|Expert||Ash Fanrico, Kelne|
| tribal, see "inner politics"|
|Official Religion||none; shamanism, worship of Numian, Kazeros, Loki is very common|
Orks as a whole are a nomadic culture, in- and outside of Gwa'aag. Naturally there are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part permanent settlements are a matter of convenience, established for trading with other races.
Whatever source you go by, orks are a warrior culture, tending toward rule by the strongest. As such, orks are very big on tests of manhood and the like at the end of adolescence. The plains of Gwa'aag are well stocked with ferocious predators for youngsters to try themselves against--something which causes no little concern for interested traders. While violent, however, orks are not necessarily evil. They'll duff you over the head and take your stuff, but they won't gripe about it if you do the same to them. There's no glory to be found in beating up an obviously weaker opponent, so one-sided slaughters aren't all that common.
All this is not to say that the weak don't have their place. If anything, they're even more motivated to claw out a position of at least moderate respect and tenaciously defend it against all comers. 'Weak ork,' one should note, is a comparative term; unless actually crippled, even the weakest of orks is considerably stronger than your average human--more than capable of looking after themself--even if they may be pretty far down in the pecking order.
With the given importance on strength, parentage isn't particularly important as far as inherited power goes. Any ork has to be able to stand on their own, and trying to get special treatment based on who your parents are is a good way to get laughed out of the tribe. By and large, families ties are recorded through the maternal side for the ease of keeping track. Any ork will have a large extended family to help raise them, with help from the tribe at large if need be. Polygamy is rarely practiced; while the number of spouses you have reflects your prestige, it's also a bunch of extra mouths to feed. Such marital customs, again, vary between tribes.
Alcoholic beverages of all kinds are very important to Gwa'aag's culture and economy. Orks like to drink a lot, and as such they are the experts on good booze. All booze from Gwa'aag is fresh and well made. Orks are excellent drinkers and their standard ale is slightly stronger than dragonale.
1045: Warlord Urslak's campaign
In 1045 EP, the then-Warlord Rakbar Urslak assembled a horde the likes of which had seldom been seen in the history of Gwa'aag. Urslak then led his army into the wastes surrounding Theice. The motivation behind this is not entirely understood--though rumors and legends abound--as the Warlord and his orks never returned. No doubt the Theicians have a different version of the event, but they haven't shared it with the rest of the world.
Today: current events
Traditional orkish worship is a mixture of shamanism and the more traditional Igalan custom of calling on the recognized Pantheon.
There are three gods especially favored by the orks; Numian, Kazeros, and Loki, the gods of battle, freedom, and trickery respectively. Numian is sometimes regarded as the creator of the orks, and the embodiment of the typical orkish mindset. While formal worship of Numian is rare, any good scrap--of which there are many--could be construed as a form of worship. Kazeros, the god of freedom, may seem out of place at first glance, but as a nomadic people with a loose hierarchy at best, personal freedom is an important part of orkish culture. Loki winds up as the true oddball of the group. Brute strength tends to rule in ork society, and Loki is the god of trickery. Nonetheless, there are also those who get their way through low cunning. And who better to serve as the patron of such underdogs than Loki? If nothing else, this god serves as an important balance for Numian.
Orks, however, do not make it a habit to frequently call upon their god or gods of choice. Indeed, they look down on other races for doing just this--when something little goes wrong, other races go immediately whining to the gods. "Make our crops grow," "Bless our children," "Guide us to justice," and so forth.
For day to day stuff, orks rely on shamanism. The rites of practice may vary, but the premise behind the practices are the same: the gods created lesser spirits to handle lesser affairs, and it's right and proper to defer to these spirits for concerns of their domain. The secret to shamanism is finding the way to talk to the spirits...or please them so that they will speak to you...or living through the experience...or be very good at faking things. The larger part of orks with magical talent--those who discover or are taught the ability to view different magical planes--often wind up as shamans. Those with
Gwa'aag is composed of nomadic tribes which are each headed by one or more bosses. The workings and laws of each tribe vary, sometimes radically, but although every ork tribe is a law unto itself they do more or less bow to the authority of the warlord.
