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Friday, July 15, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Gruumsh, God of Orcs

This guide is an attempt to collect all of the lore about Gruumsh from the many different products he's appeared in. My hope is that this will give you a nice pool of stuff to work with if you decide to use Gruumsh in your game.

Gruumsh is a guy that doesn't see a lot of use, as far as I can tell. He's actually a really cool bad guy. His wife, Luthic, adds a lot.

The Essential Information
  • (Wife) Luthic: Goddess of fertility, medicine, families and servitude. 
  • (Son) Baghtru: God of strength and combat. 
  • (Chief Lieutenant) Ilneval: Orc lesser god. Schemes against Gruumsh. 
  • Bloodspear: Gruumsh wields an artifact called Bloodspear. 
  • Armor: The armor of Gruumsh is made from forty dragon hides.
  • Home: The Iron Fortress of Nishrek and/or the Tower of Skulls in Chernoggar.
  • Originally, Gruumsh's army fought in hell against Maglubiyet's goblins. Then Gruumsh moved to the Iron Fortress of Nishrek in the plane of Acheron. Gruumsh ended up magically moving the whole fortress to Chernoggar, where the army went to war with the armed forces of the god Bane. That was in 4th edition.
  • Gruumsh commands an army of "battlesworn," deathless orc warrior souls. 
  • Hates elf deities, especially Corellon. 
  • Gruumsh wants to drink Corellon's blood in order to gain special powers.
  • Corellon cut out one of Gruumsh's eyes. The eye gave Gruumsh the power of prescience.
  • It is believed that Corellon and Gruumsh are actually brothers.
  • Gruumsh has never forgiven the gods for dividing up the world without him and laughing at him. He made it so that orcs can live in really deadly areas of the world.
  • He is searching for his other eye. It might still be in the possession of Hecate, a Greek goddess.
  • Gruumsh stole the Misty Island, the place where the first elves sprang into being.
  • Gruumsh and Moradin made a pact to allow dwarves and orcs to share a ghost-infested town called Hammerfast.
AD&D First Edition

Deities and Demigods

Only shamans refer to him by name. Most orcs call him He-Watches or He-Who-Never-Sleeps
  • Orcs think he always watches them with his one "unwinking" eye.
  • He's 10 feet tall, wears black plate mail, wields a torch in one hand and spear that paralyzes in the other.
  • He commands a might army of spirit-orcs in Hell! They war with spirit-goblins controlled by Maglubiyet.
  • Worship of Gruumsh requires blood from humanoids, especially elves.
Dragon Magazine #62 - The Gods of the Orcs

There are actually two articles about orcs. The first is about half-orcs, but it goes off on a big Gruumsh tangent. We learn that:
  • Gruumsh is narrow minded. He's quick to be insulted and will attack.
  • Orc shamans pluck out an eye to gain Gruumsh's single-minded perspective.
  • All tribes pay homage to Gruumsh. Elves see many sides of an issue. Orcs see one.
  • Elves live long. Orcs live to about the age of 40.
This issue details the orc gods. It's got awesome art by Jim Holloway. Gruumsh now has an eye patch and is no longer a cyclops. Personally, I much prefer this version.

We start with a myth about how the other gods split up the world between them and then laughed that there was nowhere left for the orcs. Gruumsh used his spear and stabbed/corrupted many parts of the world for his orcs to inhabit. "Orcs shall inherit the world you sought to cheat me of!"

Corellon vs. Gruumsh: Corellon tried to shoot out Gruumsh's eye but missed, according to the orcs.
  • The Orc Version: Gruumsh ambushed Corellon. He wanted to kill him and drink his blood in order to inherit his special powers. Corellon's arrow missed.
  • Elf Version: Corellon missed on purpose as a warning. He hinted that the loss of the eye would break the divine power of Gruumsh. Gruumsh never again tried a direct assault against Corellon. He takes his fury out on mortal elves.
Warfare between tribes is encouraged to weed out the weak.

