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Masters of the Forests

Many an Anthropologist has a story of a quarrel with another, most often centered on one detail or another of Orc culture. My own was on whether or not the western Sidara Clan used unique mounts- or if the Caterpillar like beasts described were simply elaborate myths... Of course, time has unquestionably proven the answer to this argument is "myth"- and I argued as much then. But there are still those who prefer, even in such a scientific field, to hold on to old prejudices and the wild tales they produce.
— Anthropologist Ailo Lahreq, Myths and Misconceptions of Orcish Culture
  For centuries, much like their Goliaths cousins, and most other Giants throughout history, the Orkind (or Orcs, as they're known in the Common Tongue) have been feared by the common folk of Saleh'Alire and kept at a significant distance... Most of this aversion centers on their distinct appearance and mammoth size. But much of it also comes from stories; tales often speak of how they're driven to mindless acts of terrible violence, and prone bouts of uncontrollable rage and anger. This really is conjecture more than it is based in actual encounters or observations- but it's helped, in no small part, by the very religious mythology of the Orcs themselves… Still, the results are clear: They are unwelcome beasts throughout the world.   Orcs tend to respond to their ostracization from greater society in one of two ways: They either embrace their otherness, leaning heavily into Orcish culture and its rich and varied traditions- or they pull back from it, reject it, and try not to draw too much attention to themselves; both responses are common enough, but the later far more so among those who have to make their home outside of their native jungles, among races far less understanding than the Thai’lar and Tameri (two races with whom the Orcs have cultivated significant relations over their years in the Ajda-Donesh Basin). Unfortunately, outside of the southern peninsula of Tolara's Talaina'Vao region, this ostracization has led to even less being known about Orcs than about other races.

Culture & Society

  Like Goliath society, Orcs follow a more tribalistic Herd structure. Where they differ from their brethren, however, is that an Orc "Herd" is actually a Clan, were all the members are either adopted, direct, or extended family; a single roaming household, rather than a collection of several households coexisting in a single group. Their leaders, however, are the same Voltak, Górtra, and Dóven common among the other Giants.   These are typically nothing more than the eldest members of the family, given the greatest level of responsibility in regards to caring for it. The exception to this are Yngva who traditionally handle the spiritual matters of the Clan. In nearly all cases, Yngva are not the oldest member, but are instead the mother of the current Voltak, stepping down and ceding their position to the next mother whenever a new Voltak ascends. In Orcish clans the Yngva also frequently serve as their healers.   Generally, though, they have no traditional concept of gender among themselves. Instead, one's primary role within the Clan is what's typically focused on, with only minor emphasis on parentage, sexual anatomy, or other characteristics; it's not uncommon to hear "Forge Spouse" and "Warrior" used among Orcs in much the same way as most cultures use typical gender structures. They do, however, tend to adopt basic gendered language when dealing with other races, as a matter of ease.   And while Goliaths Herds are constantly moving, Orc Clans are only semi-nomadic in nature, rarely leaving a set of established ancestral lands. Unfortunately most newcomers see an untamed wilderness whose Orcs seem to roam endlessly, taming indigenous beasts and trading with settlers without any real rhyme or reason. With limited exceptions, they simply don't understand the significance of the lands they're settling- nor how Orcish custom dictates their movements around that land. And this does, unfortunately, have the tendency of causing clashes with other races coming into their native regions, some of which turn violent.  
Too much Ghur in me and I joked I could take on a full grownt Varba... I stopped laughing whenever I actually encountered one alone a week later.
— Orc Adventurer, in a Tavern
Violent clashes only further solidify prejudiced ideas of Orcs as a bloodthirsty race. But Orcs are far less barbaric and bloodthirsty than these tales make them out to be. Indeed, those that manage to see past the stereotypes and "barbaric exteriors" note an almost unshakable courage in the face of uncertainty, and an unflinching endurance of hardship- both brought on by centuries of difficult lifestyles, discrimination, and more.
  They are a passionate and driven race- and one to whom action speaks far louder than deeds ever could; Orcs complain little, and boast even less- a tradition whose lack is noticeable given their close relation to Goliaths, often earning them a fair amount of derision from their kin... But to them, words are meaningless and talk matters little. The strength of a Clan depends heavily on the personal strength of its members- and their ability to pull together and put action into practice; one can boast all they want about how they'll slay the Din beast- but until the task is actually complete, it's just that: Talk. Talk doesn't fill bellies or sew crops, it just takes up valuable time that could usually be spent dong something more important for the Clan.   In this way, teamwork, community and family, and action are everything to an Orc. All members are expected to contribute for the good of the Clan- their family- in their own ways. For this reason, many members are eager to prove themselves and show their worth through such actions. By contrast, to dishonor one's self through poor deed or poor talk is to dishonor the whole Clan- bringing shame upon everyone in the family.  

