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Orc and Ogre Plothooks

 
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 12:45 am    Post subject: Orc and Ogre Plothooks Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So, I'm writing up a hexcrawl, and I've come to the part of the map marked "tons of orcs and ogres are here." There's about a dozen hexes in the region that are flagged as being home to an orc or ogre tribe (and often of a tribe of orcs run by ogres) and I need something to do with all of these that's better than just having slightly different maps of tribal camps or ruined waycastles or whatever, all spattered with slightly different arrangements of the exact same half-dozen or so enemies. Adding in more enemy variety by having orcs who worship fire or ogres who ride mammoths is a start, but I also need plothooks to give exploring this region more flavor than "you locate yet another orc tribe with a weird template and casters with themed spells." There's human settlements bordering the area and some merchants try to shave off travel time by going straight through orc territory instead of all the way around it, so hooks like "X has been kidnapped" are on the table.

Just having fewer orc tribes is not an option, because the entire purpose of the region is that claiming it is valuable and there are NPC factions who want to do it and will fund your expedition, but it's chock full of orcs. Caesar in Gaul is the basic inspiration here, probably including the remaining tribes putting together a big army to confront the PCs' expanding territory after X number of tribes have been ticked off.

Keep in mind the two elements of a plothook: The plot, something that is going on that players might want to intervene in, and a hook, some method by which players find out about it while stomping across Orctopia.
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GnomeWorks
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Maybe play off the theme of each tribe, and use that to put extra details in their region that are also interesting bits to explore?

For instance, "orcs who worship fire" might do so because their tribe is sitting on top of the ruins of a temple to some forgotten fire deity, so they get powered up without necessarily knowing why (or maybe they do, and can leave breadcrumbs for the players to follow).

So then it's "these orcs are weird, but there's probably a good reason they're weird, and we should investigate that to reduce possible future weirdness." I'm not sure that's enough or even what you're looking for, though.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

That helps flesh out the opposition a little bit, but it's still one of a dozen-odd "there are [gimmick] orcs in this hex, kill them all to death" adventures. The idea is to come up with some plothooks that involve more than just the meta-plot motive of "these lands would be much more valuable if there were significantly fewer homicidal marauders in them." For starters, some kind of nefarious scheme that the orcs are up to would help, since otherwise it's basically just murderhobo imperialism with a fig leaf of "these guys do bad things offscreen, trust me."
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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 1:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Well the classic is a new warchief having sucess uniting the tribes towards becoming a threat to human lands. And the classic twist is that the warchief is actually a "kidnapped" human who has gone native.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Couple of problems with that. First, there's the suggestion of a time limit, that at some point the orc chieftain will actually wreck something. I need to carefully manage time limits to avoid overwhelming the players or pushing them into constantly putting out fires instead of looking at a map and saying "let's explore over there and see what we find."

Second, it doesn't really do anything for the individual orc tribes at all. Okay, so the orcs are allegedly getting ready for an invasion and maybe we even see them stockpiling weapons or something, but that plot applies to all of them, so it does nothing to help the twelfth hex full of orcs feel different from the last eleven. You're still just finding a tribe of orcs and stabbing as many of them to death as possible. If players decide they're going to sit down and completely clear out this region, that should be a defensible choice and it shouldn't be an interminably dull grind by the end.

"Fire worshiping orcs kidnapped a bunch of people from merchant caravans to burn alive for the favor of their fire god" is a plot, and for the hook I can add in the scorched remains of a heavily armed caravan with signs of a battle and tracks leading away, not all of them wearing the heavy boots of an orc warrior. So the players find the scene of the battle and they follow the tracks back to the temple (needs to be a couple of other methods to find the temple in case the party isn't equipped to follow tracks or the Ranger botches his Survival roll or whatever, but that's details) and fight a bunch of fire orcs to save the survivors of the caravan.

Now I just need eleven-ish more.
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Fighting a dozen tribes is going to feel samey because it is, even if each tribe dresses in a different color.

Having a sense of how the tribes interact with each other is going to help. If one tribe holds the others in thrall, you can have several tribes serve as enemies/obstructions, but then flip it around to the tribes being a victim.

Ideally you've done something with orcs and ogres outside of this area to give a sense of what they're doing.

