As a bit of background, my players befriended a kobold and gave him a javelin (instead of the dagger a kobold usually have, according to his stat block). They later also gave him a leather armor for his protection.

Does the kobold have proficiency for the javelin and the leather armor ?

Or the general question: Do monsters have proficiency with all weapons and armors ?

If not, how can I know what they have proficiency with ?


2 Answers 2


It's the DM'S call.

From the Monster Manual, pg 9:

Assume that a creature is proficient with its armor, weapons, and tools. If you swap them out, you decide whether the creature is proficient with its new equipment.

That said, common sense goes a long way. Your kobold, if he's in a conventional setting, comes from a small to medium-sized tribe and would know how to use weapons that a tribal hunter would know- spears, javelins and the like. If his tribe is warlike he might know a few martial weapons; if his tribe works for a greater power he knows what he was trained to know. The same goes for armor.

If he has class levels, the kobold would of course have those proficiencies available to him as well.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ One HUGE change in 5e compared to 3.5 is that the monsters do not have to follow the same construction rules as PCs. The DM has total freedom to give them abilities, proficiencies and whatnot to make them entertaining and challenging and whatnot. Not that the DM hadn't this freedom back then but there were some expectations in 3.5e that made this kind of freedom very rare. +1 \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2017 at 13:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin 3.5 monsters DON'T follow the same construction rules as PCs, and many exampled monsters provide additional precedent for breaking the proscribed rules 3.5 does provide for constructing monsters anyway. While 3.5 DMs are not "granted explicit total freedom", the construction rules, as well as the various precedents in the monster manuals, grant enough freedom to accomplish most goals, especially most power-related goals, such that any missing reasonable freedom would be a reduction in a monster's power. \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Oct 5, 2017 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @godskook then some fellow calculates an relatively agreeable ECL for the monster, and BAM. Its a PC. And one moderate argument could be made that since the book gives ECL guidelines, its RAW. This is what I'm getting at. Almost any monster could be made a PC race, and those mechanics would be available for PC use. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2017 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin If we are bringing 3.5 into this; back in that edition the only claim made on the topic was that monsters are assumed proficient with the items they are listed as having. \$\endgroup\$
    – Weckar E.
    Oct 5, 2017 at 14:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin First, LA(for ECL) is regarded as generally overly punitive, not permissive, towards giving things to PCs. Yes, if a DM allowed those PC options, a player could use races with LAs, but the community at large believes that the PC has generally made a bad choice. Second, "almost any" is a gross mischaracterization on the amount of monsters that are even given LA. Many, and probably most, monsters do not get LA at all, and as mentioned above, those that do are almost exclusively punitive in nature. \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Oct 5, 2017 at 14:54

What to do when monsters become more important than you expected

Where 3.5 tended to err on spelling out everything, 5e tends to err on the side of leaving it up to the DM. Both have their pros and cons, but the bottom line for tweaking monsters in 5e is, "who are we to argue with you? It's your world, after all." (MM, p4)

However, if what you want is some DM advice, "do whatever you want" is not always very helpful, so here are some suggestions.

When you find that such a creature suddenly becomes more important than you expected them to, such as when your PCs decided to befriend a Kobold instead of killing it (good for them!) you suddenly need to flesh them out a bit, and their proficiencies is only one of the things you will have to figure out.

A good rule of thumb for assigning proficiencies is to pick the character class that seems most logical for the monster's race based on their entry in the Monster Manual, and adopt some or all of those proficiencies. In the case of a Kobold, you have a creature with Dex as their only good stat and that likes to set traps and attack in groups. Rogue sounds like the best fit to me! So unless this Kobold is especially unique, I would assume that it has many of the same proficiencies as a Rogue, even without giving it any actual levels.

Another challenge that is presented when the characters unexpectedly decide to talk to a monster instead of fight it is that now you have to role-play the monster differently than you expected. When you make an NPC that you know will be important, you build them with an idea of what sort of person they are, but if you did that with every individual monster in your game world you would be so bogged down in prep you would never be ready for game night!

I suggest having a small list of monster names and generalized motivations that you can slap right onto that one-in-a-thousand monsters that suddenly becomes important enough to warrant a personality. It is important to keep things general, so that a motivation that works for an orc also works for a kobold, etc. that way you can recycle your prep so that it won't get wasted even if it doesn't get used for a while. For these types of situations all you will probably need is a starting point and you can improvise the rest and dig deeper if the creature continues to be important. If the PCs want to keep them around long term, now they are a full-fledged NPC and warrant even more fleshing out.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .