Horns bellow in the distance. You see hobgoblin war banners emerge from the forest line as a legion of hobgoblins charge toward your humble village. There’s no time to evacuate. You, your family, and your friends are doomed.
Hobgoblins are best described as soldiers. Their society is built around their military and every hobgoblin has a duty they must perform. This makes them a fearsome enemy to any settlement or resource-dense location as they’ll surely plan a way to conquer it.
While their strength is certainly due to their organization, tactics, and numbers, each hobgoblin is still a strong fighter in their own right. They’re well-armed and experienced through years of training and tactical warfare.
Let’s march into the Monster Manual and learn all that we can about these fearsome soldiers!
Hobgoblins band together to form military legions. These are highly-organized groups where each hobgoblin has a rank and a job. Every hobgoblin has its place and for society, and their army to function they must work together.
Like other goblinoids such as goblins and bugbears, hobgoblins love combat and have a desire to conquer nearby land and resources. However, unlike goblins and bugbears, hobgoblins are an organized military society that values strategic thinking and planning.
Hobgoblins will scout out the enemy ahead of time, formulate plans and tactics, and organize their legion to carry out legitimate warfare against their enemy. Once victory is achieved, hobgoblins will fortify their new lands and hold it from the armies of those whom they conquered it from.
They are organized, and they are ruthless. They are a terrifying threat to any humanoid settlement near a hobgoblin lair.
Hobgoblin Stats and Abilities
You can find the hobgoblin’s statblock on page 186 of the Monster Manual.
Size: Medium humanoid (goblinoid)
AC: 18 (chain mail, shield)
HP: 11 (2d8+2)
Speed: 30 ft.
STR: 13 (+1)
DEX: 12 (+1)
CON: 12 (+1)
INT: 10 (+0)
WIS: 10 (+0)
CHA: 9 (-1)
Honestly, the only remarkable point in this portion of the statblock is their 18 AC. This is an enormous amount of armor for a CR 1/2 creature.
However, outside of that, they’re very well-rounded. No stat is fantastic, but none are detrimental. They have average HP and a bunch of ability score modifiers that span between 0 and +1 with a single -1 thrown into the mix.
They’re not extraordinary, but they have a solid baseline and 0 blemishes. In that regard, they’re the perfect soldier.
Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills
Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages: Common, Goblin
CR: 1/2 (100 XP)
Again, there’s nothing phenomenal in this part of the statblock either. Their passive Perception is quite average, but they have darkvision so they wind up being serviceable guard units.
All in all, CR 1/2 is a decent ranking for them. Although, I think you could make a case for them to be closer to CR 1. In the right circumstances, they hit above CR 1/2, and thankfully, the right circumstances aren’t difficult to pull off.
Traits and Abilities
Martial Advantage. 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.
This is a really interesting trait. It’s flavorful in that it drives home that each soldier is part of an army. Coordination with their allies grants them a hefty amount of bonus damage per turn.
However, it also showcases the individual hobgoblin’s training and tactical knowledge. Each soldier knows how to leverage the opportunities their allies give them. A group of hobgoblins working in tandem is a force to be reckoned with for this reason.
Longsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d8 + 1) slashing damage, or 6 (1d10 + 1) slashing damage if used with two hands.
Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d8 + 1) piercing damage.
Since they lack a Multiattack, hobgoblins aren’t the most gifted creatures in the action economy department. However, Martial Advantage more than makes up for the lack of a second attack.
When including Martial Advantage, the hobgoblin deals an average of 12 damage per turn which is hefty for a CR 1/2 creature. Yes, this can become 13 damage per turn if they make a 2H Longsword attack, but that +2 AC that a shield gives them is well-worth the -1 average damage tradeoff.
18 AC is too juicy to pass up!
The hobgoblin is not bad at anything. They don’t have a personal niche, but that’s ok because being well-rounded is their strength.
Martial Advantage works for both ranged and melee attacks, giving the hobgoblin full use of their offensive actions. This is great because both their long-ranged Longbow attack and their melee Longsword attacks deal 5 average damage per turn.
As long as the hobgoblin(s) have an ally within 5 ft. of their target, they can pump out their 12 average damage per turn without worry. This makes them flexible creatures to position and generates a ton of tactical openings for your combat plans.
They’re not great at making saving throws, but they’re not at a disadvantage anywhere outside of their -1 modifier in Charisma which admittedly isn’t used too often in combat.
