Search This Blog

Friday, March 20, 2015

Orthos's Observations: Glaistigs

I've pretty much always been a fan of Fey, but only within the past six years or so have I actually started to truly love them. And that can be traced 100% to the sorts of authors and book series I read. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. M. Todd Gallowglas's The Tombs. A Midsummer Night's Dream. There are other major non-literary influences as well - the old Gargoyles TV show with its Puck and the other Children of Oberon are also a major contributor, for example - but these books that I keep coming back to are the core of what has defined the Fey for me. When I designed the Courts of FaeReie for Finiens, it was these stories I had in mind. Combined with my love of mythology and things like Grimm's Tales, there was no way Finiens was not going to have a heavy Fey influence; doubly so thanks to the first campaign ever being run in our world being Kingmaker.

As such, it seemed only natural to have Fey races available for play. Sadly, fey creatures scaled for PC-level stats are few and far between; even the weakest of fey creatures has a statblock with abilities or resources that would be immensely unfair (and a headache to GMs) to put in player hands, more often than not. That said, it had been done in the past; in 3.5, one of my favorite PC races were the Killoren from Races of the Wild, the green-skinned "humans of the fey" with their shifting aspects. I actually played a Killoren character in a short-lived campaign, an Archivist named Shezzarin. She and her party are actually somewhere in Finiens's history thanks to their plane-hopping shenanigans, as are a time-traveling party from another campaign my group ran, but those are stories for another time!

I'd wanted to have a satyr-like PC race for some time, I'm not exactly sure why. They were called "satyrs" at first, too, with females being referred to as "nymph satyrs" despite retaining the half-goat appearance of the males. However, that idea was scrapped when it became obvious that using the "satyr" term would cause confusion with the actual Satyr creature already in the statblocks, as well as lock in the race to all the scandalous sexual behavior associated with that particular breed of fey, which was not something I wanted. So I did some searching around for another creature that had a similar physical design but a different lore. Fauns existed, but they too were already statted out and part of the game as-is. Then I found the glaistig, a fey/ghost creature from Scottish myth.

The appearance was perfect - they had the goat legs, but their upper humanoid half was elf-like and, to my surprise and amusement, lacked the horns almost always present on Satyrs and Fauns; this soon became the primary physical differentiating trait between the Glaistigs and the other half-caprine fey. At least according to Wikipedia and the other quick website sources I found in my early searches, Glaistigs were either a protecting spirit, sheltering herds and handlers from wolves and raiders, or an angry avenger of wrongs done. I decided to blend the two and turned them into FaeReie's first guard, a species created for the purpose of defense of the weaker and engaging the invading enemy first, and designed their statistics to match, giving them strong builds, hardy immune systems, resilient skin, and warding their minds and presence against magical intrusion.

At the time I created them we really hadn't decided what to do with Gnomes yet - that was only decided about a year and a half ago, partway through Kingmaker - but we had decided that the primary enemies of the fey were a shadow-fey species (which later became the Lost Court) and the Dark Song, which I'll elaborate on eventually. We'd also already decided that the abandoned realm of Unknown Kadath was a place (one of two major such locales) where the Dark Song could enter the world from whatever netherworld they originated, which later became FaeReie though that is far from their point of origin, and attack the mortal realm. Thus we positioned the Glaistigs who had left FaeReie at the feet of the Mountains of Madness in the Ice Claw, standing first sentinel against the Song incursion.

The Glaistigs are only the first of the fey races that are common on Finiens's Material; these comprise the "mortal fey", fey who for the most part have limited lifespans rather than traditional fey immortality, and whose mindsets are close enough to mortals that they can interact semi-normally, though the fey will always seem a little "off" in their behaviors, taboos, morality, and ethics in the eyes of mortals. The other "mortal fey" include Gnomes (who have retained their Fey typing in Finiens) and the Leanaí-Dubh, both of which will be discussed in the future, and an honorary recognition of such toward the Elves and the Ael-Vari, who likewise will be touched on later, despite them having lost much of their Fey nature and become Humanoid creatures over the millennia. There are also other "mortal fey" races who are present but less common; these are the published such fey races such as the Killoren and the Gathlain.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Races of Finiens: Glaistigs

In the vibrant life-flooded world of FaeReie, an infinite amount of creatures have spawned, born from bizarre interbreeding or simply spontaneously generated by the life-giving nature of their reality or the will of the Fae Queens. Many of these creatures simply exist because they do, without specific purpose and desiring none, answering only to the whim of their own capricious nature or the moment's latest spark of intention or whimsy. However, such is not true for all; some creatures were forged with purpose, designed specifically for a task, equipped perfectly for the reason for their existence. One of these such are the Glaistigs.

