Orcs as fallen elves

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Superhero Necro...
Joined: 2013-07-08 21:49
Orcs as fallen elves

A recent post at Monsters & Manuals got me thinking about different takes on orcs, so I took a crack at modeling orcs as a custom class in ACKS and shared it on my blog. My goal here was to make something that is: 

  • an "orc" or goblin modeled as a fallen/twisted/corrupted elf
  • that is more or less Tolkien-y in style
  • but also resonates somewhat with the AD&D 1st edition half-orc assassin trope. 

I considered just going Elf 0, Fighting 2,  HD 2, for a more purely fighter-y orc, but I ended up liking Elf 0, Fighting 2, HD 1, Thievery 1 to allow a couple custom powers (Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, Divine Health (renamed)). I like that the Elf 0 gives it a core set of abilities that with some simple renaming actually feel pretty appropriate for an orc, and it also really drives home that these things are elves corrupted by sorcery. I intententionally stayed away from too many trade-offs in custom powers, and one of my goals was to keep the xp progression pretty fast. I waffled on whether to use my third Thievery custom power for backstab, but I decided to make it "Divine Health" instead (renamed "Corpse Eater"). I put Ambushing in the proficiency list. 

Not sure if I mixed up any of the numbers or rules here, but this is what I ended up with: 

ORC (pdf)
Prime Requisite: STR
Requirements: CON 9
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 13
Build Points: Elf 0 (125), Fighting 2 (1000), HD 1 (500), Thievery 1 (200)
 
Orcs are twisted things, created in evil times from elves warped by foul magics. Common folk often know the smaller orcs simply as goblins or kobolds, the larger as orcs, hobgoblins or bugbears. Some scholars refer to the members of this race as the dark elves.
 
All know them as hateful cowards and murderers, foot soldiers of evil, and killers in the night.  
 
Physically, orcs tend to be squat and wiry, sallow or ashen in complexion, with wide toothy mouths and small mean eyes. The smallest common goblin is no larger than a halfling. The greatest and largest orc can reach nearly the size and build of men.
 
Orcs are accustomed to strife and battle. At first level, orcs hit an unarmored foe (AC 0) with an attack throw of 10+. Thereafter they advance in attack throws by two points every three levels of experience up until 9th level (i.e. they fight as fighters). They advance in saving throws as normal fighters, by two points every three levels of experience. Like fighters, orcs increase their base damage roll from successful missile and melee attacks by +1 at 1st level and by an additional +1 at 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th level. They may perform one cleave attack per level.
 
Orc Level Progression
Experience
Title
Level
Hit Dice
Damage Bonus
 
0
Goblin
1
1d6
+1
 
1,825
Hobgoblin
2
2d6
+1
 
3,650
Bugbear
3
3d6
+2
 
7,300
Uruk
4
4d6
+2
 
14,600
Uruk Veteran
5
5d6
+2
 
29,200
Uruk Leader
6
6d6
+3
 
60,000
Uruk Commander
7
7d6
+3
 
120,000
Uruk Lord
8
8d6
+3
 
240,000
Dark Elf
9
9d6
+4
 
360,000
Dark Elf Lord, 10th lvl
10
9d6+2*
+4
 
480,000
Dark Elf Warlord, 11th lvl
11
9d6+4*
+4
 
600,000
Dark Elf Warlord, 12th lvl
12
9d6+6*
+5
 
720,000
Dark Elf Warlord, 13th lvl
13
9d6+8
+5
 
*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored
 
 
Orcs are killers, trained in the use of all weapons and armor. They may fight wielding a weapon and shield, wielding a two-handed weapon, or wielding a weapon in each hand, as desired. Equipped with light armor and a bow, any orc is an archer or skirmisher. Equipped with heavy armor, shield, and blade, that same orc is a heavy foot soldier. Cloaked as a man, carrying a wicked curved knife, the orc is an assassin in the night. In addition to the common speech, orcs know a twisted but intelligible form of the elven language, as well as the goblin tongues -- goblin, hobgoblin, and orc.
 
