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General On the subject of Hobgoblins

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
Hobgoblins might have a bit of an identity issue in D&D as in many ways they're sort of "Organized Orcs" in many interpretations. And while I certainly go with the idea that they're just another offshoot of the Goblinoid races which are quite genetically adaptable given the number of various Goblin subraces including Blue, Koalinth, Bugbears, Dekanter, Nilbogs, Bakemono and so on, I feel that many other people probably have Hobgoblins as a hybrid race like half-Goblin half-Human or Orc. So in many ways it comes down to if Humans are this, and Orcs are that, than what are Hobgoblins?
 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
In my home setting, I use Hobgoblins as a fey descendant race like Elves. Their dark reflection. Elves are the beautiful side of fey-men made humaniods. Hobgoblins are the dark side. Summer to Winter.

In more generic world, I see Hobgoblins as goblins with the base cowardice stripped out and it explained as it because they are man sized. Hobgoblins are what goblins would be if they were bigger and stronger. Their inner selves would turn orderly and martial if they were able to fight threats head on and not rely on sneakiness.
 


Mercurius

Legend
Yes, Klingons, but more Law oriented.

Alternately, hobgoblins could either consider themselves "true" goblins, of which goblins are the degenerated form, or they were genetically modified goblins from some past empire. Lots of ways to "lore it up."
 

Stormonu

Legend
Until 4E, I didn't even have a use for hobgoblins and just used goblins & orcs.

However, I feel recent editions have done a good job of making them feel different - goblins have a lot of Pictish warrior in my eyes to hobgoblin's Roman Centurion and orc's Nordic raider/Germanic berserker stereotype.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
They’re organized Orcs

imc Goblins are amphibians and scavengers who evolved in the swamp and later moved into the sewers of larger cities. I also used the GURPS idea that Goblin tadpoles adapt according to their environment. Most are the small, sneaky scavengers. However some grow bigger to Hob and even Ogre* size, but generally they are too few to organise their own society and thus though Hobgoblins might be encountered they will be one or two bullying the seething mass of riotous goblins

Bugbears imc are beastmen NOT goblins
 

Until 4E, I didn't even have a use for hobgoblins and just used goblins & orcs.

However, I feel recent editions have done a good job of making them feel different - goblins have a lot of Pictish warrior in my eyes to hobgoblin's Roman Centurion and orc's Nordic raider/Germanic berserker stereotype.
Wow... I felt exactly the same. When they gave them a martial theme I jumped in that wagon with both feet. I started to play them a lot more intelligently and tactically oriented and guess what? My players are more afraid of 10 hobgoblins than they are of 10 orcs now.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I’ve never been a fan of the weird militarism associated with D&D hobgoblins. It makes them feel distinctly un-goblinlike to me. I prefer to interpret their “leadership” as bullying.
 


aco175

Legend
A lot of my games do not have orcs in the home region as the PCs. I always liked the goblin, hobgoblin, bugbear mix to provide a range of levels for the PCs to fight. I find it hard to justify so many groups of races living in the same area competing for resources. The orcs were pushed out to another region. Things change in the campaign when the PCs need to venture to the other side of the mountain and meet them for the first time.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
See, that seems limiting to me. There's no reason hobgoblins can't be good leaders. How do you bully a bugbear?
There’s certainly no reason they can’t
be good leaders, but making that their shtick just doesn’t say “goblin” to me. I like the idea that goblinoids all have a cowardly streak, which manifests differently in different subtypes. Goblins are skittish and sneaky and flock around leaders they perceive to be strong for protection. Hobs bully the smaller, weaker goblins in their attendance into doing the dangerous work for them. Bugbears are asocial and solitary.

Of course, my view of goblins is heavily informed by Brian Froud’s work. In my setting, “goblin” is a generic term for a wide variety of unseelie fae creatures. They are all chaotic and crude and mischievous (otherwise they would be seelie). The idea of a well-organized group of goblins is just... incongruous.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
In the last game I used hogoblins significantly (2014-2016), it was on a pseudo earth setting, and the hobgoblins were Turks - in fact they considered the term hobgoblin to be offensive. And speaking of offensive, I did my best to portray them accurately and not in a derogatory way. Nur ad-Din was a feared and respected leader. One of the PCs was a Turk and helped developed a new style of magic.
 

GreenTengu

Adventurer
I would say that Hobgoblins are more Cardassians than Klingons.

