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Aurochs, De-Extinction, and the Racism of Orcs in D&D
Episode 1027th June 2022 • Making a Monster • Lucas Zellers
00:00:00 00:43:57

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Get three extinct animals raised to life as monsters in D&D: https://www.scintilla.studio/extinction

Episode transcript: https://scintilla.studio/monster-extinction-aurochs-nazis-orcs/

Guides:

Steve Sullivan, director of the Hefner Museum of Natural History at Miami University in Ohio

Jessica Marcrum, Uncaged Author and producer of the Threeflings actual play podcast, www.jessicamarcrumwrites.com

James Mendez Hodes, game designer and orc historian: https://jamesmendezhodes.com/

Did you like this stat block? Let me know on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SparkOtter

"Extinction Theme" by Alex Monroe

Closing music by Jason Shaw at Audionautix.com

Transcripts

Lucas:

We have to talk about the aurochs.

Lucas:

It's maybe the biggest, hairiest

Lucas:

cattle anyone has ever seen.

Lucas:

In short, it's a bunch of bull.

Lucas:

Aurochs were the first beast

Lucas:

added to Dungeons & Dragons 5th

Lucas:

edition after the core rulebooks.

Lucas:

As far as monsters go it seems pretty open

Lucas:

and shut, I mean, D&D needs big, hairy

Lucas:

animals for its big, hairy magical world.

Lucas:

But it's never that simple.

Lucas:

Aurochs are the extinct wild cattle

Lucas:

of ancient Europe, a beast ingrained

Lucas:

to the continent’s mythology and

Lucas:

culture, and the Forgotten Realms

Lucas:

setting has painted them as the sacred

Lucas:

animal of Gruumsh, god of the orcs.

Lucas:

So if we're going to talk about

Lucas:

the aurochs, I'm going to have

Lucas:

to tell you one heck of a story.

Lucas:

From the Ice Age to Nazi supercows

Lucas:

to bioessentialism in TTRPGs, the

Lucas:

aurochs is maybe the most challenging

Lucas:

extinction story in Dungeons & Dragons.

Lucas:

I'm Lucas Zellers, and I'm

Lucas:

resurrecting extinct animals for the

Lucas:

world's greatest roleplaying game.

This is Making a Monster:

Extinction.

Steve Sullivan:

Your aurochs is no more

Steve Sullivan:

real than my Lamborghini that I made

Steve Sullivan:

out of foam and spray painted real good.

Steve Sullivan:

But when you look under the hood,

Steve Sullivan:

you suddenly see maybe there's

Steve Sullivan:

some important differences.

James Mendez Hodes:

I read through

James Mendez Hodes:

the part about all the orc deities

James Mendez Hodes:

and they're all, they're all terrible.

James Mendez Hodes:

And then there's one of them.

James Mendez Hodes:

And then he rides an aurochs around,

James Mendez Hodes:

and this is like the only good thing

James Mendez Hodes:

orcs ever do, they're nice to cows.

Lucas:

Standing over 6 feet tall and

Lucas:

weighing more than a ton, the aurochs

Lucas:

was a keystone species for forests and

Lucas:

grasslands across Eurasia, from, in

Lucas:

modern-day terms, Portugal to Korea.

Lucas:

With its wide horns and broad,

Lucas:

striped back covered during the winter

Lucas:

season in a thick mantle of hair,

Lucas:

the aurochs was a striking animal

Lucas:

that left a huge impression on the

Lucas:

folklore of an entire continent.

Lucas:

In the cave paintings at

Lucas:

Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc, aurochs are

Lucas:

depicted opposite saber-toothed

Lucas:

tigers and cave lions.

Lucas:

At the city of Babylon, aurochs

Lucas:

were depicted on the Ishtar Gate,

Lucas:

the eighth gate to the inner city.

Lucas:

In the Greek myth portrayed in The Rape

Lucas:

of Europa, Zeus was able to kidnap Europa

Lucas:

by transforming into an aurochs bull.

Lucas:

Europa was so enamored of the new white

Lucas:

bull in her father’s herds that she came

Lucas:

near to stroke it and eventually climbed

Lucas:

on its back, at which point Zeus did his

Lucas:

Zeus thing and swam the Mediterranean

Lucas:

to strand Europa on the island of Crete.

Lucas:

By the 14th century, hunting the aurochs

Lucas:

was a privilege of nobles, who would

Lucas:

often drink from the slain aurochs’ horns.

Lucas:

One such drinking horn was a prized

Lucas:

possession of King Sigismund III

Lucas:

of Poland was an ornate drinking

Lucas:

horn, longer than a grown man’s arm

Lucas:

and as thick as an elephant tusk.

Steve Sullivan:

There are depictions of

Steve Sullivan:

Romans throwing nets over these things.

Steve Sullivan:

You can imagine what it would take to

Steve Sullivan:

capture one of these and breed them.

Lucas:

This is Steve Sullivan, Director

Lucas:

of the Hefner Museum of Natural History

Lucas:

at Miami University, and one of the first

Lucas:

people I interviewed about the connection

Lucas:

between extinct animals and D&D.

Steve Sullivan:

One of the charismatic

Steve Sullivan:

species that used to be there

Steve Sullivan:

that is no longer is the aurochs.

Steve Sullivan:

The aurochs is this amazing cattle

Steve Sullivan:

species, probably six feet tall at the

Steve Sullivan:

shoulder, massive horns, oftentimes

Steve Sullivan:

this deep fawn, chestnut color

Steve Sullivan:

with a dark stripe down the back.

Lucas:

The aurochs was the progenitor

Lucas:

of modern cattle, and for centuries

Lucas:

they existed alongside their scions.

Lucas:

By the 17th century, everything that kills

Lucas:

species had conspired to kill the aurochs,

Lucas:

including unrestricted hunting, loss

Lucas:

of habitat due to farmland development,

Lucas:

and diseases from domestic cattle.

Lucas:

The last recorded aurochs, a

Lucas:

female, died of natural causes in

Lucas:

Jaktorów Forest, Poland, in 1627.

Steve Sullivan:

Domestication is in many

Steve Sullivan:

ways, the dumbing down, the increasing the

Steve Sullivan:

childlike characteristics in a species.

Steve Sullivan:

So all these cattle that we have, dairy

Steve Sullivan:

cattle and beef cattle and whatever,

Steve Sullivan:

they're basically baby aurochs who

Steve Sullivan:

are able to sexually reproduce.

Steve Sullivan:

And so that's what we've done

Steve Sullivan:

through domestication, whether it's

Steve Sullivan:

cows or sheep or dogs or whatever.

Steve Sullivan:

So fundamentally the species

Steve Sullivan:

aurochs still exists, but in this

Steve Sullivan:

neotenic or "juvenilized" form.

Steve Sullivan:

In the case of the original domestication

Steve Sullivan:

of the aurochs, we want a small cow

Steve Sullivan:

that we can handle, that's docile.

Steve Sullivan:

With black Angus, for example, if you

Steve Sullivan:

go to the grocery store and try to buy

Steve Sullivan:

black Angus meat, whether it's hotdogs

Steve Sullivan:

or steaks, it used to be super expensive.

Steve Sullivan:

It's much less expensive now that's

Steve Sullivan:

because when we bred black Angus

Steve Sullivan:

for its meat characteristics, we

Steve Sullivan:

kinda narrowed its hips a little bit

Steve Sullivan:

and we made its teeth real small.

Steve Sullivan:

We did that by accident.

Steve Sullivan:

We were focused on the meat.

Steve Sullivan:

And so frankly, a lot of the babies died

Steve Sullivan:

and they didn't thrive if they didn't die.

Steve Sullivan:

When they were birthed.

Steve Sullivan:

Now we've bred them with

Steve Sullivan:

bigger teats and bigger hips.

Steve Sullivan:

Shazamm!

Steve Sullivan:

We can have more black Angus!

