Friday, March 11, 2011

Creating Another Bandwagon

Oink! Oink!
After the phenomenal success of my esteemed namesake in inspiring some love for hot elf chicks on old school blogs, I thought I'd like to try my hand at similarly inspiring a series of posts throughout our corner of the Net. This time, though, what I want to inspire are posts about how referees have re-imagined one or more iconic D&D monsters for use in their own campaigns. You see, one of the things I like about OD&D is that its monsters entries are so spare, especially when compared to AD&D. Usually, these entries are little more than collections of game stats, providing neither descriptions nor any context for the monsters. so that the referee has no choice but to provide one of his own.

Which brings us to the ubiquitous orc. For once, I won't fight the assertion that D&D swiped this monster from Middle-earth, as there's not really any folkloric antecedent for it before Tolkien. However, the write-up in Volume 2 of the LBBs says nothing that suggests the orcs are at all like their literary counterparts, an omission that Holmes does not correct, while Moldvay says only that "Orcs are ugly human-like creatures who look like a combination of animal and man." Even the Monster Manual says almost nothing about these creature's physical appearance, despite devoting more than half a page to their entry. All the Monster Manual says for certain is that orcs have "pinkish snouts and ears" and "bristly hair." It was left to artist David Sutherland to (literally) draw a porcine conclusion from these scant hints.

Since my Dwimmermount campaign uses OD&D, there's no canonical description of orcs for my to draw upon, but I'll be the first to admit, though, that AD&D casts a long shadow over my conceptions of many aspects of the game, including orcs. So, when I started thinking about what orcs were like, I immediately thought of Sutherland's pig-men. But why are they pig-men? That's when I decided that, in the Dwimmermount campaign, orcs were "uplifted" boars, raised to evil sentience in ancient times as weapons of war. Most sages believe that it was the Eld who were responsible for this, but other evidence suggests the even more mysterious "Ancients" were responsible -- along with the uplifting of other animal species in a similar fashion, resulting in additional breeds of "beast men," like gnolls.

Here's what I'd love to see propagate across the old school blogs: an example or two like the one I posted above about orcs. I love hearing how referees have made the raw materials D&D offers their own, especially if doing so draws on longstanding information or images associated with the game. The examples don't have to be long, unless you want them to be; all I ask is that they reveal a little bit of that do-it-yourself spirit I think is so representative of our corner of the hobby. To encourage you further in this effort, have another hot elf chick on the house:
Elven goddess of love and beauty, Hanali Celanil, from Dragon #60 (April 1982)


  1. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean by "LBBs", but as I recall, the OD&D entry on orcs makes explicit reference to Tolkien, with mention of orcs of the "White Hand" and the "Red Eye".

    It's also worth noting that Tolkien himself does not describe orcs in much detail, except to say their arms are long, in some cases almost reaching the ground. In a letter, responding to the question, the Professor says they look mostly human, if "swarthy", "unlovely", and "Mongoloid".

  2. Also, speaking of re-imagining orcs, if you're not familiar with it, John Wick's Ork World has some nice ideas (if being a little too reminiscent of Glorantha's trolls).

  3. I'd jump in on this but I'm not sure I can. I think most of my reinterpretations of classic D&D monsters don't have much of the raw material of which they were originally made left over when I'm through.

    One example, though there are many in my D&D-But-Not milieu, would be trolls. I knew folktales and nursey stories about trolls well before I picked up D&D and what D&D has...ugh...that scrawny, carrot nosed, man-thing definitely not a troll. My version not only doesn't look the same, it uses completely different stats and info.

    So the question is, Are you looking for ways we (the participants in this meme-ish exercise:

    Explained creatures' appearances?
    Reworked their appearance?
    What our version of a classic monster is 'like'?
    All of the above?

    Just trying to get a sense of how close to the original the entry needs to be to qualify for what you're talking about.

  4. Oooh, your hittin' close to an idea I'm fleshing out with beastmen. I took my cue from the beastheaded humans depicted in the Tomb of Horrors' eqyptianlike wall murals.

