Goblins. These little fellows are the much maligned cannon fodder of fantasy imaginings. HD 1-1...not even a full d8! In later editions of D&D, they fall by the wayside and receive even less respect than kobolds. This is a true shame because they truly are the first challenge for adventurers. If one views the ranking of monsters as a cursus honorem through which characters must progress, it is vital that goblins are included in the run. How so?
Goblins are a threat, even to 1st-3rd level heroes (see tomorrow's post). Goblins have better hit dice than a normal nan (1/2 HD, the same as kobolds!) and better hit dice than half of the core classes: fighters at 1-10, clerics 1-8, thieves at 1-6, and magic-users at 1-4. True, there are hardy newly minted adventurers, such as the ranger and barbarian, but they are outside the norm, even for heroes. The fact is, a warband of goblins (No. Apprearing 40-400, midline is 200!) could easily overwhelm a small town and definitely a small village, even if it has militia.
Let's look at Hommlett as an example. Hommlett can field the following:
Rufus, Overall Commander, Ftg 6
His "squad" of men-at-arms...not defined in the module, surprisingly, so we'll assume 10 well-armed medium-heavy infantry
Burne, MU 8
Jaroo, Dr 6 and Brother Smyth, Dr 3
Terjon, Cl 6, and Calmert Cl 3
Militia Captain (Elmo's father), Ftg 4 & Elmo, Rng 4
Militia Sgt, Ostler, Ftg 2
Militia, 50 0-lvl humans, most with leather armor, armed with a hand weapon plus as follows:
pole arms (various): 4
long bow: 1
short bow: 1
Militia, 4 'skirmishers,' o-lvl Humans with no armor and clubs
Miltia, Black Jay, Ftg 2 with longbow
Militia, Traders's man-at-arms, Ftg 1, with long bow
That's a pretty repsectable militia force, with a lot of magic. However, even if a small goblin warband shows ups (low dice rolls but with wolf riders):
2 leaders with 8 assistants (1 HD each)
20 wolf riders on worgs (4+4 HD) + an addition 20 worgs
60 goblins (HD 1-1), variously armed, but 24 with spears and 6 with slings
Burne and Rufus would be a big help, but it'd still be a tough fight. And these are just goblins! Think about orcs or hobgoblins and how they're armed and weaponed. Lairs have even more sub-types plus the possibility of bugbears. Even if it was the minimum (half the above numbers), the goblins would be formidable. Take away the worgs, not so much, but still they could do some damage.
(Incidentially, this is a battle I would love to play out...at the "skirmish" level or using Battlestystem.)
My mind changed on this matter sometime in the 1990s. I read Realms of Infamy, an anthology of Forgotten Realms short stories focusing on the "bad guys." There is a story titled "Vision" by Roger E. Moore about goblins. Read it. You will never look at goblins the same way ever again.
Until tomorrow, gentle readers, look out for the laughter and red eyes in the night!