Thursday, April 30, 2020

Review & Commentary On the Free Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book by Stephen Chenault , & Robert Doyel

"Upon the Edge of Battle Lie the Spoils of Glory
Upon wind-swept battlefields, they seek their glory. With weapons of steel,
stout shields, and sorcery, they drive ever onward, seeking the grandeur of conflict
with creatures of terrible wrath or beasts of legend. In all hours of every day,
they gird themselves for war and struggle, to drive those evil beings of foul
intent to doom and oblivion. But before glory can be obtained, before
fame and riches can be won by these heroes of renown, they must face and
overcome those that would oppose them. Only then do the beasts yield the fruit
of their lives: Ancient scrolls, magic swords, shields of wonder, potions, rings,
wands, and untold wealth in coins, gems, and jewels.

What Lies Herein
Contained within this book is a wealth of information for the
Castle Keeper: 205 monsters, advice on roleplaying monsters, handling
combat with monsters, creating monsters, 200 unique treasures, rules for
awarding treasures and creating magic items."

This is the one hundred & seventy eight page bestiary & treasures book.
The free digital copy of  Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book is one of the earlier incarnations.This is because the paid version has the glossy pages & expanded font to be easier on old eyes such as mine.

Just in case you weren't paying attention Troll Lords announced a free digital copy of  Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book.  But what's actually in the Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book? Well step right into the deep end & let's take a look into this bestiary & treasure book. Clocking in at one hundred & forty five  pages the Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book has everything that a dungeon master needs to set up the monster side of the C&C adventure. A good solid sampling of all of the classic monsters are here.

There isn't a single devil or demon in this book but that's fine. What's here is solid old school because  C&C Monsters & Treasure debuts a new look, with more interior art, expanded index and some rules clarifications.  This is a solid investment for those dungeon masters who were in for the earlier incarnations of the Castles & Crusades games. But is it worth the download? Yes in a word. The monsters are with cleaned up stat blocks & a very easy to digest whole cloth approach to the monster itself. This sort of attention to detail is visible throughout the  Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book.
But what really sets it apart is the next section with the magic items & how Castles & Crusades handles the subject.  The majority of the treasure section is dedicated to magic items & even how to create or destroy them. This isn't an oversight on the part of the authors but along with the  magic items, there are also sentient items and how to destroy them. Plus there is  a section about other rewards, like lands, titles, services and the like which is very important for domain style games!

For the Castles & Crusades dungeon master (I'm sorry but I'm never calling them Castle Keepers. Every game master for me is a dungeon master trade marks & copy rights be damned!) the Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book is an absolutely essential book & I'm glad to have this earlier incarnation of it. Why?! Two reasons for me it shows the evolution of the various incarnations of the C&C game. For the second reason its a bit more complex. This is a striped down version of the Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book which means that in a pinch it can be brought to the fore for adventure design. This unto itself is reason enough for me to have a copy. Do I think that Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book is worth the down load? Well its sitting on my hard drive. The Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book is a book that works for me at the table top level. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Matters of Dungeons & The Specter of Green Violence - Another Ecology of the Goblin For Old School Campaigns

Lady of Hat's art rendition of the classic Dungeons & Dragons style goblin. 

Lets hit one of the green spots in Dungeons & Dragons, the lowly dungeon dwellers the goblins. There's supposedly a bunch of prejudices associated with the little green chaotic murder machines as well. Again I've been hearing this since the dawn of time & gaming. This goblin plagued blog entry is gonna depend upon the goblin wiki entry here. 
When we start to dive head first into the mythology & background of the names of the goblin then we start getting into some of the dark & gritty roots of the little green bastards;
"Alternative spellings include gobblingobelinegoblinggoblyngoblino, and gobbelin. English goblin is first recorded in the 14th century and is probably from unattested Anglo-Norman *gobelin,[1] similar to Old French gobelin, already attested around 1195 in Ambroise of Normandy's Guerre sainte, and to Medieval Latin gobelinus in Orderic Vitalis before 1141,[2][3] which was the name of a devil or daemon haunting the country around Évreux, Normandy. It may be related both to German kobold and to Medieval Latin cabalus - or *gobalus, itself from Greek κόβαλος (kobalos), "rogue", "knave", "imp", "goblin".[2][4] Alternatively, it may be a diminutive or other derivative of the French proper name Gobel, more often Gobeau,[5][6] diminutive forms Gobelet, Goblin, Goblot, but their signification is probably "somebody who sells tumblers or beakers or cups".[7] Moreover, these proper names are not from Normandy, where the word gobelin, gobelinus first appears in the old documents. German Kobold contains the Germanic root kov- (Middle German Kobe "refuge, cavity", "hollow in a rock", Dial. English cove "hollow in a rock", English "sheltered recess on a coast", Old Norse kofi "hut, shed" ) which means originally a "hollow in the earth".[8][9] The word is probably related to Dial. Norman gobe "hollow in a cliff", with simple suffix -lin or double suffixation -el-in (cf. Norman surnames Beuzelin,[10] Gosselin,[11] Étancelin,[12] etc.) The Welsh coblyn, a type of knocker, derives from the Old French gobelin via the English goblin.[13][14] The term goblette has been used to refer to female goblins."

