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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Post Expanding on Orcish Culture (PEACH)

    This is an attempt on my end to expand slightly the lore on orcs, including cultural artifacts and particular subcultures that are hopefully relatively easy to dump into another world.

    This is mostly stuff intended to be useful during a campaign or when actually sitting down to make a tribe of orcs or Orc PC, rather than the generalized material found in Volo's Guide to Monsters.

    Actual Notes:
    The two subcultures are intended to provide some orcish groups that differ from the mostly monolithic presentation found in VGtM. I could probably also add some details about orcs who turn to worshipping Baphomet, but was wondering if the format helps to differentiate types of orcs first.

    There's a few references to cultural artifacts among orcs in first party materials, but VGtM doesn't go into much detail, and the older materials I've found just keep repeating legends where "an orc is strong and beat foes the orcish way," which don't round out orcish lore any more than the basic descriptions of the orcish pantheon does.

    So, yeah, an attempt to round that out a bit. Any notes are appreciated.


    Primary Subculture
    Luthine Orcs
    Luthine Orcs focus on the number of orcs who grow into warriors instead of simply the largest number born. This includes a focus on formal schooling unseen in other types of orcs, including not only martial training but also craftsmanship and battle tactics. This makes the Luthine Orcs less competent in duels against their more traditional Gruumshi counterparts, but they can show a distinct advantage in full scale battle.

    Luthic Orcs and War
    Luthic orcs aren't any less aggressive than their Gruumshi counterparts, but they are more willing to make deals and negotiate. Most often this involves forcing a group to pay them ongoing tribute, but in some cases Luthine orcs will agree to lesser terms to preserve their strength against another foe.

    The lack of a single leader holding the tribe together often makes the tribe more resilient to assassinations. When an enemy successfully assassinates the orc in charge of negotiating, they are often surprised to find the tribe's military commander still standing.

    In addition, Luthine orcs with a strong battle record are known to agree to serve as mercenary companies in larger conflicts or turn to monster hunting to maintain food production in the area. This often allows them safe transportation to face more powerful foes as well as the chance to loot locations too strong for the tribe to conquer on its own. While this is believed to annoy Gruumsh, it is also seen as a method for the tribe to learn when they can avoid a loss in the afterlife on Nishreck.

    Flush with payment on top of their loot, Luthine orcs in such tribes can often become power brokers in the area. While some spread rumors there is sometimes fear the tribe is preparing to seize power for themselves, more often the tribe is more interested in growing in number and sending more and better skilled soldiers to serve in Luthic and Gruumsh's eternal battle against Maglubiyet.

    In this sense, the primary time a tribe of Luthine orcs becomes willing to spend to defeat a foe is against goblinoids, where the tribe may show aggression even above that of Gruumshi orcs, working to systematically clear out the entire tribe of goblinoids and deny them the opportunity to swell Maglubiyet's ranks with future generations.

    Luthine Orcs and The Other Gods
    Gruumsh typical takes issue with Luthine orcs for their general friendliness and the fact individual tribe members tend toward the weaker side causes him frustration. Often his annoyance leaves the tribe lacking in individuals granted the power to lead the tribe. In most cases the tribe copes by adopting a less authoritarian leadership, with multiple orcs who excel in particular skills rotating leadership between them.

    For the other orcish war gods, the tribe often focuses on different aspects than those focused on by Gruumshi orcs. In addition to Bahgtru's physical strength, Luthine tribes also emphasize his loyalty and obedience to Luthic and Gruumsh, even when he doesn't understand their reasoning. Ilneval's opposition to other orcish deities, meanwhile is downplayed, and his followers within the tribe focus on battle tactics instead.

    Similarly, the Cult of Shargaas within the tribe shifts focus more toward scouting and intelligence operations than culling the weak of the tribe. Often the head of the cult is fine with this arrangement, as Luthine leaders want these activities performed more often and offer similar regards to Gruumshi chiefs.

    The cult of Yurtrus provides honorable burials for the tribe, same as in Gruumshi tribes. While Luthine tribes often and up with more food and more honorable deaths than Gruumshi tribes, the behavior of the cult of Yurtrus is noticeably unchanged.

