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MrConsideration
2015-11-02, 03:49 PM
Here's a thread to continue the discussion started here. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?431996-Let-s-Read-The-Dungeons-and-Dragons-5e-Monster-Manual!/page12)

deathbymanga
2015-11-02, 04:00 PM
so yeah, I don't see where it says that Orcs have no semblance of record keeping, or don't partake in trade or anything like that. They may go around conquering small sentlements, but I imagine that if they find themselves approaching on the mainstay of human territory, they're more likely to trade than engage in full on warfare. I mean, I thought Orcs see war as a monetary system. "We pillage because we want your stuff." that doesn't come across as irrational or stupid. It just sounds savage. But then, look at the Mongols.

Geddy2112
2015-11-02, 04:04 PM
Orcs probably don't have extensive libraries, or major holy texts in mass circulation, or even large amounts of written history.

But they sure as heck have a civilization, including tradition, history, religion, etc etc etc. It is probably passed down orally and through action from generation to generation. Sure, they are not the brightest types and probably won't be charting stars, doing calculus, building advanced things anytime soon, but they are smart enough to get around. They can speak, have a language, and communicate ideas. Even if that accounts to nothing more than "we come from a long line of mountain raiders. Here is how to swing an axe, here is how to build an axe, here is how to sharpen an axe"

JeenLeen
2015-11-02, 04:25 PM
I could definitely see an oral tradition of songs and stories. Perhaps even poetry, though it would likely be very harsh to human or elven ears. The stories may idealize war heroes and elevate ideas against the weaknesses of 'civilization', but a strong oral tradition nonetheless.

Honestly, this makes me think of how Klingon opera is a big deal in Star Trek (at least for Klingons.)

LudicSavant
2015-11-02, 04:51 PM
In real history, they seriously had debates about how this "writing" thing was ruining the new generation and how it'd turn your brains to mush since you wouldn't have to use your memory anymore.

Hawkstar
2015-11-02, 06:12 PM
Ehh.. they're only one INT greater than Great Apes. I don't see them as having much more than an animalistic 'culture' that knows how to make axes. They don't need records or trade when their imports are "Whatever you have" and their exports are "Pain. Lots of Pain". They also have a god who directly talks to them in their sleep, so they never don't know where to point their hordes or how to act.

I think they do have writing, but it's of a "Fire and forget" style (Like 90% of what happens to the mail that I end up with). Orcs are neither bright nor civilized.

sktarq
2015-11-02, 07:12 PM
I would figure that it would change from setting to setting-and possibly within groups within the setting. In forgotten realms I'd be surprized if the Mountain Orcs have much writing (beyond possibly a king list type set of Steele perhaps) but would be even more surprized if Orogs and Grey Orcs didn't have some written texts at least at some points in their history. In Ebberron the Orcs of the Shadow marches seem to have a greater chance for it than the ones in the Mror Holds but even that may be limited to the Druids. As for Greyhawk type Orcs I'd lean for Skalds only but if great stories are to be had needing Orc texts then who care?

Trickquestion
2015-11-02, 10:09 PM
Does this thread have space for discussing the civilizations (or lack there of) of other monstrous humanoids or should I make my own? Because a lot of what had been previously suggested is what I usually apply to Hobgoblins. They're capable of building fairly advanced civilizations, but they're all dependent of warfare for unification and economy, either through blunt force slave taking or more complicated war economies.

This is actually one of my favorite parts of world building, by the way: Determining how the various fodder races are different from each other and how they operate.

deathbymanga
2015-11-02, 10:57 PM
Does this thread have space for discussing the civilizations (or lack there of) of other monstrous humanoids or should I make my own? Because a lot of what had been previously suggested is what I usually apply to Hobgoblins. They're capable of building fairly advanced civilizations, but they're all dependent of warfare for unification and economy, either through blunt force slave taking or more complicated war economies.

