Orcus is the Demon Prince of the Undead. Orcus has the head and legs of a goat, although with ram-like horns, a bloated body, bat-like wings, and a long tail.
Orcus cares for nothing save himself — not even for his devotees and undead servants — and focuses only on spreading misery and evil. One of his most identifiable symbols is the artifact, the Wand of Orcus, a skull-topped wand with the power to slay any living being. In earlier editions of the game, Orcus also wielded a powerful artifact known as the Orcusword.
Orcus is a very old demon. Like many of the most powerful demon lords who struggle for power in the Abyss, Orcus started his existence as a mortal on the Prime Plane. He was apparently a wicked spellcaster of some sort, most probably a priest to some dark deity. After his death, his soul, like the souls of all chaotic evil mortals, went to the Abyss and Orcus began his afterlife as a lowly larva.
Orcus proceeded to climb through the demonic ranks in the next several thousand years, going from larva to mane, from mane to dretch, from dretch to rutterkin, from rutterkin to vrock, from vrock to glabrezu, from glabrezu to nalfeshnee and eventually a balor. From there, he ascended to the rank of demon lord, becoming the Prince of the Undead and ruling the layer of Thanatos, the Belly of Death. Even though there are other demon lords aspiring to the title of "Prince of the Undead", Orcus' claim to the title has gone unchallenged for the most part. Ever hungry for more power, Orcus wanted to be recognized as "Prince of Demons", a title held by Demogorgon and coveted also by Graz'zt. As a result, he became the arch-enemy of both demon lords. In time, Orcus also achieved true godhood.
However, shortly after his divine ascension, Orcus was slain by the drow demi-goddess Kiaransalee, who took over rulership of Orcus' layer of the Abyss and locked his wand away in the last layer of Pandemonium. Kiaransalee decreed that Orcus's name be erased from all existence.
A peculiar combination of events thwarted Kiaransalee's plans. Acererak's tampering with the nature of the Negative Energy Plane, the last prayers of Quah-Nomag, and the unexpected awakening of some of the sleepers of the demiplane of Moil combined to cause the spirit of Orcus to be reanimated as an undead god. Renaming himself Tenebrous in order to help obscure himself from his enemies, Orcus traveled to ruins buried in the sands of Pelion. There, he discovered the Last Word, an utterance so powerful that it can destroy deities. The Last Word will also eventually kill those who know it unless the being is a true deity. Thus, to restore his lost divinity, Orcus went in search of his wand. During his search, Orcus killed several gods and other powerful entities, including Bwimb, Primus, and Maanzecorian. Orcus' efforts were stymied by a group of adventurers and Orcus was again destroyed, this time by the power of the Last Word. A cabal of greater deities, in response to Tenebrous's predations, has since weakened the Last Word considerably.
Orcus was resurrected by Quah-Nomag, one of his foremost high priests and thralls, in a blasphemous ritual enacted in the Astral Plane. Orcus then reclaimed his kingdom and his original name, re-proclaiming himself "Prince of the Undead". However, as a result of his second death and resurrection, Orcus has lost his divinity, the ability to use the Last Word, and is a demon lord once more.
Orcus' divinity now exists as a vestige, also named Tenebrous: The Shadow That Was, and can be called upon by binders.
Orcus' realm is Thanatos, the 113th layer of the Abyss (although in H4: The Throne of Bloodstone, it is numbered 333rd). It is a frigid and frozen layer infested with the undead. Several cities dotted the layer, (most of whom are ruled by minions of Orcus, including a powerful succubus and Quah-Nomag himself). The Prince of the Undead rules from his palace of Everlost in the Bone Meal Desert north of a vast mountain chain (called the Final Hills) that cut across the layer. Despite Orcus regaining control over Thanatos, Kiaransalee's taint can still be found in the city of Naratyr on the Frozen Sea south of the layer, and in the so-called Forbidden Citadel in the city of Lachrymosa, located in the Final Hills.
Orcus also keeps a fortress, named Tchian-Sumere, on the Negative Energy Plane.
Wand of Orcus
The Wand of Orcus is a powerful artifact. This skull-tipped wand has the ability to automatically slay any living creature it touches. The Wand is highly coveted across the planes, and Orcus sometimes lets it fall into the hands of mortals in order to allow them to wreak chaos and evil.
The Orcusword was Orcus's personal weapon when he was still a balor. It is currently held in Tchian-Sumere, Orcus's fortress on the Negative Energy Plane
The Cult of Orcus
The cult of Orcus is mainly composed of twisted creatures with a morbid fascination with the undead, such as necromancers, as well as creatures deliberately seeking the path to undeath, such as would-be liches and vampires. They often wear macabre costumes decorated with bones and skulls.
Orcus is one of the most detailed demon lords of the Dungeons and Dragons game and one of a small handful to be detailed in every edition of the game.
Dungeons & Dragons (1974-1976)
Orcus made his first appearance in Eldritch Wizardry supplement for the original (white box) Dungeons and Dragons game (1976). He is described as a grossly fat demon lord with goat-like head and legs, holding the wand of death (Orcus' Wand).
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)
Orcus, Prince of the undead, was given coverage in the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual (1977), and his Wand was detailed in the Dungeon Master's Guide (1979). Orcus was a central antagonist for The Throne of Bloodstone series of adventures, especially The Mines of Bloodstone (1986) and The Throne of Bloodstone (1988). In The Throne of Bloodstone, his realm is given as the 333rd layer of the Abyss.
Dungeons & Dragons (1977-1999)
Orcus appeared in the Immortal Rules set, in the DM's Guide to Immortals (1986).