Our Orcs Are Different

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
(Goblins and Orcs) have not had a fair press. They are fanatically brave in spite of being weaker and less practised than most other humanoids, and must be kind to animals, since they train them so well. (...) We might instead think of such goblins as a fantasy counterpart of the apocryphal northerner: Clannish, rough spoken, given to the imbibing of strong but peculiar liquor, keeping analogues of whippets and pidgeons, prone to mob violence at away fixtures and perhaps too easily influenced by the radical politicians of other races.
Hordes of the Things

Ever since Tolkien, the worlds of fantasy literature and video games have been overrun with tribes of ugly, bellicose humanoids, whose main purpose for existence is to serve as the Mooks of the Forces of Evil. Trolls, Goblins and/or Hobgoblins (and such) are usually also closely associated with them, or may just be different names for the same thing. The word Orc may share linguistic roots with the word Ogre.

These races come in two general flavors: the original model developed by JRR Tolkien, and the model best exemplified (but far from invented) by Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft series (which is a subversion of the former).

Often overlaps with Pig Man. Often the "adopting" parent when a child is Raised by Orcs.


"Tolkienian" orcs:

  • Are Exclusively Evil. However, Tolkien's Orcs are of debatable morality. While not 'peaceful', they are mostly driven by their fear of Sauron or Morgoth.
  • Often have pig-like snouts or upturned noses that resemble pig snouts. (Sometimes taken one step further by actually giving them pig heads, like in early editions of Dungeons and Dragons.) May have tusks.
  • Are of varying colours; ranging from sallow to gray to red. Green is not unknown, though generally not the vibrant green of "Blizzard" orcs (Dungeons And Dragons orcs are grayish-green).
  • Are carnivorous, often even cannibalistic.
  • Are of below-average intelligence, although there are exceptions. Though Tolkien's Orcs did have superior technology matched and exceeded only by the Numenorians and Dwarves.
  • Have little or no culture outside of raiding/war parties and worshiping gods of war or the local Evil Overlord.
  • Related to the above two points: tend not to invent anything, but steal/corrupt things other people have made.
  • Usually have oppressive, patriarchal societies, with females being treated as property, provided if female orcs are shown or mentioned (in Tolkien, female orcs were never shown or discussed, though it seems they must have existed). It's possible that orcs in this case exhibit no gender dimorphism, and so males and females could not be distinguished without taking a look under the hood. (the film bypassed this by having the Uruk-hai 'created' whole from the earth).
  • Are sometimes made solely as artificial creatures rather than reproducing biologically, thus explaining the aforementioned lack of females. It was implied in LOTR that Sauron created them as, "a mockery of the Elves."
  • Are of variable strength and size, but are often smaller and weaker than humans.

"Blizzard" orcs:

  • Are a Proud Warrior Race with an extensive honor system. They've been referred to as "Green Klingons," in the past, which isn't entirely fair, as the two races do have considerable differences. Nevertheless, there genuinely is similarity, as well.
  • Have intelligence on par with humans and other races (although are primitive compared to them, or at least viewed that way by other races due to lacking formal education and sophistication). While collectively speaking, this is true, your average individual Orc will use corrupted English. Blizzard's Orcs are also almost never depicted as operating or interacting with technology.
  • Have an animist and/or shamanistic religious structure.
  • Are more likely to be omnivorous (but still usually hunter-gatherers).
  • Are more likely to have females on screen, gender equality or even matriarchal societies. Although sexual dymorphism does exist, Orcish women are expected to fight to exactly the same degree as men, and usually also have the same degree (if not greater) of martial ability.
  • Are much, much more likely to have a more fully fleshed-out culture than "Tolkienian" orcs. At least physically, while they have some exaggerated characteristics, Blizzard's Orcs (particularly the Mag'har) are fairly transparently modelled on black Africa. (or at least something of a mixture of the African and Australian indigenous groups) Architecturally, they are usually depicted with a mix of the South African, Mongolian, and possibly Viking architecture. Garrosh Hellscream is vaguely reminiscent of Genghis Khan.
  • Have green skin and tusks, and are physically similar to (some) trolls from European folklore.
  • Have simian features instead of porcine, though this varies by universe, or are otherwise tailored not to be outright repulsive. Orcish women can be beautiful, but it is an acquired taste. Think Xena: Warrior Princess, at around eight feet tall. Less attractive/older Orcish women can also veer well and truly into Brawn Hilda territory.
  • Are usually bigger than humans and almost always stronger. A tall Orc will be probably a foot shorter than the Na'vi, but much more stocky and robustly built. Limbs are close to a foot thick.
  • Are vastly more likely to be protagonists or supporting characters as opposed to Mooks.

It's worth mentioning that the actual Blizzard orcs were originally the Evil Mook (still Villain Protagonists though) template of "Tolkien" Orcs in the first two Warcraft games, but gained redemption in the cancelled Adventure Game Lord of the Clans, the story of which was rewritten into a novel and later incorporated into the backstory of Warcraft III. According to some, the first Warcraft game began as a Warhammer adaption that Blizzard was making before the license was rescinded. This may or may not be true, but the first Warcraft game Orcs were quite similiar to the older Warhammer Orcs.

Although the two groups are significantly different, they usually share both a monstrous, primitive appearance and conflict with humanity and the other Five Races. The author's choice of which model to emulate usually depends on whose perspective the story is written, the story's relative position on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, and whether the author intends to explore ramifications of killing sentient beings. In any case, expect humans to treat "Blizzard" orcs as if they were "Tolkienian" orcs, at least initially. Yrrch!

