D&D 5e: Half-Orc Barbarian Guide

D&D 5e: Half-Orc Barbarian Guide

You follow after the footsteps of your Orc heritage and use your rage as a weapon. You’re a green, mean, half-human, half-orc berserker machine!…that probably needs therapy and proper dental care.

The Half-Orc race AND the Barbarian class can be found in the Player’s Handbook. Click here to pick up your own copy of The Player’s Handbook!

How to Make a Half-Orc Barbarian

Half-orcs are created due to an alliance between humans and an orc tribe, or some orcs decided to get handsy. Some Orc’s don’t see a drop of human blood in their race as a hurdle to a great warrior. In fact, human intelligence and self-control are some of the reasons why orcs desire to have half spawns- regardless of the means being done by force or alliance. 

Appearance-wise, most half-orcs have grayish or greenish skin, jutting jaws, sloping forehead, scars, and coarse body hair- have fun shaving. Additionally, their canines/tusks are smaller than that of a full-blooded orc, so fewer worries regarding their dental. 

They are more intelligent than Orcs but have a temper they’ve inherited from their Orc heritage, although they aren’t unreasonable and don’t easily fall into a blind rage. They value self-control. That doesn’t make them less capable of being barbarians. 

Barbarians: Rage & Steroids 101:

Barbarians are typically stereotyped as savages who have no desire to become civilized, but just because this class doesn’t isn’t known for intelligence doesn’t mean your character has to “Ooga-Booga-hulk-smash” their way through life. Barbarians are tanks, skilled fighters with animalistic instincts, and aren’t best suited in civilized life, but that’s how they learned. They are more inclined to harsher environments as opposed to the comforts of civilization.

Your primal paths (a.k.a. Your subclasses) are:

  • Path of the Berserker*– The embodiment of rage on steroids. Once you go into rage mode your mind is focused on violence and only violence until you finish the deed.
  • Path of the Totem Warrior*– This path takes guidance from a spirit animal as a guide, protector, and inspiration. In battle, a totem spirit gives supernatural might, adding magical fuel to your barbarian rage. 

*the aforementioned are the ones in the 5e player handbook, but you don’t just want to settle for just those options, do you? You can ask your DM if they’ll let you choose something apart from the updated handbook.

  • Path of the Ancestral Guardian– Similar to totem warrior except it’s the mighty spirit of grandma that gives you power. Kidding aside, this path focuses on honoring your ancestors- who become mighty spirits that aid you-, their greatness, and protecting your tribe.
  • Path of the Battlerager– its alternative name is Kuldjargh (“Axe idiot”). And is exclusively for dwarves!
  • Path of the Beast– Basically what happens to Bruce Banner when he gets angry except instead of the Hulk, he becomes a furry. 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:
1One of your parents is a lycanthrope, and you’ve inherited some of their curses.
2You are descended from an archdruid and inherited the ability to partially change shape.
3A fey spirit gifted you with the ability to adopt different bestial aspects.
4An ancient animal spirit dwells within you, allowing you to walk this path.
  • Path of the Storm Herald– Probably one of the OP subclasses. The rage inside you turns into power becoming an actual storm that spreads destruction. This path makes you a champion and warrior that stands with those that work close to nature, such as druids and rangers.
  • Path of Wild Magic– Well, well, well, looks like the Sorcerer isn’t the only one who’s going to have to suffer this. This path is described poetically as magic through the abounding existence of magic in life, dimensions, beauty, and emotions… when honestly, it’s basically magic on crack and steroids. This is likely the most magic-oriented Barbarian path too.
  • Path of Zealot– Honestly,… informal Paladin to put it simply. In regards to the deity or pantheon you serve, it depends on where you were raised. If you lean more on your Orc heritage then you serve the Orc pantheon. If you lean more on your human side then you may serve deities such as  Garagos, Loviatar, Malar, Talona, Tempus, and even Tyr. 
  • By default, Half-orcs get +1 in Constitution & +2 Strength. There are other bonuses to your race but that’ll be further discussed in “How to play”

As a barbarian, the recommended highest stat should be constitution. “Duuuhhh- But shouldn’t it be strength?” Slow down, Einstein.

It should be taken into account that constitution determines your character’s physique, toughness, health, and resistance to disease and poison. As a barbarian, staying alive is what you do better than any other class, prioritizing constitution allows you to stay in line with the class’s design.

