When I developed the idea of going a thousand years back, I thought I covered all the races. But I forgot the Half-Orcs! You can’t leave them out; Half-Orcs have been a staple of D&D since at least AD&D 1st Edition (although they caved to pressure and left them and some “naughty” classes out for AD&D 2nd Edition), and even though I’ve always been just a bit uncomfortable with the idea of Half-Orcs, I’d feel like I’m doing a disservice if I left them out of my world.
The way I think about it is this: Half-Orcs are the classic underdogs. They (usually) exist only because of some violent sex-crime, and they’re despised by both races that make up their heritage. Orcs kill half blood infants if the mother was the Orc, and Humans even now are prone to burning or killing children that don’t fit their idea of what a child should be.
Most Half-Orc characters have already had a life more dangerous than the one they start to lead as an adventurer. In my experience, Half-Orcs have been abused by players; they take advantage of their strengths, and use the Orc blood as an excuse to be violent and cruel.
Obviously, many Half-Orcs, due to their hard upbringing, do tend to be violent and cruel, just like our own society’s children that grow up in abusive surroundings. But any player that neglects to use the tragic background of a Half-Orc to bring real depth to their character is missing out on some excellent role-play possibilities.
How can I present Half-Orcs in my “Millenia” setting that does them justice? Do I relegate them to being very rare, even more so than Tieflings? That’s not fair… they’ve been around longer.
What if I change the inherent characteristics of Orcs? Did you see the 2016 movie Warcraft? As I remember, there were two different clans of Orcs; one clan were green skinned, and instead of being the brutal, unthinking monsters that are the norm in D&D, they were more of a primitive culture. Yes, they were violent, but then again so were the Vikings. The other clan were red (I think?), and they were monstrous and brutal.
If I made my Millenial Orcs fit the mold of the primitive, savage yet strong and honorable, then Half-Orcs could definitely be a possibility. Orcs and the PC races still wouldn’t get along, and of course there would be bloodshed, especially as the newly landed Humans work to gobble up land, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically evil.
I’m tired of stereotypes.
So, I’ve decided: in Millenia (for lack of a better name), Orcs are a savage, primitive race that lives in small communities, often fearing discovery by the Elves, as the Elves would work to immediately wipe them out. Elves are Very Racist (even today). The Orcs, on the other hand, aren’t evil but since they’ve lived for so long as the downtrodden despised, they naturally do not trust other races, and often just assume “Stranger Danger”. There are occasionally half breed children born amongst Orc communities, and some Human mothers manage to keep their Half-Orc children alive long enough to become adventuring adults.
Orc communities are just as likely to try to destroy any half-breed children as the Human communities are, but some of these children survive.
And that’s where Millenia’s Half-Orcs come from!
This has been fun to write. I should do a write up like this for each of the PC Millenia races.
What do you think?