Let's hit the twenty ton goblin issue & put it squarely where it belongs. Are goblins in Dungeons & Dragons racist &  anti Semitic? Well first let's put this squarely where this whole cloth manure pile where it belongs? Squarely in the ball park of  the Harry Potter books  & their author J.K. Rowlings or  is it?! According to the Quora website going all of the way back December of 2019;
"I've read the Harry Potter books 5+ times each, and I find this question interesting and hard to assess. I found the following post online, and I find its conclusions and observations pretty reasonable:
Debunking the Harry Potter Anti-Semitism Myth
By Stephen Richer
There’s no shortage of theories connecting Judaism and Harry Potter. Entire books have been written on Potter philosophy and Torah wisdom (see Moment’s interview with Dov Krulwich), and some commentators have posited that its magicians—chosen people misunderstood by others—are essentially Jewish. Yet, others also a postulate a rather unfortunate perspective that J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series are guilty of perpetuating an anti-Semitic slur: underhandedly equating the book’s loathsome goblins with Jews.
The goblin-as-Jew allegation deserves assessment, partly because anti-Semitism is so serious, but also because if the complaint is true, millions of Jews, including yours truly, could not continue to happily reread and rewatch one of the greatest stories ever told.
The theory—as put forth by one its leading proponents Matt Zeitlin—is pretty simple:
The goblins, especially as depicted in the movies, are universally hooked nosed, short, unattractive, and green. …Professor Binns’ soporific History of Magic lectures tell tales of centuries of goblin oppression, segregation, mistrust, bad relations, exclusion, and revolts. Sound like any European ethnic minority you know? That’s right, Rowlings’ depiction of goblins reflects the type of stereotypes that are more fitting for Russia in the late 19th century or a second rate Gazan newspaper.
As further evidence, Zeitlin offers a side-by-side comparison of an anti-Semitic cartoon with the Warner Brothers’ rendition of a Rowling’s goblin:
Once the goblin-Jew connection is made, it’s easy to prove a dislike for Jews. After all, Rowling’s distaste for goblins is quite evident. Rubeus Hagrid – a character inclined to see the good in all people and creatures – warns Harry about goblins in the first 100 pages of the seven book series: “They’re goblins Harry. Clever as they come, goblins, but not the most friendly of beasts.”Deathly Hallows portrays goblins as impassionate neutrals in a fundamentally moral war who ironically play something of a Switzerland banking for the Nazis (Gringotts goblins). In Goblet of Fire, goblins are more concerned with their money than the terrorization of innocents (World Cup Dark Mark raid). And, as judged by the only goblin we really get to know in detail – Griphook – goblins are untrustworthy.
This line of reasoning seems compelling, but to foist it on Rowling and the Potter series seems unjust. For one, Rowling does a great deal of borrowing in her stories. She followed established conventions, endowing her dragons with fiery breath and wings, giving her trolls dim wit and powerful clubs, and her goblins with short stature, hooked noses, and greedy manipulation—archetypes that existed well before Rowling ever put pen to paper. Perhaps Rowling drew her goblin based on the goblins in the Nineteenth Century poem “Goblin Market,” in which goblins lure and trick with “evil gifts.” Or consider JRR Tolkein’s goblin—“A foul creature…slightly smaller, sometimes hunched over or appearing to walk and run with limps.” Or just look up goblin in the dictionary and you find a definition that largely resembles Rowling’s creatures. Perhaps the goblin character has its origins in anti-Semitism, but Rowling can hardly be convicted of unjust commentary for using a now-familiar Western literary character.
Additionally, the debate over whether the goblin character has its roots in anti-Semitism is wholly unaligned with Rowling’s professed views on Jews. In 2004, Rowling visited a Holocaust Museum and compared the hated “mudblood” and “half-blood” terms used in Harry Potter with the anti-Semitic propaganda of the Nazis: “If you think this is far-fetched, look at some of the real charts the Nazis used to show what constituted Aryan or Jewish blood.” Rowling has also gone on record saying that her evil character—Lord Voldemort—is modeled in part off of Hitler. Both comments won her comments of praise from Jewish organizations.
Then there are the movies—in which Rowling played an active oversight roll. The actor that plays Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe has a Jewish mother, and the film company that produces the movies, Warner Brothers, owes its start to Hirsz, Abraham, Szmul, and Itzhak Wonskolaser (later changed to Warner).
In the eyes of this aspiring Gryffindor, we Jews can enjoy—without misgiving—the latest, and final, Harry Potter movie.

