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Behold, the Orc!
October 6, 2012 2:58 AM   Subscribe

Ecce Orcus! An Argument for Humanizing the Orc

A followup to A Modest Proposal for Increased Diversity in Dungeons and Dragons, and an emphasis on why Our Orcs Are Different. (TVTROPES!)

Let Us Now Praise Famous Orcs, by Robert T. Tally, Jr.
More to the point, Sam shows no sympathy at all for slain Orcs. Even humans in the service of evil may not be "evil at heart," but the unquestioned assumption of the "free peoples" of Middle-earth is that Orcs must be evil by nature.
Always Chaotic Evil: Confronting My Anti-Orc Bias
And may the ghost of Edward Said forgive me, but I like em’! I want a “teeming horde” of baddies that make readers shiver, that can’t be reasoned or bargained with, that don’t want anything but your utter destruction. I want stand-ins for our fears of what lurk in the dark unexplored places, whose possible victory won’t just be a change of who’s in charge, but the end of mankind’s tenuous reign. I want a slew of bad guys who I don’t morally mind getting cleaved in two or run through by a spear. I don’t want to have to think about whether Orcs have families, or worse yet, if Orcs have feeeeeelllinnnnngs. Blech! I just want them to represent an impending malevolent threat to civilization, while my heroes and heroines hack, slash and butcher them in righteous mayhem. It’s fun. It’s guilt-free. And best of all, it’s easy.
ZINN:In the end, we shouldn’t be talking about humanizing Orcs. Perhaps we should be talking about Orcanizing humans.

CHOMSKY: There’s a movement I could get behind. (McSweeny's: Unused Audio Commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, Recorded for the Return of the King (Platinum Series Extended Edition) DVD, Part Four - Previously on MetaFilter
posted by the man of twists and turns (52 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ahem. I think you'll find they prefer Orsimer.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:08 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something need doing?
posted by ShutterBun at 3:15 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Surely the whole point of orcs is that they represent malevolence and destruction at its purest, with the ancillary details of origins, biology, &c. fudged to line up with this, much as zombies represent the inescapable fact of our mortality. Giving orcs cozy details like families, cultures and emotional lives beyond “GRAR!” would ruin them as orcs, making them into another enemy-who-could-be-a-friend, like Huns, Russkies or Klingons.
posted by acb at 3:39 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Orcs smell.
No one wants them around.
posted by Flood at 3:41 AM on October 6, 2012


Two dimensional baddies are boring. I want glimpses of the enemies culture, what reasons they have for the things they do. In the real world, enemies become friends overnight as does the reverse. People do terrible things and then snap out of it and wonder why the hell they did it. Or they feel absolutely no remorse and can come up with the most elaborate justifications for their actions.

WoW has more than its fair share of bad writing and bad lore, but some of the best stuff in the game has to do with Orcs and their path to redemption. In Warcraft's storyline, orcs drank demon blood, immediately went full evil, and were the raging band of barbarians typical of many an RPG. But then one of their own, Grom, rebelled against the forces driving them to destruction, killed their demon overlord, and suddenly they were all free.

One of my favorite bits of writing from the game came from a dialogue between an orc leader named Saurfang, who was a veteran of the genocidal army pushed by demons, and a young (and very obnoxious) orc named Garrosh, who wanted to return to the orc glory days of raping and pillaging and had no memories of what those days actually were like.

High Overlord Saurfang says: I drank of the same blood your father did, Garrosh. Mannoroth's cursed venom pumped through my veins as well. I drove my weapons into the bodies and minds of my enemies. And while Grom died a glorious death - freeing us all from the blood curse - he could not wipe away the terrible memory of our past. His act could not erase the horrors we committed.

The winter after the curse was lifted, hundreds of veteran orcs like me were lost to despair. Our minds were finally free, yes... Free to relive all of the unthinkable acts that we had performed under the Legion's influence.

I think it was the sounds of the draenei children that unnerved most of them... You never forget... Have you ever been to Jaggedswine Farm? When the swine are of age for the slaughter... It's that sound. The sound of the swine being killed... It resonates the loudest. Those are hard times for us older veterans.

Garrosh Hellscream says: But surely you cannot think that those children were born into innocence? They would have grown up and taken arms against us!