    Return to Form
    The commanders of Luthine tribes retain the orcish tradition of leading from the front lines, and often risk themselves on combat. If enough of the chosen of Luthic fall, or a severe power vacuum is left behind, the tribe's remaining members will determine leadership either by forming competing groups or resorting to individualized combat. When the tribe loses too much trust between the tribe's members to maintain the Luthine fighting style, it reverts more to the individualized aggression typical of Gruumshi Orcs.[/SPOILER]

    Secondary Subculture
    Slinking Orcs
    Slinking Orcs most often arise when a tribe of Gruumshi orcs is slaughtered, leaving only scouts or those who could sneak out the back of the stronghold. The proportion of survivors often heavily favors those who follow Shargaas.

    When the leader of the cult of Shargaas assumes control in the aftermath of such a defeat, the remaining tribe turns away from the the straightforward assaults preferred by Gruumsh and finds unexpected ways to strike back against their foes.

    Among Gruumshi orcs, the cults of Shargaas and Yurtrus typically counterbalance the aggressiveness of the followers of Gruumsh, Ilneval, and Bahgtru. Among slinking orcs, however, the influences of the former gods are turned toward heavily destructive ends, leaving behind the straightforward methods of Gruumsh.

    Slinking Orcs and War
    A tribe of slinking orcs will no longer merely loot villages. Instead, the tribe will lead with a terror campaign of assassinations on a village, weakening it so that they can tear into the armories and storehouses with impunity. Anything the tribe can't carry off is not merely left but is instead intentionally infected with disease, damage and filth intended to sicken and main anyone survives it.

    Dwarven strongholds, with their limited entrances, and small settlements are typically no less vulnerable to these tactics than those used by Gruumshi orcs. large, open settlements, however suffer more, as foodstuff and supplies that would have been left untouched by Gruumshi orcs must be abandoned for fear of poison and disease. In this manner a tribe that was shattered while looting a large city remains able to threaten and harass passing trade just as well with fewer numbers.

    Return to Form
    After some time, a tribe of slinking orcs will raise a new generation of fighters, many of whom grow stranger than the types of merely clever, stealthy, and tactical orcs that join the cult of Shargaas. Once someone in the new generation takes the mantle of chief from the head of the cult of Shargaas, most tribes revert to the more traditional Gruumshi clan structure. Only in cases where the followers of Luthic within the tribe are either completely gone or forcibly prevented from teaching about the the other orcish gods does the cult of Shargaas remain dominant for more than a single generation.

    [Additional Subculture Edited In]
    Conquered Orcs
    When the orcs in an area are overrun by their neighbors, most tribes disintegrate or are wiped out. The so-called "conquered" orcs are those who manage to survive on the outskirts of the vanquishing culture. In most cases, a least a few orcs are able to swallow their pride and take on a role as hunters or trackers, dealing with their neighbors in a manner warm enough to offend Gruumsh.

    Conquered Life
    This skills passed down in other orcish cultures translate poorly to settled life. Orcs caught in other cultures typically end up in one of two main lines of work.

    First are those orcs who attempt to diffuse tensions by showing up to new settlements built by the invaders bearing large quantities of items obtained from the wild. Pelts, game meat, foraged fruits and herbs, and local medicines are bartered at low prices to anyone willing to trade with the orc. Once the orc is relatively known and tolerated, they then attempt to move closer to the settlement and to keep themselves in good standing with the community.

    Other orcs will show up at communal events requiring strength, like barn raisings, or request to become guards or security staff for traders and garrisons. While the orcs are often distrusted in these rolls, serving as backup in local conflict and maneuvering heavy objects in spaces pack animals can't operate are still ways to make an independent living.

    The Conquered and the Gods
    Most often, conquered orcs lose their knowledge of the orcish pantheon entirely, although many still have raging dreams intilled by Gruumsh.

    More interesting though in the case when conquered orcs manage to pass on a partial version of the faith of Gruumshi orcs.

    Among conquered orcs, Bahgtru takes on a larger focus. The orcish patron of both orcish crossbreeds and tactics, he ties in closer to behavior deemed acceptable in the cultures of humans, goliath, and goblins. Luthic's protectiveness often also openly survives, while the rage, brutality, and general nastiness of the other orcish gods is abandoned or restricted to closely guarded areas the orcs do not often let outsiders see.

    Return to Form
    When marauding tribes of orcs once again invade the area, conquered orcs can be put in an awkward position. Those living around them are likely to suspect they will join in invading horde. Eventually many conquered orcs end up driven into the horde's arms or falling as they attempt to prove their separation from other orcish cultures.