Steve Sullivan:

So this then implies that the genes of

Steve Sullivan:

aurochs are still floating out there.

Steve Sullivan:

Maybe some are amplified in one place

Steve Sullivan:

and others are amplified in other places.

Steve Sullivan:

Similarly with the tarpan, the wild horse.

Steve Sullivan:

So people have engaged in these

Steve Sullivan:

processes to find the individual animal,

Steve Sullivan:

cow or horse, that is most like its

Steve Sullivan:

progenitor and then breed those back

Steve Sullivan:

in until we recreate something that is

Steve Sullivan:

six feet high at the shoulder, and has

Steve Sullivan:

these massive horns from the outside

Steve Sullivan:

many cases, they've done a good job.

Steve Sullivan:

There's a breed called the Heck cattle.

Steve Sullivan:

They look great.

Steve Sullivan:

It's a German breed.

Steve Sullivan:

They look an awful lot like what

Steve Sullivan:

we imagine aurochs must look like.

Lucas:

And here is where

Lucas:

the story gets complicated.

Lucas:

The Heck cattle was named for its creators

Lucas:

the Heck brothers, Lutz and Heinz, who

Lucas:

went into the family business running

Lucas:

the Berlin Zoo in the early 1900s.

Lucas:

Zoology in Europe at the

Lucas:

time seemed eerily in line

Lucas:

with 1896's The Island of Dr.

Lucas:

Moreau - debating the role of humans in

Lucas:

preventing extinction and even creating

Lucas:

new species, blissfully unaware of

Lucas:

the role of genetics in the process.

Lucas:

Lutz

Steve Sullivan:

Watson and Crick, that

Steve Sullivan:

was what, 1952, when we discovered,

Steve Sullivan:

what DNA looked like thanks to their,

Steve Sullivan:

piracy, a little bit of Rosalind

Steve Sullivan:

Franklin's work, uh, but, uh, however that

Steve Sullivan:

history happened, we finally understood

Steve Sullivan:

really not just that as Alfred Russell

Steve Sullivan:

Wallace and Charles Darwin showed

Steve Sullivan:

that species can change, but we then

Steve Sullivan:

also began to understand the genetic

Steve Sullivan:

makeup of how things could change.

Lucas:

Lutz Heck's particular fascination

Lucas:

was in resurrecting what he called

Lucas:

"primeval German game" like the aurochs.

Lucas:

This was the 1930s.

Lucas:

In Berlin.

Lucas:

So you can guess who might have

Lucas:

shared Lutz's interest in a mythic

Lucas:

German past free of racial impurities.

Lucas:

Lutz became a member of the Nazi

Lucas:

party and a close friend to Hermann

Lucas:

Göring, right-hand man to Adolf Hitler.

Lucas:

Göring gathered political titles

like Magic:

The Gathering cards;

like Magic:

he was simultaneously the prime

like Magic:

minister of Prussia, commander in

like Magic:

chief of the Luftwaffe, and Reich

like Magic:

Hunt Master and Forest Master.

like Magic:

Göring even gave a title to his friend

Lutz in:

Nature Protection Authority.

Lutz in:

In these roles, Göring seized land

Lutz in:

from Poland, especially from the

Lutz in:

Białowieża Forest, for nature preserves.

Lutz in:

He hoped Lutz would fill with this

Lutz in:

personal playground with mythic

Lutz in:

beasts resembling those in ancient

Lutz in:

epic poetry like Nibelungenlied,

Lutz in:

which Göring could then hunt

Lutz in:

with spears and in period dress.

Lutz in:

Lutz's breeding program selected for

Lutz in:

phenotype, or visual characteristics,

Lutz in:

from a huge cross-section of European

Lutz in:

breeds including Spanish fighting bulls.

Lutz in:

The result was not the aurochs, but

Lutz in:

a new breed called Heck cattle whose

Lutz in:

individuals vary widely in their

Lutz in:

physical characteristics and are

Lutz in:

often aggressive enough to attack

Lutz in:

without first giving a threat display.

Lutz in:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are not

Lutz in:

the pleasantly sympatric herbivores

Lutz in:

hoped to rewild Europe alongside humans.

Lutz in:

Lutz’ stock of Heck cattle were

Lutz in:

exterminated after the war, but

Lutz in:

today there are still about 2,000

Lutz in:

Heck cattle in existence - all of

Lutz in:

which trace back to Heinz’ stock.

Lutz in:

The ideas that drove Heck and Göring

Lutz in:

reverberated in European academia and

Lutz in:

left an echo in a perhaps surprising

place:

a British officer named J.R.R.

place:

Tolkien.

place:

And we can't continue to understand

place:

the aurochs in D&D without

place:

understanding Tolkien's orcs.

James Mendez Hodes:

This is from letter

James Mendez Hodes:

number 210 by Tolkien when he was

James Mendez Hodes:

talking about a movie treatment of the

James Mendez Hodes:

Lord of the Rings that he didn't like.

James Mendez Hodes:

So he was like, let me tell you

James Mendez Hodes:

what I think orcs looked like.

James Mendez Hodes:

And he said, and I quote, "the

James Mendez Hodes:

orcs are definitely stated to be

James Mendez Hodes:

corruptions of the quote human

James Mendez Hodes:

unquote form seen in elves and men.

James Mendez Hodes:

They are, or were, squat, broad, flat

James Mendez Hodes:

nosed, sallow skinned, with wide mouths

James Mendez Hodes:

and slant eyes, in fact, degraded

James Mendez Hodes:

and repulsive versions of the, to

James Mendez Hodes:

Europeans, least lovely Mongol types."

James Mendez Hodes:

And I was like, damn, I'm

James Mendez Hodes:

squat, broad, flat nosed, sallow

James Mendez Hodes:

skinned, wide mouth a slant eye.

James Mendez Hodes:

Does that mean I'm degraded and repulsive?

James Mendez Hodes:

Um, so yeah.

Lucas:

James Mendez Hodes is an

Lucas:

Ennie-award-winning writer game

Lucas:

designer and cultural consultant.

Lucas:

His design work includes Thousand Arrows

Lucas:

and Scion; his consulting work, Magic:

Lucas:

The Gathering and the Jackbox party

Lucas:

packs; and he last appeared on this

Lucas:

show for his work on the design team

of Avatar:

Legends, the tabletop RPG

version of Avatar:

The Last Airbender.

version of Avatar:

Mendez, welcome back to the show.

James Mendez Hodes:

What's good.

James Mendez Hodes:

It's good to be here.

James Mendez Hodes:

Thank you for having me back.

Lucas:

I asked Mendez on the show

Lucas:

because he had already done some pretty

Lucas:

heavy lifting to untangle how these

Lucas:

ideas would have influenced Tolkien,

Lucas:

and through him how they would have

Lucas:

contributed to Dungeons & Dragons.

James Mendez Hodes:

So reading that

James Mendez Hodes:

blew my mind because, growing up in

James Mendez Hodes:

America, I think the racial stereotypes

James Mendez Hodes:

and the most virulent kinds of

James Mendez Hodes:

racism that I grew up around I think

James Mendez Hodes:

were often directed towards, black

James Mendez Hodes:

people and towards American Indians.

James Mendez Hodes:

In the particular context

James Mendez Hodes:

of my upbringing, that's

James Mendez Hodes:

often what I saw the most.

James Mendez Hodes:

And so, I was used to seeing a lot

James Mendez Hodes:

of that kind of racist language

James Mendez Hodes:

directed towards orcs as well.

James Mendez Hodes:

So my assumption was that once I started

James Mendez Hodes:

researching the racial underpinnings

James Mendez Hodes:

of orcs, that I would find things

James Mendez Hodes:

like I might've seen an American

James Mendez Hodes:

racism towards native people and

James Mendez Hodes:

towards anybody of African descent.

