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    On the Hobgoblins of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
    Posted on Mon, June 20, 2005 by Dongul
    CruelSummerLord writes ""Hobgoblins..the only race to create surprisingly well-crafted poetry that serves no better purpose than to teach its listeners to kill, murder, and pillage."-the Archmage Mordenkainen

    On the Hobgoblins of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
    By: CruelSummerLord
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Social mores and practices

    Despite their names, the hobgoblins, or hoch-jebline in the Flan tongue, do not resemble overgrown goblins. Instead of being scrawny, bow-legged, and shambling in their gait, hobgoblins are powerful, tall, and steady creatures. With reddish-brown skin (passing into dark gray in old age), thick limbs, yellowish fangs, and yellow-brown eyes, hobgoblins vaguely resemble goblins in their facial features, but are much more akin to carnivorous apes, with which they are friendly. Unlike apes, however, their limbs are long and straight, and their voices, unlike the high screeching of simians, are deep and throaty.

    Hobgoblins are engaged in perpetual war, whether it is against humans, demihumans, other humanoid races, or most commonly each other. Unlike other humanoids, they do not take over the dwellings of humans or other races they raid. Instead, they burn the settlements to the ground, save for any useful defensive features. They then construct their own villages of their own designs atop the ruins, incorporating old defensive features that may have caught their eye. They vastly prefer underground settings, and many are the hobgoblin villages and cities that once belonged to dwarfs, orcs or goblins. As with many other humanoids, they prefer mountains, hills and forests far away from humankind. Unlike orcs or goblins, they rarely stoop to living in hiding among humans for sneak attacks, preferring open and direct confrontation.

    Hobgoblins are divided into several major clans, which are akin in social structure to the nations used by humans. Each nation is divided into multiple sub-tribes that are divided into rigid hierarchies. Individual hobgoblin families are further divided among these social ranks. Even within families themselves, the siblings will know who among them is higher ranking or lower ranking. This rigid social hierarchy has been in place since the beginning of hobgoblin history, and it will always remain so. Every hobgoblin knows his position in society, and must learn to live with it. Unlike goblins, hobgoblins have no chance to rise up or down the social ladder. Women and daughters are actively discriminated against as they are in orcish society; they are fit only to nurse wounds, cook meals, and bear children.

    Hobgoblin tribes are each ruled by a chief. All the chiefs of a given clan rule together over the hobgoblin clan as a council. They do not have single rulers or kings as do other races, except in those rare cases when an exceptionally powerful hobgoblin can lead his tribe to a major victory over one of his fellows. While they often cooperate, hobgoblin chiefs often pit their tribes against one another to shake up the clan pecking order. Those that do best in these battles are accorded the greatest status and prestige, while those that do worst are relegated to the bottom of the social ladder. Even among the various tribes that make up a clan, hobgoblins have a clear, rigid hierarchy.

    Hobgoblin tribes belonging to the same clan will compete with one another, but the skirmishes here are usually bloodless. When it comes to rival clans, however, hobgoblins openly hate and loathe one another. What keeps hobgoblins from becoming as great a threat to humanity as orcs or goblins are their often-genocidal wars against one another. While usually unable to attain greater status within their own clans, hobgoblins of all social ranks take vicarious pleasure in a victory over a rival clan. The status of their own clan, when faced with others, is something all hobgoblins strongly cherish, and would lay down their lives to defend, which they often do.

    Hobgoblins absolutely hate each other, and have the same level of hatred for elves. They are often the victims of bugbear harassment and dislike, but hobgoblins generally know they can slay the larger monsters if they have to, and so can tolerate them. Hobgoblins view gnolls as irrelevant scavengers and nothing more. They bully and harass goblins, viewing them as little more than expendable fodder in battle, although since hobgoblin bullying is more of a nuisance than a danger, goblins can tolerate it. Hill giants actively dislike hobgoblins, which usually cannot retaliate against the much larger and stronger monsters. They greatly enjoy picking on the pitiful little kobolds, and so are hated by kobolds for this. Ogres are hated for their bullying, and the fact that hobgoblins often cannot resist them. Orcs can be tolerated for bullying and battle fodder. Trolls are actively hated and feared most of all, as hobgoblins fear anything that cannot be slain by steel alone.

    In battle, hobgoblins are well known for their intelligent and cunning tactics. The greatest hobgoblin warriors are known for being able to defeat even the most magical of elves or the most fearsome of frost giants in mass combat. They are masters at adapting the skills and tactics of other races for their own use, even going so far as to use an enemy’s own knowledge against it.


    Hobgoblins claim that they are the true inheritors of Maglubiyet’s legacy, the god having started anew after doing such a poor job with goblins. Although Maglubiyet appointed Khugorbaeyag to watch over the goblins, hobgoblins see this merely as a way to appease the “lesser race” and keep their devotion.

    Hobgoblins record their history in very long and elaborate military epic poetry that relays, with surprisingly elaborate detail, all their battles. Both victories and defeats are emphasized, as are tactics, which leads the stories to be used as a teaching tool for young hobgoblin warriors. Hobgoblin young are indoctrinated with propaganda by these lengthy stories, which teach them to be loyal to their clan; to hate all hobgoblins not of the clan; to be always ready to fight; to always defend the honor of the clan; and to be ready to die whenever necessary.

