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D&D General Why are "ugly evil orcs" so unpopular?

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Bird Of Play

Explorer
Isn't it interesting to notice how, in the course of the years and in each further D&D edition, the pop culture definition of orcs has changed so much?

Orcs over time became less and less evil, more and more intelligent, more and more goodlooking. Essentially, they now are sexy greenskinned bodybuilders with a noble warrior nature. Sometimes, I feel I'm the only one who doesn't like this rewriting of orcs as goodlooking and smart and noble.
They went from a monster archetype to a "death by snusnu archetype". They're the archetype of the buff tough individual just like elves are the archetype of the lithe elegant individual.

I'd like to hear your comments and opinions on this!

The orcs I like are like this:

cryptcreeper-orc-warrior-1-b06f0afe-mqlo.jpeg



You want something more goodlooking? Half-orcs can look like the uruk-hai of LOTR. In fact, it's a good solution for someone who wants to play an halforc while not looking like a full monster.




But you know what I absolutely draw the line at? This kind of stuff:

weijia-yu-3.jpg
 

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Mordhau

Explorer
Because they're boring?

I mean there's always been the political objections too. But I think a key problem with Orcs has always been the fact that they just aren't alien enough to be really scary. And you want the horrible monster that's an existential threat to be at least a bit scary. Look at the White Walkers in Game of Thrones. They kind of fulfill the original function of Orcs but they're scarier.

And because they're too human to be scary, people will want to drift them into something playable. In D&D they're was never really a clear reason why they're evil. In Lord of the Rings they are servants of evil, and in the derivative fat fantasy of the 80s and 90s something similar was usually the case (See Trollocs in Whee of Time), but in D&D they were always just evil because they were, which clearly, once people started to think about worlds beyond the dungeon, started to become disatisfying.
 
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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Because today the core races include lizards, cats, dragon people and actual Spawn of Asmodeus, in a world where the local Inn keeper is a half-demon with horns and your best friend has scales and breaths fire, its hard to justify Orcs being inherently evil and monstrous.

But yeah my first Orcs were the piggish brutes and thats how I prefer them, although having them be stand-ins for Neanderthals is okay too. The Pretty Orcs of Warcraft are my least favourite

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In addition to all the great reasons mordechai mentioned worf from star trek TNG and world of warcraft along with eberron where orcs are different have no small impact on it. The noble savage trope is something that can be fun and interesting to explore and has been proven on depth as a result of those things. The always evil d&d orc by comparison tends to be quite a bit more bland & uninteresting as red shirt number 42. The fact that there are so many awkward racial stereotypes attached to those always evil orcs to boot gives people incentive to actively look for other alternatives that aren't present with other less common always evil races like certain giants & such
 
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Lyxen

Great Old One
But I think a key problem with Orcs has always been the fact that they just aren't alien enough to be really scary.

You don't need to be alien to be scary. powerful pillaging hordes are perfectly fine.

And you want the horrible monster that's an existential threat to be at least a bit scary.

Not all threats need to be existential, physical is perfectly fine as well.

In D&D they're was never really a clear reason why they're evil.

Initially, they were Chaotic and not Evil: "They have bad tempers and do not like other living things; they will often kill something for their own amusement... The orcs are satisfied by being allowed to kill and burn as much as they want."

They became Lawful Evil in AD&D: "Orcs are cruel and hate living things in general, but they particularly hate elves and will always attack them in preference to other creatures. They take slaves for work, food, and entertainment (torture, etc.) but not elves whom they kill immediately."

But let's face it, they were evil at start because they were like LotR, with Sauron replaced by evil orc gods. And this has been perpetuated even down to 5e: "The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc gods, and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god’s influence.)"
 

I blame World of Warcraft.
Warcraft 3 was when orcs went good, not WoW.

But yeah, ultimately the ugly, evil orcs just, aren't interesting. Other fictional universes did them better, whereas D&D orcs had barely anything to them making them evil, let alone making them interesting. D&D orcs were just always boring compared to other universes, so other universe's interpretations overtook them.

Also half orcs being a race as compared to just, adding orcs in the first place
 

You don't need to be alien to be scary. powerful pillaging hordes are perfectly fine.



Not all threats need to be existential, physical is perfectly fine as well.



Initially, they were Chaotic and not Evil: "They have bad tempers and do not like other living things; they will often kill something for their own amusement... The orcs are satisfied by being allowed to kill and burn as much as they want."

They became Lawful Evil in AD&D: "Orcs are cruel and hate living things in general, but they particularly hate elves and will always attack them in preference to other creatures. They take slaves for work, food, and entertainment (torture, etc.) but not elves whom they kill immediately."

