Aksh, known to the soft-skins as “Osterheim”, means “The Land Full of Danger”. It is a huge, uncharted continent that lies far West across the ocean from Sollundom. The native people are tough and clever, and have made a society capable of surviving the vicious wildlife and climate. The Uruk form relatively small social units that are capable of adapting to whatever the treacherous land throws at them.

Aksh is a land of greatly diverse geography. The area known to the arrivals from the New World ranges from wet, temperate climes along the Eastern coast. To snow-covered alpine areas in the North. There are extensive semi-arid plains to the West and Northwest. But an extensive river system flows from the North to the cove in which the Sollunians have made their arrival. The Southwest is heavily forested. And further South along the coast lie sprawling green plains that eventually give way to rainforest.

Playing an Uruk

Values

  • Exuberance: The Orcs know that they live in a savage, unforgiving land that will do its very best to eat them and everything they hold dear. As such, they savour every victory - whether it be success in battle, the birth of a child or a bountiful harvest. The Orcs take satisfaction from their own successes and those of their friends and take every excuse to celebrate. They see no shame in open displays of joy, and see raucous carousing as a welcome respite from the harshness of their daily lives.
  • Remembrance: Aksh is a brutal place where life is brief and friends or family can be lost in the blink of an eye. The Orcs consider it their duty to honour their ancestors and the fallen, in the form of prayer, art, monument, story and song. Their storytelling is not simply intended to honour the dead, but they are very mindful to learn the lessons of the past - and to pass them on to both Orcs and to Soft-skins.
  • Toughness: They might be called stubborn, but the more charitable would call Orcs determined or resilient. They are not only physically tough, but also mentally. The nastiness of their land has shaped them into patient, diligent people who know that preparation can overcome adversity, and that waiting for the perfect moment can end a fight swiftly. They have become durable through generations of adversity, and rarely let their fear get the better of them.
  • Hospitality: The Uruk pride themselves on being a contrast to the world around them; they are welcoming to strangers and do not partake of needless cruelty. They have a tradition of treating captives and guests with decency, such that one of the greatest transgressions for them is for the host to harm their guests or prisoners. Similarly harm to one’s host is as bad as harm to one of the gods.

Failings

  • Brutality: While they take no pleasure in violence, the Uruk are very good at it. They strike hard and fast and continue that violence until all motion has ceased. As long as they perceive there to be a threat, they will not let down their guard, and can easily overreact when provoked. This is not only true in combat but also in social situations, justice, and supposedly-friendly competition.
  • Gloryhounding: The Uruk religion and culture not only encourages them to perform great acts, but rewards them for it. They are overly keen to ensure that everyone knows how awesome they are, the orcs whose feats are the most glorious get the best songs sung about them. Their boastfulness and competitiveness also leads them to taking risks or making reckless decisions just because they think there might be glory in it for them, so long as somebody might see them and tell tales of it later.

Inspiration

  • Vikings
  • Early Germanic tribal traditions, such as Beowulf
  • The experience of indigenous peoples in settled societies in general, of displacement and figuring out how to interact with technologically-advanced newcomers.
  • Orcs of Warcraft, Empire LRP and other fiction where the more-common idea of militarist, industrialised orcs has been softened or subverted.
  • The technology of non-industrialised iron age peoples from around the world, such as the ancient Scythians, Celts or Mesoamerican cultures, but not Rome or China - the Uruk don't have large-scale industry or trade networks.

Some Typical Uruks

  • The Priest: a studious record-keeper and notorious rumourmonger, poking your nose everywhere and interrogating his clanmates to learn all the best stories.
  • The Chieftain: a tough old hunter, once mother to seven and now mother to the whole Clan, you’ve seen off too many monsters to let the Soft-Skins intimidate her.
  • The Huscarl: a powerful warrior honoured with a place set aside for training in arms, but burdened with a terrible duty should the need arise.
  • The Hunter: armed with axe, bow and stealth to get what the Clan needs it from the beasts of the land, settled Uruk and soft-skin alike.
  • The Herbalist: somebody has to keep the Clan in good health, and it falls to you to clean them up after all their mad adventures.

