Ideas for Orc Ancestry

Ancestries & Backgrounds

Since many agree that it seems to be one that the game could do with, I think I would like to put forward some ideas on how to handle the Orc ancestry. My initial ideas are almost certainly not the best, so I invite all the constructive criticisms and ideas on how to improve it. This is just an initial idea.

And I am probably not being 100% faithful to the Golarion interpretation of Orc here. I am taking some inspiration from D&D and WarCraft and such a bit, but I believe the parts I am carrying over are fairly applicable.

Hit points: 10 | Size: Medium | Speed: 25

Ability Boosts

Ability Flaws


Bonus Languages
At first level, if your intelligence is 14 or higher, you can also select one of the following languages: Dwarf, Elf, Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Undercommon


Bonus Languages
Orcs are naturally a nocturnal or subterranean race. When in bright daylight or in the presence of a comparable light source, you are Dazzled.

Ancestry Traits
Fearsome Presence
While Orcs may not be the most articulate of people, they can express threats non-verbally quite fine. When using the Intimidate skill, you do not receive a penalty for not speaking the same language as your target.

Heavy Lifter
Every Orc must be strong to survive, and that strength has uses beyond fighting. Their large lumbering frames can take quite a burden. You are not encumbered unless you are carrying Bulk equal to 6 + your Strength modifier and you can carry a maximum of 12 plus your Strength modifier.

Keen Nose (Heritage)
Orcs are not completely reliant on eyesight, their keen porcine allow them to sniff out their enemies. When you seek a creature within 60' of you that you cannot see, but does not have its scent concealed you gain a +1 circumstance bonus to your roll. If the creature is within 30', you gain a +2 circumstance bonus.

As often nomadic creatures, Orcs are adept at moving both quickly and steadily. With a bit of practice, there is no escaping them. Your speed increases by 5. In addition, you may travel 25% longer before becoming fatigued.

Orc Ferocity
(See Half-Orc section)

Orc Weapon Carnage
(See Half-Orc section)

Orc Weapon Familiarity
(See Half-Orc section)

Shamanistic Blessing
Once in a moon, the spirits seem to favor a particular Orc child who is blessed with some supernatural abilities. While the biggest, strongest Orcs rule, you are one of the specially blessed that are revered for their ability to communicate with the unseen. Choose 1 cantrip from the Primal spell list. You may cast this spell as an innate spell at will. The cantrip is heightened to a spell level equal to half your level rounded up.

(See Half-Orc section)

Wilderness Dweller
Orcs are not only able to dwell in places others would not dare to go, but they absolutely thrive there. Where others could barely scrap out a living, you feel nicely at home. You have a +1 bonus to your Survival checks when searching for food, water and shelter even in the most dire of wilderness. In addition, whenever you would take damage from temperature, the damage is reduced by half rounded down.

Commentary: Giving them too physical stats and extra hit points seems a bit much, I am not sure giving them an extra ability penalty and the light sensitivity entirely balances things out. Maybe the Constitution bonus can be moved over to Wisdom.

A lot of these are extremely similar to what other races get, but consistency isn't a bad thing. The ones that are basically just a swapped version of what another race gets are reliably balanced so long as the original trait was.

I tried to avoid strictly battle-applicable abilities as that seemed to already be covered by the 4 abilities under the Half-Orc section. I wanted to focus more on abilities that would allow them to shine in the exploration part of the game and help a bit in the social.

If this is well received and we can fix it up however much it needs to be, I will be happy to tackle a different race next.

I hope I am not violating any board rules by replying to my own post here, but I am a bit taken aback by having received no feedback. After 5 days of popping in to check.

Is homebrewing stuff this early considered a faux pas? I have to think that even if these sorts of ancestries aren't in the player's book, that it is very likely going to be in the monster book soon after. I would have thought it would be helpful for the community to put forward a general outline of what we would like to see for those who want to play these races.

I don't know whether to think that other people just didn't see this thread (there is no view count) or people saw this thread.. and if they did, was this just so far off that they didn't feel it was worthy of critiquing or so spot-on and inoffensive that no one thought much of saying so.

I had planned to move on to other popular races and convert them into ancestries (Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Drow, etc.) if this had sparked any interest, but if no one has any interest at all maybe it just isn't worth continuing such a project.

So I'm new to the forums, and I like the race you wrote up. I think the two ability flaws is fine, I like it in fact. I think maybe consider giving them 12 bonus hp? To balance it out a bit.

In regards to your question about whether posting these is a good idea, I think it is fine. I probably think the reason you didn't get any responses, is that people are more concerned about testing and discussing the material in the rulebook, since this is a playtest. Still, if anyone in my game I'm about to run complains that there is no Orc, I will use your stats, cause I like them.

Tzakkesh wrote:
Is homebrewing stuff this early considered a faux pas?

No, I just don't think you're hitting your audience in this subforum. It's primarily visited by playtesters who are focused on RAW to provide the best survey results. There are a few, like myself, who are also running the playtest rules for homebrew campaigns but, counterintuitively, you might have better luck in the playtest General Discussion forum.

Tzakkesh wrote:
I don't know whether to think that other people just didn't see this thread (there is no view count)...

The subforums don't get a lot of traffic. I don't visit here often and I only noticed this thread by chance today. You could link to this topic in the House Rules Good for the Game thread.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I'd argue against a +2 to strength/con and a -2 to cha/int, if only because it'd make people go wild with martial orcs and martial orcs only. No variety, no potential for variety.

Derry L. Zimeye wrote:
I'd argue against a +2 to strength/con and a -2 to cha/int, if only because it'd make people go wild with martial orcs and martial orcs only. No variety, no potential for variety.

I am afraid that is always necessarily going to be the case with any race that has Strength as its primary focus.