This is actually one of my favorite parts of world building, by the way: Determining how the various fodder races are different from each other and how they operate.

Comparing thoughts between Orcs and Hobgoblins might help shed some clarity on Orcs themselves, so might be helpful.

Trickquestion
2015-11-03, 12:48 AM
Comparing thoughts between Orcs and Hobgoblins might help shed some clarity on Orcs themselves, so might be helpful.

Well, Orcs have an intelligence penalty and are chaotic evil while Hobgoblins have no such penalty and are lawful evil so at their most basic they're better at operating in groups. That can of course mean a lot of different things to all kinds of DMs, but within my homemade settings I usually bump up to the point of having their own countries. They are tyranny and ambition incarnate, and their governments engage in aggressive foreign in order to channel this ambition outward, so wealth and glory hungry nobles seek great victories to advance instead of trying to get ahead through internal conflict. Hobgoblins by nature wish to rule, control and dominate others, so as a society they have focused on bringing foreign land under control to stave off internal fights for dominance.

Orcs, by contrast, are chaotic beings that are more roving forces of destruction. Their decreased intelligence stymies their ability to create, so when a strong enough leader is able to bully them into shape they work together to steal what they need and burn the rest. They're basic creatures who don't have any idea what to do with thing beyond the food they eat to keep them alive and fresh weapons to keep spilling blood. They are the hatred born out of envy given mortal form, determined to destroy more intelligent races for creating things they can't.

RossN
2015-11-03, 09:11 AM
Hobgoblins always make me think of the Cardassians from Star Trek - overtly militaristic and antagonistic but clever and civilized. They have their own kingdoms and empires and can make treaties with humans, compete and trade and so on.

Orcs are more purely destructive.

Segev
2015-11-03, 09:30 AM
Orcs keep records mostly orally, with writing being, to them, what wizardry is to most other races. In fact, it may well be the rare orc wizard who is the "writer," or that "writer" and "wizard" are the same word in orc-tongue.

Orc history is kept in poetry, which may or may not be of any particular quality. As such, it is also subject to a great deal of "creative editing," with most tribes and clans having a version that paints them in the best lights (from their perspective).

Orcs don't do math very much or very well, preferring to memorize or eyeball a few specific uses of it. They don't tolerate being cheated, though; they can count, and they will prefer to err on the side of taking more than their due than less.

Vercingex
2015-11-03, 10:07 AM
I can't ever imagine orcs keeping books- they're heavy, and require meticulous care both to make and keep. I also find it difficult to imagine them having any sort of complicated written alphabet. I doubt that they're teaching their kids to read.

What I can imagine is orcs having some sort of written set of symbols, which can be used to mark events. They could etch them in rocks at the sites of important events, or into weapons to commemorate victories. Orc religious leaders could use symbols to, to mark holy spaces, or consecrate places for worship.

I can easily imagine orcs having an oral tradition. Orcs value strength, and boastful stories of victories over their enemies would be a common custom. What they don't have is reliable oral histories stretching back centuries. I can't imagine orcs are ever stable enough to carefully maintain their stories. So while orcs may still tell stories about why they hate dwarves, those stories have little with common with actual events, or even the version of the story told two generations ago.

Segev
2015-11-03, 10:19 AM
Perhaps they have a dense written language, like kanji (the whole-word-per-symbol Japanese writing system; I forget what the word for it in Chinese is), and a tradition of tattooing. Their wizards and bards are their record-keepers, using their superior intelligence to study and memorize the whole of the language (or their extreme focus on performing histories to do the same), and they record their personal spellbooks on their own skin.

They record the personal histories and major accomplishments of any orcs who deserve the honor on those orcs' own hides. The ownership of personal tattoos - or even more highly honored, tattoos marking you as a keeper of your tribe's history - is such that even the stupidest orc takes pains to memorize the meanings of any tattooed symbols on his own flesh, so he can recite from memory OR by reading what elements of his own history with which he is marked.