High Overlord Saurfang says: I am not speaking solely of the children of our enemies...

I won't let you take us down that dark path again, young Hellscream. I'll kill you myself before that day comes...

Garrosh Hellscream says: How have you managed to survive for so long, Saurfang? Not fallen victim to your own memories?

High Overlord Saurfang says: I don't eat pork.

posted by honestcoyote at 3:59 AM on October 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


Shouldn't how they are written serve the narrative purposes of the story that is being told?

Is that too obvious or something?
posted by kyrademon at 4:33 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some people think Orcs shouldn't run for office.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 4:47 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The venerable and insanely difficult NetHack has been around for over a quarter of a century and has sported playable orcs since 1999. True, they are always chaotic, make shoddy gear and lack certain desirable skills but they afford a style and freedom of play many, including myself, relish...
posted by jim in austin at 5:01 AM on October 6, 2012


what is an orc
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:03 AM on October 6, 2012


Don't most people point to the conversation between Shagrat and Gorbag from near the end of The Two Towers for evidence that the orcs are more complicated than it appears at first glance? It's in the Tally piece but I don't think it's in any of the other links.
"'No, I don't know,' said Gorbag's voice. 'The messages go through quicker than anything could fly, as a rule. But I don't enquire how it's done. Safest not to. Grr! Those Nazgûl give me the creeps. And they skin the body off you as soon as look at you, and leave you all cold in the dark on the other side. But He likes 'em; they're His favourites nowadays, so it's no use grumbling. I tell you, it's no game serving down in the city.'

'You should try being up here with Shelob for company,' said Shagrat.

'I'd like to try somewhere where there's none of 'em. But the war's on now, and when that's over things may be easier.'

'It's going well, they say.'

'They would.' grunted Gorbag. `We'll see. But anyway, if it does go well, there should be a lot more room. What d'you say? – if we get a chance, you and me'll slip off and set up somewhere on our own with a few trusty lads, somewhere where there's good loot nice and handy, and no big bosses.'

'Ah! ' said Shagrat. `Like old times.'

'Yes,' said Gorbag. 'But don't count on it. I'm not easy in my mind. As I said, the Big Bosses, ay,' his voice sank almost to a whisper, `ay, even the Biggest, can make mistakes. Something nearly slipped you say. I say, something has slipped. And we've got to look out. Always the poor Uruks to put slips right, and small thanks. But don't forget: the enemies don't love us any more than they love Him, and if they get topsides on Him, we're done too.'"
The Last Ringbearer is a Russian rewriting of the book from a pro-orc perspective.
posted by gerryblog at 5:30 AM on October 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


Wait am I the only one who can't take this seriously because Orcus is a demon lord and not an orc, and not someone particularly related to orcs?

This argument is old and boring and the things out there to do about it have been done. John Wick publicly designed his Orkworld RPG back in 1999 and released it in 2000, and it was a great cultural look at orks. Other media have more or less covered the gamut. The theme is recurring and rather played out, like every other pseudo-clever let's take this thing and reverse it trope.

At this point, an interesting fantasy deconstruction for me would be less about "humanizing" the inhuman bad guys than about questioning the heroic savior archetype or the paladin archetype.
posted by graymouser at 5:45 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Giving orcs cozy details like families, cultures and emotional lives beyond “GRAR!” would ruin them as orcs, making them into another enemy-who-could-be-a-friend, like Huns, Russkies or Klingons.

That does seem to be what the author wants, yes.

If you want a type of creature that is intrinsically evil, rather than made evil by extrinsic forces like Saruman or Lolth or what have you, using Fantasy Genetics for the purpose doesn't make sense. Which is the Evil Gene? If an Chaotic Evil Orc impregnates a Lawful Good Human, what's the probability that the child will be born Evil? Or is it a many-gene trait, like... skin color... where you've got, like, a bag full of equal numbers Good and Evil counters, and you draw ten at random and that's how Evil your baby is?

These are things that would logically come up as an Evil Race continues to exist. They gotta breed, right? But if what you want is some baddies for the goodies to slaughter with style sans guilt, Evil Races are completely unnecessary! D&D has lots of monsters that are manufactured by Evil Wizards 'n shit--golems, zombies, elementals... dragons... so if you want mooks, using those just makes more sense.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:50 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


At this point, an interesting fantasy deconstruction for me would be less about "humanizing" the inhuman bad guys than about questioning the heroic savior archetype or the paladin archetype.

