Me am understand you am following hype and word of mouth. Mouths am stupid, except for eating! And insults! Me am hear of game called “The Expanse.” It am based on “book:” little marks on sliced up trees! Trees am stupid. If trees am sliced up, it means they am also weak! Could not fight back! Besides, warlock am saying reading make head explode! Reading and broccoli do this? Me am hear about games using “AGE system.” AGE? What am AGE? Like time? Time am illusion, or at least waste of…something…to keep track of!
You probably am saying to self (in stupid sour man words): “What is this strapping green tusked person getting at behind their unusual diction? Are they suggesting Green Ronin makes other games besides Mutants and Masterminds, and AGE games like Fantasy AGE, Modern AGE, Blue Rose, and The Expanse?” If me am physically present, you am also saying, “OH GOD WHY IS HE HITTING ME WITH A MOOSE JAWBONE?”
The answer to both questions am Ork! The Roleplaying Game, now am in second edition! Me am now answer FOQs (Frequent Ork Questions) in stupid sour man (or “human”) way of speaking:
What is Ork! The Roleplaying Game?
Ork! Is a beer and pretzels RPG of orcish mayhem! Players portray orks without the pretense of a rich culture or anything like that. Orks in the game are violent, short-sighted and hungry, but still interesting. Playing an ork is a battle from the moment your character steps out of the gunk pit (that’s where the lowly nameless young orks live) to a confrontation with the village warlock, who’s simultaneously your character’s leader and biggest enemy.
What are the rules like?
Light! Fun! It takes about 15 minutes to make a character. The rules for combat (and other, lesser systems) follow one rule: All dice rolls are opposed! This is because in Ork! You’re always fighting someone. If it isn’t an enemy in battle, it’s Krom, god of the orks! Krom’s the one you’re dicing against to climb a cliff, cast a spell or stop putting your finger in there.
That’s right. Orks can try to cast spells via a freeform magic system—but Krom hates it! Orks face a never-ending struggle against their god, who vomited them up at the beginning of time. Krom controls the world, but sometimes you can cheat him, making a challenge easier, but eventually, Krom catches up with you, and then it gets bad. With this system, the game supports an orky way of thinking: Get glory now and worry about the consequences later! Sometime Krom is grudgingly impressed too and rewards you with ork points which you can use to pull off truly epic feats. Combined, this means the best strategy is to please mighty Krom, then screw him!
What’s in the book?
Everything you need! Making characters. Rules for fighting, including big hits with special effects. Rules for being on fire, and getting attacked by bees, and getting attacked by bees while on fire. An enormous roster of foes, from sour men (humans) to dinosaurs—and the dinosaurs always breathe fire. Finally, Ork! Includes a series of adventures fit to take characters from pathetic halfling-muggers (orks call halflings “squishy men,” by the way) to mighty tusked warlords. Plus, there’s full color art from Dan Houser (artist for Icons, too!) and jokes about Leon Trotsky and Werner Herzog flicks.
One of the new things about Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition is the role of magic. Ork!’s mastermind, Todd Miller, requested that this edition include better rules for magic. Previously, magic was mostly left to the Orkmaster, who used it as an excuse to have village warlocks (then called shamans—we changed the terminology to something less problematic for the new edition) relentlessly bully players’ orks. In those rules, warlocks could do anything, and orks just had to suck it up! Plus, there were some magic trinkets available.
Go Ahead and Try! Heh, Heh.
The new edition has really taken it to the next level. Does this mean a new limit on the warlock’s ork-oppressing mystic might? Nope! Warlocks can still do whatever the Orkmaster thinks they can. This is because Krom, the fearsome god of the orks, trusts warlocks enough to let them reshape the cosmic energy he left around. What’s new is that now, any ork can try to cast spells by following a few simple steps and making a Magic roll.
