Heroes of Barrows Edge
In the wild frontiers, tribes of human and orc barbarians live in uneasy balance, fighting in times of war and trading in times of peace. Half-orcs who are born in the frontier may live with either human or orc parents, but they are nevertheless exposed to both cultures. Some, for whatever reason, leave their homeland and travel to civilized lands, bringing with them the tenacity, courage, and combat prowess that they developed in the wilds.
Half-orcs tend to be short-tempered and sullen. They would rather act than ponder and would rather fight than argue. Those who are successful, however, are those with enough self-control to live in a civilized land, not the crazy ones. Half-orcs love simple pleasures such as feasting, drinking, boasting, singing, wrestling, drumming, and wild dancing. Refined enjoyments such as poetry, courtly dancing, and philosophy are lost on them. At the right sort of party, a half-orc is an asset. At the duchess’s grand ball, he’s a liability.
Half-orcs stand between 6 and 7 feet tall and usually weigh between 180 and 250 pounds. A half-orc’s grayish pigmentation, sloping forehead, jutting jaw, prominent teeth, and coarse body hair make his lineage plain for all to see.
Orcs like scars. They regard battle scars as tokens of pride and ornamental scars as things of beauty. Any half-orc who has lived among or near orcs has scars, whether they are marks of shame indicating servitude and identifying the half-orc’s former owner, or marks of pride recounting conquests and high status. Such a half-orc living among humans may either display or hide his scars, depending on his attitude toward them.
Half-orcs mature a little faster than humans and age noticeably faster. They reach adulthood at age 14, and few live longer than 75 years.
Because orcs are the sworn enemies of dwarves and elves, half-orcs can have a rough time with members of these races. For that matter, orcs aren’t exactly on good terms with humans, halflings, or gnomes, either. Each half-orc finds a way to gain acceptance from those who hate or fear his orc cousins. Some half-orcs are reserved, trying not to draw attention to themselves. A few demonstrate piety and good-heartedness as publicly as they can (whether or not such demonstrations are genuine). Others simply try to be so tough that others have no choice but to accept them.
Half-orcs inherit a tendency toward chaos from their orc parents, but, like their human parents, they favor good and evil in equal proportions. Half-orcs raised among orcs and willing to live out their lives with them are usually the evil ones.
Half-orcs have no lands of their own, but they most often live among orcs. Of the other races, humans are the ones most likely to accept half-orcs, and half-orcs almost always live in human lands when not living among orc tribes.
Like orcs, many half-orcs worship Gruumsh, the chief orc god and archenemy of Corellon Larethian, god of the elves. While Gruumsh is evil, half-orc barbarians and fighters may worship him as a war god even if they are not evil themselves. Worshipers of Gruumsh who are tired of explaining themselves, or who don’t want to give humans a reason to distrust them, simply don’t make their religion public knowledge. Half-orcs who want to solidify their connection to their human heritage, on the other hand, follow human gods, and they may be outspoken in their shows of piety.
Orc, which has no alphabet of its own, uses Dwarven script on the rare occasions that someone writes something down. Orc writing turns up most frequently in graffiti.
A half-orc typically chooses a name that helps him make the impression that he wants to make. If he wants to fit in among humans, he chooses a human name. If he wants to intimidate others, he chooses a guttural orc name. A half-orc who has been raised entirely by humans has a human given name, but he may choose another name once he’s away from his hometown. Some half-orcs, of course, aren’t quite bright enough to choose a name this carefully.
Half-orcs living among humans are drawn almost invariably toward violent careers in which they can put their strength to good use. Frequently shunned from polite company, half-orcs often find acceptance and friendship among adventurers, many of whom are fellow wanderers and outsiders.
Half-Orc Racial Traits:
- +2 strength, -2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma. Half-orcs are strong, but their orc lineage makes them dull and crude.
- Medium: therefore no special penalties or bonuses due to their size.
- Base-land speed is 30 feet.
- Darkvision: Half-orcs (and orcs) can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and half-orcs can function just fine with no light at all.
- Orc Blood: For all effects related to race, a half-orc is considered an orc. Half-orcs, for example, are just as vulnerable to special effects that affect orcs as their orc ancestors are, and they can use magic items that are only usable by orcs. (See the Monster Manual for more information about orcs.)
- Automatic Languages: Common and Orc. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Giant, Gnoll, Goblin, and Abyssal. Smart half-orcs (who are rare) may know the languages of their allies or rivals.
- Favored Class: Barbarian.