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Author Topic: Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?  (Read 4282 times)

jhkim

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« on: December 02, 2018, 01:10:12 am »
I've been refreshing myself up on Greyhawk while developing my own campaign world that is an offshoot of it.

Something that stood out to me was how dominant humans are across the whole setting, which is in part deliberate. Evil races like orcs are a minority everywhere, and there isn't a place like Mordor in Tolkien. This seems weird to me, because it means that its hard to have humanoids be a credible threat to humanity. It runs counter to the theme in Tolkien where humans were threatened by being overrun with orcs.

I'm curious about other humanocentric settings people play, including homebrew and published. In your setting, is there something like Mordor, so some force is a real rival to humanity? Or is humanity's dominance unquestioned?

JeremyR

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2018, 03:00:00 am »
I always got the impression in Tolkien that the orcs were not particularly threatening, in of themselves, but simply because they were united under one leader who wanted conquest - Sauron. Whereas the humans (and elves and dwarves) were not.

I think a good (if perhaps touchy) analogy is American Indians and Mesoamericans vs Westerners. Their technology was not nearly as high, and they weren't particularly united, preferring to fight with each other

I think the problem in D&D fantasy settings is that orcs aren't a threat, but other human nations aren't. They probably shouldn't cooperate so much. (But then again, gods and alignment would change things dramatically)
« Last Edit: December 02, 2018, 03:03:55 am by JeremyR »
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S'mon

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2018, 03:47:19 am »
The Empire of Iuz does become a Mordor analogue in Greyhawk.

In my Wilderlands I would say humans tend to be the biggest threat as befits a sword & sorcery type setting. Golarion has Belkzen an orcish realm. Faerun has huge orc hordes that somehow spawn in subarctic mountains.

Even in Tolkien I get the impression the bulk of Sauron's forces are human Easterlings and Southrons, and humans grow food for the Mordor orcs.
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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2018, 06:36:48 am »
Quote from: JeremyR;1067085
I always got the impression in Tolkien that the orcs were not particularly threatening, in of themselves, but simply because they were united under one leader who wanted conquest - Sauron. Whereas the humans (and elves and dwarves) were not.

In my games, Orcs are suckers for a Dark Lord. They will muddle by without one quite happily, but as soon as someone comes along and tries to unite Orc clans with a bit of Sorcery/Necromancy/Whatever, they come flocking to the banner. It's a fundamental Orcish character flaw, in my opinion.
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Chainsaw

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2018, 06:41:42 am »
Quote from: jhkim;1067079
Something that stood out to me was how dominant humans are across the whole setting, which is in part deliberate. Evil races like orcs are a minority everywhere, and there isn't a place like Mordor in Tolkien. This seems weird to me, because it means that its hard to have humanoids be a credible threat to humanity. It runs counter to the theme in Tolkien where humans were threatened by being overrun with orcs.

I'm curious about other humanocentric settings people play, including homebrew and published. In your setting, is there something like Mordor, so some force is a real rival to humanity? Or is humanity's dominance unquestioned?
Underdark?

David Johansen

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2018, 08:32:44 am »
There were orcs in the Misty Mountains and Mount Gundabad too.  Really, the orcs started out in Angbad anyhow.  But right around when third edition came out there was an article by Gary Gygax in Dragon magazine where he talked about having always intended the humanoids to be some what sympathetic analogs to native americans.  Bearing in mind that the original map he used was one of the area around Chicago.
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RandyB

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2018, 09:26:04 am »
Quote from: jhkim;1067079
I've been refreshing myself up on Greyhawk while developing my own campaign world that is an offshoot of it.

Something that stood out to me was how dominant humans are across the whole setting, which is in part deliberate. Evil races like orcs are a minority everywhere, and there isn't a place like Mordor in Tolkien. This seems weird to me, because it means that its hard to have humanoids be a credible threat to humanity. It runs counter to the theme in Tolkien where humans were threatened by being overrun with orcs.

