D&D General The Case for Evil Orcs (Minor Rings of Power Spoilers)

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Reynard

Legend
Tolkien's Orcs have language, and different personalities and are intelligent enough to make weapons/armor and other crafts. They're people. They have some kind of free will.
Those don't necessarily follow from a philosophical standpoint, but this probably isn't the place to dive deep into philosophy 202.
 

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Reynard

Legend
The ultimate irony here...

"Our table doesn't want to think about morality when we play... we just want to kill stuff and take their loot." ;)

In any other group except gamers... if they were told the baseline premise of D&D, the PCs would be considered the evil ones. The only reason to need an "always evil" race is to find a way to justify in the minds of the players that they are in fact not being evil MFers who go around killing anyone or anything that gets in their way in their quest to find gold.

But if you're going to sit here and say you want to be able to do just that... just "play" without having to worry about "morality"... then you should probably just accept the fact that all PCs in the baseline prototypical D&D are essentially evil themselves. You are playing a bad person in a society where you will usually not get arrested for murdering anyone or anything you come across out in the wilderness, and stripping corpses of their property after the fact is perfectly fine.

Once you accept who you are and who your PC is and what you want your PC to be able to do in this prototypical style of D&D without any true consequences (other than going to 0 HP and "dying")... you don't need an "Always Evil" servitor race in the game anymore. Because trying to reflect your evil with another evil is unnecessary.
This is a giant strawman made of complete bunk. You are essentially calling every player who ever delved a dungeon morally suspect for wanting to play the game without engaging in performative handwringing over ever enemy. It's no different than labeling every video gamer a potential murderer. It's gross.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
This is a giant strawman made of complete bunk. You are essentially calling every player who ever delved a dungeon morally suspect for wanting to play the game without engaging in performative handwringing over ever enemy. It's no different than labeling every video gamer a potential murderer. It's gross.
The main point is, if a player wants to play an Evil character in D&D, one can do that.

Playfulness is a safe space.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I am not saying anything about real world racism or real world racial essentialism.

Whether you intend to say things or not, you are speaking in the context of a world in which those issues exist, and are a heavy burden on many people.

The end result, intentional or not, is as if you are walking up to an open mike and saying, "I don't want to say anything about your problems, but what do you think about this setup that seems directly analogous to these problems?"

Every time we try to handwave away major issues for others, we look pretty insensitive to those issues.
 


Art Waring

Redlined Ratrod
Unfortunately, this topic has been a toxic one for some time now.

You can still play your home games the way you want, but convincing people on a public forum that they should still be holding to this tradition is going to be met with resistance.

Regardless of your stance on the problem, the issue itself has to do with a long, long legacy of problematic elements in ODnD that are still problematic today.

If individuals have a problem with the subject matter, and it seems like people are increasingly concerned about it, then simply dismissing their opinions on the matter makes for a one-sided argument.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
This is a giant strawman made of complete bunk. You are essentially calling every player who ever delved a dungeon morally suspect for wanting to play the game without engaging in performative handwringing over ever enemy. It's no different than labeling every video gamer a potential murderer. It's gross.
I'm not calling the players potential murderers, I'm calling the PCs murderers and thieves (if we're using some sort of absolute morality here.)

In D&D the premise of the base game has always been "kill things, take their stuff". And I don't see how anyone could deny that wasn't the baseline of Dungeons & Dragons from the very beginning. That's murder and theft. Now of course players will attempt to justify this murder and theft by suggesting "Well, the PCs only do it to creatures that deserve it"... or "It's always done in self-defense"... or "They were given the okay from their lord / country / higher authority to do it"... etc. etc. so that they can consider their characters moral and good.

But why do you need to have your characters be moral and good if you just wish to "play D&D without worrying about the morality"? That's always the argument for an "Always evil" race, isn't it? So you as players CAN have your characters kill things and take their stuff without ever thinking about it while still thinking of your characters as "good people". You're trying to have your cake and eat it too. But if you aren't going to worry or think about this dichotomy... then it doesn't matter who your targets are NOR who your character is. Evil, good, lawful, chaotic, unaligned-- it doesn't matter.

You can't say you want to play D&D without considering the morality of your actions BUT ALSO want an "Always evil" set of creatures in the game so you can kill them indiscriminately and thus act as though your character's actions were good. Those are two completely opposite things. If you aren't going to consider the morality of things within the game "and just play"... that should include the morality of your character as well.
 

I find this easy. The orcs happen to be evil. Most encountered are in face footsoldiers of evil wizards or are part of an invading force.

In dungeons etc. they are foes at cross purposes. Are any of them good? There is no rule against that in my campaign nor the ones I play in.

Running it this way can create some great unexpected allies. My group fondly remembers commander Krag a hobgoblin they allied with along with his troops. He was LN but they did not know it.

The trypical hobgoblin was LE in my world but this honorable semi decent? One was a novelty and fun for the group.

I play what I like and don’t listen to they hype and hate. I don’t like moral quandaries about slaying baby goblins etc. and frankly as a rule don’t when presented the opportunity. We intimidate and disarm those that decide to not fight and move on.

