Most sources agree that a hobgoblin is, essentially, some type of goblin, but there consensus generally ends (much as does the consensus on what a goblin actually is). In some cases, the hobgoblin is a more civilised, domesticated version (using the etymology of "hob" as "hearth") and thus a house spirit like a dormovoi or brownie, in others it is a wild trickster, related to Robin Goodfellow ("Hob" being an archaic abbreviation of Robin or Robert - much like the modern "Rob"). A hobgoblin may be larger or smaller than a regular goblin and more or less fraught with supernatural powers. Very rarely are they completely unrelated to standard goblins. Modern fRPGs tend to render them larger, stronger and more militaristic goblins.
Game and Story Use
- Some kind of subversive hobgoblin could be interesting - perhaps if your goblins are decayed fae, then the hobgoblin could be an atavistic version that retains its fae nature.
- Likewise, subversion could occur if hobgoblins and goblins are nothing to do with each other but some random human thought they looked a bit similar and the name stuck.