Half-Orc Player Character Race

Finally getting into Greyhawk, I have decided to adapt a few things which makes the setting unique to my table. I always think that that is important. We don’t change settings simply because of a whim, there should be a reason, and each setting should be different then the last, with new things added to pepper the landscape and make the game feel different from your last.

One of the biggest additions for me is by adding a new player character race. I am sure that many of you folks have already instituted this race years ago, but the facts for me is that it isn’t Core, and has never been allowed to be a player race in my games, so this is a huge deal for my table.

Racial Requirements

Half-orcs must have at least a STR of 6, and a CON of 8. Wisdom must not exceed 14, nor the CHA higher then 12. If all of these limitations are met, the character may be a half-orc and may then adjust their stats by adding +1 to both STR and CON, and subtracting –2 from their Charisma score.

There is a cap of either 18 (or 18/00 if the character is to be a fighter), to the players strength, but a half-orc can have a Constitution score of 19. The cap on Charisma is that the charisma can’t be lower then 3. If the adjustments take the score lower then this, then ignore it.

Available Classes

Half-Orcs can be Fighters (up to 10th lvl), Clerics (up to 4th level), Thieves (up to 8th). They can also be Fighter/Clerics, Fighter/Thieves, or Thief/Clerics.

Racial Benefits

  • Half-Orcs have the same saving-throw bonuses for CON as do Dwarves.
  • Infravision of 60’
  • An additional +2 to saving vs. poison (cumulative with other bonuses)
  • Difficult to surprise (-2 modifier to opponents chances)
  • Can know the following languages: Common, orc, dwarf, goblin, hobgoblin, and ogre.

Racial Penalties

  • In human societies, half-orcs suffer –2 reaction roll penalty.
  • Half-orcs must have some sort of Neutral Alignment


Half-orcs are hybrids, most half-orcs are half goblin, hobgoblin, or human, but half-orcs can be hybrids of any race with the exception of elves, whom orcs aren’t capable of breeding with. Player Character half-orcs must be half-orc and half-human.

The orc strain is usually the most dominant, however 10% (or all Player Characters) will have enough human features to pass off as an ugly human. Half-Orcs have a variety of skin tones which run the ranges between grayish-green to dirty tan. They have thick, wiry hair which is course and dark in color. Their most striking features are their piggish, burning red eyes, which is a byproduct of their optic-nerve system. Many have slightly upturned noses which other races call snouts, but all have vicious looking canines. Half-orcs are meat-eaters whose tastes gravitate to game and domestic meats, but half-orcs can, and often do eat anything edible that other races consider to be garbage.

Male PC half-orcs stand from 5½ to 6 feet tall on average (60 + 2d6 inches tall) and weigh 110 + 3d12 pounds. Females are 59 + 2d6 inches tall and weigh 85 + 3d12 pounds.


(Note: while I designed this Player Race to be played in the Greyhawk setting, I am keeping this section as system neutral as possible.)

Half-orcs prefer to only have dealings with other half-orcs. While dealing with each other half-orcs their Charisma is always treated as if it were 2 scores higher then what it really is. Half-orcs, unlike other hybrids such as Half-Elves, have founded their own small villages, but they are also common in the poorest and filthiest sections of large cities.

Other orcs generally treat them with indifference, they aren’t full orcs, however their leadership skills are envied. Half-orcs generally enjoy pushing full orcs around and are aggressive if they chose to live among them. They have superior abilities granted to them by their non-orc parent, which they tend to flaunt at every opportunity.

Dwarves hate them, and will not tolerate a half-orc to live in or around them. Dwarves seem to go out of their way to kill them, in some dwarven cultures, in order to be an adult you have to slaughter a half-orc in singles combat. Half-orcs tend to share this outlook, either with unrestrained fear of dwarves, or an urgent hatred of them which always leads to violence. Orc/Dwarfs are not tolerated to live, though a few exist, this is the cause of much of the racial hatred. Dwarves view their women as treasure, they are a valuable resource which can not be replaced or replicated. Orcs see this as a chink in their armor and have kidnapped dwarven women, forcing them to breed with them against their will. Orcs find dwarven women extremely attractive while the women find orcs to be hideous monsters.

Elves are more forgiving then dwarves, probably because there is no threat of interbreeding with them. Most elves greet half-orcs with mere antipathy, generally disliking them, but will eventually except those half-orcs which aren’t evil, and may even form some kind of friendship with those which are of neutral good alignment if enough time is spent with them.

