D&D 5E How Are Orcs Different In Your World? (+)


5e Freelancer
It's been a while since I made a thread like this, but after making some heavy revisions to what Orcs are like in my world, I decided it would be nice to see how they're like in other people's homebrew worlds. Write as much or as little as you want (I'm going to keep it relatively short). And keep in mind that this is a (+) thread, so please remain positive and constructive.

Orcs in my World:

In my world, the main Orcish culture worships the formerly-Primordial Nature God (based on 4e's version of Ubtao) and serves as the world's Rangers and Barbarians, guardians that protect the balance of civilization and nature. They tame and ride dinosaurs (building moving villages on the backs of some of the biggest ones), have developed the practice of creating magic tattoos (from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, along with a few homebrew ones) and hunt down anyone that abuses magic to the extent that it harms the world (basically preventing the world from becoming like Athas). Due to this, they often come into conflict with powerful, intelligent creatures that abuse their power, commonly Giants and Dragons, and thus have trained their most powerful warriors in the art of riding ancient Arcosaurs (T-Rexes, Quetzalcoatluses, Plesiosaurs) and slaying Dragons, Giants, Krackens, and other Kaiju-sized monsters.

Okay, that's basically how Orcs work in my world. What are they like in yours? How are they different from standard D&D Orcs (mindless monsters that worship Gruumsh and can be killed without moral repurcussions)? Or, if they are basically mindless monsters, how are they different from the standard D&D version of them (like Warhammer 40k's take on Orks)?

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I'm not sure mine are much different from the standard, other than that they are "grown", not born. Similar to Star War's clones without the precise quality control (they don't look identical) their thought patterns and motivations are directly controlled by Gruumsh. There are no female or juvenile orcs, although when they first emerge they are the weakest variety. The few that survive for long become more powerful, there are elite orcs that are far tougher than anything in the MM.

Orcs are spawned and incubate in Jotunheim which also contains the realm of Gruumsh, and are hatched in Midgard (the prime material in D&D terms) using blood sacrifices and ritual usually carried out by orcish priests. Half-orcs can come from inter-breeding but most half-orcs have one or both parents that are half-orcs.

Whether you can kill them without moral qualms is another issue. It's not like people go out to hunt them unless they are a threat to others. Honestly, I don't care too much about moral quandaries, orcs only exist in my world because they serve a specific purpose in the fiction of the world and will only be encountered if they are an active threat. I don't find quandaries about what to do with orc babies (if there were any in my world, there are not) something I care to deal with.

They are not a naturally occurring species, although in theory if someone could figure out how to remove the magical "chip" in their brains (again, similar to Storm Troopers) it's theoretically possible they could become one. Whether that happens or not will largely be decided by the group when we discuss whether or not orcs will be a playable race.
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In my homebrew world, their are a host of Narnia-like sapient animals that go under the umbrella term Bremyn.

The wild boar Bremyn are specifically know as Orks. They aren't inherently evil, but they are fiercely territorial.


How are they different from standard D&D Orcs (mindless monsters that worship Gruumsh and can be killed without moral repurcussions)?

Well, it's plain to see where your feelings lie.

For me, they're fecund monstrous humanoids that worship Gruumsh and are often killed because they give blood to their god. But there's always repercussions. But I don't expect everyone to use orcs like me.


Most orcs are pig faced in my games. They are pretty much like any other intelligent humanoid species, having clans that are barbaric and ruthless like traditional orcs, to more advanced societies. Several months ago I did an issue of the Gnoll Sage focusing on several unique clans.



I've been toying around with how I'd make the different species in DnD feel more alien, and one idea I want to explore for orcs in the future is based on a couple of different sources of inspiration.

First, I really want to use the orcs to explore big emotion. Big happiness, big sadness, big romance, big anger. Orcs under this paradigm would probably be very creative, which leads to the second thing I'd want to explore with them: a cultural push toward musicality, to the point that they tend to speak in a sing-songy fashion, a la the parshendi in the Stormlight Archives.

It's very basic. I had used the idea of W40k orcs for a while where they, and the goblinoids, were all mushroom people who let out bursts of spores on death that would grow into new baddies, but the older I get the less I want beings that can speak to also be, well, monstrous.

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
Depends, if I want them closer to Tolkien, I change their type to monstrosities and give them sunlight-sensitivity.

If I want them really just crazed blood-thirsty monsters, I go the DA's Darkspawn route and make them raised from the lightning-struck bloody mud where an act of cruelty happened, with a type of monstrosity or aberration. Orcs are made from human, goblins from dwarves, bugbears from elves and ogres from larger creatures.

Or I go the Warcraft/Elder scroll and make them a proud people with its own culture and whatnot.

It has been a while since I've run my world with orcs. But one of their key features in it is their very heightened sense of smell. Orcs can be civilized or barbaric in the setting, but when they get civilized they tend to be very finicky about hygiene and odors. They do still tend to be marital. The tribal orcs are more like vikings or germanic tribes, the civilized ones like Romans.


