|Images of hobgoblins
Source: Bestiary, pg(s). 206–207
A hobgoblin is nearly the same height as a human. Their round, hairless heads sit atop wide, thick necks, and their long, tattered ears flank a pair of savage orange eyes. Their dull, gray-green skin is coarse and largely devoid of hair. Their short, powerful legs coupled with their long, muscular arms grants the hobgoblin vague similarities with that of a brutish ape.1
Hobgoblin society's regimented hierarchy produces excellent adventurers, as hobgoblins mature trained for combat. Hobgoblins are most often fighters, rangers, or rogues, although hobgoblin rogues approach their profession with a disciplined attitude. Hobgoblins hold an ancestral grudge against elves and a distrust of arcane magic, which they call "elf magic." Hobgoblin practitioners of arcane magic are exceedingly rare and usually shunned by other hobgoblins. Intellectual hobgoblins usually become alchemists.2
Unlike their capricious goblin cousins, hobgoblins are strong, cunning, and organized, with a natural inclination toward hierarchies and social order. Though their strongholds are often sloppily constructed, they are extremely tenacious in their defense. Hobgoblins mate freely, but only with willing members of their own rank—matings between hobgoblins of different rank is seen as scornful. Hobgoblins are highly promiscuous and do not practice monogamy. Hobgoblins gestate much faster than humans (though not as fast as goblins). Infants are weaned after only three weeks and can walk and talk by six months, at which point he or she begins combat training. A hobgoblin is considered ready to fight by the age of four.3
Habitat and society
Hobgoblins favor temperate hills for their territory.4 Hobgoblin settlements, referred to in military terms like "companies", "regiments", "divisions", "armies", or "hordes", are ruled by a single general, who commands numerous ranking officers with their own subordinates, so on down to the grunts and laborers who make up the majority of the tribe. A hobgoblin general can control vast swaths of territory under this system, but the hobgoblins' own ambitious and disloyal nature usually prevents them from forming such empires5 with certain exceptions such as Kaoling.
More so than any other goblinoid race, hobgoblins combine a keen intellect with a warlike spirit. Though strictly militant, hobgoblins can be remarkably clever in matters of engineering and alchemy, though these skills are always directed towards the battlefield. 4 Paradoxically, though organized and confident during war, an individual hobgoblin tends to be paranoid and deceitful in nature. This aggression is honed through years of training in childhood (lasting up to four years) and is used to determine who is fit for military service. Due to the hierarchical nature of hobgoblin society, soldiers are inevitably higher on the social ladder than those rejected. Those regarded unfit are given mundane professions, a fairly humiliating fate for a young hobgoblin.5
All members of a hobgoblin tribe are effectively members of the tribe's army. After reaching maturity, all hobgoblins are subjected to the "year of hell", a year of constant raiding intended to test each hobgoblin's strength and courage. Roughly one in three hobgoblins is then deemed fit for active combat duty; the remainder are relegated to the position of general labor. Laborers are technically part of the army, but are scorned and never raise above their station until they display skill in battle. For this reason, hobgoblin laborers actively wish for attacks on the tribe's lair so they can prove their worth.5
Hobgoblins are obsessed with their social status. Once an active combatant, a hobgoblin constantly jockeys for position with its peers and plots to overcome their superiors, typically through a duel for honor called a kalech-mar. Refusal to answer a challenge is seen as a sign of weakness, but more highly-ranked hobgoblins keep their positions by winning dozens of duels, dissuading younger hobgoblins from challenging them.5
Hair is important in hobgoblin culture, especially among warriors. Hair emulates the barghests and hero-gods that hobgoblins honor, and long, flowing hair is a resource that must be taken in battle—a hobgoblin can neither grow a mane of hair, nor skin hair—real hair—from animals in the hunt. Instead warriors strip a lock of hair from each human and elf they kill, and weave them into their hats or helms or else glue them to their own scalps. A proud soldier may show off his five or six locks—braided tightly to protect them—at social events or formal drills, while the most vicious warriors let their stolen hair flow free in battle, confidant they can replace anything lost with the coifs of their victims. Not every hobgoblin follows this tradition, however. It is fundamentally bragging about one's skill as a warrior, inviting lesser subordinate to challenge the warrior to a kalech-mar honor duel for her position. Those hobgoblins who are especially lawfully-minded view the practice as a foolish excess and needless bravado, something that drives a wedge through unit cohesion with petty one-upmanship. Other simply seize too much hair in battle to wear it publicly.6
