Hi all! I've been tinkering with orcs in the last few weeks and here's the result of my project.
This post presents four different orcish factions, which can be used separately in the sense that only one version exists in one plane, or together so that several groups represent different cultures. Note however that the Orcs of Summer function so differently to the rest that they can’t easily be combined with the other groups.
Orcish Death Cults present orcs as relatively peaceful and pastoral humanoids who during times of ill omen give themselves to evil death gods who demand sacrifices from them. Instead of bloodthirsty monsters, these orcs are bound by tradition to carry out their horrid deeds. Each cult is slightly different with different kinds of supporting nonplayer characters presented.
Orcish War Hordes are a relatively traditional take on orcs as barbarians who at times invade the more civilized lands lead by a charismatic leader. The purpose of this section is to present a few different leaders to be used in your campaigns as major antagonists. These leaders shape their armies and teach them to fight in their unique ways.
Orcish Nomadic Hosts diverges from the traditional take on orcs and explores orcs as nomads, exotic rather than hostile. The three different nomadic hosts are clearly distinct from each other, but all share some features: a distinct focus on honor and a wandering lifestyle.
Orcs of Summer leans heavily on the aggressive, monstrous orc and presents them as a seasonal, monstrous pest which can overwhelm kingdoms. These orcs do not think, feel or speak, they exist to kill, feed and expand.
The post will go through the factions themselves, but here's a pdf, which contains all of the information posted here as well as the statblocks referred to in the post (every monster which refers to a 'booklet' refers to the pdf)
The statblocks presented in this booklet are designed for the different orcish factions and groups but are also made generic enough to be used in any other campaign. The different factions have different alignments that differ from the standard chaotic evil outlook of the base game, but otherwise they can be imported as is to any orcish faction in your campaign.
On to the factions!
I: ORCISH DEATH CULTS
Contrary to what humans and other civilized peoples believe, orcs are mostly peaceful folk. They live in the mountains and plains, beyond the civilized realms, living off the harsh land that gives little and forgives nothing. But there are times when this changes. These times, known as times of culling, are the source of the brutal reputation of the orcs. Such periods begin with an omen, and the nature of the omen determines what kind of destruction is at hand.
Gods of Growth and Death. The orcs worship two kinds of gods: gods of growth and gods of culling. The gods of growth are benevolent and peaceful, and hold domain over mundane matters: good fortune, law, fertility and so on. Then there are other gods, whose names are not spoken unless it is their time to rule.
Omenseekers. When a traveling priest of a god of culling, known as an orc omenseeker (see this booklet), comes across an omen that signals a time of culling, all orcs must answer the call. The omenseeker travels from tribe to tribe spreading the word, conducting two rituals in honor of the god whose time is at hand.
Death God’s Chosen. The seeker selects one of the tribe members, usually the strongest and most powerful, as the chosen one. That orc goes through a gruesome ritual that shows the power of the death god. They are transformed into something more than an orc, a powerful, seemingly demonic being that will be the champion of the tribe during the time of culling. What this form is depends on the god in question. As the omenseeker gathers followers, several others will go through the ritual as well.
Apostles of Doom. Another, the one who shows both zeal and leadership qualities, is given a mark and an order to bring news of the time of culling to the other tribes. They are known as apostles, and they serve as leaders of the death cult as it expands. They recruit more apostles and form the hierarchy of the cult. They have an innate connection to the omenseeker and may communicate with it using magical rituals.
Army of Cultists. Over time the cult expands into an army, which invades the neighboring lands. These lands will provide the sacrifices that the death god demands, and the cult begins their task of gathering them. Every god has different demands and it is the task of the omenseeker, now the leader of the entire cult, to determine what the god’s demands are.
Hallucinogenic Bloodlust. Orcs are not bloodthirsty by nature, but the demand of their death gods must be met. Although all must join, many do so out of fear, not zeal. The death cults often counter this by using hallucinogenic substances, magic and other means to whip the members into a frenzy in combat. Many orcs spend the entire time of culling in a trance-like fury, unaware of anything else but the constant smell of blood and the screams of their victims. Orc cultist zealots (see this booklet) form the shock troops of the cult.
