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Elves vs. Orcs

Updated on December 15, 2019

December 2019: An Update

I originally published this article in March of 2015. Although nothing has changed when it comes to this story and what it meant to me, I wanted to revisit it, update things, clean up the text and the narrative a bit, and see where I could improve upon the article. I hope I have succeeded!

Elves, Orcs, And Fond Memories

Some time ago, I compiled a journal of what I still consider to be the best Fantasy Role-Playing Campaign I ever had the pleasure of participating in. I compiled this story after someone one of the many message boards I used to frequent asked about everyone's favorite role-playing campaign. Although I have been in many campaigns prior and since this one took place back when I was stationed on the USS RANGER (CVA-61), none have compared. I thought it might be nice to share that experience with you.


I had a friend (we will call him 'Jack' {1}; quite possibly the best Game Master I ever played under) that had a campaign world where the Elves hated the Orcs so badly that the lines of who was wrong in that conflict got very blurry. We ran that game for nearly two years before we found the root of all of the Elves hatred.

It seems that the Elves have never really liked the Orcs very much. Orcs represent everything that goes against the beautiful people outlook that the Elves maintained. Then, in the third age of this world (yea, I know... it is always the third age), something happened. The first Half-Orc was born. The Elves knew that there was a bond between themselves and Humans, as the Half-Elf (called Half-Human in their language, by the way) had been around for some time. But when a Half-Orc was born it shattered the superiority complex that they had lived under.

After all, if Elves and Humans can have offspring, and Humans and Orcs can have offspring, then it stands to reason that Elves and Orcs can have offspring as well. And this means that there is some sort of relationship between the Elves and these uncivilized animals that they had ignored for so long. This erupted in a war that lasted for nearly three thousand years. In Jack's campaign, the Orcs were starting to win. We began the game just as the war was tilting in favor of the Orcs.

Like I wrote above, we had been playing in that campaign for nearly two years before all of this backstory was revealed. We had been fed a long line of lies by the Elves for most of that time for why the war was being wages (tales of terrorism and such against the Elves, etc). When we discovered what the Elves were doing was just as bad (if not much, much worse than the Orcs), it took my group six sessions to figure out just what-the-[expletive deleted] we were going to do...

{1} The two player's whose names I list in this article have been changed because I have not seen these people in years and have no permissions to discuss their lives in any way. So in order to protect their privacy, I will use pseudonyms.

GURPS 3rd Edition

GURPS 3rd Edition (Revised)
GURPS 3rd Edition (Revised) | Source

Cast of Characters

I loved that game.

It was the first GURPS game I was involved in that I was not running... The party was made up of six characters.

  • A High Elf Diplomat/Mage (Water and Earth spells)
  • A Wood Elf Ranger/Mage (Plant and Food spells)
  • A Human Knight of the Sword (Sword and Shield Type)
  • A Human Diplomat/Knight of the Blood (Tactician and Negotiator)
  • A Goblin Tinker/Mage (Fire and Air spells)
  • A Satyr Ranger/Rogue (A bit of a Casanova-type)

Notes: High Elves were the basic Elf package from GURPS Fantasy Folk with an additional level of Magery. Wood Elves were the basic Elf Package with an additional -1 ST, +1 DX, loose the Live an Elegant Life and social graces stuff; add some Wilderness Survival and skill bonuses. A Knight of the Sword was a Warrior in the Human Kingdoms that is given Noble Status not from birth, but from winning the Annual Warrior Games; this was a tough cookie... A Knight of the Blood was a title bestowed upon the second and subsequent sons of a Lord (a Landed Knight).

I was playing the Diplomat/Knight of the Blood. As I stated before, the game opened up with tales of Elves being terrorized and slaughtered on the borderlands far to the East. We got stories of atrocities I will not repeat here (just know that Jack was a very graphic person; his descriptions were enough that my friend, 'Ned' -- who played the Wood Elf Ranger/Mage -- was often sick to his stomach).

A Mercenary Company

The Elves had, long ago signed a treaty of peace with the Human Kingdom to the West (where most of us were from). Due to political infighting in the Human Kingdoms, the King was not able to send troops to aid (nor even sign an alliance, to be honest) but he did issue a decree that the King would pay a bounty for each Orc that was killed. To ensure that this was indeed a true Orc killing, we were required to scalp them. We were paid when we turned in the scalp to any of the local lords or sheriffs.

My character's brother (the Knight of the Sword) grabbed me and off we went. In those first couple of sessions, it was an interesting trek through Elf territory with some very cool descriptions of Elf living. We managed to pick up the two Elf characters at this point. As we neared the borderlands, we picked up the Goblin (an odd character, to be sure) and the Satyr. So, Jack (the GM), I and five other players had begun this campaign... We started out as 150 point characters.

At the earliest portions of the game it was some simple raids of Orc camps that had managed to sneak their way into the Elf-claimed lands. We did a lot of these to start out. Each one was interesting in that it had at least one thing out of place. None of the things were seemingly related to each other; many of us were beginning to believe that Jack was just flying by the seat of his pants.