This is confirmed by orcs who share similar markings, or by going to a wizard or bard to have it read.

Orc funerary practice seems particularly barbaric to many outsiders: they ritualistically flay the skin from the body, carefully preserving the tattooed histories, narratives, and honors. Sometimes, they're parceled out to heirs, and other times, a chosen heir is given the honor to inherit the entire hide. This is also where many have gotten the impression that orcs are vicious and revolting monsters who wear the hides of their own kind as clothes: they do, but the meaning to the orcs is not one of conquest but of inheritance. Yes, they will flay the skin of defeated foes, as well. In fact, one of their more genuinely barbaric acts is to take another orc's history and honors as one's own by flaying it from them. But most are inherited, and even this cruelty is designed in part to preserve the history of the defeated.

deathbymanga
2015-11-03, 10:50 AM
Orcs keep records mostly orally, with writing being, to them, what wizardry is to most other races. In fact, it may well be the rare orc wizard who is the "writer," or that "writer" and "wizard" are the same word in orc-tongue.

Orc history is kept in poetry, which may or may not be of any particular quality. As such, it is also subject to a great deal of "creative editing," with most tribes and clans having a version that paints them in the best lights (from their perspective).

Orcs don't do math very much or very well, preferring to memorize or eyeball a few specific uses of it. They don't tolerate being cheated, though; they can count, and they will prefer to err on the side of taking more than their due than less.

I really like the idea that "wizard" == "Writer" in orkish. Probably like how any musician is called a "bard", even if they don't have magic. Like, "Your Weapon is what you are". a Wizard writes things down, so his power comes from words. Ergo, Writing == power. a Bard gets his power through music, ergo, music == power. clerics get their power through Grummsh, hence why a Cleric in the MM is called a "One-Eye of Grummsh". His identity is literally revoked and refered to as his own god, because his power is his god's power.


I can't ever imagine orcs keeping books- they're heavy, and require meticulous care both to make and keep. I also find it difficult to imagine them having any sort of complicated written alphabet. I doubt that they're teaching their kids to read.

What I can imagine is orcs having some sort of written set of symbols, which can be used to mark events. They could etch them in rocks at the sites of important events, or into weapons to commemorate victories. Orc religious leaders could use symbols to, to mark holy spaces, or consecrate places for worship.

I can easily imagine orcs having an oral tradition. Orcs value strength, and boastful stories of victories over their enemies would be a common custom. What they don't have is reliable oral histories stretching back centuries. I can't imagine orcs are ever stable enough to carefully maintain their stories. So while orcs may still tell stories about why they hate dwarves, those stories have little with common with actual events, or even the version of the story told two generations ago.

an Orc would avoid carrying something because it's heavy? What cowardly talk is this. I imagine an Orc intentionally makign his book with a stone binding to make it heavy and durable. He won't bother loosing his muscular strength just to be better with words. a good orc must be good at both.


Perhaps they have a dense written language, like kanji (the whole-word-per-symbol Japanese writing system; I forget what the word for it in Chinese is), and a tradition of tattooing. Their wizards and bards are their record-keepers, using their superior intelligence to study and memorize the whole of the language (or their extreme focus on performing histories to do the same), and they record their personal spellbooks on their own skin.

They record the personal histories and major accomplishments of any orcs who deserve the honor on those orcs' own hides. The ownership of personal tattoos - or even more highly honored, tattoos marking you as a keeper of your tribe's history - is such that even the stupidest orc takes pains to memorize the meanings of any tattooed symbols on his own flesh, so he can recite from memory OR by reading what elements of his own history with which he is marked.

This is confirmed by orcs who share similar markings, or by going to a wizard or bard to have it read.

