D&D General what would a good orc culture be like?

I find it odd you think Anglophone cultures look down on martial cultures. Indeed, coming from a non American but still Anglophone culture American culture, with its “armed citizenry”, patriotism and “respect the troops” comes across as quite martial to me. In fact some of the more milder next takes on orcs make me wonder if you wanted a “good” aligned orc society, you might not to be too far off with the United Orcish States
You got me! The empire never knows it has an empire! (At least the average citizens.)

Ironically, within the USA, a lot of the things you describe are considered 'bad' in its more left-leaning half, so I wouldn't have brought that up for fear of starting a political flamewar. (I'm actually rather displeased with my country's useless and destructive foreign wars, and did not even think of it as an example of a 'good-aligned' martial culture. Besides, it's postindustrial and pretty bad as a D&D model.)

Back to orcs...
 

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jgsugden

Legend
What makes an orc an orc? That depends upon the fiction from which we extract them, but in the MM the adjectives / evocative words (beyond physical description) are:

  • Savage
  • Bloodthirsty
  • Raiders
  • Pillagers
  • Destroyers
  • Scavengers
  • Patriarchal
  • Unbigoted
  • Indesciminate
  • Fertile

At first blush, that does not lend itself to a goodly culture. However, if you want to remain true to these ideas and make them a goodly culture, I could see a path, but not one without problems.

I see a gregorious clan of zealots devoted to stamping out the evils that plague the lands - ancestral enemies of their Divine Creator. They show no mercy to the evils they hunt, and travel any distance to hunt them down. They celebrate life and welcome any creature into their clan if it is willing to join in the fight - and once you're part of the clan, you're part of the clan in every respects. They revel in their hunt and sustain themselves by scavenging from the remains of their victims. They count amongst themselves Zealot Barbarians, Vengeance Paladins, War Clerics, Wildfire Druids, and Hunter Rangers.

Perhaps their enemies are demons that sweep into a lang, possess the dead, kill to create more host bodies to possess and try to conquer all. As these invaders sweep into a land, the people might pray for the orcs to come and save them from the darkness. The orcs might arrive in a rolling cloud of vengeance, ripping through the demonic undead hordes with song on their lips and righteous anger behind their blades. They relish in the battle and know in their hearts that they are will of the Light - sent to wreck righteous fury on the Darkness. In a few days time they may have vanquished all of the demons from the land, earning the love and praise of the peoples that remain. They take their fill of the spoils leftover - some freely given, some taken as compensation when there was nobody left to make just claim to it.

This is still problematic, as the basic underlying foundation upon which the MM description is presented is problematic, but it is a possibility.
 

Reynard

Legend
It's weird that we don't want to paint races as singular cultures with innate morality and species wide personality traits, until we do.
 

payn

Legend
"Most of us don't think of America as a warrior culture, and aren't comfortable thinking about it, but we have the largest military budget in the world with bases all over the world." -- My American Cultures professor.

Unfortanately I don't think I can go into much detail for fear of running afoul of the very reasonable rules regarding political discussion here. But for orcs, I could see the nobles thanking them for their service and telling them how valorious they are and how they represent the best the Empire has to offer. But when an orc comes home minus an arm, when he no longer fits into civilian life and has no place among us, when his reward for years of service is a plot of land on the ass end of the empire he doesn't know what to do with, how much is he really valued?
Hobgoblins have been the militarized lineage in the past I thought?

b9a.jpg
 

payn

Legend
It's weird that we don't want to paint races as singular cultures with innate morality and species wide personality traits, until we do.
I've always liked alignment and my big issue with it was when it was used to label an entire society. I always had an issue with a whole city, nation, or people being good or evil. Outside of cults that worship and serve pure evil deities, I cant imagine a society thats all good or evil. So, I have long since dropped good/evil from society alignment descriptors and just go with lawful/neutral/chaotic to describe how the culture acts as a group. Planar beings is a different matter but that seems fairly popular of a take.
 



Oofta

Legend
As others have stated, [insert D&D race here] can be just about anything you want. So the question is, what role do they fill, what are the stereotypes applied to them, how do you make them different. I'm not going to discuss orcs here because my orcs are a bit different, but I can talk about what I do with drow as an example.

