Hobgoblins: the Klingons of Dungeons and Dragons

It’s been a while since I had a good D&D post, but after being sick in July and taking some time off, I honestly haven’t played in over a month. Even my play-by-post group had to take time off due to personal life interruptions affecting other players. So, this weekend, I finally got back into the kids’ Japan-themed “Hamato Islands” campaign, which I also publish adventures for on DMS Guild.

I was looking for a new bad guy to introduce, and prior to getting sick, I settled on Hobgoblins, pouring in from a rogue portal from the plane of Acheron. In terms of stats, I kept them more or less the same, but for this Japan-themed campaign, I decided that they had been on the Islands long enough to adapt samurai-style warfare, weapons, etc, and have carved out a small but growing fiefdom. Given the Hobgoblin tendency toward strict, hierarchical, martial societies, this wasn’t a difficult idea to implement.

That was a decent start, and then I forgot about for a while due to aforementioned issues. The idea sat on the mental shelf for a month.

Then, earlier this week, I started dusting off the campaign and updating notes, ideas, etc. The samurai-hobgoblin idea was pretty good, but I felt I still needed something more. Then, it hit me. The Klingons from Star Trek were also a brutal society with strict, martial codes, especially the early, more tyrannical Klingons from the original series. Further, it wouldn’t be hard to adapt the Klingon language as “Goblin”. So, why not make the hobgoblins more like klingons?

Kruge probably has the stats of a Hobgoblin Warlord. 😜

I updated the hobgoblins to use the Klingon style, red-and-black samurai armor, the Klingon symbol on their flag and even threw in a good “it is a good day to die” or two. I had used hobgoblins before, for example briefly in a separate planescape setting, but having that extra story-telling element and setting really took a functional D&D story into something more impactful. The hobgoblins as depicted in Volo’s Guide to Monsters is a good start, but borrowing from Klingon aesthetics made a big difference.

So, how did it go? My kids knew that Daddy was a big Star Trek fan, but they hardly know anything about Star Trek. In their first encounter with these “Hamato Island Hobgoblins”, I played Klingon background music from the first Star Trek movie:

My kids went nuts with anticipation as the hobgoblins in samurai battle armor and horseback approached, claimed the land the players were defending, and then got into a battle with the players, using their goblin ashigaru pikemen as backup. It was a tough battle for them, the lead up was worth it.

In the end, we had a great time. I learned, that as a DM, it doesn’t hurt to take time in your story to give your opponents more “character”. Visuals, sounds, etc, and really give a story extra “oomph” and help make an impact on players. Also, it’s perfectly fine to take the basic D&D settings, cultures and creatures, and either embellish or modify to fit the needs of your campaign. It’s easier to think of the official guides as starting points, than inflexible canon.

This whole experience gave me an excuse to finally brush up on the Klingon language. 😝 Qap’la!

P.S. When you think about this, it’s not so different than basing Elves of, say, Romulans.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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