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    Default Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    So, Orcs and Hobgoblins are some of the more troublesome races to deal with. Orcs are primal and/or tribal, Hobgoblins are mongols, and they're classically an always-evil race. They're also almost always victim of what I'll call "divine mandate racial ethics." They're one of half a dozen always-evil races that behave in a certain very unproductive way because their idiot evil god demands they do. But of course, if you make them good guys, they still come across as massive walking stereotypes, which in my experience can make players uncomfortable and/or disinterested in them. Attempts have been made with varying degrees of success to reform these species into something more coherent and less trite in recent editions, but overall I'm not a huge fan. It gets especially annoying trying to establish nuance for any of these groups because there are so many of them.

    My goals below are to
    • make something interesting and unique that doesn't feel completely slapped-together
    • make something that isn't purely stereotypical and/or offensive
    • make something cohesive that incorporates a lot of elements of traditional DND lore into one picture


    If all y'all can critique based on the above goals and offer suggestions I would greatly appreciate it.

    Myth

    Orcs, Goblinoids, and Giants are all one species with common ancestry, which could be called the Ordn or Giantkin or Orckind (if you want to be rude). It is said that their god created them to make a point to his peers, that will and self-determination are what is most important. He made no afterlife for them, no eternal reward, no divine commission, only that they would live, choose their own meaning, and live to it as best they can. As such, the Ordn were gifted with tools and bodies to match their spirits. An Ordn who prizes strength can grow stronger continually without ever reaching a limit. An Ordn who pursues wisdom and learning can keep learning for forever and never forget what they have learned. In theory, at least. In practice, few of the Ordn live up to their own ideals. Indeed, much of the time their ideals run awry and become something twisted and evil.

    Body and Soul

    Form follows ideology. In this way, Orcs are not truly a race as such, but rather a choice, an ideology, a commitment to power and brutality no matter what. So called goblins prioritize survival, hobgoblins prioritize community and order. Goliaths are a people born of asceticism and the pursuit of physical perfection. Perhaps most curious are the so-called 'half-orcs,' giantkin who seek to adapt to human society. Any one of these paths can be walked to completion. Giantkin become larger as they become more successful at following their chosen ideology, and they gain new names then. Troll, Ettin, Ogre, Oni, finally become true giants, the peak of what their kind can achieve. This is not to say that giants are universally noble creatures. A hill giant is the ultimate expression of the desire to survive and grow fat. A Frost Giant is a near perfect expression of brutal power. Regardless, the peers who have ascended to the ranks of the true giants are some of the strongest creatures of the world.

    The Ordning

    The Grayskins are the most diverse of all peoples, but if there is one constant it is that their societies are harsh and uncompromising. A natural result of a society where the strongest are those who follow their beliefs the most sincerely. For this reason, wars between Giantkin are as common as breathing. Every one of the giantkin has their own reason for fighting. Orcs fight to fight. Goblins fight to enrich themselves and indulge. Hobgoblins fight to preserve their community and build it up. But all seek something more than this. They wish to exert their will upon the rest of their kind.

    When one of the giantkin dies, their soul is born again into a new body, bereft (for the most part) of the memories of their past life. A child of the giantkin will generally adopt the ethos of their parents. It is possible for a goblin to become an orc, or a goliath to become a goblin, but generally it is difficult to do so because of how regimented and orderly the societies of Giantkin are. Thus the birth of a child will be celebrated as claiming a soul for the ideology of the hobgoblins, or the ideology of the orcs. Moreover, for the giantkin every war against their own kind is a sort of ideological struggle, a test to determine the true purpose of their kind. Are giantkin meant to be brutal conquerors? Wise sages? Hedonistic pleasure-seekers? Are they meant to cooperate with other creatures, or rule over them? Giantkin will never agree, but through war, they can force their kind to adopt their own ideology. A fight between Giantkin will be more brutal and fierce than any battle between other peoples.

    Nevertheless giantkin are not foolish, and they know that they are not the only peoples of the world. In ancient times they fought endless wars, and weakened themselves so grievously that they nearly became the slaves of the dragons. Of all things, the idea of losing control of their own destiny is what giantkin despise most of all. And so after the dragon-and-giant wars the greatest of the giants formed a sacred treaty between each other to limit wars and to present unified opposition to all others who would try to enslave their kind. This treaty is called the Ordning, and its complexities and nuances have been debated for millennia. Not all Giantkin respect the ordning to the letter of course, and even those who do may secretly rejoice when their rival giantkin are carried into captivity by some other power. In other places the Ordning is so respected that giantkin will come together to form a great city. The Ordning is perhaps best expressed through the Storm Giants, giants who have made the Ordning itself their ethos, and spend centuries pondering the nuances and intentions of Ordning lore. Storm Giants are the judges of their kind, sometimes resented or feared, but still respected for what they represent.

