Monday, April 21, 2008

Orcs - Considered


Orcs are probably one of the favorite races in mine (and most people's) Roleplaying (see my article below about the Extensive influence Tolkien has had on my gaming history). Bad guys, foils, cheap sword-fodder - sure, but they are also a fascinating thing to consider. Imagine a race that is (perhaps) created as a shadow of other more gifted races; have a short lifespan; dwell in the nastier parts of the world; are not gifted with magic, intelligence, nor culture; live and die by the sword alone. Could such a race exist? I mean, outside of Stalinist era Russia.

I have portrayed them (and seen them portrayed) as elemental embodiments of filth and hatred; as a variation on Neanderthal man; as anti-Elves; as just another fantastic humanoid "why-can't-we-all-get-along" race; and as the comic relief bad guys that pale before the true evil (as in the Warhammer universe). I believe I will continue with my strange mix of perhaps the first three concepts I listed above. Some sort of embodiment of filth - a primitive sort of man with stone age abilities thrust into an age of iron - and the antithesis of the harmonious and magical Fey folk.

One last thought - a great old friend of mine summed them up thus: "An orc is often not encountered unless he (and it almost always males encountered, outside of a lair is performing some task for the tribe - be it scouting, hunting or raiding. Even the practice of exiling the weaklings serves the tribe - for it continually tests the lands bordering the tribe for their strength to contain stray orcs. A patrol of orcs is a cunning, animalistic machine that seeks the best advantage against any foe, and will seek to strip all manner of weapons, armor, food, goods, and wealth - all the while reveling in the most brutal techniques of taking these. On the other hand, an army of orcs is a fearsome sight - it is the whole tribe, on the move, for the single purpose of accomplishing some fearsome martial feat. Destruction of a neighbor, establishing a new tribal home, or performing the bidding of some stronger, charismatic ally - these are but a few of the possible motives that a tribe could have for going to war. As it represents the life of the tribe - for all of the warriors (the strength of the tribe, and also its ability to recreate and propagate) are involved, and the stakes in this game are life and death. The next level of organization - a host of tribes - is almost too terrible to consider, when one thinks of the effects it would have on a civilized land."

Hail the filthy orc, my friends, and do not underestimate him.

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