D&D 5E How Are Orcs Different In Your World? (+)


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Voadam

Legend
In 3e I turned them a bit more Tolkien by having them be subtype goblin and orcish being a dialect of goblin. Still the traditional orc and goblin pantheon enmity with Gruumsh and Maglubiyet, but very related. I also played around with the LE/CE nature of orcs by having an army of a half million orcs attack the planar gate city of Rigus that connects Concordant Opposition to Acheron and which I populated with hundreds of thousands of hobgoblins.

In pathfinder I went 40K Ork with them being green skinned, using "choppas" and leaning in on biological aggression.

I remember one pathfinder fight going "Seven damage, you decapitate the Ork! [the PC grinned and cheered] Now on its turn it swings at you . . .[PC gives a startled double take]" The orc extra round of fighting after being knocked to negatives paid off narratively very well.

I also had a thing where the orcs the party met came from multiple cultures but kept worshipping one eyed gods. Gruumsh, Odin, Balor, Vecna, Talos, etc.

In my 5e Carrion Crown adventure path conversion I had orcs be a big cultural and historical influence with multiple conquering of Ustalav or parts of it and being repulsed to the Belkzen badlands throughout the timeline with a major military border being a big deal for the Ustalavan principality. One of the PCs was a half-orc, culturally and narratively a full orc from the badlands who worked for an Ustalavan professor as a secretary. Class barbarian, background secretary. She modelled her orc culture on Klingons which I went with and we had great fun with it.

In my current 5e Iron Gods Thundarr the barbarian/Mad Max style adventure path conversion game orcs are a big faction in the second module which I am running now and the ones they have been dealing with have been pretty straight and traditional, with a religious switch from a normal orcish pantheon to a cult following an insane AI monster truck. It fits the Beyond Thunderdome feel of the part of the AP we are in.
 


Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
Though one time I did a setting with the ancient Greek pantheon, where each race was shepherded by a specific deity. Athena chose the the Orcs to uplift and they were experiencing an industrial boom in a setting that was otherwise tipping into the Renaissance era.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I crib liberally from Eberron for my Orcs, in particular the Orcs from the Shadow Marches of that setting. Primal, deeply in touch with their passions and their connection to the natural world.
I did the same for my world's Orcs (that I detailed a bit in the OP) but combined it with Talentan Halflings. If Halflings riding dinosaurs is awesome, surely Orcs riding dinosaurs is even more awesome.
 

I don't have orcs.

I do have the "vatborn". They're humanoid, grey-skinned humanoids grown in large copper vats. They are the culmination of alchemical and philosophic lore, utilizing guided spontaneous generation. With the fall of the Shapers of Flesh and Form, others have learned the process. On occasion, one in twenty, a sport grows that can be twice a large as the others (ogre). They are a lesson on the inadvisability of bio-weapons, since they can now build their own generation pits. They are masculine in build, but are neither male or female.

Inspirations came from the Two Towers movie and the awesome, award winning book Celestial Matters by Rich Garfinkle.
 

I think I remember this question asked a while back. Here’s a slightly expanded version of my answer.



In my world, orcs and goblinoids are one people, called “Orschans”, with a varied appearance and size. Their origin is from an ancient empire, thousands of years ago. This empire had a new dynasty rise to power, who caused a religious schism. The old believers, who held fast to the ancient worship of demon lords like Orcus, fled the empire after a persecution to the south, where they adopted the name “Orschan”, ie, “Children of Orcus”.



Here in an attempt to reclaim what was lost their intellectuals delved deep into the science of “fleshweaving”. Even before the religious schism that brought them there, it was a magical science common in the empire, bringing forth a whole bunch of “Beastfolk” (ancestors of lizardfolk, minotaurs, tabaxi – basically any man/animal hybrid species in D&D), but now they sought to combine all the work done before to elevate themselves into something more than human.



The result was the creation of orcs, goblins, hobgoblins etc. Those who became orcs had some elvish ancestry, the transformed gnomes became goblins, etc. Outsiders took the new forms of the Orschans as confirmation that they were “ugly inside and out” and let that justify unending wars of racial hatred, seeing the Orschans as “fallen”. For the Orschans, however, all they noticed is that they were now bigger and stronger, with their minds as sharp as ever – so how were they not superior to what came before?



In the modern period “Orscha” is a giant cosmopolitan empire. It indulges slavery and cruelty, but there are also more “liberal” areas as well. The Orschans are as varied a people as any other race.



I don’t have any fey connection to my goblins – except when you count some distant elvish ancestry in the orcs.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Orcs originated when Gruumsh corrupted dwarves with infernal traits. They were enslaved to his whims, bound by the loyalty of the Devilish blood, but driven to rage by Gruumsh himself. They were not free willed creatures capable of making decisions by themselves - they were fodder for him to use as he saw hit. That state persisted for 3000 years.

