WARNING: The following page contains game secrets intended for campaign designers. We cannot stop anyone from reading it, but if you are a player you should consider hitting your back button now, as you will probably enjoy learning these things more if you do it through the hints dropped at various places in the mainline campaigns.
This is a work-in-progress presenting the current state of the Irdya Canon, the revised lore that will be in Wesnoth 1.16 onwards. Things on here might not be secret, but for a work-in-progress it's easier to write first and then decide whether it should be secret or not.
- The main lore starts in the A grand design for singleplayer mainline lore thread.
- Non-developer users can discuss in the Single Player campaign overhaul discussion (non-Developers Forum version) thread.
Undead themes and backstory
TODO: fill this in
Black magic and secrets of the undead
All races have an affinity for certain types of magic. This includes elves with nature magic or arcane fire, drakes with their internal flames, and dwarves with their runes. The same is true for black magic. Any user of black magic should come from a race with an innate affinity for it. Those that do not cannot use black magic without severe repercussions - usually, this manifests itself as "rotting" the being from within, decaying the body, mind, and soul rapidly over time. Eventually, the body is destroyed even if the user stops using black magic. Note that black magic does not strictly refer to necromancy. Necromancy is a subcategory of black magic, which has many other uses than merely raising undead.
Races with the ability to use black magic (at least in theory) are humans, ogres, naga, and saurians. Merfolk could as well, but it would be very difficult for them. Notable races that cannot use black magic are elves, woses, trolls, drakes, orcs, and dwarves. Any necromancers or liches of these races are automatically non-canon, even if they were in a 1.14 mainline campaign.
The above is also why these races hate black magic to a great degree, even if they might not understand the reason behind it. Black magic is inherently extremely dangerous to them and they are innately disinclined to it, nevermind the moral reasons they may argue against it. Humans, being a rather practical group, have societal reasons they would disallow black magic, but individuals among humans are probably the most inclined to attempt to master black magic. Saurians tend to be interested more in their own witchcraft (note that it is not black magic, though distantly related in some senses), but some individuals may also be inclined to study black magic. This is much less likely for ogres or nagas.
Black magic is a form of magic that manipulates the three pieces of being, "body", "mind", and "soul". Its most widespread use is that for necromancy, although other applications are certainly possible (e.g. the creation of living chimera, manipulation of the "body").
Specifically pertaining to undead, animation of things like skeletons and ghouls constitute manipulation of the "body", while ghosts are manifestations of the "soul". All undead have some form of manipulation of the "mind" in some way or another, since a necromancer does not typically directly manipulate their minions directly. In DiD, Darken Volk notes that novice necromancers may indeed control their skeletons directly with magic like puppets, but neither he nor Malin do this, since this would clearly become prohibitive with a larger army of undead. Instead, the manipulate the "mind", allowing their minions some degree of free will (such as being able to fight on their own) while still retaining sovereignty.
In general, because the "body" is tangible and the "soul" is not, manipulation of the body is simpler. Furthermore, the soul being a creature's essence makes it relatively more difficult to control, which becomes only more true for more powerful spirits, especially the more the "mind" is manipulated. Lesser necromancers rarely use powerful spirits (Spectres and Nightgaunts) because of this; maintaining control over them becomes a direct battle of willpower, which is extremely dangerous to the necromancer themself. Spectres and Nightgaunts tend to be relatively rare compared to other level 3 undead, and only strong necromancers like Malin or Ardonna would come to use them. Average necromancers (even Darken Volk) stick to using Wraiths/Shadows at most.
Another implication of the above is that more complex manipulation of either the "body", "soul", or "mind" requires correspondingly more skill from the necromancer. Ghouls, being a twisted form of flesh, are harder to create than skeletons. Imparting an undead minion with more "mind" (i.e. greater consciousness/free will) is also more difficult to accomplish to begin with, let alone to maintain.
Liches are much rarer, as having too many dilutes the storytelling. The Wesfolks' Lich Lords are still in the Irdya Canon, but not of the Wesfolk anymore.
