Orcs and Half Orcs of Jorth

The Orcs of Jorth are a brutal, proud, fierce, and, most of all, misunderstood people. Their Half-Orc descendants are little different, though slightly better understood by the world at large.

The lands to the west of those historically ruled by Humans, and to the east of those ruled by the Elf kingdoms are the territory of the Orcs. These lands are mostly dry, mountainous, and inhospitable. While there are a few medium-to-large cities along the rivers, and beneath some of the mountains are old Dwarf holds, the great expanse of the west is known to be Orc country.

The Orcs live in tribes of up to a few thousand, each ruled by a king who holds absolute power over the tribe until his death (usually at the hands of one of his underlings). When a king dies, the tribe is wracked by paroxysms of violence and death until a new dominant leader is accepted by the group as king. It is not unheard of for entire tribes to wipe themselves out during kingship fights. Each tribe is fiercely independent, and will fight to the death to defend their territory.

Orcs are a fecund race, able to replenish the numbers lost to their internecine power struggles quickly. Unfortunately, they breed quickly even when their tribes are relatively politically stable. This leads to a tremendous excess of young Orcs, which the meager resources of their land cannot support. The starving, thirsty, and poor Orcs are driven to find and take the resources they need, which brings them into conflict with other Orc tribes, and other races. In the rare instance when the Orc population is high in years of drought, famine, or other resource shortage, tribes may band together into loose groups known as Orc Hordes, and raid deep into Human or Elf controlled territory for food, water, and plunder. These Hordes rarely last long, as once they obtain what they need, the Orcs are likely to fall back to squabbling among themselves.

Orcs, especially those who are part of an Orc Horde raiding Human territory, sometimes successfully breed with Humans (more rarely with Elves). While this breeding is sometimes consensual, it is more often not. The live birth of a Half-Orc is not rare, but survival to adulthood is. While the Half-Orc children resulting from the union are treated as near monsters if their mother is a Human, they are viewed with respect and awe, a gift from the gods, by Orcs.

Orcs, while naturally contentious, are also naturally attuned to the ways of dominance and submission. They will willingly subject themselves to the service of a dominant leader, so long as that leader provides them with the resources they need. A leader with a powerful force of will, a strong vision, and control of needed resources can weld together an army of Orcs far more organized and dangerous than an Orc Horde. The downfall of these leaders comes when they falter in their leadership, show weakness to an Orc subordinate, or lose access to whatever resource base they control. Once the leader is no longer viewed as dominant, the Orc army will act just like a tribe without a king, fighting each other in an orgy of dominance displays. There are very, very few veterans of past Orc armies.

Rarely are the leaders of armies of Orcs themselves, they are most often led by powerfully strong willed Humans, frequently of a Divine or Arcane bent. Half-Orcs, having the drive, intelligence, and wisdom of their Human parent can sometimes forge an Orc army and lead the united tribes to greatness.
The Gods worshiped by the Orcs tend to be ones focused on power and strength, both physical and political. They worship local divinities of their lands, harsh powers who demand sacrifice and hard labor from their followers. Orc clerics lead the worship of their hard, cruel gods, and conduct the sacrifices (often blood sacrifices) that the divinities command. Rarely do Orcs follow the druid path, though shamans, witch doctors, etc., are all represented in the tribes. Half-Orcs often are seen as the chosen of the gods, and a blessing, and are frequently pushed into being tribal clerics. Half-Orcs sometimes find themselves among the ranks of Paladins, though Orc Paladins are rare enough to be mere legends.

Orcs are not known for being adept at the arcane arts. While an occasional Orc sorcerer (or the even more rare Wizard) may be encountered, it is more likely to see Half-Orcs take these roles. Orcs have a healthy respect for magic, and magically adept leaders are the most common commanders of Orc Armies.

Orcs are most likely to be found in martial roles. Fighters, Rogues, Barbarians and Rangers are all well represented among both Orcs and Half-Orcs. The Orc culture heavily emphasizes physical strength, cunning, and stamina. Most Orc kings are either Fighters or Barbarians, with Rangers coming in a close third. Orc and Half-Orc rogues tend toward more the tough, brawling type than the acrobatic type, though they are no less adept at getting into places where they are not wanted, learning things they are not supposed to know, and leaving with things they aren't supposed to posses.