Sunday, February 27, 2011

Orcs in the Early Modern Period

Hundreds of years ago, Orcs swept into the eastern fringes of Europe. The great Orc Khans invaded the lands of the Rus' and pushed deeper into the kingdoms of Poland and Hungary, eventually painting a path of destruction all the way to Dalmatia and the coast of the Adriatic. This was a dark time for the enlightened people of Europe who fought the Orcish Khans and their Golden Horde.

Eventually, the righteous prevailed in pushing the Golden Horde back and ending the Orcish influence on the eastern reaches of Europe. However, the legacy of the Golden Horde did not perish so easily. The remnants of the Golden Horde broke into a number of Khantes who still hold sway to this day. While the host of Orcs have been pushed back towards their ancestral home and into Mongolia, their taint remains in the form of the Crimean Khanate and in the bloodlines of Half-Orcs today.

Orcs are mostly absent from present day Europe as the Golden Horde collapsed. Their legacy lives on in the Crimean Khanate. As a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire, Half-Orcs continue to raid Russian and Polish lands. Outside of Crimea, Half-Orcs do not hold any major dominions and are instead interspersed within the populations of the old Golden Horde conquests.


  1. Interesting. I ended with my orcs having more or less the same background in my European fantasy campaign. My timeline is a bit further along, so the orcish Mongols in Europe have developed into the Cossacks, one of the cornerstones of the Muscovian Tzardom's military.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. If you want to discuss setting ideas for a European fantasy campaign, let me know. I always like bouncing ideas around.

  3. My campaign has been running bi-weekly for more than a year by now, so the large-scale stuff is more or less set in stone by now, and I have a decent idea about what the local areas the party might visit looks like. So there isn't a lot of stuff for you to give input on. But I'd love to give input the others way.

  4. Not sure if you've come across it on my blog, but this is very similar to the scenario I worked out for my world; the main difference being that the original orcs were the Sassanians who originated on the Kazakh steps, while the orcs that raided with Jenghis Khan were ouruchai.

  5. I've decided to purposely segregate monsters from populated areas of Europe. I can't really get behind monsters living in caves without an ecology behind them. For example, they need to eat, make tools and clothing, have some craft that offers them the ability to trade for what they don't have, etc. They won't be able to subside without some form of agriculture and animal husbandry. Well, they don't NEED agriculture, but if they are smack dab in the middle of the HRE then they certainly aren't going to subsist on a plunder and/or a hunter-gatherer paradigm. And if these monsters are truly monstrous, someone would have knocked them off between the time of the Romans to the proto-nations of the 17th century.

    So monsters in Europe are going to be in small numbers and in the still isolated areas, hence, the big dominions of them are going to have to be from other lands. I guess it is natural to stick them in Mongolia or Eurasia and have them sweep into Europe during invasions or integrate them through migrations.

    OR, they are not monstrous at all, which is an approach I might take with some more of the standard humanoid races.

    But yes, Alexis, I am aware you put your demi-human dominions in places like Scandinavia(?), Siberia, and other out of the way plots of Eurasia and Asia. It is a good idea and fits well with a more 'historic' Europe as opposed to a more 'fantasy' Europe. I did toy with the idea of having each national area a different race, like French were humans, Germans were dwarfs, Italians were elves, etc, but found that to be campy for my liking.

  6. My campaign world is heavily shaped by the Faerie, a coexistent plane inhabited by all kinds of fey and shadow creatures. Most of the monstrous monsters, and some of the humanoids, have crossed over from that plane. This only happens in isolated areas, but most of my Europe is isolated. One reason being that new settlements are liable to be eaten by monsters.

    My campaign is 4th ed. D&D, so the players races fit this. Most of them have replaced various peoples or areas. Halflings instead of Celts, Elves instead of Bretons, Dwarves in Scandinavia and Switzerland, Tieflings instead of Gypsees, and Eladrin instead of Jews. Recently I wrote down a note to myself about how all the major races ended up where they did, but its a bit long for a comment.