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Orcs

(Or, Green is Good, and that's Good Enough for me)

By Robert E. Allen III

May 26, 1998

 

What exactly is this column about? I often sit here (or there, for that matter) wondering the same thing. Small Talk is sort of a mixed pot of goodies. Although we're still a young column (Sandy's Soapbox has a few years on us), I've tried to point in a number of directions and see what works. Which I think is good. If you don't-- let me know.

This month, I thought I would discuss one of my favorite topics. Orcs. Or Orks, depending on what you play - it isn't the name that's important. It's the feeling behind it.

The Universe is Orcdom.

Orcs are one of my favorite races for a number of reasons. For one, Orcs are easy. Orcs fight for the sheer love of fighting. In their beady red eyes, might is right, and all else is swept by the wayside. And you have to respect such single-mindedness. Because if you don't, they'll club you one, you weedy 'oomie git.

In Tolkien terms, Orcs were created as a twisted version of the elves - and those highbrow sophisticates had it coming to them. Whereas the elves were beautiful and enlightened and harmonious, Orcs were just the opposite - violent, ugly and generally mean.

In most game worlds, Orcs act more like human savages - they live in places none of the other races want, generally in nomadic raiding tribes. They respect only the mighty, and often come down upon the civilized world in an orgy of death, destruction and madness. Because they really can't help what they are.

Also, in many worlds, Orcs are the master race over goblins. The two races live and work together, with the smaller (but often more cunning) goblins doing the work that Orcs are too lazy or proud to do. Orcs are the superior fighters, generally, but the goblin's massed numbers make up for the Orc's quality with quantity.

Here are some of the game systems that feature Orcs (and their cousins, the goblins) well:

Warhammer (Games Workshop) Orcs are the barbarians in the west, who travel around in great Waaaas- (Orc Warparty or Crusade), raiding and attacking the Empire, Brettonia, Elves, Dwarves and Chaos alike. There are a number of different types of Orcs - garden variety, Big 'Uns (the largest and toughest of a given tribe), Savage (the wildest and most religious of Orcs) and Black Orcs (the well-disciplined and cunning of Orcs). The Orcs worship their own gods, who generally promote the sort of things that Orcs do best - random, senseless violence.

Chronopia (Target Games) Here, Orcs are actually quite civilized. They live with their cousin races goblins, ogres and trolls in the BlackBlood Empire. They are violent, but not as wild roving savages. Also, the BlackBlood Empire has a strong Arabic feel, in their weaponry and general look. The BlackBlood Orcs are perhaps the most civilized of this list.

Battlestorm (Ral Partha Publishing) In this world-- Orcs are actually honorable. Retch. They even ally themselves with humans-- which is-- un-orcy. Still, Orcs in Battlestorm are not slackers, they just lack some of the killer instinct that other Orcs have. No doubt from fighting non-stop Undead incursions and twisted fascist Dwarves.

Leviathan (Grendel) In Leviathan (if you can find it!), Orcs are savage nomads. Okay, nothing new there. However, they do have a few neat twists. For one, they have enslaved huge riding beasts - pretty much dinosaur like - and mostly travel to battle in massive howdahs. That, and they have risen their god, Gorath, to the world of the Leviathan, for the final apocalyptic battle. Sounds like a party.

Warhammer 40,000 (Games Workshop) Orcs (Orks in this system) are pretty much the same as their fantasy based cousins - overlooking the fact that they are more heavily armed, dangerous, and have an uncanny love for all things wheeled, tracked and fast. Orks are one of the greatest threats the Imperium, Eldar and even Chaos - just because they are completely single-minded in their desire to wage war. Not for loot, not for religion, not for space, not for anything but the desire to wage war and make their imprint on the galaxy. And, if that wasn't enough, the 40K Orks have their own game in Gorkamorka

I am quite certain that I have not covered all of the games that feature Orcs; but that really is not my point. Even if a game world doesn't feature brutish green or brown humanoids bent on mindless destruction, that does not mean they don't have Orcs. For instance, the following races are rather Orc-like:

-Klingons (Star Trek) Sure, they love all that honor and stuff, but when you get down to it, the fight's the thing. All they need is green skin and it all falls into place.

-Kra'Vak (Full Thrust and the whole GZG system) They may be strange aliens, but as soon as humanity gets a better impression of the Kra'Vak, they'll learn that they are just Orcs. With bigger starships, of course.

-The Clans. (Battletech) I know a lot of people aren't going to agree with this one. Let's review the facts:

  1. The Clans resolve everything by fighting.
  2. Sure, they want to take over the Inner Sphere to save it from itself. Uh-huh. Right.
  3. Look at the way they have completely changed the face of the Inner Sphere. Only an Orc could handle that kind of hell raising and Chaos.

Alright, I might be stretching it a bit there. I can think of a few more similarities, but mostly, groups/races that have more depth (pathos, angst, etc) are NOT Orcs. To be an Orc requires a single-mindedness - they simply don't have the brainpower for much else.

 

Best Regards,

Robert E. Allen III

Feedback, complaints, etc. to Warmaster@rpg.net

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