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Do orcs work in gothic horror settings?

Whenever I look at a gothic horror fantasy setting I never see orcs. Also I've seen people say orcs have no place in them, I want to put orcs in my world but more and more I'm wondering if they'll stand out too much. Has anyone made a gothic horror setting with orcs?
 

CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
I haven't read one and I can't see why they couldn't work.
Orcs straight out of the LotR movies or WoW might stand out a bit, as big things beating the crap out of everything they see isn't really in the style of a Gothic Horror.
That said, it wouldn't take much for you to think of the "minions" of evil as Orcs or Goblins.
 
I haven't read one and I can't see why they couldn't work.
Orcs straight out of the LotR movies or WoW might stand out a bit, as big things beating the crap out of everything they see isn't really in the style of a Gothic Horror.
That said, it wouldn't take much for you to think of the "minions" of evil as Orcs or Goblins.
Evil minions would be complicated because for the most part the races in my world are like grey morality. Not sure whether my orcs are WoW or LotR though, slightly closer to ES orcs
 

Insolent Lad

Maester
I dislike using the word 'Orc' altogether as it is associated so strongly with Tolkien (he invented it, after all, or at least borrowed it from the Latin). Goblin or kobold or something similar sounds better to me, more the sort of creature that would lurk in the darkness.
 
Like cupofjoe said, don't see any reason for them not to show up in it. And the ES style sounds good (poor guys can't catch a break, even the Argonians got one). Course, could more match the style of it and maybe turn it a bit towards urban fantasy, but have them be the blue collars who are background sorts. Unless you want to use one or two as slasher style villains in the stories. Or, to spin off Insolent Lad, keeping in the Tolkien tradition in that they are more goblinoid with naming issues, can use them as the cave dwellers almost like morlocks. Kobald is already it's own thing too, either more furry or scaly depending on the edition of D&D people heard about them from.

You could go many places with them, just to take them out of their usual fantasy niche.
 
Like cupofjoe said, don't see any reason for them not to show up in it. And the ES style sounds good (poor guys can't catch a break, even the Argonians got one). Course, could more match the style of it and maybe turn it a bit towards urban fantasy, but have them be the blue collars who are background sorts. Unless you want to use one or two as slasher style villains in the stories. Or, to spin off Insolent Lad, keeping in the Tolkien tradition in that they are more goblinoid with naming issues, can use them as the cave dwellers almost like morlocks. Kobald is already it's own thing too, either more furry or scaly depending on the edition of D&D people heard about them from.

You could go many places with them, just to take them out of their usual fantasy niche.
What I have for them so far is a former slave race (possibly, can't make up my mind about that one) that nowadays, though they have their own land somewhere, they're not uncommon in human lands, mostly working as labourers, bouncers, dockworkers etc, but there's still a lot of prejudice against them as well as them not always liking humans.
 

CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
If you have them as a slave race and/or subject to a lot of prejudice and discrimination, then the words "Southern Gothic" start floating in to my mind.
 
Shrimp and grits, misunderstood magic and religion used by them and the bayous and swamps full of terror for some and freedom for others. If they even have magic or the like, or at least a form of magical thinking. Or just trying to connect with the roots of what they once were.
 
There will be southern gothic elements included in my world, not sure if they're connected to the orcs yet but planning on having somewhere like souragne from ravenloft
 

Gurkhal

Auror
No matter the genre I would avoid "Orcs". And instead make up some other creature or group due to the close connection between Tolkien and creatures such as Orcs, in fiction.
 
That sounds like a re-skinning of them, which to me doesn't seem to work out that well anyways. If they look and act like the traditional versions, someone is like to just fall back on the name anyways. Or use 'not-orcs' in it. And given there's at least a fair bit of variety with orcs, from the pig men to the buff WoW and the hulking Boyz of 40k and Fantasy and the many D&D versions, plenty to choose from and there's no longer one distinct trait to define them by (Chaotic Evil). Sure, you can fall back on Tolkien, but it's kind of narrow.

Up to him, but if orc fits, it fits. Changing names and trying to re-skin them isn't likely to do much if you can tell that's what was being aimed for in the first place.
 

Gurkhal

Auror
That sounds like a re-skinning of them, which to me doesn't seem to work out that well anyways. If they look and act like the traditional versions, someone is like to just fall back on the name anyways. Or use 'not-orcs' in it. And given there's at least a fair bit of variety with orcs, from the pig men to the buff WoW and the hulking Boyz of 40k and Fantasy and the many D&D versions, plenty to choose from and there's no longer one distinct trait to define them by (Chaotic Evil). Sure, you can fall back on Tolkien, but it's kind of narrow.

