Man have I been lazy! I haven’t gotten anything done, but I did need a break from everything, just to recharge my batteries. I’ll get back to my humanoid project soon, but I did want to hurry up and add my two cents into the current Blog Carnival taking place at Campaign Mastery. This one is in regards to mistakes that one makes during play.
While I believe that it is everybody’s goal, to identify the mistakes that we make, and weed them out, discovering our own weaknesses takes time. I take you back to my first table, I wasn’t the DM, but a player, and of course, those Dungeon Masters taught me how to run games. We were just kids, which is common, but man were we horrible. I refer now to the number one mistake that I have witnessed, and that I myself have been guilty of, which is over-doing it on the house rules.
We tinkered with everything so much really, that it would probably take months to describe in full, but I will hit what I feel were the worst cases of house rules that really didn’t work but we still stayed with them.
Now 2e is very hospitable to house rules, the DM has the final say so over everything that takes place, and I still do house rule from time to time, just to make sure that a scene transitions well with another, or to speed up a part of the game that I don’t feel that anybody is to terribly interested in. I also like to keep my save or dies to a minimum because I don’t want to lose the impact that they have by over-doing them. In other words, there are lots of great reasons to come up with different ways to do the same thing. I don’t disregard every instance, in fact, I would rather see more house rules in play over all of the supplements and pointless books which do more to bog the game down with clutter then actually aid to it in any truly meaningful way.
BUT! In regards to the Core Rules, and I am referring now to simply the Players Handbook, the Dungeon Masters Guide, and the Monstrous Manual, these things should not be tinkered with. The only thing that can happen by playing with what is core, is failure. Even if you think that it is working, one rule provides the basis for a hand full of other rules, and if the DM can’t describe his house rule quickly while at the table, then it is probably a good idea to just do away with it completely.
Today I will talk about what I feel are the greatest sins of house-ruling a game, but before we get down and dirty in the mud, it would be beneficial to know exactly why folks house rule core rules, for which there is only a few answers.
The most common being that they think that their way is better. They discover a problem which annoys them, or most often something that they don’t understand, and instead of thinking it through and trying to identify why the rule is there, or how this rule effects the rest of the game, they simply change it and do their best to ignore the repercussions of their actions. It would actually be humorous to see folks completely blinded by their own house rules, if it just wouldn’t effect your own personal game in the dramatic sense which it does.
The other reason to house rule a core rule is because deep down you really don’t want to play Dungeons and Dragons, but some other obscure title that you can’t get any players for. D&D is the catalyst, I don’t want to learn new rules, and when I sit at the table I just want to play! This kind of house ruling seems innocent enough. Something written down can sound like fun at the time, but in actual play can go to the opposite effect. The most common mistake involves war games, and trying to adapt them to be compatible with D&D which they aren’t. Some people are just die hard about getting realistic combat with dice, and it can’t be done! A critical hit list quickly turns into a pain in the butt and if you aren’t balanced about it, a true game-wrecker that isn’t fun for anybody.
Boredom is also a good reason to house rule a game, but again, this goes back to the first problem, which is the lack of understanding of how the core rules require each other to stand up for themselves. In 2e if your players aren’t challenged enough, then it is time to place the more advanced rules which are already in the PHB. New players aren’t expected to count their weight and deduct it from their Movement Rates, they don’t need to worry about specific weapon types being faster then them, or capable of by-passing their armor class, these are advanced rules written for advanced users of the game. They are harder to remember and to understand, but that is what makes them fun! Maybe your table doesn’t ever need to go to them, but maybe it does, this decision is between individual DMs and their players to decide.
Personally, when altering the core rules, even though a Dungeon Master can do it, it is more ethical to ask the players, especially if the rule is in their handbooks. It is very important to keep all of the rules in the PHB functioning as is, they need to know how everything in the game should work. If it isn’t in there, it is slightly less core. Everything in the DMG should run fine as is, but we can alter these rules with a bit more freedom. The MM should always be ran as written, but then again we can always add our own monsters into the core without any problems . . . well, as long as we know what we are doing.
Now, with that out of the way, lets get down into my terrible past and examine some of the worst cases of blatant bad DMing decisions that I have ever had the gall to enforce!
1. TWENTIES DO DOUBLE DAMAGE
This one seems innocent enough, and as far as house rules go, is the least odious of them. Why this one is a mistake is that specific weapons carry a bonus of double damage when a natural 20 is rolled, and if we take this away then we are encouraging the players to never change weapons, not to mention taking away the impact from when it does happen.
Folks are so used to something cool happening when a natural twenty is rolled that it has become the equivalent of landing on Free Parking in Monopoly, something does have to happen. This something shouldn’t mimic another rule's special power, and there isn’t anything in the core rules which says that a normal weapon such as an axe simply hits its target on the 20, and nothing else. We can color our combat scenes and give the players, or the villains, an edge when a 20 is rolled for an attack. Nothing more lethal then normal, but an edge all the same. Perhaps the victim loses their attack the next round, has to make a morale check, or some other thing which would fit the scene. I feel that that is a good unwritten rule, however double damage should only be reserved to arrows and pole arms.
2. MISSILE COMBAT RULES
This one relates to another problem which is common, which I’ll get into later on, but the misunderstanding which involves missile combat is that it is different then melee combat. In direct combat, nobody knows how many parries or blocks were really involved in scoring the hits, but this is not the case with missile fire. Every arrow that flies into the scene must be accounted for. This is easy to forget, because each attack will deduct an arrow from your inventory. It is almost easier to track arrow inventory on a separate piece of paper and update your character sheet at the end of the night. Of course, DMs are just as guilty as players are when it comes to NPC archers, but the number one problem with missile combat is blatantly ignoring the range of the target. Most Dungeon Masters don’t even bother checking an enemies range, they simply treat it as normal combat and it isn’t!
3. DORKING WITH THE MAGIC SYSTEM
Back in the day, we had a hard time fumbling around with the mages spells, and one of the players who usually did the DMing kept buying all of these spell books, “And gosh darn it, I am going to use them!” well, he didn’t say gosh darn, but you get my point. Many tables have gone through this, and have house ruled it so that instead of learning spells, you have access to all of them, and instead of using the table in the PHB, you use a spell point system.
This was a nightmare! Not only are all of the mages exactly the same, but the player playing the mage is ignoring the game while he constantly reads spells and their functions as he is trying to find ways to make the DM’s life as hellish as possible.
Wizards in AD&D are extremely powerful, in essence, magic allows a player to cheat the rules. It is vital that a DM knows exactly what spells he has up his sleeves. That way, if the DM’s got a problem with a mages spell list, then he has only himself to blame because he’s the one that gave it to him. Spells, especially wizard spells, have been play-tested to death by the good folks at TSR, and while it sounds like you are getting ripped off, you aren’t.
On the other hand, a priest, whose spells are mostly defensive and typically aimed at healing, are less restricted. A priest can use any of them which he has the proper level and granted the proper access to the sphere of influence. I generally keep this list to the PHB only, or upon request, the Tome of Magic. I can also add new spells through NPCs if the player can identify the new cleric spell, or through scrolls. In effect, the priest requires a greater amount of spells to function on a fair level then does his wizard counterpart.
Spells are also suppose to be written down and turned into the Dungeon Master on the start of each in-game day. These are the spells which the spell caster has studied/meditated for. Under more advanced rules, the magic user has to spend at least 1 hour per spell level to gain the spell. This doesn’t go away under normal circumstances, a remembered spell will stay in his brain until he casts it or if he chooses to replace it with another spell.
This also hints at removing charts and graphs which make magic unpredictable, as under the AD&D magic system, all spells are terribly expensive. Spells can be ruined if the caster is interrupted in any way, so one must properly know how long the spell takes to cast, and what is required of him. Magic does slow down combat! But if we move it to fast then we run the risk of making errors.
4. IGNORING XP
This was an even worse sin! And unlike all of the others, this sin is one of pure laziness on the DMs part. Instead of counting up XP like we were suppose to, we’d just be granted a level for a game day. This fell apart on many different levels. We’d play first level characters for many many hours and never reach 2nd level until the next game, when in reality, we should be much higher. Then, on the other side of the scale, we’d breeze through the higher levels with uncanny speed. We’d only get 20 games out of our characters, and we had no idea how rewarding that actually earning a level was.
5th level comes fairly quickly, but there is a dramatic slow down after that point. We also ignored level limits on demihumans because the DM loved them so much and felt it unfair that an elf who lives longer couldn’t achieve high levels of play, which for us, was usually only 9 games. This isn’t role playing, this is simply playing. If the rules are ran correctly, the player playing a demihuman can play the same character for a year or two before maxing out on his levels. Especially multiclassed demihumans who are always going to be slow to advance and perpetually behind the other players who are single classed, and one must be meticulous about XP when playing something like that!