James Mendez Hodes:

But then when I went and I looked

James Mendez Hodes:

at Tolkien's original conception of

James Mendez Hodes:

orcs, I realized that, the way that

James Mendez Hodes:

he envisioned orcs was kind of as

James Mendez Hodes:

this Asian hoard with fangs and tusks.

James Mendez Hodes:

That was Tolkien's version of, of orcs.

James Mendez Hodes:

Uh, so they started out as this

James Mendez Hodes:

purpose-built Asian stereotype.

James Mendez Hodes:

I started looking at like, what kind

James Mendez Hodes:

of influences might have moved Tolkien

James Mendez Hodes:

to create a fantasy race that he

James Mendez Hodes:

described essentially as Asian people.

James Mendez Hodes:

And I realized that in British academia,

James Mendez Hodes:

he would have encountered these theories

James Mendez Hodes:

of scientific racism about like Caucasoid

James Mendez Hodes:

and Mongoloids and Negroids, all of

James Mendez Hodes:

these really uncomfortable terms that

James Mendez Hodes:

we have for the different subspecies of

James Mendez Hodes:

humanity, which of course modern science

James Mendez Hodes:

has thrown out the window and further.

James Mendez Hodes:

Tolkien certainly would have

James Mendez Hodes:

encountered those things during

James Mendez Hodes:

the course of his education.

James Mendez Hodes:

Then Tolkien and joined the army and in

James Mendez Hodes:

the British army, there was a conception

James Mendez Hodes:

of Indian people called the administrative

James Mendez Hodes:

races and the martial races.

James Mendez Hodes:

So the British Raj and the British

James Mendez Hodes:

army classified all the different

James Mendez Hodes:

ethnicities in India into, "Okay.

James Mendez Hodes:

We think these guys over here, they

James Mendez Hodes:

live in cities and they're good at math.

James Mendez Hodes:

And then these guys over, over there,

James Mendez Hodes:

they're these big, tough, strong guys

James Mendez Hodes:

who are not very smart and they make

James Mendez Hodes:

excellent soldiers, but they'll probably

James Mendez Hodes:

just run amok and do evil stuff unless we

James Mendez Hodes:

put some white people in charge of them."

James Mendez Hodes:

So practically speaking, of course, the

James Mendez Hodes:

reason that different populations in

James Mendez Hodes:

different places, struck the British

James Mendez Hodes:

as being tough but obedient soldiers

James Mendez Hodes:

on one hand or, good at bureaucracy

James Mendez Hodes:

at the other, on the other hand, had

James Mendez Hodes:

a lot to do a lot more to do with how.

James Mendez Hodes:

Those with the way that the British

James Mendez Hodes:

related to those people than it did with

James Mendez Hodes:

any particular inherent quality, of them.

James Mendez Hodes:

However, this idea of warrior races

James Mendez Hodes:

ended up spreading throughout the

James Mendez Hodes:

British consciousness and, this

James Mendez Hodes:

term, this idea of the martial race

James Mendez Hodes:

or the warrior race, ended up being

James Mendez Hodes:

applied to people in Scotland,

James Mendez Hodes:

east Africa, and Polynesia as well.

James Mendez Hodes:

Basically anytime anybody beat the

James Mendez Hodes:

British in a fight using technology

James Mendez Hodes:

that they thought wasn't as good, the

James Mendez Hodes:

British would be like, "Oh, they beat

James Mendez Hodes:

us because they're a martial race.

James Mendez Hodes:

They are somehow naturally

James Mendez Hodes:

inclined towards fighting."

James Mendez Hodes:

So the intersection of these two ideas,

James Mendez Hodes:

scientific racism and the concept of

James Mendez Hodes:

the martial race, these were things

James Mendez Hodes:

that Tolkien could not possibly have

James Mendez Hodes:

avoided during the course of his life.

James Mendez Hodes:

And he happens to have created something

James Mendez Hodes:

in the orcs which lines up with pretty

James Mendez Hodes:

much all of both of those stereotypes.

James Mendez Hodes:

And I got a couple of articles

James Mendez Hodes:

which go into it in depth.

Lucas:

Yeah, there were a great read.

Lucas:

I highly recommend them.

James Mendez Hodes:

Thank you.

James Mendez Hodes:

So, yeah, so then there's a, the first

James Mendez Hodes:

article focuses on Tolkien and then the

James Mendez Hodes:

second focuses on orcs in the context

James Mendez Hodes:

of Dungeons and Dragons, and how in the

James Mendez Hodes:

historical context of the United States,

James Mendez Hodes:

the way that white people viewed Asian

James Mendez Hodes:

people and black people and native people

James Mendez Hodes:

was starting to change in certain ways.

James Mendez Hodes:

So when orcs appeared in Dungeons and

James Mendez Hodes:

Dragons, which was created by conservative

James Mendez Hodes:

white men in the Midwest, the stereotypes

James Mendez Hodes:

that were applied to orcs and the

James Mendez Hodes:

way that orcs were described there

James Mendez Hodes:

started to shift and they started to

James Mendez Hodes:

move away from American stereotypes of

James Mendez Hodes:

Asians, which were focused on a concept

James Mendez Hodes:

primarily called the model minority,

James Mendez Hodes:

which America had a purpose-built

James Mendez Hodes:

through immigration policies and in a

James Mendez Hodes:

complicated way, and started to shift

James Mendez Hodes:

more towards the way that white racists

James Mendez Hodes:

and racists of all, all ethnicities,

James Mendez Hodes:

really, viewed black and native people.

James Mendez Hodes:

And then even in more positive portrayals

James Mendez Hodes:

of orcs, such as, those I grew up with in

James Mendez Hodes:

Warcraft, the orcs still adhere to sort

James Mendez Hodes:

of positive, but still harmful stereotypes

James Mendez Hodes:

like the concept of the noble savage,

James Mendez Hodes:

where there's this primitive race, which

James Mendez Hodes:

is in some ways better at certain aspects

James Mendez Hodes:

of humanity or stronger, or closer to

James Mendez Hodes:

living in closer harmony with nature and

James Mendez Hodes:

their own spirits or something like that.

James Mendez Hodes:

You can read Jean-Jacques Rousseau

James Mendez Hodes:

to get a deep dive into that.

James Mendez Hodes:

But even in the portrayals of orcs

James Mendez Hodes:

that I like there are still some

James Mendez Hodes:

of those positive stereotypes.

James Mendez Hodes:

There's definitely portrayals

James Mendez Hodes:

of orcs out there, which have

James Mendez Hodes:

moved in different directions.

James Mendez Hodes:

I'm reading a great book right now

James Mendez Hodes:

called The Unspoken Name which has

James Mendez Hodes:

an orcish main character who's great.

James Mendez Hodes:

My friend Carly wrote a piece

James Mendez Hodes:

called "The Thousand Cousins,"

James Mendez Hodes:

which is a version of orcs you can

James Mendez Hodes:

drop into many different games.

James Mendez Hodes:

I don't know if these orcs are good

James Mendez Hodes:

necessarily, but I think the orcs

James Mendez Hodes:

in Warhammer 40,000, which are based

James Mendez Hodes:

on British football hooligans are a

James Mendez Hodes:

really interesting thing to study.

James Mendez Hodes:

I don't know if it's like a

James Mendez Hodes:

good version of orcs, but I

James Mendez Hodes:

think it's fascinating to study.

Lucas:

How many times do you

Lucas:

think you've told this story?

James Mendez Hodes:

The article that

James Mendez Hodes:

I first published, the first part

James Mendez Hodes:

of the article was in January 2019.

James Mendez Hodes:

For that year, I told the story, like, I'd

James Mendez Hodes:

say like once every couple of weeks then

James Mendez Hodes:

things slowed down a little bit through

James Mendez Hodes:

2020 and 2021, I'd say, meh, once a month.

James Mendez Hodes:

But yeah, it, it, it

James Mendez Hodes:

comes up all the time.