Things to avoid

  • Warhammer or Tolkien Orcs: The Uruks of Osterheim are not the militarised, soccer-hooligan Orcs from Games Workshop. Nor are they Tolkien's metaphor for the industrial horrors of World War One.
  • Honour: While they pay homage their lost, and respect dangerous foes, the Uruks do not follow a code of honour or demand that fights be fair. Their struggle against nature puts them at a permanent disadvantage, and they have no qualms about using guile or trickery to survive.
  • The War Boys of Mad Max: The remembrances of the Orcs are somber affairs marked in times of quiet reflection. They mourn the lost as valued friends and family members - not as expendable battle-fodder. It is their victories, not their losses, that they celebrate.
  • Real world indigenous cultures: These Orcs deliberately do not reflect any real-world African, American, Australian or Pacific culture. Keep influences subtle, because while we are exploring the relationship between colonial and indigenous cultures, we are doing it through the lens of fantasy, not through the lens of history.
Costuming

The Uruk draw inspiration from Dark Ages European cultures such as Vikings, Celts, Rus and Normans. Each clan tends to favour one of these styles more than others but mixing and blending is common. They don't have a "National colour" but their palette is mostly made up of browns, greys and natural materials. Plain cloth and leather should predominate Uruk costume.

Jewellery is primarily made from non-metal materials that can be worked at a cottage-industry level - such as bone, glass or stones. Metal jewellery is very rare since metal is useful for making things. Gold's softness makes it the most common jeweller's material, with iron or steel jewellery being a spectacular extravagance.

While there are slight differences between clans and some symbology or patterning that represents each, generally an Uruk’s role within their clan is a stronger influencer of their costume. For example, warriors wearing maile, traders with many backpacks and pouches etc.

Culture and class

Governance

The Uruk don't have a central government, and are not a unified people. Instead, they are scattered throughout Aksh in extended family & friendship groupings of varying sizes, called "Clans". These Clans very greatly in size, depending on the richness of the area they inhabit. Some Clans are small, numbering a dozen or so close family members. These Clans often live a nomadic life as hunters or herders, travelling around a broad expanse of territory following the food. Larger Clans are usually settled in good farming land, building small villages of up to a hundred. There are no larger settlements, but there are legends of Clans whose hubris and overreach brought the wrath of the Gods upon them.

Nobility

Leadership of the Uruk varies greatly. The sedentary Clans living in villages are often led by a council of elders, or by the priesthood of the Hundred Gods. An informal democracy is commonplace, with major decisions being made by the village as a whole and day-to-day authority being exercised by whichever elder is most capable. Nomadic orc Clans further in-land are often led by a single orc: great warriors, hunters or animal experts being frequent leaders - not as authoritarian strongmen but as acknowledged experts whose judgement can be relied upon. The arrival of the Soft-Skins has thrown those tribes nearest the Colony into turmoil: disagreements over how to deal with the Sollunians have caused old foundations to shake and sway, with leadership thrown into question.

Army

Not every Clan has a proper cadre of warriors. Instead, smaller nomadic Clans often have their hunters serve in this role should the need arise; they are the strongest, fastest and most skilled with weaponry. Most settled orc Clans have a handful of trained warriors, with the best equipment the Clan can make or trade for: the Housecarls. An Uruk Housecarl is a powerful warrior, often clad in maille and wielding shield, spear and sword. Housecarls serve as the village guard against the beasts of Aksh, and if more of the people are needed to fight, the Housecarls will lead them.

Navy

With a few exceptions, the Orcs are land-bound. However, Clans living by the sea or rivers have fishing boats - or, if they are prone to raiding their neighbours, they might have a few rudimentary longboats to carry them to and from their targets.

Religion

The native faith of the Uruk of Aksh is the religion of the Hundred Gods, dedicated to the worship of the Gods as distinct, immortal, spiritual beings. The Uruk believe that in times long past, the Gods gave life to creation and meddle in its affairs to this day. The core story tells that Orcs were shaped by three Gods in turn: Tagga, the Creator Goddess, who made the first Orcs from the soil and gave them eyes to see; Nadjal, the Spirit of Darkness, who put fear into their hearts so that they might be wary; and Lulli the Trickster God, who gave them guile and ferocity to overcome any challenge. The Orcs worship these and others in turn and together, depending on the individual or the Clan.