Again, all of this goes right back to play-testing on a professional level. Being young, we thought that we understood the game more then the brainiacs at TSR who invented the damned thing! Of course, now we know and since we are playing the game correctly, we are having a much better time and a more rewarding experience all around.
5. CONDUCTING ROUNDS INCORRECTLY
This mistake is probably by far the most common, even for advanced players who have been playing the game for years and years!
It is most common, I have observed, for everyone to roll initiative, and then decide exactly what everybody is doing. This is completely out of sequence, and it effects the rules for both missile combat, the casting of spells, and for initiative itself!
Now I know that this is bad, but back then I never thought nothing of it. In fact, we still find ourselves doing this same mistake to this day! While the game is still functional, by doing this it is broken and not at all core. In fact, the game is much smoother and less chaotic if it is done correctly, but what is correct?
Before the round starts, and before initiative is rolled, the DM decides what all of his NPCs are going to do that round, if it is the first round he also needs to figure out the range of the enemy, determine if anybody is surprised or not, and figure out the enemies initial reaction. Once all of this is done, he decides what each enemy is going to do, which isn’t all that difficult. If a creature is going to attack, then who? If there is a leader, he’ll probably hang back and bark orders until he sees who his party is struggling with the most, and he’ll target that person. Lots of stuff needs to be factored in, but this doesn’t take too long if you are prepared.
After we know what we are going to do that round, we ask the characters. This doesn’t need to be too advanced stuff. If they are going to attack, find out what they are going to attack, and with what. If they are going to do something tactical, such as charge, this is the time to say such, but we must resist altering our plans, if we have decided that our gnolls are going to attack, we shouldn’t alter them to setting their pikes for a charge. They don’t know what the players are going to do, just like the players don’t know what you are going to do.
A player can choose a few different options, and none of these are set in stone. In fact, a good player will be as brief and to the point as possible when describing what he is planning to do. “I am going to attack one of the gnolls with my broad sword” vs. "I am going to attack the closest gnoll to me." If he says this, and one of his companions beat him to the punch and slay the creature, that player may lose his turn if there isn’t another enemy around for him to target.
Spells are a bit different, if they are going to cast a spell, this has to be announced prior to initiative, this is the true reason for the rule. A spell caster is not allowed to change spells, but he is allowed to stop casting it at any time. It will be up to the DM to decide if it was successfully stopped or not, some spells happen so fast that it might not be voluntarily stopped before the magic is released and the spell is forgotten.
Arrows and other missiles are also taken out of sequence, and must be properly figured before the round can be determined.
After it is figured out what everybody is going to do, they may have the option to change their mind after initiative, but at a cost. Movement costs time, a fighter is better at this as he can give up 1 or 2 of his attacks to perform different actions. For example, a priest originally stated that he was going to attack, however an enemy archer scored double damage on him and he is in serious danger. He can’t cast a spell to heal himself, but he can stop and run half of his MR away while digging for a potion of healing. This action will be completed last, so if he has won the initiative, he has a good chance of surviving this, however if his party has lost, he may have lost his life if he gets hit.
Hesitations are always left up to the DM to figure out where they happen in that round.
Once it is figured what everyone’s action will be, we can move on to initiative, which can take place in a variety of different methods depending on the difficulty of the game that you are playing. I think that the easiest method, and the fairest, is to have all of the PCs roll their own initiatives, and the DM rolling a group initiative for his monsters, factoring in weapon speeds and such to modify the roll for each individual in the monster party.
Initiatives can be house ruled all you want, as long as it is fair for everyone. You can even have the leader roll the initiative and have all of the PC’s modify that number with their personal speeds, or simply be civil about it and take turns like good little children. It doesn’t matter if nobody cares.
The formula for the round can now be determined. Of course spell casters screw everything up. If a spell caster is casting that round we have to figure out where he will be in this formula. If the spell takes a round to cast, then it will take effect next round if he can maintain his focus (i.e. not get hit), casting times are there to help us place the spell properly in the round.
Here is the exact formula, with the exception of spell casters who defy it. The word winner here refers to the winner of initiative, if the group initiative is being used, and the loser refers to the loser of initiative. Advanced games will be really chaotic, and will have to be determined on a case by case basis.
- Winning Missile weapon 1st attack
- Loser missile weapon 1st attack
- Winners melee weapon attack or first attack as dictated by weapon speed
- Losers melee weapon attack or first attack as dictated by weapon speed
- Winners Second attack (including arrows and other missiles)
- Losers second attack (including arrows and other missiles)
- Take turns with additional attacks with winner always starting until they’ve all been played out.
Some times, especially with group initiatives, there is a tie. This dictates true chaos and is not rerolled. Instead, it has been judged by the gods of the dice that both parties attack at the exact same time. Go ahead and let the players go first, because they are itchy, but when there is a tie, even a dead creature who dies in that round still has an attack, and in effect, two characters can kill each other.
I now know that THIS system is real Dungeons & Dragons, and by modifying it until it isn’t recognizable makes it no longer D&D, which might not bug many of my readers, but it sure does bug me.
Well, I made it to 5, and I am sure that that is just the tip of the iceberg, but that is okay, because in effect, discovering mistakes and correcting them is exactly what this blog is all about!
The north is a very inhospitable place come winter. Being used to a warmer climate, I severely underestimated my ability to cope with such bitter winds and snows which drench the clothing and freeze solid. I also fell victim to my map, which is incorrect. While studying, and seeking a place to spend the winter, I believed that if I could make it to the Bluff Hills I could find a halfling village, but alas, this was not true.
Bluff Hills is infested with nothing but monsters! It is an inhospitable place ripe with danger, and though I am brave, if I had a choice I would had fled this terrifying land of rock, snow, and desolation in a heart beat, but alas, the gods of frost had me at their mercy, and I was forced to winter down with vile beasts called Ogres.
Winter in humanoid territory is a tough challenge, primarily because of the lack of resources, ogres are, at any rate, lazy creatures, and winter time is no different. They have nothing! I feared for my safety, it wasn’t I who found them, it was they who found me. Chilled to the bone and frozen to the core, spellcasting was impossible. I just couldn’t focus enough to disguise myself. Thankfully, they did not eat me right away, and placed me into a cell in their cave. It wasn’t warm but at least I was able to thaw out.
Thankfully the ogre is a stupid race, if they had the intelligence of even the goblin I would be dead, but thankfully I was able to transform myself into an ogre, and convince them that I had escaped and I was tricked into this cage. The ogres whose job it was to watch me spent more time playing some game which involved rolling bones, and didn’t see me change, so they figured that I was telling the truth and let me out with a shrug.
Ogres are very large humanoids, no man standing less then 9 feet in height, the tallest of them, who appears to be their leader, is at least 10 feet tall. Their skins range in colors of sickly yellow, blackish-tan, and one has a very disturbing purplish pallor. They are covered with warts and moles that are not the color of their skins, but dramatically different and covered in hair. They stink terribly, a smell very much like curdled goats milk. Their eyes are frightening, they have purple eyes, with white pupils, their nails are long and orangish in color. The ogre is by far the ugliest and most nasty of the humanoids which I have met so far, but perhaps it is just the cold talking.
INDUSTRY OF THE OGRE
The ogre exists only through theft, and stealing the hard work and well-being from others. It cares not for anything or anyone except for itself. There is no honor in these caves, a sick ogre is food, they will eat anything. They hunt the crags and cracks of this dank dark place. This place used to be a mine of some kind, however the ogres are ripping out the timbers and using them for firewood. Every day I sit and listen to the groaning of the weakened mine, wondering when it will finally collapse on my head, but the ogres simply ignore it completely, unconcerned about the unavoidable catastrophe.
There are hundreds of ogres here, waiting for spring. All of them from different tribes and different species of ogre, but I’ll get more into them later.
Ogres keep slaves for petty work, but because of the winter, they have already butchered all of them and their clean white bones litter the dark floor, with just enough pink meat to attract winter flies, everyday an ogre or two will wander over to the bones, and start picking off the maggots the flies have laid, oblivious to their stings.
They keep no animals, they know no worthwhile trade, they can’t make their own clothing, though a few try. They don’t know how to properly tan a hide, their homemade clothing is rotten and stinking, made from animal skins that they don’t even bother cleaning. I’ve seen an ogre so hungry that he ate his and froze to death from the cold.
