You don’t have that. But, if you want to break the rules, be my guest.

Open Sea: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You don’t have that. But, if you want to build your sea legs, be my guest.

Redemption: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You don’t have that. But, if you want to save the world, be my guest.

Vengeance: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You don’t have that. But, if you want to make the world burn, be my guest.

Watchers: Needs STR/DEX + CHA. You don’t have that. But, if you want to run away from the world, be my guest.

Ranger

While the CON is excellent, the INT is wasted on the Ranger. Like the monk, if your DM lets you swap INT for WIS, maybe this can work out better, but it’s still not your wheelhouse. Since you have no boosts to DEX or STR, you may struggle with this class unless you’ve rolled for stats and got some incredible rolls. This also makes your racial abilities redundant: it has martial weapons proficiency and light armor.

Beast Master: Even with Tasha’s optional changes, this is a hard pass with your stat line up.

Drakewarden: Have a dragon buddy. Awesome, but it’s not a good fit for you.

Fey Wanderer: Cares about WIS and CHA… you have neither. Pass.

Gloom Stalker: The only redeeming subclass of the Ranger for a Hobgoblin. It hits wicked hard.

Horizon Walker: Turning attacks into force damage is pretty nifty and their mobility is kind of crazy, but this would only be decent in a late stage campaign where you’ve built out your character to have better stats.

Hunter: Solid basic ranger. You’ll feel the pain of having a low STR/DEX and a crappy WIS.

Monster Slayer: Not a good fit for you. Wants High STR to face off against big monsters.

Swarmkeeper: Poor subclass with a poor fit for your race. Bad combo. Pass.


Rogue

While the CON is excellent, the INT is a nice side stat. Your hierarchy for Rogue really should be 1) DEX, 2) CHA, 3) INT/WIS. Notice that your +2 CON bonus is not something that the Rogue particularly cares for. Since you have no boosts to DEX or STR, you may struggle with this class unless you’ve rolled for stats and got some incredible rolls. This class offers light armor proficiency but doesn’t give it for all martial weapons, so it might be nice to get a few more weapons to work with. 

Arcane Trickster: Loves the INT, but you need to find a way to improve your DEX. You’ll be able to pull off most things you want with creative thinking. 

Assassin: You hit like an absolute truck. A better chance to roll more dice makes up for some of your weaknesses. However, you really should have a better STR or DEX to go this route.

Inquisitive: Loves the INT, but you need to find a way to improve your DEX. You’ll lean into your Investigation checks hard to get your Sneak Attack.

Mastermind: The Help as a Bonus Action is some of the hottest stuff in the world, but you don’t really have the right set-up to make full use of the Rogue toolkit. 

Phantom: Surprisingly doesn’t penalize you heavily for having bad DEX.

Scout: Honestly, may be one of the better ways to build a martial fighter Hobgoblin. When they move up to you, you BACK UP! 

Soulknife: Wants a High DEX for the late game, but play during early levels would be fine with a Hobgoblin.

Swashbuckler: Similar to the Scout, this is one of the better ways to build a martial fighter Hobgoblin. You can get in and get out!

Thief: Really expects DEX. Pass.

Sorcerer

No native CHA bonus is terribly sad. If your DM lets you swap INT for CHA, then this can work out alright, and it might even be excellent. However, as written, this isn’t a strong combo.

Aberrant Mind: Needs CHA from the get go to be decent. Otherwise, you’ll be hurting for efficiency.

Clockwork Soul: Awesome early game abilities and the subclass features don’t penalize you for having a low CHA. However, you’ll never hit has often or as hard as you’ll want.

Divine Soul: Love a cleric sorcerer, but you need the CHA.

Draconic Bloodline: Sprout your wings and fly (way too late in the game for this to be compelling).

Rune Child: Your sorcerer points are going to melt away and you won’t feel like you’re operating anywhere close to your peak efficiency.

Shadow Sorcery: Completely fine in campaign utilizing heavy darkness… otherwise, pass.

Storm Sorcery: Strong toolkit and your mobility will be pretty awesome, but your spells and spell DCs will suffer.

Wild Magic: Requires a cool DM to make the most of it. Otherwise, pass.

Warlock

No native CHA bonus is terribly sad. If your DM lets you swap INT for CHA, then this can work out alright, and it might even be excellent. However, as written, this isn’t a strong combo. Honestly, the only thing that might be able to make this interesting would be picking decent invocations, but those aren’t contingent on your Patron, rather your Pact will make the difference.

