Saturday, March 12, 2011

Meditating on Orcs

In response to James' call to create a buzz about orcs across the old school blogosphere, let me begin with my absolute favorite depiction of "orcs" in print or film:

Yep, those are the "goons" from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. I don't know what it is, but whenever I watch this classic with my kids, every time I see these guys run across the screen, I am transported back to my very first experiences with D&D and my attempts at making heads or tails out of the Holmes edition. In short, these guys make me want to play. I can't say that about pig-faced orcs, green-faced orks that cry "Waaagh!" or (especially) Pete Jackson's full body-suit orcs.

The inspiring thing about the Sleeping Beauty orcs is their deliciously deviant diversity. Yes, the guys are kinda cute, but there is a dangerousness about them that I just can't get enough of.

In terms of D&D, my own version of orcs are distinct from the goblinoid races and are a byproduct of a world where magic interacts with sin. There are several ways that orcs can be produced:
  • They can be manufactured by either evil magic-users, powerful half-orc champions or any other number of likely candidates for general of an orc army.
  • There is an evil that wanders across my world called the Blight Demon. It feeds off of negative emotions — anger, greed, gluttony, etc. One of the byproducts of a "feeding" is the creation of Blight Spawn. These include such oddities as owlbears, perytons and orcs. The Blight Demon allows the sin of its victims to become physically manifest. This is one of the reasons for the wide diversity among orcs.
  • Finally, through repeated debauchery and heinous behavior, people can slowly transform over time into orcs.
In other words, these are true monsters.


  1. I like that 3rd way to create an Orc. :)

  2. @Stuart
    Me too. It has a number of really interesting implications. For example, does this mean that a half-orc character can eventually go the other direction and become fully human? I haven't had anybody take up the challenge yet, but it sure would be fun to find out.

  3. "...but whenever I watch this classic with my kids..."

    Um, how many kids do you have?

    By the way...this is a fantastic version of orcs!
    : )

  4. @JB Three. (Thank you, St. Paphnutius!)

  5. We just watched this movie for the first time tonight. :)

  6. Eastern Orthodox? Just curious.