Life is miserable in this stinking hole, but the howling winter winds above keep me a prisoner down here. I hate them, like I have hated no other creature. Even their stupid guttural language bothers me.
Half-breed ogres are a bit smarter, but even they get on my nerves down here, they seem to only know how to fight and that is it.
COINS OF THE REALM
These creatures are hoarders. Great wealth is in this hole, but it does nobody any good whatsoever. The ogre won’t spend it, he simply collects and will kill for his stash of shiny. Much of his treasure is worthless junk, but a few highly valuable items intermixed with trash. The ogre loves shiny objects, regardless of actual wealth that they may bring, and the ogre must constantly guard his stash, as all of his kin know exactly what he has and wish to take it from him.
Gambling is the favorite past time, they have invented many simple games of chance which can be played with no prep time, and regardless of location. Everything can be turned into a game to them.
RELATIONS OF OGRES
There is no peace here, not during winter. All humanoids in this cruel environment are suffering equally, any opportunity to take advantage of the others are committed for survival. In these hills, the ogre is not at the top of the food chain, but very low on it. Outside are hill giants and the highly feared trolls which normally are considered to be allies of the ogres, but during these times of not, an ogre is simply food to them, and they know it. Thus, we hide. We hide until the sun returns to melt the snows and allow the ogres to go raiding again, and again they will ally themselves with these enemies of the wintertime, but until the thaw, they must hide.
Ogres are closely allied with orcs, and even breed with them, creating a unique form of ogre-orc that lives in this cave. These half-breeds are the most violent of the lot, loving nothing more in life then a good fight. They’ll talk for days on end about war stories. Apparently these creatures are paid something to be here, I’m not sure what though? They are assumed to be the guards, incase something out there does find its way in here.
Ogres can mate with all humanoids, as well as humans and gnomes, but they aren’t compatible with elven, dwarven, nor halfling blood, which is fine with them as the flesh of these beings are considered to be an ogrish delicacy, in fact, in the heart of this mine system is a huge stew pot, inside are the bones of an elven female, at one time she was whole, but they just keep adding water and drinking the broth as a soup, I am ashamed to admit to caving in and tasting this swill, it was mostly water by the time that I arrived. Winter can do funny things to a person, especially out here. There used to be a time where I could trust myself . . . or at least I thought that I could, but can I really?
Human-ogres are more intelligent then the other ogres, and instead of pushing their mongrels away, they are excepted within the tribes openly. Half-ogres aren’t as strong as the full-blooded kin, a few still have the white eyes, but mostly they are gray-skinned powerful people. The ogres listen to them with awe as they tell their stories and advise them. Could it be that just one half-ogre can make the difference between fighting as an individual or fighting as a team? Quite possibly it is.
RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OF THE OGRE
Many of these creatures worship a hill giant god they call Grolantor, however he doesn’t grant the shamans any spells. Their true god is a pathetic lesser variety named Vaprak, while he does grant the shamans spells, he does very little else for them, especially in times like this when we could use a god.
They also fear a god that they simply name “Grofogog” or the Destroyer. I have no idea if this god is real or not, but uttering this things name is enough to terrify the mightiest of ogres. Everything bad that happens down here is the work of the Destroyer. This is probably just a monsters version of the boogyman, which is rather ironic if one ponders it. They seem so sincere when they talk about it, some even claiming to have seen it first hand, but there descriptions are always laughably different, however the longer I stay down here, the more I fear that this beast is up there waiting for me. That the destroyer is real, and it knows my name! Could this be even possible? I shutter at the thought!
OGRE FAMILY STRUCTURE
The male ogre is lazy, and their women are exactly the same. Children run all over the place in here, nobody knows whose is whose except for the children perhaps, and even they forget who their mothers are after a couple of years.
Mothers suckle the young until they get teeth, and they bite them. Of course males also suckle mothers milk too, pregnant women are very popular if they want to be, but they have to be careful as a male ogre will kill a youngster because it doesn’t want to share the mother’s milk with a baby. There are no ogre babies alive during the winter, all have fallen victim to hungry males, the last one happened just recently. Its poor little body was ripped apart for its meat, filthy cannibals, every one of them.
Youngsters can fight, and take up arms readily, if they are threatened with danger by adult males, they will quickly bash them and run away and hide for a couple of days. They stick together, and appear to have their own leadership amongst themselves. No ogre is educated in any way, only through experience and pain do they learn anything. They are even natural fighters, which is unfortunate for our own species who these things eat and keep as slaves.
Slaves, if left alive during the warm moons of plenty, are forced to do housework and other chores which the ogre has no idea how to do. They do the cooking, sharpen weapons which are always stolen, and any other odd jobs or activities which the ogre would find to be amusing that day.
Ogres are physical beasts. A few of them use weapons stolen or looted from slain enemies, or found in treasure hordes as the ogres do make for excellent adventurers. The most common weapons down here are rocks and clubs. Items picked up and either hurled at a target or used to simply beat the other to death. Magic really has no sway here, they aren’t smart enough, nor do they have any written language to speak of. All of their history is done orally by the shamans, and ogre shamans aren’t all that bright themselves. I have heard the same stories at least thirty times and the names and places are always changing, so I think that it is fair to say that the ogre has no history.
The shamans are able to cast simple spells, even simple for clerics, however there is a legend of a powerful band of ogres far to the east who are able to manipulate the magical forces to comply with their wishes. They call these creatures Magi-ogres, or Ogre Mages. Personally I think that this too is a myth, yet the shamans swear that this is true, but then again, they also swear that one can cure dysentery by eating rocks so I put very little stock in what they say.
RACES OF THE OGREKIN
I believe that an ogre male, who mates with an orc female bears an Orog child, on the other hand, when an orc male mates with an ogre woman, the result is a half-ogre which calls itself, Ogrillon. The ogrillon is, much like the Orog to the orc, much respected by all ogres, even granted a larger amount of treasures collected then normal. Ogrillon have orc brains, which are very sharp and can formulate plans much easier then the full-blooded ogre is capable of.
Ogres can breed with practically any humanoid race, however, the most common is human. Half-ogres usually keep the ogre strength and are very large, they suffer slight mental problems which are common for this race, as well as their natural laziness and willingness to follow any plan, regardless of morals or how well thought out it might be. Some half-ogres, particularly those of the half-humanoid variety, may carry the purple eyes with white pupils common to ogres, they usually appear to be more yellow then normal as well.
Half-ogres are much greedier then normal ogres are, which is a mystery to me, but true none the less.
There is also word of an underwater ogre which exists in Nyr Dyv that calls itself Merrow. If this is true, then our Oceans may be populated by this ogre strain of humanoids as well. From a picture book of mythical animals which I found in this dank hell, I see that the merrow has green scales with webbed hands and feet, their necks are longer and thicker then land ogres, and their huge mouths are full of sharp black teeth. Their nails are long and black as well, and look extremely dangerous. Their eyes are deep green with milky white centers, and their hair is a slimy sickly green as well. If the legend of the merrow is true, these are much more frightening then the land variety.
The merrow appears to have some kind of nobility which can be identified by large ivory horns which grow on their heads. The race also scar their bodies with ink in peculiar patterns, especially the woman who have the patterns scared all over their bodies. A few orges in this winter cave have shown me scars which they claim to have received from Merrow, which they call Tattoo.
LIFE CYCLE OF THE OGRE
Ogres are rather long-lived, they can live to a maximum age of 90 years old, and age rather gracefully, probably due to its lack of activity. Most ogres fall victim to death from their dependence on theft and raiding to survive. They are natural fighters, and can follow simple orders to a tee, however they tend to take things quite literally. It is just amazing how stupid these creatures are. They exist by bullying others who are smaller then they are, and by hiring themselves out as mercenaries for the highest bidder. Most humans can’t put up with their laziness and lack of forethought, however for pure muscle and manning dangerous areas, one really has no other options but to work with these disgusting creatures.
The ogre can digest anything, it eats garbage and anything which its teeth can get down its gullet. They are healthy and never get sick, despite never bathing or dressing wounds. They also lack pain sensory, I have seen one break all of its fingers, give a sigh and a shrug and crunch them back into place as if nothing unusual had happened. They are also quick healers, not as fast as the troll mind you, but much faster then a human. If they weren’t so languid they would be the perfect race.
Might is right to these creatures. The largest ogre down here is the chief, he gets all the woman that he wants, first dibs on all of the food, as well as treasure . . . or at least he thinks that he does. This is a temporary benefit, once the thaw comes up and these things can get back to raiding, they will break into smaller groups, but for now they listen to the chief.
