This goes out to Mortellan of Ull
I really appreciate all your efforts and work for the material produced of Ull. I intend to share it as a part of the Greyhawk I have grown up with over these past 30+ years. If any of you "Hawkers?" or Grey Lords? or what have you have not yet sampled the audio delights of Gamerstable (http://gamerstable.com/) I highly recommend it... especially for us, ehm!... older gamers. An episode mentioned orcs and Mortellan spoke to it... and it made me consider my special race of orc developed for my campaigns.
I would like to make reference to the Orc and how the DM fellowship rules their games with them. I would really like to learn of any other developments or adjusted orc approaches. As such I would like to share a particular breed of orc…
Long before the LotR movie had Uruk-hai about, I had a high bred race of orc… larger, stronger, and more intelligent... I referred to them as Black Orc, mainly from the orcish appearance of several ebony figures on the cover of an old Heavy Metal magazine if I remember correctly. These orc had cities, language and written word, art, philosophy, magic use, etc... ability and manners akin to the elf, dwarf, and man... and they were historical in their time... the ancient times of Oerth.
Nature's cruel joke, they couldn't breed outside of their race, only still borne, with the very odd exception (1 out of a million) and they usually didn't fare well/live long. The race was a dying race and their cities built in the mountainous regions of Oerth, became abandoned and crumbled away for the most part, now ruins inhabited by the denizens of the dark ... however a few surviving cities did survive to (my) current WoG game timeline (coinciding with this I had also developed White elves, who had "sky-ships" and "astronomy ventures" (Spell Jammer anyone) who traded and fought with the Black Orc on occasion, another race that also became extinct… leaving behind legacies).
Secluded and keeping to themselves, these Black Orc, became a neutral based race from a neutral evil based race in their far past.
An age span of about 120 yrs, they kept a history of their respective cities and were clan based, with a ruling clan or royal clan maintaining order and structure.
There is a little more, but this was mainly to serve as an example as to what I am looking for. I am pouring over old game notes and materials and compiling a more updated write up which I can publish here if anyone is interested, of my Black Orc.
Keen on hearing back on opinion and maybe material of this topic.
Ancient Gamer aka BusterBudd _________________ <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTb1Gpa-N7U&feature=related">
As I noted in another thread, I am always one to add some depth and cultural identity to my demi-humans AND humanoids alike. This also applies to one commonly featured group, the orc.
One of my first dalliances into creating a cultural tribal identity of orcs came years ago when I ran a campaign featuring barbarian orcs in the Suss Forest. I had stumbled upon a Dragon Magazine article (don't ask which one, but I've got it somewhere) that gave stats and ideas for a barbarian orc concept, and I ran with it. These orcs were the servants and minions of an older green dragon that had dominated them into submission and used them to wage war on its behalf and bring it food, prisoners, slaves, and tribute, including wiping out a dwindling herd of centaurs in the region. It was my first attempt at developing a cultural identity for orcs.
Since then, I've done my best, when and where applicable, to delve more deeply into the tribal identity of humanoids in general, orcs most specifically (again, they are the most common humanoid, typically speaking). Recently, my player ran into a rampaging war band of orcs in the Abbor-alz led by a high ranking priest of Gruumsh. They had some ogres and a few worgs in their midst as well. I ran them with cunning and deadly military efficiency, making the most of the war priest's (and his juniors') clerical magic to enhance the battle prowess of the orc war party. I think my player soon realized how deadly those orcs became, especially when they attacked in unison and at night.
What he did also note was how I described the internal workings of the tribe (he had an Invisible mage who likewise had a hawk familiar), including their foraging patterns, tribal structure, the building construction materials they used, the tribal standards and markers they employed as territorial markers, composition of male-female-young ratios, etc. I tried to breathe life into those orcs (and few ogres) more than just "They attack, they butcher, they kill" concept. I wanted to convey a culture and believable tribal structure for these orcs and to have his characters note that they are MORE than just bloodthirsty, war-like savages, but a 'people' with survival strategies, basic crafts and skills as well. I hope he understood that in the end before they nearly annihilated his party and forced the survivors from the hills!
