World Common Knowledge 4 – Orcs and Half-Orcs

Art by Vyacheslav Prytula –

As with all the races, if you ask a city dweller their opinion of Orcs, they’ll say something like “Sure… I have a few Orc friends.” or “My brother-in-law is an Orc”. They, or course, mean half-orc. Most Orcs hate cities… too confining… and would only be caught dead in one. Half-orcs are simply humanoids who have orc heritage on one side or the other. Genetically, the Orc body plan is pretty dominant so even the granddaughter of an Orc may have small tusks and greenish to grayish skin. Regardless, all orcs are orcs in the eyes of most people and as far as city folk see it, it doesn’t really matter one way or the other. On the other hand, if you ask someone from anywhere near the Orc Maw mountain range, the Uruk planes, or even some more rural areas on the rest of Dalshmier, Orcs are monsters that burn, pillage, rape, and terrorize. The only common thread they share with the city folk is that “…an orc is an orc”. Half-orcs are looked on with suspicion and maybe a little fear in communities that have suffered attacks.

What people know and what is… these vary greatly. Orcs are tribal. They are brutal. They are fierce. They have families and lands they protect and they have a warrior culture. This does not make them evil, necessarily. That being said there are evil Orcs just like there are evil humans. The blending of the species has even given rise to more intellectual Orcs. Many half-orc are leaders among orcs. If there is one sentiment that Orcs share with humans… an Orc is and Orc. Orcs that are half, a third, or even a tenth Orc are considered orcs and welcomed into tribes. It is not uncommon to see an Orc band with what appears to be a large human warrior similarly garbed as the orcs and then realize it’s a half-orc with them.

Art by Kii Weatherton –

City dwellers would not know that some orc bands, particularly those in the mountains of the Orc Maw, keep “breeding stock” but folk in rural areas who have experienced Orc raids on their farms and villages would know that they have had womenfolk taken during attacks. The stock includes those women taken in raids as well as Orc females who have been chosen and anointed for the “honorable” task of birthing warriors. While those who have been taken by force are not there by choice, both they and the Orc women who have been given this “high honor” are kept together with the Orc women usually keeping the humans and elves in line. Dwarves, gnomes, and halflings are never selected for the “honor” though some are kept as slaves and indentured servants. Not all Orcs keep slaves. Not all Orcs keep the practice of breeding stock. Those that do are considered, even among orcs, to be the most vicious among the Orc kind. There are many cases in which a full blood orc falls in love with a human or elven woman who returns the affection and they build a family together. It is most often a male orc and a female Human in these parings and it often looked on with suspicion by the Orcs and the Humans or elven families of the pair. There is a double standard when it comes to human men and Orc women with Orcs cheering the woman and humans cheering the man.

As far as half-orc who are born and raised in cities… they don’t know any of this. Many are shielded from their heritage and culture as much as their parents can manage and those who aren’t, tend to romanticize the life of a wild orc, riding the planes on the back or a worg in search of battle and glory with wind flowing through their braided and beaded hair. There has been a movement recently in more oppressed and racially intolerant lands like Usterid, for half-orcs to rise up and celebrate their heritage, but most half-orcs don’t know what that really means and most wouldn’t last five minutes in a fighting pit with their more brutish cousins.

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