Baghtru: This orc fellow is the son of Gruumsh and Luthic, the Cave Mother.
  • Very powerful, very stupid.
  • He can crush people in his hands for 10-120 points of damage!
  • He is 16 feet tall, has tusks and tan skin.
  • His skin is so tough that blunt weapons only do a single point of damage to him.
  • He follows the commands of his mother, Luthic, above all others.
Ilneval: Chief lieutenant of the orc armies "in Hell."
  • He may be planning to overthrow Gruumsh. Gruumsh does not trust him.
  • He's 9 feet tall, wears a suit of red iron chainmail, and he has a sword that kills any non-orc that it strikes.

Luthic, Goddess of Female Orcs: She is also the goddess of orcish fertility, caves and caverns, servitude, primitive medicine, and "helps restore orcish morale."
  • Her claws can tunnel through solid rock.
  • She is 8 1/2 feet tall, four foot long black claws, hair and eyes dull black, dark brown skin.
  • When in contact with the ground, she regenerates 3 hit points per round.
  • If she hears anyone abuse her name, she might issue that person a disease or make them more susceptible. Any ailment kills the person within 2-7 days. Only three wish spells can undo this curse!
  • Her worshipers rub dirt on themselves to ensure they have many children.
  • Her Tribe: Vile Rune. They don't raid.
Unearthed Arcana

Both of those Dragon Magazine articles are reprinted in this book.

AD&D Second Edition

Monster Mythology

I love this book. We learn that in pre-history, one or two now-unknown orc gods conspired to depose Gruumsh and were destroyed utterly. Gruumsh always seeks new territory for his race. There is no word for 'peace' in the orc language.

  • Luthic actually sometimes sends an avatar to a battlefield to heal the wounded.
  • Speaking her name now inflicts a wasting disease that kills in d4+4 days.
  • Omens: Claw marks in a rock, magical darkening of an area, rumbling in a cave mouth.
On Hallowed Ground

This Planescape supplement really shakes things up in a good way for the orc gods. The orcs were defeated badly in the war in Hell. For the most part, they've retreated to Acheron.

They had to flee Hell because the orc lieutenants squabbled and the orc army was taken by surprise. Now they'll do or die from Nishrek, a realm on a cube in Acheron.

Fun Fact: "Female" is actually a swear in Orcish.

Gruumsh: When a tribe of orcs becomes complacent, he either destroys them with fire or sends another orc clan after them. He is 'searching the cosmos' for his eye.

Ilneval: Now he not only wants Gruumsh's place in the pantheon, he also wants Luthic as his wife!
He's too scared of Gruumsh and Baghtru to do anything about it, though.

Luthic: She's one of the only people who can control Gruumsh and Baghtru. She's secretly communicating with Hecate for help against the goblins in Acheron, but so far, nothing.

I had to look up Hecate in this book. She's a Greek god. In D&D, she lives in hell. Check this out: Hecate has the Eye of Gruumsh, "the one put out by the elf high-up Corellon Larethian." She has left clues for Gruumsh, but he's to dumb to pick up on it.

Planes of Law
In the book on the plane of Acheron, there is a page describing Gruumsh's home of Nishrek Here's what we learn:
  • Nishrek is on a cube.
  • Guumsh rules three sides. Baghtru rules two. Ilneval rules one.
  • "Luthic sends forth her plagues from deep within the heart of the cube, where her realm is said to lie."
  • There are temples to Gruumsh. They are pyramids with a 'central eye.'
Luthic: Her tiny tribe in Acheron is called Black Claw. They are devoted to healing and fertility. One member of Black Claw is Tamurda. She is hated/respected for her powerful healing broths and salves. Her skin is bleached dusky white from years underground.

D&D 3rd Edition

Deities and Demigods
Grumsh is mentioned as an enemy of Corellon a few times. He is a god of chaos, evil, strength and war. We're back to Gruumsh having one unwinking central eye.
  • "He tolerates no sign of friendliness from his people."
  • Temples of Gruumsh are oppressive places full of smoke and the stench of blood. There are holding cells for those to be sacrificed, and gladiatorial areas.
  • He has a power called Fog of War, which is a lot like cloudkill.
  • His spear now has a name: Bloodspear. It can change sizes.
  • His avatars: "Sometimes they have a single unblinking central eye, and sometimes they have an empty left eye socket."
Faiths and Pantheons

This is a Forgotten Realms book. Apparently the Realms version of Gruumsh is a little different? His spear is covered in the blood of elves.

