Monday, December 27, 2010


I seem to recall many ages ago blogging about orcs. I like them. They are arguably my favorite fantasy race, and I will often judge a high fantasy world (at least partially) on whether it has orcs in it or not (sword & sorcery worlds get a pass as they tend to be human-centric).

I am also a huge role-playing geek, and I love to tinker with the idea of creating and writing my own rpg. Therefore, it stands to reason that eventually I would try to combine those two ideas and create and write a game about orcs. Well, I have been doing just that for some time now (off and on). And I have the first part of the project more or less done.

I have often seen this project as having four phases. The first is to write the rules. This involves devising a dice-mechanic, the relating system for using that mechanic, and putting it all together in a coherent manner. I believe I have done this fairly well, though I use the term “devise” loosely in regards to the mechanic. I basically borrowed a mechanic from another game, modified it to my liking, and plugged it in. It works, and has the potential for the level of brutality a game about orcs should have.

The second phase will be to create the world that the game takes place in. This will be both easy and difficult. Easy because I have done this sort of thing a lot, and world creation is in itself a fun activity. But it will also be difficult, because the world needs to be familiar enough that people who pick up the game will recognize familiar tropes, yet unique enough that it won’t be derivative or plagiaristic.

After that will come playtesting and editing, which will probably be the most difficult, as I have no idea who I will get to playtest it. And the final stage will be revision and production, to include art and layout. This part I can do on my own, though I may try to get art from other people in there. That’s assuming this whole thing doesn’t just peter out and fall by the wayside, as so many of my projects do.

So, there I am. I have a basic, functioning rules set. And I have a decent idea of what kind of world I want to make. It will be a world where the only playable race is orcs, and everyone else is either an ally or an enemy, depending on the day and the mood of the characters.

At this point (if you’ve bothered reading this far) you may be wondering what kind of orcs will be presented? As most fantasy aficionados know, there are as many kinds of orcs as there are books and games about them, or involving them. They range from the original form presented by J.R.R. Tolkien, to the wildly bizarre ilk found in many of today’s games. This topic has come up during conversations with Scott Oden, who is a Tolkien Purist when it comes to orcs, and equally passionate about them. Personally, I like the orcs of WarCraft design. They represent more of the “noble savage” rather than the mindless killing machine so often portrayed in fiction and gaming (the irony here is that this is how Scott likes his orcs as well, even though WarCraft orcs are much more so than the orcs of Middle-Earth, though he still maintains their inferiority).

As a result, my orcs are hulking, brutal warriors, with an honorable streak that is rivaled by their capacity for treachery in the name of self-affectation. They fight constantly, for pleasure, sport, money, or just because. They respect strength and despise weakness. They are willing to ally themselves with anyone who pays enough, or promises to benefit them in some way. They are often loyal to each other, but not to the point of useless sacrifice. Orcs will support their friends and comrades, but if those friends do something stupid, they are on their own. They live in a tribal, shamanistic society, where only the strongest rule, and an orc is not an orc until he (or she) has proven himself in combat.

So tell me, would you play this game?

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

World building is absolutely the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I love that part of writing. I don't play RPGs though, but I wouldn't mind seeing some short stories in your world.