In gambling dens, among those dealing the cards, there’s only one maxim the outfit heeds: The house always wins, unless an ogresh plays. While those words may be an exaggeration, they’re certainly weighted with truth. More importantly, that adage points to the reverence and mysticism that is assigned to the keenest and rarest minds of Etharis.
The image of a traveler with a brilliant mind so keen it borders on mind reading is often ascribed to elven druids and gnomish thinkers; small, unassuming folk. Just taken on common expectations, the last image of a genius would be an ogresh. Ogresh are big in every sense of the word. Their broad frames are almost trollish with a wide melon of a head. Being uncharitable, they look like laborers born for hard work and heavy lifting, wide and strong, but slow. This is a false assumption.
Ogresh are philosophers, poets, ambassadors, judges, scholars, and bards. For those who encounter an ogresh, and few do, the last thing they’d think is, “There’s a philosopher and poet”. Such folk are as foolish as the priests of the old who believed their gods would never fall.
In fairy tales, the ogresh often play the role of the intellectual sages who offer clever solutions to great problems. Those that oppose an ogresh often find themselves the victim of the ogresh’s crack intellect. Before the concept of antagonizing an ogresh has fully taken root in a troublemaker’s mind, the ogresh is likely to have surmised the situation and dealt with the challenge by either striking first, calling for aid, or addressing the troublemaker in an entirely unique and original fashion.
The truth about ogresh is not far from their fabled reputation. Yet despite their imposing size, incredible mind, and revered status, there is one thing that holds them back. They are thin in numbers. This is a result of the two primary stages of an ogresh’s life, youth and maturity.
The Two Kinds of Ogresh, Young and Old
If all ogresh are brilliant and big, why are they so rare? Why haven’t they staked a kingdom of their own or swindled one from another race? The simple answer is their low population. Ogresh are as rare as laneshi in the desert or wechselkind parents. Despite being native to the land of Etharis and well-liked by those that parlay with them, the ogresh are few and far between. There are never more than two or three ogresh together for more than a few days at a time.
In their youth, ogresh are travelers. They are born along the road, raised on the road, and shipped down the road as soon as they are old enough to choose their own path. Ogresh rarely marry. Instead, relationships are short and exciting, and each one is unique. It isn’t rare for ogresh children to be born and raised by a single parent.
Ogresh youth is the story of restless wanderlust across the continent in search of magnificent sights. Yet as they grow old, having had their fill of adventure, ogresh choose a place to permanently retire. They spend their latter century or two reading amassed texts, writing of their journeys, conversing with passersby, and writing letters to distant friends.
These two life stages may seem oversimplified for a race with such wisdom and intelligence as the ogresh. Yet consider that after an ogresh is born, they wander the breadth of Etharis until they identify their perfect place to retire. This could be a village that gave them an unrivalled sense of peace, a bustling city of merchants and rumors, or an ocean port where they spend their latter years listening to the waves. The difference in those two eras cannot be understated; their youth is vibrancy and adventure, their retirement is wisdom, indulgence, and lethargy.
How Ogresh Fill Their Endless Appetites
An elven meal is a buffet of delicious morsels, each one specially prepared. The whole course might be three or four bites, but the taste is so refined that the eater is satisfied for a day. In their youth, an ogresh might appreciate an elvish dish. However, their maturity is marked by a swelling in appetite so profound that other races fear to invite them to their table lest the ogresh eat their entire pantry.
For a retired ogresh, conventional culinary wisdom is that quantity is more important than quality. A large steak, a stuffed pie, a meaty sauce over pasta, and a garden’s worth of roast vegetables might be enough for a single meal. On the other hand, if an ogresh invites others to their home the food they’ll offer is a veritable smorgasbord of mixed fruits, exotic dips, roast meats, whole wheels of cheese and multi-tiered cakes, terrified of the embarrassment of sending guests away hungry.
Mature ogresh consume virtually from the time their awake to when they fall asleep each night, every day for over a century. It is therefore less of a mystery why they are so few and dislike living in proximity to each other, considering that it would be impractical for them to share the food supply of a single community.
Ogresh Territory, The Final Home
When an ogresh reaches maturity and is ready to retire, they can be very particular in their choice of retirement home. Essentials include a sizeable larder, a well-equipped kitchen, a dining table, a private study, and a sturdy bed. Particularly wealthy or resourceful ogresh may also keep a stocked cellar, a smokehouse, a barbeque pit, or a woodfire oven the size of a hut. It’s important to note, however, that not all ogresh live the same lifestyle. While some become valued counselors with wealthy estates and hired attendants, others retreat into small village communities to enjoy the solitude and the world’s natural beauty.
Mature ogresh prefer to be sedentary in contrast to their younger selves, avoiding manual labor like farming if they can help it. Therefore, they can come to depend on others to supply their high demand for food. To this end, ogresh trade insight, experience, history, and treasures from their journeys to provide for themselves. In this way they often fill the role of administrators, advisors, researchers, historians, storytellers, and bookkeepers within their adopted communities.
