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Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Mon Mar 25, 2019 7:53 pm

This is just a general discussion topic, the specific game system (AD&D first to fifth edition to C&C) notwithstanding. Half-orcs have always struck me, based on previous gaming experiences, as the outliers/outcasts of the Fantasy RPG realm - they're either left in the dust as an untouched PC race or put to use as notable bad guys - orc tribe x (The Bloody Skulls, The Cleaving Sword, The Fluffy Kittens) has a new leader that's smarter, stronger and more vicious in application than the previous generations were. The general take regarding AD&D first-edition characters is that if you want a challenge, play a half-orc: you're limited in strength (despite the +1, the character is capped at 18(99)); intelligence gets no higher than 17, which is pretty much for additional languages only as the race has absolutely no magic-user/illusionist capacity; wisdom at 14, which provides only the slightest of bonus spells to an already meager cleric range; dexterity to 17, which caps thief abilities below human, let alone elf level; constitution, which - even assuming one has a 19 - is not covered for that point in the PH in terms of bonuses (sure, a DM could extrapolate based on what the 3-18 progression is, but there's nothing concrete given till one looks at Deities & Demigods), and charisma...well, let's suffice by stating that, for the majority of the NPCs encountered, high average reaction is the best you're ever going to get.

A notable exception to the paucity of half-orc PCs I've encountered through my gaming life is the AD&D first-edition game my brother is running; every player has three characters (there aren't very many of us and we don't all show up consistently for every game; being fathers and other real-life stuff gets in the way), and as it turned out, three out of the five players (myself included) created a half-orc - either fighter/thief or just plain fighter. While the games have concentrated, generally, on pure dungeon-crawling with several outdoors/maritime excursions, and thus not too much solo character development has taken place, I was struck that the half-orcs were making a pretty notable demographic place for themselves in this group. The players are, again as a demographic, either first-time AD&D/fantasy RPGers who've not read extensively through the Player's Handbook, or long-timers who've decided what and what not to pay attention to.

One point that, at least in my opinion, has tended to reduce half-orcs as a PC race is their general popularly accepted appearance. The first-edition PH has the following description for half-orcs: "Orcs are fecund and create many cross-breeds, most of the offspring of such being typically orcish, However, some one-tenth of orc-human mongrels are sufficiently non-orcish to pass for human.[Italics added]...As it assumed that player characters which are half-orc race are within the superior 10%, they have certain advantages." The illustrations given in the PH, however (along with every other official AD&D/D&D resource I've ever seen) do not fulfill this description; instead, half-orcs are portrayed as brutish, clearly non-human cave-dweller types, with little or no capacity to pass as human. C&C continues this tradition, although the C&C PH(all printings) designates half-orcs as a clearly gross aberration from human stock, both in literal description and illustration. I far prefer the AD&D first-edition description, which gives (presumably) the majority of PC half-orcs the capability of mixing in to a human settlement - regardless of what character class they pursue - with little or no attention given. I'd suspect that dwarves and elves could, by racial instinct, be able to pick up who was who in this regard, but human populations would have little reason to draw suspicion without cause. The fact, I would contend, that half-orcs, in C&C, are free to pursue all classes without restriction (although, magic notwithstanding, their charisma bonuses as knight, paladin or bard would be limited to +2), and this creates an even greater likelihood of mixing in with human-dominated populations without note.

So, my rather drawn-out thinking and opinion on the subject submitted, wondering what and how other people's experiences have developed; have people either DM/CKed half-orcs as PCs, and if so, what was the general choice in class/es? I've played, and do play, half-orc fighter/thieves in AD&D, half-orc rangers and barbarians in C&C, all of whom have had their own origins drawn up and characteristics defined...and all of whom have been incontrovertibly human (with maybe a couple of low-key markers) in appearance. Any stories about how other PCs (and NPCs, to be fair) turned out with regard to this - in my opinion - very much under-played and under-appreciated race?

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:00 pm

I've never played one. They really haven't interested me. I typically play a 1/2 elf. I see 1/2 orcs as neutral at best, evil at worst based on how most societies would view them.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:17 pm

Twice in 40 years... Once in the 80's (AD&Dish) another part-time player had a Half-Orc Paladin... "Snort, Snort, Unhand that Madien"... It usually got a laugh at the table. The other was more recent using C&C we I dm'd player with Half-Orc fighter. He was pretty tough for sure.

