Orcs

(Book 1 pp 106-107; DWR p.248; BES pp 23-24)

Basic Information

Orcs are barbaric, carnivorous humanoids, prevalent in the Northern Lands*. They make good mercenaries and have a tendency towards violence, so may often be found as guards.

Contrary to popular beliefs orcs are not intrinsically evil, nor are they a degenerate form of another race, nor are they stupid. The orcs are cursed by their own breeding to remain stuck in a cycle of death, birth and violence. Their reputation is not helped by human* attitudes towards them: they are treated as vermin and usually attacked as soon as they're seen. Even the names for their women and children are condescending: dams and pups; an orc's base is referred to as a nest.

The basic orc unit is the tribe, normally consisting of around 30-50 orc warriors, with around 20 dams and about 20 pups in various stages of development. The tribe is led by the chief, usually the largest and most violent orc: after all, he had to fight his way to get to his role.

Orcs reproduce very quickly and reach maturity at a similar speed, an orc dam will usually have one litter of between 6-8 orcs a year with a gestation period of around 6 months. The pups are exceptionally diverse and have to fight for survival from birth; usually a third of the litter will die during the first 6 months after birth. This natural approach tends to ensure that only the fittest and strongest pups survive until maturity. The pups mature very quickly, after 6 months they have grown their full teeth and can already feed for themselves. After about 6 years, the pup will have achieved full growth and will be given a name and accepted into the tribe as a warrior. Female pups are physically capable of producing a litter around this time. Once the orc has reached maturity, they will virtually stop aging, it is not known how long an individual orc can live for (most not surviving past their twenties) though there have been rumours of century old orcs.

Orc dams tend to only come into season once a year, usually around the start of winter, as the tribe is a tightly knit community, all of the dams will usually enter season together. This sparks off what is essentially an orgy of mating, where the strongest orcs fight to reproduce, it is not unusual for an eighth of the tribe to be killed during this time. More modern orc tribes have tried to ritualise this time, to lessen casualties and minimise disruption to the tribe. Immediately after this time, the tribe ensures that their larders are stock and essentially hibernate for the winter, until new warriors have matured.

This constant cycle of breeding has had an effect on the average orc dam, they tend to have less intelligence and be less pugilistic, unless their pups are threatened, when they can become as vicious as any orc warrior.

During the spring, summer and autumn months, orcs will gather food for the tribe, and most things are game: sheep, cows, goats, humans*, dogs*, members of other orc tribes etc. Most of the food will be given to the developing pups or placed in the tribe's larder as storage for the winter months.

This is not to say that orcs will kill every being they meet, orcs recognise the value of having slaves and servants of other races, and, after all, if the orcs get really hungry, they have a walking meal. It is not unusual to find humanoid slaves and subservient animals (e.g. dogs*) in the tribe's nest.

Sometimes the orcs will deal with prey specially: it may be given live to the pups to improve their abilities, hunted down for sport or even given a weapon and a chance to fight just for fun! Most tribes will also honour a good opponent by ritually eating them after their death.

If the tribe is getting too large, individual orcs will leave the tribe, to either join a new tribe or to gain riches for the tribe, something that is normally done by hiring themselves out as mercenaries or raiding. This is most common during spring, summer and autumn; a lot of orcs will return to their tribe for mating time.

Orcs are not stupid: they have the same level of intelligence as humans*, but they tend to not fully develop any finesse, planning or skills beyond those required for survival. All but a few orcs fight similar to human* barbarians*.

The orc race seems to be in decline at the moment. Orcs are generally killed on sight by other humanoid races and nests, if found are burnt out.

Appearance

There is no such thing as an average orc, orcs vary massively between each litter, and even between the members of the litter. They can range from 1.5 metres in height to over 2 metres. They build extensive muscle mass, tending to force their shoulders down and give them a hunched appearance. Due to their diet, orcs have well developed canine teeth which often extend enough so that the orc cannot fully close their mouth.

Orcs have a widely diverse set of skin colours; unlike humans* this is not altered by local climate and the colours may differ even amongst members of the same litter. Orcs are very rarely green and even then it tends to be a greeny brown colour.

Known or Supposed Origins

It is thought that the orc race came out of the lands of Krarth* - certainly they have a liking for the cold and cooler climates. As a fast reproducing and, mainly carnivorous race, they expanded until they met with other native races and were fought back to a few isolated tribes.

Special Abilities

Orcs have large energy reserves that can enable them to perform stressful physical activity (such as running, or fighting) for hours at a time. This is demanding and will require that the orc eats and rests for an extended period (over 24 hours) afterwards.

Orcs have an excellent digestion system giving them a large natural resistances to poison and diseases allowing them to eat meat that even foxes wouldn't touch! Orcs will usually have no problem naturally finding food.

All orcs have the berserk* skill of barbarians*.

Geographical Distribution

Orcs may be found over most of the northlands of Legend*, and have been seen further south, even as far as the lands of the Ta'ashim*! But, the orcs prefer a temperate range of between -5 to 20 °C. Outside this range, they cannot properly cool down and will overheat during stressful physical exercise.

Further Notes

Orcs can have professions, but the majority (99%) are equivalent to barbarians*. Of the remainder most are either assassins* or knights*. Though there are no restrictions on orcs learning magic, it is very rare that an orc* will have the patience - and fortitude - to learn how to use magic.

An orc will gain +1 to Strength, but will have a penalty of -2 to Psychic Talent.

Most orcs will not live long enough to advance beyond rank 4, but there have been some rare exceptions of orcs who can control their bloodlust for longer.

For an alternate take on orcs please look to the history of the ancient Cerna people and their debased descendants among the mountains of Molasaria.

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