Posted by: Sean | November 10, 2008

Theme Week Orc: The Orc Play File

No long preamble on this one. My logic was simple: Orcs base their judgements of people based upon the classic orcish war cry: “Strength and honor!” In many ways, it’s no coincidence that Thrall has become the greatest force for peace on Azeroth; they’re an army uniquely suited to admiring their enemies.

The Horde

Blood Elves: While the orcs are grateful to have the blood elves as allies, it has to be said that they don’t trust them as far as they can rip the skull out of one of the spindly little bastards and throw it. And if they knew more of their history, they’d dislike them even more. And yet… while the average orc continues to see little in them, there is a group of orcs hoping for better.

The sticking point was M’uru. To the orcs, the capture of M’uru and the siphoning of energy from him was proof that the Sin’dorei didn’t have strength. After all, they needed to steal it. Without strength, there is no honour. While they respected the blood elves’s magical power, the orcs have never had much time for magic. They don’t even have any warriors! How can they be any good? That they openly allowed warlocks in their society sealed the deal; many orcs probably have spent a lot of time arguing for throwing the blood elves straight back out of the horde again.

But cooler heads among the orcs note the parallel; the Sin’dorei are much like the orcs used to be: Under a blood curse. And now, of course, the curse has lifted. These orcs probably have very high standards for the blood elves; the orcs swiftly went from demonic terrors to proud warriors when their curse was lifted. These orcs will be disappointed if similar efforts are not made by the blood elves. Sadly, it has yet to be seen that the blood elves have their Thrall. (Unless Thrall becomes their Thrall, and I wouldn’t put it past him.)

“You’re being unkind, brother. The elves have had a hard lot dealt to them. But there’s a new hand now. Give them a year. If they have not become loyal brothers in a year, then I will join your howls of protest.”

Tauren: Ah, the tauren! The only race native to the lands most of the orcs call home, the tauren are so close to the orcish ideal that if they didn’t exist, the orcs would have invented them for their stories. Massive, proud creatures who are mighty in battle, plain and honest in speech; holding to a shamanic tradition with startling parallels to that of their own kind… it’s no wonder the two races got along so swiftly, nor is it mere history that keeps the bond between them so strong. This is pure speculation, but I think it seems likely that Cairne Bloodhoof is Thrall’s most trusted advisor. And that’s a sentiment that goes all the way down the ranks.

It’s not that the tauren are thought of as ‘honorary orcs’ in the way that humans see dwarves as short humans, or dwarves see gnomes as somewhat odd dwarves. The tauren have their own traditions, architecture, and way of life. Orcs see them as fundamentally different to themselves. But they do not see this as a problem – They agree on all the important points, and as such, the orcs and tauren may just have the most solid alliance of any two races in the game.

“Tell a tauren the truth, he will tell you truth in turn. Defend one, he will defend you in turn. Betray one, and it is us who will punish you in turn.”

Trolls: But where does this leave the trolls? They have a history with the orcs going back further than that of the tauren; indeed, the tauren alliance is young. The trolls have stood by the orcs and fought wars with them, they have shown considerable strength, so why is it that the tauren have swept into the favour they once had?Two words: Voodoo.

Like it or not, the orcs can’t seem to stamp the old practices out of the trolls. Voodoo continues to this day, and as such, orcs wonder if darker (and thus better hidden) practices like cannibalism continue as well. The trolls say no. Not all orcs believe them.

Really, I’m over-stating. Trolls live among orcs, they eat the same food and drink the same water. No race is as integrated with orcs as trolls, which goes a long way to earning trust. But to many orcs, there are two kinds of troll. There are trolls who are like orcs. The trolls are, for all intents and purposes, orcs like them. There’s no real difference. And then there are trolls like trolls. Both kinds are allies, but only the former are friends.

“You should trust him. He’s no hoogoo-man, or whatever they call themselves. He’s good troll. He walks with fire and earth, not … hoogoo… things. Look, he’s good troll.”