James Mendez Hodes:

The most important point that I could

James Mendez Hodes:

make about orcs is that if we sit down

James Mendez Hodes:

to play a role playing game and the way

James Mendez Hodes:

that the game, or the other players or

James Mendez Hodes:

the DM, that someone involved portrays

James Mendez Hodes:

orcs reminds me a little bit too much of

James Mendez Hodes:

the way it feels when I and my friends

James Mendez Hodes:

experience racism in the real world, then

James Mendez Hodes:

I have a hard time enjoying the game.

James Mendez Hodes:

Because honestly, even if Tolkien hadn't

James Mendez Hodes:

done this on purpose - I do think he, he

James Mendez Hodes:

did it on purpose, or perhaps he did it

James Mendez Hodes:

based on like a great deal of unconscious

James Mendez Hodes:

bias - but even if he hadn't, the thing

James Mendez Hodes:

that he made still causes problems for

James Mendez Hodes:

us in the present day when we try to

James Mendez Hodes:

have a fantasy game with these different

James Mendez Hodes:

species and we try to do that without

James Mendez Hodes:

bringing in too much real world racism.

James Mendez Hodes:

Even if this thing was

James Mendez Hodes:

created unintentionally, it

James Mendez Hodes:

still causes us problems.

James Mendez Hodes:

And I think it's not nearly as cool as

James Mendez Hodes:

some of the orcs that we could have.

James Mendez Hodes:

So it, you know, it comes up a lot.

James Mendez Hodes:

And even if this, even if you don't

James Mendez Hodes:

buy that, this is actually racism,

James Mendez Hodes:

even if none of that moves you,

James Mendez Hodes:

then at the end of the day, okay.

James Mendez Hodes:

So this is a creative

James Mendez Hodes:

preference that I have.

James Mendez Hodes:

Like some people don't like disco

James Mendez Hodes:

music, some people don't like orcs the

James Mendez Hodes:

way that they're originally portrayed

James Mendez Hodes:

in old editions of Dungeons & Dragons

James Mendez Hodes:

or the early part of fifth edition.

James Mendez Hodes:

I just don't like it.

James Mendez Hodes:

In addition to thinking that it's racist.

James Mendez Hodes:

So if your friend really doesn't

James Mendez Hodes:

like something in a game, then

James Mendez Hodes:

you probably wouldn't want to

James Mendez Hodes:

force them to play that game.

James Mendez Hodes:

Right.

James Mendez Hodes:

And if they wanted something different

James Mendez Hodes:

in the game, if they wanted the game

James Mendez Hodes:

to have different options, like you

James Mendez Hodes:

could have an orc who fits a bunch of

James Mendez Hodes:

racist stereotypes or you could have

James Mendez Hodes:

a different kind of orc, I'd want to

James Mendez Hodes:

be able at least to have the choice.

James Mendez Hodes:

It's not very important to me that

James Mendez Hodes:

you have the racist orcs in the game.

James Mendez Hodes:

It's easy enough to just like

James Mendez Hodes:

take the kind of orcs that I would

James Mendez Hodes:

like to see and make them fit all

James Mendez Hodes:

the racial stereotypes you want.

James Mendez Hodes:

But I like having the

James Mendez Hodes:

option not to do that.

Lucas:

Do you ever get

Lucas:

tired of telling this story?

James Mendez Hodes:

Not

James Mendez Hodes:

really like, it's my job.

James Mendez Hodes:

It's my job.

James Mendez Hodes:

So I'm, I'm used to telling it,

James Mendez Hodes:

it feels like a, you know, a

James Mendez Hodes:

teacher telling kids to be quiet.

James Mendez Hodes:

You got to tell two kids to

James Mendez Hodes:

be quiet a few times a day.

James Mendez Hodes:

It just, it goes with the job.

James Mendez Hodes:

And for me talking about orcs

James Mendez Hodes:

just kind of goes with the job.

James Mendez Hodes:

But, the other element of this

James Mendez Hodes:

is that I like talking about

James Mendez Hodes:

orcs cause I think they're cool.

James Mendez Hodes:

Cause I had that first positive

James Mendez Hodes:

experience of, watching my friends make

James Mendez Hodes:

a bunch of cool orcs in, in Warcraft

James Mendez Hodes:

which ended up kind of setting the tone

James Mendez Hodes:

for me and if the first orcs I'd ever

James Mendez Hodes:

seen were in, in Dungeons and Dragons,

James Mendez Hodes:

I probably wouldn't have felt that way.

Lucas:

To understand the aurochs' place

Lucas:

in this conversation, we have to talk

Lucas:

about that early portrayal of orcs.

Lucas:

I think D and D has kind of covered

Lucas:

its tracks with orcs by suggesting

Lucas:

that, some of these objectionable

Lucas:

stereotypes or these objectionable

Lucas:

traits of the culture or the race as

Lucas:

a whole belong to a deity of the orcs

Lucas:

that they've given the name Gruumsh.

James Mendez Hodes:

Yes.

Lucas:

Let me give you

Lucas:

a couple of examples.

Lucas:

There was a Dragon Magazine

Lucas:

number 62 from June, 1982.

Lucas:

If listeners want to look that up,

Lucas:

there was an article called, the gods

Lucas:

of the orcs and it ran with a tagline,

Lucas:

the word from above, make war not love.

Lucas:

And then we had Deities and

Lucas:

Demigods 20 years later in 2002.

Lucas:

And I'll quote from that directly just

so it's a part of the record:

" Gruumsh,

so it's a part of the record:

deity of orcs, is chaotic evil.

so it's a part of the record:

He appears as a hulking orc

so it's a part of the record:

in black full plate armor.

so it's a part of the record:

He has one unblinking central eye."

so it's a part of the record:

From his dogma, "Gruumsh demands that

so it's a part of the record:

his followers be strong; that they

so it's a part of the record:

cull the week from their numbers;

so it's a part of the record:

that they take all the territory

so it's a part of the record:

Gruumsh thinks is rightfully

so it's a part of the record:

theirs, which is almost everything.

so it's a part of the record:

He tolerates no sign of

so it's a part of the record:

friendliness from his people.

so it's a part of the record:

Unceasing warfare is his creed.

so it's a part of the record:

Though," and this is interesting,

so it's a part of the record:

"Gruumsh does not object to simple

so it's a part of the record:

colonization, if that can be arranged."

James Mendez Hodes:

Yeah, so my

James Mendez Hodes:

academic background is in religion.

James Mendez Hodes:

And one of the things that I always

James Mendez Hodes:

complain about in fantasy religions

James Mendez Hodes:

is that people give religions a bunch

James Mendez Hodes:

of interesting qualities that they

James Mendez Hodes:

think are going to make for really

James Mendez Hodes:

good storytelling but very often not

James Mendez Hodes:

that much attention is paid to what

James Mendez Hodes:

makes a religion worth practicing?

James Mendez Hodes:

What is the appeal of a religion?

James Mendez Hodes:

So for example, with a lot of

James Mendez Hodes:

fantasy versions of Christianity or

James Mendez Hodes:

Catholicism, um, there's so obviously

James Mendez Hodes:

terrible that, uh, that it starts

James Mendez Hodes:

to be a little bit unbelievable.

James Mendez Hodes:

Why, uh, you know, say the majority, um,

James Mendez Hodes:

like, let's say, let's say that your hot

James Mendez Hodes:

take is Christianity is bad actually.

James Mendez Hodes:

And so you make a fantasy

James Mendez Hodes:

version of Christianity.

James Mendez Hodes:

They're the biggest

James Mendez Hodes:

fish in the real world.

James Mendez Hodes:

They can take a few knocks, right?

James Mendez Hodes:

It's not like marginalizing

James Mendez Hodes:

the Jewish right?

James Mendez Hodes:

Christianity that they

James Mendez Hodes:

can take a few hits.

James Mendez Hodes:

I think they'll be okay.