Up to him, but if orc fits, it fits. Changing names and trying to re-skin them isn't likely to do much if you can tell that's what was being aimed for in the first place.


Forgive me, but was this post direct at me? I didn't see any quotations so I'm a bit unsure.
 

Gurkhal

Auror
That sounds like a re-skinning of them, which to me doesn't seem to work out that well anyways. If they look and act like the traditional versions, someone is like to just fall back on the name anyways. Or use 'not-orcs' in it. And given there's at least a fair bit of variety with orcs, from the pig men to the buff WoW and the hulking Boyz of 40k and Fantasy and the many D&D versions, plenty to choose from and there's no longer one distinct trait to define them by (Chaotic Evil). Sure, you can fall back on Tolkien, but it's kind of narrow.

Up to him, but if orc fits, it fits. Changing names and trying to re-skin them isn't likely to do much if you can tell that's what was being aimed for in the first place.

Content usually gives it away, but on a forum you're never sure its direct to you unless your post is quoted.

The problem is for one thing that I can't think of any fantasy author worth his salt that brings Orcs into his world. Eddings has his Angraks and Jordan his Trollocks. The standards of Fantasy games and RPGs have a considerbal lower standard of literary competence than I would ask from a fantasy book. And so I absolutely believe that its better for the author to take what he needs from Tolkien's Orcs and reskin them and modify them according to the needs of his story, not Tolkien's or anyone else's story or world, and go from there.

If I said something else I would lie and if I lie my opinion is less than useless.
 
Okay, so those races fill the standard evil orc template right? Minions to the big bad? Hurlocks and their kin from Dragon Age. Just there for the standard hero to hit with his sword.

I was also trying to point out that there is more then just Tolkien style orcs. It's no longer the sole basis for them. Warhammer got the big greenies in and there are various versions of them that no longer fit that concept. Because there are sorts of people out there like me who'd rather read about orcs not stuck in the same trope they are. From Shadowruns version to the Of Orcs and Men ones.

And to that comment of no fantasy author worth their salt not bringing orcs into their worlds is kind of bull. From the Orc saga by Stan Nicholls (orcs gaining freedom from their overlord and setting up their own ways) to Mary Gentle's darkly humorous take on them in Grunts (read at own risk, really dark humor). They are used and they don't have to played by their cliches. Even Pratchett, who said he'd never do orcs, still did orcs in his own way. I've even found a story about an orc private eye named Grak, fairly good one. And as I put orcs in my fantasy, I must not be worth any salt. Might be why I'm not published and all.
 

Gurkhal

Auror
Okay, so those races fill the standard evil orc template right? Minions to the big bad? Hurlocks and their kin from Dragon Age. Just there for the standard hero to hit with his sword.

I was also trying to point out that there is more then just Tolkien style orcs. It's no longer the sole basis for them. Warhammer got the big greenies in and there are various versions of them that no longer fit that concept. Because there are sorts of people out there like me who'd rather read about orcs not stuck in the same trope they are. From Shadowruns version to the Of Orcs and Men ones.

And to that comment of no fantasy author worth their salt not bringing orcs into their worlds is kind of bull. From the Orc saga by Stan Nicholls (orcs gaining freedom from their overlord and setting up their own ways) to Mary Gentle's darkly humorous take on them in Grunts (read at own risk, really dark humor). They are used and they don't have to played by their cliches. Even Pratchett, who said he'd never do orcs, still did orcs in his own way. I've even found a story about an orc private eye named Grak, fairly good one. And as I put orcs in my fantasy, I must not be worth any salt. Might be why I'm not published and all.

Minions for the bad guy need to be tailored to the bad guy and the story you want to tell. Angraks and Trollocks for example are very different and fullfill different uses, needs and also offer different developments. In Eddings story for example the Angraks start out as fodder but are liberated from Torak's yoke and eventuelly even the Grolim priesthood is reformed to serve goodness. This is possible due to their relation between Torak and the Angraks and because as humans, Angraks are not steeped in evil the way that Orcs are. Trollocks and Tolkien's Orcs on the other hand are written entirely different to make them reconcile with humanity essentially impossible and serve a an enemy the good guys can slay by the hundreds without any morale question. And that's because they fullfill different needs and uses in a different story.

And I on the other hand think that if you're using an iconic fantasy race as Orcs, Elves or Dwarfs but only to make a 180 degree turn around with them, what's the purpose of including them from the start? Better take something else than carries less luggage with it and make it your own. If you really like Drow for example, make a human culture that has the traits you want from the Drow and then adopt and tinker with them to fit your story rather than steal them wholecloth from D&D, and then call them Drow in addition to that.