At heart, all orcs are cowards and ambushers, preferring to set traps and fall upon enemies unawares. They gain a +1 bonus to surprise rolls when in the wilderness. When wearing leather armor or lighter garb, an orc can move silently and hide in shadows as a thief of the same level. Orcs have the searching eyes of the looter and robber and detect hidden and secret doors with a proficiency throw of 8+ on 1d20 when actively searching, or 14+ on casual inspection.
 
Orcs are corpse eaters and are immune to all forms of disease, including magical diseases caused by mummies, spells, or lycanthropes. Their corrupted bodies are unaffected by the paralysis ghouls can inflict, and they gain a +1 bonus on saving throws versus Petrification/Paralysis and Spells.
 
Orcs are fearsome, and the predators and prey alike in the wilderlands recognize them as masters. Whenever orcs build forts, all ordinary animals within 5 miles of the stronghold become servile and helpful to their goblin masters.
 
Orcs are feared for their inhumanity. Orcs suffer a -2 penalty to the reactions, loyalty, and morale of humans and demi-humans. Conversely, they get a +2 bonus to the reactions, loyalty, and morale of other goblins.
 
When an orc reaches 5th level, his battlefield prowess begins to inspire others to follow him. Any henchmen and mercenaries hired by the orc gain a +1 bonus to their morale score whenever he personally leads them. This bonus stacks with the modifiers from the goblin’s Charisma, proficiencies, and race.
At 9th level, the orc can build a fortress. When he does so, up to 1d4+1x10 0th level mercenaries and 1d6 orcs of 1st-3rd level will come to apply for jobs and training. If hired, they must be paid standard rates for mercenaries. Through force of arms, the dark elf may ultimately control several castles or even entire realms, though he can expect to face ongoing challenges from humans and demi-humans. Additional rules for castles are detailed in the Campaign chapter of ACKS.
 
Orc Proficiency List: Alertness, Ambushing, Animal Training, Berserkergang, Blind Fighting, Caving, Climbing, Combat Reflexes, Combat Trickery, Craft, Disguise, Dungeon Bashing, Endurance, Fighting Style, Healing, Intimidation, *Kin-Slaying, Precise Shooting, Riding, Running, Siege Engineering, Skirmishing, Skulking, Sniping, Survival, Swashbuckling, Trapping, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus
*New proficiencies described in Chapter 6 of the ACKS Player’s Companion.
 
Template:
Orc Foot Soldier
Proficiencies:
Endurance, Kin-Slaying
Starting Equipment:
Crossbow, case with 20 quarrels, curved sword, battered steel shield, chain mail armor, armiger’s tunic and pants, low boots, backpack, 2 weeks’ iron rations
 
Orc Foot Soldier Template: This pre-generated template represents a common goblin foot soldier in the armies of evil. The template is ready for adventure. However, if your foot soldier’s INT is 13 or greater, you may pick one or more additional general proficiencies before play if you’d like (see Starting Proficiencies in Chapter 4).
 
*New proficiencies described in Chapter 6 of the ACKS Player’s Companion.
 
Template:
Orc Murderer
Proficiencies:
Ambushing, Disguise
Starting Equipment:
Short bow, case with 20 arrows, long knife, curved sword, small shield, leather armor, dark cloak, tunic and pants, low boots, backpack, 2 weeks’ iron rations
 
Orc MurdererTemplate: This pre-generated template represents an orc spy or assassin, perhaps a half-orc plying their trade in the cities of men. The template is ready for adventure. However, if your assassin’s INT is 13 or greater, you may pick one or more additional general proficiencies before play if you’d like (see
 
Starting Proficiencies in Chapter 4).
 
Orc Saving Throws
 
Level
Petrification
& Paralysis
Poison
& Death
Blast
& Breath
Staffs
& Wands
 
Spells
1
15+
14+
16+
16+
17+
2-3
14+
13+
15+
15+
16+
4
13+
12+
14+
14+
15+
5-6
12+
11+
13+
13+
14+
7
11+
10+
12+
12+
13+
8-9
10+
9+
11+
11+
12+
10
9+
8+
10+
10+
11+
11-12
8+
7+
9+
9+
10+
13
7+
6+
8+
8+
9+
Orc Attack Throws
 
Level
 
Attack Throw
1
10+
2-3
9+
4
8+
5-6
7+
7
6+
8-9
5+
10
4+
11-12
3+
13
2+
 
 
 

 

golan2072
Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2012-01-14 14:14

I love how you wove all the goblinoid monsters and the Dark Elves into a single creature abd class, all while using the existing Elf racial template.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

This is absolutely marvelous!