A Gruesome Duty. Once the demands of the death god are met, the cult disperses, usually after a grand final ritual has been performed. For the civilized peoples these invasions seem arbitrary and evil, but for the orcs they are a duty that must be performed. If they would fail to meet the demands of the death god, it would mean the destruction of every tribe that failed the god. It is a question of who gets to live: the others, or them?
THE THOUSAND EYED ONE
Death God of Pestilence
Harookshar is a hateful god, the bringer of pestilence, disease and misery. Those who anger it will see their loved ones die painfully of horrifying diseases.
Diseases and Swarms. When Harookshar gives a sign, it is often in the form of a swarm of insects behaving strangely. A brood of periodical of cicadas might emerge years in advance, massive swarms of locusts darken the sky, or an ant colony kills their queen and displays it for all to see in a strange insectoid ritual. A strange disease with clearly visible, unnerving symptoms might also be a sign that Harookshar demands sacrifices.
Feast for the Carrion Flies. The God of Pestilence takes good care of its tiny servants, which are seen as a path to the god itself. All sacrifices to Harookshar are gruesome feasts for the carrion flies: the sacrifice is killed, mutilated and strung up to a tree or other visible place for the insects to devour. Every time of culling has a specific amount of sacrifices that need to made. The amount is determined by the omenseeker, and is linked to a magic number, such as 333, 777 or 963. After the sacrifices have been gathered, the cult disperses unceremoniously.
Sacrificial Plaguebearers. Harookshar’s chosen are bloated, disgusting beings known as orc plaguebearers (see this booklet). Unlike with other gods, the orc chosen as a plaguebearer sacrifices itself for the cause. No orc sees the transformation as a blessing and often the tribe chooses the vilest among them to serve in this role. Once the time of culling is over, the plaguebearer dies with all the other insects and creatures that Harookshar has given to the horde. Plaguebearers know they are doomed, and channel this rage into a sadistic rampage.
Swarms of Servants. Harookshar’s cults have swarms of insects at their service. Use swarms of insects, giant spiders, giant centipedes and other crawlers feeding off the carrion of the sacrifices.
Cult of Pestilence. Omenseekers (see this booklet) in Harookshar’s service have the contagion spell prepared as a 5th level spell instead of the geas spell and its anointed dagger deals poison damage instead of necrotic damage. Harookshar’s orc cultists (see this booklet) and orc cultist zealots (see this booklet) gain resistance to poison damage and gain the Pestilence trait.
Pestilence. When this creature dies, roll a d4. On a 1, an insect swarm with 10 hit points bursts from the corpse and rolls initiative.
Regional Effects The region where the cult of Harookshar has heavy presence is warped by the god’s power, which creates one or more of the following effects:
Insects are extremely aggressive and plentiful in the lands: For example, wasps attack unprovoked, mosquitos form clouds that can cover a whole person and swarms of locusts eat crops.
Water and food taste foul and provide less sustenance than normal.
Foul smelling fog clouds appear and linger over areas. The cloud has a horrible odor, such as the smell of a rancid corpse.
When the cult disperses, the effects fade over 1d10 days.
THE FROZEN HAND
Death God of Oblivion
The cold oblivion of death is inevitable. Akarhain and its time of culling reminds us all of this truth. The God of Oblivion is uncaring, relentless and utterly merciless.
Night of Horrid Stars. Akarhain’s sign is always the same. The night sky, the domain of Akarhain, fills with falling stars. Often an omenseeker of Akarhain will not gather followers by travelling and spreading the word, because the orc tribes already know what is coming. Instead, many tribes have a site where they gather when Akarhain calls for them. It is there that the God of Oblivion shows its might.
Tribute to the Death God. The members of Akarhain’s cult are tasked with the creation of a corpse effigy (see this booklet). The effigy requires specific magical components, including precious stones, and hundreds of sacrificial corpses, which are bound together to form the effigy itself. When the components have been gathered, the cult gathers to bring the effigy to life. The effigy is then sent out to the world to bring about destruction. Many of the more zealous cultists may follow the effigy on its rampage, but they are no longer bound to the cult. Their duty to the God of Oblivion is done.