Then, the Gods discovered the power that could be garnished from freely given worship by free willed mortals. Gruumsh realized that he had a potential massive boon in power if all of his minions were to worship him ... so he set about decades of debauchery and revelry for his minions. This culminated in a great festival in which he set them all free ... and proceeded to find that less than half of his former minions were willing to sorship him once freed. This resulted in a schism of the orcish people that resulted in many wars and small splinter groups of orcs spreading throughout the realms. While Gruumsh managed to hold onto several nations of orcs in his willing service, there were also orcs spread acros the world that were free to find any path they wished. This resulted in orcs joining as members of many nations, tribes and free cities. That situation has continued for 3500 more years.

As a result - as is true with almost all heritages in my game - an orc can be anything, but there are certain areas where they thrive together under the watchful eye of their Patron (or Matron) Deity.

While it is not mandated, a common theme seen in orcs is organized chaos. While highly chaotic on an individual level, they tend towards unified goals that will result in large numbers of orcs all working towards similar goals - often in an uncoirdinated and chaotic storm of action all moving in the same direction, but stepping all over each other as they go.

However, the massive nations made mostly of orcs are quitte varied, with some being fairly stereotypical nations of barbarian tribes, and others being highly honorable and militaristic nations with advanced technology.
 


Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Nomadic raiders and traders of the northern steppes. In my campaign map the world is divided into eastern and western halves by a fairly impenetrable mountain range. The mountain gives way to hills on its northern edge and the orcs occupy this area.

Since they live in a zone not great for farming, they haven't developed large permanent cities, instead relying on seasonal encampments they gather at as they rove back and forth in the steppes hunting and gathering.

Because their lands border both the eastern and western civilizations the orcs serve as one of the best ways for goods and ideas to travel between areas (alongside the mountain dwarves who live under the mountains).

The orcs are as varied as any of the other races in my world, with any individual as likely to be Lawful Good as they are Chaotic Evil. They are considered one of the 5 "great races" as defined by population and area of control of the continent. The other 4 being humans, elves, dwarves, and hobgoblins.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
My orcs are tall, fair-skinned, blonde and they have socialized medicine and are really good at cross-country skiing. They also make boxy-looking carts and wagons that are sought-after by families for being very safe.

My Orcs are Neanderthals, a paleolithic Human subspecies who occupy the snowy lands of Dronovskaya (Based on the Slavic-Urals-Siberia analogue) and yes they use skis.
The society is Matriarchal and consist of clans of 20 - 50 members who occupy 2 - 3 caves across a territory and send small hunting mobs to radiate out from their Hearth-Caves. The Hearth-Caves are maintained by the Firekeeper (shaman).
Orcs worship Fire and also venerate their ancestors, they are skilled hunters and stoneworkers. However due to the reduced tactile sensitivity of the thick Orc skin they lack manual dexterity and can not do fine precision work.
Orc clans have a practice of driving out young male whelps, these whelps form raiding mobs that move between different clans but are not permitted inside the Hearth-Caves. The raiding mobs sometimes offer mercenary service to other races in return for shelter and access to metal weapons (this contributes to the stereotype of orcs as a savage warrior culture)

Some inspiration for Ski wearing warriors = Muscovite invasion of Lithuania

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Vaalingrade

Legend
Orcs were among the original inhabitants of the world, survivors of a cataclysm that had built themselves back up into the largest civilization in the world. They were advanced, but kept the other surviving people's locked into a caste system that kept them from real power.

Then the gods of the demihumans dumps the hordes of folks they saved from a dying world in the neighboring continent along with a bunch of dragons meant to protect them, not knowing there were already people in this world.

The dragons went walkabout real quick once they realized that their charges were a strait away from a land of swole magic scientists and decided (with the push from a bad guy god) to go to war with the orcs. The orcs managed to defend themselves, so the dragons built a superweapon to make themselves what modern D&D dragons are: immortal superbeasts of elemental power.

Around this time, the demihumans realized what was happening and called the dragons out. So EVERYONE got the mobile oppression palace treatment. For defying them, the orcs got their civilization ERASED; no building or book left, the orcs exiled from anything resembling a town on pain of dragon.

Naturally, the orcs were a big factor in the resistance that overthrew the dragons centuries later, but then the hailene people decided they were going to step in where the dragons failed as 'shepherds of demihumanity'. Order 1: the extinction of the orc.

More than one group of orcs turned to a nature goddess for strength, resulting in the minotaurs and lycanthropes, which have become peoples of their own. Most were slain by hailene raids.

