An ogre is a large humanoid creature, usually at least half-again as tall as an orc or human that possesses incredible strength and reserves of stamina coupled with a ravenous appetite.
They are quite rare within the Empire. In the past they have been systematically hunted when they are found near civilised lands. A few packs exist in the wildest reaches of Varushka and some of the Navarr territories, but most ogres encountered in the Empire have entered from barbarian lands. For some reason they are comparatively common in the wilds east of Dawn, and there are known to be several larger packs in The Barrens. Dealing with a pack of ogres is sometimes considered a fine Test of Mettle for groups of Dawnish knights-errant.
The Jotun, the Thule and even the Druj make use of ogres and ogre packs in their armies. They are given weapons and armour, and as long as they receive a regular supply of fresh meat and opportunity for destruction, they serve as shock troops or heavy infantry. Imperial scouts have observed ogres attacking and killing orcs with as much enthusiasm as they show for attacking humans, and they seem to have no real loyalty to the barbarian forces.
No ogre has ever been observed casting a spell. It is believed that those rare stories of spell-casting ogres are the creation of storytellers; mis-identification of another creature; or the result of a magician (or a powerful creature such as an eternal or sovereign) imbuing an ogre with temporary magical abilities.
Ogres are said to resemble oversized orcs. Scholars point out, however, that they bear as much resemblance to oversized humans - that their perceived 'orcish' traits are as much a result of focusing on bestial traits and conflating those with the traits that Imperial citizens find distasteful in barbarian orcs. Some stories claim that especially hateful, oversized orc chieftains are the result of breeding between ogres and orcs; this is nothing more than a fanciful creation of fabulists. Orcs and ogres are no more capable of breeding together than orcs and humans (or, indeed, ogres and humans).
Almost all ogres possess one or more inhuman features. Common traits observed in ogres include having an odd number of eyes (both a single eye in the middle, and a third functioning eye above the other two); curling horns (similar to those of a cambion) or a single horn reminiscent of a rhinoceros; tusks similar to those of a boar (or, allegedly, those of a mammoth); bony growths on the body especially around the hands, shoulder, knees and upper back; tufts of coarse hair or even fur appearing in patches over their body or occasionally a full-covering pelt of long fur; and mottled or striated marks on the skin, albeit most often in 'normal' ogrish skin colours rather than anything more colourful.
For many centuries it was believed that these characteristics represented many different breeds of ogre, with definable characteristics. Following decades of study the Highborn scholar Shem proved conclusively that these variant breeds were all examples of a single species - like dogs, ogres display a wide variance in their physical characteristics but are all capable of breeding together to produce offspring. Indeed, Shem proved that ogres with very different physical traits could have a direct bloodline connection to each other, and that offspring often lacked traits found in one of their parents.
Ogres keep growing throughout their lifespan. Given that they do not seem to be subject to death from natural causes, there are stories of truly massive ogres. Such creatures are usually called giants and according to legend two or three of them are capable of engaging with entire armies. If such creatures ever truly existed, none have been encountered by Imperial forces in the last three hundred years.
Ogres are freakishly strong. They are capable of wielding massive weapons in one hand and may be able to break down a gate or light palisade with their bare fists. Most often they carry with great clubs (often young trees or fallen logs), sending enemies sprawling with every strike. When equipped with more advanced weapons they are capable of smashing shields and delivering critical wounds against which only the heaviest armour provides protection. Occasionally they take the weapons of fallen foes, but most often they are equipped with advanced weapons (and armour) by the barbarian orcs who use them in their armies.
Ogres are large. Like all such creatures, they are unaffected by many spells and martial tactics (OOC note: they do not suffer the effects of combat or magical calls, although they still take damage from any blows struck to deliver them.) For example, they cannot be poisoned by conventional blade venoms nor knocked down with a polearm strike, and while arrows can wear down their reserves and cause them to retreat they do not have the devastating effectiveness they demonstrate against man-sized enemies.