After a few months of gaming, we started having a recurring enemy. A Half-Orc by the name of Red Pilgrim that seemed damn near unstoppable. This son-of-a-bitch was fast, accurate as hell with a bow, and seemed nearly unhittable. We chased this guy across a few thousand miles of broken territory — deep into Orc-claimed lands.

By this time, we were no longer raiding Orc camps filled with Orc Soldiers... we were raiding Orc villages with women, children and the like scattered about. We had taken some nine villages out completely — a total of about 1,500 Orcs all told. We torched them; we slaughtered them in their sleep and the whole time we congratulated ourselves for wiping this menace to civilized society off the earth. We were good. Damn good.

Phase II

And so, after three years (about a year of real time) of exploring deeper and deeper into Orc territory; and returning to the borderlands long enough to re-supply ourselves and such we were all in the realm of 200-225 points or so. Most of us had reputations as valiant Orc killing machines. That was when two things happened:

  • we met up with an old Elven Sage
  • the Orcs started employing hired thugs

Each time we returned to replenish our supplies, the old sage was telling us stories of the first meeting between Elf and Orc. He told us of how the Elves offered the Olive branch and the Orcs offered the Sword — and thus the fighting began. Even this 2,000 year-old sage would tell us that these were stories handed down from his Great-Great Grandfather...

The Thugs were Ogres, Minotaur and the like. Even some Goblins (which chaffed our Goblin Tinker to no end). For the Goblins, we showed mercy; to the others, we were just as mechanical in how we went about slaughtering them.

Phase III

After another year (the next month in real time) the Elves were ready to set up defensive outposts about 100 or so miles inside the Orc Territory as a buffer zone to ward off attacks. Our job was to scout ahead and patrol (with a rather large contingent of Elven Warriors at our sides) as we patrolled around each one as it was built. It had been nearly a decade of game time when the forts were being attacked. Now, they had always been harassed by Orc Patrols, and we did chase down a few of them; but these were frontal assaults with hordes of Orcs coming in.

I remember the Old Sage once breaking down into tears talking about how it seemed that the Gods must be angry with the Elves, because it did not seem to matter how many of them we killed, there were always more — many, many more — just over the horizon. It was a stirring and moving speech he (a'la, Jack) gave that game night...

It was not long before we realized that our old friend Red Pilgrim was behind all of this. And it was also not long before we got some clues we needed to hunt down the little bastard. We had managed to capture an Orc and with some persuasion we were able to get him to reveal the location of Red Pilgrim's hide-out. Checking our maps of the area, it turns out we had been within a mile of the damn thing at least two dozen times.

So, our party of six took off into a ragged mountain range with our map telling us where Red Pilgrim was hiding out. Of course, this guy was a plant; he was a sacrifice to get us to come to this location at the right time. We were all captured.

The Truth Does Not Always Set You Free

Rather than kill us, as we had done to so many Orcs as they begged for mercy, Red Pilgrim himself spoke to us — in Elvish — and told us all a story about how the Elves and the Orcs first met.

He did not sugar coat it. He told of how when the Orcs and the Elves met, the Orcs (being a tribal and war-like society) did indeed take up arms and see the Elves as a threat. But as long as the Elves did not attack, the Orcs were content to fend off the wild beasts and monsters that plagued the lands they lived in. In other words, they had their hands full as it was — they didn't need yet another fight. And so it was a tense but workable peace.


Three thousand years ago, a Half-Orc was born. It was born of an Orc mother that was raped by a Human barbarian of a long dead South-Eastern territory. When word of the birth reached the Elf lands, they began the massacre. Attacking every Orc village and town they could find. And so it had gone for three thousand years. Recently, when the borderlands were recaptured by the Orcs and the Orc position was strengthening.

Of course, the two Elves would hear nothing of it. We argued. We tried to make sense of it all. We did everything we could to get our minds around it: Was this a trap? Was it a ploy to get us to stop? Was this some cunning game that Red Pilgrim was playing?

After six game sessions of us arguing about this (all of it taking place over about a day or two of in-game time)... we were knocked out in our cells and released just outside the gates of one of the forts we had helped to build.

As we awoke, we found a scroll written in an ancient language that none of us knew. Of course, we kept what we had learned to ourselves (that much we could agree upon) and headed into the borderlands to get to the Old Sage. When we showed him the scroll, he broke into tears again.

It turns out that old Red Pilgrim is a Half-Orc alright — he is a Half-Elf/Half-Orc and the only remaining living relative of an old sage that hated his very being. Red Pilgrim was an experiment by the Elves to see if their fears were true — could an Orc and an Elf breed?

The answer was yes.

Red Pilgrim was born to a captured Orc woman and an Elf Ranger that was ordered to take the Orc as his mate in this very secretive experiment. When the child was born, it was examined and studied. He and his mother were tortured. He was forced to kill his mother when he was only seven. His father, who by this time had sickened of the experiment, smuggled the boy into Orc territory and was killed for efforts on the other side. But Red Pilgrim remained alive. In fact, after he reached puberty, he stopped aging all together.

