Wednesday, November 5, 2014

To Orc or Not to Orc?

I'm spinning my wheels really hard as to whether or not to include orcs and half-orcs in the 5E campaign I'm putting together.

On the one hand, Orcs really are a product of "modern" fantasy; they don't really mesh with the dark fairy tale vibe I'm trying for with this setting, and to which end I'm playing up the monstrous humanoids with much older pedigrees then Orcs: Goblins, Hobgoblins, Ogres and Trolls.  And really, what does an orc offer that I can't accomplish just as well with a hobgoblin?

On the other hand, orcs are iconic in a way that hobgoblins aren't; with the recent string of Peter Jackson movies, orcs make a greater impression on players then hobgoblins do.  And part of me wonders if I'm not just leaving them out of this setting because my last Pathfinder campaign was very orc-heavy - I mean, if I'm going to leave them out, I should leave them out because they don't fit the setting, not because I used a lot of them last time around.  Could I reflavor them to mesh better with the dark fairy tale aspect I'm shooting for? I probably could.  Plus, I like the inherent drama that comes with the half-orc, just as it does with the half-elf; you can get stories about characters dealing with their dual natures and trying to forge a place for themselves in a society that doesn't accept them.  The entire breed is a plot-hook in and of itself.

I don't know; the harder I think about this the less convinced I become either way.  Sleeping on the topic will probably help, but in the meantime, what do you think, readers?


  1. You could go the whole way, eliminate Hobgoblins and make them an alternate breed or tribe of Orc or whatever; really make a story out of it. Because Hobgoblins as presented in the Monster Manual are very much like the Uruk-Hai in LoTR in their philosophy. Maglubiyet and Gruumsh could be brothers maybe, or something. Make them both Goblinoids, or all humanoids or whatever, and really sink your teeth in.

  2. You can make Orcs a very recent addition- perhaps they are creations of a petty godling, or they are the semi-human, devolved tribes of long-abandoned kingdoms. Perhaps "Orc" is a title, or even a dark kingdom- Hobgoblin of Orc" has a nice ring to it.

    Maybe they are the Unseelie version of mortals, which is why they can breed with men, while Hobgoblins cannot.