Runa & Ulfgar's Compendium of Big Boss Epic Goblins
While I wasn’t expecting this supplement to be bad by any means, I didn’t realize how many gems would be found. As I was reading adventures stitched together in my mind, whole new campaigns started to form and ways to torment my players emerged. (Okay torment is harsh word I promise I'm not an asshole DM but angst is the name of the game for me sometimes).
Design and Layout
So something that I really love and would like to see in all products from the DMsguild is the existence of a bookmark bar on the side of the pdf. It made it really easy for me to jump around after my initial reading.
I loved all the artwork – specifically the depictions of the different bosses. Each boss has a distinct flavor and their personality comes through perfectly in the artwork. My favorites are: Lash Asmodeus’s Pet, Lea the Patient, and Dragon-Master Sput.
NOTE: All of the stat blocks in this supplement are well balanced for the CR as far as I can tell – I cannot claim to be an expert on monster creation and balance – because of that my review will be focusing on the back story of these goblins and potential campaign uses.
Naturally Gifted Goblins
Book the Learned – CR 19
Uhm. My jaw literally dropped when I was done reading about Book. It dropped and then I put my hands together as if I was praying, placed them against my lips and just went “oh fuck.” It’s early in the review but I think it’s safe to say that this is my favorite goblin.
So I really expected Book to be a spellcaster based on the name I assumed a wizard, but he has no spellcasting abilities but is rather an excellent tactician.
Origin story. He was hiding in the nooks and crannies of the Grand Library of Aldridge, “a massive tower cathedral populated by the Monks of Aldridge containing the largest collection of books, scrolls and research painstakingly transcribed by the monks.” Initially Book didn’t care about the knowledge, but a kind monk found him and let him stay under the condition that he was tutored every day. With time his intelligence grew until the Library had nothing else to offer him. He traveled outside the city and convinced a vampire, Lady Vesper Tizane, to take him on as a familiar. Once he learned as much as he could from her about “crafting long-term plans and subtle political strategies” he killed her while she was resting. For a while he continued operating as if he was still under Lady Vesper but eventually wanted people to know about the work, he was doing so he returned to Aldridge and declared himself a new crime boss.
Now here’s where things get fucking wild. When I say his machinations are intense, I mean having four different heist going intense. I mean allowing himself to be thrown into a prison and starting the first riot in prison history all to get access to forbidden knowledge underneath the prison level of intense. I mean manipulating assassinations, blackmail, false prophets and peasant uprisings to start a war between kings level of intense.
Smush – CR 20
So Smush started off as your standard weak goblin, being commanded by hobgoblins. Through a series of events they were placed with a group of bugbears and that’s where they got their name – everyone assumed they would get smushed but instead they mirrored the behaviors of the bugbears and eventually grew in strength to surpass the strongest of goblinoids. For a time they served under hobgoblins as goblins are meant to do but eventually, they left with a small group of goblins to find better challenges out in the world.
Okay so I wasn’t surprised at some of the adventure hooks suggested in this section. A call for challengers, the siege of a town or even Smush being a goblin champion. But little parts of these adventure hooks really hit home for me. Like Smush having defeated a Frost Giant King and commandeering a fortress. Or the suggestion that players not only have to deal with Smush during their siege but also balance defending the city at large. The one that really caught me off-guard in the best of ways was the idea of Smush being a champion of goblin deity in the Nine Hells. They can specifically be found in Avernus which means he can have a guest appearance in Descent into Avernus or any adventure that brings your players to the Nine Hells.
Goblins with Artifacts
Krynk, Holder of the Lamp – CR 7
What could possibly go wrong when a goblin filled with wonderlust comes upon a magic lamp that can grant him three wishes? Everything. Literally everything.
Big things have small beginnings. Krynk started life off as your typical goblin. Hiding in ancient ruins with his clan, keeping away from adventurer’s that might do them harm, but he wanted more. He wanted to be like the adventurers were. Not in these ruins but out exploring (and yes I did most definitely sing that last bit to the tune of Part of Your World). He’d eventually leave the ruins and the region he was from after adventuring for a while with a party. Next on his journey would be the life of a pirate and while he should have been named captain none respected him enough. After a jaunt into Hawa, the City of Chaos, he left behind his pirating ways and began exploring the lands of Al-Qadim. One day while adventuring in the Haunted Lands he came across some ruins and found a magical lamp.
So as we all know wishes are game changing. When players get access to casting wish campaigns and worlds as they are known change drastically. Now what do you think the worse thing a goblin with wanderlust could wish for? Could it be that goblins were the ruling class and other humanoids were the ones that have to live in ruins and fend of goblin adventurers? Could it be all the planes of existence being in walking distance and them having untold effects on the land where these planes overtake the material plane? OR could the players simply be wished out of existence because they were a nuisance to the lamp wielding goblin? The answer is yes.
Jarl Grudrun, He of Thunder – CR 16
I don’t know what I was expecting Grudrun’s origin story to be but it wasn’t this and I love it.