And do yourselves a favor & go read the comments on the 
the Quora website going all of the way back December of 2019 They are quite 'enlightening' so to speak. There are actually scores of goblins & goblin like monsters across a huge range of cultures; 
  • redcap is a type of goblin who dyes its hat in human blood in Anglo-Scottish border folklore.
  • Hobgoblins are friendly trickster goblins from EnglishScottish, and Pilgrim folklore and literature.
  • The Benevolent Goblin, from Gesta Romanorum (England)[17]
  • The Erlking is a malevolent goblin from German legend.
  • The Trasgu is a Northern Spanish and Northern Portuguese mythological creature of Celtic and Roman origin.
  • "The Goblin Pony", from The Grey Fairy Book (French fairy tale)
  • "The Goblins at the Bath House" (Estonia), from A Book of Ghosts and Goblins (1969)
  • "The Goblins Turned to Stone" (Dutch fairy tale).[18]
  • King Gobb (Moldovan Gypsy folktale)
  • Mill goblins appear in Norwegian folklore.
  • pukwudgie is a type of goblin from Wamponoag folklore as well as Cryptozoology
  • Muki (mythology) (Quechua for a goblin who lives in caves, also for asphyxia)
  • Many Asian lagyt creatures have been likened to, or translated as, goblins. Some examples for these:
    • Chinese Ghouls and Goblins (England 1928)
    • The Goblin of Adachigahara (Japanese fairy tale)[19]
    • The Goblin Rat, from The Boy Who Drew Cats (Japanese fairy tale)
    • Twenty-Two Goblins (Indian fairy tale)[20]
    • In South Korea, goblins, known as dokkaebi (도깨비), are important creatures in folklore. They usually appear in children's books.[citation needed] The nursery song 'Mountain Goblin(산도깨비)' tells of meeting a goblin and running away to live.
    • In Bangladesh, Santal people believe in gudrobonga which is very similar to goblins.
    Other Goblins had been identified with creatures from another culture:
    • Goblins sometimes became identified with jinn in Islamic culture. 
  • Goblins are featured in the Danish fairy tales: The Elf MoundThe Goblin and the Grocer, and The Goblin and the Woman.

    Are goblins offensive to anyone? No only the PC dungeon explorers of classic Dungeons & Dragons or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. But with such a wide swath of goblin & goblin like creatures what can be gathered for the dungeon master?! That these agents of evil are spawned across the board & should never be taken lightly.

