Bringing back the pig faced orcs!



Whatever happened to the pig faced orcs!?

I’m currently planning a campaign/series of one shots for my kids and wanted to make a unique world for them that feels like the 80s fantasy films I grew up with. This is when i remembered the old artwork of orcs with pig-like faces. I can’t claim to “remember” them as I’m probably not old enough but I did read a lot of old fantasy books/novel I found in old book shops growing up.
So in my ICRPG world we now have pig faced orcs!
I just thought I’d share my nostalgia with anyone old enough or interested in the “old school” fantasy style…


Yeah man, that’s a great question! Maybe I’m showing my age here but the pig faced orcs just seem more “orcish” to me. Something that is called an orc seems like it would sound like a snorking pig, just sayin. This certainly brings back some nostalgia for me!

Along these lines I would also ask whatever happened to the dog-like kobolds?



There was a blog article from somebody (I think the dude who runs the Alexandrian, but I’m not certain) who had Orcs as a particular kind of Beastmen, which are all male, and keep animals (in the case of Orcs, pigs) for food and breeding. It was an interesting worldbuilding idea.


Personally I never cared for pig orcs, I thought they looked ridiculous. But I saw Bashki’s 1978 animated version of LoTR before I ever played D&D, so to me that was what “orcs” were supposed to look like.

At the time I didn’t understand why D&D did that. But I later learned that the word “orc” is Old English for ogre or monster. So Gygax and D&D could use the term, but likely had to change the appearance to prevent copyright infringement. And thus, pig orcs were born!



Wow. Those look like they could’ve popped straight out of an old Legend of Zelda instruction manual. I feel like Hankerin would approve.


I imagine my Orcs with a piggish look–a snout nose and boar tusks. In my family game, Orcs are also referred to as War Pigs.


War pigs!! I Love it! That’s making it into my world, I can’t get the war pigs song out of my head now!


These are wonderful!

My second favorite kind of orc are the ones from the animated Hobbit film:


I would agree, they are wonderful! Dang, more nostalgia.


Love some Rankin-Baas orcs! Also, imagining them with beards led me down the idea of all metahumans being the same creature one a spectrum of differences, like dog breeds.


What bothers me with most orc depictions is not the look but that the orcs supposedly have advanced metallurgy, can build huge war machines, but still they are so stupid and mindlessly aggressive that they kill each other over all kinds of stuff, etc.

For me that doesn’t fit. I’d either make them stupid and use only stolen loot, or make them militarily capable and more restrained and smarter.


Nothing - they just moved to Black Hack, since calling them pigs wasn’t PC enough for WoTC :wink:


You just described all mankind. Seems like orcs are pretty believable all of the sudden. :joy:


I disagree. Mankind is capable of all kinds of good and evil but it consistently shows high levels of social skills and social technology.


Hobbit orcs are my favorite.

Then there’s the old D&D cartoon that almost looks like pigs…but not quite.

(apparently I’m too new to put images in a post, which is fine.)


Allow me…
I like the D&D cartoon orcs too


I’d say this is an artifact of the “warrior race” tropes which usually require a “more sophisticated being”, such as an evil wizard, to successfully weaponize the violent savages. Once you realize that all these tropes are based in a grotesque racist /colonial history, it all makes a little more sense, but becomes a little less fun.


I don’t remember these at all…though I don’t think the D&D cartoon captured much interest for me at the time for some reason. These kind of have a lizard-dog sort of look.


This is patently false, Merl.

In White Box OD&D, Orcs are barely described past their mechanical functions (pp. 7-8 of Monsters & Treasure).

It says they live in tribes, “keeping in mind inter-tribe hostility” (not INTRA). Orc tribes fight each other, but they don’t typically fighting within their own tribe except as sport (which all humanoid civilizations do - we all wrestle and establish hierarchies).

They live in lairs that are either caves (4-in-6) or villages (2-in-6), which can be protected by sentries, distches, and palisades. Villages can also have catapults, and high central towers. They associate with fighting-men (heroic types, IE higher level fighters), dragons, ogres, and trolls (and goblins, of course). Seems like they want to protect what they’ve got, and who they’ve got. Although they are chaotic, meaning the strongest leaders will lead rather than something like hereditary or elected leaders, that doesn’t mean they are stupid or mindlessly aggressive.

On p. 8 we read, “Orcs do not like full daylight, reacting as Goblins do”. A clear reference to Tolkein orcs, which only ever once or twice fell into full, riotous in-fighting (being starved, or when one goblin stabbed an orc, for example). This is basically the only pre-D&D reference we get to orcs in the game material, as D&D orcs resemble almost nothing of the real-world mythological “orc”, which is usually either a sea creature or literally a “demon or monster”.

