Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Old-time Orc Lair notes

I think my inspiration for this can pretty directly be traced to a White Dwarf article called The Naked Orc from WD53, from May 1984 (info here).

Other references are to the White Dwarf Personalities (rules in WD50, figures on Stuff of Legends here, a couple of mine here). I use the names 'Agaroth the Unwashed' for an Orc captain (with 6HD) and 'Ugbash Face-splitter' for a chief (with 7HD). Both of these names are from the White Dwarf Personalities set  (no matter that they spell it 'Ogbash' on SoL, I'm right, they're wrong). Agaroth is an Orc to the WD folks - or Half-Orc at least - but Ugbash is a Chaos Warrior so I'm not sticking to my sources.

They probably date this package pretty well. 1984 or early '85 at the latest I guess. Pretty certain that by late 1985, I'd have called an Orc-Chief 'Harboth'.

Lord of the Rings is also an obvious influence, both directly on me in the case of names and iconography, and also on the article.

So what does this great Orc lair consist of? 4½ pages of notes and 2 versions of the map, in short.

The first map, which I shall think of as the draft version, is on a sheet of plain paper (I don't know where from, this is long before printer-paper was a thing) and has a cave-system (obviously inspired by the Caves of Chaos) with rooms numbered up to 53 (probably 56 in fact, I've spotted that I've got 12,13,14 in different places, there's a 14a attached to one of them, and I've not found 21) divided between five groups of Orcs, these being the Orcs of the Black Bone, Slobbering Jaw, Eye, Moon and White Hand. Each of the first four groups has its own entrance (Black Bone has two, I can't find an entrance for the White Hand, who were I think intended to be a shamanic group inhabiting the innermost recesses of the caves), but the caves connect internally. It's a single level complex, and I've marked a lot of what I guess are doors 'L' which surely means 'Locked'.

The second version of the map is on graph paper that was probably stolen from a maths-book. There are now four 'clans', Black Bone, Slobbering Jaw, Eye and Moon. The whole map is entitled 'Tribe of the White Hand'. Again it's a single-level complex about 2,700' or half a mile across, but now there are 73+ rooms (numbering is also screwy on this map - there doesn't seem to be a '4' but there are two '6's, two '10's, three identical '13's next to each other, and a bunch of annexes marked A-F - all in all there must be closer to 90 rooms), but only one 'shared' room - the four cave-systems meet at a large square room which I think is intended as a kind of assembly-chamber, shrine or possibly some kind of fighting-pit, it's difficult to tell (and I can't remember). At a guess, this is about 6 months-a year later than the first draft. 

In both versions of the map, the majority of rooms and corridors are constructed, but there are a few intended to evoke natural caverns. Both times, I've started numbering with the Black Bone clan, The accompanying notes (that seem to have been composed just after the first draft of the map, there are crossings-out and corrections that indicate that they were composed to go with the draft map and corrected for the second map) all relate to the Black Bone clan. These notes include a Wandering Monster Table with 12 encounters; a tally of the Black Bone clan's strength in terms of numbers of males, females and young for each of The Naked Orc's types - Snaga (80, 150 and 330), Soldier Orcs (12, 30, 46) and Uruks (3, 1, 4); basic stats and details of equipment and treasure for the four Uruks (Ugbash, his mate Gargantua, and his two captains Agaroth and Zargob); a list with less detail (but still including names) of the 12 male and 10 of the female Soldier Orcs in the clan; and a list of 23 prisoners, which includes an NPC Magic User, who is fully-statted.

Then there are the room descriptions. These amount to rooms 1, 1a (a guard-post) and room 2. The description of room 3 has been started but only notes its size. So out of about 90 rooms, I managed to create three. I didn't even get anywhere near the 20-25 rooms (depending on which version of the map I was using) that I needed for the lair of the (Orcs of the) Black Bone (Clan). I do however know that Lagduf & Muzburg are on guard in Room 1, Zabron & Gargan in 1a.

The total population of the Orcs of the Black Bone Clan is 656. The fighting population is about 106 (I'd obviously intended some but not all of the females to fight). The implication of this being only one of the four clans is that the total population in the entire complex was intended to be about 2,500 and the total number of fighting orcs about 420 (about 1 in 6).

That's a truly vast population in my opinion. It implies an average of around 29 orcs per room, of which 4 or 5 will be fighters. It's also around four times bigger than what I consider to be the huge Orc population of Silvergate, as detailed here. Or, to put it another way, the Black Bone Orcs are about the same size of population as my Silvergate Orc-lair (656 v 640, 109 v 160 in fighting strength). So I'm going to tweak this info a little and use it for my Silvergate Orc population. I'll add the 38 adult (including some with clerical skills) and 15 young Orcs from the descriptions for my original Dwarf-city megadungeon (mentioned here) and roll the two together. Then I need to drop two Trolls into the mix and voil√†, I have my Orc-lair.

Given that I was wondering in this post about the use of bone (and other substances) as an alternative for scarce wood and metal, the fact that long ago I called these the 'Black Bone' Orcs is a serendipitous co-incidence. Maybe, the tribe's totemic item is a huge black bone of a dragon or some other underworld denizen, kept in a cave at the centre of their settlement, or some such. It is little more than a bit of flavour, but perhaps I can run with this theme and have them wielding 'black bone' weapons or utilising (black) bone armour. I wouldn't want these guys to just be another vanilla population of Orcs to be slaughtered. Something to make them stand out, even a little, would be good. After all, they've been with me (even if largely forgotten) for nearly 33 years!

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