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

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
See this is why I read ENWorld.

I normally like traditional orcs. But I just got pumped thinking about a good orc nation in my campaign world.

Maybe evict some of Dragonborn space a bit and see the surprise of long term players when they enter the gates of this nation
 

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I look at Tolkien's conception of orcs as industrial and clever with technology and wonder....
Very good point! Forgot one but it is worth mentioning.

Kirill Yeskov's The Last Ringbearer, which you have to find samizdat (heh) translations of on the web, is an unauthorized Tolkien fanfic/interpretation by a Russian fellow which has the orcs as the industrially minded victims of a reactionary, archaic, racist elven conquering force. It's a perspective flip on Lord of the Rings.

This wiki entry might give enough detail to be a jumping-off point:


(Depressingly necessary disclaimer: I oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine.)
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Team Gruumsh World Police.
Gruumerica
Gruumerica

Gruumerica, orc yeah!
Coming again to save the greataxe loving day, yeah
Gruumerica, orc yeah!
Freedom is the only way, yeah

Demon prince your game is through cuz now you have to answer to
Gruumerica, orc yeah!
So lick my axe and suck on my mauls
Gruumerica, orc yeah!
What you gonna to do when we charge at you now!

It's the passion that we all share
It's the RAGE for tomorrow
ORC YEAH!

Primal Spirits, orc yeah!
Axe-Mart, orc yeah!
Barbarians, orc yeah!
Football, orc yeah!
 

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 mean, in general I don't. I prefer polyracial cultures and racial polyculture (that is, Cultures A, B, and C include people of diverse racial origin, and Races I, II, and III do not each have only one culture but are found among many cultures.)

But the request was given and I felt like participating. It also seemed, to me, like an opportunity to have more than one "orcish" culture, a contrast between the cliche and often disappointing one we usually get and an alternative that is much more interesting and even laudable.

Hobgoblins have been the militarized lineage in the past I thought?

b9a.jpg
All cultures get stereotyped by outsiders. The issue becomes whether we as creators limit a culture to its stereotype(s), or fully flesh out their culture and recognize the stereotype(s) as outsiders having a flawed and incomplete understanding of the culture in question.
 

Yeah but the question isn't whether a culture purports to embrace those values (spoiler: most say they do) but rather can a culture actually do that (spoiler: none has yet).

We're talking a fantasy world. Celestials (for example) would be a culture that does exactly that.

I disagree on the Klingons as an example of Good Orcs. Lawful Orcs perhaps, but not 'Good'.
 


I mean, in general I don't. I prefer polyracial cultures and racial polyculture (that is, Cultures A, B, and C include people of diverse racial origin, and Races I, II, and III do not each have only one culture but are found among many cultures.)

But the request was given and I felt like participating. It also seemed, to me, like an opportunity to have more than one "orcish" culture, a contrast between the cliche and often disappointing one we usually get and an alternative that is much more interesting and even laudable.


All cultures get stereotyped by outsiders. The issue becomes whether we as creators limit a culture to its stereotype(s), or fully flesh out their culture and recognize the stereotype(s) as outsiders having a flawed and incomplete understanding of the culture in question.
I think you kinda need to know what the origin cultures for the races are as to be able to build polyculture from their base components.
 

I think you kinda need to know what the origin cultures for the races are as to be able to build polyculture from their base components.
Howso?

In FFXIV, for example, we do not have access to the "traditional" or "original" culture of several groups. Sometimes, it is because those cultures no longer exist, e.g. the modern city of Ul'dah was founded by a lalafell (halfling) majority culture called Belah'dia, but Belah'dia ceased to exist over a thousand years ago and all we have left are some ruins of their religious and political structures. The modern culture of Ul'dah features mostly hyur (humans), lalafells, and roegadyn (effectively orcs), while having relatively few elezen (elves) and miqo'te ("catgirl/catboy" types, as opposed to Khajiit-like humanoid cats.) Similarly, lalafells in general originally come from the south sea isles, demonstrating a form of insular dwarfism most likely, but the south sea isles are not accessible to players so we don't know what their culture is like in specific. As a result, we know that there are and have been multiple lalafell-majority cultures, and that lalafells exist in many cultures (though not all cultures) of the present day, without actually knowing much if anything about any "original" culture they may have possessed.

I don't see why it cannot be the same for a D&D game. It might be the case that there was in fact one single ancestral culture from which all modern cultures descend, but that culture may be inaccessible by reasons of time or geography.
 

Howso?