The 'chief tribe' could be an ogre mage necromancer with a zombie dragon. He set up the mammoth cavalry and is preparing for a massive war. Some tribes support him while others have been brought to heel through violence and hostages. Scattered orcs are desperate and without organization as they try to find ways to cause problems for the necromancer. Each tribe, regardless of theme, has a 'commisar' with zombie goons to keep an eye on the tribe.
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Lokathor
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Chamomile wrote:
If players decide they're going to sit down and completely clear out this region, that should be a defensible choice and it shouldn't be an interminably dull grind by the end.


Should it really be?

Like, not just because of the humanitarian concerns, but if the players decide "we're going to fight EVERY orc we see until they're all gone", well maybe it's their own fault if they get bored before they run out of orcs. They can go pick any new goal at any time.

Or, if murdering orc tribes becomes so old hat, just fast forward through it all once you've done it once or twice.
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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

One thing that sticks out to me is the fact that there are ~12 tribes, and that they have some sort of overlap in terms of their populations & power structures. Which indicates that there are both conflicts between orcs & ogres, but also between orcs, and between ogres. Which results in alliance tribes forming out of the chaos of either species tribes being endangered.
However, it could also be the result of ongoing cultural osmosis between the Orcs, and the Ogres. Whereby the orc tribes always seek the most powerful "Strongman" to lead them in battle; and the constant wanderings of Ogre warbands/raiders in the region means that the occasionally lost or ambitious Ogre will try to take over a tribe of a species that's weaker than themselves.

Potentially at one point either the Ogres or the Orcs were the indigenous population; and the other population began to move in and initially driving out the indigenous population. That there is a heterogenous nature in both the Ogres and Orcs indicates that neither are a unified force, and as such it is likely that Orcish or Ogrish tribe members are forced into new relationships and power structures as the invaders turn on each other; and the indigenous population revisits ages-old conflicts.

At this point; what's needed isn't "give me crazy orc and/or ogre tribal concepts"; but rather the limits on the sorts of differences the Orcs & Ogres could have.

Some ideas

  • Being overly religious or magical in governance; Orc Shaman, Ogre Mage leaders are one direction.

  • Anti-theological: Secular Orc Matron Councils, and totalitarian Ogre warlords backed by their personal guard are an other direction.

  • Having outlier-grade tools This could be a result of strip-mining and focusing on taking rivers to establish dark ages style watermill smithy factories. If not flat out having Science Fantasy grade items like beam-pistols or obediant war-bots; all scavenged from a crashed vessel all "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" style.

  • Having exotic domesticated (or even semi-domesticated) animals or magical beasts. Fighting a tribe of Orcs is one thing. Blundering into the Cockatrice Tribes coops is a whole other. This concept could be extended to contain tribes which hunt specific magical beasts for materials that make them more dangerous in combat; the arrows of the Wyvern Tribe are deadly; the Grek Tribe is almost impossible to harm without magic weapons, etc..

    Ultimately, to determine the current situation; history of the area needs to be thought about; to determine the history, consider the prehistory; to determine prehistory, consider biology. The needs of the culture being met are the only things you need to be firm about; after the narrative founding for a faction is established, the ephemeral noodling about [Raider Ogre Tribes] Leaders emblem, or the specific sigil of the orcish mills of tribe Dwarfsmite; can be whatever.
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    Orca
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Twelve tribes, each fought individually, really is too many. Perhaps after they've beaten some of them the remainder will flee or unite to hunt down/fight the party.
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    Judging__Eagle
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Orca wrote:
    Twelve tribes, each fought individually, really is too many. Perhaps after they've beaten some of them the remainder will flee or unite to hunt down/fight the party.


    Depends how the combats are played out. I could see a campaign where the PCs subjugate a tribe into declaring vassalage and conscript their new warriors for their next; larger; target, each session. I've certainly played my share of 1st level 1 shots where we had to kill a tribe of rampaging gnolls (I have no idea why, but DMs love "tribe of gnolls" as raiders; they still die like chumps to a remotely pyrometric defense

    The PCs could very well be bumping into

    50% chance of orc
    and/or
    50% chance of ogre

    Leaders: can be orc, or ogres, for either type (e.g. powerful party of orc adventurers would want a tribe of ogres over orcs; while a powerful party of adventurers would probably have a large amalgamated force of orcs, ogres, and their own personal choice).