Deathless Servants. The chosen servants of Akarhain are called orc deathless (see this booklet). They are formidable warriors that seem immortal to their opponents. They do not age, require no food or sleep, and many deathless continue to serve Akarhain after the cult disperses, becoming its heralds and champions.
Master of Death. Akarhain can bring back the dead just as easily as it can extinguish life, but it chooses not to do so. But during its times of culling, Akarhain uses undead monstrosities to show the living its power. Akarhain’s hordes employ the undead to swell the ranks of the cult. Ghouls, ghasts, zombies and skeletons are often seen among the invaders.
Cult of Oblivion. Orc omenseekers (see this booklet) in Harookshar’s service have the blight spell prepared as a 5th level spell instead of the geas spell. Akarhain’s orc cultists (see this booklet) and orc cultist zealots (see this booklet) gain resistance to cold damage and the Eternal Service trait.
Eternal Service (1/Day). If this creature is reduced to 0 hit points, it immediately makes a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. If it succeeds, it is instead reduced to 1 hit point.
Regional Effects The region where the cult of Akarhain has heavy presence is warped by the god’s power, which creates one or more of the following effects:
All birds and animals are stop making noise, creating an eerie silence in the region.
Mundane healing doesn’t work as well, people die more easily if they are ill or wounded.
There is little or no wind and no clouds in the sky. Stars seem to burn brighter during the night.
When the cult disperses, the effects fade over 1d10 days.
THE BURNING FURY
Death God of Destruction
Fire is an element of destruction, although it is eventually followed by life. This dichotomy is at the core of Ragatharr’s teachings.
Destroyers of Old. Ragatharr speaks in the language of nature. A devastating storm, an erupting volcano or a similar powerful omen is seen as a sign that Ragatharr demands the destruction of something that is preventing life from flourishing. Doomed Cities. When an omenseeker has determined that Ragatharr’s time has come, it conducts a ritual to determine the target of its ire. A great bonfire is built and when the fire rages at its hottest, the omenseeker steps into the fire to cleanse itself and gain the blessings of the God of Destruction. The excruciating ritual ends with a vision: a city or another location that needs to burn. The cult then begins their work to make this vision become a reality. Once the target has been destroyed, the cult disperses after a mighty feast held in the honor of Ragatharr.
Mighty Immolators. A chosen of Ragatharr is known as an immolator. They are powerful fighters coated in a mantle of fire, and only the most ferocious and passionate warriors may gain Ragatharr’s blessings. Once a time of culling is over, they lose all their power and return among their tribes, forever harkening back to the time they were mightier than anyone else in their tribe.
Incendiary Servants. A cult of Ragatharr is accompanied by creatures linked with fire, such as magmin, fire snakes or even fire elementals. These beings do not follow the orders of the cultists, but instead do the work of Ragatharr independently. Cultists often follow suit, seeing that the fiery monsters know what Ragatharr wants from them. Some of the cultists are given the privilege of riding nightmares into battle, but again the monsters guide the rider just as much as the rider controls the mount.
Cult of Destruction. Orc omenseekers (see this booklet) in Ragatharr’s service have the flame strike spell prepared as a 5th level spell instead of the geas spell. Akarhain’s orc cultists (see this booklet) and orc cultist zealots (see this booklet) gain resistance to fire damage and the Fiery Soul trait.
Fiery Soul. When this creature dies, it explodes; each creature within 10 feet of it takes 7 (2d6) fire damage.
Regional Effects The region where the cult of Ragatharr has heavy presence is warped by the god’s power, which creates one or more of the following effects:
People get into arguments more easily, are prone to jealousy, wrath and grudges.
Fires burn brighter and are more prone to get out of control.
Beasts are more aggressive and prone to fits of rage, even if unprovoked.
When the cult disperses, the effects fade over 1d10 days.
II: ORCISH WAR HORDES
Orcs are a nuisance; everyone can attest to that. They steal cattle and crops rather than grow their own, they steal slaves from communities and force them to work and build for them. But most orcish tribes are small and relatively easy to handle; every tribe has its own way of living and some can even be reasoned with. They usually live in hiding in cave dwellings, away from civilization, harassing the small villages and other communities that live on the edges and borderlands. But orcs become undeniably dangerous when a war horde is assembled. This requires an orc that stands above the rest, commands their obedience and gathers an army that may shake the foundations of entire realms.
