Monday, August 30, 2010

From the Bookshelf - Fury in the Wastelands: The Orcs of Tellene

There are many different Dungeons & Dragons campaign settings out there created by other companies besides Wizards of the Coast. Some of these settings are more popular than others and one that gained quite a bit of a following with D&D 3.5 was from Kenzer & Company, the makers of HackMaster, called Kingdoms of Kalamar. What does this have to do with D&D 4E? As my current campaign revolves around a pending war with a huge Orc army, I turned to a book from ages past (2008) titled Fury in the Wastelands: The Orcs of Tellene.

The books...

Fury in the Wastelands: The Orcs of Tellene
Number of Pages 120
Number of Chapters 11
Number of Appendices 3
Text Layout 2 columns per page
Font Size Smaller than the 4E manuals
Artwork High quality black and white drawings
Easily to Readable 8/10
Comprehensible and Well Written 9/10
Use of Images, Headers, and Sidebars 7/10
Overall Rating 8/10


The author...

Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams is currently listed as the Creative Director of Triple Ace Games and has previously written under many different companies. His biography information from the Triple Ace Games websites says the following:
Wiggy is the Creative Director of Triple Ace Games and brings with him over 25 years of roleplaying experience. He's been a published author since 1998 and has written for Atlas Games, Eden Studios, Britannia Games Design, Kenzer & Co., Pinnacle Entertainment Group, and Green Ronin. When Wiggy isn't working he's usually plotting something he can write up later. He's married and lives in the wild north of the UKUK, in the land of little ponies and constant wind.

There is also a more personal interview of him over at Tales from the Savage Troll, dated April 24th, 2010, providing an interesting look into the author's gaming habits, personal life, and other parts of his life.

The material...

Fury in the Wastelands: The Orcs of Tellene starts off giving the legend of how Orcs came to be, created by the gods of darkness so long ago "that even the elves and dwarves have no true memory of their creation." It goes on to present a translation of the Codex of Doom detailing a fierce battle between Light and Darkness, ending in a truce between the equally matched foes. "The Gods,those lesser power of Darkness and Light" then began creating and shaping the world of Tellene. The Creator of Strife took characteristics of each of the three Races of Light (Elves, Dwarves, and Humans) to create the most horrid race: Orcs.

Chapter 2 goes on to described the 5 sub-races of Orcs, including their physical and psychological similarities and differences, including each subraces' name in the Orc's own guttural language. This section has become a great aid to me as I prepare my campaign story. I do not want my Orcs to be bland, but want a greater amount of variety much like there is in real-life humankind.

Chapters 3 and 4 cover the social structure and culture of the Orcs. These chapters have been great tomes of knowledge to me as well. The Orc leaders, warriors, casters, workers, servants, and breeders are all described in great detail, allowing for parallel inter-structural hierarchies. Tattoos, medicine, recreation, habitat, and the diet of the Orcs are worked through in detail, which has allowed me to create many different skill challenges, dice checks, and side quests based on the intricacies the Orcish culture.

Chapter 5 is all about warfare. Warfare is the center of my campaign and this chapter gives extremely valuable information about not only the Orc's weapons and armor, but their military organization, tactics, and strategies. A battle lead by an Orc commander is brutal and the attacks are very pointed, contrary to many beliefs. Orcish commanders will have casters and archers targeted first, cavalry is to be fought against from favorable ground, and ground troops are to be swarmed, flanked, weakened at key locations. My favorite section of this chapter goes into details about how the Orcs would setup and execute an ambush with ranged troops above on the rocks and concealed warriors on the ground. These are not your typical beasts only fighting to survive.

Chapter 6 covers the Orc Religion. I read through the chapter and enjoyed the insight but will not be consuming any of the information there for my campaign.

Chapter 7 takes a look at several misconceptions that exist. These were a short, but interesting list of great rumors I plan to spread, sprinkled with truth, to my party through the local townsfolk. My favorite misconception has to do with sunlight:
Everyone claims to know that orcs fear sunlight and are weakened by it, for as a subterranean race they are unused to its glare, similar to drow elves and deep gnomes. Common myth also states that so long as the sun is shining, you will be safe from orcs. Sadly, both statements are, for the most part, incorrect.

Chapter 8 describes the major Orc tribes of Tellene. This chapter details out extremely useful information on not only tribal symbols and land area controlled by each tribe, but includes information on tribal resources, religious biases, their latest raiding targets, and recent events that happened within the tribe. With 14 different tribes represented, the shear amount of information and detail is overly abundant.

Chapter 9 presents 10 sample Orc personalities, what tribes they belong to, their background, appearance, personality, and 3.5 stat block. Many of these are notable and make fine templates for creating unforgettable Orcish friends, foes, and everything in between.

Chapters 10 and 11 include how to create Orc PCs and several interesting adventure hooks. These chapters, although very good reads, did not pertain to my situation as I am not allowing Orc PCs in my game at this time (even then, the powers would need to be adjusted for 4E) and my campaign specifics are already mapped out.

The best and most fun parts of this book to read, from just a reader's standpoint, are the quotes from various adventurers though the book. Each chapter and sub-section starts off with a quote pertaining to the section. My favorite, by far, is in Chapter 2's Brown Orc sub-section:
"In the desert, the line between man and beast is impossible to distinguish. That is what makes the brown orcs so dangerous." - Saryf, Dejy ranger of Thygasha

In conclusion...

This book has proven to be very helpful in my search for Orcish lore, habits, sub-races, and other details not available in the Monster Manuals. As with all things D&D, regardless of the edition being played, any information from any source can make its way into your campaign and ongoing setting. My campaign just happens to be based in The Forgotten Realms, but that does not make the information from the Kingdoms of Kalamar books any more or less relevant. D&D is all about having fun and enjoying time spent with friends while trying to do your worst, as a DM, to those friends' characters.

I've enjoyed reading through the book and will continue to go to it as I'm creating the story and encounters for my current campaign. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a good source book on Orc lore and more detailed information than is available in the Monster Manuals. If you would like more information, I suggest picking up the book from Amazon or Lulu.

What other sources have you used or would you suggest for aiding in story and campaign building ouside of the ofical D& D4E manuals?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your inspirations. I hope the DM in each and everyone of us can find their inspiration somewhere like this. My journey to inspiration continues.