His name is Big Chief Bloody Mouth in our tongue, he has two underlings who both share the distinction of second in command. These creatures are a bit smarter then the chief, and they use him for his brawn, and brawn he has! I have never seen an ogre as massive and built like him, which is amazing because the creature does nothing but eat and yell at anyone who dares bother him.
There really are no permanent laws, so there isn’t any need to enforce them. Murder and theft are common practices down here, with theft being the most common. They rarely kill one another, but fights are regular, the loser usually backs off before anything too terrible happens to him.
There are a few clerics, but all of them seem to be heretics and they argue with one another constantly in regards to what their gods want from them. There are no set churches, as this would require to much work on their part.
OGRES AT WAR
Ogres, as far as I can tell, don’t care to engage in any long term plans, which war requires. They are passionate about things which are quickly obtained, if it takes more then a week to obtain, they just don’t have time for it.
As I’ve said before, they do do mercenary work, and as long as they are paid regularly, they can stick with it, however they really couldn’t give an opinion about it. They just simply are there.
While they rarely engage in a committed war, fighting is a daily thing. They don’t really know how to care for armor or weapons which they find, steal, loot, or kill for. They are bandits by trade, haunting a road and being mean to avoid many problems is a common tactic. They keep those that are easily managed, forcing them into slavery or for food. Fighting is a daily thing, and it doesn’t bother them one way nor another, violence is not shocking to them, and they enjoy being cruel.
OGRES OF THE REALM
I am freezing, and hungry down here, and this no doubt has tainted my tongue. This is a long-lived race, despite its slothful ways and lack of any usable skills of any kind with the exception of killing and thievery, this should say something about their longevity.
I, like many of my human brothers and sister, had believed that humanoids were soulless monsters, who only exist to terrorize mankind. If this writing has done anything, it has proven to me that humans are not the only people which they terrorize. While many are constantly at war and on the surface, appear to be extremely primitive, inside of them they are as unique and as intelligent as the more civilized nations.
Before leaving the hobgoblin sacked hamlet of Green Grass Pass, a name that no longer describes it, as the grass has all been trampled and killed, what was once a lush valley is now nothing but a muddy potholed road of unimaginable danger. The hobgoblins have renamed the hamlet, but their words are not fit for the delicate eyes of civilized people; besides, as you will soon learn, their new name may be quite inconsequential.
While still among them, I mentioned meeting an orc. I became interested in this creature and saw him sitting alone in a hobgoblin tavern and gambling den, so I approached him. It didn’t take him long to see past my ruse, he always asked pointed and direct questions of things that I could not know, at first this beast filled my heart with dread and terror, however at the point were I expected him to stand up and point me out as the fraud that I was, he instead told me simply to relax, for he wasn’t what he appeared to be either. In fact, this orc was not a true orc at all, but a half-breed orcish-hobgoblin and a spy.
He informed me that a few miles away, his tribe was preparing to sack this village, and he was here to report numbers of hobgoblins coming in and going out, as well as who was in charge, the cities defenses, and other information which will aid his tribe’s attack.
I found this half-orc an interesting ally, he found my quest to be an interesting venture as well, and gave me many pointers to infiltrate his own tribe, and warned me when it was best to make my escape from Green Grass Pass, and still have time to study his people before they moved on to destroy the hobgoblin barracks.
The half-orc, who I respect to much to write his name, gave me a simple armband of red, attached to it were a few feathers, this he reported, would allow me to be off limits and prove me as an ally to him. He gave me information which only he would know, this was to be my currency, and I had just enough to get in and do my work and leave with my head still in one piece.
The orcs of Hrarrrg, or “the Roaming Scorpion” are not the entire tribe. I knew that I had very little currency to keep them at bay (and myself out of the mines), so I spent as much time observing them from afar as possible, which only amounted to two days before I was captured by sentries and taken before the commander. Normally, I am told, that the orc lives much the same as goblins, as they dislike sunlight; however, they do not cower away from it in fear either, which goblins do do. This describes a military unit, with a clear goal and separated by the Orcish tribal leader.
Orcs are roughly 5½ to 6 feet tall, and the males are extremely well built. They appear almost human, but physically primitive in manner as well as appearance. This is deceptive, as their minds are not primitive at all, and they appear to be much smarter then the other humanoids which I have encountered to date. With that said, their skins are grayish green in color, and their bodies are covered in thick and course dark hair. Their eyes resemble goblin eyes as well, glowing reddish in dim light, probably due to the fact that they require very low levels of light to see by, and may even be able to see in the dark. Their features are unique to them individually, as well as by clan, and can be visually distinct from one another by simple subtleties and personal style, much as humans and demihumans are both unique from one another, yet the same. Orcs are stooped over, and cannot walk upright, their arms are proportioned to their bodies, and well-muscled. Their foreheads are unique, almost conical which may be from a common form of bondage placed upon them when they are young, as they see conical skulls to be more attractive then round ones. Orc teeth are sharper and more pointed then a humans are, normally a deep shade of yellow, they use them to eat meat, but aren’t civilized enough to use utensils to cut the meat up into bite-sized chunks. Their noses are almost snoutish, and their ears are set slightly higher on their heads, allowing them to hear and smell things which would be beyond us.
Orcs find empty and desolate places beautiful, though many of their camps and villages are chosen for this feature, unlike goblins and hobgoblins who destroy the land, the orc is more at home in places that are naturally like this. I believe that this is because they are off the beaten track and easier to defend.
Like many of the humanoids, the orc is a miner, and are most comfortable living underground, which has pitted them directly against the dwarven demi-humans of the realm. Orcs mine both metals and stones which they also find valuable. While I haven’t seen an orcish mine, I can see that they have crafted their own weapons, yet they also relieve all weapons from enemies that they have slain, so they carry wide varieties of arms, in just one week I have spotted elven, dwarven, and even hobgoblin craftsmanship! But they also have their own armaments which are unique to them.
Much of their tactics involve ambush and backstabbing, and they prefer weapons which aid them in this, many are items which they themselves have invented, especially siege weaponry. The camp was very busy constructing light-weight catapults from materials they have found and had brought with them for these constructions. Right now the catapults are not on wheels and will be carried to locations where the orcs will finish putting them together. They are not afraid of labor, and it is a brilliant strategy, breaking the catapults down to the smallest parts as they can without breaking down the sophisticated pieces which an orc specialized in such things oversees the construction personally.
They are constantly inventing, though many of the exploratory engines are highly dangerous to the operators at best, the brilliance and inventiveness is still admirable. I have seen nothing this sophisticated, even in human armies. I have heard of half-orcs who sell their services constructing traps for the paranoid and wealthy, seeing what full-blooded orcs are capable of, I no longer doubt this rumor.
While the orc prefers to live underground, they are also concerned with their defense, and build defenses around the openings of their mines, which are usually taken from routing dwarves or gnomes who have started them. Orcish construction for shelter is not as inventive or as oddly beautiful as their weaponry, but they are not above taking over mining villages which had been built around mines built by others, while they lack the ability to maintain and properly keep these buildings from weathering and rotting, they do require buildings and fences to keep domesticated animals which they butcher for food, many are common creatures such as pigs, chickens, goats, and cows, but they also keep other creatures for purposes of food, as they, unlike the goblins, truly detest eating their enemies.
Orcs are masters of hiding things, it is said that a village sacked by an orcish army for their mines resembles a ghost town. One can hear livestock and see evidence of them but finding them is difficult. I suppose that they keep them in the buildings themselves, which they keep locked up tight and guarded by traps against poachers and theft, but at night, the creatures come out, and if they are aware of intruders . . . which they usually are since the landscape is barren, offering few places for other creatures to hide, and the hiding spaces that are there are heavily trapped, the orcs will wait in hiding and attack, if they must, during the day as well as at night.
Orcs grow edible crops of mushrooms and other funguses, some which are deadly to humans, this substitutes their diets and the shamans use them as well. Orcs are terrified of illness and disease, but aren’t much cleaner then hobgoblins, in fact much of their mushrooms and molds are acquired in the caves which they use to relieve themselves in.
Like humans, orcs require water to survive, drinking it as well as harnessing its strength to power engines which provide many different functions. By far their seeming savageness is all an illusion, yet another trap which the orc uses to give their enemies a false sense of superiority.
RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN OTHER RACES
The orc truly gets along with nobody, but will make shaky alliances with practically anyone; in truth, this new war which is about to be unleashed upon the hobgoblins started from such an alliance. To the west, in the Bone March, Orcs and Hobgoblins, as well as many other humanoids, have seemingly joined forces, however the Orcs of Bone March have felt that the Hobgoblin forces are too strong, and they just keep coming. It was decided by the generals of the March, that it was time to turn on the Hobgoblin forces before that race turned on them. Their goal is to destroy this fort, and then move on to the next, a brilliant move that will strangle the Road to Blood and Glory to death.
