difference between Orcs and Hobgoblins


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


So Orcs are Chaotic and Hobgobins are Lawful....They are both green, bestial, ugly. Hobs are military and Orcs are barbarians. But how would they *feel* different? It seems to me they should be as different as dwarves are from elves, but it feels like they are the same beastie wearing different clothes.

How would they *feel* different, like if you talked with them, hung out with them? And what would a half-hobgoblin be like?

Silver Crusade

I think you hit the nail on the head with the differences. Hobgoblin camps would be orderly and clean. Their armor, weapons and equipment would be well maintained and clean. Orc camps would be disorderly with tents placed in clumps rather than rows. Their equipment would be of poor quality and in poor repair. Hobgoblins would use a lot of military analogies in conversation and focus on group accomplishments. Orcs would be boastful of personal deeds in combat.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I wonder occasionally why we don't have rules for half hobgoblins. I find it much more likely that you'd find one, according to the way I read the fluff, than a half orc.

In my view a hobgoblin is a comparatively speaking better evolved version of a goblin. An orc is its own strain of what I don't know, but it isn't a goblinoid, at least anymore, so I don't know if one could really compare them as beings of similar function other than miscellaneous evil critters for PCs to kill.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I don't remember the source, but a 3PP product had the Gur in it, which were half-goblinoids, with seperate subraces for goblin, hobgoblin, and bugbear.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Orcs are Celts.

Hobgoblins are Romans.

I have this private theory that goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears are really the same species... normally there are only goblins, but every once in a while one of them sneaks off into the woods, and grows Really Big and Mean into a lone hunter type: a bugbear is born.

And if there are enough goblins in an area, someone takes charge and begins to order them, and (surprisingly enough if you don't know the paramagical genetics) they fall right into line.

At any rate, that's how I'd run it if I were doing a big goblinoid campaign.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

The main reason that I think we don't see half-hobgoblins is that they probably think mating with the softer races is unworthy of them, whereas orcs are willing to get their jollies anywhere and with anything they can catch. Whether it's wearing a skirt or not is immaterial.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

See, I really like the Golarion take on goblins, but I prefer the old 3.5 take on hobgoblins. Someone else suggested it on the boards first, but I'm not sure if, in MY Golarion, goblins and hobgoblins are related anymore. I think humans just lump them together due to hobgoblins' tendency to enslave goblins, but hobgoblins are clearly superior stock (and their heads are way smaller). I always list hobgoblins as #1 most likely monstrous humanoid race to form a functioning nation. Also most likely to for mercenary companies that work for nations like Cheliax.


Are hobgoblins xenophobic as a culture?

I agree with the notion of the orcs rutting everything in sight I'm just not sure about the girl making it through the rutting, the probable killing afterwards, and then the pregnancy.

Dark Archive

Guang wrote:

So Orcs are Chaotic and Hobgobins are Lawful....They are both green, bestial, ugly. Hobs are military and Orcs are barbarians. But how would they *feel* different? It seems to me they should be as different as dwarves are from elves, but it feels like they are the same beastie wearing different clothes.

How would they *feel* different, like if you talked with them, hung out with them? And what would a half-hobgoblin be like?

in 30yo books Gary Gygax's AD&D players handbook,the 1/2-orc was described as any Humanoid cross breed with Orcs,Goblins,etc. I had a 1/2 Hobgoblin that was approved Gygax himself at an Origin Gaming convention. during one of his lectures in questions period.

and yes, I had gamed with him once at a convention.


Dnd orcs are "Morgul Orcs" in Tolkein. Goblins are Goblins and Hobgoblins are Uruk Hai.

Shadow Lodge

The difference between orcs and hobgoblins.

One is a commonly used bad-guy, the other is a mostly forgotten race from gaming history.


