D&D Monster Monday: Worg
You trip over a tree root in the middle of the forest. As you struggle to get back up you hear their snarls and howls getting louder. They’ve found you. You feel an immense weight tackle you to the ground and feel the sharp pain of the worg’s fangs bearing down on your shoulder, snapping your bones like toothpicks.
I’d always felt goblins were “too cliché” and avoided using them in low-level adventures. Although the more I read about them and do various Monster Mondays on goblins and their allies, the more I understand why they are a “cliché”.
They’re fucking badass.
Case in point, the worg, the goblins’ favored steed, and ally. These massive wolflike creatures strike terror as they hunt down friend and foe alike. However, they’ve created a sort of symbiotic relationship with the goblins making for a terrifying dynamic duo in the lower tiers of play.
Without further ado, let’s ride into the Monster Manual and talk about the goblin’s classic steed and ally, the worg!
Worgs are evil predators that, like their wolf counterparts, enjoy hunting down weak prey. However, unlike wolves, worgs don’t always hunt in packs. These creatures are terrifying enough on their own to kill most prey wandering about in their forest habitats.
Most worgs are raised as pups by goblins and hobgoblins. Some are completely wild as well.
Regardless, as they’re raised, worgs develop a relationship with the goblinoids that raise them. They act as mounts for these creatures so long as they’re kept fed, healthy, and happy.
Although, as soon as one of those needs are no longer met, worgs will turn on their masters without a second thought.
When a rider and a worg get along, though, they are a terrifying force. The goblin gains a valuable ally in combat that can quickly gallop across the battlefield. The worg has a protector that can return fire upon ranged attackers. When things are good, things are good.
Worg Stats and Abilities
You can find the worg statblock on page 341 of the Monster Manual.
Size: large monstrosity
AC: 13 (natural armor)
HP: 26 (4d10 + 4)
Speed: 50 ft.
STR: 16 (+3)
DEX: 13 (+1)
CON: 13 (+1)
INT: 7 (-2)
WIS: 11 (+0)
CHA: 8 (-1)
Their stats as a whole are pretty solid. Their common saving throw ability scores aren’t great but they’re decent enough for a CR 1/2 creature. I’ll take “decent enough” common saving throw abilities to get a +3 in our offensive ability score any day of the week for a low CR creature.
Their 13 AC is a sore spot in this part of the statblock. They’re quite easy to hit. Their HP isn’t all that great either, but it’s not terrible.
The worg’s 50 ft. of movement is my favorite part of the statblock. Sure, they’re not as quick as a horse, but they’re sure as hell way better combat units. Slap a goblin on top of one of these monstrosities and you’ll chew through low-level adventurers in no time. Especially if you’re fighting within the cover of a dense forest, the worg’s favorite terrain!
Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills
Skills: Perception +4
Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14
Languages: Goblin, Worg
CR: 1/2 (100 XP)
Goblins aren’t the best guards. That’s fine though because their worg allies have their backs with a stunning +4 to Perception! Not only that but with Keen Hearing and Smell and darkvision, worgs become phenomenal hunters and guards due to their natural ability to effortlessly track down their prey.
Yes, worgs can talk! They even have their own language. The Monster Manual specifies that some worgs can even speak Common.
CR 1/2 is a pretty decent spot for them. Although their offensives hit quite a bit harder than that.
Traits and Abilities
Keen Hearing and Smell.The worg has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.
Couple this trait with +4 to Perception and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Perception check that the worg can’t ace. Hiding is not an option when you’re being tracked down by a worg, and good luck sneaking into a goblin den with a pack of worgs at the entrance.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
Here we see another parallel to the 5e wolf. The worg’s bite attack also has a chance of knocking the target prone if the fail a Strength saving throw. This provides a nice bit of utility for the worg’s melee attacker allies.
It’s also quite a solid feature because it calls for a Strength save which is a rare ability to use for a saving throw. This makes it a bit of a hit-or-miss save depending on the target, but if you’re targeting a spellcaster or a ranged attacker there’s a good chance you’re dragging them to the ground.
Not only that, but its 10 average piercing damage and +5 to hit are both leaps and bounds over the typical 1/2 CR creature’s damage per round and attack bonus. This is a nasty creature to deal with in combat.
The worg’s statblock is tailor-made for dishing out a ton of damage. It’s a creature that embodies the philosophy of “a good offense is the best defense”.
10 damage per round is already a spicy damage output for a CR 1/2 creature. It’s the +5 to hit that pushes this creature into offensive powerhouse territory.
Most creatures around this CR will have about a +3 or maybe a +4 to hit. A +5 is a significant boost, especially in a tier where the best armor a character can afford is chain mail if they’re lucky.
Their damage is high, and their chances of dealing it are phenomenal. Worgs are terrifying.
