From lore and descriptions to traits and abilities, learn all about Orcs in D&D 5e
For a long time, Orcs have had a nasty stereotype; one of brutish savagery, creatures that live to kill and satisfy the warmongering nature of their main deity, the one-eyed Gruumsh. This has changed somewhat with the introduction of Eberron: Rising from the Last War and the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount which both portray Orcs as at times brutish, but also creatures closer to nature, with a great amount of passion, capable of outburst of mirth, heroism and even compassion. While this doesn’t mean that all Orcs lack savagery, many continue to be the murderous folk they’ve been stereotyped as, especially in the Forgotten Realms, but it does give greater licence for players to create an Orc that is not evil.
This trend of varied Orc personalities has continued in Monsters of the Multiverse and it’s these updated Orcs we’ll use for the purposes of this guide below. If you want to play as an Orc in D&D 5e, then read on below for everything you need to know.
What is an Orc?
Orcs are tough humanoids with a talent for combat. In some places, this manifests in savagery and murderous tendencies, in others, their warrior-spirits are channeled towards being guardians and mighty allies. Despite the stereotype, in D&D 5e, Orcs are not all evil, though their strength can often lead them to warlike tendencies.
Orcs are humanoids, standing a bit taller than humans at over 6ft tall and weighing about 250 pounds. They typically have green or blueish skin and large, tusk-like teeth. Their skin is tougher than that of humans and they tend to build muscle more naturally than most races too giving them a frightening appearance.
With such natural strength, many Orcs tend towards being more aggressive. They often bully other races around and have a hatred towards the civilised races like Humans, Dwarves and Elves. Orcs themselves tend to create little in the way of civilisations but will work together in large communities or warbands. Either way, they’re more at home in nature with basic shelters than beings like Humans are.
Orcs worship Gruumsh, their one-eyed deity and creator. Gruumsh is a powerful warrior and leader and inspires Orcs towards similar qualities. For the Orcs of the Forgotten Realms, this often manifests in bringing glory through war and combat. In other settings like Eberron, this manifests through an intense passion and desire to protect the nature around them. For either of these groups though, Orcs respect a powerful warrior and often select their leaders from among their greatest warriors.
Orcs are naturally religious which also fuels some amount of superstition. Many Orcs will shun magic for this reason and even destroy magical artefacts being suspicious of such things. Some Orcs though, especially those with a greater connection to nature, find themselves at home with natural magics. Orcs can still be spellcasters, but it’s frowned upon more often in Orcish culture.
How to play as an Orc
As explained, Orcs come in a variety of personalities with differing skillsets. They tend towards classes that take advantage of their powerful strength, but other skills are respected and seen as useful in Orcish culture. If you want to play as an Orc, it’s worth considering the following:
- How do you bring honour to Gruumsh? – Many Orcs choose to bring honour to Gruumsh through acts of violence, especially war. Others choose to use their strength for heroism. Others may not even worship Gruumsh or display the typical qualities of Orc kind. Either way, it’s worth considering what kind of Orc you are.
- Stereotypical bad guy – If you’re playing as an orc, especially in the Forgotten Realms, you may need to be prepared for how others perceive your character. Many will assume that you are evil or untrustworthy. How do you react to this? Do you embrace this, stay quiet or get angry at the quick judgements of others.
- Why have you left the tribe? – Most Orcs stick together as they often aren’t welcome among the other civilisations (and often for good reason). Why have you left your tribe and chosen to join an adventuring party?
Orc features in 5e
|Ability Scores||+2 to one ability score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different ability scores|
|Languages||Common and 1 other|
|Traits||Adrenaline Rush, Darkvision, Powerful Build, Relentless Endurance|
|Book found in||Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse|
If you want to play as an Orc, your character will have the following traits and abilities:
Adrenaline Rush – You can take the Dash action as a bonus action. You can use this trait a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Whenever you use this trait, you gain a number of temporary hit points equal to your proficiency bonus.
Darkvision – You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You discern colors in that darkness only as shades of gray.
Powerful Build – You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.
Relentless Endurance – When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. Once you use this trait, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.