Friday, January 3, 2014

Mutant Orcs

Art by Louis Green
I have a confession to make. I've never been a big fan of orcs.

Personally, I've always preferred goblinoids over the iconic brutes. I feel like the three goblinoid races (bugbears, goblins, & hobgoblins) offer more variety than orcs and hobgoblins can easily fill the same role.

So, when I started writing my own campaign setting for the Pathfinder RPG, I came very close to not including orcs and just using goblinoids as my go-to savage race. However, I feel like this could be an opportunity to be creative and find an interesting niche for orcs in my fantasy world that would make them unique.

So, here's my idea.

The continent that acts as the focal point of my fantasy world was once controlled by the Allurian Empire. A few centuries ago, the empire was torn apart by a brutal civil war with the imperial states all vying for power.

One kingdom, who was losing the war, became desperate and began to construct a magical weapon which could be their key to winning the Allurian throne. Unfortunately, the weapon mysteriously backfired and the kingdom was destroyed and transformed into a magically-warped wasteland. The arcane radiation slowly mutated the humans who inhabited the kingdom, turning them into ugly, brutish creatures. Due to their now warped minds and the harsh landscape, these creatures became barbaric and adopted a "survival of the fittest" mentality. No longer human, these creatures are now known by a new name: the orcs.

I believe making orcs magically mutated humans adds an interesting, new layer to the classic humanoid race. There's a tragic element to them, since they became these creatures due to their own desperation and meddling with forces they couldn't really control. Also, it gives an explanation for why they can breed with humans and create half-orcs, seeing as they were once humans themselves. Finally, it creates a nice distinction between orcs (which I'd probably play as savage raiders akin to the Reavers from Firefly) and hobgoblins (which I'd probably play as more Tolkien orcs).