In FFXIV, for example, we do not have access to the "traditional" or "original" culture of several groups. Sometimes, it is because those cultures no longer exist, e.g. the modern city of Ul'dah was founded by a lalafell (halfling) majority culture called Belah'dia, but Belah'dia ceased to exist over a thousand years ago and all we have left are some ruins of their religious and political structures. The modern culture of Ul'dah features mostly hyur (humans), lalafells, and roegadyn (effectively orcs), while having relatively few elezen (elves) and miqo'te ("catgirl/catboy" types, as opposed to Khajiit-like humanoid cats.) Similarly, lalafells in general originally come from the south sea isles, demonstrating a form of insular dwarfism most likely, but the south sea isles are not accessible to players so we don't know what their culture is like in specific. As a result, we know that there are and have been multiple lalafell-majority cultures, and that lalafells exist in many cultures (though not all cultures) of the present day, without actually knowing much if anything about any "original" culture they may have possessed.

I don't see why it cannot be the same for a D&D game. It might be the case that there was in fact one single ancestral culture from which all modern cultures descend, but that culture may be inaccessible by reasons of time or geography.

I love FFXIV, but I also have to say that several of the player species seem a tad unmoored and lacking identity beyond visuals. For example I really don't see there being much meaningful difference between the elezen and the hyur.
 

I love FFXIV, but I also have to say that several of the player species seem a tad unmoored and lacking identity beyond visuals. For example I really don't see there being much meaningful difference between the elezen and the hyur.
Elezen live about 33% to 50% longer (reaching 120 is quite common for them, and they don't achieve full physical maturity until their early 20s.) It is not too weird for an elezen to reach 150. That alone has a big impact. It's part of why Gridania is so horribly racist, and part of why both Ishgard and (to a lesser extent) Gridania are so isolationist.
 

But we were talking about orcs, meaning mortal creatures with all the depth and complexity of us humans.

Who says a different species has the same depth and complexity as homo sapiens?

Elves have typically been depicted as having more depth and complexity. Vulcans are devoid of emotion. Thri Kreen are giant preying mantises.

We're taking fantasy races here. Don't let anthropomorphic bias get in the way. They're not human.

Homo sapiens tend towards neutrality (although the best and worst can be found among them). Some people are truly altruistic. Some people are monstrously cruel. Most go around doing the best for themselves and their families (N) without either regularly going out of their way to help anyone else (G) and also seeking to avoid harming others (E).

Truly LG people like Jack Ryan, Captain America, Eddard Stark and Sturm Brightblade are rare.

A society with a sufficient number of LG people in it, for it to be regarded as a LG society would be exceedingly rare.

You'd need the majority of people, plus the laws of the land to be charitable, merciful and altruistic (stong welfare for the poor, eradication of homelessness etc) while also avoiding harm (no slavery, capital punishment, corporal punishment).

Without getting political, modern Scandinavia is probably the closest human analogy we have to a LG society. Very low crime (murders and rapes in particular), strong social welfare, free healthcare, near eradication of homelessness, strong record on human rights, abolishment of slavery and capital/ corporal punishment, age of criminal responsibility 15 and all that, coupled with a strong respect for family, honor and tradition.

It doesn't have to be everyone in the society for it to have an overarching general alignment. There are murderers and rapists in Scandinavia, and they're evilly aligned. Drizzt was G aligned and he lived in CE Menzoberazzan as well. Its just most of the people around him (and the social norms and practices he was expected to abide by) were very CE.
 

Who says a different species has the same depth and complexity as homo sapiens?

Elves have typically been depicted as having more depth and complexity. Vulcans are devoid of emotion. Thri Kreen are giant preying mantises.

We're taking fantasy races here. Don't let anthropomorphic bias get in the way. They're not human.
There is a difference between "deep and complex in identical ways" and "deep and complex to the same degree." If a race is sapient, there is no reason it should have a lower or higher degree of depth and complexity. But it may very well be deep and complex in very different ways.

A society with a sufficient number of LG people in it, for it to be regarded as a LG society would be exceedingly rare.
On this, at least, we can agree. As Lewis wrote (via the retired tempter Screwtape, writing from his office in Hell): "...the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster."

Without getting political
About that...
 

Reynard

Legend
Who says a different species has the same depth and complexity as homo sapiens?

Elves have typically been depicted as having more depth and complexity. Vulcans are devoid of emotion. Thri Kreen are giant preying mantises.

We're taking fantasy races here. Don't let anthropomorphic bias get in the way. They're not human.
Right. Just be sure not to make them bad.
 




true but dnd settings tend to have so sort of semi-objective good.
secondly, it is more about what kind of what we think is morally good civilisation orcs could have that does not lose the classic orciness that appeals to people.
Right. What happens if we flip that aforementioned perspective? How do we turn "ravenous rampaging hordes" into something positive? Because even from its internal logic a lot of orc cultures are presented as...well, amoral at best. They recognize that they're not good people, and simply don't care. Your question becomes: what would an orc society look like that...doesn't do that? That does care about actually striving toward some idea of good, as opposed to earnestly and openly living a "might makes right" attitude?

