Ecology of the Flanaess Orc
Date: Sat, November 23, 2002
Topic: Peoples & Culture

A treatise on the cultures, dietary habits and societies of the orcs of the Flanaess, inspired by discussions on the GreyTalk discussion list.

Author: Longetalos

Ecology of the Flanaess Orc
by Richard Di Ioia aka Longetalos ( with the help of the Greytalk team.
(Used with permission. Redistribution of this article without the express consent of the author is forbidden by's Copyright Policy).

My first assumption is that orcs as a race are more than just parasites that live off of other races. This means that they must have at least enough technology/skills to survive on their own. This assumption can be supported by the fact that orcs have always posed a threat to elves and dwarves. If orcs could not manufacture their own weapons/armors as well as feed themselves, they would not have lasted long against the other races.

Orcs as miners:
Since orcs manufacture their own weapons and armor they need to get the ore from somewhere. So with their ability to see in the dark we can assume they are fairly decent miners. I would say they are as good as human miners. Whereas humans have better skills, organization and tools, orcs offset that by being stronger, hardier and seeing in the dark.

Orcs as artisans:
Once the orcs mine the ore, they must turn it into equipment. Orcish weapons and armor is heavier than those of humans for the same advantages. Since orcs are stronger than humans this does not hinder their fighting. This means an orcish sword is manufactured using more metal for the same strength as a human forged sword. From here we can say that this same mentality of work extends to the rest of their artisans - more material is better and makes up for poor quality. Their pottery is thicker, their wooden spears are heavier, etc.

Orc living quarters:
An orcish home does not need to be as sound as that of a human. Since orcs are tougher than humans and less prone to minor discomforts they can survive sleeping in adverse conditions. This would mean that if their homes leaked during a rainstorm and water poured onto them while they slept, they wouldn't care. Their homes could also be drafty as the cold weather wouldn't bother them too much - they'd just throw on a few more furs.

Orc lifestyle:
Orcs are creatures of comfort - in a fashion. They are just too lazy to work very hard at improving their lot. As such they very rarely travel without any forcible incentive. They live in semi-permanent villages where they exhaust the available resources of the area. Once the resources are exhausted they abandon the village and move on to a different location. As orcs are not known for their conservationist attitudes, they rarely use renewable resource management. Instead of husbanding their resources for the future, it is highly likely that the orcs will eat all the apples from a tree and then cut the tree down for firewood. Orcs spend a lot of time sleeping and resting. They fall into an almost hibernate-type sleeping pattern when not out hunting. This allows them to conserve their energy.

Orc family life:
As can be guessed by their lifestyle, orcs have no concept of population control. They have as many children as they can. The ratio of children is around half/half with a slight advantage to the males. If the region can support that number of children then they are raised. Otherwise they are abandoned to survive on their own at the earliest opportunity. Some tribes prefer to eat the children instead. In addition, any weaker members of the tribe that cannot find their place within the tribe, just leave. They are not actively exiled, but the choices are leave or starve to death. Orcs do not mate for life - at least not to a human's understanding of the term. Orcish females stay with their mate until someone takes them away - usually by killing the previous male. So I guess you can say they mate for life. Orcish males try to control as many females as they can - but a delicate balance must be maintained between the number of females a male controls and the number of orcish males he has to hold off - too many opponents will kill off even the most powerful orc male. Strong orcs use their females as a bargaining tool to manipulate the younger orcs.

New orcish tribes:
Tribes are created when a large number of orcs of both sexes leave the original tribe. This usually occurs because there is not enough resources for everyone. These wandering tribes are pushed out to the outskirts of the orcish lands unless they can displace another tribe. The tribe members get bumped from region to region by the more powerful tribes they come across either until they find a tribe they can absorb, defeat, or displace. The new tribes are usually formed of many young males who somehow manage to leave the tribe with a few females in their possession. The orcs left over in the original tribe usually allow the renegade males access to a few females since for a small cost they are able to dispose of a large number of competing males. It is said that the strength and wealth of a tribe is denoted by the ratio of females to males - the larger the ratio is the better off the tribe is. The high ratio tribes are usually found near the center of orcish lands where most of the resources and fewest enemies are located.

Orc nutrition:
Everyone needs to eat and orcs excel at it. I do not see orcs as being the farmer type so to feed themselves and their family, assuming that there are no elves around to be eaten, the orcs need to forage/hunt for food. Foraging is probably done by the females whereas hunting is done by the males. This means that male orcs do have some hunting skills - tracking, snares, etc. Their skills are probably not as good as a ranger but about the same as a common human woodsman. They would also eat the complete kill - including the bones. Since it is well known that orcs eat things that are unpalatable and sometimes inedible to humans, we can assume their metabolism is sturdier than a human's. In addition, since they spend a lot of their time sleeping, they require less food to sustain them.

Orc sources of food:
An orc will use the same methods of obtaining food as your typical human - foraging, herding, hunting, and farming. The location of each orc tribe will limit the options that the orcs can use to supplement their diet. Since meat is the preferred food, many orcs turn to hunting as a favored source of food. This extends to raiding other humanoid villages and using the population as livestock. Most orcs consider non-orcs as livestock. The benefit of hunting is that it eliminates potential competitors for the food sources as well as killing off the enemies of the orcish race (which pretty much is everyone). To supplement the food gained from hunting, many orcish tribes keep a small herd of animals within the village. Foraging and tending the herd are tasks relegated to the females of the tribe and the younger/smaller males. Farming is mostly performed by slave labor - whether human or otherwise. Orcs do not have the patience to foresee a potential growth of food from a seed.

Typical orc village
A typical orc village is centered around a mine and a local water supply. Any livestock is recently acquired and kept in pens near the mine opening -- only the pampered orcs dwelling near man keep slaves for labour. Apart from covered watchtowers, the orcs sleep in the mine to keep away from the sunlight. Waste pits aren't an issue for orcs most of the time, as they process so much of what they eat that they rarely urinate or defecate. The mine will usually have a secret entrance/exit as well as vents to allow the forge smoke and mine gasses out. Orcs will divide their living groups into sections, groups of non-combatants and orc-brood kept at both entrances: the screaming of orc women and children will serve as good warning if the watchtowers fail and will allow at least one group to escape and restart the tribe -- killing them will also slow down many traditional orc enemies and give the warriors time to prepare or collapse the mine on the attackers. At night, the orcs emerge to forage and hunt, often groups of young orcs will go on an extended hunt to bring back humans and the animals they care for - like halflings and as much of their foodstuffs as possible. These small raids aren't considered harvests as much as training for the great harvest to come and they also reduce the strain the orcs would put upon the local food supply. The intelligent livestock usually dies from shock, not under an orc butcher's axe. Since meat is perishable and will eventually be inedible to even an orc, livestock are eaten piecemeal. They'll have a limb, usually a leg first, amputated by the tribe's shaman or cleric before the wound is sealed with a minor curative spell. This keeps the tribe fed and the food from spoiling for longer periods. Knowing that many of their enemies are likely to find them while searching for the captured livestock, they trust the crippled condition will slow down any pursuit if the attacker prove too much.

Euroz, Empire of the Pomarj, Turrosh Mak, Orcish, Ork

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