Makin’ bacon : Pig-faced orcs

Pig-faced orcs (“Porcs,” as they prefer not to be called) have been having a minor renaissance lately.

OSR bloggers were talking about them for while; the most compelling look at the origins of the pig-faced orc for my money is here, but I’ve also read that there was some sort of miscommunication between writer Gary Gygax and illustrator David Sutherland which led the best know example in the Monster Manual.  Not sure where I first heard that either. Another theory holds that the Tolkien calendar for 1977 by the brothers Hildebrandt introduced pig-faced orcs, but honestly the orcs in that calendar don’t look very pig-like to me for the most part. I think Zhu is on the right track with the Disney goons (See also Telecanter’s Receding Rules;  Sword & Shield; Realm of Zhu 1 and 2 ; TOTFF; Greyhawk Grognard; Grognardia).

For a long time the only ones available would be the old Minifigs AD&D line.

But several manufacturers put them back into production — Otherworld starting the trend in 2010, which inspired several of the blog posts already linked above  (Casting Room; Otherworld; Splintered Light; and yes Minifigs has them mostly back in production too!).

I was not really a fan of pig-faced orcs back in the day, since I came to D&D after being exposed to Tolkien. But more recently they’ve grown on me, and while I couldn’t justify buying any more orc figures (I have scores unpainted and literally an army of them painted) I thought about doing some conversions on my own. But then I saw the incredible workmanship over at Belched from the Depths and got cold feet. No way am I sculpting anything near that standard. More recently I saw a simple conversion on a Facebook page (and who can ever find something again in that Book of Sand?) and I could at least copy that. So I took some plastic orcs that were unlikely to be painted any time soon and tried making snoots from epoxy putty. They are just tiny balls pressed onto the nose, with the tip flattened and nostrils made by poking the end with bit of florist wire. The only thing I forgot to do was make one an obvious leader. I have a plastic GW “black orc” that should fit the bill though. For reference here’s the basic plastic orc as I painted one some time ago:

A small, somewhat ape-like nose typical of GW.

And here are the pig-faced versions (I also did some weapon swaps from other kits for variety, and gave some shield bosses).

The yellow and purple shields will likely get decals from the BattleMasters game on their shields.

Finally some Grenadier UK plastic orcs:

For reference, here are some I painted in the usual manner, and with their shields.

Both the pig-faced spearmen had their weapons modified; a third is below:

This guy could be the shaman of the tribe, and will be the leader for now.

Lastly a couple of metal orcs (Ghost Miniatures, the fantasy arm of Old Glory Miniatures) that I painted along similar lines, though I left their noses as they were. They might be half-orcs from the tribe.

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Published in: on January 24, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Orc ID

So blogging has mostly ground to a halt since I’ve taken a new job at an academic library; maybe it will resume some time. But today a publisher got in touch to get a license to publish a short article I wrote and they recommended I get an Orc ID. O_o

Orc ID

No, not like that. But that is definitely what I imagine.

An ORCID is actually an identifier used to disambiguate people. Libraries have been doing this for centuries, but in the past couple of decades there’s been a push to use numerical identifiers rather than textual ones. Libraries have long kluged the problem of many people with the same name by adding qualifiers to names, such as middle names, years of birth/death, or other titles or even activities. So because there are many “Michael Monaco”s in the world,  I might be established as “Monaco, Michael Joseph” or “Monaco, Michael Joseph, 1972-” or something like that. But a simple number would make the identifier more useful worldwide. Consider Tolstoy — written in Cyrillic his name is be Алексей Константинович Толстой; “Толстой” is various Romanized as “Tolstoi,” “Tolstoy,” or “Tolstoĭ”. Likewise Korean, Japanese, and Chinese names may vary a lot depending on the language they are publishing in. There is an effort to bring all the forms together in individual countries’ authority files (for example the US has the Library of Congress’ National Authority File or NAF) and the NAF-equivalents of many countries are brought together in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF.org — where Tolstoy is VIAF # 96987389). But these are focused mostly on people publishing books, albums, films, and so forth. More minor works like journal articles don’t get cataloged individually in library catalogs and there is no need to disambiguate the millions of academics who publish worldwide for library catalogs. So the ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor Id.) is meant to work a bit like the VIAF but for researchers and academics (as well as journalists, etc., in principle), so that my publications as “Michael Monaco” are not confused with other “Michael Monaco”s, and it uses a string of numbers (in my case, 0000-0001-7244-5154).

