In this article we compare the different graphic realizations of the Goblins in the different editions of Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. But get ready for special guests too! Who will have made them better?

I am always available to talk
of the gobelini, of the kobolds, of the elves
aeons, no?
Of the dwarves, or of the mandrake
of the sacred fig, of the birch, of the camphor
Or, hehe, the bones of the dead
rushing at the enemy.

Richard Benson

Here we are at another unexpected appointment with the column "Who did it better?". I opened the phone book with my favorite monster, the Bulette, but which I use little. This time we will talk about a monster that we have all killed and had killed at least once. We are talking about a monster that we can throw at players in large quantities, which causes hilarity and fun every time it enters the scene, but which can also be used with sadism and terror.

Did you understand who I'm talking about? (I hope so since it is written in the title of the article!). But of course, gods Goblin!

So let's see which, among the major role play manuals, present us the most beautiful Goblins (so to speak).

What are the Goblins?

The Goblins are there cannon fodder in any Dungeon Master's arsenal. Little ones, with an awkward challenge rank, bad guys and bad gear, are the perfect enemy to slaughter at a low-level party to make them feel badass. And the fact that they are usually portrayed as born bastards helps to not feel too guilty as we clean our blades of their brains.

In the ecology of a game, the Goblins have a specific role: they are the evil multitude, weak but with the numerical advantage. Often easily intimidated and usually in the service of someone bigger and stronger (and wondering it wasn't better to get better minions). 

In this case, we're not talking about a monster originally from D&D, but of a creature existing in European folklore. After all, every country has its own legends about tiny creatures and bitches ready to do infamous things. Then, with Tolkien , the passage from creature to people takes place, especially it The Hobbit and in the chapters of the mines of Moria. This transformation also generates the typical habit of goblins of dying en masse at the hands of adventurers in dungeons.

But let's stop the sad reflections and throw in the fray: who did it better?

The Goblin from the first edition of D&D
The Goblin from the first edition of D&D

D&D first edition: the old school Goblin

Here it is, fresh from the first edition. Tribal, malevolent e underground. Watch him come towards you ready to be killed. Yes, he will be the first kill in generations and generations of adventurers. On the other hand, what hope does one who runs towards with the shield held in that way of surviving? But he knows, oh yes he knows he's just there to make you waste your spells and ammo! This is why the blank expression in the eyes as it charges you without much conviction.

Note the obvious disproportion between arms, head and legs: probably due to the artist's artistic qualities, but it helps to provide the goblin with a simian. However, except for the teeth and ears, it looks too humanoid in appearance.

Vote: 5/ 10, could have done more.

The Goblin of AD&D
The Goblin of AD&D

AD&D: Advanced Goblins

A decade later, TSR publishes another edition of the role-playing game par excellence, and with it a new bestiary. And of course the Goblin can't be missing! This manual has the advantage of including several elements of lore about Goblins: coloring, social structure and way of life.

Well, what about: earthy complexion, giant ears, long and slender limbs, flattened snout. This Goblin has attitude, a desire to hurt and will sell his skin dearly. If you follow his gaze he is going to your right hand, which looks with contempt as you are about to change the page. And then there bandana: If only this creature had ability scores, the bandana would give it a net +2 to Charisma. (I warn my players: from now on, all bands of the Charisma will look like bandanas. Blame it on the Goblins too.)

Given that, from the height of his supply of just 15 XP, it is obvious that he will be slaughtered easily and will hardly bother the party, he believes very strongly anyway

Vote: 8/ 10. He has charisma and wickedness.

The Goblin of D&D 3.0 / 3.5
The Goblin of D&D 3.0 / 3.5

D&D third edition: Goblin 3.0 / 3.5

And here we are at the most popular and revolutionary edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Monsters finally have stats, we know what dice we have to roll when they do damage and have skills and talents!

How have the Goblins adapted to this change of edition?
Well, the Goblin of 3.0 is in bad gear: he is filthy, has a sickly appearance and a patchy armor. It has a face bat-like, encouraging the somatic traits he had acquired in AD&D. The ape-like posture and long arms are another element that adds something atavistic and bestial to this Goblin. The brown color does not differ from what was stated in the previous lore, but now the creature also has some hair, while before it seemed to be hairless.

This GS ¼ may be thin, but it wants to look threatening, while not giving up on aesthetics. Admire the earrings on his big ears, the feathers decorating the shield and the cheeky tuft. Probably this grim-eyed Goblin he believes himself to be the gangster of the dungeon. He does not know that it will be planed by the super optimized 3.0 players.

Vote: 6/ 10. Although he is the Goblin I grew up with, he never inspired me too much.