As you can imagine Grudrun wasn’t always He of Thunder. He was originally Grudrun, the Water Holder, slave of Kargal, the Iron Breaker. Kargal has dreams of uniting all Frost Giants underneath him. So he traveled to the Feywild and spoke with three women who were said to be the weavers of fate. “They gave a prophecy – in the mountains high above was the Tomb of the Frost Giant Jarl. Within this tome lied the frost giant Jarl’s body and the magical items that had cemented his rulership in life. Whomever could slay the tomb’s protector and reclaim the items would unite all frost giants and begin a rain of terror and chaos across the world.”
Of course Kargal couldn’t help but quest for these items. He faced a ancient white dragon with none but Grudrun there as a witness. He won the battle but was seriously injured. Grudrun saw his chance to escape from his master’s cruel clutches and killed him. He claimed the artifacts for himself and became the Jarl of all Frost Giants.
Now this part is a tale as old as time. Someone small that has been pushed around and hurt all their life gets power and now wants to the pushing around. Jarl Grudrun wants to subjugate the entire world under the frost giant rule, mostly because he’s a bully but also because he is worried about his frost giants potentially turning on him.
He could go searching for an ancient ruined city to awaken primordials and titans to do his bidding in bringing the rest of the world to heel. He could go an assassinate the three weavers of fate to ensure no other prophecy turns his frost giants against him. Or he could simply terrorize the small towns and barbarian clans in the frozen north. Whatever he does adventurer’s need to rise up and stop him lest chaos be unleashed.
Grandal the Packleader – CR 16
Let’s be clear here. If my deity randomly chose me to bestow a “blessing” that changed me into some unnatural hybrid creature that goes around infecting others – you know I would actually be okay with that. My body is beat to all shit and maybe lycanthropy could help with that.
Anyway Grandal was chosen by Bargrivyek to become a weregoblin after he grew jealous of Selune and Malar’s dominion over lycanthrope. He meant to create a unified goblin army but Maglubiyet the head of the goblin pantheon was displeased and forced him to never create another weregoblin.
Even though his prayers were no longer answered by his god, Grandal still saw it as his mission to unite goblins/humanoids by infecting as many of them as possible with lycanthropy.
So I really liked the part about how “within his pack, Grandal is kind, forgiving, and caring” because more often than not you get the ridiculous stereotype about abusive alphas in werewolf packs etc and a change from that is nice.
Lots of good story hooks baked into this. One or all of the players could potentially contract this form of lycanthropy and have to either get rid of it or embrace it and join the pack. Or the pack could be descending onto a town that needs protecting.
Niisk the Undying – CR 12
Fear of death created an entity that is just as likely to topple the rule of a benevolent ruler as that of a iron fisted tyrant.
Niisk was afraid. Niisk was afraid of dying and being sent to the endless battlefield that all goblins end up when they are dead, fighting an endless war for Maglubiyet. But he saw a way out. Swearing his allegiance to the Raven Queen in exchange from being spared from conscription. The Raven Queen summoned him to the Shadowfell and bestowed upon him immortality and gave him one command, “punish hubris.” With such fucking vague instructions its no wonder that Niisk decided that meant rulers of nations. Any type of ruler. Regardless if they were good or bad. They had to die.
With the abilities granted by the Raven Queen Niisk is perfect for stoking rebellions and political assassinations to punish “hubris” leaders. The players will have their work cut out for them trying to put an end to Niisk’s behavior – especially considering he apparently can’t die.
Appendixes: A (Magical Items) and B (Sidekicks)
Okay so there are three artifacts in this supplement. The Deck of Many-Goblin Things, The Ring of Many-Selves, and Lamp of Shaa. One of the really cool cards from the Deck of Many-Goblin Things is the Ten of Spades:
Meriadar. You gain the racial attributes and your body alters to take on a physical feature of three of the following races selected at random: Dragonborn, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Kenku, Firbolg, Bugbear, Kobold, Tabaxi, Triton.
There are three new sidekicks: Goblin sidekick, Covert Barghest sidekick and Nilbog sidekick. So the sidekicks level up the way players do. All three have unique abilities at first through sixth level.
I really like that all these goblins have varying alignments. I’ve always found it very boring for a whole ancestry to have one fixed alignment (Orcs, Drow, Goblins, Kobolds etc) and have done away with that kind of thing in my own games and it’s nice to see others doing that as well.
Volo’s Guide to Monsters gave orcs a bit of an upgrade, new types of orcs at varying challenge ratings and Runa & Ulfgar’s Compendium of Big Boss Epic Goblins does the same thing in varying degrees. On the one hand the base goblin hasn’t changed, and we don’t get a variety of lower level goblins the way Orcs got but on the other hand these high-level bosses keep goblins in the game much longer than the orcs that go up to challenge rating four.
I did not cover all the goblins in each section – you’ll have to buy the supplement to get the rest and it’s worth it. I can’t wait to throw these at current and future players and already have new campaign ideas.