Orc funerary practice seems particularly barbaric to many outsiders: they ritualistically flay the skin from the body, carefully preserving the tattooed histories, narratives, and honors. Sometimes, they're parceled out to heirs, and other times, a chosen heir is given the honor to inherit the entire hide. This is also where many have gotten the impression that orcs are vicious and revolting monsters who wear the hides of their own kind as clothes: they do, but the meaning to the orcs is not one of conquest but of inheritance. Yes, they will flay the skin of defeated foes, as well. In fact, one of their more genuinely barbaric acts is to take another orc's history and honors as one's own by flaying it from them. But most are inherited, and even this cruelty is designed in part to preserve the history of the defeated.

THIS! ALL OF THIS!

Nerd-o-rama
2015-11-04, 11:37 AM
I generally see Orcs as nomadic and not materially-oriented: stuff is good, but too much stuff that isn't piles of looted gold coins weighs you down and ties you to one easily-assaulted place. Orcs are going to focus very heavily on oral tradition (a perfectly valid form of record-keeping in various cultures around our world up well into the Iron Age), with perhaps as suggested an ideogrammatic form of writing that's preserved on forms that are 1) extremely easy to make without a lot of infrastructure and 2) extremely durable. So, not likely paper or papyrus, but vellum/leather, stone, or clay. Your Orc wizard isn't going to have a professionally-bound white-paper spellbook, he's going to be inking Orc runes onto tanned calfskin or baking them into tablets.

Darth Ultron
2015-11-04, 09:26 PM
Orcs probably don't have extensive libraries, or major holy texts in mass circulation, or even large amounts of written history.



You get three basic types of orcs in fantasy:

The chaotic and wild stone age barbarians
The chaotic thugs living on the edge of others civilizations
The civilized ones

The barbarians would have little need or use for writings or books or libraries....but the others do.

The thug orcs need a basic understanding of writing and math and such to even live on the edge of a civilization. For example, they need to know how to count to buy and sell things with gold coins. An orc would never get by with just ''me gotz a sack of shinny yellowz round-things'' and needs to have a concept of buying things beyond ''me bash head and take!''. And orc thugs like extortionists and money lenders need simple ways to keep track of things. And sure they could use a primitive rune system....but written words work much better.

Maybe only 20% of all orcs will ever learn to read and use written words with any real proficiency. But how does that really compare to other fantasy races? You might say evles are at 100%, but what about other races? How high is the human rate? It's not 100% to be sure. Before say 1800, the vast bulk of humanity did not read or use written words anything like we do today. Your average person in say 1770 would only have a grade school reading level. And going back to when there was no printing presses, say 1300, it gets even less.

Hawkstar
2015-11-04, 09:38 PM
You don't need to be literate to be numerate, as human history clearly demonstrates.

goto124
2015-11-04, 10:14 PM
Beads on a string...

Closet_Skeleton
2015-11-05, 07:26 AM
Settled Orcs would probably create sophisticated tributary economies like the ancient Assyrians. Orcish empires would probably consist of well fortified strongholds where the Orcs lived and extracted tribute from people of other races who would fulfil all the non military/police jobs. Such empires would be very prone to collapsing every time the leader died.

Another possibility is a meso-american style situation where Orcish city states are constantly fighting pre-arranged battles to extract tribute and determine who was the dominant city.

Orcish record-keepers would probably be slaves of other races who could write fine. Remember that no fantasy would with multiple humanoid species is going to have strict one race societies. Such slaves might have the actual control over the Orcish monetary system and rise to become powers behind the throne.

Normadic Orcs would probably be heavily involved in long distance trade, they'd just refer to the goods they pick up as loot and tribute and do lots of raiding. They'd probably also be trading in slaves and therefore have a lot of non-orcs in their caravans.

Cikomyr
2015-11-05, 08:20 AM
I think there is probably some room in there also for Genetic Memory. Akin to the way the Neanderthals were depicted in Clan of the Cave Bear.

Basic stuffs, like rituals, tribe wisdoms, societal structure, etc.. Are passed on from generation to generation. Which would explain why a group of orphaned orc children would eventually grow to become a relatively normal tribe.

