Reworking Goblins - The Green Tide


Advice

Liberty's Edge

So me and a friend of mine are looking at reworking goblins for a homebrew setting and we're having a little bit of trouble sorting a thing out and I was hoping we could get some assistance on it.

So we're taking the standard Pathfinder Goblin and switching up the tactics and societal makeup to that of an amalgam of Kobolds (with the traps and scary cleverness), Skaven (Warhammer Fantasy, with the specialized clans, overwhelming hordes of mooks, use of poisons and disease, and general sneaky skullduggery), and Orks (the WAAAGH! method of warfare, looting technology, and "the strongest/most clever leads" leadership). All of that is well and good and easy enough but here comes the issue: How do you make Goblins threatening beyond, say, level 5 or 6?

One idea that my friend had was to give them the ability to auto-Aid Another, though I was thinking for higher levels give them the ability to get additive flanking bonuses (If 5 goblins are in melee with the party they all count as flanking and have the bonus stack, so each goblin would get +8 to hit). Swarming would be another option. Basically looking for a quick and dirty way to make a green tide of goblins a credible threat to a party up to about level 10 or so without having to give them all class levels. Increased HP or attack damage isn't needed, just the ability to hit the PCs. The idea is a horde of easy to kill mooks that can and will damage you little by little.

So, any advice?


Silus wrote:

So me and a friend of mine are looking at reworking goblins for a homebrew setting and we're having a little bit of trouble sorting a thing out and I was hoping we could get some assistance on it.

So we're taking the standard Pathfinder Goblin and switching up the tactics and societal makeup to that of an amalgam of Kobolds (with the traps and scary cleverness), Skaven (Warhammer Fantasy, with the specialized clans, overwhelming hordes of mooks, use of poisons and disease, and general sneaky skullduggery), and Orks (the WAAAGH! method of warfare, looting technology, and "the strongest/most clever leads" leadership). All of that is well and good and easy enough but here comes the issue: How do you make Goblins threatening beyond, say, level 5 or 6?

One idea that my friend had was to give them the ability to auto-Aid Another, though I was thinking for higher levels give them the ability to get additive flanking bonuses (If 5 goblins are in melee with the party they all count as flanking and have the bonus stack, so each goblin would get +8 to hit). Swarming would be another option. Basically looking for a quick and dirty way to make a green tide of goblins a credible threat to a party up to about level 10 or so without having to give them all class levels. Increased HP or attack damage isn't needed, just the ability to hit the PCs. The idea is a horde of easy to kill mooks that can and will damage you little by little.

So, any advice?

Goblins have a whole lot of awesome stuff as it is: special Feats, Alchemy Options, oversized Guns, a 30' Move.

All you really have to do to re-imagagine Goblins is to change the culture a little. Maybe make them a little smarter, make it not a crime amongst Goblins to read, stuff like that. I think if you made some Goblins Lawful Evil and allowed them to draw up a regular order of battle, your Goblin Army would be most terrifying indeed!

Liberty's Edge

Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Silus wrote:

So me and a friend of mine are looking at reworking goblins for a homebrew setting and we're having a little bit of trouble sorting a thing out and I was hoping we could get some assistance on it.

So we're taking the standard Pathfinder Goblin and switching up the tactics and societal makeup to that of an amalgam of Kobolds (with the traps and scary cleverness), Skaven (Warhammer Fantasy, with the specialized clans, overwhelming hordes of mooks, use of poisons and disease, and general sneaky skullduggery), and Orks (the WAAAGH! method of warfare, looting technology, and "the strongest/most clever leads" leadership). All of that is well and good and easy enough but here comes the issue: How do you make Goblins threatening beyond, say, level 5 or 6?

One idea that my friend had was to give them the ability to auto-Aid Another, though I was thinking for higher levels give them the ability to get additive flanking bonuses (If 5 goblins are in melee with the party they all count as flanking and have the bonus stack, so each goblin would get +8 to hit). Swarming would be another option. Basically looking for a quick and dirty way to make a green tide of goblins a credible threat to a party up to about level 10 or so without having to give them all class levels. Increased HP or attack damage isn't needed, just the ability to hit the PCs. The idea is a horde of easy to kill mooks that can and will damage you little by little.

