Welcome to Ranger week! For this very special week we’re going to be taking a look at three monsters at different CR levels that rely on range attacks and effects for combat. Today we start things easy with a CR 1 creature…
I’m very excited to cover today’s monster so let’s just get started with some numbers…
Nilbogs have matching STR and WIS of -1, which is to be expected of goblinoids. Their INT and CON is also not much better at only a +0, but this particular brand of goblin isn’t only moderately superior in DEX as is to be expected (+2), but also in CHA (+2).
These creatures are pretty nimble with a +6 modifier to their Stealth and the ability to disengage or hide on a bonus action, but other than that they don’t really get much in the way of attributes. Today’s goblinoid can also speak both Common and Goblin and has Darkvision to a range of 60ft.
In terms of durability, well, it’s not much; we’re looking at an AC of 13 and only 2d6 worth of hit points with no resistances or vulnerabilities. That said, these small chaotic evil humanoids have other ways to go about this problem, as we will discuss in a second.
Nilbogs have the Innate Spellcasting feature that allows them to cast the following spells:
At will: mage hand, Tasha’s hideous laughter, vicious mockery
One of the two most peculiar traits for today’s monster is Nilbogism; an ability that makes it so that anyone trying to attack our monster will have to make a CHA save or succumb to the terrible fate of praising the Nilbog as their action instead.
While the Nilbog is able to use its Fool’s Scepter for close combat attacks, you’ll most likely end up using its Shortbow instead so you can take full advantage of the bonus action hide and the +6 Stealth bonus. That said, when the arty eventual does catch up to your Nilbog, Reversal of Fortune is bound to buy you a little more time…and groans from the rest of the table; using this reaction (we love reactions!) our goblin can not only completely avoid taking damage, but also heal in the process, which is great because the Nilbogism trait does state that these particular goblins cannot be healed in any other ways.
Far above most goblins, the Nilbog is a CR 1 creature.
What’s goblin spelled backwards? Yup, there it is.
Today’s creature has made a few rounds in popular media and films but tends to be more closely associated with goblins than our D&D version of it. When it comes to our favorite hobby, we can trace this creature back to 1st edition (1st Fiend Folio, to be more exact), which is still the place we get most of our lore from, since there hasn’t been other appearances until the most recent 5th edition version that appears on page 182 of Volo’s Guide.
From this original instance of the creature we learn that nothing is quite as it seems with Nilbogs; while to all intents and purposes they appear as any other goblin, there is a 0.001% chance that said goblin might be affected by a terrible affliction known as ‘Nilbogism’. You see, Nilbogs aren’t born, but rather made; the come to existence when a fragment of a trickster goblin god spirit decides to inhabit the recently downed body of a regular goblin. Once a goblin has been affected in such a way, he becomes a Nilbog.
While there is some study that has been done on the matter, no one knows much about this condition; even the trickster goblin god’s name is unknown so that it might remain safe from those who would see it undone. What we do know about this condition is that it seems to affect the possessed goblin in a contrary manner, for example, those who attempt to harm him will instead heal him, starving the creature result in it gaining weight instead, and healing will result in harm… it’s all a game of opposites. While this condition isn’t contagious per se, it does affect those around the Nilbog in strange ways; while succumbing to praising the Nilbog is common, some might even go as far as feeling compelled to surrender their treasure to the Nilbog.
While it is very strange to encounter more than one Nilbog at a time, it’s not unheard of for goblin tribes to appoint a jester amongst their ranks, as they know that many are fearful of coming across the real deal. Nilbogs can even be venerated as gods by some goblin communities, but this usually doesn’t last very long since the goblins will tend to grow tired of the strange aura exuded by the creature and decide to banish it instead.
Those unfortunate enough to cross paths with a Nilbog must always be cautious; it is said that the spirit of a Nilbog will continue to haunt travelers who mange to dispose of him as it continues to reincarnate in the bodies of other goblins around the adventurers.
Okay so, this monster is definitely the sort that you would want to keep as a recurring encounter, or at least that’s what I would do. Granted it will probably be more of a recurring joke than a recurring villain, but I’ll probably get some laughs and might even open some doors for interesting side quests. If you play your cards right with this one it could even be one of those memorable bits about campaigns we’re always talking about.
I think the best way to go about this and surprise your players is to have them encounter a decently sized group of goblins with nothing too suspicious about it. Let them cast their spells and lower their numbers until they eventually reach this guy at the back of the room; if they’re anything like my players, chances are that they will be very confused about the saving throw, but just make sure to play it off and keep the combat running. I’ll probably take a couple of rounds before the room is clear minutes the Nilbog, at which point your party will probably have made a few attempts on its life, even i they hit though, it’s unlikely that no real damage will be dealt, heck, I’ve even read stories of players who took turns whacking at this thing to see who would finally make it pass the saving throw.
In terms of combat I would definitely recommend you stock up on the most goblinesque insults you can muster and prepare for a lot of hysterical laughter. Once the Nilbog becomes the prime target, do make sure to try to keep this guy from getting too swarmed; remember you only have one reaction per round! You want to make sure the encounter lasts long enough for the party to figure out what’s going on. Make good use of that range attack!
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