Something Different: The Goblin Warlock
“Something Different” articles explore race and class combinations that are just a little bit off-center.
Jrkglur and the others of his low caste, urged on by the whips of stronger goblins, hack frantically with stone axes at cave walls. The other Pariahs, weak and dim as they are, deserve this fate. But not Jrkglur. Jrkglur smart goblin, with wits in ears. With nimble clawed fingers, he digs a stray bat skull from the rubble, tucks it into his ragged tunic. He grins to himself.
As soon as the lashers look away, he whispers to the goblin beside him: “Goblins dig for great treasure to give boss. But Jrkglur find it first.”
He glances left and right, draws the worthless skull from its hiding place. “This skull of tiny demon prince. Shrunk by sorcery. Contains much booyagh,” he says, dramatically drawing out the vowels of the goblin word for “magic.” “I give to you,” he says, “if you let me go nap, and wake me when lashers come again.”
Goblin with no wits agrees, and Jrkglur slips away. Jrkglur knows he’s better than Pariah. Jrkglur teach himself letters and ciphers from stolen book, speak both in both goblin-tongue and the ape-noise common speech of surface-dwellers.
Jrkglur finds a small niche between two stones to crawl into and sleep. He dreams of an oozing portal, a slimy tangle of tentacles, and a voice:
The ninety-nine skulls of Yhv’thgon have remained buried for nine times nine millennia. He who first disturbeth them acquireth a most momentous quest: thou shalt retrieve my ninety-nine skulls and return to me the corporeal form through which I once dominated this realm, for thou art my servant, and I shall bestow upon you the power to reclaim my grim splendor.
And that is how Jrkglur became strong warlock and blasted his way out of the goblin lair and into a career of adventure.
Why It’s Different
Monstrous and evil PCs are already rare, and among the typically-evil monster types, goblins are a strange candidate for adventurer. At least orcs and lizardfolk are brave warriors seeking after glory. Goblins are cowardly, preferring to set traps and hide from an enemy than confront a challenge head-on.
Even if a goblin is brave enough to strike out in search of adventure, goblins, according to Volo’s Guide to Monsters, aren’t often magic users. They tend to lack the intelligence, patience, or access to training required of most spellcasters.
Because of their cowardly disposition and lack of ability, few warlock patrons would actively seek out a goblin. Goblin warlocks are rare among the already small group of goblin spellcasters.
Goblin spellcasters are rare also because the mental attributes necessary for arcane ability—Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma—aren’t exactly the goblin’s strong suit.
How It Can Work
Goblins are cowardly and seek protection from stronger creatures. A fiend or Great Old One who sees potential in a lowly goblin may make them an offer they can’t refuse: "Serve me and gain unimaginable power. Take vengeance on the Lashers who beat you for not working hard enough or fast enough. Destroy the hobgoblins and bugbears who look down on you. Learn the secrets the Booyahg sorcerers jealously horde for themselves."
Your goblin warlock might not have intentionally set out to become a warlock, as in the case of Jrkglur above. This could allow for some interesting role-play opportunities, your goblin warlock forced into situations they would rather run and hide from. You would develop a cunning, resourceful character who ultimately unlocks an inner strength they didn’t know they had.
How to (Roll) Play It
Ability Scores: Charisma, the warlock’s spellcasting stat, should be your highest. Since goblins gain a +2 to Dexterity, eschew high strength and double down on dexterity.
Pact Boon: Pact of the Blade. Choose a finesse weapon (rapier, scimitar, short sword, or whip) as your pact weapon.
Otherworldly Patron: A Great Old One patron offers a variety of spells and abilities that synergize with the goblin’s ability to hide or disengage as a bonus action, from telepathic communication at 1st level to phantasmal force at 2nd and telekinesis at 5th. These spells and abilities can make your goblin warlock a frustrating, mobile opponent for enemies to deal with, much like an arcane trickster.
Background: The character backstory at the beginning of the article describes a goblin pariah charlatan whose scam is convincing people that worthless items are actually valuable artifacts. Outlander or urchin are good choices for pariah goblins, while acolyte or soldier may be appropriate for lasher or hunter goblins.
Combat: Ultimately, your spell and weapon choices should reflect your character’s personality. Does this goblin want to show off his great power at every opportunity, throwing eldritch blasts around the battlefield and hexing enemies before cutting them down? Or does their goblin cowardice still rule despite their arcane abilities?
A goblin warlock may be reluctant to wade into the thick of battle, preferring to cast sinister spells of subterfuge from the shadows. They may protect themselves with the Armor of Shadows incantation and place themselves in an advantageous position with misty step.
How to (Role) Play It
Goblin society is divided into four castes: Lashers at the top, Pariahs at the bottom, and Hunters and Gatherers in between. Pariahs, being the weakest and least intelligent goblins, get stuck with the dirty jobs no one else wants.
What happens when a more capable goblin is born into this caste, a goblin who cannot be browbeaten into cowardice by the whips of the Lasher caste, a goblin with ambition and the ability to realize that ambition? That goblin might just strike out on their own and become an adventurer. Our sample goblin warlock PC is one such goblin.
If you’re interested in a good-aligned goblin and a redemption story, a Hunter or Lasher with a conscience might make a good candidate for a goblin warlock PC. Hunters are the warrior caste of goblin society, while Lashers are the overseers, literally whipping lower-caste goblins into shape.
In order to escape this cruel society, a goblin from one of these castes may strike a bargain with an archfey. The archfey patron may take a bemused, detached approach to the goblin, viewing them as a thought experiment: can a creature as evil and selfish as a goblin be redeemed?
Whichever approach you take, the goblin warlock is an excellent source of untapped role-playing possibility. Share your ideas for this unique race/class combination in the comments!