So, any advice?

Goblins have a whole lot of awesome stuff as it is: special Feats, Alchemy Options, oversized Guns, a 30' Move.

All you really have to do to re-imagagine Goblins is to change the culture a little. Maybe make them a little smarter, make it not a crime amongst Goblins to read, stuff like that. I think if you made some Goblins Lawful Evil and allowed them to draw up a regular order of battle, your Goblin Army would be most terrifying indeed!

Idea that we had regarding the second bit was that the other goblinoid species--Hobgoblins, "Blues" (Ultimate Psionics), and Bugbears--would be mutations of the standard goblin and would affect how the clan/tribe would operate. The Hobgoblins would instill a more military sort of discipline, the Blues would be more overall tactical, and the Bugbears would favor stealth raids to sow terror.

The problem is the stat drop-off of your standard goblin. Each is a 1/3 CR and only has a +2 to hit. The issue isn't more or better tactics unless we go full Kobold with them and have all the damage be from traps and such, the trouble is boosting the to-hit to scale with the levels of the PCs. 1d4 damage isn't a lot, even at low levels, but when 5 or 6 goblins can hit you for 1d4 a round, even at level 7 or 8, then things start getting a little worrying, and that's what we're trying to accomplish.

The alternative is to make a swarm-type creature but of goblins to reflect the basic tide mentality.


...goblins aren't CR 1/3. They're a 0 HD race, they take class levels. A Goblin Warrior 1 is CR 1/3. A Goblin Wizard 20 is CR 19 and pretty much as dangerous as any other Wizard 20. Just give them higher levels.

Liberty's Edge

Bob Bob Bob wrote:
...goblins aren't CR 1/3. They're a 0 HD race, they take class levels. A Goblin Warrior 1 is CR 1/3. A Goblin Wizard 20 is CR 19 and pretty much as dangerous as any other Wizard 20. Just give them higher levels.

Then comes the issue of justifying the class levels when you're fielding entire map-covering swarms of the guys.

Liberty's Edge

What I want to do is to keep the 1d4 damage of the standard Warrior lvl 1 Goblin, but make it so said goblin can hit a, say, lvl 10 character with level equivalent gear. I want it to be where even a lvl 1 goblin, in a horde, is a credible threat to Mr. Big Fighter with full plate and some magic kit. The issue, at the moment, is the mooks.

The short and sweet version is I just scale the to-hit appropriately (increase their innate BAB or something) to keep up with the PCs but leave the damage and HD all the same so it's death by 1000 cuts instead of 1-hit-KO or something. That way it keeps the weak creatures in an unstoppable tide vibe (Cleave and AoOs will really help) but makes it so they can actually do something to the PCs and so the goblins don't have to rely on just critical hits to deal damage.


Give them the Ratfolk Swarming trait. Have them Aid Another to each other on attacks and combat maneuvers, including Dirty Trick, Grapple, Overrun, Steal, and Trip, and have them be proficient with Nets. Have them swarm in and do all these things heedless of the Attacks of Opportunity they provoke. Instead of using 1 level of the NPC Warrior class and forcing them to spend their 1 character feat on Weapon Finesse, use 1 level of Mouser Swashbuckler, which make them be a real pain for anyone larger than them, and if they ever make it to 3rd level they get the Quick Steal Deed. Maybe even downsize many of them to Tiny (1 size increment smaller than normal) so that they can form true Swarms. Have them use alchemical weapons, including Sickening and Nauseating chemical and biological weapons like in Book One of Shattered Star, but worse, so that it starts to do permanent drain to PCs Constitution. Have them even act as suicide bombers, and eventually the PCs find out (if they survive long enough) that Goblin tribes actively select for the offspring of fallen warriors, and they have been doing this for untold millenia, resulting in the evolution of creatures that act more like Zerg than Humanoids.


Goblins start life with a +10 stealth bonus, even with no ranks, due to a racial bonus of +4, dex bonus of +2, and a size bonus of +4. Rogues add another +3 once they take a rank, for a level one stealth +14.