Ogresh could pool their knowledge to create quite productive farms if they ever wanted to start their own communities. Unfortunately, whenever such an idea occurs to one, they’re either too restless to stay and see it through or they find the whole idea exhausting. Ogresh avoid settling near one another knowing that their consumptive nature might be a drain on a community’s natural resources. It is in fact quite a frustrating but fortunately rare occurrence for an ogresh to take a liking to a region in which they plan to settle, only to discover that one of their kindred has already claimed the territory.
Yet despite so few ogresh living in one place at any time, they are not complete isolationists from each other. In fact, they do have a great deal of contact in one very simple way: by sending letters.
The “Magic” of Ogresh Letters
It is hard to have a refined or distinct culture when a race of people live so separately. The ogresh do not create communal architecture or perform group gatherings. However, what each ogresh does have are the letters drafted and sent by their ancestors. While not as efficient as face-to-face interaction, it is the method by which the ogresh maintain contact with each other, pass on knowledge, and construct some semblance of a society.
These letters are often written by a mature ogresh and given to a younger ogresh passing through the elder’s land. Because ogresh so rarely meet each other during their lifetimes these letters are not one-on-one missives, but epic considerations of philosophy, nature, and poetry.
The letters are written to any ogresh to who may receive them, not a specific one, and offer thoughts on alchemy, history, love, and mortality, instead of meagre day to day accounts. An ogresh who receives one will often write a reply that continues the conversation, but the letter may travel to two or three others who also add their thoughts before returning to the original sender, if at all.
The letters are legendary for two reasons. First, they’re the only great work that the race is known for. Dwarves are known for their forging, elves for their art, and ogresh for their letters. Each letter is believed to be a font of wisdom and knowledge, and often exaggerated into powerful artefacts that impart ancient truths.
The second reason the letters are famous is that they’re written in words so complex as to be understood by fewer folk in Etharis than the writing of magic in spellbooks. While the ogresh technically don’t have a language of their own, their embellished writing is filled with forgotten words, sophisticated grammar, and long analogies that communicate intricate ideas. What secrets exist in those letters can only be discerned by linguistical experts, who debate even among themselves as to specific meanings. By the less educated, ogresh letters are often treated like magical scrolls. Only the ogresh and arcanists seem to accept that the letters are not magical, simply journals written in language more baroque than most can read.
Ogresh Story Hooks
Despite their rarity and fussy nature, the ogresh are essential citizens wherever they dwell. They are known for their insight and considered advice. Their youth might be encountered on the road or their elders might be sought out, but all should be heeded when they offer guidance.
The road calls to many young ogresh, but none so much as Jerik Le Vani. One of the oldest ogresh still wandering the land, he’s begun to fear that the time to settle down is approaching and he’s far from his chosen land in Charneault to the south. He’s looking to hire transport across the ocean to reach his final home. For each person that helps him during the trip, he offers three absolute truths and three magical divinations, which may reveal the location of great treasures.
Myvile Eyecir, a young ogresh, wandered into The Ostoyan Empire only to be arrested by the Crimson Court. His clever negotiations have convinced the vampires to release him in exchange for procuring them an even better meal for their bloodsucking banquet. To satisfy their terms, he seeks mighty or famed adventurers braver than him. He plans to lead such heroes to the Court to fulfill the condition of his release. However, Myvile will provide the adventurers with weapons to slay the vampires and wipe away his guilty conscience.
The retirement home of Sylvie Müller flooded, along with the village she depends on. It’s truly a catastrophe for Sylvie as there’s not enough left to restart, yet she’s too far into her retirement to return to searching for a home. What she needs are adventurers that will secure her a new residence. The one she has in mind needs the current monsters removed. If the adventurers will clear the castle, she’ll provide them with a great magic item.
Havina Kolet prefers the title, The Judge. As a traveling judiciary, Havina acts with royal authority as she metes out justice. However, some of those she sentenced escaped and are hunting her. This far into the borderlands, she cannot access the king’s guards. Until she can get to a garrison, she’s hiring bodyguards to protect her against the escapees.
Young ogresh carry letters, many of them containing great wisdom passed down from their elders. When a bundle of them is stolen from Perri Grímsdottir, she offers a great bounty for their return: the location of a lost temple to the old gods, one untouched by looters. Those letters contain the secret location, enciphered in ogresh writing. To make it worse, the thieves are working to decipher the location as well.
The mature ogresh Purla Mendsyt was a powerful believer in the monastic tradition, the Way of the Leaden Crown. However, her standing and mental powers have fallen after she was cursed by her human neighbors. As an ogresh, she consumes a great deal of the village’s resources, angering her community. The curse cannot be cured with a Remove Curse spell unless specific components are gathered. Purla’s preferred solution is to seek mediators to help resolve the dispute and get her cursers to voluntarily lift the affliction so they can all live in peace.
While not great in number, ogresh travel in all across Etharis and can be encountered in many adventures. No matter how you meet an ogresh, beware that they are wise, clever, and that one should never bet against them.