    I'll definitely post something regarding this. Great idea! A "Re-ecology of", as it were.

  5. I try to portray orcs as something like a Neanderthal. A little rougher, a little wilder, but still mostly human. My goblinoids look more simian, perhaps a branch of the Australopithicines that survived.

  6. @Michael: I think you're thinking of the Monster Manual entry for "Orc". Tribes are mentioned in the LBBs, but no tribal names are given.

    @James: What a coincidence; I was going to write something about orcs...

  7. In general, the basal orc type in my campaign looks much like a "poorly-sculpted" human or elf; ugly, unfinished, rough, misshapen, with uneven limbs, ungraceful form, distinct lack of bilateral symmetry, and so forth. Flesh is highly variable in coloration; eyes are usually red; hair is usually bristly black, and appears in unusual places and in uneven distribution.

    However... the god that created the orcs created them such that they were ultimately fecund not only with any other humanoid race, but also with non-humanoid beasts! He did this such that "his creation" would grow to such numbers as to overwhelm the other creations of the other gods.

    Thus,each different tribe of orcs can be widely and wildly variable in broad appearance. Those that live near human lands are very human-like; those that live near elves are very elf-like. Those that live near boars... well, are very boar-like. And in such cases, the giant boars they ride might well be brothers, cousins, fathers, or sons!

    Goblins of the Realm are a relatively stable race descended (mostly) from an early mix of orcs and hobbits (yup, I call them hobbits in my campaign).

    In the region where the campaign takes place, the Heartlands, there are three major orc branches: the Black Orcs (a mix of orcs and drow), the White Orcs (a mix of orcs and morlocks), and the Green Orcs (the classic pig-faced orcs, taken more or less straight from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, complete with clothing styles). There are a few minor orc clans here and there with different appearances, but so far, only the Black Orcs (of the Vile Rune tribe, no less) have had any level of importance...

  8. IIRC, Sutherland's pig-headed orcs first appeared in Swords & Spells (1976; pg 29-30), then Holmes Basic (mid-77, pg 1), and then the Monster Manual (Dec 77/Jan 78).

  9. My mental image of orcs was mostly defined by the artwork on the Grenadier AD&D orc minatures boxed set.

  10. Heh, I remember the first thing I did when I saw that "elf chick" drawing was use an eraser and pencil to give her a nose job. ;)

  11. Actually I like orcs a lot. It started with my first really successful character, who, being a magic user (or can you say Dark Lord), had a great disdain for fighters so hired the cheapest troops possible. Which, of course were orcs. And then left the running of the mundane affairs up to the orcs, especially the Captain of the Guard, who took scheming to a whole new level.

    Now you have to remember, that at this time none of us had actually read any Tolkien. You couldn't buy LoTR in the shops and most libraries didn't stock a copy, due to publishing politics, so we had no idea of what to go on.

    Now when we all wanted to get into the dungeon mastering game (and our own copies of the LBB finally arrived), we decided on taking the premise that each of these characters had become the lord of their domain, built a dungeon, and put the thing that could destroy them in it. The other players played people from other domains (or rebels from your own) trying to seek the object to destroy the lord, gain a reward from another, ransom it, whatever. This left the fact that the main NPC interaction characters for authority, as established through my original character, were its orc (and ogre) guards. Which meant that orcs couldn't be slavering monsters and still produce a viable game.

    It were the orcs of the Guard who set up the first booths at the entrance of the dungeon, selling souvenirs, maps (mostly authentic), T-tunics, first aid, potions, a restaurant (Gobbledoks, run by a vegetarian Troll gourmet who had the sign "We Serve Elves" in the window, but no one ever dared eating there [if they had, they would have discovered the food was excellent.]), and eventually a fun fair including a dwarven steam carousel. After all, they weren't being paid much, and this was an excellent method of earning more money. Although there was a bit of cognitive disconnect when the players discovered that "Just call be 'arri" was actually the Captain of the Guard when they went "upstairs." [Remember that the GMC (who was now an NPC lich) was more interested in other things and resented being drawn back into mundane affairs, so generally left stuff up to the Guard, who were lazy/intelligent and generally ruled by being a faceless fell fear (including that of their master) and let the peasants get on with life without much in the way of interference - after all, getting tribute was easier than actually raiding for it.]

