In the ancient times of the Orcs there had always been a sacred principle that Might makes Right. The strongest led. The society that evolved always put brains over brawn and in this, the progenitors of what would become the River Clans failed. They did however, evolve.
They had migrated to the east to escape their more thuggish Orc cousins, to give room to flourish. Flourish they did! But lacked some of the basic principles like patience; in building and growing settlements, becoming slothful and bored, allowing their minds to run wild.
Instead their creative imaginations and their cunning brought them to view nearby cultures and instead they learned envy, they learned lust. They could see the growing cultures: Their traders and their wealthy elite with fancy clothes, posh gold trinkets adorning themselves, looked very attractive to the River Clans. They saw it and they liked it.
The Orcs traded with them, but their childlike naivety at trying to imitate another’s culture eventually saw them taken advantage of, steering them towards resentment and anger. Rather than acquiesce and be submissive, they relied on their cunning and imagination, their merits over brawn.
Huge barges; floating forts to house large quantities of the River Clan’s population were constructed. Their first ships came next; some captured through piracy but eventually using their own hidden coves, the junks and corsairs of the River Clans began to rise. The clans became flotillas, which led to armadas; and then the River Clans truly learnt about pride and gluttony. They greedily raided their enemies, traded spoils for more spoils and then proudly displayed their wealth as power.
It would have descended into utter chaos had it not been for the High Admiral Djangok, an Orc Marshal who codified the River Clans and gave them some structure and showed them the benefits of rudimentary discipline. His impassioned speech to the clans implored them to take stock of what made them better than the other Orcs from the mountains and plains; that they were embracing those ways, the ways of Brawn. He codified the Laws of the River Clans. Laws that hold the Armadas together even today. A code that embraced the very virtues the Orcs had learned.
Desire – Find what the hearts wants and fulfil it, a wanton heart does ill fuel an Orc passion
Gluttony – If it’s yours, It’s yours! Others should be encouraged to get theirs and not share yours.
Greed – Wealth is Power. An Orc with no wealth has no power and no Orc is powerless, therefore is not an Orc. Scavenging and hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by means of violence, trickery, or manipulation of authority are all actions that may be inspired by greed and signs of a good Orc in the pursuit of his heart’s desire.
Sloth – No Orc should fail to do what they should do.The traits of the River Clans are patience and discipline, not laziness. Laziness turns to weakness. Weakness gets a good shiving.
Wrath -No injury to the peoples of the armada will go without a wrathful response. The enemy is not within; though killing a weak leader should not be met with wrath. An attack upon the River Clans needs to be met with a response sevenfold in its volume.
Envy – Those not of the River Clans have power we do not. Until we possess it, we can never be truly strong.
Pride – You are an Orc of the Water, show all what you are
The code is very vague, and subject to all sorts of Grog fuelled fisticuffs since it was spoken and dictated into a large tome now known simply as “The Code” that essentially no one can be bothered to read.
In short, the common River Clan boiled it down to:
• You keep what you kill
• Greed is good
• Trust no one
• Strive to be the best at what you do, even if what you do isn’t very nice.
• Never take sides against the River Clans (your own Clan)
Clans live an any number of floating barges travelling up and down the river and along the coast line. Huge fortified structures, self-contained villages. The top decks might have box gardens under sails growing herbs, or shallow baths growing rice whilst children play with swords and ropes for later life.
Life onboard a barge is a bit of an anomaly in River Orc Culture. Those on the barge have a very tight sense of community. They are very supportive of each other and tight knit, even helping with each-others young, until it is time for them to move on to serve in the fleet and join an armada. Dying protecting a barge is singularly the most honourable and highly thought of act in the whole of the River Orc Culture.
With such a life on the water, they are excellent fishers and all their culinary prowess comes about from the sea. With being onboard a vessel, open fires are risky, and fuels scarce. Instead large metal pans flash-cook food in oil. In a cultured attempt to be civilized, many skilled knife wielding river orcs spend time lovingly preparing food (with very sharp knives!) and presenting their fish dishes on little wooden and inexpensive rectangular boards. They brew their own “grog”, sometime using rice, and once this is flowing, the definition of civilized deteriorates…
A Barge is usually run by a Commander, with, navigators and a contingent of crew.
Junks and Corsairs
Barges are often supported by fast Junks and fighting Corsair ships. The Junks are especially adept at River sailing as well as coastal seas and navigating shallow and narrow waters. They are skilled at lightning stealth raids and the best way to begin a climb to fame and wealth is to serve aboard a successful Junk.
Corsairs are ships the River Clans have pirated. The hodgepodge assembly of ships come from all walks of different cultures many refitted to custom specifications. To own a Corsair is a symbol of power. Corsair ships are named for the leading orc who captured them. This did lead to some confusion in instances when Djangok, the Three eyed Bastard had led another successful raid and captured 5 ships. Consequently, rather than number them, they added a further random verb: Cold Djangok, Black Djangok, Big Djangok THE Djangok and Slippery when wet Djangok; subsequently joined the fleet.
Junks are oft run by a Captain. Corsairs are often commanded by Captains. If a captain takes two ships, he or she becomes a commodore and the first mate (traditionally) become a captain of one of the ships.
The War Fleet
The larger ships are known as Dreadnaughts; the most feared sights on the water. They are huge hulking platforms of Orc engineering, with huge battle rams fashioned into twisted ugly grimacing faces, their sides bristling with spikes to hinder aggressors who wish to board.
These massive ships are dominated by the power of those who would be Admirals.
