Most orcs are illiterate, and rely on a system of glyphs and symbols to convey information. There is no formal system of education, save for apprenticeship. The Magi check the young for the 'gift' while artisans raise their own children into the craft. Warriors learn from childhood games, and hunting with their elders and siblings.
All orcs learn how to use some sort of weapon to protect the clan, be it the ax, or the bow. It was quite a surprise to learn that one of the best archers in the clan was one of the old den mothers with breasts that sagged nearly to her knees, forgive the exageration.
The Sages, aside from being magic users have the task of keeping the oral history of the clan, as well as the histories of the tribe as a whole. These will teach others to read, or to write at a cost, as well as being the most likely to parley with other races without resorting first to violence. Go to Comment
Orcish foreign relations are rather complex. Everything is based on a measure of strength. Strong opponents are afforded a deal of respect, or at least a wide berth. Weak opponents are seen as prey for hunting and raiding. A strong kingdom with an able military and strong defence will be accorded respect, for settled folk, while one that offers tribute or bribes is seen as weak, and open for looting.
Treaties among the orcs are rare in the extreme. Few keep treaties as they do not feel obligated, or bound by a treaty. Oddly enough oath magics do not work on orcs 90% of the time.
Trade is a valuable commodity for orcs. They will most often trade for salt, if nothing else. Other goods do find their way into trade, though trading with orcs is fraught with danger. A deal can quickly turn into theft, or a bribe on the traders part. Both end poorly for the trader. Thus, only halforcs, or the most canny of traders deal with the orcs. The orcs do trade with animal pelts, exotic spell ingredients, as well as ransoming slaves.
Spying is seen as a cowardly task, though scouting is not accorded the same stigma. A captured spy has his eyes gouged out, and tongue removed, and is then released close to where his master would be.
Relations between the clans is regulated by forming blood bonds between the chieftans. Warriors are married to the best females of other clans, while said females are held close for the best warriors of the clan, or for forming such bonds. Go to Comment
Orcs are quite articulate, and a large amount of their language is expressed through hand gestures. An orc talks with his hands, eyes, and body posture. It is often difficult for reserved people to deal with orcs as they are seen as being untrustworthy by the orcs.
There are a number of gestures that are insulting to orcs. A flat open palm, or a grasping hand are insults that the person is either a beggar or a criminal wanting handouts. Waving the left hand in an open manner calls the orc a thief, while the left thumb up calls an orc a homosexual. All of which can be met with a challenge, or outright attack.
Respect is seldom shown, as indicating someone is more powerful than you declares you are weaker than they are. Meeting an orc eye to eye with a strong posture is a sign of respect, though the fist to the heart is understood. Go to Comment
Magic and Magicians
Please forgive me if this section is vague. As my ruse as an orc was based on magic, I stayed well away from their magic users, lest I be discovered, an elf in an orc clan is a sure way to be killed very quickly, unless they think me a spy.
Magic is more advanced than previously thought, perhaps on par with human sorcerey, but not to the level of wizardry. Their magicians all seem to be of the 'sorcerer' type with little in the way of spellbooks or other non-innate spell casting. Interestingly enough, most of the sages who are magi also tend to be clerics of some ability, worshipping the various orc deities.
Magic items are present among the orcs, though they tend to be fetishes, and moderatly enchanted weapons and armor. These artifacts also tend to be more of the clerical type than the arcane type. Many of the common magic items are present, such as amulets of defence, or other such items, though they tend to be tokens of the gods, and made of sacrificial materials such as skulls and enemy bones.
Among orcs, magic has had little influence over the laws and customs of the tribes. The magi and sages are expected to stay out of warrior affairs just as warriors stay out of magic affairs. As for in combat and murder, the use of magic is seen as cowardly and not deserving of respect. Such magi/warriors are often assassinated, shot with arrows or poisoned.
Magic has had a positive impact on the technology of the orcs. Through the study of metalworking, brewing, and other areas, save for agriculture, magic has been a key factor. The fact that Sages and magi are considered neutral has prevented a large body of orcish lore and know how from being destroyed by a long periods of bitter warfare.
Magic is promoted and advanced presumably by the isolated sages and magi. It is almost non-existant beyond their confines. The magi do spend some time among the artisans, especially the smithies and the brewers. I strongly suspect that more orcish gear is magical that previously thought. It is apparent that the orcs do have access to potions, which they make common use of. The most common seem to be potions of healing, and the like along with potions that make their slaves compliant, or to create a more potent warrior.