    This is what shaped all of this original play group's perception of orcs.


  12. [cfb]

    When I left the shared world I carried most of this idea of what is an orc with me to my new major fantasy campaign (despite having since discovered LoTR). After all, it had given me plenty of good play experiences.

    In this new campaign orcs became the barbarians of the world (to some degree akin to the Green Martians of Barsoom). They were strong, hardy, and fecund, but had a great deal of difficulty with abstract thought, which meant that literacy, strategy, and magic use were almost entirely absent. There was the occaisonal genius orc who was both reverred and feared by the members of his tribe (and typically the adjacent human realms) for his super-orc abilities. [Later, when John M Ford wrote The Final Reflection it finally consolidated the concept of these "Thought Admiral" orcs.]

    They had a strong and vibrant culture, but it was heavily based on oral traditions (helped by the fact that orcs had a prodigious, almost photographic, memory for real things). An orc stood by his word, rather than these namby-pamby things called "laws."

    But because of this inability to deal with abstracts, the orcs were pushed into more and more desolate areas by the aggressively expanding human civilization. [A major theme of the game was bringing Law (aka Civilization) to Chaos (the Wilderness). In my game these weren't metaphysical principles, but social ones.]

    This didn't mean that orcs weren't unknown in civilized lands (although a close eye was generally kept on them [remember not really understanding that abstract idea of "laws"]). After all, the only export the orcs had was generally themselves, so orcs formed cheap mercenaries for humans.

    Then when you added player interaction to the mix things got strange. For example there was the incident where the Emperor's daughter (a PC), acting out against Daddy, allowed herself to be kidnapped (they would say she was rescued) by orcs, and eventually ending up becoming their Queen (aka the pulp idea of the White Queen of Africa), and actually uniting the scattered tribes as a single political entity (she was really good at that abstract thought stuff and had some really tough orcs as her hench-orcs.

    Anyway this was how my concept of "orc" developed directly from D&D, rather than Tolkein. I like it because it resulted in plenty of fun for both players and gamemaster. While I think that it was an accident of publishing history that caused it, and I think the concept of what an orc is is so ingrained into the Zeitgeist now, I still cheered when I read Grunts by Mary Gentle. For she certainly grokked the Way of Orc.

    [Sorry for this overlong trip of nostalgia. I hope you were entertained.]

  13. Imagine if EGG had got his orcs direct from William Blake instead of filtered through Tolkien. They'd be tragic heroes.

    I am so doing this for Githyanki, who became the major monster in my campaign.

  14. @Talysman: It wasn't the MM I was recalling, but Chainmail, p. 30, which identifies the main tribes of orcs as "the (Red) Eye", Mordor, the Mountains, the White Hand, and Isengarders.

    I notice the text on orcs in Monsters & Treasure is one of the passages set in a different typeface in later printings, presumably to remove potential infringement on Tolkien estate IP. (Q.v. the entries on halflings, wights, spectres, and treants.) I have no idea what the original text said.

  15. In my mind, orcs (and goblins) are influenced most by the Warhammer versions, so when I first* saw the D&D conception, they struck me as odd and "wrong".

    I still prefer Games Workshop's version, but I have more of an appreciation for the pig-faced orc now, not least because of their unexplained appearance in Return of the Jedi. ;)

    *Technically, I saw the orcs in the D&D cartoon before I saw the Warhammer ones, but for some reason the cartoon's version didn't stick.

  16. We had the Jimmy Cauty LotRs poster above our fireplace when I was growing up. I spent hours looking at all the Orcs around the border, and the other details, long before I read the book. So that's what I think of when I think of orcs.