Orcish themes and backstory
The orcs start out as a race created by Lich Lord Jevyan to be their slaves. Over time, they free themselves from that status and develop their own culture as well as learning more about themselves and their origins. For a long time, they are still seen by the other races as the savage, murderous hordes of destruction they were once created as. This is reinforced by a long tradition of raiding and feuds.
Initially, near their creation in the TRoW timeline, orcs tend to serve as the armies of undead masters, which is specifically what they were bred to do. This would put them at odds with most other races, especially elves, dwarves, and humans, whom Jevyan wages war on with his new armies.
By the time of the HttT timeline, several groups of orcs have broken free of the undead and formed their own clans (example, the prominent Whitefang clan in DiD). While out of habit, they may continue raids on human lands and/or attack other nearby races, some clans begin to grow more peaceful and are willing to coexist with humans in the same space. This is especially true when Asheviere chooses to ally herself with some of them and use them in her armies. Of course, most humans still harbor resentment against orcs due to previous wars/raids (see Malin Keshar), so there would be some infighting within Wesnoth's army itself, and is also why Asheviere is viewed very much as a dictator/evil by her contemporaries. The HttT arc is also where the first orcish shamans begin to appear.
By the time of the NR arc, we see orcs willingly ally themselves with humans and most clans will actively oppose those who violate the pillars of their culture. Many of them start to operate as hunter gatherers with some amount of farming and trading, as opposed to raiding other lands for supplies.
The orcish theme is a sort of "redemption" type of story, where one was "born for evil" but eventually "was shown the error of their ways and turned to good". In this case, it means more of that they were originally bred for war, but nevertheless developed their own culture and society. Asheviere may have played a role in facilitating this when she chose to bring some of them to live alongside humans. However, much of their progression was accomplished on their own. This "redemption" story would be an underlying theme throughout all 3 arcs.
Between the HttT and NR arcs, orcs progress out of their role as servants to powerful undead lords and form their own culture/traditions. In part due to their nature as a created race meant to be slaves, there are a few taboos that are frowned upon (to greater or lesser extents) once they have actually freed themselves from their origins.
1. Slavery. The greatest taboo among orcs by the time of NR is slavery. As slaves originally (but having freed themselves), slavery is not tolerated by most clans, and many would be actively willing to fight against other orcs who do practice slavery. This is present in NR.
2. Undead/black magic. Orcs are extremely averse to any type of undead and black magic. By the time of NR, it is culturally taboo to have any dealings with undead in any way shape or form, and orcs are very likely to try to destroy undead on sight.
- Note that orcs themselves are unable to use black magic.
- Saurian magic is not black magic (although it shares something distantly related in nature), so orcs do not have any issue with them.
3. Breeding/children. In Jevyan's time, orcs were encouraged to breed as much as possible to grow the strength of his armies and enable him to fight against large groups of humans/elves/dwarves. Through the HttT and NR timelines, orcs begin to realize that breeding as much as possible is impractical and actively choose to reduce the number of litters they have. Less of a hard taboo than slavery, it is still frowned upon for an orcish woman to have too many litters within her lifetime.
- TODO: currently a draft, need to finalize the details of orcish biology
- Jevyan originally crafted the orcs to have the ability to breed or swarm to an incredible degree. Orcish lifecycles and pregnancy times are very low, which enables having several litters in a year, as opposed to humans who are limited to one.
- Originally this put a lot of stress on orcish women, who had to spend most of their time breeding and carrying children, which is why they would be less present in the TRoW and early HttT arcs.
- While litter size is of course more or less fixed (due to their biology), orcs may choose to have fewer litters in a year (often one, or one every other year) to enable population control.
- With fewer orcish women having litters (and also having fewer litters), this enabled them to take a greater role in orcish society/culture.
