- The greatest life is one that ends in battle.
Half Orcs generally hate it when you call them half orcs. They consider the name demeaning, and will refer to themselves by any of a dozen other names, such as Bloodkin, Scro, Heathens, Wanderers, Arrakanza, Scree, etc, etc, etc.
Regardless of what they call themselves, all half-orcs trace their racial derivation to cross-breeding between fecund, savage Orcs and other races, most commonly Humans, Dwarves, and Ifrits. Regardless of their long-ago origins, half orcs are now their own race, and they form their own enclaves and communities and have their own children. Indeed, much of their dislike of the term 'half orc' comes from the negative connotations associated with their orcish heritage, justified or not.
Regardless of their origins, half orcs in modern times are certainly not dainty shrinking violets. Their cultural heritage and the general disdain they face from other races has forced them into a wildly nomadic lifestyle. In their racial memory, half-orcs frequently were disdained minorities, and faced very high levels of discrimination, servitude, and exploitation. The modern half-orcs have assimilated these cultural difficulties into their native culture.
Half orcs who are not living in other cultures are semi-nomadic wanderers who live out of wagons or ships or barges much of each year. They are always either on the move, or preparing to get on the move. During the spring and fall seasons, half orc dominions will settle into one of several kraals to raise crops, tend their children, mend armor and weapons and generally rest and prepare for the summer and winter wars. Kraals are locations that lend themselves to seasonal camps, always containing a source of fresh water and good grazing land for the herds, and decent soil for growing the fast-growing vegetables the dominions plant.
Seen from the outside, these savage semi-nomadic wanderers seem to be brutal, vicious, merciless, conscienceless killers. There is a lot to recommend this opinion.
In half-orc culture, victory in battle, dominance over others, and status in the kraal are the only things that matter. Half-orcs are not immune to the feelings of affection, kindness, and mercy, but they accord them very little merit. What is important is not how nice you are, what is important is how dangerous you are.
To a half-orc, marriage is seen as a type of self-inflicted slavery and considered utter madness. Indeed, all forms of slavery are viewed as anathema, and native half-orcs kill any slaves they find out of hand, right next to their owners. Half orcs, as nomads, do not prize possessions, but what a half orc does own is defended with utter savagery. Romance among half orcs is not unknown, but consists of such things as carving a favored partner's initials into your forehead. Fidelity is as crazy as marriage, but jealousy is considered a sign of flattery. Even between favored partners disagreements all the way up to brutal beatings are considered good clean fun and the act of murdering an enemy is considered titillating. Killing an enemy in battle is preferable to nearly any other act, except perhaps torturing them to death.
Surprisingly, despite the stereotypes, Half-orcs are not all green-skinned. Yes, most of them are some shade of green, ranging from dark, rich olive to brilliant spring-green, but many orcs are also dusky blue, slate-grey, and even occasionally some shade of brown. Half-orcs have very strong facial features compared to almost all other races except perhaps the most animalistic of the totem races. Most half-orcs have tusks to some degree, which can range from multiple massive fangs in both upper and lower jaws that project well past their lips all the way down to no visible tusks at all...but all of their front teeth are canines, giving them a peaceable appearance and a smile like a shark. Tusks are a matter of some vanity among Half-Orcs, it should be noted. Half-Orcs almost always have black hair, with some variations of brick red, rich brown, and dark green being the most common variations.
Note that Half-orcs have very strong features, but they can be just as attractive as any other race...in their own fashion.
Despite all of this savagery, native half orcs are considerably more than mindless barbarians. They have an elaborate social structure, with a hierarchy based on a warrior's perceived prowess. Note the "perceived" in that description. In half orc society, performance is paramount, but how you appear also has a lot to do with your status. The ability to command capable lackeys is as important as your ability to weave blades. A warrior may not be the deadliest Scro on feet, but if she can whistle up three guys who are, who are completely loyal to her, and who will cheerfully beat your head in, then she has higher status than you do, whether you like it or not. Many clan chiefs fall into this category, with designated champions insulating them from lower level challenges. Of course, most chiefs are also lethal warriors in their own right, so often those champions are his or her way of preserving younger warriors from death in a duel when they can die better fighting an enemy.
