This is a sneak preview of the Five Scars. We thought players would be interested in seeing cultures and kingdoms as we work on them. As with all Sneak Previews, details may change over time.
The Five Scars
Far to the South, beyond even the southernmost oasis of the Desert tribes beyond Ket exist a seemingly endless expanse of harsh and barren steppes known as the Five Scars. The land is named for five great chasms that cross the wastes as if a great claw had slashed into the world itself, leaving deep and angry scars befitting the people who thrive here. Life there is a constant battle to survive against summer heat rivalling the hottest of deserts and winter winds as deadly as the coldest glacial mountains. Game is scarce but there is no shortage of dangerous beasts willing to make a meal of the unwary. This harsh land is home to the Sunscar orcs who arrived here long ago after the Sojourn brought them to this land. The Orcs of the Five Scars are every bit the warriors, worthy of calling such a harsh land their home.
Orcs in the Five Scars follow the concept of Ahzrahn, living all aspects of life as if they were a perpetual march of war, ever advancing. They constantly wander the badlands, considering their survival in spite of all the dangers of the land proof of their strength. Adversity provides a necessary challenge to keep themselves worthy. The clans seldom shelter in a single place for more than a season, allowing the slaves captured from the north enough time to grow meager crops. Once the clan moves forth, those who are unworthy are left behind and that which is left behind is forgotten. The Five Scars Orcs are harsh, tenacious, and unforgiving, but not unnecessarily cruel.
The clans of the Five Scars would happily live raiding north against the Desert Tribes, viewing them as a worthy and challenging, if wily, foe, but the Five Scars Orcs have discovered a gift that makes them a menace to any people of any land. Surrounding their namesake chasms, the Elemental Shamans of the Orcs have learned to find naturally occurring and in some cases even open gates from the badlands to numerous and distant lands. They cannot control or even know where the Gates might open on their other side, but the Orcs eagerly raid forth in search of strong foes and worthy challenges.
With their militant outlook and brutal upbringing, the Orcs could easily overrun and claim for themselves a lusher and more forgiving home, but that would be to accept defeat from the challenges of their lands. They believe leaving the constant struggle to survive in the Five Scars would make them soft and weak, so instead choose to remain in the badlands, forever battling to conquer the unconquerable barrens they call home. While the Scars will always be their home, they frequently venture forth in search of advancing their Ahzrahn before returning.
Orcs from the Five Scars dress for war and danger as often as they can, favoring armor of leather and metal that appears primitive at first glance, but in fact displays an experienced use of limited materials. While the Five Scars is a hot and unforgiving place, the winters can reach alarmingly cold temperatures, and there is no telling when a gate will offer a chance to raid into a cold or humid location, so adaptability is favored as well.
~ All life is a pursuit of greater strength, in combat and in life. Against danger and adversity, it is the strong who survive, and those who survive the most challenging and brutal conditions prove themselves the strongest still.
~ Respect the tenacity and strengths of other warriors. There is no glory in competing with or besting children, so the greater your peers and adversaries, the greater your advance in Ahzrahn.
~ Treasure is to be taken, not found. If you did not face peril worthy of your Ahzrahn, you have not earned a true reward.
~ If one cannot defend what is theirs, it is not theirs, but rather they use it at the mercy of the strong. If one cannot fight for their freedom, they are not free, but rather they go about life waiting for one stronger to put shackles upon them. An Orc must always be strong, so that none can take what is theirs or put them in chains.
~ To take pity and go easy on a foe is the ultimate insult. While killing them is not essential to defeating them, a worthy foe is worthy of an all out attempt to defeat them.
Elemental Shamans are common among the Orcs, as they are known to be able to listen to the Earth, Air, and Fire to find the Searing Ways, gates primed to open into the Northern Lands where fresh battle and plunder await. Animal Shamans are also not unheard of, but these are less common.
With their raids, and through captive slaves, some Orcs have found themselves called to the Woven Faith, though they remain largely uninvolved in the churches of the North, and would not pay so grave an insult to those who share their faith as to show mercy. A few are also known to have adopted the philosophy of the Magi, though Northern Magi would accuse them of an imbalance toward destruction.
The most noteworthy magic of the Five Scars is the Searing Ways, which in fact the Orcs have no real control over. Rumors may swirl of Elemental Shamans who quest for a means to do so, but for now these mystical gates bring Orcs into battles they cannot predict. Some Elemental Shamans of the Five Scars can sense the gates forming, however.
Arcane Magic is by and large nonexistent among the Orcs of the Five Scars. The danger of an Arcane mage may be respected, but besting them with an axe is still considered the ideal approach to dealing with such a threat.
The Five Scars Orcs organize themselves into Clans, and each clan is led by the strongest and deadliest of their number. Formal challenge over leadership is not necessarily uncommon, though there are social mores discouraging this when the act of doing so would weaken the clan.
