Hobgoblin (novel)

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Author John Coyne
Country United States
Language English
Genre Horror
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

Hobgoblin by John Coyne is a 1981 horror novel about Scott Gardiner, a teenaged boy who becomes obsessed with Hobgoblin, a fantasy roleplaying game based on Irish mythology, as his life in the game and in reality slowly blend.


Like the contemporaneously-published Mazes and Monsters by Rona Jaffe, this is a species of problem novel (although not aimed at young adult readers) by an established writer, which treats the playing of roleplaying games as indicative of deep neurotic needs. In both books, the protagonist is (or at least appears to be) suffering from schizophrenia (or some analogous condition); in both books, the attainment of mature adulthood is accompanied by the abandonment of role-playing games.[1][2]

Context and reception[edit]

Like the Jaffe book, Hobgoblin was published at the height of Dungeons & Dragons' popularity and soon after the intense media coverage of the Egbert steam tunnel incident (urban myths wherein roleplaying gamers enacting live action role-playing games perish, often in the utility tunnels below their university campuses). It should be noted, however, that in a 2015 interview after the novel was reprinted by Dover Books, Coyne flatly stated that while he had read about Egbert, the case had no influence in his writing the book. Coyne said that he had become intrigued by Dungeons & Dragons after a nephew had become an avid player, and he became interested. "I saw in D&D, and the whole idea of such games, a way to move my story telling in a new direction. What if characters in a fantasy game became characters in real life? That idea intrigued me and to understand this whole world, I began to play the game so I could write Hobgoblin."[3]

The Kirkus Reviews review seems to miss the Egbert connection entirely, unlike the Dragon Magazine review, dismissing the work as "Skin-deep horror--but better-crafted and less lurid than previous Coynage."[4]


  1. ^ Hendrix, Grady. "Summer of Sleaze: The Exploitation of James Dallas Egbert III" Tor.Com; August 29, 2014
  2. ^ Lowrey, Michael J. (as "Mike Lowery"). "Tales stranger than fantasy" Dragon magazine #75, p. 74 - a review of the novel and of Mazes and Monsters
  3. ^ Staggs, Matt. "Book Giveaway and Interview with Hobgoblin Author John Coyne" Unbound Worlds December 16, 2015
  4. ^ "'Hobgoblin' by John Coyne" 'Kirkus Reviews' November 25, 1981