New Hampshire Staff
The Fall of Gadure
“Gather ‘round, pups. It is time for you to learn the history of our people, and why we stand so firmly against the Mists. Many, many generations ago, so far back we aren’t sure how long, the world didn’t used to be like this. The Mists were something that were far away, and the space between them was larger than you can imagine. During that time all the Orcs were part of one Band, and lived in a fortress so big it could hold every person in Videa, and still have room for more. No one had a city that was greater, or a people that were stronger. When the Mists did start to swallow the land, the other races panicked, but not the Orcs. While the other races ran from their homes, our wisest and most clever shamans enchanted our walls to keep the Mists out. While the other races got eaten by the monsters that live in the Mists, our bravest and strongest warriors fought them back. And while other races shut themselves away to die alone, we opened our doors to those in need. People from all over fled to our fortress for protection, and we took them in until the Mists completely surrounded us. The people who came to us were scared and timid. Many thought the world was coming to an end, but we Orcs swore on our honor that we would protect them in our fortress, and that inside Gadure they were safe. For years we protected our home, and those we had managed to save inside it. We beat back every beast that tried to get inside, and stopped every monster that tried to break our walls, but more than just monsters live in the Mists.”
“The Humans don’t believe us. They don’t pass down the stories of Gadure like we do, but there is something more than the monsters that live in the Mists. Something smart. We kept Gadure safe for years, fighting back the stupid beasts that live in the Mists, but while we did that something else was quietly attacking us. There was no big battle, no sign there was even a fight going on, just small things. Orcs patrolling the walls would go missing but not resurrect. Gates that should have remained sealed would be found open where monsters somehow got inside without being seen. People would be found dead without any signs of monsters, and not have any memory of what happened when they resurrected. People started to blame each other, and they started arguing and fighting among themselves. The Aegis of Gadure tried to keep order, but over time our ancestors started to care less about honoring the promise they had made to the other races, and more about saving themselves. Infighting and fear let the monsters in the Mists press in harder and harder on Gadure, until finally the walls broke and Gadure fell. Those that our ancestors had sworn to protect scattered into the Mists, to unknown fates. The Orcs that survived the fall of Gadure followed a group of Humans, trying still to honor their word and defend them. Eventually they arrived here in Videa.”
“Today the Humans don’t even remember their time with us in Gadure. When our ancestors arrived in Videa with them, the Humans continued away from the Mists for safety, while we stayed along the Mistwall to keep them safe. They may not remember the promise our ancestors swore upon the honor of all Orcs, but we do. We failed to uphold that honor a long time ago. We spat in its face the day we let fear and infighting destroy Gadure and the safety we promised. It is the duty of every Orc to remember what happens when we turn our attention on each other, instead of the Mists. We failed to uphold our honor then. We won’t fail again.”
The Orcs of the Shattered Realms are a proud and strong people. Their legends tell them of a time they staked their honor on protecting the other races from the Mists, and how they failed. Today, generations later, the Orcs hold this story as a keystone of their identity. They believe it is their cultural duty to honor their ancestors’ promise and act as a shield against the monsters from the Mists. To facilitate this, Orc Bands set up their encampments and settlements spread out along the edges of the Realm of Videa where they will likely have first contact with any monsters that enter its borders.
Due to their people being scattered all around the edge of Videa, they have no central governing system. Each Band, ranging anywhere from one hundred to two hundred Orcs, operates individually, lead by their chosen Aegis, and is self-sufficient. In addition to a plethora of fighters and mages, most bands also have trained farmers, blacksmiths and other craftsmen to keep their people well fed and stocked. Even these craftsmen are expected to help fight back Mist monsters when needed, so many are also trained in combat. It is unusual to meet an Orc who has no combat training whatsoever.
Despite the fact that every Band operates individually, Orcs still view themselves as one large unit that has been divided by necessity. Bands that neighbor each other often stay in frequent contact, freely exchanging information on any changes in the surrounding terrain, or discoveries of new paths monsters might use to try to gain entry into the Realm. Trade of supplies between Bands is also common, and is usually negotiated by the Bands’ Aegis. When such discussions happen the Aegis from two or more Bands will meet at the most convenient encampment to discuss terms of trade. Usually this is a short affair, with each side stating what they are in need of and what they are willing to give up, before coming to conclusions about what is equitable.
