This is an attempt by Eleazar to flesh out the history, beliefs and culture of the various races of Wesnoth as an aid to storytelling.
Orcs & Goblins
"Orc" refers specifically to the great battle Orcs, the paragons of Orc-kind, and in general to the race as a whole--including Goblins and Drudges.
The Orcs are brutal, quick-tempered, and belligerent,-- eager to fight the other races of Wesnoth, and hardly hesitant to fight their own. They have little knowledge of their origins, nor is it something of much import to them; indeed, they look to their ancestors with scorn, or mere disregard. They are creatures of the moment, of impulse, creatures who take with hand and fist, thinking nothing of the days to come, or the days behind them, certainly so if they sleep with a full belly. It is no surprise, then, that the life of a warrior and raider is a perfect fit for them; so much so that it has become their ideal. It is what their people have been, to the utmost limit of their memory, and fills what few dreams and mythos they have of the future. Most wait for someone known as the 'War-Master' to lead them in the ultimate battle. From time to time leaders (not always Orcish) have claimed the title, 'War-Master', and brought many of the Orc clans temporarily under their power for bloody conquest.
By the record of men, orcs first came to Wesnoth across the sea, following the humans of the Green Isle, though their history before then is unknown. They settled mostly in the wild Northlands, soon allied themselves with the Trolls, and hold an ancient and jealous hatred for the race of elves, whom they feel were made to spite them.
Orcs are born in litters of roughly four to eight. They are cared for by their mothers until their third spring, when the young are cast out to fend for themselves until they learn to speak, usually by adolescence. In this time, they roam like animals or steal from farms and villages. Many die. Orcish mothers often brand their children to be able to identify them once they regain Orcish society. Of these litters, the fate of their lives is decided for them by a harsh, but perhaps pragmatic practice:
- The strongest get most of the food and become the fearsome Orc warriors- and often leaders, the highest caste of their race, and that to which all the others aspire, or envy. These are only a few of the lot, but are treated with much more pride than their kin, and cultivated much more readily.
- Many others are born with much weaker frames, often much shorter. Their only hope for a decent lot in life is to survive by cunning; these are known as Goblins. Though smaller and weaker, they are perhaps more nimble, and the combination of their desperate state and low standing makes them rather daring in the use of their lives. Notably, this disregard for the value of their own skin is what allowed them to train the great wolves that they ride, something they did only at great cost to themselves. Their strength is only in numbers, but it is a considerable one, and though they are not well-honored by their big brothers, the orcs would miss them sorely on the battle-line.
- Lowest are those who barely survive childhood. They are known as Drudges and they are considerably weaker and duller-witted than other Orcs. They are not allowed to battle or breed, only to live the life of slaves. A Drudge's status is higher only than slaves of other races, and Orcs who have been terribly dishonored.
Orcs, Goblins and Drugdes have distinct roles in their society. Since the differences are physically obvious, caste distinctions are rigourously maintained among males. The Orcs always rule the clans, but Goblins often wield great power as advisors. Caste distinctions are less rigourous among females, who may gain prestiege by bearing young that become Orc warriors. Females train for war, but less rigourously than the males, they generally only fight in defense of their villages.
Orcs have little interest in technology-- the crossbow being a notable exception. In general they prefer to rely on brute strength or slaves. Magic, which humanity can only dabble in, is virtually unknown to them. The crafting of arms and armor is their primary art-- they excel at making inelegant, but effective weapons. Money is seen only as a means to further an end, be it the hedonism which runs so strong in their race, or warmongering. Orcs who hold a looser version of their warriors' code will fight as mercenaries, while more rigourous Orcs will take only plunder and glory.
Orcs have survived, and in fact thrived thus far, based on the brutally effective mores of their society (and their prodigious birth rate). They are a race where the strong trample the weak, and a race that culls those unfit from positions of responsibility, often by blood. Given the hostilities they have incurred thus far, it is surprising that no other race has stepped in and annihilated them outright. Dwarves and Men have only waged war against them, lacking the unity or will to do more than drive them back. As yet, the elves have only held them at arms reach, perhaps not willing to risk such an effort, though it is surmised that if they ever felt truly threatened, they would fell that race in a terrifying display of power.
