There are two major hybrid races that you can choose to play in Dungeons & Dragons 5E. These races are combinations between (usually) Humans and one other race. Half-Elves are well-loved as diplomats and incredibly smart and potent individuals. Half-Orcs are spurned for their strange skin color, their short lives, and their stigma for warfare. This is a race that has been tortured for years due to their lineage, despite their long history of aiding others. If you want to maximize your knowledge of Half-Orcs, then we hope our Half-Orc 5E guide can help.
Half-Orc 5E Lore
Half-Orcs are part of the original Player’s Handbook. They normally come about when human and orc tribes form alliances, after years of brawling amongst one another. Their slightly more normalized skin color, more humanized body type, and shorter tusks help them quite a lot in civilized society… Though they are far from accepted, like Humans are. Their scarred bodies and still massive form make it difficult for a Half-Orc to fit in, especially amongst humans. Orcs think they’re too small as well, forcing them to act more tough or take more risks than usual.
A significant motivator to the Half-Orc’s stigma is the Mark of Gruumsh. This mark causes them to be consistently pushed towards utter rage, though not quite as much as the standard Orc. A Half-Orc may hear their Orcish blood speak to them in their dreams, or when they enter melee combat. Evil lurks within each and every Half-Orc, though they are not necessarily forced to be evil immediately. Even those who are able to shake off the whispers and temptation of Gruumsh will be more emotional than most races. Half-Orcs are the most likely to sob at a sad tale, or laugh bodily during a silly joke. They are a race with naturally shorter tempers, and are quick to action rather than contemplation or diplomacy. If a Half-Orc is able to conquer this curse, then they are quickly accepted and even praised in civilized society.
All Half-Orcs have followed different paths to earn acceptance. One in a dwarven tribe might become a miner capable of hours upon hours of extra work. One in an elven land might shock their contemporaries with their self-control and wisdom. However, a standard method of acceptance is through fear tactics; simply making everyone leave them alone so they can go about their day-to-day lives.
Half-Orc names are quick to change, if they wish to adapt to different cultures. Check out our half orc naming guide for some extra information.
The Half-Orc is incredibly standardized, unlike their Half-Elf brethren. There is one additional option for Dragonmarked Half-Orcs, but otherwise you have one option.
- +2 Strength, +1 Constitution. These are pretty deterministic stats. +2 Strength puts you fondly into the frontline, wielding a big weapon and wearing heavier armor. Strength-based weapons tend to deal more damage than Finesse weapons, and that’s it. Strength saves are less popular than Dexterity, Athletics is the only major skill that Strength boosts, and carrying capacity rarely matters. Make use of this Strength to hit hard! It helps that you get Constitution, boosting your Constitution saves and health pool. All classes can make great use out of Constitution.
- Medium Size, 30 ft Movement Speed. The standard. Half-Orcs tend to be a bit taller than other races, but not by much. You might be able to peek over things that Humans can’t.
- Darkvision. You don’t need to hold torches or alert enemies with light if you don’t need to. Fantastic, though if you’re a frontline character, you might be the one holding the torch anyways. Still, great for your vision.
- Menacing. A free skill proficiency is always great, but the Bard will be better at scaring people. At least you will have a good chance at doing so.
- Relentless Endurance. A pretty good reason to pick up this class. Once per day, you can just ignore unconsciousness. This makes you a pretty consistent survivor, and can easily turn a combat for the better. Try to have a way to heal party members, in case your party got hit by a bad fireball and you’re the only one still standing. You’ll see this ability’s power, despite the limitation.
- Savage Attacks. This feature means you’ll tend towards melee builds. It’s great, increasing your critical damage by 4-5 damage on average. Nice. Not super strong, but nice.
- Languages. Orc is a pretty rare language, only really practiced by Orcs. Lets you hear the conversation from Orc opponents, and maybe you can Intimidate your way to an agreement.
Mark of Finding (Eberron: Rising from the Last War)
The Dragonmark system is typically locked to Eberron; ask your DM before grabbing this feature. When you use the Mark of Finding, your Half-Orc loses their basic stats, Menacing, Relentless Endurance, Savage Attacks, and Languages.
- +2 Wisdom, +1 Constitution. Instead of Strength, you get Wisdom. Wisdom tends to be more generally useful than Strength; Wisdom saves are much more common than Strength, and Wisdom skills (like Perception) are crazy strong. Great if you want to be a Wisdom-based class.
- Hunter’s Intuition. Pretty stellar. Let’s you dominate Perception checks, and even improve your Survival check. Boosting those rolls by 2 or so might not sound important, but you roll Perception constantly for traps or bonus loot. You’ll really feel the benefits!