The Goblins of D&D 4e
The Goblins of D&D 4e

D&D fourth edition: the Goblin party

The fourth edition delights us with not one, but three different Goblins! Now that the adventurer party is built by DPS, Tank, Healer, Controller and other well-defined MMORPG roles, monsters have to catch up too. No more generic Goblins that the master has to apply archetypes, character classes or hit dice advancements to to make them more interesting! Here are Basic goblins and specialists, which allow you to create ad hoc meetings where their troops will be devastated by adventurers at the first RAID level without failing him spends the power per encounter.

The Goblin trio is interesting: let's see first two Miss Goblins, which until now had been completely missing. The most innovative thing is certainly the color change: we have gone from earthy tones used for almost thirty years to a more popular green.
On the other hand, out of D&D the Goblins for the masses have always been green (to why we will get to the bottom of the article), and wanting to follow the success of World Of Warcraft, the Wizard has well thought of fitting. On the other hand, to maintain the brand identity, the face of the Goblins is always crushed: halfway between a bat and a hominid.

The group of Goblins in question seems to have just ambushed the party, and heads to the slaughterhouse convinced they can hit their armor classes and inflict hit points. Interesting to see how the Goblin look is increasingly tribal: skulls, bones and decorative furs, leather. Maybe the Central Goblin looks a little out of place with his chain mail and arrogance, but we all know this was a weird edition.

Vote: 7/ 10. Pleasant and well made, with a few touches of innovation.

Pathfinder's Goblin
Pathfinder's Goblin

Pathfinder: the new Goblin-mascots

If the fourth edition innovated the look of the Goblins, Pathfinder revolutionized it. The architect of the operation was Wayne reynolds, who with a careful character design reformulated many of the monsters we were used to, first of all the Goblins. An early-level schooling monster and now an easily playable race as well, the Goblin needed a specific lore and appearance that set it apart from the rest of the Goblins featured in contemporary video games, rival RPGs, films and books.

And that's why the macrocephalous head, the olive green complexion, the mouth bristling with teeth and the red eyes. This Goblin can easily become a stuffed animal as well the mascot of the game like a sadistic and mischievous creature who wants badly to your dogs and horses (here's more!). It is an abject creature that can become plump in an instant.

At the lore level, the passion for fire, the fear of writing, the hatred of dogs and horses, nursery rhymes were introduced. All speckled elements which however provide considerable support to the characterization of a people rather bland in its wickedness. Have them kill a dog in front of the adventurers and the party will vow to exterminate this pathetic people.

The Goblin in the image is joyfully disproportionate. His head must be filled with helium to be able to support himself on that torso (neck not received). The detail of the tiny bit of burr between the two rows of sharp teeth was very much appreciated. An adorable and murderous creature at the same time. In its red eyes you can feel the joy of killing poultry and starting fires.

Vote: 9/ 10.

The Goblin from D&D 5e
The Goblin from D&D 5e

D&D 5e: the Goblins who have come out of Mad Max

On the Wizard side, the Goblins undergo another design change. Returning to the origins and stopping to follow videogame fashions, the Goblins are back in one color ocher. They are more proportionate in the relationship between arms and legs for sure they've been to the gym.
I somatic traits they are the ones that change the most: the ears are more elven, they have a protruding and hooked nose instead of a flattened one, and long black hair tied in an elegant bone chignon.

I can't help but notice that the tech level of the Goblins has dropped again and in the fifth edition the poor ocher man wears post apocalyptic armor. We started with a Goblin with a shield and a decent morning star and ended up in a poor fellow with a rudimentary mace and armor stolen from an extra of Mad Max.

Or perhaps, knowing that he will never reach his turn of initiative, he has deliberately removed his armor to facilitate the work of the adventurers, who between a short rest and the other will exterminate all his tribe.

Rating: 6/ 10. Don't be fooled by the face, this Goblin has already accepted his fate.

The Goblin from Pathfinder 2
The Goblin from Pathfinder 2

Pathfinder 2: the Goblins as a playable Ancestry

They arrived, in the end it happened. Many entries in the bestiary have become playable races, but few have managed to get into a Basic Manual. They may have an entry in the bestiary that tells you how to derive their racial traits, they may appear in expansions or in a dedicated race manual, but few have made it into the Corebook. For a long time the only ones to have made it were the Gnomes, followed in the '00s by Tieflings and Dragonids (but can you use them consistently in your settings? If so please contact me!).

But finally it was the turn of the Goblins. A great sign of social relief, and finally this people, rising on the mountain of their fellowmen exterminated in fifty years of role playing, has conquered the pinnacle of success: recognition as an official Ancestry.