One of the visible tasks of the Sages was the augering of prey, and reading portents for the future of the tribe. Such omens are also cast before battle, and very often involve the reading of entrails and other forms of hemomachy.
It is fairly certain that magic is involved in the creation of the orcish brews that account for their ability to return to health quickly, and with few lasting injuries. Their grasp of life magics is quite astounding. Many of the sages and chiefs claim to be quite older than many would suspect an orc of capable. Go to Comment
Magic and Technology
Orcish magic is at best, crude compared to human, or elven magic. If there are means of orcish 'teleportation' or other transportation magics, I was not privy to them. Horseshoes were blessed by the sages, as was certain forms of paint that were said to make a horse run faster, or longer without tiring.
Magic weapons, and armor exist among the orcs. The prime difference is that an orcish magic weapon will be a masterwork, but will seldom be guilt, or gem crusted, or even radiate a strong magical aura. These great axes, long spears, and orcblades are always marked with a symbol of one of the orcish gods, called a token. Enchantments run from the low to midrange, with the True Strike spell being common.
Surprisingly, anti-magic is more common among the orc armors. Various incantations and unknown spells go into the making of the plates, but they seem adept at shedding the lower level magics commonly used by humans, and some used by elves. This seems to balanced by the fact that the armor is difficult to make, expensive, and is marked with the token of a less than popular goddess among the tribes.
Wonderous items are not common among the orcs. Day to day items are the realm of slaves and afforded little importance. The only exception is the area of potions, which is paramount to orcish life, and adornments. The pieces of bone, piercings, and ritualized mutilations and tattooing serve as foci for the sort of magics that wonderous items are reserved for. An orc will have a Brand of Natural Armor as opposed to a Ring of Natural Armor.
Unlike Elven culture, magic does very little to replace, or supplant technology. Orcs tend to be self reliant, and see magic as fickle. They do not turn away from it, but they do not rely on it either. An orc is just as likely to use a masterwork blade over a magical blade because they do not see magic as a vital part of their existance. Go to Comment
Contrary to opinion, Orcs do have some manners, but only among themselves. There is a difference between the table of a orc 'lord' and that of a commoner. A higher ranking orc will set a table with heavy meat, cheese, and orc brewed ale, or their peculiar, and harsh spirits. A lower orc will dine upon boiled stew, jerky, or other lower grades of meat. Salt is more prevalent, as are the other peppers and spices. Garlic is found at most any table, be it fresh, or crushed and dried.
Rank is important in the seating of the low tables, with the highest ranking, most renowned warriors entering and sitting first at the head of the table, while lower ranking seat later. Children, women, and slaves are expected to eat elsewhere, at their own areas and tables, if they are honored by their father/spouse/owner. It is the place of the slave to eat standing up. The division between the men and women has an ulterior purpose in that often fights can break out at seatings, and it prevents losers from seizing hostages, and lessens the number of non-combatants who might be harmed or killed.
In a formal setting, which is rare but not so rare as some might think, the orcs eat with their hands only, there are no knives, or other utensils used. In this formal setting, all of those present, which may include women in this special occasion are unarmed, and thus cannot be attacked without great shame, and drawing down the ire of the gods. Go to Comment
Orcs aren't inhuman or alien. They live in the same cultural world as humans, dwarves and elves, so there is going to be overlap between the two. To make inhuman and alien orcs the orcs will need to be non-humanoid and actual aliens. But once you take that step and you make inhuman alien orcs they aren't orcs, they are inhuman aliens that someone has slapped the name orc on.
Its that paradox that people want something different, but not too different. The orcs can be different, but they still have to be recognizable as being orcs. As for a long time staple and old hat, I wrote this more than seven years ago and only cut n pasted it to the Citadel in 2005. It's by no means fresh now.
I do thank you for appreciating my approach to the topic even if you didn't find it groundbreaking, breath taking, or risk taking Go to Comment
At first I was worried that this was going to be another knock=off of the desert dwelling Fremen of Dune, or worse, Tuskan Raiders. Instead I find myself both amused by their unusual yet effective appearance and by the biological aspects of male versus female in their society. Nicely done. Go to Comment