    Discussion

    What do you guys think? I realize that my "Giantkin" are still basically just a species of racist religious zealots, but I at least think I made them interesting? To be clear, in practice names like "goblin" and "orc" are descriptive rather than prescriptive. Short, furtive kin of Giants are typically called Goblins, whatever their actual ethos is, and two rival tribes of Orc may really have it out for each other. Over time the ethos of a tribe or city might shift, for example, a tribe of peaceful goliaths in the hills "going orc" as the humans in the valley cut off their access to grazing lands.

    My thinking is that Giants themselves actually have a great deal of difficulty having children, though I'm not really sure how to justify this, given that giants are meant to be the greatest examples of their kind, and goblins for example traditionally have no trouble having children.

    thanks for reading!

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    I quite like this idea, I had a similar thing going on when I made goblinoids all variants of Fey whose form and function is determined by their personality.

    For an explanation of why giants have difficulty breeding, why not lean into the idea that they are the perfect forms of their ideals? None of them idolise procreation, it is in fact an impediment to the pursuit of their ideals to have children, and as such giants are borderline infertile. This means they don't generally have to squander their time caring for mewling infants, lugging around the weight of their pregnant bellies or wooing mates. Instead they can focus on feasting, fighting, communal rituals, crafting or whatever else they deem their purpose to be while leaving the mundane matter of making babies to their less 'enlightened' kin.
    Sanity is nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    Quote Originally Posted by Grim Portent View Post
    I quite like this idea, I had a similar thing going on when I made goblinoids all variants of Fey whose form and function is determined by their personality.

    For an explanation of why giants have difficulty breeding, why not lean into the idea that they are the perfect forms of their ideals? None of them idolise procreation, it is in fact an impediment to the pursuit of their ideals to have children, and as such giants are borderline infertile. This means they don't generally have to squander their time caring for mewling infants, lugging around the weight of their pregnant bellies or wooing mates. Instead they can focus on feasting, fighting, communal rituals, crafting or whatever else they deem their purpose to be while leaving the mundane matter of making babies to their less 'enlightened' kin.
    Hmm, maybe. Though I think in some ways that's limiting. It would seem like the ultimate expression of communalism or conquest would have a use for children...

    Hmmm.

    Maybe they can have kids, the kids are just normal giantkin like any other. Maybe predisposed to greatness because of their parent's influence, but not necessarily such. So a Cloud Giant king might have a hundred princes in his cloud city but they're all half-ogres and hobgoblins and maybe the occasional Oni.

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    Originally Posted by strangebloke
    ...Hobgoblins are mongols....
    I’m not familiar with this one. What about hobgoblins would draw comparisons with this group of people?

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    I’m not familiar with this one. What about hobgoblins would draw comparisons with this group of people?
    Well, they're orange-skinned conquerors known for heading a diverse coalition, using sword and bow. They have a tribal structure and a militaristic way of life with most every hobgoblin able to fight, usually existing in populations of 600 or less but occasionally unifying behind a great warlord. They prize power above all else. They have alternated over the editions between wearing mongolian-styled armor and samurai armor.

    It's pretty blatant. I can't say whether its offensive or not, I'm not mongolian, but I do think its a little trite.

    Just a quick rundown of how they've been handled.
    http://jrevell.blogspot.com/2018/03/...obgoblins.html
    Last edited by strangebloke; 2021-09-20 at 11:38 PM.

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    Quote Originally Posted by strangebloke View Post
    Hmm, maybe. Though I think in some ways that's limiting. It would seem like the ultimate expression of communalism or conquest would have a use for children...
    My thought process is that those ideals need subjects and soldiers, not children.

    In the same sort of fashion that a hobgoblin could consider it's unit to be it's siblings, and other units within their army to be like cousins, the commander is essentially their father. Their ideal expression would be devoted to the adoptive family that is their army and it's communal prosperity.

    There's also the option of having all giantkin be sterile, their young coming from a different source than conventional mammalian mating and pregnancy and all starting at the bottom rung. Family in this case being defined more or less by the giantkin themselves, with close friends and mentors being parental figures, pupils and favored underlings being adoptive children, friends of a more equal status being siblings, and the friends of friends being cousins. The giantkin's base form could be spawned deliberately or just as a product of natural forces. Sculpted from clay and given life by existing giantkin, spontanously generating from rotting animal carcasses exposed to a full moon, fashioned from corrupted and broken humanoids by evil magic, so on and so forth.
    Sanity is nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    Quote Originally Posted by Grim Portent View Post
    My thought process is that those ideals need subjects and soldiers, not children.

    In the same sort of fashion that a hobgoblin could consider it's unit to be it's siblings, and other units within their army to be like cousins, the commander is essentially their father. Their ideal expression would be devoted to the adoptive family that is their army and it's communal prosperity.

