Supreme Ruler Itzak began making crude plans to lay waste the dwarven clans to the west. Over the next several years, larger and more well-equipped armies began hammering the dwarves in their mountain homes -- the Warkore Clan in particular. After discovering an ancient ruin within the desert that contained a considerable amount of old, elven gold, as well as magical items galore, Itzak's elite minions began to hire mercenary teachers from evil Kur Maeth. The slave trade proved considerably profitable, as well, and elves, dwarves, humans, grippli, and tomanths began to funnel into Kur Maeth, and then on to Labond and the Alekdan Principalities. As the armies of the Ogre Nations became better trained and more well-equipped, their confidence in Supreme Ruler Itzak climbed. In 1311 Avard, Itzak committed all of the new army to war with the dwarves. Simultaneous and bold strokes through the Loregard pass delivered deadly hammer blows. Though the heart of the two clans' strongholds held, monasteries and outlying mountains fell before the Horde. Covering tactics with ranged weapons, coupled with well-trained, armed and armored sand orcs, backed by both kobolds and ogres together, made for a formidable force.
When the two clans united as one to repel the Horde, Itzak felt that the war would merely take longer; however, undead elves from deep within the desert necessitated the pull-back of many of his armies. As the War of the Undead began to heat up, the Supreme Ruler found himself spending more and more time fighting banshees, wraiths, and skeletons. The taste of victory the sand orcs and ogres had felt became merely a taste, as, finally, the entire Ogre Nations army was withdrawn into the Choranil Desert to fight off the undead, and protect the ogran warrens.
When the War of the Undead had ended, Itzak prepared once more to assault Rakore, but also had a new Kur Maeth to deal with -- one inhabited by the Fourth Crusaders he had long prophesied. Deprived of the monies the slave trade brought, Itzak sheltered those humans he could that had proven 'useful' in Kur Maeth, using them to train his peoples in the more civilized arts of trade, war, and viciousness. Just as the Ogre Nations were ready to fire a double-pronged attack at both Rakore and Kur Maeth simultaneously, the Srik swept through the northern Choranil Desert like a plague. Finally understanding his own prophecies, Itzak pulled as many of his peoples back as he could, drawing a fighting line at the Griktale Escarpment with twin armies numbering in the millions. Orcish blood flowed in such a tide that the normally empty Fozarn River's bed filled and then flooded, on what the sand orcs call 'the red flood', a holiday of mourning celebrated annually. Barely holding the centaur ants at bay, Itzak and all the other rulers began to truly see the wisdom and desperation that drove the civilizations of the dwarves and the humans.
Through fierce determination alone, the War Front had held near the Griktale Escarpment and the Fozarn Riverbed. For every advance the Ogre Nations made, the Srik took it back; and for every advance the Srik made, the Horde took it back. Crude mining, smelting, and smithing in the Avris Mountains, had yielded considerable steel -- with a great many dwarven slaves thought to drive the processes. Those slaves were supposedly all returned to Rakore. After the failed War of the Four Winds, the ograns were greatly reduced in stature and spirit.
Use: Farming for the sand orc females is hard in the dry soils, but when irrigation from the southern Kolath and Hrolth Rivers is used, the desert blooms with native desert grains called 'hralsh', akin to a harder rye grain. While hralsh grain most often goes into food mash, it also goes into making hralsh beer, which is a harsh, alcohol-laden froth of dark liquid that burns like fire and leaves the consumer trying to remember the day previous.
Water: Free water is extraordinarily scarce in the desert, though found more often near the Johnathon Hills, and its two main rivers. Oases within the desert are highly prized, and many are going dry from over-use.
Weather: The desert is dry, save in the fall months, when the rains cause floods of considerable danger. The days are hot, and the nights are relatively warm compared to other lands -- but the drop in temperature is so great compared to the day that to many creatures, the nights are cold, indeed.
Animals: Concentrated as the sand orcs are, a number of natural desert creatures survive. While the sand orc population itself has not changed significantly, having half the population pull back into half the area should have changed the natural ecology. However, the continuing war with the Srik itself consumes vast numbers of ograns, and the native animals are easily ignored, save when rangers hunt them for a food source. Packs of slicer beetles in particular menace some of the sandier dunes, and elder hatori (some of which are nearly a mile long) exist in the rockier plateau areas, as well as the dunes.