As you might guess, orks aren’t the most studious creatures around, even if a place with the words “hog” and “wort” in it sounds like somewhere orks should go, to admire architecture, eat centaurs, and possibly vape something called a “huff-a-puff,” which for litigation related reasons I may be misremembering the name for. So, all ork magic is improvised. The prospective spell-ork needs ingredients, such as something he must do, a place he must cast at, or an item he needs to have. The number of ingredients is one per rank of the spell, going from Minor to Moderate and Major. Describe what the spell does, let the Orkmaster assign its rank get the right ingredients for it, and roll some dice!
There’s just one problem: Krom does not trust orks with magic. While Krom vomited up the whole universe, not all of it is under his complete control. (Even whispering this is blasphemy, and a warlock will turn you into a pine cone for mentioning it!) Magic’s the errant lint, dust, goo, and forgotten crowdfunding rewards which clutter up the cosmos. Krom’s too busy tormenting orks and looking impressive to clean it all up, but he doesn’t want orks rummaging through it either. Thus, when an ork tries to use magic, he suffers Krom’s Curse! Manifestations of the curse rage from growing an unwanted beard to being crushed by an enormous foot green foot tattooed with the cryptic rune, ™. The more powerful the spell, the bigger the curse, and failed spellcasting rolls get the worst curses of all! Fortunately, ork points can be used to partially reduce the effects of Krom’s Curse.
As noted, warlocks can still do whatever they want. Warlocks aren’t subject to Krom’s Curse because they’re loyal and have been taught Things Most Orks Are Am Not Meant to Know. The Orkmaster decided what they can and can’t do, though some things, like making magic items, is a special warlock ability, not available to spell-slinging common orks. Plus, other beings—disgusting non-orks!—seem to be able to make items, and even use magic without drawing Krom’s Curse. Orks don’t know what this is. Could it be the human god, Cromus, who of course has nothing to do with Krom, so shut up, making a different deal with his people? Who knows?
On the topic of magic items, Ork! has plenty of them, from the magic tattoo of the Iron Bird to autogyros and dread magic spears. Activating some of these items also requires a Magic roll, and sometimes draws Krom’s Curse, but this is milder and less frequent, in exchange for potent but limited benefits—and the constant risk another ork will hit the owner over the head and take it. Items are daily (meaning they can be used a listed number of times per day), munchies (they get used up, like cookies and your good friend’s beers), futzy (these work every 2d4 hours) and always (lo and behold, these work all the time!).
Sample Magic Item: Grovel Stick
Daily (3×) • Krom Dice: 3d6
This short staff is carved with strange warlocky symbols and has mojo written all over it. It can be used as a club with a damage rating of 1, but that’s not its main function. No, the grovel stick is not an ordinary weapon of war. It reminds upstart orks who the boss is. The fact that its ability also works on squishy and sour men is a big plus. If the wielder of the grovel stick hits an opponent in hand-to-hand combat, he can choose to activate the magic rather than inflict damage. If the magic works, the victim falls to the ground and grovels uncontrollably for 1d4 rounds. Even if attacked, the victim continues to grovel. Never mind that orks can’t understand squishy men; groveling transcends language.
Ork!: The Roleplaying Game is shipping now! Next week we’ll be in November, and I’ll put a capstone on this series, giving you a full rundown of the contents. Happy Halloween—it’s an ork-worthy affair!
This past couple of Orktoberfest weeks we’ve talked about the basics of Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition (Pre-Order Link!), starting with Frequent Ork Questions (the FOrkQ) and moving to the core system, where you battle a god, and combat, glorious combat! Now in this and previous Ork! articles we’ve tried to get across a certain vibe, where the game is supposed to be goofy, fun, and open-ended, but some of you will still want to ask dumb questions like, “How does the system address the narrative premise?” Smart things like this sound like science, which in Ork! is traditionally punished by murderous, anti-science trolls. (In the rough and tumble World of Orkness, only trolls, with their entirely fictional ability to regenerate, can get away with anti-science beliefs that keep them from vaccinating their troll-cubs. The rest of you, vaccinate your kids!)
Nevertheless, this question has a two-pronged (two-tusked?) answer! We have ork points, the carrots, and Cheats, the sticks that look like carrots. Let’s talk about how these rules work.