Seldomly do these trades ever have anything to do with territory. Orcs believe that it is their communal duty to defend against the Mists, and as such there is no point in trying to gain more territory to do so, or to take territory away from another Band. Usually when topics of territory do arise, it is in the context of one Band asking another for assistance in defending a particular area of land. These trades may come in the form of temporary assistance, or in the form of trading members from one Band to another. If one Band’s numbers are too low, they may request members of another Band be transferred to them. Such trades are never taken lightly by either Aegis involved, and usually a precious good or material is required for it to happen. If a successful agreement is found, then members of one Band will be transferred to another either for an arranged period of time, or potentially permanently. When this happens most Orcs accept the agreement settled on by their Aegis. The move from one Band to another may mean leaving family and friends behind, but ensuring that the Orcs as a people are able to continue performing their duty as defenders is considered more important. Once an Orc has transferred to another Band, they will respect the chain of command within it, and treat that Band’s Aegis with the same respect that they treated the Aegis of their previous Band.
The position of Aegis is a difficult one. Their primary job is to ensure that their Band is capable of defending the Realm from monsters from the Mists. In order to do this they have a myriad of responsibilities such as organizing the training of younger Orcs, setting up patrols along the border of the Realm, and establishing trades with other Bands, just to name a few. The Aegis of a Band is usually chosen by the previous Aegis, and selected for their personal skill in either martial or magical combat. While the Aegis does have a number of social responsibilities, it is considered more important that they are able to provide a strong front for their Band, and lead them in combat when needed. Many Bands in fact have an Aegis who is a powerful combatant, but lacking in economic or social expertise, instead relying on an advisor to fill in those gaps.
Aegis also have final say in the discipline of members of their Band. However, Orcs do not generally have much in the way of specific laws. Most bands hold the belief that every Orc knows what their duty is, and as such should not do anything that may hinder that duty, or the duty of another Orc. Therefore most view the concept of laws among their people as unnecessary. When an issue arises where an Orc has done something considered unacceptable by others, the Aegis has the final say in how that Orc is to be disciplined or punished. Most Orcs recognize however that the Aegis is often busy with more important matters and attempt to settle disputes amongst themselves without the Aegis’ involvement, making only the most serious of issues be brought to the Aegis’ attention. When there is a conflict between two Orc Bands, or an Orc Band and another governing force such as the Kingdom of Videa, the Aegis is also the one to meet with that other group’s representative to resolve the issue.
Orc Relations with the Other Races of Videa
The Orcs, while not having the highest population in the Realm of Videa, are the most spread out. Their encampments dot the entire perimeter of the Realm, and as such they interact with almost every race that inhabits it. These interactions are different for each Band, and are largely dependent on where the Band is located. A Band located in the northeast of the Realm, primarily interacting with Humans and those that visit the Realm, is going to have a very different relationship with its neighbors than a Band in the Southwest, which primarily interacts with Gnolls, Goblins and other “monstrous” races. No matter where a Band is located, their belief in their role as defenders against the Mists extends to all races. Even though the Gnolls, Goblins, Trolls, and other “monstrous” races of the Outlands are considered enemies by the majority of the races that frequent the Kingdom of Videa, and vise-versa, Orcs as a whole still view them all as sentient beings in need of protection from the Mists. This can create awkward situations when those “enemy” races fight each other.
While Orcs do not view themselves as having a responsibility to defend their neighboring races against non-Mist related threats, most Bands are willing to lend aid where they can. An Orc would likely be willing to help the Humans of Videa fight back an encroaching group of Owlbears, but things become more complicated when the Humans are instead fighting back an encroaching group of Gnolls. When it comes to conflict between two races the Orcs view themselves as responsible for protecting, the majority of Orcs will refuse to become involved. Others may take the position that there is no point in protecting two groups if they are just going to try to kill each other anyway, and opt to try and broker a truce, or just see to it that as few die in the conflict as possible. The way an Orc handles such a situation is largely dependent on a combination of both their own personal feelings, and any dictation that their Aegis has issued on the matter.
