User Manual: Goblins vs Kobolds

Continuing a segment that Garrett started with his piece on Titanic Monsters (specifically the infamous Tarrasque), I want to mention some strategies on how to run some of the more diminutive monsters in the Monster Manual.

Goblins – the dregs of any evildoer’s hierarchy – are one of my favorite types of monsters. They’re pretty easy to kill when you get up close to them, but their kit of abilities is built around scuttling in the shadows to stay out of harm’s reach. When we deconstruct monsters in the Monster Manual to figure out how to use them well, our discoveries inform how we should build our own. They can be hilarious little annoyances for the party, and lead up to some infamous encounters if well-employed.

Goblins’ defining ability is their Nimble Escape: they can Disengage or Hide as a bonus action on their turns. This lets them hop away from the barbarian with their bonus action Disengage, then they can use their action to Dash even further out of reach.

If the Goblins have the support of a particularly large creature like an Ogre or Bugbear, then the party could easily be in for a bad time. The Ogre could keep the heavy hitters occupied while the Goblin snipers picked off party members from the shadows.

Kobolds, on the other hand, have Pack Tactics: advantage when attacking an enemy who has one of the Kobold’s allies within 5 feet of them (and not incapacitated).While Goblins want to stay at a distance, Kobolds prefer to get right up on adventurers, swarming them in a Zerg Rush for the most damage possible. A Kobold assault should feel like an unbridled assault of pint-sized fury.

Also, while both monsters prefer skulking around in the dark, Kobolds are at a far worse situation in direct sunlight because of their Sunlight Sensitivity. Any encounters outside their lairs, then, should probably be during nighttime raids or nocturnal hunting trips.

Hopefully, this has inspired a couple of people to make some devious encounters with the little minions of the Monster Manual. Always look at the monsters’ abilities and attacks in their stat block, then try to imagine the best and worst situations for the monster. Happy hunting, all!

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