Imperial Orcs look and feel
The Imperial Orc look is a patchwork of second-hand clothing and equipment collected together. Equipment is aged and worn, a reflection of the Orc preference for old items with history and story over things that are new. Imperial Orcs have been free for barely the span of two generations, enough time to learn basic skills but not enough to master them. Moreover most orcs take pride in being able to make and maintain their own clothing and equipment but they have little interest in their appearance. As such Imperial Orc craftwork lacks sophistication - it is simple and practical.
Base colours are dull or dark; brown is seen as a practical colour that hides mud and dirt stains. These will be contrasted with stark colours like blood red or midnight blue. The surface of weapons and armour are often treated, dulling, darkening or painting the metal to protect them against further rust. Clothing and equipment are all marked with symbols of identity, painted, carved or stitched onto the surface.
Imperial Orcs are practical people who like their belongings to reflect their physical lifestyle. As a result clothing tends to be strong and hard wearing, to resist wear. Leather is common, as are linen and wool - practical materials that will wear well and can be patched and repaired. Tailoring is basic; most orcs wear a simple tunic often combined with a warskirt made up of pieces of leather hung from a belt.
Weapons are heavy and solid, designed to withstand the most brutal impacts without shattering and to pulverize bones rather than cut the flesh. Bows and crossbows are both used occasionally, but most orcs prefer to get close to their enemy.
- Feel: Proud, practical, poor, old, worn, independent, physical, fierce.
- Influences: Costume is heavily influenced by the Dark Ages; weapons and armour by the Lord of the Rings.
- Materials: Practical and hard wearing materials like wool, hessian, canvas and especially leather. Materials are usually dyed or stained to protect them and to hide mud or dirt. They also use iron reinforcing clothing with plates of iron and patches of chain.
- Colours: Dull or dark natural shades, particularly brown. Primary colours such as blood red or midnight blue may be used for contrast or to highlight an item.
The basic Imperial Orc costume is a woolen t-tunic or similar linen tunic with a simple cut. Dark Age fabrics and costume patterns with their simple cuts are ideal for Imperial Orcs. These drawings show some of the art team’s original ideas for Imperial Orcs in the Empire setting based on the ideas that their clothing is simple practical items they have taught themselves to make since winning their freedom.
Clothing is often supplemented with patches of mail or pieces of plate. Orcs are no more likely than any other Imperial Citizen to wear armour all the time, but armour is considered a mark of status, so small pieces of armour demonstrate the wearer’s right to dress as they please.
Many things owned by Imperial Orcs are ripped and torn or pitted with rust, their appearance hopelessly affected by the rigours of age and hard use. Orcs regard these signs of age as a necessary improvement for a thing to gain worth and care little for the aesthetics. As a result their appearance is usually a motley collection of clothing and items that have been worn and used for decades.
Imperial Orc clothing is often heavily patched and repaired. Being independent of others means being able to maintain your own belongings, so most orcs mend their own clothes. Ever pragmatic, the repairs are usually made with whatever materials are readily to hand.
A war skirt is a common piece of Imperial Orc clothing, fashioned from layers of leather worn over each other and secured to a heavy leather belt or hero belt.
Leg and Arm Wraps
Almost all Imperial Orcs wear wraps around their ankles, wrists and neck to hide any scars once caused by chains and manacles. Many orcs now use other garments to cover these areas, but almost all orcs cover them in some way. To leave the skin in these areas exposed is considered shameless by most Imperial Orcs - a taboo akin to public nudity. Wraps are less common in battle, but heavy gauntlets and boots cover the ankles and bevors are a common piece of armour worn to protect the neck as well as cover it.
Wraps or similar are not essential, but they are a very effective way to easily hide skin on the wrists ankles and neck. This means you don't have to bother painting it and avoids all the usual complications and problems when make-up runs.
