Thursday, June 16, 2022

Orcs and Beastmen, Part 1

 Note: Oddly enough, Bar Chakka was part of my very first draft of Centerra, back in 2010.  Centerra has changed a lot in the last 12 years, but two most important elements of Bar Chakka (the beastmen and the water worship) have not.

Orcs and Beastmen

I don't know how explicit I've previously been on this point, but orcs are technically a type of beastman.  

Beastmen are an all-male race that can breed with nearly any mammal to create a man-beast hybrid.  Orcs breed almost exclusively with pigs, and goat-men (druhok) breed almost exclusively goats and (less commonly) deer.  

They are incomprehensively virile (especially goatmen).  They are capable of blood-transmissible impregnation (similar to a bloodborne disease) and their seed remains viable for hundreds of years after their death.

The Church can explain how the beastmen drank the blood of Drumonia, a wild and ancient god of wine, revelry, madness, and sex, thereby corrupting their entire race.  Their features were made bestial to match their appetites, and despite their swollen libidos they would only be attracted to beasts.

The Orbital Liches can explain how beastmen are just another mutant race, created by the ancient wizards of a dying world, in an attempt to survive the Time of Fire and Madness.

The druhok of Bar Chakka will explain that they were born from natural species as the planet attempted to save itself from the depredations of unnatural magic.  Their birth was willed by the planet itself when it needed a defender.  (Orcs have lost their way, but the druhok still remember the path.)

Orcs, of course, believe that they were created to suffer.

Why Do Orcs Fuck Pigs?

Not all orcs do.  In every orcish settlement, you might fight a couple of dogmen or perhaps a minotaur.  

But those creatures are probably related to the chieftain, and are tolerated for no other reason.

Other types of beastmen are disruptive, and are typically driven out (if they do not leave of their own accord).  Minotaurs are famously aggressive and rarely function well in a team.  Dogmen are loud and stupid.  Equicephali creep everyone out.  Out of all the beastmen, orcs are one of the most intelligent ones, and are the only ones with mouths that can speak Gospeltongue.

Besides, swine herds can march alongside the armies, where they provide meat, companionship, and mounts (for pigs the size of royal swine).

Why Do Druhok Fuck Goats?

Because goatmen are smarter than pigmen, and they survive very well in the mountainous regions of Bar Chakka.  

There's also a large religious component to it.  The druhok goatmen are the inheritors of heaven.  The only other type of holy beastman is the stag-men, who tend to succumb often to respiratory diseases.

Goatmen are revered in Bar Chakka, where they are the only type of beastman able to become a priest.

probably the best beastman picture ever
by Karl Kapinsky

Why All These Herd Animals?

Because beastmen are still men (it's in the name), and really only thrive when they are part of a society.  

The only animals that function well as beastmen are social animals.  Solitary animals tend to hate living alongside other people.  So while there are a few bear-men in the world, they're perpetually uncomfortable and anxious when living alongside others.  (Minotaurs, for example, have a sort of nervous machismo that makes them extremely dangerous to their neighbors.)

Beastmen born from non-social animals are also missing a lot of the normal sympathies and considerations that we take for granted.  A tigerman will walk past a beggar and feel nothing--not the smallest glimmer of sympathy.  Likewise, if you give a tigerman a gift, they will accept with an alien lack of gratitude.  This is because things like sympathy and gratitude exist in humans (who are meant to live together in a society) but not in tigers (who are solitary). 

Essentially, tigermen and bearmen are sociopaths, and everyone knows this.  They are stereotyped in beastman society as evil (and correctly so).

Anyway, here are the three biggest orc cities I can think of at the moment.


Tangodar is the only city that the orcs have ever been proud of.  Stone spires in a foggy valley, a full half of the city secreted underground.  Gauzy screens covered the streets, and smoke from sacrifices filled the sky above.  Everything to keep them hidden from heaven.

The secret to the city's longevity was its democracy, where major decisions were settled through combat of champions (typically non-lethal), one against one, for as long as there were willing champions.  The only weapon allowed was a bundle of sticks called a bashka.  Because all orcs are adept fighters, it was difficult to disenfranchise the majority, and because the duels were such a bottleneck, the orcs had days (if not weeks) to deliberate and compromise.

The city is long-destroyed, the victim of a century-long crusade.  But the victors came to regret their victory.  The city is cursed--a clotted vector of fear, paranoia, and avarice.  Anyone who spends a night within sight of its walls can feel it.  Friends seem to be enemies, and there is no true brotherhood in those walls.

Still, the city is defensible, and many treasures still glitter in its depths, and of course there is no shortage of fools in this world.  And so it is that the city is ruled over by Pavorick the Stained, an exiled prince from Basharna, who still attempts to recruit people to his poisoned city while they all go mad.

Beneath the city is infested with squadrons of clever war-dead, puppeted by some necromancer still unknown.

