Orc Culture

(Taken from the WoW: RPG - Horde Player's Guide, here's some useful information about orc culture from 'accounts taken by Brann Bronzebeard.')

Even though the orcs no longer behave like brutal savages, they have not abandoned the martial spirit that consumed their souls for the past centuries. The way of the orc requires discipline and courage. Orcs are such physically powerful creatures that if they were incapable of controlling their rages, they'd kill each other over minor insults. To avoid unnecessary death and bloodshed, long ago the orcs developed a rigid and sophisticated code of honor.

Politically, the orcs have been in transition over the last decade, as they move from a clan structure to a more traditional monarchist structure. Led by the young and charismatic Thrall and freed from the effects of the demon bloodthirst, the orcs of Kalimdor find themselves increasingly drawn away from their old tribal structures to establish themselves as citizens of the great orc nation.

In the old days, orcs were a patriarchal society; men were men and women "knew their place." Thanks to the policies of Thrall, however, women have much greater freedom in orc society. Orc women are free to take the same tests as men, to pursue careers as shaman and warriors, and gain as much honor in society as men.

One area in which orcs might be seen as backwards is in their treatment of peons. The poor wretches! Orcs who fail to pass the tests of a warrior or shaman (or who have no desire to pass the test) often become peons. Peons are the lowest of the low in orc society. While they're not technically slaves, they effectively fill that role (as peasants do in the Alliance). The lot of peons is so low that one of the tests of a new warrior is to sneak into the fields and use blackjacks to wake peons who are sleeping on the job!

Warriors occupy the highest strata of orc society. All young men and women who pass the test of strong flesh are expected to receive some training knocking each other's heads, and training among the battle masters of Orgrimmar is considered among the highest honors that a warrior can obtain. They do not fight for the pleasure of others, or even for the joy of the kill. For orcs, skilled combat is sport, much like wrestling or running on the village commons serves human children, or mine racing for dwarves. It is also, I fear, a part of Thrall's personality cult; because the great orc was a gladiator in his youth, young orcs are expected to emulate him, almost without question.

Because orcs value honor, challenges are commonplace. These are rarely duels; rather, they take the forms of physical challenges that tasks each orc with something other than personal combat. Some are tests of skill (climbing a particular mountain and retrieving a treasure from its peak), some are tests of endurance (lasting in a desert in the height of summer), and some are tests of ferocity (forcing a wild beast to withdraw from a confrontation without striking a blow). When a young orc wishes to prove himself to an established warrior, it's expected that the orc will be put through a series of grueling tests. Sometimes orcs apply these tests to members of other races who wish to prove themselves, even humans and dwarves. I suppose being treated like an orc is intended as a sign of respect.

Aside from warriors, the other honored group is the shaman, who are masters of the spirit just as warriors are masters of the body. The shaman is the explorer of the elements, which are essential to the orc religion as the Light is to humans. Shaman are both masters and slaves of the natural world. Some of the greatest orc shaman train as far seers. Those who show great aptitude train and even live among the spirits in the Valley of Spirits, the spiritual heart of Orgrimmar. As Thrall combines both martial prowess and shamanism, he exemplifies the current orc mindset.

Arcanists such as magi still hold some power in orc society; they are not loved, but they are useful, so they are tolerated. This does not, however, apply to warlocks. Because of their links to the Burning Legion, warlock strongholds are razed when they are found, and warlocks are forced to operate in secret in Durotar. However, beyond Thrall's reach, orc clans still embrace the hateful little invokers as warmly as a fire imp kissing the embers of a burnt-out building. I've heard some say that a new generation of warlocks is secretly gathering in Durotar to use their craft to protect the realm from demonic forces. (If these reports be true, that lot ought to talk with the blood elves. As one observer commented: "Most of Azeroth's problems stem from the fact that the elves couldn't hold their magic.")

For orc warriors and shaman, life is a series of trials. In Durotar, young warriors and barbarians who graduate from the pits are sent into the Valley of Trials, a hunting ground that's expected to prepare them for battle. Here they hunt (relatively weak) prey and hone their skills. Likewise, shaman and priests are expected to travel out into the plains and commune with spirits, learning to heed the spirits' voices. From the tauren, orcs have adopted sweat lodges and other practices designed to test the body and bring it closer to the elements. (A few grumble that tauren religious practices have become so commonplace in Durotar that they've effectively been conquered again. But such grumblings are, at least for now, muted).

Orcs expected trials of themselves and their compatriots, and orcs love to boast of their accomplishments. One thing they also expect of each other is humility; just as Thrall paid homage to great predecessors like Doomhammer and Grom Hellscream, every orc is expected to revere his immediate elders. Shrines and memorials to ancestors are commonplace; and many orcs make pilgrimages to the memorials of great orcs, especially to the memorial of Grom Hellscream in Ashenvale, which is an important part of the orc autumn harvest festival.

Battlefield remembrances are also important observances. Orcs share many of the common observances of humans, including coming of age, marriage and funeral ceremonies. Orcs prefer to burn their dead.