"Not worth his salt" was an overstatement. But I can say that I'm really not interested in reading about Orcs outside of Tolkien, and there I'm more interested in humans, elves, dwarves, hobbits and ents than the Orcs. Even while I do try to extend sympathy to the slaves of Morgoth, Sauron and Saruman who have the most miserable of all lots fallen to them. Maybe I'm missing out on stuff but I've got my taste pretty well set by this point and I've got enough on my reading list as it is.

As for you not being published, I'm neither editor nor publisher so I can't say why you haven't made it nor do I know your work well enough. I do however hope that you will make it and get published so that you can spread your stories to people who would enjoy them, and perhaps make some money in the process while your at it so that you can write even more stories.
 
And I on the other hand think that if you're using an iconic fantasy race as Orcs, Elves or Dwarfs but only to make a 180 degree turn around with them, what's the purpose of including them from the start? Better take something else than carries less luggage with it and make it your own. If you really like Drow for example, make a human culture that has the traits you want from the Drow and then adopt and tinker with them to fit your story rather than steal them wholecloth from D&D, and then call them Drow in addition to that.
Finally uses a quote...

Funny you bring up drow, seeing as that was my second thread when I dropped in to stick around. Turning them into humans just brings up a whole hell of a lot of uncomfortable things that should probably be examined as they are. It's still mostly evil matriarchies full of dark skinned people who practice weird (weird depends on who you're talking too) sex and torture and and the like. Evil for the sake of evil without looking at the other crap that it's showing. As for the reason? Maybe the tropes with them need shook up and not just a 180 degree turn. Looking beyond the tropes of them. Why do they have to be Always Evil? Other then sword fodder for the hero to kill without regrets? Why can't they simply be people on their own without the chains of an evil overlord and they can't run things for themselves? I ask why and don't want the non-answer, 'Because it just is'.

So they come with baggage? It's Fantasy, sure, there are plenty of derivatives of it and well known tropes and cliches. If someone can twist them and make a good story of it, I'm in. I just think it could use a little shake up and get out of it's comfort zone. So I tend to read and play games in that direction. So, if bumblefish wants orcs and they play a role, baggage or no, I consider it good. Play them in any from he wants, because Tolkien isn't the be all and end all of Fantasy. Certainly helped standardize it as we know it.

And it really is a big taste and preference difference between us. I will give a lot of different fantasy and sci-fi a try. Just because it's different. Won't always be good but still up for trying them.
 

pmmg

Istar
Well, Orcs are not exactly a gothic creature, but does not mean it cannot happen. An Orc steps through a portal and ends up in Transylvania would fit the bill, but I am not sure an Orc would not just like it there. I too would prefer to avoid Orcs, but for a one off, sure.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
I would say that orcs can work just fine in pretty much any setting. I mean, doesn't everyone walk into Walmart and think, "Yeah, I could see being greeted by an orc at the door." It can't just be me, right?

Minions for the bad guy need to be tailored to the bad guy and the story you want to tell.

I agree with this, but this is one of those areas where your mileage may vary. How much can orcs be tailored and still be an orc? How much does the notion of an orc feel out of place in a given setting? Or the villain in question? All these debates happen in this meta area, and there are points on all sides, but when comes down to it..... it's still a judgement call. The same concept could feel better as an orc in one book or as a new race in a different book.

For me, if I want to use fantasy races, I'll start with the standard list, including orcs. There's two reasons for that. The first is that familiar concepts make for an easier read, and the second is that part of a lighter read means occasionally commenting on or parodying the genre, and that works better with familiar material.

But I've also been moving away from using human-ish races at all in more serious works. I want to do things with the fantasy elements that feel different, and many of those races aren't always different enough for me. The more time you spend with orcs and elves the more they inevitably turn out "human." And if I'm really shooting for drama and impact it's usually better to just use human characters.

So I guess if I want a story that readers can breeze through quickly, I'd use orcs and other races. If I want to browbeat a reader's emotions and leave them sobbing, I wouldn't put an orc anywhere near it.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
My suggestion. In recent times, in your worlds history, there was a series of battles between orcs and humans. The official propaganda is the humans won this war decisively, killing off or driving out the orcs. Several of your minor (?) characters are veterans of this conflict, with attendant flashbacks and phobias. In reality, though, quite a few orcs survived, establishing settlements in remote areas or 'going underground,' acting as enforcers for the local underworld or other nefarious characters.
 
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