So anyway it’s nice work and hobbies encounter each other like that.

Published in: on September 16, 2016 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Orcs, and Hordes of the things

Although the dictionary definition of orc is merely “monster,” modern authors universally follow the lead of Tolkien in using the term as a synonym for a large goblin.  These have not had a fair press. They are fanatically brave in spite of being weaker and less practiced than most other humanoids, and must be kind to animals, since they train them so well.  It is interesting that Tolkien’s characters describe them in terms very similar to those used by medieval chroniclers to describe Mongols, who in our day are considered a nice friendly people of slightly eccentric lifestyle.  We might instead think of such goblins as a fantasy counterpart of the apocryphal northerner: clannish, rough spoken, given to 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 radical politicians of other races. –Phil Barker, Sue Laflin Barker & Richard Bodley Scott, Hordes of the things

The paragraph above is the caption for the orc & goblin army list in Hordes of the things (or HOTT).  I love this “defense” of orcs.  The write-ups in the army lists are not all as good, but here’s my other favorite, for the “Generic barbarians” list:

Humans lacking in non-oral culture and fond of old fashioned sports like head-hunting, cattle raiding, or world conquest.

What else do you really need to know? HOTT is a fantasy wargame that was first released in 1991 and which uses fairly simple principles found in De Bellis Antiquitatus (DBA).  It uses the same standard unit size (an ‘element’ or base of several miniatures, usually three or four but as many as 8 or as few as one miniature might be used, depending on the troop type), but whereas DBA uses 12 elements for every army, HOTT has a ‘points’ system allowing armies of varying sizes depending on the troops bought.  The rule book includes a large number of army lists, although in principle there are relatively few restrictions on what kind of army you could field.  The list of armies is helpful because it gives examples of what the authors intend by some of the very generic troop types, and also as sort of bibliography for some classic sources for fantasy gaming. The “generics” are elf or fairy, dwarf, goblin or orc, gnome, undead, reptillian, ratmen, medieval, barbarian, nomad, pirate, evil humans, chaos, good kung-fu, and evil kung-fu (the last two based on 70’s and 80’s movies). Here’s the rest, the parenthetical entries being separate lists:

  • Summerian myth (human, good demonic, evil demonic, hosts of the dead, Asag and the stone allies)
  • Homeric myth (Greek, Trojan)
  • Greek myth
  • Amazon
  • Arthurian epic
  • Carolingian epic
  • Irish epic (Ulster, Irish)
  • Norse myth (Aesir, giants)
  • Arabian myth
  • Persian epic
  • Japanese myth (Imperial descent, Kumaso)
  • Indian myth (Rama, Lanka)

Those were the armies of myth & legend; there are also some semi-historical types that would incorporate mostly historical forces, but which are highly speculative and include fantasy elements.  These are inspired by films, period legends, and popular culture.

  • Semi-historical Egyptian
  • Kyropaedia (Persians, Lydians) [after Xenophon]
  • Arthurian semi-historical (Arthur, Saxons)
  • Chinese semi-historical
  • Da Vinci Italian [renaissance Italy + Da Vinci’s drawings of war marchines!)
  • Japanese epic [including legends as well as Kurosawa films]
  • Aztec semi-historical
  • Conquistador semi-historical
  • Munchausen 18th century (Russians, Ottoman Turks)
  • Napoleonic semi-historical
  • Victorian science ficiton
  • Boxer Rebellion (Boxer, Foreign devils)
  • Alien invasion (Aliens, Humans)

Various fantasy books and stories:

  • Hyborian (Northern barbarians, Picts, medieval states, Shem, Stygia, Black nations, near eastern nations, Vendhya, Khitai) [R.E. Howard and later pastiches]
  • Barsoom (Red men, green men) [E.R. Burroughs]
  • Fairie queen (Gloriana’s knights, League of enchanters) [Edmund Spencer]
  • De Camp Novarian (Othomae, Shvenite, Fedirun, Mulvanian, Paaluan) [L. Sprague DeCamp]
  • Well of the Unicorn (Vulking, Salmonessan, Dalarnan) [Fletcher Pratt]
  • Kregen (Pre-Prescott Vallia, Imperial Vallia, Loh, Clansmen, Radvakkas, Pandahem, Hamal, Moorcrim, Shanks) [the Scorpio/Kregen/Antares series by Alan Burt Akers/Dray Prescot]
  • Deryni (Army of ex-queen Ariella, army of grand-master Jebediah, amry of King Nelson, army of Archbishop Loris) [Katherine Kurtz]
  • Tekumel (this one does not list separate nations but just gives a list of possible troops) [M.A.R. Barker]
  • Dragaeran (Dragaeran, Easterners) [Steven Brust]
  • Black Company (Plain of Fear army, army of The Lady, army of The Limper, Shadowmaster’s army) [Glen Cook]
  • Dracula (Dracula, Dracula’s foes) [Bram Stoker]
  • Discworld (Ahnk-Morpork, Seriphate of Klatch, D’regs, Agatean Empire, Agatean insurgents, Lancre) [Terry Pratchett]
  • Atlantis [H.Rider Haggard and others]