Also played out. The DM conspiring to get the Paladin to fall from grace is also a trope, since first edition AD&D if not earlier, and fallen angels are about as old as Catholicism.

The question is why old skool racial stereotype villains persist in fantasy. What benefit do they have over zombies, apart from appealing to fantasy racists?
posted by LogicalDash at 5:55 AM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Last Ringbearer is a Russian rewriting of the book from a pro-orc perspective.

Further, the "Orc" characters in The Last Ringbearer are revealed to be simply humans of a differing ethnicity from that of the West, and that the traditional casting of fantasy-Orcs as nonhuman monsters is just racist propaganda. The rest of the novel is a none-too-interesting attempt at setting a Cold War spy novel in Middle Earth, but that concept alone was pretty great.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:02 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


No fucking way. You do this and the next thing they're going to want is healthcare, food and and all the rest of it. They have no interest in taking care of themselves.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:06 AM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thanks for this - Orcs rule!
An interesting and intelligent discussion about racism in D&D can be found here btw.
posted by Monkeymoo at 6:06 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is perfectly fine and there are many campaigns where this works. However the vanilla assumption of most standard D&D worlds, such as Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms, is that alignment is actually part of the physics system of the world. Evil is a measurable physical quality. It's not really subject to philosophical interpretation or debate. Anyone who can detect it, which are a lot of the "educated" (social) classes, can tell you that.

If you intend to change this, and again let me stress that this is a perfectly fine decision to make, there are a lot of unintended consequences to be addressed. The social role and class abilities of paladins, for a start. Various magical items. The functioning of various spells.

You could make it "all relative", for example you might use religions and ideologies instead of alignments, and make the assumption that everyone thinks of themselves more or less as "lawful good" or at least "neutral good" or "neutral". Very few (but still, some) real-world folk think of themselves explicitly as evil. So the paladin's ability might function as "detect heresy" or "detect ideological enemy", even if that being is pretending not to be.

Under this model, for example, orcs might believe their actions to be justified: the other races have taken over far more than their fair share of land and resources, they live in an unnatural manner in horribly ordered and distasteful cities where everyone lives completely micromanaged by their kings, they waste their long lives building and making stuff instead of having fun and exploring and testing their strength against the dangers of the wild, they are cowardly and avoid righteous combat, and everyone would be better off if they were all just killed or driven off. Orcs can still trust each other under this model, they still pose an existential threat, but they are not necessarily "evil".
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:06 AM on October 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


ZINN:In the end, we shouldn’t be talking about humanizing Orcs. Perhaps we should be talking about Orcanizing humans.

A vision of peasants in facepaint marching and chanting TWO FOUR SIX EIGHT ORCANIZE TO SMASH THE STATE has brightened my morning.


(followed by some brute in shiny armor riding up and slaughtering half of them as a free action.)
posted by delfin at 6:54 AM on October 6, 2012 [8 favorites]




Mister Nutt could easily be one of my favorite Discworld characters, if only there would be more books for him to appear in. (Glenda Sugarbean, too. They make a very sweet couple.) I pictured him as this guy from Jackson's LOTR, with a gentle, apologetic mien.

All in all, I am completely on board with the idea of humanizing the monstrous in fantasy -- and, equally, monsterizing the human. No one has ever been attacked by an orc, but we have all been made to suffer by a Dolores Umbridge.

I wish I'd liked The Last Ringbearer better. I don't know if it was just poorly translated or what (it was a free fan effort, though, so I can't complain).
posted by Countess Elena at 7:37 AM on October 6, 2012


The question is why old skool racial stereotype villains persist in fantasy. What benefit do they have over zombies, apart from appealing to fantasy racists?