Despite the horrific level of violence among half orcs, they are not a chaotic mass of random impulses. Indeed, chaotic alignments are a minority among half orcs. Having some like-minded killers at your side when you go to murder that annoyingly chaotic evil guy next door evens the odds wonderfully. True friendship is rare, since such altruism is seen as foolish, but firm and well-defined alliances are common among warriors, and very common among the herders and other members of half orc society.
Note that many half orcs, perhaps as many as a third, live comfortably and easily in other cultures. Such half orcs may or may not follow the culture of their native kin.
Most native half orc society is arranged into a system of dominions. A dominion is the half orc term for their tribe or clan, but it has deeper connotations as well. Dominions are ruled by a large and loosely organized council of elders, which is made up of senior warriors who have fulfilled every duty placed before them with distinction. These older, wiser heads determine the way the dominion is run, where it herds, with whom it trades, and where it goes in the quest for blood and freedom.
Growing Up Half Orc
Young half orcs, the ones generally having children, are not good parents in any sense of the term. Instead, children are raised by the oldsters, to increase the number of children who survive. Oldsters are the dominion's oldest members, those who have been ousted from the council of elders, or are no longer able to herd or follow any of the secondary careers most half orcs fall into. Once the children are old enough to begin training in weapons, usually around age four, they leave the "care" of the oldsters and are given into the tender mercies of a seasoned half orc warrior, one approaching the end of his or her career.
Warriors chosen to train the young are usually older and wiser, and training child warriors is considered the final task they must perform before they are eligible to ascend to the dominion's council of elders. Each such warrior is given between three and ten children, and usually only one or two die in the training. The treatment they receive would be considered less than human by most, but it is the half orc way. The training of the youths ends when they successfully defeat an enemy, defeat an older warrior, or reach age thirteen.
Half Orc yearlings are usually aged 13 to about 17, and are the youngest half orcs allowed to go out raiding. By the time half orc children achieve yearling warriorhood, they are little more than raving bundles of aggression, with no hint of compassion, mercy, caring, or love. This state of affairs is precisely what half orcs want, as these yearling warriors are the shock troops of the dominion, while the older, more seasoned warriors serve to direct them, protect them, and kill the enemies while the yearlings mob them. The older warriors are also more skilled, and often intermingle with the younger warriors to aid them in fights. Even with this aid, the survival rate of the yearling warriors is only about half.
With the incredible savagery of half orc childhood, the leaders of each Dominion spend a good amount of their time in kraal counting the yearlings and measuring their survival rate. If the Dominion is in danger of killing itself into extinction, the council of Elders will declare more festivals to generate more babies, and if the mortality problem is traced to an excessively murderous half orc, that transgressor will be challenged to Gaunt repeatedly until killed.
Native culture Half Orcs never fight fair except in a duel, and often not even then. The typical order of battle is for a rank of the younger yearling warriors to throw themselves wildly into a fray, tying up the sword arms of their foes. The older warriors follow, and strike down the foes thus engaged. This theory serves well, and if the older warriors are quick and skilled the younger gain experience and prowess, while still surviving. There is a complex web of interactions spawned by this system of battle, as the younger warriors come to rely on their elders, and the elders build networks of loyal youngsters, with rewards of loot, status, and equipment. Clever warriors can advance their status by choosing which young warriors to sponsor. Once a warrior reaches a certain age, they usually retire and become a herder, or the highest ranking warriors become teachers and try for the Elders.
Economy and non-warriors
The herders are exempt from much of the social pecking order, and are usually accorded little thought by young half orcs. The council of Elders of each Dominion knows better. While herders are universally scorned by active warriors, nearly all herders are accomplished and fully hardened veterans, a fact many yearlings discover to their sorrow. The herders are the crafters of the superb half orc leathers and ivory, as well as the source of much half orc wealth. They also serve as the breeders of the herds, and collect the stud fees the dominion charges for their animals. Canny half orc warriors soon learn to treat the herders with respect, because the herders are the ones who raise the mounts. If you want a good mount, you had better have acceptable relations with a herder. The herders and other secondary professionals develop as much of philosophical thought as half orcs have, a surprising amount when all is considered.
Many herders follow second careers, as priests to the primal herd Spirits, or to one of the Great Gods. Some of them turn to magic, leave the native half orc culture, and enter larger society.
