Orcs are a strong, proud people who are fiercely loyal to their families and allies. Orcish culture prizes strength, cunning, and allegiance to one’s clan and kin. Orc chieftains and clan leaders usually enforce obedience with physical might, but feel a deep responsibility to protect those who follow them. Orcish culture is often seen as savage and barbaric by non-orcs, and the stereotype of orcs as a monstrous, stupid brutes still persists, especially in places where orcs are rare.
Plains orcs and swamp orcs each have their own distinct dialects, but they are similar enough that orcs of both kinds (or anyone who speaks their language) can understand each other well. Orcs have no written language (one of the reasons they are perceived as unintelligent), but adhere to a proud tradition of oral storytelling. Orcish history and stories of glory are officially passed on through tribal leaders and shamans, but all orcs value the ability to relate tales of adventure and prowess in battle. To live a mundane life is viewed as a shameful fate; orcs would rather die in battle or even be executed than suffer a more ordinary death.
The plains orcs who live in the northern plains of Brei are nomadic mounted warriors who form close bonds with their mounts, many of whom they raise themselves. There are also some plains orcs who live in Grandéveran cities and fight alongside their human allies. Plains orcs tend to coexist peacefully with other peoples, though they prefer to avoid contact with strangers and outsiders. The orcs of the Breian plains are descended from the orc nomads of the east. These ancient tribes still live in the duchy of Santenne and follow the edicts set down by their holy ancestor, the crusader Sigurd. Though most of these orcs still wander the plains, there are some families who have settled down in the cities of Santenne to live peaceful and prosperous lives. Plains orcs stand about a foot taller on average than humans of the same sex, and several inches broader. Their bodies are naturally powerful and muscular, and few orcs would disrespect their body by letting themselves grow fat. Their skin ranges in color from a mottled olive green to a sandy beige.
Swamp orcs have a more sedentary lifestyle, though they are also fierce warriors, known for their courage—and sometimes their brutality. They live in sprawling, disorganized familial groups, lead by a patriarchal or matriarchal figure, frequently one of their animist shamans. Swamp orcs are hunters and conquerors, though they usually lack the discipline to take over more than a few small villages. Swamp orc tribes are almost universally xenophobic and will angrily repel outsiders who don’t offer goods for trade or barter. Swamp orcs are slightly smaller than plains orcs and have paler skin and larger eyes, suited to life in dark swamps. Their pale skin is typically concealed by a thick crust of swamp muck and caked-on grime. Even if a swamp orc grows plump on their diet of fatty meats and sugary swamp roots, there is still a layer of powerful muscle hiding beneath.