Tuesday, February 5, 2019

2019 Small Bites Poll


Hey everybody!  It’s time for our 2019 Theme Survey.  Click on the link below to go out to our latest poll.  The next monthly themes are:  Wilderness Adventures, Making Minor Monsters Cool Again, Our Second Anniversary edition, and The Spectacular Entertainments of the Vandoi.  

But after that - What do you want us to do?  Take the survey and let us know your thoughts!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

An Empire of Orcs?

As most of you know, The World of Fletnern first began development back in the 80s.  At that time, there were very few games on the market and only one major game - and only two versions of that game.  We’re not going to restart the argument about alignments, but at that time orcs were considered to be Lawful Evil.  The way that was explained by the writers seemed to be that they came together in tribes and villages, and therefore they must be lawful and not chaotic.

OK, that made sense - after a while.  Orcish hordes, right?  But if they did come together, then there must be some manner of “law” - I always thought it was more like a code, or even something more instinctual, like the pecking order that arises among certain herds of animals.  (Yes, I’m thinking pigs here.)  You know, where everyone knows who is more important than they are, and they might fight every once in a while to protect or change that pecking order.

So the question came down to were the orcs a collection of tribes doing their own things?  Or were they actually a country, or better yet, an empire?

Too often, it always falls to money for us.  One of the main considerations was trade.  Orcs are often raiders.  They raid enemies or rivals and take what they want.  Clearly few orcish tribes are so self-sufficient that they can grow crops, raise animals, craft weapons, etc.  So either raiding was the main way that some of them survived and others didn’t, or they were forced to trade with each other.

Well, if might makes right, then this would be right within the tribes and between the tribes.  Therefore the top tribe would impose its will on the lesser tribes.  The current top tribe in Fletnern is the Crooked Sword Tribe, but they’ve only been on top for a couple of decades.

Here’s where we get into the world building more than the game mastering:  It doesn’t make sense that violent raiders would be able to survive in a mountainous region.  They wouldn’t be able to gather or grow enough crops or livestock to survive.  Plus, if they continually raided the neighbors, those neighbors would pull away until there were no neighbors for them to raid, and they would be forced to turn on each other.

And right there is where they were under the previous top tribe, the Vile Ones.  Then the Crooked Swords took over and started to force the more violent raiders to start only going after certain targets.  They took the pressure off the farmer orcs.  They gave land to the rancher orcs.  Then they did something crazy.

Immediately to the east of the orcs’ Gold Mountains, is a stretch of coast line that produces ample crops.  But this land was controlled by humans.  But the humans were between the orcs and the ocean.  They really didn’t have a lot of space to spread out.  They were growing crops, sure, but they had to import a lot of things; things like lumber, building stone, clay and ceramics.

The Crooked Sword tribe reached out to these human villages and offered to bring them into the Wembic Empire.  They would make sure no orcs raided their villages.  They would trade timber, coal and iron for the humans’ crops.

Most of the villagers agreed out of sheer fear, but several of these immediately went back on the agreements they made with the orcs.  Yeah, that worked until the next spring.  As soon as the snows cleared from the mountain passes, the orcs came rushing down.  But! and this part sank in to the various human villages!  The orcish raiders knew exactly which villages kept their word and which didn’t.  They took everything from those who went back on their word and left the faithful villages completely alone.  In fact, they often visited the faithful villages and paid for their lodgings there.

Imagine, orc raiders destroyed your neighboring village, and assumedly some of your kin folks, but then come to your village with niceties and paying for the goods they wish to purchase.  Even more - asking what else it is you need from the empire.

Yes, the point is, this is a different type of orc and a different type of empire.  If nothing else, it will keep your players guessing!


This post was written as part of the recently released The Wembic Nation of the Gold Mountains aka All About Orcs, the latest in our Small Bites editions.  Each Small Bites book looks deeply at one subject, a character archetype, a race/monster, a style of questing, or some other role-playing/world building subject.  This one details everything having to do with orcs, but with a mind to making them interesting and far less predictable then they have been in far too many campaign worlds.

We hope we’re getting you interested?  If you want to see the World Walker edition for FREE!! click the link here.  If we’ve hooked you and you want to get the full 64 pages of content in the Game Masters’ edition, click here.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

How Do Orcs Fight?

You know what orcs are like, right?  They are stupid, violent, smelly, and stupid.  So are goblins.  They are also weak and can be killed with a single hit.  That’s orcs, right?  If it is, your campaign sucks.  No seriously, if THE standard “monster” of all fantasy role-play is a cardboard cut-out, you should probably be playing and not game mastering.

So after that offensive intro - We’re glad you’re still here.  Either you agree with us that orcs aren’t overly simplistic, or you want to see how we make them cool, or cool again.  There are tons of ways to do this, but the most important is this:  Orcs are the horde.

