Wicked Fantasy: Orks: Children of Pain $5.00
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Wicked Fantasy: Orks: Children of Pain
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Wicked Fantasy: Orks: Children of Pain
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Robert S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2012 08:08:44

This week I am reviewing Children of Pain, by john wick, a short PDF on orcs using the Pathfinder rules set.
In an old game in which I participated once described goblins, orcs and smilar races as potato chips – crunch all you want, we’ll make more.
The flip side of that is I have never been comfortable with the depictions of most so-called evil demi-human races since reading “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” The descriptions in RPG works of the races and why they need to die too much like 19th century descriptions of Indian tribes and why they needed to die.
I, much like other reviewers and apparently Wick, feel orcs – among other monsters – are more interesting when they are more flexible, rather than simply violent potato chips in serve to some wretched evil bastard of a sorcerer who keeps failing in their plots to take over the world.
This book is Wick effort at doing just that – make orcs more flexible and interesting.
The overall book is 26 pages long, though not-counting the title pages, license and advertisements the actual text about the orcs is only 22 pages long. Children of Pain is admirably concise, short and to the point, with no wasted text or words – a definite plus. It leaves you wanting more in the right kind of way.
Though short, the PDF features a good set of bookmarks and internal hyperlinks. However, some curious errors, which probably occurred when the places were marked in the first draft of the document, appear in the document. These errors include the letters “C” and “D” which appear just as letters in the bookmark list, but not as something notable in document. These and a few other minor errors do not detract from Children of Pain, but they are present.
Text comes in a standard two-column format, with a pseudo-parchment background that is a touch too dark – not enough to be a problem, but it reduces the contract between the text and the page, potentially making it difficult to read.
There is very limited art in the book, namely only three works and that counts the image on the cover. The art is competent, though the orcs are depicted as too human – they mostly look like ugly humans. Given some of the choices Wick made in the text – including the fact orcs and humans are not biologically compatible and thus cannot produce half-orcs - the art should have depicted them as more distantly non-human.
Wick does an interesting trick with the orcs – they are the usual violent, torturous warriors they are usually depicted as in pop fantasy. They are also anthrophagic – it is cannibalism when you eat others of your species, and anthrophagic when you eat other species. However, Wick unusually trick is taking this to its logical conclusion – the orcs take their war making to their own gods, whom they defeat and consume.
This development means the orcs no longer are bound to their evil gods and freed from that fate, but this is not the same as saying the orcs have become, nice and popular. Further, this battle with the gods occurred about 20 years ago – relatively few non-orcs may even know the event occurred.
As presented here, orcs are rather like the Klingons of Star Trek – this is probably an accident. Wick writes the orcs as warriors, obsessed with prowess and pain to test themselves and prove their worth. They also destroyed their own gods. All these characteristics are true of the Klingons, at least as depicted in the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and the orcs in this book. Wick was not ripping off Star Trek – it just appears his thinking about the orcs went in similar paths.
The book details the society of orcs at a reasonable level – they are tribal and live in the tundra. However, given that I wonder how often they would encounter dwarves and orcs who do not normally live close to the tundra. As depicted here, orcs worship pain as a sentient force and practice ritual scarring as a kind of writing, among other things. Wick also include some words in the orc language and these are well used in text, but it suffers from a lack of a lexicon to refer to for the words.
Children of pain present six orc tribes, each of which includes its own particular set of advantages. Specifically these follow the six abilities, strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence and even charisma – something not normally associated with the orc. The ability of the tribe depends on which god it devoured.
A variation of the orc racial traits is presented, as are a set of feats and other mechanical fiddly bits – many of which involve pain and scarring. This is ultimately a theoretical review – I have read the book, but not tested it in actual play. However, it all appears solid and well balanced. The only part I did not care for was the Feth'Ork, which lets orcs take normal animals and turn them into mutants bonded to the orcs. It just struck me as unnecessary and too hobbled.
I give Children of Pain, a 15 on a d20 roll. The book does not radically redefine orcs, but hones the concept into something interesting and useful. It certainly beats them being potato chip monsters and Wick deserves credit for succeeding in that goal. And if you want potato chip monsters, there are still undead of all type, outsiders and great big bugs.
Ironically, that does run into a potential problem with the book – is it mostly for players who want to run an orc. That is also a full orcs, as in the text as written, half-orcs do not exist. To get full use out of the work, you will need a campaign were orcs operate along side the other races.
Those are probably few and far between – running orcs and nothing but potato chip monsters is too traditional and too much a given part of the way most fantasy world operate. Before broaching the subject, a player should understand the vibe at their table and if it will be acceptable to the other players. It probably will not be, at least not with out causing too much disruption to the grou. Gamers are people and people will want their fantasy to be familiar, where they can enact a race war by proxy and play soccer with orc babies.
Which is unfortunate. But it is the way things are.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wicked Fantasy: Orks: Children of Pain
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Joseph W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/28/2012 09:27:19

