(or, We're Not In Kansas Anymore)
To begin with, orcs are NOT humans. They have a culture and society
that doesn't resemble humanity in the vaguest way. As you read about them,
you'll find many things that don't make sense or just don't seem right. That's
how it is, though. Their culture is alien to what we call "Civilized"
society, but it's how they are, and it's all they know.
Many of their customs will raise an eyebrow and be met with "Why
would they live like that?" or "Why don't they change it?" The answer, as
most are, is simple: They are raised to be this way, and they don't know a
different way to be envious of. Therefore, they take what they have and
enjoy it. If they don't, they just deal with it.
When we think of player races, we usually end up imagining a human
culture with pointy ears or sharp teeth. Even races that bear no resemblance to
humans get stuck in the same cultural template. Time after time I read
backgrounds that begin with details of the character's mother and
father, sister, older brother, and dog named Sparky. (Okay, no dog, but you get
the idea.) Why must every race be carbon copies of humans with a facelift?
I've tried to build a race that doesn't do that. Antrippa is the
"Monster" continent. Most of his races are those that are the classic monsters
and hordes from fantasy novels and RPGs. If these races are so socially
similar to humans, as would be apparent from most player backgrounds, Why can't
they negotiate on common terms? They have the same ideals, morals, family
structures, social orders, etc, so why can they not all see eye to eye
enough for treaties and peace?
Simple. They're NOT identical. We, as human players, build their
backgrounds and personalities on our own concepts of society, which
doesn't apply. These races are called monsters for a reason: They're monstrous!
They don't act like humans, they don't look like humans, they aren't raised
like humans, and they don't have the same ethics and morals as humans.
Simple as that.
I've tried to build the orcish culture to reflect that they are a
race of their own, not just humans with pig noses. Some of what follows here
may seem disgusting or even shocking, but that's what being inhuman is all
To Live and Die in the Orcish Army
(or, Fodder--It's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore)
Somewhere around ten years of age, most orcs become warriors. The
weaker males will stay in the pens with the pigs or go to the mines, while the
weaker females will be grabbed by some buck and taken to his cave.
These females will spend most of their lives as cows in the milk cave or the
Pit. Both genders may find themselves in the mines or pigpens, though.
Warriors die. As with all things orcish, it's pretty simple. Lose
too much blood, or too many body parts, and death is inevitable. Most
warriors are at the end of their first decade when they become so. Most will not see the end of their second. Medicine being what it is these days, and orcs
not being the most magically-oriented persons, war takes its toll with them
like it does with no other race. Raiding adventurers, slavers looking for
good workers, angry dragons letting off steam, starvation, and many other
factors keep the average lifespan down to the early twenties.
They know this, and they deal with it. They have few close friends,
if any at all, for new warriors are always coming in, and old ones are always
dying. If you know someone for more than six months, you've known him
his whole life. Every battle brings you closer to the end, and you get to
see the end of half the people you knew. Death is a way of life, and it's
dealt with simply... You get tossed in the pit with the rest of the bodies.
Food is too scarce to be left in the groud to rot, plain and simple. Brave,
strong warriors get the honour of being thrown into The Pit, while the weak
and the sick go to the milk cave for the pups to sharpen their teeth on.
Memorial services? Nope. When one of the strong bucks who held a
private cave dies, minor turmoil erupts for a few days as the next orcs in line
fight over his posessions. The females of that cave will most likely
stay, as they've grown used to the private cave and prefer remaining over
going back to the communal cave. They also most likely have developed
friendships with each other, and stay for that reason. Here comes the
If a male has a cave with two or three females, one most likely has
become the tender of the cave while the other two mine and farm. The
tender will inevitably end up becoming the cow for all three females, which
means there will be a handful of pups at any given time. This is how the
tribe expands. The male takes control of a second cave and has his own brood,
his own bloodline. Only the strongest can do this, for he now has to bring
home meat for extra mouths. In the end, however, he has orcs that obey him
Eventually, this grows in the obvious progression, and you have a
splinter tribe. This splinter takes a name from the title that the top
male has, and grows from there. When the top male dies, there are a number
of younger males waiting to take his place, but none are strong enough to
take a cave of their own, which means they must band together to take over
new caves, and this continues the growth of the tribe.