Today, orcs are all but legend and myth. People romanticize and talk about the Orci Empire like people do Rome. Orcs exist in small pockets culturally terrified of interacting with 'civilization' due to the constant murder, and they are largely survived by their descendants: the minotaur, the lycanthropes, and the human/orc/ogre/goblin folk, the hobs.

What happened to them has become a teachable moment that quells a lot of the hostile bias against different species... because people don't want to be 'like the hailene' -- proving they've really learned nothing.
 

I have two takes.

The first is Warhammer orcs - or rather 40k orcs. Orcs are a sentient fungus that really enjoy fighting. And if you kill them and don't burn the bodies they produce spores.

The second is that orcs are The Hereditary Enemy. Them across the border. The Hatfields to the human McCoys. They look different (they're green). They seem strong - but most of the orcs people meet are raiders and adventurers. They have different allies. But ultimately if you look at orc society they are almost an exact mirror of humans but humans and orcs are kept stirred up against each other unless the PCs can fix it.

And unless there's an orc PC I'm not going to tell you which I'm using before the game starts.
 

In the majority of my settings orcs are the byproduct of elfs in trances. They the consolidation of deep emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Due to how elves connect to the fey wild they can appear practically anywhere and at any age.
Most cultures see them as good luck and freely intergrade them into the community but hobgoblins and dwarfs have had a few historic strifes.
 

Bluebell

Explorer
Since my current campaign is focused on a giant library, I've mostly thought about the different races in terms of how they might have shaped the materials you can find in the library. For orcs, because they have existed as a nomadic people for thousands of years, they are the most reliable cartographers you can find. Orcish maps are fiercely guarded and highly prized for their high level of detail on hazards, seasonal hunting grounds, hidden areas, and treaty borders with various clans.

Additionally, their vast trading route means that orcs have access to a wide variety of pigments used for ink, from dwarvish crushed rubies to sycamore bark from elves. Orcish trading routes have largely been responsible for spreading such resources. As skilled hunters and tanners, they also are the original creators of animal parchment, which is still widely used by humans and halflings in their books (whereas elves prefer to record their stories on scrolls made from spider silk).
 

In Children of the Wind, "Orc" is a slur given to the Onika by their elven foes, the Onika themselves are a subset of the Vahar (who use half orc stats, but represent a common ancestor to all Goblin-like peoples instead of a hybrid) who defied the imperial rule of the empire of Vahako by retreating to the mountains, where they began to worship Oni spirits who taught them the arts of war and altered them via their blessings.

Onika means 'Disciples of the Oni' in their language-- the Oni themselves in Pathfinder are typically giants and much more magical, so the Onika take on the more direct identity of horned humanoids with leathery skin (the defining feature of the Vahar descended ancestries.) The blessings and training of the Oni make them strong, and they emphasize smaller groups of singular fighters who can take on larger numbers of soldiers, especially in the mountain passes they call home.

There are 7 Oni peaks, each of which has its own type of Oni and corresponding Onika heritage that make up the population that live on and around those sacred mountains. One of the more popular elements of their lore, in terms of my players, has been their funerary rights:

The elves believe them to be savage cannibals, but in reality, when a member of their community dies, their body is ritually prepared for consumption, and a lavish feast serves as their funeral where their loved ones and friends consume them, while telling stories of and toasting to the greatness of their fallen. It is believed that their greatness will rub off on those who participate in the funeral, and it is also believed that skill and greatness confer superior taste, so Onika spend their lives striving for greatness knowing they will someday be consumed by their loved ones, a parting gift to their community. In my setting, this is where the expression that a skilled and experienced person is 'seasoned' comes from.

I did this partially as a deconstruction of 'Orcish Savagery' but also a nod to Shuten Doji and other traditional Oni stories that feature cannibalism.

Here are three examples of the entry write ups for their mountains:

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1662157778501.png
 

jgsugden

Legend
Ties in with AD&D LE orcs and 3e-5e CE orcs. Nice.
They've been portrayed as very different creatures across the editions - which works out fine for me. In my setting, there have been orcs released and given free will, and then there are orcs that are programmed and bound by the will of Gruumsh. As players and PCs discover the difference it opens doors to different ideas on good and evil.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
Mine have tribes that vary in alignment, based on religion following the Orcish pantheon in the original Unearthed Arcana for AD&D. As in AD&D, the tribes are often enemies of other tribes.

Individual, of course, don’t always have the alignment of their tribe. Overall, Lawful Evil is most common.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
In my world, it's not Orcs that are different, but Half-orcs. Half-orcs are a completely different species from orcs, and are a near-human hominid -- essentially Neanderthals. The name "half-orc" is a human slur that is used widely, but not the name they have for themselves.
 

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