The Orcish Nation is a nation made up principally of orcs, half-orcs, and a minor population of other races such as goblins, holding loosely-defined territory Lordless Lands. The nation has a unified polity centered around common belief and culture, but is functionally an anarchy in peacetime, forming a government above the level of the individual community only during times of war, when it becomes unified by a Warlord.
The Orcish Nation share the Lordless Lands with their sometimes-ally, the Confederacy of Sages, but there the similarities end. Orcish settlements, while perhaps temporary in the opinion of longer-lived species, tend to be mostly permanent, moving only once, at most, in a generation, in response to various threats such as over-harvesting of local resources, an insurmountable threat, or the exhaustion of some other resource.
Orcish villages tend to form semi-familial alliances among each other known commonly as Hordes, particularly at times when an external threat is seen. Each such Horde has its own Warlord, and occasionally Hordes will fight among each other to settle resource disputes or disputes of direction. Outsiders, especially the humans of Bastonia, occasionally mistake these hordes for permanent structures.
The Orcish Nation have a common Orcish Pantheon which entail a combination of apotheosized heroes, true divinities, and so on. Unlike the haughty High Elves or the pious Bastonians, the Orcish Pantheon runs the full gamut of alignments, and worship of none of their gods is forbidden, though some tribes favour one or more over the others. It is rare, for example, to find worshipers of Borba Wise-Eyes and Buggug Angel-Slayer in the same community, at least both open in their beliefs.
Orcish adventurers are quite common, second perhaps only to humans across Wisteria. The Orcish Nation values bravery, honour, sacrifice, and heroics to such a degree that many youths engage in Adventure as a sort of rite of passage, and many who get the taste for the lifestyle continue to adventure their entire lives.
Geography and Government
Individual orcish communities - sometimes as much as a large town and a few outlying villages - are composed of pseudo-familial tribes. There is some stratification among upper and lower classes, based largely on individual merit and heroics. Each tribe has a council of elders made up of a mix of veteran warriors, wise-men (and women), and senior members of the tribe, who oversee day to day life and attend to minor conflicts. In times of war, the tribe may appoint one of its own - usually at the choice of the council of elders - as a Warchief.
The Horde and the Great Horde
While one tribe of orcs control their settlement and its immediate environs, it is increasingly the case that settlements will band together, in some cases even forming full cities if such an alliance (termed a horde) survives the test of time. These hordes, traditionally called together for purposes of warfare, increasingly persist generation over generation, leading effectively to the creation of provinces within the Orcish Nation under the control of the leadership of various hordes. Within either ephemeral or semi-permanent Hordes, a convocation of the elders of all tribes represented will appoint a Warlord.
In a time of great crisis, when an external threat, for example, threatens multiple hordes, those hordes, or even the whole nation, can band together as one Great Horde. The heroes of the various hordes (including their Warlords) within the Great Horde will put themselves through a traditional series of trials, including physical, mental, and spiritual exercises. The individual judged to be the winner of each will become the Warlord of the entire Great Horde, while the others who passed the trials satisfactorily will make up their War Council.
Though the Orcs share some of the same understanding of territory as seen in the Confederacy of Sages, their tendency to form more permanent settlements with greater infrastructural development means that they also have a tendency to defend the territory they occupy rather than simply moving on. While they will allow the Sages in particular and other races by degrees to pass through their territory peacefully (usually), they none-the-less will repel perforce anyone or anything they see as a threat.
Within the Lordless Lands they lay claim largely to an ill-defined region of the central and east of the region, right up and into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. However, internally, the lines of this territory is blurred as the positions and alignment of various settlements move around in response to seasonal, annual, or generational desires and needs, and alignments flip from one horde to another.
Arts and Architecture
Unlike the highly nomadic Confederacy of Sages and Carcolie, the Orcish Nation is, primarily, semi-nomadic. Some tribes (or subsets of tribes) do move around routinely, living as nomadic shepherds, hunters, fishers, foragers, and so forth. However, within the Orcish Nation, permanent, multi-year, and even multi-generational settlements are known.