I'm curious about other humanocentric settings people play, including homebrew and published. In your setting, is there something like Mordor, so some force is a real rival to humanity? Or is humanity's dominance unquestioned?

The Pomarj was an area overrun by orcs and their ilk, as I recall. Not a Dark Lord-led Mordor, to be sure.

Thornhammer

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2018, 11:28:50 am »
Quote from: soltakss;1067106
In my games, Orcs are suckers for a Dark Lord. They will muddle by without one quite happily, but as soon as someone comes along and tries to unite Orc clans with a bit of Sorcery/Necromancy/Whatever, they come flocking to the banner.


So they're Despicable Me type Minions.  But they're green and not yellow.

That would be an amusing take on Orcs.  Huh.  Gotta think on that a bit.

Philotomy Jurament

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2018, 12:06:19 pm »
Quote from: S'mon;1067092
The Empire of Iuz does become a Mordor analogue in Greyhawk...Even in Tolkien I get the impression the bulk of Sauron's forces are human Easterlings and Southrons, and humans grow food for the Mordor orcs.
This.

Sauron used orcs, but he also used a lot of evil humans: Easterling tribes, Haradrim, Black Numenoreans/Corsairs of Umbar, et cetera. The lands of Iuz fit the Mordor model pretty well: evil (and possibly demonic) leader, uses evil humans and also makes heavy use of humanoids, threat to the civilized lands, et cetera.
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Toadmaster

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2018, 02:44:56 pm »
Quote from: JeremyR;1067085
I always got the impression in Tolkien that the orcs were not particularly threatening, in of themselves, but simply because they were united under one leader who wanted conquest - Sauron. Whereas the humans (and elves and dwarves) were not.

I think a good (if perhaps touchy) analogy is American Indians and Mesoamericans vs Westerners. Their technology was not nearly as high, and they weren't particularly united, preferring to fight with each other

I think the problem in D&D fantasy settings is that orcs aren't a threat, but other human nations aren't. They probably shouldn't cooperate so much. (But then again, gods and alignment would change things dramatically)



Agree on both points, except you can substitute any number of nomadic people, mongols, huns, vikings. Dangerous in small groups to those on the periphery but only really dangerous to large settlements when united under a strong leader.

Fantasy literature tends to have some significant inter-kingdom / empire rivalry which many fantasy games seem to lack. While not openly hostile, Rohan and Gondor were not particularly friendly even with a common threat. It took some subterfuge on the part of Gandolf and Pippin to nudge them into cooperation.

HappyDaze

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2018, 02:55:34 pm »
Quote from: jhkim;1067079
I'm curious about other humanocentric settings people play, including homebrew and published. In your setting, is there something like Mordor, so some force is a real rival to humanity? Or is humanity's dominance unquestioned?
Outside of classic fantasy, I've noticed this in sci-fi & sci-fant as well. Star Wars has thousands of species but humans are both everywhere and in great numbers. I actually prefer to play with humans being everywhere but spread a bit thin overall, especially as there's not a significant external opponent to the Republic/Empire in many eras. In Star Trek, I prefer to point out that while individual ships are dominated by one species, the Federation itself has perhaps only slightly more humans in it than it does Vulcans, Andorians, or other major member species. I often would color adventures just by changing a group of colonists from the default assumption of humans to another species. Star Trek also has numerous external threats to the Federation, none of which have significant human populations.

rawma

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2018, 03:44:55 pm »
Quote from: Toadmaster;1067146
Agree on both points, except you can substitute any number of nomadic people, mongols, huns, vikings. Dangerous in small groups to those on the periphery but only really dangerous to large settlements when united under a strong leader.

Fantasy literature tends to have some significant inter-kingdom / empire rivalry which many fantasy games seem to lack. While not openly hostile, Rohan and Gondor were not particularly friendly even with a common threat. It took some subterfuge on the part of Gandolf and Pippin to nudge them into cooperation.


