Meta Description:Half-Orcs in Dungeons & Dragons 5e find it difficult to explore the world due to their mixed heritage. Let's use their interesting stories to make compelling D&D 5e characters.
Despite their appearance, Half-Orcsin Dungeons & Dragons 5ecan become the proudest, fiercest, and strongest companions any adventuring party can have. In classic D&D 5elore, Half-Orcs find themselves fighting alongside orc tribes or intermingling with humans that have accepted them. Either way, the presence of Orc God Gruumsh beckons them to feel emotions more fiercely - which in turn can either make them the jolliest, saddest, or - let's hope not - angriest creatures ever to walk any campaign setting. Players who want to make brutally honest characters with a cause can make a Half-Orc for their team.
This quick guide will have everything you'll need to make a compelling and engaging Half-Orc that can bring out the color of your fellow adventurers in your 5e campaign.
Basics: The Traits
Half-Orcs carry on the traits of both Orcs and Humans, which means they possess the same physical prowess of the Orc - from the teeth down to the muscles - and the ingenuity of Humans. Unfortunately, like the Tiefling, others frown upon the Half-Orc’s appearance - at least, in most Human societies. Thankfully, Orc tribes value battle prowess more than appearances. However, this does mean the Half-Orc walks on a tricky in-between.
Here are some traits common to Half-Orcs:
Ability Score Increase:STR + 2, CON + 1
Age: Half-Orcs age a bit faster than humans, reaching maturity by 14 years, and until around 75 years.
Size and Speed:Medium (5 to 6ft tall), 30ft walking speed.
Alignment:Most Half-Orc enjoy adventurous lives with fellow Orcs, all of which lean towards Chaotic alignments.
Racial Features:Half-Orcs have these racial features:
Darkvision, which allows Half-Orcs to tap into their Orcish blood and see 60ft of dim light as though it were bright and only see in greys in darkness as though it were dim light.
Menacing, which gives Half-Orcs proficiency with the Intimidation skill.
Relentless Endurance, which helps Half-Orcs stabilize themselves much faster. If a blow lands a Half-Orc to 0 HP, but not kill them, they can drop to 1 HP instead. They can only use this once per long rest.
Savage Attacks, which imbues the Half-Orc with a primal savagery that enables them to roll an extra weapon damage die if they land a critical hit, on top of the existing extra damage.
Languages,of which Half-Orcs know Orc and Common. Unlike other languages, Orc has no original script and is instead written in Dwarvish. Orc makes use of hard consonants and harsh sounds.
Half-Orc: The Best Classes To Build
Players who imagine Half-Orcs will likely imagine Barbarians or tribal people living in the outskirts of society. However, like the Half-Elves, Half-Orcs may end up travelling the world and discover their potential outside their tribes. In fact, in some adventures, Half-Orcs may even end up outside “tribes” and “cities” and instead end up being with a group they’ll eventually call their own family.
For a player who doesn’t want a Half-Orc raging on the battlefield, here are some interesting class choices they might want to consider:
Fighter:The Half-Orc will most likely find themselves exploring with their Orc kinsmen, often competing in contests of strength and endurance to prove their strength among their kin. This factor can make the Half-Orc perfect for a Fighter, always capable of adapting into situations thanks to their training and experience with their tribe. What led them to a life of adventure may be unknown, but their readiness for battle will always be present with them.
The natural STR and CON Ability Score Bonuses of the Half-Orc make them great candidates for a hardy fighter. Their Strength makes them ideal for melee weapons and their Constitution immediately gives them an edge in terms of Hit Points. Given these natural factors, players can go all out with an all-Fighter build or multiclass into other STR-oriented classes.
Given the Half-Orc’s STR potential, Fighters should probably choose a melee weapon fighting style. Defenders should opt for Defense or Protection, but those who want to deal massive damage should go for Great Weapon Fighting or even Two-Weapon Fighting. These become deadlier by the time Fighters get their Extra Attacks.