Hawkstar
2015-11-05, 08:42 AM
Gruumsh himself talks to his kids.

deathbymanga
2015-11-05, 10:27 AM
Settled Orcs would probably create sophisticated tributary economies like the ancient Assyrians. Orcish empires would probably consist of well fortified strongholds where the Orcs lived and extracted tribute from people of other races who would fulfil all the non military/police jobs. Such empires would be very prone to collapsing every time the leader died.

Another possibility is a meso-american style situation where Orcish city states are constantly fighting pre-arranged battles to extract tribute and determine who was the dominant city.

Orcish record-keepers would probably be slaves of other races who could write fine. Remember that no fantasy would with multiple humanoid species is going to have strict one race societies. Such slaves might have the actual control over the Orcish monetary system and rise to become powers behind the throne.

Normadic Orcs would probably be heavily involved in long distance trade, they'd just refer to the goods they pick up as loot and tribute and do lots of raiding. They'd probably also be trading in slaves and therefore have a lot of non-orcs in their caravans.

Orc are actually very inclusive in their hordes. They'll accept Hobgoblins, Half Orcs, and Trolls and even work for Giants

Wardog
2015-11-05, 05:34 PM
Someone in the other thread said that they couldn't imagine an Orc ruling class ruling class, collecting taxes, issuing licenses, hiring workers and being lawyers.

Those aren't the jobs of the ruling class. Those are the jobs of the administrative class - which historically could have been composed of priests, eunuchs, slaves, civil servants, etc.

Someone else said that administrators would be unlikely to want to work for orcish lords, which I'd say is generally true, but:
A) Most orc warlords may be too dumb/violent to appreciate good admin. That's fine. Most orc warlords don't manage to rule long-term over the cities the conquer. But a minority of smarter warlords can still recognise that employing some even smarter people to run the admin for them is a good idea.
B) As mentioned, some societies used slaves for admin. It doesn't matter if they don't want to do it - they have no choice.
C) Some of the admin in a conquered city may realise that doing what the new rulers want is in their best interest. Maybe they chose to help the orcs run the city because it means the orcs are less likely to destroy it. Maybe the see it as an opportunity - if they can manage the tax collection, they can cream off some for themselves. Maybe they think they can outwit and manipulate the orcs - the orcs think they rule and the admin class are their slaves, while the admin think they are the true power and the orc "rulers" have essentially been turned into their enforcers.
D) The orcs themselves may have a priestly class that also handles admin. This may embody everything in (C) as well.

deathbymanga
2015-11-06, 11:14 AM
D) The orcs themselves may have a priestly class that also handles admin. This may embody everything in (C) as well.

The only Orc god I know of is Grummsh, would there be other more logical and Lawful-aligned Orc gods who care about taxation and regulation?

Segev
2015-11-06, 11:36 AM
The Dothraki Horselords of the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka "Game of Thrones") wouldn't be a bad model for orcish hordes. Their empire is built on being dangerous and tough, but highly nomadic. They go on circuits of cities of civilized people, and a tribute is prepared to bribe them not to raid. That would be one way an orc empire could be maintained, with the orcs being nomadic enforcers, their warlord-kings living lavishly in mobile tent-cities (or even having palaces in multiple tributary cities), and simply traveling from city to city in a circuit, extracting tribute in the form of being housed. This is, in some ways, a more beneficial thing for their tributary states, as well: the entire conquering army visits regularly, which dissuades other conquerors. Attacking an outlying tributary state doesn't get a detachment of the horde in response; the whole horde is coming.




An orc civilization in one campaign I ran was very gender-divided. Women owned land and ran cities, even farmed and managed farming slaves. Orc males, once they passed a certain age, would leave their mothers to join their fathers (or father-figures) in a war-band. Each city had multiple warbands which passed through, and each warband had a series of cities they regularly visited. Politeness and scheduling tried to keep the overlap to a minimum, but when that was not avoided, Olympics-style contests and competitions, as well as ritualized combat tournaments, ensued as the warbands who called the city "home" competed.

