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DnD 5e - The Orc Handbook

Last Updated: August 20th, 2020

Disclaimer

This guide 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.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

Introduction

Orcs are a fantasy race dating back to Tolkien's works, and since then they have served as a generic, barbaric, evil humanoid in countless works of fiction. However, official DnD lore also inludes occasional examples of playing against type, including the Many-Arrows Clan in the Forgotten Realms. Whether you want to play to the trope or play against type, the Orc is an iconic fantasy race worth playing.

Mechanically, the Orc is a solid melee monster with a few unique traits. The Orc's abilities, coupled with Aggressive, make it easy to get into melee and move between targets. Darkvision and free proficiency in Intimation are great, too. The Orc is notably one of the first races to feature an ability score decreased, published alongside the Kobold in Volo's Guide to Monsters. Fortunately it's an Intelligence decrease, which is arguably the least-impactful ability score that you can dump in 5e.

An alternative version of the Orc is published in both Eberron: Rising From the Last War and in Explorer's Guide to Wildemount. This version drops the Intelligence decrease, and replaces Menacing with your choice of two skills from a fixed list. This brings the Orc more in line with other published races.

Classes

Artificer

No Intelligence increase.

Barbarian

The Orc is tailor-made to be a barbarian. Strength, Constitution, Aggressive, and Intimidate.

Bard

The Bard is likely the Orc's nest option or arcane spellcasting, but I would stick to Valor so that you don't need to invest heavily in Dexterity. Even then, it's not a great choice.

Cleric

The Cleric is the Orc's best option for divine spellcasting, and if you stick to domains which provide proficiency in heavy armor you should be okay.

Druid

You might be able to use Aggresive during Wild Shape, but that's not nearly enough to make the Orc a decent druid.

Fighter

For a Strength-based build, it's hard to go wrong with the Orc. Strength, Constitution, and Aggressive make it easy to get into melee and move between targets, and the extra skill proficiency is always nice.

Monk

Strength-based monks don't work.

Paladin

The paladin isn't as straightforward as the Barbarian or the Fighter, but the Orc still makes a fine paladin. Proficiency in Intimidation gives you a free face skill, so if you can manage decent Charisma the Paladin can be really great.

Ranger

A Strength-based ranger build is difficult, but doable.

Rogue

No Dexterity increase.

Sorcerer

No Charisma increase.

Warlock

No Charisma increase.

Wizard

No Intelligence increase.