    Those who attempt to join the horde, either in desperation or an attempt to do right by the orcish gods, face one additional hurdle before they can join. Gruumshi orcs look down upon conquered orcs as a rule, and most are required to demonstrate some ability or skill they've "stolen" from the surrounding culture during their apostasy. The few conquered orcs allowed to joina horde are typiclaly those who enter bearing a slew of hunting trophies, information on an unguarded path to a settlement, or demonstrate some level of crafting abiliy the members of the horde can't duplicate.

    Relationships to Other Creature Types
    Humanoids like elves and dwarves are not the only creatures orcs encounter across the planes. Various other creatures engender particular feelings in orcish tribes, which are typically either killed, respected for their strength, or run off as allies of the orc's enemies.

    Beholderkin
    Beholderkin consist of a large head with a single massive eye in the center, and a series of tendrils bearing additional eyes. This basic body plan resembles Gruumsh One Eye's own face enough to frighten and confuse many orcs. Beholders themselves can sometimes convince a tribe that they are a representative of Gruumsh, but smaller beholderkin are typically declared mockeries of Gruumsh's face and slain in his name.

    Dragons
    Dragon lairs are not quite as secure as dwarven strongholds, a least when orcs lair inside. They are nonetheless secure and preferable to most other lairs and a tribe will gladly attempt to drive out the resident dragon to take the hold for itself. Against the largest dragons most tribes will still decide to retreat, but young dragons pose little threat against the might of the entire tribe.

    Most dragons are vulnerable if driven out of their lair, but aren't necessarily forced to abandon the lair entirely. Once the tribe has exhausted prey in the area surrounding the lair they're forced to move on and the dragon can return to their home, a scenario that can be significantly sped up if the dragon is dining on the orc's potentially prey.

    Devils
    Where orcish tribes occasionally turn to worshipping demon lords, particularly baphomet, orcs have a far dimmer view of devils and yugoloths, two groups orcs rarely distinguish between. Both typically require a formal agreement to do anything, and often these deals turn out to backfire on orcs who make them.

    Orcish legends where devils appear often involve the orc who deals with them being dragged to the hells, going on a rampage wherever they enter, and finally being left in solitary imprisonment as a result of one last trick by the devils. The lesson these legends is clear: whatever deal devils offer you will only lead to your own ruin.

    Burrowing Creatures
    Since Gruumsh declared the orcs would live in caves and badlands at the ancient meeting of the gods, orcs have preferred to live in places at least partially underground. This often puts them in the vicinity of other creatures that live underground. Orcs will occasionally attempt to capture burrowing creatures like ankhegs or bulettes to speed up the expansion of their homes.

    Orcish Cultural Artifacts
    Orcish tribes have a wide variety of superstitions and customs, many of which are unique to each tribe. Some of the common such beliefs and activities are listed below, which a particular tribe may or may not believe.
    Spoiler: Orcish Customs
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    • When you encounter a cave bear, feed it. The more friendly it is the happier Luthic is with you.
    • Finding a lost hunting arrow means you need to stop and secure the area.
    • A tree losing a major branch or even falling in the night is a sign of Bahgtru's presence.
    • For children, picking blackberries counts as a successful battle.
    • The painful sensation from rubbing garlic or onions into a wound helps it recover.
    • If a bat nests directly above you, shargaas wants you to sleep elsewhere.
    • The tribe's dice have one fewer faces on each side.
    • The tribe doesn't scout from trees; trees are for elves.
    • A spear is not a worthy weapon until the entire spearhead has been pushed into the earth.
    • Owls are fey creatures and should be slain.
    • Eating frogs and toads can strengthen your voice.
    • Fireflies are a traditional flavoring.
    • If bats keep flying near you, rub yourself with mint or lemon balm to appease Shargaas.
    • Drinking a lot connects you more closely to Baghtru. That's why you wake up with a pat from him the next morning.

