Orcs in RPGS

This is a diversion from painting to consider the appearance of one of the most common fantasy races in role-playing games – Orcs.

I grew up with an initial image of Orcs from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ‘Monster Manual’, alongside images of Warhammer Orcs from Games Workshop. I think visual images stick in mind more than written descriptions – I certainly saw many images of green skinned orcs. I’d say I had two ideas for orc skin – green from WH and brown from D&D. I played other games with orcs, but didn’t consider that they might be thinking of them as different again. There have been many gaming publications over the years, and in recent decades plenty of fantasy movies (even TV series) that present orcs that may influence what we consider their appearance to be. The Hobbit/LotR movies certainly suggest greys and blacks.

I had been assuming that D&D Orcs were of dark brown skin. While painting orcs recently, I started to look into their description in various editions of D&D and was surprised to see variations between editions that don’t exist in other D&D creatures. Skin colour has changed, and it appears that the designers wanted to get away from the “piggish” look that they started with. Since I’ve been (or will be) painting Goblins and Kobolds, I looked at their descriptions too. There is slightly different wording between editions, but those creatures physical appearance is unchanged in 1st through 3rd edition.

As a result of this minor research, here’s a simple description of Orcs drawn from a variety of sources – with the focus being prominent Role-Playing Games.

1st Edition (AD&D): Orcs appear particularly disgusting because their colouration – brown or brownish green with a bluish sheen – highlights their pinkish snouts and ears. Their bristly hair is dark brown or black, sometimes with tan patches. Even their armour tends to be unattractive – dirty and often a bit rusty. Orcs favour unpleasant colours in general. Their garments are in tribal colours, as are shield devices or trim. Typical colours are blood red, rust red, mustard yellow, yellow green, moss green, greenish purple, and blackish brown.

2nd Edition (AD&D): Orcs vary widely in appearance, as they frequently cross-breed with other species. In general, they resemble primitive humans with grey-green skin covered with coarse hair. Orcs have a slightly stooped posture, a low jutting forehead, and a snout instead of a nose, though comparisons between this facial feature and those of pigs are exaggerated and perhaps unfair. Orcs have well-developed canine teeth for eating meat and short pointed ears that resemble those of a wolf. Orcish snouts and ears have a slightly pink tinge. Their eyes are human, with a reddish tint that sometimes makes them appear to glow red when they reflect dim light sources in near darkness.

3rd Edition (d20): Gray skin. An orc’s coarse hair usually is black. It has lupine ears and reddish eyes. Orcs prefer wearing vivid colours that many humans would consider unpleasant, such as blood red, mustard yellow, yellow-green, and deep purple. Their equipment is dirty and unkempt.

Pathfinder (d20): It has coarse body hair and a stooped posture like some primitive man but with a grayish-green skin tone and bestial facial features. Burning red eyes peer below a low, sloping brow, just above a flattened nose, and prominent tusk-like teeth. Greasy black hair.

Warhammer: A typical Orc is a naturally large creature that stands taller than the average Man, with long arms and short legs, huge slabs of muscle moving underneath tough green skin, and their jaws are lined with vicious fangs that jut out from their under-bite. They have beady red eyes, a generally foul demeanour, and are naturally bald.

M.E.R.P. (Middle Earth Role Playing): Build: Heavy, with thick hides, short legs, and long thin arms. They have grotesque, fanged faces and random hair growth. Colouring: Black or grey hair, black or reddish-brown eyes, and deep grey or black hides.

The One Ring: “Their appearance and size differs from tribe to tribe, but many prominent features are common to all Orcs, such as swarthy skin, short legs and broad, slanted eyes, wide mouths and long fangs.” Broad, with crooked legs and long arms, Mordor Orcs differ greatly in size and capabilities, from the small but deft Snaga to the large Black Uruk.

 

Finally, here’s some notes from J.R.R. Tolkien on the subject:

Swart, slant-eyed, with thick legs and large hands, ugly and filthy fanged humanoids. The Uruks are larger, more powerful and cruel and “black”.

“They are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes”.

In case you don’t know… Sallow = “(of a person’s face or complexion) of an unhealthy yellow or pale brown colour.”

 

Okay… back to painting now… Some grey mixed with flesh for my new batch of Orcs!

 

 

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2018 – Painting: 1, RPG Writing: Lots!

