Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Ogres

Everything's Better with Christopher Walken
An old saw states that "Men are the most frightening of all monsters." In the case of ogres, that's literally true.

Though most people think of ogres merely as hulking brutes, few realize -- or are willing to admit -- that these foul creatures are in fact the Chaos-tainted spawn of mankind. There are lots of legends and folk tales to explain the origin of ogres, just as there are competing scholarly theories about the same. Despite their differences, all such explanations agree on one thing: ogres were first born of Men and continue to do so, sometimes strenuous efforts to prevent this notwithstanding.

At birth, ogres look like normal, albeit slightly large, human babies. However, they mature at a prodigious rate, reaching the height of an adult Man by age five or six, a growth that continues for years more, with fully-grown ogres typically standing between 7 and 10 feet tall. As they mature, ogres lose their human-like teeth and acquire a set of razor-sharp replacements intended to aid them in their wholly carnivorous diet. At the same time, most ogres also grow in both strength and girth, becoming monstrous beings most people associate with the term "ogre."

Almost from birth, ogres display an evil cunning geared toward self-preservation. Many ogres will slay and consume their human parents within a couple of years of their birth, lest their true nature be discovered. These "orphan" ogres then escape to the wilds, where they may encounter others of their kind or lead a solitary existence, preying on weaker creatures in the vicinity.

About 1 in 50 ogres is an ogre mage, gifted from birth with sorcerous powers and, if anything, an even more evil cunning than other ogres. These ogres grow quickly but never achieve a size greater than that of ordinary Men. And though they are possessed of razor-sharp teeth -- and appetites to go with them -- they can use their native ability to polymorph self to hide their true appearance from their parents and anyone else who might grow too curious about these fast-maturing children. Ogre magi thus often remain ensconced in human society, acting in secret. Others seek out their "normal" brethren and rule over them as kings.

Ogres breed true, but the offspring of such unions are always ogres, even if both parents are ogre magi. New ogre magi come only from Men or from the pairing of an ogre mage and a human being, regardless of which parent is an ogre mage and which is a human being. Such monstrous pairings are not guaranteed to produce an ogre mage; more typical offspring are ordinary human babies that display a Chaos-touched tendency for cruelty and malevolence. Many a human settlement has been brought low by an ogre mage seeking an heir of his own kind and producing only a brood of evil Men instead.

Addendum: Before anyone asks, this version of ogres is not inspired by RuneQuest's own, except perhaps ex post facto. It's actually based on the fact that, as a child, I had always heard the word "ogre" used in conjunction with Bluebeard and it utterly baffled me why anyone didn't know, by looking at him, that this guy was a wife-killer and baby-eater. Thus was born my conception of ogres.

13 comments:

  1. I tend to use the RuneQuest ogre-born ogres, but your man-born ogres are an interesting variation.

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  2. I am totally stealing this concept for my own campaign of the Realm. IMC, ogres were simply going to be the weak cousins of giants, who are descended the titans, who were angels who neither rebelled nor supported the Gods of Law during the War of Angels and Demons, and were thus stripped of true divinity. But this? This idea is so much cooler, and so much more evil. Thanks!

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  3. Couldn't you just tell them by the treads?

    Sorry... got the "other" sort of Ogre on my mind lately. ;-)

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  4. Awesome summary. Personally, I've never been a big fan of Ogres myself, but they occasionally see their uses in my campaigns.

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  5. 1. Agreed in re Christopher Walken
    2. In Warhammer, they have an interesting take on Ogres. Like Halflings, they were "built" by the old one as an experiment to create a creature highly tough and resistant to chaos. It "sort of worked," and they ended up with highly resistant Halflings and tough ogres. What's neat is in the books and game terms, there's automatic fellowship between Halflings and Ogres that they are unaware of (it's a history think hardly anyone would know). So you get these tiny Halflings that, when threatened, can say "Hey, why don't you talk to my friend here..." The Ogres aren't evil, but very suggestible and usually on the bad-guy side, but they don't really care.
    3. Also, everythings better with the "taint of Chaos" - thanks Moorocock and H.P. Lovecraft.

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  6. Very nice. Much more interesting than the standard "tribe of evil humanoids." Filed away for future stealing. :)

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  7. I totally agree with your interpretation. Well done!

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  8. Very interesting. To date, I like the Ogre myths of Dragonlance best: they are decadent descendant of a superior race, the high ogres, akin to high elves. Through wickedness and evil, their inner selves deformed their outward appearance.

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  9. D&D hags are a female only version of Ogres, it sort of makes sense...

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  10. That could also explain the antipathy between Neanderthal (Cavemen) and Ogres. Neanderthals hate them because they wreck the tribe when they're born. Nice.

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  11. Very cool, although it does away with one a (admittedly useless) old favorite, the half-ogre. :-)

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  12. Wow. This is great because I never really understood what ogres were. Thanks!

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