    Surely there's no Lovecraftian connection for the lowly goblin is there?! 
In  'The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath' By H.P. Lovecraft we get hints of Goblins & goblin like creatures in the wood of the Zoogs; "Of these things was Carter warned by the priests Nasht and Kaman-Thah in the cavern of flame, but still he resolved to find the gods on unknown Kadath in the cold waste, wherever that might be, and to win from them the sight and remembrance and shelter of the marvellous sunset city. He knew that his journey would be strange and long, and that the Great Ones would be against it; but being old in the land of dream he counted on many useful memories and devices to aid him. So asking a formal blessing of the priests and thinking shrewdly on his course, he boldly descended the seven hundred steps to the Gate of Deeper Slumber and set out through the Enchanted Wood.
In the tunnels of that twisted wood, whose low prodigious oaks twine groping boughs and shine dim with the phosphorescence of strange fungi, dwell the furtive and secretive Zoogs; who know many obscure secrets of the dream world and a few of the waking world, since the wood at two places touches the lands of men, though it would be disastrous to say where. Certain unexplained rumours, events, and vanishments occur among men where the Zoogs have access, and it is well that they cannot travel far outside the world of dream. But over the nearer parts of the dream world they pass freely, flitting small and brown and unseen and bearing back piquant tales to beguile the hours around their hearths in the forest they love. Most of them live in burrows, but some inhabit the trunks of the great trees; and although they live mostly on fungi it is muttered that they have also a slight taste for meat, either physical or spiritual, for certainly many dreamers have entered that wood who have not come out. Carter, however, had no fear; for he was an old dreamer and had learnt their fluttering language and made many a treaty with them; having found through their help the splendid city of Celephaïs in Ooth-Nargai beyond the Tanarian Hills, where reigns half the year the great King Kuranes, a man he had known by another name in life. Kuranes was the one soul who had been to the star-gulfs and returned free from madness.
Threading now the low phosphorescent aisles between those gigantic trunks, Carter made fluttering sounds in the manner of the Zoogs, and listened now and then for responses. He remembered one particular village of the creatures was in the centre of the wood, where a circle of great mossy stones in what was once a clearing tells of older and more terrible dwellers long forgotten, and toward this spot he hastened. He traced his way by the grotesque fungi, which always seem better nourished as one approaches the dread circle where elder beings danced and sacrificed. Finally the great light of those thicker fungi revealed a sinister green and grey vastness pushing up through the roof of the forest and out of sight. This was the nearest of the great ring of stones, and Carter knew he was close to the Zoog village. Renewing his fluttering sound, he waited patiently; and was at last rewarded by an impression of many eyes watching him. It was the Zoogs, for one sees their weird eyes long before one can discern their small, slippery brown outlines.
Out they swarmed, from hidden burrow and honeycombed tree, till the whole dim-litten region was alive with them. Some of the wilder ones brushed Carter unpleasantly, and one even nipped loathsomely at his ear; but these lawless spirits were soon restrained by their elders. The Council of Sages, recognizing the visitor, offered a gourd of fermented sap from a haunted tree unlike the others, which had grown from a seed dropt down by someone on the moon; and as Carter drank it ceremoniously a very strange colloquy began. The Zoogs did not, unfortunately, know where the peak of Kadath lies, nor could they even say whether the cold waste is in our dream world or in another. Rumours of the Great Ones came equally from all points; and one might only say that they were likelier to be seen on high mountain peaks than in valleys, since on such peaks they dance reminiscently when the moon is above and the clouds beneath."
So what does this tell us?! That Goblins are fairy creatures & very dangerous to anyone or anything they encounter. They've been with mankind since the beginning & have been haunting our dreams since original Dungeons & Dragons. A really nice example of humanoids & goblins is found in B10 Night's Dark Terror by Jim BambraGraeme Morris, & Phil Gallagher one of my all time favorite Basic Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules.

Goblins have always existed on the fringes of our imagination as the Lovecraftian fairy 'other' a dark reflection of the fears that we have of the unknown terror lurking just at the edges of our imaginations & ourselves. They are the product of the prejudices of ourselves & the our heart pounding fears that exist in our imaginations not as representations of any human race at all. Representations that can kill hoards of characters & PC's at the table top levels. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Half A Can of Whoop Ass - Another Ecology of the Half Orc For Old School Campaigns

Ever since I was a kid I've had to deal with the ins & outs of the ;real world; vs  'table top world of original Dungeons & Dragons. Everything from the Satanic panic to the full on nose sticking fun of folks delving into the 'true' meaning of Dungeons & Dragons. The game I love in all of its editions & incarnations has endured despite the attempts to the contrary. Which brings me once again the orc race wiki entry. This time I dive back even earlier into the mythology;

"The LatinOrcus is glossed as "Orc, þyrs, oððe hel-deofol"[a] ("Goblin, spectre, or hell-devil") in the 10th century Old English Cleopatra Glossary, about which Thomas Wright wrote, "Orcus was the name for Pluto, the god of the infernal regions, hence we can easily understand the explanation of hel-deofolOrc, in Anglo-Saxon, like thyrs, means a spectre, or goblin."[3][4][b] The Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal defines ork in the closely related Old Dutch language as a verslindend monster ("devouring monster"),[5] and points at a possible origin in the Old Dutch nork "petulant, crabbed, evil person".[6]
The term is used just once in Beowulf as the plural compound orcneas, one of the tribes alongside the elves and ettins (giants) condemned by God:
þanon untydras ealle onwocon
eotenas ond ylfe ond orcneas
swylce gigantas þa wið gode wunnon
lange þrage he him ðæs lean forgeald
Beowulf, Fitt I, vv. 111–14[7]
Thence all evil broods were born,
ogres and elves and evil spirits
—the giants also, who long time fought with God,
for which he gave them their reward
John R. Clark Hall, tr. (1901)"
"Orcneas is translated "evil spirits" above, but its meaning is uncertain. Klaeber suggested it consisted of orc < L. orcus "the underworld" + neas "corpses", which the translation "evil spirits" failed to do justice.[9][c] It is generally supposed to contain an element -né, cognate to Gothic naus and Old Norse nár, both meaning 'corpse'.[10] The usual Old English word for corpse is líc, but -né appears in nebbed 'corpse bed',[11] and in dryhtné 'dead body of a warrior', where dryht is a military unit. If *orcné is to be glossed as orcus 'corpse', the meaning may be "corpse from Orcus (i.e. the underworld)", or "devil-corpse", understood as some sort of walking dead creature"

