Saturday, 23 April 2011

Zama: Cauldron Born


The Cauldron Born: Orlocs to those who have faced them in battle. Each a tiny spark of the foul entity known as the Scourge. Each one brought into the world or slain by brave heroes brings the next Dark-Rise a little closer to the world. Yet not to kill them, is too allow rampant, monstrous evil to thrive and grow in the lands of the Middle Sea.

In ancient times, the Eladarin and the Tuatha knew them as the Fomori, the Sea Devils, for they came from lands beneath the sea. From the cauldrons of Sea Hags and Shark-Men to ravage the forest kingdoms of the Elven Isles (what mean known call Alba). Though beaten off in their early incursions, the deaths of so many such creatures, each carrying a tiny taint, allowed the Scourge to manifest itself upon the world, only to be defeated and thrust back to hell by the sacrifice of the Ever King, who consigned himself to burn in holy flames forever. (The information in this last paragraph is not general lore except among the Forsaken and the Eladrin, being unknown even to scholars of the other races).

Most terrifying of all, Orlocs are not born: they are made. In dark, alchemical cauldrons deep in the lair of monsters, witches, hags and warlocks, foul concoctions bubble into which the corpses of men, women and elves slain by violence are thrown, only to re-emerge mere hours later as full grown Orlocs of one sort or another. Ready to fight and kill for their new 'masters' -until such time as the Scourge calls them forth again.

These creatures seem both soulless and utterly fearless in battle (in game terms they never test  morale) unless commanded to retreat or withdraw by their summoners (prudent summoners instruct their guards to retreat when a certain number of losses have been sustained). Yet in other circumstances, such as when sacking a city, they are known to enter into a great frenzy. Though the cauldron-born cannot breed with one another, they can certainly produce more of their race through acts of procreation with (most of the rape of)  females of other species. In this matter alone, the drive for procreation, are the Orloc's summoners unable to control them. And once the drive to procreate has begun it can be difficult to stop. Many a Cauldron-Master has fallen victim to his own creations when attempting to prevent a mating -if only because the Cauldron Master knows that, while his own creations are fanatically loyal to his every whim and command, subsequent generations created through more "traditional' means are not so inclined.

The gestation period following such acts is terrifyingly quick ( a few weeks at most) and invariably kills the mother, giving birth to anywhere from three to a dozen tiny little miniature cauldron born who claw their way from the mothers belly and devour her. The strongest infants thereafter kill their siblings unless more meat is available and then slink away to find somewhere to gestate inside pod-like cocoons for a matter of days. Whereafter a fully grown Orloc emerges from the slime.

In this manner a conquering horde of Orlocs can grow to alarming proportions remarkably quickly. A force large enough to sack a village can, after only a few weeks and a mere handful of successful attacks, quickly swell to sufficient strength to sack a town. Hence the speed of response and great alarm caused when armies of the things crop up here and there around the countryside. Even the siting of a single such beast can call whole armies to arms, for such an infestation must be stopped dead before it has time to gain momentum.

Orlocs are not known to die from any means save violence. Disturbingly, even for those who have experienced such events before, when the death blow is struck an Orloc emits an eerie high pitched scream that can be heard for miles (alerting its nearby brethren to danger) and becomes suffused in a green light that seems to emanate from every pour or orifice, like a beacon. This is a light visible for miles on a clear night, and for several hundred yards even during the brightest day. Scholars believe that this is nothing less than a visible manifestation of the Scourge share being released from the dying beast, free to seek out other shards and gather to work it's evil upon the world once more.

Game Rules: Strictly speaking Orlocs are not undead -they have been reborn into new bodies, with a new 'soul' -or rather a small fragement of one immense, giant, alien soul that desires the eradication of all life from the material plane. In game terms they count as normal orcs, goblins, or whatever, with a default morale of fanatical and a minimum of half the maximum possible hit points for their type. Oh, they will try to capture -rather than kill- female characters. They will try very, very hard indeed. To the extent that they will pursue a band with at least one female character for weeks if neccessary -or until another, more defenceless female catches their eye.

Note: The tendancy of these creatures to go berserk with lust at the sight of a female of reprodutcive age does not, strangely, seem to apply to their summoners. Indeed, on those rare occasions when a Cauldron-born has mated with a (willing) female summoner, the result has been the natural birth of those rarest of creatures: a half-orc.