Tradetown is a large shanty town built on stilts on wetlands that flood. Hardy and vigorous Orcs come from Tradetown, which also is renowned for it’s agriculture, Rice, seaweeds and fisheries.
‘Aggleston is a large fortification making use of local rock formations to bottleneck any land attack, as well as materials for the buildings with in. It is not aesthetically pleasing at all, made from dark grey bricks and slate ( for those that can afford it and not thatch), and has spread up onto the nearby mountainside and work has begun crafting the mountain in to the visage of the great Djangok.
Port Djangok is an impressive bastion fortification and town settlement with two large Ports. Junks and Corsairs are regularly within the walls of the port and this place has the most renowned “Armoury of Shooters” in the whole nation. The first place that began making firearms or shooters was a small magic users college sponsored by Admiral Shunzi. The fashion literally exploded, and magic craftsmen still come to the Armoury of Shooters to how to blow shit up years later.
Wealth is power, and every Orc in the fleet like to show off. To be without wealth, is to be without power and an Orc without power is not an Orc. When River Clans come together, they Strut. It is perhaps a complex social ritual of posturing and posing, allowing all to see who the better Orc is. Fighting is also common to ascertain dominance in the event of debate on who is the more powerful or wealthy. Often a ship rank or title will alleviate and speed up the process of strutting.
Most Orcs are thugs, seaman, boaters, or marines. To be elevated to a position is to enter a ladder contest in which assassination and backstabbing is fair game. From mid-level positions like navigator, purser, marine sergeant, First Mate, an Orc can step towards becoming a Boss or Captain
To step up to Vanguard, Admiral or even higher, an Orc has got to be truly skilled at watching his back and never putting a foot wrong.
Those with wealth, even today, continue to imitate other culture. As such rolltop leather boots with calico pants, often split with two tone colours are worn. White or coloured shirts are worn, often showing horrendous stitched repairs from the hard toil and rough lifestyle (including survived knife wounds) the wear has. Hero belts and baldrics with bandanas or fancy feathered hats and often light weight leathers or heavy cloth embroidered long coats make up the average appearance. The fancier, the more wealthy, and therefore more powerful.
It is a wise person that NEVER makes fun of a River Orcs hat.
If they can’t go fancier with wealthy looking cloths, or even if they can, many Orcs show their prowess with weapons. A common word in Orc vocabulary is festooned: Baldrics and belts loaded with throwing daggers; the more the better. They may never use them, they may not be skilled, but they are there. Equally, carrying a Shooter or two, or more is enough to earn respect from fellow shipmates. Symbols of their prowess; each weapon will have a story to tell.
The dagger or cudgel is the absolutely minimum an Orc will disarm himself down to. To be weaponless is to have no power. The first weapon is earnt from leaving childhood behind, then the next from their first raid, each having a name. As their tales grow so do their collection of weaponry and the list names they own. These tales will be told over the dinner table in shared sessions.
Generally large bladed weapons like cutlass or brutal chopping weapons are utilized. The only exception are the Shinzu clan, who whilst often mocked for their slender blades, often are given a berth for being the fastest and most precise slicing weapons!
Orcs not on duty enjoy telling the tales of their weapons or playing games of chance, often using dice (cards get wet!) or regale others with tales of the best deaths they’ve seen comrades take. It is a great honour amongst River Orcs for others to tell tales of your death.
Many River Clan Orcs do not wear significant levels of armour and may, at best, don light armour. In general, armour is heavy and a bane to those who fall over board. However, the Marine Orc called to service to be a bodyguard or to go to war may don more significant armour. The Orc Lamellar was designed to be as lightweight as possible as the marine had many tasks including swing across on ropes in a boarding action, Using Shooters in addition to swordsmanship. The armour was usually brightly lacquered to protect against the harsh salt water environment. To wear such armour is a symbol of great might and not many Orcs get this honour.
Other Armours are often scavenged. Many orcs who don armour have a more mix matched Qadaq lorica or even muscled cuirass feel and style about them, but most love to fight donned in just light leathers, flappy coats and waving a big cutlass.
Originally there were 21 clans. Over the years some have united, fallen, or even sprung up from nowhere. There are now 7 main clans that control several Armadas. An Armada being a group of allied or affiliated ships. Barges are always part of an Armada and never left unprotected.
The is a council made up of the seven largest and strongest clans. They meet to decide the fates of the fleet. They are, in no particular order: Bloodtong, Shinzu, Skull Jaggers, Blood Vipers, The Tradetown Company, Kochs, and the Sharks.
The Corsair known as Slippery when Wet Djangok…
A ship of some age handed down through the ages, is famous because of who caught it.
The ship now guards the Slippery Eel Armadas Fire Mountain – Maru Barge.
Captained by a grizzled and scarred Orc called Genji Two Stabs. So-named because of his trend of killing people with two stabs of his fearsome tridant.
Often seen above deck in his reddish lamellar; he doesn’t wear a horned or masked helmet that many do, instead preferring to cap his head in a black bandana.
He pays his Marines well, and led by his Marine Sergeant and personal Enforcer, he is confident his loyal “first mate” and Commander will not dare seek to get promoted. Especially since his wife, is a “firebomb” known as “Hottips” in certain circles.
The River Clans Today
Since the Days of Fire new enemies have sprung up on the far side of the Styric, the major river that flows out to Port Djangok. They have wealth that needs to reappropriated into our hands.
Some new rivers have been found, one to the West the flows down the to the Mirror Sea, and a second the flows through the Desert of Glass… though less said about that one the better.
Those that have different views don’t last long.