log in or register to remove this ad

 

5E What Makes an Orc an Orc?

Status
Not open for further replies.

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The thing I didn't fully understand but am starting to wrap my head around is that for some people it's not just that certain races should be able to start with certain ability scores, but that other races...or at least some other races...should be limited to lower scores.

So it's not that Orcs (for example) need to be able to start with Strength 16, or 17, or 18, but that whatever that threshold is, Halflings and Gnomes are capped at some lower value.

Is that right?
Because a 1 foot Pixie probably shouldn't be running around with a 20 strength. Size matters for some people with how strong a creature should be able to be. Personally, I don't need realism to that degree, but other people do and there's nothing wrong with it.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


Remathilis

Legend
Pick three feats, call it a species.

Official species can suggest three or more feats, like abiliy boost, darkvision, misty step, skillset, whatever. A player can pick none, one, or some of these feats, or different feats to customize their own concept of the species. Happily, while leveling and gaining new feats, they can spend these feats to continue developing into a highly powerful species, such as a dragon.
Have I got a system for you!

 

Because a 1 foot Pixie probably shouldn't be running around with a 20 strength. Size matters for some people with how strong a creature should be able to be. Personally, I don't need realism to that degree, but other people do and there's nothing wrong with it.
But even if Pixies were a playable race, and even if they were given a -5 to strength, if a player really wanted a Pixie with 20 strength, they could eventually get there. Because of ASIs.
 

Lord Twig

Explorer
I wasn't able to read all 18 pages, but the original quesiton is "What makes an orc an orc?" Well, I happen to have a Monster Manual printed in 1979 (4th edition) and it actually has a lot to say about orcs.

We can ignore most of the stat block, Frequency, No. Appearing, and stuff like that, but here are a few interesting lines:
INTELLIGENCE: Average (low)
ALIGNMENT: Lawful evil
SIZE: M (6' + tall)

Then the description:
Orc tribes are fiercely competitive, and when they meet it is 75% likely that they will fight each other unless a strong leader (such as a wizard, evil priest, evil lord) with sufficient force behind him is on hand to control the orcs. Being bullies, the stronger will always intimidate and dominate the weaker. (If goblins are near, for example, and the orcs are strong enough, they will happily bully them.) Orcs dwell in places where sunlight is dim or non-existent, for they hate the light. In full daylight they must deduct 1 from their dice rolls to hit opponents, but they see well even in total darkness (infravision).

Then there is several paragraphs talking about know orc tribe names how many leaders, chiefs and sub-chiefs there are depending on the number of orcs in a group and orc lairs. An interesting note in there is that there will be "females equal to 50% of the number of males, young equal to 100% of the number of males". The following paragraph says orcs gain a +1 on hit dice and morale checks when fighting near their tribal standard.

This paragraph is interesting:
Orcs are cruel and hate living things in general, but they particularly hate elves and will always attack them in preference to other creatures. They take slaves for work, food and entertainment (torture, etc.) but not elves whom they kill immediately.

A couple short paragraphs about tunneling/mining and the languages they speak (orc, goblin, hobgoblin, ogre and lawful evil), then there is the physical description:
Orcs appear particularly disgusting because their coloration - brown or brownish green with a blueish sheen - highlights their pinkish snouts and ears. Their bristly hair is dark brown or black, sometimes with tan patches. Even their armor tends to be unattractive - dirty and often a bit rusty. Orcs favor unpleasant colors in general. Their garments are in tribal colors, as are shield devices or trim. Typical colors are blood red, rust red, mustard yellow, yellow green, moss green, greenish purple, and blackish brown. They live for 40 years.

Final paragraph:
Half-Orcs: As orcs will breed with anything, there are any number of unsavory mongrels with orcish blood, particularly orc-goblins, or-hobgoblins, and orc-humans. Orcs cannot cross-breed with elves. Half-orcs tend to favor the orcish strain heavily, so such sorts are basically orcs although they can sometimes (10%) pass themselves off as true creatures of their other stock (goblins, hobgoblins, humans, etc.).