The warlord heads the nation of Gwa'aag or, depending on one's views, the orkish race as a whole. The warlord rules for life or until someone stronger displaces him. Typically, upon the death of the reigning warlord, each tribe will send representatives to attend the funeral, festivities, and selection of a new warlord. Said selection, naturally, involves a hefty dose of trial by combat, though there are other tests as well.
The warlord can be removed from office at any time by rite of combat. In order to prevent him from constantly having to deal with an unending stream of upstart challengers, anyone who wants to oust the warlord first has to defeat at least three of his Shieldbearers (frequently the warlord's favourite drinking buddies). Anyone who challenges the warlord and loses doesn't get a second chance.
It's a rare thing for the tribes of Gwa'aag to act with one purpose. In theory, the warlord commands the loyalty of all the tribes, but unless he's planning some grand conquest, this is seldom enacted. Again in theory, he is able to enter into binding treaties with other nations, which his subjects must adhere to.
In practice, however, if the rest of the orks don't like the way the warlord's running things, they're likely to turf him out of office. A new warlord is not considered bound by any agreements made by the old one, to the unending despair of other nations trying to forge some kind of lasting treaty or favourable trading agreement with Gwa'aag.
Relations with other countries
- Avon - Populated as it is by demons, Avon will probably never achieve good relations with Gwa'aag. Demons, after all, can't be trusted--every zoggin' idiot knows that. Even now, abutting tribes are no doubt agitating for war. Just what kept the orks from overrunning the jitsuko, Avon's previous inhabitants, is unknown. Avon continues to hold many secrets.
- Baron - Baron's history has been punctuated with clashes with the orks, but very seldom with either nation committing the full might of its armies. Things have been reasonably peaceful between the two for some time now, and some trade takes place. Some even dare hope that the example of the civilised Baronians may influence the orks for the better, though of course there are always a few renegades who'd rather do a bit of raiding than trade.
- The Dwarven Holds - As a race who set great stock in their word, and the keeping of oaths down through the generations, dwarves tend to take a dim view of the orkish tendency to ignore or--worse--forget the oaths of their forebears. Although there is little direct contact between the dwarven holds and Gwa'aag, dwarven history is replete with examples of orkish oathbreaking and treachery. For their part, the orks respect the dwarves' prowess in battle, but find them far too dour and obsessed with the past. Perhaps their most obvious common ground is their appreciation for alcohol.
- Kalshana - Orks and elves have never really gotten along; elves regard orks as uncultured savages, while orks see them as stuck-up wimps. All things considered, it's probably a good thing there's a mountain range between them. Nevertheless, a warlord who declares war on Kalshana can generally count on popular support. Knowing that facing an orkish horde in open battle is a recipe for disaster, the elves keep the Shuman passes well garrissoned, and avoid taking the fight to the enemy. After all, the orks can afford casualties far better than they can.
- Theice - Gwa'aag's one and only contact with Theice was when the Warlord Rakbar Urslak marched into the wastes of the penninsula at the head of an army. Just what drew the Warlord into such a campaign is unknown. Perhaps tales had reached him of a great foe, or great treasure. Perhaps he wanted to expand his influence into uncharted territory. Or perhaps he marched at the bidding of another. The truth of the matter will likely never be known, for neither Urslak nor any member of his army ever returned. Today, the orks regard the Theician penninsula as a barren waste, cursed by gods and spirits alike. It is no place for the living. The Theicians, of course, are quite happy to have this belief persist, for it guarrantees their privacy.