Customs and day-to-day life
Half orcs have many festivals and holidays in their wild and violent native culture, most of which are dedicated to the various primals they revere, such as Storm, Herd, Death, Fury, etc. The year is divided into the standard calendar, but half orcs pay little heed to it, instead preferring the more primitive seasons reckoning, since a large part of their culture is taken up by their customs. Half orc festivals usually take place in the kraals, although there is usually plenty of activity outside the kraal so that the normal levels of half orc aggression and violence can be satisfied.
Native half orcs have little in the way of formal laws or rules, but many deeply held customs.
Three of the most important half orc customs are linked, the first being the Wandrar.
- The Wandrar
- The Wandrar is the half orc belief that it is perverse to claim land and live upon it solely. Half orcs bitterly recall the prisons and fortresses of their racial tormentors, and have little love for settling down in such ways. For this reason, during the Winter and Summer each dominion packs up all of their herds, wagons, and belongings and drifts where they wish, grazing and trading and raiding other Dominions as they go. In the Spring and Fall, each Dominion chooses one of their kraals and stays for the season, resting, repairing, birthing and raising the young, etc.
- Half orc dominions can be viewed as hybrid mixtures of military units, tribes, and sports teams. As a result, many dominions have deadly rivalries that can go back generations. It is during the Wandrar that these feuds are pursued with single-minded and deadly effort.
- The Challenge
- The second custom is the so-called "challenge." Half orcs consider it to be extremely cowardly to attack a dominion in a kraal, to the point of actual taboo. The reason for this is obvious, as it allows them to recuperate from the latest Wandrar. Thus, during the Kraal seasons, the only warfare allowed is by challenge, which is a battle arranged to settle feuds, debts, arguments, and the like. This way, the warriors get to assuage their love of battle while the kraals remain inviolate.
- During a Wandrar is when all of the warfare between Dominions (as opposed to challenge battles) is done, when all of the Dominions are out on the road. All that happens between the Dominions during the kraal times is spying, which half orcs carry out with their typical enthusiasm.
- In the battles between the Dominions, it must be emphasized that literally anything goes, and the savagery of these conflicts will make a strong man pale. Even with this savagery, most of the Dominions realize that battling too much will weaken them as surely as battling too little, and so tend to be conservative in their attack plans, sticking to probing raids and harassment of their hated enemies. The occasional pitched battle is cause for great rejoicing, and the destruction of a Dominion is an event which will draw great status to the Dominion which destroyed it.
- New Dominions form frequently, usually from bands of survivors or by large Dominions splitting. Very rarely, there will arise a Khan, or over-chief, who will weld dozens or hundreds of Dominions together and go on a Conquest, crushing every dominion in his path. These Khans usually last a few years, fall in battle, and things continue as before.
- The Gaunt
- The third most deeply held custom of half orc culture is the Gaunt.
- A Gaunt is a challenge issued from one half orc to another, usually because the difference in status between them is too great for a duel to be reasonably fought, or because the challenger wishes to count coup on the challenged without having to kill them. A gaunt is always publicly witnessed and is occasion for drinking, revelry, crude jeering, and gambling. At its core, the Gaunt is a way for the two half orcs involved to prove which one is the meaner, nastier, tougher, and crazier.
- During a Gaunt, the two foes face off at several feet away, and the challenger goes first. The point of a gaunt is self-mutilation, with either participant able to quit at any point. Each of the two of them injures themselves in turn, daring the other to do something worse or more painful to themselves or admit defeat. These spectacles are gruesome in the extreme, and death of one or the other party is not unheard of. Dying in a Gaunt gives victory to the survivor, as well as great status to both participants.
- It is customary to begin a Gaunt with something relatively minor, like slashing a forearm or biting a cheek, enough to draw blood. Later on, more severe mutilations are common, such as slitting or ripping a nostril, cutting or ripping off an ear, driving a knife or stick through a cheek, cutting or tearing off of a finger, etc.