Ilneval: He's the patron of orc crossbreeds, especially orogs (orc/ogres) and tanarukks? I don't know what a tanarukk is. I'll look it up:

A Tanarukk
Awesome art! They are half-demons/half-orcs. They have the ability to control flames. Many of them are sorcerers.

Luthic: She is known as "The Blood Moon Witch." There is a secret group called the "Luthicar monks" comprised of females who aren't allowed to use weapons.

Sons of Gruumsh

I had no idea Chris Perkins wrote an adventure about orcs! This is a module for 4th level characters. There are a ton of cool details in this. Here's some of the stuff related to Gruumsh:
  • The Hammer of Gruumsh: A maul wielded by orc kings. It grants the wielder improved sunder and +4 to intimidate and diplomacy with orc-blooded creatures.
  • The Mark of Nishrek: Scar on the forehead like a diamond-shaped eye. It gives orcs special once per day bonuses to damage and AC.
  • Temple of Gruumsh: Pillars with manacles and niches with skulls and bones. The ceiling dome has a great lidless eye. You can lie in an indentation and look up at the eye. Those who are unworthy are devoured, body and soul.
Complete Divine 

Shield of the Severed Hand
Gruumsh has an entry in here. Prayers to Gruumsh begin with "Kharg-hark" - orc for "revenge."
  • Temples have gladiatorial arenas where wagering is common.
  • Rites: Ritual of the Poles. After battle, put a foe's head on a spear and stick it in the ground.
  • Shield of the Severed Hand: Bull rush, +4 shield.
  • Spear of Retribution: Once in a great while, Gruumsh flings a spear at a cleric he's annoyed with. "If the cleric lives and keeps the spear, it has magic powers. +2 becomes +4 when the wielder took damage in the previous round, +5 when received a critical hit.
D&D 4th Edition

4e Player's Handbook

Not much in here. Gruumsh is not an enemy of demons. Chaotic evil god of destruction, lord of marauding barbarian hordes.

4e Manual of the Planes

In 4th edition, Gruumsh lives in a realm called Chernoggar, the Iron Fortress. It's in the Astral Sea. Bane lives here, and the two gods send their armies after each other.
  • Gruumsh fused Nishrek with this place. The army of Gruumsh lives in caves.
  • Gruumsh commands deathless warrior souls called battlesworn.
  • Chernoggar is home to bladelings.
  • Gruumsh lives in the Tower of Skulls. It actually says he's served by Baghtru, Luthic and.. Vaprak, an immense troll.
I think that I would say that Gruumsh won and chased off Bane. Maybe he left some allies there and returned to Acheron to conquer the other cubes. Maybe he stuck Ilneval here and charged him with exploring and conquering the astral?

Nishrek: Mountains riddled with caves. Crudely built stone orc hold. There are a lot of earthquakes, avalanches and fiery geysers.

The Plane Above

This book greatly expands on Chernoggar. There's a ton of material here, but very little of it gives any new info on Gruumsh. Some gods don't want the battle between Bane and Gruumsh to end because it keeps both villains occupied.

Tower of Skulls: Gruumsh lives in this massive structure of skulls lashed together by chains and the innards of the slain. There are skulls of primordials and deities that Gruumsh slew.

There's a section on the battlesworn of Gruumsh. It says, "Gruumsh culls his battlesworn from the greatest villains of the cosmos." They are immortal warriors plucked from the Shadowfell to serve Gruumsh in the afterlife. You could do a lot of cool stuff with these guys.

Luthic and Baghtru
Baghtru: Yep! He's in here. He's an "exarch" of Gruumsh. He is sometimes known as "The Fist of Gruumsh." He's got fun powers called "Hammer Fist" and "Backfist Bowl Away" where he sends you flying 50 feet, dazes you and knocks you prone. Ogres pay tribute to his power.

