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Orcs were a race of humanoids.[4][5]


While they differed greatly, orcs shared certain physical qualities. Orcs of all kinds usually had stooped builds, grayish skin, and coarse black hair, with low foreheads, reddish eyes, and faces of porcine appearance that featured large lower canines similar to a boar's tusks. They also had wolf-like ears that were pointed on the ends. Orcs were roughly the same size as humans and similar humanoids, though usually typically larger.[4][5]

Subraces and Related Races[]

Mountain orcs
The most common orc subrace, as well as the first historically accounted for, mountain orcs could be found throughout most of Faerûn, which they travel through along mountain ranges descended from the Spine of the World in the far north.[citation needed]
Gray orcs
A less bestial and more civilized subrace of orcs brought to Faerûn during the Orcgate Wars through one of many Imaskari portals.[citation needed]
A breed of orcs descended from mountain orcs who live mostly in the Underdark, though in recent years they have been returning to the surface in large numbers and taking over Mountain orc tribes, using their abilities to bully their 'lessers' and plan raids.[citation needed]
The result of orcs breeding with ogres.[citation needed]
A pacifist cousin of the orc with a fey nature.[9]
Magical hybrids of gray orcs, orogs, and other creatures. Generally split into two groups, black (trained as scouts) and red (trained as elite shock troops)[citation needed]
The result of mountain orcs breeding with quaggoths.[10]

While not strictly subraces, the result of a human and orc breeding was known as a half-orc while the offspring of a half-fiend and orc was a tanarukk.[citation needed]


Orcs had poor temperaments and were given to anger more easily than some races. Easily offended and impatient, orcs generally preferred violent solutions and rarely considered multiple ways of approaching a problem. However, in spite of this, many orcs were excellent at getting results, since they were creatures of action, not thought. Some exceptions to this profile did exist, however, such as the famed King Obould.[11]


Traditional orcish culture was extremely warlike and when not at war they were usually planning for it. Most orcs approached life with the belief that to survive, one had to subjugate potential enemies and control as many resources as possible, which put them naturally at odds with other races as well as each other. This belief was spurred in part by Gruumsh and his pantheon, which taught that all races were inferior to the orcs.[4]

Most orcs were part of a confederation of tribes, loosely held together by a despotic chieftain. Bands within these alliances might wander far from their homelands, but continued to greet those orcs who belonging to the same tribal network as kin.[3]

Eyes of Gruumsh were orcs specially tied to the one-eyed god and offered sacrifices, read omens and advised tribes on Gruumsh's will.[3]

Orc bloodragers were champions of their tribe, who used primal strength and ferocity to overcome their enemies. Most were bodyguards or lower-ranking chiefs within the tribal structure.[3]

Male orcs dominated most orcish societies and females were usually, at best, prized possessions and little better than livestock at worst. Male orcs prided themselves on their number of wives and sons, as well as their scars from battle and rituals. Orcs also prized the possession of slaves, though relatively few owned them.[4]

Most orcs didn't build cities of their own, instead relying on those left behind by others and improving their fortifications or operating out of small camps and dens, often in natural caves. Orcs managed ironwork on their own, as well as stonework, though their tools were often inferior to those of more disciplined races.[3]


They had been a threat to the civilized cultures of Toril, particularly Faerûn, for as long as any could remember. This changed somewhat in the years preceding and immediately after the Spellplague, when a horde of mountain orcs under the command of King Obould Many-Arrows unified into a single kingdom, one that was remarkably civilized.[citation needed]


Orcs were found in many parts of Toril, though some areas had a higher concentration than others. Marauding bands of mountain orcs were most commonly found in mountain ranges in the northern parts of the world, particularly around Faerûn. Gray orcs were commonly found to the east, near the portal from which they emerged in High Imaskar. The orcs in the Sword Mountains were responsible for several conflicts with Waterdeep, including the Orcfastings War, and an onslaught caused by the Black Claw. They were also at least partially responsible for the Trollwars.[citation needed]

However, of all the orcish homelands, Many-Arrows probably stood out the most as the only civilized orc nation built along the same lines as its human and elven neighbors.[citation needed]

Kingdom of Many-Arrows[]

Main article: Many-Arrows

A subset of orcs belonging to a state first formed a century ago[citation needed] by the legendary Obould Many-Arrows differed from the majority of their kin in cultural attitudes. While most orcs were warlike and savage, the orcs of Many-Arrows, ruled over by King Obould XVII, were remarkably civilized, to a point that has made their neighbors curious. These orcs maintained a tenuous peace with the dwarves of Mithral Hall and the other races in Luruar, though many suspected war could break out at any moment should the delicate balance between the races be upset.[12] It was from this region that the most unusual kind of orc would sometimes emerge - heroes.[11]


Orcs were sensitive to bright light, which could blind them.[13]


Orcish cuisine was notoriously unpalatable for many other races. Some compared the taste of their goulashes to the taste of an old soldier's boot. Some even went as far as to claim that orcs did, in fact, use discarded shoes in their cooking.[14]


Orcs bred fast and lived short lives compared with most other races. They were considered adults anywhere between 11 and 14 years of age, middle-aged at 17, old at 23, and venerable at 35 years of age. The average orc seldom lived longer than 40 years, even if it managed to avoid violent death. It was unheard of for an orc to live longer than 45 years without magical aid.[15]

Adult male orcs generally stood between 59 and 71 inches tall, and adult females averaged two inches shorter. Males weighed in anywhere between 136 and 190 pounds, while females weighed between 96 and 150 pounds.[15]


