If you are an avid DnD 5E player, you’ll know how to appreciate the intricate world of races and classes. If you have been through our articles listed in the character guides section, you know that each character has something unique to offer, while also never making you omnipotent. Of course, which races are the better ones is up to individual discretion, but there are a few that have been universally lauded.
In this article, we shall go into depth about one such race that might as well be sitting in the DnD Hall of Fame. The D&D 5e Half Orc Barbarian can well be deemed as the paragon of the martial world. What are the features and skills harbored by these berserker machines? We’ll be getting into all that, and more in this Half Orc Barbarian guide.
But first, let’s begin with the basics.
How to Make A Half Orc Barbarian
In fantasy games, Orcs have historically been portrayed as comparatively more savage than your average humanoid. So, it is not a surprise that when you throw in both Barbarian and Orc together, you get a vicious combo. To understand the D&D Half Orc Barbarian, you must first know how the Ability Score works, before moving on to miscellaneous skills and features.
Half Orc Barbarian Features
1. Ability Scores
A look at the Player’s Handbook (The most essential book in the list of D&D books) shall let you know the most important thing to keep a note of while creating a Half Orc Barbarian. The Quick Tip states, “put our highest ability score in Strength, followed by Constitution” along with a recommendation of the outlander background.
That’s great advice, once you consider it – Barbarians are by nature attackers, so naturally, they use their indomitable strength to rule over opponents. They launch massive offenses if you happen to find one enraged. Be it making a grapple check, trying to break something, or rolling to attack, the Barbarian strength can find tons of use for itself.
Now, moving on to the next one – Constitution. This one ties into our health, for feeble health in an insurmountable melee combatant is the shortest recipe to disaster. Simply put, these Barbarians can take a hit, using their Constitution as armor, courtesy of their Unarmored Defense feature– more on that later.
Half Orc Barbarians offer the perfect combo: +2 to Strength and +1 to Constitution. But Ability Scores aside, there’s more to your D&D 5E Half Orc Barbarian than what meets the eye. Let’s have a look at the features and skills they boast:
2. Features and Skills
- Ability Score Increment: +2 Strength and +1 Dexterity
- Speed: 30 feet
- Age: They mature faster than humans, reaching proper adulthood by age 14. They rarely live past 75 years of age.
- Alignment: They share a tendency towards chaos with their Orc guardians. They do not show a great inclination towards good. The Half-Orcs who have been raised and continue to live amidst the Orcs are usually evil.
- Size: They are usually bulkier and larger than humans, ranging between 5 feet to well over 6 feet. They can be deemed as medium-sized creatures.
- Darkvision: Due to your Orc blood, you now carry the power of superior darkvision. You will be able to see clear as day up to 60 feet of you in dim light, and up to 60 feet as dim light in the dark. Note that you only see shades of gray in the dark.
- Menacing: Proficiency in Intimidation:
- Relentless Endurance: If you are shot down to 0HP, yet to be outrightly slain, you can drop to 1 HP instead. However, note that you need a long rest to use this feature again.
- Savage Attacks: If you score one critical hit with a melee weapon attack, you are allowed to roll one of the weapon’s damage dice an extra time, and then add it to the additional damage of the critical hit.
- Languages: You’ll have reading, speaking, and writing skills in Orc as well as Common. The Orc language is a harsh one with some complicated consonants. It is written in the Dwarvish script.
Let’s get into some detail about their specific features:
For someone who could intimidate others simply by snarling at them, preferably someone bulkier than most, ‘Menacing’ is a good fit. Usually, we tend to use Charisma for intimidation checks, so even with a little less Charisma score, you get to feel like a menacing and intimidating force to be reckoned with.
While Relentless Endurance might not seem very impressive at first, the fact that a Barbarian staying up and fighting often bring victory to the party can make up for it. As it is, they do not get a lot of damage- to top that, the ability to stay up if you aren’t killed instantly, is a cherry on the cake.
Moving on to the next significant feature, Savage Attacks are what it is all about. Though it sounds amazing, you’ll notice that the wording is almost similar to Brutal Critical, a level 9 Barbarian class feature. Not only do Half Orc Barbarians inflict more damage than other Barbarian counterparts on critical hits, but they also start getting it up to 8 levels early, right after finishing the character sheet.
Now, as for skills, Barbarians are known to let their weapons do the talking for the most part. They are not exceptionally skillful except for 2 skill proficiencies that you get to choose from. You get to choose from Intimidation, Survival, Athletics, Perception, Nature, and Animal Handling. Since you’ll already be proficient in Intimidation, Perception and Athletics are great choices.
Perception is easily one of the most utilized skills in DnD, so that’s always up for grabs. As for Athletics, it is usually based on Strength. So, if an Athletic check is on the way, you’ll perform the best.
As for the rest of the skills, your background will be a decisive factor in that. With that, let’s take a look for the suggested backgrounds for the Half Orc Barbarian.
It’s a great idea to use your background to further who your build is, rather than what they are capable of. When selecting backgrounds, consider how you unlocked your barbaric rage and how you choose to fight with such reckless abandon.