Small, cowardly Orcs are not unknown - the original Tolkien orcs seem a good deal shorter and less powerful than humans, but this is less popular these days. More recent Orcs (especially the Blizzard kind) tend to be bigger, tougher and much stronger than humans, raising questions as to why they humans are the ones in charge in the first place - although this point may be lampshaded by the fact that humans have more friends and things like castle walls and wealth.

"Goblins" may be the same thing as Orcs, a smaller and often smarter variant, or something else altogether.

Note that "Orc" is sometimes spelled as "Ork", both to make the orcs that much more different and for Xtreme Kool Letterz appeal. For whatever reason, 'orc' is usually the spelling in Medieval fantasy, while, 'ork' is the norm in Modern or Futuristic fantasy (See Warhammer Fantasy Battle vs. Warhammer 40,000). Which is strange, since 'ork' was their original, Alpine mythological name, and 'orc' was the name Tolkien made up borrowed from the Anglo-Saxon for "foreigner".

Also strangely, orcs are probably the only race that everybody but Tolkien fleshed out. For the Elves and Dwarves, Tolkien could name every ancestral relative of the character, every king they had, what their culture is like and what they had for breakfast, but nearly everybody just rips off the surface features, leaving it at that. The orcs however, Tolkien basically just left them as mindless pawns for the Big Bad, and it's everybody else who tries to expand on them and give them some form of culture. -- But it's worth bearing in mind that they're *literally* mindless pawns, having no self-direction whatsoever once Sauron's will is withdrawn. Not only do they not have any culture—it's *impossible* for them to develop any. Even Tolkien's origins for them remained somewhat schizophrenic, though interestingly the moral and religious ramifications of living beings meant he was willing to entertain the idea that orcs could theoretically be decent (or at least fight against evil), they just never made it into the story.

Interestingly, Blizzard has another race more like the orcs in Tolkien's writing called the quillboars. They are suicidally savage, are pig-like, smaller and weaker than humans, and are almost astoundingly stupid. To Lampshade this connection, orc units in Warcraft 3 will comment that the quillboars are more attractive than the humans.

In a final note: While these two camps are sometimes well defined in many cases it is more of a sliding scale, such as the 40K Orkz who while mostly being in the first category are actually Chaotic Neutral and also serve as the immune system of the galaxy. Warhammer Fantasy Battle orcs by contrast are nearly at a midpoint between the two styles, which should surprise no one since they may have been the keystone in the arc of the shift between them.

Examples of Our Orcs Are Different include:

Comic Books

  • A possible example in the 2000 AD comic Kingdom, in which the race of grey-skinned dog-human hybrid warriors are officially designated "Aux". Given that their human creators had a love of punny names (individual Aux include Gary the Old Man and Val Kill-More), this may have been deliberate.
  • The Astonishing X-Men has the people of the Breakworld, who are a violent, domineering race of large, green skinned aliens that "stuff their pillows with diamonds" (probably not all that uncomfortable depending on size and cut).


  • The Gamoreans of Star Wars are brutish, strong, green, pig-snouted and tusked, matriarchal, violent brutes with low intelligence. They're first seen in Return of the Jedi as literal spear carriers in Jabba's palace.
    • Also the Tusken Raiders (or Sand People, if you prefer). We never actually see their faces, but they're brutal, primitive, and kill anything that isn't another Sand Person.


  • In NERO orcs are green and tusked. Half-Orcs generally look exactly like orcs but can be PCs. Whether they are of the Tolkienian or Blizzard variety seems to vary from tribe to tribe.


  • JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is, of course, the Trope Maker. Although the orcs are cannibals in The Film of the Book, accusations of cannibalism are actually seen as a grave insult, demonstrating that Even Evil Has Standards. Ironically, Tolkien's orcs are described as actually of human intelligence (making "no beautiful things, but many clever ones"), at least insofar as it comes to weaponry, and as a devout Catholic who believed all beings could be redeemed their Exclusively Evil status was something Tolkien could never quite make up his mind on; while no "good" orcs appear in the story, the possibility is never quite ruled out. (Tolkien's orcs descend from corrupted elves, at least according to one Multiple Choice Past, so some Tolkien fans speculate that an orc that wasn't Exclusively Evil might stop being an orc.) Not to mention there is a very specific passage in The Fellowship where Elrond states that (paraphrase) "during the last battle, all living things were divided between whether they fought for Sauron or freedom except for the elves". This would require there to be a tribe or clan or something of orcs who weren't dicks, at least at one point in time.
    • One should however take note that Tolkien never gave any porcine feature to his orcs, whom he gave little physical description. The only feautures he mentions -elongated arms and hunched back- suggests a simian rather than porcine countenance. It was Dungeons & Dragons which initiated and popularized the latter.
    • Curiously, Tolkien himself described the Orcs as ugly, but not monstrous like the film did. In a letter he described the Orcs as a barbarian race not very much different from Men except in their manners - "degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types".
  • The Ur Example is the original Orks, which was the word for "Boar Monster" in an ancient mythology. Very few Orcs ever look anything like Boar Monsters, possibly except the huge fangs.
  • Also before Tolkien were the "swine-things" of William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland: evil pig-men with glowing greenish skin, that ate their own dead and were even more bestial than Tolkien's orcs, going naked and sometimes running on all fours. Call them "proto-orcs", maybe.
  • The Inheritance Cycle starts out looking like Tolkien orcs, but it's revealed in the climax of book one that they were under mind control by the Shade Durza. In book 2, they prove to be more civilized an honorable than they originally seemed, and ally with the Varden against Gallbatorix. The "Urgals" do not have tusks, but have fur and horns, and also come in an oversized variety called Kull.
  • Grunts! by Mary Gentle portrays orcs in a sort of middle ground between the two. The Orcs of Grunts! exhibit most of the characteristics of the classic "Tolkien" orc; carnivorously cannibalistic, porcine of face and nose and have a wide range of skin colors (from black to albino white, with shades of brown, green, and gray in between). They don't really have much interest in things outside of raiding and doing the bidding of the Nameless and the Dark Lord, until they come into contact with the cursed modern weapons, which upgrade them from pure evil Mook status.
    • And a copy of Das Kapital, which causes one to want to start a Communist Revolution. She even starts talking like Lenin.
  • Trollocs fill the role of Tolkien orcs in the Wheel of Time. They are protrayed as stupid, cowardly, and by the the fourth book none of the main characters have any trouble with them. By Knife Of Dreams (book 11) they are really only a threat to Rand if they are tens of thousands of them, and even then the good guys suffer very little casualties. It is traditional for British reviewers to refer to such scenes as "a load of Trollocs". (They're described as a Biological Mashup, having human and all kinds of animal features.)
  • A fantasy trilogy by Stan Nicholls called Orcs: First Blood embodies this trope. It tells a fantasy story in which a unit or Orc grunts are the protagonists, participating in a war in which they have no investment and fighting for a leader they don't believe in - their own commanders simply transferred their contracts to the Evil Overlord (actually an Evil Overlady). Unsurprisingly, they decide to Screw Destiny and stop being faceless mooks.
  • In the Thraxas books by Martin Scott, there's a people called Orcs who more-or-less fit the "Blizzard" category, but their skin is apparently a dark reddish shade, and it's never made clear just what differentiates them from humans. They're referred to as ugly, but Thraxas has a friend who's half Human, a quarter Elf, a quarter Orc ... and all gorgeous. There's also a half-Orc villain who's described as being rather handsome, making it an unresolved question what's wrong with the appearance of the pureblood Orcs. In fact, it's probably just racio-ethnic bigotry compounded by the fact that Orcs are "the enemy": in the last book, an Orc sorceress who'd been magically disguised as a beautiful human drops the illusion—meaning that "Her skin darkens, her hair turns black, her features become a little stronger." That's all. She's still beautiful, but most of the humans don't want to admit it because, after all, an Orc....
  • John Ringo's Council Wars series features Tolkien orcs created in a future Earth using genetic modification and nanotech. The 'orcs' are the villains' idea of Super Soldiers. It doesn't work out very well, because the orcs are too aggressive to organize or train efficiently.
  • The ogrilloi from The Acts of Caine are slightly closer to Warcraft Orcs, with the exception of the Black Knife tribe, who are the ogrilloi that other ogrilloi tell horror stories about and act like Tolkien Orcs on a real bad day. In Matthew Stover's novels, "orc" is an Earth word for the species they view as an Aktir perjorative; on Overworld they're informally known as 'rilloes or grills. Ogrilloi differ from the typical depictions of orcs in their physiology (namely their quadripedal lope, ridged back, and fighting claws).
  • The 1993 short story "The Only Good Orc" by Liz Holliday features an orc trying to get out from under the usual stereotypes.
  • Hradani from David Weber 's WarGod series would be either Dark Elves or Orcs depending on your viewpoint. 7 feet or higher, prone to rages, living in a tribal society, used in the past as cannon fodder by Dark Wizards. They fit the Blizzard mold by being a proud, honorable warrior race, and the Tolkien pattern by having been "twisted" in the last (wizard) war from being so very peaceful and even tempered that they were named for it.
  • Discworld‍'‍s orcs first appear in Unseen Academicals, where Pratchett wonderfully deconstructs the Tolkienesque, Exclusively Evil orc. To everyone on the Disc they're terrifying bogeymen from an ancient war, remembered as the typical Tolkienian orc. However, as it turns out, orcs were genetically (or, well, magically) engineered from humans as tactically-minded, nigh-immortal killing machines. They were then horribly abused by their Sauron-ish creator and given no option but to kill. The humans who won the war and wrote the history didn't know or didn't care about that, and set about exterminating them all. Mr. Nutt, the only orc in the story so far, is actually extremely hard-working, highly skilled, and has memorized basically an entire library, but is crippled by a need to "achieve worth" - because he's an orc, and, well, see Discworld's perception of them. He is able to become cultured, intelligent, etc. because Children Are Innocent, no matter what species they are, and when Nutt was found as a seven-year-old chained to an anvil, Mightily Oats cut him free and sent him to Lady Margolotta for an education, instead of getting the terrible conditioning other orcs went through. Nutt may have grey skin, retractable claws and enough strength in his skinny body to shatter any chain that binds him, but damn if he doesn't talk posher than a wizard.
    • Interestingly, all of this is exactly the same as one of the conceptions Tolkien considered using for his Orcs (made from ruined humans, have free will, can turn good) but rejected (Tolkien had timing issues with orcs and the appearance of humans).
  • In Larry Correa's Monster Hunter International has this in spades with the Urks who work for MHI and healers and as the pilot for their Mi-24 Hind.
  • The Jaghut of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series are orcs, albeit fairly peaceful ones who rarely organised for any real purpose, thus making them closer to Blizzard Orcs than Tolkien ones. Of course, the Jaghut are also hardly seen anymore, since they were hunted to near-extinction by the T'lan Imass.
  • In The Stormlight Archive the Parshendi are of the Proud Warrior Race variety mixed with Blue and Orange Morality.
  • In Monster Hunter International the orcs are definitely of the Blizzard variety; they originated in Uzbekistan, but were transplanted to Alabama where they act as allies to MHI.
  • In E.E. Knights Age of Fire they are called blighters and, according to dragons at least were the first sentient race. dragons were in fact originally created to keep them from overwhelming the planet. They apparently once had a hich level civilization but are now squabbling tribes that mostly fit the Tolkienian version of the race.
  • The German Sci Fi-Series Perry Rhodan gives us the alien race called 'Dscherro', which are blizzard-style orcs in all but name—green, stout, nomadic plunderers with foot-long horns on their heads. They invaded Earth at one point and laid quite the beat-down on the capital city of Terrania.
  • The koloss in the Mistborn books are a twist on this. They're enormous, blue-skinned, violent creatures who constantly grow throughout their lives until they become massive twelve-foot-tall beasts until they die of heart failure. Their skin is loose and flabby when they're young but begins to stretch and rip as they age and grow larger. They also attack one another over the the most trivial things. It turns out that they are humans altered by having four "spikes" pounded into their bodies, which contain the power of hemalurgy, the Blood Magic of the OmnicidalManic god Ruin, which drives them into violent frenzies.
  • In The Yngling by John Dalmas, Orcs are simply what a nutcase warlord with a Tolkien fixation named his purely-human soldiers—an in-universe Shout-Out—in an After the End situation brought on by a global epidemic.