Charismatic Chiefs. Every war horde has a great chief, who is the lynchpin of the entire army. The war horde lives and dies with the charismatic leader, who is either a formidable warrior or an orc with significant magical aptitude. They are always very charismatic, intelligent and skilled leaders.
Reflections of the Chief. The leader of the horde teaches its followers a certain way of waging war. Some prefer speed, others use its followers as conduits of magical energy. Because of this, every war horde is unique and, in many ways, reflects the personality and features of its great chief.
Mythical Origins. The life of a great chief is usually shrouded in mythical stories. Their origin story is a part of their legend and a proof for the war horde that they are following a demigod-like being capable of great things. Some of these stories are true, others are mere stories, but all have power over the followers of the horde.
Other Followers. So great is the charismatic power of a great chief, that it gains followers of all kinds. Ogres, goblins and other humanoids may follow the great chief as well.
It is said that Arowarh’s tribe was slain by a group of smooth-skin warriors and that they took pity on Arowarh, the only child of the tribe. They left the child alone amidst the corpses and a pack of wolves descended to eat the remains. The wolves took Arowarh as their own and raised it like their pup. Over time, Arowarh became the leader of that pack of wolves and eventually returned among its kind to gather a war horde against the smooth-skinned folk who had butchered its kin like animals.
Primal Warrior. Arowarh is a warrior first and foremost and employs the teachings it has learned from its adopted beast family. It believes a war horde should move and act like wolves: they use terrain, weather and light to their advantage, attacking when the enemy is at a disadvantage. They move deliberately and carefully, waiting for the correct time to strike. The war horde may not attack for days or even weeks and then suddenly appear out of nowhere to strike their enemies where they are at their weakest.
Packs and Pack Leaders. Arowarh has arranged its war horde into small, independent packs, each lead by the strongest and most competent among them, known as the orc pack leader (see this booklet). The pack leader’s position is precarious, any other member of the pack can challenge their leader at any time outside of combat and take its place. Arowarh has said that even it can be replaced by a competitor capable of taking its place, but so far none have taken the challenge.
Arowarh’s Horde. Arowarh’s horde accepts no other members except orcs and wolves of different kinds. All followers of Arowarh are lawful evil. Its orc members gain the Pack Tactics trait.
Pack Tactics. This creature has advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of the its allies is within 5 ft. of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated.
Ratakat was born with a different name, which has now been forgotten. It was shunned by its tribe because of its malformed and frightening face, and it lived alone in the hills, hunting and scavenging, until one day it attracted the attention of the storm gods. The gods saw its resilience and cunning and decided it would serve them as a great warrior and as a testament of their power. They formed a great thunderstorm and directed a mighty bolt of lightning to strike their chosen. The field burned to ash around it, but the orc emerged from its ordeal unharmed. It had forgotten its old life, all the wrongs it had endured, and only knew its new name: Ratakat, the sound of thunder, and that it was destined to lead.
Thunderous Magic. Ratakat is a warrior but it is also innately capable of powerful magic.. Its chosen followers, called orc stormbringers (see this booklet), use specially crafted amulets to channel Ratakat’s power and use it in combat. The amulets are only usable by those Ratakat has formed a magical connection with and these followers serve as its eyes and ears. Ratakat can see everything one of its strombringers sees simply by invoking the orc’s name and focusing in meditation. It can also speak to these followers telepathically no matter where they are.
Force of Nature. Ratakat rarely joins the battle personally, and instead uses its stormbringers to guide its army in battle. Ratakat emulates the force of lightning: its followers move fast in combat, find the weakest spot using orc pathfinders (see this booklet) and strike with overwhelming force. Its followers ride worgs and giant boars into battle, moving fast and decisively.
Ratakat’s Horde. In addition to orcs, goblins, human tribal warriors and half-ogres serve in the ranks of Ratakat’s war horde. It believes that a successful military force strikes fast and true and it trains its forces to march fast. The speed of Ratakat’s humanoid followers increases by 10 feet. All followers of Ratakat are chaotic evil.