    Hobgoblin poetry is both elaborate and lengthy, but not given to dramatization or flowery exposition. It is meant as an indoctrination tool, nothing more. Hobgoblins are notoriously spartan in their lifestyles, and care little for their own history outside of its battles and how much glory they gain from any given incident. They have many stories of alliances with humans, orcs and goblins, especially the Aerdi, the Horned Society, and the forces of the Pomarj. Hobgoblins were among the leading fighters in the Hateful Wars, were active participants in the Horde of Elemental Evil, and are almost always engaged in some battle or another. Each and every one of these conflicts is entered into the ongoing folio of hobgoblin epic lore, serving to remind the young hobgoblins of their clan’s glorious pasts and to call on them to live up to their fullest potential.

    Prominent Hobgoblin Clans

    The Flayers: Live in the northwestern Drachensgrabs in the Pomarj; famed for being staunch allies of the Slave Lords and Turrosh Mak; famed for flaying the skin of enemies taken prisoner in combat, and making stews out of the flesh; tribal colors are ochre and bloody magenta; heraldry of a snake-headed scourge tearing apart the flesh of dead enemies; ruled by the Council of the Seven Hands of the Scourge.

    The Flesh Renders: Live in the Hestmark Highlands east of Sunndi; famed for their wars with the giants of the hills, and the annual hunts they conduct against wild monsters; famed for using sharp-edged swords to tear the flesh of their opponents; tribal colors are the dark red of dried blood; heraldry of a long spear with a dozen elves impaled along its length; ruled by the Council of Maglubiyet’s Rendering Axe.

    The Leg Breakers: Live in the Howling Hills northwest of Iuz and the Horned Society; famed for being deadly enemies of the hobgoblins of Iuz; famed for their endless wars with the verbeeg and formorian giants of the hills; famed for using maul sledgehammers in sacrificial rituals, breaking the legs of victims that are sacrificed to Erythnul and Maglubiyet; tribal colors are bright red and bone white; heraldry of a hammer crushing the skull symbol of Iuz; ruled by the Council of Iuz’s Creeping Doom.

    The Marrow Suckers: Live in the Rushmoors south-west of Gran March; famed for their endless conflicts with the elves of the Dim Forest; famed for the large fields of grain they grow from drained marshlands; famed for sucking the marrow out of the bones of victims, before carving the bones into grisly decorations and tribal heraldry; tribal colors are marrow red and pus yellow; heraldry of a fanged skull biting into an ogre’s thigh bone; ruled by the Council of the Draining Agony.

    The Rippers: Live in the Cairn Hills east of Greyhawk; famed for being bribed by Greyhawk to attack the Duchy of Urnst’s mining colonies; famed for their wars with the dwarves of the hills; famed for their habit of ripping their enemies apart in bloodlust and frenzy; tribal colors are blood red and vomit yellow; heraldry of a dwarf having his beard ripped out by a hobgoblin hand; ruled by the Council of the Tearing Claw.

    The Skull Smashers: Live in the western Burneal Forest; famed for their raids on the Tiger Nomads; famed for their blood sacrifices to evil spirits of the woods, which involve the smashing of the heads of sacrifices; tribal colors are bone white and blood red; heraldry of a skull smashing against a thick oak tree; ruled by the Council of the Shattered Bone.

    The Slow Killers: Live in the Flinty Hills northeast of Nyrond; famed for their attacks on Nyrond, Ratik, the gnomes of the Flinty Hills, and their rivals in Bone March and Northern Aerdy; famed for the sadistic way in which they slowly torture and kill prisoners of battle; tribal colors are blood red and bile green; heraldry of an elf being torn to death on a rack; ruled by the Council of Nerull’s Cold Embrace.

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    Re: On the Hobgoblins of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation (Score: 1)
    by Lefto on Mon, June 20, 2005
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    This is a great series of posts! I'm hoping, though, that you can clear up something that's confusing me on the hobgoblins. You stated:

    "Every hobgoblin knows his position in society, and must learn to live with it. Unlike goblins, hobgoblins have no chance to rise up or down the social ladder."

    But you also explained:

    "While they often cooperate, hobgoblin chiefs often pit their tribes against one another to shake up the clan pecking order. Those that do best in these battles are accorded the greatest status and prestige, while those that do worst are relegated to the bottom of the social ladder."

    These statements seem contradictory - a hobgoblin can climb the social ladder through battle successes. This would seem to me to be the typical method of advancement among all humanoid races. So in what way is hobgoblin society rigidly hierarchical?

    Thanks! And keeps these coming.

    Re: On the Hobgoblins of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation (Score: 1)
    by mortellan on Wed, June 22, 2005
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    I like your Clan flavors, it breaks up the generalization of humanoids nicely. Hobgoblin poetry is a delightful development too, I can't wait to see what twists you come up with next.

    Re: On the Hobgoblins of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation (Score: 1)
    by mtg ( on Sun, September 04, 2005
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    Hey folks.  I like the militant epic poetry, ideas about being Maglubiyet's chosen ones, and the basis of naming the tribes.

    One point about "tribes" and "clans."  I think of the former as "larger" than the latter.  Extended families sometimes are organized as clans, and collections of clans in a certain territory are sometimes wrought into a tribe.  Anything larger than a tribe (per the MM), I tend to call a nation.  These are relatively rare in the Flanaess, with notable exceptions, e.g., in the Pomarj, Bone March, former lands of the Horned Society, etc.

    One of my posts about ho-jebline is available at

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