Tosk, the City of Spears

Some notes on Tosk, the City of Spears, the Ten-Thousand Tusks, and other names.

  • “Orcish Rome” - a strong, freedom-loving democracy, yet also a warlike empire
  • The city is named for its most distinctive geographical feature, a towering pair of steep mountains - considered a good omen by the founders due to their resemblance to Orcish tusks
  • Representative democracy, bicameral legislature
    • The franchise is represented by the Spear (a warrior and hunter) and the Sickle (a farmer and a laborer)
    • Spears join together into a clan, whose chief is effectively both representative in law and centurion during wartime
    • The “Second Spear” typically stands in the legislature and speaks the will of their chief and clan
  • Outside of the city’s walls, the clans travel as nomads, making conquests, trading with other peoples, and exploring
  • Tosk’s rulers are content to let conquered people keep their customs and ways, but must pay tithe (treasure or raw materials), receiving protection in return
  • Tosk’s people value freedom, not as a concept, but as a reality for themselves and for all Orcs


Questions and answers from the Going Deeper thread.

Who are your people on good terms with? How about bad terms? Why?

The orcs of Tosk get along well with the goblins of Underhill. The two species resemble each other, but goblins physically smaller and weaker, and are subterranean and nocturnal besides. They get along due to the similarity of reactions from other free folk, and because they have little shared interests in territory.

They do not get along with the monks of the Stone Rose, a remote and largely unreachable land. The monks are pacifist, but practice the fighting arts for self-discipline and healthiness. They welcome, and protect, those who flee the orcs’ conquests. For their part, the monks see the orcs as barbaric savages. To the orcs, the monks are subversive spreaders of falsehoods about the Toskan empire.

What’s one thing your people have that no one else does?

Orc shamanism calls on animal spirits, raised up during ritual hunts. These spirits act as guards, messengers, and spies for orcish “drummers” (so named for the musical instrument they employ in their magical practices). Animal spirits will linger near sanctified relics of their physical bodies, such as the sabertooth fang knife Virens carries.

What is the political structure of your peoples’ society?

Described above.

What do your people most value? What do they least value?

The orcs value virtues, which they identify with the elements: fire for passion, water for progress, earth for reliability, air for openness. These virtues inform how they conduct business in the empire: they prefer directness, honestly, and integrity.

Orcs have little patience for sophistry or the cultured lies of more “advanced” societies, seeing them as an obstacle to real progress.

What is your people’s greatest accomplishment?

The Toskan warchief Mactus Gigas died in honorable single combat when an enemy general challenged him. During the fight, observers witnessed the two exchanging conversation as well as sword blows. When Mactus died at the general’s blade, she bowed to his body, then immediately surrendered herself and her kingdom to the orcs. The orcs took charge of affairs, driving away bandits and securing roads. This was the first of several human kingdoms to add themselves to the empire, the first time such a thing had happened without conquest, but not the last.

To this day, nobody knows what was said.

What is your largest city called, and what is it like?

Tosk, as described above.


More notes about the empire, in Q&A form.

Do orcs take slaves? No. If you take up the spear or the sickle, either you join a clan or you go it alone. But it’s your choice, and you can renounce your allegiance if your obligations are settled. If you don’t want to work, the orcs don’t have to feed you. If you aren’t causing trouble for someone the orcs pledged to protect, you aren’t their problem.

Who runs Tosk itself? There is no emperor or hereditary succession system. The clans are the largest political unit within the empire beneath the empire itself. Clans have leaders (the “First Spear”), elected by acclaim by the recognized members of the clan. One clan, in turn, is voted by the legislature to administer the city of Tosk itself. In one sense, the First Spear of that clan could be said to be an “emperor”, but the legislature still rules the empire, in fact as well as in law.

What are some problems with the empire? There are several, depending on who you ask.

  • Many people are still untrustworthy of orcs and their attitudes toward violence (e.g. that it’s a useful tool)
  • Some people dislike orcs for aesthetic reasons - their appearance, relative crudity of tools and technique, and so on
  • Orcs can be as bigoted as other races, in turn - they might look down or take advantage of strangers, even ones they’re pledged to protect (in such cases, the Empire will generally deal with the offending clan, but this takes time)
  • The empire’s drummers use animal spirits as messengers, but they cannot carry complex messages or express intellectual concepts, so communication can still be slow
  • Different clans have different ideas about how to handle business, meaning that if a new clan comes into power in a region, the locals may feel disrupted or distrustful
  • In historical Rome, the loyalty of the legionary mattered - did you serve your general, or the emperor?

What does everyday life look like at the clan level? In the course of a year, an orc clan might:

  • be ordered by the legislature to take control of a province from another clan (with any attendant complications that a transfer of power entails)
  • vote in a new First Spear, should one die, step down, etc.
  • send a new Second Spear back to Tosk to speak for them, or otherwise communicate the clan’s situation and intentions back and forth
  • defend an existing province from external threats: bandits, invading armies, spies or saboteurs, wild animals or Mist-born monsters, etc.
  • act as witness or protection for some local leader during a political action or time of unrest - however, the clan typically does not get involved in internal affairs of a province
  • collect tithe - in the form of grain, fruit, livestock, or other harvest, as well as lumber or other raw materials for construction - and secure it on its way to Tosk or other destinations
  • celebrate orcish cultural rituals, feast days, etc.
  • participate in ritual hunts or other acts of animal-spirit veneration

What are some typical roles in orcish society? There are several recognized roles, each defined by their relationship to a clan or community:

  • The Spear - you are a warrior and hunter. If something needs to die, you kill it. You feed and protect others. If you are injured, you’ll be cared for until you’re ready to serve again, or until you change roles.
  • The Sickle - you are a farmer or a laborer. You work the land, gather food, or otherwise serve the community in a non-violent capacity. “The sickle” is still a weapon, and you are still expected to fight if it comes to it.
  • The empty hand - you benefit from the community but do not contribute to it right now. The very young and the very old qualify. People late in their pregnancy also have this status.
  • The Drum - you are a practitioner of shamanic rites to interact with animal spirits. You use your connection to these spirits to serve the community through divination, communication with other drummers across long distance, and so on.
  • Non-Orc - you are not a native Toskan and have not taken up the Spear or Sickle. Your rituals and ways are your own and should be respected, but must not interfere with the community or its members (e.g. if you are a bandit, nobody cares if you claim to serve the Bandit God).