“What can men do against such reckless hate?” ~ King Theoden (LotR: The Two Towers)
It seems only fair that if I am going to review a supplement about Dwarf-kind, I should review one about their mortal enemy – and pretty much everyone’s mortal enemy – Orcs!
Like Dwarves, Orcs have been pervasive throughout Fantasy RPGs for many years, both Paper&Pencil and Computer gaming, although usually as monsters for Heroes to combat rather than an actual Player Character Race. Undeniably, Orcs have even been allowed as a Player Race in Dungeons & Dragons, but as a fairly unlikely one, seemingly tacked onto the various Editions as almost an afterthought.
Unlike full-blooded Orcs, the half-bred Half-Orc did have a place in Fantasy RPGs, including Dungeons & Dragons, although not always a popular Player-Character concept. While the Half-Orc was a standard race in 1st and 3rd Edition D&D, it was not included in 2nd Edition until the Skills & Powers supplement hit the shelves. And of course in 4e, Half-Orcs had to wait their turn until the Player’s Handbook 2 was released.
Other games, however, were not afraid to embrace Orcs fully, and developed extensive Player material for development. Games such as Warhammer, Shadowrun, and Earthdawn have considerable information about creating and playing Orc characters, and there are undoubtedly a million Orc Characters rampaging through the MMORPG World of Warcraft game!
Now I can’t claim to have played as many Orc and Half-Orc Characters as I have Dwarven ones, but I do have to admit that I did tend to gravitate toward Orcs in both Earthdawn and Shadowrun. I challenge anyone to claim that Orcs don’t make some awesome Street Samurai.
So given the scanty amount of material released “officially” regarding playing Orc and Half-Orc Characters in D&D 4e, it was heartening to see some original content from GSL sources like Alea Publishing Group.
Medieval Bestiary: Orc Culture
- Authors: Joshua Raynack
- Illustrators: Joshua Raynack, Pegaso Models, Sade
- Publisher: Alea Publishing Group
- Year: 2009
- Media: PDF (8 pages)
- Cost: $1.25
Medieval Bestiary: Orc Culture is an eight page supplement detailing the history and culture of Orcs in the Feudal Lords Campaign Setting which is usable with Dungeons & Dragons 4e. In addition to the discussion of Orc Origins and Society in the Feudal Lords Setting, the supplement contains five new Feats, two full-color maps, and eight alternate NPC Orc Powers.
At my first glance through this product, I must admit I found Medieval Bestiary: Orc Culture a bit disappointing, despite the excellent production quality. Of the eight pages inside this PDF, the first two pages were the cover and acknowledgements, and the final page consisted of the two maps of an Orc village, viewed 3-D fashion from two opposing angles around the village.
Now I should mention that the maps are actually quite good, and would be very useful for a variety of encounters. While the angle view makes them difficult to use as a dungeon tile, the layout of the village could be used for almost any outdoor humanoid fort, or even a primitive human encampment.
The information provided by the Authors on Orc culture and society was well-written and informative, and touched on Orc Origins, Encampments, Females, and Religion, as well as professions within the Orc community such as Warriors, Shaman, and Magicians. The Lore provided in the Supplement was geared, of course, toward the Feudal Lords Campaign Setting, and was an intriguing read, despite this Editor’s unfamiliarity with the FLCS:
Heldeofol, the dwarven word for hell devil, was the name granted to the orcmen nearly a century ago during the Siege of Ahngrin. Orcs are the progeny of vile, metalsmith trolls and northmen of the Gaeth clan. Since that time, the orcmen pillaged and plundered across the known lands eventually concentrat-ing heavily in the south.
Their voracious appetite for all worldly affairs puts them at direct odds with the Church of the Eternal Spirit of Man, as church doctrine states spiritual release comes from true abstinence of material goods that satisfy the flesh. Though the Church of the Eternal Spirit cares little for other races and their practices, they deem orcmen a deliberate abomination of man and natural law.
Fans of the Feudal Lords campaign world will doubtless enjoy this new lore regarding Orcs, and the details on their place in the Setting. But all DMs and Players can find something useful from the sections on Feats and Orc Monster Abilities, regardless of what world they play in.
The majority of the Feats listed are designed to enhance and modify the Furious Assault Racial ability(see PHB 2), and are well worth considering if you happen to be playing a Half-Orc Character. And two of the Feats in the supplement utilize an interesting new concept called a Fatigue Feat. In essence, a Fatigue Feat is a action feat that is so tiring, it requires the expenditure of a healing surge to use it more than once per day. This type of feat could open some interesting possibilities for creating other high-powered Feats that have a minor detriment.
And for Dungeon Masters, the Orc Monster Abilities area set of individual powers that can be added, ala carte, to any Orc NPC. Using these alternate powers provides an excellent way to quickly modify a standard Monster Manual Stat Block in order to create a completely new and unexpected challenge for your Players. The powers listed in the Orc Culture Supplement were helpfully written with “flavor” references by the Authors, and range from Leader abilities to additional powers that can be used when creating Orc Elites, or even Orc Solo “boss” encounters.
So despite my initial misgivings about the Medieval Bestiary: Orc Culture, I would certainly describe the Supplement as a Good Buy for Fans of the Feudal Lord Campaign Setting. And for DMs who relish their Orcs, and are looking for some new ways to add some variety to your Orc Hordes ravening at the gates of civilization, then the Supplement is probably worth digging your wallet out for – doubly so, if you want new material to appease the Half-Orc Player in your campaign!
So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the Product, from which the review was written.