Orcs. Not much is ever said about them and they kind of are shoved to the side in fantasy literature. The first thing that always bothered me about the Orc race is their threat level. These creatures were always toted as being the bane of the Elven race, their eternal foe. Yin and Yang, they were always described as the counter to the Elves, a stance taken from J.R.R. Tolken’s Lord of the Rings. In fact, some scholars of the series claim that Tolken created the word ‘Orc’ as a word in his Elven language of Sindrin to refer to the goblin races of Middle Earth and therefore the entire whole of Orcs are a nonexistent mythical race. These great threats to the Elven host, warriors who spill the blood of Elf, Dwarf and Man, these who are bane to the forces of Good, are always relegated to stupid cannon fodder, servants and underlings. And with how they are portrayed, there is little to warrant this great fear. Most times when I have seen the Orcs thrown against the heroes, it is in a Banzai wave, hoping to bleed stamina and spells through sheer numbers so that the real bad guys can have an edge later on. This mindless butchery of throwing rank after rank at the party in hopes of winning through attrition is even one of the main focal points to R. A. Salvatore’s novel ‘The Lone Drow.’ It was because of this limited vision that I first began to redesign the Orc race of my world into what is listed here. My Orcs are a little more fleshed out in terms of lifestyle, culture, customs, and also are a little more, ‘human’ if you will forgive the expression.
The first thing to know about any race is their origin. The origin of a race will most often set the basic framework for any storyteller to look back on when trying to determine how the race will act in a given situation. The origin of my Orcs comes twofold. The first is similar to the accepted traditional Orc origin that is found among most, none Tolkien writings. Gruumish, their patron god, in a battle with Corallon Larathian the god of the elves, bled from his wounds into the earth below. From this blood the race of Orcs was born. However this origin is only the start. The divine nature of Gruumish’s blood was enough to grant life and spawn the Orc race, but as they were an accident in creation without any planning they were savage, warlike, crude and destructive. Gruumish watched as they butchered themselves and the races around them and was amused at their antics. This gave birth to the Orcs listed in the Monster Manual. Another power was intrigued by the Orc race however, and he is the second part of their origin. A powerful mage who’s name has been lost in time desired an army to protect his lands and to wage war on his rivals. Rather than try to create a new magical race or recruit warriors who might turn on him in the future, he chose instead to take an existing race and change them. The natural strength and ferocity of the Orcs were just what he was looking for. While the last surviving clans of Orcs were being destroyed by the elements of winter and their own infighting, he rescued a few hundred and took them to the caverns beneath his keep. There, over a period of several years he began experimenting on their bodies, using untested magics to alter their minds and sculpt their forms into what they are today. He magically changed the bodies of the females to accelerate the birthing process and increase the number of offspring. He taught them language and craft skills as well as tactical warfare. The mage birthed the Orc race anew into an army of almost unstoppable might, a race of warriors, but also a race of slaves. History has shown time and time again that when a race is enslaved, they often turn to religion for some small comfort, and that is what happened with the Orc race. The shamans of the Orc race turned into a full formed priesthood over the years of captivity, bringing with them the hope of freedom from their master. The Orcs felt within themselves that they had somehow failed Gruumish and were being punished, an attitude nurtured by the priests as they slowly gained power within the race. Eventually the mage’s ambition proved to be too much and he was destroyed by a group of rivals in a cataclysmic spell duel. Suddenly free of his oppressive yolk, the Orcs came to the surface for the first time in their new forms. Now firmly in power and with no rivals, the priesthood of Gruumish wasted no time in establishing themselves as the new ruling force. Magicians, physical embodiments of the one who enslaved them, were declared an abomination to be slain upon discovery. To speak against Gruumish or his priests was heresy and punished with sacrificial death. Stone altars dedicated to Gruumish were erected and the priests offered blood tribute to their god. The warrior clan, the remains of the army of the mage, was declared a holy calling by the priests and soon its ranks were swelled by the faithful. However their new freedom opened the doorways for many new problems to plague them. The alterations of the mage were permanent, and the race