Orctober – Grimluk in D&D 5e Updated, RAW

Last year, I rolled up character sheets for Grimluk in 5e. One was RAW, using the standard medieval-style weapons and gear, and the other was homebrew. I wanted to redo that this year. So first, we’ll be going over the RAW update.

Admittedly, the first version wasn’t that great conceptually. I actually did try to roll stats but honestly, Grimluk’s a Main Character, so in my update, I took the stats I’d molded through rolling and ASIs and just made them his base stats. Those stats stay the same through either version now, RAW and homebrew. On top of that, because Xanathar’s Guide to Everything didn’t come out until November, I couldn’t use anything from it AND, due to a couple of concepts I didn’t want to let go of, I insisted on including 1 level of Monk. We’ve seen Grimluk shrug off bullets, so I really wanted to keep unarmored defense and martial arts but it didn’t really work that well. Didn’t combine quite like I’d hoped.

So let’s take a look at the updated version. Here’s the sheet.

So, in the RAW version, Grimluk is still a half-orc. Duh. He still takes Fighter as his starting class with the Outlander background, along with Ranger, and one level of Barbarian. Like before, his Fighter archetype would be the Champion. With the inclusion of Xanathar’s, I debated Samurai but Champion works well, which also means a change to his Ranger archetype: the Monster Slayer. With no official version of the Fighter Monster Hunter, the Monster Slayer is the next best thing for a RAW Grimluk. Extra spells (specifically Protection from Evil & Good at lv3), Hunter’s Senses, and Slayer’s Prey are great features here. And that one level of Barbarian works better than Monk as it gives Grimluk a more appropriate Unarmored Defense (10+Dex+Con=17 AC), plus those good good resistances to physical damage while raging. True, he doesn’t have the martial arts die anymore, but oh well.

Since he doesn’t have a huge need for ASIs, I went ahead with several feats. He would’ve taken Dual-Wielder first, then Resilient, then Crossbow Expert. Dual-Wielder is more for the +1 to his AC and pulling out two weapons at once. Resilient with Wisdom, while a good Feat for any martial character, is mandatory for a demon hunter. Crossbow Expert is self-explanatory.

In play, it probably would’ve gone Fighter 6 -> Ranger 3 -> Barbarian 1 and then on to Fighter 8. Grimluk’s class choices would, as you can see on the sheet, be Two-Weapon Fighting for his first Fighting Style, then Archery from the Ranger. Fiends, of course, would be his Favored Enemy, with Grasslands as his favored terrain. Like before, and the only technical homebrew for this setup, he would have Fiend slayer weapons, still based on the dragon slayer sword. Honestly, I feel like Wizards should just make a “___ Slayer” weapon for different games.

So that’s Grimluk’s updated RAW sheet if you want to use him as an NPC. I will note one thing: for his background, I did have the thought of combining the Outlander and Haunted One (from Curse of Strahd) backgrounds. The Player Handbook says that you can create your own backgrounds, or tweak the ones listed and those two fit well together. Grimluk was trained to be a self-sufficient traveler (Athletics and Survival skills) but being a demon hunter means that, after training, he still could have the Heart of Darkness feature. So if you decide you want to tweak that, feel free. Also, you might want to get Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes to add some extra demonic flair.

Next time, we’ll be looking at the updated Homebrew version of Grimluk. Last year’s rendition was pretty intense already but this year’s is gonna be a bit more wild.

Orctober: Art – Half-Orc Wizard

I found this next piece on r/DnD and was struck immediately. Great style, rad character concept, and one talented artist in Killarney Shields. Have a look at her work, and then maybe follow her for more!

Took some time out of doing commissions to draw my own Dungeons and Dragons character :0 for an upcoming campaign my friend has invited me to.

This is Cromwell; a half-orc who is very much a ‘dad’ figure for the group. He uses his magic to protect rather then harm. He left his college of magical studies in order to explore the world for his own, wanting to see new places and experience new things; things that he’s only ever read in books before.

Cromwell tends to let his compulsion obsessions get in the way of the mission, spending far to much time trying to fix broken statues and cleaning up dungeons before actually getting to exploring.