Very good stuff Buster and Lanthorn! I've never taken it upon myself to go into a full cultural breakdown of any particular humanoid race but I did do some development on a Gnoll tribe located in the Dry Steppes. Their breakdown of societal rank, with Flinds being the obvious leaders. Their shamanistic beliefs and ritual sacrifices to Yeenoghu - and the fact that one of their greatest shamans had had "visions" of a massive gnoll empire and he told them to go to the Dry Steppes hundreds of years ago to establish it. More importantly, by being separated (I mean come on, the Dry Steppes is a pretty lonely place) from other gnolls over the last 300 years so they had become more rigid LE-like in their beliefs because the need to survive had driven them to be more rigid relative to other gnolls.
Nice approach with Gnolls, Elliva. Wow, Lanthorn, cool approach with the green dragon. I believe its great to expand and detail the "other" races that PC have to contend with during game. In my opinion giving a more round and fuller development gives more meaning and colour to a game. Personalizes not only the creatures, but the campaign as well.
I completely agree with you on that point. I've made it a personalized 'style' now to delve more deeply into what makes my villains, enemies, and the like 'tick.' This includes humanoids. Typically it's based on the sheer necessity of survival, but I like to radiate beyond that perspective at times, too, when appropriate.
I like the fact that some orc tribes mentioned in the various gaming supplements, guides, and modules show diversity even among these normally brutish "sub-humans." There are even those noted as trying out basic sailing! Others are mentioned for creating large underground societies. This shows a range of technology, from the Stone Age (paleolithic) to Iron Age. I find that fascinating.
In my mind, if orcs (and other goblinoids, for that matter, and this includes giants) were so basic, stupid, and outclassed, even their high rates of fecundity would not be enough to save them from being exterminated by the more 'advanced' civilizations of humans, elves, and dwarves (the main races that would seek to erradicate them). In short, they need to be able to compete mentally, too, rather than just employing brute force. Orcs and the other goblinoids must have very proficient means of survival, including hunting, gathering, fishing (where appropriate), and all the other host of outdoor skills required to endure, even thrive, in rough terrain. I'd even go so far as to say they must be at least decent iron-workers, too, adding the skills of blacksmithing, weaponsmithing, and armorer, too. I don't see how they could compete with their racial enemies otherwise. Sure, maybe they steal a certain amount of these items from fallen victims, but that would only carry them so far. There's an old maxim in biology that sums it up: Adapt or die! And I think of goblinoids, especially orcs (and even hobgoblins) as being very adaptable.
If you don't have it, try to find a copy of The Complete Book of Humanoids. It does a decent job, in my opinion, about offering different kits, profiles, and tribal practices for a wide array of beings, including orcs.
Offhand, I don't recall his black orcs (though I well recall the Warhammer Old World black orcs, which were must less civilized and much more warlike than yours).
However, the gray orc concept derives from an old AOL post or Oerth Journal article, iirc, which might have made it into further publication. Please forgive me for not remembering its alternative name. I believe it started with an N.
These were civilized and magic-using (as in wizards) orcs, which I think were based in the Gnarley Forest or Welkwood.
Hey mtg! Thanks, I'll delve into this and see what you have.
You stirred an old memory... Not sure if this site was linked or related to an old irc account, oh, about 20+ years ago when computers were a great communications tool, not much more. I had the handle ShalarShadowalker. It was a great way to chat, at length sometimes, with other GMs abroad, sad to see our CanonFire chat room hardly used anymore.
I've accumalated some old material over the years, I'll see what I can find on what you've brought to my attention. I vaguely remember your WH Black Orc ref, though not apart of my initial inclination to create my ebony dudes. Was truely inspired by Heavy Metal magazine back then.
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