The Orc Races
Four subraces of orcs are known to roam Faerûn. The first of these subraces are the gray orcs of the East, nomadic orcs who are fanatic in their worship of their deities. The second are the warlike mountain orcs of the North, quite similar in physical abilities to those orcs presented in the Monster Manual entry but with quite different societies and outlooks on life. The third are the half-orcs, one of the "homeless" races of Faerûn, a mixed people without a history to call their own. The fourth subrace comprises the orogs of the deep Underdark, mighty weaponsmiths and war leaders long forgotten by the surface peoples.
Warfare infuses every aspect of orc society. When they are not out raiding and attacking their enemies (often other orc tribes), orcs train in fighting, build and repair weapons and siege engines, and generally chomp at the bit for the next battle.
Orc tribes often make their lairs in natural caverns, since caves are easily defended and require little construction to fortify. It is just as common to find a tribe of orcs dwelling in a ruined fortress or underground complex captured by invading orcs. Orc tribes who have not found a suitable network of caverns or captured a dungeon or castle to live in build small nomadic villages instead. Orc villages consist of tents and other temporary structures arrayed in a circular pattern, guarded by a moat or palisade. These villages are built atop hills or against cliff sides, lakes, or rivers, utilizing natural obstacles to increase the defensibility of the village.
Orcs have a savage, patriarchal society. It is virtually unknown to find a female orc in a position of secular power in an orc community. Orc males typically take a handful of wives, who are usually treated as little more than trophies, and slaves. Orc sons are expected to train in combat as soon as they can hold weapons, and infighting among siblings is encouraged. An orc father has no interest in rearing a child who cannot hold his own against his brothers, and a sickly or undersized orc never lives long.
Female orcs have little to look forward to. Rarely, a particularly tough orc woman can muscle her way into the orc armies and serve alongside her brothers as an equal, but for the most part, female orcs are regulated to the roles of servant and mother. Female orcs are as physically strong and capable as male orcs, but orc society is narrow-minded and brutal. The one real area in which a female orc can hope to excel is magic, particularly divine magic. Female orc adepts, clerics, and druids use their magical skills to strike fear and trepidation into the males of their community and are, for the most part, left alone to do what they want.
Slavery is common in orc communities. Usually, slaves in an orc lair consist of subjugated kobolds or goblins, although it isn't uncommon to see orcs of opposing tribes or subraces kept as slaves. Humans, gnomes, dwarves, and halflings are often kept as slaves too, although they are treated poorly and generally don't live long under such harsh conditions. Elf slaves are rare, since most orcs would prefer simply to kill and eat any elves they come across.
Orcs - like elves, dwarves, and many other races now quite well known on Faerûn - are not true natives of Toril. The first migration of orcs into Faerûn occurred many thousands of years ago, through portals built by one of the creator races. For thousands of years after they first migrated to Toril, the orcs were little more than feral savages too busy fighting and warring among themselves to warrant the attention of the great elven nations. This age of true savagery among the orcs of Faerûn is believed to have lasted for well over fifteen thousand years. It wasn't until -3800 DR that the orcs of the North finally coalesced into actual tribes. Less than 200 years later, the tribes unified under a powerful set of orc leaders, forming the first orc horde. This legion of orcs first turned its attentions south in -3605 DR, when they launched a major invasion of the fledgling nation of Netheril and wreaked much havoc before Netherese and elven armies turned them back. Despite their defeat, the orcs found that they had a taste for warfare, and since that time periodic orc invasions have continued to menace the southern realms every few generations, when orc populations grew large enough for a new horde to form.
The North wasn't the only region of Faerûn destined to feel the savage claws of the orcs. In -1081 DR, a band of rebellious Mulhorandi wizards opened a portal to the orcs' homeworld, and unleashed a massive horde of the creatures on the world several years later. The resulting Orcgate Wars stand as the single greatest time of havoc and warfare inflicted on Faeûun by the orc race. The orcs were finally defeated in -1069 DR and scattered throughout the region.
Since those long-ago times, orcs have continued as a plague on the surface of the world. In the North, orc hordes have destroyed (or helped to destroy) many great kingdoms of dwarves, humans, and elves, including Ammarindar, Phalorm, Delzoun, Eaerlann, and Illefarn. Orc hordes have at various times ravaged Chessenta, the Vast, and the Sword Coast as far south as Calimshan. It is only a matter of time before the orcs gather again.