It's hard to explain through text, but in my view a lot of it comes to tactics. Orcs fight as individuals, trying to one up eachother...so individually they are scary, but their increase in difficult relative to their increase in numbers is linear. Hobgoblins fight as a unit with flaking and aid another and whatnot, so their difficulty goes up exponentially.


tonyz wrote:

Orcs are Celts.

Hobgoblins are Romans.

I have this private theory that goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears are really the same species... normally there are only goblins, but every once in a while one of them sneaks off into the woods, and grows Really Big and Mean into a lone hunter type: a bugbear is born.

And if there are enough goblins in an area, someone takes charge and begins to order them, and (surprisingly enough if you don't know the paramagical genetics) they fall right into line.

At any rate, that's how I'd run it if I were doing a big goblinoid campaign.

3.x had blue psychic goblins, who emerged from the right genetic stock and one webcomic author came up with a white, winged, intelligent variant as well, then there's the tougher oriental variant and the nutty ones in the adventure paths. So its possible, maybe goblins were a mages experiment and they've got a whole rainbow of variants from red to violet with their own powers and traits waiting to emerge to the right parents.


Through the looking glass (a 3E adventure i think) had goblins of differing colors with special abilities based on the color.

Dark Archive

In addition to the alignment differences, Hobgoblins and Orcs are statistically quite different. Hobgoblins are as smart, wise and charismatic as the average human, while Orcs are reduced in all three 'mental' attributes. Orcs are freakishly strong, while Hobgoblins have greater endurance and coordination than both Orcs and the average human.

I like the Romans vs. Celts idea. Hobgoblins would have better armor and weapons than the less-intelligent Orcs, and be more likely to march in formation, and travel over great distances (due to their superior endurance) than the faster-burning Orcs. Higher dexterity would lead to Hobgoblins being better able to take advantage of ranged attacks, and the Orcs might have contempt for such tactics. Orcs scream and rage and charge into melee combat, hoping to take advantage of their superior strength and ferocity, while Hobgoblins might be more likely to use tactics (withdraw and sow caltrops, to stop a charge, for instance, or turtle up behind longspears and tower shields).

Back in 1st edition, when orcs were LE pig-men, and hobgoblins were dressed like samurai and hated elves, the visual distinctions were larger (even if the alignment was more similar).

Hobgoblins of Tellene, for Kingdoms of Kalamar, IMO, is the best realized 3rd party writeup of hobgoblins, and could certainly serve as a source of inspiration for non-Kalamar settings. They come across as very 'Klingon,' focused on strength and honor, and have a pair of militaristic nation-states.

Golarion has gone in the other direction, with the only 'humanoid' nation being the Hold of Belkzen, dominated by orcs, while goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears are more local threats. That might be another point of distinction, with hobgoblins implied to be a more 'modern' development (some sort of modified goblin), while orcs are an ancient race that has had a longer time to establish themselves (and perhaps naturally more fertile).


Orcs can breed with humans, and reproduce rapidly among themselves, and with captured humans, always ensuring plenty of bodies for their ill-conceived attack plans.

Goblinoids can't mate with other species. Hobgoblins are powerful and organized warriors, but they aren't fecund, and are xenophobic towards all other races. If they could enlist goblins and bugbears to their causes in a mutually beneficial way, they might have something. As it is, they don't.


A highly regarded expert wrote:
Goblinoids can't mate with other species.

Is there RAW for that somewhere?


Hmm I thought I replied to this...

I can't find any raw that states that goblinoids can't interbreed with other species. Hobgoblins do enlist goblins and bugbears to their causes albeit the goblins are slaves and the bugbears are paid.

I can't find anything in Pathfinder that states that hobgoblins are xenophobic. I know they used to be, but I can't find anything on it now.


I second Set's recommendation for Hobgoblins of Tellene for Kalamar where hobgoblins are a genuine 'civilised' race. They're still evil and militaristic, but they have cities and trade with other races as needed.

