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

Voadam

Legend
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.
For a while I had no half-Xs narratively in my game, so the half orc player option was the full orcish subrace "gray orcs". In 3e this meant type humanoid (orc) with them not being affected by humanoid (human) targeting effects.
 

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Illithidbix

Explorer
My orcs are pale skinned, often chalk white.

A significant proportion of a Northern archipelago are currently united under the Iron Empress, a culture that's becoming increasingly expansionist and militaristic.

The Orcs of the Iron Empire have a reputation for being engaged in an erratic mix of piracy, invasion, theft and extortion but are very insistent that they primarily are engaged in legitimate trade and that their Empire is the bastion of civilised refinement and sophistication.
Their warriors favour big hats and garish uniforms. Esp. bright red.

They have become more and more of a problem as they have somehow mastered the creation of iron ships, some that don't even appear to rely upon the wind as a form of propulsion. Exactly how they achieve this is currently a mystery to other cultures. This is allowing them naval superiority and intrusion into traditional trade routes between nations.
 

To me the defining features of orcs are their strength and certain 'primalness.' They are fierce, they are powerful, they're honest and brave. In many ways they're quite uncomplicated people. If an orc has a problem with you, they won't scheme behind your back or spread lies about you, they challenge you to a duel. They respect strength and bravery and despise treachery and false politeness. I think Conan has many orcish qualities as do the Klingons.

In my current world the main orc culture are desert nomads, inspired by Burrough's green martians. They are stronger and tougher than humans (and instead of dark vision they are adapted to heat.) They live and thrive in places that are too harsh to many other places and use their ability to withdraw into inhospitable areas for their tactical advantage. And whilst they recognise and sometimes worship gods and nature spirits, the main focus of their religion is ancestor worship. Orcs wish to impress their dead ancestors, and believe that gaining glory in this life will earn them a place of respect among the ancestors in the next.

Not all orcs are nomads of course, many are integrated into human societies for example. They still tend to retain their orcish attitude though.

Orcs are passionate, hardy and love freedom, outdoors and challenges that test their mettle, respect bravery, personal strength and honesty, despise guile and empty gestures, prefer practicality and durability over finesse and finery and glory over wealth.

People_Orcssepia.jpg

More my art here.
 

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