And of course the orcs still seek to reclaim it.


An embarassment to most orcs, Garlak is little more than a gussied-up hill fort.  There are three reasons why most orcs are embarrassed of Garlak.

First, it's shaped like a giant skull.

The orcs who live there swear that it's a titan skull, but it is obviously carved (and crudely at that).

Second, the orcs there all sing songs.  Everyone who has ever led an orc band knows that orcs need constant structure in their lives to be effective.  Without it, they fall apart.  (They're a bit like toddlers in that regard.)

And so the orcs of Garlak sing work songs.  They're a bit like sea shanties, although you can use your work tools as instruments.  When marching, this is obviously bootfalls, but can also be things like banging your knife on the trencher as you eat.  (Yes, the orcs sing songs while they eat.  It keeps the meal orderly.  It's less cute when they sing the flensing song.)

Even promotions are based on how many grunties (shanties) you have memorized.

Lastly, the orcs don't have a king.  They might, but they don't.

The orcs of Garlak will tell you that they obey the Hidden Masters--a secret group of seven orcs with the power to turn invisible, erase memories, and even vanish from existence for short periods of time.  The Hidden Masters leave them coded messages, which they can follow only once they've been inducted into the correct secret societies.  Since they are hidden, they cannot be assassinated.  And since they are everywhere, they always know the best things to do.

Outsiders will tell you that there are no Secret Masters.  The orcs of Garlak are simply mad.

A third theory is that the orcs have stumbled upon a masterful sort of self-regulation.  Nearly every orc is a member of a secret organization.  (There are over 90 secret organizations in Garlak, and probably more than 300.)  Inside each secret organization, there are secret secret organizations.  The orcs are constantly receiving coded messages (tipping with seven pennies), delivering coded messages (farting during certain words), and taking actions based on these secret messages (lowering the cost of their cheese inventory by 30%).

It might just be that these coded messages form a stable, self-regulating loop.  Something similar happens with ants who, seeking to follow the ant in front of it, sometimes form into death circles.  Except in the case of orcs, this self-regulating loop is a stabilizing form of society.

not shown: pig nose and lil pig ears
by Lestatbishop


The orcs are reluctant to call it by it's name, and so they refer to it as the City in the South.

Godai is a city founded by fascist orc supremacists.  They seek nothing less than the utter extinction of all of subhumanity.  (True humanity is already extinct, at least on Centerra.)

They are succeeding where other orcs have failed for three reasons.

First, they are utterly disciplined.  Lawbreaking is not tolerated in Godai.  An orc who cannot regulate their baser instincts is split down the middle by The Threshing Wheel (which is sort-of-a-building, sort-of-a-vehicle, that is used for the execution of unruly orcs).

Since orcs are naturally unruly, the orcs of Godai employ several methods to calm themselves and aid their focus.  A lot of these are herbal.  At least one type of lobotomy is performed.  And subtle magics are suspected (although never proven).

Second, they confront their weaknesses.  Every Black Hand Orc can recite the Forty Humiliations by heart, and list all of the times humans have broken treaties and exterminated their race.  They will tell you in the bluntest terms the ways in which humans are superior to themselves (intelligence, cooperation, innovation).

They have a list of orcish strengths, too, but that is not as relevant.  Human superiority is something that must be meditated on daily, until the shame is burnt away and only the anger remains.

The orcs of Godai are also uniquely interested in learning.  They make it a point to capture scholars and tutors, so that they can learn all the things that they lack.  And so their greatest warriors are often tutored by the same  minds that mold the minds of princes.  Orcish brains struggle with mathematics and astronomy, but they learn languages, philosophy, and construction as easily as any human.

Third, they aggressively recruit.  Their greatest warriors (with their sword hand tattooed black) are sent out to help other orcs.  They function as military advisors, mediators, and troubleshooters.  (They're a bit like jedi.)  And when all of that fails, they draw their black blades (painted so as to be unreflective).  In combat, they are commandos, employing traps, poison, surveillance, and ambush to defeat their foes.  They are very good at this.

It is rumored that some of the Black Hands have been alchemically enhanced so as to give them further advantages in combat.

The Black Hand orc renders all of this aid for free.  But when he is done, he always calls the most promising youths to return with him to Godai, and begin training to become Black Hands themselves.  After their indoctrination into the Black Hand, they are free to return and lead their people if they wish.  Or they may carry their dim blade to more distant shores, and carry their violent proselytization a bit further.

Black Hand orcs are renowned for being lawful.  Their black-inked hand and sword are reserved to killing Dread Humans and Their Servants.  This second category is sometimes stretched a bit, but it never includes their fellow orcs.

Black Hand orcs are loathe to kill another orc.  But when they must do so, they use their non-dominant hand and a stilletto called a winnow.  A weregild is paid to the deceased's family.


