"Orcus was first presented in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement in 1976, by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume, for the original (white box) Dungeons & Dragons game. Although the book states that there are several such demon Princes, only Orcus and Demogorgon are detailed, "two of the greatest of these exceptional demon lords". Game statistics for Orcus appear on page 27, while a description of Orcus appears on page 35 with an accompanying illustration, and a description for his Wand of Orcus appears on page 42 under the section for artifacts."
At the time I received my copy of Eldritch Wizardry I was reading a ton of Marvel Seventies Dr.Strange. The demon lord slotted itself forever more in my mind as one more demon lord that Doc could encounter but because he was prince of the undead he couldn't be banished from the mortal plane.I got the feeling that his cult was expansive & very dangerous as his titles suggest as the Prince of the Undead & Prince of Undeath.
"In 1977, Orcus (Prince of the Undead) was included in the first Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual by Gary Gygax. First edition AD&D game statistics and a description for Orcus appeared in pages 17–18 under the "demon" section, with an illustration of Orcus by David C. Sutherland III on page 17 and an illustration of the Wand of Orcus on page 18. The Wand of Orcus was detailed on page 162 of the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide, also by Gygax, in the section on treasure (artifacts and relics)."
Then in '77 we got a fully fleshed out Orcus in the Monster Manual & his rod was fully detailed in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide. His corpse fat bloated continence glows like some infernal chess master over the myriad of planes across the multiverse. Each & every skeleton, ghost, etc. in the dungeon or backwater village adds a bit more power to the bastard. He can't get enough & its never going to be enough for him. So he adds his necromancers & death masters as his cult grows just a bit more. To me it always felt like there wasn't a corner of the planes of existence where Orcus didn't have just a little bit of influence. His rod really gives the clue on how & where his cult spreads, it annihilates anyone it touches. This is the perfect creed & philosophy of his cult of nihilists, the final corpse bloated peace of the grave for everything. Only its not the end because you'll be animated as a skeleton or wight or some other undead.
But it was when I had read Clark Ashton Smith's Empire of the Necromancers that Orcus came into focus;
"Unbroken before them, through fields devoid of trees and grass, and across the channels of dried-up rivers, there ran the great highway by which travelers had gone formerly betweea Cincor and Tinarath. Here they met no living thing; but soon they came to the skeletons of a horse and its rider, lying full in the road, and wearing still the sumptuous harness and raiment which they had worn in the flesh. And Mmatmuor aad Sodosma paused before the piteous bones, on which no shred of corruption remained; and they smiled evilly at each other.
'The steed shall be yours,' said Mmatmuor, 'since you are a little the elder of us two, and are thus entitled to precedence; and the rider shall serve us both and be the first to acknowledge fealty to us in Cincor.'
Then, in the ashy sand by the wayside, they drew a threefold circle; and standing together at its center, they performed the abominable rites that compel the dead to arise from tranquil nothingness and obey henceforward, in all things, the dark will of the necromancer. Afterward they sprinkled a pinch of magic powder on the nostril-holes of the man and the horse; and the white bones, creaking mournfully, rose up from where they had lain and stood in readiness to serve their masters.
So, as had been agreed between them, Sodosma mounted the skeleton steed and took up the jeweled reins, and rode in an evil mockery of Death on his pale horse; while Mmatmuor trudged on beside him, leaning lightly on an ebon staff; and the skeleton of the man, with its rich raiment flapping loosely, followed behind the two like a servitor."
It doesn't matter your station or social standing the power of undeath & necromancy makes a mockery out of the afterlife. Todd Lockwood's Orcus from 1981's Dragon takes all of the grayness of the demon prince's realm & brings it into sharp focus. There's a certain mocking black magick something about this piece that has the same effect on me as the Ray Harryhausen skeleton fights. You can almost see the movements of the skeletons bringing the poor sacrifice before the bloated demon prince.
Because the Todd Lockwood's piece of artwork came out in 1981 its forever associated in my mind with the 1966 film Planet of Vampires. It was the same year I got this piece of artwork in Dragon & had that Italian horror flick burnt into my young mind at 3:00 A.M.!