Which is why I started off from the seed of 4e Kord's beliefs. Kord is pretty much the definition of Chaotic Good; he turned against his mother, Khala the Queen of Winter, when he was made to see how his combat with the other gods had hurt innocent mortals. Elsewhere, however, he's presented as something of a Batman-like "crazy prepared" deity, one who believes in strength coming from a variety of places and in taking decisive action even if others disapprove. That sounded like an ideal to which a culture could tend that carries classical "orcish" vibes/concepts, but without the need for callous, vicious, or predatory implications that usually get bundled up into that.

The Primal Spirits stuff was in part because I just like the 4e Primal stuff, in part because of WoW, and in part because a good-aligned ancestor-worship culture isn't exactly commonplace in D&D, which is a shame because that's an interesting area of spirituality to explore. From there, the only remaining "classically orcish" characteristics needed were some kind of tribal or clan structure, and a reason for having mixed feelings about outsiders. Putting a paramount emphasis on blood and family seemed warranted, particularly in light of the ancestor-worship idea.
 

I mean, in general I don't. I prefer polyracial cultures and racial polyculture (that is, Cultures A, B, and C include people of diverse racial origin, and Races I, II, and III do not each have only one culture but are found among many cultures.)

But the request was given and I felt like participating. It also seemed, to me, like an opportunity to have more than one "orcish" culture, a contrast between the cliche and often disappointing one we usually get and an alternative that is much more interesting and even laudable.


All cultures get stereotyped by outsiders. The issue becomes whether we as creators limit a culture to its stereotype(s), or fully flesh out their culture and recognize the stereotype(s) as outsiders having a flawed and incomplete understanding of the culture in question.

I think the tricky thing, from a worldbuilding point of view, is that you now have races I, II, and III each in cultures A, B, and C, meaning you now have 9 possible combinations, which can now go over the top in complexity, especially when you add in all the D&D races. Of course perhaps not every race is in every culture (except for the big trade city that has every race where they all go to do business). You could always try having multiple cultures per race, like high, gray, and wood elves and hill and mountain dwarves in classic D&D, which makes sense as cultures will arise in response to their surroundings. So maybe there are warlike orcs ('hill orcs') and a big orc city ('town orcs') where they have settled down and put aside their rude, warlike ways. opting instead for more civilized ways of doing each other in, just like the scrawny small-teeth...
 
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I think the tricky thing, from a worldbuilding point of view, is that you now have races I, II, and III each in cultures A, B, and C, meaning you now have 9 possible combinations, which can now go over the top in complexity, especially when you add in all the D&D races. Of course perhaps not every race is in every culture (except for the big trade city that has every race where they all go to do business). You could always try having multiple cultures per race, like high, gray, and wood elves and hill and mountain dwarves in classic D&D, which makes sense as cultures will arise in response to their surroundings. So maybe there are warlike orcs ('hill orcs') and a big orc city ('town orcs') where they have settled down and put aside their rude, warlike ways. opting instead for more civilized ways of doing each other in, just like the scrawny small-teeth...
I mean, I usually don't give mechanics to culture, so there's no combinatorics explosion...but even if you do, it's not like it's that big a deal. Level Up did it and people seem quite happy with that, having explicitly said that that shift (to a separated physiology and culture model, as opposed to a package deal where physiology and culture are always combined.)

For example, let's say culture gives you one skill proficiency (usually mental), a language, a cultural feature of some kind and a list of options for your starting feat (mostly stuff you could be trained to learn.) Race gives you physiological traits, which may rarely include physical skills (e.g. elves have great eyesight so they get Perception proficiency, while orcs might get their choice of Acrobatics or Athletics), but also includes things like orcish blood rage, dragonborn breath weapon, elven trance, etc., and another set of options for your starting feat. Finally, background gives you some other feature, a tool prof, perhaps a language (maybe including specialty languages like Druidic or Thieves' Cant), two skills as default, and another set of choices for your first-level feat.

This shouldn't lead to nasty combinatoric explosion. If the features don't meaningfully interact and just do basic or fluffy/ribbon-y stuff, this setup should be just fine, and gives players a lot of control over where their characters come from. Keeping the culture aspect light-touch would enable DMs to quickly invent new ones for a homebrew game, which would help with world building and increasing player participation and investment. Sounds like a major win in my book.
 


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