All Bands strive to live amicably with those they work to protect. Aegis often try to establish trade with their neighbors in an attempt to both earn their trust and to supplement their own Band’s supplies. In the Outlands this is a task that is very different from Band to Band, largely depending on what sort of races the Band is dealing with, and how willing those races are to work cooperatively. For Bands that live near some of the more hostile denizens of the Outlands this often involves less diplomacy, and more displays of dominance. Regardless of whatever methods are used, most Orcs do their best not to kill a member of another race.
For Bands living within the borders of the Kingdom of Videa, relations with their neighbors are more peaceable, but still complicated in other ways. Unlike in the Outlands where territory is determined by the might of whatever group claims it, inside the Kingdom of Videa all land is considered to belong to the Monarch. Fortunately for the Orcs, the Kingdom of Videa recognizes their efforts in helping to defend the people of the land, and have agreements in place with the various Orc Bands that inhabit their borders. Each Orc Band has a section of land along the border of the Realm that is considered their personal territory, outside the influence of Videan law. Within these territories, they are allowed to live as they please following their own governing system, as long as it does not interfere with the lives of Videan citizens. Outside these sections, Orcs are treated with the same protections as a Videan citizen, as long as they follow Videan law. For the most part the Orc Bands do not mind this arrangement as it does not hinder their attempts to defend against the Mists. In fact most of the Bands work closely with the various local border posts set up by the Videan military to enhance their defenses.The one point of contention that sometimes arises from the arrangements between the Orc Bands and the Videan government is when a Band outgrows the size of the area they live in, or an issue occurs with the farmable land in that area. When these situations arise a representative of the Monarch of Videa will meet with the Band Aegis to discuss solutions, which usually involve a temporary or permanent increase in size of the Orc land, or a trade of supplies favorable to the Orcs.
Orcs place a heavy emphasis on their lineage. Part of the reason they feel so strongly about upholding the promise their ancestors made at Gadure is because they believe that honor is passed from parent to child. A child whose parents performed a heroic act or lived an honorable life will often be treated favorably by the rest of their Band, or members from another Band that know of their parents deeds. Conversely, the child of an Orc who has committed a grave dishonor will often be held to harsher expectations growing up. This is not to say that an Orc child will be forever beholden to these stigmas, but until they do something to distinguish themselves from their parents, the are held in this regard. This viewpoint is not just limited to the Orcs themselves, and most view the actions of the other races in a similar vein. This can often cause tension between Orcs and the other races when Orcs hear of something grand or terrible another person’s parent had done.
Despite the emphasis Orcs place on lineage, marriage is not heard of within Orc Bands. Orcs will sometimes take on mates for life, but the concept of marriage is not one that is native to Orcs. In fact, most Orcs will have multiple mates at the same time, even if they have taken on some of them for life. Usually the stronger a combatant an Orc is, the more likely they are to attract multiple mates. According to the Orcs this ensures that any new Orcs born will be strong and able to fulfill their duty.
Orc children are usually raised by one of their two parents, who is responsible for teaching the child the ways of an Orc. This is usually a matter of ensuring that the child understands how to live honorably, as well as understanding the history of the Orc people and how their society works. When it comes to training in crafts and martial or magical skills, Orc children are taught communally. Each day after the Orc child is old enough, usually a few months, they are drilled in forms of both magical and martial combat as a group, by a teacher appointed by the Aegis. The form of training is changed every few weeks so that by the time the child reaches adulthood at age two, they will have been exposed to whatever method of combat they are best at. Likewise, during this training period, Orc children will go through rotations of helping the various farmers and craftsmen of the Band, to identify those who will grow up into excellent craftsmen themselves.