He’s a big fan of elven fashions but normally has to spend a pretty penny for them to even custom make them for his size. He gets quite upset if his clothes get torn during missions and will often pull put a needle and thread and get to work on the tear before doing anything else.

My commissions are currently closed but you can check out more of my DnD related work at:

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Orctober: Orcs and Queerness

Last year, I asked my friend, Steven Pope, if he wanted to write something for Orctober on the appeal of orcs in the queer community. He wrote what you’re about to read, updated a touch for this year. The reason this didn’t happen last year was a work friend of his read it and offered to help him submit to the magazine Queery. They ultimately rejected it, and here we are, a year later with several other changes in tow. Pope’s words ring truer to me now after figuring out I was bi. Especially considering he helped it happen. We play D&D together and our characters are in a relationship. His Zakah, a homebrewed race for our DM’s setting, the Balkeshi, is big and gay and purple. Meanwhile, I was playing Gorthos as bi and polyamorous, and the two ended up getting together and it swirled around in my head enough that I finally went, “Oh.” So what started as my desire to have a perspective other than my (at the time) straight opinion, means even more now. Enjoy.

Half Orc Barbarian Queen: Queerness, D&D, and Orcs

By Steven Pope

I’m someone who spent most of his college and high school days living in a fantasy world (Hashtag Team Wasn’t Hot Until After College) and playing the game of the maladjusted and socially awkward, Dungeons & Dragons. From my early days of my nerdom, I loved Orcs. My knowledge of them is spotty, but I knew the following: I knew they were introduced as a playable race in the third edition of the game, and that they were inspired by the kinda-sorta-super-racist caricatures that Tolkien wrote about in Lord of the Rings, and that the Orc was the “always chaotic evil default bad guy” for the longest time. I know that the first playable Orc race, The Half Orc, was controversial because you were always playing a child of rape because, as stated, the orcs were the “always chaotic evil default bad guy.” They changed this later but every so often some wiseass will feel it necessary to remind me. Basically, they were a problematic mess like many things in fiction.

I’m not going to go into the psychology of why a gay man would relate to Orcs. I’ve read enough Queer Theory books to know that monsters = other = queer. I think, however, most gay men would relate to Elves, or at least the Tolkien flavored ones. Elves are pretty, elves are othered, elves are sophisticated, and they’re even called “the fair folk.” There’s a reason the term is “radical fairy,” after all. For queer men like me, however, who had a lot of self loathing, who were actually afraid of sex (embarrassing, I’ll admit) and who aren’t exactly the lithe, nimble, twink-like elf of fiction… I couldn’t relate. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t skinny enough. And to go back to Lord of the Rings, I didn’t want to be Legolas. I was (and continue to be) short and described as “harmless and cute.” I was a hobbit. I was a Hobbit who should logically relate to Elves and wasn’t sure where he belonged. But then I saw the Orcs. Orcs were proud. Orcs were loud. They were big and brawny and more similar to the men I found attractive. They owned what they were. They were what I always WANTED to be.

Orcs, to a young me, represented something more primal and angry. Less “pride parade in WeHo” and more “Stonewall Riot.” There’s a certain level of ownership in the Orc that I relate to, a certain monstrous fact that you can’t hide behind being pretty. Something ugly and punk. Orcs remind me of the fantasy equivalent of those “Not Gay As In Happy But Queer As In Fuck You” buttons I never have the nerve to wear in public. They’re the embodiment of the bull dagger, the skag drag, the leather daddy parts of being gay that aren’t all cute and ready for sitcom material. The overtly proud and overtly sexual, something that straight people get to celebrate and titter about with 50 Shades of Gray while I get notes about how I shouldn’t “bring the bedroom into it” by mentioning that, yes, I have a boyfriend. The stuff that still gets flagged on YouTube simply for existing. The stuff that was literally illegal a few years before I was born. Progressive and regressive depending on who you ask – As fun as The Discourse can be.

I lead a pretty standard life. I’m white and, as far as anyone can tell, cisgendered. I have a loving boyfriend of four years, and the relationship with my parents is okay for the most part. I have it better than a large part of the queer community. However, I’m still queer. I have to come out pretty much every day. I have to explain “that’s my boyfriend” at least once every three weeks. I have to force a smile when someone says “Oh, you don’t SEEM gay” and, for some reason, think that’s a compliment. I have people expecting me to either want to fuck them or be their sassy new best friend.

