Half-orcs were humanoids born of both human and orc ancestry by a multitude of means. Having the combined physical power of their orcish ancestors with the agility of their human ones, half-orcs were formidable individuals. Though they were often shunned in both human and orcish society for different reasons, half-orcs have proven themselves from time to time as worthy heroes and dangerous villains. Their existence implied an interesting back story that most would not like to dwell on.
Half-orcs were, on average, somewhere from 5 feet and 9 inches to 6 feet and 4 inches (1.8 to 1.9 meters) in height and usually weighed around 155 to 225 pounds (70.3 to 102 kilograms). making them a little taller and stronger than humans on average. Most half-orcs had grayish skin, jutting jaws, prominent teeth, a sloping forehead, and coarse body hair, which caused them to stand out from their human brethren, though their canines were noticeably smaller than a full-blooded orc’s tusks. Half-orcs as such appeared bestial to humans, though amongst orcs they were considered human-like physically. Half-orc hair was most often black, though it grayed very quickly with age. In general, half-orcs did not live as long as humans, maturing by their sixteenth year and often dying before their sixtieth.
Half-orcs that have lived amongst orcs have often picked up the common orcish tradition of ritual scarring. Half-orcs with such a background did not look upon scars as marks of shame or as unattractive blemishes, but rather as marks of pride that demonstrate their skill and bravery in battle. On occasion, however, scars were used for a darker purpose, with orcs marking half-orc slaves with scars in the same manner a rancher might brand cattle.
Half-orcs had shorter lifespans than humans, reaching maturity slightly earlier and rarely living longer than seventy-five years.
Like other half-breeds, half-orcs combined the natures of both their lineages into a unique whole, a trait which extended into their mentality as well as their physical qualities. Like humans, half-orcs were quick to action, tenacious and bold, and possessed an adaptability that was unusual among most races. This was useful to the race given that they were considered outsiders just about everywhere; they had the ability to thrive in unwelcome or unusual locations, which was a necessity for a half-orc’s welfare.
From their orcish blood, half-orcs typically took less desirable qualities, which added to the discomfort others often felt around them. Few half-orcs had the patience for the etiquette or protocol that civilization has often imposed and were far from quiet about their opinions on the subject. As a result, half-orcs were often perceived as uncouth savages, a reputation accentuated by the orcish love of physical pleasures such as eating, drinking, or dancing. Impatient and ill-tempered were stereotypes that are not too far off the mark for most half-orcs, but these qualities have not been necessarily negative. Sometimes, a brash and straight-to-business attitude has been precisely what is required.
The half-orc personality tended to be short-tempered and sullen, though half-orc mental capabilities have often been underestimated and they were significantly more cunning than full-blooded orcs. More often than not, half-orcs preferred simple pleasures such as feasting, singing, wrestling, or wild dancing to refined pursuits such as poetry or philosophy. Most half-orcs were free-spirited like their orcish brethren, though they had fewer of the evil tendencies that blemished the reputation of orcs and were as likely good as they were evil, at least when raised among humans. Half-orcs were also reputed to be unintelligent and, though this was not true for the entire race, it was a definite trend in some populations.
Half-orcs had a strength uncommon to most humans, though comparable with orcs. They were less durable than their full-blooded kin, but they were typically more dexterous, and indeed more so than most other humanoids. Half-orcs also had a resilience unique to them and when gravely injured, simply seem all the more determined to win, as though the blows had, in fact, empowered them. Similarly, all half-orcs were capable of channeling their feral fury into a powerful attack. These qualities were only temporary, however, and like any other mortal, half-orcs would eventually tire as a battle wore on and could be broken physically.
Half-orcs were also agile, charging swiftly when their rage was aroused. For some half-orcs the conflict of their two heritages developed into something more, becoming the very essence of their being. Other half-orcs gained a thirst for battle that enabled them to weather through battle longer than most found themselves capable of, making them both more resilient and more deadly.