4. Shamans. While orcish men tend to be physically stronger and more suited for battle, orcish women tend to have a greater connection to the orcs' innate nature (similar to elvish shamans). Because of this, we begin to see the rise of the orcish shaman caste later in HttT, which is traditionally held by orcish women. They serve the role of advisors and judiciaries in orcish culture, with each clan having a small group of shamans itself, while a larger group of clans is advised by a special group of shamans (similar to SotBE).
- Typically thought of as the leader of the clan (by other races), an orcish warlord or sovereign governs the day to day dealings of each clan and holds the greatest authority when it comes to the details of doing war (battle strategy).
- The above is not entirely true when it comes to orcish internal dealings. The Elder Shamans (age being an important quality to a short-lived and warlike species) in each clan hold more authority than a clan's warlord, although they do not typically deal with the details of battle strategy or actively participate on the battlefield. However, they may often advise or make a decision on whether or not to do battle, and may resolve disputes between high ranking members within the clan (including the warlord himself). Their word is typically final, and even the chieftain will not disobey a decision made by the lead shaman.
- This is not to say that the lead shamans govern the clan. They typically fulfill the role of advisors and will only make a ruling/decision in critical circumstances or if asked to by other important members of the clan. Most details and decisions are left to the warlord, who is the de facto leader of the clan.
- The shaman council that advises several groups of clans operates in a similar manner, where they may advise a sovereign or a group of warlords, but typically do not make final decisions. In the event that they do, their word is taken as final. Orcs typically do not disrespect the authority of the shamans, which would be treated as taboo.
- Part of the practical reason this is the case is that shamans hold the greatest knowledge of orcish lore and their origins. Even warlords (the strongest orc in a clan, usually) are quick to recognize the value of that wisdom and insight into their nature.
- Shamans usually operate in groups, such as like a council (where each shaman has equal standing, though deference to elders is usually given). In the event that a shaman tries to abuse her power, typically other shamans will step in and remove the offender.
- Likewise, a warlord (especially a mighty sovereign) may have enough force of arms to disobey the shamans. Typically, other orcs (high ranking clan members or other warlords) will step in to remove the offender in this case.
- In times of war or when a warlords earns allegiance of lesser tribes it can happen that an orc obtains the title of sovereign. In rare cases, such an orc was appointed by shaman councils without actually being his tribes warlords.
- Exceptions to this dynamic might make for an interesting campaign.
- TODO: create a native orcish term for "shaman", "Elder Shaman", and "shaman council".
5. Differences in culture between various orcish tribes. - TODO: add details here. @Whiskeyjack
Arc 1: The Rise of Wesnoth
Currently responsible: nemaara/Yumi and doofus-01 (for SoF)
Campaigns in this arc: TRoW, LoW, SoF, SotA (TODO: work with beetlenaut to see if a revision on this is okay)
Central story elements:
- Green isles background
- Lich Lords
- Founding of Wesnoth
- Introduction of the Ruby of Fire and creation of the sceptre
Arc 2: Heir to the Throne
Currently responsible: nemaara/Yumi
Campaigns in this arc in order: TSG, AA (Angel of Ashes), DM (Demon of Embers, builds on tidbits of Defaldors Memoirs), Liberty, HttT.
Central story elements:
- fall of king Garard II, rise of queen Asheviere
- story of Defaldor
- Asheviere as the first person to seek different relations to the orcs
- story of Konrad and Lisar
Arc 3: Northern Rebirth
Currently responsible: Whiskeyjack
Campaigns in this arc: NR, EI, DW, IoM (Isle of Mists).
Included in some way or another: THoT, SotBE
Central story elements:
- creation of the Northern Alliance
- (political) emancipation of the orcs
- Mal Ravanal's invasion(s)
Only loosely connected to the three arcs will be DiD, UtBS.
Under rework for standalone: AToTB, MP adaptation (responsible: EarthCake and LordLewis).
Lore revisions: Drake lore and potential WoV rework (currently removed). Currently responsible: ItsTom, RangerLOL, sigurdfdragon - TODO: there are 2 current drake projects in parallel, perhaps we could find a way to make them work together?
Campaigns not yet accounted for: AoI (removed).