As orc religion revolves around the elements and nature, the equinox and solstice festivals are important. And yes, orcs have the Winter Veil festival too, and orc children wait on (a green-skinned) Grandfather Winter just as eagerly as dwarven and human children do. In fact, if there's anything that gives me hope that one day the Alliance and Horde will one day set aside their differences and unite for the good of Azeroth, it's in their mutual affinity for a kindly old man who loves to hand sweets to children.

Orc Sayings:
"By Mannoroth's blood!"
"Fear is for the enemy."
"Weakness brings only death."
"Steel and thunder before meat and slumber!"
"War first - ask questions after humans are dead."
"Bloodthirst is the only thirst."

Orc Culture...
  • is concerned with survival over artistic achievement.
  • reveres its elderly and honors its ancestors.
  • does not apologize for past actions, nor does it demand apologies from its enemies.
  • values valor over cunning - as long as valor doesn't lead to disaster.
  • resembles primitive human societies, but is far more sophisticated when examined closely.
  • distrusts arcane magic, especially the magic of warlocks - but does not (yet) shun arcanists.

Since the beginning of the First War, orcs have interbred with a number of species: mostly humans, but half-ogres and half-draenei are not unheard of.For the most part, half-orcs live in Theramore or Orgrimmar, and attempt to coexist with their parent races. There, half-orcs are under suspicion at the best of times, and viewed as possible traitors at the worst. They fearlessly pursue chances for advancement (be it jobs in Theramore, or opportunities to take the tests in Orgrimmar); their courage and ferocity has won them respect in some quarters, but it's also made them many enemies. Half-elves, despite the potential for rivalry, are sympathetic to their cause. On the Horde side, most tauren are bewildered over why anyone would hate half-orcs, and do not hesitate to teach or befriend them. Goblins admire their willingness to take risks and often find employment for them, particularly in Ratchet.There are many instances where a half-orc's desire for acceptance has led her to take suicidal risks; in professions from mining to shipbuilding to herding, when things look dangerous "send in the half-orc" and "we're gonna need another half-orc" are common refrains. Young half-orcs can be easily manipulated into proving their courage in foolish dares or challenges. Sometimes this produces interesting results: The half-orc twins who mooned Thrall during a procession at the summer festival in Orgrimmar were ordered to repeat the act at the winter festival; when they did so (in freezing weather), the amused Thrall inducted them into his guard.

The way of the half-orc is generally unfair, unkind and unwelcome; nonetheless, where there's struggle, there's hope. Half-orcs are more welcome in the Horde than in the Alliance; the tauren are remarkably welcoming, and, as the orcs change their fundamental beliefs, they reinvent their views of half-orcs. Jungle trolls and Forsaken are apathetic about half-orcs, which is a far sight better than the distrust they see in Alliance lands.
Half-orcs can belong to any profession; however, they're most often suited to the roles of barbarian or warrior. With their great strength and quick tempers, it's a natural fit. Half-orcs are also skilled animal wranglers - beasts view half-orcs as just another loud, foul-stinking two-legged creature, like orcs and humans - and many young half-orcs demonstrate considerable skill as beastmasters.

An Orc Tale (Also from the WoW RPG Horde Player's Guide)
"Zug zug," the peon said, and he began to hoist the catapult and put it into place. Doomhammer smiled and returned to his inspection.
"Lazy pushdug," Narg Snarl said, coming to the general's side. "Why do we tolerate the little chillbloods?"
"Captain Snarl, would you like to set up our catapults without them?" Snarl chuckled, but Doomhammer backhanded the officer with such force that he fell to the ground, stunned.
"Captain Snarl, I order you to perform the tasks of a peon for one day, starting this very minute!" Doomhammer shouted.
"But Doomhammer, if the Alliance attacks....." Doomhammer raised his hammer. "Yes, my lord, at once!"

Captain Snarl slunk away and reported to the peonmaster, informing him of Doomhammer's command. Suddenly every peon within earshot broke into fits of hysterical laughter. Snarl was furious. "I am still a captain, and when I am restored to rank there will be bloody retribution!"
The peonmaster caught Snarl with a quick lash to his unprotected neck that made him yelp. "Peons must learn their place!"  He ordered the peons to grab him, forcibly remove the captain's armor and hold him to the ground; he allowed each peon Snarl had threatened a chance to kick him in the ribs.

Six hours later, Doomhammer came upon his captain, sweating and shaking in the mire, propped up with his back against a tree.
"The pits. They made me clean the pits," Snarl muttered in a mad voice.
Doomhammer turned to the peonmaster.  "Has peon Snarl performed his duties to your satisfaction?"
"No general!  He could not assemble a catapult, he broke the porter line's rhythm when he stumbled carrying shot, he was slow with his pickaxe at the quarry and only cleaned two of the pits before he refused to do any more work.  And he still refuses to answer my orders with the words 'zug zug'!"

"Lazy pushdug," Doomhammer spat.  "Flay him to your satisfaction!"
It was the last time any of Doomhammer's captains ever openly insulted his peons.

[World of Warcraft: Horde Player's Guide Copyright 2006, Blizzard Entertainment]

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