Monday, July 1, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Nouveau Orcs

 Still busy this week so this is drive-by. 

Art previews of the new D&D 5R (D&D 2024) Player's Handbook were released including art for orcs as a playable species.  As expected the Grognard crowd is taking this with measured patience one should expect from the elder statesmen of our hobby.

5r Orcs

No, they didn't. They predictably completely lost their shit. Again.

This seems especially true of the segments that claim never to play "WotC" versions of D&D and don't pay any attention to them.  So the ones that will be least likely to play this version are also bitching and moaning the loudest.

I mean the art is bit too cutesy for me, but a.) this is for a Player's book, not the monster book. and b.) I am not (nor should I be) the target audience.  That is something I am going to get back to, but let's address the prominent issue; that of non-evil orcs.

When it comes to orcs many like to point to their history as defined by the Professor. This great, IF (and only if) we are talking about Lord of the Rings or Middle-Earth. This is D&D and Gary did nothing else if not spend a lot of ink telling us that D&D is not Lord of the Rings. So all the talk of "Melkor can't create" is cute but has little bearing here. 

D&D and AD&D has had "good orcs" before, this is not a new concept. The Forgotten Realms boxed set had them. The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums had them. Good Orcs are not a new thing. Even Half-orcs were a playable race as long as they were non-good.

One of the cardinal rules of D&D has always been to change what you want to work with your group. That means yes, people can have "good" orcs, and other groups can have "evil" orcs. This should counter any "one true wayism" that seems to clutter up the D&D-related YouTube channels.  

Besides no one is saying you can't have purely evil orcs as well. I have several sub-species of orc, some good, many very evil. Works great for me. Pathfinder 2 has orcs you can have as characters and still fight. 

I think what the older crowd, of which I am a member of that crowd, needs to realize is that we are no longer being catered to. We do not have the buying power we have enjoyed for so long. This group, or at least many members of it, have said "we are not buying any non-TSR D&D" and WotC has said "fine, we don't really need your money."  And they don't. The younger generations have shown they have buying power all on their own. 

Look, Wizards of the Coast is not without some serious flaws and a lot of blame. Their handling of the OGL, sending out Pinkertons, all the layoffs and firings. Not to mention some rather lack lustre adventures. But freaking out over good orcs? Yeah, that should not even be on the list.

So here are a couple of reminders.

  1. Whatever appears in the D&D 5r books only maters to people playing D&D 5r.
  2. Nothing posted in D&D 5r effects any other game. Same as nothing in Pathfinder effects any version of D&D.
  3. Despite the Chicken Littling out there no past book has ever been changed.

Play how you want. Let others play how they want. Stop acting like it's the end of the damn world.

Better yet, adopt these new orcs into your old-school games to challenge your players. 


John de Michele said...

I love the 'drama' tag :). I'm old-school myself, and I don't care for the 'new' orcs or for a lot of the furry/dragonborn/etc., either. However, it certainly doesn't bother me that some folks like them or use them. There is plenty of room in AD&D/D&D for different ways to play, and that's a good thing. It would be nice if some of the more grognard-y grognards would recognize that.

PT Dilloway said...

Are good orcs somehow considered "woke?" It seems like when incels complain about Star Trek or Star Wars having female/transgender/gay main characters.

Brendan said...

Really appreciate these points. Your perspective on the history of the game, and the way it contextualizes the present and future of D&D, is why I love reading this blog.

Silverlion said...

I make them whatever the campaign setting needs. But most of the time for me, they're just people. I do have a setting when they're corrupted humans, not a species of their own also.

doccarnby said...

I agree that it is a bit cutesy for me, but I do really like the Western aesthetic they've got going on.

Alec Semicognito said...

Those are orcs? I'd have guessed "tusked elves" or something.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

John de Michele, yeah the Drama tag seemed appropriate. I mean we have had evil elves forever, but good orcs are too much?

PT Dilloway, old fucks will complain about anything.

Brendan, Thanks! I appreciate that.

Silverlion, Exactly. The demands of the campaign/game overide rules as written when needed.

doccarnby, Yeah. I get why that aspect is not to everyone's taste but I do think it is kinda cool.

And anonymous, look if you can't be bothered to support your claim with your real name or online handle then I can't be bothered to approve your post.

Nathan Irving said...

What I find most offensive is the family clothing catalog posing of the characters. It's like D&D by way of JC Penny. There's nothing "adventure" about it.

Dick McGee said...

My complaint (such as it is) is that I can't see anything at all fantastical about them. They look pseudo-historical, not like a fantasy race with an inhuman culture and psychology. Why bother including humanoid species that are just humans with slightly different physiologies? It's boring, and a waste of potential.

D&D's always had way too many bland human-shaped species, whether playable or as "monsters" and this isn't changing that.

John de Michele said...

Doccamby, yeah. Drop the battle axe, give them six-shooters, and you could drop them into Deadlands or another western-themed game.

Marry said...

I don’t care about good vs evil orcs. I’m even perfectly fine with them as cowboys.

But they look human. They don’t look like orcs even a little bit. They have lost almost all their identifying features. The new D&D is using “species” and yet they’re just making human race variants.

Everyone is now just a human with pointy ears. That’s boring AF.

Jonathan Linneman said...

"Are good orcs somehow considered 'woke?'"

I have nothing that draws a direct line, but it's difficult to not think this fits somewhere in the midst of outrage over attempts at (real-life) racial sensitivity and the perceived general wussification of society at large (or maybe just America).

Doctor Futurity said...

I'm a bit out of touch but I'm betting the site with the most drama is that place where 40 or so old dudes hang out and complain about blue haired people making them feel bad or something. That said....locally we kind of found it funny that the image in question sort of makes the orcs look kind of like fantasy latinos. But that said, it immediately got my mind to thinking about what sort of setting and environment would contain latinx orcs and so I can't say its done much more for me, at least, than spark some new ideas.

I have my original campaign setting where orcs are forever evil and have pig snouts. But I also have other campaign settings where I've put a lot of effort into nuanced and politically complex orcs. Tabletop gamers often miss that a big chunk of the evolution of orcs today comes from video games, chiefly World of Warcraft, where the ability to play complex orcs with depth is core to the experience. At a certain point we moved past 1978, and there was no turning back.

GrognardGourmand said...

*sarcasm* But orcs HAVE to be evil! You have to have villains for the PCs to beat up on, right? What other options are there in D&D? I mean, besides undead... fiends... abominations... *sarcasm*

Seriously, this seems to me like Old White Dudes wanting to play the way they've always played, with their evil orcs and babes in chainmail bikinis, and not be reminded that those things are no longer considered appropriate (if indeed they ever really were appropriate). For me, universal agency and moral choice/ambiguity make the game MORE interesting, not less.

Dick McGee said...

Somewhat predictably, I'm now seeing the diametric opposite of the cranky grognard crowd excoriating the art for being insensitive and cultural appropriation and racist and bad for inclusivity and a variety of other complaints - some of which are probably objectively valid, if we're being honest.

It's kind of impressive how modern WotC manages to enrage both sub-communities at once with the same piece of art. Top-tier corporate bumbling.