Magic & Religion

  The Orcs maintain a slightly larger pantheon than most Giant ethnicities, headed by a figure named Baaga, who is known in their mythology as the half-brother of Anaam. Other deities of the Orc pantheon include the aforementioned Anaam, who acts as the central figure of the Goliaths respectively- as well as their shared consort Ineva (who spends half of the year with each brother). Yurtrus likewise plays a part in their faith, as does the lesser Deity Bhaal.   According to their lore, when they were exiled from the Underdark after the wars, Anaam and Baaga fought over how the world should be divided between them. When Baaga won the battle, he exiled Anaam to the cold north while he and his children remained in the warmer south. Bhaal, being their father, was angered to see his sons fight and placed a curse on Baaga and his children in retribution. Knowns as the Blood Curse, it initiated 130 years of violent death and bloodshed as the children of Baaga were consumed by rage- indiscriminately murdering one another as a result. For this reason, Baal is frequently called The Ruiner among the Orcs.   It's believed by many Archivists that this myth, and perhaps the figure of Baaga himself, were created to explain the cultural split between the Orcs and their Goliath brethren. Still, many Orcs remain fearful of the ancient legends of the curse, and the ruin it brought to their ancestors. As a result, Bhaal’s worship is greatly shunned among the Orcs. Even those rare few Orcs who carry the Barbarian rage are said to have inherited the blood of the Ruiner due to their uncontrollable pull towards violence and anger, and oftentimes likewise shunned from their Clans, going on to become outcasts and wanderers; unlike their Goliath bretheren who embrace their warfaring history, Orcs are typically semipacifist in nature- frequently relying on elements of faith, such as meditation, to suppress the more "violent tendencies" they believe inherently come from being Giant-kin.
Common Name
Orc   Genetic Ancestry
The Phet   Parent Species
Giants   Related Ethnicities   Other Relations
Common Hair Colors
  Common Eye Colors
Common Skin Tones
Every Orc has two names: A longer formal name used during religious and cultural ceremonies, and a nickname (often a shortened form of their formal name) used in casual conversation among friends and family.   Common Formal Names
  • Agrimur
  • Farlkur
  • Treshat
  • Bagrak
  • Hjamar
  • Kimgurn
  • Trevkalt
  • Kharag
  • Avidur
  • Lazgar
  Common Nicknames
  • Taala
  • Flosi
  • Dura
  • Turk
  • Nauta
  • Mija
  • Gimja
  • Atuk
  • Shar
  • Klaas
  • Altje
  • Saane
  Common Clan Names
  • Badbog
  • Mezosh
  • Torleg
  • Yazgash
  • Krahnuk
  • Alvirek
  • Valgarth
  • Raghat
  • Paanek
  • Umura
  • Hjelved
  • Rokur
  When introducing themselves to an Orc who isn't family, one's Clan name is given first, followed by their formal name; nicknames are only exchanged once a friend-bond has been formed, and it's considered rude to call another Orc by a nickname they have not given you permission to use- even if you know what their nickname is already.

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Cover image: Reaching Hand by Min An


Author's Notes

Credits and Additional Information

  • Quote from the Orc Adventurer (in the Tavern) was provided by Lyraine Alei
  • The traditional Orcish River Call-and-Response was inspired by the Eel River Chant by Meredith Buck
  Read Before You Comment
I absolutely love getting feedback on my setting and its worldbuilding. I love it even more when people ask questions about the things in it. I want both. I encourage both. And it makes me incredibly giddy whenever I get either.   However, there's a time and a place for critique in particular- mostly when I've actually asked for it (which usually happens in World Anvil's discord server). And when I do ask for critique, there are two major things I politely request that you do not include in your commentary:   ➤ The first is any sort of critique on the way I've chosen to organize or format something; Saleh'Alire is not a narrative world written for reader enjoyment... It's is a living campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons. To that end, it's written and organized for my players and I, specifically for ease of use during gameplay- and our organization needs are sometimes very different than others'.   ➤ Secondly, is any critique about sentence phrasing and structure, word choice, and so on; unless you've found a typo, i've blatantly misued a word, or something is unclear because of how I've worded it? Then respectfully: Don't comment on it; as a native English speaker of the SAE dialect, language critique in particular will almost always be unwelcome unless it's absolutely necessary.   If you want to ask questions, speculate, or just ramble? Go for it! Praise, of course, is always welcome too (even if it's just a casual "this is great")- and if you love it, please don't forget to actually show that love by liking it. Because I genuinely do enjoy watching people explore and interact with my setting, and ask questions about it, and I'd definitely love to hear from you... Just be respectful about it, yeah?

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