Sunday, January 28, 2018

ACKS: Orc Chieftain Abilities

As I've mentioned before, Shadow of Mordor is kind of a terrible game.  But one thing it does do well is that its orcish captains have character and variety.  So let's steal the good parts, shall we?

Orcish subchieftains get two rolls on abilities and one on weaknesses; orcish chieftains get three abilities and one weakness.  You could give champions one ability, but there are too many champions.  A warband's champions will usually be equipped in the same way as their subchieftain and are often assembled as a bodyguard (to match PC action economy).

Orcish abilities:
  1. Mad Dog: Berserkergang, Fighting Style (Two-Handed), two-handed weapon
  2. Impaler: x2 damage on charge, Fighting Style (Polearm), polearm
  3. Whirlwind: Fighting Style (Two Weapons), Running, Swift Sword 1/day, two weapons
  4. Ironhide: +2 AC, -1 damage per die from nonmagical weapons
  5. Scarred: +2 AC, Savage Resilience
  6. Strong: +2 to hit and melee damage
  7. Ogreborn: Giant Strength 1/day
  8. Trollkin: Regenerate 1HP/round, can only be killed with fire or acid
  9. Deadeye: Precise Shooting x3, arbalest
  10. Warpig: Dire boar mount, Riding, lance
  11. Duelist: +1 to hit, damage, and AC, Combat Trickery (Disarm), Combat Reflexes, challenges PCs to single combat
  12. Crustacean: Plate, shield, Fighting Style (Shield)
  13. Packmaster: Beast Friendship, 2d4 wolves
  14. Firebrand: 6 flasks military oil, torch, Fighting Style (Missile), Resistance to Fire continual effect
  15. Chosen: Divine Blessing, Protection from Good, Prayer 1/day
  16. Evil Eye: Bestow Curse 3/day
  17. Howler: Fear 1/day (deaf targets unaffected)
  18. Ambusher: Ambushing, Naturally Stealthy (-1 to opponent surprise rolls), Sniping, arbalest
  19. Rhymer: Inspire Courage, Military Strategy, Leadership, might even be literate
  20. Second Sight: See Invisible constant effect, Alertness, Combat Reflexes
  21. Pestilence: Divine Health, unarmed melee attacks do 1d4 damage and save vs death or contract disease (as reversed Cure Disease)
  22. Leaper: Acrobatics, Jump constant effect, Skirmishing
  23. Arrow-Catcher: Protection from Normal Missiles when not flat-footed / surprised / unconscious
  24. Manhunter: Tracking, Land Surveying, Endurance
  25. Elf-Eater: Arcane Dabbling, Sensing Power, Elven Bloodline
  26. Leech-Keeper: Healing 3, healing herbs
  27. Nightstalker: +30' infravision, Silent Step constant effect, Ambushing, attacks at night when possible
  28. Poisoner: Alchemy 2, Naturalism, 3 doses of hellebore poison
  29. Treacherous: Always behaves as if friendly, regardless of reaction roll, until opportunity arises.  Ambushing.
  30. Cannibal: Black Lore, ghoul claw/claw/bite and paralysis, slain opponents rise as ghouls
Looking at that list, I figure most of those average to about half a * each for XP purposes.  There are some that are closer to a *, and some that are much weaker, and I'm OK with that.

