Orc — 5E Warcraft Adaptation

Ekrem Atamer
11 min readApr 30, 2023

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It’s been quite busy but I’m back with another Warcraft race adapted to D&D 5E. If this is the first one you saw, you might want to check Tauren, Forsaken and Pandaren conversions too.

As a reminder, this is for my campaign where it’s less about having 100% balanced rules and more about flavour. The game takes place around the start of World of Warcraft and is an alternate timeline, which means there are occasional differences.

Before we start, and I think I might not have noted this in my previous articles, I’m also making slight changes to D&D rules. What’s visible in these adaptations are mostly two things:

  1. There are more stat and skill bonuses from race and class choices (yep, classes are coming too!)
  2. There are “Knowledge” skills that work like skills but are counted as a separate pool of skills. For example, one class might have several classic skills but few Knowledge ones while it might be the other way around for a different class or race. The idea is to expand the pool of skills (in fact, players can technically choose anything as Knowledge) while not affecting the general skill distribution in the base game.
  3. There is a new skill called Adventuring. You can think of it as a general sense to all things adventuring: Knowledge and wisdom of dungeons, monsters and almost a representation of a gut feeling. I used this in my previous D&D games and found it fun. A common use of it was to allow players to roll Adventuring dice when they see a new monster to see if they’ve heard of it or even if they didn’t, if they can make educated guesses about it.

Now, without further ado, let’s talk orcs!

Ability Scores

Orcs get +2 to any score and +2 to Str, Dex, Con or Wis. These can’t be stacked.

Knowledge

Orcs start with one of the following: Nature, Survival or a sub-topic. They also start with Combat Tactics.

Master of the Axe

Orcs are proficient with all axes.

By using the same axe for a while, the orc gains affinity for that particular axe. A month is enough to gain that basic level of familiarity. Over a longer period of time, especially if the orc goes through memorable fights, the affinity grows. At a certain point, orcs will likely name their axe.

Some orcs believe there is a spirit to the axe but they are well aware this isn’t in the literal sense. This spirit is the orc’s fighting spirit, shaped by the tool they use. So they do try to use the same axe for a while and when they want to switch weapons, they try to use both of them in a “transition” period. And new moves they learn won’t go away with a different weapon.

Orcs like axes

Basic affinity provides a +1 bonus to attack rolls. After using the same weapon for 3 months, a +1 damage is gained. After 6 months, the attack bonus increases to +2 and a year after that, the damage bonus also increases to +2. This goes on like this, doubling the length of the period with every bonus, capping at +5.

In addition to that, memorable fights (a big war, the orc (almost) single-handedly felling a powerful opponent, taking on a large number of enemies, fighting alongside a legendary figure and carrying their weight and so on, or simply trying and pulling a crazy move) might teach the orc a thing or two. These might be passive bonuses, special attacks, feats, bonuses to existing features etc.

DM should keep an eye out on for such opportunities but the player can also suggest that a particular instance is memorable. As the orc becomes more powerful, the memorable moments need to be either bigger (killing an ogre by themselves might be impressive at low level, but high level equivalent could be downing a giant) or more (when a mid-high level the orc kills an ogre within a single round may not be as impressive by itself, but when it happens 10 times, that’s possibly a different case). Some examples:

  • Uncanny Affinity: Double proficiency bonus on attacks or damage
  • New Trick: Learn a relevant fighter feat
  • Mastery of Style: Learn the relevant fighting style feature as a non-fighter
  • Advanced Great Axe Fighter: (Orc has the great weapon fighting style) The reroll for GWFS happens at 1–3 instead of 1–2

Tough

Orcs have strong bones and sturdy bodies. When they take critical damage from an attack with a physical component, they reduce the damage by their constitution modifier.

All orcs add their proficiency modifier to the Constitution saves, twice.

Clansmen

Each orc belongs to a clan that raised them. While not every orc in a clan is the same, their upbringing has some effects and comes with some commitments. Their clan also affects their social status. While Thrall’s Horde has a unifying philosophy and has had a normalizing effect, some of the clans’ fame has existed for generations and not every orc will forget that. Orcs might change clans, might forgo their commitments and even ignore their clans, but these will have consequences in the social structure.