Likewise, in terms of Archetypes, the Half-Orc Fighter should probably focus on archetypes that build upon this STR advantage. The Battle Master makes it more keen on battle tactics, but great choices also include the Champion for a more combat-oriented Fighter.
Monk:Just because a Half-Orc has natural strength and vitality doesn’t mean they’re always violent. Sometimes, Half-Orcs might see their sheer strength as a hindrance to their achievement of enlightenment, and they may seek new methods of mastering all aspects of their body. As such, a Half-Orc Monk would retain the sheer Strength and Constitution of the Half-Orc, only this time trained and disciplined into using their natural power in the defense of their Order and their beliefs.
Half-Orc players can easily dedicate DEX and WIS Ability Scores to enhance their Monk’s potential, while ensuring the innate STR and CON bonuses of the Half-Orc add to their potential Athletics and Hit Points.
Thanks to their innate bonuses, Half-Orc Monks can focus on increasing their DEX and WIS to enhance their Unarmored Defense and Mobility, as well as their Martial Arts and Ki abilities.
Half-Orc Monks that want a more active role in the front lines can choose Drunken Master, Kensei, and Open Hand paths. Meanwhile, they can also benefit from the versatility of the Sun Soul, Shadow, and Four Elements Traditions.
Paladin:The Strength of the Half-Orc seems apt for a warrior of the gods. And their nature as a being lost in between two heritages make the Half-Orc Paladin a perfect candidate for a character seeking to find themselves. What help would their faith have in order for the Half-Orc Paladin to realize their true self? Would their duty to their deity hinder or help in their quest to find themselves?
The innate STR of Half-Orcs make them ideal for close-ranged combatants like the Paladin. Thanks to the extra hardiness with their CON bonus, a Half-Orc who wants to dish out melee damage with great support potential should definitely consider making a Paladin.
Unlike the Fighter’s option to get multiple Feats, a Paladin is more geared towards combating the forces of evil - which their features manifest. Getting Divine Sense, Lay on Hands, and even the multiple Auras in future levels can make the Half-Orc Paladin a powerhouse. Moreover, like the Fighter, playing a Paladin isn’t an extremely difficult task unlike the more magic-oriented classes.
Given the melee nature of the Paladin, the Half-Orc would find a lot of the Paladin’s feats interesting to take note. Players who want a more offensive Half-Orc Paladin should consider the Conquest, Heroism, and Vengeance Oaths. However, more defensive Paladins should consider the Ancients, Crown, Devotion, and Watchers Oath.
Ranger:Half-Orcs will likely be with their Human or Orc kinsmen for the rest of their lives. And if the Half-Orc finds themselves intrigued by the nature of combat, they might opt to join the local police force to patrol the city or even defend their tribe as a Ranger. Unlike Fighters, Rangers are much faster and quicker to react to danger. And thanks to the sheer Strength of the Half-Orc, a Half-Orc Ranger would be able to dispatch threats quickly or even call for help when necessary.
The STR Ability Score bonus of the Half-Orc might make them seem a bit unfit for the Ranger role, given their association with long-ranged combat. However, thanks to the Ranger’s Fighting Style, a Half-Orc can maximize their Ability Score bonus into letting them use more powerful ranged weapons, including two-handed weapons, dual-wielding, or making a bow their secondary weapon of choice.
Given the innate STR Ability Score bonus of the Half-Orc, they might fit Ranger Conclaves that focus on stalking their opponents and aiming swiftly for the kill. As such, they might want to consider Monster Slayer, Hunter, Beast Master, or even Gloom Stalker.
Sorcerer:The Half-Orc might see themselves doing manual labor due to their brawn and vitality, but their inclination to explore and venture into the unknown will also make them perfect Sorcerers. As their nature is tied to a quest for identity, it makes sense for the Half-Orc to seek and tap into their full unbridled potential, unhindered by rules and studies that are meant to shackle their power. A Half-Orc Sorcerer may build their character based on this potential flavor.