Orcs are the original horde attacking enemies.  There are a huge number of them and they use these numbers to overrun those who are technologically or magically superior to them.  Here technology is often metal working as seen in armor.  But what do we mean?

Ever play Starcraft?  You know the zerg with their “zerg rush”?  Yeah - That can be your orcs.  One zerg is a joke, but dozens and dozens of them aren’t.  Anyone who doesn’t understand this either never played Starcraft or used cheat codes.

But let’s put them a little more into a fantasy era context.  Assembling a horde of orcs takes some manner of organization on the orcs’ part.  75 orcs didn’t just meet in a bar one day and all join in a mission that some strangely dressed orc in the corner booth gave them.  Nope, they had to be raised as a war band (or whatever you want to call it).  Got some time on your hands?  Watch the movie Zulu.  Zulu gives a fantastic way of showing the technologically superior British fighting against a horde of “primitive” warriors.  Spears vs. rifles.

But the Zulu tactics matter.  They have scouts and spotters who are watching where the British army components move.  Watch Zulu Dawn, the prequel, for how the Zulus trounced the British in open warfare.  Zulu is a much smaller engagement at a hospital with only dozens of Brits (OK like 150) instead of thousands.

OK, the tactics:  The Zulus had some of the older, more experienced officers (anyone of African descent please forgive me for not calling these folks by a more appropriate title) up on a hill counting the British guns.  Ignoring the historic accuracy of that, this is how a horde would attack - bull rush the main camp and look for strengths and weaknesses in the defenses, then direct more troops at those weaknesses.  Just rushing the main gate blindly is not the way to win with a horde.

But these “savages” act as a horde.  That doesn’t happen out of nowhere.  The orcs have a war culture.  These guys are trained from the moment they hit puberty (or earlier) for battle.  The idea of them being push overs in battle is simply silly.  Not only would they have drilled on how to kill people, but in how to attack in huge numbers without running in front of archers and other mass combat issues.  These guys know war, and they are eager for it.

But how do you get this to work?  These are role-playing games after all; having mindless drones who attack when told doesn’t seem like a race.  It seems like an ant hill, not a race of people.  There has to be some manner of “honor” that gets them to charge forward into the jaws of death.  Why?  Well, that’s up to you as the world builder.  Is it religion?  Is it family honor?  Is it winning some manner of awards for the tribe?

In our previous post, we already used the analogy of the American Indian tribes being different, and therefore we’ll stick to the Zulu scenario.  In the movie, the Zulus would sing, dance and bang their shields in order to terrorize their enemies.  We need more of this in fantasy games.  Intimidation is one of the key tactics in battle, yet when your players know the stats of every monster in the book, they just aren’t afraid of anything.  If they know they can’t be killed by the enemy’s weapon, they charge in, disregarding the physical damage done to them, expecting the healers to bring them back up to full strength.  There’s nothing role-playing about that!

The Zulus also utilize the horns of the buffalo strategy.  What’s that?  Well, honestly, it’s a full frontal assault with a full pincer movement, or a big bunch of guys running straight at you with wings or horns of guys sticking out on the far ends.  When the main group hits the main opponent, the horns then encircle the defenders.  Your game rules likely give great advantage to people attacking from behind.  Here the primitives are smart enough to use that rule to gain advantage.  The point really is that primitives aren’t so stupid or so unfamiliar with battle that they do stupid things.  Either they or their ancestors figured out some decent strategies or they would have been dead by now.  They may overuse those strategies, so you can learn to defeat them, but the first couple of times, it’s going to suck!

Do we think orcs should be portrayed as being legitimate enemies that can stand against human warriors?  Yes!  We think 16yo orcs should be the equal warrior of 21yo humans.  We think 21yo orcs should be veteran troops with the scars and trophies to show it.  But we also think that they need to have something more than just their own single strength as a warrior.  A war culture should count for something.  They should be able to do things that humans, elves and dwarves can’t or perhaps wouldn’t.  After all, those races are worried about things like building stone walls and laying good roads.  The orcs don’t waste their time with things like that.  Instead, they’re training to kill those humans, dwarves and elves.  They’re training to climb those walls, and probably later tear them down.  Battle is their nature, so they ought to be damn good at it.



This post was written as part of the recently released The Wembic Nation of the Gold Mountains aka All About Orcs, the latest in our Small Bites editions.  Each Small Bites book looks deeply at one subject, a character archetype, a race/monster, a style of questing, or some other role-playing/world building subject.  This one details everything having to do with orcs, but with a mind to making them interesting and far less predictable then they have been in far too many campaign worlds.

We hope we’re getting you interested?  If you want to see the World Walker edition for FREE!! click the link here.  If we’ve hooked you and you want to get the full 64 pages of content in the Game Masters’ edition, click here.