Hobgoblins are natural backstabbers who don't hesitate to use underhanded means to get their way, but if caught, they punish their own kind ruthlessly. Each tribe's general is responsible for dictating punishment, which takes one of four forms: demotion, exile, slavery, and death. Enslavement is by far the most common.5 Hobgoblins subjected to exile, as well as deserters, sometimes gravitate toward human societies as scavengers, bandits, gangsters, or pirates.7
Relations with other races
Hobgoblins universally despise elves and (by extension) magic, but dwarf slaves are well sought after for their engineering and mining skills. Other goblinoids are seen as either an embarrassment or useful tools, depending on the situation. Regardless of the neighboring race however, relations will inevitably be shaky, if not outright hostile. War is often declared upon other races for no other reason than to gain slaves, as slavery is a vital part of hobgoblin society. Hobgoblins rarely trade with outsiders and tend to be resistant to suggestions of alliances7 though they have been known to buy slaves from orcs.8
Hobgoblins sometimes fall under the leadership of ja noi, evil spirits that take hobgoblin-like forms. These oni are seen as awe-inspiring leaders by common hobgoblins, though hobgoblins that realize the ja noi are playing them like pawns often turn against their leader.9
Science, magic, and religion
Most hobgoblins hate arcane magic due to its association with their deadly enemies, the elves.4 In its place, hobgoblins commonly employ science and alchemy, especially that which produces smoke and fire, which they love (a throwback to their goblin forebears). Burning oil, rigged mineshafts, and explosives are among the tricks of hobgoblin alchemy and engineering.3
Some hobgoblins practice divine magic as shamans, typically of cruel powers like Asmodeus and the other archdevils10 General Susumu, and Yaezhing.11 Such shamans are both feared and respected, and often forced to live alone on the tribe's outskirts.4
The origin of the hobgoblins lies in the Age of Legend. An unknown party, possibly the long-lost cult of the devil Canzoriant, created the hobgoblins by enhancing the pathetic goblins, giving them greater size, stamina, and mental faculties through the use of a powerful artifact called the Cantorian Spring for one purpose only: war against their hated enemies, the elves. The newly-created hobgoblins were imbued with an inherent hatred of elves and were built up into vast armies by their creators. Before the hobgoblins could be unleashed, a band of elven adventurers stole the Cantorian Spring, freeing the hobgoblins from their masters' control, but still possessed of their consuming hatred of elvenkind. After a series of devastating wars in which the young, inexperienced race of hobgoblins was decimated by the ancient elven empires, the hobgoblins were forced into a state of squalor from which they have still yet to rise.1213
Hobgoblins have taken part in numerous destructive military campaigns throughout the world, the most successful being the conquest of Kaoling in 4610 AR14 and the Goblinblood Wars of Isger in 4697. Hobgoblins formed the vanguard of the army of the Machine Mage Karamoss during his failed attempt at conquering Absalom in 3637 AR, and many resided in his Red Redoubt.15 Hobgoblins also allied with the werewolves of Darkmoon Vale in the Night of Silver Blood in 4707 AR.16
In Avistan, hobgoblins are most common in and around the nation of Isger; their numbers have declined due to catastrophic conflicts in recent decades, but it is only a matter of time before these fruitful creatures can field their massive armies once again.17 Hobgoblins also exist in sizable numbers in the Candlestone Caverns18 and Arthfell Forest of Andoran.19 The nation of Molthune, in its quest to build up its military, has begun recruiting hobgoblins into the Imperial Army alongside humans and other "civilized" races.20 A petty fiefdom of hobgoblins occupies the remains of Sanctum's Watch amongst the World's Edge Mountains of Taldor, they even rule over some local kobolds and hill giants.21
In Tian Xia, hobgoblins have successfully conquered the entire nation of Kaoling, and this cruel people's star is on the rise.22 A second hobgoblin nation is rumored to lie in the Darklands of Nar-Voth beneath Kaoling and Shaguang, ruled from the underground city of Rakh Lo.23 A few outcast hobgoblin tribes eke out a living in the Savage Peaks of Zi Ha24 and some twisted oni-worshiping hobgoblins inhabit the Forest of Spirits.25
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
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- “Forest of Spirits” in Forest of Spirits, 7. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
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