So wow. The 70s. Different time to be sure. I was a young kids in the 70s, and it was honestly pretty bad. But yeah, we have come a long way.

My 2cp on the topic of orcs and racism...

It has been said that the words used to describe the savagery and other unpleasant attributes of orcs has also been used to describe blacks and other people of color. But the thing is, I don't think this is a problem with the description of orcs, which are a fantasy alien race created or shaped by a fictional god to be an evil army of savage killers. There is no race in the history of the real world that has anything like orcs. They are complete fiction.

The problem is that racist people have been describing real people of other ethnicities as the same as fictional savages. It honestly seems more far more insulting to me to suggest that orcs are like black people, therefore they shouldn't have a -2 intelligence. WHAT!? Orcs are a fictional alien race that are NOT like any type of human. Any suggestion that they are is frankly insulting. And the fact that racists have described people as orc-like is the insult, not the orcs themselves.

So yeah, keep the fictional evil alien bad guys, lose the racism that suggest that normal, regular people are the same as a fictional alien race.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But even if Pixies were a playable race, and even if they were given a -5 to strength, if a player really wanted a Pixie with 20 strength, they could eventually get there. Because of ASIs.
Not if there's a racial maximum. There are people out there who want that level of realism. Personally, I think they should change the game themselves.

Also, what do you think the odds or that someone would make a pixie PC, buy up to a 15 strength, get the -5 dropping down to a 10, and then put every stat increase into strength? I'm going to go with freaking low. That PC would be gimped big time in comparison to a stronger race.
 

Lord Twig

Explorer
Honestly I just don't even know what to say at this point.
Okay. Wow. That is some incredibly dishonest editing and is not at all what I said.

A more complete quote would be "But the thing is, I don't think this is a problem with the description of orcs". I then start the next paragraph saying that the problem is describing real people as being like a savage fictional race. That is completely opposite of what you are suggesting I said with your dishonest quote.

I can't even... Urgh! I can't even describe how upsetting it is to see that! Shame on you!
 

First, there are some good points here! But...


With STR +2 universal to all orcs, but not all humans put a +1 in STR and take a feat that also grants a +1 in STR.

So, overall, orcs are "just stronger" than Humans.
And, elves are more dexterous than Humans.
And so on...

It is also why a lot of table like capping ability scores at 18, but your racial modifier increases the cap. So, using this, orcs would have a max STR 20, while a human would be limited to 19 (if you put a ASI +1 from human into STR).

And to a lot of players, myself included, orcs should be stronger than humans (overall, that is... ;) ).

Houseruling doesn't change what the RAW is.

Also, sure, not all humans do that. So all orcs are stronger than some humans, but humans are just as strong if they care to be.

And "I am stronger than most humans" is not what people are talking about, they want stronger than all humans. Which Orcs aren't. Orcs are only stronger than humans how don't decide to be strong.

And, again, the feat is just to match that 17 exactly. Humans can get a 16 just fine, which is mechanically identical.
 

Also, what do you think the odds or that someone would make a pixie PC, buy up to a 15 strength, get the -5 dropping down to a 10, and then put every stat increase into strength? I'm going to go with freaking low. That PC would be gimped big time in comparison to a stronger race.
Very low probability. I mean, very high probability in the entire D&D ecosystem, but very low probability at any one table.

But...would it really be a problem for you if somebody did?

Would it be a problem if D&D went to floating +2/+1, and somebody showed up with at your table with a 17 strength halfling.
 

Houseruling doesn't change what the RAW is.

Also, sure, not all humans do that. So all orcs are stronger than some humans, but humans are just as strong if they care to be.

And "I am stronger than most humans" is not what people are talking about, they want stronger than all humans. Which Orcs aren't. Orcs are only stronger than humans how don't decide to be strong.

And, again, the feat is just to match that 17 exactly. Humans can get a 16 just fine, which is mechanically identical.
I sometimes get the sense in this debate that some people are taking statistical distributions and assuming it must map to a 4-person adventuring party. "Orcs are stronger than humans, therefore the orc must be the strongest party member."
 