Mygra was born under a red moon with a mark of chaos on its chest, and it was prophesied that it would one day bring about a mighty war horde that would reclaim the lands taken from orcish control. Shamans, powerful warriors and other teachers gathered from different tribes to teach Mygra, the chosen one of chaos. As it grew stronger and more skilled under their tutelage, it eventually attracted the attention of a devil called Thelrozod. The demon sent one of its mortal servants, an orc shaman, to Mygra with a promise of power. The shaman joined the other tutors and whispered Thelrozod’s promises to the young orc’s ears. Soon all other teachers were cast out and only the shaman remained. This orc taught Mygra its last lessons of true power and anointed it into the cult of Thelrozod.
Fiendish Power. Mygra is a powerful warlock taught in the art of demonic magic. It is also a capable warrior but prefers to use the easy way of magic instead of a more direct martial approach. Mygra’s powers have attracted a sizeable war horde under it, many of which have also started worshipping Thelrozod.
Chaotic Army. Everything in the war horde revolves around Mygra, who has slowly gone mad with power and the whispers of Thelrozod. The horde does its best to please Mygra and the warriors of the horde compete to find the best loot and best trophies to bring to their mighty leader. As such, the army is chaotic and unpredictable, but also weaker than it appears. The massive horde is incapable of conducting coherent, strategically meaningful attacks against its enemies and instead raids and loots the lands it invades. If a lieutenant of Mygra tries to impress its great chief by attacking a larger settlement, the results may go either way, depending on how many warriors it can muster on this attack.
Mygra’s Horde. Thelrozod has given a few bearded devils to serve Mygra. These devils serve as Mygras bodyguard. Imps serve as its scouts and messengers. Many followers have also taken to serve Thelrozod, and cultists, cult fanatics, orc cultists (see this booklet) and orc cultist zealots (see this booklet) are among the war horde’s ranks, as well as orc warlocks (see this booklet). Hell hounds and nightmares are also seen among the war horde’s ranks, as well as gnolls and ogres. Humanoid followers of Mygra gain advantage to Strength saving throws and an immunity to the frightened condition. All followers of Mygra are chaotic evil.
III: ORCISH PASTORAL HOSTS
Orcs are peculiar folk. They are always on the move, forming huge hosts of several hundred strong travelling through the realms, maintaining themselves through trade, raiding and foraging. Some hosts are welcome everywhere they go, bringing goods from faraway lands, others are a worrisome, a sign of increased banditry and trouble.
Honor-bound Culture. People think that orcs are rowdy folk, and often cite their habit of starting fights wherever they go. The truth is more complex than that. Although orcish culture can seem aggressive to outsiders, it is held together by a strict system of honor. Every orcish host has their set of own rules, and a realm may encounter many different caravans over the years, which is why other people may have difficulty keeping up with their laws and traditions. The result is the belief that orcs may start fights out of nowhere.
Shunned and Avoided. Because the orcish culture can be difficult to understand, other peoples have a habit of avoiding them. Their stereotypes may turn potentially neutral or even amicable meetups to hostile situations or even fights. Orcs are no strangers to warfare and when their traditions are broken or other people show them contempt, they are quick to retaliate. Travelling Bands. An orcish host is highly mobile, capable of travelling as fast as a small group of travelers. They are highly organized while on the move and set up camp quickly. Many orcish camps can seem like entire ad hoc towns with temples, shops and other common locations.
Famous Wagonmakers. Many orcish hosts built intricate and complicated wagons that can house entire homes, smithies or small shrines. Often a few wagons can be transformed into a great hall, covered market or a large temple using tent canvas. If one would like to purchase the works of a skilled wainwright, they need look no further.
Trainers of Mighty Beasts. Other orcish hosts prefer to use huge beasts such as mammoths or other behemoths to carry their tents. Such hosts are sought after groups as mercenaries, as they can provide an army with huge beasts for logistical or siege purposes.
Perhaps the strangest of the many wandering, nomadic hosts is the Earthshaker Host. Its origins can be traced to a tectonic event a hundred years ago, which created a cult of druids wandering the lands in search of offerings that slowly transformed into a huge racketeering scam.