In games I run a party who encounter a band of orcs are likely going to enter combat or flee from the group. Orcs are aggressive and chaotic and unlikely to respond to diplomacy. Encountering a group of hobgoblins on the other hand is no more certain to lead to combat than encountering a ruthless group of human mercenaries. Depending on their goals combat may well still occur, but it's not nearly as certain.


I always play up the hobgoblins martial-like mental status in RP and combat based encounters.
You have better chance of reasoning with a hobgoblin, and it keeping its word than you would an orc. They would just rather kill you than talk, and even if they really intend to be honest about an agreement, once they feel like they don't need to they just think "oh well I tried". Then they try to kill you.

Off-topic:
I also use the kobold as comic relief instead of goblins. Goblins have nice stats IMHO, and I can't just let them go to waste. Instead of Tucker's kobolds I have Tucker's goblins.

Silver Crusade

wraithstrike wrote:

I always play up the hobgoblins martial-like mental status in RP and combat based encounters.

You have better chance of reasoning with a hobgoblin, and it keeping its word than you would an orc. They would just rather kill you than talk, and even if they really intend to be honest about an agreement, once they feel like they don't need to they just think "oh well I tried". Then they try to kill you.

Off-topic:
I also use the kobold as comic relief instead of goblins. Goblins have nice stats IMHO, and I can't just let them go to waste. Instead of Tucker's kobolds I have Tucker's goblins.

Kobolds being awesome at stuff has always annoyed me. Even in 1st edition.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

One way to perk up goblins and make them feel more like the goofy critters of Legends or Labyrinth is to give all goblins a fascination with magic. By touching (or, even better, licking) a magical item, they can tell it's magical (but nothing else, other than if it's tasty). All goblins have one rank of Use Magical Device as a 'free' extra skill point, although they may not have more ranks than their HD, or have it as a class skill, or end up with a positive check, thanks to their charisma modifier) and if a goblin fails to activate a magical item, something whacky happens instead, generally of the appropriate spell level in power, but wild and unpredictable. Goblins love grabbing magic items and 'activating' them in this manner, and even if the last goblin just blew himself out of his boots tinkering with a magic wand, the next goblin will happily snatch it up, convinced that he can do better.

As a result of this sort of 'racial wild magic,' many goblins will have freakish or distorted or animalistic features, side-effects of long ago experimentation with magic items, or odd reactions to potions.

Shadow Lodge

One thing I've done to make hobgoblins cooler in Pathfinder is that I don't use the hobgoblin art for them. I use the spriggan art instead.

Silver Crusade

InVinoVeritas wrote:
One thing I've done to make hobgoblins cooler in Pathfinder is that I don't use the hobgoblin art for them. I use the spriggan art instead.

Ha! When the Spriggan art was first revealed on the blog, my reaction was "That's some really nice hobgoblin art!"


Guang wrote:
A highly regarded expert wrote:
Goblinoids can't mate with other species.
Is there RAW for that somewhere?

I doubt it. That's just my take.

Liberty's Edge

Isn't the generic assumption beings can only mate within their own race unless otherwise specified? That aside. . .

Tonyz hit the nail on the head. Hobgoblins are massive empires and organized militaries. Orcs are tribal and barbaric.

Shadow Lodge

Mikaze wrote:
InVinoVeritas wrote:
One thing I've done to make hobgoblins cooler in Pathfinder is that I don't use the hobgoblin art for them. I use the spriggan art instead.

Ha! When the Spriggan art was first revealed on the blog, my reaction was "That's some really nice hobgoblin art!"

Exactly. They just needed to look more cunning and calculating. Even without the football head, they still look like the same stock as goblins and bugbears.


Hobgoblins hate arcane magic while orcs can actually have sorcerors heck there is even an orc bloodline.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I've always used Orcs as relatively indemic brigands, wherever you go, there might be Orcs, but they aren't a meaningful geo-political force.