We asked the Old Sage how he could know that Red Pilgrim had stopped aging. It turns out he was not the only one that was created. The Elves had, at one point, toyed with the idea of breeding these creatures as slaves and mercenaries. All of them were slaughtered too.

The Old Sage died a few days later.

I still say he commit suicide, but Jack never confirmed or denied it. We demanded to see the Lord of Elves — we wanted an explanation for what we had learned. When we arrived in the Capital (not far from the Human Border), we were quietly and promptly jailed and were served with execution orders!

Lies Upon Lies

The Lord of Elves had been privy to the whole thing, it seemed, and did not want word leaking out lest he loose face with the Humans (and much of the Elven populations as well). Of course, we escaped.

Actually, four of us managed to escape — the Wood Elf and the Goblin both lost their lives in that session — one exciting game, let me tell you!

We had to fight our way through the Elf territories. This was odd. All through this game we had admired how efficient the Elven War machine was (as Jack played it) and how we had to work against it. It helped that we all knew a few of the Standard Operating Procedures of the Elves. Getting to the border, my character lost his life and so did the other Elf. This left the Knight of the Sword and the Satyr.

Sneaking into the borderlands they managed to get past the forts and patrols we helped to set up (nothing like building a plan of defense that you figure is unbeatable just to have to turn around and figure out how to beat it). Taking the scroll, the Satyr entered an Orc village unarmed with his hands up and tried to explain who he was and that he needed to reach Red Pilgrim. He tried to explain that with Red Pilgrim's help, they could reach the Human lands and get help for the Orcs by letting them know how the Elves had lied.

He was killed by the villagers, but not until he was tortured for three days.

In the end, they were so scornful of the fey races that they still did not believe him.

Knight of the Sword

The Knight weighed his options. He had no Knighthood to return to (as he was sure the Lord of Elves had already reported some trumped up charges to his Liege) — there was just no way he could sneak back through the borderlands, the entire Elven kingdom and reach the Human lands to explain what had happened. Nor did he figure he could muster much help, even if he did.

But he tried.

He managed to reach the home of the (now dead) Old Sage to see if he could find an ally or something. Nothing. He was captured a few days later. He tried to explain to the Elf Courts what had happened, but before he could get word one out, he was silenced (via spell) and read his order of execution. He was killed with a drawing and quartering... in the borderlands... just outside of the forts we set up...


Although the last few weeks of that game were played by fewer and fewer people, we all showed up (on time) for every game to see how it ended. It was quite a spectacular game, after all. Jack, the last night, after the final game when the Knight of the Sword died, told us all to come back the next week on our regular game night.

We all thought it was going to be the start of a new campaign. When we got there the following week, we were told to sit and remain quiet.

We did.

Jack stood up in the front of the room, and dimmed the lights. For the next thirty minutes (hour?), he read from his prepared notes. The notes described the war after our deaths. How we were not forgotten, but our deaths mulled over by the Elves. How the war continued to rage on. How the Orcs continued to gain territory. The Knight's death was not reported — but his trumped up charges were. A tale of how he escaped, how we aided a man convicted of war crimes and how we were killed as all reported. The Knight, however, was simply listed as missing and wanted.

The Elves eventually lost so much of the borderlands that they needed to demand aid from the Humans. It never came (by this time, the Human kingdom was in a civil war). The Elves and their plan was never reported to the Humans.

Two years after our deaths, the Lord of Elves was captured by Red Pilgrim. His life was spared and his kingdom left in ruins as much of the structure of Elf society was left wasted by Orcish hordes. The Orcs, after making this extreme threat to the Elves, left the traditional Elvish territories and demanded that the Elves stay out of theirs as well. The various Elf Lords, squabbling among themselves, assassinated the Lord of Elves and sent the remaining ruins of Elf society into a civil war.


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    • doris and me profile image

      Mohammad Tanvir Ibne Amin 

      5 years ago from Dhaka

      Awesome hub.. I just keep reading your your writing piece...Cheer up

    • Christos Mentis profile image

      Chris Mentis 

      5 years ago from London,UK

      Interesting information. I like this article so much, well done ;)

      You will find some similarities in my story too:

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      In my experience, the role-play campaigns where the lines are blurred regarding who is wrong and who is right in a conflict are the ones that players get the most involved in. Whether it is an old style table-top D&D, or an online games such as Gemstone IV, the players are almost always willing to delve in and try to develop an understanding of why there are so many different views on the same situation, and then play out their role with respect to the cultural attitudes appropriate to their characters.

      It may be a role-playing game setting, but the lessons learned can also be lessons for real life.

      It is too bad that the larger role-playing community does not have a means to recognize those rare game-masters who help us to explore these lessons. They are rare, and should be appreciated. I hope you all thanked 'Jack'.


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