    For Redwald I'm using the (very vague) mention of Orcneas in Beowulf that inspired Tolkien. They're basically zombie warriors serving Orcus in the underworld.

  17. I'm not really an old-schooler so it's a bit of a cheat, but I chose elves

  18. As a GM who hadn't yet read Tolkien, I ALWAYS envisioned orcs exactly as depicted in MM...I thought "orcs" literally was intended to imply "porc"! When I later saw the Games Workshop "greenskin" version, I never thought that looked right at all.

    I always pictured Mind Flayers as Minions of Cthulhu, here on the Prime Material Plane as cultists trying to unleash Cthulhu's power...

  19. "Sutherland's" Pig faced orcs first appeared in Lord of The Rings calendar art created by the Hilderdrandt brothers. Those calendars and posters from them were all over the place in the early days of D&D and most certainly influenced the look of orcs.

  20. JDJarvis: Great point. The first Hildebrandt calendar was from 1976, but was apparently released as early as Aug 1975, which predates Sutherland's orcs in Swords & Spells. The June illustration from 1976 calendar has very pig-faced orcs, some green & some orange. The green ones look a lot like the orcs from the much later D&D cartoon:

    (By now James may be regretting using orcs for his example)

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Oh, my link thingy didn't work. A write-up on non-psionic Mind Flayers, from an old campaign. Somewhere near the top, here:

  23. I LOVE your idea of Orcs as uplifted boars. Always did go for the concept of pig-like orcs. Pigs are hghly intelligent animals, moere so than dogs and cats, as a circus anima trainer might tell you. Goblinoids, to distinguish them from orcs, are descended from apes, as humans, except. Goblins have as their ancestors a small carnivorus monkey (I know, a fantastic species), that preyed on rats and other small mammals. Hobgoblins are more powerful and aggressive beings descended from the aggressively dmineering Babboons, wereas humans ancestors were more chimp-like, and finally Bugbears are descended from Bears. Now, Grizzly Bears, at the peak of their lifespan are smarter than any non-ape mentioned so far, they can ever keep track of two (but not three) hunters stalking them. Therefore, Bugbears are really smart, big and powerful. What keeps them from being the Apex humanoid in my world is the fact that have evolved a decidedly different and alien sort of intelligence, with a definite predatory bend. In their evlution they took a turn towards carnivorism away of the omnivorous nature of their ursine ancestors. This Bugbear Intelligence is expressed in ways and directions, which are alien to human understanding. How Bugbears nest, how they seem to attack and rob other settlements without the simplest regard for consequences. Elevated carnivorism - consuming flesh of other sentient beings, and the most telling is the use of Bugbear magic. Lacking an efficient opposeable thumb, Bygbears craft magic items such as hammers, which never miss the nails and needles, which attract the thread etc. What really turned me off about the monster manual was the generic "vaguely bestial and neanderthal-like" humanoids, so I improved upon that.

  24. I love this idea for a bandwagon and have jumped aboard by posting my bit on kobolds on my own blog. In brief, I was surprised when I saw the Sutherland drawings of kobolds since they looked like dog lizard people and the Holmes book (as well as the original D&D books and Chainmail) had described them as 'dwarf-like.'

    Good call on the Hildebrandt images of LOTR, JD Jarvis --- I remember those paintings, but I don't recall when I saw them. Then there were the Rankin-Bass 'Hobbit' goblins that looked like extras from Sigismund the SeaMonster. My earliest idea of orcs was that they looked more like ape/human crossbreeds, perhaps based on having struggled through the easier parts of 'Lord of the Rings' before I played D&D. If I recall right, Tolkien describes them as having long arms, big teeth and they even insult each other by calling one another 'ape.' But I liked the pig headed orcs from the frontpiece in the D&D Holmes book, too. I also remember the Bakshi 'Lord of the Rings' cartoon made a big impression on me as far as what orcs looked like and used lead minis based on the Bakshi movie for many of our earliest games... although lacking much detail, the leads showed some orcs as more pig headed and the Isengarders as looking more 'ape-like.'

