Orc 5e Guide

Published on July 14, 2021

What is this guide?

This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not the Orc will be right for your character build.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your Orc. This color-coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Black is a trait shared by many races and or will not impact the effectiveness of your character build
  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Update

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has added the "Customizing Your Origin" option that may affect the ability score increases, languages, and proficiencies in this guide. To read more about this, visit our D&D Race Guide.

What are Orcs?

Orcs exist in many fantasy-related media. Typically portrayed as hulking, brutish humanoids with a thirst for blood, these beings have been given a fresh coat of paint depending on the setting in D&D. On Exandria, Orcs are plagued by a curse and some have taken to following the law very strictly. On Eberron, Orcs are known to be passionate and have a deep sense of faith within their communities. Whatever the circumstances of your campaign, don’t feel like you need to play your Orc as stereotypically evil and barbaric.

Orcs are a playable character race originally found in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, but the updated version can be found in both Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. The update has removed a stat decrease from the ASI of the Orc, making them much more viable as a race option.

Orc Traits

Ability Score Increase: +2 STR and +1 CON is a very non-subtle way of saying that Orcs are ideal for melee tank builds. This stat line offers nothing for most other builds, however.

Size: Medium is the typical size of most races, and is neither good nor bad.

Speed: Orcs have a standard walking speed of 30 feet.

Darkvision: Darkvision is always great, but its advantage can be ruined if your party members do not also have it.

Aggressive: This is trait greatly increases your mobility on the battlefield, allowing you to close the distance between yourself and your target very quickly. The only downside here is that it uses a bonus action, and you may wish to use that for something else.

Powerful Build: Not everyone plays with strict carrying capacity limits, but Powerful Build can let you get away with some nonsense if you are a hoarder. Being able to push, drag, or lift more weight is more interesting and is likely to come up in a campaign.

Primal Intuition: Free skill proficiencies are one of the best things to see as a racial trait, especially if one of those options is Perception.

Which Classes Work With Orcs?

To put it bluntly, Orcs are really good for those face-smashing STR builds, but near useless for all others. 

Artificer: Artificers need INT to be effective.

Barbarian: As expected, Orcs make the perfect Barbarians. Orcs have perfect ASIs for the class, get increased mobility through the Aggressive trait, and get some free skill proficiencies where they may otherwise be lacking.

Bard: A melee STR-based Bard is attainable, though you’d be much better served going for DEX. Without CHA an Orc also hurts the Bard’s spellcasting prowess.

Cleric: Heavy armor clerics with STR weapons are pretty decent as Orcs, but the lack of WIS is not ideal when it comes to spellcasting. Interestingly, Primal Intuition offers mainly WIS skill proficiencies which slots in nicely for a Cleric.

Druid: STR is terrible for Druids as they can just Wild Shape into something strong if necessary. Without DEX for survivability or WIS for spellcasting, Druids are a definite skip for Orcs.

Fighter: For all the same reasons as the Barbarian, Orcs make excellent STR-based melee Fighters. 

Monk: Monks need DEX and WIS for everything, not STR.

Paladin: Paladins are another martial class that work very well with STR due to the ASI, Aggressive, and free skill proficiencies. Since they use CHA as their spellcasting modifier, you can pick up Intimidation skill proficiency with Primal Intuition for a nice and easy social skill.

Ranger: If you’re up for the challenge, Rangers can be built as melee STR-based characters. Keep in mind that they will never be as powerful as the DEX variations.

Rogue: DEX is simply too good to consider a STR Rogue without multiclassing.

Sorcerer: Sorcerers need CHA to be effective.

Warlock: Warlocks need CHA to be effective.

Wizard: Wizards need INT to be effective.

Roland Drews

Roland Drews is a content creator and editor at Arcane Eye. When he isn't watching basketball or noodling on his guitar, you can find Roland reading, writing, or playing D&D. He currently lives in Bonn, Germany with his girlfriend Jess.