Imperial Orcs Warriors
Heavy, layered armour, thick leather, mail and plate are common. Imperial Orc armour usually shows signs of wear. Mail and plate is often rusted while the surface of leather armour will usually be cut and notched. It is extremely rare for armour to be made as a complete suit - it is much more common for pieces to be cannibalized from various disparate sources.
They prefer weapons that can endure for generations without shattering or corroding away. As a result they favour oversized weapons with plenty of heft designed to smash through bone rather than to thrust or pierce the flesh. Swords usually have thick heavy blades almost like cleavers. Many continue the blade over the guard of the handle giving the weapon a fierce and brutal demeanour.
Round shields are preferred, usually painted or daubed with crude symbols. Warcasters often use a kite shield rather than a round shield both to have the biggest shield possible and to make up for their lack of heavy armour.
Imperial Orcs Magicians
Mage armour is often fashioned from thin leather with symbols interwoven with runes and other decorations.
Shamans prefer implements fashioned from or decorated with with bone. Warcasters prefer heavy iron rods that can serve as effective weapons without the aid of magic.
Icons and Artistry
Orcs feel a strong need to be part of a well-defined group. They tend to see the group’s identity as an essential part of their own identity, and they like to have clearly visible symbols of membership.
Orc symbols are usually added to items by the owner themselves. The simplest are painted or drawn, but more skilled orcs will burn, gild or embroider symbols onto their belongings. Orcs dislike uniformity so symbols are often recurring interpretations of a theme rather than a specific design used by everyone. In a legion of orcs that use a dagger as their symbol for example, each design may be a slightly different shape, size and colour, but provided they make the individual’s legion clearly identifiable then they achieve their purpose. It is the underlying motif that it is prized; the visible demonstration of allegiance.
Many Imperial Orcs have adopted the Imperial Horse as the unofficial symbol of their nation. They embellish personal equipment with the image and incorporate it into banners and other symbols. Most orcs belong to a legion and the Imperial Horse usually takes pride of place next to the legion symbol.
Orc iconography itself is often stark, hard edged or stylised and almost seems to be an opposite to the extravagant artistry of Dawnish heraldry. It often depicts chains, manacles or other items associated with slavery and hard labour alongside more martial symbols like weapons or armour.
There is always some element of Imperial imagery included in Legion banners, though they are also depicted with a similar martial aspect. For example the horse is generally armoured, the crown mounted on or part of a helm.
The colours used often ape the limited palette of Highguard with red, black and white being popular, as well as occasional use of Imperial gold and purple. However the main body of many Legion and group banners come in a wide range of colours with each one bearing some significance to the individual Legion or group.
In defining the ideal look and feel for the Imperial Orcs we have chosen not to include some images. Orcs are a common feature in many settings but we wanted to create our own version of orcs that fit with the story and setting of Empire. For this reason we deliberately omitted elements from other settings that are so striking and memorable that it is impossible to see them without thinking of the game that created them.
We've listed some of the items we chose not to include in the look and feel below along with a short explanation of why they are not perfect for the Imperial Orcs. It is okay to use these items as part of your kit, creating a costume is always a compromise as time and money are limited. What we want to do is be clear on the suggestions we are making, so that players who are looking to create new kit or add to their existing kit can be confident about what will look great for the nation.
Warhammer and Warhammer 40K
The Games Workshop settings are iconic and memorable and have inspired many LRP characters. The imagery is instantly recognizable to anyone who is familiar with the games and conjures up images of the culture and style of Games Workshop orcs. We have deliberately chosen to draw most of our inspiration from the orcs and the Uruk-hai presented in the recent Lord of the Rings movies rather than the Games Workshop setting. For this reason it is much better to avoid iconic Games Workshop symbols like the yellow crescent of the Bad Moon Orcs or the vibrant green of their green skins if humanly possible.
The Lidless Eye and the White Hand
Orcs in Empire are far from the bestial creatures presented in the books and films but Tolkien's orcs are one of the inspirations that we have used. However neither Saruman nor Sauron exists in Empire so it is better to avoid their iconic symbols, the lidless eye and the white hand, if possible.