Live-Action TV

  • In an early episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the omnipotent trickster Q creates an army of "animal-things", grunting humanoids with fur, tusks, and pig-snouts, in full Napoleonic regalia and muskets that fired phaser blasts. Orcs in all but name.
  • Also in Star Trek: Klingons. Think about it. Actually, since they came before most of the other examples and have the patriarchal, honorable-warrior society, they were almost certainly a profound influence on media use of orcs outside Tolkien.
  • The demonic army at the end of Angel's series finale "Not Fade Away" are pretty much meant to look like Tolkien Orcs. Indeed, there is an interview where Joss Whedon calls them "Orcs".

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons follows the Tolkienian model closely, although the possibility of using orcs as a player race can lead to subversions on an individual basis. However, even as far back as Second Edition, D&D gave their orcs hints of the Blizzard model, including a shamanistic (albeit warlike) culture, and a more troll-like appearance. D&D may also be the first work that explicitly split orcs (large savages), goblins (small sneaks), hobgoblins (large troopers), and bugbears (large bullies) into separate races; in Tolkien, there were different strains of orcs with different traits, but they were still all one race. Earlier editions claim that orcs don't just have a warlike culture but are actually good strategists and tacticians (they are theoretically of human intelligence), but since almost everyone just had them as Stupid Evil berserkers anyway this detail was dropped.
    • Orcs in Eberron, on the other hand, are somewhat "Blizzard orcs," but somewhat fulfill the role of elves in other settings (Eberron elves are a Proud Warrior Race). They have little actual conflict with the other races, are the best druids in the setting (despite a fullblooded orc getting a Wisdom penalty) and actually have a sort-of company that finds Dragonshards - crystals that are essential to create magic items. Oh—and their shamanistic culture is responsible for keeping one type of Cosmic Horror from causing The End of the World as We Know It.
      • Hobgoblins are "Blizzard orcs" played straight.
    • For the most part, the Forgotten Realms has followed the usual D&D variety straight, but Ondonti subrace are not prone to rage and are peaceful farmers who only want to be left alone. Later the trope is played with in the Kingdom of Many-Arrows, which has enjoyed a several decades peace with its local human and elven neighbors and which, while not necessarily good, doesn't seem to be Exclusively Evil.
      • Notably, Forgotten Realms started laying the ground work for their orcs to be potrayed as proud warrior race guys around the same time that Blizzard turned their orcs into PWRGs. Coincidence?
    • In the Spelljammer D&D IN SPACE setting there's an orc people in Worthy Opponent role called the Scro - remnants of defeated goblinoid fleet from the First Unhuman War, who colonized a jungle world and got very organized. The dedication made them tougher than normal orcs and more "civilised" (i.e. usually Lawful Evil). They are known for dealing fair with anyone, except elves whom they generally view as hated vermin. Various renegade or marooned groups of Scro occasionally pop up in Spelljammer material and elsewhere as generally neutral groundling orcs.
      • Malatra (Living Jungle) got Oscray, a group of Scro who defected and settled down on Toril after defeat of their fleet.
    • D&D also had half-orcs, and introduced the idea that Orcs could breed with almost anything. Except elves, perhaps as a minor tweak to the Tolkien orcs. There were some releases of such breeding done in alternate sourcebooks, but these creatures were almost unavoidably insane from their conflicting nature.
      • Tolkien also had Half-Orcs - Saruman bred them at Isengard (also called "Goblin-men" and "Orc-men").
    • The D&D Adventure Drums on Fire Mountain introduced the kara-kara, a primitive race of green-skinned, island-dwelling orcs. Their primitive weaponry and garb are logical enough for humanoids living in such an environment. They also have afros.
    • Oddly enough, most D&D orcs forget the one serious piece of characterization Tolkien DID give them, and subsequently have orcs and elves participating in generational hatred, despite not having any overlapping territories, resources, or any other areas of common interest.
      • Except for Mystara, where the shadow elves abandon their deformed infants near orc settlements, and the unwitting orcs raise them as members - and often, thanks to their intelligence, leaders - of their tribes. This is part of a Batman Gambit by the shadow elves' patron Immortal, to try to breed a less evil variety of orc.
    • Also oddly, while orcs are iconic D&D monsters, they also seem to be viewed as a somewhat expendable race by writers of D&D settings. Both Dragonlance and Ravenloft lack native orc populations, although goblins are present in both these worlds.
    • According to the 3.5 Monster Manual, orcs have gray skin and like to wear bright colors, but this is almost never represented in illustrations; they're not even consistent within the same edition.
    • Pathfinder orcs seem to look more like the Blizzard variety. However, to say that they act like the Tolkien variety would be to vastly underestimate their sheer batshittery.
    • Both Pathfinder and 4th edition have made significant changes to half-orcs. They've become better-looking (although those in Pathfinder still look rather like Blizzard orcs) and no longer have a intelligence or charisma penalty.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battle Orcs are literally at the halfway point between the Tolkien and Blizzard models, being the intermediate stage from one to the other. They're more or less considered Evil, if only by their barbaric nature, the fact that they really, REALLY like fighting, and they don't quite get the concepts of "Non-Combatant" or "Innocent Bystander". Though this being Warhammer, the crapsackiest of all the crapsack worlds, the fact that they're not trying to either eat your soul or animate your corpse probably casts them in a somewhat sympathetic light. But at the same time they have the fleshed-out culture of the Warcraft style, although it's even more war-centered, and use Shamans. Additionally, the appearance of Warhammer's Orcs also formed the basis of the appearance normally used for the Warcraft-style Orcs - Green. Orcs (and Goblins) worship a pair of gods known as Gork and Mork, who are described as "Cunningly Brutal" and "Brutally Cunning", but there's no way of knowing which is which. What this basically boils down to for an Ork is that one will hit you when you aren't looking, and the other will hit you really hard when you are; which god has which aspect is one more excuse to fight each other. And unlike Tolkien Orcs - whose evil nature and ability to Zerg Rush is only really stopped by their individual weakness - the Orcs here are towering and strong...fortunately, they have nowhere near the capacity to be as disciplined and technologically advanced as some of the other species.
