Descended from nomadic human tribes, the bulky frames, dense muscles, and flattened features of the Orcish people often give the impression of dumb, hulking brutes; while this is far from the truth, the image is one the Orcs are willing to cultivate for the sake of having the other races underestimate them. In truth, the orcs are as intelligent as any other race, merely possessed of a strong spiritual aptitude. Of all the races, the Orcs have the largest pantheon of Mortal Gods, and rarely does a fortnight pass without at least one religious holiday. Due in large part for this innate aptitude for spiritual matter, the orcs are also the only Mortal race to have discovered Far Kuramen; while members of the race who can find the way between worlds are fairly rare, they happen often enough that each roving tribe generally has a 'world-walker' shaman, capable of bridging the gap for the tribe, which in turn lets them bring all manner of unusual trinkets to trade with the more settled races.
Orcs, by nature of their association with Far Kuramen, tend to have somewhat flamboyant and chaotic personalities, although this is moderated by the quiet shamanistic belief and simple focus of the nomadic life. More than any other race, however, orcs will go out of their way to be unique individuals, often taking great pride in their appearance relative to others in their tribe. As such, orcish children tend to begin self-inflicting ritual scarring from a remarkably young age, trusting in their hardy constitutions to handle it; their parents look upon this fondly, remembering their own childhood, and more than one young warrior has recieved an array of scar-dyes among his coming-of-age gifts.
Orcs are large by human standards, although not tall; most average a few inches shorter than their ancestral counterparts, but make up for it with a much more massive frame; where a large human might mostly occupy a well-built doorway, a large orc would completely occupy it and bend the doorframe a bit. Likewise, this bulk lends itself to a hardy physique, if not necessarily a strong one, as orcs are a healthy and resilient race. On average, orcs are a dusky-skinned race, some shading to unusual hues due to the influence of Far Kuramen; orcs with red, blue, or even violet skins are not unheard of, often in conjunction with the gifts of the Shaman or the Gatekeeper. Orcish features are somewhat flattened, giving them a squashed appearance, with overlarge nostrils and wide mouths that give them a somewhat simple-minded look.
Most orcs are covered in ritual scars, many wildly colored by special dyes; some scars have important meaning, while others are carved by particularly bored orcs or young children attempting to give themselves a unique appearance; similarly, while orcish hair tends to be naturally black, many tribesmen will go to great lengths to dye and otherwise alter their hair to give them a more individual look, such that any given orc is readily identifiable.
Orcs tend to get on reasonably well with most other races, although few races ever fully trust the orcs, given their often otherworldly aura and the way an entire tribe may mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night, often literally into thin air. That said, the halflings are the one race the orcs do not get along well with in most situations, due to their mutual ancestry; where the orcs learned the lessons during the collapse of the human empire and became a much enlightened and peaceful people, the halfings became feral, savage degenerates, embodying the worst of the empire's downfalls. The orcs blame the halflings' ancestors for the collapse, while the halflings merely take offense for the orcs' haughty attitude towards them. Meetings between the two races usually turn violent, and more than one homicide in major cities has been written off as racially motivated for this reasons.
Orcish tribes do not have native lands; being a nomadic people and traders in curios from Far Kuramen, they roam where they see fit, and most nations are content to ignore them as long as they do not cause trouble. Some few tribes (the Fire Speaker tribe and the Frozen Wyrm tribe being the most well-known) have a relatively restricted range, often owing more to the inhospitable nature of their surrounding regions as to any 'settling down' by those tribes. Tribes which meet will often engage encamp for a few weeks in an informal kind of festival and celebration, with marriages, trading, and contests between the two tribes taking place before they part. Even those tribes which feel some antipathy toward each other will not break this tradition, although their contests will often be bloodier and the marriages less numerous.
Orcish religion is an amazingly complex thing; each tribe venerates all the Mortal Gods they know of, often adding more with each passing year, referring to them as the Small Gods for their often-limited influence and range. When two orcish tribes meet, the shamans often spend the first few days of the celebration teach each other of the gods they have learned of; similarly, the discovery of a Lost God, Abomination, or Dragon is heralded as a great event among the orcish people, and tribes have been known to change their name in honor of these discoveries. Even the Six and the Primordials recieve veneration, although somewhat cautiously lest it draw too much interest from these mighty entities.
Due to their massive pantheon, orcs often regard each and every day as holy for some reason or another, and will often stop to perform rituals that seem obscure, outlandish, or merely bizarre to any non-orcish races as they venerate the Small Gods. So common is this veneration that orcs have been known to create Small Gods by accident due to misunderstandings about rituals and the nature of the god the ritual is for.
Each tribe speaks a distinctive dialect of the core orcish tongue, all of which are close enough to be understood by one another; as such 'Orcish' is always dialectic: Orcish (Fire Speaker) is different than Orcish (Frozen Wyrm), even though the epakers can understand one another. Each tribe, however, is fully certain that their dialect is the language spoken by the lost empire from which they are descended, and all share the same written language.
Orcs have two names, in general; one is known within their tribe, and is regarded as a thing of great spiritual and thus magical power, and is almost never shared with any not of their own tribe; should they marry into another tribe, they recieve a second personal name, known within their new tribe. They also have a traveller's name, one given should they encounter outsiders, or when they are out wandering the world on their own for whatever reason. Each tribe often chooses traveller's names related to their tribe name, while personal names are wildly varied.
Being nomads in both a literal sense and in their habit of crossing the Gates opened by their Gatekeepers, adventuring is a fairly common profession among the orcish tribes; members of a tribe will split away for years or decades at a time for whatever reason, often accumulating wealth and renown, and then one day return to their tribe without any difficulty.
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? Responses (11)
The Orcs of Kuramen come alive as I read the submission, with details that set the race apart.
In particular I enjoyed the world walking shamans that travel to far Kuramen, their religion and 'Small Gods', and their Halfling hatred.
The sub was shorter than expected, and it kinda felt like a full stop half way through.
It was originally written for a 3.5e Kuramen PBP that folded due to posting failures; as a result, it is heavily modeled on the race 'format' you can find in the 3.5e Player's Handbook, which tends to be on the short and condensed side. I did clip off the rule-related data, both because this is partly for the PBP here and because Kuramen doesn't rely on any particular ruleset.
I never thought of Orcs as just monsters. 5/5
None of the races of Kuramen are 'just' monsters, save perhaps Trolls - which are their own submission around here, and rather disturbing and nasty monstrosities.
These guys are fun. Have one to write up, once he's no longer *redacted*.
More love for the orcs! And more bold font, too!
Good solid idea and an accessible post.
This is an excellent submission, easy to read and easily used.
This is a nice new take on orcs. Well written and clear.
Favorite take is the colored scars and hair. Spins them a whole different way and wish I could go back in time to my original play and add those details. For sure, orcs were just green monsters in most of my first years of gaming. This would have helped a lot!