Their movement is also perfectly average, which is a boon for positioning themselves with respect to the party in the heat of combat.
12 average damage per turn is phenomenal for a CR 1/2 creature. It’s practically double what you’d want out of a decent creature in that tier.
Sure, there are stipulations to gaining Martial Advantage‘s 7 average damage per turn, but they’re not all that difficult to pull off. It simply requires a couple of melee attackers for the hobgoblins to leverage.
It does become harder to use as the party rips through the hobgoblins’ melee line, but until then they’re going to have a hard time dealing with their boosted damage.
11 HP is not great for a CR 1/2 creature. Just two well-placed attacks by a low-level PC can fell a hobgoblin.
Thankfully their massive amount of armor helps to make hitting them a difficult goal to achieve, but it’s still a hefty weakness for a creature that needs to have their allies alive and well to pump out the majority of their damage.
Spells and abilities that bypass the hobgoblin’s 18 AC and forces them to rely on their 0-+1 modifiers are a fantastic way to quickly cut down these creatures.
Reliant on Positioning
Martial Advantage turns a middling CR 1/2 creature into a CR 1 offensive machine. It’s not a difficult trait to milk, but it does require you to use some tactics to pull off.
The hobgoblin needs a creature next to their target to dish-out their full damage. As the DM it’s your job to ensure that this is possible. As soon as they lose this benefit, they quickly become considerably less effective.
How to Play a Hobgoblin
Always Bring a Buddy
Martial Advantage is the key to unlocking the hobgoblin’s potential. This means that they need at least one tank to sit within 5 ft. of their enemy.
It doesn’t matter what type of ally is next to the hobgoblin’s target. It could be another hobgoblin, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, one could argue that it’s better if it’s not a hobgoblin since that hobgoblin would then need a second creature to sit near their target to proc Martial Advantage.
However, there are plenty of flavorful choices that you can pick from to use as a tank. Bugbears and worgs are two tanky creatures that canonically the hobgoblins would make use of in their armies.
Alternatively, you could forego using a tank and throw a ton of goblins at the enemy. Each goblin won’t last long in melee combat, but if there’s enough of them that they’ll give the hobgoblins Martial Advantage for a least a couple of rounds.
Positioning is Key
Positioning your hobgoblins is paramount. Melee hobgoblins must fight close to each other for the sake of Martial Advantage. This is actually easy to achieve by using real-world military tactics such as a phalanx. Which, considering the hobgoblin’s military background is a fighting-style I envision them utilizing.
However, hobgoblins have a unique gift. Their ranged option is just as effective as their melee option. Don’t be afraid to make use of this. In fact, lean into it whenever you can.
Hobgoblins are well-armored ranged attackers. That’s not a common niche in 5e since ranged attackers are often glass cannons with low AC. Have hobgoblins use tactical fighting to dip behind cover whilst their tanky frontline gives them openings to use Martial Advantage.
5 Hobgoblin Plot Hooks
- Reclaim the Farmlands – A small farming village on the outskirts of the human empire was conquered by a hobgoblin army. The capitol is recruiting mercenaries and adventurers alike to reclaim their land.
- Lost Battleplans – You find in a puddle of mud what appear to be battleplans written in goblin. They appear to be targetting a nearby elvish city.
- Infighting – A coup was staged within the nearby hobgoblin legion. Nearby settlements are worried that the revolutionaries, if they win, will push the legion into conquering nearby land using the momentum of their success.
- In Search of a Purpose – A squadron of hobgoblins has broken off from their legion. They beleive that their ideals better align with those of the capitol and wish to join their ranks. However, they need someone to vouch for them.
- Restoring the Pack – The proud wolfpack hunted in the forest for many generations. However, once the hobgoblin legion claimed its lands, they began stealing wolfpups and training them for warfare. The wild wolf population has dwindled and the forest’s ecosystem is beginning to suffer because of it.
Hobgoblins are a fearsome foe. Individually they’re not as strong as their bugbear brethren, and their numbers aren’t as impressive as a horde of goblins. However, the hobgoblin’s strategic knowledge and organization make them the most dangerous of the goblinoids to nearby civilizations.
Hobgoblins are soldiers. They have a role and a rank. Every individual is important to keep their well-oiled legion operational. This also means that a hobgoblin army is only as strong as their weakest link, hence their years of military training.
They’re a respectable foe in their own right, but they become out-right deadly when they’re part of a group. Ergo, hobgoblins are a perfect low-CR adversary for a band of starry-eyed adventurers.