We are nearly halfway through 2018 and so far I’ve painted only ONE figure. After working through my Zombicide figures last year, I expected to make good progress on other painting projects this year, but it just hasn’t happened. My one week Christmas-New Year break was spent in Tasmania, and work has been increasingly busy since then. Most nights I’ve read, done some typing, watched some TV, and played some Lotro (Lord-of-the-Rings Online).

The single exception is a WotC D&D “Giant Scorpion” that I purchased through eBay, that came entirely in a disappointing black. It really didn’t look pre-painted at all. I spent an afternoon repainting it to something that you can actually see detail on.

Scorpion-3

What I’ve really spent time on this year is writing a Pathfinder D&D megadungeon – FalsKrag:

Early last year, when looking for Gamma World material, I found a blog with a player in a GURPS Gamma World Campaign. I got more interested in his blog as I started reading more of the megadungeon campaign that he runs – Felltower. The more I read on his campaign, the more interested I became in doing my own. (Thank you Peter for so much inspiration!) I decided to start with “Beginnings” a short adventure (written a year or two ago) for new 1st level characters that explains how they get together from different places around the world of Greyhawk and become an adventuring group. The main adversary and finale in that adventure provides a perfect lead-in to my megadungeon.

I looked for somewhere in the world of Greyhawk to place my ruins and mountain dungeon and by chance zoomed in on a map and found three places on a river close to the border of three countries – Falsford, Fals Keep and Falsridge. It’s also right next to a minor mountain range, with valleys, forested areas and a heap of humanoids. I didn’t intend to copy Felltower in name, but this seemed the perfect set-up for my adventure, and the more I read on the politics and history of the area, the more I knew I had a great location. So the ruin of Falshold, on the mountain of FalsKrag was born.

FalsKrag maps & handouts (Click for larger) – blurred to remove important detail.

I’ve now mapped and detailed about 12 areas (or levels), for the ruin and dungeon. I’ve got a family history for the ruin, a past timeline (covering 500 years), details on population of the three “towns” (numbers, types of classes/levels of inhabitants, shrines/temples, etc), a growing list of expanded rumours, and three detailed sections of legend/history that I’ve worked around established Greyhawk history of the area, that have an impact of the dungeon or a particular part of it. It’s been a lot of fun writing it, and it hasn’t mattered if I’ve got sidetracked looking up odd Greyhawk info in my many books and resources. I have a heap of player handouts, some colour maps, a growing set of Hero Lab portfolios with monsters and NPCs, notes on the different greyhawk races/cultures (complete with real-world language notes to offer a printed version of any text in Baklunish, Flan, Oeridean, or Suel), a new fully fleshed weapon of legacy (and plans to utilise and rewrite three from the book d20 3.5 ‘Weapons of Legacy’) and sets/groups of magical and mundane items in and around the dungeon (for example, an NPC group from 200 years ago had weapons made here) that may be found or be required for something. I’ve got notes for future levels/creatures/NPCs/legends that I’ll expand on as I feel I’ve reached an appropriate place to put them.

While this won’t be a full sandbox experience, it is distinctly not linear, nor static, in dungeon layout and with it’s multiple story-lines. There should be many choices (rumours, legend, exploration, locations, etc) that players can choose from to investigate in any session. My group of players are primarily hack’n’slash, but they don’t mind the occasional puzzle. There are things that shouldn’t be found or understood on the first “pass”, things that will happen as game-time passes, and consequences to party actions. I’ve got events/locations where what happens relates to particular days of the month, or how long before something happens after the party trigger a particular thing/event, detail on how creatures react to the players, whether some groups have friends or get reinforcements, etc.

Overall, I’ve put a lot of work into this (60-70 typed pages, plus maps and handouts, and lots of handwritten notes) and I’m having a lot of fun writing it. A week ago I wanted a fungus or lichen in a particular part of the dungeon – I now have 10 different “herbs” with type, preparation and effects to use, mostly drawn from MERP. I plan to expand this now that I’ve found that Paizo’s Ultimate Wilderness has more.

The second half of “level seven” awaits…

 

Zombicide: BP – Painting Survivors Completed

This will be my last post for 2017. Tonight my wife and I head to Tasmania for a week, so no more painting until the new year. In any case, these three figures are the last of my Zombicide: Black Plague survivors. They are also the last Zombicide figures that I had planned to paint. Walkers, Runners, Fatties and NPCs can stay as they are. (I did paint the runner bases red, to make them stand out from the walkers.)