That’s why I like Orcs. That’s why I like playing them in Dungeons & Dragons and why I enjoy them so much in fiction. In real life, I force a smile and I let it go and subscribe to the norms. Orcs, however? They don’t hide it. They don’t hide anything. There’s a level of strength that I admire and and a level of justifiable rage towards not only the standard, but the pretty that I relate to on a fundamental level. I have that in me. I have those tusks and that green skin and that cold stare deep within me. Dungeons and Dragons was where I found my monster, and where I found my “kind.”

Orcs aren’t gay as in happy, they’re queer as in fuck you, and just TRY to tell a Half Orc “Oh, you don’t SEEM Orcish.”

Orctober: The Demons Within Character Intro – Manyara Arendse

Today we’re gonna meet a human. I know, it’s Orctober, but there’s reasons why. I mean besides me promoting The Demons Within. Manyara Arendse is a ranger. Given that this is a fantasy western: yes, I mean like a combination of Texas rangers and Tolkien’s rangers. But we’re here for her. Manyara is a tall, black human with a nearly shaved head. She’s hardworking, hard-fighting, hard-drinking, and her commanding officer, marshal, is an orc named Bringar. And she does have a softer side, especially with who she would say is one of her best friends, Emerald. We don’t learn as much about Manyara in the book as we do about Emerald but we do learn, from Emerald, that she’s dyslexic and if she wanted, she has the potential to become a fairly powerful magic user. As of The Demons Within, Manyara is still the least senior member of her posse but has been there long enough to be respected.

She was fun to write. Manyara fell somewhere between Emerald and Grimluk. Like Grimluk, she likes the work she does, even when it’s dirty and deadly. Like Emerald, she’s never dealt with demons before and never wanted to. Due to being a ranger, she can be a little stoic but she’s still plenty capable of being personable. Especially if there’s Cimmerian whiskey involved.

I hope you like her as much as I do. Get yourself a copy of the book and go meet her properly!

Orctober: Art – Orc Ladies

For today’s art post, I wanted to highlight a series of drawings a user on tumblr did a few years back that illustrates orc women in a variety of different jobs. Emilee Denich, aka ghostgreen on tumblr, posted the set in November of 2015, simply saying, “today after work i amused myself by drawing some orc ladies (◕‿◕✿).” And the set was a treat. She did two sets, which you can see for yourself in full here and here, and I’ll be sharing a couple of my favorite ladies below. Maybe drop Emilee a line and tell her how much you like her orc ladies!

Orctober: The Demons Within Character Intro – Emerald

So, have you bought your copy of The Demons Within yet? You shooouuuuld…

To tempt you further, I thought we could take a look at a couple of the new characters for this story. First up, like Grimluk, we’ll meet Emerald. Now, you’ll learn some things about her in the book itself so this is more surface level.

Emerald is an orc who lives in Downingville, New Gilead. She works and lives at the Coming Conqueror Saloon and Hotel as a Companion ala Inara from Firefly except without the cultural appropriation/fetishization and much more saloon girl. She’s a sex worker and damn good and proud of her job. Like most orcs, she’s on the bigger side, with dark hair, and a somewhat rare beauty trait among orcs in the shape of her pupils. Though I don’t name it in the book, she stands about 6’3″, and while she doesn’t cultivate muscle, she still has a measure of her people’s inherent strength. She has some magical aptitude, as well, something she uses as part of her job, mostly in the form of minor spells using heat, cold, and electricity for massages and/or sense play. She could be considered one of the core members of the Conqueror’s Companions, as illustrated well in the book itself. She loves her peers, but especially one of her best friends, the elf named Tulip (who is the very picture of androgynous beauty). Emerald is gregarious, flirty, and good-natured, with a low tolerance for bullshit and not one problem speaking her mind. She’s happy to help those in need and happier still to ply her services.

I sincerely hope you enjoy meeting her in the book as much as I enjoyed writing her. When I was planning the book, I had the idea of having a saloon girl be one of the major characters and eventually, Emerald was the result. So get your copy of The Demons Within, and meet Emerald!