Gnomes tend to hate them as much as the dwarves, if a band is discovered in Gnomish territory, they will be driven out. While gnomes typically respect life, this respect commonly does not extend to half-orcs, who see them more of a threat to the world then even full-blooded orcs! Gnomes face raids at orcish hands, and since they aren’t as strong as the dwarves, they must be more diligent about such things before total war can have a chance to break out, which when this happens, typically the winner is always the orcs. Most dealings with half-orcs are those that lead parties against them, and it is proper procedure to attack first and assume the worst. Orc/Gnomes are very rare, and are never welcome in gnome communities. Gnomish women are also held prisoner and forced to mate against their wills, however these women are typically released after a period, but the babies are kept.

Halflings and half-orcs are fairly neutral with each other. Raids do happen, but halfling forgiveness and natural ability to make peace always prevails as long as the spoils weren’t too expensive. Orc/Halflings are equally rare, but for the reasons that orcs generally depend on the halfling’s neutral will then for any other reason.

Human and half-orc relations are complex at best. While relationships are generally neutral, half-orcs will typically seek out human areas which don’t care so much about appearances. Humans allow half-orcs to live in the fringes and drags of society, and will never allow them to be above the poor social classes.


Half-orcs are lazy by nature, and have nasty tempers. They get along well with themselves, but don’t understand or have any desire to understand the other races. Most half-orcs are excellent brewers of liquor, though it is of such strength that most other races consider it to be contraband which is highly sought but equally illegal. Half-orcs have a wonderful ability to produce products of vice: Drugs, Prostitution, Gambling, these are the big money makers of half-orc society. Where ever they can be found in numbers, these are typically the exports which they offer.

The game “Pick-it” is worthy of note, as it is little understood outside of the half-orc race, although it is played by other races who think that they understand it. Pick-it is played with little bone tiles, each player gets 8 tiles and try to form hands, the highest hand wins; but there is an unsaid rule which no race knows about and no half-orc will ever admit to, but this game isn’t about forming good hands, but about cheating. All of the players are expected to cheat, however if you get caught you immediately lose, generally the best cheater is the one who wins the hand. This game is hugely popular among half-orcs, as well as other races who try it expecting to win.

Half-orcs also produce some of the best mercenaries in the lands, many morally ambiguous and unafraid to do things which others would find distasteful or terrifying. Half-orcs live fast and die hard, those who die of old age are considered failures, while those who have died young are considered to be the greatest heroes.

Wealth is measured both in coin and in glory, half-orcs understand both really well and are experts at gaining both, however because of the half-orc lifestyle, coins are spent quickly and with great abandon, as fame is more desired then riches. The typical half-orc will risk life and limb at a very dangerous but wealthy raid, return and squander the vast fortune he had earned in a matter of days, then turn around and do it all over again. This is the way of the Half-Orc.


The full list of half-orc races is to numerous to mention, so the following is the most common half-orc sub-races listed in order of the likelihood to encounter them.

Orc-Goblin: These creatures are smaller then the typical Orc, but larger, and more powerful then goblins. They typically are found living in Goblin societies where they excel as group leaders, those which chose to stay with orcs are also prized as their size makes them prized assassins and their devious minds are kept busy by inventing traps and defenses of great complexity and cruelty, which is uncommon to orcish society.

Orc-Hobgoblins: This sub-race is almost always found in orc society, true hobgoblins use them as cannon-fodder and scouts, a few have found success but most chose to live in orc society where their great size and strength grants them more opportunities and greater rewards. A few form bandit squads of their own, mixing with other half-orcs.

Orc-Human: This is the only half-orc allowed to enter most cities, a few stay in orcish surroundings, however most either move to impoverished urban settings, or form towns and villages of their own. As things are, half-orc/humans are a subrace, however given a few generations of living like humans, this ever expanding race could become it’s own breed as many choose to mate with their own kind and have children, how long this will take is anybodies guess, but it doesn’t take much of an imagination to see the implications of this new growing trend.


Half-orcs haven’t the patience or the drive required to become mages. They aren’t as resistant or disruptive to its forces as are many other races, however, for them, it is just to time consuming and time is not something that half-orcs have a lot of.


Half-orcs are typically drawn to gods which share their neutral alignments, however other clerics always treat them as heretics. While they keep no formal places of worship, a few half-orcs are known to preach on the open streets, half-orcish gods are familiar to others in name alone, as the half-orc versions are completely different in description. It is unclear as to how the half-orc acquires his spells, perhaps the god’s they insight takes a certain amount of pity upon them? Perhaps it is simply belief alone, whatever the reason the gods which the half-orc takes as their own have no true personas except for gods which represent vices, these gods are always worshiped in ways which they enjoy.