Archfey: Without CHA, this is all bad. You have so few spell slots that wasting them with a bad spell attack bonus or spell save DC is just a sad use of your time and effort. However, I will recommend a few Invocations here that could make your Hobgoblin Warlock a little more worthwhile. Invocation recommendation: Devil’s Sight makes quick work of magical darkness. Can be very nice in the right situation.

Celestial: See “Archfey”. Invocation recommendation: Eldritch Mind will help you make the most of your CON bonus to maintain concentration.

Fathomless: See “Archfey”. Invocation recommendation: Mask of Many Faces will make it much easier for you to move about non-monstrous society. Depending on your campaign, this may be required to feel like you’re not constantly bothered in cities.

Fiend: See “Archfey”. Invocation recommendation: Repelling Blast. Pushing enemies around the battlefield is massive utility 

Genie: See “Archfey”. Invocation recommendation: Aspect of the Moon (requires Pact of the Tome) is one of the keys to unlocking a Sorcerer/Warlock combo that used to break the game. If you play using Errata, it’s been fixed. If you don’t… Google the Coffeelock and watch your DM weep.

Great Old One: See “Archfey”. Invocation recommendation: Eldritch Sight is pretty awesome. Detect Magic without a spell slot or components is hot.

Hexblade: See “Archfey.” Invocation recommendation: Eyes of the Rune Keeper will make a DM second guess writing anything down.

Undying: See “Archfey”. Invocation recommendation: Fiendish Vigor for False Life as an at will 1-st level spell is gorgeous for the first few levels.

Wizard

Oddly, the Hobgoblin is a perfect fit for the Wizard. The CON is massive for your concentration checks and the INT bonus is a decent enough starting place for you to get cooking. The lore here also doesn’t really fit with what’s written in Volo’s Guide to Monsters (realistically, you’d expect them to make MUCH better fighters or paladins, and yet, they flounder in those roles). Your Hobgoblin, however, is right at home with the Wizard.

Abjuration: Shields for days. Feels nice to survive and your CON will help you survive even longer.

Artificer: Play the actual class. It’s better.

Bladesinging: Locked to Elves, but if you can get in, this will actually turn you into the frontline fighter the Hobgoblin dreams of being.

Chronurgist: TIME MAGIC! Seriously some of the strongest subclass features to be added to D&D. Can’t go wrong here.

Conjuration: If you can’t find friends, make them.

Divination: Beautiful abilities that are useful from level 1 to 20. Hard to improve upon this pick

Enchantment: If you can’t find friends… make them.

Evocation: Strong spells that will last longer because you can focus on them. Great.

Graviturgist: Solid abilities that require some decent timing, but they work out well in the end. 

Illusion: A less than impressive class, but useful in the hands of creative players. 

Necromancy: Ultimately feels like you’re barely a necromancer. Needs an official overhaul.  

Order of Scribes: If you know all the spells, you’ll never die. 

Transmutation: Decent kit, but it has just been outpaced by more interesting subclasses and the entire Artificer class. 

War Magic: A bread and butter combo. You’ll be dishing out decent damage, denying spellcasters, and have the ability to function in close(r) combat. 

Racial Feats/Best Feats

The Hobgoblin has no native Racial Feats. However, they still benefit from a whole bevy of Feats. However, before you take any of these feats, if you’re going martial, you really should fully invest in an Ability Score Improvement to STR or DEX (or WIS if you’re a Monk).

Sentinel: If you want to go martial, you’ll need some tools to make it worth your while. Sentinel is one of the best ways to go for that. Knocking enemies’ speed to 0 on an opportunity attack is crazy. And reactions to attack when enemies attack your allies are huge. And again, this fits the sub-theme of the Hobgoblin of caring about your ally position.

Athlete: A +1 to STR or DEX might be perfect in the case of odd number Ability Scores that need that extra push. Plus, getting knocked prone is one of the most annoying things in D&D, so standing up for 5 feet is pretty nice.

War Caster: Since you really should go with a class/subclass that uses INT for spellcasting, this will make your life SO much easier. It removes your concerns about handling somatic spell components and opens up the incredibly useful spell-attack option as an Opportunity Attack.

Sage Gamers

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