In my Six Kingdoms setting, orcs were created by elven archmages as shock troopers for the Elf-Goblin War. They are a fusion of elf, human, dwarf, ogre, and hobgoblin. The dwarf bones carried the ogre muscle. Human ambition and hobgoblin pide coverted into aggression and short temper. Elf was to slim down the bulk.

A half-orc is a orc who expresses heavy human or elf blood.
A orog is an orc who expressed heavy hobgoblin blood.
An ogillion is an orc that expressed heavy ogre blood.
Heavy dwarf blood orcs tended to die in utero.

However after the elves won, they treated the orcs like second class citizen and offered them no rights in the Feywild. So most left, splitting into tribal nations.

The Red Orcs sought revenge and revel in their hate of elves and gobliniods.
The Albino Orcs used magic to turn all white and went to the Underdark to hunt drow and shadar kai.
The Green Orcs sought a new life and became spiritualistic raiders.
The Brown Orcs grew attached to nature, settled down, and became civilized.
The Blue Orcs decided to embrace their brutality and become all professional mercenaries.


Orcs once had a large and stable empire on one continent of my World of Eska. Peaceful and benevolent and overflowing with resources. That is, until the elves came and wiped them from the face of the planet.


Is it me, or are more and more DM's casting elves as pretty nasty? (In one of my homebrews elves were decadent isolationist demon summoners that had created halflings as a slave race.)


Orcs for me tend to be sort of the utility player of the humanoid races - every game I've run, they've played a different role, from straight-up mindless hordes to noble savages living in harmony with nature to oppressed people fighting for their freedom...
(In that game, which was a party-as-military unit game, the party were heroes of their "Golden Empire, the height of Civilization" which was at war with the "Evil Orc Hordes", but after getting captured and talking to the Orcs' leader (who turned out to be highly intelligent, eloquent, and one of the Great Generals of History), the party realizes that they're on the wrong side and actually working for the "Evil Empire"... The rest of the game involves them helping the Orc freedom fighters.)

If anyone hasn't read it, I recommend Stan Nicholls' Orcs trilogy - it's a great take on the orcs as a second-class warrior race bred for battle but having developed a much deeper, richer culture than other think them capable of.
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Is it me, or are more and more DM's casting elves as pretty nasty? (In one of my homebrews elves were decadent isolationist demon summoners that had created halflings as a slave race.)
I've done a couple Elf civilizations that were xenophobic, racist, or both. Their internal variety, extremely long lives, and connections to magic make them much more alien to me than something like an Orc or Tiefling.

As for Orcs in my worlds they've been a lot of different things. The theme that is common for them is that they are always a tragedy of some kind. Weapons for war, exiled peoples, abandoned by their creators, etc.

Is it me, or are more and more DM's casting elves as pretty nasty? (In one of my homebrews elves were decadent isolationist demon summoners that had created halflings as a slave race.)

I've long had elves as villains or difficult to deal with. I think it is built into the concept (at least as they appear in fantasy because they do often come with a sense of superiority over other groups). But elves are fun because their long life span allows for interesting thought experiments around their culture (i.e. how does a very long lived creature deal with the possibility of a violent death cutting that short)

I haven't been gaming in a long time, but when I was a DM, I treated them more or less as Vikings... raiders who could show up at unexpected times and generally pillage. I even had one batch of them who decided to copy the northmen longboats and took to sea raiding...


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I love worldbuilding, so every campaign I run is in a new homebrew setting, usually one with significant changes from the default setting to present a fresh take on things.

Let's see, my current campaign my orcs are different by not seeming to exist. They have never come up in play, no one has played a half-orc, and there hasn't been a single reference to orc. Of course my mainland is a old civilization failing Imperium and only the civilized races remain (and not all of them - Dwaves were genocided, and both Halflings and Drow are created races, with vHuman being that same tinkering to the noble line.) And there's a new world but I explicitly was doing uncommon races and such there, like Wemics. There was fiendish gnolls and frost giants, the closest to "normal" races there.

My last campaign the orcs were united and actually broke out into war against the alliance of their hereditary enemies the dwarves and the human kingdom, secretly being orchestrated by the Queen of the Elves. (With the actual end goal of obliterating a magical floating city of the humans that had been built by the old Wizard King who is now the Lich King and was thought by the Queen of the Elves to be his phylactery. Oh, and and like half a dozen lesser goals, the plans of elves last centuries.)

The campaigns before that (two campaigns in the same setting, 80 years apart) the world had a cosmology that this particular material plane was easier to get to, and a bunch of different deities over the millennia has brought "their people" here to escape genocide, catastrophes and the like. There were two very different sets of orcs, from different pantheons and different home material planes, at different times. The Northern Steppes had seven orken tribes, horse nomads loosely modelled after the Mongols, each tribe with it's own core tenant. On the other hand the Archipelago Orks were a more advanced civilization that controlled the seas in an rea. They were slavers, working with a fledgling metropolitan LN kingdom that accepted any race, had legal slaves and undead-as-workers. There was also some nameless evil (literally, it was a blank spot in my notes and it didn't come up in either campaign) that lived in a volcano on one of their islands that they may have worshiped.
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