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Author Topic: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?  (Read 782 times)

jhkim

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Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« on: September 24, 2022, 10:21:48 PM »
Some of the discussion of orcs as savages got me thinking about technology and enemies. In Tolkien, orcs are symbolic of industrialization - contrasted by the woodlands-friendly elves and ents as well as the rural farming hobbits and horse-loving Rohirrim. Tolkien's orcs have great evil machines that they use, like great war machines, the explosion at Helm's Deep, and the factories at Isengard.

However, it seems to me that more commonly in D&D, orcs and other opponents are instead portrayed as lacking technology and/or sophistication. They're portrayed as primitive savages compared to the more advanced urban humans and demi-humans.

I'm curious if anyone has done more Tolkien style industrialized orcs or other industrialized enemies - or perhaps enemies that are more educated and advanced, even if they aren't using machines per se. I liked the Madlands of GURPS Fantasy II, where one of the key enemies are the Soulless, who live in sophisticated cities with strange magics and machines. I think of such enemies are more common in some pulp sword & sorcery - as decadent Atlanteans with weird machines. They also happen more in science fiction, like alien invaders from outer space - though that's almost never done in RPGs.

For me, this has shown up in some steampunk-ish games that I've run or played in, like my pulp Dragons of the Yellow Sea game, or a steampunk GURPS Fantasy campaign I played in. It hasn't shown up in my more Tolkienesque fantasy, though.

KindaMeh

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2022, 10:35:14 PM »
I do remember running up against a magically, and especially with respect to divine magic, capable orcish society that had a less superstitious and more magically rational viewpoint relative to more ignorant humans. They used it to work dark rituals like wishes and miracles to their own benefit, though they weren’t the only folks willing to do sketchy stuff within the setting. Also a separate campaign with elves being persecuted basically in the way that the Jewish people tend to be stereotyped at times, despite the elves having a very advanced society and being the original inhabitants of their land, due to the disadvantage of human fecundity. (But we had to kill their undead selves and similar forces and lay them to rest because bad things were spawned by the atrocities and horrors committed against them, rather than allow equally genocidal and persecutory retaliation.) Both were advanced civilizations, but more leaning towards the sorts of magical innovation that made sense given the rules of the game and the way physics worked within that realm, hence determining what technologies were ultimately plausible.

Industry has been both good and bad depending upon the context in our campaigns.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2022, 11:03:49 PM by KindaMeh »

FingerRod

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2022, 11:41:20 AM »
For the most part I fall into the camp of doing less around war machines and technology when it comes to orcs and similar races.

I spent nearly a decade of my gaming in the Dragonlance setting, which didn’t have orcs, but hobgoblins were basically the same. For the most part I would consider them closer to the plains barbarians than anything else. Catapults and ballistas would be the upper extent, but it was rare to have had siege in my campaigns. But no society was building around these pieces of technology.

What you are describing does sound interesting, and I’ll have it give it a look in future campaigns.

Chris24601

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2022, 12:25:23 PM »
My orcs are mutants* created by The Cataclysm who control a rump state of the previous magitech Praetorian Empire (basically magitech boosted Rome) seeking to reconquer its past territories now occupied by barbarian kingdoms consisting of other Cataclysm survivors who organized themselves in the aftermath.

While not as overtly advanced compared to the PC-focused “point-of-light”; a Venitian-style Republic trade-hub** the Orcish Empire is significantly more advanced than the barbarian kingdoms (and could likely have completely overwhelmed them if not for the widespread reintroduction of The Old Faith and its primal magic to the barbarian kingdoms). As an example, the Orcish Empire still has functional Foundries for the production of weapons and armor while the Barbarian kingdoms rely entirely on smiths (sometimes with primal magic assisting).

* they are specifically hyper-predatory; stronger and faster than men and possessed of nightvision and scent. They retain their human intellect with the sole downside (beyond just being really ugly) being in a near constant state of adrenaline-soaked aggression leading to a general lack of patience and a lot of petty infighting (meaning most of their technological production is maintained by slave labor).

** It’s position as a cosmopolitan trading crossroad allows it both the population density and exposure to new ideas to allow for significant innovations and recovery of technologies believed lost to the Cataclysm (more accurately lost in one place, retained in another but that other lost something else… trade is allowing those lost elements to be reassembled).

SHARK

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2022, 04:40:47 PM »
Greetings!

Yes, in my Thandor world, I have an Orc Kingdom that has grown in prominence and influence. The Orc Kingdom has embraced several disciplines such as working with elemental creatures, Chaos Sorcery, and also technology. The vast majority of Orcs in the world are typically organized into tribes, and tend towards being barbaric, savage, and more or less primitive. Thandor is a very large world, after all. Orcs, as a race, share many common attributes and characteristics. However, the Orcs have developed different cultures. Thus, one particular Orc culture has managed to become a Kingdom-level society, with a more sophisticated government system and urbanized customs than a more primitive barbarian tribe. These elements have combined into promoting a greater degree of strength, technology, advanced sorcery, resource management, economy, and government. From this multi-faceted achievement, the Orc Kingdom has embraced a kind of brutal and mystical industrial revolution.

