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Basic Information

Ogres are gigantic, brutish, often man-eating humanoid beings of great physical strength in European legend. The term "ogre" is originally French, but the legends are more widely spread through western Europe. The Italian orco or huerco is apparently linguistically related, and both are used of the same type of ugly, violent giant.

The term "ogre" originally appeared in Chrétien de Troyes' Arthurian work. It was used of ancient inhabitants of Britain (presumably the giants that are said to have been pre-human inhabitants there.) However, it was popularized by the fairy tales compiled by Charles Perrault; this is the source of the term as we use it today, describing the dangerous giants of fairy tales like "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Hop o' my Thumb". Alternatively it may derive from the early German ogur - Hungarian - from the era when the Magyar peoples were strange, recently arrived pagans, prone to raiding and human sacrifice…

Ogres are a traditional staple of fantasy games. They have been in Dungeons & Dragons from the earliest version, as powerful brutes larger than humans but smaller than giants. Warhammer also includes ogres, and Warhammer 40K has "ogryns" - giant brutish beings which split off from humanity.

The Ogres depicted in RuneQuest, which are closer to the Cornish tradition than the European mainstream are more humanlike, more cunning and frequently magically gifted - but still anthropophagous.

There may or may not be such things as female ogres - where they are simply big, brutish subhumans there probably will be, but single gender species considerations may apply, possibly including bizarre sexual dimorphism in which a "female ogre" is something else, such as a hag. Regardless, ogres may seek out female humans for purposes other than food and "half ogres" may be a thing as well.

Internationally ogrish creatures can be found in the Japanese Oni and the (likely related) creatures of Buddhist legend and in some Bantu myths.



Game and Story Use

  • Adventure Seed: Ogres of the Ice World
  • Ogres are standard monsters for fantasy games, as relatively uncomplicated but dangerous melee opponents.
    • A more cultured ogre might possess a variety of magical treasures, as does the one in "Jack and the Beanstalk". If intelligent enough, it might use them to become a major threat to PCs.
    • Uncomplicated? An ogre has layers. Like an onion.
  • In a science-fiction game, ogres might be humans genetically engineered for size and strength. Perhaps the low intelligence and high aggressiveness were undesired side effects of the hormones needed to grow them to such a size — or perhaps they were purposeful, to produce blindly obedient shock troops.
  • For a more mundane game, ogres may turn out to be some relic of Neanderthal Man - modern Man is thought to have eaten Neanderthals, and they might well have returned the compliment. This might also fit with the idea that they were the "pre-human" inhabitants of Britain.
    • Many people today had Neanderthal ancestors as well. In the unmasqued world, some people may become part-ogre.
  • Half ogres were very much a thing in the cRPG Arcanum … with a particularly unpleasant plot twist behind their prevalence. Actual ogres, not so much … and this would turn out to be a good thing.
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