From Fungus to Warlock, Greenskins have existed in universes all across the fantasy spectrum.
This weekend, Warhammer’s Beast Snaggas Orks will be unleashed on the 41st millennium and, alongside the Kruleboyz Orruks of the Realms, will usher in a brand new age of green supremacy on the tabletop. I love that both the swampy Orruks and the feral Orks are coming out simultaneously, as they both represent a pull away from what we’re used to with both of those armies (unless you were playing Snakebites, but even then, the Beast Snaggas go further). Of course, even with all those expectations, Orcs have never been a property exclusive to the Games Workshop line. Sure they share a few almost universal similarities, but from the Forgotten Realms to the lands of Azeroth, orcs exist, similar but also intrinsically unique.
While all the orcs are unique in their own universe, there are a few things that most, if not all, of them have in common. Boar-like tusks, for example, can be seen in almost every type of Orc, and the belligerent nature of those creatures is often represented in the orc mentality. The idea of “might makes right” plays heavily into it, seeing Orc leadership earned by either battle prowess or physical size. Surprisingly though, even though Greenskins is often used to describe them, several groups of orcs do not sport universally green skin, rather presenting earthy colors like browns or dark greys.
The Orks of the 41st millennium operate as a collection of marauding games, similar to the Warboys or raiders of the Mad Max universe, who pilot ramshackle warmachines, slam themselves into target planets in massive battle asteroids, and follow the belief that “da biggest and da strongest make da rulez!” An inherently psychic race, the strength of the Orks’ psychic energy is such that they can manifest anything that they truly believe into reality, such as red paint making things go faster or blue items bringing luck. There is some speculation that the reason the Emperor has lived so long, even with all the arcane science of the Golden Throne, is because the Orks believe he is an immortal and the strongest ‘umie, and that psychic belief sustains him. It is even possible for the Orks to survive otherwise catastrophic injury, surviving for days as nothing more than a severed head just because they believe they can. And even if the Orks are defeated on a particular battlefield, they are very hard to eliminate permanently, as they are a fungal race that releases spores into the wild on death, from which more Orks will soon sprout.
Warhammer/Age of Sigmar
Like the Orks of 40k, the Orruks of Age of Sigmar are a war-like, fungal race that lives to fight, throwing themselves against ever stronger foes to prove their strength and superiority. With the addition of the Kruleboyz to the Orruk roster, we can see a more cunning side of the Orruk mindset, showing their strength through the subjugation of swamp beasts, survival of various toxins, and the ambush destruction of interlopers to their realm. The other Orruks of AoS are brutal warriors, with the Ironjawz hammering thick iron plates into their skin and rushing to battle in groups of massive bruisers and the Bonesplitterz daubing themselves in enchanted protective paint and hunting down the massive monsters that hunt the Realms.
Lord of the Rings
Tolkien’s orcs were created by the Dark Lord Morgoth from doomed, ruined elves to fill his armies and were later improved upon by Sauron and Saruman, splitting into a few distinct subspecies. The standard Tolkein orc was almost simian in how they stood and moved, and they hated the sun. From this primary branch, the goblins of Moria were orcs that ventured underground and as such became acclimated to life underground, while the Uruks grew stronger, stood more upright, and became the primary fighting force of the Dark Lord. Uruk-hai, in fact, directly translates to “orc-folk”, and though the term commonly refers to the Uruks bred in Isengard, several other Uruk tribes claim the term for themselves. Though they lack the tusks and green coloration of common orcs, the Uruks of LotR share the war-like, strength-based society of orcs from other universes.
The Orcs of Azeroth are the most times leader of the Horde faction and the primary antagonist force of the Warcraft games (though that can be easily disputed since the REAL antagonists are much deeper). Warlike, massive, and sporting impressive lower jaw tusks, the orcs of Warcraft are a formidable force and a strong choice whether you’re playing the RTS or the MMO. Whether you think the Orcs are good, bad, or just neutral, it cannot be denied that they are one of the strongest factions in Azeroth.
Dungeons and Dragons
Taking a bit of inspiration from everywhere, the Orcs of D&D are a strong and usually antagonistic species of tribal creatures. They sport the common tusks and the strength-based society, and even their half-breed offspring are usually exceptionally powerfully built. Because of their enhanced strength and stamina, they can shake off even mortal wounds and empower their allies with a powerful shout. Their primary god is Grummsh the One-Eyed, so-called because he lost his eye in a battle with the elven god Corellon, and they follow his tenants of strength and conquest over the other races. They are not an inherently evil race, as that no longer exists in D&D, but their god is technically an archdevil, so those that choose to follow his teachings are certainly not good.
Legend of Zelda
While they aren’t technically called orcs, the Moblins of Hyrule share several traits with typical fantasy orcs, so they get to join this list. They are pig-headed warriors that follow the warlord Ganondorf, or his more animalistic form Ganon depending on what game you’re playing, and work to undermine the protagonist’s plans (you’re not ALWAYS playing as Link, after all).
Which Orks are your favorites?