Orcs in DND are a race of stoop-shouldered humanoid creatures with piggish faces. They fall under the big category of “goblinoids” in DND—which also includes goblins, hobgoblins, and half-orcs.
The Orc is one of the most well-known enemies for a Dungeon Master to throw at players.
Consider this your ultimate guide to everything about Orcs in DND.
D&D Orc Stats
Here is a chart that covers the most important stats about Orcs:
|D&D Orc Stat Categories||Orc Attributes|
|Armor Class (AC)||13|
|Hit Points||15 (or 2d8 + 6)|
|Challenge||1/2 (100 XP)|
|Senses||Passive Perception 10|
|Darkvision 60 feet|
Here is a stat block about Orc actions:
|D&D Orc Actions||Details|
|Melee Weapon (Great ax)||+5 to hit, attack reach is 5 ft., only one target. Slashing damage: 9 (1d12 + 3)|
|Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack (Javelin)||+5 to hit, attack reach 5 ft. or a range 30/120 ft., only one target. Piercing damage: 6 (1d6 + 3)|
|Bonus Action (Aggressive)||Orcs can move up to their speed toward a hostile being within eyesight|
Brief History of Orcs in DND
There is no known official and validated source of the Orc race.
However, they do not appear to be from Abeir or Toril. The first legends of the Orcs tell of wars between their god Gruumsh and Corellon Larethian, who created the elves.
Orcs are known as pillaging tribal communities with a lust for war and blood.
Yet, the exact magic that created the orcs is unknown.
Some scholars believe them to be an unnatural creation of evil beings.
Types of Orcs in DND
Most Orcs have grey skin, black hair, and red eyes. However, there are different types of Orcs in Dungeons and Dragons.
Here is a shortlist of the most common types of Orcs in DND:
- Mountain Orcs (most common type)
- Gray Orcs
- Water Orc
Personality of Orcs
Orcs are known for their grumpy moods and hair-trigger anger.
If any group of creatures needs anger management, it might be the Orcs. They come off as impatient and quick to violence.
Fiercely loyal to their own tribes, they resolve most issues with brute strength.
That’s probably why alliances between different Orc tribes rarely last long.
The only two things the tribes seem to agree on are their hatred for elves and worship of Grummish.
However, some Orc leaders show greater competency for strategy, planning, collaboration, and wisdom.
Where are Orcs Found in D&D?
Orcs prefer to live in remote areas, such as mountain ranges, swamps, and underground caverns.
However, some Orcs live in forests.
Most Orcs prefer temperate climates, but Orcs can also be found in the arctic.
Even more rarely, Orcs gather in more civilized societies, much like humans, elves, or Dwarves.
In the Forgotten Reals, Orcs live in:
- The North
Can Orcs Be Good in D&D?
Yes, Orcs can be good.
Orcs in DND can be good or evil. In the latest editions of D&D, all races can choose any alignment—good, neutral, evil.
No race is predestined toward good or evil predisposition, as in earlier editions.
An Orc can choose goodness despite tribal missions, popular deities, or historical leanings.
With that said, many Dungeon Masters (DMs) design encounters and Orc nonplayer characters (NPS) with evil intent.
Or, at the very least, a goal that directly opposes the player characters.
In the Lord of the Rings universe, author J.R.R Tolkien created his Orcs with evil in mind. However, even Tolkien suggested that his Orcs might find a way to redeem themselves and therefore be good.
Here is what Tolkien wrote in one of his famous letters:
They would be Morgoth’s greatest Sins, abuses of his highest privilege, and would be creatures begotten of Sin, and naturally bad (I nearly wrote “irredeemably bad”; but that would be going too far. Because by accepting or tolerating their making – necessary to their actual existence – even Orcs would become part of the World, which is God’s and ultimately good.)’’—The Letters of JRR Tolkien #153
While they may lean heavily toward evil, Orcs can be good.
For example, as fiercely tribal creatures, Orcs display loyalty to their particular tribe. They live and die for the members of their tribe.
Therefore, Orcs in DND and other fantasy literature are not automatically constrained to evil.
Also, a DM can make an Orc good.
As long as the DM allows it, players can choose to roleplay an Orc as player characters.
Are Orcs and Goblins the Same?