The Lordless Lands are not a rich territory, and the orcs have no want for enemies, in fact having a surplus, both among their own kind and among external threats. Orcish settlements tend to be heavily fortified, with some even hastily fortified. Lumber and stone are used equally in construction, and when it is available so are bone, leather, and other more exotic materials. As tribes swell and break off into individual new settlements, the orcish style of construction allows settlements to be bootstrapped quickly.
They also have a rich tradition of arts centered around the use of animal and monster bones, which would otherwise go to waste.
Religion, Festivals, and Timekeeping
The Orcish Pantheon centers not just dieties believed to have always been gods, but a large number of ancestral heroes who underwent apotheosis to godhood through their exploits. To the orcs, godhood is just a state of capability and might in the same way mortal races may think of, for example, class levels. Celebrations of faith include offerings, up to and including blood sacrifices, to these gods, both collectively and to one or more each orc might consider their own personal patron or whom they might be inspired to emulate, as well as litanies, both to ones ancestors and to deeds and tales of each of the Gods. Different settlements even among the same tribe may favour different gods more suited to their common goal, with each shaping the local concept of honour and morality accordingly.
Surprisingly, the dates of festivals are common across the nation, as are a great many of the traditions of those festivals - it is really only the weight each festival is given within a given settlement that varies from place to place. Most involve some form of public sacrifice, and such sacrifices are usually consumed in common together with other foods as availability warrants, followed by drinking, singing, and celebration - sometimes including ritual unarmed combat.
Fighting, Warfare, and Death
Life as an orc is a hardscrabble existence, and violence is in their blood, or so they and a great many outsiders will say. Rare is an orc of walking and talking age who can't at least wrestle. Rarer still would be an orc of marriable age - of either gender - who isn't familiar with at least a few weapons. To have territory in the lordless lands is to be able to hold it against invading Bastonians, marauding monsters, and the like.
Warfare is seen as the sometimes-regrettable reality of living. While orcs do not necessarily embrace war, they will accept a war if it is thrust upon them and believe it is better to win a war than lose it, and so fight ruthlessly within the bounds of their personal conceptions of honour.
Death is seen as a finality by most orcs, though a few exposed to Bastonian beliefs think that they might earn a place in Heaven or Elysium with their deeds. Others, who embrace the darker spectrum of their own pantheon, may have struck deals that they believe will see them in Hell or The Abyss, perhaps more powerful than they were in life. A great many orcs, especially those for whom adventuring and heroism are bread and butter, have the ambition to defeat Death as they have defeated all their other foes, and ascend to godhood by mighty deeds.
Language and Scholarship
Orcish in its written form is a pictographic language, and readily adopted by orcs of all kinds - Bastonians who failed to see the meaning behind the pictographs have accused Orcs of cultural illiteracy, but this is a slander, and the other races familiar with the Orcish Nation know well to not underestimate the intelligence of Orcs, who often absorb the language of outsiders into their own understanding.
Formal education as a sperate activity from entertainment and conversation is unknown among the Hordes, who instead have an informal culture of trade apprenticeships and a strong culture of storytelling and philosophical discussion to pass along higher concepts. While this has lead to misconceptions of barbarism among the urbanized nations like the Atarlie or the Bastonians, this misconception erases the fact that the Orcs have a well-developed political, economic, and philosophical understanding of the world to rival any other nation in Wisteria, and their own well-developed cultures of arcane magic and cosmology.
Diet, Libations, and Entertainment
The Orcish diet is to make do with what is available, but they are known for their staple diet of herded mutton and pork, combined together rarely with beef, and supplemented calorically with a diet rich in root vegetables and wheat, barly, or other grains. Orcs have a native style of cooking best referred to as barbeque, the style of which occasionally becomes popular with neighbours and visitors who are exposed to it, or those who have met members of the Orcish Diaspora familiar in its application and use.
