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Greyhawk creature
A hobgoblin warrior. Art by Sam Wood.
Alignment Lawful evil
Type Humanoid
Subtype Goblinoid
First appearance Dungeons & Dragons (1974)

Hobgoblins, known as hoch jebline or "high goblins" in the Flan tongue and hochebi in the Suloise language, are a larger, stronger, smarter and more menacing form of goblin. They are smaller and weaker than bugbears, but better organized. Hobgoblins are humanoids that stand a little taller than orcs. Smarter than other goblinoid races, they are renowned for their brutality and military skill.


Hobgoblins exist in perpetual war against all other races, believing that "lesser" species are fit only for battle fodder. In mixed groups, hobgoblin officers often lead units of goblins or orcs, whom they bully and make to feel inferior. Other peoples find them paranoid, insulting, and dismissive, while hobgoblins in turn treat all others as potential threats. Hobgoblin mercenaries may offer their services to powerful and wealthy members of other races, however.

Hobgoblins are adept at uniting fragmented goblin tribes under their command. Powerful creatures such as bugbears, ogres, and trolls may occasionally assume leadership positions in a hobgoblin tribe, but normally act as front line muscle. Barghests who join hobgoblin tribes usually become leaders, integrating seamlessly into their culture. Barghest chieftains often sponsor blackguards among their hobgoblin minions, who are then ready to take over the tribe when the barghest returns to its home plane.

Hobgoblins have an extreme hatred of elves. If given a choice in who to kill, they will always pick elves first.

Hobgoblins, like many humanoid races, systematically strip their territories of resources with no thought for conservation. This forces them to move frequently, often targeting agricultural lands to raid for food. Hobgoblins are omnivores, but prefer meat. Most tribes keep small herds of livestock, but the bulk of their food comes from raiding. They may enslave or capture members of other races more given to agriculture than hobgoblins are. If they trade with other races, a hobgoblin tribe's chief resources are mercenaries and drums they have crafted.

Hobgoblins breed themselves through a selective eugenics program (as the citizens of the Scarlet Brotherhood also do). They do not have marriages or monogamous relationships, and children are reared communally by the tribal priests.


Hobgoblins prefer to dwell in warm hills, but can survive in almost any terrain. Many hobgoblins dwell in the western Empire of Iuz, Warfields, Redhand, and the Bone March.

Most hobgoblins dwell in subterranean complexes, though about a fifth dwell in fortified villages on the surface. They fortify their homes with ditches, gates, guard towers, catapults, pit traps, and ballistas.

Typical physical characteristics

Hobgoblins resemble large, muscled humans, their bodies covered in coarse fur with red-brown or gray skin and red or orange faces. Large males have blue or red noses, and may have beards and male-pattern baldness. Hobgoblin eyes are dark brown or yellowish, and their teeth tend to be yellow. They are lean and tall, averaging six and a half feet in height and weighing around 200 pounds. Their muscles are designed more for agility than brute strength, and they have been described as having almost feline dexterity. They specialize in moving without sound. Hobgoblins can see in the dark up to 60 feet away.

Hobgoblins prefer blood-red garments with black-tinted leather. Their weapons are kept highly polished and in good repair. Many hobgoblins sport tattoos, deep scars gouged and burnt into their flesh meant to display their tolerance for pain rather than for art's sake. Some hobgoblins sport piercings for the same reason, though they always keep their noses unobstructed. Their hair is often braided with jewelry carved from the bones of slain enemies. Any other adornments worn are also meant to call attention to their endurance or battle prowess.


Hobgoblins are usually lawful evil. They are well-organized, well-trained, and obey a strict military code. They are driven to survive through continuous military conquest. Each maintains a rigid "personal perimeter" that represents both personal space and that individual's portion of the tribal land. In order to continue constant vigilance over this perimeter, they seek to purge themselves of emotion and superfluous thoughts. Mercy and compassion are considered weakness and individual freedom meaningless. Hobgoblins are mentally conditioned through years of physical and mental abuse to achieve this state.


Hobgoblin tribes always fight to determine dominance, but once this hierarchical relationship is established they tend to work well together. Some of the more successful tribes include the Rippers, the Leg Breakers, the Skull Smashers, the Flesh Renders, the Marrow Suckers, the Flayers, and the Slow Killers.

Hobgoblin society is divided into four major castes: military, religious, craftsmen, and slaves. Caste assignment is based on a combination of individual affinity and the current needs of the tribe. Once given, a caste assignment doesn't change unless the individual's ability to perform it or the tribe's need for the position changes. The tribe's leader is almost always a member of the military caste, typically with roguish skills. Spellcasters are usually members of the military caste. Spellscourges are elite warriors who undergo harsh and disfiguring rituals to gain special defenses against magic, while warcasters undergo similar rituals for magical power. Adult hobgoblins are considered the property of their superiors.