-Mike

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:58 pm

Simply throwing this in, but the replies thus far fit the standard that I've seen - in passing only, I would certainly admit - over the years. Half-orcs as the outcasts, presumed evil (or at least undesirable) by nature, or thrown in as pure demihuman wrecking ball capacity (which, properly statted and played, they can certainly excel at). I would frankly love to hear of someone who'd done C&C with a half-orc knight/paladin/bard and who played them straight, and what the outcome/s might have been. Meantime, appreciate the responses, and looking forward to seeing more.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Tue Mar 26, 2019 3:20 am

When I'm a player, the vast majority of the time I'll play a human. However, back in 1998 I played a half-orc assassin in an all too brief AD&D2e campaign. Too bad the DM had to move out of the region!

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Tue Mar 26, 2019 6:03 am

Can't recall anyone I know playing them. Personally I don't have them in my game world at all.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:50 am

My "current" campaign has a half orc monk with skills learned in gladiatorial arenas. He has a human paladin for an aunt, and a half elf rogue as another aunt (I'm still not clear on this particular family tree). He is played as a character with some anger control issues, explaining the monk class as an attempt to control his orcish temper. But he is pretty ugly.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:21 pm

I played a half-orc in a Con game one time. Clang! He could speak, but he could only say clang. I got to reprise the role the next year with the same Ck at another Con. Unfortunately, Clang did not make it out of that day alive. Clang...

R-

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:27 pm

I've not been a player in a while, mostly the CK, but I in the past I used to have both half-orc and half-ogre characters that I would run on nights i was in a grumpy mood (we rotated DMs amid our 20+ member group and did not have set campaigns really at that time) One of my current players character is a half-orc as well. They call him BRUCE! :p

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Tue Mar 26, 2019 5:27 pm

Rigon wrote:I played a half-orc in a Con game one time. Clang! He could speak, but he could only say clang. I got to reprise the role the next year with the same Ck at another Con. Unfortunately, Clang did not make it out of that day alive. Clang...

R-

I love me some Clang! He's one of the best pregens I've seen for C&C.

I played a half-orc monk named Ghoulface (really low charisma) for a session or two in Frank Mentzer's 1E home game maybe 8 years ago. He died a brutal death in Wretched Swamp. He was reduced from full health to -28 hit points in the first round of a fight with a black dragon. Sadly, no one was impressed since a long-standing PC was reduced to something like -57 hit points the same or the next round. No one mourns poor, wretched Ghoulface besides me.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Thu Mar 28, 2019 4:14 pm

I've never played one, but I have had 2 or 3 playing in the campaigns I ran. The 1/2 Orc Monk is really awesome. Just saying.

~O

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Thu Mar 28, 2019 5:39 pm

Omote wrote:I've never played one, but I have had 2 or 3 playing in the campaigns I ran. The 1/2 Orc Monk is really awesome. Just saying.

~O

And such being an illustration of exactly why I'm a big supporter of all races being able to access all character classes. Taking a cue from Star Trek, we've got here a case of infinite diversity from infinite combinations - exactly what would inspire a half-orc to begin attending and training at a monastery? Does he/she seek a way to channel his/her violence in productive channels? Has he/she rejected the common world after years of prejudice and seeks to find a place where they can be appreciated for him/herself? Does something about the discipline and austerity of the monk's life appeal to this particular character, either through the orcish inherited tendencies, personal directive, or a bit of both? Any one of these things - and more - could be put to use just as pure character establishment, something the CK could utilize in story creation ("Half-orc brother x - who you trained with for years - has turned evil, dominated the surrounding countryside as a self-proclaimed warlord and now we need your help in kicking his butt into the pottery kiln forge!").

