Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Beren and Luthien (2017)



Tolkien's "Beren and Luthien" story will be published next year in a stand-alone format edited by Christopher Tolkien and fully illustrated by Alan Lee. This is per a Harper Collins press release, as reported on Too Many Books, a blog by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, who have written many annotated Tolkien books. 

This format should give the story the attention it deserves; to the general public its currently just another part of the often-overlooked Silmarillion.

Apparently the main portion of this book will be the original form of the story as written by Tolkien in 1917 (and published in the Lost Tales), supplemented by material from later versions. I believe the later source text for the Silmarillion chapter has never been published in full, so this book may include be some unpublished material last prose version has never been published in full so there may be some unpublished material included.

Update: Great post by John Garth discussing the possible content of the book.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Gygaxian Orc Tribes


Fighting Man, Magic-User and Cleric take on dungeon orcs. By David Sutherland III.


Gary Gygax on the orc tribes of Castle Greyhawk, EnworldQ&A 2/2/04:
"The orcs in the dungeon were of two separate tribes, but I have forgotten the names I gave them. As near as I can recollect, one was the Grinning Skull and the other was the Bloody Axe. They were all cut down or made into vassals by Robilar and Terik, with a good deal of assistance from Tenser."

Chronology of Orc Tribes in Gygaxian D&D:


Lord of the Rings: Tolkien is, of course, the original source of orcs and their tribes. Aragorn refers to Saruman's Isengarders as "Orcs of the White Hand" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 2) after seeing shields with a
"small white hand in the centre of a black field" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 1). He notes that orcs "in the service of Barad-dur [Sauron's tower] use the sign of the Red Eye" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 1). Pippin and Merry later see Mordor orcs with "a red eye painted on their shields" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 3). Also called the Evil Eye in at least two instances; for example, "One [orc-helmet] fitted Frodo well enough, a black cap with iron rim, and iron hoops covered with leather upon which the Evil Eye was painted in red above the beaklike nost-guard" (RoTK, Bk 2, Ch 1). There is at least one further group; In Cirith Ungol, Sam notices two liveries, "one marked by the Red Eye, the other by a Moon disfigured with a ghastly face of death" (RotK, Bk 2, Ch 1). The Moon device is that of the Witch-King, ruler of Minas Morgul, formerly the Tower of the Moon.


Chainmail (1971): The names of five tribes are given, all based on Tolkien:

  • Orcs of the Red Eye
  • Orcs of Mordor
  • Orcs of the Mountains
  • Orcs of the White Hand
  • Isengarders
These are from the 2nd print (1972), but are presumably also in the 1st. They were removed from later printings along with other Tolkien references. The list is duplicative because in the Lord of the Rings, the Orcs of the Red Eye are the same as the Orcs of Mordor, and the Orcs of the White Hand are Isengarders. The Orcs of the Red Eye and White Hand also appeared in Patt's earlier Rules for Middle Earth (The Courier, 1970). Falconer pointed out that Arneson used these same five names, as seen in the First Fantasy Campaign (1977, Judges Guild).

Battle of the Brown Hills (pg 8-10 of the Wargamer's Newsletter #116, November 1971):

In this article, Gygax describes a fantasy battle between the forces of Law and Chaos, played using the Chainmail rules. Notably, the forces of Chaos include three tribes: Orcs of the Mountains (wielding sword & shield or bows), Orcs of the Vile Rune (wielding sword & shield) and Orcs of the Longspear (presumably wielding long spears). We can surmise shields would feature each tribe's device.

OD&D Vol 2 (1st print, 1974): "the number of different tribes of Orcs can be as varied as desired, basing the decision on Tolkien or random chance". No tribe names are given. The reference to "Tolkien or random chance" was deleted in later printings.


Scruby Fantasy 30mm minis (1975): Per Gygax on Enworld (10/8/07), "Jack Scruby began casting orcs, so we had real miniatures for them -- the Orcs of the Vile Rune whose symbol was a fist with a raised digit."

Holmes (July 1977): "There are many tribes or nations of orcs".


