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D&D 3E
Orcs as player characters 
17th-Jan-2005 04:14 pm
I'm trying to hammer out "better" rules for all the player races and incorporate some new ones - this is part dissatisfaction and part worldbuilding, as I am also in the (very early) stages of writing a campaign setting. I'll leave out all the boring cultural and psychological notes on orcs and get straight to the mechanics, which I am still working on ...


* +4 Strength, -2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma: Orcs are almost unbelievably strong, but are impatient, irritable, and somewhat crude.
* Medium: As Medium creatures, orcs have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
* Orc base land speed is 30 feet.
* Darkvision: Orcs can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and orcs can function just fine with no light at all.
* Light sensitivity: Orcs are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.
* Automatic Languages: Gobbledygook. Bonus Languages: Giant, Gnoll, Dwar, and any human dialect.
* Favored class: Barbarian. A multi-class orc's barbarian class does not count when determining whether he takes an experience point penalty - orcs are militant and war-like, but Barbarians are far more common amongst them than fighters.

- Greater Orcs (Common, Wildlands Orcs)
- Greenskin Orcs
* +4 Strength, -2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma: Just as strong as their more common cousins, the Greenskin orcs are slightly slower and more prone to introspection.
- Blackskin Orcs (Southron Orcs)
* +2 Strength, +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma: The Blackskin, or Southron orcs are somewhat smaller and stockier than their northern cousins. They are also more sturdy.
* Daylight tolerance: Blackskin orcs respond to bright light in the same fashion as humans. They still prefer the darkness, however.
- Half-Orcs

So, you can see that the basic orc traits are basically vanilla cut-and-pasted out of the Monster Manual. Even my two orc variants, Greenskins and Blackskins, are still quite bland. There should be more to playing a fantastical race than some stat adjustments and the ability to see in the dark, no? And you cannot, realistically, tell me that your elf wizard can use a longsword but my orc cleric can't wield a battle axe. So they need something to represent the fact that every orc has at least rudimentary beat-you-up skills.

I have three basic remedies.
A) All orcs are proficient in ... (insert small, 2-3 item list of culturally appropriate weapons, probably varying by subrace).
B) All orcs may select any three (or two or one) simple or martial weapons to be proficient in.
C) Orcs suffer only a -2 penalty for using a weapon in whose use they are not proficient, rather than the typical -4 penalty.

Discuss. Which of these is favorable? Why? And, of course, if you have any suggestions to make orcs a race that is both fun and balanced, sling 'em my way.

Next up: goblins.
17th-Jan-2005 11:02 pm (UTC)
Give them a proficiency with a weapon group (from UA)?
Give them some skill mods to things like survival, climbing, other orc-like things?
Faster healing? Not in combat fast, but over night faster. They do fight all the time and need to heal up.
Bonus to using two handed weapons? (Bigger is Better from Dawnforge)
1 use a day of a barbarian rage?
17th-Jan-2005 11:29 pm (UTC)
The first is essentially option A ...
As for skill bonuses, it's certainly consistent with how races are done in D&D (I think every race but humans have a +2 bonus to two or three skills). What I haven't yet decided is what skills should get bonuses - Survival and Climb are certainly contenders (as in: I can't think of any others off the top of my head).
The bonus to using two-handed weapons and barbarian rage suggestions are things I want to shy away from ... with their +4 Strength, Orcs don't need any help being terrifying fighters. I want to give them some ability that makes non-Fighter/Barbarian/Ranger/Paladin orcs slightly more attractive, not make them far-and-away the best warriors ever.

The faster healing idea intrigues me. Healing at double rate? Two hp/level overnight, 3/level with medical care (following the D&D rules for doubling doubles)? Should they also gain a Fort save bonus vs. disease and poison, to reflect their general robustness?

I do worry, though, that they're edging up to the +1 ECL level here ... I don't want that. Has anyone had any vanilla orcs in their campaign? Are they already unbalanced?
18th-Jan-2005 12:11 am (UTC) - For Weapon Proficienies
Weapon Familiarity: Orcs may treat the orc double axe as martial weapons rather than exotic weapons.

Weapon Proficieny: Orcs receive the Martial Weapon Proficieny feats for the battleaxe and greataxe as bonus feats.

