Discussion:Are Half-Orcs Balanced?

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Are Half-Orcs Balanced?[edit]

MorkaisChosen 10:14, 31 May 2007 (MDT)[edit]

This is sort of prompted by the similar topic on the Orc race. I'm planning to play a Half-Orc PC soon, and, looking at the entry, it seems to me that they get the worst deal of any race. As an example, let's compre them with the Elf.

Statistics: the Elf clearly wins out here. +2 Dex, -2 Con; that's balanced with +2 to one and -2 to another, same as all the PHB races- except the humble Half-Orcs, with +2 Strength, but -2 to both Charisma and Intelligence.

Racial abilities also lose out on the Half-Orc side. Most races get either Darkvision or Low-Light Vision- only Humans and Halflings do not; our Half-Orc has Darkvision, so no complaints there. But they have no other racial abilities- not one. Nothing to define them other than being strong and a bit stupid.

I realise it's difficult to think of what they could have to make up for this, but I'd just like to know if you agree with me that there is an element of imbalance here.

Aarnott 12:42, 5 June 2007 (MDT)[edit]

Half-orcs are decently balanced if you consider a few things. +2 Strength is the only way (without special class features) to gain +1 damage. At first level, +1 to hit and damage is very powerful indeed. -2 to two stats that are useless to big hulking brutes doesn't really matter much. Half-orcs may seem underpowered compared to a lot of other races, but they suit a lot of players' playstyles.

In a group I used to play in, we had many characters over the campaign, and were only allowed "regular" races. One of my friends picked half-orc for every single character they played.

I think they are underpowered compared to dwarves for being a pure "strong tough guy", but they have their niche for the hot headed player who likes to smash things to dust. The problem about orcs and wood/wild elves is that they are a lot better at this than half orcs. But they are not "regular" player's handbook races anyways.

Mkill  12:30, 11 June 2007 (MDT)[edit]

For a classic "Thog smash things" style of play, at least at low level, strength is an important stat and indeed the half-orc is a decent choice. But... there is a long list of buts.

  • If your character is not planning to go into melee and can effectively avoid it, Strength is unnecessary.
  • At higher levels, stat booster items become available, and that Str +2 is worth a mere 4000 gp.
  • At higher levels, melee attack and damage become less effective, and save-or-die spells (against single, tough opponents) and large area damage (against armies) decide the battle. Strength neither adds to these nor does it increase any save.
  • With more books out, more effective low-strength melee builds are available. For example, take 3 levels of Swashbuckler and you're set with Dex to attack and Int to damage.
  • Even carrying capacity is no concern with stuff like bags of holding.
  • At really high levels, the only racial ability that makes any difference anymore is the human bonus feat.

What it boils down to is, that the half-orc can compete in low-level melee, where +2 Str is impressive. After that, he's pitiful. There are many suggestions out there to boost the half-orc, including skill bonuses such as +2 to Survival or a bonus to fortitude saves. My suggestion is to give him a part of his human heritage, either the skill point bonus or the bonus feat.

Dmilewski 12:56, 11 June 2007 (MDT)[edit]

That +2 to Strength is more than just +2. It's a +2 on top of what you already have. If you have a +2 stat boost item, and get another +2 on top of that, your +4 total is really worth 16,000 gp. In other words, the +2 strength is always worth +2 more than your best Strength enhancer.

Aarnott 13:40, 13 June 2007 (MDT)[edit]

Just to expand on that (and point out the obvious), at high levels, a +2 strength bonus is really worth hundreds of thousands of gold. If you look at the gold value it would cost, it really adds what your character should never be able to afford. That is a sweet deal. That is also why I think Orcs are imbalanced. +4 to any stat at a LA 0 is too good. It makes that gap of giving your character something they could never afford an extra exponent bigger.

Mkill 07:14, 14 July 2007 (MDT) [edit]

Hundreds of thousands? More like 55,000 gp. See Manual of Gainful Exercise.

Pwsnafu 19:09, 13 July 2007 (MDT)[edit]

I want to remind people Half-Orc Paragon 3 / Human Paragon 3 grants you an additional +4 Str, which is net +6 Str or 36,000 gp, well and beyond a typical ECL 6 character. Oh, and you get that Human bonus feat Mkill was talking about. Throw in rage feats, and that Swashbuckler comes up second best.

