Date Added:
Terry Zimmerman
Word Document of Hierarchy Within A Horde
January 10, 2004
Detialed information of the structure of an orc horde and the ranks within..

The content below is an article written by Terry Zimmerman. This article presents gaming information for a "d20 format" orc character class. All information contained within is protected by copyright laws of Canada.


An orcish horde comprises of several smaller sub-groups that are formed from inter-connecting social and military units. The orcish social and military structure is somewhat confusing to those who live in a more civilized and democratic societies.


A tribe is a unit of orcs that travels together. An orc is born into a tribe. A tribe might be one clan, part of a clan or several clans. Only when the tribe members are traveling together are they part of the tribe.

A tribe is a basic social unit. The tribe's males gather food for the tribe. The tribe's females bare and provide basic nurturing needs for the tribe's children.

Female orcs typically only belong to a tribe and no other hierarchal units. When a tribe grows too small to exist on its own (generally only females and children left), the tribe is considered broken and its remaining members will disband and become part of one or more existing tribes. Without any males around to defend them, they will typically fall to the first foes they encounter - and orcs do have a lot of enemies. Often the members of a broken tribe are killed before they are able to locate a new tribe.

Tribes will always stay with one or more orc clans. When the clans go off to do battle, they will usually leave a few bands behind to guard the tribe(s). The bands that remain usually have fallen out of favor of their clan chief and their punishment is to stay behind on guard duty while the rest of the clan quenches their bloodlust in battle.

Should the tribe ever be ambushed while traveling, the clan(s) will immediately engage the opponents or flee if the odds are exceptionally overwhelming. Regardless of the option the clan chief chooses, no actions are undertaken to protect or save the women and the young.

There is generally no formal tribe leader. A clan chief will be deemed the tribe leader until either the clan departs from the tribe for a long mission or permanent separation. If the clan does depart then another clan chief will become the tribe leader. If there are no other clan chiefs within the tribe, then a bandmaster will lead the tribe. If all clans and their bands depart from the tribe then the tribe is broken.

When there are multiple clans within a tribe, the choosing of a tribe leader is done by a bludgeoning match. Each of the vying clan chiefs engage in combat with blunt weapons. The goal is simply to knock the other contestant(s) down on their rear. The last orc chief standing is the tribe leader. It is a great insult to continue to attack a clan chief after he has been knocked down and will usually immediately result in an inter-clan war.

The tribe is named after the tribe leader. (ie: Gar'ak's Tribe)


When a male is of age and ready to hold a weapon and fight with the orcs, he is recruited into a clan by a band. Some bands will simply recognize the prowess of a young orc and admit them, whereas others will test their ability to "qualify" for the band. Failure to qualify may mean that the orc must continue to grow and develop for a season or two, or it may deem the orc to be unfit for any future as a useful fighting orc within the clan resulting in either banishment from the clan or death from the test itself.

Clans are the fundamental unit of adult male orc society and is essentially a military unit. Clans consist solely of bands of orcs. The clan is lead by a clan chief.

A clan name is usually a descriptive name chosen by the first chief that founded the clan. (ie: Bloodyfangs, Skullmaulers, etc). The clan name is a great source of pride for its members who are easily slighted by negative comments about clan. The clan name becomes the orcs' last names. (ie: Gar'ak Skullmauler).

To form a new clan, an orc will need to encourage many bands from existing tribes to form a new clan. Usually the orc trying to establish a new clan will be killed by a clan chief long before he is able to organize enough bands together. Usually only notable orcs who are members of a large, strong and loyal warband will try to establish a new clan. Sometimes an existing clan will become too large to manage and the clan chief will appoint an orc to form a new clan and will then assign bands to the new clan.

The leader of a clan is chosen by combat. All seasoned band masters may compete to become clan chief. There is no real definition as to what a seasoned bandmaster is - if the orcs laugh when a bandmaster announces his intention to compete for chief, then its likely he is not a seasoned and notable bandmaster. The competition consists of engaging in combat until only one orc is left standing. Although many grave injuries are suffered in this contest, it is rare for a master to be slain. One or more shaman are often present to assist the wounded. Attacking a fallen orc automatically disqualifies the attacker - the contest is as much a demonstration of combat prowess as it is of mental control.

A clan chief usually appoints one or more orcs within his clan to act as warchiefs who will be sub-commanders.


Bands develop from within the clan but are usually comprised of members of the same tribe. These are groups of orcs that typically hunt and patrol together. They learn each others strengths and weaknesses in combat and find ways to fight together as efficiently as possible. Band-mates are typically very loyal to each other regardless of whether they get along.

A band's name is also a descriptive name that can not be identical to any known clan or band names. The band name is pronounced in singular when speaking of a specific orc, and plural when referring to the band or several band members. As clan names are usually well known, clan names and band names are rarely mistaken with each other. The name of a band is also a great source of pride for the band members. A band-mate who tarnishes a band's good reputation will usually result in the death of the transgressor. The band name basically becomes the orc's surtitle name. (ie: Clan Chief Gar'ak of the Elfkillers Band would be named: Elfkiller, Chief Ga'rak Skullmauler).

No band contains orcs with the same name. If a new orc is recruited with an identical name to an existing member, then the recruit is given a new name.

Bands form simply by the declaration of an orc that he will form a band, and then must be recognized by the clan chief. The orc typically is a member of a large band and has members loyal to him that will follow him. If the chief does not approve of the new band (usually because he either does not like the band master or does not think he can lead a band), then the orc will be subject to his bandmaster's judgment. Some bandmasters would not care where-as others might feel threatened by the attempt to split the band - in which case the orc may either be evicted from the band or slain. If a band becomes too large, it is likely that the clan chief will order the band to be split up into two or more bands - in which the chief will usually pick the leader of the band(s).

