Orcs are rare, although records suggest they were numerous long ago. Today, most are drow-held slaves.
Over the ages, however, some orcs have gained freedom, creating formidable armed clans, though many free orcs remain second-class citizens who still serve the drow as mercenaries, technicians, and laborers.
Few people have ever seen an orc up close, but most people know their reputation as brutal monsters.
Even the free orcs suffer from isolation and drow propaganda, remaining ignorant of wider possibilities. On average, orcs have difficulty with attention, memory, and impulse control. Drow care little for where these tendencies come from, but their centuries-long influence has changed the orcs from the brutes described in prehistoric tomes. The drow have socially engineered their orc chattel to make them useful servants. From an early age, capable orc youngsters have a duty to care for any orcs who require help to survive. Aged or feeble orcs are permitted to endure only to teach the young valuable skills while indoctrinating them with the appropriate regard for their betters. Drow overseers keep watch over these enclaves, with the aid of half-orcs and a few elder orcs rewarded for loyal service with the right to “retire” to teaching positions.
Within orc enclaves, a specialized program of reward and punishment accompanies education and tempers orcs for the jobs they are expected to perform. For example, an orc anticipated to be a technician might be conditioned to respond well and even take pleasure in technical work, such that her skill seems abnormally good. A bodyguard could be habituated to extreme ferocity in defense of a ward, belied by an otherwise composed demeanor. When an orc becomes an adult, she moves on to serve the drow house to which she belongs in her trained capacity. There, her conditioned mind keeps her bound better than any chains could.
This social engineering took place for long enough that free orcs display a similar cultural structure. These orcs teach their young with analogous and comparably brutal methods of reward and punishment. The young and weak take on jobs that tougher orcs have the clout and muscle to refuse.
Eventually, a young orc might join the ranks of the strong and earn the right to take on responsibilities that garner more prestige. She then sloughs off tasks she considers to be beneath her onto the shoulders of those she sees as lower than her in status.
An orc is ideally suited to her prescribed duties thanks to the extensive conditioning she receives. Her confidence in such areas is also high.
An orc trained to scout caves, for instance, is likely to be a sharp climber and shrewd explorer. She also knows enough about the ilee (a lost race) to know when she has made an important discovery.
The social conditions in which most orcs exist often make it challenging for them to assimilate into other cultures. Orcs are gruff and terse, interacting with others only when necessary. An orc without a hierarchy to embrace or reject often struggles to find her position in a pecking order that might not exist.
An orc has large and imposing tusks that jut from her mouth, as well as pointed ears. Most orcs stand around 6 feet tall and weigh 200 pounds or more, with well-defined musculature.