  25. Thank you for this, James. I love reading stuff like this - the reskinning, reimaging and interpreting among worlds. That's really cool.

    My humble contribution:

  26. My contribution is below. More background information, in case anyone is interested, is posted at

    Orcs are a ubiquitous species that presents an almost constant threat to the human inhabitants of the Middle Realms. Unlike most of the other savage races, which are more or less held in check beyond the marches, orcs have not been successfully eradicated within the three kingdoms, and often lair uncomfortably close to human settlements. In the countryside, where the manors are separated by vast stretches of tangled, desolate forest, there are few people who do not live in fear of attack, and few places where the baron does not offer a bounty on orc scalps.

    Orcs are predominantly subterranean, and will remain underground indefinitely if circumstances permit. However, an underground complex large enough to provide sufficient food and resources for even a small band of orcs is likely to be home to troglodytes, which are better adapted to life in the underdark, so most orc bands live close to the surface and venture out at night to forage and raid. They are omnivorous, and will resort to scavenging and cannibalism if food is scarce.

    Orcs tend to live in small bands of 10-20 individuals, the majority of which are females and children. Each band is led by a dominant male, who mates with all of the sexually-viable females. Another male in the band who wishes to mate must either kill the dominant male, or look for opportunities outside his band. These “opportunities” often take the form of nighttime raids on isolated farmsteads and villages. If any male in the band challenges the leader’s mating rights, or poses any sort of threat to his dominance, the leader will attempt to kill him, or failing that, drive him off. Some of these displaced orcs simply wander the countryside, desperate and hungry, preying on anyone or anything that presents they happen upon. Others hire themselves out as mercenaries to hobgoblins, bugbears, and human outlaws.

    Several bands will sometimes unite under an exceptionally strong and cunning leader, but alliances seldom last for long. More often, a group of orcs will regularly steal and kidnap from a neighboring band, and slaughter its members and claim its territory if the opportunity arises. Orcs often keep weaker races, such as goblins, as slaves, though the slaves are as likely to be used for food as for labor. Orcs have also been known to keep humans as slaves, most often women and children, but such captives seldom survive long with such brutal captors.

  27. "Pigs are hghly intelligent animals, moere so than dogs and cats, as a circus anima trainer might tell you."

    And they taste really, really good!

  28. The uplifted boars idea rocks, and having hunted boar with bow and spear, I can attest to just how tough a "monster" a single regular boar can be. They are also quite tasty after 24 hours on the spit.

    My orcs and hobgoblins are the result of barbarian tribes of elves and men in what we'd know as Eastern Asia turning to evil religions for aid in their constant wars against each other and against the Chinese states. The Unspeakable Lord twisted them over the years to become greater warriors, as to spread more evil.

    Yes, this means my version of the Mongols are hobgoblins on horseback. Know fear.

    Most of the monsters in my campaign setting are the result of the Ruinous One twisting the creations of the Son of Light. The Devourer cannot create, only pervert and destroy.

    My Kobolds, on the other hand, are twisted rats developed by some long-forgotten Wizard, and are the spiritual descendants of the Viet Cong. Even the bravest paladin pales at the words "Kobold tunnel."

  29. I've never been able to grok a truly piglike orc. Tusked and broad-nostriled? Yes. Comrade Napoleon? Never.
    But this may be due to a strong aversion to rape in my gaming, so I had to view orcs as manlike enough that humans might willingly breed with them.
    Green or gray is also my tradition, but yeah.

  30. Michael said: "It wasn't the MM I was recalling, but Chainmail, p. 30, which identifies the main tribes of orcs as 'the (Red) Eye', Mordor, the Mountains, the White Hand, and Isengarders."

    None of that is in my copy of Chainmail. Just that it can "be assumed that if there are two or more units of Orcs, they will be from differing bands". [CM, p. 30]

    Would be interested in seeing a scan of your copy, or what you think was different in OD&D Vol-2.