"A monster called Orcus is mentioned in Edmund Spenser's 1590 Faerie Queene.[12] The Oxford English Dictionary records an Early Modern period orke, meaning "ogre", in Samuel Holland's 1656 fairy tale Don Zara, a pastiche of Spanish romances such as Don Quixote.[d][13] It is presumed that 'orke'/'ogre' came into English via continental fairy-tales, especially from the 17th-century French writer Charles Perrault, who borrowed most of his stories and developed his "ogre" from the 16th-century Italian writers Giovanni Francesco Straparola (credited with introducing the literary form of the fairy tale) and Giambattista Basile, who wrote in the Naples dialect, stating that he was passing on oral folktales from his region. In the tales, Basile used huorcohuerco or uerco, the Neapolitan form of Italian orco, "giant" or "monster", to describe a large, hairy, tusked, mannish beast who could speak, lived in a dark forest or garden and might capture and eat humans"
Humanity as we know it has nothing to do with the mockery of the orc race as a whole & far more to do with the demon lord Orcus. That's right I'm connecting orcs with the demon lord who loans out his mace to ever Tom, Dick & high level evil cleric. The demon lord spreads his evil across dimensions & planes planting seeds of evil where it will made from the evil essences of the long evil dead. Warped, traded, & moved from one prime material plane to the other half orcs emerge from the pits & caverns of long forgotten evil lairs of orcs. Not so much the products of 'forced matings' but the spawning of half formed mockeries of mankind.

These essences are sewn throughout the multiverse to spread the corruption & the 'marketing' of the demon lord. And these are used by demon, devil, & evil cleric alike. There is a basis for this within the writings of Tolkien & his critics;"

The Tolkien critic Tom Shippey writes that the orcs in The Lord of the Rings were almost certainly created just to equip Middle-earth with "a continual supply of enemies over whom one need feel no compunction",[24] or in Tolkien's words from The Monsters and the Critics "the infantry of the old war" ready to be slaughtered.[24] Shippey states that all the same, orcs share the human concept of good and evil, with a familiar sense of morality, though he notes that, like many people, orcs are quite unable to apply their morals to themselves. In his view, Tolkien, as a Roman Catholic, took it as a given that "evil cannot make, only mock", so orcs could not have an equal and opposite morality to that of men or elves."
But what of the troubling origin of the half orc? Troubling to today's gamers possibly but are they really?! Pig Faced half orcs have been with original Dungeons & Dragons killing characters from the shadows since the early days of 'The Dragon' magazine. All of the way back in 'The Dragon' magazine issue number 62 'The half orc outlook' By Roger E. Moore. Yes that Roger E. Moore whom readers of this blog will recognize as one of the other author's & designers who doesn't get half of the credit he deserves by D&D gamers. 

HT3a – Pig-faced Orc I By Otherworldly miniatures an old favorite of mine to use for half orc assassins. 

 In 'The Dragon' magazine issue number 62 'The half orc outlook' By Roger E. Moore he takes on the culture & dynamics of orcish society;

"Half-orcs, as everyone knows, are what you get when you cross orcs and humans. They are not uncommon in the world of the AD&D™ game, and they do not enjoy good reputations among most populations. One well-known authority describes most half-orcs as “rude, crude, crass, and generally obnoxious.” Why do half-orcs seem to turn out this way? What makes them tick? To better understand half-orcs, one needs to understand the non-human aspect of their nature. Orcs are probably the most common sort of humanoid creatures. They vary widely in physical appearance, but generally seem to retain a vaguely human look, tinged with a hint of something . . . else. In nearly all orcish societies, the social philosophy is the same. Orcs are the ultimate social Darwinists; only the strong and the clever survive, and the strongest and cleverest orcs are the ones who manage to reach the upper social levels of their cultures: Orcs have no respect for those weaker than themselves, and are quick to step-and-fetch for those stronger than they. They distrust all overtures of friendship and love, seeing these as a cover for other, baser intentions; if they discover feelings of friendship to be quite genuine, they immediately attempt to manipulate events to take the best advantage of them and gain the upper hand. Orcs are like this because of the influence of their deities (discussed in the companion article to this one) and because of their own past. Sages have uncovered much evidence showing that orcs developed in regions generally hostile to life; survival was difficult, and only if a group worked closely together could it hope to collect enough food to get even a part of its numbers through the year. While the group would have to work together to collect food, distributing it was another matter. The strongest orcs got the most food, and the weakest ones got none at all. (They were probably going to die anyway, right?). "