Back to death. Death is very casual to orcs. There are no tears
shed, no mourning ceremonies, no funeral party. Everyne is just glad that it
wasn't them. Yes, half of orc society seems to be the opposite of the other
half: The tribe is everything, the individual is nothing. Yet, no one really
cares when a number of individuals dies. Orcs are Evil by nature, remember,
and violent and chaotic by breeding. This cannot be emphasized enough.
Position in the society really depends on how big your cave is, how
old you are (Older orcs tend to be tougher, hence the term "Not been killed
yet", duh), how many females you have, and whether you have your own
cows. So, orcs are always fighting to beat the strong guy and take his cave.
As always, Females can do this too, but they rarely cause a splinter
group. They may, however, take control of a splinter group, which keeps things
moving right along. Eventually, politics comes in. "You, me, kill
Toldak, me her, you her" (Psst.. Hey, lets gang up on Toldak and kill him. You get her, I'll get her)(Unspoken but understood: "Then we'll fight out who gets to keep the cave") Yup, politics do exist in Orcish society.
A Little About Orcs
(or, He Who Has The Biggest Arms Must Be The Smartest)
Some time ago, some twisted sorcerer needed fodder. He thought about
what he needed in fodder, and came up with a formula. The formula and the
ingredients are lost to history, but the result is here: Orcs.
Some say we're bred from pigs. Some say from Humans. Some say from
Elves, or some combination of the three. Or maybe even a fourth or
fifth creature. Whatever. Who really cares? We're big and nasty and we have
pug noses. What more needs to be said?
They still have a slave/soldier mentality. Having been bred as
fodder, they were not made with a mentality that supports revolution. "The big
strong guy said to attack? Sure, he's stronger than us, we'll attack
who he says." It's really hard for them to break from that mold, as it's
Genetic (Magically so). This mentality also leads to a 'Survival of the
fittest' and 'Might makes Right' mentality. Whichever orc is strongest, is the one in charge of the group.
Orcish leaders are not selected or voted in, but they fight their way to
the top. The guy who's running the tribe, is doing so because he beat
the last leader, and no one has tried to beat him down (Succeccfully)
since. On rare occasion, a female will end up as the chief, in the same manner
that her successor took charge: She killed him. As long as she beats down
all opposers, she'll stay in charge.
Females in general are the equals of males. Males tend to be
slightly stronger, so more males are in leadership positions, but that is not a
gender-biased rule. If you're stronger than the next guy, you bash him
on the head and tell him what to do. Gender doesn't do a thing in a fight
except for determining just how effective a kick to the groin will be.
Sick and injured are either left where they fell (Broken bones) or
mocked until they heal (Cuts, rips, disease, etc.) If you survive, you are
respected a bit more for your strength. If you die, you are quickly
forgotten. Orcs take particular pride in their combat scars, as the
more you have to show, the more fights you must have won.
Marriage is not a word in the orc langage. A Male keeps a female for
as long as he can beat off anyone who would take her from him, and as long
as he can beat her into submission. Males can take as many wives as they
can hold on to. The reverse is true, also. A Female who is strong enough to
smash a male's teeth in will most likely have more than one male, which
also means she might have her own cave.
Caves are communal. Most caves are huge, and orcs will lay claim to
their own alcove or corner. Stronger ones will take a cave of their own and
beat down any orcs that try to take a portion of it. That cave is his only
as long as he can hold it, though, so older orcs either die trying to keep
it, or move to the communal caves until they die in combat. Some few orcs
manage to gain enough loyalty that when a younger male moves in, he'll get to
keep the cave in name. The younger male will run the cave, and lay claim to
the grounds, but the older one stays there and is afforded the respect he
There are three castes of female. Warrior females, who have proven
themselves in combat (and are equal to males in all respects, see
above section on leadership), Breeding Females who are females who for one reason or another are no good on the battlefield, but still good for breeding, and Females who tend the pigs, farming, and preparation and distribution of food. There are no titles per se. A Warrior is a Warrior, regardless of gender. A Female is an Orc, and breeders are known by a word that translates only as Cow (More on that in the Childhood section).
