Orcs revel in destruction and take great pleasure in sacking and pillaging. As they see it, the strongest deserve the spoils of those too weak to defend themselves, and each orc strives to be the strongest. Standing up to eight feet tall, orcs are an intimidating presence, and constantly spoiling for a fight. Males pile on muscle mass during maturation, becoming particularly bulky around the shoulders and neck compared to a human.
During this time, their lower canines also develop into long tusks, of which orcs are particularly proud. Their skin tones range from a brown olive to the green of a stagnant lake, growing more mottled and pale with age. Females tend to be paler and more heavily built around the hips, with smaller tusks.
Orcs dress in thick layers of hide and furs, usually trophies from creatures the individual has personally killed. Until another, better pelt comes along, it is common for this outfit to be the only one the orc owns and, as a result, a heady cocktail of stale sweat, mud, blood, rotting furs and gods know what else tends to accompany orcs wherever they go. The orcs, of course, see this as a signal of their rampant masculinity – ‘strong smell, strong orc.’
Although capable of crafting, orcs take no joy in it and their own goods are basic but effective. They favor heavy, single-edged blades requiring strength rather than skill to be effective. Axes are a favorite weapon, along with cleavers, although a few more primitive tribes make use of spears and bows.
For orcs, brute strength is king. They possess a certain level of predatory cunning and the ability to selfishly scheme, but these traits are not the route to respect. Orc chieftains are, without exception, hulking mountains of scars, muscle, and murderous attitude. Without frequent demonstrations of strength, a chieftain will soon find himself abandoned (or, more likely, violently destroyed), for an orc will only follow a leader who could beat it in a fight. In times of relative peace, this fragile hierarchy is constantly tested with organized duels and disorganized brawls, so it pays for a chieftain to keep the tribe on the move, and to keep their attentions and aggression focused outwardly. Tribes consist of as many individuals as a chief can keep in line, and a true warchief can command a tribe of hundreds.
For reasons scholars are yet to agree upon (though most are thankful for the fact), orc females are rare, usually only one in ten orcs of a given tribe are female, although as low as one in twenty is not unheard of. High mortality rate certainly plays its part; death in childbirth is common with four babies being the rule but, even disregarding this factor, their numbers are low.
For this reason, tribes are extremely protective of their females as a resource, but nothing more. Orc tribes will fight to the death for control of females, but should one deign to give her opinion on battle tactics, she will be met with a gruff silence.
As the presence of a mother is in no way guaranteed, young orcs are raised by the elders of the tribe; the oldest males set apart by the deeds of their youth. The elders teach the youngsters what it is to be an orc, passing on their fierce and oddly-honorable warrior culture – an orc attacks from the front, so that no one can call his strength into question. By the age of ten, an orc is ready to become an adult, and is set a task by the elders. This will often take the form of hunting down and killing a dangerous monster using only his bare fists but, where monsters are rare, taking part in a raid on a settlement may suffice. Orcs wear their accomplishments with pride in the form of tattoos and scars (often self-administered) to commemorate their deeds. Orcs of the same tribe can read each other’s histories on their skin.
Orc tribes are nomadic, slowly wandering from one target to another and rarely staying in one place for more than a few weeks. Where there are no towns to raid, they will set up camp near a road and waylay travelers, or compete with each other for hunting trophies.
Typically, orcs carry their belongings with them, and set up small villages of yurts where they make camp, with the largest, belonging to the chieftain and his harem, set apart from the others (to show he is strong enough to fend for himself in case of attack and, although he would never admit it, to avoid the possibility of spending the night surrounded by potential rivals).
Where pickings are rich, orcs may settle for months, or even years, though it would take a powerful chieftain to stop bored orcs wandering off by the dozen to find excitement elsewhere. In these cases, orcs are smart enough to use their environment to their advantage, often utilizing ruined forts, or occupying a sacked walled town. Orcish graffiti covers many ancient sites, much to the chagrin of archaeologists.
Orcs constantly look for ways to prove their bravery and power to each other and to the world, from seeking out the strongest enemy on the battlefield, to scoffing down eye-watering peppers, anything that could conceivably be competitive is made so, and taken extremely seriously. This trait makes them predictable, and easy to manipulate; the easiest way to make an orc do something is to imply that he is unable to, especially if it is said in front of other orcs. Of course, if the implication is too subtle it will not get through his dense skull, too explicit and the orc is likely to challenge the would-be-manipulator to one-on-one combat to the death.
They see the trappings of the civilized world as ‘soft’, and the brutality of orc life as the only way to produce true strength. Of course, if an orc tribe does well enough to live comfortably on its riches, this is proof of the strength of their warriors rather than a sign of softness.
Orc is primarily composed of deep, guttural vowel sounds, their tusks present them with difficulty pronouncing hard consonants, so their language tends to avoid them. Even so, ‘s’ tends to be slurred into ‘sh’, which orcs insist is the correct way to pronounce it anyway. Orcs continuously test their strength against other members of their tribe to determine their place in the pecking order and those who do great deeds may add an epithet to their name. How well an epithet sticks is directly proportional to how hard the orc in question can punch any who care to dispute it.
Examples of Orc Names: Dugluk, Gorgum, Goshok, Gursha, Koshog, Kuzgol, Shugdosh, Ushak, Uzgog
Examples of Orc Epithets: Battle-Roarer, Blood-Axe, Head-Taker, Many-Sons, One-Eye, Skull-Smasher, The Scarred, Tusk-Puller, The Unkillable, War-Bringer, Worg-Master
Orcs may attack en masse, but they fight as individuals, with little thought to utilizing their skills together tactically. They are disdainful of stealth and other underhanded tactics, preferring to charge at full pelt towards their enemy while yelling a battlecry. Each orc seeks to earn their own glory, and will aim to attack the most fearsome opponent, though they won’t pass up opportunities to get a few hits in on the way to their target. Orcs also seek out elves and dwarves in combat over other races, due to the longstanding feuds between their gods. As a general rule, a more devout orc will attack a lightly armored elf over a heavily armored human, with a more impious orc making the opposite choice.
Given their bravado, orcs will usually fight to the death over fleeing but, should the battle turn against them and there are no witnesses to report their cowardice to the tribe (or if more powerful individuals have already fled), it is not unknown for orcs to turn tail and run. Should the tribe find out of their cowardice, the orc in question will be publicly humiliated, usually in the form of losing an ear or their nose as a mark for all to see.