Monster Manual (Dec 1977): Here we get Gygaxian tribe names, including: 

  • Vile Rune (as seen previously in the Battle for the Brown Hills)
  • Bloody Head (perhaps the actual name for Grinning Skull?)
  • Death Moon (perhaps inspired by the Moon device of Minas Morgul?)
  • Broken Bone
  • Evil Eye (perhaps an update of Red Eye?)
  • Leprous Hand (perhaps an update of White Hand?)
  • Rotting Eye
  • Dripping Blade (perhaps the actual name for Bloody Axe?)
Gone are the names directly from Tolkien, but he sticks to a similar two-word style.

Gygax further notes that a "standard is always present where the tribal chief is" and "Their garments are tribal colors, as are shield devices or trim".

Dungeon Masters Guide (Aug 1979): This introduces a major new facet of humanoid tribes, including orcs, that departs from Tolkien: shamans & witch doctors (pg 40). These became a standard part of humanoid tribes, as shown by the citation from WG4 below.

B2 Keep on the Borderlands (1979): In the Caves of Chaos, there are two rival orc tribes in Caves B & C. This is the only type of humanoid having two different groups. The tribe in Cave B decorates its cave entrance with "cheerful greetings" - heads and skulls placed in niches in a wall - perhaps a reference to the Grinning Skull/Bloody Head/Bloody Skull tribe. And Falconer notes that the leader of Cave C wields a magic hand axe - a possible reference to the Bloody Axe tribe. So the two tribes of the Caves of Chaos are in some ways analogous to the two tribes of the Greyhawk Castle dungeons. 


World of Greyhawk Folio (1980): Includes a series of shield devices for various kingdoms, including a grinning human skull for the "Orcs of the Pomarj" (the dominant humanoid of the Pomarj). This device was retained in the World of Greyhawk boxed set (1983). It's possible that Gygax was remembering this device when he mentioned "Grinning Skull" as the possible name of the Greyhawk Castle tribe.

Orcs of the Pomarj

Developments from Stonefist to South Province (Dragon #57, Jan 1982): "Three major groups vie for control of the whole of the Bone March. The most powerful group, until the Battle of the Loftwood, was the humanoid group under the orcs of the Vile Rune. Now paramount are the orcs of the Death Moon tribe. Both groups have considerable numbers of various sorts of humanoids serving them. Both are also led by half-orcs and assisted by evil humans. The third power group is a force of ogres and gnolls based in the hills at the head of the Teesar Torrent" (pg 15).

The Gods of the Orcs (Dragon #62, June 1982): "The division of orcs into separate tribes (Evil Eye, Death Moon, Broken Bone, etc.) is usually made along cult lines. The tribal symbol is the holy symbol of the orcish god the tribe holds as its patron" (pg 29). "Luthic’s worship is one of the few that allow male and female orcs to become clerics ... Orcs in her tribe (Vile Rune) generally dwell underground, and seem to commit fewer raids against other creatures, though they are especially fierce if their lair is threatened" (pg 32). This is an article by Roger E. Moore detailing the gods of the Orcs other than Gruumsh, who appeared in Deities & Demigods (1980). Gygax later incorporated the article into Unearthed Arcana (1985) with credit to Moore.

WG4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (1982): "These are Orcs of the Rotting Eye tribe, belonging to the clan of the Jagged Knife. The standard is a huge, glaive like knife blade with a serrated edge ... colored a rust red and atop a long shaft, beneath it being the circular target depicting a rotting eye colored yellow green and red. This symbol is repeated on the shields of the soldiers, with the jagged-bladed knife seeming to grow out of the rotting eye device. Guards and ranking figures wear dull red clothing. The sub-chief, shaman, and chief also have cloaks of yellowish green, the chief‘s being striped with red, the shaman’s merely bordered with that color" (pg 8). This module is set in the Yatil Mountains of Greyhawk.


Castle Zagyg (2008): The first dungeon level ("Storerooms") has a Bloody Skull orc tribe. Bloody Skull may have been the actual name, or was used to replace Bloody Head as the name was already published in the Monster Manual. Update: I also checked the earlier Yggsburgh hardcover (2005). There are some orc encounters, but no mention of tribes.