  1. It's almost certainly a complete coincidence, but "Bar Chakka" means in hebrew (and maybe also aramaic?) "Son of a fishing rod". In context, it might also mean "have a fishing rod". Which I find funny.

    1. Which brings up the question of marine beastmen. It would be pretty hard for land-dwelling beastmen to get the ball rolling on such a society, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen.
      All those viscous, viscous dolphin men...
      Oh god, giant whale men.

    2. You've completely ruined the surprise in Part II. :(

  2. Another hell of a post here. Love it!

  3. I notice you left as only implicit the option that the Seven Hidden Masters of Garlak are actually, you know, exactly what the orcs think they are.

    I also hadn't put together the "orcs are beastmen" bit, but I've long been a fan of your take on beastmen, so this is an interesting addition.

    Also also, the Black Hands are a really cool campaign element - ninja orc supremacists (sorta) with their own highly specific code of honor who show up to fuck everyone else up and recruit promising young orcs. I suppose they need a home base, but they're more interesting to me than their home city. If anything, an almost-monastery, maybe something like early Sikh mountain fastnesses, seems like it might play well with the extreme creed.

  4. So, are your orcs an all male race? I know that's what's stated here, but in your God Hates Orcs article you make mention of wife and spouses.

    Also, what actually happens with beastman with human mothers? I'd say half orcs, except orcs come from pigs so humans wouldn't have any reason to make something like an orc. A... Manman? An entity that truly embodies humanity to a horrifying extreme?

    1. There's mention in the Druhok post of a lot of animals in their homeland having picked up horns from them. If Druhok are just beastmen who usually breed with goats, then that implies that they can pass on genes they acquired from their animal parent to offspring they have with another species.

      So that would suggest fairly typical half-orcs. Grandma was a pig, dad was an orc, mom was a human; they'd be one-quarter pig and one-quarter beastman (which is of course the quarter most likely to breed true.)

      I do like the idea of the manman, though. Who's to say the genetic engineering designed to produce a beastman from an animal doesn't produce certain ... duplications ... when applied to a humanoid?

    2. I was sure I remembered something about beastmen having beastwives who stay at home while the boys are out plundering, with human faces but bestial hooves; they were the only way to get more beastwomen. But I can't find it now, so I dunno.

    3. The dread manman, with the head and arms of a man, and the head and arms of another man.

    4. Phasma, you're 100% correct. That's somewhere in the archives. I'd rather just say "nothing is canon" but the first reconciliation I can think of is "beast wives are an induced mutation of the normal beastman reproductive cycle, induced for cultural reasons".

  5. Can a beastman impregnate an illusionary dinosaur if he thinks it is real?

  6. I shudder to imagine what a gooseman would be like. The neck alone is an appalling thought.

  7. what about wolf or dolfin men are they some how worse?

  8. Any relation here to the wizard monastery of the Black Hand? Or name alone

    1. Might also be a reference to Blackhand, an orc from the first Warcraft game.

  9. HE RETURNS! Oh man, i'm so happy you're still alive and kicking! I've made it my life mission as of late to read your entire blog from front to back (almost there, July 2019!), and it feels so good to see you writing again.

    You've been a huge inspiration for me for as long as I can remember, which is part of the reason why I recently started a blog of my own. Your writing style, mixed with that familiar spark of genius that permeates Centerra, always leaves me flabbergasted.

    Welcome back, Arnold, hope you're doing well!

  10. Wait so...
    Beastman + goat = Goatman
    Beastman + pig = pigman
    Beastman + cow = bullman
    What does beastman + human give us?

  11. So...
    Beastman + Goat = Goatman (Druhok)
    Beastman + Pig = Pigman (Orc)
    Beastman + cow = Cowman (Minotaur)

    What does Beastman + Human equal?

  12. Ahoy there Arnold - some friends of mine recently took fascination with Lair Of The Lamb. I had a huge amount of fun with it, tactically, environmentally, experientially - we all did in fact, and one of them commissioned me to paint a creature from the campaign. He told me you might be interested in seeing it, so I posted it to Reddit here: where you could see it and download the image for yourself if you like. Thanks for a great time.

    1. Holy crap, that's amazing. Thank you for linking this!

  13. Oh cringe, this guy is talking about Garlak.

  14. Hear me oh Great Lord of GLOG,

    The separation between our disparate peoples has endured for too long.

    The No Artpunk Contest is once again upon us.

    Send your greatest fighter to compete in the listings. Let us once again cross blades. The terms are on my blog.

    You have until the 14th of September.

    Moge de sterkste overwinnen.

  15. Aw c'mon Arnold, don't leave us hanging with that "Part 1" like that!

    -a fan

  16. Just spent the last week reading through the blog from the beginning. These days I disagree with a lot of the game mechanics stuff, but this blog continues to be (have been?) one of the most creative D&D places online. I hope the author is doing well with what is taking up their time these days.