These monsters are not stand ins for some real world racial type but the product of their own demonic evil gods that howl for the blood & entrails of humanity around them. The article goes on to bring the half orc world view into a lens of their own culture & society. Its not a pretty one at that ; "The very toughest orcs managed to receive more than just the bare minimum of nourishment, enough to make life more comfortable for them and give them a certain degree of personal security. This also gave them the chance to explore more intellectual occupations than food-gathering, like figuring out how to get more food and living space. The easiest opportunity to be realized was to take food and/or living space away from other folks, and these other folks were usually other orcs. Intertribal competition became fierce, and over the centuries many of these conflicts have “evolved” into what seem to be eternal states of war between various tribes. Orcs are nocturnal by nature. They prefer to catch prey when it is asleep and less able to escape. Orcs have done this for so long they’ve developed infravision, the ability to see living objects in darkness by their body heat. The development of infravision was assisted by the orcish habit of living in caves for protection. Orcs tend to live in wilderness areas where the sky is heavily overcast and direct sunlight is non-existent or rare at best. In magical universes such regions are frequently found, their twilight perpetually maintained by the forces of magic cast by mortal or godling. In these places orcs will be much more active than is customary in the daytime, even to the point of conducting raids and hunting, but it is at night when orcs really become dangerous."
Humanity as a whole doesn't really do well in the areas that orcs & even to a certain extent half orcs thrive. But for me 'The half orc outlook' By Roger E. Moore humanizes the half orc a bit too much but that's a personal preference.  If you are a conasuir of anything orc then seek out 'The Dragon' issue #62 with the orc gods & 'The half orc outlook' By Roger E. Moore. These really are classic articles & still very useful at the table top level.

Larry Elmore artwork with an awesome cover for classic Dragon magazine.

For me its back to the original mythology & Tolkien where the half orc is indeed an inhuman product of some ancient & other evil. I do not at all see these Porky Pig faced bastards as anything other then evil horrors spawned by ancient & demonic gods. They do not & will not represent anything or anyone other then what they are monstrous spawn waiting for PC's to slaughter them. Half orcs give nor  ask for any quarter & neither should your PC's!

Pig-faced orcs assault the outer walls (Doug Chaffee, 2nd ed AD&D Player’s Handbook, TSR, 1989)

William Hope Hodgson's Thomas Carnacki, the ghost detective tangles with an incredibly dangerous psychic entity that may be responsible for the swine things seen in The House on the Borderland in 'the Hog'. But could these psychic entity god things be far more responsible for the gods of the orcs? Are these things the spawn of such otherworldly entities merely repeating the same cycle of alien ecological devastation that we see in places like Greyhawk over and over again? All of the tropes that we find in Dungeons & Dragons are there again & again 
otherworldly forces, hybrid anomalies deep underground, ruins, dangerous sanity blasting monsters, & even the dungeon as place of misfortune.

The half orc doesn't represent any Earthly racial type at all but humanity's worst aspects mixed with the 'alien other'. That other is always lurking close within a party of adventurers who dally with such creatures who may or may not be aware of the murderous intent from within. Instead I think that half orc 'represents' the dungeon master waiting for the right time to murder the party members!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Blood for Bacon - Another Ecology of the Orc For Old School Campaigns

Much of what follows in my wake is taken from the Wiki entry on orcs
Ever since I was growing up going up in the Seventies I've been hearing about how 'orcs are racist' & how its wrong to paint them as merely evil's cogs & parts that act as a mechanism for slaughter of PC's & the forces that commit genocide on campaign settings. To which I say, "bull shite". Orcs have been with the grand game since its beginning in original Dungeons & Dragons. I know that these have been there because I've had countless PC's slaughtered by the Porky Pig faced bastards. But the origins of these pig faced horrors goes back into the dark recesses of mythology besides Tolkien;"Tolkien began the modern use of the English term "orc" to denote a race of evil, humanoid creatures. His earliest Elvish dictionaries include the entry Ork (orq-) "monster", "ogre", "demon", together with orqindi and "ogresse". He sometimes used the plural form orqui in his early texts.[f] He stated that the Elvish words for orc were derived from a root ruku, "fear, horror"; in Quenyaorco, plural orkor; in Sindarin orch, plurals yrch and Orchoth (as a class).[T 2][T 1] They had similar names in other Middle-earth languages: uruk in Black Speech (restricted to the larger soldier-orcs);[T 1] in the language of the Drúedain gorgûn, "ork-folk"; in Khuzdul rukhs, plural rakhâs; and in the language of Rohan and in the Common Speechorka.[T 2]
Tolkien stated in a letter to the novelist Naomi Mitchison that his Orcs had been influenced by George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin.[T 1] He explained that his "orc" was "derived from Old English orc 'demon', but only because of its phonetic suitability",[T 3] and
I originally took the word from Old English orc (Beowulf 112 orc-neas and the gloss orcþyrs ('ogre'), heldeofol ('hell-devil')).[g] This is supposed not to be connected with modern English orcork, a name applied to various sea-beasts of the dolphin order".[T 4]
Tolkien also observed a connection with the Latin word orcus, noting that "the word used in translation of Q[uenya] urko, S[indarin] orch is Orc. But that is because of the similarity of the ancient English word orc, 'evil spirit or bogey', to the Elvish words. There is possibly no connextion (sic) between them."
That's right going all of the way back into the beginning of Tolkien's work. But for me orcs have always been the 'other'. The other in this instance isn't a particular race,person, or thing but something utterly alien. Orcs to me are the inversion of mankind & a mockery of everything that it means to be human. This all comes down for me in Gary Gygax's B2 Keep on the Borderlands. 