Half-orcs had no home to truly call their own in most places, excepting Palischuk in Vaasa, where a half-orc community thrived. There was also the possible exception of Many-Arrows, an orcish kingdom whose borders were laid along several human nations. As such half-orcs had no common culture. Most half-orcs grew up amongst either humans or orcs, either in urban environments or—more often—along the outskirts of civilization, taking on many of the qualities of their home culture. The majority of half-orcs born since the Spellplague had half-orc parents, rather than being first generation half-orcs, although it was still not wholly uncommon for a half-orc to be born from an orc and human coupling.
In most culture, half-orcs suffered prejudice. Within the lands of their human ancestors, half-orcs were commonly seen as savage thugs and looked down upon. As a result, most half-orcs in human society were forced into menial labor or violence for a career. Some chose to take on the life of an adventurer, perhaps merely as another acceptable means to wealth and power or sometimes as a way to throw off the shackles of other people's perceptions.
Within orc society, half-orcs were often looked down upon as weaker and inferior creatures, but overall they tended to fare better. Most orcs grudgingly acknowledged the superiority of the half-orc's intellect as well as their comparable strength. As a result, it was not entirely unusual for a half-orc raised amongst orcs to rise to a position of power within his or her tribe.
Half-orcs who lived among humans were frequently drawn to adventure simply because few opportunities were present to them for less-violent occupations. Pressured into martial lifestyles and rejected by polite society, half-orcs often only found acceptance among other races by proving their worth as adventurers. Likewise, the only friends a half-orc was likely to make were other adventurers, often being an outcast of sorts.
Half-orcs who lived among orcs commonly took to worshiping the orc pantheon, sometimes with even greater zeal than their orcish brethren, feeling the need to prove themselves worthy. Half-orcs raised among humans, on the other hand, typically worshiped other deities including Garagos, Hoar, Loviatar, Malar, Talona, and Tempus. Tyr was also commonly worshiped by many half-orcs prior to the god’s death.
Half-orcs had no true home to call their own, with the possible exception of the city Palischuk in Vaasa, a ruin rebuilt during the Era of Upheaval by half-orc settlers. Another city with a great number of half-orc members was Phsant in Thesk, which had strong ties to the gray orcs of the east. Half-orcs were also common in Northwest Faerûn, particularly the nation of Many-Arrows, nor were they entirely uncommon in Amn, along the Moonsea, or in Waterdeep.
Relations with other races
Half-orcs often had poor relations with other races, in particular the Tel-quessir or dwarves, due to mutual racial enmity. Halflings and gnomes are also typically distrusting of half-orcs, although not to the degree of dwarves or Tel-quessir. Even among their human brethren, half-orcs were generally distrusted or feared.
Half-orcs reacted to this distrust in a number of ways. Some half-orcs will fall into introverted behavior, trying to attract as little attention to themselves as possible in a manner paradoxical to the image of boisterous barbarian half-orcs typically evoke. Others have tried their hardest to do good unto others, whether out of sincere charity or simply a desire for approval and acceptance. Some half-orcs have taken neither approach, accepting who they are and instead will give others no choice but to accept them or leave.
The troubles that their heritage has brought them teaches most half-orcs to be mistrusting and suspicious. Some half-orcs had as much trouble forming bonds with others as other races have had accepting them, making friends with great difficulty and losing them with much greater ease.
It has been said that half-orcs could see perfectly in the pitch black of underground caverns or the darkest nights, like a drow. Whether this was true for some is unsure, although it was not a quality most half-orcs exhibited, who instead merely had an elf-like ability to see well in low-light conditions.
Half-orcs have existed in the world for many, many centuries, although like most half-breeds they’ve never had an independent cultural history. Half-orcs of historical note have made their impact not through a civilization of their own, but by excelling at whatever path they’ve taken within another people’s culture. Since the Era of Upheaval, however, half-orcs have come somewhat more unto their own, with the founding of Many-Arrows by Obould in 1371 DR. Since then, relations between orcs and humans have eased, as have the circumstances from which half-orcs are born.
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