Dragonlance has few limitations on what races can be played in the setting, but two limitations stand out above all – the orc and half-orc. Many theories exist as to why this limitation is in place, so I decided to go straight to the source – Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.
Generally, it has been assumed that orcs don’t exist because their most well-known role, that of troops of a Dark Lord, has been replaced by draconians. That’s part of it, but there’s more.
Tracy: “There are many reasons why there are no orcs in Krynn … the most basic is that the mythology didn’t support it.”
Margaret: “Orcs were also viewed as very Middle Earth. We wanted something different.”
Tracy: “We studied Tolkien extensively, including attending a conference on his works at Marquette University. We were interested in learning how he created his world as well as how to avoid repeating his work.”
This raised a question. Why not simply reskin the orc to fill another role?
Tracy: “Orcs were simply set aside as antagonists that were unique to Middle-earth (despite their generic application in D&D). We needed our own enemy. Draconians not only made our world unique but quickly became an important and deep diegetic pillar of Krynn.”
Margaret: “We had goblins for the soldiers”
Tracy: “Filling out the rank and file.”
Tracy: “World creation isn’t like a blender. You can’t just toss in tropes, hit pulse a few times, pour out something and claim ‘it’s unique’. Worlds have to be organic, as my wife likes to say. All the parts make up a living, breathing whole.”
Tracy: “What people sometimes forget is that Orcs in Middle earth have a deep and specific history and origin as do their cousins the Uruk-Hai. That foundation simply didn’t exist in Krynn … ergo no orcs.”
Margaret added one other point that I had not considered.
Margaret: “Plus the Rankin and Bass cartoon had done a lot to ruin orcs. We didn’t want people humming ‘Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way.‘”
Tracy: “Now that song is stuck in my head and I’m singing it in my office!“
Tracy: “We don’t wanna go to war today, but the Lord of the Lash says: “‘nay, nay, nay!'”
With Tracy singing in his office, the conversation came to a close. I wanted to say thank you to Margaret and Tracy for taking the time to speak with me and to set the record straight.
With that, dear readers…
Damnit Margaret…. That song is stuck in my head too.