Mkill 07:12, 14 July 2007 (MDT)[edit]

If it takes 6 class levels to turn the half-orc into something useful than I don't really want to play one. For the same amount in racial levels / LA I could play an ogre (Str +10, large, 40 ft. base speed), and that's not a particularly strong choice, just a quick pick. I also like Lizardfolk / Half-Dragon (Str +10, nat. armor +9)

Tokara2132 00:16, 19 September 2007 (MDT)[edit]

Well, there has been one thing that I have been playing with. I was going to put it...well, somewhere. But I came up with this racial ability. There would be something similar for half-elves, too.

Half Blood (Ex): When targeted by something that would affect humans or orcs, half-orcs take only half the damage dealt solely because of the racial targeting ability (rounding up). For example, if a half-orc is hit with a + 1 Orc Bane Longsword, it would be treated as a +2 against him, rather than a +3, and would only take 1d6 of the extra damage, rather than 2d6.

What do you guys (or girls) think?

Sam Kay 12:16, 19 September 2007 (MDT)[edit]

I never understood half-orcs anyway. Half-elves I get, but half-orcs? Who in their right mind would... with an orc!?! It's like a half-giant (squish!). And it is not like in LotR, where half-orcs are created by sorcery (an evil act commited by a cirtain evil lord by the name of Saruman). Just be an orc. And take daylight adaptation (Forgotten Realms).

Mogoth created Orcs, Sam. Saruman created half-orcs.
Wow, I am such a LotR 'shipper. Geek alert! -- S1Q3T3 17:21, 18 December 2007 (MST)
I ment saruman. Just made a mistake... Corrected. --Sam Kay 11:12, 19 December 2007 (MST)

Pwsnafu 19:30, 23 September 2007 (MDT)[edit]

Who in their right mind would... with an orc!?

Who said it was concentual? On another note, this really isn't the place to discuss the sexual preferences of NPCs... 20:38, 3 October 2007 (MDT)[edit]

I hope we don't get too far off on this disgusting tangent...

Sam Kay 07:54, 5 October 2007 (MDT)[edit]

Indeed. I think the +2 str might be worth the lack of bonuses if you are a barbarian, but you might as well be an orc (with +4 Str). Perhaps a variant half-orc could be made by us, with +2 Str, +2 Con, -2 Cha and -2 Int?

MorkaisChosen 12:40, 8 November 2007 (MST)[edit]

The other way to go would be to make them +2STR and -2INT, cutting the Cha penalty, and bung on a -2 racial penalty to Diplomacy and Bluff checks, since people are generally suspicious and mistrustful of half-orcs, but with a +2 Intimidate modifier, for roughly the same reason- everyone will have heard of a friend's sister's dog-walker's cousin who was beaten up by a gang of half-orcs. After all, for Charisma, the SRD says, "This ability represents actual strength of personality, not merely how one is perceived by others in a social setting.". I don't see why half-orcs are any less strong of personality than anyone else, and I think these rules show that- they have the added bonus of making half-orc arcane spellcasters feasible!


Sledged (talk)
2007 November 8 13:51 (MDT)

At risk of going off discussion...

Posted by Pwsnafu

Who in their right mind would... with an orc!?

Who said it was concentual?

Who said they were in their right mind?

There's no better laugh than the one that you're ashamed to share with your mother.
—Stephen Notley, creator of Bob the Angry Flower
A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof was to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
—Ford Prefect in "Mostly Harmless" by Douglas Adams

Kelly 21:25, 8 November 2007 (MST)[edit]

I think half-orcs definitely suck as written. One idea I had for my own campaign is giving half-orcs the bonus feat Endurance, reflecting their hybrid vigor, so aptly illustrated by Tolkien. Half-orcs who recieve the feat via class feature, such as being a third level ranger, get the Diehard feat instead.

Sam Kay 10:42, 9 November 2007 (MST)[edit]


I say keep the Cha penalty, cos they are crude. Plus, orcs have a cha penalty... A fan of Tolkien? Then you will know that LotR half-orcs are magically created. Were are you getting the "hybred vigour" from? I think you are getting mixed up with uruks.

Kelly 16:39, 9 November 2007 (MST)[edit]

Hey Sam,

Since orcs (and hobbits, ahem, halflings) are clearly lifted directly from Tolkien, it makes sense to me to reference back to LoTR. And maybe you're confused because you remember the movie better than the books, but Tolkien makes it very clear that the Uruks of Mordor are straight up orcs, but Saruman's Uruk-Hai are the result of breeding orcs with humans. There are ones that look more human and ones that look more orc, but they would both qualify as half-orcs in DnD terms.

Anyway, I like the Endurance feat idea because it fits in with the original source material and because it's very different than the bennies other demi-human characters recieve without being too powerful.