Keynotes: The Golden Wastes, located northwest of Mount Kilreptus, are perhaps 2,000 square miles of dunes. Southeast and across from Mount Kilreptus are the Electrum wastes, very nearly as large.
Scouts: Kobolds of both genders are usually mounted on specially bred coyotes, serving as flankers, scouts, and messengers. Wearing boiled leather armor, they generally carry shortbows and throwing knives, as well as shortswords and long daggers. Though their arrows and throwing knives are useless against the Srik, they are excellent for hunting small game to supplement the needs of the armies. The kobold irregulars are an equal mix of barbarians, fighters, rangers, and rogues, having to survive on both the battle-front, and among the unrespectful sand orcs and ogres. The average kobold (regardless of class) is a 2nd-level irregular, though the leader of each group might be an unmounted sand orc of any of the four backgrounds.
Vanguard: The ogres of the Horde are all heavy infantry of the most dangerous kind. Their armor consists of a mixture of Srik carapaces and cold iron, in effect giving them full plate (+9 armor points). Combined with an iron-carapace shield, and a massive ogre-size bastard sword (2d6 damage, critical 18-20/x2), the ogre heavy infantry are formidable, especially when arranged in large groups. The Srik carapaces they use are carefully treated so as not to give off the smell of dead Srik, and the heavy infantry can be reserved for weakened areas in the sand orcish lines -- or for massive, head-on strikes. Because these hard-charging ogres see such considerable combat, they average out as 5th-level fighters.
Airforce: To combat the aerial menace of the male Srik, sand orcish rangers took on the deadly and formidable task of raising, breaking, and training mountain rocs to serve the Horde. Orcish archers armored only in boiled hides, are strapped together to roc mounts on cleverly designed leather and cord saddles. They use the heavy composite short bows of the other sand orcs, along with the deadly pile and obsidian tipped arrows. Usually four archers ride on a roc, together with the sand orc ranger that control and guide the giant hawk. The hawks themselves are trained in the art of aerial combat, and even find the male Srik to be a tasty treat; because of their instincts and the abilities of the rangers, the roc forces are an invaluable asset on the battlefield. Their numbers are very low, and no more than a few dozen of these special hawks are actually available at any given time; because of this, a small unit of healing priests and their necessary support are often nearby. 'Nearby' for such a far-flying creature might be hundreds of miles, however. The average roc mount can be considered 2nd-level, and the giant hawks themselves are full of surprises.
Artillery: The Horde rarely uses artillery, save for catapults laden with brimstone or burning salts. Ballistae can rarely hit an aerial male drone, and though they can punch through the armor of a Srik, the damage is minimal. Hurled boulders, even by trebuchet, might hit one or two of the massive ants, but 'swarms' describe the smallest gatherings of the giant Srik. As well, two-thousand pound stones hurled by trebuchet have literally bounced off of the hides of the larger Srik warriors; at best, the warrior loses a leg or its head, though it can still be a deadly foe. Burning brimstone and salts can confuse the scent trails of the Srik, letting ogran tactics punch through confused lines of Srik, or aiding in withdrawals, preventing reinforcements, and rerouting the lines of Srik with carefully hurled scents. Many of these artillerymen have become partial alchemists, and experts in the anatomies of Srik, and their scents. They average out as 1st-level alchemists and rogues.
Assassins: All of the various rulers of the Ogre Nations keep assassin-trained kobolds on tight leashes. While some practice magic or prayers of Mazripos, others draw their power straight from the land itself as druids. The most elevated of the kobolds, they must still deal with the sand orcs, and are all probably 3rd-level.
Bows: The infantry is backed by archers armed with immensely powerful composite shortbows. The hardened steel-point or obsidian arrowheads are sharpened so as to punch through the considerable armor of the Srik, but can tear through steel plate just as easily. Both the sand orcish infantry and archers all average 3rd-level. The turn-over rate for sand orcish warriors on the front lines is very fast; though a considerable number die each day, many more replacements are at hand because of quickly reproducing litters of females in the rear.