James Mendez Hodes:

So great.

James Mendez Hodes:

So you make your, you make your fantasy

James Mendez Hodes:

version of Christianity you pick all

James Mendez Hodes:

the worst Popes and all of the worst,

James Mendez Hodes:

prosperity gospel preachers on TV

James Mendez Hodes:

and you, you populate the religion

James Mendez Hodes:

entirely with them and they're the bad

James Mendez Hodes:

guy religion, um, which, okay, sure.

James Mendez Hodes:

Why does anyone do this religion?

James Mendez Hodes:

Um, they would have to have so many

James Mendez Hodes:

evil inquisitors running around

James Mendez Hodes:

forcing people to do the religion at

James Mendez Hodes:

sword point, that just, it would just

James Mendez Hodes:

not be, not be a manageable task.

James Mendez Hodes:

Um, so anytime a religion, there's

James Mendez Hodes:

like a fantasy version of a religion

James Mendez Hodes:

and it's just like, all of the worst

James Mendez Hodes:

cult stuff without even any of the

James Mendez Hodes:

stuff that cults do to make people

James Mendez Hodes:

want to be in a cult, um, I find that

James Mendez Hodes:

creatively unsatisfying, shall we say?

James Mendez Hodes:

And, uh, more importantly, if I'm trying

James Mendez Hodes:

to create stuff in the world, it makes

James Mendez Hodes:

storytelling difficult because, uh,

James Mendez Hodes:

you know, what am I going to be like?

James Mendez Hodes:

So everyone in this town practices

James Mendez Hodes:

this religion, um, and then all my

James Mendez Hodes:

players are going to be like, why?

James Mendez Hodes:

And I'll be like, ah, I don't know.

James Mendez Hodes:

So, so this makes, this makes

James Mendez Hodes:

my job as the dungeon master

James Mendez Hodes:

or as the player difficult.

James Mendez Hodes:

So the first problem that I see with

James Mendez Hodes:

this Gruumsh guy, is that I'm like, how

James Mendez Hodes:

are you going to live a whole sentient,

James Mendez Hodes:

sapient life without friendship?

James Mendez Hodes:

I believe that orcs, the,

James Mendez Hodes:

the stereotypical org travels

James Mendez Hodes:

in a hoard, is that correct?

James Mendez Hodes:

And you would think that, uh, you know,

James Mendez Hodes:

uh, your, your average orc might, I dunno,

James Mendez Hodes:

put some value on unit coherency, if

James Mendez Hodes:

he's going to try to do a colonialism.

James Mendez Hodes:

Um, so this guy's like no

James Mendez Hodes:

friendliness, no friendship.

James Mendez Hodes:

You can conquer people and

James Mendez Hodes:

show off your strength.

James Mendez Hodes:

This doesn't really make sense to me.

James Mendez Hodes:

It's also like, having a race that's

James Mendez Hodes:

completely evil, first of all, as I often

James Mendez Hodes:

say, if everybody in a certain race or

James Mendez Hodes:

a species rather, cause I hate saying

James Mendez Hodes:

race, if everyone in a certain species

James Mendez Hodes:

is born evil and they don't have the

James Mendez Hodes:

choice about whether or not to do evil and

James Mendez Hodes:

there's no chance that they can do good,

James Mendez Hodes:

well, that's not really evil, that's

James Mendez Hodes:

more like a, there's a force of nature.

James Mendez Hodes:

They don't really have a choice about it.

James Mendez Hodes:

That's not evil as, as I understand it.

James Mendez Hodes:

That's just like having a

James Mendez Hodes:

destructive nature that they

James Mendez Hodes:

don't really have a choice about.

James Mendez Hodes:

So, okay.

James Mendez Hodes:

So if, if Gruumsh is chaotic evil, and

James Mendez Hodes:

he demands this from all the orcs, it

James Mendez Hodes:

does not sound like a religion that

James Mendez Hodes:

I would bother practicing, even if

James Mendez Hodes:

I did like violence and colonialism,

James Mendez Hodes:

it doesn't sound like a good time.

James Mendez Hodes:

When I bring up the idea that it, it might

James Mendez Hodes:

be a little sketch that all orcs are evil.

James Mendez Hodes:

Very often the first response I

James Mendez Hodes:

get is, well, it makes sense that

James Mendez Hodes:

they're that way in the setting.

James Mendez Hodes:

And my response is like, really?

James Mendez Hodes:

Cause I think Gruumsh isn't real.

James Mendez Hodes:

Someone made him up.

James Mendez Hodes:

So someone made up the reasons for

James Mendez Hodes:

them all to be evil in the setting.

James Mendez Hodes:

And even if they do have a reason to

James Mendez Hodes:

be evil in the setting, that still

James Mendez Hodes:

makes the process of interacting with

James Mendez Hodes:

them for me, kind of uncomfortable.

James Mendez Hodes:

Like my personal experience of orcs

James Mendez Hodes:

being uncomfortable is still going

James Mendez Hodes:

to be the same, whether or not

James Mendez Hodes:

there's like a good reason for it.

James Mendez Hodes:

Moreover, the idea of God making a

James Mendez Hodes:

certain subgroup of sentient beings a

James Mendez Hodes:

certain way in response to like their

James Mendez Hodes:

past crimes or something like that,

James Mendez Hodes:

that's also a really common talking point

James Mendez Hodes:

in racist depictions of certain people.

James Mendez Hodes:

And, uh, again, when I bring up this

James Mendez Hodes:

point, a lot of the time people say to

James Mendez Hodes:

me, "Well, you're making that connection.

James Mendez Hodes:

I would never have thought that

James Mendez Hodes:

before you made this connection

James Mendez Hodes:

between orcs and whoever it is."

James Mendez Hodes:

To which my response is, "Yeah,

James Mendez Hodes:

I'm making that connection because

James Mendez Hodes:

racists said to, said it to me first.

James Mendez Hodes:

And unfortunately now I can't forget

James Mendez Hodes:

that because racism still exists."

James Mendez Hodes:

So having there be a God whose

James Mendez Hodes:

fault it is, doesn't really

James Mendez Hodes:

make the situation worse.

James Mendez Hodes:

And when you characterize a whole people

James Mendez Hodes:

and their whole ass religion as built

James Mendez Hodes:

entirely on these harmful and hateful

James Mendez Hodes:

ideas, that's how we do religious

James Mendez Hodes:

intolerance in the real world also.

James Mendez Hodes:

And I don't enjoy that usually.

Lucas:

you mentioned at the top of the

Lucas:

interview, that Volos is the worst.

Lucas:

What is it about Volos

Lucas:

guide that bugs you?

James Mendez Hodes:

oh my God.

James Mendez Hodes:

Um,

Lucas:

Is that too much of a question?

James Mendez Hodes:

um, so,

James Mendez Hodes:

so for comparison, let's

James Mendez Hodes:

look at the orcs in Eberron.

James Mendez Hodes:

I don't love a lot of things

James Mendez Hodes:

about their portrayal.

James Mendez Hodes:

This was before the Tasha apocalypse and

James Mendez Hodes:

the end of race-based ability scores.

Lucas:

Yeah, that was going

Lucas:

to be my next question.

James Mendez Hodes:

yeah, so

James Mendez Hodes:

this is before that, right?

James Mendez Hodes:

So the orcs still a little, uh,

James Mendez Hodes:

so they get a plus two to strength

James Mendez Hodes:

and a plus one to constitution.

James Mendez Hodes:

So that means that all of the most

James Mendez Hodes:

optimal orcs are going to be fighters,

James Mendez Hodes:

clerics, paladins, barbarians.

James Mendez Hodes:

You're not going to see a lot of orc

James Mendez Hodes:

monks, rogues, wizards or warlocks.

James Mendez Hodes:

The most optimally built orcs

James Mendez Hodes:

are all going to be in like

James Mendez Hodes:

certain martial categories.

