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On the problem of killing orcs, etc.

Dweller in Darkness

Excelsior
Validated User
It's really context dependent. If orcs and man are in a constant state of unrelenting war then, well, its rules of engagement. You see an orc that's armed, wearing the insignia of a tribe that's declared war on humanity, you kill them because if they had the chance, they'd kill you, or be court martialed, or just killed for failing to engage with the enemy. If orcs are just this distant threat and there's no actual state of war, then the situation changes.
 

Elph

Registered User
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What I find perplexing about this issue is that the people who seem to dislike alignment the most are also the ones who say that the game paints orcs and other humanoids as irredeemably evil just to provide guilt-free slaughter. Yet, while I personally have no problem with giving humanoid types simplistic descriptors like "chaotic evil" for the sake of quick and easy characterization, I don't think it's okay to kill anyone or anything based on their alignment. If a group of creatures is actively engaged in heinous behaviour, it's probably a good thing that they're stopped. If they are not currently harming anyone, it's definitely not morally justifiable to put them to the sword, regardless of what it might say on their character sheet under alignment. I don't recognize this bloodthirstiness that is ascribed to people who use orcs or drow as written in their campaigns. I'm sure that games filled with slaughter exist, but I've always approached D&D as a game of exploration and problem-solving, where combat is often the worst choice you could make.
 

Dweller in Darkness

Excelsior
Validated User
At least part of the problem relates to modules and adventures - you don't write in an encounter with dozens of fascinatingly well-armed orcs so that you can have a rap session about your feelings with them. You've got hit points and an attack bonus, and you're going to USE them, dang it. Or, at least, that's the mentality behind most modules and adventures - if it has hp, you can kill it, and you probably will. That's not completely consistent, of course, but it's the general way that they work, and that has trickle-down effects on the rest of the game's design.
 

junglefowl26

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Validated User
I am really having a hard time making sense of the opening post and what you are asking me - so correct me if I am wrong, but are you asking why many people have less problems with demons and undead being always evil than orcs?

Well, I can't speak for others, but as someone who does have that attitude, there are various reasons.

First of all, it simply easier to accept something as being inherently one way or another the more supernatural it is. Undead, fiends, aberrations, fey - these are all inherently supernatural creatures, tied to and bound by laws that defy human comprehension. Orcs, in most settings, are just...people. Natural born creatures with working brains and thoughts and feelings and free will....who just consistently choose to be evil for no reason whatsoever? Even in a fantasy setting that stretches my suspension of disbelief a bit far.

Next come the implications of that - orcs, and other evil humanoids as natural creatures need food and water and things built for them, and so probably have non-combatants - they definitely at least have children. And frankly that is probably the biggest thing where always evil or not comes up - I have an ethos of "if they try to kill you, try to kill them right back" and it doesn't particularly matter if the guy swinging his sword at you is chaotic evil or lawful good, you have a right to self defense. But the "orcs are always evil" thing tends to come up when it comes to burning down orc villages and skwering orc babies on pikes and still wanting to be labled lawful good afterwords.
Demons and undead, however, don't reproduce, don't need food and shelter, and overall it is just really much easier to buy the idea that there is no such thing as a demon civilian.

And something that results from this is that orcs have cultures and societies, whereas undead and demons don't really - and since making up a completely original culture whole cloth is pretty freaking hard, it does mean that monster cultures often borrow from human ones, or at least common stereotypes about certain groups of humans, which makes the whole thing really uncomfortable in its implications.

Furthermore, when it comes to d&d in particular, fiends and undead tend to be either: a - mindless, which removes a lot of the moral discussion, or b- the result of the choices of a living person. Fiends are made from the souls of evil people, so their choice was made long ago. Similarly, intelligent undead tend to be those willing chose to do something horribly evil to become one in the first place (vampires being a very weird exception I am not sure what to do with).

Now, I certainly am by no means opposed to settings where demons and/or undead are people and shouldn't be murdered on sight, but overall more overtly supernatural beings can be always evil without making me uncomfortably flash back to all the horrible racist ideas I have studied as a historian.
 

Fabius Maximus

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Validated User
Even Tolkien was uncomfortable with the idea of intrinsically evil orcs, even as he gave the impression that that's what they were.
And to be fair, LOTR didn't have a lot of room to show non-evil orcs who presumably were doing their damndest to not get on Sauron's "to do" list. We do have some orcs that it is hinted were at least respected by their enemies--Uglúk was killed in hand to hand combat by Eomer, after Eomer dismounted, when he could have easily shot him full of arrows.
 

