~ From “Goblin Gear” by Adam “Night Druid” Miller
Wildspace orcs are a clannish lot. Most orcs are part of small buccaneer clans that have much in common with traditional pirates. Rarely these clans will unite behind a powerful leader known as a “Wolf Chief”, a title that honors their cunning, battle prowess, and ferocity.
Orc legends speak of a mystical homeworld, where all orc tribes began. Fortunately, perhaps, the name and location of this homeworld are long lost. According to the legends, this world has twisted badlands and deserts that the orcs scoured in search of elusive scorpion husks. Hundreds of scorpionships set sail from this homeworld.
Most orcs are freebooters, buccaneers, and pirates. These freebooter clans are small, perhaps 50 to 300 male orcs in all. They have few women or children with them, as such dependants can slow them down. They raid trade ships, ransom hostages, and otherwise make life miserable for travelers.
Freebooters use older scorpionships, built from the husks of dead scorpions. They rarely have the ability to build ships of their own; such an effort requires more resources than they have available and forces them to stay in one place far longer than they feel comfortable. Their lairs are small asteroids, just large enough to hide their ships, some small buildings, and a few places to stash stolen loot. A freebooter tribe has 1-6 scorpionships and maybe 1-2 other ships, depending on their success. Excessive ships are sold to unscrupulous dealers in black-market deals that keep the orcs rich in coin.
Typically, a freebooter clan will take a small number of ships per season, and then spend the next several months spending their loot on ale, fast women, gambling, and everything else that catches their eye. Only after all of their loot has been spent do they set sail once more in search of new ships to steal from. Rarely do captains look to improve their ships or increasing the size of their fleet.
Due to the activities of these orcs, freebooters have more half-orcs in their ranks than standard; 1 out of every 10 orcs will be half-orcs. These half-breeds can rise to rule whole tribes, having the strength of their orcish ancestors and the wits of their human parent. These individuals can be roguishly charismatic individuals, the terrors of ports across many spheres.
Wolves of Wildspace
Rarely, perhaps no more than once or twice a generation, an orc will arise with such charisma that he can unify many orc clans into a single, destructive army. These leaders are known as the Wolves of Wildspace. This orc will be the largest, meanest orc imaginable. A Wolf Chief is a crafty tactician and mighty warrior. At his command are at least 7-12 scorpionships and 2-8 other ships. This is the minimum force of these monsters; some chiefs manage to assemble fleets in upwards of a hundred strong! His sub-chiefs are captains of lesser ships; his flagship will be an unusually large scorpionship, sometimes as large as 100 tons. The Wolf Chief, at times, will ally himself with a stronger individual, such as an archmage or dragon, selling the services of his fleet as mercenaries, if the pay is right.
Wolf Chiefs are the terror of wildspace. A single successful Wolf Chief can terrorize several spheres. Many are driven by ego and a desire to be remembered for generations, and will try to out-do previous Wolf Chiefs with increasingly horrible atrocities. Names that have been burned into the memories of space travelers include Fellthane the One Tooth, who sacked the city of Jirr’s Rock; Blacktusk the Buccaneer, whose treasure is said to be unequaled in vastness; and Greeneye the Flayer Foe, a mind-bender who won many battles against mind flayers.
It is fortunate that Wolf Chiefs rarely live long. Their activities drive them to commit crimes that demand retribution and revenge. The Elven Fleet typically offers a reward of 100,000 gp on the head of any Wolf Chief, dead or alive, once they become known; other powers offer similar rewards as well. Greeneye, for example, survived for almost ten years after sacking a mind flayer outpost, despite the creatures putting a 500,000 gp bounty on his head. None are known to have lived to a ripe old age; such is life of a Wolf Chief. In many ways, they prefer it as such. To die in glorious battle is seen as one of the best ways to be forever remembered; to die an old orc is to die a coward.
The last known Wolf Chief perished at the start of the Unhuman Wars, in the Battle of Kule. In killing him, the Elves hoped to divide and weaken the orc clans, a strategy that proved very successful. It might be noted that although two great orc leaders arose near the end of the Unhuman Wars, Longtooth of Armistice and Dukagsh Father of the Scro, neither can truly be considered Wolf Chiefs, for Longtooth choose peace over a violent death, and Dukagsh fled from the Known Spheres to die an old man. Although revered by their followers, “traditionalist” orcs hold these leaders in great contempt as cowards.
Cult of the Wolf
Even orcs have their heroes. The so-called “Cult of the Wolf” is a pantheon of Wolf Chiefs that wildspace orcs hold up as heroes they identify with. The cult is really a series of personality cults without true worshippers or clerics. Many orcs can find at least one hero in the collection of dead chiefs to personally identify with and maintain as his idol. To an extent, the Wolf Chiefs fulfill a similar role to Saints in some human religions.
Known past Wolf Chiefs include the following:
Blacktusk the Buccaneer (4441 OC to 4502 OC): A dangerous pirate that is said to have left a hundred ships burning in his wake. His personal horde of gold, gemstones, and magic items could rival that of the greatest dragons, which he buried on dozens of asteroids. Orcs that unexpectedly discover some small cache of loot are said to have received Blacktusk’s boon.
Fellthane the One Tooth (4509 OC to 4538 OC): This monster is said to have been part ogre, for he was large and brutal. His greatest accomplishment was the sacking of the city of Jirr’s Rock, then a large and prosperous city.
Greeneye the Flayer Foe (3830 OC to 3860 OC): A mind-bender with a particular dislike for mind flayers, Greeneye was a deadly foe of those creatures. As such, he was hailed a hero even in some human circles.
Griznarr the Armada Slayer (2531 OC to 2555 OC): One of the earliest known Wolf Chiefs, Griznarr is believed to be the first orc captain to have successfully destroyed an elven armada in battle. Although most assuredly long dead, the Elven Fleet maintains a 200,000 gp bounty on his head that has never been collected.
Manbane (4290 OC to 4316 OC): Said to be half-troll, Manbane held a particular dislike for humans. Before perishing in the Battle of the Eight Sisters, he had built a warship made from the bones of his victims, a grisly trophy of victories.
Baz’or (3930 OC to 3961 OC): A truly ugly monster, Baz’or served as admiral for a powerful warlock in Greyspace. The warlock attempted to conquer key parts of the sphere, but ultimately failed when many forces of good allied together to destroy his fleet in the Battle of Gnibile.
Driven by a desire to acquire property and territory, orcs find wildspace an ideal habitat. Many asteroids, moons, and small worlds could be easily conquered and dominated without competition. They seek out places with deep caves, thick forests, and constant cloud cover. Natives were a plus; after all, the orcs needed a supply of slaves!
From harsh fortresses, the orcs strip the countryside of everything of value to fuel the construction of new scorpionships. These destructive habits leave the world ruined, and when the land becomes uninhabitable, the orcs move on. In this way, countless otherwise habitable worldlets have been left spoiled by orc hordes. What life is left behind are creatures that share the orcs’ temperament, such as carnivorous plants, mobats, worgs, and giant spiders.