I’ve been thinking about humanoids, and trying to come up with a different/interesting take on orcs.
Consider the ghoul, which becomes a ghoul through the reading of human flesh. What if orcs were a similar affliction, which could be “caught” by associating with orcs, or committing some other sin? The sin that comes to mind here would be the eating of pigs, I guess.
It would afflict the victim with an inhuman appearance, a hideous temper, and an aversion to bright light… Kind of a form of rabies, really. It would have to be not so bad that they would kill each other, but instead would band together intosomething like a very violent leper colony.
I’m imagining that would make their depredations truly scary, as their captives would turn into orcs themselves…
Maybe not to everyone’s taste, but the implications are pretty cool.
DrPete, I think that's damn cool.
You could make it a magical curse, which is caused "by eating of man's flesh as if he were swine", e.g. cannibalism.
Most orc captives become food, but the biggest/strongest are fed the flesh of the other captives and transformed in a horrific ceremony by the tribe's shaman.
Provided the sufferer has not willingly fed on human flesh, the transformation could be removed with remove curse, but of course once he's an orc the primal lusts take over...
I was definitely thinking along the lines of a magical curse (I think the distinction between disease and curse should be a little less solid than we think of out today).
It could be orcism for fresh meat, and ghoulism for rotten human meat.
“half orc” could be the result of doing it unwillingly, or the beginning of the curse. I like the idea of it being curable, but only of it hasn’t progressed to willing participation.
Now I could see this going two ways and I’m not quite sure which is more horrific:
The strong captive is force-fed the human meat.
The orcs tell a pit of captives that only the strongest among them will be allowed to live. Then they throw down a few crude weapons and leave them for days without any food. Only by killing and eating the others will any hope to survive. They only free the last survivor to eat man-flesh to join them.
Both could be practiced by different groups of orcs, possibly based on their mood.
I like this idea. Would this be the only way for orcs to be created? could orcs still breed multigenerationally? This could be how half-orcs are created. I also like if it was caught early enough it could be halted.
This is a little like the Reavers from Firefly. I like it when stuff is done to make orcs scary because of ritual and culture.
In a game I ran once in 3rd edition, the orcs had breeding pits. If they through the bodies of recently dead humans orcs would be born, if still living humans were thrown in, the orcs would be more powerful (the barbian class orcs of 3rd edition). Halflings became goblins - no living halflings were thrown in because their eyes and brains were considered delicasies. Only 1 elf was ever thrown in according to legend. A troll crawled out. The orcs hacked up the troll, but each sizable piece grew into a new troll. This is how trolls came to be in the world.If you don’t burn all of a troll, new trolls will grow up from it.
"The orcs threw them into a pit. There was no food and little water. Three days of starving they threw in half a pig. The prisoners greedily devoured it, raw, too hungry for anything else. It was not nearly enough for the number of prisoners present, and the weaker ones were unable to get any.
Three days after that another load of meat was dropped in. The survivors were so hungry and the body so mangled that it was some time into the feast that they realized that their meal had once been human. It gave them only a temporary pause, before they resumed.
Three days later, the much anticipated food day did not come. The prisoners yelled at their captors, who responded with cruel chuckles. The day after the orc that brought the meat came again, but this time he did not bring meat in his sack. He dropped in a few rusty, dented knives and clubs.
There would be no more food shipments. The prisoners understood. It should have been obvious from the way the orcs avidly watched the violence of other feedings. They wanted blood.
It was not long before one remained, but his human self had died before that day. He was taken out of the pit to meet his new brothers to feast and drink in cannibalistic delight."
That is an awesome way to describe it NN1. I like that a lot.
A thought though. If only 1 is left in this way, doesn’t it make the number of orcs an adventuring party runs through unusual. That’s a lot of people. I can easily see them breaking the groups of humans into gatherings of just 3 to 5 in the pits. Thus a raid on a caravan might net 10 survivors. They drop 6 into 2 pits at 3 each and 4 into the last. This could lead to the creation of up to 3 orcs.
So my only thing becomes the number of orcs encountered.
In my current game I have been running orcs as being born like ferral animals in litters and growing quickly into “adulthood” but only a small number surviving from fighting with eachother over just 4 to 5 years and living at most 40 years. The intelligence and learning is almost “instinctual” to them.
As for goblins and hobgoblins, I just dropped a hint about them where a legend fragment found by the party says those two races were sent down from the heavens in a fiery demonspawn arc as punishment on human and dwarf near the end of the First Age of the world.
I’d do both natural birth and “conversion”. Also, the orcs could have several “conversion pits” for one raid and different tribes could have different techniques for conversion (the pit, force feeding, etc.) Converted orcs could just be a way to infuse fresh blood into the population, and may be slightly more powerful than the average orc as they are less far removed from their rebirth (alternatively, the first few litters born of the newly converted orc might be much stronger and more numerous than the average orc litter, causing conversion to significantly increase population indirectly).
Interesting, or rather… Horrifying
I had been imagining a somewhat easier path than this, though the reavers are a wonderful model.
Eating man causes a transformation. It hardens the heart, so that you feel no remorse. It makes you stronger than a normal man. It sharpens your senses, so that you can hunt better at night. And it gives you the taste, a need, for more.
Every spring, more orcs appear. In twos and threes, and whole villages. They are not dumb savages. They are your neighbors, after a tough winter, or if the crop fails. It doesn’t take much to make it a tempting choice.