Racial Bias: Half-Orcs
Hang on to your horned helms, my friends. We are about to get 50 Shades of heavy metal today! There are many badass races that have graced the pages of our favorite role-playing games, but few can hold a candle.. screw that, few can hold a roaring torch to the monumental badassery that is the half-orc; a creature that might as well be a walking, talking Black Sabbath album (The ones with Dio)!
Half-orcs are my all time second favorite race of all time, just barely edged out by the dwarf. If only half-orcs had better beards, it would be a cinch. Sadly, they don't... because it was probably hacked, slashed, ripped or burned off in a fight with something God-awful!
Just the way it should be.
Best Of Both Worlds
Half-orcs have the glorious distinction of having the best parts of both orcs and human. From their orcish kin, they gain powerful muscles, insatiable bloodlust, and stubborn ability to tell death to wait his goddamned turn! From the human stock, they experience the ability to adapt to just about any situation or climate as well as a little perspective.
While orcs love themselves a kill-crazy rampage and ripping out someone's spine to make a nice belt, a half-orc' part-human brain may wrestle with the ethical dilemma of ripping out someone's spine to make a nice belt. And when they do finally decide to engage in high fashion via the bones of their enemies (because what sane person wouldn't), they may feel a twinge of guilt or perhaps even a sense honor regarding the poor sap whose former back now hold up their pants.
"Now THAT is fashion with a backbone."
Everyone Hates Them... So F*** Everyone!
Half-orcs have the glorious distinction of having the worst parts of both orcs and humans, at least in the eyes of just about everyone that casts them so much as a sideways glance. They have the bestial appearance of their muscle-bound be-tusked kin which does not set to well with any race that has been savaged by orcs... so basically everyone. Even tieflings. And everyone hates tieflings.
This leads to a great deal of prejudice among the "kinder", gentler races. After all, the sight of an orc typically means head for the hills. Most folks don't want that moving in next door, even if they're only ever seen watering the tulips or waving at you on your way to work while they grab the morning paper.
Screw that noise.
"There goes the neighborhood."
This creates a bit of an issue for our half-orc pals. You see, the civilized races want nothing to do with them, but the orcs that everyone keeps mistaking them for really don't want anything to do with them. You see, to orcs that half-orc typically falls into two categories in their eyes; they are either too weak because of their flowery human blood, or too clever, because of their sneaky human brains. Orcs often enslave these half-breeds (and occasionally breed them to become slaves), because while they may be weaker than orcs, they are still stronger than puny humans, and are a bit more durable. Also, when you have something in chains, they're less of a threat.
"But only just..."
With few places in the world that want to suffer their ilk, it is little wonder why many half-orcs turn to a life of crime and brutality. If that is what civilized society expects of them, they might as well not disappoint, even if this only serves to perpetuate the stereotype that these are the only things they are capable of. In many cases, this is the only way a half-orc can achieve even a modicum of success. There are very few half-orc shop workers, merchants, city watch members, or jewelers, but there are plenty that are thieves' guild enforcers, mercenaries, muggers, assassins, and bouncers at dive bars.
"You ain't gettin' in here with those shoes, little man. Back of the line before I cleave you."
And if you thought it was tough for the guys, it is twice as hard for the ladies. It seems that half-orc females don't typically fall into the societal definition of beauty, but they are still considered (foolishly) by many to be weaker and more frail than their male counterparts. This means that on top of racial bigotry from the better part of society, they also have to prove themselves to be every bit as capable as any other ass-kicking half-orc. Because of this, it is not uncommon to see a female half-orc that is head and shoulders more hardcore than the males.
"And with a vastly superior fashion sense."
It is either a life of back-breaking physical labor or brutalizing/murdering people for money with little in between. Still, there are a few that break the mold and try to make themselves better than what society views them as. However, this often polarizes them to their own kind, and since their own kind is such a small sect they find themselves even more isolated than the average half-orc. Still, it beats a life of chains or death at the hands of their nihilistic cousins.
No wonder most half-orcs are so crabby.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
A lot of folks pass judgment over a half-orc without having ever exchanged a word with them. Their misconceptions all stem from the poor creatures' appearance. Yes, many half-orcs share many of the physical features of their orcish cousins. They are often large, physically imposing, with strange skin tones of gray and green, and those tusks. It is hard to get over those tusks.
"I don't have the heart to tell him he has an overbite."
But that savage appearance can mask a gentle soul. On the other hand, some half-orcs can be stunningly beautiful creatures that look less like a heavy metal album covers and more like something ripped from the cover of a Harlequin romance novel.
"Savage Passion, by Susan Sizemore"
But as I can tell you from experience, being pretty doesn't necessarily make you a nice person. Shocking, I know. A lot of folks in society strongly believe that good looks mean good soul, but there are plenty beautiful people who are downright evil, and it is no different for half-orcs. Beware the Fabio orc, for he will crush you to death on his steely pecs!