What follows should be strength since Barbarians also enjoy hitting things repeatedly. Then there’s dexterity, followed by charisma, then wisdom, and finally intelligence. Take note, barbarians have an advantage to certain dexterity saves due to their animal instincts. Your lack of intelligence doesn’t make you a total idiot who doesn’t know the difference between left and right. You can be an expert with weaponry, battle, or other topics outside of academics and magic.  There’s a difference between knowing which type of ax cuts through flesh best and knowing the origins of the material plane.


Hit Dice: 1d12 per barbarian level

Hit Points at 1st Level: 12 + your Constitution modifier

Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d12 (or 7) + your Constitution modifier per barbarian level after 1st

You get some Orcish advantages:

  • Darkvision
  • Menacing- you just have one of those faces that intimidate
  • Relentless Endurance- you can say no when you die! You only get 1 hp return though.
  • Savage attacks

 As Barbarian, you get the advantages and (not limited to) the following features (see first chart above):

  • 2 skills from: Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival.
    • Considering you are or your character is a Dragonborn, you have an advantage in Intimidation and Athletics.
  • Rage- No, this isn’t just smashing and running on crack. You get advantages on strength checks, melee weapons, and resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. A big “SCREW YOU” to slashy sneak attacks -cough- and rogues -cough-.
  • Unarmored Defense- Because nobody wants to come close to you when your junk is practically seen! Well, you don’t have to nude unless that’s what you’re into.
    • Your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier. Still not sure about being so exposed? That’s okay because you can carry a shield to cover yourself!
  • Reckless Attack- Some may call this an act of desperation. But really, it’s just a barbarian’s way of saying “Screw plans!” then running into battle screaming curse words and “FREEDOM!” in Scottish. Unlocked at level two.
  • Danger Sense- You get saving throws against effects that you can see, such as traps, spells, or trap spells, But to gain this benefit, you can’t be blinded, deafened, or incapacitated. So simply getting sand or even an eyelash in your eyes can screw you over.

Your abilities are based on your Primal path

  • Path of the Berserker–  The embodiment of rage on steroids.
    • Frenzy
    • Mindless Rage
    • Intimidating Presence
    • Retaliation
  • Path of the Totem Warrior
    • Spirit Seeker- (3rd level) No it’s not you talking to the dead rather the ability to Beast Sense and Speak with Animals spells but as rituals. So unless you’ll be doing a ritual, you don’t get a free pass on conversing with animals just to cope with your loneliness.
    • Totem Spirit- can be anything apart from these so long as it is related (ex. Hawk instead of eagle)

-While you’re raging:- 

  • Bear- you have resistance to all damage except psychic damage. So you can be smacked with a door and say “Tis’ but a scratch” but not when it comes to psychological warfare.
  • Eagle- you get to dash and dodge easily so long as you aren’t wearing heavy armor.
  • Elk- so long as you aren’t wearing any heavy armor, your speed increases by 15ft. So that’s about 45ft combined with your initial walking speed 
  • Tiger- for some reason your long-jump gets an additional 10 ft while your high jump gets +3 feet. Yes, you’re free to do any landing style you like.
  • Wolf- this is basically inspiring your team but for melee attack rolls. 
  • Aspect of the Beast (6th level)  You can choose the same animal as Totem spirit or a different one. Talk to your DM about it, for now, a vague summary of what you can get from each:
    • Bear- Bear strength. (Not useful since you’re already pretty strong as a half-orc)
    • Eagle- Eagle eyesight (Not to be used for peeping)
    • Elk- You are speed plus you can carry up to 10 companions with you. (You basically become a mount)
    • Tiger- You gain proficiency of 2 skills from Athletics, Acrobatics, Stealth, and Survival. 
    • Wolf- Hunting senses of a wolf, you can smell and track down stealthily. 
  • Spirit Walker
  • Totemic Attunement