    Spoiler: Orcish Expressions
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    • "When white hands speaks," meaning never.
    • "Like plots before power," to mean a plan or idea is being overcomplicated.
    • "Fires are not doused by kindling," used to mean one should stop angering another.
    • "Without a nosebone," to praise someone. One is said to lose their nosebone when winning their first significant conflict.
    • "Elfspeak," to mean something complicated to explain; an "elfspeaker" is one who overcomplicates things often.
    • "The tanarukk behind," to accuse someone of only working together until they get a chance to betray.
    • "One like an orog," meaning someone who can settle arguments for the forseeable furture. Used sarcasitically toward actual Orogs.
    • "Rewarded by Ilneval," to refer to someone punished for trying to get something they don't deserve.
    • "Chances pass with days," to mean there is a cost to delay.
    • "As you wail," to say that beating on someone and complaining don't get anything done. Usually said before listing something more useful to do
    • "No crimes happen near Ilneval," to mean that the obvious suspect to something is innocent.
    • "For when the wagon is under attack," to mean something should be saved for when its most useful.
    • "Like an elven bowstring," used to mean somone or something is stronger than it looks.
    • "A human's home is his castle," meaning that someone is being overly suspiscious or that they are making or maintaining unnecessary defenses. From the observation that humans use castles and orcs don't.
    • "Where there's a whip there's a way," used when someone is performing a task under threat and to imply a threat if someone doesn't comply.
    Spoiler: Common Orcish Legends
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    Many legends are particular to each tribe, usually consisting of stories about the great victories of the chief or past generations of the tribe or generalized legends telling the idealized life of some orc, as an example intended to be followed by those hearing it.

    Other legends explain the origins of common practices among the orcs, and a few such examples are provided below.

    The Origin of Medicinal Yarrow. Known to the orcs as elfseye, yarrow is believed to have been created when Luthic sunk her claws into Yurtrus' shoulder and demanded he provide her children with something to stopper their wounds and resist death. According to legend, she refused to release her grip until he telepathically explained how each part of the plant was to aid her children. Upon taking the plant, she covered the top with eyes plucked from still-living elves before using it to treat wounds Gruumsh and Ilneval had sustained in battle. In this way she received permission to provide it to her children, to allow them to survive a greater number of wounds and battles before they must stand before the gods. Orcish herbalists pray first to Yurtrus and then Luthic as they harvest elfseye for use. Whether elfseye's harmful effects if ingested too much were a result of Yurtrus' displeasure at making it or a property ordered by Gruumsh to keep orcs from becoming dependent on the plant is a subject of occasional debate.

    Cave Bear Allies. It is said that the early orcs traveled only the surface of the world, and struggled find where they could leave the children while attacking. Once, a tribe found a round cave, leaving both the tribe's whelps inside. When they returned they found a pack of wolves dead outside the hole, covered in deep claw marks. Inside the hole, a cave bear was looking over both her own cubs and the tribe's whelps. Between her claws and motherly instincts, the tribe declared her an aide sent by Luthic and took the bears with them on their travels. It is further said that the bears taught the tribe how to dig into the ground to make their homes larger and more secure, which made the tribe strong enough to wipe out tribes that did not associate with cave bears.

    Killing Disease With Wrath. Connecting orcs with cooking is uncommon for other races, and orcs themselves stick to utilitarian methods of preparing food, but they do cook. In legend, a tribe of orcs was rampaging across an elven forest when a blizzard set in unexpectedly. Hunkering down in what shelter they could find, the orcs' supplies of food dwindled until only diseased food remained. One night as they set into their meal, an orc with a single eye arrived in their midst and demanded they rise up and renew their assault on the elves. When the tribe's chief declared the tribe could not fight on such a rotten and diseased diet, the orc began burning their food in what he described as the "fires of Gruumsh's hatred," and demanded they eat what was left. To their surprise, the food did not lead to the stomachaches, dizzyness, and cramps they were used too. Marinating their food in fire and hatred until the blizzard ended and their hated enemies attacked, the tribe remained strong enough to overcome the elves and destroy the entire forest.

    Shargaas and Bats. Given Shargaas' hatred of all living things, the relationship between him and bats is a subject of questioning among orcish welps and shamans. The most common explanation is that Shargaas was once traveling in pitch blackness only he could see through when some bats he was about to come upon fled his presence. Infuriated they had detected him, Shargaas captured several to determine how. After inflicting cruel experiments he determined the bats' own cries let them hear him coming. This ability to detect threats taught him not only how to evade detection by bats, but is said to have also genuinly impressed him. This creature he's found that can detect silent orcs coming with neither sight or nor smell has been one of his symbols ever since.

    Expect Venom Beneath the Shade Loving Herbs. Mint and lemon balm are able to grow in places without the light needed for other herbs, and orcs consider this a sign the two were created by Luthic. While used for medicinal purposes and to drive off insects, legends also tell of a time when someone (usually a member of the pantheon of those the tribe is currently fighting) used these herbs to mask the poison in food they gave to Bahgtru. Unable to smell the poison over the herbs Bahgru ate the dish, and was left unable to stand for a year and a day before Yurtrus drew out the poison. Ever since orcs refuse to eat food and drink flavored with these herbs, although rumors sometimes arise of the cult of Yurtrus flavoring the best food with mint to keep the rest of the tribe from touching it.