The original use of the name Glaistig was unrelated to the entities that wear the title now. It was a loose but common term used for hybrids of Satyrs or Fauns and Nymphs, Dryads, or other similar breeds of fae who exemplified feminine beauty and sensuality. Most of the time, the offspring of such unions produced yet more of the same: the goat-legged pranksters and pursuers if the child was born male, the radiant beauty if female. Yet in some cases a blending of the two was born - a child that bore the physical structure of the father, humanoid from the waist up but caprine below, yet carried the mother's beauty and glamour regardless. These rare abnormalities were the original Glaistigs, but at the time the term was merely a passing reference for these sorts of hybrids; they were not a species unto themselves, but rather bred as if a member of their appropriate parent's species, producing offspring of what they could or should have been rather than more bearing their shared traits.

The spark that changed the nature of the term and the beginning of a newborn people was the arrival of the Dark Song, an alien life-form from beyond the stars, from a world anathema to Finiens itself and beyond all sight and detection. When the Song arrived, rather than allow them to ravage the unprepared Material, their hordes were deflected into FaeReie, where the natives would be more suited to battle their otherworldly nature. And battle they did - all the courts of FaeReie prepared warriors, their mettle tested against one another for eons, and set them to the new front, to wage war against the invaders from another universe.

It is theorized that Cernunnos the Erlking, Lord of the Wyld Hunt, was the one who instigated the change. Others suggest it was FaeReie itself responding to a necessity, recognizing the harm that was coming to it and making ready a force to combat the danger directly, like a body attacking disease with its most efficient antibodies. Other, more wild assumptions or propositions have arisen over the years. Whatever the cause, however, what is known is who the first true Glaistig was: her given name was Jeanne, known also as The Green Lady. Daughter of a satyr and a dryad, she had been born with her father's physique and endurance as well as her mother's beauty, penchant for magic, and bond to the land; she carried the tree she was bound to, though in her case it had never grown much larger than a small shrub, and wore it like a buckler on her arm while wielding a spear hewn from one of her mother's fallen branches.

Jeanne was taken, by whatever force and unknown if by her volunteering or against her will, and changed. Her physical appearance - hooved goat legs from the waist down, beautiful elflike woman from the waist up - was mostly unaltered, but much of her underlying nature was shifted or remade. She became hardier, sturdier, more stalwart in frame and stature. Her mind was sharpened, warded against intrusion, and toned with stubbornness and firm will. Her skin was made strong against the attacks of enemies, protected from the shedding of blood by faerie magic, only to be pierced by the touch of feybane. The changes cost her some of her mother's grace, but her hooves were made sure and nimble, and the earth responded to their touch. Her dependence on her tree and her bond to its life was severed, freeing her of the danger of death due to its harm. And - perhaps most importantly of all for the future of her kind and of FaeReie itself - she was given the ability to breed true, to produce more of her kind, making her the Firstborn of a new species, mother of a legacy, predecessor of a great undertaking.

Following her metamorphosis and the birth of her first few children, Jeanne was given her role to fill in the world: the Glaistigs were to serve as sentinels, protectors and guardians of FaeReie and its people, wardens against the assaults of the Dark Song, mortals, the Lost Court, and all other enemies of all fey-kind.

The Glaistigs fought for eons against the incursion of the Song, battling back and forth with the alien menace, taking numbers from the seemingly endless horde of musical monstrosities for each of their own that was lost, corrupted, or slain, and continuing to multiply their own numbers, train their young in the ways of defense and war, and grow to repeat the cycle. For most Glaistigs, this is their existence, and has been from the beginning of time and will be for all eternity, or until FaeReie has enemies no more.

But for some, this was merely the beginning, and something soon changed.

