DESIGNER’S DIARY 15: DEITIES OF CONFLICT – ORC GODS
When designing the deities, we started with orcs because we had a well-established pantheon with the Forgotten Realms deities. Additionally, among all the Brutal Races, orcs were the most devoted to their gods. In this regard, we didn’t discard the pantheon led by Gruumsh, and for various reasons, although we couldn’t use their names, we provided references.
The first orc deity we introduced was Shazvor. You might notice some similarities with Gruumsh; his story tells of him killing or driving away the old orc pantheon. What Shazvor truly is, we leave that to you. Is he an incarnation of Gruumsh? Did Ilneval betray him and become the chief god? Is he a known human god or a completely different entity? If the game delves into the origins of deities, it’s left to the DM’s discretion.
Nevertheless, Shazvor is more paranoid and aggressive than Gruumsh. Also, death is a theme associated with him. Therefore, he doesn’t oversee as vast a pantheon as before. Currently, it’s just him and Blough.
Blough emerged from the combination of two important themes for orcs: food and diseases. Orcs are straightforward people who don’t place importance on many things. War, life, and death are always there. However, nourishment and diseases are things that intelligent beings would pay attention to. Blough embodies the combination of these two themes. From the perspective of the old pantheon, he’s a mixture of the god of diseases, Yurtrus, and the goddess of caves/family/settlements, Luthic. And he’s also Shazvor‘s spouse.
Speaking of Luthic, it’s worth noting the truth about our new goddess, Lemertel. Of course, those who haven’t read this section won’t be aware. In Lemertel’s story, it’s known that she survived the old pantheon and narrowly escaped death at the hands of Shazvor. The reasons behind this are unclear. However, she’s no longer an evil goddess. She’s become the goddess of wounded, sick, and disabled orcs. She extends her compassion not only to orcs but also to all peaceful races, appearing as a nurturing mother figure. Hence, while she receives support from some good deities, it’s not surprising that she’s not very popular among orcs. However, the mystery of why Luthic turned towards a good alignment remains, like the others.
Of course, at this point, we need to address one of the most significant deities in the book, Repetnuk! When we were exploring important themes for orcs, we intentionally left one for this discussion: lust and sex! In some older D&D sources, you can find substantial references to this topic. Orcs, whether male or female, aren’t very selective when it comes to sexual relationships, and they are quite active in this regard. Orcs needed a deity that embodies all aspects of sexuality and desire. However, this couldn’t be a deity of love. It was more of a deity of “grand desires.” Grand desires… such as breeding, having children who are beholden to you, expanding your family, learning mightier spells, gaining greater power, and more, and more, and more…
That’s why Repetnuk is also the god of hidden and potent magics. Thanks to the incredible reproductive ability he has granted to orcs, they can now produce children with almost any humanoid species, which explains the existence of half-orc hybrids in the book. Repetnuk is not actually a god of orcs but rather something else that uses orcs for its own purposes. As a result, most of the orcs who worship Repetnuk are either half-orcs or city-dwelling orcs with grand ambitions, or members of other races. This naturally makes Repetnuk the arch-nemesis of Shazvor.
Naucthmor was inspired by Baghtru from the old pantheon. However, Baghtru is a rather one-dimensional and simplistic god, known for physical strength and foolhardy courage. He is also the son of Gruumsh and Luthic, which limits his thematic scope significantly. On the other hand, Naucthmor has no connection to the other orc deities. While he is also a god of physical strength and courage, his followers consist of non-evil orc tribes that have exotic lifestyles and strong connections to elemental forces. They are by no means unintelligent. Naucthmor serves as an ideal option for those who want to use orc tribes with a similar way of life but without evil tendencies. He is essentially an alternative to Shazvor.
Lastly, for Golden Boy (Vortenn Southblade), our inspiration was drawn from Obould Many-Arrows. The idea of a sufficiently empowered orc becoming a demigod is intriguing. However, unlike Obould, Vortenn is not a king or chief but rather a mercenary who inspires adventurers. He becomes so successful and wealthy that he transforms into a demigod, a legend among orcs. Surprisingly, he maintains discipline, making him an excellent alternative for lawful orcs. Along with Golden Boy, the mercenary army he brings provides alternative options in games. Although not the most powerful deity, he will likely be one of the most frequently chosen by players.
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