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Pathfinder 2e - The Orc Handbook

Last Updated: October 8th, 2020

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • 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.

Introduction

The Orc is the stereotypical muscular brute, and while Pathfinder does a great deal to break reaces away from historical tropes, there's a lot about the Orc that really supports that stereotype. They're strong, hard to kill, and they thrive in melee, but anything else takes serious work.

Mechanically, the Orc's most notable unique feature is how hard they are to kill. A Hold-Scarred Orc with the Orc Ferocity feat chain is exceptionally difficult to kill, making them a great option for players who tend to draw a lot of attacks or who just want to flirt with death a bit more than they should.

Orc Ancestry Traits

  • Hit Points: Above-average hit points, which is helpful since orcs are more inclined to pursue melee classes.
  • Size: Medium. Medium and small size have few functional differences in Pathfinder 2e.
  • Speed: 25 ft. is standard.
  • Ability Boosts: Just two Ability Boosts is unusual. You can use the Optional Flaw rules to get a third, but it's often easier to stick to classes which can work with the two that you get.
  • Languages: Racial language plus Common is standard.
  • Senses: Darkvision is really good, and since it's part of the base race you don't need to spend your Heritage or a feat to get it.

Orc Heritages

  • Badlands Orc: Buy a horse or a camel or something.
  • Deep Orc: Two very situational skill feats.
  • Hold-Scarred Orc: Diehard is a good feat for front-line martial characters.
  • Rainfall Orc: A bunch of situational effects.

Orc Feats

Level 1

  • Beast Trainer: Neat, but not very good. If you want a trained animal that's not just a moving target for your enemies, you need either a Familiar or an Animal Companion.
  • Iron Fists: This raises your fists to 1d4 damage with the Shove trait. Maybe that's useful on a monk or something, but usually if you're fighting unarmed you'll have a way to get better unarmed attacks like a stance or something.
  • Orc Ferocity: This could keep you in a fight long enough to recieve healing or to tip things in favor of your allies before you get hit again and go down. But hitting 0 hit points while Wounded is scary, so be sure to take Diehard to increase your Wounded cap and try to use Treat Wounds when combat ends to remove the Wounded condition.
  • Orc Lore: Survival is too situational.
  • Orc Superstition: Spells and magic effects are reasonably common, but this is still situational. A +1 bonus isn't mathematically significant, and Circumstance bonuses are the most common type of bonus.
  • Orc Weapon Familiarity: This makes the Orc Knuckledagger a Simple Weapon, allowing it to be used by many classes that might enjoy it like the Ruffian Rogue. The Orc Knuckledagger is similar in many ways to the Shortsword, but gives up Finesse for Disarm. This also makes the Orc Necksplitter a Martial Weapon. The Orc Necksplitter gives you the damage die of the Battleaxe and the Traits of the Scimitar, so you get d8 damage dice, Forceful, and Sweep on the same weapon, allowing you to either focus on single targets or split your focus between several.
  • Tusks: Basically a shortsword strapped to your face.

Level 5

  • Athletic Might: Situational.
  • Bloody Blows: Persistent damage is great, so for any build that relies on unarmed strikes this can be a significant improvement to your damage output. Similare Ancestry Feats typically don't become available until 9th level. If you really like this, you can combine it with the Changeling's Accursed Claws and get two sets of persistent damage from each critical hit.
  • Hold Mark: Generally if your class expects you to use a weapon you'll have a built-in way to use Critical Specialization Effects. This is notably one of very few Ancestry Feats that allows you to get Critical Specialization Effects that isn't in a X Weapon Familiarity feat chain.
  • Orc Weapon Carnage: It's weird that the Orc gets two Ancestry Feats to get access to Critical Specialization Effects. They cover different sets of weapons, but it's still weird.
  • Victorious Vigor: A tiny amount of temporary hit points and the duration is really short. This generally isn't good enough to cost your Reaction, especially if you have class features that use it like Attack of Opportunity.

Level 9

  • Death's Drums: If you have Orc Ferocity, it can be very easy for you to walk around all day Wounded, which means that you get an easy +2 bonus to Fortitude saves.
  • Pervasive Superstition: A persistent +1 bonus to saves against magic is pretty good. If you don't have other sources of Circumstance bonuses, this is at least worth considering. You do need Orc Supersistion first, so it may not be worth two feats.
  • Undying Ferocity: If you're going to take Orc Ferocity, this is an easy choice. The temporary hit points may be enough to absorb one or two attacks, which will keep you from falling unconscious immediately aftering using Orc Ferocity.

Level 13

  • Ferocious Beasts: If you're a druid, a ranger, or any other build with that depends on an Animal Companion or a Familiar (or both), this is a great way to keep those precious allies alive. Obviously not every build can use this, and characters that rely heavily on pets will get more out of it.
  • Incredible Ferocity: By this level it should be easy for you or someone else in your party to be at least Trained in Medicine so that you can use Treat Wounds and reliably hit the DC of 15 (Proficiency Bonus at level 13 with Trained is +15, so it's really hard to mess up). Conveniently, Treat Wounds has a 1-hour cooldown so you can use Incredible Ferocity and Treat Wounds on the same timeline (don't forge the 10-minute time on the Treat Wounds Activity). You'll be giving up the bonus from Death's Drums at least temporarily, but it will keep your Wounded score from getting scary.
  • Orc Weapon Expertise: The Orc Knuckledagger and the Orc Necksplitter are both worthwhile, but I wouldn't build around them unless you can already advance your proficiency with them just based on Orc Weapon Familiarity.
  • Spell Devourer: This one is hard. Spells and magic effects are common, but are they common enough that you can afford a feat that only applies when you succeed on a saving throw against them? The effect is great in those cases, but it's still only situationally useful.

Level 17

  • Rampaging Ferocity: I wouldn't consider this essential, but if you're getting a lot of use out of Orcish Ferocity, this may be worth the feat.