--pay little attention to this part, it's very preliminary.
Beginning of the World
The histories of Men all fail before their arrival at the Old Continent. However, the long-lived Elves remember much more--though they are willing to speak only part of it. The Elves say that before thinking beings walked on the Old Continent, the speaking peoples dwelt in a land called Aon. Aon was the first place, and more beautiful than any land now known. The Woses, Humans, Trolls, Elves, Merfolk, and Dragons, and beings now forgotten all lived without knowing war. For a reason of which the Elves will not speak, the peace of Aon was broken, war and destruction came, and a remnant fled over the ocean. After a time some of the refugees tried to return to Aon, but no sign of it was ever discovered. Some believe that it Aon was sunk, or burned up, or simply taken away by a great magic. Aon cannot be reclaimed.
Life, Death, Belief
It is taken for granted by most beings on the Great Continent that the Body and Soul are distict, joined for a time in Life. Tales of the Undead demonstrate this, re-animated bodies evidence none of the personality of their former selves, while Ghosts of the restless undead show that the soul may outlast the body. In some cases a Soul may be forcibly joined to a re-animated body by powerful dark magic. Such states of being are regarded by most as terrible violations of the natural order, or at best as pale counterfits of natural life.
However the consequences of a natural death are less well understood. Niether Dark nor Light Magics can provide positive information on the condition of a Soul that has moved on. Each race has distinct beliefs, but it is generally held that the Soul continues indefinitely in a place beyond this world, and that the consequences of actions (whether good or ill) done in life will continue after life.
There are no Higher Power(s) who's actions can be clearly observed in the world around them, but many of the peoples of the Orb believe in some nonetheless.
Trolls are an enigma to the other races; even their allies the orcs know little about them. When the orcs invaded the Northlands from accross the sea, the Trolls occupied the same scattered territories that they do today. The orcs could not dislodge the Trolls from their hills and caves, and somehow their enmity turned to respect and then an alliance.
Trolls tell little about themselves, but are nearly as silent, stubborn, and strong as the rocks of their homelands. Trolls seem content to go for days without speaking or moving. Most accidental encounters with Troll end without the Troll having moved more than it's eyes. However an angered Troll is truely terrible. No other race can equal the raw power a Troll, barehanded they are a match for a well armed soldier. They also ignore pain and can heal on the battle-field, all but the most grevious wounds. The source of this ability, weather natural or magical, is unknown.
Trolls are clumsy, and are generally considered stupid, however it is difficult to judge the intelligence of a creature so inscrutable.
Trolls possess fewer arts than even the Orcs. Sometimes the mightiest trolls will accept armor from the orcs, but they trade little with other races nor do they keep slaves. They prefer living simply in caves near the surface. Trolls do not count years, but it is believed they live a very long time.
Describing a troll as a whelp is something of an oxymoron, given that their bodies are already much hardier than that of a grown man. They are clumsy and not yet capable of walking properly, forced instead to shamble about on all fours, but any inhibition this causes them is more than made up for by the raw strength of their race.
Trolls have been a mote to trouble the thoughts of humanity and dwarf-kind, who remain baffled at the origins of these creatures, and perhaps more importantly, the driving force behind their unnatural vitality and strength. A fully-grown troll towers above a man, and, even unarmed, would be a great threat in combat. The large clubs typically favored in fighting act as extensions of their arms, used for the same purpose of mauling their prey into submission.
The thought of throwing a boulder in combat has certainly occurred to many trolls, and some have taken to them as a weapon of choice. Because such stones are not always easy to find, Rocklobbers have taken to carrying them in sacks slung over their shoulders. The same leather out of which the sack is formed is easily adapted to a crude sling.
Trolls typically neither need nor prefer to use any proper armament in combat, as large 'sticks and stones' serve them all too well. However, trolls have been seen on numerous occasions clad in rough-shod armor and bearing metal hammers. It is speculated that their typical orcish allies are the source and often crafters of these, as expeditions into several forcibly-vacated troll holes have shown little evidence of tool use, and certainly no metalworking of any kind. Given how dangerous a troll is in combat, the thought of a troll in full armor is entirely unsettling.