Undead: There’s not a single damn orc alive who trusts the undead, but there are a few who trust an undead. This is about how the state of affairs between orcs and the Forsaken stand.

Orcs actually have a lot of respect for the undead. Their warriors are absolutely fearless (when you don’t have adrenaline any more, it’s easy to not be scared) and not one orc will argue that fighting an undead warrior is an easy task; you can literally hack limbs off them and they’ll keep on coming at you. That they admit warlocks into their ranks is a sharp mark against them, of course, a very sharp mark against them. But in some ways, expectations were low. The fact that they had any promise at all impressed a lot of orcs.

However, they fail miserably on the honour half of the equation. They’re deceitful, sneaky bastards; and even the forsaken aren’t much interested in denying this. Most of the forsaken quite frankly admit they aren’t very frank, honestly note their honesty is suspect. Rumours of the Apothecary Society have leaked, as well. Most orcs don’t know what they’re up to, but they know it exists.

But the orcs aren’t believers in racial honour. They believe in personal honour. And an individual forsaken may well have true honour. And an individual orc may come to see that there is a peculiar honour in the Forsaken’s admission of treachery; they’re openly stating the terms of the relationship. That’s not as good as being a true friend, but it’s better than being a pretend one. The interesting thing is that Travis tells me later quests I’ve not yet seen in the game make it pretty clear that Thrall trusts Sylvanas completely. I don’t doubt him. But that doesn’t mean Thrall trusts the Forsaken as a whole, and I suspect he doesn’t. Many other orcs are in similar positions.

“Pay very close attention to an undead’s words. You’ll learn more from what he doesn’t say than what he does.”

The Alliance

Draenei: Close to thirty years ago. the draenei were the first victims of the blood curse; slaughtered almost to a man by the rising Old Horde. It’s long enough for it to have become a dividing issue within the orcish horde. Most orcs take a middle line; arguing that the Burning Legion deserves the full blame for the draenei’s death. They hold no great animosity toward the draenei but also feel no particular guilt. Others, a mixture of younger orcs who look at the events with fresh eyes and elder orcs who question the inevitability of the events, may argue that the orcs need to accept more of the blame – Their claws remain stained with blood. These orcs may well be inclined to not attack a draenei unless they’re forced to. Why kill more of them? Finally, there may a backlash against this: Orcs who argue that not only should the orcs not be blamed, but the draenei’s defeat merely proves the draenei’s weakness. These ones may target them first, to prove it wasn’t their fault. After all, if an orc can kill a draenei without any demonic strength, it merely proves the draenei weren’t fit to survive.

(Note: As always, speculation. These are not formal groups but rather role-playing possibilities.)

“We meet on a new world, blue-skin! This time my skin is green, and the only red will be the flames as we burn!”

Dwarves & Gnomes: To the orcs, the gnomes and dwarves are interchangeable. Both are short, found where humans are, and act to build machines of war. For this, your average orc spits at them. They do not know the legendary dwarvish honour, if they did, they’d be more interested. But instead, all they see are short people hiding behind machines, hurling bombs, and flying in weird devices. This is power, but not strength. Your average orc is going to attack a gnome or dwarf as swiftly as possible; who knows what weird device he’ll pull out if he gets the chance?

“Oh, look. What device is this, little dog? That’s right, dog; lapdog of the humans. Tell me why it’s flashing. Tell me why it’s beeping! Tell me why it’s get.. getting hot. Troops, run! Leave the device with the dog!”

Humans: Ah, the humans. The first race the orcs fought on Azeroth.. and their first defeat. And their second. (They had a victory in between, of course.) Oddly enough? This has caused a strange relationship with the orcs and humans. While some orcs will still harbour bitter resentment over their slavery, particularly those who suffered most under it, most orcs acknowledge that the humans won. Few orcs will ever question the humans strength – Though individually weak, the humans are strong as a whole, and the orcs admire this.