I have always been fascinated with taking “evil” creatures and making them more sympathetic. I think orks (to use the nomenclature of this book) should be more than faceless minions of evil sorcerers. They should have their own motivations for what they do. In many ways, I always thought of orks most like the Mongols of Genghis Khan: expansionist and obsessed with taking tribute. However, John Wick’s new book Children of Pain is a really cool take on orks and what role they can play in a Pathfinder (or retro-clone) campaign.

According to the prelude, this book comes out of a series of “Ecology of…” type columns from Kobold Quarterly. Mr. Wick wished to glimpse each major race through a mirror darkly, to change the basic assumptions of a race, to “give them a different feel. A different taste. A different style.” Children of Pain does a good job of that.

Fluff-wise, Children of Pain discusses how the orks rose up and slew their gods, eating them in the process and forming clans based on the powers gained by the deophages. From the book, it appears this happened in recent memory, which makes the world much more magical than I am used to running. I would ignore that part, and make the slaying of the gods as a kind of origin story.

Children of Pain devotes a lot of time to describing the tribal society of the orks. They are nomadic hunter gatherers who cross a tundra-like landscape. Their society is fairly well detailed, with sages, warlords and tribes. I think the concept of their religion is really cool. The orks believe pain is a sentient being that links them all together. They also have a system of storytelling tied to the scars on their bodies. Some scars are self-inflicted, but that only occurs for something significant that doesn’t necessarily cause physical pain. Mr. Wick certainly creates an evocative world, including some linguistic snippets to give the reader an idea of how the ork language works.

I am not the person to speak to mechanics, normally, especially as someone who doesn’t own Pathfinder. However, I will attempt that here, to give you an idea of what’s included. The first half of the book is all fluff, no mechanics are included. The end is almost all mechanics, and very little fluff hidden amongst it. However, there are some things revealed about ork culture in the powers, so they remain evocative without dominating the text.

First we have a list of ork racial traits. There are several things added to this list that bring standard orks in line with the fluff. First, they have the ability to feed animals their own blood to create hunting or riding companions. They also gain bonuses to attacks rolls when they are hurt (to represent their masochism), bonuses from their tribe (gods’ powers from their slaying), and psychological bonuses based on their own view of their reputation.

Class wise, there are three: a Blood Cleric, a Barbarian Archetype and a Bard Archetype. The Oracle of Blood is mentioned as a “new Oracle Mystery,” which I presume is a Pathfinder thing. There are all sorts of powers linked to using blood in lieu of other material components. From what I gather, the ork cuts him or herself and uses pints of blood to cast spells. They also have a series of other powers tied to level. The Barbarian Archetype (Gahthrak) replaces some of the Barbarian class features, as does the Bard Archetype (Fala).

Mr. Wick has been doing this for a while, and of course he produces top-notch work. The implied setting for th eorks is evocative and interesting. Orks from this culture of pain are a really cool enemy in a misunderstood, “noble savage” kind of way. They can also be bloodthirsty monsters. What I really like about this treatment of orks is that they can still be frightening enemies while being a real culture with real motivations for their bloodthirsty ways. This book is sympathetic to the orks, but doesn’t hinder the GM from making them villains. I highly recommend it!