Gestated from the bodies of small, murdered children or (in far rarer cases) from the bodies of halflings, gnomes or other small Fae. Goblins are swift, sneaky and murderous. The advance scouts and archers of an Orloc force, they above all others are likely to demonstrate small acts of rebellion towards their summoners, twisting their order to follow the letter but not the spirit (or vice versa) or else leave small indications of their presence nearby (small, tortured animals and birds) in the hope of luring 'breeding stock' to their lairs.
Goblins stand approximately three to four feet tall, are more intelligent (or rather cunning) than their taller, stronger brethren, and more prone to acts of sadisitic savagery from sheer boredom.
They are usually the first to break the metaphorical chains binding them to their summoner. Like all Cauldron-Born, their eyes are suffused with an eerie green glow (not shown in picture). Like their hobgoblin brethren, they tend towards orange, rather than green, skin. However, greenish skin tones are not unknown.


Hobgoblins are the transformed remains of adult or adolesent humans and similarly sized, non-fey creatures. more ordered and disciplined than Goblins, they are more apt to obey orders and more inclined to use their own initiative. Like all Orlocs (whether true cauldron-born or from later generations) they are fearless in battle. Though not as cunning as their lesser goblin brethren, they seem to be capable of tactical thought and co-operation. While goblins fight as individuals, unless specifically ordered not to, Hobgoblins instinctively gather together to forms ranks, mobs and warbands and take to more discliplined fighting styles with little training.
Like all Orlocs, they possess eerie, glowing green eyes. They stand man-tall and, though all are male, some possess a more feminine shape - a legacy, perhaps, of the corpse from which they were transformed. Hobgoblins possess orange skin tones.


According to the tales of Elves, while Orcs were once the most common form of Orloc, they have dwindled in numbers to be greatly eclipsed by the hordes of goblins and hobgoblins that now periodically swarm across the land. Said to be born from the corpses of Eladrin, Forsaken and other man-sized fey, if the hobgoblins and goblins are a twisted reflection of the inner evil within every human then it follows that, as reflections of the creulty inherant within each living fey, that orcs should  -and indeed do- far exceed their brethren in the monstrousness of their form. Some scholars believe that certain orcs -those of a more aquatic appearance- are developed from the corpses of Shark-Men, Merfolk, Sea-Fey and other legendary beings that exist below the waves.
Duller and seemingly more stupid than their goblinoid cousins, Orcs are fractious and prone to self-destructive acts, as though some small part of the original; fey soul survives and wishes to bring about it's own destruction. Doubtless, not from any concern with regards to what it's newer, baser form might do in pursuit of it's lusts, but from sheer horrow at the ugliness of it's new form. Eladrin scholars believe that, with the Orcish Cauldron-born at least, the Scourge permits some small vestige of the original soul to remain, if only to more intensely savour the torment and degredation of the lost soul's condition.
Orcs tend to be large, brutish and malformed in some way (evil eye, oversized limb, undersized limbs, hideous warts, hideous stench etc). They also tend to be green skinned.

Fomorian Giant:

The rarest of all Orlocs, the Fomorian Giants appear much the same as orcs, save many, many feet taller. Most are grown from the corpses of Firbolg (or were, in ancient times at least) but others are born from murdered or slaughtered giants and ogres of all types.
Similar in appearance to their orcish brethren, they are, if anything, even more malformed than their smaller, orcish brethren.

Development Notes: The Cauldron-Born are a very recent addition to the Zama setting. For years, despite the nagging of my players and my own conscience, I refused to have tolkein-esque non-human races on Zama. Even faeries and giants were rare -almost unique- in the game world, and followed traditional mytholigical, rather than D&D-style, themes. Until, that was, I saw the Immortals in the movie 300. At which point I reluctantly allowed the players to convince me that humanoids could be added to the setting. To this day, I'm still not 100% happy with their inclusion. At any moment, I might decide to write them out of the worlds history altogether, or, at the very least, come up with a way to make them extinct.


C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

More on this setting please?

Dangerous Brian said...

Certainly. I have a few other articles lined up to go out on the blogsphere over the next few doors, but I'm sure I can slip in another Zama article somewhere.