  • Warhammer 40,000 uses Orks, which are Orcs from Warhammer IN SPACE with Funetik Aksents Xtreme Kool Letterz. They have Mekboyz, who have an instinctive knowledge of technology, and a gestalt psychic ability that improves the functionality of many machines and can be channeled by Weirdboyz to more dramatic effects. Orks are extremely durable and persistent; because they reproduce through spores that fly off from their skin, ork infestations are hard to eliminate once they have set foot on a planet. Orks are genetically engineered to fight and win, and any ork that's not participating in a Waaaugh! against aliens is probably participating in some intra-ork civil war. 40K is such a Crapsack World that, due to their straightforward attitudes and hooligan-style Funetik Aksents, these bloodthirsty, amoral monsters are the comic relief.
  • Orks in Shadowrun tend to be more belligerent and not quite as bright as humans, but not to the same degree as Tolkienian orcs; more to the degree of the redneck shit-kicker one might meet in their local bar. Like all the other metahuman races except possibly elves, orks are also descended from humans, and thus show the full human range of pink-to-brown skin tones rather than the green skin typical of orcs. They do, however, retain D&D features such as tusks.
    • Also worth noting that in SR, Orks have developed their own culture and language which seems to draw many parallels with African-American & Hispanic "Gangsta" cultures. There are such things as non-orks embracing ork culture and becoming ork posers. Lacking the prettiness of the elves, the non-threatening appearance of the Dwarves, or the sheer scariness of the Trolls to keep people off their back, and the fact that they reproduce abundantly (twins and triplets amongst Orks being the norm, not the exception) ensures that the Orks get the worst of the Fantastic Racism, as they are often seen as threatening to taken over Humanity's place due to their expanding numbers..
  • RPG creator John Wick created a small-press RPG titled Ork World in direct rejection of traditional tropes about orcs. The orcs of the RPG are a peaceful, tribal society who are slowly being hunted to extinction by imperialistic humans and elves.
  • In the swedish fantasy RPG Eon Orcs (3 different sub species: Gûrd, Tirak, Trukh), while being based in a culture of Might Makes Right is not evil though brutish. One clan of these Orcs is even assimilated into human culture and behaves like the culture they're part of. The barbarian might-makes-right clans while being brutal is also one of the forefront opposers to all things Demonic.
  • Orcs in the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series generally adhere to the Tolkien model of orc, although they have a few notable differences. Fighting Fantasy orcs are known for being able to eat almost anything, including, wood, rocks, and metal, although they prefer fresh meat. They also stand out due to their violent team sports, such as a variation on volleyball where the players of the losing team are eaten by the winners, or a variation on rugby played with a live slave at the ball that has no restrictions on play, often turning into a bloodbath as a result.
  • In the german RPG The Dark Eye, Orks are smaller than humans, but stronger. They are covered in black fur (Blackpelts) and have tusks. Normaly nomadic, they have begun building cities in recent years. Due to a coming choosing of a race that will govern a new age, they could overpower humans. They believe in Brazoragh, the god of males, power and war, and Tairach, the god of death and magic. Brazoragh killed his father Tairach, becoming the new godly chieftan. The orkish culture is just like that, constant fighting for the highest Place. The only reason they have begun buidling cities, instead of killing themselves and everybody else, is their new leader, the Aikar Brazoragh (Chosen of Brazoragh): as strong as a giant (meaning amongst the strongest creatures on the planet), more magical power than 3 archmages and, beeing the sole chosen of a god, more clerical power than all human highpriests together. He had to beat every single chieftan though until his people accepted him as leader.
  • Two of the three Deadlands settings use orc-like characters. Surprised? In the Post-Apopalyptic Hell on Earth, the "Road Orcs" are a mutated band of road gangers who loot and plunder for fun and profit (think Mad Max with tusks). The Space Western Lost Colony has an entire alien race, the anouks. Peaceful, friendly anouks are technologically primitive, but shamanistic Proud Warrior Race Guys. Not so peaceful anouks typically don't think much of humans or their weaker kin. Because, y'know, a Space Western needs Space Injuns.
  • In the tabletop RPG Burning Wheel, Orcs are Tolkien style for the most part.The game plays up the brutal and vicious aspect Orc society by giving orcs a 'hate' attribute. Orcs are more likely to be killed or maimed by another orc than by their real enemies. Naturally, Orc campaigns mostly deal with power, treachery and deceit within a group of Orcs.
  • The orcs of Heroscape are Tolkien style, but are bright blue. And they ride dinosaurs.
  • Talislanta's Kang are Blizzard style, but are bright red. And they ride dinosaurs.
  • There are a few Orcs in Magic: The Gathering, mostly in early sets. They don't fit the Tolkensian archetype or the Warcraft archetype very well. Rather, they are sort of "goblins, but even less competent". They are almost The Artifact; in recent years they have been printed only in nostalgia-themed sets. Their only distinguishing characteristic is their supreme cowardice; early orc cards were printed with abilities that made it difficult or impossible to force them into any combat that would kill the orc.
  • In Chronopia the Blackboold orcs are of Blizzard style of orcs with a Mongolian theme. They also specialized in Alchemy.
  • The closest thing to Traveller space orcs is the Ithklur. These are a reptilian Proud Warrior Race that serves in a Gurkha-like role to the Hivers. They have an inate love of combat in their psychology, but are not evil per se. Rather their hat is as a Boisterous Bruiser race.
  • Hallow Orcs were originally the shock troops of chaos gods, kept stupid and unquestioning to serve their gods' purposes. Once introduced to Hallow, they were freed from their mental shackles and started their own (still militaristic) society, becoming Hallow's most prominent mercenaries. In other words: Blizzard orcs who were forced to act like Tolkienn orcs for most of their history.