You could drop the exotic weapon, and give them a ranged proficieny (if you can think of a ranged weapon that has an orcish feel to it). The melee proficiencies aren't worth much balance-wise, but a good ranged weapon is a boon for a caster.
18th-Jan-2005 01:35 am (UTC) - Re: For Weapon Proficienies
I think for ranged weapons, orcs mostly use javelins/spears and tomahawks ... which is actually good for them, since they get to apply their ridiculous strength bonuses to damage.

Weapon Familiarity would be consistent with what WotC says gnomes and dwarves get ... I'm not sure I approve, but that might just be because I think the Urgrosh and the Gnome Hooked Hammer are stupid-looking weapons.

If they get free proficiency, it'll probably be something like Shortspear, Battle Axe, Greataxe for Common Orcs, Battle Axe, Greataxe, Crossbow for Greenskin orcs, and Scimitar, Falchion, Halberd for Blackskin orcs. Or something like that.
18th-Jan-2005 01:58 am (UTC) - Re: For Weapon Proficienies
Well, I definitely think races should get proficieny in racial exotic weapons, whether said weapons are stupid are another discussion :-)

Modelled after the elves like you listed would work well.
18th-Jan-2005 02:55 am (UTC)
I like option C actually. In the campaign setting I created, all people have a -2 instead of a -4 when using a longbow, since it is so common.

To have Orcs use any weapon as a -2 still makes it a penalty for not knowing "tricks" and "tactics" with the weapon, but any Orc can pick up something and beat someone with it.

I also like the resistance to disease Idea suggested above. With what they eat, it only seems to make sense.

Perhaps there are skill modifiers to intimdate/bluff/swim/climb or others..perhaps different skills for different breeds of Orc.

Also, note elves notice secret doors just by walking by them. Orcs break down doors just by walking by them. Give them the ability to ignore a certain degree of Hardness of objects and breaking through them (chains/doors/windows/walls/etc.).

Don't put all your eggs in the weapon basket. There can be Orchish monks too.
18th-Jan-2005 03:32 pm (UTC)
The good news for Orcish monks is that they get free proficiency in battle axe etc., so they don't have to just use their fists!

I think the main reason I like option C is so that Joe Orc can pick up a chair and start using it as a weapon at -2, dealing d6+strength-and-a-half, wham, bam.

So if orcs get ...
+4 Str, -2 Int, -2 Wis, -2 Cha
Daylight Intolerance
Orcish Robustness: double-rate healing and +2 saves vs. disease/poison
Intuitive Weapon Use: orcs suffer only half the usual penalty for being non-proficient with a weapon (-2 instead of -4).

... are they balanced? (Note that the -2 penalty for a non-proficient melee weapon is exactly countered by their +4 Strength).
18th-Jan-2005 12:53 pm (UTC)
I'm not keen on the shit orcs and half orcs suffer due to being the 'evil' races from D&D.

A dwarf in comparison gets a hell of alot of bonuses compared to a half orc.
1. The dwarf's stats equal out in comparison to a half-orc. A half orc gets a feeble +2 to his strength and a minus to charisma and intelligence, both get darkvision.
A dwarf gets sturdy footing, so thats +4 to bullrushing, and the half orc gets nothing.
The dwarf gets weapon profincency, the half orc gets nothing.
The dwarf gets resistance to poisons, and the half orc? nothing again.
The dwarf gets skill bonuses, the half orc once again gets nothing.

The half orc is perhaps the most crippled race running, same with most goblinoids and orcs.

I'd give them profinciency in several weapons, axes and swords mainly, mostly exotic weapons like greatswords or bastard swords. This gives them valued exotic profinciencys in weapons other races have to buy, which balances them out a bit.
18th-Jan-2005 03:27 pm (UTC)
WotC is extremely conservative when it comes to +Strength races, and probably rightly so (note: I don't own Eberron, so I have no idea what Warforged are like). Given the tendency of players to dump their highest stat in Strength anyway, and given how it is so abundantly critical and powerful in combat (which is probably a design error on WotC's part, but there it is), there is an argument to be made that the +2 or +4 Strength is all the bonus they really need.

My primary objection to this argument is that it's not as much FUN to play such a bare-bones race. It's fine for humans (this is fantasy - we expect humans to be "boring"), but not for something as exotic as an orc. ... thus the whole process of writing them up as a "proper" PC race.
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