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First appearancePlayer's Handbook (1978)

The half-orc is a fictional creature born to mixed orc and human parentage in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The half-orc is a playable race for D&D player characters. Half-orcs are typically born in wild frontiers where human and orc tribes come into contact. Half-orcs are between six and seven feet tall (180–210 cm) and usually weigh between 180 and 250 pounds (80–110 kg). This makes them less bulky and more agile than pure-bred orcs, but still taller and stronger than most humans. Half-orcs have pale green skin, jutting jaws, prominent teeth and coarse body-hair.

Tolkien's half-orcs[edit]

Half-orcs also appear in The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, as the result of crossbreeding Dunlendings with Isengard Orcs.[1] In Tolkien's Middle-earth, the half-orcs were the creation of the wizard Saruman and bore several similarities to Sauron's Uruk-hai (greater Orcs) but were taller (man high) and appeared more man-like. There was also another type called Goblin-men which were also said to be man-high but less muscular with sallow skin (instead of black skin like the Uruk-hai) and squinty eyes; one was encountered by the hobbits at the Prancing Pony in Bree, and many others were present among Saruman's forces at the battle of Isengard.[2] These squint eyed Southerners,[3] as they were called by the Hobbits, were later involved in the industrialisation of the Shire overseen by Saruman and Lotho Sackville-Baggins.[4][5]

Publication history[edit]

Half-orcs have been a part of Dungeons & Dragons since the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. However, in second edition the half-orc was no longer a standard player character race,[6] and half-orcs were largely removed from the basic rules, as part of a wide attempt by TSR to remove controversial topics from D&D[citation needed] (as part of the same move, demons and devils were renamed tanar'ri and baatezu, respectively, among other changes). With Wizards of the Coast's takeover of D&D and the release of 3rd Edition, half-orcs were reintroduced into the series.[6] Although they did not appear in the first core rulebooks for the 4th edition of the game, they were introduced in the Players Handbook 2 released on March 17, 2009.[citation needed]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition[edit]

The half-orc was introduced in the first edition Player's Handbook (1978) as a player character race.[7]

A number of half-orc varieties appeared in Dragon #44 (December 1980), including the orc-bugbear, the orc-gnoll, the orc-goblin, the orc-hobgoblin, the orc-kobold, and the orc-ogre.

The mythology and attitudes of the half-orc are described in detail in Dragon #62 (June 1982), in Roger E. Moore's article, "The Half-Orc Point of View."[8]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition[edit]

The half-orc appears first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[9] and is reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[10]

The half-orc is detailed as a playable character race in The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993).[11] The half-orc is later presented as a playable character race again in Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995).[12]

The half-orc appears as a player character race for the Greyhawk campaign setting in the Player's Guide to Greyhawk (1998).[13]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition[edit]

The half-orc appears in the Player's Handbook for this edition as a player character race (2000).[14] The half-orc also appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2000).[15]

The half-orc is presented as a player character race for the Forgotten Realms setting in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2001),[16] and also appears in Races of Faerûn (2003).[17]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition[edit]

The half-orc appears in the revised Player's Handbook as a player character race (2003).[18] The half-orc appears in the revised Monster Manual for this edition (2003).

The gheden half-orc appears in Dragon #313 (November 2003).

The aquatic half-orc, the arctic half-orc, the desert half-orc, the jungle half-orc, the half-orc paragon, and the water half-orc were all introduced in Unearthed Arcana (2004).[19] The scabland half-orc was introduced in Sandstorm: Mastering the Perils of Fire and Sand (2005).[20] The half-orc infiltrator appears in the Monster Manual IV (2006).[21] The frostblood half-orcs appear in Dragon Magic (2006).

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition[edit]

Half-orcs make their first appearance in the Forgotten Realms Player's Guide.

Half-orcs are a playable character race in the Player's Handbook 2 and the Essentials rulebook Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms.

The half-orc appeared in the Monster Manual 2 (2009).

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition[edit]

Half-orcs are a playable character race in the 5th edition Player's Handbook.


In 1st and 2nd Editions, Half-orc characters receive a +1 modifier to strength and constitution, and a −2 modifier to charisma ability scores.

