Home Gaming How to Create a Fictional Orcish Setting

How to Create a Fictional Orcish Setting

Too often novelists and dungeon masters ascribe little more to orcs than a hateful nature and massive numbers that compose their hordes. No thought is given to their society, their culture, their religions and occupations, how they feed their tribes and what they do during times of piece. If one were to invest some time in creating an Orcish society, what might it look like?

First let us posit that they are based in a long chain of mountains, a divider between two human kingdoms, and that the wealthier, more powerful tribes are based in the foothills of the mountains, controlling the main passes and herding animals for trade. The poorer tribes would live in the mountains proper, be smaller in number, more primitive and derided by their wealthier lowland cousins.

The trick to creating a believable setting would be to envision this mountain range accurately, to imagine the number of mountain passes, to expand upon the range that the orcs graze their animals upon the foothills, to postulate numbers of each, and then to envision the human kingdoms and empires on either side of the mountain ranges, to imagine what the two empires are like and how they deal with these orc infested mountains. No doubt they dream of cleaning out the passes, but the sheer number of orcs would result in the army being permanently stationed there to keep the pass open, something neither country can afford.
Instead the humans keep the orcs against each other, promising wealth and favor to each major tribe in turn so that it turns upon their neighbor, always whittling each other down to size. The highland orcs are ferocious, they mock their lowland cousins for being tamed, for being docile, but their lowland cousins have much greater numbers and better weapons, forcing their more brutal and powerful highland cousins to remain in the higher reaches, small in numbers and constantly moving and allying themselves to the ones below if not raiding them for goods and resources.

It is by analyzing economic models such as these, basic as they are, that one may begin to create realistic seeming Orcish societies.


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