In the isolated hills and canyons of the wild lands exists a people feared and hated by humanity. Relentless in battle, feared as murderous cannibals, the race that calls itself the Volgotoi is perhaps the least well understood of the foes of human civilization. Few people have bothered to learn more of the creatures that they call “Ogres”, as the sons of men are content in their ignorance, unwilling to know more of this fearsome race.
Although the various Ogrish subspecies are diverse in their appearance, with numerous regional variations, the Volgotoi are generally similar in size and coloration. They loom almost ten feet in height, with much of their weight carried low in the body. Younger warriors are often massively muscled, but house leaders tend to become paunchy; the most prosperous of them eventually grow quite obese. The skin of these creatures is generally a pale grey, shot through with mauve veins and varicosities. Volgotoi that spend a great deal of time outdoors often tan to a waxy ochre coloration. Their teeth tend to be jagged and uneven, with protruding fangs.
Volgotoi are not a tidy people, as a rule. They tend to regard cleaning as a duty suitable for their few thralls; this disdain for bathing or cleaning up after themselves causes their settlements to become filthy pestholes, cluttered with filth and debris. Those few Volgotoi that have enslaved members of weaker races may not be so disorganized and unclean, but that condition seldom lasts for long: Most Volgotoi are poor slave-keepers and their thralls tend to die or escape soon after capture.
Their distaste for cleaning extends to personal hygiene: For many Volgotoi, personal hygiene is limited to periodically stripping off their filthy clothing and standing disrobed in one of their land’s occasional downpours. Needless to say, in dry seasons they emit a nearly overpowering stench. They are very fortunate that their race is remarkably resistant to disease, seldom suffering from the numerous parasites infesting their lairs.
Female Volgotoi tend to be smaller, with features more similar to those of humanity. It is a mark of pride among the “Ogre Maidens” (the human term) to master the mixing and use of cosmetics; if they choose to fully mask their skin’s grayish color, many of these females can even pass for human (if human women were over eight feet tall). It is not uncommon for these women to be attractive to human eyes, although they themselves do not normally find other races appealing. Because of the physical resemblance to humans, the females tend to serve as envoys between their people and any nearby human settlements.
It is rare, but not unheard of, for Volgotoi to interbreed with smaller races. They are not normally attracted to those outside their own race, but may take mates of other races to signify political alliance. These pairings seldom result in children, as the disparity in size makes it difficult for a child to be brought to term. Occasional children of mixed parentage are seen, but their appearances vary wildly: Some appear as shorter Volgotoi, while others are virtually indistinguishable from the non-Volgotoi parent.
Culture of the Volgotoi
The most well-known and feared trait of the Volgotoi is their tendency to hunt and devour members of other races. This behavior is the main reason that they are despised by nearly any people that they encounter, but they are hardly the indiscriminate cannibals the folk tales describe. To one of the Volgotoi, they are honoring their fallen foes when they feast upon their remains. They are symbolically purifying their enemies’ remains, devouring their weakness and sharing their strength.
Volgotoi also eagerly devour the children of their foes, seeing it as hypocrisy to spare the young, only to hunt them when they grow older. This is also seen as a way to honor their victims. The skulls of children who exhibit fortitude or bravery beyond their years are displayed in honor within the filthy lairs of the Volgotoi people.
It is widely believed among the Volgotoi that a warrior that fails to eat his foe’s remains will be haunted by their “weaknesses”, vicious spirits that embody the deceased victim’s failures and inadequacies. These predatory spirits will strike him with the very vulnerabilities that plagued his victims before their death.
The odd religion of the Volgotoi is virtually unknown outside the close-knit family groups of their culture. Although they are not a people given to elaborate piety, many honor a bloodthirsty god named Gora’am. Gora’am is also known by his title, “The Purifier”. This god is said to devour the souls of the weak, spitting them forth afterward to be born again. It is said that at the end of time, he will finally spit forth a race of beings with iron wills, a perfect people without flaws or weaknesses.