But RPGs tend to focus on small groups, like a fellowship from diverse races who might have a quest to destroy an artifact. Miniatures battles involving armies are more Return of the King, and mostly not what goes on in RPGs, except perhaps off screen. If one kingdom intervenes in support of another, it's because the player characters persuaded the rulers (fulfilling a quest, defeating their champion, whatever) and the battles involving the armies sent are resolved very quickly. When there are rival kingdoms, they are usually in relative balance or slowly moving toward the defeat of the good guys, but with enough time for small scale adventuring to tip the balance the other way.

Quote from: HappyDaze;1067148
Outside of classic fantasy, I've noticed this in sci-fi & sci-fant as well. Star Wars has thousands of species but humans are both everywhere and in great numbers. I actually prefer to play with humans being everywhere but spread a bit thin overall, especially as there's not a significant external opponent to the Republic/Empire in many eras. In Star Trek, I prefer to point out that while individual ships are dominated by one species, the Federation itself has perhaps only slightly more humans in it than it does Vulcans, Andorians, or other major member species. I often would color adventures just by changing a group of colonists from the default assumption of humans to another species. Star Trek also has numerous external threats to the Federation, none of which have significant human populations.


In films and TV there's also the expense of large numbers of alien extras and the difficulty of actors conveying emotions through many layers of makeup and special effects, so even the aliens are close to human. But in any format there's a tendency to play to the vanity of the audience, that their species/nationality/whatever is central to the story. Star Wars would have been less successful if the resistance were all droids but with a couple of wacky human sidekicks for comic relief.

Specific to Star Trek, how are Vulcans going to outbreed or even match humans if they only want sex every seven years? It's not just D&D where half-whatever always has human as the other half.

Omega

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2018, 03:51:18 pm »
Quote from: Chainsaw;1067107
Underdark?


Exactly. Orcs take up the caves and underground areas. But if I recall correctly there are some regions in Greyhawk that actually do have sizable orc populations.

Omega

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2018, 04:11:18 pm »
Quote from: JeremyR;1067085
I always got the impression in Tolkien that the orcs were not particularly threatening, in of themselves, but simply because they were united under one leader who wanted conquest - Sauron. Whereas the humans (and elves and dwarves) were not.

I think a good (if perhaps touchy) analogy is American Indians and Mesoamericans vs Westerners. Their technology was not nearly as high, and they weren't particularly united, preferring to fight with each other

I think the problem in D&D fantasy settings is that orcs aren't a threat, but other human nations aren't. They probably shouldn't cooperate so much. (But then again, gods and alignment would change things dramatically)


You miss a few points then.

1: Orcs are a mostly subterrene race. They occupy caves and dungeons below ground quite a bit.

2: In Greyhawk at least if I recall correctly there actually are some regions with orc populations. But keep in mind the whole area is in a state of re-population and migration into what was prior a mostly sparsely populated land I believe.

3: Why do they need a Mordor? Bandits and other threats crop up and can be a major problem just the same.

4: This one is a little more obscure. But. Also potentially orcs or anyone else can have a Mordor. Just on a smaller scale. Due to the random habitation tables you can and eventually will end up with orcs and whatever occupying castles and ruins which gives them protentially dominion over the whole hex they occupy. Or not.

5: As someone else pointed out above. Technically there is a Mordor in Greyhawk. Iuz's kingdom.

6: In other settings it is all over the place with orcs all over. Or settings where orcs occupy a sizable kingdom even. In FR the orcs had a whole board game dedicated to their goofball kingdom wars. And in the Known World orcs and goblins controlled quite a bit of land. Especially goblins with no less than four regions.

HappyDaze

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Humanocentrism - orcs but no Mordor?
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2018, 08:35:57 pm »
Quote from: rawma;1067156
Specific to Star Trek, how are Vulcans going to outbreed or even match humans if they only want sex every seven years? It's not just D&D where half-whatever always has human as the other half.
They also have much longer lifespans. A slower rate of population growth is OK if your mortality rate is similarly low.