This is also in keeping with very old D&D Orc lore and the story of Gruumsh being tricked by the other gods in a rigged drawing of lots for habitats for their people, leaving Orcs with nearly nothing, then Gruumsh stabs the earth to make the pleasant forests/plains/mountains into dark woods, wastelands, forbidding peaks, etc, and he says "Orcs will live there, and there, and there!"

I used hobgoblins as something more akin to historic Mongols/Huns/Tatars. Very warlike, very capable, but not suited to building functional nation-states for very long. (No disrespect to current-day actual Mongolia or people therefrom.)

They are less common where the PC's live simply because their lands are elsewhere.


I always think of goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears as one race with various reasons for their differences.

hobgoblins are the main race with goblins being genetic throwbacks and bugbears being some other kind of anomaly.

or maybe they are a crated race which is wild and chaotic in its youth, grows orderly and genetically in need of a strong leader to follow in its middle years and if they live long enough become leaders or wander off to live alone.

Or many other explanations but ultimately 3 expressions of the same race.

Orcs on the other hand are closely related to humans something like a Neadertal that didnt die out but evolved paralel to humans but without the social advances that humans developed. (which is why half orcs are possible)

NOTE: in my mind goblinoids are more like Tolkein orcs. they are evil becasue they are evil. Orcs are more like Mongols they are evil because civilized people see them as such, not because they are actually evil creatures that want to eat your babies.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I've always used Hobgoblins, in my own campaign setting, as "good-goblins" only because that was the original meaning of the term. In fact, "Hobgoblin" is a derivative of the expression "Robin Goodfellow" a term that was used to speak of a "good" goblin (as in less nasty than a regular goblin, but something that could still bring bad fortune). It is believed that people would speak of some goblins, as being "good", or Robin Goodfellow, if they believed that the goblin(s) could hear them in the hope that they would ward off the worst mischief of the little spirits.

It has been argued that it may be that Shakespeare invented the term “Robin Goodfellow” as the name of a character in Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it has not been categorically proven that he did not borrow the term, and sufficient evidence exists that he did, in fact, borrow the term from common usage.

So in my campaign world, hobgoblins, are bigger, stronger, goblins who have figured out it is better to work together, even with other races, for the good of their own kind, rather than be in a state of constant struggle. Also, in my campaign world, Hobgoblins have abandoned the practice of eating other intelligent races.


Terquem wrote:

I've always used Hobgoblins, in my own campaign setting, as "good-goblins" only because that was the original meaning of the term. In fact, "Hobgoblin" is a derivative of the expression "Robin Goodfellow" a term that was used to speak of a "good" goblin (as in less nasty than a regular goblin, but something that could still bring bad fortune). It is believed that people would speak of some goblins, as being "good", or Robin Goodfellow, if they believed that the goblin(s) could hear them in the hope that they would ward off the worst mischief of the little spirits.

It has been argued that it may be that Shakespeare invented the term “Robin Goodfellow” as the name of a character in Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it has not been categorically proven that he did not borrow the term, and sufficient evidence exists that he did, in fact, borrow the term from common usage.

So in my campaign world, hobgoblins, are bigger, stronger, goblins who have figured out it is better to work together, even with other races, for the good of their own kind, rather than be in a state of constant struggle. Also, in my campaign world, Hobgoblins have abandoned the practice of eating other intelligent races.

Robin Goodfellow is also a euphamism for the devil. From Shakespeare's day as well I do not doubt that it has relation to hobgoblin but Robin Goodfellow is a trickster. We tend to think of faries as a varitey of good happy go lucky forest dwellers but the older usages run closer to demon than benign.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

You would think the roles would be reversed.

After all, hobgoblins associate with true goblins and bugbears, which are both highly chaotic and violent. So why are the hobgoblins different? Why are they lawful and organized while all other goblins are not?

Why are orcs portrayed as chaotic and violent when in the Lord of the Rings novels (arguably where they originated) they are portrayed as organized, militarily proficient, and capable of building large permanent structures such as forts, towers, and bunkers?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Well over in the Dragon empires, they don't have may goblins nor orcs, but they do have allot of hobgoblins.