Lord Twig

Explorer
Going to try to stay on topic, but explain my thought process about updating the orc.

So what makes an orc and orc, at least in D&D, is that they are savage, evil killers. They are not supposed to be sympathetic characters. Now, say in World of Warcraft, orcs are a noble species with a proud and honorable warrior tradition from a different planet. You are supposed to be able to identify with them and understand their struggles. However, both takes on orcs are NOT human.

I have been reading about people removing the Int penalty, but really, that would just make it slightly less racist to compare people to orcs. I mean, they are still savage and usually evil, but at least you aren't calling them stupid. And of course that is not enough. To not be insulting at all you would basically have to make the orcs completely human.

Or, the other option, just don't compare people to fictional races. That just seems simpler and the obvious way to avoid being racist.

Now I am fine if people want to point out where I am incorrect in my reasoning. I'm of course willing to listen to reasoned arguments. But I won't sit idle while I am insulted.
 

squibbles

Explorer
Honestly I just don't even know what to say at this point.
If you're gonna quote somebody out of context in a way that misrepresents what they're saying, you gotta quote them out of context far enough from the original quote that the misrepresentation isn't immediately obvious. It's too easy to spot the sleight of hand otherwise ;)

Also, it was @Lord Twig's first post in the thread. If you made counterarguments earlier, maybe you could post a quote of yourself in response.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
What makes a human a human?
What makes D&D be D&D?
What makes good be good?
What makes lawful be lawful?
What makes magic be magic?
What makes verisimilitude verisimilitude?

The point is that specifying specifically what makes something be something is difficult. It comes down to Essential qualities vs sufficient qualities.

Consider this: for any Finite description I can imagine something that meets that description while having an additional quality that differentiates the thing I imagine from the original thing.

What this means is that our definitions of things are based on comparing them with other things.
 

Okay. Wow. That is some incredibly dishonest editing and is not at all what I said.

A more complete quote would be "But the thing is, I don't think this is a problem with the description of orcs". I then start the next paragraph saying that the problem is describing real people as being like a savage fictional race. That is completely opposite of what you are suggesting I said with your dishonest quote.

I can't even... Urgh! I can't even describe how upsetting it is to see that! Shame on you!
Maybe I should have edited down to just the bolded part. Or even just the "I don't think..."

The point I was making...and in doing so I may be making incorrect assumptions about your heredity...is that it really doesn't matter whether or not you or I think there's a problem with any of this. Because we're not the ones being hurt by it.

(Just deleted several paragraphs. I'll just leave it at that.)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
My 2cp on the topic of orcs and racism...

It has been said that the words used to describe the savagery and other unpleasant attributes of orcs has also been used to describe blacks and other people of color. But the thing is, I don't think this is a problem with the description of orcs, which are a fantasy alien race created or shaped by a fictional god to be an evil army of savage killers. There is no race in the history of the real world that has anything like orcs. They are complete fiction.

The problem is that racist people have been describing real people of other ethnicities as the same as fictional savages. It honestly seems more far more insulting to me to suggest that orcs are like black people, therefore they shouldn't have a -2 intelligence. WHAT!? Orcs are a fictional alien race that are NOT like any type of human. Any suggestion that they are is frankly insulting. And the fact that racists have described people as orc-like is the insult, not the orcs themselves.

So yeah, keep the fictional evil alien bad guys, lose the racism that suggest that normal, regular people are the same as a fictional alien race.
I don’t know what’s been said in this particular thread, but the “orcs are fictional” point has been discussed ad nauseam in several other recent threads.

Simply put, you cannot use descriptions that denigrate or demonize real world groups or ethnicities and hide behind a claim that you’re talking about a fictIonal group or ethnicity. At worst, it’s still racist. At best, it’s lazy writing.

Because the number of races/species/groups that have been described by countless writers of fiction and designers of games without using the language of real-world bigotry is literally in the tens of thousands at least.
 