Orc women had multiple husbands, generally only one to a warband, and it was not uncommon for a matron to "adopt" a young, new member of a warband as a husband if she didn't have one in that band. Orc men have, typically, a wife in every city, as well. Again, generally, there's little to no overlap; at any given point in time, these relationships appear monogamous. Just serially and cyclically so.

Orc warbands both helped out with heavy labor when they visited their "home" cities, as well as providing military support in case of hostile raids. Orc warbands also raid cities that are NOT their "home" cities (though many try to avoid attacking home cities of "brother" bands - that is, cities which belong to warbands with whom they share a home city - this is not an ironclad rule). And, of course, they raid outside of their territory and, on their nomadic treks, extract tribute from anybody who happens to be travelling through without a warband of their own for protection. Or from other warbands, if they can get away with it.

They bring the loot from these home with them to the next city on their circuit (though some may parcel out loot across multiple cities, saving gifts for each wife). Wives, of course, provide homes for their serial and cyclic husbands to return to. And may have slightly different relationship dynamics with each. Children primarily belong to their mothers, though it's not uncommon to have a pretty good idea of which of their mother's husbands are the father. Usually, it is one of their mother's husbands' warbands which orc boys join, and they'll oft be treated as if that husband were their father when they do so, whether or not he's the biological father.

Darth Ultron
2015-11-07, 12:35 PM
Someone in the other thread said that they couldn't imagine an Orc ruling class ruling class, collecting taxes, issuing licenses, hiring workers and being lawyers.



I can imagine those things. But not in the boring human view of things.

Orc Tax Collectors Are big thugs. They come to get your taxes with a threat. You can fight him off, and the better fight up put up, the less you pay. This is all brutal, violent and orc-like.

Orc Licenses This is more of a fight too. You need to put up a fight to ''win'' permission to do something.

Hiring Workers Well, first off orcs might very well have slaves. And if they don't, there will always be ''weaker worker orcs''.

Lawyers More combat! A trial is more like an arena fight.

Envyus
2015-11-19, 12:52 AM
The only Orc god I know of is Grummsh, would there be other more logical and Lawful-aligned Orc gods who care about taxation and regulation?


The Orc gods are.

Gruumsh: The leader of the Orc Pantheon. No need for description most know him.

Bahgtru: The rather stupid Orc god of pure physical strength who scorns both weapons and magic alike. Notable for respecting any god or pantheon that was strong even the Dwarves. But hating any deity of deception

Ilneval: The Orc god of War. A cunning war leader inspiring great loyalty in his followers, he is very diligent in planning his strategies for victory. He is considered the patron of orc crossbreeds and his followers are the ones responsible for getting the Orc Hordes organized and ready for war. His role in Orc society's religion is second only to Gruumsh.

Luthic: The orc deity of caves fertility, medicine, females and servitude. She is the wife of Gruumsh and mother of Bahgtru. Her symbol is an orcish rune meaning "home." Luthic embodies the orcish feminine ideal, subordinate to male orcs but still protecting the cohesion of orcish society. Luthic is described as a matronly orc with very long claws. She fights bare-handed with her claws because only the males of the community are allowed to wield a weapon. She may also use powerful spells, as such arts are not considered manly in orcish culture.

Shargaas:: The orc deity of darkness, night, stealth, thieves, and the undead. He is also the god of fear of the unknown.

Yurtrus: The Orc god of death and disease, and the fear of death and it's sources. Where Shargaas symbolizes the fear of what lurks in the bowels of the earth, Yurtrus embodies the constant threat of death and plagues that the orcs live with every day. The Lord of the Maggots does not speak or communicate, but sometimes it is receptive to the prayers and sacrifices to save an individual or a tribe from the ravages of disease. He is depicted as an orc whose body, except his hands, are covered with sores.

