|“||Sure, I’ve got an Aspersorium. Got it off a Bishop who wasn’t using it any more. It’ll cost you a week of dreams, a pound of pitt moss and that Red Sox cap.||”|
The term “hob” is used quite generally, to refer to a wide variety of intelligent hobgoblins that take a more humanoid form. They are, almost to an individual, selfish, manipulative and ruthless; as many fae things, hobs are lacking in a proper concept of sympathy or compassion. Many of the denizens of the Hedge are animalistic, predatory, cunning and deadly. Hobs embody all of these characteristics in a vaguely humanoid package that lures many unknowing travelers to believe that hobs are, at least, more human than the rest of the Hedge’s citizens. This impression could not be more wrong. Many Goblin Markets are run or manned at least in part by hobs, as their mercenary attitudes often motivate them to organize such establishments. However, they’re notoriously poor in social skills, a fact that may contribute strongly to the raggle-taggle nature of many Hedge markets with hob proprietors.
Hobs are the closest thing the Hedge has to an indigenous people, occasionally being found in grumbling pairs who seem to be bonded predominantly because they take great delight in tormenting each other, or in small family units, consisting of a pair or single parent with one or more young. (Changelings remain unsure whether or not this means that hobs are capable of breeding, if their young spontaneously generate from the Hedge or even if they have subjected human children to ugly changes. The hobs don’t talk about it). Most often, however, hobs are encountered singly, although whether this is because the majority prefer solitude (or cannot stand each other’s company) or whether those who are more social are less likely to deal with outsiders is uncertain. Folklore speaks of individuals wandering into the Hedge or “underhill” and encountering entire villages or tribes of goblinlike creatures, but it’s maddeningly difficult to find any evidence of hobs gathering in such numbers as to match these legends.
Hobs interactions with others are typically predatory in nature, although hobs’ chosen weapons are barter, negotiation and swindling rather than overt physical attacks. Many hobs are peddlers, merchants or traders, either associated with a particular Goblin Market or nomadic vendors who journey the width and breadth of the Hedge in search of a good bargain. They are notorious for appearing when the Lost are at their most vulnerable and offering the apparent solution to a problem — at an almost (but not quite) impossible price. Hobs prefer negotiations when their victims are over a barrel and have little choice but to pay the exorbitant price. The most dangerous hob is one who appears to be cutting his client a good deal. Some hobs traffic in a particular type of merchandise, where others are opportunists, buying and selling whatever will turn the biggest profit.
Profit is a relative term in the Hedge, however. For some, profit is tangible; one hob might deal only in gold or powerful magical items, while another may insist on being paid in iron scrap, police gear, early medieval manuscripts, blood or chocolate. Others deal only in intangibles: dreams, memories, emotions or favors. Whatever the currency, a hob trader will inevitably wring every possible ounce of value out of any particular transition, while protesting all the while about the horrible loss he’s taking on the deal. Hobs are rumored to be able to manifest abilities that mimic Contracts of all sorts — even those normally reserved for a certain Court, although most will deny it vehemently if questioned.
Even among those who frequent the Goblin Markets or have had the (mis)fortune to encounter hobs on a variety of occasions, there seems to be little consensus about whether the term “hob” refers to a particular race, or whether it is a general term used to label any vaguely human-like creatures who make their home within the Hedge. Some general characteristics, however, can be drawn about the individuals that the term “hob” is generally used to describe.
Hobs are bipedal, and roughly humanoid. To a human, hobs are diminutive in stature, and range from withered to robust in girth. Their skin tends to be earthy in color, ranging from sickly cream to rich brown-black, and is generally heavily wrinkled (regardless of their purported age). Many hobs are short-limbed with stubby extremities; others are well-proportioned. Their noses run to the disproportionately large (but may be missing entirely), and their eyes are usually small and entirely black in color. Many of them have overly large mouths and strange arrangements of teeth, and it’s not unknown for their faces to distend into half-snouts.
Some hobs have overt tusks like a warthog or large flat-topped molars across their entire jaws, while others have rows and rows of sharp incisors that move forward and replace themselves periodically. Hob ears tend to extremes, either so small as to be almost absent or large enough to rival their mouths for notability. Some even have feral ears, long like a donkey or hound’s, or short and perched atop their heads like a feline or fox. Hob hair runs the gamut from white to black, with many shades in between (though various earthen browns and blacks are by far the most common). Unlike humans, however, some hobs produce naturally green, blue, violet or scarlet locks.
A hob’s clothing seems to be an extension of his personality. Some wear simple homespun tunics, trousers and boots made of particularly odd and unpleasant materials. A nettle-shirt or ratskin breeches are quite in keeping with hob couture. Other hobs, especially those who participate in the Goblin Markets, affect modern fashion, often incorporating a coveted item of clothing or jewelry into the asking price of a piece of merchandise.
Mental Attributes: Intelligence 3, Wits 5, Resolve 3
Physical Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 2, Stamina 4
Social Attributes: Presence 1, Manipulation 5, Composure 2
Mental Skills: Investigation (Appraisal) 4, Medicine (Goblin Fruits) 2, Occult (The Hedge) 4
Physical Skills: Brawl 1, Larceny 4, Stealth 3 (Fair Escape), Survival 3, Weaponry (Knife) 2
Social Skills: Animal Ken (Hedge Beasts), Empathy 4, Intimidation 2, Persuasion (Negotiations) 5, Subterfuge 4
Merits: Eidetic Memory, Allies (Goblin Markets) 3, Contacts (Goblin Markets) 3
Health: 8 (Size 4)
Turn: Choose from any one Contract as suits the hob’s personality and goals.
Each hob has a single gift, called a “Turn”, which mimics a particular Contract series, including the Abilities from one to five points in power. These Turns are not fueled with Wyrd or other supernatural strength, but are inherent abilities that can each be used one time per day. The turns are often suited to the hob’s personality; a sneaky individual might have a Smoke Turn, while an arrogant one might manifest a Vainglory one. Hobs themselves tend to picture whatever Turn they possess as being more useful and of higher merit than those of others. This leads to a great deal of inter-hob insults and social snobbery, but in general, hobs are so obnoxious to one another (and everyone else) that it’s difficult to differentiate between their Turn-focused prejudices and their general surliness.
- Autumn Nightmares, p. 131-133