Ogres are mercenaries, happy to sell their skills to the highest bidder. Huge, powerful creatures that might almost have been purpose bred for war, few races can match them for sheer belligerent power and endurance, and many a war has been won by the side that hired the most.
Ogres are in demand the world over as soldiers, and mercenary bands can be found across the whole of Mantica. Wealthy patrons can obtain the services of entire hordes of Ogres, banded together as an army under the leadership of a particularly charismatic (or just violent) Captain. Such a gathering of might is enough to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies, even before they begin to charge….
The Ogres of Mantica are a tough breed, hailing from the Mammoth Steppe in the north. This realm of tough grassland and icy plateaus is far from hospitable, and a hard life awaits any humans foolhardy enough to settle there. The Ogres are proud to call this land home, for it has forged their destiny; it is surely no coincidence that the warriors of the Steppe are among the most highly-regarded fighters in Mantica.
Despite their rough-and-ready appearance, Ogres are not mere monsters. They are canny fighters and shrewd negotiators, plying their trade as mercenaries the world over. They do not sell their services cheap, but any gold paid in exchange for their protection is well-spent: Ogres take their work very seriously, and would rather die than go back on an agreement once payment has been received. This has added to their reputation as mercenaries beyond compare, and Ogres can now be found guarding trade caravans, escorting ambassadors, or standing watch at the gates of any number of cities. It is not just men-folk that desire their services, either. Dwarfs see past their usual xenophobia and find much common ground with the Ogres, seeing a desire for wealth and sense of honour than rival their own. It is considered poor form for an Ogre to let morals get in the way of business, and as such they even find work from Orcs, Necromancers and the minions of the Abyss.
It takes a considerable fee to hire the services of an entire army of Ogres, but despite this they are an increasingly common sight on the battlefield. Such a force is a sight to behold. Burly warriors stand half as tall again as a man or elf, wielding axes and swords that could gut a troll with a single swing. Even their shields are weapons, sharpened to an edge and reinforced with steel. Some carry great blades almost as tall as they are, terrifying weapons more than capable of stopping even a giant in its tracks.
When an Ogre army takes to the field, the ground shakes and enemies tremble. The massed might of the Steppe's sons is a tidal wave, dashing aside any who are foolish to stand before it. If you meet them on the field of battle, your only hope can be that it was your general that paid their fee.
Ogres are in demand the world over as soldiers. They are extremely powerful, and not afraid of much. Their size allows them to carry weapons that men could not hope to lift, let alone wield. Ogres have an affinity for mankind, and many find their way to Basilea, where the elite among their number might join the Ogre Guard of the palace of the Hegemon. Others fight for the Successor States, or the Dwarfs, or travel across the Infant Sea to fight for the Elves. Ogres will, in fact, fight for anyone. They are not evil, but will side with the forces of darkness if they see profit in it. Because of this, Ogres can be found everywhere, and are often on opposing sides in the same battle. Not that this bothers them at all, provided the money is right.
Ogres are extremely strong, and so carry heavy swords and shields. His armour in the north is generally of tough hide, but once he joins a mercenary band an Ogre will spend his first few months’ pay on proper armour of thick iron plates – all provided at a reasonable price by his captain, of course. Some of them favour huge two-handed weapons they call Orc Cleavers, which, when brought down hard on the skull of an Orc generally tend to live up to their name.
Ogres enjoy the hurly burly of close-quarter fighting a lot, but they are cunning hunters too, and for a proportion of them missile weapons hold an undeniable draw. Prosaically called Shooters (the Ogre language is blunt and to the point), these Ogres spend their mercenary days providing ranged support for their paymasters, although the weapons the Ogres carry are so large that “artillery support,” is probably a more apposite phrase.
Not all Ogres return home to the Mammoth Steppe. Sadly, there are fatalities. Some Ogres never feel the mating urge and remain in the south all their days (the Basileans have perfected a means of ensuring this). Others return home, but once their children are sired they yearn for war and plunder, taking up their swords again. Ogre captains are the mightiest of these war-loving veterans. They are usually bigger and stronger than their kin, and all are expert fighters. A rare few display a gift for tactics and strategy, and even rise to high rank in the militaries of other nations.
With no written word, much of Ogre history has vanished into the darkness of the past. Modern scholars fret about, trying to piece together the origin of the Ogres, much to the amusement of the Ogres themselves. This dismissal of intellectual pursuits coupled with their employment as mercenaries has given rise to the stereotype that Ogres are nothing more than uncultured brutes in search of gold.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Ogre language is perhaps the most complicated in the world, with fourteen classes of female pronoun, each dependent on context and the speaker’s relationship to the subject. Speaking of an Ogre’s mother is almost never a good idea unless one has spent at least a decade studying the language. This complex language suits the Ogres for they are at heart a people of story tellers, not stories of deeds long past, but events the teller actually experienced, embellished in the telling. An Ogre proves their wealth through the stories they have collected, not through gold amassed.
Ogre society is more complex than outsiders often realise, governed by a strict hierarchy based on martial skill and respect, far more sophisticated than the savagery of the Orc. For a nomadic people such as Ogres, skill at the hunt is just as important as skill in battle. Hunting requires not only strength of body and feats of arms, but cunning, intelligence and fieldcraft. Hunters are greatly respected within their tribes, possessing a variety of finely-honed skills passed from one generation to the next. These skills also transfer well on to the battlefield, allowing them to set traps, ambush the foe, and target the monstrous mounts and minions of their enemies, or equally drive their own bestial charges before them into the fray.
A race of individuals, Ogres have never been able to understand why the other races pass one person’s belongings to their children when they die. For Ogres, such an act wrongs both the deceased and the children, since the children will not have to opportunity to earn what they inherited. To give an Ogre a gift is perhaps the greatest insult possible, one which almost always ends in someone’s death. From childhood, an Ogre struggles to survive against the wild beasts and frigid landscape of the frozen north. Those few that survive to adulthood possess incredible skill on top of their sheer physical size and strength. They grow up listening to the stories their family members tell of their time fighting as mercenaries. They hear of the great mountains of Abercarr and the expanding desert of the Eastern Reaches. For an Ogre, no honour comes from knowing his father visited these places. They must travel the world, fight its horrors, and return with great riches to prove their own worth, to make their own stories. Thus, every year there is the Thing. They call this gathering the Thing for there are no other things in the Ogre calendar, no festivals or holidays. At the Thing, young Ogres sign on to a veteran captain, who persuades them of his worth through reciting his own adventures in the south. Every nation in the world will pay handsomely for the service of an Ogre band, so an Ogre will have crossed Mantica twice over by the time they decide to return home. Upon returning to the warring tribes of their frozen land, they will find a mate and sire a few little ones. Those children that survive to understand speech will sit at their father’s feet, eyes wide, listening intently as he explains how he fought in the south and saw things they could not believe. And so a new generation will grow up, raise their swords, and charge across the world, eager to carve out their own stories.