In 3rd Edition and 3.5e Half-orc characters receive a +2 modifier to strength and −2 modifiers to intelligence and charisma. Half-orcs have darkvision up to 60 feet. They have orc blood and are susceptible to special effects that affect orcs, such as the orc's light sensitivity. They can use orc-only items. All half-orcs speak common and orc; they may also speak Draconic, Giant, Gnoll, Goblin, and Abyssal, and, in the rare cases of half-orcs with high intelligence, they may also speak the languages of their allies or rivals. The orcs’ language has no alphabet and uses Dwarven script. Orc writing is found most often in graffiti.

The half-orc's favored character class is the barbarian. The half-orc personality tends to be short-tempered, sullen, and prone to action rather than thought. Half-orcs prefer simple pleasures: feasting, singing, wrestling and wild dancing. They have little interest in refined pursuits such as high art and philosophy. Half-orcs tend towards chaotic alignments, but have no clear preference towards good or evil. Half-orcs raised and living among orcs are more likely to be evil though.


Due to their orcish blood, half-orcs are on poor terms with some of the other races. Relations are particularly troubled with elves and dwarves, due to racial enmity between orcs and these races. It is still possible for a half-orc to find camaraderie with an elf or a dwarf; dwarves in particular are willing to befriend half-orcs who have proven themselves worthy of trust. Half-elves tend to be sympathetic toward half-orcs, knowing the hardships of being an outcast from both of their parent races. Halflings and gnomes are generally accepting of half-orcs and happily interact with them. Half-orcs adopt different attitudes to gain acceptance from those who are wary of their orcish heritage. Some are reserved, some demonstrate public virtue, while others force respect through physical intimidation. Half-orcs living among humans may choose human names in order to fit in, or orcish names to intimidate others.

Half-orcs have no native lands; they most often live among orcs. When not living among orc tribes, half-orcs almost always live in human lands, as humans are more accepting of half-orcs than other races.

Many half-orcs worship Gruumsh, the chief orcish deity. Half-orc barbarians may worship Gruumsh as a war god even if they are not evil aligned. Half-orcs who identify with their human heritage follow human deities, and may engage in outspoken displays of piety to gain acceptance and solidify their bond to humans. In 4th edition, half-orcs may also choose to worship Kord, as they may choose to believe they have been created by Kord to be the perfect warrior race.

Half-orcs are frequently rejected by civilized society. They are drawn to violent careers suitable to their temperament and physical strength, becoming mercenaries or adventurers. They often find companionship among other adventurers, many of whom are fellow wanderers and outsiders.


  1. "Half-orcs". Encyclopedia of Arda. Mark Fisher. 20 February 2002. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  2. Two Towers
  3. Bree folk
  4. Tolkien gateway
  5. Return of the King
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  7. Gygax, Gary. Players Handbook (TSR, 1978)
  8. Moore, Roger E. "The Half-Orc Point of View." Dragon #62 (TSR, June 1982)
  9. Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (TSR, 1989)
  10. Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1993)
  11. Slavicsek, Bill. The Complete Book of Humanoids (TSR, 1993)
  12. Niles, Douglas and Dale Donovan. Player's Option: Skills & Powers (TSR, 1995)
  13. Brown, Anne. Player's Guide to Greyhawk. (Wizards of the Coast, 1998)
  14. Tweet, Jonathan, Cook, Monte, Williams, Skip. Player's Handbook (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
  15. Cook, Monte, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
  16. Greenwood, Ed, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, and Rob Heinsoo. Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (Wizards of the Coast, 2001)
  17. Reynolds, Sean K., Forbeck, Matt, Jacobs, James, Boyd, Erik L. Races of Faerûn (Wizards of the Coast, 2003)
  18. Tweet, Jonathan, Cook, Monte, Williams, Skip. Player's Handbook (Wizards of the Coast, 2003)
  19. Collins, Andy, Jesse Decker, David Noonan, and Rich Redman. Unearthed Arcana (Wizards of the Coast, 2004)
  20. Cordell, Bruce, Jennifer Clarke-Wilkes, and J.D. Wiker. Sandstorm (Wizards of the Coast, 2005)
  21. Kestrel, Gwendolyn F.M. Monster Manual IV (Wizards of the Coast, 2006)

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