Mecheon

Adventurer
So what makes an orc and orc, at least in D&D, is that they are savage, evil killers.
Not accurate to D&D pretty much, ever. D&D literately had Many Arrows that basically went "Yeah, nah" to that whole concept and several dozen variants on playable orcs. Grey orcs, half orcs, orogs, those weird horned half-orcs who were swordmasters.... Plenty of evidence against it

D&D orcs have always been presented as sapient for decades at this point and not just one note 'generic race to kill'. Raiders? Sure. Aggressive and not friendly? Also sure. Savage? Well, they got their style. Evil? Debatable, especially once we bring Spelljammer into it and point out how the Spelljammer elves are unquestionable 110% Evil. Killers? About as much as any adventuring party
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Very low probability. I mean, very high probability in the entire D&D ecosystem, but very low probability at any one table.

But...would it really be a problem for you if somebody did?
I don't care if you give an individual bacteria a 20 strength. I was just explaining since you were having trouble wrapping your head around it. It matters to some people and is a reasonable limitation at their tables.

Would it be a problem if D&D went to floating +2/+1, and somebody showed up with at your table with a 17 strength halfling.
The floating +2, +1 would bother me. I don't care to cap stats, but races are built differently and should excel in different areas as a race. Individuals can be exceptions to that, but it should be a noteworthy exception. I dislike homogeneity with a passion, and moving to a floating +2, +1 for all PC races as a rather huge step in that direction.

I want to be able to play a immensely strong dwarven fighter, because dwarves are strong. I want to be able to buck the racial norm and play a mountain dwarf wizard with a +2 Str bonus and +2 con, just to be the black sheep of the family. A floating +2, +1 prevents me from being able to do that.
 

Lord Twig

Explorer
I don’t know what’s been said in this particular thread, but the “orcs are fictional” point has been discussed ad nauseam in several other recent threads.

Simply put, you cannot use descriptions that denigrate or demonize real world groups or ethnicities and hide behind a claim that you’re talking about a fictIonal group or ethnicity. At worst, it’s still racist. At best, it’s lazy writing.

Because the number of races/species/groups that have been described by countless writers of fiction and designers of games without using the language of real-world bigotry is literally in the tens of thousands at least.
So orcs would still be a usually evil and violent race of creatures, but they would just be described differently so that it doesn't mimic descriptions that have been used to demonize real world groups of people? I mean, that would be great, but I would be surprised if that were possible. It's just that I would be surprised that there are any words to describe that kind of fantasy race that real world racists have not used.

Perhaps some examples of the "countless" descriptions that have been used? And I mean for a race of evil creatures that would make for a good guilt free opponent. Sure you can write about an admirable but misunderstood race, but that wouldn't fill the same role that orcs are expected to fill in default D&D.

And yes, I read Mecheon's post about examples of orcs that are not chaotic evil savage raiders, but they are not the problem. The problem is how to have fictional race that is useful for providing enemies to a group of heroic adventurers. Adventurers that don't want to debate philosophy, but just want to go out, defeat the bad guys, rescue the innocent, and win some treasure.

And a final note about the "it really doesn't matter whether or not you or I think there's a problem with any of this. Because we're not the ones being hurt by it" argument. So we can't decide what the problem is, but we can decide what the solution should be? And note that I am not saying there is NO problem, I am pointing out that the proposed solutions my be trying to fix the wrong thing.

It's like having a car with a broken engine, and trying to fix it with a new coat of paint. It doesn't matter how much you "fix" orcs. It will not fix the problem of people being compared to a violent race of creatures that do not actually exist. People have already brought up drow, gnolls, goblins and hobgoblins. You can't fix them all. Or if you did you would just have a bunch of different looking humans.

This is all just my opinion of course. I think it is fair to express our opinions on the problem, as well as the solution, to hopefully provide clarity to the situation.
 

Status
Not open for further replies.

COMING SOON: 5 Plug-In Settlements for your 5E Game

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top