Orc culture is very ancient, stretching back to some of the earliest civilizations in the recorded era. Enormous orcish ruins can be found along major rivers and oases in the Interior Deserts of the Last Continent, and for a period they dominated civilization on the coast of the major continent, before the rise of more technologically advanced human and dwarvish civilizations.

The orc civilizations were eventually destroyed and incorporated into human and dwarven empires in the colonial era, with the orcs serving as laborers, soldiers, and one more than one occasion, rulers. Mixed with indentured human, dwarven, and elven laborers, they allowed for the massive mercantile empires that emerged around that time. This steep decline in orcish culture was arrested with the fall of the empires that had ruled them, and a number of powerful orcish kingdoms arose once again, though never reaching the preeminence they had once known. Orcish power was supreme in the Last Continent until the modern era; they have had difficulty adapting themselves to the modern era of nation-states, and many still work abroad as laborers and mercenaries.

There is considerable debate on the evolution of orcs as with all sapient life, with scholars from other races generally preferring an evolution from a common proto-sapient ancestor and the orcs themselves favoring either a local evolutionary origin or advancing themselves as the proto-sapients from which other species evolved. As orcs evolved in the very arid climates which dominate the Last Continent, they possess natural adaptations for deriving some energy and sustenance from the sun. This takes the form of chlorophyll in their skin, which converts solar energy into a usable form. This explains the greenish cast visible in most orcs, especially those with lighter skin; while orcs posess the same range of skin tones as humans, the presence of chlorophyll makes them seem to range from green to dark greenish-brown. They tend to be somewhat shorter than humans and elves, but stockier, and stronger on average. Despite specist tracts and opinions to the contrary, orcs are neither less intelligent nor more prone to violence than any other species.

Orc children are often multiple births, with twins nearly as common as single children, and triplets occurring in roughly ten percent of all orc pregnancies. Due to their faster metabolism, orc children reach maturity quickly, usually in about ten years. However, while their metabolism gives them greater strength and endurance, it also shortens their lifespan. Modern medicine has saved many that would otherwise have died, and prolonged the lives of others, but there is no record of an orc living beyond the age of seventy.

Orcs tend to value physical signs of wealth and power, along with demonstrations of such, and are often skeptical of those who cannot prove themselves thus. Traditionally, orcish women have been accorded very few rights and in many traditions are forbidden from leaving their dwellings; this has begun to change in recent history. They have a rich literary tradition of epic poetry which combines a list of (male) ancestors with their exploits; the head of every orc household is expected to prepare an updated copy of their family poem and hand it down to their eldest son. Because of this, literacy among orcs is extremely widespread (approximately 98%) and the distinct orcish scripts are a familiar sight in most multicultural cities.

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