Drinking is commonplace and occasionally even a pass-time, with the principal libation being various classes of beer, often unique to the settlement that produced it. The practice of distillation of spirits is known to the orcs, who occasionally produce both typical and medicinal whiskeys as well.
Meals tend to be a family affair, and a tradition of portable meals often involving pasties, tarts, and dumplings is commonplace given the propensity for hard work and frequent travel among the orcs.
For the Horde!
Unlike their neighbours, the Confederacy of Sages, the orcs have a developed enough infrastructure of mining and metalworking to make the production and use of coinage commonplace and practical in their affairs. That having been said, the Horde is a very economically flat nation, with little distincton between haves and have nots in terms of material wealth. While heroic orcs and other prominent figures, respected tradespeople, and so forth may be able to better afford higher-quality goods, the luxury of such things comes from that quality and not the mere having of it.
Even the poorest orcs within the nation will have a place to sleep and meals to eat. It is only Orcish adventurers, removed from the support of Horde and Tribe, who run the risk of becoming truly destitute, which is why a great many of them prefer to return with whatever achievements they have, should their luck take a turn for the worse.
With enemies on three sides and within, it should come as no surprise that the Orcish Nation's overall economy relies almost as heavily on war and the readiness for war as is the case in Bastonia. A significant portion of all labour goes into feeding professional warriors, training them, constructing fortifications, and the crafting of arms, armour, and ammunition.
The orcs trade heavily with the Confederacy of Sages in times where foraging has been insufficient, usually on the understanding that the Sages will come to their aid when threatened, or return the favour when times are good. As orcs grow, age, and die faster than many other counterparts, this is a noble exercise indeed.
Technology and Craftsmanship
While orcish architecture may look slap-dash, and their aesthetic sense be significantly different from what humans or Dwarves might find appealing, it would be a mistake to think of the Orcs as technologically inferior. They produce weapons and other machinery extremely quickly, sacrificing artifice in some cases for immediate result, but allowing them to out-produce their two most frequent enemies.
A few orcs who become craftsmen develop a fierce interest in their trade, inspired perhaps by tales of foreign gods of crafts to become the first orcish god of the same, or otherwise raise their ability to legendary heights.
Sages and the Adventuring Class
Barbarian – Extremely common throughout the hordes, Barbarians manifest the orcish predeliction to anger and outrage into a very viable form of combat that suits both the economic production and the general disposition of horde-raised Orcs.
Bards – are not unheard of, but are more often Half Orcs than full-blooded orcs. While the Orcish Nation does have a tradition of music and dance, it is not often seen as a wellspring for arcane power.
Cleric – Surprisingly common, though perhaps not as other races would recognize them, and easily mistaken at a glance for druids or shaman. Many orcish gods have portfolios useful in battle or for the summoning of higher (or lower) powers.
Druid – Particularly common in the west of the Orcish Nation, but none-the-less found throughout. Orcish Druids are often on very good terms with the Confederacy of Sages, perhaps even considering themselves part of both nations at once, and belong to the same druidic circle. Such druids are held with respect wherever they are found and are often in a tribe's Council of Elders, even if relatively young.
Monk – Not unheard of as the orcs have their own native monastic traditions, centered around the teachings of their hero, Xuthakug Three-Eyes, who is said to have adopted the practice during his own adventures in the Shimmering Shore. Orcish monks are almost always brawler or wrestling specialists, and the linguistic focus is on turning themselves into weapons so perfect the gods themselves would adopt their use.
Fighter – A very common choice for orcs, who have the endurance to make stolid fighters under heavy armour, though in practice they often find themselves in medium. The difference between a barbarian orc and a fighter orc is essentially down entirely to preferences in armour, and a great many fighter archetypes exist throughout the Orcish Nation, suited to traditional styles of combat such as the use of the Urgosh, Warg-Riding, and the like.
Paladin – Entirely unheard of - such zeal is not felt by those within the Nation, and none of the Orcish Pantheon have churches organized enough to raise a chivalric fighting force.
