This, the very first book Mongoose Publishing ever produced, set the high standard that they've continued to this day. In it, there's a detailed analysis of all things hobgoblin. Physiology, society, role-playing notes, material on using them as player characters, ideas for adventure and an entire hobgoblin settlement that will no doubt get raided as soon as your party find out where it is!
The Introduction sets out the stall for the entire Slayer's Guide series as well as for this one about hobgoblins. All the goblinoid races have proven popular cannon fodder, they're fairly weak individually but in a horde can provide good cpposition particularly for lower-level parties. However, armed with the deep background on hobgoblins to be found here, they can become formidable foes. Hobgoblins are, after all, quite large as goblinoids go, and they are a martial race who have learned from more 'civilised' races how to organise their fighting forces to good effect.
The Hobgoblin Physiology looks at more than that. There's a description with notes on not just their appearance but physical and sensory capabilities as well. They have excellent hearing, it appears, and can pick out single sounds even in the middle of a brawl. There's some scholarly discussion about their possible origins (although no definite conclusion) and we also find out what they eat, and learn about their life cycle. Female hobgoblins look very similar to male ones (particularly when in armour), but when they are pregnant they stay out of sight. Apparently the race is not given to long-term relationships, so after birth they are soon active again. Youngsters can hold their own by the age of six and are regarded as adult by eleven or twelve. If they don't fall in battle, a hobgoblin can live to sixty, but this is rare.
Their psychology is discussed before moving on to the sort of habitats they prefer - temperate zones with forests and low mountains, although they can be found almost anywhere if they have a good reason to go there. They prefer to settle rather than being nomadic, although they are prepared to move if necessary, and there's a rather interesting discussion about the procedures followed during a migration. Naturally, lairs are designed with an eye to defence. There's copious material on Hobgoblin Society, which is tribal in nature although sometimes a mercenary warband will be encountered. They are led by a tribal chieftain who is the best warrior, and who probably attained his position through combat. The hierarchy is quite structured and tribal customs are followed diligently. When a tribal chieftain dies there's a quite complex ritual to choose a successor which does, of course, involve fighting. A similar formal protocol is followed if another hobgoblin wishes to challenge the chieftain, something that is not done lightly. Most of the tribe's wealth is generated by raiding, and the proceeds are divided up amongst the tribe according to a defined procedure. When not raiding, they prefer to oversee the labours of subjugated lesser races than actually do the work themselves. The tribe at war (with plenty on their strategy and tactics) and mercenary warbands are also discussed. As for religion, most hobgoblins are not very interested!
Next Role-playing with Hobgoblins helps the DM get under the skin of his hobgoblin hordes. For a start, they are not stupid, they are as bright as the average human. As disciplined and efficient warriors they should pose quite a challenge, particularly for parties who are somewhere upon which a tribe has planned and mounted a raid, or if a visit is paid to a tribal lair with hostile intent. There are even some sample hobgoblin names, should conversation rather than swordplay break out.
A section of Scenario Hooks and Ideas provides a wealth of plot ideas for using hobgoblins in your game, and then there's the interesting twist of how to create and play a hobgoblin player character. As a single hobgoblin might have trouble gaining acceptance in a party - and might struggle to fit in even if they'll have him - a hobgoblin-based campaign with the party drawn from a single tribe might be a more viable option. It's likely to be a military-themed campaign, though, perhaps the adventures of a mercenary band.
Finally, an entire lair - the Graven Hill Border Fort - is presented, complete with history (it was captured by its current occupants rather than built by them) and a plan as well as an illustration. It's a bit of an outline, if you like room-by-room descriptions you'll have to put in some preparatory work, but the general layout and defences are provided well.
If there's anything you ever wanted to know about hobgoblins, chances are that you'll find it here.
Return to The Slayer's Guide to Hobgoblins page.
Reviewed: 24 March 2018