The Boreal Crusades — the great continent-spanning wars between man and orc — have resulted in some of the most spectacular bloodshed ever witnessed on Fartherall. Orcs burned out and slaughtered helpless farmers and frontiersmen, displacing hordes of northern humans and seizing their lands; and human assassins massacred hibernating orcs, after slaying their watchers, under the guise of justice and purity. Instances of friendly contact between large populations of these races are all but unheard of, and a half-orc raised by two loving parents is rarer than star metal.
Instead, a majority of half-orcs are, sadly, conceived in violence and pain, left as a burden upon a human mother. Those children who survive their first few years grow rapidly, soon outstripping most of their human counterparts in both strength and assertiveness (which the humans most often mischaracterize as aggression). Those half-orcs with a gentler disposition will find themselves bullied by mobs of their human peers, and those with rougher manner often end up leading those selfsame mobs. This, of course, ends up perpetuating the stereotype of the thuggish and crude half-orc running roughshod over human society.
In contrast, human/orc hybrids have an easier time of it in orcish society. Becoming part of an orcish tribe is a difficult task for anyone not born into it, but those half-orcs who are bound by blood to a tribe will be accepted, even if the blood runs thin. These strange pups — who are comparatively weak and who develop more slowly than their full-blooded orc kin — are put through the same pace as their purebred cousins. Only when and if they can’t keep pace do they face any discrimination for their human side. Unfortunately, given that orcish pups can walk mere hours after birth — what weak baby is this, that must be carried? — half-orc children often get left behind in the earliest days of life. Even so, the relative acceptance that benefits these half-orcs comes with the added difficulty that comes from growing up in orcish society.
A strange exception to these standards is the rare, but not unheard of, loving human-orcish mixed race family. On the rarest of occasions, kismet will strike when an orc and human cross paths. For no discernable reason, they will be smitten with one another. Resisting this attraction is incredibly difficult, and can cause sickness and even physical pain in the short term. If the two succumb to this newfound attraction, children (or a litter) will often result from their union. These half-orcs are the fortunate few who grow up in a home with two loving parents, and a foot in each world. As they grow, they feel a strong sense of destiny that draws them to the righteous path of the Paladin.
Half-orcs are strong, physically powerful and hardy, combining human adaptability with Orcish vigor. Half-orcs tend to stand slightly taller and have heavier musculature than a human, and their skin bears a definitive light green hue ranging from pea green to seafoam. They grow their hair longer in human settlements to conceal their more bestial features, while those who dwell among the orcs will often shave their heads bare and do all they can to make their appearance all the more fearsome.
Half-orc children — called pups when raised in Orcish societies — can walk by three months old and run by six. They are usually born in small litters of fraternal twins and triplets. They reach sexual maturity by ten or twelve and full adulthood by fourteen — quicker than humans, more slowly than orcs. Middle age for a half-orc is thirty, with fifty marking old age. Few live past sixty.
There is no half-orc society. While a half-orc and a half-orc would produce another half-orc, a half-orc and an orc produce offspring indistinguishable from orcs, and a half-orc and a human produce offspring indistinguishable from a human (with just the slightest touch of green in the skin). Therefore, unless half-orcs only breed with one another, they are never more than a small minority in whichever community they belong.
Upon reaching adulthood, half-orcs who grew up in human societies tend to strike out on their own. Human fear of the orc runs deep; too many have lost loved ones to the scrapaxe and atrocity-knife, and they unfairly project those feelings onto half-orc children. When the half-orcs reach adulthood — alarmingly quickly, from the human point of view — it’s hard for humans to see anything but a savage orc living in their midst, even if they’ve known the half-orc all their lives. Adult half-orcs living in human populations find themselves the targets of racial profiling and discrimination. To avoid threats of violence, half-orcs who remain in human societies find they have to be “twice as good, half as mad” (so the saying goes). Still, that might not be enough to avoid harassment. As a result, many of half-orcs who live as adults in human settlements trend towards careers of authority: clerics, inquisitors, and paladins. Those who see the writing on the wall and leave as youths seldom return.
On the other hand, half-orcs growing up in Orcish societies often try to prove that they’re as much an orc as any of their peers. Half-orcs in traditionalist tribes go out of their way to accept the scars of rank and anything else that marks them an orc. Once they’ve earned the trust of a tribe, half-orcs in high esteem can rise to lasting leadership positions given their relatively longer lives. Some of the tribes require a purification ritual wherein the half-orc will dangle over a fire — ceremonially burning away their human blood — until the candidate collapses from the exhaustion, only to rise a day later as a “true” orc. From that point forward, the half-orc will be considered and referred to as a pure orc by the rest of the tribe.
On occasion, half-orc refugees from human societies run away to join a tribe. Those tribes willing to accept a half-orc raised by humans put these newcomers through harsh initiation processes. Some require the purification ritual. Sadly, many of these half-orcs either don’t have the stamina to survive the initiations, or die during the purification ritual. Those who do succeed are welcomed as full member of the tribe, and only have the language barrier to surmount.
No such purification ritual is required by modernist orcs in the permanent Orcish settlements. Half-orcs there are welcome, and don’t need to ceremonially purify themselves from their human blood to find acceptance.
Non-human, non-orc members of other races have a difficult time telling a half-orc apart from an orc, and this has sometimes led to tragic misunderstandings. Half-orcs who wish to serve in a diplomatic role realize that they need to keep their features obscured and their heads held low until proper contact has been made, lest they alarm their would-be allies. Dwarven reaction to half-orcs depends on where the dwarf is from. Surface-dwelling dwarves are surprisingly awkward around half-orcs, seeing them as unfortunate victims of the lax dwarven slave masters who allowed the original escape all those years ago. They do what they can to keep these ambivalent feelings of guilt and disgust from getting in the way of business, of course. Dwarves from under the mountains are sickened by half-orcs and see them as abominations to be put down. What disgusts them is seeing human blood — humans being one step away from dwarves in the Olom strain — mingled with that of the orc.
Elves are terrified of half-orcs. The attraction they feel toward humans is there alongside the repulsion they feel for the warmongering orcs. They keep interaction as brief as (rather curt) politeness will allow, and often feel the need for a long bath after such business is concluded.
Gnomes aren’t especially interested in judging half-orcs, and treat them most like the company they keep. Of course, they usually keep company with both humans and pure orcs, so that often means that they’re trouble anyway. But if anyone’s willing to give an individual a chance, it’s the gnomes.
The halflings are happy to welcome half-orcs who come peaceably to their tables, and treat them in the manner of whichever ethnicity they seem to most closely identify.
Humans treat most half-orcs with naked suspicion bordering on open hostility, making it sometimes dangerous for an unescorted half-orc to travel alone in human-settled areas. On the other side of that coin, a lone half-orc spotted by the watch after dark is liable to be under suspicion of mischief, and may be harassed or even arrested with little to no provocation.
Orcs treat the half-breeds like members of their own tribe when they are brought up among orcs, but any tribe that is not allied to their own will behave as though the half-orc were a human; which is to say, they will often stab first and ask questions later.
Half-orcs prefer to avoid ogres because the huge lummoxes find them even more attractive than humans. Being pawed at by an ogre is enough to make even the bravest warrior shrink in fear and run for the hills.
Alignment and Religion
Half-orcs mostly tend toward Neutral alignments, as they spend their formative years learning that it can be dangerous to rely on others too much, but also that it can be hazardous to disrupt any established system too much. About as many are good as evil, so it mostly averages out.
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