And they see in the dark.

Now think about what a guerrilla war would be like. Why would they ever mass up for traditional combat?

Basically, ordinary humans have no shot of spotting a goblin sneaking up on you; their only option is massive amounts of light that clearly marks exactly where your camp is.

If these guys are made Lawful Evil, humanity faces real problems. I think that's all you need to do.


Silus wrote:


Then comes the issue of justifying the class levels when you're fielding entire map-covering swarms of the guys.

There's your problem right there. That should only happen when they feel the battle is already over. If goblins are LE alignment, then they become evil's special ops race.


Goblins may not like words...but they do like pictures.

They could be literate with hieroglyphs.

Liberty's Edge

scary harpy wrote:


Goblins may not like words...but they do like pictures.

They could be literate with hieroglyphs.

No offense, but....that doesn't really help with the given situation at all...

Liberty's Edge

roguerouge wrote:

Goblins start life with a +10 stealth bonus, even with no ranks, due to a racial bonus of +4, dex bonus of +2, and a size bonus of +4. Rogues add another +3 once they take a rank, for a level one stealth +14.

And they see in the dark.

Now think about what a guerrilla war would be like. Why would they ever mass up for traditional combat?

Basically, ordinary humans have no shot of spotting a goblin sneaking up on you; their only option is massive amounts of light that clearly marks exactly where your camp is.

If these guys are made Lawful Evil, humanity faces real problems. I think that's all you need to do.

The idea is less on traditional combat and more overwhelming hordes. Now I'm not saying there wouldn't be exceptionally sneaky buggers skulking about, but when hordes of goblins explode out of the sewers and start raising hell...

*Gestures to the thread* It feels like the general idea I'm trying to convey is getting lost on some people.

YES, CERTAIN GOBLINS SHOULD AND WILL USE ADVANCED TACTICS, I.E. NETS, ALCHEMICAL WEAPONS, SNEAK ATTACKS, COMBAT MANEUVERS, ETC..

WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR HOWEVER IS A WAY TO MAKE A MEAT GRINDER TACTIC/MANEUVER VIABLE.

Throwing waves of 50 goblins at a group of 4-5 PCs. The Goblins may be right around stock levels (i.e. right ought of the Bestiary) and the PCs might be lvl 7-10 or so, and thus the combat is already one-sided in favor of the PCs. The issue here is making the goblins a credible threat to the PCs without changing too much for the goblins (See: Class levels and such).

Imagine you can kill ~2-3 goblins a round, and your wizard is racking up the kills left, right, and center. But each goblin is pinging each PC for ~1-3 HP a round. Not too bad to keep up with but you can't hold out forever. And you slowly realize that you didn't aggro a patrol, you aggroed all of Moria, and they're coming for YOU as a tide. That tide is what I'm trying to sort out.


Just gonna leave this here...

Scarab Sages

Sounds like teamwork feats are what you need.
And since you want to do this without altering the base goblin, what you need is some sergeants and banner bearers with levels in a Cavalier archetype (or another class/archetype that gives similar abilities), granting those feats to every ally in sight.

A pair of them, with overlapping AoEs, could easily be brutal.
A wave of troops, who don't have to get behind the PCs and henchmen, to count as flanking, with maybe one in five being a Rogue 1 instead of a Warrior (and indistinguishable as such), with any crits causing a domino ripple of free attacks.

Everyone focus attacks on as few enemies as possible, to make burst healing like channels, less effective, and hex healing ineffective (you've had your free heal for the day).


If we're considering high-level officers, have you seen the kobold army ideas? Basically:
Skald, boosts attack/damage, has Linnorm death Curse rage power for energy vulnerability
Buffing mages: primarily Resist Energy
Alchemists: bombers with the energy type corresponding to the resists and Death Curse vulnerability
Cavaliers/Bards: extra buffs
Expendable grunts: reduce movement options, curse on death

Scarab Sages

Since you mentioned Warhammer, how about including items that boost their effectiveness, but which are relatively worthless to the PCs?

Fungus beer that grants rage, but is poisonous to non-goblinoids, or warpstone-fuelled mutations, with side effects a PC wouldn't want to deal with.


