Tips for Playing a Half-Orc Character in Dungeons & Dragons

Looking for tips for playing a Half-Orc character? I’ve got some advice that will help. Ranging from maximizing stats to role-playing as a half-orc, I’m going to help you learn more about this classic Dungeons & Dragons race.

You’ll be able to use this advice for other tabletop RPG systems (like Pathfinder), so don’t worry if you play something else. (Any MERPs fans with us?) Moving on.

After the article, I have something that will help you create a half-orc backstory for your character, so keep reading to the bottom of the page for something you’ll love if you play a barbarian in D&D.

Half-Orcs for Fun and Profit

Playing a half-orc character in Dungeons & Dragons can be challenging but fun. As a half-orc, you might not be welcome or respected in communities of good or law-abiding folk, but you might be admired or accepted by those with less noble aspirations. You could be the next great leader of an orc tribe, but you could also be a cursed outcast, forced to survive on your own wits and abilities.

Because they are more human than orc (usually), half-orcs tend to be smaller than many of their orc kin. Their human blood gives them an easier time adapting to civilization and the trappings of an ordinary life. This is not to say that half-orcs can’t join orc tribes—many do. Half-orcs who forsake the orc way, however, might have a difficult time finding acceptance in human society.

Half-orcs typically have no desire to completely abandon their orc heritage and join a human community. They usually see themselves as a separate people with a unique heritage and identity. As they are neither human nor orc, even half-orcs raised among humans know that they are different.

Physical Description

Half-orcs usually inherit a good share of their orc parent’s physical appearance. They have broad shoulders and both males and females tend to be larger and bulkier than humans, with coarse body hair. Half-orcs are muscular, and though they are not as tall as humans, their larger frames make them just as strong. Half-orcs’ faces are similar to those of their orc parents, with a protruding brow, flat nose, jutting jaw, and large teeth. The coloration of half-orcs ranges from greenish-yellow to dull green, to olive, to brown, to nearly black. Most half-orcs have green or hazel eyes.

Half-Orc Society

Half-orcs are generally from orc tribes and are raised and taught the orc way—the ways of combat, of the hunt, and of the clan. They grow up knowing the orcs as their family. Half-orcs who live among humans know that they are different, but they are not always aware that they are half-orcs. For half-orcs raised among orcs, life is simple—they are expected to do as their elders tell them, and their status in the orc community is determined by their deeds. Half-orcs raised among humans sometimes want to prove themselves worthy of their human parents, while at other times they want nothing more than to show that they are as good as their orc kin.

Many half-orcs who live among orcs do not have what could be described as a typical childhood. They are expected to act as mature, capable adults from an early age, and those who fail to live up to this responsibility find themselves ostracized by the clan. Those half-orcs raised among humans are often mistaken for their fully human siblings. Some feel a sense of responsibility to live up to their human parents’ expectations, while others just want to fit in among their friends and playmates.

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Cultural Traits of Half-Orcs

Half-orcs are an amalgam of orc and human cultures. Their communities tend to reflect the culture of their orc parent more so than their human parent. Many half-orcs try to fit in with their human communities, but they often feel like they are on the outside looking in. Many half-orcs raised among humans struggle to keep their temper in check, as their anger tends to flare up more quickly than that of their human neighbors. Even half-orcs raised among orcs tend to have a shorter temper than most of their full-blooded kin.z

Half-Orc Relations

Half-orcs are mistrusted by humans and elves alike. Humans know that half-orcs born of orcs and raised by their orc parents grow up to be barbarians just like their ancestors. Elves find themselves uncomfortable around half-orcs because they look so similar to orcs. Half-orcs, in turn, know that humans may see them as little better than beasts, and that elves may see them as little better than the orcs who hunt them. This is unfortunate, as many half-orcs wish to make friends with humans and elves. Those who are able to overlook their difference from others are typically thought of as kind and honorable people.

Alignment and Religion of Half-Orcs

Half-orcs raised in orc tribes are expected to be brave, self-sufficient, and loyal to the clan. Half-orcs raised among humans might try to do good things in their communities, but they tend to be more self-interested and less loyal—they are more likely to do what is good for them personally than what is good for the greater community. Half-orcs raised among orcs almost always worship the orc deities. Half-orcs raised among humans might follow the faith of their community, or might worship other deities with similar goals and beliefs.

Half-Orcs as Adventurers

Most half-orcs are fighters, barbarians, or rangers. They are not as skilled with magic as their human kin, but they are craftier than most of their orc kin. Half-orcs raised among their human kin might become fighters, rangers, or barbarians, while half-orcs raised among their orc kin may become barbarians, fighters, or rogues. Half-orcs tend to be more comfortable taking the offensive in combat than their human kin, but their tendency to be impulsive often leads them to act before they can think.

Roleplaying as a Half-Orc

Here are some general tips for roleplaying as a half-orc.

  • Tip #1: Remember that you are the child of both a human and an orc. Take aspects of your orc parents’ personalities and temper your human parent’s sensibilities. Be a good person, but be practical—orc ideals often do not mesh well with those of humans.
  • Tip #2: If you are raised among orcs, respect your elders and your clan. If you are raised among humans, respect your elders and understand that your elders are not perfect.
  • Tip #3: Know that you are different, and accept this as part of your identity.
  • Tip #4: Remember that the face you show to the world is the face that the world is likely to see. Do not be ashamed of who you are.
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Overall, when playing a half-orc in Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, or another tabletop RPG, you want to play to your character’s strengths. If you are a half-orc raised among humans, you want to play as a strong, brave, and capable person. If you are a half-orc raised among orcs, you want to play as a strong, brave, and capable person.

Half-Orc Backstory Generator?

Yes! You can create a bunch of half-orc backstories at LitRPG Adventures. Additionally, members can browse our growing library of character backstories, city descriptions, monsters, magic items, and more. If you’re a hardcore gamer, you’re going to love the site and community that is building around the idea of AI generated content edited by squishy humans with years of gaming experience – it’s the best of both worlds.

Paul Bellow

LitRPG Author Paul Bellow

Paul Bellow is a LitRPG author, gamer, RPG game developer, and publisher of several online communities. In other words, an old school webmaster. He also developed and runs LitRPG Adventures, a set of advanced RPG generators powered by GPT-3 AI. Here at LitRPG Reads, he publishes articles about LitRPG books, tabletop RPG books, and all sorts of DND content that's free to use in your personal tabletop campaign - i.e. non-commercial use. Enjoy your stay and reach out on Twitter or Discord if you want to make contact.

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