Commerce

The Uruk have no proper currency, but among settled Clans favours, services and gifts are common modes of exchange. More nomadic Clans tend to simply share out their goods as needed. A more vibrant system of exchange exists between Clans, as hunting Clans trade pelts or bones for tools or weapons, and vice versa. A very small number of Uruk make a life outside the Clans in trade caravans, travelling from village to hunting ground and welcomed wherever they go.

The Brood of Luli

The closest large Orcish settlement to the colony are the Brood of Lulli. A Clan with members from all around the area. They maintain several farms and have many skilled crafters. Few of them serve as traders who have travelled the coast, buying and selling finished goods of all sorts. The Brood of Lulli’s settlement is built around a sealed ancient temple Lulespere dedicated to the Trickster God. Brood of Lulli are known for their sense of humour.

The Brood of Luli have enjoyed a bountiful harvest this year a sign of favour from the gods. This has been tainted, not by involvement with the soft-skins as expected, but by conflicts with the neighbouring Namesh clan. The Namesh have grown revoltingly large as they choose to take in anyone who comes their way. The Namesh leadership claims to be able to provide for all his new people, but this remains to be seen. As many of them resort to stealing from the Brood, either by cover of darkness or brute force.

Any variation of the Viking Raven is associated with the Brood of Luli and they often wear layers and beads.

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The Nadjal-du

The sombre Nadjal-du Clan live in the hills North of the colony. Their land is shared with many particularly nasty beasts, and their losses are great every year. Devout Uruk from other Clans will often visit the Nadjal-du to learn the ways of the Gods. They are known for their many sacred sites; temples, burial cairns and henges are scattered all across their territory. They live nomadic lives. Spending much of their time travelling between the sites, cleaning and performing rituals as they go.

Recent times have been turbulent for the Nadjal-du. Signs from the gods have been many, and contradictory. They warn of great and terrible things to come. Gothi from distant clans have journeyed to Eisguthur following signs and seeking to consult with other elders. They bring news from across the lands. The land is restless, the last winter was the worst in memory. Clans have been displaced and some have not been heard from this season. War has broken out all over the land. With some clans seeing opportunity to claim territory from long time enemies, while others grow desperate. They also bring food and other offerings, so the Nadjal have not been without.

Simple Celtic knots are particularly common among the Nadjal-du. Though the rest of what they wear is dominated by their role.

The Namesh

The Namesh Clan live away from the coast to the West. On the fringes of the fertile lands, wandering the plains and honing their hunting skills. They were an unfriendly, mistrustful Clan, though the current Harl has welcomed Uruk that have lost their lands.
Known for their skill with spear and axe, they have become a beacon of safety from the dangers of Aksh. They have clashed with the other Clans of the area in the past, but now they share decent terms. The Namesh often trade with the Get of Urbara or Brood of Lulli. With their priests frequently studying with the Nadjal-du.

The Namesh have experienced the largest changes in recent times with the acceptance of the Kurmaugh-du clan into their own. Word of this has spread to other struggling clans and Uruk have traveled great distances to seek refuge. Alani Karu, the Namesh village has swelled and grown larger than ever. And yet the doom has not come, they have not yet been destroyed. Some believe this is due to their new Jarl, Ferir Sunbringer. They claim he is fulfilling prophecies and myths of old. Regardless, their traditional lands are barely keeping up with the demand for food. And without some change they may not survive another winter.

A representation of a norman shield is associated with the Namesh clan. They typically wear grey, black and silver. As many of their clan previously came from the Kermagh-du stylized Kermaugh heads/teeth are also common.

The Get of Urbara

The forests nearest the new colony are inhabited by the Get of Urbara. A small Clan composed of a few closely-related families. They are nomadic hunters & gatherers. Who make good use of their intimate knowledge of the local area to keep themselves in relative comfort. The region’s plenty is both a blessing and a curse. They have lots of food and no shortage of raw materials to trade with other Clans nearby. But they have to constantly defend their territory from the greed of other Clans.

The Get’s territory has been greatly affected by the arrival of the softskins who have decimated much of the vegetation and edible wildlife such that what once offered abundance now provides very little. Fortunately each year they migrate along a path they have taken for generations, they can usually find their way even when the land has shifted. Much of this land is still unknown to the soft-skin hunters and provides enough for the clan to survive.

Inspiration for the Get is from the Rus culture. Backpacks and pouches are a common theme for the Get as is an affinity for Berber symbols and patterns.