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General Ideas for other Orcish religions/cultures that are alternatives to the Gruumshite religion

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
With the ideas behind that there is more nuance to Orcs, I'm going to establish that the Gruumshite religion (the pantheon of Gruumsh) is as evil and patriarchal as it's been previously described as. However other Orchish religions do exist and they tend to lean more towards neutral and good alignments. Eberron Orcs generally have 3 religions with the Druidic traditions, the Dragon Below and the Silver Flame, so following that general pattern I'm thinking of something similar outside that setting.

So much like the Druidic traditions, my first idea is the Animist religion. That's a religion very much about spirits of nature, Fey, the elements and ancestors. The religion might have a few Great Spirits who could be deities in themselves, but most of the focus should be on the lesser spirits everywhere. Perhaps as a contrast to the Gruumshite religion, the female Orcs are typically warriors while the male Orcs are more likely Shamans, spellcasters and sages. In many ways might still makes right for the Animist Orcs, but they're more isolationists instead of expansive marauders. As for dealings with the Fey, I see many of them becoming the wardens and enforcers of certain powerful Fey.

The next idea would be another Orcish pantheon but this one being more of a mix-and-match pantheon religion. It's possibly a newer one and came into existence through the interactions with other humanoid races. Many of their Gods are deities in other pantheons including Human, Elven and Dwarven pantheons but without the heads of those pantheon like Corellon or Moradin. For example they might worship Hreyr, who is Frey of the Vanir but in an Orish guise, and Sehanine Moonbow of the Elven Pantheon might have an Orcish guise as N'havala Luna in this pantheon. It's possible that one of the Gruumshite pantheon who's looking to escape the shadow of Gruumsh might be part of this pantheon too.
 

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J-H

Explorer
In My Time of Troubles is a 600k+ word story on Spacebattles (Creative Writing forum) following a SI'd cleric of Ilneval during the run-up to the 2e ToT.
It was pretty well in line with Canon, but has a couple of them shift towards more lawful alignments, to the point where Ilneval ends up with several paladins who are able to wield Holy swords with no penalty.

No need to trash what's existing...just add some nuance and intelligence instead of making them be stereotypes, and you end up with most of a pantheon that can support good-aligned worshippers. It's not like everyone has to be goody-two-shoes to still be a functional deity in D&D.

Make Luthic more TN, following Gruumsh most of the time because, seriously, are the elves or humans going to protect the orcish women and kids? Easy shoe-in for a few paladins focused on protecting the noncombatants.
Ilneval is a pretty easy switch to LN thanks to a focus on strategy, which includes things like logistics and organization.
Bahgtru (Leeeroy Jenkins) we can leave alone, because seriously, who cares about him?
Yurtrus (death and disease) could move towards a neutral-ish approach - clerics of Yurtrus should also be the ones best place to stop disease.
Shargaas is over sneakiness and undead. Ehhhh...he should probably stay Evil.

After minor re-imaginings, you have:
Evil: Gruumsh, Bahgtru, Shargaas
Neutral, could support Good alignments: Ilneval, Luthic, Yurtrus.
 

Assuming we’re staying within the tribal themes for orcs, I could see a religion based on the cult of ancestors where your forefathers and foremothers watch over you, but also expect a certain respect of traditions (kids these days, can’t even observe the 9-day hike of mount maternity that symbolises pregnancy!)
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Personally, I like making Gruumsh himself a more complex figure. Yes, followers of Gruumsh tend to be pretty anti-elf, but can you blame them when the Seldarine conspired to leave him with only the most worthless, infertile land for his people to inhabit? I like the idea that the Gruumshite religion is, like any religion, neither inherently good or bad, but a belief system constructed to explain the realities of life within Orcish society. Radical gruumshite fundamentalists can certainly be dangerous, but so can radical extremism in any religion. The issue is not the religion itself, but the material conditions under which many orcs have been forced by the other peoples to live. The gruumshite religion merely offers a mythological explanation for those conditions.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be other religions that orcs adhere to. But I’m not sure they need to be orc-specific. There can be Orcish followers of Lolth, of the Seldarine, of Moradin and the dwarvish pantheon, etc. etc. And likewise there can and should be non-orc Gruumshites.
 

cbwjm

Hero
If going with standard DnD deities, then I'd see tribes picking up gods off of nearby communities, particularly if there is trade going on. They might associate these other gods with their own as a form of syncretism or possibly they incorporate them into their own pantheon if not just outright worshipping them as they already exist.
 