One of the first races of the fae to lose all ground to the Dark Song's invasion were the Gnomes. These diminutive people dwelt on the fringes of FaeReie, both its deepest and most otherworldly depths as well as the places where it was most mundane, bordering through thin veils to the Material. When the Song attacked, sent to FaeReie by agreement with its Queens to spare the Material their ravage for at least a time, it is into the Gnomes' lands that they were sent. The Gnomes fled their attackers, and the first of the Glaistigs responded, battling back the foe and allowing the Gnomes to seek refuge in other realms. This cycle would repeat itself countless times, with the Gnomes seeking new homes, the Song pursuing, and the Glaistigs battling them back while the Gnomes would once again relocate for safety, only to be chased once again.

Eventually, the chase would remove them from FaeReie entirely. A large majority of the Gnomish people's flight took them out of FaeReie, through the Twisting Paths and into the Material, stranding them in the world of mortals in the islands known as the Senkaku Archipelago. A small selection of Glaistig guardians who had been sheltering them directly were so stranded with them as well; however, the majority of the warriors whose fighting retreat covered their escape found the Ways routed them instead to a cold, bitter, rocky land - the harsh tundra known as the Ice Claw of Stormwind.

For a time, the Glaistigs thought their foe had been thwarted, and while they could not return to FaeReie - something about this new place, this mortal realm, prevented their magic from returning them home - they found that the climate was for the most part to their satisfaction. The rocky, icy lands were suitable for a race built to battle on stone and mountainside, and their skin could resist all but the mightiest of blows from any blade not forged of the deadly Cold Iron... a benefit that came greatly of use when they met their first mortal neighbors, the Orcs. Clashing between the defensive-minded fey and the battle-beloved Orc packs was inevitable, and the Orcs found themselves quite impressed with the near-indestructibility of their foes; however, they were likewise minimal, as the packs would rarely roam out of their nomadic lands and the Glaistigs, created with the purpose of protection and defense in mind, were not of the nature to aggressively approach anything but an attacking enemy force.

However, their peace was short-lived. The Glaistigs had emerged near the feet of the Mountains of Madness, the impossibly-tall towering range of peaks to the north of the Ice Claw, beyond which lay the abandoned ruins of Unknown Kadath. Whatever alien life had once dwelt in those forgotten cities and empty spires, it seemed to resonate with the melody of the Dark Song, and the horde found it could emerge from FaeReie using Kadath as a gateway. Soon battle was rejoined, when Glaistig outriders exploring the mountains reported Song pouring down the slopes in droves, seeping out of ancient caves and long-forgotten mountain passes and surging towards the life-thronged lands to the south.

To this day the majority of Glaistigs remain in that bitter land, dwelling at the feet of those otherworldly mountains and battling the impossible foe that ekes out from beyond their unfathomable walls. However, wanderlust strikes even the fae, and ever there are those who would deny their destiny and forge new paths for themselves, away from the endless battles and impossible war with the Dark Song. It is these who venture into other lands, seeking whatever might be found among mortals. Yet the essence of the sentinel never quite leaves them, and for whatever reason may call, the way of the warden is in the Glaistig's very blood and bones.


Glaistig Stats
* Ability Score Racial Traits: Glaistigs are tough and clever, but are somewhat ungainly in movement. Glaistig characters gain a +2 racial bonus to Constitution and Intelligence and take a -2 penalty to Dexterity.
* Type: Glaistigs are Fey creatures.
* Size: Glaistigs are Medium creatures and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
* Base Speed: Glaistigs have a base speed of 30 feet.
* Languages: Glaistigs begin play speaking Common and Sylvan. Glaistigs with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Aklo, Auran, Draconic, Elven, Gnomish, Orc, and Terran.
* Damage Reduction: Glaistigs have the tough skin of warrior fey, pierced only by the touch of iron. Glaistig characters have DR 5/cold iron.
* Low-Light Vision: Glaistigs have low-light vision, allowing them to see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.
* Healthy: Glaistigs have tough immune systems, allowing them to live on nearly anything much like the goats they resemble from the waist down. Glaistigs gain a +4 bonus on Fortitude saves against disease and poison, including magical diseases.
* Mountaineer: Glaistigs are immune to altitude sickness and do not lose their Dexterity bonus to AC when making Climb checks or Acrobatics checks to cross narrow or slippery surfaces. Nearly all Glaistigs live in rocky or mountainous regions and they are used to traversing treacherous terrain.
* Protector: Glaistigs are the sentinels of the fey, trained from birth to battle the enemies of their people. Glaistigs add +1 to the caster level of any abjuration spells they cast, and also gain the following spell-like abilities: constant—nondetection; 1/day—faerie fire, obscure object, sanctuary. The caster level for these effects is equal to the user’s character level.
* Stubborn: Glaistigs gain a +2 racial bonus on Will saving throws to resist spells and spell-like abilities of the enchantment (charm) and enchantment (compulsion) subschools. In addition, if the Glaistig fails such a save, it receives another save 1 round later to prematurely end the effect (assuming the spell or spell-like ability has a duration greater than 1 round). This second save is made at the same DC as the first. If the Glaistig has a similar ability from another source (such as a rogue’s slippery mind class feature), it can only use one of these abilities per round, but can try the other on the second round if the first reroll ability fails.
* Treacherous Earth (Su): Once per day, a Glaistig can will the earth to rumble and shift, transforming a 10-foot-radius patch of earth, unworked stone, or sand into an area of difficult terrain centered on a square it can touch. This lasts for a number of minutes equal to the user’s level, after which the ground returns to normal.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Orthos's Observations: Orcs

