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

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Consider dragons. Long before D&D, in the West, dragons where long considered evil incarnate. Then, as time went on, they became more nuanced. By the 1930s Smaug is still evil, but he has a personality, including a sense of humour. He isn't just evil. Then, by the 1960s/70s we see a number of revisionist novels, where the dragons are either not all bad, or the dragons are good and the knights that kill them are evil. So, by the time D&D comes out, it has both good and evil dragons.

I would say that any villain that lasts for any length of time naturally becomes more nuanced, or becomes revaluated. Because you can just keep telling the same old story, but there are a limited number of different directions you can take a new story. The only villains that stay monolithically evil are the ones that only appear in one episode.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Consider dragons. Long before D&D, in the West, dragons where long considered evil incarnate. Then, as time went on, they became more nuanced. By the 1930s Smaug is still evil, but he has a personality, including a sense of humour. He isn't just evil. Then, by the 1960s/70s we see a number of revisionist novels, where the dragons are either not all bad, or the dragons are good and the knights that kill them are evil. So, by the time D&D comes out, it has both good and evil dragons.

I would say that any villain that lasts for any length of time naturally becomes more nuanced, or becomes revaluated. Because you can just keep telling the same old story, but there are a limited number of different directions you can take a new story. The only villains that stay monolithically evil are the ones that only appear in one episode.
All fiction is subject to constant re-evaluation, and that re-evaluation runs in both directions - some villains become more nuanced, while others have their nuance called into question (see the D&D doesn’t need evil thread, where folks are arguing about whether Darth Vader’s face turn at the end of Jedi was enough to redeem him).
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
It also necessarily means orcs don’t have free will. Which… is certainly a route you could go down, but I don’t think it’s consistent with the way orcs have historically been portrayed in D&D. They certainly seem to think and make decisions like free-willed beings. I think a portrayal of orcs that was actually consistent with this notion would have them behaving much more deterministically. Like robots.
Quoting myself here to follow-up, because it occurs to me that we typically label entities that don’t have free will (like beasts and constructs) Unaligned rather than evil. So, I would say even if you go down this route, it’s questionable to call orcs always evil.
 

Scribe

Hero
Quoting myself here to follow-up, because it occurs to me that we typically label entities that don’t have free will (like beasts and constructs) Unaligned rather than evil. So, I would say even if you go down this route, it’s questionable to call orcs always evil.
Yep.

The more this topic tumbles around, the more sure I am that it's all connected across how the game wishes to address Gods, and Alignment, and the relationship between the 3.

I may kick together a few of these ideas on this and see what folks have to say but I keep (amusingly for me as an atheist) giving the side eye to Gods, thinking "this is starting to look like your fault" across the board for all 3 issues of Evil (big and little e) race or beings, Gods, and Alignment.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I may kick together a few of these ideas on this and see what folks have to say but I keep (amusingly for me as an atheist) giving the side eye to Gods, thinking "this is starting to look like your fault" across the board for all 3 issues of Evil (big and little e) race or beings, Gods, and Alignment.
This is the direction my most recent campaign has started to take, without my having originally planning it so. As the players reacted to the world and came up with theories of what was going on, I kept hearing distrust of the gods, so I decided to follow their instinct and make many of the gods petty, manipulative, and, most importantly, killable.
 

Tinker-TDC

Explorer
It's weird because different settings have different gods but for creatures with their specific god written into the lore there's a disconnect there. I think the solution may be (like with drow) adding more gods.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yep.

The more this topic tumbles around, the more sure I am that it's all connected across how the game wishes to address Gods, and Alignment, and the relationship between the 3.

I may kick together a few of these ideas on this and see what folks have to say but I keep (amusingly for me as an atheist) giving the side eye to Gods, thinking "this is starting to look like your fault" across the board for all 3 issues of Evil (big and little e) race or beings, Gods, and Alignment.
Could it truly be? Is something new and productive actually going to come out of one of these threads? 🤩
 

Players want to feel that they are right.

That requires their adversaries - particularly the ones they apply lethal force to - to be wrong.

A simple game structure to do that is to have two opposing sides and make one "right" and the other "wrong" with clear, indisputable and perceived methods of determining it. ie, something you see before initiative is rolled.

This is extremely important to make the murder simulator work as intended. That's why "X is always evil, Y is always good" is an important baseline.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
This is extremely important to make the murder simulator work as intended. That's why "X is always evil, Y is always good" is an important baseline.
Could you replace that with "X wants this, but Y wants that"?

For example, the characters come from the Kingdoms of Brightstar, which want to keep their borders safe from outsiders. The orcs they are fighting come from outside the border, and want to take resources from the kingdom. That should be enough justification for the characters to do what they're going to do, without the need to label anything as "always evil."
 

Remathilis

Legend
I really disagree with this. Eberron is not great because it's different. Eberron is great because it has good ideas in it. D&D has been getting closer and closer to Eberron over the years (alignment, less racial definitions and more cultural definitions...) and I think it's great!
Ravenloft has good ideas in it. Dark Sun has good ideas in it. I don't want either to touch the core D&D experience with a 10 foot pole. I want them to be their own unique flavor of D&D. I don't want Eberron's unique takes on things to become core any more than I want Dark Sun's take on magic or Dragonlance's take on gnomes of Ravenloft's take on fear mechanics. YMMV.

Even as someone who thing D&D is best served buffet style with lots of options to mix and match, I don't want Eberron's unique ideas to get whittled down to warforged and magi-tech.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Oh no no no. I step away for the day and come home to find a new orcs/evil thread #324 has been started and is going exactly the same way the previous 323 did, all the same people saying the same things they always say, with an actual avalanche of post reports (because of course there is). There’s a reason we have closed every orcs/evil thread. Please stop posting them.
 

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