I think this is it for me. Even the term "humanizing" to imply meaning you are giving the creatures greater depth of personality is speciesist. I very much like the idea of orcs with developed personalities, who are not genetically evil, and who can change their minds when faced with dilemmas, but I wouldn't call this humanizing; it's just better gaming.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:43 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the worst argument. It comes from a fundamental inability to grasp that different worlds might actually be, well, different - that, in a universe with flying dragons that should not be able to fly but do anyways, and magic that works because it does, that there cannot be anything that is Pure Evil. Why? Well, because there isn't any such thing here on Earth. That there aren't flumphs and weredolphins and two-headed phased doppleganger space hamsters never seems to bother these people - it's just the supposed racist and imperialistic undertones behind non-existent creatures on non-existent worlds in a non-existent universe that are the trouble. And so we need An Explanation, where people before sensibly did not ask for one, because it was never needed, for what I think would be obvious reasons. Why are Orcs Pure Evil? The same reason a host of other things are in such worlds, the same reason the very concept can exist in the first place: because that's how Things Are.

It's people like this that gave us midichlorians.
posted by Palindromedary at 8:03 AM on October 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Lest we get lazy and decide that all orcs and Orks are alike, I'd just like to point out that I have never, ever seen a situation with an Ork of the 41st Millenium whose first reaction to encountering a human was anything other than, "Yay, kill it!" At some point, the other side has gotta meet you halfway.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:29 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Why are Orcs Pure Evil? The same reason a host of other things are in such worlds, the same reason the very concept can exist in the first place: because that's how Things Are."

If I want pure possibility and its ramifications, I can turn to mathematics.

If I want a story, I want it to be relevant to human motivation and experience. In the domain of human motivation and experience, the foreign, dark, ugly creature of pure evil is a concept I can do without, thank you.
posted by idiopath at 8:32 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Yay, kill it!"

I do believe you meant "WAAAAAUGGGGGHHHHHH! Kill the humies!"
posted by Ghidorah at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


If I want a story, I want it to be relevant to human motivation and experience.

Just like magic and beholders and dragons and two-headed phased doppleganger space hamsters.
posted by Palindromedary at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the right context, magic can be a useful way to craft metaphor. But yes, random fantastic inventions for their own sake are tedious and I avoid stories that rely on such devices.
posted by idiopath at 8:39 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally, I can do without the trollocs, the draconians, and all the other sad attempts over the years to come up with bad guys as iconic as orcs. Goblins just don't cut it, they're not fearsome enough. Goblins are something that suckered you in in a moment of weakness. Orcs are the things that attack you at your strongest, because fuck you, that's why.

The Orc at the end of the Fellowship movie, pulling himself closer to Aragorn by pulling the sword through his guts, that's a terrifying monster.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:40 AM on October 6, 2012


Orcs, racism and D&D were discussed in depth in this previous thread, four years ago.

As players mature, they begin to question the underlying morality of their world; hacking and slashing their way through an orc village might be great fun to a group of 14-year-old players, but a few years later that same party might see the same scenario as abhorrent. The conflicts in the game become more complex, more ambiguous as time goes on.

There's a comic called Goblins that explores this issue in great depth, and with epic and tragic and hilarious results; it's a brilliant approach to D&D from the other side. Here's where to start. Warning: highly addictive.
posted by MrVisible at 9:02 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I favour the WH40K model of Orkdom - Orks are basically greasy biker types.
posted by Artw at 9:45 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I want pure possibility and its ramifications, I can turn to mathematics.

4ED has tried to move away from that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:48 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The worst part about this issue is that it's largely self-inflicted:

- Orcs are creatures of Pure Evil (TM).
- But what if they aren't? What if they could be taught to love? Then the ramifications are terrible. We'd think we were defending ourselves or doing the world a favour, but we'd be slaughtering potential innocents. It would be like the Boer War all over again.
- I suppose, but they are, so the point is rather moot.
- But what if?

It's like suddenly worrying that what if every time you cast a spell an orphan in Gondor is killed. Wouldn't that be horrible? Sure, if you were willing to suppose such an unfounded thing in the first place.

How do I know that Orcs are evil, all of them? Because it reads "Chaotic Evil" in their racial statline, and because they were created by a god of Pure Evil in His image, to work His bidding (or whatever origin story your universe has): essentially, because it says so, just like it says that all dragons love treasure and all elves love nature. If I want nuanced moral interactions, I can go with elves or gnomes or thri-kreen or half-whatevers, some bestial, some very pretty, all with moral compasses - the idea that Orcs being inherently evil somehow stops you from exploring this topic, using tools already available, is demonstrably incorrect.

