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Orcs are a race of humanoids that have been a threat to the civilized cultures of Toril, particularly Faerûn for as long as any can remember. This changed somewhat in the years preceding and immediately after the Spellplague, when a horde of mountain orcs under the command of King Obould Many-Arrows unified into a single kingdom, one that is remarkably civilized.
Orcs vary in appearance, based on region and subrace, but all share certain physical qualities. Orcs of all kinds usually have grayish skin, coarse hair, stooped postures, low foreheads, large muscular bodies, and porcine faces that feature lower canines that resemble boar tusks. Many also have wolf-like ears that are pointed on the ends, similar to elves. Orcs are roughly the same size as humans.
Orcs have poor temperaments and are given to anger more easily than some races. Easily offended and impatient, orcs generally prefer violent solutions and rarely consider multiple ways of approaching a problem. However, in spite of this many orcs are excellent at getting results, since they are creatures of action, not thought. Some exceptions to this profile do exist, however, such as the famed King Obould whose deeds were accomplished through planning and insight.
Traditional orcish culture is extremely warlike and when not at war the race is usually planning for it. Most orcs approach life with the belief that to survive, one must subjugate potential enemies and control as much resources as possible, which puts them naturally at odds with other races as well as themselves. This belief is spurred in part by Gruumsh and his pantheon, which teaches that all races are inferior to the orcs. Eyes of Gruumsh are orcs specially tied to the one-eyed god and offer sacrifices, read omens, and advise tribes through Gruumsh's will.
Male orcs dominate most orcish societies and females are usually, at best, prized possessions and little better than livestock at worst. Male orcs pride themselves on their number of wives and sons, as well as their scars from battle and rituals. Orcs also prize the possession of slaves, though relatively few own them.
Most orcs don't build cities of their own, instead relying on those left behind by others and improving their fortifications or operating out of small camps and dens, often in natural caves. Orcs can manage ironwork on their own, as well as stonework, though their tools are often inferior to those of more disciplined races.
Most orcs are part of a confederation of tribes, loosely held together by a despotic chieftain. Bands within these alliances might wander far from their homelands, but continue to greet those orcs who belong to the same tribal network as kin. Orc bloodragers are champions of their tribe, who use primal strength and ferocity to overcome their enemies. Most are bodyguards or lower-ranking chiefs within the tribal structure. Another common orc diety is the Cave Mother, Luthic.
No one knows from where orcs originally came, though they appear to be non-native to either Abeir or Toril. The first legends of orcs tell of the wars between their primary god Gruumsh and Corellon Larethian, the creator of the elves and eladrin. The latter two races tell of how Corellon defeated Gruumsh and took his eye; though many orcs deny this charge, they acknowledge Gruumsh as the one-eyed god.
However, in spite of this early conflict, orcs did not appear en masse until long after this. During the Days of Thunder when Abeir-Toril was yet united the first orcs were brought over to the world by the creator races, who built a portal in the Spine of the World mountain range that opened up to the home plane of the orcs. Through this portal the ancestors of the mountain orcs poured through and gradually migrated southwards.
Later, the Imaskari repeated the mistake of the creator races, opening up another portal through which the gray orcs, a variant subrace, appeared. This led to the Orcgate Wars during which Gruumsh and his allies slew most of the Untheric pantheon. Eventually the portal was closed, though the new breed of orcs remained behind.
For millennia orcs have plagued civilizations as raiders and pillaging hordes but more recently a confederacy of orc tribes united under the banner of King Obould Many-Arrows, a chosen of Gruumsh, forged a more civilized nation known as the Kingdom of Many-Arrows, located along the northern borders of Luruar. In spite of tensions between the orcs of Many-Arrows and other nations, the kingdom has not waged war against its neighbors for decades and by all appearances seems interested in peace.
Orcs can be found in many parts of Toril, though some areas have a higher concentration than others. Marauding bands of mountain orcs are most commonly found in mountain ranges in the northern parts of the world, particularly around Faerûn. Gray orcs are commonly found to the east, near the portal from which they emerged in High Imaskar. The orcs in the Sword Mountains were responsible for several conflicts with Waterdeep, including the Orcfastings War, and an onslaught caused by the Black Claw. They were also at least partially responsible for the Trollwars.
However, of all the orcish homelands, Many-Arrows probably stands out the most as the only civilized orc nation built along the same lines as its human and elven neighbors.
Kingdom of Many-ArrowsEdit
A subset of orcs belonging to a state first formed a century ago by the legendary Obould Many-Arrows differ from the majority of their kin in cultural attitudes. While most orcs are warlike and savage the orcs of Many-Arrows, ruled over by King Obould XVII, are remarkably civilized, to a point that has made their neighbors curious. These orcs maintain a tenuous peace with the dwarves of Mithral Hall and the other races in Luruar, though many suspect war could break out at any moment should the delicate balance between the races be upset. It is from this region that the most unusual kind of orc sometimes emerges - heroes.
The most common orc subrace, as well as the first historically accounted for, mountain orcs can be found throughout most of Faerûn, which they travel through along mountain ranges descended from the Spine of the World in the far north.
A less bestial and more civilized subrace of orcs brought to Faerûn during the Orcgate Wars through one of many Imaskari portals.
A breed of orcs descended from mountain orcs who live mostly in the Underdark, though in recent years they have been returning to the surface in large numbers and taking over Mountain orc tribes, using their abilities to bully their 'lessers' and plan raids.
The result of orcs breeding with ogres.
A pacifist cousin of the orc with a fey nature.
Magical hybrids of gray orcs, orogs and other creatures. Generally split into two groups, black (trained as scouts) and red (trained as elite shock troops)
The result of mountain orcs breeding with quaggoths.