The question is honour, and here, orcs are divided. Those who have dealt with Jaina Proudmore and her men, and that’s not an inconsiderable number given her place in Kalimdor politics, are likely to see humans as basically honourable. They acknowledge the failings of others as not representative of them as a whole. These orcs see the conflict with pride; the humans are a worthy foe, and to die fighting a human is the second greatest honour an orc can see. (Killing them would be the first.) Others who have not will instead see them as basically treacherous, and instead fear the humans as a force to be exterminated. These orcs likely advocate a return to open warfare; Thrall is particularly devoted to bringing this group in line. Oddly enough, the best way to do this is to let them fight Jaina’s forces, and let them see the truth.

“What? A single human? This is all that they send to me? Pah! … ah, wait! Here come two more. Now, finally we have a battle!”

Night Elves: The Kal’dorei, by contrast, are a tricky lot. They fight from shadows, strike hard and vanish, and disfavour a straight up fight. None the less, they’ve given the orcs headaches, which few of them would deny. In the end, though, this ends up probably just angering them more. The humans these days are mostly based in Stormwind, a continent away from most orcs. The night elves are right up on their doorstep. The orcs are seeing their dead come in from these women, and that’s likely to upset them. Given more distance, the orcs may someday see the night elves as they see the humans. But that time is not now.

“For every elf you see, there are four you don’t. Plan accordingly.”

Viewing the Classes

Death Knight: Fools, one and all. How have these orcs not learned the lesson of the blood curse; strength gained by enslaving yourself to another is no strength at all. Orcs are likely to view the Death Knights with more fear than contempt.
Druid: Orcs, like most species, are pretty awed by the druids. The ability to turn into an animal is simply incredible, no matter who you are. However, you have to wonder how many orcs are a little distrustful of them. One of the odder elements of the orcs is that they’re a surprisingly religiously intolerant bunch; the only religion they truly trust is shamanism. As we’ve said previously, druids are an exclusive, secretive religious order. The orcs natural trust for the tauren probably masks their distrust of the druids… for now.
Hunter: Hunting is a classic way of life for the orcs. They were a hunting race on Draenor, and they remain one on Azeroth. There’s not a lot that orcs won’t do with hunting; while it’s a very practical thing for them (it gets them food) they have unending respect for the ‘big game’ hunter, provided it’s truly big game. They aren’t interested in over-powered shows of dominance against smaller creatures, and they have no use for ‘keeping the balance’ arguments the elves favour, but otherwise, what can’t a hunter do?
Mages: The orcs don’t see magic as a crime, they just don’t see it as natural. And that’s a huge difference. Magic doesn’t fit the orcish mind; under it all they’re a pretty practical race. An axe in someone’s face is as good as a fireball to their mind, and quicker. That said, they know the trolls practice the arcane arts and don’t much mind. They hold no reverence for magic, but may do for a strong magician. Despite it all, a mage’s strength comes from his own will and might. That’s enough reason for the orcs to respect a mage.
Paladin: Bah! There was once a time when the orcs feared the paladins; they were mysteriously powerful knights and warriors that the humans and dwarves used to obliterate their numbers. Now, though, they’ve seen the blood elves do it, and have seen them siphon power off a strange ancient creature. That’s not your strength. That’s stolen strength. If the humans and dwarves are similar, then they’ve been frightened of them for no reason.
Priest: A priest isn’t a warlock. But the difference is in degrees rather than type. Both give themselves in service to a lord they cannot trust. As such, they themselves are not trustworthy.
Rogue: Most orcish rogues are part (either by birth or adoption) of The Shattered Hand clan. Of all the roguish groups in the game, if you want to play an authentic assassin, these are your guys. Their contacts are insane, they’re stealthy killers and frankly, the whole group feels like they could be operating with the assistance of mind-altering chemicals. However, remember that these are not another “secret police” group. They operate on the orcs’ enemies, not their people.
Shaman: Shamans are the guides and keepers of the orcish people, and it’s a post of tremendous respect. Their version of shamanism is highly energetic and ferocious, dominated by athletic wardance and dominating calls to the spirits. When they lead the orcs in worship, it is a terrifying but energising experience that ends with warriors ready for anything. Your average orcish shaman is intense, maybe a little wild, but wise.
Warlocks: Dangerous fools and wastrels, to be slaughtered on sight. Those orcs who are warlocks are, pretty much exclusively, involved in conspiracy and are probably linked to the Burning Blade clan. I cannot stress this enough; to role-play an orc warlock well, you need a cover identity. Wear pants instead of robes when walking around, claim a profession that plausibly excuses you and never, ever have your demon out in public. You are a wolf hidden among the sheep, a servant of the dark lords. You will be killed if you are found out. Hide, wait, and plan.
Warrior: Lok-tar ogar! The warriors are the backbone of orcish society. To the orcs, while the shamans are revered, to be a warrior is expected. Whenever an orcish son (and these days, hell, maybe daughters too) is born, their mother sees a warrior waiting to become. Shamans place blessings of strength on them before they can walk. You have grown up from the moment you could understand a word to understand that true honour is won in battle. Orcish warriors are thus confident, determined, and above all comfortable in a fight.