- The Woodlands - Due to an abundance of potentially valuable lumber, the northern regions of The Woodlands would potentially be contested territory, but woods are not an ork's favoured ground, and the local spirits (read: fey) would not be on their side. Usagijin, for their part, form also in tribes but the current favored government type is rule by intellectuals. This is a new trend of government and perhaps not entirely suited to the people; the usagijin race tend toward aggression and territorialness by nature, something which isn't given a lot of outlet in your typical classroom. While Woodland culture attempts to address this, it's simply not suited for every usagijin, and there remain many wanting to return to the "good ol' days." To many usagijin, orks are a potential ally in this cause. To the less ambitious, orkish culture is close enough to what they are looking for that malcontent usagijin leaving The Woodlands find themselves more often in Gwa'aag than in any other single nation.
Gwa'aag (outskirts) <Gwo>(#375Rn):
Gwa'aag is the known homeland of the ork race. However, trying to place borders on the territory of a nomadic people provides for more than a spot of trouble. The easiest way to look at the nation is to view Gwa'aag consisting of a centralized area and its outskirts.
It is here, in the outskirts of Gwa'aag, where the borders are constantly shifting as various tribes are constantly on the move, taking advantage of the best hunting grounds and other secrets of the land. The outskirts reach out furthest into the frontier to the west, slowly beginning to engulf the border of Unostychia. They further extend all the way to the southern coast, blocked only by the ocean itself. Some ork tribes call the southwestern branch of the Shumans home; however, few are likely to settle into the southern sections of the Shumans' spine. Here, their encroachment is blocked by races jealous of their mountain territory and unfriendly to orkish approach.
Orks themselves have little use for permanent settlements; these oddities exist in central Gwa'aag for the purposes of trade with outsiders. Those wishing to enter central Gwa'aag without passing through the outskirts will need to do so through the southern Shuman spine, which poses its own difficulties. The shortest path through the outskirts to central Gwa'aag otherwise is through the northern outskirts from the frontier.
Obvious exits: (central) Gwa'aag <Gwa> <U>nostychia Western <Fr>ontier Shumans Branch Southwest <shSW> Shumans Spine South <shS>
Gwa'aag is the known homeland of the ork race. However, trying to place borders on the territory of a nomadic people provides for more than a spot of trouble. The easiest way to look at the nation is to view Gwa'aag consisting of a centralized area and its outskirts. Central Gwa'aag is the area wherein any permanent orkish settlements exist. Orks themselves have little use for cities, maintaining these oddities for the purposes of trade with outsiders.
One of the more sought after Gwa'aag exports are any of the various alcoholic substances--easily considered the best thing to do with gathered plant substances during the meat-plenty months. Alcohol is a highly valued commodity in Gwa'aag itself, so it doesn't come at a cheap price; generally, it can be traded for a larger amount of different alcohol or quality grainstuff. The later is preferred, given that orks trust their own ability to create quality brew better than races of weaker constitutions--and why else would others seek their better drink? However, alcohol keeps better when transported, so what is brought into Gwa'aag depends on the merchant.
Gwa'aag also trades various remains from their hunts. By far Gwa'aag's most valued part of the animal is the meat--the bones, horns, pelts, and other remains are used as necessary for housing, clothing, religious, and other cultural needs. The extra items, however, are often traded--as fur, leather, cleaned bone and horn for carving, or--in rarer cases--carved items from these materials. While few orks find themselves in the position of artisan, carved items are not completely unknown or undesired and most commonly take religious form--fetishes and totems of local spirits; icons or symbols of the popular deities of Numian, Kazeros, and Loki; and various aids such as vessels for ceremonies. Beads are also common, if generally less desirable in trade; finished jewelery, on the other hand, more often finds its way into trades.
Obvious exits: Gwa'aag (outskirts) <Gwo> Shumans Spine South <shS>
Wealth in Gwa'aag is comprised of two things, trade and money. A few fur skins will get you a nice dinner where you could also pay for it with money. Though they still have their own currency, the orks have been adapting to using Doman gil as well. Ork currency is known as Talons.
Popular fireside story: the country's naming
"Whatta we name th'place?"
"Hmm..well...Gwa--- *drops a hammer on his foot* AAG!"
"Gwa'aag. Got it..."