For Half Orcs, that is expected to be in your blood, be it being trained by Orcish parents to use rage to your advantage, or being adopted and letting a traumatic event trigger it.
Here are some backgrounds that fit a more stereotypical narrative:
- Gladiator: You’ll need to be proficient in Performance and Acrobatics. You will also get a rather unique, albeit inexpensive, weapon with this one.
- Soldier: You’ll need proficiency in Intimidation and Athletics. This background has a lot going for it, such as lodging and pay, though the Intimidation bonuses will not stack. Moreover, this is way less of a tragic backstory.
- Outlander: A nomad raised in the wild, this one is straight out of the Player’s Handbook suggestions. You’ll need to have proficiency in Survival and Athletics.
4. Starting Gear
The only thing that’s left now in finishing your character sheet is the starting gear. If you have read our article on DnD 5E Backgrounds, you know that each background has its individual list of equipment which you’ll add on. The class has some options for you, as well.
1. A Great Ax OR A Martial Melee Weapon
While the great ax is great during combat, the greatsword is better. The former can deal a hefty 1d12 of damage, but the latter deals a whole of 2d6! Note that rolling one die provides an equal opportunity of rolling any number, but rolling two instead offers a much higher chance of rolling in the middle. So, essentially, rolling 2d6 keeps your character from ever rolling one whole damage. Consistency is always better than rig rolls.
2. Two Hand Axes and One Simple Weapon
Due to their thrown property, Hand Axes can be tossed at an opponent, instead of running up and slashing them down. With two of them, you can hurl one and keep one as a backup. Worse comes to worst, you can always hurl them both, since they both boast light properties.
3. An Explorer’s Pack and 4 Javelins
Here we shall go along with whatever is provided.
Now that we are over and done with everything else, let’s take a look at the subclasses:
Path of the Berserker: As soon as you get into rage mode, your mind remains focused on only violence till the job is done. In a way, this is an embodiment of rage on steroids. The special abilities granted by this are Mindless Rage, Frenzy, Retaliation, and Intimidating Presence.
Path of the Totem Warrior: Take guidance and advice from a spirit animal as an inspiration and protector. As for on the battlefield, the totem spirit offers additional magical fuel and supernatural might to your barbaric rage. The abilities granted are Spirit Seeker (3rd level), Totem Spirit, Aspect of the Beast (6th level), Spirit Walker, and Totemic Attunement.
Path of the Ancestral Guardian: This one is all about honoring your ancestors and their legacy and greatness. They will aid you in the form of mighty spirits, in a bid to protect their tribe.
Your abilities granted are Ancestral Protector (3rd level), Spirit Shield (6th level), Consult the Spirits (10th level), and Vengeful Ancestor (14th level).
Path of the Battlerager: This one is exclusively for dwarves. Its alternate name is Kuldjargh, which can be loosely translated into “Axe Idiot”.
Path of the Beast: In this one, you start exhibiting animalistic features such as extended claws, sharp teeth, or a dextrous tail, when you are enraged. With origins up to 1d4, it’s always best to ask your DM if you are allowed to make your own choice.
When entering a rage, you exhibit animalistic features such as sharp teeth, extended claws, or even a dexterous tail! Your origins are up to a 1d4, unless the DM lets you make your own choice:
- You have a lycanthrope as one of your parents, and you have naturally inherited a few of their curses.
- You have descended from an archdruid, thereby inheriting the ability to partially alter shape.
- A fey spirit presented you with the ability to adopt various bestial abilities.
- You are allowed to walk this path by an ancient spirit dwelling within you.
The abilities granted are Form of the Beast (3rd level), Bestial Soul (6th level), Infectious Furry Fury (10th level), and Call the Hunt (14th level).
Path of the Storm Herald: In this OP subclass, the rage within you transforms into power, in turn causing a real storm that leaves behind ravages of destruction. You serve as a warrior who stands with those working close to nature, such as rangers and druids. The abilities granted are Storm Aura, Storm Soul (6th level), Shielding Storm (10th level), and Raging Storm (14th level).
Path of Wild Magic: This one is magic on steroids. It has been poetically defined as “magic through the abounding existence of magic in life, dimensions, beauty, and emotions”. This is arguably the most magic-oriented path for this build.
The abilities granted are Magic Awareness (3rd level), Wild Surge (3rd level), Bolstering Magic (6th level), Unstable Backlash (10th level), and Controlled Surge (14th level).
Path of Zealot: This might as well be termed as informal Paladins. The pantheon or deity you choose to serve depends largely on where you were brought up. If you happen to lean more towards your human side, you’ll serve deities such as Loviatar, Talona, Garagos, Tyr, or Tempus. Alternatively, if you lean more towards your Orc heritage, you will serve the Orc pantheon. The abilities granted are Divine Fury (3rd level), Warrior of the Gods (3rd level), Fanatical Focus (6th level), Zealous Presence (10th level), and Rage Beyond Death (14th level).
The bottom line is that the D&D 5E Half Orc Barbarian is one of the best choices to play as. You will have tons of options to choose from, and the features and skills are worth it. Make sure you understand each component before deciding on the final character sheet. Appreciate your strength and use it to your advantage at every turn you get.