continued to grow in population, only kept marginally in check by the massive amount of sacrifices performed by the priesthood and the huge body count tallied during raids. The Orc people needed more farmable land and food sources to feed themselves, causing a constant need for raids on neighboring villages and cities. Dwelling underground had caused the need for augmentation to their eyes by the mage and since it was not natural evolution, the effect continued even generations later causing discomfort in sunlight and a temporary blindness during morning hours. Ancient discord with the elven and dwarven races flared again as the Orc race began logging heavily in elven forests to meet the need for fuel and building supplies and began raiding mines for workable iron ore. The priesthood declared the dwarves to be demons of greed, unwilling to share or trade with the Orcs due to their avarice ways and the elves as untrustworthy assassins, killing from a distance and practicing magic. The priesthood swore that the elves, if given the chance, would use this magic to again enslave the Orc race and make them fight the elves battles for them. Seemingly surrounded on all sides by enemies, the Orc race fled to the barren mountain regions of the world where no other race laid claim and built their cities there. Still unable to completely feed themselves, they must continue to raid for food from their neighbors thus gaining the notoriety they now possess. Recently there has been a small amount of the population who are beginning to distrust the theocracy that leads them. Though tiny, they are slowly growing in number. Whether this marks a future change in the government structure of the Orc race or perhaps a splintering of the race into subraces is unclear at this time.
Because of this large influence of the military within the race, Like all other races, there have been weapons of legend and power, the Orc race’s equal to Excalibur, Robin Hood’s Bow, and such. And like all races, they are proud of their history, telling the tales of these weapons down the generations. Elfkiller is one such, and the first of the Orc weapons I am posting.
(A point to note: The Orc’s written language, due to its repressed use in the race’s origin, is crude at best. This has lead the other races to believe that the verbal language is likewise crude. However, because of oral tradition, the language of the Orcs is as complex as any other existing, with several subtle nuances. It can be understood in a basic manner, the same as a student of a foreign language can understand and communicate basically in another tongue, but sounds basic and broken in their speech to a fluent person, and most other races, in their prejudice, seldom learn more.)Elfkiller is an old blade, forged and anointed by the shamans of Grumish, the god of the Orcs not long after they escaped their captivity, this blade is legend among their kind as the blade of the first warrior consecrated into service by Grumish to bring death to their foes. Despite it’s appearance of frailty, the ancient magics within the blade keep the weapon sharp and strong, able to cleave through dragon scale with ease, and part the links of Dwarven mail like paper. Unimaginative as the name of the weapon is it must be understood that it is a direct translation from their written language, a language that is crude at best. The correct name when pronounced by the verbal tongue of the Orc race is ‘Blade of righteous vengeance against the treacherous demons of the forests’. Elfkiller was first wielded by Hagrath the Chain Breaker, one of the warriors who led their people to the surface and settled them in the plains near the fallen and destroyed fortress tower of their once master. In the attempt to begin building homes for themselves, they began logging into the forests nearby, thus causing the elves of the forest to retaliate in the form of arrows and swords. Crafted from the iron of their slave chains, and blessed by the high priests of the One Eyed God, Elfkiller was forged to combat these new foes, slaughtering all who stood before its wielder. It has bathed in the blood of hundreds of elves since its birth, serving a succession of war leaders until it was lost when the warrior who bore it, and his entire war party, was wiped out by a pack of werewolves on the Stonelands. The shamans have already claimed this as a sign that Grumish is displeased with the Orc race and wishes them to begin the war against the elves once more. They offer the position of war leader, the warrior’s choice of the sacred harem as his concubine, and a suit of enchanted black iron plate mail crafted to fit an Orc’s frame to the warrior who returns the weapon to the Orc shamans. To those who take this quest and fail however, they offer a swift death on Grumish’s altar to sate the blood lust of their god.
Not realized by the priesthood is that the weapon has already been recovered by Orcan hands in the form of a Heretic, a female warrior, who bears the blade in hopes of keeping it from spilling Elven blood once more.