But let's face it, they were evil at start because they were like LotR, with Sauron replaced by evil orc gods. And this has been perpetuated even down to 5e: "The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc gods, and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god’s influence.)"
okay, you have a point but why orcs for that? humans work equally well thus you got to make orcs interesting but utterly evil which does not really work.
 

John R Davis

Adventurer
Like any monster, they can be made interesting. I really dislike PCs being monster races. But that's just my opinion and is therefore is correct for me.

Just as your opinion is for you!
 

King Babar

God Learner
If you begin with the assumption that orcs are predominantly chaotic and/or evil then you're creatively boxed in, and so you either embrace this simplicity (and its unfortunate implications) or revamp them into something distinctly different. This is what Warcraft did with their Green and Buff Noble Savages, and while the results are not to my taste, I can at least appreciate the effort.

My own dissatisfaction with D&D orcs is why I draw more inspiration from the Uz of Glorantha for my own homebrew campaigns. The Uz are basically orcs in terms of their creative niche, but their culture and history is substantially more interesting, at least in my humble opinion.

I like orcs as antagonists, but not as monsters. I think the distinction is important.
 

Mordhau

Explorer
Warcraft 3 was when orcs went good, not WoW.

But yeah, ultimately the ugly, evil orcs just, aren't interesting. Other fictional universes did them better, whereas D&D orcs had barely anything to them making them evil, let alone making them interesting. D&D orcs were just always boring compared to other universes, so other universe's interpretations overtook them.

Also half orcs being a race as compared to just, adding orcs in the first place
It's much older than that. There were some 2e products that had non evil humanoids and of course there was also Shadowrun and Earthdawn.

And I'm sure it was happening in home games long before that.

We definitely had non-evil Orcs long before World of Warcraft.
 
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Mordhau

Explorer
Initially, they were Chaotic and not Evil: "They have bad tempers and do not like other living things; they will often kill something for their own amusement... The orcs are satisfied by being allowed to kill and burn as much as they want."
I'm confused. Orcs were not evil but chaotic?...And then follows a quote which describes them as killing things for their own amusement. Is that not evil?

I mean initailly there was no evil alignment, so they couldn't be labelled evil. But that seems a really pedantic and silly way of splitting airs.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Because it is cool to tell others evil isn't evil, and you must play my way or it is badwrongfun and I will bury you on a ton of documentation which has nothing to do with the game setting but lots to do with my real life person views.
IMC Orcs are CE unless they are special. In simpler terms. FREE GULIT FREE XP.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
The matter is unsurprisingly simple.

Orcs began as Fodder Enemies. No more considered in their mindset or rationale than your average "Enemy Soldier" in a WW2 period piece. They exist on the other end of a blade and no more. They're ugly because they're evil and they're evil because they're ugly because it's the good old Disney Principle of Morality. If you're ugly you're a terrible person if you're pretty you're a good one. Wash your hands and kill some more terrible automatically evil people.

But there's two big flaws with that.

1) Social Issues. Yeah, I get it. Lots of people don't care or don't wanna hear it, but it's true and there's a lot of ugliness beyond how orcs look involved.
2) They're in a ROLEPLAYING GAME where people play characters that aren't exclusively murderhobos.

At -some- point, someone was by definition going to start talking to the Orcs. And the instant that happened explanations were needed. DMs would come up with their own specific reasoning, TSR tried to invent some, and players came up with their own headcanons. And the more in depth these explorations went the more interesting orcs became until they were more than just ugly fodder for swords and fireballs.

They got Enemy Mine'd.

And then players wanted to -play- them. Worf, Son of Mogh is an archetypal hero, after all. But because of the aforementioned Disney Principle players wanted to play characters who didn't look like the south end of a northbound mule. So Half-Orcs were created. Initially as the children of victims of sexual assault, but that got examined over time because, again, people are people.

Orcs, in turn, were further softened around the edges by people creating interesting stories about why they did what they did. And Disney Principle being what it is, they became less and less monstrous.

Some people prefer the origin of orcs. The ugly warmongering monsters with no more thought given to their motivations than "Orc Smash". And that's not badwrongfun or anything... But it is going to continue to be a vanishing minority as WotC continues putting out more information about monstrous creatures that soften their edges and explores them more deeply. And in time, that perspective is gonna hold a lot of very negative connotations. To some measure it already does.

Just be prepared to sit on a specific side of history when the time comes.
 

Totally evil humanoids are very boring as antagonists or enemies. It is better with the other has got some pieces of honor or the potential anti-villains. The klingons from Star Trek are cool because they had got their own shades of gray when they were yet the bad guys. There are too many rip-off of Putty Patrollers (Rita Repulsa's clay minions).