Of course this does not exempt them from their duties as experienced foragers for novice adventurers. So, although they are a playable Ancestry, also appear in the Bestiary with a couple of items to provide variety of challenge grade. Where the privileged Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes are no longer considered textbook monsters. Now, in Pathfinder 2, you can finally be a Goblin going into dungeons to exterminate other Goblins!

Seriously, the Goblin in the image is fully savoring success. The satisfied face, the semi-heroic pose, the decent clothing and the red eyes that look hopefully towards a future of publications with him as the protagonist.
This Goblin knows that, even though he will also fall under the party's multiple actions (including probably a blood relative), his Ancestry has made it and entered the basic options of the players, thus ensuring eternal glory. .

Vote: 7/ 10 for optimism.

The Goblins of Starfinder
The Goblins of Starfinder

Special mention 1 (Star Finder): Goblins in Space

Star Finder did a great job of adapting to imagining how typical fantasy breeds get by in space.

Well, this Goblin he is doing great: patched hand-cranked laser gun, a bit of string on the family dog ​​slicer, a nice plaster to plug the hole in the helmet and off into the sidereal void! To be blasted by technomagic adventurers, of course. Ah, I wish I had so much his carefree!

Vote: 9/ 10 for sympathy. You will go far boy.

The Goblins of Warhammer
The Goblins of Warhammer

Special mention 2 (Warhammer): the real Goblins

If I asked you on the fly to describe a Goblin, none of you would describe any of those represented so far. Would you describe those in the picture above.

Whether they are shamans or fearful assassins, whether they ride wolves or spiders, jump into the fray with a chained ball and high on hallucinogenic mushrooms or riding a squig, the Goblins of Warhammer they are certainly the most influential. The green skin, the carrion, the hooked noses and the cowardice. In design and in the general imagination, this representation of the Goblin is much more effective and convincing. Seeing it once is enough to overshadow most of the Goblins seen so far. 

Released in the early 80s, Games Workshop's imagined Goblins were the imaginary alternative to those of D&D. Perhaps this is why at WotC they have always wanted to make them non-green, except in the fourth edition, where perhaps they tried to make them a bit similar to those of WoW and The Lord of the Rings

Vote: 10/ 10.

A Pathfinder 2 Goblin ready to set everything on fire
A Pathfinder 2 Goblin ready to set everything on fire

Ideas for adventure

  • Hello, save near! The party has just cleared the dungeon, made it to the last room and has few HP, few spells and lots of treasures. Scouts from a Goblin tribe followed the party from afar and, knowing what dungeon adventurers do, smelled that soon there would be empty spaces to settle in. Unfortunately, they got the timing wrong and started the move with the party still inside the Dungeon! How will the adventurers get out? Will they bribe or threaten the Goblins, negotiate vested benefits? Will they try not to be seen or to open a dangerous escape route?
  • The enemy of my enemy. Suvara Silvertongue is the Machiavellian leader of a city-state. For a long time he tolerated the Goblin tribe on the outskirts of the countryside because he justified the high taxes his subjects pay to keep the Red Guard squad in the city. However, now a gang of Hobgoblins is approaching - organized, brutal and efficient. If they bullied the Goblins into enlisting, they would double their strength. Suvara counts on the innate quarrel and tendency to betrayal of the Evils and sends the adventurers to the Goblin lair with a mission: to convince them to resist the Hobgoblins and organize them so that the resistance is effective. The PCs will have to equip, train and prepare the Goblins, avert the enemy diplomacy and yet make sure that they win but not too much. In fact, the ideal result of Suvara is that the two groups exterminate each other. Will the players succeed in their intent, will they become attached to the Goblins who will have to lead to a Pyrrhic victory?
  • A Song of Fire & Goblins. Skaldrock is the largest gathering of bards, heaters, bards, musicians and songwriters on the continent. Under the sacred laws of hospitality and welcome, the musicians compete in a competition to win the Golden Trumpet. Yellowfang Burk is a goblin unlike any other: he doesn't dream of raids, vandalism and fires like his fellow men. He dreams of singing about these things. Always mocked and beaten by his tribe, he dreams of conquering the Golden Trumpet to prove that being a Goblin in another way is possible. His tribe, led by the treacherous Svenk Gambestorte, has agreed to accompany him to the festival. The party has been hired by some patron as a security service, or is accompanying the party bard to the event. The presence of the Goblins generates tension (especially with those races that have a racial bonus against them) and the PCs must work to save the atmosphere of the festival: will they help Burk realize his dream? Will they be able to stop Svenk from stealing the Golden Trumpet? How many groupies will the party bard sleep with?