Found in the Great Fjord, the local orc tribes are more organized than many others. That doesn’t stop them bickering among themselves and raiding each other – but they are held (partially) in check by the Great Shaman, who trains their tribal witches, builds ships and makes weapons for them. Technically, the Great Shaman doesn’t do all those things personally, but her ‘people’ do.
Each ‘tribe’ consists of between 60 and 90 bodies – Made up mostly of Orcs, a few half-orcs and a few captives of other species. About 20 of the Orcs are Marauders, males who are in their prime and the main raiding force of the tribe. Another dozen, or so, are those male orcs who are passed their prime, and are no longer allowed to go marauding – they lead the hunting parties, guard the village and train the youngsters. There are about the same number of Young Bloods, not allowed to go marauding yet, but hunting and training under the elders. Most of the rest is made up of Females and youngsters – who are responsible for the captives, gather seasonal food, repair gear etc. There are a few fields and animals, mostly looked after by captives and youngsters, although they only add a small amount to the village’s stocks.
Every village has a witch, who has been trained by the great shaman. The witch is always female and is leader of the women – she knows the secrets of brewing good grog, making healing potions and is the tribes main contact with The Great Shaman. Hurt a witch, too much, and the Great Shaman will be angry with you, and the tribe. You don’t want that. Orcs who seriously upset the tribe’s witch are often half flayed and sent to the Great Shaman, before she comes for him. Most witches have an ‘assistant’ already trained by the Great Shaman, who is preparing to take over when the old witch dies (Natural causes, or maybe the new witch is ready to ‘step up’)
There are always leaders. A tribal chief (L7 elder), a War captain (L6 Marauder in charge of the marauding party and chief in waiting) two or three lieutenants (L4/L5 Marauders), Chief Hunter (Elder, L5) to round out the numbers.
- Marauder = Male Orc, Warrior-3 – fully armoured and armed with battle weapons
- Elder = Male Orc, Warrior 3 – (Middle aged or old) with light armour & hunting weapons
- Young Bloods = Male Orc, Warrior 2 with light armour & hunting weapons
- Females / Youngsters – Orc, Warrior 1 – unarmoured, two-handed clubs
- Witch = Orc, Female, Witch 3 (assistant witch 1 or 2)
- Grog = Fermented honey and berry mix. The type of berry changes throughout the year and is often supplemented by other things that you wouldn’t expect to be in an alcoholic beverage. It is not to the taste of most races, but Orcs seem to enjoy it.
Everyone lives in one great longhouse. One end is walled off for livestock and the less desirable captives, everyone else lives in the main part of the longhouse, leaders, marauders, witches, (some) captives – everyone. Along with half a dozen (guard) dogs. Life is hectic.
Young Bloods get to practice their seamanship in the village’s Faering (Rowing boat) while the females fish. Elders and Young Bloods, hunt game, females cook, repair clothes, carry out basic crafts and supervise the captives as they work in the fields and with the animals. Marauders hang around disrupting everything, unless they off on a raid – either skirmishing with another village, or a ship-borne raid of a foreign town or village.
Raids are short and sweet and often directed at small towns and villages. The Orcs land, set fire to things, loot, steal food, drink, weapons (basically anything of value) and kidnap a few of the locals. Then back home for a party. Occasionally, they will send out a larger expedition, under a Warchief, where boats from various villages work together to hit a larger town. The large groups have been known to take whole ships and hold them for ransom. Once they have landed, it is mayhem, each Marauder doing their own thing until they are sated and have enough loot. Smaller towns and villages are often left devastated, when the drunken orcs have finished their pillaging and plundering.
There are land raids as well, the hills around the Fjord are home to Cavemen clans (Neanderthal), and there are often clashes between Orc hunting parties and parties of Cavemen. Sometimes the cavemen are followed home and their caves raided for food and captives.
The tribe’s ship, known as a Karvi, is the pride of every village – long sleek and powered through the water by twenty oars, although it has a square sail for when the wind is in the right direction. A cross between a Viking Knarr and a Greek Galley, this open vessel is seaworthy, deals well with open water, and is fitted with a ram. It can deliver a band of about 20 marauders to the shores of any settlement, and is fast enough to make a decent get away, if they are outnumbered.
Karvis are made by the Great Shaman’s people, and each tribe must pay their ship off, and then pay extra for maintenance. Fortunately, the Great Shaman likes payment in loot and captives – particularly young captives. She doesn’t mind what race they are, humans or elves are best – but any race will do, even cavemen. But if you can’t get enough captives, you will pay her in Orc children … She doesn’t mind.
And that is on top of the ones chosen by the witches to be sent for training! Some of those come back as new witches, some stay with the Great Shaman – but even some of those disappear.
The Great Shaman
The Great Shaman lives in a burned out tower close to the head of the Fjord, although the stone structure has stayed intact, the areas around the windows and doors are burned and blackened, and there is always the smell of stale smoke in the air. She keeps half-a-dozen witches with her, as servants and assistants, and a number of others, who were not suitable for her special training. These few have been trained as shipwrights and weapon smiths – and they make both the Karvi and the battle weapons that then tribes depend on. A few try to run, or to sell their services elsewhere, but they are always brought back and punished – before they disappear completely. Just like any other captive that doesn’t live up to her standards.
No-one is really quite sure what the Great Shaman looks like – sometimes she is an elderly Orc Female, other times a well-muscled half-orc, and sometimes even a human or elf – what ever she really is, you don’t want to mess with her.
It is said that when the great Shaman is finished with them, she gorges herself on their flesh – but there are very few who know for certain. In the past various tribes have risen up against her, while they might have appears to win a victory, the Great Shaman has always returned and taken her revenge on the tribe’s leaders. Leaderless tribes don’t stay leaderless for long, there is normally a fight between powerful orcs from other tribes. Eventually, one will take over – those who can’t adjust to the new regime are killed and staked out as a warning to others.
The shipwrights work and live in a shipyard locally, while the smell of smoke comes from the weapon smiths. The ‘normal’ weapons, taken as booty, are melted down to be refashioned as Falchions and Great Axes suitable for marauders, or even as boar spears suitable for Hunters. At the same time, they ‘fix’ armour that is brought to them. Payment by captive, food, booty …
- The Great Shaman = Ash Hag + sorcerer 5 (orc bloodline)