Some players like to be PCs from evil races, like their own version of little-ugly-duckling and from-zero-to-hero. If they are labeled like the "monsters" but later they becomes the heroes who save the realm (and then they get the respect by the rest of the people) then the sactictaction is higher.

Some DMs would rather use no-totally evil humanoids to allow a door for diplomatic solutions and avoiding the violence.

Gnolls are pure evil, rotten to the core, but they aren't interesting as monster PCs.

And I can agree the Warcraft franchise has been a great influence about this.
 

It's much older than that. There were some 2e products that had non evil humanoids and of course there was also Shadowrun and Earthdawn.

And I'm sure it was happening in home games long before that.

We definitely had non-evil Orcs long before World of Warcraft.
2e AD&D certainly was where orcs and other 'humanoids' got a lot of* the vague confluence with IRL tribal peoples and some of the other problematic elements, as The Complete Book of Humanoids gave them a bunch of quasi-First Peoples and Nature Protector tropes that were real head-scratchers if one wanted to keep them as the faceless enemies of the PCs (and yes, it was an alternate take in an optional accessory book, but it was a red/brown-covered book in the Complete series alongside the other 'optional' books that everyone seemed to use at least parts of at the time). Shadowrun is another great example -- not only are the orc/troll races playable, but they get positive coding.
*which is not to say that it was completely absent before.

At -some- point, someone was by definition going to start talking to the Orcs. And the instant that happened explanations were needed. DMs would come up with their own specific reasoning, TSR tried to invent some, and players came up with their own headcanons. And the more in depth these explorations went the more interesting orcs became until they were more than just ugly fodder for swords and fireballs.

They got Enemy Mine'd.
BitD when there was the reaction table and fighting everything you ran into was impractical*, that would almost have to happen by accident. At some point you are going to negotiate with the enemy. It can't always be 'here's 50gp not to attack us while we go raid those guys over there,' so you end up working with them in some way, and then they need motivations and all of a sudden they are interesting creatures. End up with one as a henchmen (much less play one) and people will start reinterpreting them.
*Exception: I have had plenty of people over the years say something like "we never used the reaction table or morale rules or anything, we just fought everything we ran into to the death" and I have no idea how that worked for them, unless they wildly modified the game rules.

You don't need to be alien to be scary. powerful pillaging hordes are perfectly fine.
Not all threats need to be existential, physical is perfectly fine as well.
The fundamental problem for this is that the people to whom you need to make these arguments are not present. People in-thread are doing their best to explain what they think caused the situation, but it is thousands of people (99.9% of whom do not bother with online forums) that are driving the trends. We don't get a vote (excepting our own drop-in-the-bucket contribution to the gaming population as a whole) in this.
But let's face it, they were evil at start because they were like LotR, with Sauron replaced by evil orc gods. And this has been perpetuated even down to 5e: "The evil deities who created other races, though, made those races to serve them. Those races have strong inborn tendencies that match the nature of their gods. Most orcs share the violent, savage nature of the orc gods, and are thus inclined toward evil. Even if an orc chooses a good alignment, it struggles against its innate tendencies for its entire life. (Even half-orcs feel the lingering pull of the orc god’s influence.)"
It seems clear to me that (while they were writing the core books in ~2013) the designers really thought that they were designing a game to bring back the oD&D and AD&D players, as much or more than bring in new players. Regardless, I think that flavoring got ignored by many-to-most players in 5e almost as quickly as it was in AD&D. If you make a game where to negotiate with your enemies is an integral part of the gameplay loop and you get to play as a half-breed version of them, you shouldn't be surprised if people move away from treating them as un-nuanced stock enemies (especially when there are mindless undead, animal intelligence man-eaters, and actual demons and devils in the same book for that purpose).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
For a long time (with exceptions here and there) orcs represented the evil, ugly side of humanity. Because deep down we want ugly behavior to be represented as ugly visuals, orcs were ugly. After all, we are drawn to beauty things and we don't want to be attracted to evil so therefore they have to be ugly.

Then at some point for whatever reason "orcs are people too" is fast becoming the standard rallying cry for at least a vocal minority. Anyone who disagrees is somehow prejudiced if orcs are depicted negatively (including imagery) because ... wait for it ... orcs are people too.

Maybe in part because deep down people recognize that we all have some ugly evilness inside?

If you accept the premise, that orcs are not just monsters (or that deep down we are all potentially monstrous), then depictions of them become associated to real world people, although which real world group they supposedly represent has changed over time.

I don't have a problem with any specific depiction of orcs that is appropriate and fitting to the campaign setting, including evil ugly obviously not human orcs. But that's an opinion that will get this thread shut down. Because orcs are people too. Or maybe they're just us.
 

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