Should be an Axioms article.

koewn
koewn's picture
Patreon SupporterDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2012-07-17 20:11

The post you linked was a good thread; and this is a cool refresh of the orc.

Regarding the reversed 'friendly animal domain' - what might be interesting is that effect causing neighboring non-orc domains to treat their bordering hexes as -1gp less productive - extra predators and scavengers, super-skittish prey animals, etc - a general "harmful wildness" that doesn't necessarily rise to the level of reducing the security of the hex. Not real sure what that'd be valued at.

Perhaps the reverse of the ghoul paralysis might be some sort of "shock" effect; a general -1 to opponents' saves vs special maneuvers (which are PP based)? Seems as situationally dependent as immunity to ghoul paralysis, and leaves room to keep the +1 to PP/Spells, while marking the orc as a dirty fighter.

 

Loswaith
Joined: 2017-05-12 02:19

... Regarding the reversed 'friendly animal domain' - what might be interesting is that effect causing neighboring non-orc domains to treat their bordering hexes as -1gp less productive - extra predators and scavengers, super-skittish prey animals, etc - a general "harmful wildness" that doesn't necessarily rise to the level of reducing the security of the hex. Not real sure what that'd be valued at. ...


-koewn

This seems like a much more flavourful way to go.  The 'friendly animals' seems counter to with Orcs being fearsome, corpse-eaters and inhuman.  Prey dont generallly become subservient to the predator they flee from them.  While pack predators generally are a bit subservient to their alphas, not as much other groups.
The idea of the less productive region seems like a great way to go. The orc corruption would cause animals to flee the area aside from those that are more fierce predators and scavengers for the regions.  While it is much a flavour aspect, similare to the 'friendly animals' of elves, that I'd expect it cost about the same.  It also gives a good additional mechanical reason why other races generally want to clear orcs out of their regions.

Superhero Necro...
Joined: 2013-07-08 21:49

Thanks all! And thanks Alex! 

I can definitely see the value of putting a darker spin on the "helpful animals" region ability. I considered limiting it to just animals of evil repute -- spiders and wolves, bats and rats, and so on. Spiders and wolves in particular are traditional. I could easily see it going that way. In the end, I went with this version mostly to really emphasize the fact that this orc is modeled as a fallen elf and still really just has the Elf 0 powers. But that could be easily changed and still be on theme. 

I also like the general idea of an evil creature like orcs darkening and harming the region where they set up a holdfast. I've always loved that trope for dragons in particular. The added motivation to clear the region is a nice effect. I'd want to make sure that doesn't hurt the orcs' ability to fully fund their armies -- under this model, orcs could be industrious, albeit industrious to evil effect. 

Arman
Joined: 2016-04-12 14:19

I'll toss my thoughts onto the pile - the "helpful animals" was what stood out to me, too. However, rather than attract evil animals, I suggest that the orcs enslave the animals; the smaller wildlife simply flees, while the larger wildlife is enslaved to work. It has the same effect, while keeping that reversed tone: rather than the animals being helpful due to the elves being one with nature, the animals are helpful because they are enslaved, cornered by dirty great monsters and forced to work until they die.

Nikephoros Phokas
Joined: 2011-10-19 17:02

Since orcs are corrupted elves, their influence on the world could also be corrupting. Animals in the area start behaving abnormally, deer start tearing up the terrain not just for food but out of hatred, wolves do the same with prey. Birds stalk trespassers in great flocks and cirlce above them if they put up camp. Plants start growing thorns and straight paths become crooked and vinding with plenty of thick vegetation allowing for nasty ambushes. Walking through an orc domain should feel unnatural and menacing even if you don't know of the stronghold.