While, with care and dedication, it is possible to have a long relationship with the right orc tribe, the orcs themselves battle with each other constantly, either face to face, or, such as the case with the war about to be waged against the hobgoblin forces, in competition with each other. They do not get along and if presented the right opportunity, will slay each other if they think that they can get away with it.
Orcs have a deep and driving hatred for dwarves, who they are always at war with because of land disputes. They ambush dwarven mines and take them, forcing them to defend these mines for centuries, which to the short-lived orcs may be their homeland, having deep bloodlines to the area, and the long memories of proud dwarfs constantly seek to take back what is theirs, regardless of the fact that no dwarf has lived there in centuries.
The elf is also a highly hated foe, but for a different reason. According to orcish myth, long ago when the world was divided into separate kingdoms, it was the elf which dictated who got what. It was during this great division which the orcs were completely left out of. While the dwarves received great mountains full of ore and wealth, the humans received huge tracts of land close to oceans and great running rivers, and of course, the elf kept the best land for themselves, when it came to the great orcs of the past, they received nothing. This was a sin seeing that they requested very little, and now they are hell-bent on taking it all! For this travesty, they will slay elves on sight, they will burn their villages and cities to the ground on discovery, and they will shoot them in the back with no remorse. Just mentioning an elven name is enough to cause them to drool in bloodlust, and gnash their teeth in aggression, fore, though the orc is a short lived race, its memory for abuses of the past is without question.
Death is the only thing that an elf can expect from orcs, and the same goes for dwarves, all other races are prime stock for their slave pools. Orcs kill only the warriors, or those who are too strong to be trusted in the mines, all others are captured and are worth more for their backs then for the peace of mind which goes to killing them. Women and children are preferred, as they are weak and easily handled, as are the elderly who if they survive the horrible marches to the mines, are given the most dangerous jobs.
A halfling cook was present in this band of warriors and killers, this halfling is a slave, forced to cook for his life, feeding all of the men in the camp; a job normally the domain of orcish women. While it is preferred to eat the food burnt and charred, the orcish tongue appears to have a good palate for the thick spices and recipes concocted by the halfling, whose cooking is exceptional! Oddly enough, the halfling appears to be quite happy here, he says that he gets as many supplies as he needs and a chance to see the world. He has resigned himself, at least for the time being, into the care of these orcs who appear to be rather kind to him.
It is also worth noting here, that while the goblinoid species of humanoids are incompatible sexually with humans and demi-humans, the same cannot be held true of the orc. The orc has tainted the blood of every bipedal species with the one exception of the Elf, why this is may have more to do with their natural hatred of them then any physical incompatibility. While their kind revels in defiling dwarven women, elven woman are slain with the same gusto as the men are.
Most beings with half-orc blood are of the humanoid variety, with goblins and hobgoblins being most common, followed by human-orc. The orcish blood is dominant, causing the mongrel offspring to be more orc then anything else, however their temperaments will typically be that of the off race. A half human, half orc was an officer in the orcish army, he appears to be an unusually powerful, if not ugly man who is highly respected by his full-blooded orcish peers, but this could simply be based on the man’s ability with his sword that has earned him his position, the other, not as gifted, half-orcs are treated as contemptuously as we treat our own mongrel children.
RELIGION OF THE ORCISH CLANS
Orcs all follow many gods, they are a very superstitious lot, but the most powerful of the gods, and the one most widely worshiped by the same name is the one-eyed orc Gruumsh. It is Gruumsh which remembers the travesty of the past, and it is Gruumsh which dictates that the orc must not stop fighting until he has taken all of the map and all of the other races are either slain or digging for them, in their mines.
Gruumsh is a cruel god, his priests scour the orcish camps and tribes, they alone have free reign to walk among all tribes, because all tribes observe that Gruumsh is the mightiest of the orcish gods! Gruumsh is a very vocal god, he creates signs to his people which are impossible to ignore. His priests are the keepers of the orcish race, weeding out the weak, the sick, and the cowardly, and slaying them without mercy. They themselves are always in danger of their gods wraith, for if they fail in their duties, if they ever feel anything but hatred and contempt in their black hearts, it is said that the god himself personally snaps their neck for all to see, fore there is no greater sign to the orcs, then a priest of Gruumsh falling over abruptly dead and his head turned around, perfectly backwards.
While all tribes worship Gruumsh, their other gods are debatable, some share names while others, just stories. Orcish heroes are all mean-spirited and nasty, whom show nothing but contempt for their leaders, turning on their own family for glory, capturing power through blood spilt by the rivals in their own tribes. The commander of this army, his name being Battered Head, has allowed me to live only to satisfy his own ego. Once he found out that I was a writer and recording their lives to paper, he saw his chance to become an even larger hero in the eyes of his people. It was from him that I was able to capture much of this work which I put down for your inspection today.
Orcish myths all push their own twisted form of honor among thieves messages. Heroes slay kings for glory, and steal from their own brothers. The children are taught this, and wish to grow up to become these monstrous peoples; it sickens me, yet I suppose that some of our own myths and legends are no better.
ORCISH FAMILY STRUCTURE AND THE ROLE OF GENDER
The orcish family is quite common, though almost all of the orcish warriors in this camp are married, they are not faithful to their wives. I am told that a woman’s place is in the home, and that is where she stays. Her duties are child birth, preparing dinner, and raising children. A pregnant orc (or other species with orcish child) carries the young for 10 months, and normally has two to three children per litter. Many of these children do not survive to adulthood due to abuse by both parents, as well as the priests of Gruumsh. Meanness is encouraged, thus they also pick off each other so that only the strong survive. Male children are always preferred to female ones, fathers have no love for little girls, and they are seen as worthless.
Some women are, understandably, not pleased with their lot in life. Refusal to do their duty typically results in death, a lucky few are able to escape into a never-ending life of adventure, seeking fame and fortune with races which will tolerate them, the types we see in our cities from time to time traveling around with a ragtag bunch of other misfits. These orcish females can easily masquerade as men, as their mannerisms are all vary masculine, even while performing their duties at home.
While most children do not survive, the lucky few become self-sufficient at an early age. Most are self-taught as their mothers typically ignore them much of the time, and if their fathers are slain, they are abandoned completely by the mother who leaves. Once a male child can pick up a weapon, his father takes over the raising of it, teaching him how to fight, and instilling the warped sense of orcish honor typical of the race.
The orc, if not slain in battle, can reach about 40 years old. They live fast and usually die fast as well, quickly using up their bodies, which at age thirty their skins start to wrinkle, their hair either grays else falls out, and their muscles quickly waste away. This is much different then the goblinoids which usually fall victim to disease before reaching this stage, I can’t imagine why this process is so sped up in the orcish-clans, unless it has something to do with the gross inbreeding which takes place quite commonly.
Typical of the humanoids which I have studied thus far, orcs are a superstitious lot, and greatly fear magic, however not to the extent which the hobgoblin reacts to mystical forces at work.
Despite the races great age, they have no system of wizardry, at least not in this camp and nobody here would ever suffer a orcish mage to live, so either they are very rare and keep to the ancient occultist ways of hiding their studies, else they don’t exist at all. Personally I feel that if they were around, they would quickly jump on this mission as an orc mage would greatly improve their chances of wiping the hobgoblins out.
While they dislike magic, their religious clerics do possess considerable power. I would consider the religion of Gruumsh to be a full blown church, their clerics are in fact, orcish priests in every sense of the word. The orcs who do the bidding of the minor orcish gods are less powerful in the ways of spellcraft, so I qualify them as shamans or witch doctors.
Orcs are, by nature, explorers. They run into many many magical items along the way. If an item is discovered to be magically charged, it is not destroyed, as they still see that it is worth a lot more then it normally would be. The Church of Gruumsh dictates that all magical items discovered should be turned over to the clerics, however, I have seen the orcs hide these artifacts and sell them for a personal profit on the side. I myself was given the opportunity to purchase a gem of seeing which I couldn’t turn down. I suppose that if a buyer is around, greed dictates otherwise, but surly the clerics would had killed the orc who sold the gem to me if they had found out.
RACES OF THE ORC
Orcs, while each tribe is unique, they, I assume, are all of the same species. Wars between the tribes are more about petty egos of the clan leaders then of any real solid issues. One exception to this rule seems to be the mightiest fighters of a tribe, which they call Orogs.