Orcs are the evil monsters that along with a slew of other evil humanoid monsters in the Caves of Chaos are intent on slaughtering every human they can get a hold of. Its almost as though the orcs were created & bred for murder whole cloth. And that's exactly what they are. Don't believe me?! Again from the wiki on orcs; 

"The scholars of English literature William N. Rogers II and Michael R. Underwood note that a widespread element of late 19th century Western culture was fear of moral decline and degeneration; this led to eugenics.[17] In The Two Towers, the Ent Treebeard says:[T 16]
It is a mark of evil things that came in the Great Darkness that they cannot abide the Sun; but Saruman's Orcs can endure it, even if they hate it. I wonder what he has done? Are they Men he has ruined, or has he blended the races of Orcs and Men? That would be a black evil![T 16]
The film-maker Andrew Stewart, writing in CounterPunch, cites this speech as an instance of "mid-twentieth century scientific racism .. which alarmingly spells out the notion of 'race mixing' as a great sin".[18] Stewart notes, too, that the geography of Middle-earth deliberately pits the good West against the evil East;[18] John Magoun, writing in the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, concurs, supposing that Middle-earth has a "moral geography".[16] Any moral bias towards a north-western geography, however, was directly addressed by Tolkien himself in a letter to Charlotte and Denis Plimmer, who had recently interviewed him in 1967:
Auden has asserted that for me 'the North is a sacred direction'. That is not true. The North-west of Europe, where I (and most of my ancestors) have lived, has my affection, as a man's home should. I love its atmosphere, and know more of its histories and languages than I do of other parts; but it is not 'sacred', nor does it exhaust my affections. I do have, for instance, a particular fondness for the Latin language, and among its descendants for Spanish. That is untrue for my story, a mere reading of the synopses should show. The North was the seat of the fortresses of the Devil [ie. Morgoth].[T 17]
In a private letter, Tolkien describes orcs as:[T 18]
squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.
 A variety of critics and commentators have noted that orcs are somewhat like caricatures of non-Europeans. The journalist David Ibata writes that the orcs in Peter Jackson's Tolkien films look much like "the worst depictions of the Japanese drawn by American and British illustrators during World War II."[19] The literary critic Jenny Turner, writing in the London Review of Books, endorses Andrew O'Hehir's comment on that orcs are "by design and intention a northern European's paranoid caricature of the races he has dimly heard about".[20][21] O'Hehir describes orcs as "a subhuman race bred by Morgoth and/or Sauron (although not created by them) that is morally irredeemable and deserves only death. They are dark-skinned and slant-eyed, and although they possess reason, speech, social organization and, as Shippey mentions, a sort of moral sensibility, they are inherently evil."[21] He notes Tolkien's own description of them (quoted above), saying it could scarcely be more revealing of his attitude to the "Other", but excuses him saying that "it is also the product of his background and era, like most of our inescapable prejudices. At the level of conscious intention, he was not a racist or an anti-Semite" and mentions his letters to this effect.[21] In a letter to his son, Christopher who was serving in the RAF in the Second World War, Tolkien wrote of orcs as appearing on both sides of the conflict:
Yes, I think the orcs as real a creation as anything in 'realistic' fiction ... only in real life they are on both sides, of course. For 'romance' has grown out of 'allegory', and its wars are still derived from the 'inner war' of allegory in which good is on one side and various modes of badness on the other. In real (exterior) life men are on both sides: which means a motley alliance of orcs, beasts, demons, plain naturally honest men, and angels.[T 19]
The scholar of English literature Robert Tally describes the orcs as a demonized enemy, despite (he writes) Tolkien's own objections to demonization of the enemy in the two World Wars.[22] The Germanic studies scholar Sandra Ballif Straubhaar however argues against the "recurring accusations" of racism, stating that "a polycultured, polylingual world is absolutely central" to Middle-earth, and that readers and filmgoers will easily see that.[2] The historian and Tolkien scholar Jared Lobdell likewise disagreed with any notions of racism inherent or latent in Tolkien's works, and wondered "if there were a way of writing epic fantasy about a battle against an evil spirit and his monstrous servants without its being subject to speculation of racist intent""