The hobgoblins even have their own nation of Kaoling. The little black image on their red flag certainly looks like a samurai.


Ravingdork wrote:

You would think the roles would be reversed.

After all, hobgoblins associate with true goblins and bugbears, which are both highly chaotic and violent. So why are the hobgoblins different? Why are they lawful and organized while all other goblins are not?

Why are orcs portrayed as chaotic and violent when in the Lord of the Rings novels (arguably where they originated) they are portrayed as organized, militarily proficient, and capable of building large permanent structures such as forts, towers, and bunkers?

The LotR Orcs, particularly the "base model" Orc that is not a goblin nor Uruk-Hai (which as mentioned above are notionally statted by goblins and hobgoblins), are organized and capable of much of anything only when being supervised/dominated by someone/something else. You see bands of Orcs violently unable to work together both in Rohan and Cirith Ungol.


ElyasRavenwood wrote:

Well over in the Dragon empires, they don't have may goblins nor orcs, but they do have allot of hobgoblins.

The hobgoblins even have their own nation of Kaoling. The little black image on their red flag certainly looks like a samurai.

One wonders how much of this is the result of the art in the 1st edition Monster Manual.


Ravingdork wrote:

You would think the roles would be reversed.

After all, hobgoblins associate with true goblins and bugbears, which are both highly chaotic and violent. So why are the hobgoblins different? Why are they lawful and organized while all other goblins are not?

Why are orcs portrayed as chaotic and violent when in the Lord of the Rings novels (arguably where they originated) they are portrayed as organized, militarily proficient, and capable of building large permanent structures such as forts, towers, and bunkers?

In the LotR, they are portrayed as squabbling, impulsively violent and usually fighting each other, when not kept in line by fear. (And sometimes even then, think of the fight between the orc bands that let Frodo and Sam escape from Cirith Ungol.)

Most of what we see them inhabiting was built by others or while dominated by Sauron or Morgoth.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Ravingdork wrote:

You would think the roles would be reversed.

After all, hobgoblins associate with true goblins and bugbears, which are both highly chaotic and violent. So why are the hobgoblins different? Why are they lawful and organized while all other goblins are not?

Why are orcs portrayed as chaotic and violent when in the Lord of the Rings novels (arguably where they originated) they are portrayed as organized, militarily proficient, and capable of building large permanent structures such as forts, towers, and bunkers?

It's all drift from earlier sources. In AD&D, orcs were LE just like goblins and hobgoblins. The differentiation then was even less than there is now. All were described as tribal with tribes even fighting each other for dominance. Goblins had 1-1 HD, orcs 1 HD, hobgoblins 1+1 HD. This isn't to say that there weren't attempts to make the various humanoids different in lore. Dragon magazine ran some articles on them and various other supplements like Dark Folk were available as well.

Orcs evolved, mechanically, in 3e to differentiate them more from hobgoblins by sliding them into the CE spot rather than LE. That gave them a bit of room to carve out an alternative niche for them away from organized bands/armies and into more individualized brutes.

Pathfinder evolved the humanoid races further by promoting the goblins into a different niche - from little cannon-foddery hobgoblins to a flavorful menace of their own.

The Exchange

I use the two species quite differently in my PF Greyhawk campaign, and I for one feel glad to have such different options for "goons."

Orcs tend to be ferociously competitive. Each is eager to add to his tally of personal kills or increase his particular reputation or treasure. Their families, spouses, and offspring are likewise just status symbols. While they'll band together when facing tougher odds, they value individual initiative and furious courage more than tactics. Rare individuals with both charisma and foresight can sometimes form fortresses or city-states, but the death of that leader is usually all that's necessary for his followers to fall into civil war. A villain who employs orcs is looking for individually brave and strong warriors rather than smart ones - and is probably somebody who finds gratuitous beheadings amusing.

