Introduction

Half-orcs are an easily-overlooked race. Their racial traits tend to pigeon-hole them into simple martial builds, and in most official settings and works of fiction outside of D&D orcs have historically been portrayed barbaric savages, so even characters’ backstories tend to be forced into an incredibly narrow set of options. Half-orcs don’t get subraces, and unlike the half-elf we haven’t seen variants of any kind, so the race offers little flexibility. There’s only so many times you can write a half-orc barbarian raised among orcs or a half-orc fighter raised among humans and still have a memorable character.

But just because a race’s built-in, published options are limited doesn’t mean that your story options are limited. It’s totally fine to play a half-orc barbarian raised by their orcish family; there’s nothing wrong with the obvious character option, and being raised among orcs certainly doesn’t mean that your character or their family have to conform to any preconcieved notion of what an orc is or does. But don’t be afraid to go for something unusual. Maybe your half-orc is an accountant and goes adventuring like real-world people go on weekend camping trips.

Mechanically, the half-orc is a simple choice. With no decision points and with the insurance provided by Relentless Endurance it’s a great option for new players. But don’t let that appeal deter you if you’re a veteran: the half-orc is still a solid racial option for some builds, and if you like big critical hits, Savage Attacks is a nice damage bonus.

If you absolutely love critical hits, a half-orc with some combination of Barbarian and Fighter (Champion) is a great build. Reckless Attack and Improved Critical make it very likely that you’ll score a critical hit in a turn, and with Savage Attacks, Brutal Critical, and a greataxe you’re rolling a bunch of d12’s all at once. Unfortunately, even the Custom Origin rules don’t really broaden the half-orc’s class options. Your best bet is still to wring a greataxe.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Half-Orc Classes (Customizable Origins)

This section assumes that you’re using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you’re not using those rules, scroll down to the next section.

Artificer

The half-orc brings little to the Artificer except Relentless Endurance.

Barbarian

Combining Savage Attacks and Brutal Critical is immensely satisfying. The Half-Orc’s extra skill also gives the Barbarian a much-needed button to push outside of combat.

Bard

Relentless Endurance is great on a frail spellcaster, an extra skill is nice on a class which is frequently the party’s Face, and Darkvision is good if you want to sneak around in the dark.

Cleric

Relentless Endurance is great because dropping to 0 as your party’s primary healer frequently means that the rest of your party is going to follow you to an early grave. Otherwise, there’s not much here.

Druid

Savage Attacks should work while using Wild Shape, but that’s really not enough to make the combination worthwhile. You’re probably your party’s primary healer, so Relentless Endurance is good insurance for the whole party.

Fighter

A half-orc champion fighter is among the simplest and most straight-forward builds for new players. The expanded critical range makes Savage Attacks more useful, and an extra skill gives you more options outside of combat. That said, despite this build’s simple effectiveness, it’s not very mechanically satisfying so many experienced players quickly grow bored of it.

Monk

Savage Attacks seems like it would be good on a monk, but many of your attacks will be made with unarmed strikes which will use small damage dice until you reach very high levels.

Paladin

Without Reckless Attack or the Fighter’s huge number of attacks, Savage Critical is minimally useful. Your crits will be huge thanks to Divine Smite, but they’ll still be infrequent.

Ranger

Darkvision and an extra skill are useful on a class that’s typically stealthy, but that’s the only especially interesting combination here.

Rogue

Darkvision and extra skill don’t hurt, but it’s easy to get that from other races. Savage Attacks could be interesting with an assassin, but the extra damage on one or two attacks is minor for most of your career.

Sorcerer

Relentless Endurance is nice, Darkvision saves you a spell, and an extra skill will help you expand beyond Face Skills. But you can get Darkvision and a skill from many races, and Relentless Endurance isn’t crucial.

Warlock

Relentless Endurance is nice, Darkvision saves you an invocation unless you plan to rely on magical darkness, and an extra skill never hurts.

Hexblades using weapons can benefit from Savage Attacks when combined with Hexblade’s Curse. Warlocks have abundant options for getting Advantage on their attacks (Darkness, Shadow of Moil), so 19-20 critical hits with Advantage will make critical hits reasonably frequent. You can’t use Heavy weapons, so 1d10 is the biggest damage die you’ll get, and at once per short rest, that Hexblade’s Curse combo is good, but not enough to carry your build on its own. You’ll be good at eliminating high-priority enemies, but once Hexblade’s Curse is on cooldown you’re depending almost entirely on class features to get by.