James Mendez Hodes:

Age orcs, reach adulthood at

James Mendez Hodes:

age 12 and live up to 50 years.

James Mendez Hodes:

Alignments, the orcs have ever

James Mendez Hodes:

honor a passionate people given to

James Mendez Hodes:

powerful emotion and deep faith.

James Mendez Hodes:

They are generally chaotic,

James Mendez Hodes:

but can be any alignment.

James Mendez Hodes:

I like that they can be any alignment.

James Mendez Hodes:

I get that, but characterizing a

James Mendez Hodes:

whole species as whole culture as

James Mendez Hodes:

chaotic, that's a little weird, right?

James Mendez Hodes:

Aren't there different,

James Mendez Hodes:

different cultures of orcs?

James Mendez Hodes:

There's different cultures

James Mendez Hodes:

of humans, probably different

James Mendez Hodes:

cultures of elves, dwarves, right?

James Mendez Hodes:

Why don't we got different

James Mendez Hodes:

cultures of orcs?

James Mendez Hodes:

Um, maybe some can be chaotic

James Mendez Hodes:

and some can be ordered.

James Mendez Hodes:

Size they're medium, speed, 30

James Mendez Hodes:

feet, they have dark vision.

James Mendez Hodes:

Sure.

James Mendez Hodes:

Okay.

"Aggressive:

as a bonus action, you

"Aggressive:

can move up to your speed towards an

"Aggressive:

enemy of your choice you can see or

"Aggressive:

hear, you must end this move closer

"Aggressive:

to the enemy, then you started."

"Aggressive:

so if we're going to give all orcs an

"Aggressive:

aggression power, then I think it would

"Aggressive:

be useful for there to be a reason why.

"Aggressive:

Because otherwise we're saying like

"Aggressive:

all, every single orc is aggressive

"Aggressive:

and that is also an uncomfortable

"Aggressive:

thing that people say about certain

"Aggressive:

groups in, in the real world.

" Powerful build:

you count as one

" Powerful build:

size larger when determining your

" Powerful build:

carrying capacity and the weight

" Powerful build:

you can push drag or lifts."

" Powerful build:

I don't have like the biggest

" Powerful build:

problem with that in the world.

" Powerful build:

Cause like, I guess it's reasonable

" Powerful build:

to say, I don't know people from

" Powerful build:

Senegal or Scandinavia are often very

" Powerful build:

tall, so they are, but that, like,

" Powerful build:

we don't even do that with humans.

" Powerful build:

So saying like all of this, everybody

" Powerful build:

here has a very powerful build.

" Powerful build:

It's just not that exciting a power,

" Powerful build:

but I guess it could be worse.

" Powerful build:

" Primal Intuition," this one's weird.

" Powerful build:

"You have proficiency in two of the

llowing skills of your choice:

animal

llowing skills of your choice:

handling insight, intimidation, medicine,

llowing skills of your choice:

nature, perception and survival."

llowing skills of your choice:

So I think this goes back to those noble

llowing skills of your choice:

savage ideas that I mentioned, right?

llowing skills of your choice:

This is kind of the, this feels

llowing skills of your choice:

like the Warcraft version of embark.

llowing skills of your choice:

So that's an orc in, uh, in Eberron.

llowing skills of your choice:

I got some problems with it.

llowing skills of your choice:

There's some things where I'm like,

llowing skills of your choice:

oh, I'm not sure I got to think about

llowing skills of your choice:

this one, but, uh, let's look at Volos.

Lucas:

No.

James Mendez Hodes:

The

James Mendez Hodes:

version of orcs that we got in

James Mendez Hodes:

here, monstrous adventurers.

James Mendez Hodes:

All right.

James Mendez Hodes:

So ability score increase strength

James Mendez Hodes:

and constitution as the same

James Mendez Hodes:

strength and constitution that

James Mendez Hodes:

we just saw in the other book.

James Mendez Hodes:

And your intelligence

James Mendez Hodes:

score is reduced by two.

James Mendez Hodes:

So they're all dumber.

James Mendez Hodes:

Great.

James Mendez Hodes:

So this is, this is exactly, this is

James Mendez Hodes:

a, a, an ability score-enforced martial

James Mendez Hodes:

race bonuses to strengthen constitution,

James Mendez Hodes:

but they have worse intelligence,

Alignment:

orcs are vicious raiders who

Alignment:

believe that the world should be theirs.

Alignment:

They also represent, uh, respect, strength

Alignment:

above all else and believe the strong

Alignment:

must bully the weak to ensure that

Alignment:

weakness does not spread like a disease.

Alignment:

They're usually chaotic evil.

" Size:

orcs are usually over six feet tall

" Size:

and weigh between 230 and 280 pounds.

" Size:

Your size is medium."

" Size:

Fine.

Speed:

30 feet.

Speed:

Dark vision.

Speed:

They have dark vision.

Speed:

Then aggressive is in here.

Speed:

Menacing, they're trained in

Speed:

the intimidation skills, so they

Speed:

all run around scaring people.

Speed:

Powerful Build, same as before.

Speed:

And that's, that's an orc mechanically.

Speed:

So they are one of the few species

Speed:

in this game that actually has a

Speed:

negative modifier to an ability score.

Speed:

So that to make sure that we

Speed:

all know, that orcs are dumb.

Speed:

So, I hate it.

Lucas:

Even at the time of this interview,

Lucas:

the so-called "Tasha-pocalypse" had begun

Lucas:

to address these issues by re-writing

Lucas:

the source material in question.

Lucas:

The November 2021 sourcebook Tasha's

Lucas:

Cauldron of Everything made ability

Lucas:

score increases a matter of player

Lucas:

choice rather than being determined

Lucas:

by race, accompanied by a large number

Lucas:

of mechanical changes to the game.

Lucas:

A massive set of errata released

Lucas:

that December removed racial ability

Lucas:

score penalties as well as adjusting

Lucas:

some of the lore in the Player's

Lucas:

Handbook regarding orcs and drow,

Lucas:

another problematic racial symbol.

Lucas:

The May 2022 release of Monsters of the

Lucas:

Multiverse made previous printings of

Lucas:

orcs and other creatures "legacy content"

Lucas:

and replaced them with updated versions.

Lucas:

For orcs, the "Aggressive" trait was

Lucas:

replaced with a movement buff called

Lucas:

"Adrenaline Rush" that doesn't target

Lucas:

enemies, and the "Menacing" trait was

Lucas:

replaced with "Relentless Endurance" which

Lucas:

allows the orc character to return to 1

Lucas:

hit point instead of falling unconscious.

Lucas:

Gruumsh still appears as an influential

Lucas:

figure in orcish culture, though

Lucas:

he is now cited as "an unstoppable

Lucas:

warrior and powerful leader" known

Lucas:

for his tougness and tenacity.

Lucas:

Despite a generally warm

Lucas:

reception, these changes were

Lucas:

not received without controversy.

Lucas:

Nor can they erase the printed

Lucas:

words in Volo's Guide, Deities

Lucas:

& Demigods, or Dragon Magazine.

Lucas:

Mendez's criticisms are no less

Lucas:

relevant now than they were when

Lucas:

we recorded them in January.

Lucas:

I did want to bring it back around to

Lucas:

Book of Extinction and the aurochs itself.

Lucas:

Cause this is another one of those things

Lucas:

that just kind of snuck its way rather

Lucas:

unremarkably into the back of Volos Guide.

Lucas:

It's another beast.

Lucas:

It's a very large cow, CR 2?

Lucas:

But the section of lore that we got

Lucas:

tied it to Gruumsh and his son Bahgtru.

Lucas:

It cast it in the role of, of mount

Lucas:

like a mount chosen of a deity,

Lucas:

which happens a lot, in myth and

Lucas:

culture over the course of history.

James Mendez Hodes:

Before this

James Mendez Hodes:

interview, I read through the part

James Mendez Hodes:

about all the ORC deities and they're

James Mendez Hodes:

all, they're all, they're all terrible.