Video Games

  • In the Battle for Wesnoth in most campaigns orcs are the Tolkien type. They are mostly portrayed as Pretty much Evil, but sometimes they have motives beyond that as well. Some orcs are also allied to the (generally) good Knalgans. Appearance wise they have simian characteristics and brown or grey skin. Their massive numbers are explained by orcs being born in large litters, the runts being called goblins. Strangely, the average orc soldiers seem to have better armor and weapons then the regular human soldiers.
  • Orcs in Warcraft III and World of Warcraft, of course. Interestingly enough, the latest Retcon states that they originally had brown skin, while the typical green skin is a result of the demonic corruption they were under in the first two games. Further demonic influence turns them red. Color-Coded for Your Convenience !
    • In the earliest games Orcs were portrayed as Evilly Affable in unit quotes and like but still ruthless killing machines.
    • Interestingly, while in the earlier games orc units such as Grunts and Peons were portrayed as rather stupid for comedy's sake, they're currently portrayed as being as intelligent as humans, simply being (for the most part) uneducated, and more prone to act on instinct and gut feeling than to stop and think things through. Notably, the current lore portrays them as going from a primarily hunter gatherer society to a full on industrial war machine within a matter of decades, although they most likely had help from the Goblins.
  • Orcs in Final Fantasy XI are the only Exclusively Evil beastmen in the whole game; the other beastman races have various sympathetic qualities, or at least motivations other than simply being bloodthirsty conquistadors. According to a guide that was only ever released in Japan, martial ability is so prized that orcish mages hide their faces in shame. Like Tolkien's original orcs, they have good technological ability. These Orcs are reptilian.
  • The Elder Scrolls was using Blizzard orcs before Blizzard was. Within the TES universe, orcs were once just another elf, but mutated when their patron god was eaten by a Daedra.
    • In the first game, Arena, they were Tolkienian, however. They started getting Blizzard traits in Daggerfall, and completed the role reversal when Morrowind made them playable.
      • The creators of Morrowind had a slightly schizophrenic attitude towards orcs... orcish vocals make them sound intelligent and civilised, orcish equipment is quite advanced and samurai-styled rather than crude, and various items of backstory make them out to be something of a Proud Warrior Race. Then a bunch of them in game have actual dialog text which is basically "ug me hit thing wiv rock hur hur".
      • This, however, can also apply to the other races in Tamriel, as well. A Nord in Mournhold has the same male voice all the Nords do, but he speaks Hulk Text as well.
      • Oblivion features a Lampshade when you talk to one of the Orcs at Daedric shrines. He says something like: "People think we're evil. Do I look evil?"
      • In Skyrim, Orcs have been driven back into a diaspora during the interregnum. They now have tribal strongholds dotting Tamriel, worship Malacath and raid as bandits, although many are still Imperialized as smiths or soldiers for the Empire.
        • There are couple others that stand out, like several Orc bards and even one of the faculty at the Winterhold College (for mages). He's the archivist/librarian, to boot. He threatens to rip off your arms if you mistreat his books, but still...
  • Orcs, goblins and trolls in Ultima are straight-up Tolkien-style, in the first three games, they could even be unmade by magi using the Repond spell.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura mix Tolkien and Blizzard Orc traits. While Orcs are primarily Tolkienian outside of cities, serving as Random Encounters (unless you play as a half-orc; then they'll just apologize for bothering you) or being seen in bandit gangs on the outskirts of towns, in industrialized cities they appear as a unjustly oppressed underclass working poorly paid jobs in factories. One Sidequest centers around this, as a group of workers are in a standoff with the police when they take control of a factory to demand better rights. How things work out in the end depends on how you handle the situation.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic games always featured orcs as part of Stronghold faction, but the expansion of HOMM 5, Tribes of the East, introduced them as a whole new faction. Apart from having brown skin (or sometimes spreckled with red, and having horns) and being created a la Tolkien by the Wizards as slave warriors to fight the demons (by injecting demon blood into human criminals), they are very close to their Warcraft counterparts in almost any conceivable way.
  • The Orcs in the Warlords and Warlords Battlecry series are of the Tolkienian type. They're a bunch of Exclusively Evil thugs with no redeeming qualities other than the fact that they fight each other as often as they fight other, more civilized, people.
    • They do, however, start to change and get more characterization in the Puzzle Quest series, including a playable orc hero in Puzzle Kingdoms. Now they tend more towards the Blizzard-style, though still being usually evil.
  • The Frat Orcs from Kingdom of Loathing are somewhere between the two, since as the name suggests they're mainly a parody of frat boy stereotypes.
  • The Brutes of Halo in everything but name. They're big, bulky, and resemble several different beasts, mostly gorilla, have fur and tusks. As their name implies, they are very brutal, and in one of the first cutscenes of the second game, they considered eating an Elite. In the bonus material, it is revealed that they managed to make their way into space, only to nuke themselves into the stone age, and had just rediscovered radio and rocketry when the Covenant found them, without learning anything. Also, they are the most violent of the races of the Covenant. The Elites have honor, the Prophets are power hungry, the Grunts and Hunters are enslaved, the Jackals are Hired Guns, but the Brutes, they just like killing people. The ruthlessness of the Covenant got even more ruthless when the Brutes usurped the Elites.