    Going through the DMGs encounter charts might also help stimulate ideas for creatures to pit either against the orcs/ogres (and who the PCs could befriend or ally with); or creatures that would be more amenable to orcs/ogres ideologies (and thus would have to be slain or subjugated & conscripted for the next bigger enemy camp).
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    Chamomile
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Quote:
    Fighting a dozen tribes is going to feel samey because it is, even if each tribe dresses in a different color.


    That is the issue I'm facing, yes. I've also already mentioned why any sub-plot that revolves around massive and permanent change to the region that doesn't require any player action to get rolling is bad, because then either that plot doesn't actually advance at all even if the players completely ignore it for months or years of game time after hearing about it, or it becomes an ongoing problem that demands their attention with some level of dire consequences if they don't, something which needs to be carefully balanced against all of the other things that can potentially do that everywhere else on the map.

    Orca wrote:
    Twelve tribes, each fought individually, really is too many. Perhaps after they've beaten some of them the remainder will flee or unite to hunt down/fight the party.


    That is something I mentioned in my opening post, yes. I still need plot hooks so that #1 whichever tribes the players actually confront there is content there waiting, and if they decide to try and scout out all of the tribes before choosing which ones to attack then all of the tribes need to be there to be scouted. If I wanted to trick my players into thinking they're exploring while actually just dropping a linear series of adventures in front of them in a pre-planned order, I would not be making a hexcrawl. And also #2 the alliance at the end is going to be comprised of whatever tribes they haven't already defeated, and in order to produce the feeling of fighting a coalition and not just a larger number of orcs, those tribes must be in some way distinct.

    There is no mathematical proof of exactly how many interesting plots you can hang on the basic concept of "orc tribes raid their neighbors and/or each other," so when you say that twelve is a large number of them and it would be very hard to keep things interesting for that long, all you have done is discovered the problem that I came here to crowd source a solution for.

    Like, this is a hexcrawl. The entire point of a hexcrawl is that players can go wherever and do whatever. I don't need advice on how to pace the campaign because the players will decide at what point there have been too many orcs and they want to do something else now, and I certainly won't benefit from turning them into a map-altering menace that compels players to fight them or face consequences regardless of how interested they are in fighting orcs. There are pieces of the map that are well-suited to provide dynamic threats that will change their region and expand their sphere of influence if left unopposed. The twenty hexes of wilderness standing between a couple of towns who'd like to have shorter, safer trade routes with one another is not one of them.
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    Grek
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    The big divides in orcish cultures are nomadic vs stationery and domestication vs hunting. Tribes that wander from hex to hex will obviously feel different to the players than tribes who have a single hex that they've fortified. Likewise, tribes with domesticated animals are a lot more obvious (but probably less dangerous) than orcs who have made sneaking around murdering things the basis for their entire way of life. With that in mind, we might have:

    The River Tribe: These orcs are nomads who sail up and down the largest river in the region, hunting and fishing along the banks. While they've always raided the riverside settlements of other orcish tribes (particularly the Bridge Thralls), they've recently become significantly bolder and launched an attack on [human settlement]. Nobody is quite sure where they've stashed the loot, but rumour has it the Chieftain has an ogre-sized pleasure barge loaded down with loot and orcish harem girls.

    The Bridge Thralls: The ancient hated enemy of the River Tribe! Back before the collapse of orcish civilization in the region, a bunch of trolls were recruited to construct a giant bridge crossing the Great River. In the aftermath, an orcish settlement sprung up on either side of the bridge with the Trolls assuming leadership. Maintaining the crumbling bridge is dangerous work, prompting slave raids from the tribe to get disposable manpower. Recently, they've sent an envoy offering to negotiate a toll for the use of the bridge by merchants. Noone's quite sure whether they're serious.

    The Sky Drinkers: In a remarkable display of hubris and probable overcompensation, the warlord of the Sky Drinkers tribe has demanded that all surplus labour go toward expanding the monumental eyrie at the center of their settlement. This would normally be ignored as empty posturing, if not for the fact that the Sky Drinkers possess a worryingly large flock of giant fruit bats and have been using them to pilfer produce from fields throughout the region. The Farm Council has collected funds to purchase a hogshead of black powder, and will pay to have the Great Bat Eyrie sent tumbling to the ground.
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    OgreBattle
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Like vikings if you go to the orc farming communities you can probably trade with them, but when winter comes the farmers go viking and raid settlements of other species. So your PC's could befriend some orcs then encounter them on opposite sides later, or you can join in on the raiding.