James Mendez Hodes:

And then there's one of them.

James Mendez Hodes:

And then he rides an aurochs

James Mendez Hodes:

around, and this is like the

James Mendez Hodes:

only good thing orcs ever do.

James Mendez Hodes:

They're nice to cows.

James Mendez Hodes:

This is, this is like the only

James Mendez Hodes:

positive things said about orcs.

James Mendez Hodes:

And like this whole chapter is that

James Mendez Hodes:

they're nice to this one kind of cow.

James Mendez Hodes:

And then sometimes they've

James Mendez Hodes:

ride them into battle.

James Mendez Hodes:

And there's a lot going on here.

James Mendez Hodes:

Why weren't horses good enough?

James Mendez Hodes:

Why does it have to be a bull?

James Mendez Hodes:

Did they need something that was just

James Mendez Hodes:

bigger and hornier than like the human,

James Mendez Hodes:

the thing that humans were riding around?

James Mendez Hodes:

Um, what happened to riding on wolves?

James Mendez Hodes:

That's also kind of weird, but

James Mendez Hodes:

I thought they used to, is that

James Mendez Hodes:

just for goblins now, but, okay.

James Mendez Hodes:

So now they have these sacred

James Mendez Hodes:

cows, um, which I don't think has

James Mendez Hodes:

anything to do with like, like

James Mendez Hodes:

in, in real world, like yeah.

James Mendez Hodes:

there are, there are cows that

James Mendez Hodes:

are sacred in, in south Asia.

James Mendez Hodes:

I don't think that, oh,

James Mendez Hodes:

wait, martial races.

James Mendez Hodes:

Ah, they are connected aren't they.

James Mendez Hodes:

Damn it.

James Mendez Hodes:

All right.

James Mendez Hodes:

All right.

James Mendez Hodes:

I hope that was an accident.

James Mendez Hodes:

So I it's awkward because it

James Mendez Hodes:

reminds you of Nazi stuff.

James Mendez Hodes:

Right?

James Mendez Hodes:

And I think a lot of, there are a lot

James Mendez Hodes:

of, fascist movements which have eco

James Mendez Hodes:

fascist tendencies where they have

James Mendez Hodes:

like a, a Vokish ideology or some

James Mendez Hodes:

similar thing like that, which is

James Mendez Hodes:

connected to a certain understanding

James Mendez Hodes:

of how, people are connected to land.

Lucas:

In the case of Heck and Göring,

Lucas:

this idea was lebensraum, or living

Lucas:

space, and a return to the heroic past.

James Mendez Hodes:

Classical nationalism

James Mendez Hodes:

is built on a lot of different shared

James Mendez Hodes:

qualities, but language culture, history,

James Mendez Hodes:

usually religion and territory are often

James Mendez Hodes:

elements of classical nationalism as

James Mendez Hodes:

opposed to like the messed up versions

James Mendez Hodes:

of nationalism we have today, but we're

James Mendez Hodes:

talking about like the stuff that led

James Mendez Hodes:

to the formation of early nation states.

James Mendez Hodes:

So, a lot of the time that's

James Mendez Hodes:

connected to certain qualities

James Mendez Hodes:

of nature or animals or plants.

James Mendez Hodes:

In this case, the Nazis were attempting

James Mendez Hodes:

to create a living animal symbol of

James Mendez Hodes:

their idea of the German relationship

James Mendez Hodes:

with the German country and the German

James Mendez Hodes:

climate and the German animals, I guess.

James Mendez Hodes:

In addition to the, the racialized

James Mendez Hodes:

aspects of orcs, um, portrayals

James Mendez Hodes:

of orcs are also heavily gendered.

James Mendez Hodes:

The masculinity and the toxic masculinity

James Mendez Hodes:

of orcs is often heavily exaggerated.

James Mendez Hodes:

So the, the bull here seems

James Mendez Hodes:

to be a symbol of masculinity.

James Mendez Hodes:

And then the aurochs, as an exaggerated,

James Mendez Hodes:

like, you know, super swole, uh, version

James Mendez Hodes:

of the bull seems to be connected to

James Mendez Hodes:

a kind of exaggerated masculinity.

James Mendez Hodes:

Um,

James Mendez Hodes:

yeah, this is uncomfortable.

Lucas:

Forgotten Realms lore from

Lucas:

earlier editions also showed this

Lucas:

gendered portrayal in the form of

Lucas:

Gruumsh's wife, Luthic, another

Lucas:

part of the orcish pantheon.

Jessica Marcrum:

Luthic gets really poorly

Jessica Marcrum:

treated in a lot of the lore because

Jessica Marcrum:

she does all of this really cool stuff.

Jessica Marcrum:

She gives the orcs like visions of

Jessica Marcrum:

the blood moon, which incites them to

Jessica Marcrum:

battle and makes them into warriors.

Jessica Marcrum:

She's there when every orc is born,

Jessica Marcrum:

she's there when every orc dies.

Jessica Marcrum:

And yet she's really ignored by most orcs

Jessica Marcrum:

and just seen as like Gruumsh's wife and

Jessica Marcrum:

kind of disregarded by the rest of the

Jessica Marcrum:

pantheon, most of which are her children.

Lucas:

This is Jessica Marcrum,

Lucas:

who created an adventure around

Luthic for Uncaged:

Goddesses, the

Luthic for Uncaged:

DM's Guild adventure anthology we

Luthic for Uncaged:

covered at the top of the season.

Jessica Marcrum:

So her husband and her

Jessica Marcrum:

children all treat her like trash and

Jessica Marcrum:

the orcs, except for like her clerics

Jessica Marcrum:

who are called the Orc Claws of Luthic,

Jessica Marcrum:

all also kind of are like, whatever about

Jessica Marcrum:

her, but it's canon that she's like the

Jessica Marcrum:

smartest person in the pantheon and the

Jessica Marcrum:

only one who's good at battle strategy.

Jessica Marcrum:

She's also the only one who

Jessica Marcrum:

knows how to heal apparently.

Jessica Marcrum:

So, you know, she, she does all

Jessica Marcrum:

this and doesn't get any credit.

Lucas:

Jessica's criticisms hit very

Lucas:

differently in light of the conversation

Lucas:

around martial and administrative races.

Lucas:

The gendered portrayal continues

Lucas:

as Luthic is also associated with

Lucas:

an Ice Age giant, the cave bear.

Jessica Marcrum:

They're one of

Jessica Marcrum:

her sacred animals and she is

Jessica Marcrum:

known to transform into cave bears.

Lucas:

Cave bears we know are the

Lucas:

fulcrum where archaeology turned

Lucas:

from fable to fact, as they were

Lucas:

so often conflated with dragons.

Lucas:

It's easy to hear the same echo of a

Lucas:

mythic, dragon-slaying past written

Lucas:

in Luthic that we hear in Gruumsh,

Lucas:

uncomfortable associations and all.

James Mendez Hodes:

So as far as

James Mendez Hodes:

like corrections, I would like to see

James Mendez Hodes:

made to orcs, uh, you know, D and D

James Mendez Hodes:

has already moved past a lot of the

James Mendez Hodes:

things in Volo's Guide to Monsters.

James Mendez Hodes:

The connection to aurochs, uh,

James Mendez Hodes:

it's not my biggest problem here.

James Mendez Hodes:

Like if you fix a lot of the other

James Mendez Hodes:

stuff, if their gods aren't all just

James Mendez Hodes:

monsters, and if they themselves,

James Mendez Hodes:

aren't just monsters than I think the

James Mendez Hodes:

fact that they have very large bulls

James Mendez Hodes:

is not, not my biggest problem here.

James Mendez Hodes:

That that seems okay.

James Mendez Hodes:

It's just weird, you know?

Lucas:

Yeah, I do.