Even attempting to discuss all this in terms of "genetic predisposition" betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the fantasy milieu, where things are because the great god Snorak decreed it to be so, where elemental creatures of pure good/evil/smoke/ooze exist all over the place. As I tried pointing out earlier, even the concept of Pure Evil is ridiculous, and the idea that so many fantasy universes have such a concept tells you all you need to know about how similar they are to ours.

Worrying about how the supposed socio-political ramifications of Orcdom is supposedly preventing you from telling a nuanced story (like no one has ever told a good/nuanced story of The Battle Against Evil) or is secret code for Up With Imperialism/Death to the Oppressed of the World is colossally silly.
posted by Palindromedary at 9:50 AM on October 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Burning Wheel has orcs which are at the same time as "human" as their elves and dwarves, which is to say, sort of, and as interesting as characters as their elves and dwarves, which is to say, very.
posted by edheil at 9:50 AM on October 6, 2012


I can never un-see orcs outside of the mythology of William Blake's Urizenic cosmology (self-link). He even has a character named Orc: the bastard, half-formed child of a fallen prophet and a carnal abstraction of sin.
posted by hermitosis at 10:04 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having read the front page post a little carelessly, I'm now disappointed that this has nothing to do with Orcas. Because I was all set for a good article about recognizing them as sapient and extending our notion of civil rights to them.

And also because, y'know, orcas.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:40 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Better than dolphins, who are basically sea-rapists.
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on October 6, 2012


Orks of Warhammer 40,000:
Their reactions to humans are "yay, kill it," yes. But have you seen humans in that game? The Orks are probably the least evil race in that whole GRIMDARK game, except maybe the original Necrons? Even the Eldar are pretty insular and cold, but the Orks have a good time and it's never personal with them. About the worst you can about them is that they're Bro Culture personified, and even that's tempered by the fact that they reproduce asexually.

Orcs in general: The assumption that you need a generic evil type of monster that the players can just kill without remorse isn't even all that subtly racist, although it has the advantage of being general, racist without singling any real-world race out. But it is still the kind of thinking that makes racism possible.

There is a wonderful roleplaying game out there called Ork! by Todd Miller and Chris Pramas, which does Orcs about the best I've seen. It does not humanize Orcs. Instead, it kind of monsterizes the players, but it has the advantage that it's a beer-and-pretzel kind of game, encouraging players to play like stupid brutes. Its explanation for why its Orks are violent all the time is a combination of brain chemistry (Ork blood is toxic, chemically reactive, and prone to exploding) and culture (they believe the great god Krom vomited up the world, but vomited up the Orks last and so they're better than everyone else). Players are also encouraged to use Orky names for things; it's a lot easier to get behind destroying the Halfling village when you're calling them Squishy Men. Also, in the afterlife if Krom doesn't think your actions were Orky enough he turns you into a pinecone.
posted by JHarris at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jim Hine's Jig the Goblin series is great fun and a parody of the D&D fantasy genre - he treats monsters being "evil" as being simply an issue of socialization.
posted by porpoise at 2:22 PM on October 6, 2012


I just want them to represent an impending malevolent threat to civilization, while my heroes and heroines hack, slash and butcher them in righteous mayhem. It’s fun. It’s guilt-free. And best of all, it’s easy.

Gruumsh, what an asshole.
posted by homunculus at 8:30 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno. Up until the recent expansion with the panda people, all my World of Warcraft-playing friends talked about their troll, orc, and dark elf characters. Maybe this is a change that's well under way?

Or maybe I just hang out with the kind of people who gravitate to less-human options, I mean after all they're also a bunch of furries. But on the other hand there's that Dem Senate candidate in Maine being attacked by the GOP for playing an orcish assassin.
posted by egypturnash at 8:34 PM on October 6, 2012


honestcoyote: there's a duology, The Sundering by Jacqueline Carey which has a general of that's world's Sauron as the protagonist. So you have a tension where he is trying to protect his soldiers from needless squandering by the "Sauron."

Been a while since I read it, so I can't speak to how much it gets into the head of the soldiers.

I played a Half Orc once in D&D. I think the game manual tells you that non-player characters treat you poorly.
posted by saber_taylor at 11:11 PM on October 6, 2012


Maybe this is a change that's well under way?

