Orctober: An Intro to Orcs in D&D

Orcs have been with D&D since the very beginning, when they looked like boar people, with snouts and tusks. The original inspiration was, like a lot of early D&D, Tolkien’s works. They have always been portrayed as brute savages only concerned with pillaging, raiding, and strength. In Fifth Edition, this is still very much the case but these days, more and more people are growing less interested in that view. Let’s take a look at some of those details.

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Orcs in First Edition

The Fifth Edition Monster Manual starts out saying, “Orcs arc savage raiders and pillagers with stooped postures, low foreheads, and piggish faces with prominent lower canines that resemble tusks.” In short, a race of monsters. In the details, it goes on to explain that orcs form tribes and tribes basically flow out like locusts, destroying and picking clean the ruined settlements. Orcs respect only one thing: strength. Orc leaders are the strongest, toughest, and (technically) smartest of a tribe. Particularly strong war chiefs are able to gather scattered tribes together into a proper horde.

All of this is commanded by their chief deity, Gruumsh. It’s important to understand just why Gruumsh demands such bloodthirsty ways. It’s said that in ancient times, the gods gathered together to hold a lottery to distribute the lands among their children. The other gods conspired to rob Gruumsh of a home for his orcs. He named the mountains but the dwarves had claimed them already. He named the forests but they were already taken by the elves. As he went down through choices, each one had been claimed and the other gods mocked him for it. In his fury, Gruumsh stabbed the world with his spear creating caves and destroying the lands, proclaiming that his orcs would destroy and/or take what was denied to them. (Keep Gruumsh in mind, we’ll be discussing him in a later post.)

In addition, Luthic, Gruumsh’s wife and goddess of fertility,  commanded the orcs to “be fruitful and multiple” in a major way. This, honestly, presents ideas for a lot of homebrew with regards to Half-Orcs, given that the monster manual flat says they can breed with any race (which we will discuss in the next post). Of course, given their plague-like status, this also perpetuates the idea that all half-orcs are products of rape. That facet has spurned a lot of folks on to do away with it outright. No one wants to play a hero with that big of a chip on their shoulder.

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An orc as pictured in the 5e Monster Manual

With that kind of history and culture, it’s clear the orcs never had a chance of being more than living vengeance. So even now, a DM can roll up a tribe of orc warriors to hurl into the weapons of their players. Some see this as a proud D&D tradition, while, as I mentioned before, many would like to move past this. Though, as things are now, orcs are still a force to be reckoned with. The average orc npc begins with a strength and constitution score of 16, while war chiefs are bumped up with 18/18 and a whopping 16 in Charisma, for obvious reasons. They’re a tried and true humanoid race to have players fight against, with a full history of being early level antagonists.

I hope that serves a good introduction to orcs in Fifth Edition. Along with the Monster Manual, you can find a much more in depth explanation in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, which details their gods individually as well as further expanding on their culture. Come back next time when we break into the can of worms that is Half-Orcs.

Orctober Begins

It is October 1st. While the ghouls and ghosts rise from their graves to haunt the night, as the werewolves descend to share their cursed bite with swarms of bats swirling overhead, something else marches to join them. Something big, sometimes green, sometimes not. Something that looks right at home among the denizens of Halloween.

The orcs have arrived. It’s time for

orctober

For those who are new to Orctober, you can find a primer over on Fantasy Faction today, where Laura Hughes gave me a guest spot. For those returning and/or already familiar, welcome, friends.

Before we get into this year’s festivities, I’d like to take the opportunity to inform everyone that the kickstarter for the third Grimluk book, The Demons Within, is officially live! Get those early bird slots before they disappear!

Last year’s Orctober was a fairly successful event, in my estimation. Between having plenty to talk about, I had also just released Demon Haunted, and this year has a similar bend. I decided to go with a more cohesive theme for this year: Dungeons & Dragons. Partially to help me focus on content to post, partially because I’ve been playing my first full campaign this year after playing for the first time last summer and just digging into it with glee. On top of that, while I’m not releasing the third Grimluk book, I am running the Kickstarter campaign for it.

So let’s talk about what’s in store for the month.

First up, I’ll go over the current lore of the Orcs (including Half-Orcs) in Fifth Edition D&D. That will set up a couple of things for later revolving around tweaking the Orcs, for stats and lore. I’ll also be doing a big write-up on Gruumsh and evaluating his place as a Chaotic Evil deity.

Secondly, several of the creators form last year will be back this year with their own guest posts. Not everyone will be discussing D&D related topics but that’s hardly a problem. On top of that, we’ll be doing a one-shot D&D game which I’ll be recording and will be released towards the end of the month in mp3.

Thirdly, I’ll be doing some “Grimluk in D&D” type stuff, which will include a character sheet for our big hero. I’ll be doing two types of character sheets; one for D&D as written, and one for the changed rules I’ll be posting.

Somewhat related, while all this is going on, over on r/Fantasy, the Reading Resident Authors club will be reading Demon Haunted (which is currently still on sale for Kindle through Saturday night). If you’re interested and haven’t read it yet, that’s a pretty good excuse. There will be two discussion threads, the first on the 14th and the last on the 29th. And, once again, I’ll be doing a r/Fantasy Writer of the Day AMA on the 30th, where folks can come and hang out and ask questions and scream about Stranger Things season 2 with me. I’ve said it before, I know reddit can be a toxic place but, for the most part, r/Fantasy is a wonderful and chill place, so don’t be afraid to make an account and pop in.

Should be a good month. So brush your tusks, practice your war cries, and get ready.