Posted by : David Guyll February 19, 2009

I like the new half-orc mechanically a lot, compared to the previous iteration(s) which ranked roughly at "not-at-all". The previous half-orc was the first time I'd seen it placed as an official, default race, but it never got any traction in my group because it was just a leg up on the half-elf in terms of sucktitude: the half-orc was technically better because there were builds that it was actually mechanically suited for, namely the barbarian.

I really dont care for the half-orc backstory, by which I mean I dont care what that backstory is. I've said it before: story is one of (if not the) easiest things to change. Even if Wizards of the Coast slapped rape on the half-orc page, you could easily change it. I'm sure that even if they dont mention that at all, there are going to be gaming groups that use that as a potential origin.

That all being said, the make-or-break deal really boils down to mechanics. If a race isnt mechanically interesting, I can often be coerced by the aesthetics. For example, the tiefling seems kind of ho-hum mechanically, but they look cool so I play them occasionally anyway.

Thanks to 4th Edition, the race has gotten a huge mechanical makeover. Since no races get ability score penalties anymore, you can kick the net -2 penalty out the door along with all the arguments on how to "fix" them and instead embrace their actually useful, functional racial features: they gain hit points when bloodied, and can deal bonus damage on any one attack once per encounter. Both traits evoke the feeling that you are playing a strong, tough half-breed race. I can imagine many classes that can benefit from this, but you can also take these features into the game narrative, which is important if you enjoy the social-roleplaying elements of the game.

As with many things 4th Edition makes me want to, for the first time, play a half-orc. Probably a half-orc dragon sorcerer.

{ 1 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. A lot of my old-school friends love to bitch and whine about how the lack of racial penalties make the races less 'interesting' or 'overpowered' but I think that's a ridiculous claim.

    Races are simply more balanced, but their mechanical components don't necessarily take away from the flavor anybody imagined they had before. So what if the half-orc doesn't get a penalty to INT or CHA? It's not like he's more INT-ey and CHA-ey than other races, so it evens out: he still maintains the same racial stat footing he would have in previous editions.

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