The first legends of orcs told of the wars between their primary god Gruumsh and Corellon Larethian, the creator of the elves. The elves told of how Corellon defeated Gruumsh and took his eye. But many orcs denied this charge, saying that he always had the one eye and that Corellon cheated with magic because he couldn't win in fair combat.[16][17]

Orcs were not actually native to Toril, but migrated from elsewhere to different parts of the world on several known occasions.[18][19][note 1]

Orcs were known to the elves of Faerûn during the Dawn Ages. At that time, they occasionally stole livestock from elven farms and attacked the elves themselves when encountered, but the elves had little trouble dealing with them. Rarely, they gathered into great hordes that swept across the lands.[20] Some time around −24,400 DR, a nabassu demon of the Abyss called Haeshkarr commanded a horde of these orcs in the pillaging of Occidian, an elven city. They then assaulted Sharlarion, and the elves paid dearly to defeat them, with the heroine Kethryllia Amarillis battling Haeshkarr.[20][21][22]

During the time of the First Flowering, well before −18,800 DR, orcs migrated through portals originally constructed by one of the creator races and arrived in northern Faerûn. But for more than fifteen millennia, they were not much more than feral savages who spent too much of their time fighting each other to catch the attention of the elven nations of the time, let alone trouble them.[18]

Eventually, around −3800 DR, the northern orcs came together in proper tribes for the first time. Then, under two centuries later, mighty orc leaders unified their tribes into the first orc horde. In −3605 DR, this orc horde marched south and invaded Netheril, causing much devastation to the young nation until the Netherese and elven armies repelled them. Although they'd been defeated, the orcs discovered a love of warfare after that. Every few generations thereafter, when they'd grown populous enough again, they would gather in hordes to threaten the southern realms regularly.[18]

Later, in the south, rebel wizards of Mulhorand and Unther led by Thayd opened a portal in Thay to the orc homeworld in −1081 DR. Some years later, in −1076 DR, an orc horde poured forth in their hundreds of thousands, triggering the Orcgate Wars, one of the biggest and most destructive conflicts involving orcs in Faerûn. They were not defeated until −1069 DR, and the remaining orcs dispersed around the land.[18][19]

For millennia, orc hordes menaced the elven, human, and dwarven realms of Faerûn, toppling Ammarindar, Phalorm, Delzoun, Eaerlann, and Illefarn and at times devastating the Sword Coast down to Calimshan, as well as Chessenta and the Vast.[18]

In the Year of the Unstrung Harp, 1371 DR, a confederacy of orc tribes united under the banner of King Obould Many-Arrows, a chosen of Gruumsh. He forged a more civilized nation known as the Kingdom of Many-Arrows, located along the northern borders of Luruar. In spite of tensions between the orcs of Many-Arrows and other nations, the kingdom had not waged war against its neighbors for decades by 1479 DR and by all appearances seemed interested in peace.[12]



  1. A few different migrations of orcs have been given, and while Races of Faerûn has the −18,800 DR as the first, Evermeet: Island of Elves establishes orcs as being present in Faerûn much earlier. It is presumed there have been multiple migrations and in different parts of Toril. Alternatively, the Races of Faerûn dates may be inaccurate and should be millennia earlier.



Further Reading[]

External Links[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins (2014-09-30). Monster Manual 5th edition. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-0786965614.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Mike Mearls, et al. (November 2016). Volo's Guide to Monsters. Edited by Jeremy Crawford, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 120. ISBN 978-0786966011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Mike Mearls, Stephen Schubert, James Wyatt (June 2008). Monster Manual 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 203–205. ISBN 978-0-7869-4852-9.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet and Monte Cook (October 2000). Monster Manual 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 146–147. ISBN 0-7869-1552-1.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 203. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
  6. Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), p. 281. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
  7. Gary Gygax (December 1977). Monster Manual, 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 76. ISBN 0-935696-00-8.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins, James Wyatt (2014). Dungeon Master's Guide 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 302–305. ISBN 978-0786965622.
  9. Kevin Melka, John Terra (March 1995). “Monstrous Compendium”. In Julia Martin ed. Ruins of Zhentil Keep (TSR, Inc.), p. 11. ISBN 0-7869-0109-8.
  10. Ed Greenwood, Julia Martin, Jeff Grubb (1993). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 2nd edition (revised), Shadowdale. (TSR, Inc), pp. 58–59. ISBN 1-5607-6617-4.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 20–21. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 149. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  13. Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 203. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
  14. James Lowder (November 1992). The Ring of Winter. (TSR, Inc), chap. 11, p. 201. ISBN 978-1560763307.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Bill Slavicsek (1993). The Complete Book of Humanoids. (TSR, Inc), p. 117. ISBN 1-5607-6611-5.
  16. Carl Sargent (May 1992). Monster Mythology. (TSR, Inc), p. 45. ISBN 1-5607-6362-0.
  17. Eric L. Boyd, Erik Mona (May 2002). Faiths and Pantheons. Edited by Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 149. ISBN 0-7869-2759-3.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 Reynolds, Forbeck, Jacobs, Boyd (March 2003). Races of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 64–65. ISBN 0-7869-2875-1.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Richard Baker, Matt Forbeck, Sean K. Reynolds (May 2003). Unapproachable East. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 163. ISBN 0-7869-2881-6.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Elaine Cunningham (1999). Evermeet: Island of Elves. (Wizards of the Coast), chap. 8, pp. 140–141. ISBN 0-7869-1354-1.
  21. Anne Gray McCready et al. (March 1994). Elves of Evermeet. (TSR, Inc), p. 78. ISBN 1-5607-6829-0.
  22. Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 10. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.


Gray orcMountain orcOndontiOrogScro (Oscray)
Orcish Hybrids