I have been wanting to write more on the creatures that inhabit my game-world of Mystoerth. I thought maybe I'd go with the classic nemesis, the Orc.
I have talked about the Desert Orcs of the Zakhara Desert and their allies the Desert Elves. I also plan to use Harvard's more beastial Orcs of Blackmoor for my Blackmoor area (north pole).
Sure my Orcs have a lot in common with Tolkien's Orcs, but I also borrow a lot from Shadowrun, Orkworld and other games. I also like to think of orcs as some sort of human predecessor/off-shot. Almost like the gods were trying to make humans (or maybe the elves were) and the orcs were their their disastrous first draft. That would put more emphasis on the human-orc wars than the orc-elven ones. Unless there are some good reasons for the elves to be involved.
My write-up on Goblins can be read here, in case you were curious.
History of the Orcs
Orcs began as one of the first experiments of creating life by the elves. It is said that the greatest sin is that of hubris. In this hubris, feeling they were equal to the gods that had made them, the first elves, nearly immortal beings of great power, created the first orc through their magic. They wished to instill the sturdiness of the dwarves (a race created at the same time as the elves), the tenacity of the goblins and the adaptability of this new race known as human. Though to their horror what they created were the Orcs; a word that means "horror" in the elf tongue. The elves did not know what to do with there creations, so they hid them away in dark mountains, and underground and anywhere where the clime was harsh hoping that nature could do what they could not, kill their creations. But nature didn't instead she took iron of the Orcs and tempered it into steel. The orcs flourished and when the other races discovered what had been done it was too late to stop the orcs.
The hatred of the orcs and elves comes from this point. Orcs see elves and are reminded of what they are not, elves see orcs and are reminded of the failures of their own race. Even if the true knowledge of the elves and orcs has been lost to all but the most learned scholars, the racial memory runs deep.
If orcs just fundamentally hate elves, their hatred of dwarves is more pragmatic. Dwarves and orcs are often found in the same locales fighting over the same resources. So far the only race orcs have seen as worth enough to be considered equal foes are humans.
All orcs have a number of qualities in common. They are typically much stronger than humans and elves, have bestial or "primitive" features. Orcs will cross-bred with anything, but favor goblins, hobgoblins, humans, and ogres. Orcs have interbred with trolls and some hill giants in the past which has re introduced some randomness into their genetic makeup. Though it should be stated that orcs do not prefer this. Orcs are extremely proud of their heritage and consider themselves to be the best of all species as they are the only species to live in every part of the world. Though they are dimly aware that their success is due in part of their adaptability and ability to interbred with others.
Orcs give birth to 1-2 young at a time. The gestation period for an Orc is 4 months. A feamle orc can produce as many as 4 to 6 young per year, but only half will survive their first year. Orcs grow fast, with babies able to walk within months and eat meats by 1 year old. Orcs also reach sexual maturity at age 10 and are considered adults soon after. Female orcs choose mates based on their physical size and their ability to gain meat for the family unit. Males must show prowess in battle and kill any rivals for the female's attention. All orcs have a sense of honor, but it only applies to other orcs. Though they have been known to extend the same code to humans; a race they see as a worthy adversary.
Some orcs do enjoy the taste of human flesh, but they typically only eat human (or demi-human) flesh as a means to strike fear into foes or as part of a shamanistic ritual. Orcs are omnivores, though most prefer only meat. Elk, caribou and reindeer are the chief staples of their diet (depending on territory). No matter what though orcs will not eat the flesh of another orc. That is one taboo they will not break.
Grey Orcs - these are the common orcs of the "Oerth" part of my world. These are the brutish, violent orcs of most D&D worlds. They are found through out the Flanaess. These orcs extend far to the north where they are the original stock of the Blackmoor Orcs. Some scholars believe that these are orcs are the offspring of the Uruks and generations of interbreeding with goblinoids. These orcs are fond of raiding human villages for food and supplies. Some of these orcs have skin tone that is almost pinkish in hue, but they are still called Grey orcs. The largest concentration of Grey orcs are located in the Pomarj region. Here the Empire of Turrosh Mak still reigns as it has since CY 584 (the current CY in my game is CY915). The line of Turrosh Mak greatly favors the Uruk ancestry found in the Grey Orc line. The current orc emperor is Turrosh Bane XIV who came to power after murdering his father and brothers. Bane is devious, intelligent and violent in the extreme.
Green Orcs - The common orc of the "Msytara" side of my world. Like the greys these orcs are violent and brutish. These orcs though also have an bit higher intelligence than their grey cousins and are bit better organized, they constantly fall prey to clan fighting among lesser Green Orc chieftains. Unlike the Greys and the Uruk there is no one leader to try to unite these orcs. These orcs are common to much of the Empire of Thyatis and can also be found in the deep southern jungles of of Pelatan. The largest collection of Green orcs can be found in the Broken Lands outside Glantri.
White Orcs - These are green orcs that have adapted to the frozen wastes north of Hyborea and Norwold.
In the Northwest corner of Brun there is Hyborea and here the White Orcs have interbred with the Animalistic Orcs of Blackmoor to produce a breed of orc that is both strong, violent and smart. These orcs though seldom organize enough to become more of a threat outside of a raiding party. Due to the inherent adaptability of the orcs, these orcs have skin that is bone white. Better to hide in the frozen wastes they call home.
Blackmoor Orcs - These orcs are much more bestial in appearance and manner. Their sizes vary considerably and many have pronounced horns, claws, fur and other "animalistic" features. It is believed these orcs have been the results of the the strange experiments that were common to Blackmoor before the great explosion. These orcs have also interbred so much with goblins and bugbears that within Blackmoor it is nearly impossible to tell the two races apart.
Uruks - Also known as High Orcs or even Black Orcs, these orcs consider themselves to be the pinnacle of the orc race. Their skin is dark and they stand nearly a head taller than men. They are thickly muscled, often with pronounced tusks in their lower jaw and they are fiercely intelligent. While, maybe not more so than humans, but they have a cunning that makes them a horror in battle. Their mortality rate is very high so that they never produce great numbers. Their society is ordered, militaristic and violent. They have a single leader, currently a charismatic chieftain, that can control thousands of these orcs. If the Uruks ever decide to go to war with humanity then it will be a war that engulfs the world.
Desert Orcs - an off-shoot of the Greens. They live in a land where they are at peace with the elves. In fact Desert orcs and desert elves consider each other to be brothers. This relationship was forged thousands of years ago when the rose up together to fight of the evil of the Necromancer Kings. Living under the harsh desert sun has turned the orcs complexion to more of a brown color.
More detail has been posted here, Desert Elves and Orcs.
Half-Orcs - Most times when an orc inter-breeds with another species the result is an orc. The orc may have certain qualities that are similar to their non-orc parent (Goblin-Orcs are smaller, Ogre-Orcs are larger). Though there are often times individuals that seem to posses the better qualities of both parents. These half-orcs can often find a place for themselves in the human lands or the orcs. Half-orcs are more common among the Green and Grey orcs, though all orc sub-species have produced a half-orc one time or another.