- In the end stages of a hard fought Gaunt, ghastly disfigurements are common, such as biting off one or more fingers, gouging out eyes, biting off tongues, amputation of feet by standing in a fire, breaking of the knees and elbows, self-disembowelment, self-immolation, etc. A Gaunt that progresses to this level will usually end in the death of one or both of the participants. The scars left by a Gaunt are flaunted proudly, as signs to future challengers not to mess with this person. The only exception is scars which are too crippling, such as having no feet or the loss of both eyes. In those cases, the healers are called in and the impairments are repaired as much as possible.
- Any Gaunt must be approached with some caution, since the status to be gained must be weighed against the future impairment you might have. Winning a hard Gaunt over something stupid is not as good as losing a Gaunt over something important. Indeed, losing a hard Gaunt and living brings its own status, as the loser can point to her horrific scars and say, "See that? I did all that and still lost. You should see the other guy!" Most native half orcs participate in at least one Gaunt in their life, and often as many as two or three. Some especially pugnacious half orcs may have as many as two or three Gaunts a YEAR. These half orcs are little more than walking masses of scar tissue, barely recognizable as human, and are quite mad by any rational standard. As long as they are able to fight well, they are greatly respected in half orc society.
Lifespan and burial
Half orcs can have a lifespan as long as a human, with a childhood, adulthood, middle age, and dotage. In native half orc society, very few half orcs survive more than a year or two in their dotage, as such weakness is far too tempting a target for younger half orcs.
Even young half orcs tend to have fairly high mortality, but if they survive past being a yearling, they tend to live as long as any other humans do until they reach their dotage. Native half orcs can interbreed with other humans and races, but this sort of thing is severely frowned upon. Not to mention, it would take a very open-minded person of any other culture to put up with what a half orc considers normal. Half orcs tend to have quite a lot of money compared to most races, since they have very little to spend it on. Half orcs love dancing, singing, and drinking, but very rarely do anything to excess, because attacking and killing a drunk is considered great sport.
At the end of their lives, half orc oldsters are usually murdered in duels by members of the Council of Elders, to teach the children the basics of performing coup-de-graces. Half orcs typically strip the bodies and leave them by the road, occasionally with a spear stuck through them. Their souls return whether they are buried or not, after all.
Relations with Others
Many half orcs serve in the armies, guard units, or town watches of other cultures, usually in dedicated half orc units. Native half orcs have learned through bitter experience to respect the weak-willed, soft-bellied, cowardly customs of the rest of their fellows. Crimes committed by half orcs are invariably punished by drugging the offenders and publicly executing them in the most humiliating of ways. A popular method involves drowning facedown in a puddle before a large assembled crowd. Such a death causes crushing shame to all half orcs who see it, and a Dominion that produces such criminals rarely lasts a dozen seasons after they cause other dominions so much embarrassment.
Native half orc player characters are considered to be either yearlings or young warriors who have decided to travel and see the rest of the world. Non-native half orc player characters are treated usually as a member of their native race.
Starting Height and Weight
Gender Base Height Height Modifier Weight Weight Modifier Male 4 ft. 10 in. +2d12 in. (5 ft - 6 ft. 10 in.) 150 lbs. +(2d12x7 lbs.) (164 - 318 lbs.) Female 4 ft. 7 in. +2d12 in. (4 ft. 9 in. - 6 ft. 7 in.) 110 lbs. +(2d12x5 lbs.) (120 - 230 lbs.)
Adulthood Intuitive Self-Taught Trained 14 years +1d4 years (15 - 18 years) +1d6 years (15 - 20 years) +2d6 years (16 - 26 years)
Half-Orc characters have no alignment or class restrictions.
Standard Racial Traits
All Half-Orcs have the following Standard Racial Advantages:
- Attributes: Half-Orcs may choose to gain one of the following ability score bonus sets when creating their character. No ability score may ever be modified above a 20 or below a 7.
- +2 to two different stats, -2 to one stat
- +2 one stat, and +1 to three different stats, -2 to one stat
- +4 to one stat, -2 to two different stats
- Size: Half-Orcs are Medium creatures and have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
- Type: Half-Orcs have the Humanoid type, with both the Human and the Orc subtype.
- Base Speed: Half-Orcs have a base land speed of 30 feet.
- Languages: Half-Orcs begin play speaking Common and Orc.