Luthic: She's also got some fun powers. She can make it rain blood. She can go into a blood moon frenzy, giving herself and her allies free attacks.
  • Omens: Followers know Luthic has connected with them when they dream of a red moon and awaken with the taste of blood in their mouth. 
  • Orc Females: In the other editions, there's a bit of talk about how orc females are subservient. Here, Luthic is more like the power behind the throne and as feared as Gruumsh.

Not one orc picture in the whole book
Long story short, orcs and dwarves share a town thanks to a pact between Moradin and Gruumsh to end the bloodshed. Hammerfast is full of ghosts of those who died in the battles. The ghosts are treated like citizens.

The Festival of the Eye: Each year in winter, orcs set up a tent for a week. Champions of Gruumsh come from far and wide to do battle in ritualized combat. Some end in death. Anyone can jump in. Some fights are one on one, others are chaotic brawls.

Spear of the Sundered Eye: Apparently, Gruumsh has an ulterior motive. There was a dwarf who worshiped Gruumsh named Jaltar Hammerfist. He was actually on the side of the orcs in the battle. He had an artifact called the Spear of the Sundered Eye. It's lost, but the orcs know it is somewhere in town.

The Black Spire: A temple of Gruumsh. It's hollow inside, with rings of balconies along the inner walls. Priests of Gruumsh engage in ritual combat.

Dragon Magazine #394 - Channel Divinity: Corellon

There is a cool factoid here. Kurtulmak (god of kobolds) showed Gruumsh a way to the Misty Island, a place sacred to Corellon's faith. It was there that the first elves were born from Corellon's tears and blood. Gruumsh and Kurtulmak stole the island and hid it.

Dragon Magazine #408 - History Check: Corellon and Gruumsh

This is a regular orc
This is a heck of an article! We learn all sorts of new things.

Gruumsh and Corellon were originally twin sons of a progenitor deity that sacrificed its own life so that the offspring would live. One was given intelligence, life and beauty. The other savagery, darkness and chaos.

They fought as allies in the Dawn War. During the Dawn War, Gruumsh never slept. He tirelessly battled the Primordials, yet Gruumsh grew jealous of Corellon. People loved Corellon and they hated Gruumsh.

The Vale of Blood: The fight began in a vale in the mortal world where the barrier between the world and the feywild was thin.

Lolth aided Gruumsh by enchanting his spear before the battle. She made it invisible and poisonous.

Corellon's allies, the Seldarine, showed up to help. Gruumsh had evil deities lurking nearby. Both sides clashed. This became known as The Godswar.

Gruumsh was about to kill Corellon. One of two things happened:
  1. Lolth distracted Gruumsh. Maybe this was Lolth's way of trying to win over Corellon.
  2. Corellon plunged his blade into Gruumsh's left eye and twisted, making sure the wound could not heal.
Orcs say that Gruumsh only had one eye to begin with.

That eye, it turns out, had been giving Gruumsh powers. He was prescient and had prophetic sight. Supposedly the eye was destroyed. Sehanine blinded him with the moon's light.

Gruumsh's armor is made from the hides of forty slain dragons.

D&D 5th Edition

Monster Manual

In addition to being mentioned a few times in the PH, Gruumsh gets a huge section in the orc entry of the Monster Manual.

Most of it is the same as in earlier editions. Luthic gets a big paragraph, explaining that she wants orcs to be breeding a lot.

The Orc Eye of Gruumsh entry explains that sometimes an avatar appears before an orc, and if the orc plucks out one of their own eyes, they have the right to call themselves an Eye of Gruumsh. They are shamans.

That's where we're at so far! Lots of fun stuff, especially the battle between Corellon and Gruumsh.


Josh Drentlaw said...

Thanks for compiling all of this! It's definitely going to help in my campaign.

Kevin82 said...

"It is believed that Corellon and Gruumsh are actually brothers"

Tell me you screwed you writing or something. FFS please tell me you didn't actually mean to write that.