First off, to get it out of the way: "Holy alliteration, Batman!"

Now that that's done.

Orcs! I have yet to see a fantasy setting that doesn't have Orcs, or at least something very like them. They're as ubiquitous as Elves and Dwarves, if less historically-rooted; despite Elves going back as far as fairy tales do and farther and Dwarves being a staple of (at the very least) Norse myth, there's really no large-scale Orc presence in legend and mythology until Tolkien, yet in the modern day they're just as well-known and easily-identifiable among fans of the Fantasy genre - and now, thanks to things like the Lord of the Rings movies, even those who don't normally associate themselves with that culture.

Unfortunately, what they're so well-known for is being typecast. Orcs are the Bad Guys. The slavering hordes. The barbaric enemy on the doorstep. The mongrel tribes who pillage, rape, and burn. They're low-level enemies for your average fantasy game, grunt stupid minions for more intellectual villains, and their only player-side connection to the game is, most of the time, the rapist parent of a bastard race created primarily for the purpose of proving just how bad they are and making characters who will be biased against by the vast majority of people they encounter. Orcs are evil, through and through, and almost no setting uses them in any other way. They're almost as bad as Goblins, in that way, really - notice it's never Elf babies or Dwarf babies or even baby Dragons used in those annoying moral quandaries about "Will the paladin fall if he kills this?". It's always Orc or Goblin babies. Because the people making these arguments always want to pit the mindset of "Orcs/Goblins are always evil, no exceptions, rawr grar nyargh blargh" against the basic assumption of "children are innocent".

Really, these discussions sicken me as much out-of-character as in, especially when people who play so-called good characters and especially so-called paladins are coming out in favor of this kind of behavior. I have, on more than one occasion, seen a paladin character suggest that half-orc children should be "killed immediately as a mercy, as their lives hold nothing forward but a life of evil, suffering, and suffering they will cause".

Well screw that.

I've been on the Paizo forums and elsewhere long enough to see the many, many complaints about Orcs being the "token bad guy race" of "Always Chaotic Evil bags of XP" created for the express purpose of "giving players semi-humanoid creatures to kill without moral quandaries of whether or not it's an evil act". So when putting our Orcs together, one of the things Ebon and I wanted to do immediately was make sure that argument never need rear its head in our setting. To do that, though, we needed an Orcish culture that didn't result - through either harsh living, outside influence, or scorn by other races - in a race that had a burning hatred for most or all other species that would push them in large numbers toward evil alignments.

We knew we wanted our Orcs to be a tribal warrior race, but we wanted to avoid some of the pitfalls they seemed to always fall into in other settings. Things like being the creation of evil deities or fiendish powers, being corrupted versions of "good" races, hating all magic, being stupid and brutish thugs with intelligence penalties, and perhaps most importantly being a non-player race that spawns a PC race 99% of the time via rape. One of the first things we did when we started putting the setting together was outright say, "there are no Half-Orcs, Orcs and Humans are genetically incompatible. If you want to use Half-Orc stats for an Orc character, that's fine." We eventually refined those statistics into the Orc stats presented here, obviously. The removal of Half-Orcs gave us the opportunity to pull Orcs in as their own playable race as well as banishing their connection to unpleasant backstories as a matter of common course. From there, it was just a matter of tweaking the flavor behind them.