The origins of the 'Orc' for me are much deeper stretch back further then Tolkein & his works of high fantasy. No for me the orcs go all the way back to William Hope Hodgeson's 'House on the Borderlands'.
"The House on the Borderland (1908) is a supernatural horror novel by British fantasist William Hope Hodgson. The novel is a hallucinatory account of a recluse's stay at a remote house, and his experiences of supernatural creatures and otherworldly dimensions."

The swine things that ravage, plague, & harrow the recluse are the perfect demonic Lovecraftian or is it Hodgesonian monsters that would be progenitors for the orc race. These are not a race that can be reasoned with or sat down to have tea with. These are murderous things intent on corrupting, destroying, & ravaging everything around them. Nightmare given flesh!

In 2000, DC Comics’ mature reader imprint Vertigo published a 96-page color graphic-novel adaptation The House on the Borderland, with story by Simon Revelstroke and art by Richard Corben.

The Vertigo imprint version of The House on the Borderland by Simon Revelstroke and art by Richard Corben takes some very heady liberties with the original source material. There's a very good review of The House on the Borderland & the Vertigo version of The House on the Borderland by Simon Revelstroke and art by Richard Corben on the Old Wine in New Wine Skins blog here. 
The truth is that we get a very alien & utterly demonic horror that seems at times to be a reflection of the evil or perversion of man. This is the other that William Hope Hodgeson brings to bare on his protagonist in the House on the Borderland. Wayne Douglas Barlow does an incredible job in his Barlowe's Guide to Fantasy portraying the Swine Things. Its implied in The House on the Borderland & The Hog both by William Hope Hodgeson that the Swine Things are appendages for some greater cosmic being or god.

For my campaigns the swine things are the 'other' & their rutting, invading, etc. are the source for the orc infestation across the multiverse. Want an OSR set of stats for the Swine Things the Throne of Salt blog has those here.  How are the orcs getting across planes?! Wizards, dark clerics, necromancers,etc. use the essence of the Swine Things & then begin spawning orcs in gene pools & the like. These things are programmed for destruction straight outta the artificial womb. They don't care about the niceties of mankind only its destruction!
“I’ve heard it. A sort of swinish clamouring melody that grunts and roars and shrieks in chunks of grunting sounds, all tied together with squealings and shot through with pig howls. I’ve sometimes thought there was a definite beat in it; for every now and again there comes a gargantuan GRUNT, breaking through the million pig-voiced roaring—a stupendous GRUNT that comes in with a beat. Can you understand me?”William Hope Hodgson’s “The Hog,” first published in Weird Tales in 1947 but certainly written much earlier since the author died in 1918.

Orcs are not simply evil but the essence of it. Their life is anti nature & they are hell bent on your PC's destruction. Make no bones about it. There's no racism about it only bloodshed, murder, & mayhem of any adventuring party that enters their domain. And if you think that this has nothing to do with Tolkien may I refer back to the orc wiki entry & what follows;"The Tolkien critic Tom Shippey writes that the orcs in The Lord of the Rings were almost certainly created just to equip Middle-earth with "a continual supply of enemies over whom one need feel no compunction",[24] or in Tolkien's words from The Monsters and the Critics "the infantry of the old war" ready to be slaughtered.[24] Shippey states that all the same, orcs share the human concept of good and evil, with a familiar sense of morality, though he notes that, like many people, orcs are quite unable to apply their morals to themselves. In his view, Tolkien, as a Roman Catholic, took it as a given that "evil cannot make, only mock", so orcs could not have an equal and opposite morality to that of men or elves.[25] Shippey notes that in The Two Towers, the orc Gorbag disapproves of the "regular elvish trick" of seeming to abandon a comrade, as he wrongly supposes Sam has done with Frodo. Shippey describes the implied view of evil as Boethian, that evil is the absence of good; he notes however that Tolkien did not agree with that point of view, believing that evil had to be actively combatted, with war if necessary, the Manichean position"

There's good reason to slaughter those Pork Pig faced bastards in your Dungeons & Dragons games. Don't let orcs gain an inch in your campaigns or you may be dealing with a far greater & deadlier evil then your party of adventurers expects!

Otherworld Miniatures Orc Warband