- Finder’s Magic. Hunter’s Mark is an insane spell, but your high Wisdom makes it a bit harder for you to use it in the most efficient way. Locate Object is significantly more niche, but having that spell in your back pocket might solve a problem in the future.
- Languages. Instead of Orc, you learn Goblin. Weird choice, but much better in general, since Goblin language covers a few pretty strong early and middle level races. Talk to your DM; this might be an honest mistake.
- Mark of Finding Spells. You get a few magical abilities. Your stats tend to push you towards Cleric and Druid, and you’ve got a few spells here that will boost your utility, especially as a Cleric.
There are two major builds that a Half-Orc can go, thanks to their Dragonmark. These recommendations assume you can use the Dragonmark. If you can’t use the Dragonmark, you lose the ability to use the massive Wisdom bonus. Plan accordingly!
Good Classes for Half-Orcs
- Barbarian. Off to a stereotypical start. Half-Orcs benefit a ton from this strength-based class. You improve your critical hits (like the Barbarian feature), you get another skill, and you’re able to go on for longer than your health pool suggests. You even get Darkvision to spot hiding creatures in the dark. Really good, but standard, race/class choice.
- Cleric. You can actually be a standard Half-Orc cleric with the Heavy Armor domains, or the Mark of Finding for less tanky Cleric builds. The standard Half-Orc has terrible spell DCs, but deals a shocking amount of damage and can take hits. Relentless makes you immensely powerful, keeping you alive to heal others. The Mark of Finding makes your Perception absurd and your spells as good as can be. Both reasonable!
- Druid. Druid Half-Orcs should probably be a Mark of Finding build; if you want to be a normal Half-Orc, you might just want to be a Wild Shape build, which ignores your high Strength. The Mark of Finding offers a druid better spell damage, better perception and survival, and the ability to use Hunter’s Mark with Multiattack. Pretty neat!
- Fighter. Another typical build, but for good reason. Strength Fighters hit hard, and Half-Orcs benefit a ton from the Champion’s higher chance to crit. With your improved durability, you can make any frontline Fighter work very well.
- Paladin. You’re not the best Paladin ever; you don’t get a Charisma bonus, which I personally value higher than Constitution for Paladin. However, you’ll have a good health pool and high strength. You’ll be a good frontliner and a solid emergency healer. A legitimately fine choice.
- Ranger. Once again, not the perfect ranger. The Strength Ranger build is solidly okay, and the Mark of Finding is slightly wasted on the Ranger build. Still, you can make it work and, like Paladin, Ranger can be okay for emergency healing.
Bad Classes for Half-Orcs
- Artificer. Artificer doesn’t care about your massive Strength bonus, or (usually) your Weapon crits. You could make a Battle Smith work, or an Armorer, but you’ll be heavily penalized in terms of damage due to your lack of Strength. The Mark of Finding could bring some utility to the Artificer, but then you lose your durability and damage potential.
- Bard. No Charisma isn’t a great time for Bards. A Valor build can be durable and high damage, but you’ll be missing out on the really strong spell pool.
- Monk. Monk has exactly one build, and it’s not great; Mark of Finding with Astral Form. Astral Form uses Ki to generate attack rolls with Wisdom. Then you can be the eyes of the party, and use Hunter’s Mark to deal massive damage to important enemies. However, that’s the only okay monk build, and it suffers a lot from level 1 to 2.
- Rogue. Rogue benefits too much from Dexterity. The critical damage is fine, and the Relentless feature can keep the Rogue alive… But you’ll be staying alive while dealing less damage than a Dexterity race could.
- Sorcerer. Similar to Bard, you’ll be more durable, but at a cost of your spell effectiveness. Relentless is great, but you’re wasting your crits. Mark of Finding doesn’t make things better, either. That Mark is too reliant on Wisdom and still wants to make Weapon attacks.
- Warlock. Better than Sorcerer, not by much. Warlocks have the chance to make Mark of Finding work alright, but you’re still missing your Charisma. If you want to try this out for whatever reason, Hexblade could be an option. Not a good option, but an option.
- Wizard. Same problem as sorcerer. The extra durability of Relentless is not worth the Strength bonus and no Intelligence increase. Your spells won’t be as effective, and you don’t benefit from the weapon racial features.
Half-Orcs are a pretty stellar race. They get a ton of tools to make the basic frontline role feel stronger than ever before. Try them out, if you’ve ignored them for being too “simple”. You might be surprised what these cursed children of Gruumsh can do for you.