Navy: The Horde has no navy worth mentioning, though a few hardy sailors maintain the sloops and ferries of the Kolath and Hrolth Rivers. Trained to run from Rakoran and Kur Maen vessels, they rarely venture out onto the open seas or deal with the open ocean. On the rivers, though, their quick hit and run tactics work superbly, especially in the deep gorges through which the two rivers run. No navy is maintained on the Fozarn River, because it is dry most of the year, save for the occasional flood. The sailors tend to be armed and armored like regular sand orcish infantry, though few can swim or feel any special bond with the water. They average 1st-level rogues.
Elite: The elite of the Ogre Nations are the Thevonhasaga -- ogremai trained as rogues and assassins, as well as mages and sorcerers. Wearing specially crafted scale armor that is completely Srik derived (+4 armor points), they are well-capable of casting their spells, as well as fading into the shadows. Their weapons are often made from the mandibles of slicer beetles, and each blade can be considered an unenchanted keen sword. In addition to their intense magical and roguish training, many can draw their strength from the land itself, and are druids of considerable ability. Each of these fearsome Thevonhasaga is easily recognized by his or her branded skins -- the personal brand of Itzak himself. The magical brand bestows upon them an additional +2 armor points to their Armor Class. The Thevonhasaga average 12th-level, whether mage, assassin, or druid.
Sappers: Sand orcish and kobold sappers, experts at infiltrating and collapsing Srik nests and tunnels, are invaluable. Armed with enchanted rings that grant them the ability to use stored fireball spells from the ogremai, as well as various mining tools and ideas, they can trap a Srik nest inside itself, letting the warriors deal with the Srik more one-on-one as they slowly tunnel their way back out. Excellent bug assassins, they can sometimes poison the fungus that the Srik feed off of in their nests. Trained as both rogues and rangers, they usually average 5th-level.
Mercs: Mercenaries are usually used as trainers and consultants, and rarely as front-line fighters. Little enough coin exists in the Ogre Nations to hire them, and they are treated like royalty if they can provide any kind of edge. If not, then they are generally either booted out or eaten.
Citizenry: The majority of the able-bodied populace is in the military, either on the front-lines, or aiding in preparations in the rear. Though not considered warriors, all save the sand orc females are at least familiarized with the art of war, and some have even seen male Srik raiding parties screaming by in the still of the night.
Assignments: Though several forts exist near the Rakoran and Kur Maen borders, the majority of the forces can be found at the Srik and Dharveil borders, or recuperating near them. Roving patrols even within the interior are quite common, ranging from roc-hawks to ogres.
A very strong undercurrent of hatred for their leaders exists in the Ogran Nations, as the leaders rule by fear and tyranny. The kobolds are especially devious in their hatred of the ogres and the ogremai.
Classes: Although historically they have ruled and been ruled by brute force, more and more is cunning and skill coming to the fore in the Horde. The word of each king, dictator, or emperor within the Ogre Nations is absolute, and enforced by his cronies. A military dictatorship, each 'nation' in turn is responsible to the Surpreme Ruler. Because of this, the ogremai are considered the highest of the high, and whenever any non-ogre is in their presence, the non-ogre is required to draw his own blood, either with fingernails or knife or sword. The more small such scars a sand orc or kobold has, the more prestige he has, indicating that he spends considerable time and favor with the ogremai. Ogres, in their turn, are not required to draw blood in the presence of the ogremai, but all available hospitality is made to them. Kobolds do not distinguish between males and females in their culture; all are equal prey to both the Srik and the other ograns, and both are considered equal. The other two ogran races can rarely tell the difference between them, and care little for the kobolds in general. The sand orcish females are continually pregnant with litters of fast-growing sand orcs, and relegated to the status of warren-keepers and food-growers. Sand orc females have about as much stature in the Ogre Nations as the kobolds, and their continual beatings and rapes keep them stupid and frightened. Ogre females are generally treated with reverence, and though both sand orc genders may become priests of Mazripos, only ogre females serve the Fetid Goddess. While the female ogres may not become warriors, they have considerable power in the rear, and are even trained in the use of gender-specific weapons (such as pole-arms, dirks, and hand-to-hand combat). Female ogremai in particular are given the most respect, though they are considerably more rare than male ogremai.
Taboos: It is punishable by flogging to speak even the names of the gods of the human crusaders. It is punishable by death to run from battle, even if against other sand orcs or ogres.