Some of the clans: Frostwolf, Blackrock, Warsong, Burning Blade, Dragonmaw, Bleeding Hollow, Shattered Hand, Shadowmoon, Stormreaver

Shadowmoon Clan

The Dark Mark

The Shadowmoon Clan has been at the centre of the orcs’ manipulation at the hands of the Burning Legion. Ner’zhul was among the first to fall victim to it, later replaced by darkness incarnate, Gul’dan. Ner’zhul did realize what was happening later but there was no redemption. Instead, his clouded judgement, selfishness and greed led to the destruction of their homeland.

Ner’zhul in a ritual

For that, there is great prejudice and mistrust of the Shadowmoon clan orcs in the new Horde. While Thrall asks his people to keep an open mind and grant new chances, not every orc is as forgiving. Many demons who were part of or who knew of Legion’s efforts on Azeroth are also aware of the clan. Some expect the clan to obey them, others see them as potential allies, gullible fools and a few think they are traitors.

Shamans at heart

Ironically, the Shadowmoon Clan mystics were the first shaman of the Horde and the clan has a vast knowledge of shamanism and the elements.

Shadowmoon Clan starts with one of the following knowledge: Shamanism, the Elementals or the Elements.

While they aren’t necessarily recognized by the elementals of Azeroth, their understanding will allow them to possibly have an advantage in conversations with Elementals or other shaman (when related to shamanism or elements).

Finally, against Elementals, they add their proficiency bonus to their attacks (double if proficient with the weapon) and spell DCs that target elementals. They also add their proficiency to their AC and saves against elemental attacks.

Warsong Clan

Free Blood

Countless mighty warriors and fearsome wolf riders were sons and daughters of the Warsong Clan. Their recently deceased Chieftain, Grom Hellscream was a legendary warrior, the son of another accomplished orc warrior. He was the first the drink Mannoroth’s blood before the invasions. He succumbed to the dark power once again during the Third War, using the power to overpower the demigod Cenarius. Yet, he’s cherished among the orcs today for he also fought valiantly to down Mannoroth and free his people of the blood curse.

Grom Hellscream, one of the mightiest chieftains of Warsong

Overall, Warsong clan is among the most respected. Almost all clans tasted the blood and they know it was the Legion who manipulated the orcs, so there is little to blame on Grom, but much to admire. Combined with their howling weapons, warcries and skill in combat, there are very few orcs who do not respect the Warsong.

Hot Temper

Warsong clan is respected for many things, but patience isn’t one of them. Warsong seek challenges relentlessly and without fear. While finding themselves baited by the demons and losing Grom did a number on them, it’s hard to kill their thrilling nature for even without the demon curse, fire courses through their veins. When faced with physically more powerful foes, this fever reaches its heights.

Warsong orcs have an advantage on their initiative rolls. Like Grom who downed the mighty Mannoroth and his father who killed a Gronn, the Warsong love the thrill of fighting a behemoth. Against Giants, Dragons, powerful demons and any enemy that DM sees fit (player is encouraged to point that an enemy can fit the category), the Warsong orc uses double proficiency bonus whenever proficiency bonuses are used for attacking the enemy.

Burning Blade

A Broken Clan

Once a clan of proud warriors that raised many a legend, the mighty Burning Blade clan fell into corruption during the invasions. Most gave in to the rage that came with the demon blood and became less and less like a clan and more of a chaotic force of destruction. The majority ended up dead and a good deal of the remaining ones formed the Burning Blade cult, serving the secretive Shadow Council.

Blademaster Samuro, as depicted in Heroes of the Storm

A handful of Blademasters and their young ones managed to get a hold of themselves and swore fealty to Thrall. The young Warchief honoured their path to redemption by showing them the highest level of trust: The experienced became personal guards to the Warchief, finding important positions in Kor’kron and Thrall’s personal honour guard. Others became the craftsmen for Warchief, Kor’kron and the strongest warriors of the Horde. The younger ones were accepted by the Orgrimmar society.

Their position in the orc society is still in the air. The Blademasters used to be exemplary orcs to look up to. But veteran orcs remember the Clan’s thirst for blood, how they were barely kept in check by scores of Ogres to prevent them from killing orcs and enemies alike. Some had even lost a limb, a friend or a family to their unbound frenzy.