Males basically follow the same system. The difference is that from
birth, they are all expected to be warriors. Some prove to be weak, but still
strong enough to survive. These end up tending the pigs or mining.
Again, there are no real titles, just Warrior and Orc. Neither is a designator
of respect, just position in society. Warriors generally have more
personal caves and more females, though, and push the other orcs around.
(or, Dysfunctional Families and the Cuisine of their Relatives)
Breeding in itself is unceremonious. Most orcs live in communal
caves, with their own corner claimed as their own, so privacy is not a luxury
that they know enough to resent the absence of. The few orcs who have
private caves are the ones who were strong enough to beat everyone else out of
it. There are a number of special purpose caves.
The Milk cave is where the pregnant females give birth to litters
of 4-6 pups. A Warrior female will end her parenthood there. The breeders milk
as many of the pups as they can, which is never enough to go around. Orcs
are born with open eyes and teeth, and need milk for only a few weeks
before eating meat like adullts. The pups that die of starvation or disease
(Roughly 1/3 to 1/2) will be consumed by the stronger pups, who will be
removed and brought to the nursery.
The Nursery is known as The Pit. There, it's survival of the fittest
again. What little food that can be spared from the plates of the
warriors, will be thrown into the pit with the pups, for the strongest to take.
Again, the ones that die will be consumed. The bottom line is that those who
were too weak to even bother to live can still serve the tribe by nourishing
those who will grow strong.
Yes, that's disgusting, but remember, we didn't get our reputations by
doing nice happy things. We don't swing in pretty trees, and dance and
sing about our joy. We don't frolic through the fields playing tag and
picking berries. We're born, we fight and kill, we die.
Roughly 1/4 of all orcs born will survive to the age of two, when
they are strong enough to crawl from the pit with their own strength. From
there, they are taught, in the third cave (set of caves), skills needed to
survive in the community. They learn to mine, fight, and tend pigs. They also
learn about weapons and armour in preparation for their adulthood. This is
also when they get their name, which is usually the name of the last orc
that died and got tossed into the pit. There's no point in naming them
before this point, since 3/4 of them die before this point.
They are born and raised with no real sense of individuality.
Everything goes towards the betterment of the tribe, which means catering to the strong. If the weak don't like it, they'd better get strong and assert
themselves. Otherwise, the weak die and thus don't breed for the next
generation. The strong get their share of the meat, and everyone else
fights over the scraps. The strong get their females, and everyone else takes
what they can. (Usually in the form of rape during raids). The race has
survived, and will continue to, mostly because they breed like rats. By the time they reach adulthood, they realize that they each exist only for the good of the whole. This does lead them to developing an odd form of loyalty to one
another. Half, because like any other race, they make friends and
allies. Half, because they are so persecuted by the more civilized races that
their survival depends on this loyalty.
(Their minds at work from the angle of communication)
The orcish language reflects a bit about their culture. The true language is
spoken only by orcs and cyclops, while the more common version is actually a
bastardization modified by the "smarter" races such as Louryls.
It is a very simple, yet versatile tongue. Smarter races get confused easily, while the less intellegent races seem to pick it up rather quickly. To begin with, there are no separate pronouns for the first person. Me and I are the same word: Me.
Next is posessive. Me is the posessive form of Me. You is the posessive
of You. Simple, right? Pointing at something and saying "That is Mine"
requires an extra word in a language that serves no extra purpose. Pointing at
an axe and saying "That is me" Obviously doesn't mean that I think I'm an axe,
so I must mean it is mine. So why have two words for it?