    There's also the option of having all giantkin be sterile, their young coming from a different source than conventional mammalian mating and pregnancy and all starting at the bottom rung. Family in this case being defined more or less by the giantkin themselves, with close friends and mentors being parental figures, pupils and favored underlings being adoptive children, friends of a more equal status being siblings, and the friends of friends being cousins. The giantkin's base form could be spawned deliberately or just as a product of natural forces. Sculpted from clay and given life by existing giantkin, spontanously generating from rotting animal carcasses exposed to a full moon, fashioned from corrupted and broken humanoids by evil magic, so on and so forth.
    I like the idea in principle, but practically speaking you need to let people play male and female half-orcs and hobgoblins and the like, and having genders doesn't completely make sense in such a context. And yeah, once again, I can see some giants never wanting kids because they're too focused on their craft, but it doesn't seem like that should be a rule. As someone with kids I don't want to suggest that you can't be idealistic and have kids!

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    Quote Originally Posted by strangebloke View Post
    Well, they're orange-skinned conquerors known for heading a diverse coalition, using sword and bow. They have a tribal structure and a militaristic way of life with most every hobgoblin able to fight, usually existing in populations of 600 or less but occasionally unifying behind a great warlord. They prize power above all else.
    That's a REALLY generic description. Most of the pre-modern world touches on most of that and almost all of the pre-modern touches on at least some of it.

    And the single non-generic part of it points in another direction entirely. And to a completely different time period than you're thinking of.

    EDIT:

    Orcs, on the other hand, are blatantly a scandanavian stereotype, being berserkers who worship a one-eyed god.
    Last edited by Bohandas; 2021-09-23 at 11:55 PM.

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    That's a REALLY generic description. Most of the pre-modern world touches on most of that and almost all of the pre-modern touches on at least some of it.

    And the single non-generic part of it points in another direction entirely. And to a completely different time period than you're thinking of.
    It's really not, and I'm hardly the only person who has noticed this. Like the 2e art literally gives them mongolian armor. The other editions tilt a bit more japanese, but still retain mongolian elements. They're 100% written as a broadly "oriental" faction.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Orcs, on the other hand, are blatantly a scandanavian stereotype, being berserkers who worship a one-eyed god.
    I've run them as more scandinavian, that works well with the lore I spell out above, especially with them being giant-kin, but by default orcs are primitive plains dwellers, not sea-faring raiders.

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    Originally Posted by strangebloke
    Well, they're orange-skinned conquerors known for heading a diverse coalition, using sword and bow. They have a tribal structure and a militaristic way of life with most every hobgoblin able to fight, usually existing in populations of 600 or less but occasionally unifying behind a great warlord. They prize power above all else.
    None of this says “Mongol” to me, and prizing “power above all else” describes nearly every ruler in history, so not convinced. “Sword and bow” hardly pins it down either, and I don’t know what population sizes have to do with anything.

    Looking through that blog post you linked, it seems that only Mystara has hobgoblins that are even vaguely similar to actual Mongol culture, and Mystara is pretty niche in terms of game settings. The thumbnail for the 2E hobgoblin is described as “influenced” by Mongols, but I’m hard-pressed to find anything actually Mongolian in the creature’s appearance or attire. That artwork is pure fantasy, with no recognizably Mongolian elements.

    This same blog post describes the 1E hobgoblin cartoon as “wearing something like samurai armor,” but the resemblance is extremely poor, so I’m not convinced this blog poster is especially versed in either the cultures or the armors he mentions. And of course the peculiar spiked mace and odd hand-axe of the 1E cartoon are fantasy inventions as well.

    What hobgoblins are not described as, anywhere that I can see, is a culture which is fundamentally bound to the horse and the steppe—living in the saddle, supreme masters of horseback archery, mounting epic years-long raids and winning astonishing victories against conventional armies with several times their number. That would be much more definitive, but none of that shows up here. The term “horse” doesn’t even appear in that blog post.

    So no, I’m just not seeing it.

    Originally Posted by strangebloke
    They're 100% written as a broadly "oriental" faction.
    This is a new claim. Can you point to any text in any edition that describes them in these terms?

    .
    Last edited by Palanan; 2021-09-24 at 01:05 PM.

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    I am going back to OD&D/BECMI and doing a Law/Chaos axis.

    And Law/Chaos isn't the standard "I do random ****" "everything has a pattern". Rather:

    In an ideal Lawful society, loyalty is to institutions.

    In an ideal Chaotic society, loyalty is to individuals.

    The people of the Road and Wall build cities and are generally Lawful.

    The Free People under the Sky generally don't build cities, and are generally Chaotic.

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    Default Re: Orcs, Hobgoblins, and other Walking Stereotypes

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post

    snip
    not really interested in arguing with you about this, what do you think of the worldbuilding idea?

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