DnD 5e - The Goblin Handbook
Last Updated: April 17th, 2020
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
- : Good options.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
Goblins were first published as a playable race in Volo's Guide to Monsters, and have since appeared (unmodified) in several other supplements. Goblins have existed as a monster in Dungeons and Dragons for decades, and they appear as prominently in DnD settings as orcs or ogres.
Goblins have no subraces and no decision points in their racial traits, which makes them very inflexible. Their ability scores are good and they have several interesting traits, but their lack of decision points means that they only work in builds where their traits are helpful. Goblins really thrive when fighting with Dexterity-based weapons, and Nimble Escape offers the most important benefits of the Rogue's Cunning Action so you can easily employ Rogue-style combat tactics without a class dip.
Fury of the Small
Fury of the Small is one of the Goblin's most unique traits, offering a once-per-rest damage boost against larger targets. Most creatures are medium or larger, so that's a great option.
At some point, someone is going to read Fury of the Small and think "I'm going to build an evoker and use it on everything in a big area damage spell". Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Fury of the Small applies the extra damage to exactly one creature exactly one time, then can't be used again until you complete a short or long rest. You could pick any creature inside an AOE or one of several targets struck by magic missile, but it still only applies to one target.
Classes (Default Rules)
This section assumes that you're not using the option "Customizing Your Origin" rules presented in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.
No Intelligence increase.
No Strength increase.
You could make a martially-inclined bard build work, but you're going to be bad at spellcasting due to the lack of a Charisma increase.
No Wisdom increase.
No Wisdom increase. Fury of the Small would absolutely work while using Wild Shape, so you could turn into something tiny and use it on small creatures, but that's not nearly enough.
The Fighter is among the Goblin's best options. Dexterity and Consitutiton are perfect for any Dexterity-based fighter builds, and with numerous attacks you have plenty of opportunties to apply Fury of the Small. Nimble Escape makes it easy to employ hit-and-run tactics, which can be useful for tactically positioning yourself or for playing a ranged build if you're worried about being pulled into melee.
Dexterity and Constitution ar great for the Monk, and unlike most small races the Goblin still gets 30 ft. speed. Fury of the Small will be easy to apply even at low levels thanks to Martial Arts and Flurry of Blows, but Nimble Escape competes for your Bonus Action which is a high demand for the Monk.
Much like the Fighter, the Paladin can make effective use of the Goblin's traits. While you don't get a Charisma increase, starting with 14 or 15 Charisma is absolutely viable for the Paladin.
Arguably a better fit for the Goblin if only because there's no redundant abilities, the Ranger is a competent Scout and Striker, and the Goblin's traits line up nicely to support any ranger build. Nimble Escape allows you to easily perform hit-and-run tactics or to snipe in ways which would normally require a rogue dip.
Thematically an excellent option, but Nimble Escape replicates two of the three functions of Cunning Action, so one of the Rogue's most interesting features is mostly redundant at level 1. Combining Sneak Attack and Fury of the Small is a great combination, but remember that it's still only once per rest.
No Charisma increase.
No Charisma increase.
No Intelligence increase.