Ashes of Empires
“Altern” is the collective term used by humans and their ilk to refer to the various humanoid races of orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, and the like. The term is considered mildly insulting to those to whom it is applied, as it lumps several distinct races and cultures together into a single all-encompassing category.
Despite their divergent histories and distinct physiognomies, however, the Altern do share some traits in common. Most organize themselves into clans or tribes, rallying around the strongest and most cunning individuals as leaders. They consider both strength and stoicism the greatest virtues, and place more value on the survival and prosperity of the group over the best interests of the individual.
Because of their emphasis on strength, Altern cultures are often militaristic, if not outright violent. Disputes are settled by force rather than dialogue, and the strongest individuals are considered specially blessed by the Altern gods and thus above the rules that apply to the common rabble. Nonetheless, the positions of power afforded to strong individuals must be used to further the aims of the entire clan or tribe, or the tide of tribal opinion may take a dark and violent turn.
Altern clans tend to make their camps in scarcely settled borderlands, where there are enough travelers and remote homesteads to attack but not enough civilization for an organized opposition. When the easy targets run few in a given area, or if soldiers and guards move in, Altern clans are inclined to move on to easier pickings elsewhere, often abandoning their camps in the middle of the night.
Altern smiths are excellent and devious, having long ago mastered the arts of the forge and the production of wicked weapons of war. Armor, however, seems to be beyond the ken of these artisans, and most often consists of bits and pieces of salvaged leather, chain, and scale mail stitched together roughly to form a patchwork defensive layer for the wearer.
Most Altern worship Gruumsh, the One-Eyed God, or his consort Tiamat, the embodiment of strength and chaos.