As a balance to the warrior chief, the elders of each clan also speak with a great deal of influence, as they are the ones who have proven for the longest that they are strong enough to survive. These elders are not exempt from war or hardship, and take pride challenging death to take them.
The Orcs have certain standards that they expect their kin to meet. The most obvious are of strength and self-reliance; all Orcs are expected to be fit to march, hunt, and fight. All Orcs are expected to embrace and pursue battle, in particular the deadliest and most challenging of battle, and cowardice is a disgusting thing to a Five Scars Orc. While mercy is considered insulting, cruelty is seen as a sign of deep sickness, and so there is no room for the spiteful or torturous. Deceit and betrayal are viewed as unforgiveable sins, as they bring weakness to entire clans. Finally, forbidden magics such as Malediction are punished by death. If an Orc fails to meet these standards, they are left behind, and according to Ahzrahn all that is behind is to be Forgotten.
Because all Orcs of the Five Scars are expected to function as part of a raiding party, they have no room in their lives for things such as weaving or mining. This they force upon slaves captured in their raids through the Searing Ways. A slave is considered a slave so long as they can be made a slave, and there are cases of those who held their heads high and pushed at the bounds of their enslavement and survived long enough that their captors came to respect them, upon which their captors declare them free. The bar is set high for this, however, and a greedier clan will always find ways to deny the resolve of their captives.
There are a multitude of clans within the steppes, but there are several major clans which all are aware of. No clan has a set home, though they may have favorite hunting grounds or a guarded mine along the ravines.
Clan Kohaizar roams the steppes closest to where the Deserts of the North begin, and raid against the Children of the Sand almost as often as they do through gates, viewing their constant skirmishes as a dance long practiced, and raiding parties affiliated with this clan are known to respect to traditions of those desert tribes regarding their sacred oases, so that their feuds can remain a pure thing of strength and cunning, instead of true blood feuds of hatred and desperation.
Clan Emberskull hunts through the Searing ways almost exclusively, and traditionally takes relatively little from their raids, not wanting to risk softening themselves with “Northern Luxury.” Not only do they proudly live by their understanding of Azarahan, they see themselves as spreading the ideals to the North by destroying the things they believe coddle the “civilized” northerners. Structures such as farms, houses, and libraries are set to the torch, while leaving many survivors behind with the opportunity to become strong without those obstacles to Azarahan.
Clan Haktazsmitt rotates more regularly through static territories, as they include among their number many Runesmiths, which they support with forges and mines as best they can. Because of this Clan Haktazsmitt faces much raiding from other Five Scars clans to take their slaves, true runes, and true elements, and so this clan is much better trained at defensive warfare than any other clan.
In addition to these major clans there are several other notorious groups.
Clan Deepscar stalks the shadows, training themselves in stealth, tracking, and brutally efficient killing. Many other clans would call this cowardly, but a Deepscar Orc is ultimately known to be fearless and deadly, and these hunters venture through the gates longer than most, seeking out hard to reach targets to kill.
The Forgotten, though none would call them a true clan, is comprised of those who were deemed unfit by their clans and “forgotten” as they were left to fend for themselves. Many die when faced with this challenge, but should they find their way to the Forgotten Clan an Orc might strive for redemption and a second chance… or sink further into hubris as they travel among others as wicked and depraved as themselves.
To the North the terrain is the mostly flat, making it easier to travel on but harder to find shelter. These lands have easy access to the Desert Tribes of the North, but also face the occasional raid from those same Tribes venturing South.
As one goes further South the earth becomes more uneven and hard, with cracks and cliffs creating a shallow maze across barren lands until at last one reaches the Five Scars themselves. Each canyon is deep enough that most of the day it gets only minimal light, and temperatures can drop to be very cold. The Searing Ways are most concentrated around here, though they have been seen in many places in the Five Scars region beyond the canyons themselves.
Further south the ground continues on as rugged steppes with occasional desert sand, as far as any have ever traveled. The Searing Ways stop appearing well before the land stops being inhospitable, and none have ever found anything worth continuing south for.
Chief Iron Eye: Chief of Clan Kohaizar, and a follower of the Woven Faith, this Orc prides himself on battling with honor, prizing the most even of fights. He is said to seek out single combat almost compulsively, in the hopes of one day finding his better in a duel.
Chief Aslofk Unstoppable: Chief of Clan Emberskull, in her youth Aslofk voluntarily became a pit fighter in Vellingrim to test herself against their best, and found the concept of conceited nobles owning skilled warriors too sickening to continue, and instead slaughtered numerous onlookers before helping several gladiators escape, bringing some with her to claim the Chieftainship of her clan.
Visgoph the Unclean: Bedecked in rags instead of armor, and wielding spells instead of blades, this Orc claims to seek strength greater than any constrained by the way Ahzrahn can obtain, using dark spells and artifacts other clans would reject out of hand. The worst of the Forgotten flock to him for a chance at that power, while the rest hope they might kill him to redeem themselves in the eyes of their former kin.