martedì 3 novembre 2015

Humanoids: the right way to use them in a fight

I've been in love with humanoids (kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, bugbears, gnolls) since the first campaign I ran.

I liked those hoards of wicked and cruel beasts: perfect enemies for low level parties.

As PCs got higher levels I realized they weren't a credible foe  anymore. They were regularly and easily slaughtered by the PCs who were starting to not think of them a real menace.

I was worried since my campaign was heavily focused in a struggle againts humanoids.

I thought for a while then I noticed I was wrong: I wasn't playing them correctly.

I was doing the same mistake of many DMs: charging goblins (for example) against the party, wathcing them butchered in a melee fight then complaining about how overpowered are PCs.

I started to think about how to truly use humanoids, according to their nature and their behaviour: if used in this way they can be a serious threat even to high level parties.

Cunning Guerrilla

Humanoids (expecially Goblins o Kobolds) are shrewd and sly. They will charge a party only if odds are extremely favourable while usually they'll keep at a distance, firing arrows and being under cover.
Besides they'll try to sneakly move PCs towards traps.


You can surely allow some humanoids to be Shamans, Sorceres or Warlocks. PCs will be really  impressed when a Hobgoblin will hit them with an Eldritch Blast or a Magic Missile. You don't need to use the rules for PC's creation. Just add to monster's abilities the feature spellcasting with some prepared spell. Calculate higher CR and xp, according to number of spell added and their power.


Humanoids often have some kinds of animals at hand: ferocious beasts such as wolves, matiffs, wargs or hyenas. Feel freely to add other beasts, maybe Flying ones like ravens or hawks. Use them in combat but also as sentinels or for hunting PCs.

Higher Ability Scores

In a humanoid tribe it'd be common some of its members are stronger or clever or swifter than the average.

For some humanoids (typically from  10% to 20%) raise one or more of the following characteristics: HP, ability scores (an orc stronger or quicker thant the others), AC, to hit +.  Fights will become more unpredictable (Hey, why this bugber isn't dead yet?!?!? Usually they fall down after 30 damage!!) which is always a good thing.

Give to a few of them som battle manoveurs or rogue's ability such as sneak attack.

Also add accordingly CR and xp.

Know your enemy

Humanoids are intelligent creatures. Opponent spellcasters will be their primarily target with range attack in order to have their Concentration ruined or be target of spells like Silence.

Magic Items

If the tribe has magical items they'll not stored in a chest but they'll be used by its most important members.

Give them magical armor and weapons or scrolls or potions, according to the magic level of your campaign.

Just follow this simple tips and your next fights with humanoids will be more unexpected, uncertain and exciting.

As usual, it's the excitement had in the previous session what makes the players to come back againg at your table.


The DM.

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