Hobgoblins value their family and their tribe, and are willing to sacrifice their own lives in service to either. They have a tendency to fight in 'squads' - solo hobgoblins, though brave, prefer to retreat in order to bring information back to a force large enough to win the fight. Hobgoblins readily form city-states and even nations, although corruption and obstructive bureaucracy tend to be the norm. A villain who employs hobgoblins desires obedience and ruthlessness over brute strength.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thread hasn't been active for 7 years, but since I was also researching orcs vs goblinoids to try and make them feel distinctive, I'll add my two cents.

In my campaign world, there used to be a large empire that conquered and enslaved almost the entire continent. It collapsed three centuries or so ago and things have been a mess since, but are now steadily stabilizing.

Hobgoblins adapted to the empire by becoming mercenaries for the empire's legions. They still fill that role now, marketing themselves as "ruthless, efficient, no questions asked". They are a common sight in larger towns and they're semi-accepted within civilized lands, because they usually respect the rules. Hobgoblins that aren't inclined to work for others live in fortress-settlements that dominate the surrounding countryside, demanding tributes and taxes. The hobgoblins there live as ancient Spartans and are heavily focused on soldiering. They use serfs to grow their food, goblins to do their dirty work, and sometimes bugbears for heavy lifting or targeted assassinations. The only thing hobgoblins make themselves are their weapons and armor. They prefer tactics where a few of them use flails and guisarmes to trip, after which the rest of the group attacks the downed opponent. With the Pathfinder-artwork in mind, I present them as a sort of goblin/dwarf hybrid: short legs, strong muscled arms, well-equipped, but hairless, big ears, green or grey skin. Other races sometimes refer to hobgoblins as dwarf-goblins, which actual dwarves find super-insulting.

Goblins are pretty much as they are presented in the Bestiary. The reason they survived the empire is simply because they breed faster than they can be eradicated. Seeing their alignment is NE, I try not to present them as overly chaotic, even though it is tempting to do so. I try to emphasize that, once you bully them into submission, they actually make pretty good evil minions that won't try to backstab you first chance they see and individual goblins will actually try to come up with good ideas and evil schemes for their master, to get in their good books. Remember they don't get a penalty on their intelligence scores (none of the goblinoids do!), so they're actually quite smart.

Bugbears are still around because they're naturally solitary and stealthy. They just laid low for a few centuries, and also offered their services to the empire occasionally as assassins or trackers. In appearance I usually present them as orc-sized goblins with furry arms, legs and backs. The main giveaways that they are not orcs are the huge ears, and the furry body. I actually find the difference between orcs and bugbears (other than the sneaky tactics) the hardest to really differentiate between. I think bugbears are probably most interesting in group dynamics with other goblinoids (working for hobgoblins, bullying goblins).

Orcs are like hobgoblins, except chaotic. They band together, they like combat, but there's no chain of command, they don't take orders, etc. In short: they are s+#&ty mercenaries and much more trouble than they're worth. So the empire drove them off the continent. They now fill a role as pirates/vikings in my campaign. They inhabit a chain of barren, mountainous, volcanic islands to the north (think Iceland) where they worship demons, hunt mammoths and whales, herd aurochs and polar swine, and live off the land. Every winter (when nights grow long and they can use their darkvision to their advantage) they get into their longboats and start raiding and plundering all along the northern coasts and rivers. Some raiding parties make disorderly camps, fortified with wooden pikes, to spend the summer on the mainland (players think "orc summer camp" sounds nice until they actually encounter one). Camps are populated with orcs, boars (which they keep as pets, guards and garbage disposal) and sometimes local ogres that they enlisted. Really badass orc chiefs have dire boars as animal companions and mounts. Orcs are feared for their warriors that wield double axes and for their hunters that take down large prey with composite longbows. Their appearance is also like vikings: savage humans, big and burly, with strange haircuts, beards, facial tattoos, in addition to the usual orcish jutting tusks, pig noses, etc.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / difference between Orcs and Hobgoblins All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.