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D&D General what would a good orc culture be like?

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Minus the raiding and plundering, that'd probably make them evil?


You can go a lot of directions here.

Firstly, what do you mean by a "good" culture? Culture is usually judged as "good" or "bad" based on their rules (slavery, freedom, oppression etc...) and their relationship to "our" culture. Interestingly, we can usually tolerate a lot of bad rules as long as the culture treats us as friendly, or is of value to us.

So for your "good" orcs you need a society that either champions a lot of things we think of as good OR you could have one as brutal and nasty as you want as long as the main culture needs them for economic or safety reasons.

Interestingly, a culture full of good things would be characterised as "evil" if its goals conflict with the main culture. Who knows, your orcs could already be good? Perhaps everyone has been told that they are "evil, dumb savages" because powerful people want to do something to them, like, I don't know, take their land.

It also depends what you mean by "orcishness". If you take that to mean "primal". Then you want either a low technology society, or a strong focus on quality over quantity (more individual master crafters, much less mass production). Or a society with technology/magic so advanced that it aligns with the natural world.

If by orcish you mean warlike, then that is easy - just have their enemies be your cultures enemies too. Perhaps they live between your society and a really dangerous place, like a planar rift. Their existence, and prowess, protects you.

So to sum up, a good orcish culture can look like pretty much anything. We only see them as good or bad based on how they treat us.


One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
The way I would do it is make them all primal-y, not feral, but in tune with nature and spirits and respecting your ancestors, All Druids and Rangers and Priests and Paladins, maybe a smattering of Sorcerers too, they still value strength and have strong beliefs but it’s tempered with a respect for the world around them and a spiritualism, i can also see them partnering with one of the nature-ish species like halflings, gnomes or wood-elves.


The High Aldwin
It could really be whatever you want it to be. You're defining them as a "good" culture lets you make them however you want. 🤷‍♂️

What would be really interesting (if not impossible) is to make them something unique to real life instead of copying cultures we already know (either historical or not).

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
Depends how much you want to go into values dissonance. For example, much like the Mandalorians, they could be a warrior race open to anyone who can prove themselves and live according to their cultural values. They would thus be less racist than many other fantasy cultures, which would make our age look on them favorably. Elves look askance at anyone who can't prove elvish ancestors to the third generation (and introduce you to them), humans want you to be at least half-human to fit in, but anyone can be an orc if they can survive for a year and a day and fight in three battles.

We (and I'm going to go with 'Anglophone countries' for 'we' since I'm an American writing in English on a British board) haven't fought a big, existential war in a while, so we tend to look down on the usual values of warrior cultures like ferocity (indeed, the popularity of RPGs set in the preindustrial world may be a way of vicariously expressing that part of ourselves). But you could foreground other values like bravery and fortitude--as Bedrockgames suggests, perhaps paladinish, or mix that with the samurai if you want a different feel. Closeness to nature could be another one they could have that some moderns appreciate--as Vaalingrade says, they could have the best druids. You could also have them fighting something much worse--it's only the Orc Nations at the border of the Abyss that keep demons, dragons, or Cthulhoid monstrosities from overrunning the world.

What we're not going to have (unless you are specifically going counterstereotype, which is an option of course) are bookish or bureaucratic orcs. The orcish stereotype has gone from 'evil' in Tolkien to 'martial non-state societies', I'd say.

If you want to go with 'neutral' rather than 'good', you can look at the way nomadic societies were organized--after all, all the histories are written by state societies. Genghis Khan unified the Silk Road and was quite tolerant religiously--but he killed a lot of Chinese people. The Goths were just trying to stay a step ahead of the Huns when they ran into the Roman Empire, but we all know what happened next. Good? Bad? Well, speaking of gigantic melancholies and mirth, who's your chronicler? I mean, all the propaganda about orcs is obviously made up by effete elves who enslaved them three hundred years ago and greedy humans looking for cheap labor in their cities who are now trying to excuse themselves.
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Not a good-aligned society but not an evil one in my setting;

The orcs of my setting put value on passion and toughness (taken from the half-orc brutal crit and resilience traits). Being able to deal with your pain has been useful in the past and now, culturally, they see it as a judge of character. This results in practices that other cultures regard as barbaric like arguments being settled by both parties holding a hot coal and whoever pulls away first is 'in the right' or their theater culture being more like gladiator shows mixed with modern pro-wrestling.
"I care not what you say I have done! If you accuse me stand with me on the coals of the bonfire and accuse me!"
The goal is to present a culture that is functional in-universe but still foreign from any my players would have experienced.

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