Hobgoblins typically get their armaments by repairing weapons and armor taken from their fallen foes. Besides the reclamation of weaponry, they may express themselves creatively through their war drums, or hrun'doums in their tongue, and smaller percussion instruments such as steel drums, kintalas, and p'doums, or "talking drums." They may use magical drums in battle.


Maglubiyet, the god of war and rulership, is the chief deity of both goblins and hobgoblins. However, Nomog-Geaya, the deity of war and authority, is considered the patron deity of hobgoblins specifically. The goblinoid god Bargrivyek encourages cooperation between the goblin races. Some hobgoblins also revere Dispater and, historically, Geryon.

War itself is almost a religious experience for hobgoblins. Weakness is feared and actively destroyed in their society, and weapons that break in battle are considered ill omens, even if there are plenty of replacements.

Unusual for such a martial race, hobgoblins view death in combat as a sign of weakness rather than glory, although they do honor their dead to some extent. In order to minimize the risk of a dishonorable death in battle, hobgoblin warriors who are no longer fit for combat usually commit ritual suicide in a way similar to the rites of ritual sacrifice to the hobgoblin gods (i.e., those offering themselves to Maglubiyet kill themselves with the blade of an axe).


Hobgoblins speak the gutteral Goblin tongue, which uses the same script as Dwarven, and Common. They may also speak Orcish and, more rarely, the language of carnivorous apes.

Hobgoblins are named at birth by their religious caste. Females have the suffix 'ken appended to their names, while males use the suffix 'kon. This is followed by their mother or father's name, the name of their tribe, and their tribal position (for example, Guard of the First Perimeter). Hobgoblins in other societies often include their current employment when identifying themselves. An example hobgoblin name might be Maelgynym Ulok'ken of the Slow Killers, Spellscourge.


Hobgoblins were among the armies of the Fiery Kings around 3114 SD (-2400 CY). They were hired along with orcs and goblins as mercenaries by both sides of the Baklunish-Suloise Wars. They fought against elves and dwarves in the Hateful Wars. They rallied to the cause of Iuz and played a significant role in overrunning the Bone March and the Pomarj.

Hobgoblin subraces

An aquatic form of hobgoblin, the koalinth, is a feared predator beneath the seas. They have light green skin, webbed hands and feet, and gills. They are sleeker than their hobgoblin kin. They dwell in shallow fresh or salt water in caves. They detest aquatic elves with the same intensity that hobgoblins hate terrestrial elves.

Related creatures

  • The guulvorg ("war worg" in Goblin) is a gigantic black wolf with scythelike fangs, dragonlike spinal protuberances, and a serpentine tail tipped with a macelike bony knob. They were created and bred by hobgoblin spellcasters for combat. They are cunning and ravenous, but reproduce slowly in the wild. Few hobgoblin tribes can afford to keep many of them.
  • The varag, or blood chaser, is a feral goblinoid, seven foot tall but primarily quadrupedal. They were magically bred with dire wolves to create a creature almost as lupine as goblin. Hobgoblins are very fond of varags, treating them as pets.

Publication history

The hobgoblin was one of the first monsters introduced in the earliest edition of the D&D game, in the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974), where they were described as large and fearless goblins. The koalinth, or aquatic hobgoblin, is introduced in Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975).

The hobgoblin's first edition debut was in the Monster Manual (1977) where it is described as a tribal lawful evil creature found nearly anywhere. The mythology and attitudes of the hobgoblins were described in detail in Dragon #63 (July 1982), in Roger E. Moore's article, "The Humanoids." The koalinth returned in Dragon #68 (December 1982).

The hobgoblin and koalinth made their second edition debuts in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989), and were reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993). The hobgoblin was detailed as a playable character race in The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993). The hobgoblin was later presented as a playable character race again in Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995).

The hobgoblin's first third edition appearance was in the Monster Manual (2000). Races of Faerûn (2003) presented the hobgoblin as a player character race for the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. The hobgoblin later appeared in the revised Monster Manual for the 3.5 edition (2003).

The hobgoblin was detailed in Dragon #309 (July 2003), in the "Ecology of the Hobgoblin," where it was presented as a player character race. The varag appeared in the Monster Manual IV (2006).

The hobgoblin made its fourth edition debut in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008), under the "goblin" entry.


  • Arneson, Dave. Blackmoor. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1975.
  • Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1989.
  • Edwards, Terry. "Paragons of War: The Ecology of the Hobgoblin." Dragon #309. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2003.
  • Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1977.
  • Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1974.
  • -----. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1977.
  • -----. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1981.
  • -----. Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1983.
  • Kestral, Gwendolyn. Monster Manual IV. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2006.
  • Slavicsek, Bill. The Complete Book of Humanoids. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1993.
  • Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1993.
  • Williams, Skip, Jonathan Tweet, and Monte Cook. Monster Manual. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.
  • -----. Monster Manual: Core Rulebook III v.3.5. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2003.

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