  1. Another good one! 🙂

    One thing though, on dwarves & gnomes. To me, that entry seemed more like an entry that be for the gnomes only. Because while the orcs may not know much of dwarven honor, they must respect them quite a bit as warriors. Because in many respects, both share the same respect for strength and honor. And of all the races of the Alliance, (except for humans of course) the orcs see it as an honor to die at the hands of a dwarf as well to kill them; like with the humans as you said.

    Course the level of honor be less than it is for humans overall, but dwarves definitely come in a close second to that position. Hell, some orcs might even find it more honorable to fight a dwarf, due to them not being as religious or about magic as humans are. And more about their own physical prowess as the orcs are; crazy gadgets withstanding.

    And will the dwarves & gnomes be the horde races play file equivalent to how the orcs & trolls were lumped together in the Alliance races play files? As it seems, it might go in that direction…

  2. OK, here’s the logic on gnomes & dwarves, and orcs & trolls.

    These two are what I call ‘integrated races’. They share a starting zone, a hell of a lot of culture and history. The upshot is that they’re heavily linked, and that this should make them very difficult to tell apart to those unfamiliar with them. Ergo, gnomes and dwarves kind of merge into a surface image. What’s that image to the orcs? Dwarven artillery. Gnomish death rays. They’re both defined by technology.

    The same goes the other way. Trolls and orcs both blend to become the ugly, tusky shaman races.

    Now, this isn’t always true. I believe I had the blood elves distinguish the two, for instance, because as former Alliance members they knew that there was a difference. But it isn’t JUST to save space that I lump them in together.

    (It’s also to save space. C’mon, it’s 2500 words as is!)

  3. I understood the lumping together of those races, for the very reasons you just gave. But I just think, the orcs think more highly of the dwarves due to their similar views on the value of strength & honor.

  4. Well, that’s fair. I think that orcs are more likely to think of dwarves in the light of those strange machines they’ve built than in personal combat, is all.

    It is a contestable point, I admit.

  5. While orcs are not likely to trust a warlock, Thrall has allowed them to practice openly within the Cleft of Shadow. Now, that doesn’t mean a warlock can walk around with a demon anywhere he/she pleases, but it does mean they don’t need to hide their true nature within Orgrimmar in order to survive. While Neeru Fireblade is a traitor, it isn’t a given the class trainers are.

    That being said, deception is a skill a lot of warlocks tend to pick up, and it stands to reason many would hide their nature in order to avoid being ostracized when attempting to conduct business.

  6. Orcish warlocks are a kind of “necessary evil” in the days of the New Horde.

    They have their uses, but are kept on a short leash – why else would they be only allowed practice within the Cleft, where Thrall’s soldiers could keep close eye on them?

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