The Test of Blood
According to Orc legend, the Fall of Gadure occured only when the Orcs stopped focusing on fighting against the Mists, and instead began fighting among each other. This is a lesson that Orcs have focused on since they arrived in Videa. Despite the fact that their people have now split into numerous Bands spread out across the perimeter of Videa, they are all still united in their cause. While it is not common for an Orc from one Band to meet an Orc from another, when they do it is important for them to know they both share the same goals, and follow the lessons learned from the Fall of Gadure. As such whenever two Orcs from different Bands meet for the first time, or after a long time of not seeing each other, they perform what is known as the Test of Blood. Simply, each of the Orcs in turn holds out their weapon for the other Orc to draw their blood on. To the Orcs this act is a symbolic gesture showing that each would be willing to bleed at the other’s hand rather than turn their focus away from their duty. It goes without saying among their people that any Orc who either doesn’t know of, or is not willing to perform the Test of Blood, is not to be trusted. Once the Test of Blood is performed, it is considered extremely dishonorable for either Orc to take any form of hostile action against each other, even if provoked, or the other does so first.
The Mist Walk
For Orcs there is nothing more honorable than dying in battle, particularly against the monsters from the Mists. Orcs that grows to their natural lifespan and die of old age are not considered dishonorable by other Orcs, but neither do they gain the honor associated with a death in battle. For this reason many Orcs upon reaching the twilight years of their life, usually somewhere between thirty three and thirty six, decide to perform the Mist Walk. In this act the Orc takes with them only weapons and armor that the Band can spare, and enters into the Mists to fight whatever monsters they come across until they die. Performing a Mist Walk is considered by Orcs to be a last honorable act by an Orc who lived their life well.
Orcs and Necromancy
While many races view the mental instability that comes with the use of Necromancy as reason to shun it, many Orc Bands feel that any tool capable of helping them perform their duty is useful. These Bands are aware of the dangers that the use of Necromancy can pose, but still choose to use it in dire circumstances. Bands that choose to cast Necromancy and live in the Outlands generally do not encounter much of an issue with their neighbors about this topic. Bands that live within the Kingdom of Videa’s borders on the other hand, have to be much more careful about it. While their Band may not shun its use, the laws of Videa prohibit it. When not in their own territories, they must be careful about who they let see them cast it. Because of this, many people view Orcs with suspicion when it comes to Earth Casting. However, since not all Orcs approve of Necromancy these suspicions rarely develop into full blown accusations.
For a millennia the denizens of Videa have been stationary and isolated within their own Realm. This made the Orcs’ job of defending them from the Mists simple as they only had to guard the borders of Videa. Some Bands had heard tales of other Realms from passing Selunari caravans, but they could not risk leaving their posts to try finding these people through the Mists. Over the past few years, however, things have changed. Denizens of all the Realms have begun to travel through the Mists with greater frequency, and this has changed how many Orcs view their duty to defend the other races. It has become the opinion of many Orcs that with so many people venturing into the Mists the only way to truly honor their ancestors’ promise and perform their duty is to travel with those who venture into the Mists. Orcs from Bands all over Videa have begun traveling to where “adventurers” gather near and enter into the Mists, in order to defend them from the creatures that dwell there. While some Bands support this idea, and have even gone so far as to send members through the Mists to set up Bands in other Realms, other Bands view this as a desertion of duty. As a whole, those Orcs that have left the confines of their Band have come to be known as the Unbanded. Views on the Unbanded vary from Band to Band, with some treating the Unbanded as honorable warriors that are welcomed back to the Band whenever they choose to return. Others see becoming Unbanded as the most dishonorable thing an Orc can do, and view them as cowards using “adventurers” as an excuse to abandon their duty.
Playing an Orc
Orcs are a strong and honorable race dedicated to the protection of all sentient life against the Mists. While their direct way of speaking is often mistaken for brutishness, they are clever combatants capable of implementing tactics when needed. There are few others as willing to put their life on the line for someone else as Orcs. Most Orcs would rather risk a trip to the Earth Circle than to leave anyone behind on a battlefield, or let someone fall to monsters from the Mists.
You might consider playing an Orc if you are interested in playing a character who is a shield against the forces of the Mists or a voice of reason among the squabbling races threatened by it.