and lastly pure fun

  • Christmas wars (Santa Claus, The anti-claus)
  • Garden wars (Garden gnomes, Ants, Wasps)

The army lists are NOT in the free pdf that HOTT’s publishers have kindly provided while HOTT remains out of print. (N.B. this pdf is for personal use only!) <update: as the newest version is finally in print, the pdf link is dead>  However using the rules and some imagination, you should be able to make up whatever army you want.  HOTT is designed with large scale battles in mind, but as you might have inferred from the inclusion of lists like “Dracula’s foes,” scale really doesn’t matter.   A wild range of armies were on display on the Stronghold, a web site that for years provided resources for HOTT players including house rules, variant armies, galleries of armies, and so on.  The site has been down for a few years but you can still see the front page and many of the pages archived here. <update: the Stronghold is now a blog here> The mythological and literary lists are generally well-researched (as you might expect a community of wargamers to do; after all considerable number of ancients wargamers have learned ancient Greek and Latin just to research the armies and battles of the period). One of my favorite variants was called “D20 HOTT,” which attempts to create a point of conversion for D&D games to HOTT, so that your character can participate in mass battles.  The only problem with such a scheme though is that players who expect the battle to ‘feel’ like a D&D combat will certainly be disappointed, and this might go even more so for spell-casters who will find their powers reduced to artillery or counterspells (if mages or clerics, respectively).

Published in: on June 18, 2013 at 8:59 pm  Comments (4)  
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Some more little people for the Bruce Galloway Memorial Home

So I’ve been getting some old lead minis from generous donors who share my appreciation for the golden age of Heritage, Grenadier, Ral Partha, etc.  I’ve been calling this the Bruce Galloway Memorial Home for Wayward and Convalescent Lead Figures, not that Bruce Galloway was all that into minis but more because he deserves some kind of gaming-related memorial online to counteract all the sniping by internet trolls regarding his Fantasy Wargaming book.  At some point I do hope to find new homes for any minis I don’t expect to use, but as it is I’m kind of behind on my painting lately.

Anyway  Scottsz of Old School Jump/Sorcerers of Doom/The Cold Text Files sent me yet another shipment, mostly of Grenadier:


The goblin is Heritage and the sea-troll is TSR, but all the rest are Grenadier, from the AD&D line.

Scott is entirely too generous, not that I’m complaining.

The dwarf with the sword and dagger is easily my favorite dwarf thief ever cast. The orc in Aztec regalia is one of the more interesting designs Grenadier came up with too. I wish they’d done all the guys in the Orc Lair box as Aztecs. I can really see orcs performing barbaric sacrifices of prisoners of war.

In fact, that sounds like a pretty straightforward adventure seed: rescue the villagers from the orcs before they sacrifice them at solstice, which is just a week away! That should give the party barely enough time to scout out the orc’s temple complex (Chitzen Itza would be a nice template) and plan and stage their daring raid…

Published in: on April 5, 2011 at 10:00 am  Comments (1)  
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For Greywulf

A day or two late, a dollar or two short, but, in honor of International Orc on a motorcycle day:

(more…)

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 1:10 am  Comments (1)  
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Army of the orcs

Man, I loves me some orcs.  The army below takes up  two tackle boxes, and I have about three more tackle boxes of loose orcs based for RPGs, including cavalry (but not counting goblins and half-orcs!)

This army can field everything in the Mordor and Misty Mountains lists for DBA, with many extras (Shooters, chariots, etc.).  About half the pictures didn’t come out so well, so there are not a lot of closeups, but you can always click to embiggen.  See the army of Robilar for some pics of the orc infantry. (more…)

Published in: on March 5, 2010 at 10:50 am  Comments (2)  
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