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it has been assumed that orcs don’t exist because their most well-known role, that of troops of a Dark Lord, has been replaced by draconians.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…