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On my last session as DM, a party of five level 3 players managed to make a Hobgoblin Captain become friendly with them and ultimately join them.

There's a new player who'd love to take the character of the Hobgoblin (so it would be six players).

I find it really interesting to make him able to do so, but I can't see how to make it a PC, able to level up and so on, while keeping him as similar as possible to the original monster, and obviously not making everything unbalanced.

How could a Hobgoblin Captain become a playable character, which can level up as players do? (It doesn't to be exactly the same as it is in the monster manual)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Answering in comments is not done here. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 25 '15 at 13:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried to make one yourself? Questions like these tend to get closed as opinion-based or too broad as it will attract a lot of different answers and voters will have a hard time voting for which user's homebrew hobgoblin race is more hobgoblin-y \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Nov 25 '15 at 13:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, do you have a copy of the Dungeon Master's Guide? It's got a section on creating playable races and it'd be good to know if (a) you've tried that and failed or (b) that's not an available resource for you. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 25 '15 at 13:38
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With the release of Volo's Guide to Monsters, you can now play as a Hobgoblin at the discretion of your DM. Hobgoblin traits can be found in page 119.


I'm going to teach you how to fish, here.

Firstly, you should look this reddit post up and the google doc it links to. It shows the work done by /u/JamesMusicus and /u/Aranim, and I have been using it for homebrewing balanced races myself. Even if you don't find a particular ability (like a Hobgoblin's Martial Advantage ability) there, you will likely get a feel of how much an ability should be valued as.

An example of the Abilities that are valued are:

  • Ability Score increases are valued as 1 per score increased.
  • Fey Ancestry (from the elves and Half elves) are given a value of 0.5.

The googledoc also goes on to say that most official races are valued at 5.5 to 6, with Mountain Dwarves at the highest (8) and Dragonborn at the lowest (4.5). (And here I am playing a Dragonborn Bard)

There are many more abilities that are valued there. So take a look at that as well as the DMG for creating a race.


A little warning

Hobgoblins are boring as a race, they only get Martial Advantage as a racial feature on top of its ability score increases and even if you throw in the Leadership Action from the Captain's statblock, it still won't be as good as, say, a Variant Human or a Tiefling.

There is also no correlation to a monster's CR and PC level so a CR 3 creature is not a 3rd-level PC as the CR 3 creature is a Medium difficulty encounter for 5 3rd-level PCs while if you tried to pit a 3rd-level PC as an encounter, it'd end up short.

In addition, if you use the tool linked above, and the NPC Features table found in the DMG page 282, a Hobgoblin race would have a value of (count it) around 3.5:

  • No Ability Score Increase (page 282 of the DMG shows hobgoblins have none)
  • 0.5 for Darkvision
  • 2 for Leadership (and I'm being generous)
  • 1 for Martial Advantage (again, being generous)

Enabling your player to play the hobgoblin captain makes sense story-wise but the race inherently doesn't give him the value a normal PC race should have. I suggest letting him play it for the mean time and have him roll up a new character as soon as an opportunity to introduce one arises.

Otherwise, if you really plan on latting the Hobgoblin stay for good, you could add a total of 3 Ability Score Increases (it's up to you which scores to increase but if it were me, those would be 2 Strength and 1 Charisma. There is no correct answer here, it's just a suggestion) and do away with the Leadership trait (Optional but if you decide to keep it, the score will go up to 6.5). You also want the Martial Advantage trait to scale to level (the Rogue's Sneak Attack feature would be a nice basis but then there's the question of "What if this player or another player who wants to play a Hobgoblin grabs a rogue level?") That will bump the score up to 4.5 (Hey, it's as valuable as a Dragonborn now).

Then you have to think of the Hobgoblin's role in society: Will common folk welcome a notoriously evil race to walk among them (Drizzt comes into mind)? Will nobility or people of power get over the fact? How does this character handle potential racism directed towards it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The least powerful race, eh? Between that and you saying you play as a bard, the first thing that comes to my mind is, "Who cares, who cares, the Dragonborn comes." \$\endgroup\$ – Mason Wheeler Nov 25 '15 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @daze413 Your post decries the fact that hobgoblins are pretty bad for players as far as races go, and you seem to focus almost entirely on "don't do this for realsy". You could probably benefit from highlighting the option of adding new features to get them up to par. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 25 '15 at 22:17
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Update: A hobgoblin PC race was released in Volo's Guide to Monsters. Use that. If you can't, for some reason...

The easiest way to handle this is to simply reflavor. Pick whichever race has the abilities that you think fit best, and whatever class (probably fighter) and just say it's a hobgoblin. Done.

Doing anything else is going to be way more pain than gain.

If it looks like a hobgoblin, smells like a hobgoblin, and acts like a hobgoblin, it's probably a hobgoblin, despite whatever numbers are on the character sheet.

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Since the goal of the game is to have fun, and it seems very unlikely that a single hobgoblin PC will break the game, the question is "how can we do this so it's fun" rather than "should we do this." That said, to avoid making life harder than it needs to be for the GM, the easy way is to take the physical stats of a hobgoblin (a captain is likely to be a superior specimen, so stats will tend to be near the upper end of normal variation), add appropriate feats and traits (size, strength, etc.) so it seems like a hobgoblin, and treat it as a Fighter (starting at a level equal to the party -- it's been pointed out that CR 3 is a match for a party of five level 3 characters) for all additional purposes.

Your new player gets to play an interesting character, but still one of the "easy" classes for what might be his first PC; the GM gets a pretty easy job of administering, since everything you need to know will be on the character sheet, and everyone gets to have fun stemming from good roleplaying (bringing the hobgoblin captain around to friendliness with the party). Everybody wins.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you do when they start gaining levels? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 25 '15 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ They gain hit dice, increase hit probability, gain feats, etc -- just like a human Fighter would do. Beyond that, I'm not certain; I'm unfamiliar with current versions of the game. Given I haven't played D&D since 2nd Ed. came out, this is why I originally gave this as a comment -- since deleted as "don't answer in comments". I was encouraged to make it a real answer; now it's got problems. \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 25 '15 at 17:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, yes, it does have problems that apparently are difficult to resolve due to a lack of expertise. It didn't suddenly obtain them when becoming an answer though; the fact these can get highlighted and dealt with now that it's an answer is why we don't take answers in comments. Maybe someone else will have something to suggest around this. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 25 '15 at 22:20
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The simplest answer is yes you can do it, sounds like a good, fun idea.

How to do it? This is what I would do:

  1. I would either find a released or home brew Hobgoblin racial type that looked right OR I would create my own from the base Hobgoblin and the Hobgoblin captain.
  2. I would keep the characters stats as they already are, it would be odd for the character to suddenly change that way when it does not need to. As long as everyone is OK with that, and I can't see why someone would not be, no problem.
  3. Assign three levels of fighter to the character just as with any other racial type to make it the same level.
  4. In the interests of fun and play at this point gloss over and ignore any discontinuity of abilities lost or gained compared to the original character. It doesn't matter enough to worry about and if everyone is on board then again no problem. If you really need a fudge factor reason then maybe the character went up a level to gain/change abilities?

The key thing is the role playing, the story and the fun all of which sound supported by having this player use the Hobgoblin.

ps. this is an old post, what did you actually do?

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