Half-Orc clerics who are single classed and worship gods of vice, are generally rewarded for high wisdom scores above 15. For each additional point above 14, they are allowed an additional level, up to 8th level for WIS scores of 18.


Half-orc have incredibly short life-spans. The oldest a half-orc has ever lived is 62 years old. They are typically kicked out of their homes at very young ages, this is because of their eating habits. A half-orc eats three times as much as the average being, this has something to do with their accelerated life-cycle. A half-orc eats pretty normally until ages 4-5 at which time a massive growing spurt happens. Half-Orcs reach sexual maturity at age 9 or 10, and are considered to be adults at age 13. Most half-orcs start adventuring or become productive between 12 and 15 (starting age is 11 + 1d4). Upon reaching maturity, they don’t appear to age much at all for many years, but once they do, it is very dramatic. Half-orcs are never middle-aged, but upon their 30th birthday the aging process seems to kick in viciously, in ten years he will be venerable (Max age is 30 + 2d10).

Because of their life-style, most half-orcs die well before they even turn 30, all of the great half-orc heroes have died well before they even turned 20. Their childhood is tough, all end up on the streets, urban areas are packed with them. There they spend most of their time stealing food, some are picked up by thieves guilds, others are forced to join armies, but the majority of them will starve to death before ever getting a chance to reach sexual maturity. Life is bitter and hard, a few lucky half-orcs will be taken in by a charitable family or guild, but the majority never had a chance.

There is no respect for the old, chances are that a half-orc who beat the street will become a wealthy man, and then die of old age, destitute and penniless on the very same street he thought that he beat all those years ago.


Law within true Half-Orc villages depends on the alignment of the society which populates it, but always supports vice. The laws are designed to protect their own, many times, literally. The most important laws all deal with gambling, paying debt, and of course slavery. A half-orc who runs a brothel is considered a slave-owner who is responsible for the welfare and upkeep of his slaves. A few laws here and there protect these slaves, but none of them are fair as far as demi-human rights are concerned.

The enforcers of the law are typically brutal, but easily paid off by the highest bidder. Half-orcish society is always run by the golden rule, Those who have the gold, make all the rules. This status changes however so frequently that it is impossible to keep up, even for the constables whose job it is to enforce the laws. Villages are managed by the wealthy, who keep this status for as long as they have money, thus, most are operated by either Mercenary bands who own the village, or Thieves guildsmen. Steady rulership which lasts only about a decade and is considered to be stable, typically rulership over the villages is so fast and sporadic that nobody bothers to even pay attention.


Because of the locations of half human/orc towns and villages, war is rarely a problem. Nobody particularly wants the land, and many have been founded on former towns which were abandoned because the resources that fueled it have all dried up. This makes it prime real-estate for half-orcs who can reap a healthy profit through their tools of vice. Once established, folks from all around come to visit for gambling, drink, drugs, and lack of law. Even humanoids are welcome, and raids by them rarely happen. The biggest threat to an established town are all from Dwarfs. While some towns have the manpower to fight, it is more typical that word will get out that a dwarven raid is going to take place and the town is abandoned for a while, after all, the dwarves aren’t there to take land, just the lives of the half-orcs, and they can’t do this if there isn’t anybody there to kill.

A town can always go into some kind of martial law, in the event that a dwarven raid is not discovered in time to fully prepare. Half-orc fighters are fierce and their methods border on suicidal bravery. Death in battle is preferred to dying of old age, thus even if a majority of the town disappears, the roughest and meanest of the half-orcs will hang around and fight to the very last man, taking as many dwarves as possible out with them. Sometimes they are able to rout the raiding dwarves, and other times they are slaughtered by them, regardless in a few weeks the village will be business as usual and always celebrate their victory, even if by the numbers of dead it is evident that they lost.


Naturally, most half-orcs are of dim and dark alignments, but since AD&D is a game of cooperation, the half-orc should comply with an alignment which is capable of working with a party and not against it.

Half-Orcs are practically born and breed to become adventurers, they will be seeking fame and glory. Most of their money will be spent on food and objects of vice. They will constantly have to prove themselves to outsiders, perhaps struggling with their own dark nature at every opportunity. This is not an easy race to play, and is typically a character who is doomed from the get-go, but for players who are into the role-playing aspect of the game, they can find no other race that is as challenging, or as rewarding as a half-orc character.

ART BY: Jim Roslof


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