Goblin Lair Assault

“Beyond a stream and some rocks, partially concealed by trees, lies a cave. You glimpse goblins at the entrance.”

Encounter Level 6 (1225xp)

This encounter was the second one I ran on the DnD Virtual Table, and it was taken on by 4 first level PCs, one less than it is designed for, and truth be told they nearly didn’t make it 1 lucky 20 on a death save turned the tide of the battle, followed by the cleric not being hit by an OA when he charged the Beast Master. So they finished all in single digit hit points, and having all used second wind, but they did triumph!

Now admittedly I didn’t use optimal tactics for the monsters, but they used ok tactics, they tried to get and give flanks and so on. But they provoked the Fighter’s Combat Challenge, thy didn’t “focus fire” anyone other than the Fighter significantly, and the Beast Master hung back and made RAs rather than getting into the thick of the battle.

The key to this encounter is that it isn’t one big encounter that happens all at once, rather it happens in waves allowing the PCs to deal with some goblins before more arrive to defend their home. This also increases the “epic” feel of the encounter, the threat builds as the PC’s resources dwindle, until at last the Beast Master and his two wolves arrive for the climactic rounds.

Now a good striker is going to make a difference under these circumstances, the Half-Orc Slayer one hit killed a couple of the Cutthroats for example, and the Storm Warpriest’s damage buffs certainly helped out from time to time as well. So before just tossing this at a party keep in mind that dice luck and character builds are going to matter, at least if you throw this at level 1 characters like I did.

As a more general observation the party then went on to engage in 4 more combats before finally they were out of healing surges and daily powers. Unfortunately they are now deep in a dungeon with a Dragon they negotiated away their treasure to get past if they want to leave without risking another fight!

Setting and Tone

  • Fierce Defense: The goblins fight fiercely to defend their home.
  • Unending Waves: The goblins emerge in waves seeking to drive the invaders from their lair.
  • Darkness and Light: Inside the cave is dark, lit by a few flickering torches and fires, outside the sun shines brightly.

Terrain and Illumination

  • Illumination: Outside the cave is brightly lit (assuming a day time attack), inside is dimly lit by a few torches and campfires.
  • Trees: Thick trees block movement towards the north and south of the cave entrance.
    (Blocking terrain that grants cover.)
  • Rocks: Large rocky outcroppings block movement towards the cave, while also providing cover for those approaching the cave.
    (Blocking terrain that grants cover.)
  • Stream: A shallow stream runs across the clearing before the cave mouth.
    (The stream is difficult terrain.)
  • The Caves: These rough caves are covered in goblin graffiti, reek of dog and excrement, and have a floor largely worn smooth by the passing of goblin feet.
    (In a few places the floor is difficult terrain as indicated by triangles.)
  • Fires: These fires are relatively well kept and burn brightly.
    (Creatures that enter a fire square take 1d6 fire damage each time they enter or start their turn in the square)

Monsters, Traps and Hazards

  • Goblin Cutters (11): Small goblins armed with shortswords and wearing leather armor.
  • Goblin Cutthroats (6): Goblins wearing leather armor and carrying short swords and a small shield with a crude wolf-head design painted on in what might be blood.
  • Goblin Beast Marshal (1): Large goblin with a wolf pelt draped over his shoulders, he carries a spear and a shortbow.
  • Gray Wolf (2): Two large wolves with gray pelts and bright yellow eyes, they answer to whistles and shouted commands of the Beast Master.


This encounter uses the “Monster Lair” map that is found in the Red Box, I have made an approximation of that map for use with Master Plan that will give guidance on where to place the monsters for their starting positions, but if you have the Monster Lair map I recommend using it.


The goblins goal is to stop the PCs from penetrating past this area of their lair and they will respond according to the tactics the party uses. If the PCs depend on melee they will try to engage them outside the lair bottling up the fight in the area just outside the entrance. If the party has good ranged attackers the goblins will retreat so that the PCs must come inside the lair. The goblins should make reasonable use of their possible tactics, trying to gain flanks and similar tactical choices, but they are not well trained or highly intelligent so while they should use basic tactics they also should not fight to their maximum potential.

However the level of the party you send against the goblins will make a difference to the choices you make in regards to the tactics the goblins use. Level 1 parties should not be optimized against, level 2 or higher especially if you have 5 PCs you should make better use of the goblins tactics, especially the beast marshal.

Ending the Encounter

The goblins fight to the death in defense of their lair, but will only chase the party away from their lair if they have more than half their number (including minions) remaining when the PCs flee.

Should the PCs flee and return later, feel free to replenish all the minions that were slain in the first sortie, and Cutthroats, but if they fled after slaying the Beast Marshal or the Wolves do not replace those. Cutthroats and Cutters can be drawn from further in the lair or the surrounding area, the Beast Marshal and Wolves should be harder to replace for the goblins.


71 gp, 86 sp, 40 cp + 1 peridot (100 gp) stashed in various crates and among the goblins.

Though a magic item would be appropriate as well should you wish.


No Adventure Tools download as all creatures are in the Monster Builder already.

The Goblin’s Lair: Masterplan File (Zipped)


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  1. frothsof

    very cool that you did a vt file. i think we played together once. thanks for this

  2. ObsidianCrane

    We did :) And no problems.

  3. Slendertroll

    Hey there! I’m loving this blog, and I plan to use modified versions of a few of your encounters in my upcoming adventure. I’d like this to be the climax of the quest, but I’m not sure how to deal with the “waves” feature. I see four groupings of enemies there, which I assume are each one wave, but when should I bring each one out, and how should I describe their actions if the PCs can see them before their time? Thanks!

  4. ObsidianCrane

    The guys at the door are ready; they are on guard duty, so they are weapons out and good to go once attacked. All the other goblins need to ready, so thats what they do on the first round (or 2 depending how your players are going with the 3 guards). Then after a round or 2 of the fight with the gobbos at the door the group with GC1 should engage in the fight, then after a couple more rounds the group with GC 4, then a couple more rounds for the 2 gobbos from the very back, and then finally a couple more rounds for the Beastmaster. (All assuming the PCs end up fighting in the entry.)

    If the PCs are doing well then the gobbos should arrive faster, if they are doing poorly then slower. RP of the engaged gobbos (squealing in fright vs shouting in triumph) is a trigger for the other gobbos to act as well and will hopefully clue the players in about what is happening.

    Glad you are enjoying the site. (Now I just need to get this freelance stuff knocked over tomorrow and then write a new post at last!)

  5. Slendertroll

    Thanks for that detailed guide! One more question. I can’t find a Goblin Beast Master anywhere. Did you mean the Goblin Beast Rider, or the Hobgoblin Beast Master? (Both from Monster Vault.)

  6. ObsidianCrane

    That’s because it should be Goblin Beast Marshal from HS1 The Slaying Stone. Fixed in the post as well now.

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