Wow has it been that long since I posted? I am truly sorry, time gets away from me sometimes. So one reason it’s been awhile is that I’ve been looking hard at the goblins in LMoP and figuring out how to convert the custom goblins I made in 4E to 5E. Basically, the content on the goblins is just too much to post in one blog article. So…I’m splitting it up. This post, Part 7a, will be my standard analysis of the Cragmaw goblins as they are written in LMoP–Analysis, Problems, My Solution, Your Solution. Then the next post, Part 7b, will be me telling you more about my replacement goblins–the Bile Spider tribe–specifically, and how I build them for 5E.
It might surprise you, but I have fewer problems with the goblins than I do with the other “villains” in this adventure. Let’s take a look at where we find the goblins:
- Goblin Ambush: Not a bad encounter. The “ambush” trope in adventures is pretty common, because it thrusts the PCs into the adventure “in media res”. It’s an exciting way to start off the adventure. It might not work for you if you use different story hooks, or if you are coming into LMoP from some short little 5-room dungeon you started your party on (like I did).
- Goblin Hideout: While “hideout” isn’t entirely accurate, depending on your definition of what “hideout” means…the cave is an adequate mini-dungeon, the encounters are pretty good, the environment gives some interesting choices for PCs and GM alike in terms of tactics and strategy. It could be better, but it’s okay.
- Redbrand Hideout: Here we only find a few bugbears and a pathetic goblin they are harassing called Droop. Droop can be “rescued” by PCs, which might lead to some interesting roleplay and could even lead to Droop becoming a major part of the PCs’ story.
- Cragmaw Castle: Hobgoblins, bugbears, and goblins combined, along with a “king”. Again, an adequate mini-dungeon. A few of the monsters don’t entirely make sense or fit with what monsters are normally associated with goblinoids…but that’s easily fixed. The castle location itself is kind of simplistic…even the Redbrand Hideout had two levels, so just having one for the King Goblin seems odd. But again, not a deal-breaker.
As I said, I only have a few problems with the goblinoids in this adventure. One of the biggest is why they are working with the Black Spider at all. I covered that somewhat in Part 6, though. There are two other major problems: why are the goblinoid races working together, and why are they working with the Redbrands?
In the 5E supplement Volo’s Guide to Monsters (VGtM), there is a large section on goblinoids. It specifically says “When one kind of goblinoid encounters another kind, the two groups don’t see one another as strangers or foes. Instead they know that by the fact of their meeting alone, Maglubiyet has commanded them to come together. They know the time has come to form a host.” So the implication here is that while they don’t see each other as enemies, the three types don’t typically mingle…unless they are forming a war host. So if we ask “why are the goblinoids in this adventure working together” the obvious answer, the only one that makes sense within the established lore around goblinoids, is that a war is coming and the goblinoids are building a conquering host.
As to why the goblinoids are working with the Redbrands–it could be fairly simple. If you have reworked the Redbrands and the Black Spider already, you’ve probably thought of a reason for those two to work together. All you need is a reason why “King” Grol wants or needs to do the same. There is mention of the Redbrands collecting people to become slaves, but it doesn’t really get a payoff. But goblinoids are famous for capturing people and enslaving them. And a war host would have a need for slave labor, to free up lower class goblinoids to join the war host.
My solution involves replacing the Cragmaw tribe with a customized tribe with totally different goals and motivations than the Cragmaws as written. As for the war host angle, I’m considering keeping that and using it as an entry point to running the Red Hand of Doom. I’ve been considering adapting that to my setting for awhile now, and it’s something that Matt Colville and the Starter Set Sandbox series mention. Also, Red Hand of Doom involves dragons, so it would fit into my larger story arc about the Worldbreaker. I’ll talk more about the Bile Spider tribe in the next post (Part 7b).
Find Your Solution
Even if you stay with the Cragmaw tribe as written, you could also use them to lead into The Red Hand of Doom, if you want. It’s a good adventure, recommended by many tabletop RPG bloggers and YouTubers. Alternatively, you could create some other goblinoid war from scratch. There is a location in LMoP called Wyvern Tor, which mentions some orcs scouting the area. Perhaps the orcs are planning to expand their territory, and so the goblinoids and orcs go to war, with the other humanoids in the area getting caught in the middle.
Here are the questions you need to ask yourself regarding the goblinoids in LMoP:
- Why are the three goblinoid races working together?
- Why are the goblinoids working with Iarno and the Redbrands, and why are they working with the Black Spider?
- Is a war host forming, and if so how can you link that to the larger campaign storyline you want to develop? How will it lead into the next adventure you plan to run?
That’s all for now, folks. I hope you found some interesting tips and information that can help you when you run Lost Mine of Phandelver. Next time, we’ll dive deep into monster-building mechanics as I tell you more about the Bile Spider tribe!