Orcus is the demon prince of undeath, so it stands to reason that vampirism (undeath) is under his purview. In my young mind these to connected somehow. I whipped up an adventure in which the planet Aura was simply another plane that Orcus had discarded in the past. This unknown planet was part of some bizarre planar chess game he played with his fellow demon lords. Little did I realize that apparently this was something already built into background of AD&D.
Of course 1981 is the same year that the Evil Dead films came out & you've got to wonder if there isn't a passage or two about Orcus in the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Come to think of it perhaps those demons were birthed by Shub-Niggurath (The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young) & Orcus in some obscene acts out in the multiverse some place? This might help explain the random demon generator from the pages of the Best of Dragon magazine. "Orcus was often depicted, accompanied by Succubi and Type V demons. Here's one illustration, created by Jennell Jaquays that depicts a whole host of demons." This piece of artwork from the pages of the Best of Dragon magazine helped to flesh out many of the demons of his from the Monster Manual over the years. In fact several demonic monstrosities have been birthed from that corpulent stomach after a friend joked about him being pregnant.
I don't think that there's been a plane that hasn't been touched by the demonic prince of undeath. His influence continues to spread across the planes & his cult has made it onto Hyperborea. I adapted Orcus's 'origin' by Frank Mentzer as official inner circle cult doctorine & inter game dogma for AS&SH;"
Orcus was one of two demon rulers (along with Demogorgon) described in the Dungeons & Dragons Immortals Rules set (1986) by Frank Mentzer, in the "DM's Guide to Immortals" booklet on pages 33–34, with accompanying charts on pages 35–36. Orcus and Demogorgon are said to command all the other demons described in the book, although they are but two of the many Eternals of the Sphere of Entropy. Orcus (also called The Goat, Master of the Dead, Lord of Darkness, and The Black Prince) commands all mortals of the Sphere of Entropy, which includes undead monsters, and he also commands a small body of loyal Immortals. The book notes that Demogorgon can even command Orcus, although he requires great and sufficient cause to do so. In this version, Orcus attacks with any convenient weapons, wielding one in each hand. In Wrath of the Immortals (1992), Orcus's history was fleshed out somewhat; he was said to have been a devil swine (a kind of shape-shifter who changes between the form of a fat human and a wild pig) in the long-ago kingdom of Traldara on the world of Mystara. His hatred for all life was sufficient to draw the attention of the Immortal Thanatos, who sponsored Orcus's own successful bid for Immortality.:31 The article "The Known World Grimoire" by Bruce A. Heard in Dragon #196 (August 1993) mentions that the orcish Tribe of the Sea Plague has Oruguz (also known as Orcus) as their patron. Oruguz is part of the pantheon of the orcs of the Dark Jungle, and the tribe that serves him is led by devil swine, which enforce the precepts of Oruguz among the tribe. "
Here's ten modifications I used for my own home campaigns over the years with Orcus
- The bits of Orcus lore I kept were his demonic epitaphs The Goat, Master of the Dead, Lord of Darkness, and The Black Prince
- Orcus commands all mortals of the
SphereCult of Entropy, which includes undead monsters, and he also commands a small body of loyal demonic Immortals.
- The book notes that Demogorgon can even command Orcus, although he requires great and sufficient cause to do so. In this version, Orcus attacks with any convenient weapons, wielding one in each hand.
- In Wrath of the Immortals (1992), Orcus's history was fleshed out somewhat; he was said to have been a devil swine (a kind of shape-shifter who changes between the form of a fat human and a wild pig) in the long-ago kingdom of Traldara His hatred for all life was sufficient to draw the attention of the Gods of Undeath who sponsored Orcus's own successful bid for Immortality.
- Orcus is one of the big Lovecraftian baddies in my games & he's caused myriad zombie (ghoul) zombie plagues
- His influence pops up in the post apocalpytic wastelands as a god from time to time among wasteland nihilists
- His demons are used all of the time on my version of Hyperborea because of their connection with AS&SH necromancers.
- All undead have a bit of Orcus's demonic influence
- There are a myriad of planes, dimensions, planets that have fallen to his fat corpulent rotten influence over billions of years.
- A demon prince of undeath isn't something to be taken lightly.
Dave Trampier Orcus