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!

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