Playing the race card: Orcs

February 14, 2019 at 9:29 pm

“You must dig swift and deep, if you wish to hide from Orcs. “

— Legolas, Fellowship of the Ring

 

Its an interesting thing that the Fantasy Trip lists goblins and orcs as basic playable races. However, they do even less than the others to make orcs interesting or distinctive. Basically, they are humans with bad attitudes.

The game describes them as similar to primitive men, but potentially with fangs or claws. They don’t seem to have much civilization of their own, but can be bullied or forced into military service by others. This is pretty typical treatment for the orcs, who are usually portrayed as ugly, brutish anti-elves. This definitely fills a niche in most fantasy settings, but what can we do to add some meat to these beefy brutes? Here are a few [popup_anything id=”689″] to try on your next orc:

Urkhai

These are the prototypical warrior orcs that most adventuring types will come across. Whether they are part of militaristic raiding tribes that prey on the weak, or enslaved shock troops for a local warlord, battle and bloodshed is all they know. For them, power is derived from strength, and orders are never to be questioned. Bullying and petty violence is a constant reminder to respect the hierarchy, and tormenting the weak is merely a fact of life for them. They are not inherently evil, but a life of constant struggle and scarcity has left little room for empathy.

Crafting and building are not common skills among the Urkhai, and skilled masters are almost unheard of. But they respect and maintain the equipment they do have, and covet the well-made good of others. There is little differentiation between the sexes, and once a child is born it is left for the old and infirm to raise if the mother is still fit for duty. They may fear their overlords and torment their inferiors, but they reserve true hate for the outsiders (basically everyone outside their tribal circle) who keep them cold and hungry. Adventuring urkhai who leave their tribes or troops may have wide range of attitudes about life, but the lessons of early life are difficult to erase and they be volatile and prone to rages.

Urkhai Orc Starting Package: ST14 (+6), DX10 (+2), IQ8 (+0) Hero. Talents: Ax/Mace (2), Brawling (1), Shield (1), Mundane Skill: Menial/Soldier (1), Thrown Weapons (2). Suggested advancements include Carousing, Horsemanship, Pole weapons, and Toughness. While a source of pride, Berserking can be a minor social drawback, as well as Mean.

New weapon: Orc Double Axe (ST14): This unwieldy weapon allows an orc (with the 1-point IQ10 talent) to strike twice in one round for 2d damage. The second attack is at -4DX. An orc with both this talent and two weapon fighting can use all the benefits of the two weapon talent (ITL p.41) with the axe.

Gundarr

These are the wilder cousins of the Urkhai, less disciplined but no less dangerous. They live in deep forests or natural cave networks, building little civilization beyond hunting. gathering, and raiding. While this life might seem harsh and distasteful, the Gundarr believe that this is the best way to live, and that they have been chosen for it. Strength and guile are their most prized attributes, and their tribes are usually led by the best hunters. Occasionally these groups can be recruited as skirmishers and scouts by powerful figures, but they do not have the same respect for order as Urkhai and often prove unreliable.

Gundarr society is filled with rituals, spirits, and portents. They believe that the word is alive with invisible threats that must be appeased, and these same spirits give them the power to prevail over all. Most events — good or bad — are attributed to these spirits. Some say these absolves them from feeling any guilt about their wrongdoings.

Gundarr Orc Starting Package: ST12 (+4), DX10 (+2), IQ10 (+2) Hero. Talents: Sword (2), Bow (2), Thrown Weapons (2), Tracking (2), and Naturalist (2). Suggested advancements include Acute Hearing, Silent Movement, Running, and Lasso. The Gundarr superstition can range from a simple habit to a phobia, and could even lead to Overconfidence.

Skragg

Not as bulky or rangy as some others, the Skragg have learned skills to help them get by in the more civilized areas of Cidri. Rarely are they truly welcome, but the Skragg find a way to make their homes in most cities, eking out a living on the fringes.

They live in extended family groups or small clans, uniting in defense of themselves against all others. They are employed as bodyguards and bouncers, or make their own way as muggers, toughs or sneak thieves. A few learn skills, or salvage and repair cast-offs from others. They seen pathetic to outsiders, but they are as proud as any orc, and are awaiting the day to rise up and claim dominion over all those who try and keep them down.

Skragg Orc Starting Package: ST12 (+4), DX10 (+2), IQ9 (+1) Hero. Talents: Knife (1), Carousing (1), Area Knowledge (1), Alertness (2), Streetwise (1) Silent Movement (2), and Pickpocket (1). Suggested advancements include Detect Traps, Bola, Recognize Value, and Remove Traps. Skraggs are often destitute and prone to poverty, as well as being wanted by the authorities for crimes real or imagined.

Fendi

The ‘ghost orcs’ speak for all the spirits, powers, and restless ancestors that surround all their kind. They feel the spirits’ desires and try to appease their demands to guide the orc tribes to the greatness they are due. Most large orc groups have at least one Fendi, but they rarely gather more than a few in any one location. There are legends of sacred orc pilgrimage destinations that where many ghost orcs gather, but no outsider has ever witnessed such an event. And while their words and rituals are important to the tribes, they are usually treated as outsiders even among their own kind.

Fendi are sensitive to the spirits closest to them, so a forest orc might summon a bear totem while a city-bred Fendi might focus on shadows. But all orcs see them as conduits of greater powers and grant them deference.

Fendi Orc Starting Package: ST9 (+1), DX11 (+3), IQ12 (+4) Wizard. Talents: Priest (2), Knife (2). Spells: Magic Fist, Detect Enemies, Summon Scout, Minor Medicament, Analyze Magic, Persuasion, Pathfinder. Suggested advancements include Detect Traps, BolaB;lur, , Recognize Value, and Remove Traps. Fendi usually have a commitment to the ways f their people, and can be Haunted (minor psychological drawback) by the voices of the spirit world.

New spell: Read Portent (IQ10): This ritual spell allows the caster to use a divining device (runes, cards, entrails, etc.) to get a sense of how the future will unfold. Casting requires one minute and 2ST, and then the GM rolls against the caster’s IQ. Success will give a general idea of the the outcome (positive, negative, or neutral) of as future event within the next hour. Critical success may impart more specific indications, and a critical failure will deliver an incorrect and often dire result. Note that magically enhanced divining devices exist that can add improve the outcome.

If you have an orcish background you’d like to share, or have any ideas on how these concepts could play out on a gaming table, let us know in the comments below.