This speaks to a lot of things in the game. I like alignment with in game effects and redemption story arcs. An orc who finds redemption and becomes an allied warlord interests me.

But I can have my cake and eat it too. Most are not redeemed. Most are hate filled with and evil religion.

Create the game you want and don’t listen to online randos tell you you’re wrong for it. If you want undead to be the enemy at the gates, go for it. Demons? Go nuts. Orcs? Have at it. Barbaric blood thirsty nation? Why not?

I wax philosophical in life but not usually while I am rolling d20s to see if I crushed it the monster before my PC.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I find this easy. The orcs happen to be evil. Most encountered are in face footsoldiers of evil wizards or are part of an invading force.
Not quite the same, but this is similar to why I've never been convinced by the idea that "it's impossible to have an inherently evil race that has free will" argument. It's entirely possible, it just requires some imagination, which is central to tabletop RPGs anyway.

For instance, let's grant the premise that orcs have free will. But even having established that, every single orc in the campaign world has (and always has) chosen of their own free will to be evil. That's the moral equivalent of rolling a d6 ten thousand times and having it come up as a 1 each and every time; technically not impossible, but so completely improbable as to be beyond some people's suspension of disbelief.

But for a lot of other people, I suspect it's no more beyond their suspension of disbelief than a barbarian who swan dives off of a cliff that's two miles high (20d6, average 70, falling damage) into a pool of lava (20d6, average 70, fire damage) and can then swim to the edge, pull himself out and engage in combat, because he still has hit points left. (Or, for that matter, no less an issue than the prices of goods being static and unchanging in defiance of market forces, which don't seem to exist.)

Now, that's a separate issue from people not liking that idea, but insofar as "free-willed creatures that are inherently evil is an inherent contradiction, and so can't exist" goes, that may be true in reality, but the nature of fantasy is to neatly sidestep the conventions of reality.
 

Reynard

Legend
Whether you intend to say things or not, you are speaking in the context of a world in which those issues exist, and are a heavy burden on many people.

The end result, intentional or not, is as if you are walking up to an open mike and saying, "I don't want to say anything about your problems, but what do you think about this setup that seems directly analogous to these problems?"

Every time we try to handwave away major issues for others, we look pretty insensitive to those issues.
So if I had labeled the thread "The Case for Draconians" instead would the responses be different,do you think? That is, it is specifically the connection between racist tropes and orcs etc... that is the problem? If we cut out that language but still talk about inherently evil biological creatures created by some malevolent cosmic force, is it "okay"?
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Bring me Bugeboo, Goddess of Evil Halflings and a bunch of halfling assassin statblocks, you cowards!
In my friend's game, all halflings look exactly identical, with blonde hair in bowl cuts and wearing lederhosen. No one has ever seen a young or old halfling. If you actually choose to play a halfling, he'll let you know the halfling "secret", but we've all been afraid to do it. :)
 


Not quite the same, but this is similar to why I've never been convinced by the idea that "it's impossible to have an inherently evil race that has free will" argument. It's entirely possible, it just requires some imagination, which is central to tabletop RPGs anyway.

For instance, let's grant the premise that orcs have free will. But even having established that, every single orc in the campaign world has (and always has) chosen of their own free will to be evil. That's the moral equivalent of rolling a d6 ten thousand times and having it come up as a 1 each and every time; technically not impossible, but so completely improbable as to be beyond some people's suspension of disbelief.

But for a lot of other people, I suspect it's no more beyond their suspension of disbelief than a barbarian who swan dives off of a cliff that's two miles high (20d6, average 70, falling damage) into a pool of lava (20d6, average 70, fire damage) and can then swim to the edge, pull himself out and engage in combat, because he still has hit points left. (Or, for that matter, no less an issue than the prices of goods being static and unchanging in defiance of market forces, which don't seem to exist.)

Now, that's a separate issue from people not liking that idea, but insofar as "free-willed creatures that are inherently evil is an inherent contradiction, and so can't exist" goes, that may be true in reality, but the nature of fantasy is to neatly sidestep the conventions of reality.
It is saying their species has a higher tendency to make certain choices not that they must in a particular campaign. Or that their culture fosters certain choices but is not perfectly predictive.

Do animals have free will? What is free will? I won’t pull at that thread. But the one thing I stand behind is people doing what is fun for their game. Use the conventions you want.

In my campaign now on hiatus—the whole underlying premise was that most creature hate a lack of choice. The bad guys used magic to physically transform most “evil humanoids” and subjugate them. The heroes have allied with hobgoblins to “rescue” their oft evil brethren and give them back their free will.

I think you can most things work in the game if you want to and are not beholden to the moral judgments of online pundits. I like Advice and also the ability to ignore it when it seems silly.

Have fun
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
It's not biological essentialism-- it's magical essentialism. They exist to serve a purpose both in the fiction and in.a meta way, and here's the thing: children and noncombatants NEVER need be encountered.
Here's the thing though:

Because of the requirement for them to be a biological race that is inherently evil, there is the direct implication that the children and noncombatants are inherently evil also (see the old 'drow children murder each other in the womb' deal, which was then immediately and hilariously proven to be true of real world humans) and since the only reason to make them inherently evil is guilt free killing...