Lucas:

It's part of why I wanted

Lucas:

to talk to you about it.

Lucas:

This is a lot of information that I

Lucas:

was genuinely unsure what to do with.

Lucas:

But I can't not talk about it.

Lucas:

It would be the same as

Lucas:

pretending it didn't happen.

James Mendez Hodes:

It's a great story.

James Mendez Hodes:

Even if you're going to, even if you're

James Mendez Hodes:

going to leave the, the aurochs from

James Mendez Hodes:

Volos guys to monsters in there, like

James Mendez Hodes:

it's, this is a fascinating story.

Lucas:

Yeah, I will say that

Lucas:

to kind of bring it back around

Lucas:

and put a button on this.

Lucas:

The aurochs has gotten what I

Lucas:

consider to be a redemptive moment.

Lucas:

Uh, it's one of a handful of species

Lucas:

that scientists are actively trying

Lucas:

to bring back from extinction.

Lucas:

We're at a point technologically

Lucas:

where we are able to talk about

Lucas:

whether we can de extinct something.

Steve Sullivan:

And now today, with, with

Steve Sullivan:

CRISPR technology, we can kind of cut

Steve Sullivan:

up genes and chuck new bits in there.

Steve Sullivan:

And, in fact with the mammoth, that's been

Steve Sullivan:

in the news recently, we can take Asian

Steve Sullivan:

elephants and we can take some of these,

Steve Sullivan:

frozen mammoths that have been in the

Steve Sullivan:

permafrost for so long, which thanks to

Steve Sullivan:

climate change, the permafrost is thawing.

Steve Sullivan:

So we're able to find these, but so

Steve Sullivan:

well-preserved, we can even eat the meat.

Steve Sullivan:

We can find the genes

Steve Sullivan:

within those organisms.

Steve Sullivan:

We can splice them into Asian

Steve Sullivan:

elephants, and it is entirely

Steve Sullivan:

conceivable that we can make a mammoth.

Lucas:

A more recent program to de extinct

Lucas:

the aurochs, rather than being based on,

Lucas:

uh, Göring's idea of what an aurochs might

Lucas:

have been, it's based on a sequence of

Lucas:

the aurochs genome using material from

Lucas:

a bone discovered in Derbyshire England,

Lucas:

They also used genetic material

Lucas:

from museum artifacts, including

Lucas:

King Sigismund III's drinking horn.

Lucas:

So this is like, this is straight out

Lucas:

of a summer blockbuster and it's the

Lucas:

Taurus program is doing it, a cooperation

Lucas:

between European conservation groups.

Lucas:

And they hope to create a modern

Lucas:

version of the aurochs that more

Lucas:

closely matches that genome and there

Lucas:

they're being very careful about it.

Lucas:

It matches the genome.

Lucas:

It matches depictions we have of the

Lucas:

aurochs from ancient history and it's

Lucas:

being re-introduced to areas like

Lucas:

the Rhodope Mountains, the Southern

Lucas:

Carpathians and the Oder Delta,

Lucas:

and it hopes to create functional

Lucas:

ecological landscapes sustained

Lucas:

by natural processes like forest

Lucas:

regeneration and free flowing rivers.

Lucas:

So we've, we've back-bred the

Lucas:

aurochs, this time as a part of a

Lucas:

really sophisticated land management

Lucas:

strategy to address the problems

Lucas:

of conservation and extinction.

James Mendez Hodes:

Well, that's great.

James Mendez Hodes:

That's pretty cool.

James Mendez Hodes:

What if orcs did that?

Lucas:

And I do have to say for accuracy's

Lucas:

sake that this story doesn't end neatly

Lucas:

in the way that most true stories

Lucas:

don't but Heinz Heck, it must be said,

Lucas:

didn't share his brother's ideology.

Lucas:

He was imprisoned at the Dachau

Lucas:

concentration camp for his connections

Lucas:

to the communist party and his

Lucas:

brief marriage to a Jewish woman.

James Mendez Hodes:

Wow.

James Mendez Hodes:

I just, I just opened up his Wikipedia

James Mendez Hodes:

page and it says, Heck also played

James Mendez Hodes:

an important part in saving the

James Mendez Hodes:

European bison from extinction.

James Mendez Hodes:

so this guy is, this guy is the hero

James Mendez Hodes:

of this whole episode, Heinz Heck.

James Mendez Hodes:

Yeah.

James Mendez Hodes:

This guy is, this guy is cool.

Lucas:

He's a pretty rad dude.

James Mendez Hodes:

Yeah, let's

James Mendez Hodes:

enjoy this five minutes before

James Mendez Hodes:

the internet milkshake ducks him.

James Mendez Hodes:

I'm sure if someone in the responses to

James Mendez Hodes:

this episode is going to be like, actually

Lucas:

Oh, I'm, I'm fully prepared

Lucas:

for people to point out the limits of

Lucas:

my research and I, and I will, I, it

Lucas:

is worth mentioning also, please do

Lucas:

point out the limits of my research.

Lucas:

I'm a journalist, not a historian,

Lucas:

so if you've got information

Lucas:

I don't, I'd love to hear it.

Lucas:

Let's start a better

Lucas:

conversation around this.

James Mendez Hodes:

Yeah.

James Mendez Hodes:

I am just like, I feel like I'm

James Mendez Hodes:

just starting to scratch the

James Mendez Hodes:

surface of this topic myself.

Lucas:

The aurochs will appear in

Lucas:

The Book of Extinction, a bestiary of

Lucas:

extinct animals for 5th edition coming

Lucas:

to Kickstarter in November of 2022.

Lucas:

My version takes after the Tauros

Lucas:

Programme rather than the Nazi supercow.

Lucas:

I've mythologized it as the briar bull,

Lucas:

a creature of druidic power that brings

Lucas:

new life to the forests where it walks.

Lucas:

You can find out more about the

Lucas:

project, including the illustration

Lucas:

of the aurochs on the cover, at

Lucas:

scintilla dot studio slash extinction.

Lucas:

You can download the first three

Lucas:

monsters in the book, themselves

Lucas:

stories of giants and primeval forests.

Lucas:

Pay what you want for it, and every

Lucas:

penny we earn will go to supporting

Lucas:

the Center for Biological Diversity, a

Lucas:

legal and media advocacy organization

Lucas:

based in Portland working to protect

Lucas:

endangered species and wild places

Lucas:

in the United States and worldwide.

Lucas:

Thanks for listening to

Making a Monster:

Extinction.

Making a Monster:

There is so much more to say about this

Making a Monster:

immense topic on the back of the aurochs.

Making a Monster:

In the show notes is a link to the

Making a Monster:

most important resources you'll need to

Making a Monster:

navigate this topic, including a fantastic

Making a Monster:

Smithsonian article on the Nazi supercow,

Making a Monster:

Mendez' excellent "orc-ticles" on the

Making a Monster:

martial race myth, and more about the

Making a Monster:

TaurOs Programme and Rewilding Europe.

Making a Monster:

My thanks to this episode's guides,

Making a Monster:

Steve Sullivan, director of the

Making a Monster:

Hefner Museum of Natural History

Making a Monster:

at Miami University in Ohio;

Making a Monster:

Jessica Marcrum, Uncaged Author

Making a Monster:

and producer of the Threeflings

Making a Monster:

actual play podcast, online at

Making a Monster:

jessicamarcrumwrites dot com;

Making a Monster:

and featuring James Mendez Hodes,

Making a Monster:

game designer and orc historian.

James Mendez Hodes:

You can find

James Mendez Hodes:

me on Twitter at Lula Vampiro.

James Mendez Hodes:

I just posted actually a, another video.

James Mendez Hodes:

It's an interview with me talking

James Mendez Hodes:

about the magic, the gathering cyber

James Mendez Hodes:

future set, coming out on Neon Dynasty.

James Mendez Hodes:

And, uh, yeah.

James Mendez Hodes:

Thank you.