Monday, May 27, 2019

The Clark Ashton Smithian Ecology of The Half Orc in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea with Help From Dragon Issue #62

Its Memorial Day here in New England & most of the last two days I've spent it with some veteran friends & players of mine listening to war stories. If your reading this & a veteran thank you for your service.

One of the things we began to discuss was Dragon magazine issue #62 was released in June of 1982. And its notable for two things the ground breaking article Point of View Half Orcs By Roger E. Moore & Gods of the Orcs. Gods of Orcs is also by the same highly underrated author of TSR's classic halcyon days. Now the conversation turned to Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea which it seems to always with this group of friends of mine. The discussion went something like, 'There's no way that you could include the half orc as a PC option in AS&SH' or something to that effect.

This race  whole cloth could be transported  from AD&D  over to AS&SH but the question becomes why & how. There are certainly any number of ways of doing this in keeping with the Hyperborean ethos. It some powerful Ixian wizard warlord got a hold of the half demon orcs of AS&SH & wanted a far more intelligent but disposable soldier. Then the half orc begins to gain viability. Especially one of the higher level wizards who was using the material of Ubbo-Sathla to create half orc soldiers. 
"There, in the grey beginning of Earth, the formless mass that was Ubbo-Sathla reposed amid the slime and the vapors. Headless, without organs or members, it sloughed from its oozy sides, in a slow, ceaseless wave, the amoebic forms that were the archetypes of earthly life. Horrible it was, if there had been aught to apprehend the horror; and loathsome, if there had been any to feel loathing. About it, prone or tilted in the mire, there lay the mighty tablets of star-quarried stone that were writ with the inconceivable wisdom of the pre-mundane gods.
Clark Ashton SmithUbbo-Sathla" 

The durablity of orcs & the intelligence of humans as half orc soldiers is within the realm of possibility for a wizard such as Clark Ashton Smith's Maal Dweb or his Ixian counter part. Goblins soldiers are more likely to be the cannon fodder who are led by a half orc commander perhaps made from common human beings. We see exactly this sort of an occult chimerical shape change in  The Maze of Maâl Dweb by 
Clark Ashton Smith

"Baffled and terrified, he felt that Maal Dweb, the allseeing, all-potent magician, was playing a game and was deluding him with elaborate mockeries. Rashly indeed had Tiglari pitted his simple brawn and forest craft against a being capable of such demoniac artifice. He dared not stir, he scarcely ventured to breathe. The monstrous reflections appeared to watch him like giants guarding a captive pigmy. The light, which streamed as if from hidden lamps in the mirrors, took on a more pitiless and alarming luster. The reaches of the room seemed to deepen; and far away in their shadows he saw the gathering of vapors with human faces that melted and reformed incessantly and were never twice the same.
Ever the weird radiance brightened; ever the mist of faces, like a hell-born smoke, dissolved and re-limned itself behind the immobile giants, in the lengthening vistas. How long Tiglari waited, he could not tell: the bright frozen horror of that room was a thing apart from time."

Half orcs & even half ogres are going to be one off creatures used for the whims of their wizard makers. I know what your thinking there are enough degenerate humans that can fill in the gaps here already in the game. Just as their are a wide variety of beings filling the ranks of soldiers for various 'higher men races' of Hyperborea so too are there humanoids filling the ranks of wizards who must compete with these.


But it goes deeper then the obvious arms race against the servants of  semi extinct races of  'higher' men. Abominations on Hyperborea are perhaps a bit too easily made & there may be a very dangerous reason for this. CAS created another rival great old one to Ubbo-Sathla in the form of Abhoth; "Abhoth ("The Source of Uncleanliness") resides in the cavern of Y'quaa beneath Mount Voormithadreth. It is a horrid, dark gray protean mass and is said to be the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination.""[H]e described a sort of pool with a margin of mud that was marled with obscene offal; and in the pool a grayish, horrid mass that nearly choked it from rim to rim... Here, it seemed, was the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination. For the gray mass quobbed and quivered, and swelled perpetually; and from it, in manifold fission, were spawned the anatomies that crept away on every side through the grotto. There were things like bodiless legs or arms that flailed in the slime, or heads that rolled, or floundering bellies with fishes' fins; and all manner of things malformed and monstrous, that grew in size as they departed from the neighborhood of Abhoth. And those that swam not swiftly ashore when they fell into the pool from Abhoth, were devoured by mouths that gaped in the parent bulk. 
Clark Ashton SmithThe Seven Geases"

What happens if the ancient Hyperborean wizards used material from 
Ubbo-Sathla  & the modern Ixian wizards inheritors of their art have been using  Abhoth as a means of a short cut & to speed the time of their soldiers manufacturing. Only their bringing about their own doom. You see some sources have suggested that both of these gods are actually one & the same part of the primal Chaos from GreoRoman mythology.
Chaos by George Frederic Watts
Every last Dungeons & Dragons D&D style monster within AS&SH is ultimately birthed by & carries the legacy of 
Ubbo-Sathla & Abhoth because their one & the same. But there's much more going on that just that; "Hesiod and the Pre-Socratics use the Greek term in the context of cosmogony. Hesiod's chaos has been interpreted as either "the gaping void above the Earth created when Earth and Sky are separated from their primordial unity" or "the gaping space below the Earth on which Earth rests"" 
So is there room for the 'gods of the orcs' on Hyperborea? Absolutely. The gods of the orcs are their higher dimensional arch types  given birth from both the plane of dreams mixed with the primal chaos or they might be beings of chaos from another world such as Greyhawk. They are  responding to the primal cry of horror & birth that echoes from the throats of goblins, half orcs  & ogres from the birthing matrices of Hyperborea. Half orcs are not so easily dismissed from the table top especially in the OSR or on Hyperborea

Half orc shaman by Markus Röncke 

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