The easiest tweak would be to change them from Warrior 1 to Fighter 1 (gives full hp at 1st level and another feat).

With that extra feat, give them Weapon Focus. And if you really want to make them more dangerous, take away Improved Initiative and give them a teamwork feat like Pack Attack or Precise Strike or Distracting Charge.


Instead of a swarm you can look over the troop subtype and use that for your goblins.

Another fix would be for later clans of goblins to make extensive use of firearms which would allow them to be rolling vs touch AC up close.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Since goblins are a possible PC race and can have class levels, why not have NPC goblins with class levels? IIRC there is a goblin chapter in the NPC codex which does just this. There's even a goblins webcomic (that's pretty funny) where the main characters are obviously getting better and tougher the further along the comic goes.

I'll admit that the iconic PF goblin is kind of like Moe, Larry and Curly of the three stooges, if you look at, say, Thistletop in chapter one of RotRL. But with a cruel and pyrotechnic side to them. More like the Katzenjammer kids in that respect.

But sure, change the culture of goblins in any way that you like. I'm kind of fond of the wide-headed goofy misunderstood psychotic child vibe that the PF goblins have going, but as a DM you can do whatever you want with that.


You don't need to make them level 10 to pose a threat. A horde of level 3 slayers would be dangerous. Else level 1 rogue/1 fighter. Or just 1 rogue. Or alchemists if AC is an issue.

Positionning will be important though. I threw 100 orc warriors at my lvl 2 PCs last session, but they held a choke point with some cover. It wasn't even a hard battle. They pulled a similar feat off at lvl 1 against like 30 orcs. Whoever gets the ambush positionning can typically be a lot more effective than their level would indicate.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Look into the troop subtype. It basically converts a group of regular creatures into a single 'swarm-like' creature. Scales really well against higher level opponents and also lets you put a horde of goblins on the board without having to keep track of a hoard of individual goblins.

Shadow Lodge

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Yes, I would also use the troop subtype (scroll down on this page, example here). It's basically a swarm but for small or medium creatures. The "troop attack," like swarm damage, gives you a guaranteed way to damage the party without making tons of attack rolls. Unlike swarms, troops don't resist weapon damage so you can easily describe your warrior cleaving through goblins as they reduce the troop's HP. If a character actually has Cleave or a similar ability, you can give them extra attacks as long as they deal a minimum amount of damage, or just treat that character's attacks as area effects (50% bonus damage).


The troop idea is excellent. One thing to consider, though, is DR. If your PCs include one or more characters with DR/-, you should to reduce the troop damage substantially to reflect resistance to individual weapons. Assuming your goblins are doing 1d4 damage each, then each point of DR/- would reduce the troop damage by 25% and a character with DR4/- would be goblin-proof until the troop calls the artillery.

This has me thinking of my PFS Barbarian with Cornugon Smash and a big Intimidate bonus. I think for skills like that you should treat the troop as a single creature.

This also has me thinking of my Alchemist, who is too dignified to giggle when attacked by a goblin troop, but would want to.


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I would have 3 types of goblins for such a fight.

First, use troops to represent hordes of level 1-3 goblins attacking the PC's. Fairly simple, shows how having more enemies can lead to being a threat even if you outclass each and every one. Each troop represents 12-30 small or medium creatures, which feels appropriate for a 10th level party to take out with relative ease, and a 7th level party to eliminate with a good bit of difficulty.

Then, create stats for goblin soldiers which attack in groups but are "elite" soldiers. Around level 4-6 should suffice, probably using fighter levels and teamwork feats. 6 6th level fighters is about a CR 10 (give or take a couple due to wealth, battlefield advantages, and abilities relative to your party), and if they each have outflank, combat reflexes, precise strike, dirty fighting and gang up (all feats), they could make for a decent threat. Have them spend the first round flanking and doing combat maneuvers, then adapt their tactics according to situations. Here adding the Swarming racial trait would be a huge asset.