The rather raw and wild flavor of the Half-Orc in official material make them ideal for more flexible and mystical classes such as the Sorcerer. Moreover, the nature of the Half-Orc as being “in between” their Human and Orcish heritage make them quite ideal for being Sorcerers - especially since their Font of Magic and Metamagic reflect the rather ingenious nature of Humans.
Half-Orc Sorcerers can better describe their Sorcerous Origins as a reflection of either their Human or Orcish heritage, especially due to the vast nature of these Origins as a whole. Storm, Stone, Sea, and Pyromancy all reflect a more elemental origin, while Clockwork Soul, Draconic Bloodline, Divine Soul, Phoenix, and Shadow reflect a more flavorful approach to how the Half-Orc Sorcerer has received their powers.
Outside the Tribe: Interesting Character Backgrounds
Half-Orcs often find themselves in a divide, just like the Half-Elves. However, whereas the typical Half-Elf might be concerned with their longevity, the Half-Orc in most adventures will usually have to deal with stereotypes associated with both their Human and Orcish heritages. For the most part, Half-Orcs in cities populated with Humans might experience some prejudice in terms of their appearance and Orcish stereotypes. On the other hand, Half-Orcs might be regarded as “weak” in Orc tribes and would constantly have to prove themselves.
For players who want to add a bit of tension in this department or perhaps for those who want to add a new spin to the Half-Orc, you might want to consider these options:
City Watch (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide):Players often create Half-Orc adventurers who have been traveling for a couple of years. They may be accustomed to taking up quests for rewards, or even in search for valuable treasure. However, one of the more interesting background options for Half-Orcs could be a membership in the City Watch - as an officer committed to defend the city might be the last person we’d expect to start adventuring. Why would a Half-Orc City Watch member be adventuring? Was he a part of a scouting team with a mission that’s gotten awry?
Languages:Choose any two languages
Proficiencies:STR (Athletics), WIS (Insight)
Far Traveler (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide):A Half-Orc Far Traveler fits their ancestral background, especially if they’re still conflicted about their place in the world. Far Travelers usually come from extremely distant and remote places - some of which either unknown or even belonging to myth. As such, Half-Orcs who have come from these places tend to be persons of interest - their culture and society foreign to most people, with the Half-Orc Far Traveler likewise curious to discover the many things they’ll learn in this new realm they ended up in.
Tools:Choose one from: Musical Instrument x1, Gaming Set x1
Languages:Choose any one language
Proficiencies:WIS (Insight), WIS (Perception)
Inheritor (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide):Half-Orcs tread the line between two vastly different cultures, regardless of adventure settings. A Half-Orc raised among their Orcish kinsmen may have been used to a life of exploration and fighting. As such, it may make for an interesting scenario in-game for the Half-Orc to end up being found by a messenger and find out they have an inheritance. What would they do with it? Who else might be interested in this inheritance?
Tools:Gaming Set x1, Musical Instrument x1
Proficiencies:WIS (Survival), and choose 1 from: INT (Arcana), INT (History), INT (Religion)
Mercenary Veteran (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide):A Half-Orc may have explored much of the known world in their search of their own identity. As such, they may have encountered all sorts of peoples and cultures - and they may have taken up some odd professions along the way. It’s not surprising for a Half-Orc to be a Mercenary Veteran, one where they may have spent a good part of their life travelling the world and fighting wars for various people. What motivated them to leave this line of work? Or perhaps, what motivates them to stay?
Tools:Gaming Set x1, Vehicles (Land)
Proficiencies:STR (Athletics), CHA (Persuasion)
Outlander (Player’s Handbook):A Half-Orc will most likely come from two vastly different societies and cultures, which is why personal discovery may be a main crux of their character arcs. Unlike Half-Elves; however, some campaign settings may have a negative bias towards Orcs, which in itself might unfortunately reflect on the way people treat the Half-Orc. This is especially the case if they’re an Outlander, having lived far from society with their comrades - only to explore the world out of a desire to go on an adventure or perhaps even in the form of a mission.