 

William – Sean Bean as Boromir (Lord of the Rings) and possibly Eddard Stark (Game of Thrones)

Scowl – Batman!

Hitch – David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King from the movie “Labyrinth”

These three were all straightforward to paint except for the beard on William. The card clearly show a distinctly bearded Sean Bean, but there isn’t a sculpted beard on the figure, so I’ve painted this on free-hand. Its okay, but I did a better job with Paul in one of my earlier posts. I feel that ‘William’ matches the clothes of Boromir more than Ned Stark. He’s only missing a horn. There’s a lot of debate over this figure, but there’s no reason why both roles couldn’t be intended.

All three are basic melee characters. I feel ‘Hitch’ could have had at least one magic skill to fit with Labyrinth more, but Slippery and Taunt suit the role.

This brings my painted figures to 95 for the year, which I’m very happy with. I would have liked to hit 100, but that can be a goal for next year. After I finish the 14 Star Wars mini’s that sit undercoated on my desk, I have a strong temptation to paint all the figures from my ‘Space Crusade’ board game.

For my first post next year, I might get all the painted Zombicide figures out and take a group photo!

Best wishes all for Christmas and the New Year!

 

EDIT: One of those axes that Scowl holds broke when I started on the figure. I superglued it back on, and its still holding together mid-2018, even though the figure has been in and out of the storage box many times. This is the only breakage that has occurred with the nearly 200 figures I have for Z:BP!

Zombicide: BP – Painting Survivors #12

Three more Zombicide: Black Plague survivors completed and only three more to paint.

This set are mostly guest artist figures:

– Morrigan, dark Elf bodyguard – Wulfsburg Expansion

– Antha, Human witch – by Mark Simonetti.

– Merieil, Elf magesmith – by Naiade.

 

These were all interesting to paint. Both Morrigan and Merieil have a considerable amount of detail, although the colours shown on the cards don’t make it stand out. Antha is the complete opposite – a fairly basic sculpt, but the colour is everything! I didn’t follow card colours exactly in each case.

I can’t look at Morrigan without thinking of a female version of Drizzt Do’Urden, and I can’t be the only one. I made slight variations with colours, mostly to give a bit more contrast in clothes and equipment. My dark elfs (D&D background) have almost black skin (and red eyes), not the pale grey of the card image. I messed things up doing this – I had just the right blend of really dark grey (almost black) painted, then decided to remove the strand of hair that hangs down over her face. It had been annoying me right since undercoating. This meant having to repaint the face again, and I didn’t get the colour quite right – too much black. I’ve managed to lighten the skin tone a little, but not quite back to my original plan. I stopped before I make things worse. I’m still thinking of a hint of detail on the boots, and the mask (maybe red not the black/grey on the card).

Antha’s sculpt really only has simple crossed sashes at the front and the “dangling strips” that define lines of colour. I’d thought that painting her with any accuracy was going to be very challenging – but once I got going, I was actually having fun. There’s more free-hand detail there than I would ever have expected to achieve, but with a really steady hand and a really fine brush more could still be done. I’m thrilled with the final look.

Merieil was a nice sculpt and fairly easy painting. There’s some detail sculpted that’s not on the card (elbow & knee pads) and I reversed the hair and skin coolours. I’m not used to elves with pink/purple skin, so I went with my “fair maiden” pale flesh and some “lavender” over white for the hair. The skin didn’t work out quite as smoothly as I’d have liked, but it’s not quite as bad as it looks in the photo.

 

I’ve got two survivors to go – three to show, but one already painted. I’m going away for the last week of December, so I don’t expect to get any more painting done except for the final Z:BP survivors this year.

Zombicide: BP – Painting Survivors #11

The weather in Melbourne (Aust) is extremely confused. November/December has gone from record breaking 30+ temperatures to cold and nearly flooded (a month’s rain in a day?). At least cooler weather means I’m happier to paint, and I look like finishing my Zombicide survivors before Christmas.

