Posts tagged Green Ronin

Ork! The Roleplaying Game

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RPG Blog CarnivalThis month’s blog carnival topic is hosted by Arcane Shield. The author’s topic is to Pimp a Game, promoting lesser known RPG games that we adore.

One of the great things about my time in the Wittenberg Role-playing Guild was the fact that I got to try a large variety of lesser known systems. There are several RPGs that I really enjoy that haven’t gotten nearly enough attention. Among them are:

  • Traveller (previously reviewed here and here)
  • Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space
  • Paranoia
  • Star Wars d6

But as I was thinking about which game I wanted to talk about for this blog carnival, I remembered a truly obscure game that I absolutely adore: Ork! The Roleplaying Game.

Ork! The Roleplaying Game was the first product ever produced by Green Ronin, which has since produced many popular products like Mutants & Masterminds, Freeport, True20, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Dragon Age. Ork is only a mere 64 pages, but it’s a whole heck of a lot of fun as a “beer and pretzels” game.

Theme

Ork! The Roleplaying GameThe premise of the game is that you are Orks. Brawny, bloodthirsty, and stupid orks. As the book says, the Orks live by one simple principle: “Me am Ork! Me am kill you now!”

Religion is very important to Orks, who worship the angry god Krom (played by the GM). They believe that he threw up the world over the course of fourteen thousand days, but threw up the Orks last. When he told the Orks that they were his chosen people, they simply yelled back “You am shut up!” Thus there is always a tenuous relation between Krom and Orks. Sometimes he helps them out in battle and sometimes he gets angry. When he gets really, really angry, he turns them into pinecones.

This basically means that Krom is encouraged to do whatever the heck he wants to. Give high modifiers, give low modifiers, or have them get carried off by flying monkeys, smashed by a troll, or turned into a pinecone, it’s all fair game. The way I play it, this usually winds up turning into a Paranoia-style game where Orks are frequently getting killed, but another one is always back to replace him. The fact that character creation takes about 2 minutes (less if you know what you’re doing) helps a lot with this!

Mechanics

Part of the reason that Ork works so well is the mechanics. Traits are rolled by die pools. Each Skill category has a die type (e.g. d8) and then each skill has a number in it (e.g. 3). When you roll them together, you roll the number of dice as indicated by the skill and roll the related attribute die. If you have a 3 in Eyeball and a d10 in Twitch, youʼd roll 3d10 and add the total together. The result is a pretty chaotic and hard to predict die result, which fits with the theme of the game.

All die rolls are opposed. Most often, it’s between the player and Krom, and Krom is encouraged to make up his die pools as needed (perhaps 5d12 on a task he doesn’t want to happen, and 1d4 on a task he really does). This makes things fairly random and chaotic, and it’s always fun when the player’s 3d6 pool beats the 5d12 that Krom used to stop them (or vice versa). This also means that you can pull of some ridiculous tasks: want to jump over the forest? If your dice get lucky enough, you totally can!

Most enemies go down with one hit, but Orks themselves have different wound rules than enemies and can heal pretty easily. To me, this is a real strength in the game. It allows the Orks to swath through hordes of “squishy men” and also means that PvP combat isn’t very effective. Fighting other Orks is definitely encouraged (with the occasional bonk on the head), but ultimately isn’t very effective, meaning that players won’t resort to it all the time and will focus on more interesting things.

Finally, Krom can hand out Ork Points for things like talking like an Ork, committing wanton violence, drinking anything vaguely alcoholic, or exhibiting some other Orkish behavior. Conversely, Krom can take them away for un-Ork-like behavior, like sitting in a field of flowers and admiring their beauty. These points can be used to add dice when you need it or reroll your die pool. I’m a big fan of systems that allow the GM to hand out some bonus for good roleplaying and Ork totally allows you to do this.

Scenarios

It wouldn’t be a good review of Ork without talking about the scenarios that come with it. Generally it involves a fantasy setting, mixed with some bizarre, anachronistic elements through the use of mysterious time portals that things come out of or the Orks go into. The intro scenario in the book has something like that where they discover that the medieval Squishy Men have obtained (spoiler: a Chevy Malibu) that fell out of the sky.

The official website has two additional scenarios for download: Mister Ork’s Wild Ride! (where they go to an amusement park) and Santa Claus vs. the Orks! (where they go to the North Pole). I once wrote a scenario called “Orks in New York!” where they wind up in the city of “New Ork” and try to steal the golden flame from the green queen and have all sorts of hijinks along the way. I think these scenarios perfectly capture the spirit of Ork and they’re incredibly fun!

Conclusion

Ork is a fantastic roleplaying game for when you just want to leave your intellect out the door and play a roleplaying game with wanton violence and stupidity, while laughing the whole time. It’s definitely a great “beer and pretzels” game for the occasional one-shot.

The game isn’t perfect. I think that early in its development it suffered from not having a clear idea of what type of humor it wanted to embrace. The scenarios and some of the book embraces ridiculous scenarios (which I adore), but sometimes it tries to go for gross out humor or tries to downplay the humor, especially for long-term, more serious game (there are rules for playing a campaign with it, even though I doubt anybody ever tried). There are also some rules quirks, like ranged enemies have to make an opposed roll against Krom, meaning that Krom is rolling dice against himself.