There were two major influences on Orcs, really. One from me, one from Ebon. Hers was the Krogan, a race from the Mass Effect game series... which I have never played. I don't even own it (unlike, say, Dragon Age, which I have multiple games of but have never touched). From what a quick Google search could gather, they're a warrior culture with a strong system of honor and a focus on strength of arms and of will... pretty perfect for what we were going for with Orcs, I have to admit. One of these days maybe I'll play the game, and be able to directly incorporate a bit more of that culture into them. As of now though, that'll be Ebon's input, when/if she decides to run something with Orcs as a prominent culture.

My contribution was a bit more humorous. When I started trying to envision non-evil but highly combat-motivated and enthusiastic culture, my mind went to the Jägermonsters of the webcomic Girl Genius. They too enjoy fighting, revel in violence, have a sort of (admittedly bizarre) code of honor, and are powerfully built and difficult to harm or kill. That and the idea of an Orc obsessing over a hat makes me laugh. So yeah! Jäger Orcs! Love it. Stir in a bit of Krogan, a bit of old-fashioned nomadic barbarian horde types stripped of the typical "rape and pillage" stereotype, a strong dose of shamanistic culture to tie them to the brutal landscape of the Ice Claw, and a powerful reverence for those who die in battle admittedly stolen from the Norse, hence the bonfire burials.

So... now that they're here, what do they do?

Well, geography primarily answers most of that. The Orcs' homeland is the Ice Claw, which is located on the southern part of the northern half of Stormwind. It's bordered by the Titans mountain range to the south and the Mountains of Madness to the north, with ocean on its east and west shores. It's a frostfell taiga and tundra region, with temperate summers at best and brutal winters. In the earliest parts of Finiens's history, the Orc packs had full run of the entire region; however, they've moved somewhat westward into the rolling plains of the Claw, leaving the more craggy and hilly eastern third primarily occupied by the Frost Elves (whose forest was pulled north of the Titans when the Child of Perdition Firbohlg moved the mountains) and Humans from Olympia to the south who have established cities in the frostfell.

So the packs roam the plains and western coast of the tundra. Those along the shorelines might be a bit Inuit-like in culture, doing a lot of close-to-shore sailing and relying primarily on fish, but the majority of Orcs further inland remain predominantly nomadic, roaming in erratic but semi-consistent paths through their territories depending on time of year, guided by shamanistic lore and magic and sheltered by powerful warriors and tribal tradition. Where packs intersect, conflicts are inevitable, but large-scale conflict is a bit anathema to my Orcs: they, sparing some few exceptions, don't have much need or desire for control of massive amounts of territory. Orcs in Finiens are not conquerors or pillagers; they don't really desire to expand their holdings so much as secure what they have and protect what they hold. They're more predators than tyrants, knowing the territory they roam provides the resources they need to survive and keeping challengers away but, unless their own stores run dry, having little reason to force themselves into the demesne of another.

The addition of mentions of psionics was kind of a last-second idea from me, but really one I should have spotted earlier. Given the Lovecraftian nature of the Mountains of Madness and whatever lost civilization once lay beyond in Unknown Kadath (which I've recently begun getting ideas toward fleshing out, actually), it seemed only natural that the packs dwelling nearest the mountains' feet would develop echoes of that otherworldly power. And with the Dark Song strongly tied to psionics as well, even more so.

Given most of the campaigns I've run have taken place in Wachara rather than Stormwind, there's not been much opportunity to do things frequently with Orcs, something I'm hoping to be able to rectify sometime in the future. Consider this, though, at least a start toward providing a world where those who like Orcs, for whatever reason, don't have to settle for bloodthirsty warmongers to satisfy that desire. And, well, if that's what you want out of your Orcs anyway... well, you've no shortage available, that's for certain.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Races of Finiens: Orcs

In the wilderness and tundra of the Ice Claw, there is only one law: the strongest survive. The cold, the wild, the beasts, and the terrain are merciless in their hunts, and those who cannot resist their pursuits are food for the predators that pursue them. Only one race has mastered this cruel, unforgiving land - the mighty Orcs. Living in semi-nomadic clans and traveling in hunting packs or warbands, Orc culture has embraced the basic ideal of “survival of the fittest”, tempered with an unusual mortal kindness - the simple question of “why can’t everyone be the fittest?”