In my campaign world, drow primarily reside in my version of the underdark, Svartlheim*, which is a realm of not just literal darkness but a world infused by darkness and evil. Humanoids that live there are subtly influenced by the dark power, and Lollth takes advantage of that because it reinforces her corruption of the dark elves. It's this dark radiance that gives drow, svirfeneblin and others the dark gray cast to their skin. It's also why drow have such hesitance to residing on the surface world, retreating back to Svartlheim after a series of raids; if they spend too much time away from the underdark Lollth's hold on them is no longer reinforced by environmental factors.

However, some drow do rebel against Lollth and reject the political intrigue, backstabbing and the society based on control by violence and fear. These elves become gray elves that base their lives around logic, asceticism and respect. Their skin tends to have a very light gray tint to it, but it's also a reflection of their general decor and general style and preference. They are the opposite of the drow, not flamboyant, very simple decorations and clothes. Boring and gray to some.

Basically I took the Romulan/Vulcan split from Star Trek, threw it in a blender with D&D and Norse lore.

So, back to orcs. Is there a large faction of orcs that have tendencies toward the old school lore? Are they the ones that give all orcs a bad name, but there are some that reject those principles? Make a different take on Klingons and those that reject the Klingon/orc warrior culture? Or are the cultural prejudices about orcs just based on older lore and history that no longer applies? The Viking culture changed over time as they morphed from raiders and pirates (not that all were ever that) into more peaceful traders that influenced but also got absorbed into local cultures. But we still have myths and lore of bloodthirsty Vikings to this day.

But it all depends on what you want to do. There are a lot of options, many of them tend to run into the planet of hats trope where all members of a specific species are just one giant monoculture. That's easier, and honestly in a game like D&D where you can have dozens of different intelligent species running around (not just humanoids) there has to be some way of simplifying things. Because the most "realistic" option would just be to have their culture influenced by where they live and their history. That's really difficult to do though, especially without stepping on real world cultural stereotypes.

*Once again I've taken norse mythology and used it as a starting point for my own realm and it only loosely resembles the source lore.
 

nevin

Hero
I've always liked alignment and my big issue with it was when it was used to label an entire society. I always had an issue with a whole city, nation, or people being good or evil. Outside of cults that worship and serve pure evil deities, I cant imagine a society thats all good or evil. So, I have long since dropped good/evil from society alignment descriptors and just go with lawful/neutral/chaotic to describe how the culture acts as a group. Planar beings is a different matter but that seems fairly popular of a take.
well the problem with alignments in D&D is they were never really meant to do anything but give a general ethos to the player and their god.

IME most players want an easy black and white way to paint all the groups so Alignment gets used for things it shouldnt' be . That being said calling the romulan empire or the Orcish army LE isn't a bad analogy. There may be other alignments individually in thier ranks but the society has a whole tends to respect tenants that support a LE ethos.

The big issue with dropping good/evil from society is that the entire concept of laws and justice that nearly all societies have is based on thier view of Law, Chaos, good and evil.

the whole point of the game is to be a hero. If your going to be a hero you need Good and Evil to paint the theatre of the mind. Trying too hard to make it "REAL" takes that away.
 

Celebrim

Legend
or Spartans. Though Klingon would be my first choice. It just fits.

Someone mentioned that it's not really possible to uphold Sparta as a good aligned culture. Despite having a few admirable aspects, this was among other things this is a culture that initiated it's young men by having them murder a slave. This is culture where "Often Lawful Evil" would be a probably valid descriptor. The other Greek city states admired Sparta for its Lawfulness. It's questionable whether they had even a notion we would describe as goodness considering Zeus was considered something of an ideal man.

I'm surprised no one has challenged me on Klingons. We've seen examples of good and honorable Klingons, but as a culture it's questionable that the Klingons are good guys and it very much feels like there is a lot of effort to try to redeem the Klingons that ultimately feels to me like Federation propaganda and naivety. I'd be happy with a "Often Chaotic Evil" tag on Klingons.