Languages: The dominant tongue is the Mazizhe, spoken by the ogres and the ogremai. Mazizhe was originally kept by the priests of Mazripos, but slowly the language became the ogran standard, and then the ogre standard. Since the ogres are the ruling authority within the Horde, nearly all of the sand orcs and kobolds can understand it (save, perhaps, for the sand orc females). Though they may not speak it or write it, the non-ogres know at the very least the general commands in Mazizhe. The more religious among them may even speak it fluently. The sand orcs speak several dialects of their own tongues, in addition to Mazizhe. The three main dialects are O'Olphariz, Zharizt, and Lurvase, though anyone speaking one of these three dialects has but to speak slowly and enunciate, and he would be understood by someone speaking the other two dialects. The sand orcs are also more willing to pick up the Common trading tongue, than either of their two allies, and so sand orcs usually act as interpreters for the mercenaries or slaves. Of all the three races, only the sand orcs (and the ogremai) can speak the elven tongue. Only the kobolds are willing to learn the dwarven tongue, so the dwarves more often than not learn Mazizhe or one of the sand orc dialects fairly quickly. The kobolds speak nearly two dozen different dialects, all consisting of varied barks and yips, in combination with body posture. They also are the real linguistic geniuses of the Ogre Nations, often learning all three dialects of the sand orcs, Mazizhe, a little common, and anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen of the different kobold dialects. Of course, the kobolds aren't trusted to translate anything, anyway, so the skill is useless for them to speak -- but in listening, they often learn things others miss.
Appearance: Because of their past worship of Mazripos, the sand orcs and ogres are filthy with diseases. Their clothing, such as it is, is usually only placed where their skin chafes from either armor or equipment.
Foods: The most common food to all races is a sort of mixed insect and grain hash that is fairly nourishing when combined with certain molds, alcohols, and the occasional bit of meat. From the Front Line comes a great deal of Srik meat, though the giant insects are never bred in captivity. Though some female sand orcs farm near the Johnathon Hills, insect ranches are more common, with roaches living off the offal and refuse of the various warrens. The greatest delicacy of all, available only to the ogremai, is umber hulk meat in dwarven sauce, from the Avris Mountains. Kobolds are tough but edible, though only the ogres are allowed to eat them, and usually then only as punishment for crimes. The Horde's warrens and cities are absolutely filthy by civilized standards, but the disease it breeds is kept in check by incredible constitutions and the church of Mazripos. Otyughs and rats can be found in abundance, and small packs of euparkaria compete with the wild coyotes inside the outlying cities -- though both are more often than not eaten when they are caught -- even the otyughs.
Knowing this, Itzak has used what spare funds he can, to try and sew discord and discontent within both nations. He has had considerable success in creating snarls and bureaucratic accidents within Rakore, but the paladins of Kur Maeth have thwarted his plans at every turn. Ironically, the nation the Horde is having the most success in hurting, is the nation that is most willing to help -- and was most hurt by previous wars.
Though the Horde's former ally, the Alekdan Principalities, is still willing to deal, little to no pirate traffic has been successful in reaching the Ogre Nations. Kur Maeth's triremes and Rakore's galleons dominate the Gulf of Teras, and few sailing vessels can make the long and arduous trip through the Goordune Ocean. Small city-states along the Dreneb River, and up into the Avris Mountains, have fallen to the various evils thrown out of the Kur Maeth by the crusaders; though willing to trade with the ograns, they have little to offer of their own, in the quantities that the Horde needs.
Some trade with the Sholin occurs, but only with select members of their people. It is rumored that one of the Sholin floating cities is aiding the Ogre Nations with seafoods along their coast on the Goordune Ocean, but the nearness of Maddog Island and the fleets of Rakore prove it only to be a rumor.
A great deal of iron comes out of the Avris Mountains, and is smelted down for the war effort. Some of the iron is oven-treated with rare and valuable coal to form steel, but rarely is steel itself smelted and smithed. Gifted smiths are prized by the Horde, and ogre smiths with massively muscled arms garner considerable respect.
Stone and baked mud form the majority of the building material for the Ogran Nations, and so fire is rarely a hazard in their warrens and cities. The distinguishing difference between the two is that a 'warren' is built mainly underground, and a 'city' is built on the surface. Warrens are stone-walled on the perimeters to protect against the burrowing Srik, and cities are bristling with archers to protect against the flying male drones. With the sand orcs' might up near the front, back-breaking labor is scarce, and slavery continues -- although hidden from the eyes of visiting mercenaries or potential allies. The lack of manpower has forced the kobolds to become ingenuitive with pulleys, blocks, and tackles, as well as mining in general.