Weaknesses:  Come in sort of three flavors - exploitable personality flaws, old injuries, and phobias.  Injuries work just like permanent wounds from the mortal wounds table, and have a 75% chance of having been inflicted by some other (still living) orc subchieftain or chieftain in the region, who the injured orc holds a grudge against.  Phobias cause an immediate morale roll at -2 when the orc is exposed to them.
  1. One-eye: Missing eye (-2 to missile attack throws), may have grudge
  2. One-ear: Severed ear (-1 to hear noise and surprise throws), may have grudge
  3. Mute: Severed tongue (cannot speak, -4 to reaction rolls; if was Rhymer, becomes Howler), may hold grudge
  4. Limper: Lamed leg (-30' speed; if was Leaper, becomes Warpig), may hold grudge
  5. Meathook: Severed hand, replaced with hook, may hold grudge
  6. Fear of fire: checks morale at -2 when takes fire damage
  7. Fear of spiders: checks morale at -2 when confronted with giant spiders
  8. Fear of eagles: checks morale at -2 when confronted with giant birds
  9. Fear of elves: checks morale at -2 when confronted with elves
  10. Fear of magic: checks morale at -2 when is the target of a spell
  11. Fear of undead: checks morale at -2 when confronted with undead
  12. Fear of riders: checks morale at -2 when confronted with cavalry
  13. Contemptuous: never takes or interrogates prisoners, just leaves enemy wounded on field of battle
  14. Sadistic: after battle, sets up camp and spends one day per wounded prisoner torturing (max 1 week) rather than pursuing
  15. Vengeful: always pursues retreating parties when possible
  16. Greedy: all PCs may use Bribery against this orc, who may be tempted to do stupid things by promise of wealth
  17. Simple: not very smart, even for an orc; -2 Strategic Ability, tends to take others at their word
  18. Old: -1 to hit and damage, +1 Strategic Ability, easy to convince other orcs to challenge for dominance
  19. Sot: always up for a drink; often hungover, easy to poison.
  20. Addict: has a craving for that dank halfling pipeweed, will go to great lengths to get it.

So what does this look like in practice?

Let's take two camps each of 5 warbands and see what we get.

Village 1:
Chieftain: Gorgum Nightstalker - Strong, Nightstalker, Leech, Vengeful
  • Naftar the Tongueless - Howler, Second Sight, Mute, not inflicted by an orc in this region
  • Urmok Trollkin - Trollkin, Poisoner, Fear of Undead
  • Kragog the Old - Trollkin, Ironhide, Old
  • Snagog One-Eye - Arrow-Catcher, Evil Eye, One-Eye, inflicted by another orc in the region
  • Mugrik the Tower - Crustacean, Arrow-Catcher, Fear of Fire
Village 2:
Chieftain: Drugak the Dog - Packmaster, Pestilence, Ogreborn, Simple
  • Lamush the Loud - Howler, Scarred, Sot
  • Mugrish the Mighty - Strong, Ogreborn, One-Ear, inflicted by another orc in the region
  • Lagrat the Limper - Impaler, Rhymer, Limper, inflicted by another orc in the region
  • Gnarosh the Foul - Pestilence, Whirlwind, Fear of Magic
  • Chugash the Chosen - Chosen, Scarred, Contemptuous
  • Enok Elf-Eater - Elf-Eater, Arrow-Catcher, Meathook (inflicted by elves, of course)
Rolling some d12s, we find that Snagog One-Eye lost his eye to Mugrish the Mighty, who in turn lost his ear to Kragog the Old, sowing the seeds of some good inter-village enmity.  Lagrat the Limper, however, had his injury inflicted by Enok Elf-Eater, of his own village - wonderfully exploitable by PCs.  Another thing, looking at those villages, is that Drugak and Mugrish are both Ogreborn and might be related; likewise Urmok and Kragog with Trollkin.  I am a little sad that I didn't roll any Mad Dog, Firebrand, or Warpig; oh well.

Guess I really ought to write a name-generation table too; wouldn't be too bad, you basically have a list of valid first syllables and a list of valid second syllables.

One possible issue with this approach is that orc subchieftains rapidly stop being serious individual threats by like 4th level; I feel like giving them another hit die or two (4HD is a hero, after all) and expanding their threat range into the midlevels would keep all this work rolling abilities relevant for longer.  On the upside, there are some abilities that stay relevant into mass combat (like Howler and Prayer) even if the subchieftains themselves are pretty weak.


  1. I like this. In fact, I am starting to feel like this sort of thing should be much more common -- if not among all monsters, than among intelligent monsters, or at least social humanoids.

  2. Very cool methinks. I'll be using this.