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I think Barghests have been in the game since AD&D 1st Edition, though I don’t think I have the book in which they first appear. Their exact nature has changed a bit between editions.
If you described a barghest as a “goblin werewolf”, you’d get the general idea across while being almost completely wrong.
Barghests are born randomly in goblinoid populations. The event is rare, and usually seen as a blessing from Bane. As a result of this reputation and their own powers, barghests often rise to leadership positions in goblinoid society when they grow up.
Barghests are shapeshifters, and possess two forms: one is a goblinoid (goblin, hobgoblin or bugbear), and the other a wolf-like creature. You can’t really mistake them for either normal goblinoids or wolves, though: the creature is merely wolf-like, and the other form always has a specific tell that remains constant across forms. Locks of white hair or a single discolored eye are common.
Barghests aren’t particularly vulnerable to silver nor are they affected by the moon. They’re fairly smart and in full control of their actions in all forms. And they have psionic powers, which usually manifest as some sort of psychic vampirism they use to sap the minds and vitality of their foes.
Barghests are Small or Medium Natural Humanoids with the Shapechanger keyword. They have low-light vision and a ground speed of 6 (8 in wolf form). They can Change Shape with a minor action once per round, and have different basic attacks depending on what their current form is.
They also have some form of harmful psychic power, which varies per stat block. We have two here, both Medium:
This is a bugbear barghest whose love of violence is exceptional even for a bugbear. As a leader, it tries to incite its troops to perform frequent raids on any soft targets it can find.
Savagers are Level 4 Brutes with 63 HP. They fight with a battleaxe or with their wolfish bites, and can perform a Jump Strike (recharge 5-6) with either, shifting 3 squares before and after the attack and doing extra damage.
Their mental powers manifest as the Power Feed ability (melee 1 vs. Will; Encounter; Reliable), usable only in wolf form. This does some psychic damage and allows the barghest to use an encounter or daily power it has seen the target use this encounter.
The attack bonus for this will be the same as that of the monster’s other attacks, but damage and other effects will be as if the power had been used by the original PC. This would make the ability worth using on high-damage powers, or those with interesting side effects. When the wizard proclaimed his Sleep spell would end the fight, this was probably not what he had in mind.
The Reliable keyword means the power isn’t spent if the attack misses, so odds are the monster will be able to use this successfully at least once.
Barghest Battle Lord
This hobgoblin barghest has the makings of a legendary general, commanding his troops with great tactical acumen and preferring to bait his enemies into traps. He’s a Level 7 Controller with 82 HP, fighting with a greatsword in humanoid form.
The wolf form’s bites knock the target prone on a hit, and the greatsword makes the battle lord invisible to the target for a turn. In either form he can use a Psychic Howl (ranged 10 vs. Will) which does psychic damage, dazes for a turn, and inflicts a -2 penalty to attacks as an aftereffect (save ends).
He can also use Life Feed (close blast 5 vs. Fortitude; encounter) in wolf form, which does a little bit of necrotic damage and inflicts 5 ongoing necrotic damage (save ends). Whenever the targets take that ongoing damage, the battle lord heals 5 HP. So if four PCs are hit the battle lord will heal at the start of each of their turns, totalling 20 HP per round.
Once per encounter, as a reaction to being hit by a melee attack, the battle lord can Get Some Distance, shifting 2 squares away.
Sample Encounters and Final Impressions
Barghests can be added to any goblin encounter that you think needs an extra kick. The first few times it happens it might catch the PCs by surprise, but it will be interesting to find out if they learn to spot the tells. As mentioned in the lore, barghests will usually occupy leadership positions in whatever group of goblins they hang out with.
I remember barghests had an extremely complicated backstory in previous editions, being fiends from the Neutral Evil plane who happened to be able to shapeshift into goblins and who had a whole complicated hierarchy back home based on how many souls they had devoured. All of that is gone here, which I think is for the best in the end. Some goblins can just wolf out and break your mind with their psychic powers. It’s one of those things that happens.