And then there is the comparison to Neanderthals. As far as we can tell, humanity were the orcs in that situation. We out bred them. It's not out of the question that killed them and ate them. (Ok, it's possible we are cannibalistic dark elves by comparison, but point still stands.) We have a bit of Neanderthal blood in our veins, but knowing humanity that probably wasn't always what we'd call consensual. So yeah, it isn't necessarily the case that making orcs like people would make them good guys. I mean there is a reason the game has never declared humans "Often Good".
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Someone mentioned that it's not really possible to uphold Sparta as a good aligned culture. Despite having a few admirable aspects, this was among other things this is a culture that initiated it's young men by having them murder a slave. This is culture where "Often Lawful Evil" would be a probably valid descriptor. The other Greek city states admired Sparta for its Lawfulness. It's questionable whether they had even a notion we would describe as goodness considering Zeus was considered something of an ideal man.

I'm surprised no one has challenged me on Klingons. We've seen examples of good and honorable Klingons, but as a culture it's questionable that the Klingons are good guys and it very much feels like there is a lot of effort to try to redeem the Klingons that ultimately feels to me like Federation propaganda and naivety. I'd be happy with a "Often Chaotic Evil" tag on Klingons.

And then there is the comparison to Neanderthals. As far as we can tell, humanity were the orcs in that situation. We out bred them. It's not out of the question that killed them and ate them. (Ok, it's possible we are cannibalistic dark elves by comparison, but point still stands.) We have a bit of Neanderthal blood in our veins, but knowing humanity that probably wasn't always what we'd call consensual. So yeah, it isn't necessarily the case that making orcs like people would make them good guys. I mean there is a reason the game has never declared humans "Often Good".
Can we agree that "good" is more of an individual trait than a cultural or societal one? We can find what we as 21st century humans would consider "evil" in virtually every historical culture, some more obviously than others. I'm not sure "good" exist at the cultural level at all really.
 

nevin

Hero
I don't think it's possible to uphold Klingons as a good aligned culture. ( I use Klingon Empire not Klingon race) They honor battle and death above all. Nothing good about that. The other thing is in DND all Orc gods are evil. That means unless you introduce new gods or have an offshoot that worship someone else then any "good" orc is the equivilent of a psycopath in our culture. Just broken beyond comprehension.

I think if you are looking for a "good" culture for Orc's it would have to be something like Vikings. though it could be an entire thread about how most people would View CG societies as far worse than LE societies, assuming they were both well run.

We dont know enough about Neanderthals to make any comparison. they may not have been much different culturally than we were back then.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
We dont know enough about Neanderthals to make any comparison. they may not have been much different culturally than we were back then.
Wouldn't that make them evil too? Throughout history, the vast majority of cultures (especially the most well-known to mainstream) engaged in practices we would consider abhorrent today. Why would Neanderthals be any different?
 

Celebrim

Legend
Can we agree that "good" is more of an individual trait than a cultural or societal one? We can find what we as 21st century humans would consider "evil" in virtually every historical culture, some more obviously than others. I'm not sure "good" exist at the cultural level at all really.

It's almost always a mistake to look at and try to analyze people as a group rather than an individual, and to that extent I agree. There is no end of evils that have come out of analyzing a group and then apply a label to an individual based on group membership.

And when you are dealing with humans, whether you are dealing with them as individuals or groups, you'll find a lot of hypocritical and self-contradictory behavior. It's rare to find an individual or a culture that is living up to it's stated beliefs. All heroes, whether individuals or cultures, have feet of clay that can be and perhaps ought to be attacked to prevent idolization. As an obvious example that hopefully will give no offense or spark no side conversation, the USA at the same time it was writing, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights..." was also at the same time holding a significant percentage of its population in chattel slavery on the premise that those men weren't equal and endowed with the same rights. And this extended even to the man writing the statement, who himself knew it to be true and knew his own slave ownership was immoral but lacked the courage to do anything about it. And that's normal for humanity. That's not just a one time problem specific to that time and culture.

So reality is complicated. Fantasy stories often try to tease apart that complexity so that we can think about the pieces of it, but even in a fantasy story once you put those pieces back together it still gets complicated. Even in a Tolkien story Gondor isn't presented as wholly noble at any point, and much of the point of the story is even a figure like Frodo who represents at some level the best of us isn't wholly good and noble and none of the other figures representing what is best in humanity would have fared any better in that test. We are all in some sense Gollum, the true Everyman of the story.
 

nevin

Hero
First we'd have to have knowledge of thier actual organized groups. We have no idea what neandrathals believed or how advanced thier theology, or civilizations were I won't make a personal determination without actual knowledge of what thier socio economic groups did.