Orcs are a powerful, hardy race, weathered and strengthened by the rough terrain and unforgiving climate they call home. From their youth, as soon as they are capable of walking, Orcs are shown the way of battle: introduced to weapons and armor as soon as they can hold their weight, and regularly taken along for hunting trips and skirmishes as soon as they are old enough to no longer be a burden to the pack. Orcs are gruff, cunning, and above all practical - they have little interest in fair fights and prioritize victory, because in their world, “loser” is simply a nicer word for “dead”. When not fighting or hunting, Orcs are expected to labor, performing chores and tasks for the good of the pack and to keep their own strength up, and when not occupied with such obligations Orcs are prone to brawling in mock battles, wrestling tournaments, or violent dares such as fighting some great beast to a standstill. Orcs learn young to create, and are generally expected to see to the well-being, upkeep, maintenance, repair, and replacement of their own equipment - and any Orc caught without his or her weapons, armor, tools, or other necessities is generally expected to "make do" without, one way or another, or fail trying.

However, neither are Orcs heartless, cruel, or stupid. There is a place for Orcs who cannot keep pace with the rigors required of hunters and warriors. Shamanism and druidism are highly respected, and Orcs who express the cleverness and spiritual skill to make contact with the wild land’s native essence are a guiding force in Orcish culture. Orcs as a whole revere nature-oriented deities and Avatars associated with battle and strength, but also of protection and healing, knowing that at the end of every battle the warrior must rest, recuperate, and regain strength if he or she wishes to see the battlefield again whole. While an Orcish leader or chieftain is almost always a warrior of great renown and strength, he or she is almost always wise to take the advice of the pack’s shamans, to seek their insight on the spiritual nature of matters, and secure their blessings and assistance - and, above all, healing - when the pack goes to war.

And war is common among the Orcs. Tribal rivalries run deep between different clans, and unwritten boundaries between the nomadic packs’ territories often lead to conflicts and sometimes outright combat when implied barriers are considered crossed. To other, more “civilized” races, this makes the Orcs look brutish, barbaric, and hostile, especially when their boisterous, violent nature is not limited to squabbles and skirmishes among their own kind, but also to other races moving into their frozen lands from the warm south. In turn, however, very few Orc packs - much less entire clans - have moved en-masse further south than the Titans, and those who have have indeed been interested in overrunning or conquering other races and their lands, painting an unpleasant and aggressive picture of their kind for their southern neighbors.

These, however, are largely exceptions. For most Orcs, battle is not a means but an end - they battle because battle is glorious, an exercise in strength, skill, and strategy, a proving of who truly is the fittest and the greatest, whether one’s opponent is another Orc, a wild beast, a true monster, or a man or woman of another race or homeland. Most Orc clans are uninterested in seizing new territory, merely keeping other clans from doing so, and enjoying the thrill of the fight when borders are breached, and above all an opportunity to increase one’s own strength, resiliency, and endurance - a chance to become the fittest.

Other races often consider Orcs to be brutish and stupid, most particularly the Humans and Elves of the lands to the south, who have had the most conflicts with Orcish incursions and who see their primitive ways and eagerness to seek battle as stupidity writ large. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Orcs have the potential to be extremely intelligent, and nothing but the lack of the infrastructure common in more civilized lands stops an Orc from taking up intellectual pursuits, up to and including wizardry. However, less due to their intellectual limitations and more because of their culture and society, there are not many arcane casters among Orcs other than Witches, which are extremely common. Otherwise, the vast majority of Orcish spellcasters are divine in origin, primarily Druids. Tribes who dwell along the northernmost edges of the Ice Claw, near the feet of the impossibly-high Mountains of Madness, also boast large numbers of Psionically-capable members, primarily Psions, Ardents, Vitalists, Tacticians, and of course Psychic Warriors, due to the strong sub-mental influence of Unknown Kadath beyond the towering peaks. The brutal landscape of the Ice Claw demands that all resources be used to the greatest means possible, and Orcs have long since learned - in many cases the hard way - that magic of all kinds is an incredibly useful weapon and tool to have.