Rainfall

Registered User
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"All living things were divided in that day, and some of every kind, even of beasts and birds, were found in either host, save the Elves only. They alone were undivided and followed Gil-galad."

I'm not sure we ever see orcs in a context that if they're "intrinsically evil" is entirely relevant in LotR, or Tolkien's other writings for that matter. Almost always they're specifically Sauron's (or Morgoth's) forces, with heavy amounts of - it's not just "nurture", it's outright forcing the issue.

Orcs are fought because they're hostile.
They were okay to be considered "kill on sight" in a way even evil humans weren't in LOTR.

But monsters in Middle Earth are basically demons and fairy tale ogres infused with the essence of the Devil. They're not just DnD humanoids.
 

Elfwine

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Validated User
They were okay to be considered "kill on sight" in a way even evil humans weren't in LOTR.
They were? To which characters?

I cannot recall any examples of any LotR protagonists killing orcs when they wouldn't kill a human in the service of Sauron or Saruman, but it's been a while.

Certainly nothing I can think of as "on sight" in any sense I can understand. If I'm forgetting something, well, I'd like a page reference, or at least a chapter one.
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
JungleFowl26 You answered the question I was asking. You explained why it is OK to kill fiends and undead, but not orcs. You also made the case for why inherently evil orcs don't work for you.

My question was based on the premise that both orcs and demons are created evil from the start, no choice in the matter, not created that way from the evil choices people made before them. Just evil from the start. If that was the case would there be a difference in killing orcs or killing demons? And why?

As soon as orcs start having orc civilians and orc babies it gets pretty hard to sustain all orcs are intrinsically evil from the get go. Orcs as cardboard cutouts in a dungeon that don't really exist beyond the room they are in are much easier to conceptualize as being inherently evil I think.

The more orcs become people the harder it is to see them as being one monolithic thing. I actually have an equally hard time accepting the all elves are all good all the time trope. People don't work that way.

There is definitely a murderhobo side to the hobby where everything is a target with an experience point value. Sometimes it doesn't even matter if the target is evil, or hostile. It becomes "Look a sack of experience points. I kill it and take its treasure." Even if that was a shopkeeper or a bartender. I find that sort of game very hard to play in.

Killing someone because they are coming after me or other people with hostile intent is not a problem. Knocking down cardboard cutouts is fine. But indiscriminately slaughtering everything that crosses your path is not fun for me. And it does get hard to recognize that even if orcs are legitimately subhuman and evil by nature the same tropes that can, and probably will, be ascribed to them have also been ascribed to real people in the real world, without the justification of being based in actual reality.

As I have gotten older I have gotten less comfortable with "It's an orc, kill it!" as the prime mover of an adventure. If substituting a human in place of the orc would make the scenario feel squicky, maybe it's because the scenario is squicky.

Orcs have definitely changed from what they were when I started in the hobby. Then they more like Tolkien's servants of Mordor. They didn't have names, or personalities, or much of anything beyond a sword they were trying to kill you with. Even Tolkien's orcs became less monstrous in the scenes where we got to actually see them as individuals. I am thinking especially of some of the conversations between orcs in the tower of Minas Morgul. Those guys sounded a lot like any soldiers stuck in a lousy war. It humanized them, and they became more than just something for the heroes to stick swords in.
 

Rainfall

Registered User
Validated User
They were? To which characters?

I cannot recall any examples of any LotR protagonists killing orcs when they wouldn't kill a human in the service of Sauron or Saruman, but it's been a while.
When Sam and Frodo cross paths with Faramir. They see Easterlings be massacred and they feel really bad about it and it's depicted as not okay as opposed to killing orcs. I just don't have the time to find the exact passage and I'm sincerely sorry about that.

In fairness I don't think even Tolkien was all that fond of this passage either.
 

Grumpygoat

Registered User
Validated User
If all orcs are essentially fully grown, otherworldly creatures, them being all evil can work fine. I'm not sure I'd call 40k orks "evil," but they're one version of orc where their attitude is more understandable. It also helps that their main uncomfortable stereotype draws from the same culture of the game's creators, with them being British football hooligans.
 
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