The Orc Kingdom has developed various kinds of factories which assist in mass-producing weapons, armour, tools, equipment, and different secondary parts and items of technology. The great sorcerous industrial revolution however, is not without problems and dangers. Environmental pollution and hazards present a distinct challenge. Industrial accidents, from factory explosions, elemental factory rebellions, to mining explosions and fires are common. Outbreaks of poisonous, noxious gasses and dangerous clouds occur frequently. Exposure to Chaotic Sorcery, and terrifying Elemental Technology has also caused enormous conditions of mental retardation, psychological disorders and full-blown insanity amongst the Orc population. These social consequences are a by-product of the new industrial foundation. In addition, the incidence and occurrence of Chaos Mutations are considerably more prevalent, and are seen both in the birth of offspring, as well as the development of Chaos Mutations gradually over time, or in many cases, almost spontaneously.

The Orc Kingdom has thus embraced harnessing new creatures and monsters, new kinds of vehicles, mass-produced armour and weapons, a variety of war machines, and various aspects of a more advanced, industrialized society.

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
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cavalier973

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2022, 07:14:21 AM »
This is a good observation, concerning Tolkien’s orcs. In his stories, the orcs were just beginning to develop these kind of war technologies, but the narrator suggests that they (or their descendants) would be responsible for the production of more powerful weapons.

My perspective on orcs is that they are more like the Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, and Gauls that repeatedly tested the boundaries of the Roman Empire. The Romans lost the power to fight off these tribes because of internal political and social decay. When Rome fell, though, it was not razed to the ground; the barbarian kings set themselves up as the new emperors.

Rhymer88

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2022, 08:38:02 AM »
Tolkien's orcs are by nature savages (those in Moria, for example) and only rise above this level when directed by a powerful intelligence such as Saruman or Sauron.
Unless countered by very powerful magic, any industrialized society in a fantasy world would quickly crush its non-industrialized neighbors, much as the European colonial powers did in the 19th century. As a result, I would actually expect dwarves to have an edge over elves.

hedgehobbit

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2022, 10:25:22 AM »
Long ago (in the 70s or 80s) I remember reading a blurb in the back of one of my Tolkien books about the state of the fantasy races in the modern world. Hobbits, it said, still exist but they are so good at hiding that no one ever sees them. Orcs, OTOH, love the same things that men love: fire belching machines and explosions, so are now indistinguishable from normal men.

The best representation of this I can think of are the old Orks from 40k (before their technology was turned into "magic"). Basically, obsessed with giant destructive machines that were often as dangerous to their users as their enemies.

weirdguy564

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2022, 12:36:07 PM »
Orcs as industrialist pollution mongers who strip the land bare with no regard for the future? 

So pretty much they’re not noble natives misunderstood for their cultural beliefs?  What new age revisionism is this? 

Our blue haired liberal overlords didn’t sign off on this change. 
« Last Edit: September 26, 2022, 03:07:34 PM by weirdguy564 »
Saying D&D is the best RPG is like saying Bud Lite is the best beer.  Maybe we shouldn't equate "popular" with "good"?

Greentongue

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2022, 01:25:17 PM »
^^^^^^^^^^^^
Thread Bomb Alert

There is certainly no restriction to using industrial Orcs in setting where magic doesn't just do the same thing easier. 

Lurkndog

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2022, 02:04:59 PM »
D&D is more likely to have magical races rather than industrial races because D&D actually has rules for magic.

Zalman

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2022, 07:45:48 PM »
Unless countered by very powerful magic, any industrialized society in a fantasy world would quickly crush its non-industrialized neighbors, much as the European colonial powers did in the 19th century. As a result, I would actually expect dwarves to have an edge over elves.

I did a take on this: a campaign of fairy PCs (pixies, sprites, etc.) whose primary enemy were industrialist dwarves with heavy machinery intent on razing the forest.
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ShieldWife

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2022, 08:59:24 PM »
One of the settings I’ve played around with some has an empire of hobgoblins as one of the dominant nations in the world. They are the most technologically advanced nation in the world, with muzzle loading guns, black powder, alchemy, and generally enlightenment era technology with a bit of steampunk or clockpunk thrown in. They’re intelligent and educated, but also violent and warlike. They keep goblins as a slave caste and most of the manual labor and service work is done by the goblins. They also keep orcs as slaves too, but regard them as too violent and unintelligent for much.

In a recent Pathfinder game we played, two characters were from this empire, one an alchemist hobgoblin and another was a goblin rogue, both of which used guns.

ForgottenF

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2022, 08:28:34 AM »
It's usually goblins that get slotted into the "technologically advanced race" position in fantasy settings, outside of D&D. Of course it's hinted at in Tolkien, but Warcraft took that idea and ran with it. As far as I know, they also started the association of gnomes with technology. (Though I seem to remember both ideas popping up in Magic the Gathering as well, so I'm not sure the chronology.) Either way, World of Warcraft was so prolific that now the goblin engineer/artificer is a full-on fantasy trope.

World of Warcraft is probably indirectly responsible for the idea of "sexy goblins", too, but that's a whole other topic.

EDIT: I should mention that like almost everything else in Warcraft, the idea of goblins building machines for the orcs was probably ripped off from Warhammer, but AFAIK Warhammer only has that in 40K, so Warcraft probably proliferated the idea in fantasy.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2022, 08:30:21 AM by ForgottenF »

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Industrial Orcs and Other Enemies?
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2022, 09:12:02 AM »
Late medieval tech is usually too much in my settings.  If anything, I'm more likely to go the other way, closer to early medieval or even before, with perhaps a sprinkling of magic crafting explaining some of the later medieval tech that makes it into the setting.  Since I'm actively avoiding industrialization and much of what leads up to it for setting concerns, the question of monster industrial tech never arises.