    Idols to the Gods
    No matter which gods have the most influence over a tribe, they are intimately tied to orcish life. Most tribes maintain a physical symbol for each god, one they carry with them as they travel. Bloody sacrifices are often poured into or on these symbols when the orcs make sacrifices to a particular god and are brought out into a visible place when the tribe performs religious rituals.

    Most tribes' idols of their gods consist of crude effigies made of stone or wood, but some tribes find or make an item more in line with the god's role or values to serve the same function. Some ideas for such idols are listed below.

    Idol to Gruumsh
    Spoiler: Idols to Gruumsh
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    d6 Idol Description
    1 Remains of a dwarven seige engine
    2 The skull of a spectator or gauth
    3 A brazier of elemental fire that does not go out
    4 An elven statues that's been speared through the head
    5 A spear too large to wield
    6 An idol to Maglubiyet graffitied to have a single eye
    More commonly idols depicting Gruumsh are effigies of a one eyed orc bearing a spear.
    Spoiler: Idols to Ilneval
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    d6 Idol Description
    1 Bloodied sword of a powerful foe
    2 A set of chainmail soaked in blood
    3 A dwarf's boots, with the feet still inside them
    4 A captured scroll believed to list battle tactics
    5 A skull with the back smashed in
    6 The rotting remains of a traitor
    More commonly idols depicting Ilneval place him deep in thought or reading a scroll, which are replaced whenever a new one is captured.
    Spoiler: Idols to Bahgtru
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    d6 Idol Description
    1 A pot or plate which howls when struck
    2 The roots from a tree that fell over in the night
    3 A behir's skull mounted on its own broken femurs
    4 A trumpet made of auroch horn
    5 Shattered remnants of a gate
    6 A dwarven shield, torn in half
    More commonly idols to Bahgtru are made to look like a particularly well muscled orc. It isn't rare for the head to be made hollow, so that is makes a ghastly noise when patted on top.
    Spoiler: Idols to Luthic
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    d6 Idol Description
    1 A large cave bear pelvis
    2 A massive talon of unknown origin
    3 A geode filled with razor sharp crystals
    4 The stacked skulls of the tribe's stillborn
    5 The remains of a creature that attacked while the warriors were away
    6 Finely forged claws bearing jagged scratch marks
    More typical are effigies of an orcish woman with large claws inlaid on her hands.
    Spoiler: Idols to Yurtrus
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    d6 Idol Description
    1 An ossuary bound in elf skin
    2 A coffin from a dwarven mausoleum
    3 A chained ghoul
    4 A hand carved from white marble
    5 A large bone which deals 5 (1d10) necrotic damage to anyone who touches it
    6 A crude furnace, which burns flesh before bones
    The typical effigy of Yurtrus has its hands stained white or covered in elf skin and bears a particularly smooth rock for the head, to better mark the lack of a mouth.
    Spoiler: Idols to Shargaas
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    d6 Idol Description
    1 The skull of a giant bat
    2 A ceremonial obsidian blade
    3 An object enchanted to emit magical darkness
    4 Boots of elvenkind, crudely dyed black
    5 A splendid trinket stolen from a vault
    6 An ice crystal that doesn't melt
    Effigies to Shargaas more commonly are a simple stalagmite. More important than the individual item used to represent Shargaas is that it remains covered in a black shroud.