Orcs and goblins are not the same in Dungeons and Dragons.
However, they are related.
Orcs and goblins are both commonly used enemies in D&D. Both are humanoid creatures.
Yet, Orcs are bigger and stronger than goblins.
The confusion usually stems from author J.R.R Tolkien, who used the terms “goblin” and “orc” interchangeably in the Lord of the Rings series.
Do Orcs Have Last Names?
Orcs in DND have first names but not last names or surnames.
Orcs typically identify themselves with descriptive phrases such as “Bone Crusher” or “The Brave.”
For example, an Orc might be named Krog The Brave or Krell Bone Crusher.
Orcs may also choose to label themselves with their family or tribe. An Orc might be named Krog Son of Dragoon or Krog of the Blood Axe Tribe.
Everyone knows who they are based on their epithets, labels, and descriptions.
Do Orcs Have Beards?
Not all Orcs have beards, but Orcs can grow facial hair.
Therefore, Orcs in DND can grow beards. Some Orcs will grow lots of facial hair that puffs out into a beard.
Other Orcs might grow scraggly facial hair that remains stunted and short.
Your DM will decide on the kind of facial hair sported by the Orcs in their campaigns. Players can play Orcs or Half-Orcs with no facial hair, scruff, or full beards.
Can Orcs Have Horns in DND?
While most Orcs and Half-Orcs in D&D have horns, not all Orcs must have them.
Many sources describe Orcs as having prominent teeth, jutting jaws, and horns or “tusk-like” protrusions from their face.
The D&D Monster Manual says:
“Orcs are savage raiders and pillagers with stooped postures, low foreheads, and piggish faces with prominent lower canines that resemble tusks.”
These horns might offer several advantages to Orcs:
- More intimidating appearance
- Protection against enemies
- Tools to help forage for food
- Tools to help consume food
Do Orc Tusks Grow Back?
Orc “tusks” are actually teeth. In full-grown Orcs, teeth that get somehow removed would not automatically grow back. In young Orc children, their “baby” teeth may regrow.
The official D&D rules do not address the growing stages of Orc teeth.
However, if a DM views large Orc canines as more “tusks” than teeth, then the tusks would regrow.
The tusks of most animals continually grow all their lives.
What Language Do Orcs Speak in D&D?
Orcs speak Orcish, a harsh language that Orcs call Daraktan. Orcish is both a written and spoken language that uses the Dethek script and originated from an archaic language known as Hulgorkyn.
Hulgorkyn is the language of giants and goblins.
Sample words from the Orcish language:
- Anukh (means “Attack”)
- Gubuk (a derogatory term for other humanoids)
- Ugrukh (means “broken bones” and used to ridicule weak enemies)
Here is a video on how to talk like an Orc:
Can Orcs Ride Horses?
Orcs can ride horses in D&D.
Since Orcs grow to medium height, there is no reason they can not mount horses.
To an adult-sized horse, an Orc would not feel much different in weight from other bulky races.
This differs slightly from the lore in the Lord of the Rings (LOTR).
In LOTR, Orcs are smaller and lighter. Therefore, it’s harder for them to mount and ride horses.
How Do Orcs Reproduce?
Orcs reproduce by breeding, usually underground.
Male and female Orcs breed “like men” according to Tolkien lore.
Words like “spawned” exist in the Tolkein canon, leading many to believe that Orcs may reproduce like animals during special seasons of the year.
There is no specific description of Orc reproduction in D&D—information that I, for one, am glad is left vague.
Can Orcs and Elves Mate?
Orcs and levels do not usually mate, but it is possible.
In the 5th edition of the D&D Monster Manual, we get this statement:
When an orc procreates with a non-orc humanoid of similar size and stature (such as a human or a dwarf), the resulting child is either an orc or a half-orc.
It’s true that the Monster Manual does not address Orcs crossbreeding with elves, but it gets pretty dang close.
From this reference alone, I think we can safely accept the possibility.
The Kingdoms of Kalamar, a third-party D&D setting, featured half-elf/half-orc characters. The April 1982 edition of Dragon magazine published an article titled “The Half-Elven Point of View.”