MorkaisChosen 12:02, 10 November 2007 (MST)[edit]

Posted by Sam Kay

Who in their right mind would... with an orc!?

I say keep the Cha penalty, cos they are crude.

What does crudity have to do with Charisma? I don't understand...

Orcs have a Charisma penalty, I know, but Orcs aren't a base race and +4 Str is a lot more useful than +2 Str- more than twice if you choose the right class. That makes up for the mental stat penalties, because it means that all Orc casters will be a bit worse than one of any other race, but more effective in hand-to-hand. Half-orcs, however, with only +2 and no other racial bonuses, seem to me very weak for a core PC race.

I like the Endurance idea, too.

Sam Kay 04:27, 11 November 2007 (MST)[edit]

Yeah, but they are related to orcs, so it makes sense that they inherit the orkish charisma. Basically, picture an ork. It bellows alot. calls thing nasty names. threatens things with "I'll stick you" (stab). Basically horrible and mean. So there is the charisma penalty: makes sense. Half-orcs are much the same, (or at least simular), and are prone to such things. Hense the Cha penalty. I think I like the endurance idea though, I was just pointing out that Uruks aren't half-orcs. But I think they should also have a constitution bonus. +2 Str, +2 Con, -2 Int, -2 Cha makes more sense to me.

About uruks, the way Sauron (not saruman) bred them is unknown, so we don't know whether or not they are half-orcs. And Tolkien refers to them as "orcs", so we can safely assume they are orcs. Half-orcs, however, are different.

Among the Dunleadings, who, in the Third Age of the Sun, came to Saruman's banner of the White Hand in Isenguard, were some whose blood, by the sorcery of Saruman, became mixed with that of Orcs and Uruk-hai
—David Day, Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia

I can vouch for the accuracy of the above, as I have never found incorrect information within the book (having read more of Tolkien's books than most). I am 100% in agreement with Kelly that we should refrence races lifted from Tolkien's books with Tolkien's books. Which is why I have always wanted to redo elf racial abilities to something that includes a charisma bonus. And a (surprise, surprise!) Con bonus, in accordance to page 43 of The Children of Hurin:

But elves do not weary, and they do not die save by great hurt. From wounds and griefs that would slay men they may be healed; and even when their bodies are marred they return again, some say. It is not so with us.
—J. R. R. Tolkien, The Children of Hurin

But that is a discussion for elseware.

Zombiecow 11:35, 13 December 2007 (MST)[edit]

Okay, back to the orc's are unbalanced for their +4str, and +0LA, thats not true at all, cos they take a -2 to int, wis AND cha, that my friends makes it fine in my eyes, anyway for the half orc, I think I need to make a home-brew variant because yea, they get a crummy deal, I'm thinking +2str, -2int (no cha penalty's), the dark vision, I liked the +2 survival and fort, lets give them... +2 intimidate and rage 1/day that stacks with the barbarian's. hows that for a balanced half orc, by the way, you can't really look at it that their benefiting so much from the +2str, more so even then elfs stat changes, I mean if you play an elf ranger, that keeps to ranged combat, thats gonna be as helpful at low level as anything else, cos along with the attack bonus increase we have the bonus to AC which is even more valuable at low level then damage, you can dish out just fine either way, but one good hit can kill your lv 1 or 2...

DeadChainer 8:10, 19 December 2007 (MST)[edit]

“ Among the Dunleadings, who, in the Third Age of the Sun, came to Saruman's banner of the White Hand in Isenguard, were some whose blood, by the sorcery of Saruman, became mixed with that of Orcs and Uruk-hai ”

This does not necessarily prove that Uruk-hai are not Half-orcs, after all humans can fornicate with half-breeds as well as orcs.

*At higher levels, melee attack and damage become less effective, and save-or-die spells (against single, tough opponents) and large area damage (against armies) decide the battle.

Were this true no one would ever be a combative pc if spellcasting is the best possible way always.

I agree, Half-orcs are a bit unattractive when looking at starting stats and comparing. Str and Con bonus’ together slightly outweigh an Int and Cha penalty. Alone, The Str bonus and the Int penalty balance. My suggestion is the Cha penalty can be balanced with the endurance feat, a +2 survival and a +2 intimidate. Half-orcs are slightly more healthy than some, have wild instincts from their orc heritage and while rather socially crude, their very presence can intimidate. The endurance feat alone doesn’t balance well and Half-orcs shouldn’t suffer a negative on intimidate because of a Cha modifier.