I think it is. Any person who's played WoW, even if they're lame and only played Alliance, will not be able to see orcs in the same way as Tolkien or D&D.

saber_taylor: thanks. I'll take a look at it. I should also look into the world of LOTR fan fiction. Someone out there has to have done a decent job writing the story from the point of view of an orc grunt.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:31 AM on October 7, 2012


Was there a bit in some page of Tolkien lore about an Orc raised by elves that seemed fine for a bit, but still ended up being evil/savage in the end? My search turns up at least one other person online who vaguely remembers this.
posted by Winnemac at 5:56 AM on October 7, 2012


I think the move to make orcs become playable characters would be going back to the 1974 D&D, which according to wikipedia: "The original Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was published as [...] only three alignments (lawful, neutral, and chaotic)." No good or evil. Which is more the Three Hearts One Lion or Elric alignments, although elves are the lawful Tolkien elves I think not the chaotic elves from fairy tales.
posted by saber_taylor at 2:19 PM on October 7, 2012


Actually, the "no evil alignment" thing lasted in the D&D line through the eighties and was a major part of the Mystara campaign world. You didn't go killing orcs just because they were evil, you were killing them because they were introducing chaos into your orderly kingdom by raiding and pillaging. An orc wasn't any more evil than a viking (and they existed in Mystara, too.) And there were rulebooks for playing as vikings and orcs. It wasn't seen as good vs. evil, but rather conflicts of culture and interests.
posted by charred husk at 3:07 PM on October 7, 2012


40k orks are plenty complex. For example, the duality of their twin gods, Gork and Mork, one the god of brutal cunning and the other of cunning brutality. One hits you when you aren't looking, and the other hits you really hard when you are.

That's deep, that is.
posted by BeeDo at 7:41 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a simple efficiency to the teefs based economy that is admirable.

Not to be confused with Orc Stain and it's genitalia based economy.
posted by Artw at 7:57 PM on October 7, 2012


Rolling some percentile dice to find the alignment of your half-orc's granddaughter strikes me as exactly the sort of thing a committed D&D player would do.

Once you go analyzing that kind of scenario numerically, even if it's the kind of shitty math that gives you a minimum five percent chance of succeeding at absolutely any task you can attempt, you get something much like Mendel's genetics. It won't be good genetics, but hell, people were doing genealogical studies before there were monasteries!

This problem doesn't violate the spirit of high fantasy at all. You don't need to deal with it this way, of course--maybe or[ck]s reproduce by budding instead, and a half-orc is one that succeeded at a roll to disbelieve its own race. But if you're building a game setting, you might want to pick an explanation and stick with it, because the question will come up in the fullness of time, and if necessary the players will make inferences from whatever you gave them. This is likely to make you look bad.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:18 PM on October 7, 2012


Actually, the "no evil alignment" thing lasted in the D&D line through the eighties and was a major part of the Mystara campaign world.

I like Law/Chaos as an alignment axis a lot more than Good/Evil, but I think it's a mistake to imply that it was all that prevalent, or that a lot of DMs didn't end up equating the two anyway. It was AD&D that really pushed the Good/Evil thing; Mystara would have been exempt because it was TSR's attempt to turn the "Known World" setting of Basic D&D into an AD&D property, so it made sense that its alignment system would transition along with it.
posted by JHarris at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2012


charred husk: "Actually, the "no evil alignment" thing lasted in the D&D line through the eighties and was a major part of the Mystara campaign world."

Cf. The Orcs of Thar supplement.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:02 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey now, that looks interesting. Thanks for the find Chrysostom, I'm going to have to look that one up.
posted by JHarris at 12:04 AM on October 10, 2012


JHarris:
"Hey now, that looks interesting. Thanks for the find Chrysostom, I'm going to have to look that one up."
Orcs of Thar can be pretty hard to find, if I remember correctly. It came with a copy of the Orcwars! board game and all sorts of other bonuses. The other things about Orcs of Thar is that it is pretty silly. While the humanoids of the Broken Lands are given cultures of their own they are presented as being pretty comical.

The more I think about it, the more Orcs of Thar seems like a predecessor to the Horde from WoW only with the goofy meter cranked up. They even have shady elven neighbors (GAZ13, the Shadow Elves. Forget the Drow, we're talking underground albino elves who are being directed by their physicist patron deity to build a nuclear reactor!)
posted by charred husk at 5:52 AM on October 11, 2012


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