22 May 2024

Orc-shifted world (RPG Blog Carnival)

For this months RPG Blog Carnival because the prompt it’s not easy being green from RPG Wandering got me thinking about orcs - and how the world changes, if any, if we slot orcs into the central world spot that humans typically occupy.

What if orcs and goblins were our 'base' for our fantasy world in place of humans? Taking standard D&D fantasy world, you get lots of mixed entities from the influence of magic, the planes, dragons, etc. What does a world look like where the assumed base block of the world is an orc?

This is not Orkworld where we assume Orks are the protagonists in otherwise standard fantasyland, this is assuming a world grown up around orcs rather than one grown up around humans.

There looks to me like three major blocks of creatures that would change to 'orc-based' versions
- those changed by the influence of magical forces - planars
- those combined with other fantasy races through heritage
- those affected/cursed during their life

For the first group, all the planars - tieflings, genasi, aasimar - all those various types will be more or less the same but with different bone structure. Tieforcs, fire genasi, the planar overlay onto Joe the orc would lead to something similar but different to the standard fantasy variety. I would expect the planar feature - flaming hair, tails, horns, glowing auras, etc. to manifest on someone who looks otherwise orc-like.

For the second group, where the other half are other living things - dragons, elves, giants, etc. - then there will be the same mixing of features but interestingly for orcs the relative increase in lifespan is *even more* significant. With a very old orc living to ~ 75 years, getting elven, draconic or giant longevity means you will live to see many generations.

Finally for all those things that prey or parasitise humanoids - undead and aberrations - there are some adaptations given their prey is different. Most of the undead remain the same - skeletons, zombies, wights, ghosts, etc. but there is a subset that adapts - those that prey directly on other orcs. Ghouls are going to be similar - maybe some adaptations for crunching tougher bones - but vampires might become a saber-toothed variety.

I am including things that traditionally take their form from the majority population in here too - warforged will look like orcs, shapeshifters at rest, etc.

An open question would be what angels, nymphs, succubi and the like would look like - planars like angels and fiends, where they do not look radically different already (gelugons, lantern archons) would look more orc like. Things like nymphs and hags who are fey spirits independent of whoever is walking around would stay the same. This does potentially lead to a place where the locals (orcs) think they look much weirder that is normally assumed. Things like manticores, lamias and sphynx would presumably have more orc-like faces?

If we say the 'human' group of species is absent completely - humans, dwarves, gnomes, halflings - then fill those niches with hobgoblins, bugbears and goblins.

Around these would be all the other usual suspects rising from completely different sources - lizardfolk, tabaxi, kenku, dragonborn, tortles, etc. No reason they would be any different.

An open question would this world feel different - if we stick with the standard D&D pantheon then the orc gods are a bunch of assholes and this place would be like the Midnight setting. If we truly say 'standard world just baseline orc' then you could see those gods muscled off by various other pantheons and the whole broad spectrum of cultures arise. The one thing is the faster metabolisms and shorter lives suggests that orcs would pack more history into a given time-frame. The 'drive for glory' element of the Kobold High Culture post could apply here.

On the one hand, I think you could run a fairly standard game in such a world, not much functionally changes beyond a palatte shift. On the other hand you could take the higher energy and sense of less time to run a turbo-charged world where *everyone* is making moves, all the time. This would be the flip-side to the question of 'why don't the high level heroes deal with this problem' - everything is happening at once, all the plots, invasions, etc. are in motion *right now*. That could be fun - there are no 'going to the baron in his castle for missions' because the baron will be in the field somewhere Doing Stuff. It could be an entertainingly chaotic setting, possibly not to everyones tastes since people typically like to *be* the chaos in an otherwise stable setting, but potentially some fun to be had.

You can see a partial take on this in Ways of the High North Goblins for a previous blog carnival but this does not push things to the extremes mentioned above.

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