Monday, February 22, 2010

Orcs and the Caves of Chaos

This week I will share some gaming epiphanies I experienced while playing Dungeons & Dragons. I have enjoyed this game off and on, for nearly 30 years now. I started playing in the spring of 1981, using the rules from the boxed Basic Set. The dice already seemed pretty intriguing. Who knew that dice could have more than 6 sides? 

I fell in love with the orcs very quickly, and the first mini-adventure I ran included some orcs in an underground river. They made great enemies - cunning at times, but mostly brutal and barbaric.They were easy enough to fight at the lowest levels of game play, but they were tough enough - and interesting enough - to use as good monster thugs through mid-level gaming (4th to 7th levels).

The Basic Set's accompanying adventure, Gary Gygax's The Keep on the Borderlands, featured a linked set of orc lairs at a locale known as the Caves of Chaos. It brought a lot of the monsters' characteristics to the table. The orcs weren't just a bunch of statistics; they played like orcs. For example, a sentry watched one cavern entrance by poking his head through a secret wall opening to rest it upon a shelf of head trophies; the two chieftains did not trust each other and would take over their ally's clan if the players killed or captured him. 

The adventure really did a great job of bringing out the flavor of all the monsters that it featured. It had about a dozen or so cave lairs, mostly  inhabited by an assortment of tribal humanoid warbands, but they each behaved differently.

Note: The cover to The Keep on the Borderlands (see right), features old school orcs, complete with boar-like tusks. One of the iconic images of the game is that elf shooting the orc in the chest with an arrow. 

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