    Orchish Trinkets
    Being able to demonstrate your accomplishments is a central part of most orcish societies, and orcs themselves are taught to be heavily superstitious. . The following is a list of such objects that might be carried by an orc or half-orc PC or found among the belongings of a orc the party meets.
    Spoiler: Orcish Trinkets
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    d100 Trinket
    1-5 1d6+4 Severed humanoid fingers
    6-10 A humanoid skull
    11-15 A pair of severed ears
    16-20 A humanoid nose with bite marks
    21-25 A ring clearly made by some other humanoids
    26-30 A coin bearing the visage of a humanoid
    31-35 A humanoid foot which brings you luck
    36-40 A figurine of a humanoid
    41-42 Fangs from a girallon
    43-44 The pelt of an albino beast
    45-46 An iron nail
    47-48 Behir teeth
    49-50 The fang of a childhood bully
    51-52 A dwarven buckle
    53-54 A tiny carved orc
    55-56 The tip of an elven bow
    57-58 A gnomish crafting tool
    59-60 The horn of a tiefling or devil
    61-62 A partially preserved heart
    63-64 Stones from a bird's gizzard
    65-66 An extra knife
    67-68 A gazer skull
    69-70 A rough gemstone
    71-72 A necklace strung with 2d10+5 teeth
    73-74 The head of a mace or morningstar
    75-76 A puzzle box, unbroken
    77-78 A warg or dire wolf pelt
    79-80 The pelt of a former animal companion
    81-82 A fairy's wings
    83-84 A bone flute
    85-86 A smoking pipe
    87-88 Fur or feathers from your first kill
    89-90 A tooth you lost in a fight
    91-92 A whetstone
    93-94 A metal tin which echos loudly when struck
    95-96 A javelin of foreign make
    97-98 An arrow you pulled from yourself
    99-00 A tiny fossil of a strange animal

    Humanoids
    Some items in the above list likely come from a specific type of humanoid or other creature with close morphology and crafting abilities. With the following list you can roll for what sort of creature made or lost the item on question, or simply choose one from the list.
    Spoiler: Humanoid Subtypes
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    2d6 Subtype
    2 Goliath
    3 Halfling
    4 Dragonborn
    5 Hobgoblin
    6 Dwarf
    7 Human
    8 Elf
    9 Goblin
    10 Gnome
    11 Tiefling
    12 Bugbear

    Tribal Markers
    Most tribes adopt some symbol or mark, used to differentiate themselves and their belongings from those of other tribes. The following is a lift of battlefield symbols that a tribe might decorate themselves and which a tribe can spot on each other in battle.
    Spoiler: Tribal Markers Table
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    1d20 Tribal Marker
    1 Tusks dyed red
    2 Feathers in their helmets
    3 Wolfskin cowls
    4 Chain bracelets and necklaces
    5 Noseless helmets
    6 Red ribbons made to look like flames
    7 Standards captured from a foe
    8 Circles drawn in grey ash
    9 A hand in red ochre
    10 An axe
    11 A pair of long white fangs
    12 A bolt of white lightning
    13 Weapon shafts coated with ash
    14 Paws from bears
    15 Mock elf's head
    16 Dried yarrow flowers
    17 Horns and antlers
    18 Knots of black cloth
    19 Plates carved from bones
    20 Ringlets tied from sinew
    Last edited by sandmote; 2022-12-09 at 09:37 PM. Reason: added additional subculture
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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Expanding on Orcish Culture (PEACH)

    Nice. A deeper exploration of orc culture, rather than a Drizzt treatment. While true to established orc norms, these groups show some of the ways orcs can be affected by culture and environment.

    If I may add:
    Hags often find that female orcs can be useful servants, defenders, and liaisons. In exchange for their obedience, Hags may offer female orcs the means to advance as magic users. These female-only covens gain power and thus respect from nearby tribes.

    Most hag-bound orcs are older, at the end of or beyond their childbearing years. Occasionally, gifted magic users are young enough to produce offspring. Newborn females may be raised to perform some ritualistic function or given training in dark magics at a very young age, allowing them to gain a degree of spellcasting power seldom achieved by orcs. Male children born into such a coven rarely avoid being sacrificed by the hags. The few who do tend to be feared by the tribes to which they are given to raise due to the very real possibility that such infants are daemonically possessed.

    Greenhags and Black Annis may attract groups of nine or so female orcs per member of the hag coven. Sea Hags prefer Aquatic Orc covens. Other hag types may prefer orcs specific to their preferred home regions.

    Warlocks are obvious class choices for the members of such covens, but wizard, sorcerer, alchemist, cleric, and other spellcasting PC and NPC classes may serve.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2022-11-30 at 11:21 PM.

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    Default Re: Expanding on Orcish Culture (PEACH)

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Nice. A deeper exploration of orc culture, rather than a Drizzt treatment. While true to established orc norms, these groups show some of the ways orcs can be affected by culture and environment.
    Glad to hear I managed the most basic target I was going for. I feel like the usefulness of this stuff falls on a bit of a spectrum, and the fact that older materials tend to shift between the Drizzt treatment on one end and only go as far as Obould Many-Arrows toward the other end of the spectrum. And "there's this one dude on one setting who adopted a different subculture and governmental system" doesn't feel like it goes far enough to stop the "race" from being a cardboard cutout.

