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Of orcs and trolls and other intelligent monsters


toujours gai, archie
I'd love some feedback from you folks.

My world of Altearth has all the creatures, monsters and myths of medieval and ancient Europe, but it suffers from a lack of intelligent monsters. I have had orcs, then banished them, and now am considering them again. Technically they are not medieval but were invented by Tolkien, but the word itself is older, so I could squeeze it in, especially by making them rather unlike Tolkien's invention.

I have trolls. They form the Five Kingdoms that (very roughly) occupy the area of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Originally, I had the orcs as very humanoid holding the Orc Empire that stretched from Livonia to Transylvania.

If I banish orcs, then I'd move trolls into their place, but then who has the Five Kingdoms? Provisionally I have kobolds, but those creatures are so tied to dark places, I have a hard time imagining them as being up to running places like Greece or Trebizond.

I have ogres, but I've made them less monstrous, living in relative harmony with the Free Folk (humans, dwarves, elves, fae). Since I have published a novelette with ogres so portrayed, I can't really change that without doing some sort of retcon.

The orcs as I've envisioned them are human-like, to the point of being able to crossbreed (ew). No tusks. I'm not entirely sure how I'll make them differ: skin color, or fur, or four arms ... happily I still have time for such details. The real similarity is how they imitate human society. They have created an Empire, complete with not only an emperor but also a chief priest (I'll avoid calling him pontifex maximus). They adopt human technology and war craft. They are stridently monotheistic, viewing their divine destiny to bring all under the sway of the Sun God. So they don't get along at all well with the polytheistic humans (or the others).

I guess what I really want is to feel confident about keeping the orcs. But if there's some other intelligent monster (must have historical precedent), whom I've overlooked, I'm willing to consider. FTR, I also have a role for drow and for duergar.


Honestly, your Orcs sound like they'd fit right in. Plus, you've got all the other standard races, so it hardly seems proper to leave the poor Orcs uninvited!

As for others: maybe Fomorians? Their physical forms varied a bit, but they were people like the Tuatha De Dannan and could crossbreed.

You don't mention GIants. Perhaps not too intelligent, but maybe Giants?
My favorite domain, da orkz.

Why exactly are they imitating human society and warfare norms? Just get beaten back too many times and adopt it over their own? They don't sound bad as far as orcs go. And could go more Shadowrun style for looks on them for looks.


toujours gai, archie
Thanks, elemtilas. I do have giants. I don't have them developed much, but I have them living as independent family groups, like bears. Fomorians is a good suggestion; I had indeed overlooked them. Now I've got to find a proper place for them!

Orc Knight, they imitated humans because they did. I thought it would be interesting to have a opposing empire and have the other guys be much like us. A little bit of Meiji Japan going on. It wasn't because they were beaten; rather, they saw and adopted from a distance, so when humans and dwarves first encounter them, the orcs will have already have their own emperor.

Are they bad? That's really the reason for the monotheism. It gives them a deep-seated ideology that is at fundamental odds with the polytheism of the West. And, of course, there can only be one emperor, so that sets their Orc Emperor against the Roman Emperor. Both have an inherent mission of overlordship. Orcs are more ruthless than humans--they exploit gnomes terribly. They employ slavery, which has disappeared in the West. Their fundamental expansionism is offset by constant warfare with the Five Kingdoms of the trolls, but from time to time the orcs drive deep into central Europe.

So far it's sounding like people are fine with having orcs present despite their lack of historicity (compared with trolls or dwarves, for example). I look forward to hearing other voices on the subject.