I'm with Charlaquin on that one in making the gods more diverse figures. Actual religions are messy things in terms of how they develop, and different orcs should have different interpretations simply due to how religion develops. Some see him as the father of orcs and nothing more. Others see him as the avenger against their foes and in battle they honour him. Some may even focus more on other deities like Luthic, with Gruumsh pushed to the sidelines
 


BRayne

Explorer
Brennan Lee Mulligan had a cool concept in Dimension 20 of the Zajiri which are basically "risen Gruumsh devil" celestials that tempt Orcs off the path of Gruumsh.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I'm with Charlaquin on that one in making the gods more diverse figures. Actual religions are messy things in terms of how they develop, and different orcs should have different interpretations simply due to how religion develops. Some see him as the father of orcs and nothing more. Others see him as the avenger against their foes and in battle they honour him. Some may even focus more on other deities like Luthic, with Gruumsh pushed to the sidelines
To be fair, this kind of nuance is harder to write in settings where the gods in question are objectively real. It’s doable, if information about the gods is sufficiently obscure to make these different interpretations plausible. But you have to be careful not to inadvertently validate any particular interpretation over others. That was a thing that always kinda bothered me about the lore in the Elder Scrolls series. Yes, Tamriel has a variety of different, often mutually contradictory religious beliefs, but at the same time, you know that the Kajit religion is just wrong in a lot of cases because you can actually directly interact with a lot of divine entities, and they just plain aren’t like the Kajit myths portray them. That’s why I favor an approach more like Eberron’s where the gods are not directly involved in mortal affairs and may or may not even exist, as opposed to the Forgotten Realms approach where the gods are present and often fairly interventionist.
 

Eltab

Hero
Orcs could revere the Mordenkainen Correlon (never by that name!) as the source of the formless ever-moving magical power which their wizards learn to tap and form and control.

Silvanus (nature red in tooth and claw) would adapt easily to many worlds' Orcs.

Yondalla might be seen as a patron goddess of children and places made safe for those not yet strong enough to do that task themselves. (And her dark side, Dalla Yon, empowers those who seek new homes for the tribe to settle into and make them safe places to raise children.)

Even if Orcs have Sunlight Sensitivity, they recognize the need for light to make plants grow so animals can eat them and become bountiful feasts for orcs, so a Sun god can fit in a pantheon. Maybe as a remote figure who just sticks to his own job and doesn't interfere in other beings' doings.
 


GreenTengu

Adventurer
I could definitely see them as some sort of nature-spirit based animism.

The wind has a spirit, the trees have spirits, the mountain has a spirit-- basically everything has spirits-- the spirits have desires and desire certain things to be done. In return, a small handful of special orcs can ask those spirits for favors and have them fulfilled.

But if you don't show respect and reverence to the spirits and fulfill their requests, then they will become angry and make seek to destroy you. If there is an earthquake or an avalanche or a tidal wave or a tornado or a blizzard it is because the particular spirit was not properly appeased (unless the event happens to favor the Orcs, in which case it was a blessing and favor by those spirits).
 



Voadam

Hero
In one of my Freeport Trilogy games I kept having each wave of Orcs sent out by Captain Scarbelly being worshipers of One Eye.

1st group "Gruumsh sees all!"

Second Group: Berserkers of the One-eyed All-Father! Odin!

Third group: Balor of the Evil Eye!

Fourth group: Talos and his Gods of Fury!

If there was a fifth encounter group it would have been: Vecna sees all! to go with a White Hand orcs of Saruman vibe.

My homebrew campaign world had multiple real world and fantasy pantheons operating and I liked having the different races have multiple pantheons and religions each.
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
For the Syncretic Orcs, I see some as being a combination of approaches like Roman Mystery Cults and Voodoo, where some deities get reinterpreted. This movement would be at odds with the Orthodox Gruumshite, especially if it came from Orcs tribes/nations that had more diplomatic relations to Humans, Halflings and other races. Half-Orcs might have huge role in such a movement too.
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
As for non-Orc followers of Gruumsh, they might have briefly touched on that with the Nentir Vale setting as they tried to make certain deities less exclusive to certain races.
 

aco175

Legend
I thought there was some stuff for FR in the Vassa or Narfell region. I was looking at some of it, but looks like there is a large amount of 1/2orcs. I thought there was a novel I read about all the tribes being migrant and only having gatherings once a year. Made them sound more like Native American plains Indians over savage Klingons.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Using a customized version of the Dawn War Pantheon, I have Gruumsh more as an Ares figure. Orcs provide veneration to Gruumsh's father, Bane, as well as to Gruumsh's mother, Melora. But they also provide prayers to related figures, including even to Gruumsh's uncle Moradin, a god of labor and crafting, as well as Gruumsh's cousin Kord, a god of champions, and Kord's sister Avandra, a goddess of luck, travel, and livestock.
 

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