Ranger – Extremely common, in both the traditional ranged and melee variants, especially in the Western portion of the nation, where contact with the Confederacy and their nature-magics is higher and cultural exchange more developed. Orcish rangers favour animal companions as useful in a fight as a hunt.
Rogue – There is not a strong criminal underclass, though orcs and half-orcs as a diaspora are seen in other lands as banditry. That being said, rogue-as-in-scout is a useful interpretation for making rogues among the Orcish Nation, and few orcs are above assassinations, though most orcish conceptions of honour would discourage such trickery.
Sorcerers – Sorcery is seen as a mark of divine providence. Orcs understand bloodlines and breeding as well as any other race, but the sorcerous aspects of Sorcerer Bloodlines have a habit of skipping generations, sometimes even more often than not. The orcs practice no discrimination from one bloodline to the next - all sorcerers are seen as touched by the gods and useful allies (or fearful enemies)
Wizards – The rarest of the arcane classes by far, as no strong traditions of such practice exist. Those who learn arcane magic to the point of wizardry within the Orcish Nation are usually doing so under the guidance of clerics of Gul Spell-Speaker, an orcish wizard and warlock who made a deals throughout her life with Outsiders of various kinds. They therefore tend to be Conjuration or Evocation specialists.
Orcs and Monsters
Orcs love a good monster hunt, and their range has no shortage of magical beasts, dragons, giants, or other monsters to choose from. Trophies from slain monsters are seen as particularly cunning status symbols, desirable components for magical or mundane crafting, and in some cases, many monsters are even considered "the good eating".
Confederate Attitudes toward the Other Nations
Wisteria is not a monoculture, and neither is the Orcish Nation, so these views may be subject to change.
- The Carcolie Ravenmasters occasionally wander far enough south of Carcolie lands to encounter Orcs in their natural environs. In general, the Mountain Elves are seen as a physically weak, but cunning and often dangerous foe, whose appearance is usually related to raids for supplies. Due to the elvish reputation for subterfuge, Carcolie Wood-Elves are not at all welcome within most areas controlled by the Orcish Nation, and this can range from a stern warning to "bugger off" all the way up to open and lethal hostilities, especially in often-raided areas.
- The Atarlie Empire is known to the Nation, mostly by inference and their reputation among the Carcolie. High Elves in the lordless lands are sufficiently unusual events that warriors among the Orcs will often push them out, either out of association with the Carcolie or out of fears of yet another enemy at the gates.
- The Confederacy of Sages is one of the largest populations of the Lordless Lands, and one of the only nations of outsiders the Orcs tolerate well, even to the point of trust and mutual support. As the Orcish Nation becomes more fierce about their territory given the expansions of Bastonia, the Orcs risk violating this trust as they become more and more defensive of their territory, and harder pressed for the resources the Sages are accustomed to being able to share with them.
- The Kingdom of Bastonia, is seen as the principal threat to the Orcish Nation. In generations previous, it was not unheard of for orcs and some eccentric Bastonians to come together and work with common purpose. With Bastonian movement to the south, however, the Orcs are becoming pressed, threatened, and outright hostile, understanding that they run the risk of being driven off their lands.
- The Clans of Magnus are the antithesis to the Orcish Nation in a lot of ways, in spite of some mutually-compatible ideas and even mutual enemies. While most Orcs hold a neutral opinion of dwarves, the feeling is not shared (Orcs are considered cousins to Goblinoids by the Dwarves, and therefore hated enemies, in spite of a lack of material evidence to support this assertion).
- Opinion on the folk of the Shimmering Shore has turned friendlier since the Collapse in that region lead to a devolution of government to city-states and rural communities, ending the practice of the previous empire in that region of expanding to its north, several orcish generations ago. Many orcish adventurers head to the south at the outset of their quests for glory and self-discovery, driven by attraction to lost riches, or access to the region's thin barrier between worlds, which many orcish summoners, warlocks, and shamen find useful for their own reasons.