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    If I may add:
    Hags often find that female orcs can be useful servants, defenders, and liaisons. In exchange for their obedience, Hags may offer female orcs the means to advance as magic users. These female-only covens gain power and thus respect from nearby tribes.
    Its a neat idea to add to a setting, but I think this is commentary more toward how Hags exist in the game. I realize I've failed in a few places, but I was more intending to focus on situations where the humanoids involved being orcs changes how things play out.

    So for instance, where kobolds would turn to aiding a dragon the orcs try to drive it out. Or the note that an orc tribe might be serving a beholder/keeping some burrowing creatures, neither of which actually occurred to me prior to sitting down to write this. I think hags doing what you describe would adopt a similar system for goblins, bugbears, lizardfolk, kenku, trolls, goliath and human tribal cultures plus evil members of races whose primary culture as described don't fit the template. "I have some servants who come in once a week to do my chores, get abused by me, and get paid by being shown some weak magic trick I know" sounds to me more like an aspect of relatively social hags than anything related to orcs in particular.
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    Default Re: Expanding on Orcish Culture (PEACH)

    Good point. I guess I missed the mark a bit. I was going for "Orc Tribe Knows Magic" rather than "Hags Have Maid Service." An orc tribe with even a handful of mid-level wizards would be both unexpected and dangerous.

    How about Urban Orcs?
    1) Humans overran orc territory, and the survivors were the orcs who joined the conquerors. Originally valued for menial labor and aggressive nature, they worked their way into management and officers corps, and although ghettoization is still a problem, an orc is as likely to be a constable as he is to be a criminal.
    2) Who remembers how it began? Did orcs build cities, or inhabit ruins which they rebuilt over time? Now a city-state of orcs, organized as a nearly pure meritocracy, control a city-state of hundreds of thousands of orcs. Other races of humanoids are tolerated if they can compete, but there is almost no social support from the state. Work to eat is the rule. Officers, government officials, merchants, craftsmen, all are ruled by the most capable leaders and organizers. Few attempt to improve their positions by threat or force; this kind of thing gets immediate and overwhelming feedback.
    3) The Dragon Slayers now reside where their latest victim was slain. While they enjoy their wealth and rebuild their numbers, scouts are out scouring the countryside seeking another dragon lair.

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    Default Re: Expanding on Orcish Culture (PEACH)

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Good point. I guess I missed the mark a bit. I was going for "Orc Tribe Knows Magic" rather than "Hags Have Maid Service." An orc tribe with even a handful of mid-level wizards would be both unexpected and dangerous.
    I feel like having wizards with spell books is a bit far. Even with sorcerers and warlocks I think that a tribe individually gaining such power as a result of falling under the sway of a dragon or a beholder or a devil wouldn't serve as a full subculture. Maybe something with druids though?
    • Feytouched in some way?
    • Druidism as a result of falling in with physically powerful animals?
    • As a result of their home territory having too few humanoids for regular conflict?
    Might be nice to have a subculture that pops up without saying "a tribe of Gruumshi orcs took heavy losses and the subculture springs up as a result." Wondering if any of the above look interesting.

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    1) Humans overran orc territory, and the survivors were the orcs who joined the conquerors. Originally valued for menial labor and aggressive nature, they worked their way into management and officers corps, and although ghettoization is still a problem, an orc is as likely to be a constable as he is to be a criminal.
    I've added a subculture for this concept, although I haven't gone as far as "orcs are fulling integrated into a sedentary culture" as a common thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    2) Who remembers how it began? Did orcs build cities, or inhabit ruins which they rebuilt over time? Now a city-state of orcs, organized as a nearly pure meritocracy, control a city-state of hundreds of thousands of orcs. Other races of humanoids are tolerated if they can compete, but there is almost no social support from the state. Work to eat is the rule. Officers, government officials, merchants, craftsmen, all are ruled by the most capable leaders and organizers. Few attempt to improve their positions by threat or force; this kind of thing gets immediate and overwhelming feedback.
    A cool idea for a particular setting to have, but I don't think its generic enough to serve as "I want to add on to the orcish stuff listed in Volo's."