Spellcasters and Rogues get benefit out of Constitution and Dexterity as those make them tougher and harder to hit and are the saving throws..

But Strength? Strength has no meaning to or benefit to any class that is not a melee striker (and even some of those can substitute Dexterity for that). There are only a couple classes in the whole game that would not generally benefit from taking every point out of strength possible and assigning it to well.. just about any other attribute. Well, outside of the potential of a once in a while skill check. But those skill checks are surely going to come up less frequently than checks based on any other attribute.

As long as the race requires that one of its skill bonuses be Strength, it will be inferior to any other race for all but those few classes that actually use Strength.

At least giving them +2 Strength and +2 Constitution and not tanking their Wisdom stat opens up a LOT more possibilities for classes than if one were to insist on giving them +4 Strength and tanking all mental stats simply because that is what they were given in D&D 3rd edition and thus carried over directly to Pathfinder. At least that +2 Constitution is useful regardless of class-- and then you get 1 more raise which you can use for either Dexterity or Wisdom.

That means that Cleric, Druid, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, and Rogue can be possibilities without feeling too hampered in addition to the obvious Barbarian and Fighter.

That is far more diversity than an Orc in Pathfinder 1st edition could ever hope to have.

Yes, they will be at a significant disadvantage at being an Alchemist, Bard, Sorcerer or Wizard, but none of those strike me as being particularly "Orc"

It is also why I didn't add any abilities that were not already in the beta test materials that further strengthened their melee combat capacity like you see on Dwarf. I specifically focused on things that would make them a good race to go wandering around in the wilderness with. Things that are generally going to be worthwhile regardless which of the above possible classes I laid out.

I don't really like the idea of watering down Orc stats to fit the "PC" norm.
P1e already did that with Half-Orc, removing their inherent STR bonus relative to Humans.
(Personally, I would prefer to see them return to have stat mods distinguished from Humans, same for Half-Elves)
Doing so again to Full Orcs, just seems absurd and ungrounded, solely to serve aim of making them "PC race".

I'm not against people playing Orc PCs, but you can do so without having formal rules equality.
They probably will be better melee beat-sticks, but their casting side would likewise suffer.
So all-Orc party, like We Be Goblins, would probably be balanced enough to use standard CR,
without Orcs necessarily being drop-in equivalent for normal PC martials in normal PC party.

Quandary wrote:

I don't really like the idea of watering down Orc stats to fit the "PC" norm.

P1e already did that with Half-Orc, removing their inherent STR bonus relative to Humans.
(Personally, I would prefer to see them return to have stat mods distinguished from Humans, same for Half-Elves)

One could argue the exact same thing being true of Elves and Dwarfs who were methodologically well above anything a humans could hope to achieve in terms of physical and mental prowess and general skill.

Meanwhile, the very first instance of "Orc" within fiction saw them being slaughtered by the dozens with ease as mooks by protagonists and despite being created/bred specifically for war, not a single one was sufficiently dangerous enough to win a fair battle against those protagonists, rather even the best of them simply got dispatched easily in humiliating fashion and could be by even the weakest of the protagonists.

Granted, protagonists benefit from invincible plot armor ensuring that they win every conflict they are in unless there is an out and they can escape. So it is possible that an average human would be just as easily dispatched by the protagonists, but such is never really demonstrated within the narrative.

The singular reason that the difference between an Orc and a human was not exactly the same amount of difference between an Elf and a human was because Half-Orcs were simply designed as "good guy Orcs" and thus when it came to designing the actual Orc, the designers just lazily doubled the differences.

But most certainly narratively Orcs were not depicted as being twice stronger than a human than Elves were depicted as being more graceful. If anything, quite the opposite with humans quite commonly overpowering Orcs in physical matches but Elves being universally superhumanly agile.

So anything being watered down? I am afraid that idea lies solely within your own head. Once Half-Orcs get statted up as Half-Human, that inherently opens up the door for a less ridiculous and unrepresentative form of the regular Orc to exist.

Scarab Sages

I have no real comment about the stats but I liked most of the feats you suggested.

Not bad.

I would consider removing Constitution from their ability boosts and replacing it with Wisdom (which boosts Perception, Will DCs for abilities like Feint and stuff, also fitting for Orcs). The ability penalty is what is difficult, but, if I were to remove one, it would be Charisma (even Orcs have likeable leaders, and there are Orc Sorcerers and such), which means Orcs aren't beholden to Alchemists or Wizards, which is 100% fine by my standards (that's more of a half-orc thing).

Fearsome Presence is an awesome ancestry feat, though I feel another version of it where you are trained or expert in Intimidation as a requirement would suffice as a general feat. At least here, you get to bypass that requirement.

Heavy Lifter sounds like a general feat that increases your Bulk by 1 (or 2 for total weight). Seems cool here, but nothing especially inherent of Orcish ancestry.

Keen Nose isn't bad, but the rules for it are incorrect. You can only use the Seek action on targets within 30 feet per RAW.

Longstrider needs an overhaul because it is the same name as a spell, and the "move 25% more without fatigue" doesn't seem to have any noticeable rules impact.

Shamanistic Blessing sounds very flavorful and impactful. I would totally want to see this on an Orc ancestry.

Similar to Longstrider, Wilderness Dweller doesn't have any rules impact for "temperature damage," so it seems like it's only half as good or cool as it should be.

Overall, it has potential. I imagine several of these options and designs will be here when Paizo gets around to an "Ancestry Guide" book.

I don't like your ability score modifiers for Flaws. I think all races should stick to the standard already established. As such, I do prefer the boost to Wis over Con.

Most other things are pretty neat, but possibly a bit underpowered in comparison to options from other races. :)

Strength +4
free boost +2

intelligence -2

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