That's what you side step with undead, or clones or machines or people with actual motives.
 

PROLOGUE: I know this subject can get contentious, so i want to get out in front of it here. I am advocating for the inclusion of always evil servitor races for malevolent cosmic powers to be used as stock enemies in D&D. I am not saying anything about real world racism or real world racial essentialism. I am also very specifically not talking about playable races, or ones that fill non-enemy roles in a campaign (so no orc shopkeepers or honorable enemies).

One of my favorite things in the first couple episodes of Rings of power was
the return of the vile orc as an enemy.
Which was not the orcs Tolkein wrote - but Galadriel's treatment of them is appropriate for Tolkien. When we're told about orcs they are called irredeemably evil. When we see them on the page we see something like Forgotten Realms drow - individuals with their own motivations that are the products of a highly toxic society run by an evil effective god-monarch who wants them the way they are.

The thing here is that Tolkien's "good" societies aren't Noblebright; one of the demands of the men of the woods from the Riders of Rohan is that the Rohirrim will no longer hunt them like animals. Tolkien focused on the good points but didn't entirely hide the shadows.
I believe that for the style of fantasy action adventure that D&D excels at, the presence of enemies that can be killed without compunction is good. And while hacking away at cultists, fantasy Nazis, bandits and so on can be rewarding, from a world building perspective the minion race serves a special purpose. Given that we are dealing with fantastic worlds here, usually ones with as much or more wonderous elements as found in ancient myth (as opposed to more grounded medieval romances) the inclusion of beings that were formed by and serve the Dark Powers gives those Dark powers presence even in the earliest stages of a campaign. The trollocs at the beginning of the Wheel of Time tell us and the characters that the Big bad is coming.
But what are the Trollocs actually doing. The Trollocs aren't killable on sight because they are Trollocs (that way lies Redwall). They are killable because they are essentially behaving like bandits. And to use another example the Dragonlance draconians are pretty unfriendly the first time they are met.
Even if there is no Sauron, the presence of orcs speaks to Morgoth's lasting impact on the world.
It is neither necessary nor IMO beneficial that these orcs be always evil to show this. "Not always evil" doesn't mean "Shiny happy people holding hands".
Note that this bit about evil races and world building also applies to inherently good races and world building, and I think most D&D worlds need more of those, too.
Again, I disagree - and would cite Tolkien. The elves weren't inherently good and caused some pretty awful disasters.
I am only saying that the presence of some kind of servitor race(s) is a net positive for most D&D campaigns -- with the caveat that what those races are depends pretty strongly on the details of that world. For example, draconians as unrepentant evil monsters is pretty core to the initial world building of Dragonlance (even if later works gave draconians more nuance).
And I'm saying that making them always evil just cuts off so many plots and so much characterisation. A servitor race is one thing - but turning members of them is great for a quest. And enables spying in places you'd otherwise struggle to infiltrate.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
D&D should present evil versions of every major race.
For the most part, it does. We have drow for elves and half-elves, duergar/derro for dwarves, spriggans for gnomes, orcs for half-orcs...the only ones missing are halflings and humans, and the 3E Book of Vile Darkness (affiliate link) gave us jerren (evil halflings) and vashar (evil humans). Maybe we should have kept those latter two.
 

Oofta

Legend
I don't assume orcs are people any more than a Balor and don't see why there's much of a distinction. They're both completely fictional creatures that have never existed outside of words on paper. Many fiends are obviously intelligent and have a base level of free will and a complex society.

My orcs are Storm Troopers, Nazis, the (relatively intelligent/fast) living dead, the generic Hydra agent. For that matter they aren't even Nazis or Hydra agents because some of those soldiers could be conscripts and there against their will.

I also don't want every single bad guy army to be fiendish, that doesn't really make a lot of sense. Orcs are created and "programmed" by a malevolent entity with certain built in limits to their free will and built in instincts for violence and cruelty just like fiends. They serve as shock troops for an evil necromancer in one instance, be a free-roaming ravaging hoard in another, used as a false flag for an evil emperor in yet another. Or, of course, just grunt level guards for that dungeon of dark secrets. If I use fiends instead (particularly devils) then there's a more direct implication of ties to a dark plane were invoked; you don't generally get a devil to help you unless you're paying a steep price.

Having evil orcs gives me potential armies without external strings. I don't see any reason we apply terms like biological essentialism to one fictional creature and not another. Either we can have intelligent creatures that do not have unlimited free will or we do not. It's a game, and like many things, some of the creatures are oversimplified so I have no issue with some having limited free will. The fiction behind why they are limited is all fluff.

To put it another way, some people will claim that orcs are substitutes for some ethnicity. I disagree, I think there are only so many ways to describe "these creatures are bad", which sadly have been applied to fellow humans. But how many times have the enemies been termed "devils" or "demons" throughout history?

How is it that it's still okay for devils and demons (terms regularly applied to people) to still be evil but not orcs which only have loose association to real world slurs?
 

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