Player's Choice (Half-Orc Edition)
So you’ve taken a hard look at Dungeons and Dragons and decided that it’s time to make your first character for Dungeons & Dragons. First off, welcome to the family. You’ve taken your first steps into a world of shared storytelling and high adventure. We’re going to take a look at the process for building your character and go over the options you have available in the Player’s Handbook (we use the 5th edition, as it’s the most recent, and we think it’s one of the most accessible systems we’ve seen in a long time.). So grab your scratch paper, your pencil, and your character sheet as we explore the magical world of Dungeons and Dragons.
The first step you should really take when building a character is to think about what kind of a character you want to play. Before you make any decisions or write anything down, you need to stop and think what you’re going to enjoy playing. A secondary consideration would be what the party of adventurers you are going to be a member of needs. You may desperately want to break out a brand new half elf warlock, but your party desperately needs a tanky fighter or a healing cleric. You decide what you want to play, and what story you’re going to enjoy telling and playing. Whichever character you decide to make, you’re going to have to make a few decisions. Let’s take a look at the options for the first one of those decisions.
What Race is your character?
Your character’s race defines a lot of the basic physical and mental characteristics. It more than anything else will be the first thing an observer uses to define you. How many times have you read a passage that starts “And we saw the Dwarves standing there in their armor, beards immaculately groomed…” In a fantasy setting Race is a defining trait that gives other people a rough idea of what your character is, and how they can be expected to behave. In Dungeons and Dragons, Race has a couple of other features that we’ll discuss.
The Player’s Handbook offers nine racial choices for a new player to consider for their character. Each one is distinct, and has several subraces to choose from. When you select a Race, the offered selections of a subrace are offshoots of that main racial group. It may change baseline racial features, add new options, or give different physical and mental characteristics. The character creation process starts with choosing your race, so let’s go through the races and see what looks like fun to us.
Half-Orcs (the second of the hybrid races we’re going to cover out of the PHB) are the offspring that result from human and orc matings. How and why those encounters occurred are up to you determine from your background, but historically they’ve been in the aftermath of marauding orc tribes that conquer an area. (Humans seem to be less likely to take orc mates, but seem to every once in a while adopt an Orc Child). Half-Orcs grow up in the cracks between the civilizations of their parents, and can become powerful forces in either community.Half-Orcs face a lot of scrutiny from most of the common folk in the D & D world.
Half-Orcs draw a lot on their heritage from both sides of their family tree. Stronger than most humans, Half-Orcs have a vigor and vitality to them that outstrips their human side. From their human ancestry, they gain adaptability and the mental fortitude to flourish in environments that ordinarily wouldn’t consider accepting them. Most Half-Orcs live amongst their Orc kin, so the adventuring Half-Orc is a bit of an oddity. Like every other adventurer, The half-orcs who become adventurers have their own reasons for doing so, but all of them can be extremely useful companions and allies.
Mechanically, in game, the Half-Orcs have the following benefits
Half-Orcs are both mighty and tenacious. They get a +2 bonus to their Strength and a +1 bonus to their Constitution.
Half-Orcs age faster than humans. Half-Orcs are mature at about age 14, and most don’t live to see their 80th birthday.
Half-Orcs tend towards a chaotic alignment. Those raised by orcs are usually evil, and most others tend towards neutrality.
Half-Orcs tend to be larger than their human parents, with a height somewhere between 5 and a half feet and nearly seven feet in height. They also tend be heavier than their human kinfolk as well. They are medium creatures
Half-Orcs can move 30 feet per round.
Half-Orcs have Darkvision, like other races we’ve talked about before. They can see in Dim Light as if it were bright light within 60 feet, and treat regular darkness as regular Dim Light. They can’t see in color with this visual ability.
Half-Orcs have a trait called Menacing. Half-Orcs all have proficiency in the Intimidation skill
Relentless Endurance: When a Half Orc is dropped to 0 Hit points without being killed outright, the Half-Orc can instead go to 1 hit point. (This feature recharges after a long rest)
Half-Orcs can roll an additional die on a critical hit. (Use one of the die from the weapon if it has multiple).
Half-Orcs speak their native tongue, Orcish and Common.
So what character classes combine with Half-Orc to make an interesting, compelling character?
Barbarian: Half-Orcs were born to be barbarians. With a strength and constitution bonus and abilities that let them ignore dying and do extra damage on critical hits, Half-Orcs and Barbarians are fantastic combinations. Find the biggest two handed weapon you can, and swing for those critical hits. Either Barbarian path has merits for you, it’s a question of you wanting to shrug off punishment or do a hell of a lot of damage.
Cleric: Orcs have their own pantheon of Gods, and the leader of that pantheon is Gruumsh. A Deity that exhorts strength and savagery from his followers can be seen as a means to power for a Half-Orc. The natural Orcish resilience pairs well with a cleric of the War domain (certainly one of Gruumsh’s) and you can have a lot of fun proving how much stronger you are than other, lesser races.
Ranger: A Half-Orc ranger can make a very interesting character. Utilizing the Ranger class abilities and choosing Orcs as his or her favored Enemy, the Half-Orc ranger represents a character driven to destroy the people that helped make him or her. Using the natural orcish resilience and strength against them, as it were. It can be interesting as a role-playing idea, and capable of pulling its own weight in combat.
And that’s our write up of the Half-Orcs. We’re coming up on the end of this series, as we only have the Tieflings left to review.
Game on, Game Fans