I have no problem stating that Klingon culture as presented in the movies and on TV is very LE'ish. In fact it's very similar to Ancient Mongol culture. The strong rule. I've got lot of hours of observation and can argue that point.

As you stated by Modern European/American view every single culture that has ever come before us fails at good. (if you subscribe to an all or nothing view of good an, evil which is becoming disturbingly common).
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
It's almost always a mistake to look at and try to analyze people as a group rather than an individual, and to that extent I agree. There is no end of evils that have come out of analyzing a group and then apply a label to an individual based on group membership.

And when you are dealing with humans, whether you are dealing with them as individuals or groups, you'll find a lot of hypocritical and self-contradictory behavior. It's rare to find an individual or a culture that is living up to it's stated beliefs. All heroes, whether individuals or cultures, have feet of clay that can be and perhaps ought to be attacked to prevent idolization. As an obvious example that hopefully will give no offense or spark no side conversation, the USA at the same time it was writing, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights..." was also at the same time holding a significant percentage of its population in chattel slavery on the premise that those men weren't equal and endowed with the same rights. And this extended even to the man writing the statement, who himself knew it to be true and knew his own slave ownership was immoral but lacked the courage to do anything about it. And that's normal for humanity. That's not just a one time problem specific to that time and culture.

So reality is complicated. Fantasy stories often try to tease apart that complexity so that we can think about the pieces of it, but even in a fantasy story once you put those pieces back together it still gets complicated. Even in a Tolkien story Gondor isn't presented as wholly noble at any point, and much of the point of the story is even a figure like Frodo who represents at some level the best of us isn't wholly good and noble and none of the other figures representing what is best in humanity would have fared any better in that test. We are all in some sense Gollum, the true Everyman of the story.
I would argue that Sam represents the best of us, not Frodo, although he isn't perfect either.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I don't think it's possible to uphold Klingons as a good aligned culture. ( I use Klingon Empire not Klingon race) They honor battle and death above all. Nothing good about that.
This is D&D 'Good', which has never remotely resembled good, either normal or capitalized.
 

Reynard

Legend
What does "good" even mean in relation to culture? You can't apply morality to culture -- and if you can, there is literally no such thing as a morally good culture.
 


NotAYakk

Legend
In my Prelude to Armageddon world, the civilizations are split into along the Chaos/Law axis.

Lawful civilizations are those of the road and wall. They value rules and organizations over individual connection, on a society level; the Crown is more important than the Queen who wears it. Lawful civilizations huddle around ley line nexus points, harnessing the magic for fast and efficient food production, and use wards to survive the dangers of the wilderness.

Chaotic civilizations cover much more of the planet. They are those of the sky and hill. They value personal relationships over rules and organizations; the Queen who wears the Crown is more important than the Crown. The Chaotic civilizations live by making deals with the local spirits of the land, and use said bargains to survive in the dangers of the wilderness.

Lawful civilizations who attempt to move out over the land, away from their warded roads and walls, take insane losses. Chaotic civilizations who try to overrun the Lawful civilization walls and attack along roads suffer the same fate.

The age of sail in the Lawful civilizations has been triggered by the ability to ward Ships, making the open ocean far less deadly; not requiring bargains with the local spirits to be safe. (It still helps)

The inability for the "city"-based civilizations to build fortresses just anywhere blocks the "real world" problem of agriculture scaling better. The lawful civilizations only scale better at geographically limited spots, where the ley line nexues provide enough mojo to fuel their wards. The roads are also limited, mostly, to going along ley lines to fuel the travel wards, and require making deals with local spirits (there are roadside shrines to pay tribute).

Circling back to Orcs, the main Orc civilizations are Chaotic. Some are Nomadic, some fish in partnership with ocean spirits, etc.

Mongols, Plains Indians, Inuit. This is a world where magic works, and spirits grant boons. Chaos is as powerful as Law.

(Also, the Chaos/Law split isn't total; "Chaotic" socities have traditions and organizations, and "Lawful" societies care about individual leaders etc. I'm talking about the bias of the society, and how it leads to different ways of survival.)
 

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