Orcs are tall humanoids, reaching 6’6” on average. They are generally lean and sinewy, and their average lifespan is 70 cycles.
Orc society is steeped in shamanistic traditions honouring their elders, the elements and the old gods. Unlike the elves, dwarfs and humans, orcs have largely shunned technology. They live in tribal villages inter-connected via networks of elder councils. Some orcs have turned their backs on the orc way of life, lured to the big cities by the promise of wealth and fame, since orcs make excellent body guards and hired assassins.
A peculiar aspect of orc society was their tradition of "inking" the skin of criminals to mark their crimes for the duration of their penance. The greater the crime, the more the blue tattoo would cover the skin of the criminal. This served as an immediate signal to other orcs who among them were criminals currently serving their punishment. Once the punishment had been served an orc was able to request a shaman to remove the blue stain, thus allowing them to re-enter orc society without prejudice.
The emergence of the new gods had a greater impact on the orcs than perhaps any other race. The witchdoctors, who up to this point had lived in the shadows of orc society, came to prominence and had a huge influence on the younger generation. Witchdoctors believed that orc traditions had held the race back, so worked towards inspiring young orcs to join their cause of becoming more aggressive in their dealings with other races.
The struggle between shamans and witchdoctors has kept the orcs on the verge of civil war for hundreds of cycles, causing a rift that looks like it may never abate.
The orcs were reluctant participants in The Gathering, their society being so steeped in the traditions of the old gods. However, they did attend and predictably, their chosen champion was one of their most respected shamans, Krognar. It was therefore ironic that Krognar was one of the first of the chosen to be consumed by the drive to become a demigod, a drive that led him to commune with Zaron Bogdan to create the first effigy. Perhaps Krognar understood the mayhem that the old gods were causing for Athien’s mortals, or perhaps his time on Between appealed to a deep inner desire for power. Regardless of the cause, the orc was one of the main reasons that the chosen became demigods.
300 cycles after The Gathering, two prominent orcs moved their race to the brink of civil war. Haksa, a shaman of considerable power, was trying to keep the orcs rooted in tradition. Kruul, the first in a new line of witchdoctors, secretly formed a series of death cults that aggressively recruited young, impressionable orcs. One of Kruul’s keenest students, Zhonyja, would become a warrior without peer, rising to prominence as the embodiment of the “true” orc.
A natural phenomenon of the orc race is the occurrence of two-headed infants that grow to be much larger and stronger than common orcs. They are known as ettins. In around 500 AG, the ettin birth rates increased dramatically. Rumour has it that the shamans were behind the increase, since ettins normally fought in the armies of the traditionalists. Bolstered by ettins, the shamans were able to gain ascendency over the witchdoctor faction, pushing the death cults to the fringes of orc society.
Returning to their traditions allowed the orcs to largely stay out of the Athien War conflict. They also remained ignorant about the rise of the elves and their huge technology advances. The orcs remain content to live in the wilderness on Athien, as they have done for thousands of cycles.