Orogs are extremely huge for orcs, perhaps they are half-orc, half-ogre? But they are definitely of an elite status in this army. They fly their own banner, the only other banner which is not sanctioned by the Commander. They do not take part in the patrols, nor do any scouting. They are only here for when the actual fighting starts, this band of warriors are much scarier then the average orc, they speak orc, but are able to do as they will and all of the other orcs give them a wide path for which they may tread, yet they do enjoy the fact that they are here to fight besides them. Battered Head tells me that it is always an honor to have an Orog unit present, they do not live in the tribe, but for special occasions such as this, an orc chieftain can send to them a request for duty. If the Orog feel that the cause is a worthy one, and that a profit is to be made, and that it would please Gruumsh, they will send out a unit to the camp. The orog answer only to themselves, which is a fair trade-off as I guess that the Orog combat furiously. I had a chance to study them in training and they showed a unique fighting style which utilizes both their terrific power and great size to their advantage. When throwing a spear, the orog actually puts all of his body weight behind it, sending it with such force that the blades punch through trees and chip the rocky face of the mountain. Frightening as they are, I am told that they know no fear themselves. To run away from a challenge is to disgrace your entire race! Only an Orog commander can issue a retreat, and unlike the orcs who collect slaves for their mines, the orog take no prisoners.
The unit which I am studying is entirely military. A few women run around selling their bodies, but the rest are all soldiers, else clerics or shamans. This camp is run like a military, even the woman, if they get angry and lash out at an abuser, will be punished with death.
The Commander has four lieutenants which oversee the enforcement of most laws, however, this is a rarity in this army camp. All of the orcish soldiers are pleased with their positions here, and want only to taste hobgoblin blood upon their weapons. Even the women are proud of these orcs, honored to be here to serve them and see each black eye and bruise as a badge of honor placed upon them by a great hero.
I can only assume that since morale is so high, that I cannot get a proper estimation on how law is handled, however listening to their myths and who they idolize, I must only assume that laws are very relaxed back home. Villainy is actively worshiped, and moral taboos are always reveled in. Orcish heroes are murderers, thieves, and rebels who refuse leadership themselves, but become leaders through service to themselves. As a group, they fight besides each other very well, each unit forming a twisted brotherhood between themselves, but at the same time brothers commonly kill, lie, and cheat each other. I suppose that the biggest difference is that nobody besides themselves can do this to a brother and get away with it.
While orcs also mine the mines, they leave all of the dangerous and tedious work to the slaves, they themselves are rarely in any danger down there, but if a vain collapses, the prisoners (even orcish casualties) are instantly abandoned and the pit boss is held responsible. Killing one orc is not considered a crime, but leading a bunch of orcs to their deaths and yourself returning alive is punishable by death . . . and perhaps worse. A true criminal suffers by watching his children murdered right in front of him, his property redistributed to others, and himself buried alive to die alone and confined.
I have learned from Battered Head that the true leaders of the tribe are not the leaders themselves, granted that they appear to make the rules and be in charge, however the true rulers of the orcs are the clerics and the warriors who lead the troops. If a leader is not respectful of the army, or the religion, he is quietly slain and a new leader competition takes place. Nobody wants this job, the competitors in the leadership battle are chosen by a poll taken by all of the tribe, based on names picked by the church and the army commanders. Once the polls have declared two men a winner, these men are given a large feast and then must fight to the death, the winner becoming the new tribal leader who is responsible for the well-fair and success of the tribe. He gets to believe that he is in charge, but he is always given options and opinions by the church and the military leaders.
It would take years of study to understand this form of politics, and I would like to observe it first hand however I do not think that that is possible, since if I were to appear to be an orc, I would quickly be seen as a weakling and swiftly terminated by the church. It would require me to compromise my values, which I am afraid that that is something that I just can’t do.
ORCS AND DEATH
If an orc dies of illness, his body is quickly burned, as is any of his assets which he may have accumulated over his lifetime. Death in battle, the body is left as a testament to his sacrifice, his assets are then given to his male children as they see fit, if no children are alive, his assets are the property of the tribe, the leaders go through them and take what they wish and the rest is sold to the highest bidder. If an orc is slain by a cleric, or god, their property now belongs to the church.
Great leaders and heroes are given huge funerals. Dirt and rocks is brought to the corpse of the slain dead, the church commits a ceremony to the brave while the army builds a burial mound over the body and every orc in the area comes from miles around to pay tribute to his afterlife with coins and jewels. This mound is marked so that all know who lays below, how he died, and when. Great treasures are in this mound, however a curse is placed upon it as well. A great hero can attract orcs beyond his own tribe, and during these times the infighting and posturing between the tribal leaders is temporarily put aside. Leaders are expected to send dignitaries to the site to pay a grand tribute, if not arrive personally. Because of this, a funeral can take a very long time before it is completed, materials need to be brought in, leaders need time to raise the funds required and to travel from all over the Flanaess, thus the heroes body must be guarded by an elite group of soldiers called Boneguards, a temporary position designated to the heroes closest allies who forever after carry the distinction of this service, and allows them to refer to themselves as Cjuudge or “Friend-of”. An honor which they will take to their own graves, as all of the heroes of orcish blood were at one time Boneguards themselves.
ORCS AT WAR
This, I was able to witness first hand. The orc has a bizarre code of honor. Many of the off-race enemies will be taken prisoner and kept as slaves, those who fight are killed. The orc does not observe any rules to war, and cannot be expected to keep to his word. If battling on a goblin holiday, goblins typically break combat to observe this occasion, and the Orc will agree to this break in combat, but turn around and ambush them during the day.
Surrender is not allowed, if a white flag of submission is flown by an enemy, the orcs will redouble their efforts to kill them all. Backstabbing and lying to ones enemy is considered bravery to the orc, and stupidity on their enemies part. The orc honestly doesn’t need to revert to these tactics, as their soldiers are more then capable of honorable combat, but this code of orcish honor dictates otherwise.
The orc fights through trickery, massive firepower, and taking time before an attack to gain as much intelligence about the enemy as possible. They are brilliant in their methods, if they weren’t so underhanded. They study all of their enemies, and will exploit any weakness which they may find.
While many of the orcish troops are skilled fighters, this race does have some very dangerous warriors who are up to par with humanities best. These warriors can be identified by their bravery, and usually the way that they handle themselves. They become specialists of their chosen weapons, and spend much money on them. Instead of going out to patrol, they are allowed to practice and keep in perfect shape. Many of these warriors are commanders, but this is not always true, some of these specialists are not all that bright, and intelligence is also something which makes a good hero, not just brawn.
Orcish thieves are also quite skilled, these creatures seem to flock to such trades and usually serve as watchmen for the towers as well as spies for the large armies which form from time to time. The thieves are excellent archers and can fill their ranks with the warrior archers, but if the archers are compromised, the warriors will draw their weapons while the thieves flee. It is also worth noting that much of the siege weapons and traps are designed by the tribes thieves who form their own guilds within the tribes. While they have no political power, they do bring extra funds and power to the tribe, and they don’t have to work as hard as the average fighters do, thus becoming a thief is a highly desirable, but elite profession as the dexterity required by these men must be high indeed!
ORCS OF THE REALM
As a race, these creatures seem tailor made for their environment, and while creatures such as the lowly goblin cowers in filthy holes in the ground, the orc does not tremble in fear, but faces all obstacles. They are masters of surviving in barren and inhospitable places. They are both a threat to mankind, as well as a potential ally of it in some odd way. They have learned from us, and they continue to teach us.
Mans first impulse is to discount these creatures, and just assume them to be stupid and brutal but this isn’t the case. Orcs are wise, they are strong, and they are determined. They have their own, very unique society which has existed well before mankind, and continues to do so despite it.
It is my opinion that if we wish to aid the dwarf in their battles against the orcs, then we need to consider it a higher priority, for if any race has the determination and resources to destroy their race utterly, it would be the orc. While many of them lack the skills required to outfight the dwarven armies, a few warriors can and they also have numbers on their side. We humans, as a race, need to pick which side that we chose to stand on, and be more steadfast in aiding them, despite the dwarven pride which dictates otherwise, for if the dwarves fall to this foe, then we are next friends. We are next!
If my time with the goblins had taught me anything, it was that I needed to re-think how I was to become amongst the other races of humanoids, as many don’t keep slaves. Fortune smiled upon me, as I encountered a party heading west to the land of Iuz to do battle with the evil ones in that miserable land. I aided them in their journey, and in so doing discovered a scroll which has greatly aided in my research, containing a spell that enabled myself to blend seamlessly.