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wicked Fantasy: Orks: Children of Pain
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/27/2012 09:58:40

This pdf by John Wick Presents is 26 pages long, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/prelude, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD, leaving 21 pages of content, so what exactly do we get with these Orks (yeah, with "k", just like in German!)?

You have probably read the Wicked Fantasy-series of articles in KQ, but just to be sure: Wicked Fantasy centers on a new takes on classic fantasy races, a reimagining so to speak. An example would be the Uvandir, genderless (but male-looking), eternal dwarves who can toil all day and night, never starve etc. In this pdf, we get an expansive take on the Orks in the vein of a widely-expanded ecology-article.

The reimagining of the race essentially makes the Orks what you've come to know: An evil race, created by evil gods. Orkish doctrine, for ages, had them consume their foes to take in their strength and worship pain - until they evolved. For which foe might offer more strength than one's god? In a feat of unheard-of racial uprising, the orks stormed their god's sacred hall, vanquished their pantheon and ate them, thus gaining their strength. (Though some sages speculate that some orkish gods may have escaped...)

Thus, via the divinely-infused bloodlines, Orks changed and diversified and had to deal with the lifting of the red haze of rage, for now, they encountered a state of mind as of yet unknown - free will.

The nomadic tribes have made tentative peace with the other races, as they seek to understand the powers their newfound freedom and the darkness of their ancestors blood offer them. Depending on the bloodline of one's ancestors, special abilities and dispositions are available to the green-skins. 6 of these divine bloodlines are included.

The Orks can also create so-called Feth'Ork-creatures by feeding animals and beasts their blood in order to mutate the critters into allies and negate the loathing regular animals exhibit when encountered by Orks.

I mentioned the worship of pain as well and it defines Orkish culture to this date - their sacred scars, the Va, all come with their stories and knowing these has to be earned. More importantly, 5 masochistic feats enable Orks to harness the power of pain and actually get stronger via hurt, pain and punishment. I really loved these feats and while they seem to be kind of powerful, the steep price they demand is worth the benefit. 3 feats are focused on the divine bloodlines and we get a new mystery for the oracles, the so-called blood mystery, which essentially provides the tribal shamans and makes for a neat piece of writing. We also get a new archetype for barbarians and one for bards, the latter being rather interesting, as it focuses on insulting foes and bolstering allies via epic story-telling, thus hearkening back to our own world's intricate webs of poetic allusions displayed in saga-literature and Heian romances like the Tale of Genji, to quote only two.

Editing and formatting are good, though not stellar: I did notice about 7 glitches on my first read-through and an additional pass at editing would have been nice, as some of the extensive bookmarks consist of only one letter. layout adheres to a 2-column standard and comes in full-color, with a parchment-like background and neat pieces of artwork. I really liked the writing, which makes this pdf rank among the most compelling ecology-articles I have ever read. On the other hand, though, I feel that some of the pieces of writing like the feats could be more concisely-written: I had to re-read some of the feats before I got how exactly how the crunch is supposed to work. Were I to rate only the quality of the writing, I'd settle for a higher rating, but as presented the glitches and minor hick-ups just accumulated and thus I'll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wicked Fantasy: Orks: Children of Pain
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2012 21:45:08

John Wick knows Orks.

If you want to add some more color, life or some just "more" to your Orks/Orcs then this is the book to get.
These are not "misunderstood" orcs, these are orcs that got tired of the lot fate and the gods left them and they took matters into their own hands. We get a little history, a little bit of orc language and some orc shamanism. But the neatest part are the Orc tribes based on the heroes that took that monumental step.

John Wick is a fantastic writer and it is nice seeing him back on a subject he knows well and in truth helped redefine with Orkworld. I have no idea how much this work was influenced by the previous work, but all I can say is this one is worth the price.

I have had my own ideas for orcs, but this book has made want to change some them. It is that interesting.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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