    Cathlorcs are another idea, they have an orc pope somewhere far away and now the protestorcs are having a schism with that so the orc communities are getting divided along those lines. The orcquisition travels from hex to hex rooting out heretorcs. PC's can get involved with this schism, supporting different sides or as instigators to keep orcs divided.

    Gold and other valuables, orcs have been encountered with a lot of jewelry of orc manufacture. There's a gold mine somewhere in orc territory that PC's can try to find.


    Last edited by OgreBattle on Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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    DSMatticus
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Is the goal here to murder all the orcs and take their territory, or to survey the region and establish a shorter trade route? Because the former - when combined with the "no major plot" constraint - basically means writing twelve different petty villains who raid shit in slightly different ways for slightly different reasons, and no one is ever going to remember twelve different flavors of that. But the latter opens up the world of gray hat orcs and peaceful solutions and actually giving a shit about the dynamics between the tribes.

    Honestly, I'd toy with the idea of a war among the orcs. It's a plot that can stall on its own for years if not decades of in-game time, or resolve back into the status quo at any time (one side wins, immediately fragments into constituent tribes and the pre-war low grade border skirmishes resume). The players can use it as an opportunity to go full asshole and crush all the orcs, pick a side and crush some of the orcs in exchange for shit like trade routes or resource rights, or play mediator and try to establish a lasting peace and friendly relationships with the orc tribes. It generates hooks out the wazoo, what with the merchants' already dangerous shortcut now being a straight-up warzone and the fighting possibly spilling out into the nearby human settlements. The stakes aren't actually any higher than they were before, but the region ends up being more than a hitlist of orc tribes.
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    Ikeren
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    I'm running...not quite a hexcrawl, but a zone crawl. For me, I try to make each zoned varied but themed;

    a forest with a goblin tribe, ancient druidic ruins, and a couple small dungeons

    a plains haunted by an ancient bard, kobold tribes, and old fey ruins

    a shadow lake filled with undead, a vampires lair and trolls who use it as a staging ground to hunt nearby areas.

    In say, the plains, ~50% of the random encounters are kobolds, and there are 3 kobold lairs each with different style and themes...and even that seems repetitive. In the forest, ~33% of the random encounters are goblins with 1 large base. At the shadow lake, I dumpster dive the MMs for a wide variety of interesting undead, and make up a few of my own.


    12 hexes of orcs/ogres seems like a lot.
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    Chamomile
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    DSMatticus wrote:
    Is the goal here to murder all the orcs and take their territory, or to survey the region and establish a shorter trade route?


    Second one, but I need to be prepared for the players' reaction to any problem to be to try and stab it in the face, and as much as possible I'd like to make that interesting. Orc vs. orc war is definitely an interesting direction to go. It automatically sorts the tribes into the three basic categories of BLUFOR, REDFOR, and neutral.
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    Krusk
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    PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    3 orc generations ago there was a might orc warlord. A while back some adventurers shut down his might army. Now its a desolate warzone full of scattered orc tribes all vying for dominance. The orc warlord had a bunch of sweet stuff in his castles. The pcs are after it for whatever reason. (Pay/glory/loot/honor/control of the tribes)

    Also did you ever play shadows over mordor? From what i saw of it being played the plot of this game is exaclty what you want. Go steal their ideas?
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    FrankTrollman
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    PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Civil Wars are more fun when there's more than 2 factions. My suggestion would be to go all Alpha Centauri on it, and have different factions based on really weird fantasy social engineering possibilities. But your basic model for why this happens is the Wars of the Diadochi or the fracturing of the Kurultai. The Orc tribes were united under some over-boss, maybe a Giant or Lich or maybe just a smart and charismatic dude. Anyway, that leader is gone, and now the Orcish region is fractured between various military, civic, hereditary, and religious leaders who all want to reunite the Orcs under their own leadership and follow their own vision.

    This model lets you have not only Hextorite Protestants vs Gruumshian Catholics and Blackblood Hutus vs Greenskin Tutsis, but also more fantasy oriented factions like the faction led by the Dragon General or the faction led by the portal engineer.