The Volgotoi, as a people, do not normally value extreme wit or cunning. They regard treacherous or deceptive behavior as “womanish”, and indeed, many of their women are extremely tricky and shrewd deceivers. Tribal warriors tend to be simpleminded and actually take perverse pride in their lack of subtlety. Those developing cunning schemes and artifices are likely to be dismissed as cowardly and effeminate. In fact, one of the quickest ways for a warrior to demean himself in the eyes of the Volgotoi is to be caught out as a liar.
Women among the Volgotoi tend to be more thoughtful. They value the wisdom of their “Wise Women” and often seek to master magic that will allow them to protect their clan by baffling enemies and making allies. Many are consummate liars and actresses, manipulating friends as easily as enemies. Those dealing with Volgotoi women need to remember whether the larger folk have reason to see them as enemies; they have no qualms about pretending friendship, only to beguile their foe into a trap.
Volgotoi tend not to congregate in large groups. Most settlements of their kind tend to hold one extended family, with a few hangers-on and unrelated friends present. They prefer to live in caves or tunnels underground when possible, but will dwell in massive wooden longhouses in areas where that is not practical. Within the family, the eldest warrior’s word is law, but he will very seldom argue with the dominant female of the family. Much more subtle than the males, the women know how to make any male that crosses them quite miserable.
Although the Volgotoi honor warriors in their culture, they also give honor to artisans of great patience and skill. Families of leatherworkers, armorers, brewers, and cattlemen are found among the leaders of their culture. The Volgotoi do not have a formalized hierarchy or leadership, but informal networks of families exist and cooperate to resolve problems. In times of threats to the people as a whole, a “Great Elder” warrior is chosen to lead. The Great Elder is picked by the acclamation of the warriors present (…generally after they have been told who to pick by the women of their families). This leader, advised by the senior woman of his family, leads the Volgotoi people into battle when needed. They tend to avoid open battle, as the disorganized warriors of the Volgotoi are no match for disciplined soldiers in the field. Instead, they prefer to practice a sort of guerrilla warfare, withdrawing into the hills and badlands where organizing and supporting large military forces becomes impossible. In this rougher terrain, their individual power and bravery is able to balance the scales against more disciplined and resourceful opponents. In battle, their foul reputation becomes an asset, as many foes are demoralized by the thought of being eaten if they should fall.
Encounters with the Volgotoi
The Golden Pilgrims
The Golden Pilgrims of Wing-Chall, an unpopular religious sect, resettled far from the oppression of the local authorities. Unfortunately, the area where the pilgrims chose to place their fledgling colony borders on the rugged lands of the Volgotoi. After several settlers disappear, the party is requested to discover what happened to them. Perhaps the pilgrims have alienated their cannibalistic neighbors, perhaps some other explanation is at fault, but in any case, the party has to tread lightly lest they stir the wrath of the Volgotoi.
After years of relative peace between Volgotoi and the hill folk, something has begun annihilating entire steadings of the Volgotoi, then disappearing into the human lands. The women of the Volgotoi families come to the party to stop this threat before their warriors take matters into their own unsubtle hands.
A new Great Elder is rising among the Volgotoi, a powerful warrior guided by his particularly ambitious and subtle mate. She is stirring incidents between Volgotoi and neighboring peoples to create a climate of crisis that will allow her mate to seize power among the area's families and carving an empire in the rugged wasteland.
The Volgotoi seldom suffer from tooth decay, as their jagged, tusk-like fangs are remarkably resistant, but when they do, they are truly miserable. The party is asked to bring a healer to assist a Volgotoi farmer suffering from a painful infection. While they may not want to help heal an enemy of humanity, this farmer is one of the few Volgotoi to eschew the consumption of human flesh. If he is not helped, other Volgotoi will consider him an example of what can go wrong “when you neglect your diet”.
An “Ogre Maiden” has gathered a circle of human students, women without families learning the secrets of Volgotoi cosmetics. While she may be acting for their mutual profit, not all the Volgotoi women feel that this is wise. One is plotting to convince the warriors that these young women are enemies, foes that should be eaten before they can steal the families’ secrets.