They have a super organized society. To be within the top caste of that society, you must exhibit particular behavioral traits. You are to be organized, collected and avoid showing weakness. You are to keep your word, do your duty and diligently accept your chosen role within the clan. You are to avoid doing manual labor unless absolutely necessary and certainly avoid doing anything "unclean"-- there are goblins and other slaves to do such things.

Moreover-- there are plenty of ways to complete differentiate Hobgoblins and Orcs, the only traits they have in common is that they are bigger than humans and a bit beastial and maybe talking about "honor"-- there is more reason to get halflings, gnomes and dwarfs mixed up.

Orcs are highly spiritual, emotional and instinctual.
Hobgoblins are analytical, reserved and intellectual.

Orcs are people with mildly pig-gorilla like features and green/blue skin tones.
Hobgoblins are people with mildly cat-wolf like features and red/orange skin tones.

Orcs prefer to live in dark, damp, cold environments like caves high in the mountains or out on the tundra.
Hobgoblins prefer to live in warm, temperate climates on islands with their own crudely built fortresses or refurbished castle ruins left by someone else.

Orcs are descendants of Giants and kin to Ogres and Dwarfs. Which is why they hate Dwarfs.
Hobgoblins are descendants of Fey and kin to Elves. Which is why they hate Elves.

Orcs will raid your lands and steal your food, generally just killing anyone who stands between them and something they can eat and then they'll go away when there is nothing left to eat.
Hobgoblins will raid your lands and take away anyone they can in chains to serve them-- if not just claim the land for their own expanding empire.

Orcs want to take down the biggest, strongest, nastiest monster there is single-handedly to prove they are the biggest and strongest.
Hobgoblins want to rule the world, eliminate the undesirables and force everyone to live with the efficiency they do.

There are so many fundamental differences here from physical to cultural to psychological, that even when one accounts for the varied personalities of individual members of these races, account for them being potentially every class in the book and even that they may find themselves occupying similar habitats in some regions of the world, there really is very little overlap. They could hardly be more naturally polar opposites.

As for how Hobgoblins relate to other Goblinoids? Well, being that they are a kind of fey, they tend to mutate quite a bit to fit their environment. Look at the endless list of different kinds of Elves who don't even have the advantage of the short-breeding cycles of the goblinoids to account for their evolution.

But the split between Hobgoblins and Goblins is almost certainly one of a strictly controlled caste system where the hobgoblins were the warrior-nobles and the goblins were the serfs. Bugbears probably came about from Goblins who ran off into the woods and slowly evolved to become bigger and bigger to survive the dangers of being in the forests.

But the Hobgoblins are probably the ones responsible not only for evolving themselves away from Goblins, but probably also directly responsible for the Goblins' short lifespans and that they are sneaky and lazy little buggers as all of the serfs who were probably super cooperative just got worked to death meaning only those who were naturally lazy and good at dodging work survived to breed and create the next generation.

But in most D&D worlds, that ancient Hobgoblin empire fell quite some time ago. In Eberron though, it seems it is still ongoing.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We have stereotypical wandering Hobgoblins as being the now-mostly-barbaric remnants of a very ancient highly-advanced technological civilization, who have largely lost track of their own history. Quasi-civilized ones also exist, living almost in unintentional parody of what they used to be and with little if any more knowledge about their old tech than anyone else.

The barbaric ones are whatever non-Good alignment they want to be. The quasi-civilized ones are Lawful to a fault, and almost completely dissociate themselves from the barbaric Hob's.

There's way way WAY more to it than that - probably about half a book worth - but I won't bore you with it here. :)
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
Thinking on some of my other ideas of Hobgoblins, I did see some of them as being like Mongols. And if there was a Khan you united the various clans those Hobgoblins would certainly be a part of the Khanate regardless of the Khan being Hobgoblin, Human or whatever. They'd also continue having a part in civilization if a Khan decided to start something like the (Khublai Khan's) Yuan Dynasty.
 


BookTenTiger

Adventurer
We have stereotypical wandering Hobgoblins as being the now-mostly-barbaric remnants of a very ancient highly-advanced technological civilization, who have largely lost track of their own history. Quasi-civilized ones also exist, living almost in unintentional parody of what they used to be and with little if any more knowledge about their old tech than anyone else.
I like this a lot!

I feel like it would be really rewarding as a player to discover the "lost city of the hobgoblins" and see all these artifacts and art pieces depicting the mighty civilization they once were.

And then wondering what brought them down!
 

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