Rob Roy
2015-11-19, 01:52 AM
In the other thread someone mentioned that they didn't think a large city could be administered without record keeping - and I assume by record keeping he meant writing, because Orc are illiterate savages that don't have no time for no book learnin'. I'd like to posit Teotihuacan a counterexample - they didn't have actual writing, but through presumably oral traditions they were able to construct a city so bountiful and massive it would be remembered for generations as the birthplace of the gods.

Moving forward, the Aztec's also had a fairly interesting concept that I think could be ported over into an orc/orc ruled civilization fairly easily: the flower wars. The idea was every couple of years you and your neighbor would engage in ritualistic warfare against each other to gather slaves and a little plunder. At the end of the day, no harm, no foul - unless someone crossed a line and it turned into a real war.

My understanding of the Mongols in Russia is that they never actually ruled the Rus - they just rolled in every now and then demanded tribute. A little feudal, but it might be a good model of an orc dominated society.

Going off topic a bit, but we can look at orcs in other fantasy:

GURPS BANESTORM effectively explains their barbarism as a result of two big ideas going around: the universe is out to get them, and owning stuff is good (and if you destroy it, it can never be taken from you and is yours forever).

I'm not too familiar with Tolkien, but its my understanding that Middle-Earth's orcs had an intuitive sense for machines. They might be cowardly to fault, and more bloodthirsty than Dracula going east, but they are really good at finding practical solutions to cracking a city's walls that don't involve throwing bodies at it until you can climb over. Their big problem seems to be cultural.

In the Elder Scrolls, the orcs were a warrior caste of high elves until their god was eaten by a dark elf god. This event moved all their ugly on the inside onto the outside, and from that moment on they were shunned and hated by basically everyone. Some bands will raid others, as most people did, but just as often orcs were hunted for sport by neighboring humans as if they were lions or wolves. Every now and then a charismatic fellow will happen along and build a city, but it will always get burned to the ground by their more settle neighbors. Circumstance might also prevent orcs from being able to rule in your setting.

*****

The way I see it, orcs don't have to be stupid to be as they're depicted in fantasy. They just have to value different things. Probably not honor (a pragmatic man would say winning a fight is proof enough that you deserved to win). They see a settled life as a worse life - one filled with disease and back breaking labor and malnutrition. Better is the life where you can go where you want, take what you please. To fight, conquer, loot, pillage, and then go to the next town over and rinse and repeat. Like Vikings without a Norway, Conquistadors without a Spain. Pirates without a Tortuga. Settled cultures are likely to eventually tech up to the point where the orc lifestyle is impractical - in fact, since most fantasy shows them on the fringes of civilizations they likely already have. But every now and then, when the moon is right and and the gods smile upon them, they get to have one of their last hurrahs and remind the world of a time when every man woman and child lived in fear of an orc raiding party descending upon their city like a pack of lions craving the gazelle. Hampered by culture, and having ancestors that created circumstances causing no one to trust them, these bloody engagements are all they have. It will eventually end in their destruction, but that day is a long way off.

EDIT
Joe informs me that the Aztecs did, in fact, develop, writing, and Google backs up his claim. Which is pretty cool, since I had been under the impression nahuatl had only been recorded in latin characters. I've edited the post to reflect this.

JoeJ
2015-11-19, 02:38 AM
In the other thread someone mentioned that they didn't think a large city could be administered without record keeping - and I assume by record keeping he meant writing, because Orc are illiterate savages that don't have no time for no book learnin'. I'd like to posit Tenochitlan as a counterexample - they didn't have actual writing, but through oral traditions they managed to run what was at the time one of the largest cities on Earth and the administrative center of the then largest North American state.

The Aztecs actually did have writing. It was ideographic, so closer in concept to hieroglyphics than to an alphabet, but it is definitely a written language.

If you go back a little further in time, however, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that writing was used at Teotihuacan, even though neighboring peoples had it. Why they didn't adopt something that everyone around them clearly found useful is a mystery.