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    3) The Dragon Slayers now reside where their latest victim was slain. While they enjoy their wealth and rebuild their numbers, scouts are out scouring the countryside seeking another dragon lair.
    I've added in a note about Luthine orcish tribes sometimes turning to monster hunting.
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    Default Re: Expanding on Orcish Culture (PEACH)

    Feel free to use, modify, or discard any idea I post. Orcs were never really my thing, since when I wasn't DMing I had to play the party wizard. I would hold the torch, lamp, or magick glowy high enough to let everyone see, and conserve my spells for the real encounter. The few times I used orcs as DM I built the encounter rather than the culture.

    Miner Orcs
    Deep in the dark places of the world there exist tribes of orcs who dig. Their tunnels appear to wind pointlessly to no destination, as dwindling shafts open into large chambers while well built passages lead to dead ends.

    This is actually a successful strategy to restrict access by powerful creatures to their lairs and a kind of maze-trap to lure prey and enemies in, divide them into smaller groups, and dispatch them.

    A by-product of the mining activity is gold, silver, and jewels. Orcish craftsmen fabricate gaudy, often garish ornamentation, and even the poorest wear more jewelry than the wealthy among humans.

    Another product, and an actual objective of their mining is iron and materials that can be alloyed with it to fabricate tools and weapons.

    Miner orcs are semi-nomadic. They live in small groups which regularly move around around the tribal territory, merging with other groups and splitting up again. Secret caches of foundry tools and steel coins and ingots are placed randomly around the territory, but Miner Orcs do not hoard weapons: instead, each individual fashions, or has fashioned for him, the weapons he will carry for life. The weapons are destroyed upon the death of the orc and forged into new weapons or tools.

    When another orc tribe is devastated, Miner Orcs will allow unused portions of their territory to be used as refuge. This is actually one method of gaining new blood for their tribe. Such cooperation is never afforded to a rival Miner Orc tribe. Refugees who do not intermarry into the Miner Orc tribe after a few years eventually serve as combat training subjects for young Miner Orcs until they are all dead, gone, or subsumed into the tribe.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2022-12-10 at 07:05 PM.

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    Default Re: Expanding on Orcish Culture (PEACH)

    Quote Originally Posted by sandmote View Post
    stuff intended to be useful during a campaign or when actually sitting down to make a tribe of orcs or Orc PC
    I'm not a huge fan of official D&D lore and racial monocultures, but/so the attempt to diversify things on this front is not unwelcome, even if it leaves the weird racial pantheon deal as the main underpinning of the writeup. At any rate, the customs (the superstitions with the friendly bears, bats of disapproval, onion healing and blackberry wars) and idols/trinkets were a good read; I like the little details of this sort. ([Malicious smirk.] Even though one's got to wonder where the strange fascination of your orcs with severed humanoid legs is coming from.)

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Deep in the dark places of the world there exist tribes of orcs who dig. Their tunnels appear to wind pointlessly to no destination, as dwindling shafts open into large chambers while well built passages lead to dead ends.

    This is actually a successful strategy to restrict access by powerful creatures to their lairs and a kind of maze-trap to lure prey and enemies in, divide them into smaller groups, and dispatch them.

    ()

    Miner orcs are semi-nomadic.
    That's a weird pick for a population with heavy industry and a military doctrine revolving around superior knowledge of large, artificial complexes in fixed locations.

    each individual fashions, or has fashioned for him, the weapons he will carry for life. The weapons are destroyed upon the death of the orc and forged into new weapons or tools.

    When another orc tribe is devastated, Miner Orcs will allow unused portions of their territory to be used as refuge. This is actually one method of gaining new blood for their tribe.
    These, on the other hand, are nice touches.

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    Default Re: Expanding on Orcish Culture (PEACH)

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    That's a weird pick for a population with heavy industry and a military doctrine revolving around superior knowledge of large, artificial complexes in fixed locations.
    I'm trying to get away from the typical orc as marauder/minion vibe that is used in so many modules. Industrialized orcs in the deep caves have weapons and armor surpluses and nothing to do with them. There aren't any neighbors to raid unless they want to antagonize their more powerful neighbors, and stacking armories full of weapons and armor makes them targets of the same neighbors. The other choice is to be minions to a more powerful creature or culture which can use them as shock troops or scout/raiders. Stock orcs should not be that cooperative.

    In my Miner Orcs I have small orc bands doing what they want without a 'master' and exploiting their natural skill set for fun and profit. They can come together at need for safety or war, but disperse when they feel like it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    These, on the other hand, are nice touches.
    Thanks. As I say, pick and choose what you like or dislike, and use, modify, or discard

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