Finally, stat up leaders for the goblins with a level which is close to the PC's level. Choose a class like bard, skald, or cavalier so that they can give support to the other 2 types. This represents commanders and generals, and is probably the one you will want the most customization for. Also throw a few high-level mages in this bunch as having the ability to warp the battlefield can make fights much more interesting.

If you combine the three aspects you could have a fight with one troop, a few soldiers, and a bard/skald all working together could overwhelm the PC's with an APL+3-5 fight fairly easy (5 6th level fighters, a CR10 troop of 30 goblins working toghether, and a 10th level, PC wealth bard/skald/wizard/whatever is a CR 13 fight, probably more like 15 due to synergy with each other and almost certainly fighting with the battlefield in their favor). This is falls around the range you would want for boss fight at the end of a story arc in a campaign.

This is a lot of legwork though, so if you don't think you have the time to do all of this (or the energy), I would look through the monster codex (specifically, the orc, kobold, hobgoblin, and goblin sections) for examples of high-level monsters, and then change the race and gear. Or have "goblin" be a catch-all term for a variety of races that work together despite their differences in a sort of alliance and not change the race but instead the aesthetics of each creature (kobolds instead look like hobgoblins but slightly smaller and scaly, orcs look like hairless bugbears, etc).

Another thing to consider is giving the PC's the option to amass an army and use mass combat rules, though it might be best in this instance to have each PC get their own army, and then have them throw down against 4-6 goblin armies as well so nobody feels left out.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Give them a racial ability that gives them +4 when flanking and +4 when aiding another. And swift action Aid Another.

Make them level 1 fighters with high Dex, Weapon Finesse and Weapon Focus, +10 or +14 to attack rolls.

Also, give them acidic blood, so when they die, Reflex save DC 20 or take 1d6 acid damage. Or fire damage, or poison damage, or force damage or negative energy damage.

EDIT:

Or instead of making 1 attack roll for each goblin, either make 1 attack roll at +4, +4 for each additional goblin adjacent to the PC, for 1d4 per each adjacent goblin.

Alternatively, make it a Dexterity save of DC 10 + 2 per goblin, for 1d4 per goblin, half on a successful save.

Fiddle around with the math for balance.


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Here's your justification for them all having class levels-

They start killing each other off in the weaning pit as babies. Only the strongest crawl their way out. By the time they learn to walk they've already murdered and eaten a handful of their brothers and sisters. By the time they learn to talk they've killed a few more over the table scraps their elders toss them. By the time they reach adolescence they have figured out that banding together they can overpower any bully. They learn how to form fast alliances for convenience and have cobbled together enough gear and favors to keep themselves alive. A goblin that has reached adulthood is a tough, calculating survivor.

If you really want to give them a power boost, take the standard goblin racial package, but give them the Ratfolk Swarming ability and the Overwhelm teamwork feat as a bonus.

Give them 1/6th of a teamwork feat as a Favored Class bonus

Make a few of them Skalds.


I'll leave a few things here:

1) Squads and Scores - Simple rules for groups of 4 and 20.

2) Underlings a Simple 3PP product that closely mimics 4E's "minions" with a minimum of fuss.

Theoretically, you can even combine Underlings and Squad/Score rules to reduce your workload even further.


Two things I haven't seen mentioned -
Goblins like fire. Actually they love starting things on fire and watching it burn. Alchemist Fire or the poor man substitute, oil flask with a rag can be a goblins favorite friend.

The one thing goblins like better then a nice blazing fire is things that go *BOOM!*
There's fireworks and gunpowder bombs in Ultimate Equipment to help with the game mechanics.

Almost everthing suggested here goes against touch AC and can have a AoE effect. While the damage isn't much, it does follow the 'Death by a thousand cuts' strategy you wanted to try for.


Silus wrote:
scary harpy wrote:


Goblins may not like words...but they do like pictures.

They could be literate with hieroglyphs.

No offense, but....that doesn't really help with the given situation at all...

If Goblins are literate (and maybe even artistic), then they become an educated evil instead of feral children.

This increases their threat level without amalgamating them with another species.


We are all playing goblin is Hell's Vengeance. GM gave us free weapon finesse and dex to damage for light weapons. It was enough.

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