In BASIC D&D, p. B40, we read more of their evolution in the game. They are described as ugly human-like creatures. They still fight poorly in daylight and have bad tempers. They kill for their own amusement, but are afraid of larger and stronger things. Orc leaders gain position by fighting and defeating others (again, Chaotic, but not stupid, or mindless). Interestingly, they do not understand how to use mechanical things like catapults (except their leaders), a clear change from the Tolkein-inspired war-bred monsters.

Here we again see that, “Members of different tribes are not usually friendly with each other, and may start fighting unless their leaders are present. An orc lair has only one tribe.” Clearly, in-fighting isn’t the issue. Inter-tribal warfare is. BUT the orcs can be kept in line if a leader is present, either by fear, respect, or harsh discipline and training. Again, chaotic, not mindless.

In ADVANCED D&D, orcs are described in even more detail. They are now a mammalian species, no longer “human-like creatures”, and believe that to survive they must expand hteir territory. THEY are expansionists, they are not CONTROLLED by expansionists! They resemble primitive humans with “grey-green skin, coarse hair, slightly stooping posture, low jutting forehead, and a snout instead of a nose … though comparisons between this facial feature and those of pigs are exaggerated and perhaps unfair”. Perhaps unfair, hinting very strongly at a more complex societal structure than our human perspective (as PCs) allows.

Orcs speak Orcish, a language derived from older human and elvish languages (another reference to Tolkein and the corruption of the elves). They have a “historic enmity against elves and dwarves”, and there are many references to wearing things human find unpleasant, not obeying human rules of war and rules of engagement and chivalry.

“It is often believed that orcs are so bloodthirsty and cruel that they are ineffective tacticians and that they would rather be vicious than victorious. Like most stereotypes, this is highly misleading; it is true for some orcs tribes but not for all. Many orc tribes have waged wars for decades and have developed a frightening efficiency with battle tactics.” This is a direct quote. The PLAYER CHARACTERS might believe that orcs are horrible stupid monsters, but they are not. If a PLAYER comes to believe those stereotypes, the game itself openly states that they are stereotypes, and not necessarily accurate.

Further down, the MM notes that they are still weaker in sunlight, still use tribal formations (not not always), still use villages and caves with ditches, log ramparts and palisades, towers, gates, ballista, and catapults. They are again the martial race of Tolkein in many ways. But they also have leaders, subleaders, shamans (indicative of religion and culture).

“Orcs are aggressive. They believe other species are inferior ot them and that bullying and slavery is part of the natural order. …Orcs believe that battle is the ideal challenge, but some leaders are pragmatic enough to recognize the value of peace, which they exact at a high price. If great patience and care are used, orc tribes can be effective trading partners and military allies.” Hmm… Mindless? I think not!

“Orcs value territory above all else; battle experience, wealth, and number of offspring are other major sources of pride. Orcs are patriarchal; women are fit only to bear children and nurse them. Orcs have a reputation for curelty that is deserved, but humsn are just as capable of evil as orcs.”

It would definitely seem to me that orcs are not an analogue for the warrior race trope which usually required a “more sophisticated being” to successfully weaponize the violent savages. They are violent and savage, but they do not require “domestication”. In fact, the only thing they actually align with are the colonizers and racists themselves. Orcs are monsters, and so are people.

But orcs were never meant to resemble a group of real-world people. They are decidedly non-human (NOT DEMI-HUMAN, NON-HUMAN), and any real world cultures are better encompased with the Human race.

In sum, any association with orcs and the victims of history is purely within the readers’ minds. The actual text doesn’t support that whatsoever.



So, Orcs aren’t people - they’re monsters…just like people are. And the people they really represent aren’t a generalized other, but only the most wicked and depraved of real human beings - which they are not, at all, and have never meant to have been.

And Orcs having tribes (as opposed to houses, clans, or nations), chiefs (as opposed to kings), and shamans (as opposed to priests or wizards), is all just flavoring, and the fact that such flavoring mirrors the terms colonizing Europeans used to minimize the humanity of people they conquered is pure coincidence?

So, regardless of the flavor text contained in any edition of D&D, the tropes are embedded in the culture, and seem to me to be fairly apparent. You are, of course, welcome to disagree with that assessment, but I think your argument is largely an appeal to the authority of a few previous authors, and doesn’t seem certain of whether Orcs are monsters, or a monstrous people. Also, not being an analogue for any specific group of real people does not prevent them from being an amalgamation of racist tropes developed over centuries about PoC generally (in other words, they don’t have to be a specific group of people, to be sort of broadly the “not us” of the collective imagination).

All that being said, disagreeing doesn’t make you wrong or stupid; you’ve simply come to a different conclusion, which is fine.