Ogres have preternatural stamina. Adult ogres a usually covered in scars - they possess superhuman healing reserves and are often capable of shrugging off blows that would cripple a normal orc or human warrior. Furthermore, they are known to be able to speed up their healing factor even more when they have access to large amounts of food - such as the bodies of fallen enemies. An injured ogre that is allowed to flee is often fully recovered by the time it is encountered again.
Culture and Customs
Ogres do not appear to possess any identifiable culture. While intelligent, and capable of speech, they are incredibly stupid by human and orc standards. They possess some cunning, but seem incapable of reading and writing, or of forming complex plans. They do not create any art, not even painting. They seem to live simply to procreate, fight and eat.
They live in small groups, dominated by the strongest and most vicious individual. They claim a territory for themselves, devour every living thing in that territory, then move on. When ogre packs encounter one another, they invariably fight with the losers yielding their territory (and the bodies of their fallen). The presence of an ogre pack in an area is a direct threat to all villages and small towns; ogres tend to avoid larger settlements, or any settlement with a wall.
Lone ogres, especially adolescent ogres, are either outcasts or are on the search for a mate. When two lone ogres of differing genders meet they may fight to the death or they may join together to found a new pack. Baby ogres gestate for seven months, and grow to adulthood within three years - but both pregnant females and their newborn children require three or four times as much food as a normal ogre and can strip an area of animals and plants by the time their children are large enough to hunt for themselves.
In their natural state ogres neither craft nor build. They can serve as labourers but they are barely incapable of remembering instructions from day to day - attempts to use them as workers usually require them to be 'trained' again each morning, and sometimes ends up with the ogres attacking their captors and needing to be killed.
Wild ogres almost invariably have a lair - a lone ogre might lurk in a hollow tree while a pack might take residence in a cave, a ruined building or even underneath a stone bridge. The lair serves as the centre of their territory, and they are especially dangerous when defending it, fighting with even more wild abandon than usual. Ogres accompanying orc armies usually treat the army camp as their lair, and defend it with the same frenzied violence they use to defend their lair in the wild.
All ogres possess voracious appetites, capable of eating anything they can fit into their mouths but with a definite preference for raw meat. Ogres eat their fallen, and when food is scarce young or old ogres are apparently killed and consumed by their stronger relatives. They are also known to take prisoners - such unfortunates are kept alive for a while but always eventually eaten. They do not cook, nor do they seem to have any real understanding of fire, but they enjoy eating cooked meat - stories of ogres forcing human captives to cook for them are based on actual events.
Of special danger to the Empire are ogres that have tasted human flesh or blood - such creatures become subject to a seemingly overwhelming craving for more. It is not known if ogres can develop a similar craving for orcish meat and opportunities to experiment have been limited.
Ogres are vicious, stupid, constantly hungry and prone to lashing out with preternatural strength. An ogre is viewed as a disaster waiting to happen when brought into civilised lands. In 246YE two ogres were brought to Anvil to fight champions for money and wagers. They broke free and went on a rampage that killed eleven people and inflicted significant damage on the tavern and the Senate building before they was brought down by sustained bow and crossbow fire. Ogres are killed when they are encountered, or driven away from civilized lands when they cannot be slain.
Primitive ogres are occasionally mistaken for yeti, often with tragic consequences. Where the yeti are largely peaceful, ogres have a seemingly innate desire to destroy and consume.
Ogres in play
These creatures are dangerous opponents. A lone character would most likely be able to defeat a lone ogre only with a great deal of luck or a clever plan, and a single ogre is capable of threatening an entire small village. A group of ogres is exponentially more dangerous - they represent a credible threat to an village or an experienced band of soldiers.
Stories involving ogres will often revolve around finding a way to outsmart them - for example, luring them into an ambush or a deadfall, poisoning them, tricking them into attacking enemies or each other, or hiding a settlement from their attention until they move on. While they are stupid, they are capable of being cautious or of using stealth to take their prey, and can appreciate the importance of avoiding armed and armoured militia in favour of snatching the young, the isolated or the old.
There have been attempts in the past to domesticate ogres and use them in service of the Empire. This always go badly wrong. Any background in which you successfully domesticate or form a long-term alliance with an ogre is unlikely to be approved.
Likewise, ogres are not available as player characters.