Wizard

Relentless Endurance is nice, Darkvision saves you a spell, and an extra skill will help you expand beyond Face Skills. But you can get Darkvision and a skill from many races, and Relentless Endurance isn’t crucial.

Half-Irc Classes (Default Rules)

This section assumes that you’re not using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything or the updated version of the race published in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.

Artificer

No Intelligence increase.

Barbarian

The most obvious option, the Half-Orc was tailor-made for the barbarian. Strength and Constitution are perfect Ability Score Increases, but the benefits don’t stop there. Proficiency in Intimidation gives you an option in social situations where the Barbarian typically has little to do. Relentless Endurance will help keep you alive despite things like Reckless Attack, and Savage Attacks gives you a fun preview of Brutal Critical (and they stack, which is even better).

Bard

Proficiency in Intimidation is nice, but it’s really not enough. You could try a Valor Bard, but in medium armor a Strength-based build is very MAD because you need 14 in Dexterity and good scores in Strength, Constitution, and Charisma which is very hard to accomplish.

Cleric

The normal Half-Orc doesn’t get a Wisdom increase, so the Cleric is a hard choice. Mark of Finding considerably improves your viability as a cleric, but remember that Mark of Finding replaces all of your racial traits, so anything mechanical that you like about the Half-Orc goes away.

Druid

Savage Attacks and Relentless Endurance both work in wild shape, which makes the standard Half-Orc slightly more lethal and more durable, so Circle of the Moon is an option. For other circles, consider Mark of Finding.

Fighter

The Half-Orc works for any fighter archetype. Strength-based builds are easy to do in heavy armor, and if you want to forgo a shield Relentless Endurance will help keep you alive on top of the Constitution increase. Savage Attacks is especially rewarding for Champions, and while you don’t get Reckless Attack or Brutal Critical like the Barbarian, the Fighter gets a total of 4 attacks at high levels, and if you Shove enemies prone you still get Advantage on your attacks against them so you can still make numerous high-damage critical hits.

Monk

No increases to either Dexterity or Wisdom, and Strength-based monks simply aren’t viable. Savage Attacks looks nice with the number of attacks you get from Flurry of Blows or Martial Arts, but monks get by on numerous small attacks rather than big, high-damage attacks.

Paladin

Not such an easy choice as the Barbarian or the Fighter, but still a great option. While Charisma is very helpful for the Paladin, they don’t strictly need an increase at 1st level. Strength and Constitution work fine, and Intimidation will save you a skill proficiency if you’re serving as your party’s Face.

Ranger

Strength-based builds are difficult, but possible. The Half-Orc would not be my first choice for such a build, but it’s absolutely possible.

Rogue

No Dexterity increase, and Savage Attacks is much less interesting when you’re not using a Greataxe.

Sorcerer

No Charisma increase.

Warlock

No Charisma increase.

Wizard

No Intelligence increase.

Half-Orc Feats

Orcish FuryXGtE

A fine option if you have an odd-numbered ability score in either Strength or Constitution (but not both), but this is nothing that you need to have. The second bullet is at most 1d12 extra damage per short rest, and the final bullet can only trigger once per Short Rest because Relentless Endurance only works once per Short Rest.

ProdigyXGtE

Better than the Skilled feat in many ways, but Skill Expert is almost always a better choice.

Half-Orc Dragonmarks

Dragonmarks are detailed in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. Dragonmarks entirely replace half-orc racial traits, so in many ways dragonmarks should be thought of as separate races from the Half-Orc. You still have access to the same racial feats, but your class options are very different.

Mark of Finding

Constitution and Wisdom is a difficult combination for any class except the Cleric and the Druid. Without an ability boost to either Strength or Dexterity, you’ll lag offensively for a long time. You could make a decent Monk or Ranger, assuming that you’re fine with being slightly less effective with your attacks. Mark of Finding’s traits include Darkvision, a bonus to Perception and Survival, and some interesting innate spellcasting options. If your class grants spellcasting, you get access to some interesting spellcasting. Most of the options are divination spells. Some aren’t available to clerics, while others aren’t available to druids, and many aren’t available to rangers, so all three classes get several exciting new options. Whatever class you choose, be sure to pick up proficiency in Perception to make yourself exceptionally observant.

With the custom origin rules in place, it’s hard to decide what to do with Mark of Finding. Access to Hunter’s Mark and Faerie Fire are good options for the Warlock. Longstrider is a decent buff on anyone, but not essential. Most of the other spells are divination options from a combination of the cleric, druid, and wizard, so none of the three gain much.