I departed with my company, wishing them the best of luck, and made my way back into the forests of the Flanaess in search of monsters! It is also worth pointing out that the battles of Bone March were heating up, I had heard confirmation that the Grand Army was so engaged in war with the humanoid hordes that seeking for deserters was a low priority, which allowed me more freedom to wander more then I had prior. I still avoided the Great Kingdom, but at least I no longer felt hunted.
I encountered a ranger, and he reported to me that a band of hobgoblins had haunted a road three leagues to the north which they poetically called, “Hurnskaft oad”, or Road to Blood and Glory. The battles of Bone March were attracting these warmongers like bees to flowers, I studied my maps and discovered a little known village south of the mountains which I felt would attract the Hobgoblins, and I had assumed correctly!
Friends, please do not hold what I have witnessed against me. I am but a reporter of such things, and I took my oath seriously and forbid myself to become involved in anything. At one point, this village was a thriving farming hamlet of simple goat-herders. All of these men, and their families, were slaughtered; their homes, which were once quaint and quiet, now house vile beings of brutal evil. I had assumed that hobgoblins were as their smaller kin, and avoided the light, but this was not so. While the hobgoblin is known for working and operating out of networks of underground caves, as the goblin, apparently, if they feel that more is needed, such as a base on Hurnskaft oad, they will take it.
This simple village has been sacked, the hobgoblins have dug deep trenches around the wall and filled them with spikes and a noxious water which must also be their sewage. Four towers have been constructed from wood obtained by tearing down other buildings, and these are manned both day and night. The small village of Green Grass Pass has become a stockade and a minor stop on the route to Bone March via the Griff Mountains.
I disguised myself as a mad and elderly shaman, I learned enough from the goblins to easily pass off being a heretic to these butchers, and there I set up operations for the next few months, befriending the high commander of the stockade, a General Elf-Smearer. I was able to set up shop at a residence that was provided to me, and it was my job to heal these vicious animals, which I begrudgingly did. The following is what I have learned.
The hobgoblin is similar to, and is definitely the same species as standard goblins, though personally they will deny this fact. They are much larger then average goblins, but while the goblin is generally hairless, the hobgoblin is covered in patches of hair which ranges in colors of dark-red to dark gray. Their faces are clean of hair, revealing skins which are dark-red to a reddish-orange color. Additionally, hobgoblin men sport bright blue noses, which is attractive to females but doesn’t effect rank.
Their yellow teeth are long and sharp, and their eyes, as goblin eyes, gleam in the dark and vary between yellow to dark brown, however as goblin eye color is uniform and covers the entire surface of the eye, hobgoblins have whites, as humans, and only the iris is colored.
Hobgoblins also have a style of dress which is common among all of them, preferring bright clothing, but all armor and leather items are stained black, and all the handiwork of goblin tanners.
NATURAL FUNCTION OF THE HOBGOBLIN
Hobgoblin industry is more of a factor in this humanoid society then in the goblin. Hobgoblins have mastered the art of metal working, though not on the scale of dwarven or even human societies have. They do mine the earth, seeking metals, and can fashion items from these metals. Weapons, armors, and standard blacksmithing are common in hobgoblin societies. The hobgoblins also keep beasts of burden, but only for transportation. They do not farm, they raise no animal for meat or cloth, these items they steal or take after battle.
Hobgoblin constructed items are unique in style, they prefer sharp edges to construction, and apply special powders and chemicals which make all hobgoblin metalworking have that distinctive black darkness to them. Swords, and especially armor is thicker then most, their surfaces are not smooth to the touch nor shiny. Items are decorated by feathers and furs which are either red, or have been stained red.
All hobgoblin tribes fly their own, unique standards. In the hobgoblin stockade I would see at least 15 new ones per day, and the managers of this place have their own standard as well which flies above the church which has been defiled and taken as residence of General Elf-Smearer and his men.
Building construction is not architecturally beautiful, but functional and assembled very quickly with whatever materials are available at the time. Hobgoblins have no music or specific dishes that are unique to them. They produce no visual arts, with the exception of their weapons, and they practice their own styles of combat which, though I am not an expert, appears to be fairly unique to them.
The hobgoblin, is by nature, an elitist, as well as an equal opportunist. They will just as willingly attack a human village as they will a cave system of humanoids. They will fight all comers and seek to annihilate them, not for land or property, but because they can. The one exception to this equal zeal for blood and carnage is the elf. Elves are definitely targets to hobgoblin aggression, and they actively seek these poor creatures out. Elven settlements will either fall, or the hobgoblin armies will willingly feed themselves to elven swords to the last brute.
They do have armies of both goblin, as well as orcs which they call “The Lesser Race”, these creatures are nothing to them and are always the first ones that they send in. It is not apparent to me if these orcs and goblins are simply slaves forced to fight or not? Of course goblins are always slaves, even to themselves, but I know very little of the orc at this point and cannot discover if they are part of hobgoblin armies of their own will or not.
RELIGION AND THE HOBGOBLIN
The hobgoblin shares their major god, Mag Pubiyet, with the lesser goblin races, but this is definitely a god of the hobgoblin, more so then of the pure-blooded goblins. Sacrifice to this god is constant, failure to slay something in Mag Pubiyet’s name is unacceptable and requires a blood offering from their own veins, often this slice is done with such gusto and force that the self inflicted gash proves to be fatal.
A god unique to the Hobgoblin is Nomog-Geaya, a terrible religion unlike any which I have been forced to bear witness to before. Nomog-Geaya is the lord of discipline, summoned to pass judgments upon hobgoblin offenders. His vile priests preach hobgoblin superiority to non-hobgoblin troops, they also officiate over the feedings which take place after a hobgoblin victory, an act that is so disgusting and horrifying that it is still evident in this murdered hamlet.
They do have a unique form of divination. They beat offenders and enemies past the point of coherence, then as the victim is gasping for breath, barely clinging to life, the priest records their utterances and words are listened for which will reveal to the priests their gods wishes. Even they, the priests of Nomog-Geaya, are not safe from such treatment! Priesthood is serious business, and failure to keep a solemn attitude is punishable by violence. In court, I once witnessed a junior priest simply smile at a hobgoblin girl, his brothers hauled him away immediately, taking him to one of the few remaining barns which they keep as their lair and beat him to death. Their reasoning was that he was not allowed to appear to be happy in public.
HOBGOBLIN FAMILY STRUCTURE
The hobgoblin is much more civil to their women, though an institute of marriage is not in place. The male impresses the female by acts of aggression and displays of grizzly totems earned in battle. After the mating takes place, the male typically moves on, and the woman must raise the child by herself until the child, if male, is old enough to join a school which resembles a junior military. Female children work in the mate homes and learn the skills required of being a proper mate. Female warriors are not common, but not unheard of either. Female hobgoblin warriors are not considered to be attractive, and many do enter the mating homes for other female attractions as well.
Female mating homes are, in essence, whore-houses. They offer rooms, drinks, and entertainment. Coin does pass palms, but the female’s goal is to become pregnant with a strong warrior male. Males of the clan pay tribute to their mothers, and considering that their mothers sell them into military slavery, they are very affectionate towards them.
The institutions of learning are terrible, bleak places. Punishment for the slightest error is common, as are brutal hazing by older students. The purpose of these institutions is to teach young hobgoblins the strict military discipline which the race is known for, survival in extreme environments, provide a basic education in math and other knowledge which they will use in their lives, and a daily practice in weapons as well as hand-to-hand combat. Weight-training is rather intense as well, but this could just be hobgoblin entertainment.
Once the hobgoblin has graduated his classes, a feat which requires 10 years, he is sent to a unit. Prior to engaging in war, he is turned into a man by allowing him to enter the mating house, he will have his pick of women, and in the morning, he is taken to his first battle, if he survives this and kills his enemy, he is washed in his enemies blood and may call himself a man.
This first war is rarely intense, but it is dangerous, as would-be men are typically slain by mistakes made by their own side. It isn’t known how old hobgoblins can become, in my position I have never once ran into another shaman. I think that it is fair to say, however, that the hobgoblin ages in exactly the same manner as the original goblin, about 50 years. Most hobgoblins in the armies are ages which runs the gambit of 14 to 25, with higher ranking officers usually in their 30’s. I have never met a hobgoblin older then 37.
I have noticed that the hobgoblin clerics possess no real powers, but I will admit that I have never watched them in battle. During rites, some degree of power is obtained from the blood sacrifices, but they appear to only possess limited amounts of magic at this time, and it is not clear to me which spheres of magical influence that they have access too.
While hobgoblins are taught basic math, they are not taught to read. They have no books, with the exception of goblin printed variety, which a few of the clerics can appear to read, but looking closer at the books, they appear to be mostly pictures.