Sam Kay 01:44, 20 December 2007 (MST)[edit]

But Uruks where bred by sauron and are described as Orcs- therefore they are orcs. While the Half-Orcs where always described as Half-Orcs. This seems pretty clear-cut to me: Half-Orcs and Uruks are different.

Those changes seem good, although I do not see how a Str and Con of +2 outballance Int and Cha of -2. Maybe for a Barbarian, but not for say a sorcerer or wizard. All ability scores are just as useful, just not nessassarily for every character. It all depends on class...

123098zxcmnb  02:08, 10 janyary 2008 (MST)[edit]

For a combat based class, intelligence, and charisma are very unimportant. Intelligence would give extra skill points, but thats not very important for a fighter or barbarian. Wisdom helps will saves so it is somewhat more important. At 1st level, +2 strength grants +1 damage and a +1 attack bonus, which would provide a 25% attack roll bonus increase and an average of a 15% damage increase, for a 1st level barbarian starting with 16 strength and a greataxe. No small increase! Also, somewhere in the Dungeon Master's guide there is a page explaining stat equivalences. A bonus to Str, Dex, or Con is worth more than an increase to int, wis, or cha. I believe that half orc should be given a +4 bonus to intimidate (what could be more scary than a crazed orc with a giant ax). A one per day rage could also be reasonable.

Chainer 18:02, 10 January 2008 (MST)[edit]

Agreed ! Thats what I said by the way. Half-Orcs are more combat specialist than spell casters, hence str, dex and con are worth more than the other three to them. This is the norm, ofcourse there are exceptions due to imagination, creativity, etc.

Kelly 00:45, 17 January 2008[edit]

Since this thread keeps popping up, I feel the compulsion to once again respectfully dispute Sam Kay's interpretation of Tolkien and half-orcs. JRRT consistently reffered to the orcs of Mordor as Uruks - the bigger meaner warrior cousins of the goblins - while Saruman's elite warriors were the Uruk-hai. They were the product of his breeding experiments as were his more human thugs and spies who showed signs of having goblin blood, and unlike Sauron's orcs and goblins they were not dismayed by daylight - clearly a human trait. And yes, Sauron's orcs fought during the day, but Tolkien stated explicitly that was because they were being driven by the will of Sauron to overcome their natural instincts. Saruman, lacking that kind of power, instead bred orcs with human traits that lacked fear of the sun.

And I also disagree with 123098's assessment that the bonus to strength really balances out the minuses, even for a character who's main focus is combat. I mean, any DM worth their salt is going to throw challenges other than monsters at their players - hazards that require skill checks and interacting with npc's outside of combat. The penalty to charisma based skills combined with the cumulative -1 in skill points per level due to lack of intelligence outweighs the strength bonus in my opinion. The bonus to intimidate isn't a bad option to compensate, though.

MorkaisChosen 10:22, 17 January 2008 (MST)[edit]

Basically, the half-orc's fine in a "There is a monster. Kill the monster? There is another monster" campaign, but falls flat on its face anywhere else.

123098zxcmnb 23:56, 5 February 2008 (MST)[edit]

I believe that not all races are equal for all classes, and is meant to be that way. Every race seems to be made for a specific class, or a few classes, with the exception of the human. The halfling, for example makes the perfect rogue, while a gnome makes an excellent bard. The half orc works very well as a barbarian. Agreed, half the time the half orc is mostly useless, but they excel in melee combat. I would say that the half orc really only works in a "kick down the door" style dungeon. In the campaign I am currently DMing the half orc isn't very useful but even the human fighter is similar in many ways.

Crashpilot 09:28, 3 March 2011 (MST)[edit]

Yes and no, the unfair tradeoff for +2 against -4 is not balanced. So no, they are not balanced. But yes, becouse instead of just looking at pure stats and only damage the uncharismatic side of an half-orc that mostly come to the world by "unspeakable acts of the delightfull side" is reflected propperly with the aditional loss in charisma. It fits the race well and my roommate that play's one actually handles the loss in charisma rather well, playing the orc well in many way's, behaviour, thinking, and his unsupressable urge to climb trees for whatever ungodly reason. Does he realy suffer from that charisma loss? Well no, infact he was the hardest hitting players of the group and no other class playing alongside him could even remotely touch his unprecedented damage that he was able to keep up for the entire time. Not even a wizard could reach his amounts of damage. So strictly speaking, the half-orc is unbalanced, but the aditional penalties fit. Unfair , maybe, but a good player will not even be remotely bothered by it.

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