  31. JDJarvis, I'm really glad you made that observation on the early LOTR calendar. Very good stuff. (And love the art itself!)

  32. A small note on my own interpretation of orcs: I'm influenced by the "narcs" in the Bored of the Rings parody by The Harvard Lampoon.

  33. I scanned it, but don't know how to embed the jpg in a comment.

    The text reads (my copy is a 3rd edition, 2nd printing, July 1975):

    ORCS: Besides reacting to light in the same manner as Goblins do (after all, Orcs are nothing more than over-grown Goblins), Orcs are quarrelsome and factious. According to the best authority, there are at least five kinds (tribes or perhaps clans) of them. These are: 1) Orcs of the (Red) Eye, 2) Orcs of Mordor, 3) Orcs of the Mountains, 4) Orcs of the White Hand, and 5) Isengarders. It can therefore be assumed that if there are two or more units of Orcs, they will be fromdiffering bands. If Orcs of different kinds approach within a charge move of each other, and they are not meleed by the enemy, they will attack each other unless a score of 4 or better is rolled on an "Obedience die." There are giant Orcs which fight as Armored Foot and have a Point Value of 2-1/2.

  34. Speaking of Tolkien's vision of orcs, here is a passage from the Letters, in particular his comments on a 1958 film treatment (p. 274):

    The Orcs are definitely stated to be corruptions of the 'human' form seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.

  35. My psychic powers are so good I did this two weeks ago...

  36. I always thought of orcs as being essentially human-looking, though brutish and grotesque in appearance. The orcs depicted by Roslof, Dee and Willingham in the A-series, Fredric March's version of Mr. Hyde, as well as the hunchback in The Name of the Rose (played by Ron Perlman) are what come to mind when I think of orcs.

    I think of ogres as just really big orcs. This was driven home when I saw an Italian RPG. In Italian, the word orc is used to describe ogres, and orcs are called orchetto -"little orcs", implying the two are variants of the same creature.

  37. I used to always think of Xvarts as kind of a pointless monster. There are already two humanoid critters with less than a full HD (kobolds and goblins) so there's really no need for a third.

    That is, until I realized that Xvart is a version of Svart or Svartalf (dark elf). So I re-cast xvarts as stunted, inbred Drow, with some of the leader-types having drow-like abilities.

    Another thing I'm fond of doing is swapping out female ogres/trolls/giants with the various hags (green hags, sea hags, annis) as a tip of the hat to Grendel and his mother.

  38. "For once, I won't fight the assertion that D&D swiped this monster from Middle-earth, as there's not really any folkloric antecedent for it before Tolkien." The only pre-Tolkein reference I have seen of the Orc was from Beowulf:
    metod for þy mane, mancynne fram.
    þanon untydras ealle onwocon,
    eotenas ond ylfe ond --ORCNEAS--,
    swylce gigantas, þa wið gode wunnon
    lange þrage; he him ðæs lean forgeald.

    Emphasis my own. Several online old english translators list Orc as being a Demon (Orcneas and Orcas being two versions of the plural. In Seamus Heany's translation of Beowulf "Orcneas" is translated as: Malignant Phantoms.

    But to answer your question, i have portrayed orcs in my campaigns as neanderthal-like sub-humans who have a pechant for fighting but practice no industry and live in caves but they would occupy the dwellings of those foes that they have vanquished.

    I don't make them inherently evil per se, they are just bellicose but they respect shows of strength and are usually working for some big-bad-evil-guy. More than once, orcs in my game have changed sides to join savvy PC's who have won them over through displays of prowess in battle or raw magical power.

    Half orcs get a bit of their human parent's brains but are still largely less intelligent by human standards.

  39. Michael: Thanks, that's interesting and informative.

    Maybe put the scan on any website somewhere and post a link here?

