The Nightmare Before the Dream
Orcs are large humanoids, standing anywhere from six to seven feet in height. Their skin is typically gray-green but can be black, red and any shade of the four. Like elves, the orcs have pointed ears but small, darkly cruel and glassy eyes. Orcs’ mouths are filled with pointed teeth that sometimes grow into tusk-like protrusions, especially in the largest examples of the race.
Orcs are easy to anger and terribly aggressive. Infighting is nearly as common as breathing. Though the race is technically immortal, few orcs survive their brutal society longer than thirty or forty years. The rare few that do are usually gargantuan, powerful creatures that are also wickedly cunning. Even in orc culture, brute strength only gets one so far.
History & Society:
Orcs are the only major race to claim that they were not brought into being by The Creator (though the roden revere Vermin, they do not believe their deity created them directly). Most orcs couldn’t care less about their relatives’ first steps into the world, but those that are concerned generally agree (as much as orcs can agree) that the race was spawned by the dragon, Hulgandrigon. The dragon gods (for there were many according to the orc legends) commanded power only matched by The Creator. The first among them, Hulgandrigon, challenged the deity in all things. Their contests were fierce, and they proved each other’s equal in every aspect of their existence except one, the Creator had the ability to manufacture life. Hulgandrigon set about to match the Creator’s power and after one hundred years, presented the orcs and goblins to the Creator.
An extremely rare representation of Hulgandrigon
The dragon god was pleased with its success, until the Creator began dissecting its creations. When the Creator’s analysis was complete, it was revealed that Hulgandrigon had only succeeded in twisting and mutating the Creator’s own favored few, the elves (orcs) and dwarves (goblins). Hulgandrigon, first among the dragon gods was humiliated. In a rage, the dragon cursed the Creator’s children, rising into the air and burning entire species to ash. The Creator stood in defense of his progeny, and cast Hulgandrigon from the world. The other dragon gods, humbled by their peer’s failure, sided with the Creator and enforced the exile with extreme prejudice. Hulgandrigon vowed to return to the world with an army of its own creation in tow.
Scholars who have studied orc legends determine then that the orcs and goblins are in essence, variations of the elves and dwarves and not a separate race at all. Indeed, it’s true that the orcs and goblins share remarkable similarities to both races: immortality, pointed ears, keen sight, and a language that at its base is nothing more than a rough combination of elven and dwarven speech.
The orcs and goblins have been reviled throughout history, probably in part because of their twisted appearances, but also due to their base desires for violence, destruction and conquest. Some amongst those few who discuss such matters cite the mutagenic process Hulgandrigon used on the elves’ and dwarves’ bodies as the reason why their minds are also corrupt. Others argue that the races are simply byproducts of centuries of abuse, distrust and revulsion provided by the other races. Whatever the cause, orcs and goblins tend towards chaos, having lived for the better part of their existence as brutal tribal societies. It wasn’t until Durog rose up amongst the tribes that the orcs even realized they were capable of more.
Durog spent many years establishing the first and only orc kingdom of Blackreign, and for a while the orcs had a culture of their own. The kingdom’s capital, Bloodsteps, manufactured goods, art, and arms that were traded to the nations of Sorand. Orc mercenaries, especially those that had served in the Black Legion, were highly prized as guards – a few were even admitted into the Order Cerberus. None of these successes, however, made up for the fact that the nation thrived on slavery. With human labor responsible for gathering the majority of the kingdom’s resources, too much leisure time was given to the violent orcs and sadistic goblins. Blackreign’s population became increasingly chaotic. Arena battles were held on-demand, which is to say they ran almost hourly. Hedonistic cults based upon the dragon gods of old sprung up throughout orc territory leading to ritual sacrifices and gory displays of murder.
It was at this point that Roderick seized his chance to rally the remaining free humans and carve out his own Kingdom. With Durog’s defeat and subsequent imprisonment at Bloodsteps, Blackreign was destroyed. Most of the surviving orcs and goblins fled north into the Giants to evade pursuing human armies, though some ran south into the Frozen Marsh.
Orcs live in tribal communities lead by the biggest, meanest and most skilled murderer among them. Goblin tribes are similarly structured, but are usually led by the most sadistically cunning individual in the bunch. Despite the rise of the hedonistic cults near the end of Blackreign’s existence, religion has once again fallen to the wayside. Each tribe usually claims only a single shaman. These individuals often wield little influence in their tribes’ governance, but hold enough power to keep aggressors off their doorsteps. Orc and goblin shamans call upon the dragon gods of old to fuel their magic, though few actually remember the gods’ names. Human wizards and sourcerers have both identified orc and goblin magic as rustic versions of their own crafts and can see no divine influence upon it.
Life in the Giants is harsh. Game is scarce while all manner of supernatural creatures of legend are rumored to linger both in and beyond the range. Orcs tend to occupy semi-fertile valleys, sustaining themselves by fishing frigid rivers and lakes, raising mountain sheep, and growing simplistic crops. Goblins prefer cave systems and farm slimes, molds and fungi that thrive in the chilly dark climates where they dwell.
There are few laws in orc and goblin society, or rather; the rules change from one tribe to the next. Each chieftain imposes his or her own laws upon the group. As soon as that leader falls, the replacement installs a whole new order. It is because of this very fact that both orcs and goblins are highly adaptable. Those that aren’t tend to die young.
Orcs generally don’t get along with other races, or even each other. Violence is a common means of settling disputes – a trait that transcends into orc politics. Even when the orcs controlled their own kingdom, diplomacy was the last option used. Since the collapse of their nation, the orcs are even more savage and bitter than ever before. Orcs hold the other dominant races accountable for their realm’s demise, for when Roderick was marching across their lands, the elves, dwarves and even the roden refused to get involved. To make matters worse, orcs see the elves as hated enemies, lending credence to many scholars’ theories about their common ancestry. Somewhere along the line the family tree sprouted a corrupt and festering branch and that branch loathes the rest of the family for its beauty, skill, and elegance.
- Ability Modifiers: +4 Strength, -2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
- Size: Medium
- Special Rules:
Normal Speed: Base speed 30 feet
Darkvision: Can see in the dark up to 60 feet
Ferocity: Orcs remain conscious and can continue fighting even if their HP totals fall below 0. Orcs are still staggered at 0 HP or lower and lose 1 HP each round as normal
Weapon Familiarity: Proficient with greataxes and falchions, treat any weapon with the word “orc” in its name as a martial weapon
Languages: Begin speaking Orc and Common, high intelligence allows orcs to choose to speak Draconic, Roden, and Elven