Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Races: Half-Orcs

“Yeah, I can read. And yeah, I saw the sign. My tusks don’t block my eyes. If you want to make something of it, I’ll see to it they more'n block yours.”
Ugreth, a fighter and wanderer disputing a tavern’s exclusivity with its bouncer.


Born of the union between a human and an orc, half-orcs are the disputed eldest of the Third Races. Despite their age, they have very little history as a people. When the world was young, they were few and far between, considered “different” members of their parent’s race, and accepted with differing degrees of shame. Humans saw them as bastards who more often than not killed their mother in childbirth and were destined for a life of hardship. Among orcs, they were the children of thralls- a sign of status for the orc parent- and accorded a thin veneer of respect over the general feeling of contempt that full-blooded orcs felt for these “runts of the litter”.

Then the Divine War broke out.

Orcs died in droves, but with the aid of their First Race brethren and draconic patrons, they eventually brought down the nascent human civilization of the south, sent dwarves running back to their western mountains, and kept the elves contained in the Great Forest. Gnomes disappeared from the face of the world, and halflings kept in perpetual motion to be as far away from the fighting as possible. At the signing of the Covenant, the orcs reveled in the lands that were their prize, and half-orcs became a common sight in as humans went from defeated foes to second-class citizens.

Then the Yggdrasil opened.

The tenuous empire the orcs had created was now under siege. Using powerful forest-magics the likes of which no one had ever seen, the orcs were broken down back into the individual tribes they once were and were scattered to the winds. The half-orcs that had survived the fracas had a decision to make- honor their human parent and fight the orcs, or stand with the might-makes-right culture that had nonetheless been all they knew. No matter what their choice, half-orcs faced suspicion due to those who did not make the right choice as defined by those they interact with regularly.

The distrust still lingers on to this day. It has turned half-orcs into socially stunted people who only interact with others when forced to. Otherwise, they are content to be ignored by true elves, ignore the cruel japes that halflings aim their way, and endure the fear and loathing that humans and orcs heap on them respectively. Their parents usually provide food and shelter, but genuine acceptance comes from other half orcs, or from those who place value on a person’s deeds, not their race. Dwarves and common elves form a sizable amount of this population, as do other half-breeds.


Half-orcs are usually born to human women after a hard labor that often kills the mother.  It is the rare half-orc that is born to an orc or half-orc mother, in which case birth is a small litter of three to four.  Regardless of the circumstances of their birth, half orcs grow quickly, and tower over their human parent by the time most of their peers are halfway through puberty; fully grown half orcs average 6.8 feet in height.  They are robust in build and lean towards the hirsute as well, so a 16 year old half-orc male can easily pass himself off as a male human of twice that age, at least when his features are obscured.  It is important to note that although their lower canines or “tusks” are not as large as their orcish parent’s, they do have very well-defined philtrums, extra molars along their lower jaw and the facial muscles to support them, which leads to a pronounced underbite for many or jutting jaw in the worst cases.  Their hair, eyes and skin color favor the non-orc side of the union, so their appearance can run the gamut from swarthy to pale, eyes of clearwater blue to the deepest brown, and hair from blond to black.

While regularly slandered as angry, hateful, and violent, the truth is that half-orcs are simply a very passionate (but not necessarily sensitive) people. They are capable of just as many acts of genuine kindness as they are of horrific brutality. Unfortunately, they rarely have the opportunity to show themselves to be something other than a stereotype.

Naming Conventions:
Like half-elves, half-orcs are named through the society they grow up in, but they rarely change or alter their names. Names are usually the only gift that full-blooded orcs give to their children, and those who share their heritage treat their birth name with surprising reverence.

Like anyone, half-orcs adopt the values of those who raise them, but they usually overdo it in their perennial search for acceptance. As a result, few are neutral with respect to law and chaos.

Their preferred class is barbarian- no other class would welcome the tumult of emotion that flows in a half-orcs veins nearly as much. This is not to say that there are no half-orc fighters, rogues or reavers, just that as the ones who embrace the stereotype of the bloodthirsty savage are accepted more readily by society. Half-orcs rarely become sorcerers or wizards, however, those that become bards draw second looks, for they perform with such emotion that onlookers are inclined to forget their obvious ancestry even without the aid of beguiling magic. Perhaps due to their primal natures, half orcs feel the call to become rangers and druids quite often, much to the dismay of true elves. Paladins, clerics and monks are rare.

Half Orc Traits:
As described in the PHB, save as follows:

While not as fearsome as their orc parents’, a half-orc’s tusks are an effective natural weapon when brought to bear. Should an orc win a grapple check, they can choose to make a bite attack that does 1d4 points of lethal damage plus their Strength modifier.

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