Then comes Be. Am, Is, Will, Are, etc are all summed up in one word:
Am. "Me am kill you" gets the point across just as well as "I am going to kill
you", so why throw in extra words and different words that say the same
Half the language is a gesturing language, almost like the sign
language. About 70% of what is said is said in physical movements.
Examples would be Tense of the verb. Future is designated by a simple
arm motion towards the front of the body, while past is by a simple motion
towards the shoulder. Example: "He am die" alone means the bloody fool
on the ground is dying right now. A moment ago, or in a minute are obvious
things, so there's no need to make more words to specify what you can
see. With a simple motion over the shoulder it becomes "He am dead", or with
a motion to the front, it becomes "He am going to die". To expand that,
"He died" is a silly extra word. Dead is dead. If you are dead, then you
obviously died to get that way, so saying you're dead or saying you
died means the same thing. Remember, the key is obviousness. We all know
what you mean, so why spend extra words, breaths and time getting all specific?
The orc tongue has no definate article, i.e. the words 'the' and 'a'.
These are useless wastes of breath and thought, to create words that only
serve to designate the thing in front of you from the thing that isn't in front
of you. Silly louryls can't keep track of what they're talking about, so
they need more words.
Instead, if a case arises where a designation is necessary, Pointing
serves as 'The'. Just a simple gesture of pointing, with no specific target,
would be the word 'The', while pointing specifically would be 'That".
Now, the problem is that Louryls can't seem to grasp this simple
concept, so they invented words to stuff into the language to make themselves feel superior. Silly elves, butcher your own tongue.
Me am kill you. Me hate you. That me. Me eat. You eat. You die. Him
kill. That him. Me break.
In all cases above, the written word may seem to be lacking. But
standing there with an orc pointing at things makes it all simple to understand.
(or, 'What fish? What barrel?')
Orcish, being a unique language, of course has some idioms that don't translate well. Mostly because orcish itself doesn't really translate well. However, the background and society of orcs also results in a few phrases you really won't find much of anywhere else. Throw some of these into conversation to spice it up a bit and make it a bit more original, but don't overuse them or I'll "relocate" your jaw (to someplace more convenient such as, say, the top of your skull). ;) I've translated them directly into Antrippan as best as I can, remembering to leave out Vrudosh's odd accent. No doubt more will be added as the number of orcs on Antrippa starts to grow, and they begin to flesh out the language for themselves. This should get anyone started, though...
The odd thing that some races can't seem to grasp about the use of the word "meat" in orcish is that meat can refer to pretty much anything made of meat. Human, horse, or hog--it's all meat.
Give that man a beer and punch him in the face
This is a highly sarcastic saying. They usually reserve it for someone who insists on giving stupid questions to answers, esp. answers that have nothing to do with the question in the first place. It can also be used to just indicate that someone needs to watch their mouths.
...like crossbowing frogs in Zalag...
Ever been to Tor Zalag? The place is crawling with frogs, live and dead. This is the orcish equivalent of the old standby, 'shooting fish in a barrel'.
Respect a louryl, nod to a louryl, buy from a louryl, but never EVER love a louryl.
Louryls represent everything that is overly civilized and not nearly wild enough about old Antrippa. And the current Antrippa, for that matter. For that reason, while an orc may be friends with a louryl, or business partners with one, you'll rarely ever find an implicit sort of trust between the two.
...like a tribe at noontime...
Saying something is "like a tribe at noontime" implies it is utterly chaotic. Noontime, in addition to being the typical meal-slash-feeding-frenzy-time at any orc tribe, is also the time of day when the hot sun provokes tempers and pushes them off the already precarious ledge of the typical orc mindset.
...slipperier than a greased hog...
Little explanation needed. Not often used literally, but occasionally so, being as how baths are not a popular activity among orcs, or Antrippa in general.
While not common in everyday speech around other races, most orcs have what could be considered an extremely filthy mouth.
lazy, no-good cow
Implies that the person in question spends their time birthing and suckling young. Particularly insulting to any male of any race who understands the reference.