    • Also, the weapon designs of the Brutes are orc-like. The rest of the Covenant use sleek and curvy guns of fantastical design, and shoot plasma. The Brute weapons however, are angular, awkward, and they all shoot projectiles (except for their version of the plasma rifle, which is just the same, except painted red and a little more powerful). Also, they all have bayonets on their guns, except for aforementioned plasma rifle, which they hardly ever use. Their vehicles also differ from the standard Covenent designs, and follow their own angular and primitive design (in fact, one of them is repurposed farm equipment), and they have names like Prowler and Mauler, compare to the standard Covenant crafts like Ghost and Shadow.
    • It should also be noted that, in their own way, the Brutes are more technologically sophisticated than the other Covenant races, in that they are the only race who still actually attempt to improve Covenant technology on their own. Between that and their status as primates, they are the most humanlike of any alien in the Haloverse. Also, they are much physically stronger than any other sentient race encountered in the series, except maybe the Hunters.
  • Orcs of Lineage II are both Tolkenien and Blizzard-type. The player controlled orcs generally follow the Blizzard version closely, being Proud Warrior Race Guys and following a shamanistic culture based around their progenitor Pa'aagrio, god of fire. There are some aesthetic differences, mainly that they don't generally have horns or tusks or really big teeth, just hairstyles that look like horns. Their melee classes essentially fill the role of the big, muscular Scary Black Man, except with green skin. Their women are something else entirely. Only Dark Elf women are bustier. The orc Mooks you fight, which by the way the player orcs HATE, are nearly always Tolkenien in most ways, being mostly dumb, savage tribal guys who generally pillage their neighborhood.
  • In Master of Magic not much is explained about orc society, but worth noting is that orcs are the Jack of All Trades of the races, having access to the entire tech tree (they are also devoid of any extra-special units or interesting characteristics, making them fill the role humans usually take). To elaborate, Orcs can build Universities whose students help in the player wizard's research, Alchemists' Guilds to produce magical weapons for the troops, War Colleges to produce Elite Mook squads, Merchants' Guilds, and Engineers.
  • Knight Orc was an extremely snarky Interactive Fiction game where you play a genuine Tolkien Orc. Solving the puzzles and defeating opponents requires you to think like a cruel, underhanded cheating bastard, since in a fair fight you are a weak, sword-fodder Mook. A third of the way through the game, a malfunction reveals that you're actually a robot orc in a futuristic virtual-reality MMORPG, and the objective becomes breaking the game to escape.
  • Like the above, the Darkspawn of Dragon Age fit this trope well enough (and most of which look enough like Orcs) to fit.
  • There's an Orc monster in Golden Sun: a shirtless pig headed man with a sword that lives in the desert.
  • In the Gothic series Orcs are intelligent, nomadic members of a Proud Warrior Race. They attack Myrtana (the land of the Humans) to capture slaves and perform archeological excavations on the sites that bear religious importance to Orc Shamans.
  • Orcs are often found as random encounters in the Dragon Quest series, and default to the Tolkienian model, being humanoid boars with spears. Interestingly, they (and their variations) tend to be rather powerful, usually being encountered mid- to late-game.
  • Orcs in Allods Online and Evil Islands are gray-skinned Blizzard-types (and dimorphic as hell).
  • The Gorn in Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant in all but name. Green, porcine features, and tusks. Xenophobic, militaristic, and live mostly underground on account of living directly in between two powerful races that hate each others' guts, but honorable and have an Asian-influenced art design.
  • The orcs from Dungeon Keeper in name only. Long white hair, purple skin and wrinkles all over make them look more like trolls. In fact, the trolls in the game look more like orcs than the orcs themselves.
  • King's Quest Mask of Eternity has shaggy, blue-skinned ice orcs in the Frozen Reaches.
  • In Dungeon Crawl, no official description of orcs is given beyond "[they] combine the worst features of humans, pigs, and several other creatures." Cave orcs (mooks) err towards the Tolkein model; they're Exclusively Evil, worship the proud but ruthless (and canonically evil) god Beogh (who refuses to accept non-orc worshipers). Hill orcs (playable) are a bit more Blizzard-like; they can play as any class (even paladins and priests), and can serve Beogh to attempt to become the Dark Messiah of the orcs.
  • The Drauga of Kohan are technically Orcs (just like the Haroun are elves and the Mareten are Humans). They are large, decidedly simian, warlike and posess a shamanistic culture. They follow Darius after he defeats their former leader, and become his powerful supporters later in the game (though some of them will insist that you beat them to earn their respect).
  • Whereas The Legend of Zelda's moriblins/moblins fall more under "ogre" and the bokoblins under "goblin/troll," the green-skinned bulblins in Twilight Princess were full on orc, complete with their leader having a Proud Warrior Race Guy attitude.
  • Serious Sam 2 features Orcs as one of the many variety of mooks for the Big Bad. Mostly used as Cannon Fodder, and are not really shown having any sort of intelligence other than basic ability to operate military equipment like the Kozak Helicopters, laser rifles, plasma ball launchers, and propellers that they use as jetpacks. Background material states that they are actually a primitive alien race drafted by Mental and given training and weapons.