A Story of Fire and Blade

It’s not just the Burning Blade that raises Blademasters, nor every Burning Blade becomes one. However, ask any orc and you shall hear that the Burning Blade orcs have an uncanny ability to command the blade and play with fire like frost wolf cubs play with each other.

They can wield any sword, axe and polearm with proficiency and their axe mastery bonuses extend to all of these weapons. They are resistant to fire.

Frostwolf Clan

Durotan’s Legacy

Frostwolves legendary chieftain Durotan led the clan through the corruption of orcs and invasion of Azeroth and while the Frostwolf clan did act as part of the brutal orcish Horde, the honourable orc stood his ground on two things: Ensuring the safety and honour of his clan and not dabbling with the fel.

The former one meant he had to nod sometimes when he didn’t mean to while minimizing the actual actions that they saw as dishonourable even if it meant the rest of the society saw them as cowardly or traitorous. For the former, while their shaman was forced to check fel magic, he forbade his clan from drinking demon blood.

His legacy lived in his son Go’el, known as Thrall to many, who created and led the new orc horde through the recent Legion invasion while doing his best to keep his people safe, honourable and free of demonic corruption that took away their freedom. In fact, together with Grom Hellscream, they defeated the Pit Lord Mannoroth, ending the blood curse.

Alternate Durotan, as honorable as the main universe one

As such, the Frostwolves are held in high esteem in the Orc society and their ideals are the closest to the ideals of Thrall’s new Horde. That being said, there are still those who remember the old times and think Frostwolves and Thrall as weak or cowardly.

Fangs in Cold

The Frostwolf clan has a special connection with their namesake and they have advantages for any rolls made for bonding, fighting or communicating with Frostwolves and each Frostwolf will eventually bond with one as a life-long partner.

In addition, Frostwolves have advantage in rolls against natural cold and in cases where rolls aren’t included are affected by it less than the average orc.

Dragonmaw Clan

Once United, Now Scattered

Dragonmaw, known for their command of Rylaks in the orcish homeworld of Draenor became one of the most important clans of the orcish Horde during the invasion of Azeroth, for their expertise ended them up with the essential role of managing the enslaved dragons. Clan’s chieftain Zuluhed and the mighty warlock Nekros Skullcrusher was tasked with enslaving Alexstrazsa by Deathwing himself.

However, after the events of the invasion, Nekros was killed (swallowed whole, to be precise) by the red dragon aspect and Zuluhed is believed to be dead in the destroyed orc homeland of Draenor.

The main group of Dragonmaws settled in Wetlands, some of which then moved to Twilight Highlands while others were in Blackwing Lair. Others were put in the Alliance internment camps, later saved by Thrall.

Chieftain Zuluhed the Whacked, as depicted in Hearthstone

So, the majority of the clan did not join the Horde, unsurprising to many. Dragonmaw were hostile and cruel, values not appreciated in the new Horde. That being said, there are still some who joined and came to embrace the values to some extent, continue upholding the old ways secretly or begrudgingly.

Cry of the Beasts

Dragonmaw clan has always shown mastery in controlling prestigious winged creatures, with taming Rylak in Draenor and the enthralled Red Dragons of Azeroth. A good understanding of how these creatures work and showing both physical and mental toughness comes with the territory.

Dragonmaw orcs have advantages in all dices when opposing a dragon, rylak or a similar creature as seen fit by the DM. This includes attack rolls, defensive rolls and even “social” ones such as intimidation — but never in a friendly manner (eg Diplomacy checks usually won’t qualify).

Finally, constant exposure to fang, claw, fire and other elements are part of a Dragonmaw’s training from childhood and they reduce all physical damage by 1 at level 1, increased by +1 at levels 5, 10, 15 and 20.

Conclusion

And that’s orcs! Orcs are one of the main peoples of Azeroth with so many potential angles to approach. I kind of like what I did with it but I had to skip so many other ideas I could explore! So who knows, maybe I’ll do something different later. What do you think? What’s your favourite feature?

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Ekrem Atamer

Gamer, gaming industry wanderer, development and design enthusiast. Current WIP: TBD