- Bonus Languages: Characters with a positive Intelligence modifier gain one bonus language per +1 of their modifier, selecting from the following list: Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Giant and Tengu. Once the character's intelligence is high enough to have acquired all six of these bonus languages, they no longer gain bonus languages for increasing their Intelligence. Characters can also learn new languages by placing ranks in the Linguistics skill.
- Normal Vision (Ex): Half-Orcs, like their Human kin, require bright light to see without penalty. Creatures in dim light gain concealment (20% miss chance) against Half-Orcs trying to target them.
- Fleet-Footed (Ex): Half-Orcs gain 10 feet of additional movement to their Walk speed as a racial bonus. This bonus does not change the Half-Orc's base speed, and Fleet-Footed's bonus is never applied to any other movement type. Thus, if the Half-Orc gained a form of movement (e.g. burrow, swim or climb) which was based on the value of his base speed, the Fleet-Footed bonus would not apply.
Major Racial Traits
Choose one of the following Major Racial Traits:
- Scars and Glory (Ex): Half-Orcs with this racial trait receive a racial bonus DR of 1/-. This bonus increases to DR 2/- at level 10, DR 3/- at level 20 and DR 4/- at level 30. This stacks with DR x/- gained from class abilities, feats, magic items, armor, equipment and spells.
- Sure in Battle (Ex): On any round in which the Half-Orc takes a 5-foot step, they may make a second 5-foot step as a move action, effectively giving them 10 feet of non-provoking movement. Note that these 5-foot steps cannot be combined to make a single 5-foot step into difficult terrain; they are two separate actions (a free action for the regular 5-foot step, and a move action for Sure in Battle). At 12th level, they receive a +1 Dodge bonus to AC until the beginning of their next round any time they take this bonus five foot step, using their Move action. At 25th level, this Dodge bonus to AC increases to +2 until the beginning of their next round.
- Hunter (Su): Half-orcs with this racial trait gain Darkvision with a range of 60 feet. At 10th level, the Half-orc gains Scent with a range of 30 feet. At 20th level, his Darkvision improves to a range of 120 feet. At 30th level, the Half-orc gains Perfect Scent with a range of 120 feet.
- Natural Skald (Ex): Half-Orcs with this racial trait have a fine howling voice, one made to echo over a battle like a horn of doom. They add +1 to the save DC on any effects they generate which are mind-affecting. At 20th level, this bonus to save DC increases to +2.
- Endless Reserves (Ex): The Half-Orc with this racial trait gains one additional hit point per level, and can sleep in any type of armor without becoming fatigued.
Minor Racial Traits
Choose one of the following Minor Racial Traits:
- Lessons of the Gaunt (Ex): Half-Orcs with this racial trait gain Intimidate as a natural talent. When a skill becomes a natural talent, it is remapped to the ability modifier of the Half-Orc's choice, instead of the modifier normally used by the skill.
- Xenophobe (Ex): The Half-Orc with this racial trait despises other races even more than most Half-Orcs. They speak only Common and do not gain any bonus languages from possessing a high Intelligence score. In addition, they learn only one language per 2 ranks of Linguistics they possess. However, their distrustful nature gives them a +2 bonus against mind-affecting effects, except for fear affects. This bonus improves to +3 at level 10, +4 at level 20 and +5 at level 30.
- Aggressive Charger (Ex): A Half-Orc with this racial trait gains a +1 racial bonus to attacks and a +2 racial bonus to damage during a charge attack, but suffers an additional -1 penalty to AC as a result of the charge (total of -3 AC) until the start of his next turn. At 10th level, these numbers change to +2 to hit, +4 to damage and -2 (total of -4 AC) to AC. At 20th level, it becomes +3 to hit, +6 to damage and -3 (total -5) to AC. At 30th level, it becomes +4 to hit, +6 to damage and -4 (total -6) to AC.
- Gaunt Guile (Ex): Half-Orcs with this racial trait have a talent for making their Gaunt opponents take bigger risks than are strictly necessary to win. Half-Orcs with this trait gain a +1 training bonus to Bluff checks. This bonus improves to +2 at level 10, +3 at level 20, and +4 at level 30.
- Unflinching Valor (Ex): Half-Orcs with this racial trait gain a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against fear effects. At 10th level, this bonus improves to +3. At 20th level, it improves to +4, and at 30th level, it improves to +5.