Web Comics

  • The Order of the Stick, unsurprisingly, subverts the usual "Tolkienian" characterization of Dungeons & Dragons orcs. The orcs shown in the webcomic are just a primitive tribe; and those of the paperback prequel are just mistaken for hostile by townsfolk because they are heavy metal fans.
    • Several characters are also half-orcs. While technically all of them are bad guys, Thog is a Psychotic Man Child who's mostly Obliviously Evil, Bozzok is a business-minded gangster who negotiates with the heroes, and Therkla is more of an Anti-Villain with a good dose of Villainous Valor. Therkla also subverts the trope of halfbreeds being born of rape: her orc mother and human father were happily married.
    • OOTS also features a race of green-skinned goblins that are more civilized, if still stuck living at the edges of civilization. Unlike most recent portrayals of goblins, they are the same height as humans, making them much like Blizzard model orcs. The conflicts between the goblins and the humans drive much of the backstory of the current conflict and are integral to the goblin villain Redcloak's Start of Darkness.
  • The orcs in Dominic Deegan, Oracle For Hire lean towards the Blizzard model with a lot of Fantasy Counterpart Culture traits for Native Americans (not to mention being completely obligate herbivores), but most of the clans are still heavily patriarchal. They are also heavily shamanistic, with their magic being a "gift from the land", tapping entirely to the natural elements, which include life and death itself.
  • Although not strictly orcs, the tribe of the main characters of Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes fits the Blizzard model almost perfectly; other tribes and races of "savage" species (including actual orcs) have varying degrees of conformity to this model, but even the evil groups aren't exactly Tolkienian.
  • The recently introduced Orcs on Gaia Online look somewhat like Blizzard Style Orcs, but dress and act like they belong in a Dungeon Punk story. Apparently, they lived under the mountains near the city, until they were discovered and subsequently employed in Factory Town of Aekea. Why you would need to hire Orcs in a city that already has an ample supply of robots is beyond me...
  • Linburger has the Trokks. They're a savage race that roam the wilderness and kill anybody they meet. The main character, Lin, encounters them on occasion whenever she searches the junkyard for spare parts. There's also an alcoholic beverage made by them and only them, nobody knows the secret ingredident, and the only way to get the beverage is to live among their tribe for a set amount of time.
  • Girl Genius has the Jaegermonsters, who - other than their nigh-Immortal Super Soldier by Mad Scientist origin - fit this trope very nicely. They have a code that defines them to the point that there are "former" Jaegers. Their loyalty to the (Mad Scientist) Heterodynes and ludicrous strength tends to lead them be Europa's bogymen. They also have an interesting culture around (comedic) violence and hats, which are evidently a combination of status symbols and a sign of worthiness. Also, when we see a bar for (patched-up, too wounded to fight) Jaegers at one point in the story, it's a pretty typical rowdy establishment... until the nightly bar fight starts, at which point everything becomes a massive Improvised Weapon brawl.

Web Original

  • Orcs have not been seen in Tales of MU, perhaps because they're not native to the continent on which the story takes place, but they form part of the cultural backdrop. "Going orcshit" is a common expression, and a history class revealed that orcs occupied the role of Hessian mercenaries in the equivalent of the American Revolution; mooks for hire with a vicious rep. The same class revealed their racial Berserk Button: attacking orc women and children. There's also one character who appears to be part orc, and who is the biggest (or second biggest) Badass in the series.

Western Animation

  • The Futurama movie "Bender's Game" featured Morcs, who wore rainbow suspenders and mumbled words like "Nanu-nanu" and "Shazbot".
  • Wolverine is predictably depicted as a Blizzard variant (though he's referred to as a troll), in a fairytale told by Jubilee in one of the last seasons of the X Men animated series.