Charles Angus of Spells & Steel made a good, solid argument last night regarding a much-abused subject from a couple weeks ago. Here is his comment in part (be sure to read the whole comment):
"Let's look at that 300-strong orc tribe attacking the town. How many of those orcs have been in deadly combat, mano-a-mano with a trained and armed combatant? All of them? Some of them? An argument could be made that very few of them have. So the 300 orcs raid a village of 150 people. If this is like a medieval English village, perhaps 20 men are of fighting age, and of them, probably 5 are armed. (Very rough numbers, obviously). Let's be generous and say that the knight of the manor is present with his retinue - so add a leveled fighter and a few men-at-arms. How many orcs would be involved in deadly combat during this raid? Seems like only a few - probably no more than 30 or so. So maybe 10%, if the orcs are too dumb to wait a week for the knight to move on to one of his other manors ..."
|An example power-law graph, where a high number|
of incidents occur among a small number of
For the purpose of this post, my reference to power law is to describe the distribution of costs or behaviours among a certain segment of the population, say the number of complaints received by the city of Los Angeles against its police officers (as described in Gladwell's book) or the number of orcs that have fighting ability - and fighting experience - as compared with orcs that do not.
Power law distribution shows, at least with regards to the police, that the greatest mass of complaints are, in fact, directed at a comparatively few officers (who each receive many, many complaints), rather than the majority, who receive only one complaint or none at all. What this means is that the vast majority of police officers in L.A. are pretty decent people who are good to the people, while a very small number are consistently abusive, engendering anger.
Within the same sort of distribution, it stands to reason that a group of orcs, 10% of the tribe as Angus describes, do not only the represent those orcs with combat experience, but also those orcs most likely to pursue combat and thus seek more conflict! Therefore, if the party encounters a group of orcs that are ready and willing to fight the party, it does not matter that the orcs represent only 10% of their tribe - those orcs will be the toughest, meanest and the most able. If the party were to encounter a party of orcs without 7 or 8 hit points, those orcs should immediately be willing to parley and discuss matters - in fact, they should want NOT to fight at all.
And just as peaceful police officers are not the sort to approve of or support the actions of officers who are abusive to the constituency, orcs with low hit points should be equally non-supportive of their meaner orc kin. Of course, this means granting orcs the ability to think and have the average intelligence they've been said to have, the equal of humans, and therefore behave in a manner unlike remorseless targets for player aggression.
In fact, we could argue that only 8 point hit point orcs would want to be in combat, comparatively to the entire tribe. They would probably prefer to hang out together, like jocks among the lesser, weaker members of the tribe.
And, like bad cops in L.A., it would be the jocks' behaviour that outsiders would remember, and use to define orcs as a group. Nyet?