Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Religion of Orcs"

            In the past, I have talked about Orcs in the context of Dungeons and Dragons and how underwhelming they are as a culture.  I understand why that is, their place in fantasy mythology is that of the barbaric horde which seeks to pillage, rape, destroy, and dominate.  They are all things ugly, dumb, uncultured, and held together only by strength and are always the minions of some greater and more mindful evil, your Dark Lord Sauron or Duke Igthorn and the like.
            I find this boring, and between the presence of Gnolls, Goblinoids, and numerous other evil humanoids I feel that an opportunity was lost to give some dimension to Orcs in more recent editions of Dungeons and Dragons.  It is not like it can’t be done, “Warcraft” has done a lot to flesh out their orc culture and “Warhammer 40k” has at the very least made them alien/other enough that their silly-violence makes them distinct within the setting.
 
What is the value of a bad guy who is just a bad guy?
My Change to Orcs: Maltheism
            Orcs are too often portrayed as accepting their role in the world as being the followers of Gruumsh, the orc god who got his eye poked out by the god of the elves starting the whole enmity between the two groups.  This compounds an issue I have with Dungeons and Dragons views on religion in that everyone seems to acknowledge the existence of all the gods and races other than humans have gods tied to them in particular.
            Here is my first change, Orcs are Monotheistic.  They believe in only one god, all other gods are either fictions made up to deceive people, or are powerful outsiders capable of great things that gain power via being worshiped and give out power to certain followers to prove their benevolence.  But, none of these pretenders are the one true god.  Orcs know that there is only one god and they hate that guy.
            They see God as a cruel being.  Pitting people and races against one another, creating monsters and storms to break those who would otherwise live peacefully, and touching many with madness and disease to keep them low and in pain.  God is evil, and the Orcs want to kill God.

I think "Wondermark" is the most underrated webcomic out there.
            Orcs fight and build strength, keeping their minds clear with the purpose of destruction so that when they are faced with god in the afterlife they can attack and hopefully defeat him.  Not all Orcs are warriors, and they too contribute to the effort, an entire army of souls exist waging war on God in hopes of finally ending that bastard’s hold over everyone, to create a world free of calamity and mistrust, and to build an afterlife worth going to.
            Orcs dislike temples and places of worship, seeing them at best as comfortable delusions to keep the masses from seeing the bitter reality, and at worst they see them as tools for God to sow sorrow, mistrust, and false hope.  God pretends to be different deities to send followers to war against people who are deluded by a different pretend god.  Be it Bane or Pelor all “gods” are just God, and he is making everyone hate each other.
            Cults and Temples that use religion to harm people outright, via human sacrifice or oppressive social structures and stigmas are the worst villains in the eyes of the Orcs and are to be destroyed.
 
"Yep, gonna have to take care of this infestation before it starts to spread." -Thori, Orc Warrior
Spiritual Strength
            Orcs believe in the value and power of nature and Druidic tradition permeates their day to day life.  Stone circles which they call Ley Wells draw on and concentrate the power of nature to grant them bountiful harvests and gentle storms, protecting them from a wrathful god.
            Orc clerics do exist, but they are seen as stealing power from God, taking from the malign deity the power to do harm and turning it to good ends.  Eyes of Gruumsh are not God’s chosen in orc culture, but instead are the orcs who saw a vision of God and were able to curse him before the vision passed.
            There are always those who do not follow the path, many orcs find religion outside of their home culture, and some Orc tribes see a pantheon of gods as a likely state of cosmic affairs.  There are also those who are considered the worst of heretics, “True Believers” those orcs who not only believe in God’s evil, but wish to spread it by being a tool of the dark one’s malign whims.
 
"This shit is unacceptable and needs to be dealt with." -Thori, Orc Warrior
Virtues
            Orc culture favors certain key virtues.
            Honor, that is being direct and honest with one’s actions; generally speaking, lies and deception are seen as wastes of effort, being forthright with what they want and how much they are willing to pay for it saves them time.
            Valor, which they see as akin to improving one’s self, this also applies for setting goals and having the drive to attain them; this is not limited to combat, a person who takes risk in one’s job, romances, or exploration is seen as noble.
            Glory is when Valor pays off via talent and ability.  While it is noble to take risks, it is Glorious for those risks to find reward.  Orc paladins are often called “Glory Seekers” for their desire to attain a particular goal.
            Dominance is the final virtue, this is the ability to not only be good at what you do but to challenge others to be better.  Competition between individuals who seek to be the best and fending off challenges to one’s title is seen as a natural part of orc culture.  You cannot win one battle and rest on your laurels till passing in your sleep, you must continue to seek out battles to Dominate your profession.  Not enough to write one book or paint one mural, you must invite comparisons between your works and the works of others and continue to produce work in attempts to produce better and better products.
 
"For the Glory of the Mortal races I shall defeat the cultist chef Guy Fieri."
"Guy Fieri isn't a cultist, he is just a chef."
"Bullshit.  No one would wear their hair like that unless it was the will of their mad god."
            Too often Orc culture becomes consumed with combat.  It is hard to look at the world and see it as being controlled by a giant evil entity that seeks to make you suffer and be driven to do anything other than want to fight back.  There are orc communities that do escape such cycles of violence, those that wish to battle God with works of art that venerate the mortal will to survive and overcome, those that wish to heal the sick and infirm, or those who wish to build structures that can stand against the raging winds and crashing storms of God.
            Orcs are not just barbarians.

(I wrote all this as a sort of break from all the political stuff I have been consuming too much of.  If you would like to read some of my thoughts on current events, here are links to things on Net Neutrality, Immigration, and the events in Charlottesville.)
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1 comment:

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