These three are all movie/TV characters:

Lady Faye – Snow White (Kirsten Stewart from the 2012 movie “Snow White & the Huntsman”)

Danton – William Wallace (Mel Gibson from the 1995 movie “Braveheart”)

Xuxa – Xena (Lucy Lawless from the 1995 TV series “Xena, Warrior Princess”)

These three were fairly good to paint – nice poses and sculpts. I looked at images on the web to get a better idea of details, which didn’t always help. For example, the Lady Faye figure has a rose emblem on her shield – but in the movie it’s a tree. I painted it red just to be simple. Mel gibson wore tartan in the movie, and I tracked more images (and the tartan) down. The card doesn’t show the tartan – its shows a plain dark brown cloth. The actual tartan is a pale grey/reddish-brown/darker brown pattern which I attempted to paint but didn’t do very well. I didn’t want to try and clean it all off and start again, and gives a bit of variety in the colours of the figure and looks (unintentionally) blood spattered. Xena is surprisingly quite accurate with colours and design (card vs TV series), but I may go back and touch up some detail with gold or bronze metallic, rather than leave the mostly silver detail.

All the survivor’s skills are pretty much straight forward melee. While the “Xuxa” figure holds a bow, she has no specifically ranged skills.

There’s only six survivors to go, and I have two painted already. I’ll keep painting and hopefully have two more sets of three to post over the next week or two.

Zombicide: BP – Painting Survivors #10

Painting started well during the week with me getting another set completed, then my enthusiasm died due to the continued hot weather.

This set includes:

Falstaff – Dracula (Gary Oldman from 1992 “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”)

Lucas – Godfrey de Ibelin (Liam Neeson from 2005 “Kingdom of Heaven”)

Sylvia – Black Plague Hero Box

Julian – Black Plague Hero Box

All four are fairly general melee hero’s, with two exceptions. Lucas has “Spellcaster” as a red skill, which I feel is a bit late to be considering magic, unless ‘Reaper: Combat’ if that was taken at orange. Sylvia has distinct melee skills until red – then she has three ‘Combat’ options, which I feel is great at that stage because it works with any equipment you’ve gained.

Falstaff was easy to paint; he’s basically red with black ink, though I did give him a brown base coat to ensure the red wasn’t going to be bright. Lucas has dark hair on the card, but it’s much more a light brown in the movie. I’ve painted his hair to match the movie, but it’s looking a bit lighter in the pictures than it actually is. I didn’t bother painting the “mask” on Sylvia’s face. Julian’s cloak looks to me (on the card) as if it has a purple hue near the top and more blue-grey at the bottom – I just used a dark purple I have all over with a little dark blue/gray and black for shading. I wasn’t concerned about highlighting these figures. They are board game figures, and I want them finished… so unless a particular figure makes me want to spend some extra effort I’m just happy to use ink for shading and leave it at that.

Zombicide: BP – Painting Survivors #9

More survivors! Most of these were fun to paint – mostly simple colour schemes and some different colours.

The four figures are:

Clovis – Original Black Plague

Theo – Wulfsburg Expansion

Gowan – “Connor McLeod” (Christopher Lambert, Highlander movie.)

Troy – “Ash” (Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness movie.)

There’s quite a variety in “quality” when it comes to the movie characters – the cards are generally very close to the actors representation, but the actual figure faces aren’t always so good. Troy’s card certainly looks like Bruce Campbell, but I feel figure is close but not great. ‘Gowan’ is worse – with perhaps the exception of the shield, the pose and gear is accurate, but the face doesn’t look that much like Christopher Lambert to me. The tartan is wrong too.

 

“Everyone yell at the enemy!”

I like tartan and Highlander (Scottish ancestry), but I’ve dreaded painting it. I wouldn’t say my first attempt is great, but it came together better than I’d hoped. In future, I’d paint slightly differently – light background colour, darker colour, then fine stripes, rather than trying to darken ‘squares’ after the lines. I used movie stills for accurate tartan colours.

     Gowan/Connor McLeod close-up

 

I was pleased to get to ‘Ash’ – since I completed ‘Evil Ash’ (Survivor/Necromancer) a long time ago. I found a sculpting error with this figure too – there’s no sword hilt below the crossbar. The hilt should be visible between his hands – but there’s just an empty gap – and the very end of it should probably extend just below his left hand. I couldn’t be bothered trying to fill the gap, or manufacture a ‘repair’ – it’s not obvious unless you are looking very closely at his hands.

I also noticed after painting and getting ready to type that Theo’s base should be blue/green. His skill set is melee/ranged, so I’ve repainted half the base.