The flax from the hralsh stalks is used everywhere from corded ropes to clothing, and constitutes a considerable chunk of internal trade, along with stone. Cord armor is not uncommon, and the hralsh flax is also used for padding, tents, carpets, and a variety of other duties. Because it is tended and harvested at night, the purity of the ogran hralsh is considerably better than that of its daytime rivals, with lush fields and good harvests, even in poorly irrigated areas. With the succession of the Johnathon Hills, however, the greatest bread-basket of the Ogre Nations was given up, throwing much of the nation into starvation.
Opals and marbles are fairly common in the Ogre Nations, and although the official currency is 'weights', a number of smaller opals (with blues and greens being dominant) are used for what foreign trade there is. The beautiful blue-veined and blueish marbles of the Johnathon Hills and certain plateaus had become a status symbol among the Horde, used to face only the ogremai and the more powerful ogres. With blue being such a dominant color, blue dyes for the leaders is in high demand.
Forced to become self-reliant because of the paucity of trade, information is truly the greatest asset in the Ogre Nations. Its militarily run dictatorship has neither the time nor the need for taxes, and imports are welcomed at whatever prices can be obtained. Exports are negligible, save for smuggled opals out of the Johnathon Hills and ogran-cut rubies and smaller gems from the Avris Mountains. The treasuries of its neighbors Rakore and Kur Maeth are looked upon enviably, but little time is given to considering how to obtain anything from it -- save on the off time of sand orcish soldiers or drunken ogres.
Cities: Chi'Kinal is the largest ogran city, situated at the northern end of the Electrum Sea, and just south of the Griktale Escarpment. A staging area and recovery zone for the war effort, it is a heavily fortified military city.
Temples: The largest temple to Mazripos can be found in Chi'Kinal, though it is fast falling into disuse. Smaller temples to Samis and K'Tath are springing up, as more and more ograns convert.
Human priests of Samis and K'Tath have met with little success, but sand orcish and ogran converts have brought in strong throngs willing to listen. With the changes to Samis and K'Tath has come a more willing acceptance of 'other' gods, as well, including Mikindim, Curiss, and Brigain. Although only altars exist to the latter three gods, several real temples have sprung up to Samis and K'Tath. Itzak and other leaders persecute the followers of these rival religions to Mazripos.
The priests of Mazripos have tried assassination, blackmail, slander, and even warfare with the other churches, and failed -- adding to the disfavor of the Fetid Goddess. The church of K'Tath preaches battle and combat, together with bloodlust and hatred, mottled by a set of rules -- perfect for the frontline infantry that deals with the Srik on a daily basis. The church of Samis preaches of accumulating wealth outside of the public eye -- perfect for the administrators in the rear trying desperately to supply the front, with Rakore and Kur Maeth on either side. The kobolds, in particular, have taken to the priests of Samis, because of their language skills, and the fact that even a sand orc or ogre (priest) of Samis keeps the spirit of his word. The church of Samis is also making inroads with the female ogres, as only females can become specialty priests of the Shadow Goddess.
There is a deep-seated fear of the human gods such as Yatindar, Arpelos, and Habrem, and of the dwarven god Galgiran. The elven god Galanus is given only a twinge of fear, and is seen with more respect because of his desert links.
The gnomes of long ago placed a massive chamber within the Griktale Escarpment, and called it the Legacy Project. The ogremai could never enter the chamber, because of the heavy runeing performed by Rakoran priests and mages, though they have tried. What lies within is unknown to them, despite their best attempts at entry. Nor can the Srik enter the chamber, either.
Before the ograns wiped them out, there used to be a thriving community of desert elves within the deserts. Some ograns believe the elves are still there, just more hidden than before. During their off times, many ograns seek the hidden cities of the desert elves, whether they actually exist, or not.
Ograns have a number of regional feats available to them: Armor Proficiency (light, medium, and heavy), Combat Reflexes, Endurance, Improved Initiative, Improved Unarmed Strike, Lightning Reflexes, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Power Attack, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Toughness, and Weapon Focus.