I'll always have, I think, a tendency to restrict paladin class to humans, but this remains a personal leaning/choice. Glad to read that this, again, underappreciated race made a nice mark for itself in a previously inaccessible career direction.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Sat Mar 30, 2019 12:48 pm

playing one right now... 1/2 orc cleric - assassin.. great stuff but it is tough always being told you are bad because of your race... its like wearing black all the time. that said through the years the race bit goes away quick with PC and even most DM because it gets old fast.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Sat Mar 30, 2019 4:24 pm

Captain_K wrote:...it is tough always being told you are bad because of your race... its like wearing black all the time.

Switch to orange - people get interested in you and you get to start cool social trends. I'd advise opening with jumpsuits and maybe move on to kilts...who knows, after having hammered countless people into the ground your character could retire with the name "Orange Crush".

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Tue Jun 25, 2019 1:03 pm

I have played 1/2 Orcs on a number of occasions in AD&D. A straight Cleric was fun, we had our own level limit rules that imposed penalties of 70+Level to be attained% XP penalty to XP after the PHB max level limit was reached, was a lot of fun. A straight up Fighter, he was cool, but I liked the F/T(Acrobat) even more.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Tue Jun 25, 2019 1:13 pm

I tried a half orc for a couple of sessions. Okay, but not anything really awesome. My sister played one pretty well. A couple of guys at the game store run one occasionally. Overall, not a lot of half orcs at my tables.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:07 pm

Telhawk wrote:
Captain_K wrote:...it is tough always being told you are bad because of your race... its like wearing black all the time.

Switch to orange - people get interested in you and you get to start cool social trends. I'd advise opening with jumpsuits and maybe move on to kilts...who knows, after having hammered countless people into the ground your character could retire with the name "Orange Crush".




:shock: :shock: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Personally, I've never played one, but back in the day I had a friend that played on and enjoyed it. I and another player had knight/Paladin types, and he played the orc (fighter or berserker I can't remember which) as our 'serjeant' . It was good to have him where other knights' pages/retainers being a pain, he was able to 'meet them behind the stable/in the alley and remind them just how one should respect a knight and his followers. All the time the 2 of us were in the inn keeping our hands clean but able to point out how embarrassing it must be for the other knights to have pages and followers so weak they can't check on their lord's horses without coming back bruised and bloodied.

Telhawk wrote:
Omote wrote:I've never played one, but I have had 2 or 3 playing in the campaigns I ran. The 1/2 Orc Monk is really awesome. Just saying.

~O


And such being an illustration of exactly why I'm a big supporter of all races being able to access all character classes. Taking a cue from Star Trek, we've got here a case of infinite diversity from infinite combinations - exactly what would inspire a half-orc to begin attending and training at a monastery? Does he/she seek a way to channel his/her violence in productive channels? Has he/she rejected the common world after years of prejudice and seeks to find a place where they can be appreciated for him/herself? Does something about the discipline and austerity of the monk's life appeal to this particular character, either through the orcish inherited tendencies, personal directive, or a bit of both? Any one of these things - and more - could be put to use just as pure character establishment, something the CK could utilize in story creation ("Half-orc brother x - who you trained with for years - has turned evil, dominated the surrounding countryside as a self-proclaimed warlord and now we need your help in kicking his butt into the pottery kiln forge!").

I'll always have, I think, a tendency to restrict paladin class to humans, but this remains a personal leaning/choice. Glad to read that this, again, underappreciated race made a nice mark for itself in a previously inaccessible career direction.



Rgr that on both accounts.

I never understood why an elf (which is woodland based) would be bared from being a druid, etc.

That said, I also only see a human (for the most part) being tied to nobility honor and divinity in the unique way that makes a paladin. I would not say ONLY humans, but to be anything other than a human would need a really good back story and reason for being a paladin.

Oh yeah, monk ... my 'western' based world does not have BtB monks. They have 'pankrationest' which fits the bill for lightly armed armored to no armor armed fighter without the 'eastern' influence of the monk. So, that would fit a half orc perfectly.

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Thu Jul 04, 2019 8:46 pm

Half Orc Monk.. think Billy Jack

Re: Half-orcs: How often do have you seen them used as PCs?

Sat Jul 06, 2019 11:12 pm

It's rare but Half Orc's get plaid at my table a lot more than Dwarves.
I love Dwarves but I can count PC Dwarves on one hand in 40 years of playing.
Half orcs prob several dozen, though still low.
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