Orcs are unique in that there is very little scorn or stigma for any role in their society; rather, their scorn is reserved for one's ability to make him- or herself useful. To an Orc, nothing is more frustrating or rage-inducing than a member of the pack who cannot carry their own weight or play their part. Orcs unfit for a particular task or role are swiftly relocated to other professions, passed from teacher to teacher until a suitable talent has been discovered that can give the Orc something to do. The pack does not have the time or resources to devote to supporting anyone who cannot fend for themselves or, in the cases of the elderly, infirm, or challenged, provide some minor service to the whole. Those incapable of performing any other task are set to the care and upbringing of the next generation, watching over and guiding the youngest of the pack until such time as they are old enough to begin training.

Orc deaths are as brutal as their lives, and treated with equal reverence. Unlike other societies, Orcs leave nothing with their dead; all possessions that can be recovered and are still useable are stripped from the dead and surrendered first to living next-of-kin, then to the pack as a whole if unneeded or unwanted. Orcs do not bury their slain, but rather burn them on massive individual funeral pyres; the night after an Orcish conflict is always ablaze with aurora lights of countless bonfires blazing as the packs pluck their fallen from the battlefield and send them to the afterlife in a haze of ash and smoke. In conflicts with other races, Orcs have been known to retrieve the bodies of their enemies and likewise burn them, once their own are all tended; these pyres are treated with equal reverence to any Orc's, most of the time, and the slain are usually referred to as worthy opponents and foes even in death. Orcs, in turn, seem extremely perplexed by other races' tendencies to either leave the dead where they lie or, even more baffling, hide them away in the ground. Much of Orcish philosophy speaks that souls come on the wind and the wings of the great snowhawks and rocs that dwell in the northern lands, and that to bury the body locks the soul in stone, preventing those very winds and wings from carrying it to the afterlife.

Orc history is kept alive orally by pack shamans and skalds, with tales of their ancestors and the history of the Ice Claw going back millennia. Would-be skalds spend much of their youth learning these stories, as well as how to remember and recall all the myriad legends and histories of their pack and their homelands and how to construct new tales around more modern events. Written histories are rare, given the nomadic lifestyle and limited physical possessions of most Orc packs, though those skalds and shamans who have been willing to converse with outsiders have shared some of their histories with other cultures who have put them to the written word. Conversely, in certain areas of the Ice Claw Orc packs will practice cave art, leaving their stories to be found by later descendants or other travelers in remote locations. These are far from the primitive stick-figure art of pre-civilization societies, however; Orcish cave art is majestic and large, intricately detailed, and made to last for eons. Massive murals fill entire caverns from entrance to deepest burrow, every inch of stone on the walls and ceiling colored over with a piece of the story. Enormous rock tapestries drape cliff walls, telling a different version of each tale depending on which way a traveler is going. These pieces of elaborate art are usually crafted by clan skalds, with shamans approving each piece of the artistry upon completion and, if deemed suitable, using their magic to ward the work against the elements, leaving it available for all to see for generations to come. Even as much as Orc history and behaviors are known to other races, only a small fragment of these murals have ever been found; it is suspected that in even more remote territories, perhaps even up into the thought-uninhabited Mountains of Madness, there might be further such artistry waiting, telling the history of the Orcs beyond even that which has trickled out to the people of warmer lands.


Notable edits: Mechanics
Orc Stats
* Ability Score Racial Traits: Orcs are powerfully built and fiercely cunning, but have little personal finesse. Orc characters gain +2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, and -2 Charisma.
* Type: Orcs are Humanoid creatures with the orc subtype.
* Size: Orcs are Medium creatures and thus have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
* Base Speed: Orcs have a base speed of 30 feet.
* Languages: Orcs begin play speaking Common and Orc. Orcs with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Abyssal, Aklo, Draconic, Giant, Gnoll, Goblin, and Sylvan.
* Intimidating: Orcs receive a +2 racial bonus on Intimidate checks due to their fearsome nature.
* Ferocity: Orcs possess the ferocity ability which allows them to remain conscious and continue fighting even if their hit point totals fall below 0. Orcs are still staggered at 0 hit points or lower and lose 1 hit point each round as normal.
* Weapon Familiarity: Orcs are proficient with greataxes and falchions and treat any weapon with the word “orc” in its name as a martial weapon. (Note: Most of the core rulebook "dwarven" and "gnomish" weapons are usually kobold or orc make, and thus may be associated with this talent.)
* Darkvision: Orcs can see in the dark up to 60 feet.