Wizardry of any kind is evidently beyond them, much of this has to do with the fact that hobgoblins, are by nature, a heavily superstitious lot. Clerics may hide their magics, out of fear. Everything is an omen to these warrior peoples, the worst omen being a broken sword! I heard tale that a great commander was engaged in combat besides his men when his sword snapped, this battle ground to a halt quickly and the men which they were fighting quickly routed them while they just stood there in shock and in horror looking at this broken sword. Once the officer died, the ranks retreated and all of the soldiers refused to fight again until something changed for them, either they had a dream of a great hero, or obtained a blessing from a cleric.
I have also noticed the trend of hobgoblins carving symbols into their weapons, this may be some form of hobgoblin folk magic, believing that their instruments are enchanted in some way. I took a few opportunities to check for enchantments, however rarely did I discover any real power present.
Hobgoblins are a very sturdy lot, able to survive in the harshest environments. They hate each other equally, but show no true signs of bigotry towards their brethren. Of course violence does break out among the different tribes, a race as warlike as this is especially prone to such behavior, but more often then not it is simply name-calling and harassment. Rarely are any lives wasted in struggles amongst their own kind, unless a woman is involved, which is a human trait as well, so this isn’t worth commenting further on.
There are rumors of an underwater race of hobgoblin called “Koalinth”. These hobgoblins have developed gills, but other then this fact are exactly as mean and ill-tempered as the variety which I studied on land. Word has it that their hatred for elves was so strong that when it was discovered that they could be hunted in the sea, they immediately dived in and learned to breath water just to kill them there too.
HOBGOBLIN DAILY ROUTINES
These creatures are spiteful and mean. They will invade during the day if they believe that you are sleeping at that time. They are a mockery of human existence. Many of the storefronts which were present at the time of their invasion are now manned by hobgoblin craftsmen. The streets are filled with wares, and raids upon merchant carts are so common that they have formed their own guilds. Most of the other humanoids avoid this place, but a few venture inside for work and goods; if the hobgoblin suspects any form of disrespect on the part of the humanoid, they are butchered on the spot. Most visitors come in and get out as fast as they can! But to the hobgoblin, money is money.
I have seen hobgoblins form their own adventure parties and go out exploring, returning with ancient money and treasures. These creatures act much the same as any wealthy adventurer would, purchasing vast quantities of alcohol, spending the rest on food and women, refitting themselves and heading right back out to do it all over again.
Hobgoblin food is mostly eaten raw, and preferably still warm from the heart. Besides mass quantities of meat, they have their own bread, which I am told, was learned from giants which is coarse and tough, but doesn’t stale as fast. Hobgoblins avoid dairy of all kind, but enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables if they are available. Food is normally dried, or heavily salted, they won’t eat rancid meat, but fresh carrion is acceptable if nothing else is available. These creatures are, by nature nomads and travelers, and their tastes are simple and bland. Very little hobgoblin food has much flavor too it, and is usually hard. Fresh food is avoided, even their vegetables and fruits are not considered edible until they have been left soaking in a barrel of water for a day or two so that it softens up and the color can dull down some.
Vice is also prevalent here. Gambling halls, taverns, and drugs are common. Young hobgoblins love to come here, spend all of their money in the space of one night, and leave broke with nothing but a hangover to show for it. Hobgoblin drugs are typically stimulants which keep the user up for days, give one a sense of euphoria, or help build muscle bulk. Most of the drugs are simply snake-oil in nature with lots of promises but little or no medicinal value. Hallucinogens are strongly avoided.
I remember when I was a boy and for one reason or another, the city went into marshal law by the order of the king. Life was terrible, food was rationed, curfews were enforced and if you were caught breaking them, for a legitimate reason or not, you were locked in jail.
I stated that hobgoblin life was a mockery of our own, and in this case, it is even more so. Defense is constant, the place is ran like a barracks. Hobgoblins understand this, and it gives them comfort. Items are always checked, bags are dumped onto the streets and their contents examined, if the guard sees something that he likes then he simply calls it evidence and takes it. Bribery is a common occurrence, they will just grab you and threaten to throw you in jail unless you can give them a reason to let you go.
Taxes are plentiful. There is a tax to cross the bridge, a moat tax, entertainment tax, tax to bear arms, tax to bear a shield or wear armor, if they can think of a reason they’ll put a tax to anything. This is what this village is about, extorting money from all who use the road. Most people who can’t pay it are thrown into jail, quickly processed through a mock trial, and escorted out of town minus whatever possessions that you may have had. True criminals, these poor souls get entered into a new status, one of slavery and hard labor until your ending days.
Laws have been put in place to protect businesses and craftsmen. Also military interests as well. Many of the laws which we enforce are also enforced here, criminals and traitors are taken to the mines, there they must dig and work until released by a meaningless and filthy death. Besides the endless caravans of goods, and the never ending troops from tribes all over the Flanaess, another common sight are groups of male and female hobgoblins stripped of their clothing and shackled at the wrists and ankles. They march their way to the death tunnels.
This death is humiliating to all hobgoblins. The only true way to die with honor is to lose your life on the battlefield, to be forced to die in a stinking hole is to refuse them nirvana. These prisoners are already dead, there bodies just have a few years to catch up to them, that is all. While all other races are disciplined by execution, these death tunnels and mines are exceedingly crueler. In this case, they definitely do reserve their greatest horrors for themselves. The logic behind this belief is that other races didn’t know any better, but the hobgoblin, being the superior race didn’t have that luxury.
HOBGOBLINS AT WAR
War is truly the hobgoblin’s bread and butter. They are charged with never-ending strife and combat by god. To kill, butcher, and burn is there pleasure, and their skill at obtaining this is without peer.
Small battles are common, but when large scale warfare can be found, this is where the hobgoblin is most at home. Huge camps filled with blacksmiths, weaponsmiths, and makers of armor work around the clock. This race seems most at ease while deep in the trenches. Their dead are usually ignored, however great war heroes are usually burned on a pyre with much celebration.
Hobgoblins are not above mercenary work if the money is good, however they will use this money to finance more war. All money the hobgoblins earn will always end up purchasing fuel for war. It isn’t land, food, nor property that they fight for. Nor is it to right some wrong of the past. They don’t fight out of anger or fear. Nay, the only thing that they fight for is honor and glory! To prove dominance over all living creatures, large and small.
They will storm a castle simply because it is there, they may take it as their own, but more often then not they’ll keep moving on until they discover something else to destroy. Their tactics are cruel, they burn crops, poison water supplies, infect livestock, set fire to homes, and they kill indiscriminately. No living being is safe from them, they murder children, women, the elderly, and ignore the bodies which litter the streets here in this hobgoblin village.
Fighting men, these men are eaten, believing that their powers in war may be obtained by eating their flesh. Mighty men who slay many hobgoblins are always devoured. Their slayer takes the man’s heart, while the rest of the troops feast on the rest.
Totems are often made of the victims bodies. These are small bones which are hollowed out to make grizzly jewelry, ears, fingers, toes; anything which can be cut off and worn as decoration to impress the hobgoblin females who swoon over this disgusting display.
HOBGOBLINS OF THE REALM
Hob, in the goblin tongue means True or Absolute, thus they call themselves True Goblins, and this name has just stuck. While they are more barbaric in method, they do not possess fighters as skilled as the goblin race. An enigma which I witnessed was a highly dangerous goblin fighter arrive in town. He was as a slave to one of the visiting generals marching his hobgoblin troops to Bone March, they treated this goblin like a dog yet in combat, this dog could have killed all of them and more.
Goblin fighters seem to hold themselves differently, this goblin painted his face in some kind of war-mask, and his armor was decorated in feathers and bones like a hobgoblin, but he was definitely goblin.
While the hobgoblin is a threat to the world, they appear to me, to be nothing but glorified bullies. Despite their great size, they are mimics of mankind, yet absolute strangers to it, as all of their tradesmen are substandard at best. While among them I never once heard an original thought uttered, and I have come to the conclusion that this martial art which they display must also be stolen from some culture, else pieced together from many.
I believe that if it wasn’t for their great numbers, and their ability to work together as a team, that they wouldn’t be the threat that they are. They are suicidal in tactics, all of them wishing to die in battle, as this is the only way for them to achieve any real peace (or at least a hobgoblin version of it). None are truly gifted fighters, the hobgoblins who I was able to heal resented me for it. This leads to a more dangerous enemy then normal, on one hand these creatures are highly predictable, but on the other, they think in a way that is wholly insane, and makes no sense to the average intellect, but if a man can become an expert at this bizarre method of thinking, to be able to read it as if it made sense, then the hobgoblin will become truly predictable and easily defeated.
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