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The half-orcs are a race in Dungeons & Dragons.

Appearance and personality[]

Abilities and traits[]





Notable half-orcs[]

Publication history[]

Original D&D[]

AD&D 1st edition[]

AD&D 2nd edition[]

D&D 3rd edition[]

D&D 4th edition[]

D&D 5th edition[]

Creative origins[]

Gary Gygax played an evil half-orc cleric-assassin in 1974, in a game run by TSR co-founder Brian Blume. The character reached third level before being killed, and his allies looted the body.[1][2][3]

Former TSR employee Tim Kask describes the concept of the half-orc gaining popularity initially through fanzines, mostly published in the west coast of the United States. Kask's group on the east coast initially found the concept of distasteful—"Who has congress with an orc?"—but soon realized that it was primarily played for the purposes of min-maxing.[4]

The half-orc was first mentioned in the Monster Manual (1e) (1977), p.76, under the "orc" monster entry. They subsequently appeared as a playable character race in the Players Handbook (1e) (1978). It may have been inspired by the half-elf, which in turn was a concept which originally appeared in the works of Tolkien.

Reception and influence[]

In 2022, blogger James Maliszewski argued that the inclusion of half-orcs as playable characters humanized orcs, bringing moral ambiguity to killing humanoid creatures who had previously been classed as monsters. He describes this as part of Gygaxian naturalism, a tendency of Gary Gygax to seek setting simulationist realism rather than than purely gameplay or adhere to genre conventions.[5]

However, in 2007, Gygax described his motive for the inclusion of the half-orc as expanding the available player options, rather than realism:[6]

"Who needs a rational for a race in a fantasy game? Half-elves, half-orcs, what's the difference? Both add choices to the game, and that is why they were included ;)"


  1. "We had a fair number of Evil PCs in my original campaign. Mostly the experience gained from such play convinced the players the futility of having such unheroic characters. For example, in 1974 I created a half-orc cleric-assassin for a member of an Evil adventuring party. He was soon killed, and of course none of the others in the group cared to do more than loot his body;)" Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 54. ENWorld, Mar 27, 2003.
  2. "I even played a half-orc Cleric/Assassin charavter for a short time in a campaign run by Brian Blume." Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 95. ENWorld, Feb 5, 2004.
  3. "A fighter PC of mine in Brian Blume's campaign with a natural 18 strength, 17 constitution and 16 dexterity was killed before getting to 2nd level, lost and gone forever  :( The same is true of a half-orc cleric-assassin PC of mine, but he got to 3rd level before biting the dust." Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 103. ENWorld, Mar 8, 2004.
  4. The Curmudgeon in the Cellar YT13. 19m 44s.
  5. Half-Orcs Were a Mistake, Grognardia.
  6. Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 384. ENWorld, May 29, 2007.