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    angelfromanotherpin
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    PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    I wrote up an 'after Sauron' LARP (never played, alas) about the power struggles within the forces of Mordor almost immediately after Sauron's fall. The initial factions were (as best I remember):

    1. Mouth of Sauron
    2. Orc General (Stubborn)
    3. Orc General (Spooky)
    4. Orc General (Bluffing)
    5. Orc Forgemaster
    6. Orc Feedmaster
    7. Orc Fuckmaster
    8. Orc Spider-cultist
    9. Haradrim General
    10. Various Haradrim Concubines
    11. Easterling General

    There were also a bunch of notables who didn't have the command skills or respect to be faction leaders in their own right, but were serious assets to anyone who picked them up, like the spymaster or the Isengard refugee with the gunpowder recipe.
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    czernebog
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    PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    First, a general suggestion: there's some number of same-y "bad orc tribe doing a bad thing" that should be tolerable, so you may actually be able to skimp on prepwork for outlying or interstitial tiles. Coming up with a dozen intricate, sufficiently distinct gimmicks may be overkill.

    Another: people owing allegiance to the chieftain in Hex A should show up in surrounding hexes with some frequency. A band of trident- and net-wielding swamp orcs can totally show up in a cliffside orc village to sell newts or take vengeance for the death of the hydra they worshipped or whatever.

    This suggests that the hexes shouldn't be exclusive domains, but significant power centers. Burial grounds, temples, fortresses, etc; what matters is that there's something there to flavor the tribe centered there, and there's a reason for that thing to interest the party. You could steal a page from MegaMan and introduce some mechanical reason to scout each area's headquarters, with each area giving some edge over another. This could simply be a gimmick like taking the water crystal from Hex C to fortify you against the harsh interior of the fire temple in Hex D. (Maybe there was an ancient metropolis of temples, and a few of their resident demigods have awakened, empowering a few tribes and upsetting the previous Ogre-based hierarchy.)

    Even if Robot-Master-style mitigations/weaknesses isn't desirable, some notion of "we secured this hex, we get personal power bumps intrinsic to it" isn't bad. If the players are the sort to be motivated by it, you could introduce an amulet that hungers for Orc souls, which powers up each time you claim a victim atop a distinct ancestral burial ground. (Maybe that amulet is powered by the spirit of an ancient Orc king or Ogre Mage who is pissed off at his people and wants to see you visit ruin upon them, Ezekiel-style, so that they are forced to return to right and proper adherence to The Right Way to Be A Monstrous Humanoid.)
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    SeekritLurker
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    PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2017 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    My RHOD I ran recently subbed in an orc prophet seeking the Eye of Vecna for the glory of Gruumsh One-Eye instead of the Tiamat nonsense. Gruumsh shall have a new eye, and greater power, and the orcs shall take their rightful place as overlords of the world, blah blah blah.

    Of course, I use the Hand and Eye as relics of the God of Secrets - they're sent out into the world to collect secrets for Vecna, and the reincarnation of Vecna with them is just an elaborate deception to make the Hand and Eye more valuable and/or desirable.

    So, the secret objective is to place the hordes united by the prophet under the secret direction of the Vecna cult, which gives you an extra plot hook/way to get your players involved.
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    FrankTrollman
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    PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    I kinda like going deep on crazed theology for the evil gods. For my home games, I've been splitting the Orc gods into Hand gods (under Hextor, the Many Handed), Eye gods (under Gruumsh One-Eye), and the heretical Hand-and-Eye theology of the Vecnaists. It gives the different factions recognizable symbols to fight under.

    -Frank
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    Thaluikhain
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    PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Who will be claiming it, and why? Have they tried previously? Do some of the orcs/ogres have previous history with them?

    Perhaps they've tried allying with one tribe against another, and are now betraying that tribe when they are no longer useful, so they have legitimate grievances against the players or their employers.
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    Chamomile
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    PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Thaluikhain wrote:
    Who will be claiming it, and why?


    There's two different nearby factions who are currently feuding with one or more orc/ogre tribes and would be on board for a permanent solution that also gives them control of valuable trade routes, and a third that just wants the trade routes. None of the three are going to claim territory unless the PCs ask them to.

    Quote:
    Perhaps they've tried allying with one tribe against another, and are now betraying that tribe when they are no longer useful, so they have legitimate grievances against the players or their employers.


    I don't really see why this is helpful, and you also seem to be presupposing that the players will have a specific employer, which is not really how hexcrawls work. They can work for whoever they want and the starting town has a leadership crisis specifically so that PCs can take over and be their own faction if they want.
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