The Forgotten Throne
Shallum Orcara – the Orcish Plains
The Orcs of old had a surprising amount in common with the ancient elves: both strongly revered nature and the God-Spirits, and both built up their society as a means of honouring their teachings. And, like the elves, etiquette is usually viewed as an important aspect of their culture. However, instead of complex cultural practices of formality and manner, Orcish culture is instead guided by very specific taboos, known as “Goshu”. Different tribes may have a few different “Goshu” that their Shaman has decreed, but generally speaking the focus of these rules is to weed out behavior that is destructive to the well-being of the Tribe. Orcs do not care who belches at the table or which fork should be eaten with, but they care deeply about not wasting food, and about being respectful to one who has hunted or prepared your food for you.
But where Elves and Orcs diverge most strongly is their view of their place in the world. Where the elves used their knowledge to place themselves above the natural order through scholarship and culture, the Orcish tribes believed that enlightenment was found by making yourself at one with your natural self. Orcish warriors looked inwards to primal instinct, ferocity, and the do-or-die spirit that was their legacy as beings only one step removed from animals.
The Orcish people seek to embody the Six Elemental Qualities, as embodied by the six God-Spirits. The physical body must be strong, agile, tough, and posses sharp senses, while the mind must be both wise and creative. The combination of these qualities is the standard of Orcish beauty, and also seen as the primary criteria for selecting a mate. Because these qualities tend to be hereditary, Orcs also take a very serious view on the subject of bloodlines, and the importance of mating well. A strong mate will help defend the honour and bloodline of the family, will produce healthy children, and will help raise them with integrity.
The goal in the heart of every Orc is to be the apex of their ecosystem – the best and most fit amongst all beasts. And most Orcs believe that, as in nature, the only way to prove (and improve) these qualities is to test them in life-or-death situations. In most cases, that means battle. Warfare between different Tribes has always been an important part of Orcish culture, though strict Goshu have always been enforced to insure that the warfare is conducted in a ‘civilized manner’, keeping the divide between warriors and non-warriors strictly separated. Known as “Shandar”, these battles were not only used to settle disputes, but were also seen as ways for young Orcs to show the quality of their bloodline.
Things became a bit more complicated where the Dwarves were involved. The Orcish lands have almost no natural resources of value and their tendency to rob any merchant who did not bring adequate guards (it is not Goshu to take from someone that which they cannot defend, after all), meant that metal tools and weapons were extremely scarce. Dwarven weapons were held as being the most valuable object an Orc could own, and that made conducting raids against Dwarven border-towns a very attractive prospect to bands of young Orcs.
When the Dwarves built up the Valdunscarpe into a fortress manned only with soldiers, they unwittingly presented the Orcs with something they had always longed for – the opportunity for “Shandar” against the Dwarves. So began the tradition of the Boga Shandar, where once every generation (at 20 year intervals), all of the young Warriors of the Orcish Tribes would gather at the border, and attack the Valdunscarpe. It was a chance to prove ones bloodline, win glory and respect for their tribes, and most importantly to scavenge Dwarven Weapons.
This tradition continued for hundreds of years, right up until the invasion of the Vile. After the Vile War, the Orcish borders had opened. Orcish culture had become much more cosmopolitan, and where small villages had once been, now heavily fortified cities now stood. In the modern era, the Shallum Orcana is made up not so much of countries, but of large(ish) city-states called Havra, each governed by one of the great Tribes that survived the Vile War.
The Orcish Havra (City-States)
Rulership: Traditionally, Orcish Tribes answer to two authorities. One is the Grumsh (the War-leader, usually the strongest or most respected warrior), and one is the High Shaman (the wisest and most blessed Cleric). The Grumsh cares for the physical needs of the people, and the Shaman teaches them and guides their spiritual well-being. In most of the city-states this tradition remains intact, though there are variations across almost all of them about how this authority is passed on over time and how much power each actually holds. (Orcs in general tend to view meritocracy as being the ‘correct’ form of government.)
Population: The more cosmopolitan city-states (particularly those near the coast) often have as much as 50% of the population being non-Orcish. Further inland, the non-Orc population drops sharply, though all modern Orc Tribes make and effort to attract strong bloodlines from outside their city. Herdfolk, Furfolk and Dwarves are a common sight in most of these cities.
What is notable about living here:
Each Orcish Havra has it’s own quirks and landmarks. Cuisine varies from city to city as well, since the availability of meat, fish, and local spices is so different from place to place.
The most interesting things about living in the city states is the competition between them. In the modern era, “Shandar” have become less about warfare and more about opportunities to one-up each other publically. Modern “Shandar” have become festivals, hosted at the border between any two neighboring Havra. At these Shandar, literally everything from the food to the artisans to the tournaments (of which there are many, most of them combat related) are viewed as a direct competition between everyone involved. Interestingly (and in fine Orcish tradition) there is no ‘home-team advantage’ to be found here – in Orcish culture, bias is a precursor to weakness and failure. Some of these events have also become venue for other sports events as well, some of them prestigious enough to attract international competition.
What is good about living here:
Orcs believe strongly in being your best, most natural self. Orcs have never really had universal (or even well-defined) gender roles or sexual orientations, so anyone is free to live the life that they want, so long as doing so doesn’t do any harm. Orcs as a whole are pretty laid-back people; they take some things very seriously, but that seriousness is almost always undercut by the dry wit and sly sarcasm that typifies the Orcish sense of humour. If you are competitive, then you will find every day an exciting challenge.
Orcish land, Orcish rules. You will get in fights – no exceptions. If you are a young person you will get asked constantly about your current marital status and when you plan to start having kids. There are very few industries in Orcish lands, meaning that jobs are scarce unless you work in a business that revolves around combat. (And if you do, you’d better be damned good, because anything less isn’t going to cut it.)