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 original version of the Orc is a solid melee monster with a few unique traits. The Orc’s ability score increases, coupled with Aggressive, make it easy to get into melee and move between targets. Darkvision and some extra skills are great, too, frequently giving martial classes like the Barbarian and the Fighter something to do outside of combat. Unfortunately, the custom origin rules essentially made the Orc a worse tabaxi.

The updated version of the Orc published in Monsters of the Multiverse is all about durability. Between Relentless Endurance and Adrenaline Rush, it’s very hard to bring an orc down with hit point damage. Of course, the ability to withstand a lot of damage doesn’t help you actively accomplish many things, so the Orc is once again pigeon-holed into a front-line martial role where their traits are consistently put to use. Borrowing Relentless Endurance from the Half-Orc also means that Adrenaline Rush needs to be better than Savage Critical and a free skill proficiency, which is a hard trade.

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.

Orc Versions

There are effectively 5 versions of the Orc. While that gives them as many versions as the Aasimar and the Eladrin, the Orc’s version history is less complex because it flows in a single line rather than having parallel versions.

Version one of the Orc was published in Volo’s Guide to Monsters. It, along with the Kobold, were the only races in 5th edition to ever include an ability score decrease as part of their traits. This decrease was later removed in errata. We’ll call the errata version 1.1.

The Orc later appeared in both Eberron: Rising From the Last War and in Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. This version replaced the Menacing trait with Primal Intuition, which allowed players to select two skills from a fixed list rather than only getting Intimidation.

The release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything gave us the custom origin rules, giving us the next version of the Orc. This added some flexibility to the Orc, but their signature trait, Aggressive, still pigeon-holes them into melee roles.

Most recently, Monsters of the Multiverse fully rewrote the Orc. Their skill proficiencies were removed entirely, Aggressive was replaced with the much more useful Adrenaline Rush, and the Orc gained the Half-Orcs Relentless Endurance.

Orc Classes

Artificer

Adrenaline Rush will help compensate for the Artificer’s d8 hit dice, but most artificers use their Bonus Action heavily so it’s hard to keep it available for Adrenaline Rush. Relentless Endurance is useful if you’re your party’s primary Defender.

Barbarian

Adrenaline Rush may be useful late into combat if you need to switch targets, but in most combats they’ll be within range of your 40 ft. speed. Many barbarian subclasses also have a consistent use for your Bonus Action, so using Adrenaline Rush is often difficult even in situations where it might be useful.

Bard

Adrenaline Rush provides both a helpful source of temporary hit points and a way to put extra distance between you and your enemies. Relentless Endurance might save your life from time to time. Neither will make bards good in melee, but extra durability is always nice.

Cleric

Adrenaline Rush is a great way to rush to an allies aid or to get out of a dangerous spot. You don’t need to keep it available every round, but it’s good when you desperately need to get into or out of melee, and you can sacrifice one round of Spiritual Weapon attacks. Relentless Endurance can keep your party’s primary healer conscious.

Druid

Adrenaline Rush is a great way to rush to an allies aid or to get out of a dangerous spot, and Relentless Endurance can keep your party’s primary healer conscious. I think both Adrenaline Rush and Relentless Endurance work while in Wild Shape, too, so Circle of the Moon is a great combination.

Fighter

Between Adrenaline Rush, Relentless Endurance, Second Wind, and decent armor, it’s very difficult to bring down an orc fighter. Grab a two-handed weapon and go looking for trouble.

Monk

Adrenaline Rush is somewhat redundant with Step of the Wind, but Adrenaline Rush both gives you temporary hit points and doesn’t consume Ki, so there is some benefit there. Relentless Endurance is good insurance, especially at low levels before your AC scales with your Ability Score Increases.

Paladin

Adrenaline Rush is a great way for the Paladin to start combat. While paladins have more uses for their Bonus Action than fighters, you still don’t always need them on turn 1 of combat. Relentless Endurance adds to the Paladin’s already impressive durability, giving you a good opportunity to dump all of your Lay on Hands point into healing yourself in a hurry.

Ranger

Rangers lean heavily on their Bonus Action, so using Adrenaline Rush presents a significant reduction to your damage output which is often hard to justify.

Rogue

Adrenaline Rush is partially redundant with Cunning Action, and using Relentless Endurance should be an extreme rarity for the Rogue. Between the ease of getting out of melee and Uncanny Dodge, rogues are already plenty durable.

Sorcerer

Adrenaline Rush and Relentless Endurance provide some helpful insurance on a frail class, but they won’t make you better as a sorcerer. If you’re worried about being out of range, use a long-range spell or make enemies come to you.

Warlock

Adrenaline Rush and Relentless Endurance provide some helpful insurance on a frail class, but they won’t make you better as a warlock. If you’re worried about being out of range, use a long-range spell or make enemies come to you.

Wizard

Adrenaline Rush and Relentless Endurance provide some helpful insurance on a frail class, but they won’t make you better as a wizard. If you’re worried about being out of range, use a long-range spell or make enemies come to you.

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

Aggressive is passable for melee armorer builds, but other artificers will frequently use their Bonus Action every turn.

Barbarian

Rage also uses your Bonus Action, and many barbarian subclasses have a Bonus Action option which you’ll use repeatedly, so it’s hard to use Aggressive on turn 1 when it really matters, and most barbarians won’t want to use it once they’re raging.

Bard

If you are far enough away that Aggressive seems like a good idea, you should be casting spells.

Cleric

Use Aggressive to charge into melee before activating Spirit Guardians, then use Aggressive to chase your enemies when they try to escape your magical radiant damage blender. Probably best for cleric domains with heavy armor.

Druid

Many druid subclasses don’t use their Bonus Action, but druids also typically don’t want to be in melee. Circle of the Moon is your best bet, but only because Aggressive should work while using Wild Shape. Just remember that using Wild Shape will also use your Bonus Action, so you can’t do both in the same turn.

Fighter

Fighters have few uses for their Bonus Action, so Aggressive works great for melee builds. Two skills also help you do something useful outside of combat.

Monk

Aggressive is redundant with Step of the Wind, and monks get a scaling speed bonus that should make Aggressive unnecessary in almost any fight beyond low levels.

Paladin

Paladins are almost exclusively build for melee, so Aggressive works great as long as you’re not using your Bonus Action for spells or Channel Divinity. Two skills will also help you expand beyond Face skills.

Ranger

The Ranger already relies heavily on their Bonus Action, so Aggressive is hard to use, especially early in combat where Aggressive is most useful.

Rogue

Agressive is redundant with Cunning Action. Play a tabaxi if you desperately want more movement.

Sorcerer

If you’re out of range to cast every one of your spells, your enemies are almost certainly out of range to hurt you, too. Use that time to give yourself and advantage rather than running screaming into their attack range with Aggressive. The extra skills are great, but two skills and Darkvision is available from numerous races.

Warlock

If you’re out of range to cast every one of your spells, your enemies are almost certainly out of range to hurt you, too. Use that time to give yourself and advantage rather than running screaming into their attack range with Aggressive. The extra skills are great, but two skills and Darkvision is available from numerous races.

Wizard

If you’re out of range to cast every one of your spells, your enemies are almost certainly out of range to hurt you, too. Use that time to give yourself and advantage rather than running screaming into their attack range with Aggressive. The extra skills are great, but two skills and Darkvision is available from numerous races.

Classes (Classic 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 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 Aggressive 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.