A Surprising Amount of Utility
You don’t think of a melee skirmisher type creature being a great source of utility. However, the worg has a fair amount of in and out of combat utility packed into its statblock.
Its high Perception and Keen Hearing and Smell give the worg a ton of utility in the form of tracking creatures and guarding locations. It’s practically impossible to hide or sneak around a worg that’s actively searching for prey.
Their Bite also includes some excellent in-combat utility by having a solid chance of knocking their target prone. Keep in mind that melee attacks are rolled at advantage against prone targets so this could heavily increase the worg’s allies’ damage output.
50 ft. of movement is phenomenal for a typical creature. It’s 20 ft. of movement more than the average adventurer and goblin. By riding on a worg a goblin becomes a menace to track down on the battlefield.
You could argue that horses get 60 ft. of movement so they’re the better mount. For typical travel purposes, you’d be right. However, the worg offers a lot more outside of travel than a riding horse does thanks to their combat capabilities.
A warhorse is on a whole other level, but they’re also not nearly as accessible as a riding horse due to how expensive they are.
As far as combat mounts go, worgs are a solid option. These creatures zoom around the battlefield with terrifying offensive power.
There has to be a trade-off for all that speed, damage, and utility. That’s just how equivalent exchange works!
The worg’s weak point is its mediocre defenses. Its AC and HP aren’t terrible, but they’re not great either.
I’d also argue that worgs are susceptible to ranged attacks, but if you pair them up with a goblin that’s no longer an issue. The goblin can prop up this weakness by returning fire at the enemy.
Still, though, the worg is a big, and easy target to take care of. Provided it doesn’t take you out first!
How to Play a Worg
Rush Your Target
Worgs have only one option in combat. Bite.
By all means, it’s a great option, but it doesn’t give us much to work with. Therefore, your best bet is to use the worg’s 50 ft. of movement to rush towards the enemy’s backline.
Throw goblins or a bugbear at the party’s frontline and have your worg(s) beeline for the party’s squishy backline. Be sure to strap a goblin on your worg so that they can take advantage of hitting the party’s soon-to-be thrown into the dirt wizard!
A creature like the worg with poor defenses and fantastic offenses and speed only has this one option. You need to try and subdue the party’s damage dealers before they’re able to take you down.
Goblins are Important!
Having a goblin riding a warg resolves one of the worg’s greatest weaknesses, ranged attacks. Sure, the worg can’t do anything about the arrows and bullets flying toward it, but its goblin ally can return fire.
This doesn’t save the worg, sure, but it at least ensures that the party isn’t able to deal “free” damage on the worg. They’re risking a stone to the face from the goblin’s sling if they’re going to try and hit the worg.
Goblin (or other) allies can also make use of the trip portion of the worg’s Bite. All melee attackers targeting the prone creature will get advantage on their attacks, increasing your damage output for the round.
Worgs are solid creatures but pair them up with a goblin and they become deadlier!
5 Worg Plot Hooks
- Puppy! – A local child wants to show you their new puppy. Except it’s not a puppy. It’s a worg and it’s probably got goblins or other worgs searching for it.
- Captives – A band of goblin raiders captured some farmers and are holding them for a ransom. Their holding cell is easy to break down, but bypassing the worg guards is the tricky part.
- Balance in Nature – After a harsh winter the woods are quite barren of prey for wolves and other natural hunters to feast upon. The local rangers suspect that the goblins have kept breeding worgs, making this food shortage even more dire for the local wildlife.
- Unchained – An evil band of goblins has been decimated by their own, mistreated worgs. One problem remains. Where will they go now that they have no home?
- The Speaker – A traveling merchant has been telling anyone that will listen about their run-in with a talking wolf out in the forest.
Worgs are another goblin-adjacent creature that has surprised me as I’ve gone through various Monster Monday articles. They are horrifying creatures to run into in the lower levels, especially if they’re working in unison with a goblin or two.
These are fast skirmisher type creatures that want to run in quickly and hit hard. Their defenses are their sore spot, but they can at least prop those up a little bit with a goblin ally returning fire upon ranged attackers.
As far as mounts are concerned, worgs aren’t all that bad. Sure, they’re no warhorse, but for a cheap, ridable, combatant you’ll be hard-pressed to find something more effective at the lower tiers of play.
All in all, worgs are solid creatures and they have enough interesting lore to make them more than just “big scary wolves”. We’ve got dire wolves to fit that niche anyway.
The “Puppy” hook reminds me of a hook in Knights of the Dinner Table (RPG comic) called “Tag”. As the adventurers walk into a town, there’s a group of children racing around at breakneck speed. One of the children walks up to a character and tags them, proclaiming that they are “It.” It turns out that every year one child (or newcomer to the town) is sacrificed to the local harvest god. So much opportunity…
Oh that’s awesome!