Play games. Tell stories. Have fun.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Last time I talked about orcs, it was to present them as mindless barbarians to be killed by the PCs. Today, I'm here to present them differently. I've created four varieties of orcs. Each variety calls a different setting into existence, sometimes similar to the generic high-fantasy setting, sometimes vastly different.

Use these as you will. Make them enemies, allies, or even offer them as options to your PCs. Sprinkle one or two into your high-fantasy campaign, use them as a template for the Four High Lords of the Orc People, or just drop all four races into the same setting and see what happens.

Note that I have chosen to use The Window system to represent the statistics of these orc varieties. This is out of simplicity, and I can work up some statistics for D&D 5th, d20, or other systems if there is interest. In The Window, the lower the number, the greater the proficiency (e.g., d6 > d12).

From Pain Comes Strength

Magic is drawn from the spirit world, and magicians must call on spirits to gain access to magic. The spirits require sacrifice in return for channelling mana. They crave mortal feelings and sensations. Of all of these, pain draws upon the strongest spirits. And no creatures know pain better than the orcs.

The most powerful orc magicians call themselves the Riven Souls because they know the torment of being torn from eternity and thrust into the physical world. Rarely, when an orc casts her first spell, calling upon a spirit (whether of pain or some other feeling), she is cursed with the memory of her soul.

She recalls the moment—simultaneously infinite and infinitesimal—of her untainted spirit existing in harmony with the cosmos, but she also remembers being rent from that bliss and forcibly bound to a mortal anchor, a rough-hewn body of flesh and bone. It is this knowledge, this unforgettable pain, that is the curse of the orcs, but also the source of their great affinity with the spirits.

Riven Soul

The Riven Soul has…
… above average Strength (d10)
… average Agility (d12)
… unmatched Endurance (d6)
… impressive Cunning (d8)
… poor Perception (d20)
The Riven Soul is…
… a great spirit caller (d8)
… a wisewoman (d10)
… tormented by memory (d20)
The Riven Soul carries…
… an iron-bound cudgel
… armor made of hide and bone
… a pouch of feathers, animal bones, and seeds
… a necklace of her own childhood teeth

Children of Boar

When the Great Spirits looked down upon the primitive humans of the world, they pitied them. They wished to see them rise up out of mindless squalor. To do so, they imbued various tribes with some of their own essence. Elves are humans touched by graceful Crane, while dwarves are humans in the mold of sturdy Goat, and even halflings claim the blessing of cunning Badger. Orcs, of course, are humans warped by wrathful Boar.

Orcs are, by their nature, short-tempered creatures prone to stubbornness and competitiveness. But Boar is neither cruel nor evil, and so neither are orcs. Orcs are not, as a rule, cunning, but they are resourceful and practical. Faced with the challenge of untying a complex knot in order to pass a test, an orc is more likely to draw out a knife and cut the knot, or break whatever the rope is tied around and pull the knot loose from the inside out.

At the pinnacle of orc society are the Tuskless. These orcs, born without the prominent lower fangs of their kind, are envied and hated by their brothers and sisters. They are stronger, faster, and more adaptable than other orcs, and so they almost invariably become champions and leaders among orcs. Despite their lack of tusks, they often find a deeper connection to Boar than others of their kind, manifested by a connection to living boars, which are drawn to the Tuskless.

Tuskless Orc Chief

The Tuskless Orc Chief has…
… impressive Strength (d8)
… skillful Agility (d10)
… admirable Endurance (d10)
… resourceful Cunning (d10)
… average Perception (d12)
The Tuskless Orc Chief is…
… a leader among her people (d10)
… a brave warrior (d8)
… a master of wild boars (d10)
The Tuskless Orc Chief carries…
… a double-edged steel sword
… steel breastplate engraved with a boar's head
… the totem of her tribe, a tuft of hair said to come from Boar himself
… a necklace of teeth taken from her fallen enemies

A Desperate People

The orcs were the first people of the world. They were spread around all the lands, farming, hunting, trading, and warring. It was only in the last 1,000 years that the elves and dwarves and humans entered their world, killing the orcs by the thousands to build their cities of wood, stone, and brick. The orcs were not primitive, and they were used to war, but the war brought by the foreign races was of a different kind.

The elves, humans, and dwarves respected no treaties with orcs, accepted no parleys, and committed heinous war crimes against the orcs, killing noncombatants without mercy. These invaders treated the orcs as a plague to be eradicated, as though they were mindless vermin. The orcs were unused to such horrors, and so they withdrew, giving way to the invaders to save themselves.

Now, after 1,000 years of unending war, orcs have been nearly wiped out of existence. The survivors are warriors, but of a new breed. They look little different than their ancestors, and they are not especially stronger or faster than of old. But a millennium of war and the threat of total eradication has made the orc people desperate and canny. They have become trappers and saboteurs, masters of camouflage and guerrilla warfare. They're fighting now—not just for lands or resources—but for the very survival of their people.

Orc Guerrilla

The Orc Guerrilla has…
… average Strength (d12)
… incredible Agility (d8)
… average Endurance (d12)
… desperate Cunning (d10)
… well-honed Perception (d8)
The Orc Guerrilla is…
… a master of camouflage (d6)
… a skilled bowman (d10)
… an experienced trapper (d12)
The Orc Guerrilla carries…
… a shortbow of horn and sinew with steel-tipped arrows
… a shadowy cloak and padded armor
… a small shovel, rope, and other sabotage and trapping supplies
… a necklace of panther fangs, blessed by a shaman

The Twisted Flesh

Orcs know no god. The old god of the orcs, their creator, has abandoned them: killed or disinterested, it makes no difference to the orcs. The other gods loathe the orcs, cursing them if the orcs should dare call upon divine aid. The orcs turned to demons for a time, hoping for a patron with power enough to protect them from the wrath of the gods.

But the demon lords manipulated the orcs, twisting them and using them as disposable pawns in their infernal schemes. Eventually, the orcs saw through these plans and broke free of the demon lords' control. But they did not escape alone, with them came an even older servant of the demons: the shadow serpents. The shadow serpents—incarnates of magic—were bound to the orcs to ensure their obedience, but the orcs broke the demon lords' control by striking a deal with the shadow serpents.

Now, free of demonic control, the orcs and shadow serpents survive symbiotically. The orcs provide sustenance in the form of blood, and the shadow serpents give the orcs exotic powers. The serpents warp the orcs' bodies, giving them biologic enhancements like retractable bone swords, venom-spitting arm cannons, and spiked cartilage armor.

Orc Shadowborg

The Orc Shadowborg has…
… incredible Strength (d8)
… poor Agility (d20)
… enhanced Endurance (d10)
… average Cunning (d12)
… above average Perception (d10)
The Orc Shadowborg is…
… a ceaseless warrior of warped flesh (d8)
… a stalker of the shadows (d10)
… capable of sensing demonic auras (d12)
The Orc Shadowborg carries…
… an implanted arm tube that spews fire
… a steel ax carved with demonic sigils
… an implanted pair of folding, membranous wings
… a necklace of shadow serpent fangs that can become venomous bone daggers at a touch

No comments:

Post a Comment