Chiefs typically keep their bands larger than the average bands, but not too large. There is always a power struggle existent within the clan structure. Rather than trying to build one large band that will attract too much attention and even risk intra-band alliance splits, chiefs will keep up good relations with several strong bands. Any large band is viewed as a threat so bandmasters are usually very conscious of this.

When a bandmaster dies, a new bandmaster is selected by the band-mates. Generally the bandmaster grooms an orc to replace him. It is rare that the band-mates can not agree on who the best new master would be. In case of a disagreement, after much bloodshed, the decision of the stronger orcs will prevail. This is one of the rare times that orcs within a band will fight each other (mainly due to the fact that there is no bandmaster present to stop them). The newly selected bandmaster still must gain the approval of the orc chief. If the orc chief feels that there are no good candidates within the band for the new bandmaster position, then he will order the band be broken. The band will no longer exist and all members will need to seek out new bands to join.


A warband is a group sent out to accomplish a military act or aggression. A warband may consist of one band, several bands, a clan or several clans. Either a clan chief or the hordemaster will organize and deploy warbands. The leader of the warband is called the warboss. Being a warboss is a great privilege. Within the warband, the warboss is the ultimate and unchallengeable authority. Warband missions typically last several months and often up to a year or two.

Warband names are simply go by the name of the warboss. (ie: Gar'ak Warband). The name is meant to imply that the warband is a part of the warboss - and should never be referred to in the sense of being in the warboss' possession (ie: Gar'ak's Warband).

Warbands are only temporary units brought together to accomplish a basic agenda. Once their purpose had been fulfilled, the warband is broken. It is not uncommon for there to be skirmishes between the clans and bands that made up the warband at the time it is broken as it is their first change to react to any slights or dislikes that may have surfaced during their journey within the warband. It is very rare for a warband to be ordered to return from its initial formation area - unless they are expected to perform another mission immediately upon returning. As orcs are very nomadic, there usually is no home-base to return to - this is why the warbands are given several missions to perform over a long period of time when they are formed.

Any band or clan that breaks from a warband prior to it being broken are deemed renegade outcasts. No other orcs will associate with them, and in most cases they will be hunted down and slain.


A horde consists of several clans that all generally pursue similar objectives. A clan chief will usually send word for other clans to come and gather for the formation of a horde. If the other clan chief's respect the chief and his abilities and reason for forming the horde, then they will agree. The chief that summons the clans together becomes the Hordemaster.

Similar to warbands, the horde is gathered to accomplish a purpose. The horde's objective is usually a short term one - and usually has to be since it can be very difficult to keep control of so many orcs in the same area. The Hordemaster is essentially only in control of his own clan. He will ask the other clan chiefs to order their clans to perform certain assignments, but ultimately the clan chief being asked is under no obligation to comply. All orcs of all clans will obey the orders of the Hordemaster, unless it contravenes orders previously given to them by their own clan chiefs.

If the horde accomplishes its objective(s) then a great celebration begins and usually lasts several days. Other than the usual expected minor skirmishes within and between the clans, they typically depart in good terms and with many spoils.

Hordes usually do not have a name as they rarely last long enough for the need of same. Some clans commonly join together into a horde frequently enough with each other, that they have an implied permanent horde. Such a horde usually does acquire a name, but usually as a reference by their victims, (if any survive).

General Orc Rank Structure

All the ranks below are typically only filled by fighter orcs (Warriors, Brawlers and Ragers). Shamans, Scouts, Spirit Talkers, Bangers and Casters are typically ill-suited for the rigors of being a fighter within the clan. These classes typically have no rank, but are judged by the merits of their abilities and notoriety. Scouts and Bangers are typically deemed clan property and serve only one clan. Shamans, Casters and Spirit Talkers rarely attach themselves to any one clan.

These titles are listed in order of hierarchical rank from the lowest to the highest.

Pug - A pug is a typically a title of punishment. A pug refers to a weak and useless orc. A pug can never join a clan and is never allowed to possess a weapon. A clan chief may declare any orc to be a pug. This may be a permanent "pug'ing", or it may be a temporary punishment. Most orcs would prefer death instead of being deemed a pug. Female orcs, young and slaves hold more "rank" than a pug. They are the lowest of the low! Most orcs that become "pug'ed" kill themselves - which is usually the intent behind the chief's decision to label them a pug. An act of complete cowardice or outright disobedience will usually warrant the title of pug - killing such a pathetic and useless orc would be deemed an insult to any executioner.

Grunt - A new orc warrior to a clan. The grunt is usually not referred to by his name - only as "grunt". When the grunt has sufficiently proven himself in battle(s), then the bandmaster will declare his official acceptance as a band-mate.

Orc - All orcs who are not a ranked orc, or a grunt are simply referred to as being an orc, (which is far better than being called a Grunt).

Bandmaster - A sergeant in command of a unit or orcs.

Warchief - A sub-commander who assists a chief with running a clan.

Clan Chief - The commander of a clan.

Warboss - A temporary commander or general in charge of a warband.

Hordemaster - The commanding general of a large multi-clan orc taskforce.

Female Orc Exceptions

It is rare that a female would ever be admitted into an orc clan. The female would have to have demonstrated exceptional battle skills and in many ways appear more superior in combat than many males. They also would have likely performed a deed of great notice and importance to the clan. (Such as saving a clan chief from the death blow of an opponent by engaging and defeating the opponent).

Such rare few females that become admitted into a clan can best hope to attain the rank of "orc". Only a female of legendary proportions could become a bandmaster. Although any female clan orc is respected by the other orcs for her prowess in combat - no orc would follow a female clan chief and most will split a gut laughing at such a notion.

Click here to return to top of the page