Ultimately though, I think that the three published scenarios perfectly capture the tone and the rules quirks are easy enough to avoid because Krom gets to bend the rules anyway. This game is an incredibly entertaining and, if you can find a copy, it’s definitely worth it. Green Ronin has said they’d like to make a new edition someday and I’d love to see it happen!

A Review of Some Christmas Scenarios

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Like it or not, we’re about a week away from Christmas! Many of us celebrate it in real life, so why not also celebrate it in our role-playing games? I’ve found into a few Christmas themed scenarios that I’d like to review (the first two I’ve run as well):

Silent Night, Hungry Night (Deadlands Reloaded)

Ever wonder what Christmas is like in the Weird West? The characters are on a train that breaks down on Christmas Eve, but fortunately there’s a small town nearby that might be willing to put up the passengers for the night. But it turns out that they’re rather hostile towards the newcomers since a group of raiders from a nearby town came by and now they barely have enough food for themselves. If the group is going to have a warm place to sleep tonight and the people are going to have a merry Christmas, then this town is going to need some heroes! But little do they know that there is something far more sinister and stranger going on…

This adventure is a free one-sheet adventure (actually it’s one and a half sheets) published by Pinnacle Entertainment and written by Shane Hensley himself. As Deadlands scenarios go, it’s more of a traditional Western scenario with only a bit of the supernatural included. The focus is mostly investigation, but does have combat at the end. When I ran it last Christmas, I found that it also made a decent scenario for introducing players to Deadlands.

One thing about the scenario is that players will eventually discover that they are in a twist of another Christmas story that they’ll recognize (I won’t say which one!). It’s a great moment when they finally realize it, especially seeing how it’s been twisted into Deadlands. If the GM isn’t careful, it could come across as cheesy, but the reveal happens when the players are in a really bad situation, so hopefully the players won’t be inclined to poke holes at it.

If you’d like a bit of Christmassy Deadlands this scenario is definitely worth running. It’s strongly tied to the feel of the setting though, so if you’re just looking for a Christmas scenario for the sake of Christmas, you might be more interested in one of the other scenarios.

Santa Claus vs. The Orks! (Ork! The Roleplaying Game)

First off, this is a scenario for Ork! The Roleplaying Game from Green Ronin. It’s a fairly obscure system, but it’s an absolutely hilarious “beer & pretzels” game. Each of the players is a brawny, stupid Ork who is typically out to do some crazy quest that the Ork Shaman has sent you on. Usually it involves wanton violence and the killing of as many “Squishy Men” as they can find. It’s pretty easy to learn and is a lot of fun for one-shots.

In this free scenario, the Ork Shaman has sent the Orks on a mission to steal the heart of the “Crumpet Man Shaman” who he says “am jolly, fat person who am rule over Crumpet Men” who make toys. Not long after, they jump through a magic portal and arrive at the North Pole. There’s terrifying singing (Fa la la la la, la la la la!), a factory of terror (Santa’s toy factory), a stable of flying reindeer (which the Orks can try to ride), and the jolly Crumpet Man Shaman himself who declares that the Orks are very, very naughty!

With a creative group, this one is a riot and in some ways is stronger because it plays off the fact that it’s so cheesy. If you can get your hands on a copy of Ork! The Roleplaying Game (which unfortunately has been out of print for some time), this is definitely worth running!

A Kringle in Time (Risus)

Risus is an ingenious (and free!) RPG where characters don’t have stats, they have clichés which they use to solve their problems. Any sort of hero you can think of will work with this system. There is a $15 scenario named “A Kringle in Time” which throws in just about everything into it. Perhaps it’s best if I just give the description of the scenario:

This is an adventure about saving Christmas from an ancient evil. This is an adventure about murdering Santa Claus for his own good (seven times). This is an adventure about shopping, and family, and eggnog, and Jesus Christ, who appears here courtesy of the Almighty God, along with his robot duplicate. This is an adventure about the stress of fast-food employment, the grandeur of world-domination plans, the difficulty of pronouncing things in Welsh, and about toys nobody wants.

I haven’t run (or played it) it before, but it certainly sounds like it could make a riotous adventure with the right GM.

The Battle of Christmas Eve (Savage Worlds)

This is a really creative scenario in which you are all Toy Story-like toys who wake up at night when nobody is around. The Battle of Christmas Eve is a free scenario written by Paul “Wiggy” Wade Williams, author of many Savage Worlds scenarios as well as All for One: Régime Diabolique. In this one, it’s Christmas Eve and a group of rogue toys are threatening to ruin Emily’s Christmas. It’s your job to go in and save the day while fighting the rogue toys and avoiding Mittens the cat.

Aside from being a rather adorable concept, it’s actually a very well written scenario with a lot of variety. There’s combat (GI Joe guns are deadly to toys!) and also recruitment of other toys and the need to accomplish strategic objectives. And it even takes advantage of some of the Savage Worlds subsystems by including a chase and a Mass Battle showdown underneath the Christmas tree. There’s also a note that 1 game inch represents 1 real world inch in this scenario, so you could even use your own toys to travel around your house instead of using a battle mat!

Although this would be a lot of fun with adults, I have to say I really wish that I had a group of little kids to play this with, probably using a simplified version of Savage Worlds. It’s really a brilliant scenario and of all the ones on this list is probably my favorite.

So that’s four great Christmas scenarios to add some holiday cheer to your gaming. Are there any others out there that I don’t know about?

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