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This article is about orcs as they appear in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game. For other uses, see orc.

In the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, orcs are a primitive race of barbaric humanoid, largely based upon the orcs appearing in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien[who?]. Orcs speak Orcish[citation needed].

Description[edit | edit source]

Orcs are disfigured humanoid carnıvores, standing approximately 5'11 to 6'2, weıghing from 180 to 280 Ibs. They are easily noticable from their green to gray skin, lupine ears, lower canines resembling boar tusks, and their muscular builds. Orcs stand in a bent over shape making them appear as ape-like humans.

Bestial and savage, orcs band together as trıbes, living on hunting and raiding. Believing that the only way to survive is by expanding their territories, they have developed enimities wıth many other races, although mainly elves and dwarves, as well as humans, gnomes, halflings, goblins, hobgoblins and even other orc tribes. Even though they have good relationships with other evil humanoids in times of peace, their chaotic nature stops them from co-opeating unless forced to do so by a powerful leader. Orcs live in a patriarchal society, taking pride on how many females and male children the have. Orcs like scars and take pride in exposing them, wheter they are of a victory or loss. Their chief diety Grummsh, the one eyed god, claims that the orc is the top of the food chain, that any riches are the property of orcs stolen by the others.

Subtype[edit | edit source]

In earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, the orc was a subtype of goblinoid. In the latest version, the orc has been promoted to its own subtype.

In earlier editions[edit | edit source]

Orcs vary widely in appearance as a result of frequent crossbreeding with other species. In general, they resemble primitive humans with grey-green skin covered with coarse hair. Orcs have a slightly stooped posture, a low jutting forehead, and a snout instead of a nose. Orcs have well-developed canine teeth for eating meat and short pointed ears that resemble those of a wolf. Orcish snouts and ears have a slightly pink tinge. Their eyes are human, with a reddish tint that sometimes makes them appear to glow red when they reflect dim light sources in near darkness. This is actually part of their optical system, a pigment which gives them infravision. Male orcs are about 5½ to 6 feet tall. Females average 6 inches shorter than males. Orcs prefer to wear colors that most humans think unpleasant: blood red, rust red, mustard yellow, yellow green, moss green, greenish purple, and blackish brown. Their armor is unattractive besides -- dirty and often a bit rusty. Orcs speak Orcish, a language derived from older human and elvish languages. There is no common standard of Orcish, so the language has many dialects which vary from tribe to tribe. Orcs have also learned to speak local common tongues, but are not comfortable with them. Some orcs have a limited vocabulary in goblin, hobgoblin, and ogre dialects.

Earlier versions of Dungeons & Dragons depicted orcs slightly differently. They were Lawful Evil, and were sometimes described as having porcine snouts (an illustration in the 1977 Monster Manual depicted them with pig-like faces). An insightful passage from the Monstrous Manual reads, "Orcs have a reputation for cruelty that is deserved, but humans are just as capable of evil as orcs".

The half-orc in the original AD&D game was a standard player character race, typically assuming the assassin class. Half-orcs were removed in the second edition of the game but were revived, albeit altered, in D&D 3rd edition.

Orcs in various campaign settings[edit | edit source]

Orcs appear in nearly all published Dungeons & Dragons settings.

Orcs in Dragonlance[edit | edit source]

There is some controversy regarding orcs in the Dragonlance. The 1st edition AD&D Dragonlance Adventures hardbound rulebook states that orcs do not exist on Krynn, with ogres and minotaurs largely replacing their typical role. Second and 3rd edition Dragonlance supplements also remove orcs from the world of Krynn. The main confusion on the subject has occurred from a few Dragonlance novels and/or adventures in which the writer has accidentally included orcs. In particular, the novel Kendermore by Mary Kirchoff, where one of the main characters is a half-orc. This has occurred with other iconic races of Dungeons & Dragons, such as drow, that are not native to the Dragonlance setting. Some suggest that the presence of orcs in Dragonlance can be explained through planar or space travel as Krynn is connected to other Dungeons & Dragons worlds (where orcs exist) through the Planescape and Spelljammer settings.

Orcs in Eberron[edit | edit source]

In the Eberron campaign setting, orcs are portrayed in a more positive light. Given to spirituality and nature-worship, they established successful societies, learning druidic secrets from the green dragon Vvaraak while the goblinoid races built a mighty empire, some 16,000 years ago.

The orc societies took a massive blow during the daelkyr invasion 9,000 years ago, though it was the orcs now known as the Gatekeepers who were able to stop the invasion by sealing the daelkyr beneath Eberron and severing the link between Eberron and the daelkyr home plane of Xoriat. The Gatekeeper druidic sect remains a presence in Eberron, albeit one largely concerned with defending the world from outsiders, aberrations and other unnatural foes rather than politics.

Orcs in the Forgotten Realms[edit | edit source]

In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, orcs are divided into the orcs of the north (Mountain Orcs) and the orcs of the east (Gray Orcs). The gray orcs came to Faerûn through a portal opened in Mulhorand by an Imaskari wizard. The orcs' invasion caused the Orcgate Wars in which the pious gray orcs called avatars of their deities down to help them, and the Mulhorandi and Untheric people did the same. Led by Re these pantheons and their soldiers eventually broke the gray orcs' armies.

In the north, orcs are known for overbreeding and then spilling out in hordes upon the nations thereabouts, including the Silver Marches, Icewind Dale and, in times past, the old elven empires around Cormanthyr. Foremost amongst the orcs of this area is the Many Arrows tribe headed by King Obould Many-Arrows, who is blessed by Gruumsh.

Orcs in Greyhawk[edit | edit source]

In the World of Greyhawk, orcs can be found in almost all locales of the Flanaess, but are most heavily concentrated in the Pomarj and the Empire of Iuz. There is also known to exist a great orcish city known as Garel Enkdal in the Griff Mountains. The orcs of the Baklunish nation of Zeif are very different from their brethren, having very nearly been assimilated into human society, though they are still regarded as lower-class.

Orcs in Mystara[edit | edit source]

Orcs are prevalent in both the Known World, the Savage Coast, and the Hollow World. They were featured in GAZ 10, Orcs of Thar, which details their culture and more about the orc-dominated Broken Lands southeast of Glantri.

Orcs in Spelljammer[edit | edit source]

A variety of orc, called "scro" ("orcs" spelled backward), were featured in the Spelljammer setting. Unlike the typical orcs featured in Dungeons & Dragons, the scro were sophisticated and disciplined, with a strong, well-organized martial culture.

Orcs in d20 System settings[edit | edit source]

Following the precedents set in the earliest Dungeons & Dragons materials, a great many d20 System publishers have retained Orcs in their own works. While many of these publishers have examined orcs in greater depth than was the norm in earlier works, most of those have not reinvented this race as such, and it still tends to be identified with coarseness and brutality. Such products include Badaxe Games' Heroes of High Favor: Half Orcs and Skirmisher Publishing's Orcs of the Triple Death line of miniatures [1].

References[edit | edit source]

  • Varney, Allen, ed. Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix II (TSR, 1991).

External links[edit | edit source]

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