Krom is almost always watching! Remember, the god of the Orks treats his creations with amused animosity. He wants orks to get into trouble, but also roots for them if they solve problems in the most orky ways possible, with brute force, ignorance and a bit of barbaric panache. The criteria are simple in description yet vast in creative depth, for the Orkmaster (the Game Master of Ork!) represents Krom at the table, and if they’re amused, Krom is amused! Thus, to represent Krom’s fleeting favor, the Orkmaster hands out ork points.
Ork points have several applications. They can make actions more effective, heal damage, and be spent to avoid Krom’s Curse when orks dabble in magic. The Orkmaster should grant ork points frequently, and players should spend them almost as frequently—and we say almost, because there may be a catch. You can also use ork points to add permanent improvements to your ork, but in the meanest, most classically orkish Ork! games you must choose between spending them on the spot and saving them to advance. This simulates the instant gratification temptations felt by all orks, and how it leads to bad decisions. However, we know this is just too much for some groups, so this hardcore option is presented alongside another, where you can still use ork points you spent in advancement. The Orkmaster picks which option they want for their campaign.
One of the new things in this edition is character Cheats. In Ork! a Cheat can be seen in part as a counterpart to the specializations characters in other RPGs develop, but let’s face it: No ork ever learned the Quivering Palm after dedicated training. Orks are not studious but boy, are they ever stubborn—so stubborn, in fact, that in one subject dear to their hearts, they will themselves to overcome Krom’s opposition. In fact, they steal power from Krom!
To make a Cheat, you take a skill and define one subcategory of what it can do, such as swinging one type of weapon or using the Jock skill to climb. When it’s time to use that subcategory, your Cheat lets you steal dice from Krom to make things easier. When the opponent is Krom himself, via environmental hazards, you take dice from the number you’re rolling against and add them to your own. Against enemies, you grab Krom dice from thin air to add to the number you roll. Defiance and might! YEARGH!
Is there a catch. Oh yeah. You see, if you Cheat, Krom eventually notices the discrepancy and takes those dice back, to add to roll opposing yours later. The Orkmaster is encouraged to build a little pile of these dice in front of each player. When it amuses Krom, the Orkmaster grabs those dice and rolls them alongside them normal difficulty dice, so rolling against 4d6 can turn into rolling against 9d6, if a foolish player accumulated five Cheat dice. Cheating creates natural comeuppances, which is also very much in keeping with Ork!
You Am Do Anything
Next week: Magic!
Let’s talk about the most important system in all roleplaying games: Combat! Okay, maybe not all roleplaying games. Maybe you play games where it’s all Angsty Debate Team or you roll for self-actualization. Ork! The Roleplaying Game (Like goes to pre-order: KROM DEMANDS PRE-ORDER) brings you back to your senses, filling them with a red haze and the ripping meat sounds of glorious battle.
Combat in Ork! is simple but atmospheric. Because it’s easy and game designers are lazy, fighting is an extension of the core rules, which I covered last week. Ork! uses opposed rolls for everything. Your ork’s basic attribute (like Meat, measuring general physical ability) gets a die type—the bigger the die the better—and your skill rating determines how many dice you roll. If the challenge is environmental, you roll against Krom, the merciless ork god who vomited up the world. If the challenge is another creature, you roll against it.
Thus, combat is a series of opposed rolls against whoever you want to wallop. You do as much damage as the points by which your roll exceeded your target’s. Add bonus damage for a weapon. The enemy’s armor reduces damage. One roll and it’s all done!
Things You Am Do in Combat
Ork! isn’t particularly tactical, because orks aren’t tactical. They’re creatures of high aggression, low cunning, and constant hunger. This means many of the tactically oriented stuff found in other games works differently.
Movement: Ork! uses rough distances, ranging from Right Here (you can hit someone because they’re Right Here) to Over There (you have to hustle over, then hit them) to Far Away (it takes a round to get to them), Too Far (it would take more time) and Way Too Far (throw something instead!). These have real feet-based measurements, but the point is that the Orkmaster can use natural language instead of getting out a ruler.