-While Raging…:-

  • Bear- any creature that is a danger to you, within 5 feet and see/hear/fears you gets a disadvantage in attack rolls.
  • Eagle- your flying speed is equal to your walking speed. This is great and all but Half-orcs don’t fly.
  • Elk- you can use a bonus action during your move to pass through the space of a Large or smaller creature. That creature must succeed on a Strength saving throw (DC 8 + your Strength bonus + your proficiency bonus) or be knocked prone and take bludgeoning damage equal to 1d12 + your Strength modifier.
  • Tiger- you can use a bonus action while moving at least 20 feet in a straight line toward a target right before making a melee weapon attack.
  • Wolf- you can use a bonus action with your melee weapon attack on your turn to knock down.
  • Path of the Ancestral Guardian
    • Ancestral Protector (3rd level)
    • Spirit Shield (6th level)
    • Consult the Spirits (10th level)
    • Vengeful Ancestor (14th level)
  • Path of the Beast
    • Form of the Beast (3rd level) When entering your rage, you transform into a part beast (No full transformation, just partly). Just pretty much get one (of the enlisted) every transformation. You don’t have to stick with one either, you can go for claws then bite the subsequent transformation, or you can keep using one over and over (‘cause you’re basic like that).
      • Bite
      • Claws
      • Tail
    • Bestial Soul (6th level)
    • Infectious Furry Fury (10th level) No, you don’t turn others into furry humanoids. Rather, when you attack someone with your bite/claws/tail you can curse them with rabid fury. 
    • Call the Hunt (14th level)
  • Path of the Storm Herald
    • Storm Aura– You know those glowy auras you see anime/cartoon characters get when they get all powered up? That’s basically what happens during your rage but instead, it’s a magical storm aura that extends up to 10 feet in all directions.
      • Aura’s effects require a saving throw, the DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Constitution modifier.

You can choose from these environments and you can swap whenever you level. 

-When this is activated….-

  • Desert- all other creatures in your aura take 2 fire damage each. The damage increases when you reach certain levels in this class, increasing to
    • 3 at 5th level 
    • 4 at 10th level
    • 5 at 15th level
    • 6 at 20th level.
  • Sea- Pick one creature within your aura, they have to take a dexterity saving throw. If they fail, they take lightning damage but if they succeed they take half damage. There is damage increase as you level but it’s by dice:
    • 2d6 at 10th level
    • 3d6 at 15th level
    • 4d6 at 20th level
  • Tundra- each creature of your choice gets icy suffering and gets 2 temporary hit points or damage. It increases as you level:
    • 3 at 5th level
    • 4 at 10th level
    • 5 at 15th level
    • 6 at 20th level.
  • Storm Soul (6th level) BENEFITS! Benefits galore even if your aura isn’t active.
    • Desert
      • Resistance to fire damage
      • Unaffected by extreme heat
      • You can set anything flammable on fire so long as it isn’t being worn or carried.
    • Sea
      • Resistance to lightning damage
      • Breathing underwater
      • Swimming speed of 30ft
    • Tundra
      • Resistance to cold damage
      • Unaffected by extreme cold
      • You can touch water and create a 5-foot ice cube that lasts for 1 minute. Sadly, you can’t freeze someone into the ice cube. 
  • Shielding storm (10th level)
  • Raging Storm (14th level) Works so long as it is within your aura:
    • Desert- Once you get hit you can force your opponent into a dexterity saving throw with your attack. They’ll take fire damage equal to your Barbarian level if they fail.
    • Sea- When you hit a creature, you can force them into a strength saving throw. If they fail, they get knocked prone like someone getting smacked by a wave.
    • Tundra- Any creature within your aura has to take a strength saving throw. Failure means frost covers them and their speed is reduced to 0.
  • Path of Wild Magic
    • Magic Awareness (3rd level)
    • Wild Surge (3rd level) Lucky for you, you seem to have gotten only an eighth of the insanity Wild magic provides. 

The effect requires a saving throw: DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Constitution modifier.

1Each creature of your choice that you can see within 30 feet of you must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 1d12 necrotic damage. You also gain temporary hit points equal to 1d12 plus your barbarian level.
2You teleport up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space you can see. Until your rage ends, you can use this effect again on each of your turns as a bonus action.
3An intangible spirit, which looks like a pixie, appears within 5 feet of one creature of your choice that you can see within 30 feet of you. At the end of the current turn, the spirit explodes, and each creature within 5 feet of it must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d6 force damage. Until your rage ends, you can use this effect again, summoning another spirit, on each of your turns as a bonus action.
4Magic infuses one weapon of your choice that you are holding. Until your rage ends, the weapon’s damage type changes to force, and it gains the light and thrown properties, with a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet. If the weapon leaves your hand, the weapon reappears in your hand at the end of the current turn.
5Whenever a creature hits you with an attack roll before your rage ends, that creature takes 1d6 force damage, as magic lashes out in retribution.
6Until your rage ends, you are surrounded by multicolored, protective lights; you gain a +1 bonus to AC, and while within 10 feet of you, your allies gain the same bonus.
7Until your rage ends, you are surrounded by multicolored, protective lights; you gain a +1 bonus to AC, and while within 10 feet of you, your allies gain the same bonus.
8A bolt of light shoots from your chest. Another creature of your choice that you can see within 30 feet of you must succeed on a Constitution Saving throw or take 1d6 radiant damage and be blinded until the start of your next turn. Until your rage ends, you can use this effect again on each of your turns as a bonus action.
  • Bolstering Magic (6th level)
  • Unstable Backlash (10th level)
  • Controlled Surge (14th level)
  • Path of the Zealot
    • Divine Fury (3rd level)
    • Warrior of the Gods (3rd level) Your life is now dedicated to endless battle and health care is all covered by the deities.
    • Fanatical Focus (6th level)
    • Zealous Presence (10th level)
    • Rage Beyond Death (14th level) 

How to Roleplay as a Half-Orc Barbarian

Half-orcs are likely raised in their Orc heritage and tend to mature faster. It isn’t uncommon, though, for a Half-orc to be raised by both or go back and forth. Half-orcs are discriminated against by racist full-blooded Orcs in some handbooks, but in most recent guides, there is a case of a Half-orc leading a tribe. So perhaps treat this like with half-elves, some Orcs discriminate against Half-bloods, use them only for the benefit, or straight-up accept them as one of their own. Although, Orcs generally welcome those that show great strength and power into their community.

Being a barbarian is a pretty common occupation or class for most Orcs. Compared to full-blooded Orcs, Half-orcs are more dexterous, intelligent, and don’t have to deal with the -2 in intelligence. Although, despite Half-Orcs’ advantages in intelligence and control with their temper, they are vulnerable to emotions. Rage can make their body feel as though it was burning -like extreme heartburn- to sadness, easily weakening them. So movie night with a Half-orc is no Bueno if you plan to watch sappy drama or any movie where a dog is killed. Apart from that, insults can readily sting them.

This may prove as a challenge whenever you have to go berserk. Not only that, but half-orcs tend to be chaotic regardless if good, neutral, or evil. So you might want to invest in seeing a professional. Setting those aside, Half-orcs make for great Barbarians, especially with their advantage in Constitution and Strength. Additionally, with no land truly to call their own, many Half-orcs turn to wander and adventure, which is very suitable for the barbaric lifestyle.

You’ll be able to read, write, and speak in common. Same with Orc, except reading and writing it because it doesn’t have a script of its own; you can read it in Dwarvish writing. Orc has many hard consonants, and when speaking it, you can sound as if you’re being harsh or about to throw hands when you’re having a normal conversation.

Orc you need to know about relations:

How a Half-Orc interacts with others depends on where they were brought up. If they were brought up with Orcs, it would depend on which kind. Half-Orcs may become the stereotypical jock character in a chaotic evil environment, hot-headed, and trigger-or in an orc’s case- melee happy. Either neutral or nurturing (whether Orc, human, or both), they’d likely still have similar qualities to those mentioned earlier but more controlled or milder. 

Regardless, both follow the virtues of strength and power. Admiring and proudly welcoming anyone who shows excellent power and strength irrespective of race, gender, alignment, or what way they have their cereal. They’ll tolerate and work with anyone… except Elves. You DO NOT want an aggressive half/full orc with a racist Elf. 

Orcs have bad blood with Elves due to the whole ‘Elven deities blinding Gruumsh, ‘but mostly it was the bloodshed between the two and the whole Orcs wearing Elf parts as accessories. As for Dwarves, there seems to be a master-servant relationship with some Orc tribes and Dwarves. There is a history of Orcs taking over Dwarf communities due to their nicely made homes and crafts- pretty much colonization and enslavement Orc style. 

Overall, other races are wary of half-orcs or anything Orc in general. This causes many half-orcs to either be very antisocial or constantly trying to prove themselves worthy of respect and equal treatment. Another challenge is who they are and their belief mostly relies on who raised them so parental issues aren’t uncommon. It’s a difficult existence, but that’s what makes partnership or friendship more valuable.

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