  40. Gnomes and Goblins: thousand of years ago, the Dwarves discovered a strange metal, vibrant with magical energies, enabling them to craft magic blades and armors. But the magical radiations induced mutations among some of the dwarven children. The first years those mutations were subtle: the children were smaller, thinner, with long noses and slender hands and had a predisposition for magic that dwarves had not. They became a small people apart from the dwarves and became the gnomes.

    But as years went by, the mutations became more and more grotesque and hideous, the affected dwarves were more and more violent and Chaotic as they became more and more deformed.

    The dwarves finally abandonned their city and their monstuous offsprings. A plague was invoked and all records of the location of the doomed dwarven city destroyed.

  41. It just so happens that I've been working on my own version of kobolds that combines what's in the AD&D Monster Manual and Deities & Demigods with influences from the D&D 3.0 Monster Manual. What I've got so far is that kobolds believe (it may or may not be true) that the god who created them in his own image, Kurtulmak, also created Tiamat to be his queen. Then they were the parents of the first evil dragons, both a male and a female of each of the five different colors, from whom all evil dragonkind are descended. And Kurtulmak assigned the Lawful Evil dragons, the blues and greens, to be his agents on the Prime Material Plane in charge of looking after his most favored creations -- the kobolds.

    But now I like gridlore's idea of Viet Cong kobolds so much that I'm going to work that in too.

  42. I like the idea of orcs growing into ogres. Perhaps goblins grow to hobgoblins, and then bugbears? Since elves live so long they could grow into giants. Perhaps all adventuring elves are gifted teenagers, who eventually grow into relatively friendly giants (storm giants?), but many woodland elves become surly hill giants as they age. Or perhaps the skin of elves becomes bark-like as they age, becoming treants?

  43. Here you go James

  44. In one game I ran, orcs, halflings and humans were originally servitor races and didn't have souls; this was the explanation for why virtually all humans are stuck at level 0 (per 1st edition rules).

    Due to an ancient curse, the souls of OTHER races were occasionally born into human and halfling bodies; this was why some humans could gain levels.

    The races in question were trying to end the curse and/or wipe out humanity and halfling-kind, to prevent what was (to them) a species-ending catastrophe.

  45. Isn't Orcnea an island?

    I have my Bugbears being actual bears with bug heads. I think that's much more fun and might even just be in the spirit of whoever coined the term in the first place. After all, we have owlbears and they are not nine feet tall hairy goblins... ;-)

  46. Not-Githyanki.
    + Have actually been used in play.
    - Violate some ethical precepts of sandbox OSRism

    The Orkneys are islands, and might be etymologically connected to orc. Really, the Wikipedia page is a treasure trove of unreliable but beautiful knowledge that just might contain the secret to the pig-faced version.
    And I'ma say it again: William Blake's Orc is awesome - the spirit of revolution, like Milton's devil, he's probably not the direct inspiration for Tolkien's orcs or Moorcock's chaos, but he shadows both closely. I say he deserves a place in your game.

  47. Recursion: You're mistaken, "bugbear" derives from the same root as "Bogey" or "Bugaboo"

  48. I finally got a few minutes of down-time during lunch to post mine today. I think James would like it - it's about classic pig-faced orcs!

  49. I'm working up a PCs-as-monsters campaign, which makes all of the traditional races of D&D inimical. This, plus the heavy homo-centrism of D&D (how many "humanoid" variants do we have?), gave me an idea.

    Humans in this world are cursed with fecundity, by some ancient deity: "go forth and multiply", read in the same light as "may you live in interesting times". All those stories about women giving birth to snakes and the like are literal. Humans can breed with nearly anything, and over the history of the game world, they have proven this time and again. The term for human in nearly every non-human language translates to "fucking monkeys".

    Which gives me obvious (if prurient) sources for most of the various beast-men of D&D. Not sure how I work the demi-human races in: it's easier to see the ancestors of orcs than of elves or dwarves. They may have "classier" origins, but maybe not: this is intended to be a light and fluffy campaign, and here I've already devoted far too much thought to phylogeny . . .