Friday, April 6, 2012

Remembering the Orcs

Many years ago, when I was still young and innocent, I ran a campaign called ORCZ! Despite the name, it was a very serious and spiritual game that lasted for almost two years. I rank it as my second best game ever, closely following my chef d'oeuvre, Muscovian Dreams.

Because at the time I had a lot of time to read, but my creative capacities were greatly diminished (army does that to you), I decided to just use Pre-Columbian America as my setting. Imagine 16th century Inca Empire... but with orcs. The Orcs were based on Chechens, but their religion resembled Roman animism. As I said, I read a lot at the time and wanted to use it all.

An almost perfect presentation of the PCs

My initial plan was for a game of blood and mayhem, but the players ruined it. And I’m ever so thankful for this. The main group included the following characters, all siblings to an ancient and honorable clan:

Nature’s Daughter – the youngest sister. She was attuned to nature spirits, she lived in the wilderness and fought with her claws and teeth (I actually let her take monster feats). Despite her wild side, she was quite social and got along well with most tribes.

Justice Healer – the middle brother. He was a fanatic defender of the Orcish traditions and obsessed with honor and maintaining the old ways. Religious clashes with his sister and the generally irreverent society were a major aspect of the campaign.

Lazy Rhino – the oldest brother. A big dumb brute played by one of the stupidest and most unpleasant individuals to ever roll a die, you know, a classic Orc. He believed in nothing except rape, pillage and toilet humor.

Other players came and went, but none stayed long enough to make an impression. They were not true Orcs!

Perhaps the most curious aspect of the game was the interaction of the players with the spiritual world. Instead of spells, this game used contracts with various supernatural beings. There were no set contracts, every time you needed to achieve some supernatural effect, you had to contact some being and make a deal with it, often under fire. The same deal could cost the sacrifice of two bugs, or going to the end of the world to water a dying plant – depending on the spirit.

Beings that could grant spells included: nature spirits, animals spirits, ancestor spirits, Mesoamerican deities, the Abrahamic God and a mysterious force called “The Four”. Militant disbelief could not affect magic, but could function as a counter spell. Just about everything had a spirit – at one point the PCs were saved by the spirit of a little waterfall that hid them from giants in return for cleaning the area.

Because every spell required a contract, every spell was memorable and some had interesting long term consequences such Justice Healer getting a quest to tell the High King of the Mountain Orcs that the ancestors are displeased with him (you know how orcs are with criticism...) or Nature’s Daughter getting pregnant with a spirit child.
So many cultures to rape and pillage...
this is not one of them.

In addition to the animist magic system, the game also had an honor system based on tattoos telling one’s exploits and granting various bonuses. Now the cool part was that each player had a blank image of an orc on his character sheet and could draw the tattoos himself as his honor grew.

In addition to honor, there was also a purity rating, which was like honor, but used in interaction with spiritual beings. Being an evil bastard, I made many points of the orc honor code contradict the spirit purity code, bringing down even more dilemmas on the heads of the PCs.

I actually wrote down the whole campaign, but it was long ago and I never bothered to proofread it and my English back then was perhaps a little shaky, so, some other time maybe.

Anyhow, it was an awesome game and I had fun remembering it. I hope you will find this old man’s bout of nostalgia at least moderately useful.

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to that "other time" when maybe I can read the specifics.