Earthshattering Origins. Long ago a devastating earthquake hit the southern lands, where the orcs lived. Although they were mostly safe from harm, the cities of other humanoids were toppled and crushed. Orcish shamans believed this was because they had not given offerings to the Earth Gods the orcs worshipped. A procession of orcish shamans started wandering the cities explaining how the wrath of their god had caused the destruction of the many cities in the south. Many believed them and gave offerings. The religious caravan slowly became a permanent host which toured the lands for years. Although originally the shamans were truly concerned for the wellbeing of the cities and their citizens, other elements began creeping into the group.
Druids and Robbers. Over time people forgot about the earthquake, or at least how devastating it had been, and the offerings which sustained the caravan became scarce. So some of the members of the caravan that depended on the offerings began staging omens and weird events to the people of villages and towns to drive their message home. Eventually this attracted more unsavory folk, and the caravan turned from a primarily religious group into a group of lowlifes and druids who shared their depraved values. The group began demanding offerings from people and if they refused, they would rob them of the goods that were demanded. Phony Masquerade of Honor. The members of the host are hellbent on maintaining a façade of honor. The truly honorable people among them have long since left their ranks, but they act as if their operation is honorable. Accuse or even insinuate that a member of the group has committed a crime and they will respond very strongly, perhaps even violently. The fact that there are outright criminals among the caravan is an open secret, which is not spoken about outside the host. Breaking this silence will also be met with hostility and a member of the host who speaks openly about the crimes will certainly be exiled.
Orcs and Beasts. The druids of the host, most notably orc bearsouls (see this booklet) and orc owlhearts (see this booklet) have gathered all kinds of beasts to the group. Bears, owlbears, giant owls, and other beasts and beastlike monstrosities move with the group and serve as a threatening reminder of their power to those the host is extorting. These monsterst are used to stage monstrous attacks to prove that the offerings the host demands must be made. Orcs among them are usually brutish and strong, such as orc shield brutes (see this booklet) or orc smashers (see this booklet). Members of the host tend to be of a lawful evil alignment.
Bandits and Gatherers
There are several pastoral hosts that travel the lands with their massive herds of beasts and monsters. The orcs of these hosts have a unique philosophy about the world. They believe that nothing that grows on the ground belongs to anyone at face value. You can’t own land, or the bounties of land. Obviously, such a way of thinking is at odds with most agricultural societies, but they do accept the might of those who defend their lands. Although holding ownership over land seems odd for them, even blasphemous, they are usually willing to negotiate with the farming folk, as long as they respect their ways.
Worshippers of Earth. The orcs of the Pastoral Host worship the Five Spirits of Earth: Sky, Land, River, Seed and Beast. They believe that these five spirits control everything and are hostile towards attempts to bring new gods to them. Most orcs will resent clerics, but as long as they keep their mouths shut about their deities, they are allowed to live. Speaking of these heretical “gods” is anathema to them and will be met with violence.
Negotiators and Bandits. When a pastoral host appears in the horizon, wise people gather up things to offer to get them to leave. Since most regions where the host wanders are sparsely inhabited, the locals may not have enough military power to drive them off. So, a softer approach is necessary. Most pastoral hosts can be bribed to move along, but they usually still bring problems with them. The hosts are usually large, and many members will roam the lands robbing the people of their things. The host is seldom entirely under the control of a single leader, so it is not uncommon for a pastoral host to rob people they’ve agreed to leave alone. But if the people can take it for a few weeks, the problems will pass – only to return a few years later.
Herders and Houndmasters. The pastoral host brings with them a massive host of animals, such as sheep, cattle or horses. They also often have domesticated monsters at their disposal, which are a sign of power and prestige among them. Most pastoral hosts also keep mastiffs and wolves at their side to herd their livestock. They are trained by skilled orc houndmasters (see this booklet). Also, orc pathfinders (see this booklet), orc skirmishers (see this booklet) and orc roughriders (see this booklet). The prominent members of the host (use orc war chiefs) often have mighty beasts at their side, such as manticores, wyverns or even hydras. Members of the pastoral host are usually of a chaotic neutral alignment.