If there is a word in the English language that best describes an orc, no other is better suited than brutal. This is where that orcish savagery comes into play. The half-orc is descended from generations of spine-taking, axe-wielding, fire-starting, never-dying, hardcore badasses.
Because of this, there is a recessive gene that compels half-orcs to hit a little harder than most, and I am not just talking with fist and axe. Half-orc spellcasters are often the sort that fireball first and ask questions later. It's not their fault. That's just genetics.
A few half-orcs try to quell this little fire that burns in their hearts. It often requires a great deal of patience, self-control, and concentration; three things half-orcs are not usually synonymous with. Still, those that can overcome the urge to destroy are considered paragons of their race.
Still, there is nothing more exhilarating than disemboweling your enemies and wearing their guts for garters while proclaiming to the Gods (and anyone else within earshot), "I am a pretty little hate machine! Come at me bro!"
The Names! My Gods, The Names!
If there is one category where the half-orc might edge out a dwarf, it is in the name department. Their names are beyond badass. They are the stuff that heavy metal albums (and nightmares) are made of. Many instantly come with their own intimidation score.
The naming scheme is pretty simple. The first name is usually something harsh and guttural, mostly pronounced with the throat, that's chock full of hard consonants. The last name usually consists of a combination of a weapon, unpleasant action, or piece of the anatomy A few examples are...
See? Aren't those downright pleasant? But those are just the orcish sounding names. Thanks to human parentage, many half-orcs have downright average names like Vin Verrow, Marlow Greycastle, or Selina Marakos.
However, if you want to mix it up and show the influence of both cultures in their name, just mix and match as your see fit. Theon Chainbreaker is just as fitting as Korrog Longfellow. It all depends on what sort of life they led. If they were raised by orcs, they're going have orc names. If they were raised by humans, human names. And if both parents were in the picture, or if one was trying to honor the memory of the other, mix 'em up.
Make Everything Attached To Them More Badass By Association
Anyone can play a half-orc barbarian or fighter. The race lends itself to those two distinctions pretty handily. Even the half-orc rogue is a common sight at the gaming table. However, sometimes a person gets it in their head to get a little weird with their tusked character, and the results are nothing if not spectacular.
Spellcasters of the half-orc variety are legendary, from the wizard who overcame the stereotype that all creatures with orcish blood are nothing but dumb brutes, to the cleric that proves themselves in the eyes of their Gods, to the sorcerer that can feel the arcane power of their blood singing to them. Half-orc spellcasters offer a variety of fun options, and the association to their race makes them even more profoundly cool because it is not what most would expect. Even the talented half-orc bard is a delightful option for those eager to play a skald, or something a little more refined.
"I have a song in my heart! Granted, it was written by Metallica, but still."
Rangers, oddly enough, are a fantastic fit for half-orcs. With the world against them, there are few places that would accept their kind, save for perhaps the wild. Those that can acclimate themselves to such a life of survival find a freedom that few other races can understand. With the wind at their backs and the sun on their face, the half-orcs can move about as they wish, with no judgmental glares or fear-fueled threats. Beasts of the wild do not care about your skin unless they are hungry. Then you have other problems. Some half-orcs develop such a rapport with nature that they commune with it. They see the symbiotic relationship they share with their surroundings, and with enough discipline and understanding, they can become truly powerful, and terrifying, druids.
But it is when a half-orc seems to go against their nature that people really start paying attention. Believed to be chaotic creatures by nature thanks to their orcish heritage, it takes many by surprise when a half-orc shows real discipline and adheres to a more lawful existence with a stringent code of honor and behavior. Half-orc monks personify the ability to quell the orcish savagery that screams in their blood, or even bend it to their will to deliver punishing blows while hardening their body.
But when it comes to a real head scratcher, the half-orc paladin is the embodiment of everything everyone perceives a half-orc not to be. They are the living proof that a half-orc can aspire to heights than even many civilized folks fall short of, and they must endure a hell of a lot more to get there. And in the end, when they receive that divine power, all the naysayers shut the hell up, because it is really hard to argue with the God that granted that power in the first place.
"Sometimes justice and honor is about 7-feet of ugly muscle."
So, if you want something that stinks of badass and don't mind being oppressed and hated by just about... well, everyone, then grab your spine belt, sharpen your axe, and roll up a half-orc. Don't believe me? Give it a shot. It might be the most fun you have at a gaming table.
Have you played a half-orc? What kind? Was it a melee monster or something else? Let me know in the comments.
Roll well, me friends,
+Ed The Bard
And thanks to my Epic-Adventurer Level Patrons
Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.
Looking for an article? Just want to browse the archives? Wander over to my Master List, a directory of every article I've ever written, right here.
Like what you've read? Follow me on...
And coming soon to...