"Orc Shaman" by Mark Molchan. Check out more of Mark's amazing work here.
Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I have managed to escape from the orc town of Kharzaag. The bad news is that I'm pretty sure that the orcs are following me and will be here in a week or less. Also, I'm pretty sure that they are furious at me for stealing the secrets of their culture and revealing them, so I think they are coming with at least a war-band and maybe even a horde. I hope that your weapons are ready and your spells are prepared, because the Moon Skull Clan DOES take prisoners -- and then they sell them as slaves. Well, enough about what may come for now. Today, our topic is orc religion.
Nearly all orcs pay homage to Gruumsh, the one-eyed god of storms and war, and his consort, Luthic, the mother goddess. Gruumsh, with his one eye, is believed to be all-seeing and all-knowing. He is also utterly unforgiving and many worship him more out of fear than devotion. For most orc clans, Gruumsh and Luthic are the only gods given dedicated worship and sacrifice. Other gods from the orc pantheon, some of which you may recognize below, may get the occasional sacrifice or prayer, but usually do NOT have clerics or shamans dedicated to their worship, as this would offend Gruumsh.
In the list below, you will ten alternate religions and deities that some orcs follow instead of Gruumsh. I have chosen NOT to include alignments with these deities, as my own belief is that a god might easily be represented in different ways by different peoples. Many of you will recognize half (or more) of the entries below from the religions of Faerun and other places, but it is my hope that the information provided below might still enhance your games. Without further ado, here are 10 Obscure Orc Religions for your reading pleasure. Happy Gaming!
Bahgtru is the orc god of strength and the son of Gruumsh. His holy symbol is a broken thigh bone. His worshippers are usually young orcs, rebelling from the ways of their parents. Although rumor has it that the entire Bone Breaker clan worships Bahgtru as the main orc god. His clerics wear studded leather war-skirts and are usually topless to show off their well-defined muscles. Clerics and shamans of Bahgtru gain advantage when casting any strength-related spells.
Ilneval is the orc god of strategy and hordes and is often considered to be the right hand of Gruumsh. His holy symbol is the upright and bloody sword. All orcs pay homage to Ilneval when they are actively part of a warband, but few worship him daily over Gruumsh. One exception to this rule is the Trail Stalker clan, who believe that an orc's true purpose is war and that Gruumsh is a puppet that Ilneval controls. Clerics and shamans of Ilneval wear chainmail and automatically get the feat War Caster.
Shargaas is the orc god of stealth and darkness. His holy symbol is the red crescent moon with a skull between the moon's horns. Shargaas actually has many worshippers among the various orc clans, but they remain hidden and hold their ceremonies in secret. The Wet Blades clan worships Shargaas openly over Gruumsh, asserting the belief that the orcs will ONLY dominate the world by using the tools that Shargaas provides. Clerics and shamans of Shargaas wear all black and gain advantage on all Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
Yurtrus is the orc god of death and disease. His holy symbol is a white outstretched hand palm out. Few orcs acknowledge Yurtrus outside of the sacrifices to spare a loved one from a disease or the rights of burial. The only known clan to worship Yurtrus over Gruumsh is the Rotting Hands and they are shunned by nearly all other orcs. Clerics and shamans of Yurtrus wear bone-white robes and automatically gain advantage when casting necromantic spells.
Asmodeus is NOT an orc god at all. He is, as most people know, the lord of the nine hells. His holy symbol is an isosceles triangle composed of three other triangles, 2 obtuse and 1 right. His worshippers are few among the orcs, with the notable exception of the entire Broken Fang clan, who serve the witch Morrigan Black. The orc clerics and shamans of Asmodeus wear black oil-skin cloaks lined in shining white satin and gain advantage when casting illusion-related spells.
Gul Goth is the orcish representation of Hastur, also known as the King in Yellow. His holy symbol is the yellow sign. The only orcs known to worship him are the Yellow Rune clan. His clerics wear yellow robes covered in small black sigils making the yellow sign. The clerics and shamans of Gul Goth may choose spells from either the cleric or the warlock spell lists, as they wish.
Fhadru is known to all of the orcs that dwell within the Daerkwood. It is the orcish name for the great tree at the center of the vast forest. Fhadru is worshipped as a goddess by the orcs of the Green Leaf clan. Her symbol is a large oak tree in autumn foliage and her domain is all of nature. The clerics and shamans of Fhadru may choose spells from either the cleric or the druid spell lists, as they want.
Bor Ishi Ora is the orc goddess of winter. Literally her name is "Wind Ice Snow" and she appears only as a feminine shape coming out of a blizzard. Her holy symbol is a trio of icicles, from left to right a medium length one, a long one, and a short one. Nearly all orcs make some sacrifice to Bor Ishi Ora during the harsh winter months to "buy her off" so that Luthic can bring Spring again. Also, it is known that the Ice Moon clan worships Bor Ishi Ora as their main god, calling Gruumsh "a fair weather god" and asserting that he is much weaker than the goddess of wind, ice, and snow. Her clerics and shamans wear the furs of the dire winter wolf and gain advantage when casting ice-related spells.
Shalpauk is the orc god of cleverness and craft. He is the scrawny and unspoken of son of Gruumsh. His holy symbol is the hooded lantern. Few orcs even know of Shalpauk's existence, so great is the shame of Gruumsh for having a "weakling son". Even so, the entire Steel Skull clan worships Shalpauk as their main god in open defiance of the "Great Stupid" as they call Gruumsh. The clerics and shamans of Shalpauk wear studded leather aprons with numerous pockets and gain advantage on perception and insight rolls that have to do with mechanisms or technology.
Malzot is the orc god of mountains and caverns. His holy symbol is a craggy, two-peaked mountain. His worshippers are usually subterranean orcs who worship him alongside Gruumsh. However, rumor has it that the entire Cave Bear clan have forsaken the worship of Gruumsh and follow Malzot and Bahgtru as the main orc gods. The clerics and shamans of Malzot wear black and silver robes and carry maces with the holy symbol of their god as the head. They gain advantage when casting any earth-related spells.