In that article, the author is clear about the rarity of orcs and elves mating:
Although there are rare exceptions, half-elves are also predominantly half-human; elven genes typically cross with anything other than human genes.
This statement says that there are rare exceptions, which opens the possibility of elf-orc breeding.
On page 67 of the Races of Faerûn (2001):
Half-orcs are invariably the product of a human and an orc, but stories are told of half-orcs carrying the blood of dwarves, goblins, hobgoblins, and even halflings, gnomes, and elves. Orcs are a fecund race, and such stories likely have some genesis in truth.
Therefore, the Races of Faerun publication from the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons suggests the possibility of Orc-elf mating.
At the same time, there is also the idea that it might be just a myth.
If you turn to Tolkein lore, Orcs were once elves that were imprisoned, tortured, and bred into the twisted creatures.
In short, Orcs in that universe were once elves.
Given that history, it seems that the potential for reproduction is more than possible.
Can Orcs Swim?
Orcs in D&D can swim.
Nothing in the official D&D rules states or infers that Orcs can not swim. There is even an Aquatic Half-Elf race.
Therefore, Orcs do possess the ability to swim in Dungeons and Dragons.
Just like any other creature, some Orcs swim better than others. A DM can decide to include a highly-skilled Orc swimmer in a campaign, one-shot, or module.
Can Orcs Travel in Daylight?
Yes, Orcs can travel and fight in daylight.
Traditionally, Orcs do not like the light and would rather live and travel in darker spaces, such as underground.
However, when forced or fueled by hatred, Orcs can traverse in the daylight.
Orcs are most comfortable in cold dungeons, mountain passageways, and caverns cut deep under the earth.
However, they must also brave sunlight from time to time to raid human, elven, and dwarven settlements.
Tapping into an alternate version of Orcs, you find the following statement in The Hobbit: “They don’t like the sun; it makes their legs wobble and their heads giddy”.
Do Orcs Eat Humans?
Orcs will eat humans and other humanoids, but they prefer animal meat.
According to the first and second of the D&D Monster Manual, Orcs will eat slaves and will not hesitate to eat meat.
The third and fifth editions of D&D do not specifically describe Orcs as human-eaters.
Are Orcs Cannibals?
Orcs are repeatedly called cannibals in the D&D canon.
For example, the fourth edition of the Monster Manual states:
Orcs favor hills and mountains, places pocked by caverns easily turned into defensible lairs. Bloodthirsty marauders and cannibals, orcs venerate Gruumsh and thereby delight in slaughter and destruction.
Can Orcs Use Magic in D&D?
Orcs can use magic in D&D. Orcs can choose a magical class such as wizard, cleric, or sorcerer.
The downside is that Orcs typically possess lower intelligence than other races.
Low intelligence can impact spellcasting abilities and success roles.
Some players may see an Orc’s intelligence as a hindrance to the fun of combat in a D&D campaign.
Others will see it as a challenge.
In the end, embracing creativity and unique points of view (like an Orc wizard) are two facets of Dungeons and Dragons that make the game so much fun.
How Tall Are Orcs in DND?
Orcs in D&D are medium height but broader than other medium-sized humanoids.
Here are general Orc height and weight measurements:
- Adult male Orc height = 59 to 71 inches
- Adult female Orc height =57 to 69 inches
- Adult male Orc weight = 136 to 190 pounds
- Adult female Orc weight = 96 to 150 pounds.
What Official D&D Books Feature Orcs?
You can find Orcs in several official D&D books:
- D&D Monster Manual
- Volo’s Guide to Monsters
- Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
- Eberron: Rising from the Last War
Can You Play an Orc in DND?
Yes, you can choose Orc as a playable race in D&D.
Orcs work best for classes that rely on strength, such as fighters, barbarians, Paladins, and heavy-armor clerics.
Orcs do not work as well for rouges, rangers, druids, or any magical class.
These classes need other attributes such as wisdom, intelligence, and charisma to reach their full effectiveness.
Check out this comprehensive video on what they don’t tell you about Orcs in DND:
Final Thoughts: Orcs in DND
When introducing Orcs into your D&D adventures, the more you know about D&D, the better.
There are a ton of articles on this website (and related videos on YouTube) that cover quick builds, roleplaying tips, and more.
Check out some of my favorite articles below: