• Justin Handlin

Dungeons & Dragons Monster Tactics: Orcs

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

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Orcs worship GRUUMSH, THE ONE-EYED GOD OF SLAUGHTER, and are savage, bloodthirsty marauders. They plague the civilized races of the world and also fight among themselves to prove their strength and take the treasure. They love close combat and plunge furiously into the thick of battle, giving no thought to retreat or surrender.

Orcs favor hills and mountains, places pocked by caverns easily turned into defensible lairs. Bloodthirsty marauders and cannibals, orcs venerate Gruumsh and thereby delight in slaughter and destruction.

Orcs don’t build settlements of their own, instead of improving existing shelters with crude fortifications. They prefer to settle in natural caves or structures abandoned by other, more skillful races. Orcs can manage simple ironwork and stonework, but they are lazy and grasping, preferring to take by force the tools, weapons, and goods other folks make.

Within what passes for orc society, there are orcs that fill special roles. Eyes of Gruumsh are orcs with a special connection to their fierce god. They offer sacrifices, read omens, and advise the tribe’s chieftain of Gruumsh’s will. Orc warchiefs are tribal champions feared for their strength and ferocity and are often the strongest in their respected clan. Orogs are orcs blessed with a surprisingly keen intellect that ordinary orcs believe is a gift from the ore goddess Luthic. This makes them stronger than most, and excellent squad leaders.

Orcs often fight alongside ogres, and they can be coerced or bullied into serving any dark overlord or wicked monster powerful enough to command their obedience.

Join us as we delve into getting the most out of the combat aspects of the various Orcs in the 5e Monster Manual.


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Unearthed Tips and Tricks

Character Concept: Roland “Jaspiss” Boden, Human

Description: When this character dropped out of Wizarding College of Wizardton, the first place he went was a brewery. He drank and drank and drank. One of the concerned bartenders asked him what he was going to do with his life, and he replied, "Just piss it away", and so his nickname became Just Piss. Eventually, he lost all coherency to his life and words. He was just a slobbering mess unless put in a tight spot. The combination of pumping adrenaline and a shot of booze is just what it takes for Jaspiss to perfectly recall his limited learning and in that moment of clarity, he can be lethal. This man is a mess, but if your party needs a little bit of chaos and foul-mouthed insults...and guaranteed semi-nudity to balance the rod-up-the-butt Paladin, invite him in. With a bandoleer of booze shots are the to his spellcasting clarity.

Personality: Jaspiss doesn't have much of a personality. Booze and drunkenhood constitute his entire worldview, social engagement, and goal in life. Slurred drunk-talk, the wilder the better, and a few choice words for any goody-goody that makes Jaspiss feel bad about himself is all that there is to this stumbling, swearing, sloshy, blurry-eyed wizard-with-a-question-mark.

History: Jaspiss earned a much-needed scholarship to 100% Wizards WIzarding Community College of Wizardton, due to his need and his potential. He initially showed promise and grades to match, but calling the professors bozos, and dingleberries and know-nothings got him in hot water with the dean. The dean? Who did the dean think he was, Jaspiss wondered. But his arrogance and fast temper caused Jaspiss to lash out, turn the dean into a fainting goat, and leave the halls of formal wizarding education forever. The rest is a swimming boozy fog of bloated ego, untrue drunk-talk accomplishments, and scrapes and bruises from who knows where.

Motivation: At the beginning, Jaspiss is entirely void of motivation other than his next drink. But who is to say that he will stay that way? Perhaps the right party or adventure will help him turn his life around...or not...whatever. Fuck off! Yeah, you! You don't knosh me! I'll fremng orkl an foe and my family never uhngshe! So imma jus' piss it away! Dadgumit!!

Monster Variant: Orc Drudge

Origin: Copper Dragon Wyrmling

Lost Features: flight, climb, bite, breath weapons (becomes channeling) immunity to acid (becomes poison)

New Features:

Drudge Staff. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 +2) slashing damage. A humanoid slain by this attack raises 1d4 rounds later as a grimlock under the orcs control, unless the humanoid is restored to life or its body is destroyed. The orc can have no more than six grimlocks under its control at one time.

Channel (Recharge 5-6). The orc uses one of the following channel features.

Noxious Fumes. The orc releases a 15-foot radius cloud of noxious fumes that extends out from the orc. Each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 3 (1d6) poison damage and becomes poisoned for 1 minute. While poisoned in this way, a target takes 3 (1d6) poison damage at the start of each of its turns. A target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself a success.

Slowing Spores. The orc releases gas in a 15-foot cone that causes mushrooms and other fungi to grow rapidly on its victims. Each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the creature can’t use reactions, its speed is halved, and it can’t make more than one attack on its turn. In addition, the creature can use either an action or a bonus action on its turn, but not both. These effects last for 1 minute. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself with a successful save.

Encounter: The Talking Door (Ed Greenwood)

The tall, wide, and stout front door of the Inn of the Dripping Dagger is centuries old, though it has been replaced over the years, board by board and metal plate by metal plate, as various parts of it have worn out. For all this time, it has been unusually large, but—nothing more. Now, however, it has begun to whisper short and menacing sentences.

No one is quite sure when the front door of the Dagger began to speak, but it first became a concern the whole staff knew about a little over six tendays ago. Lady Fondera (f, human commoner) tried to stride in with a delivery of fresh eggs. The door whispered loudly and distinctly, “The third death will come tonight.”

Why? What do its cryptic utterances mean? Are they warnings, or are they directions that might lead somewhere? Whose voice is coming from the door?

The innkeeper welcomes the new notoriety and the trade it brings, but his wife and daughters want the

door silenced—or destroyed. What will happen if they try to destroy it?

The door is being imbued with the magic mouth spell by a spy who is monitoring the most dangerous of house games being played in the city. This can be used to weave a thoroughly engaging and complex political intrigue story.

Documented door utterances.

“His head will be found in a basket on Boat Street.”

“After a century, it will awaken hungry.”

“The insides of two of suits of armor have been poisoned.”

“Blacksunder slew the sixth guild member, but the seventh and eight killed each other.”

Magic Item: Chromatic Scale Armor

Deadeye (Daurgothoth experimented on this blade breaking the sentience inside of it rendering it wieldable by any creature by Garwen)

Weapon (longsword), legendary (requires attunement)

When picked up the player will roll for 7 attributes for the weapon to have as is normal for a maxed-out moonblade. or the dm can pick these beforehand.

this weapon functions just like the normal moonblade, except its personality is gone, anyone can attune to it, all the players can feel from the blade is a cold absence and whenever someone tries to un-attune from it they hear a violent screech akin to shattering glass in their ears and need to succeed on a dc 15 will save to un-attune.

Curse: Broken Corpse.

Using identify (or a short/long rest) the caster must succeed on a dc 30 to realize the curse is there. The only way to break the curse is to un-attune from the weapon. Un-attuning and attuning to the weapon 3 times will render the curse permanent to the character even should the Blade be destroyed as the last remnants of its sentience gets vengeful at the repeated misuse.

Due to the dead sentience inside the Blade after 1d4 dawns the wielder will start to see an elven lady, (completely drenched, blood dripping from her ears, her eyes and mouth sewn shut and her once beautiful golden hair tangled and ripped as it partially hangs over face), in his peripheral vision at night, rendering them incapable of gaining any benefits from a long rest (during the night) unless they succeed on a dc 14 will save.

After 1d4 days, the wielder will start seeing her at all times in their peripheral vision, giving disadvantage to anything requiring focus unless they succeed on a dc 12 will save every time they do something needing focus, like use a weapon, use most all skills etc.

After another 1d4 days whenever the wielder is focusing on something other than the lady she will start to approach them (traveling 5ft around), getting closer and closer until they look her way, whereupon she will appear back at her usual 30 ft distance.

If she reaches the player, she will whisper into his ear only two words "HELP ME" her voice is broken, and more a screech than a whisper she will never say anything else.

After another 1d4 days the wielder will wake up with her on top of their chest, staring into their eyes, giving them sleep paralysis until either someone helps them up, or they succeed on a dc 25 will save.

At this point, they can no longer recover from exhaustion. Unless they sleep under sunlight with at least one person watching over them.

No one else can see the lady.

the dm should NEVER outright tell the players that the curse comes from the blade (unless they succeed on the above identify) the players will need to realize it themselves. the dm can give hints and clues but remain vague.

Fixing the sentience.

This Is a challenge requiring an adventure by itself and is completely up to the dm. But it would require a being on the level of the Queen of fey to even have a chance to fix it after what Daurgothoth did to it.

Dungeon Master Tip: Player Character Origin Stories

Origin stories prime new characters to step onto the campaign stage fully drawn, with motivation, purpose, and direction. At their most basic, origin stories provide alternative backgrounds for player characters. Played to their fullest, they can drive a character’s story, bestow themed rewards, and shape the superstructure of the campaign.

The arcs of origin stories might have as much or as little focus in a campaign as the group desires. In short, think of origin stories as character-oriented side quests that can run parallel to the plot, intersecting it and diverging from it when appropriate.

If you’re at a loss for character side quests, try reflavoring a villain in a module to match one of the player character’s enemies and switch out treasure with the player character’s appropriate alternative reward. If you’re running a homebrew campaign, try incorporating the player character’s archenemy or rival into the ranks of your main campaign adversaries or their associates.

Player Tip: A fairy small problem.

This tip requires a bit of specifics. First you need to be the Fairy race. Which is classified as a fey and is small in size. This is important. In addition, they have a fly speed equal to their walk speed. Not a bad start that’s for sure. The fairy gets some pretty cool race features. Specifically the faerie fire spell at 3rd level, and enlarge/reduce at 5th level.

Now, you need to be a Bard of the College of Creation. The Performance of Creation feature basically allows you to create a medium or smaller object for a number of hours based equal to your proficiency bonus. Once you hit 6th level you can use the feature Animating Performance, which allows you to bring said object to life as a companion, which uses a special statblock called Dancing Item. With a bonus action, you can command this item to take actions it is capable of. So, we create a medium chest, animate it, and then fly in and out to gain the benefits of full cover so long as the animated chest is alive.

You can even take this further by combining it with spells such as scrying and meteor swarm to make attacks without actually ever leaving the inside of your protective chest. What’s best? If you’re already inside when battle starts, an ally can set the chest off to the side, or on their back making it extremely difficult for enemies to even know there is another party member at all.

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