THOUSAND WHEELS HOST
Traders and Craftsmen
The Thousand Wheels Host is one of the most famous orcish nomadic hosts. They are a group with roughly a seven hundred members that travels the lands in a relatively stable cycle, spending their winters down in the south and their summers in the warm north. Mobile Town. When they setup camp, the Thousand Wheels transform into an entire town. They build a colorful town of tents and wagons, which instantly becomes the center of trade and interest for leagues around them. They usually spend a few weeks in one spot, before they move far away to another spot.
Honorable Traders. Members of the Thousand Wheels host are extremely proud of the goods they sell and the items they craft. They attach a lot of their pride to these things and the best way of getting to the hotheaded side of a Thousand Wheels orc is to insult their professional pride. For details about the items members of the host might sell, see Appendix B.
Customers and Customs. Visitors to a Thousand Wheel camp must heed the rules of trade. Once a buyer suggests a price and the seller agrees to it, the deal is done. There is no walking away from such a situation, so a buyer that engages in haggling must be aware that they have already agreed to buy at some price. Another taboo is insulting the craftsmanship of a crafter: if a mistake is made, the buyer must discreetly inform the craftsman about it. If a problem is found soon after a purchase, the rules are the same. Speak about a mistake made by the craftsman openly, with people who can hear, and you are insulting their honor and calling them a hack. Both of these situations often result in a scuffle, that may lead to a broken nose or worse. There are other rules as well, such as the correct way of giving money during transactions is with both hands or calling the salesman or customer ‘friend’ during the transaction and right after it.
Diverse Group. In addition to orcs, there are other peoples that move with the group, although they are small minority. Most of them are humans, but even a few dwarven smiths have joined the caravan. The caravan is guarded by an elite group of soldiers known as the orc honor guard (see this booklet). Members of the host tend to be of a lawful neutral alignment.
IV: ORCS OF SUMMER
Orcs are not like other humanoids. They do not breed like them, nor live like them: they are more akin to plants than humans. When the winter comes, they die, only to sprout to life again when spring comes. The cycle of seasons is the cycle of life for the orcs of summer, and the severity of the seasons determines how bad their attacks will be, come summer.
Plant-like Reproduction. Orcs reproduce like ferns: when an orc dies, its corpse sprouts spore producing growths, called sporangia, which resemble mushrooms. After a few days, the sporangia bursts, releasing spores into the surrounding area. The male and female spores join to form into egg-like growths underground, which gestate for a few weeks if warm conditions continue and release very small orc-like creatures known as orc saprolings (see this booklet). These saprolings grow into orc younglings (see this booklet) in the next few weeks, then full-grown orcs within another few weeks weeks. Mature orcs of summer (see this booklet) can further grow into large hulk orcs (see this booklet) if they survive long enough and food is easily available.
Animalistic and Expansive. Orcs do not wield weapons, instead relying on their claws and bite to harm their foes. They work together, hunt for anything large and descend upon villages like a pack of monstrous predators. They live to kill and eat their prey, moving fast and far as the summer goes on.
Seasonal Monsters. More often than not, a brood of orcs remains small: The summer brings only one brood of orcs and the eggs do not have time to gestate into saprolings during late summer. Gestation slows down as autumn comes and the eggs form a thick crust to protect the saproling. Most of the eggs die during the winter, and a few orcs rise from the earth in the spring.
Occasional Apocalyptic Threat. Sometimes, when the summer provides ample food, the winter is mild and spring comes early, orcs show their true might. The first brood of orcs of that summer comes early and is large, and if nothing is done to prevent it, another, even larger brood sprouts out in late summer. Come autumn, the lands are filled with younglings and mature orcs, looking for food. At these times, all others must fight for survival, as a brood of orcs will feed until there is nothing left to eat. Kingdoms have fallen during these hot late summers and while these situations are very rare, scholars are wise to teach the people how to get rid of orcs during such troubling times, for the next spring after such a summer may not be easier at all.
Susceptible to Fire and Cold. Orcs have two clear weaknesses: while they are alive, cold harms them greatly and spellcasters would be wise to use this to their advantage. When an orc dies, its body must be burned to ensure no sporangia can grow from it. If these countermeasures are done, the brood of next year will be weaker, but there are always some orc corpses left unattended, ready to start the cycle again.
EDIT: Added clarification
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