FatR
2015-11-20, 11:28 AM
I strongly prefer orcs to have no civilization or culture to speak of.

Either their entire material culture and toolmaking is hardwired into them on biological level, so they will instinctively know enough about crafting weapons to make them a credible threat (see: Warhammer, and for that matter LotR orcs seem to be a bit like this as well).

Or their intelligence is just sufficiently above animal intelligence to avoid simple traps and use looted weapons, but their mindset and interests are still almost completely animalistics. In this situation there are probably no great orc hordes, just packs of two-legged predators constantly testing vigilance of the civilization's defenders.

I've never seen the point of making orcs merely a bunch of barbarians on perpetual warpath. And then perhaps arbitrarily marking them as worse and eviler than your average barbarians. Inclusion of non-human races should hopefully serve some point in your world design. The obvious point of orcs is being an existential threat to humanity and allied races - not a methodical, scheming enemy, driven by cold calculation or ideology, but a savage and bestial one, which cannot be reasoned with or bargained with, even from a position of overwhelming strength. An individual orc can be rehabilitated, as long as it is taken from the normal orc environment, but on the whole they won't ever learn about the benefits of peaceful coexistence (or perils of angering you) because their capacity for learning is not much higher than that of wolves.

JoeJ
2015-11-20, 04:58 PM
I really like the idea of basing orcs on the Wendol from The 13th Warrior. They have no writing, but storytelling is probably very important in their culture. They raid settlements and outlying farms, striking out of the darkness and mist and leaving neither survivors nor bodies, just a lot of blood. And PCs arriving to help will never be told, "we're being attacked by orcs." They'll be told, "something comes in the night and takes people away."

nedz
2015-11-20, 06:33 PM
A lot of Record-Keeping is about numbers, which require calculations.

If you ever wondered why they keep all those heads on sticks around the place ?

That's because they make for a primitive abacus.

FatR
2015-11-21, 01:48 AM
Comparing thoughts between Orcs and Hobgoblins might help shed some clarity on Orcs themselves, so might be helpful.

And speaking of that.

I envision goblinoids, including hobgoblins as an entirely different sort of threat than orcs. Orcs represent the terror of nocturnal predators suddenly getting just sufficiently smart, social and tough to hunt humans despite fire, and weapons, and walls; and that of civilization being destroyed and consumed by animalistic, cannibalistic brutes. Goblinoids represent the terror of being confronted with a relentless, soulless war machine, intent on crushing you simply because you are in the way and living on the same world will eventually place you in its way.

Goblinoids in my games grew gradually more inhuman and almost unnatural as my setting(s) evolved and I paid more attention to my stock foes. Their reproductive cycle has definite ant vibes, with the sex ratio overwhelmingly skewed towards females, with most of those being drones (your average goblinoid you are likely to face in an encounter) and some percentage - based on a settlement's overall situation - turning into near-mindless breeders. Goblinoids consider humanoid creatures constructed in the... more traditional way, that is, every other race, repulsive and irrational, never mind ugly. They believe that coexistence is simply not possible, particularly because their own species are obviously superior and more fit, so therefore even irrational creatures like humans must realize that the only way to stop goblinoids from inheriting the world is to wipe them out from existence, or at least keep them firmly under human heel, bottled in remote and inhospitable locations. So there can be only war. Goblinoids excel at war, because they are industrious, inventive, disciplined and prolific. They have a fairly developed civilization of course, with high rates of literacy and constant development of new mechanisms, particularly mechanisms of destruction (although because of their heavy utilitarian bent their culture is rather pitiful - their only highly developed art is decorating their weapons, armor and war machines, which is socially accepted because making those more impressive and frightening can be seen as serving a pragmatic purpose). Their main problem is making too many enemies too fast and having no real friends, while humans can and do ally elves, dwarves, halflings and whatever, even if grudgingly.