Ranged Combat: Roll Aim (used for missile weapons and winning bets about who can hit a roosting pterosaur with a thrown pine cone) against the opponent’s Duck (the skill of being sneaky and getting out of the way). If the opponent is past the weapon’s short range, has a shield, or is hard to see, they get bonus die to their Duck roll. Easy!
Other Stuff: Combat includes rules for Attacks of Orkitunity (hitting cowards who try to get away!), sneak attacking and riding dinosaurs into battle. It has rules for Crunchies—pathetic enemies with just 1 Wound to make you feel mighty—and mobs, which is what happens when Crunchies gang up.
“Critical hits” sounds too technical for a game where your character dreams of killing the stupid sun. Ork! has big hits instead. You score a big hit when you don’t need all your dice to succeed. If you rolled a 7, 8, and 3 on 3d10 against your opponent total of 14, the 7+8 you rolled, making 15, is enough. You didn’t need the 3—and you can use that to pick a big hit. The Orkmaster can make big hits up, but the game as a decent list.
Example Big Hit—Dis’Arm: Orks have heard the term “disarm” and assume it refers to their favored tactic of depriving an enemy of the use of a limb: twisting until it snaps, crackles, and pops; hitting it with a blade, bludgeon, or thrown rock; or biting it really hard. Your enemy can’t use of the limb until they succeed at an Endure roll versus 3d6 Krom dice. Roll this once per round immediately after the victim’s turn until they succeed. It doesn’t use up the victim’s action.
If the Dis’Arm happens as part of an attack that drops the enemy to 0 Wounds, the Orkmaster may allow you to chop or rip the target limb clean off! Now you have a gross club.
(Yes, there are rules for reattaching severed limbs. Got a nail gun?)
Characters in Ork! have a Wounds score, which works like the classic get-hit-lose-points-yeah-basically-hit-points system you know from other games. Unlike other games though, Wounds represent a general resistance to being physically defeated. This is a cheap trick that gets us out of designing stupid rules for “grappling,” “overbearing,” and so forth. How you beat up the enemy is entirely descriptive, and these descriptions are frequently vague, and full of yelling. What matters is how you intend to crush your enemy!
Therefore, dropping to 0 Wounds brings about the option of death, but it can also be used to indicate capture, maiming or just getting knocked out. As a side effect, the Orkmaster can refrain from killing orks outright until it would be really, really funny. This often happens sooner than you think, so beware anyway!
Me Am Not Die. Me Am Cheat!
Cheating Krom is a special system orks have to stave off doom in exchange for bigger doom. It and ork points are the high-falutin’ tone-reinforcin’ meta-systems of the game, and we’ll talk about them next week. Aaaargh!
Longtime Green Ronin fans will recall that our very first product, released eighteen years ago, was Ork! The Roleplaying Game. This beer ‘n’ pretzels RPG was a blast to play. We’ve had a lot to do since then, however, and Ork! didn’t see additional releases. Until now!
Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition is now available to pre-order in our Green Ronin Online Store and through participating brick-and-mortar retailers. And, when you pre-order the physical book, you can get the PDF version right away for just $5! (If your favorite local game or book retailer doesn’t know about the pre-order deal, please point them at our Retailer Support page for details.)
Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition
Shut up! You am Ork! Enter the bone-cracking World of Orkness with Ork! The Roleplaying Game. This new edition is the standalone, streamlined roleplaying game of orkish mayhem: a “beer and pretzels” game where monstrous, hilarious adventure matters more than rules and tables. Claw your way out of the Gunk Pit, earn your name with acts of spectacular violence, and bring terror to the Squishy Man villages in the name of Almighty Krom. Includes a blood-soaked combat system, other, lesser rules, and a complete series of adventures to take your orks from nameless youth to sharp-toothed, unholy terrors–if you can avoid the wrath of Krom. Being a monster has never been such fun!