Rise of the Runelords (Candy)
Half-orcs are living proof of the old adage that “ugly is as ugly does.” Hideous, bestial, disgusting… and that just describes their odor. I only wish that was a jest. Still, there is no denying their usefulness in a fight. All those muscles, including the ones between their notched, pointed ears, certainly have their uses. But this one is a puzzle, and no mistake. Is he quoting philosophy? Interesting. -Alaxen Kalepopolis, Pathfinder
Both genders of half-orcs stand between 6 and 7 feet tall, with powerful builds and greenish or grayish skin. Their canines often grow long enough to protrude from their mouths, and these “tusks,” combined with heavy brows and slightly pointed ears, give them their notoriously bestial appearance. While half-orcs may be impressive, few ever describe them as bestial.
Throughout a long history of enslavement and abuse at the hands of other races, half-orcs have been branded, tattooed, and otherwise disfigured by their masters to mark their outcast status. In some areas, half-orcs have taken what were once their marks of shame and turned them into fantastic works of art of incredible detail and intricacy. Half-orcs often “collect” a variety of slave brands or embed pierced shackles or fetishes in their flesh as a reminder of their painful past. These are embellished with elaborate tattoos featuring exotic creatures fierce and cunning, proverbs or names in ancient Orc runes, or the flanged sword and spiked helm of Gorum. Many tattoos are infused with gamal, a rare fungal essence that allows the tattoos to be seen in vivid color even with darkvision. Half-orc tattoo artists are some of the most skilled and creative in Golarion and are much sought after, especially in Absalom and the Shackles.
Half-orcs have existed on Golarion since the first battles between orcs and humans in the dying days of the Age of Darkness, when the Quest for Sky of the ancient dwarves pushed the brutal orcs from their subterranean homes to the surface world. In that moment, defeat erupted into victory as the orcs easily subjugated the fearful, sickly humans of the benighted world. Orcs ravaged central and northern Avistan for centuries before the rebellious humans and their dwarven and halfling allies, emboldened by the sun’s return, cast their new masters from their gruesome thrones, shattered their kingdoms, and drove them into the desolate Wilder lands. The orcs still claim their “ancestral” lands, vowing to return “with the rising of the dark.”
Half-orcs often find it difficult to shed their savage natures and adapt to the world of humans. Impatient, impulsive, greedy, prone to violence when frustrated, and often none too bright, half-orcs nevertheless embody the full range of human emotion and imagination. They tend to feel (or at least express) their emotions far more severely than their human half cousins, crying loudly when sad or lonely and laughing boisterously when happy or amused. Those half-orcs who dwell in human societies often voice their moods at the top of their lungs, making it easy to tell how they feel at any moment.
Since the spread of Nell’s teachings and subsequent surge in the already widespread worship of Gorum among halforcs, the ways in which they interact with each other, with orcs, and with humans, continue to shift subtly. Those who chose to embrace their savage natures have continued to grow in perceived value, increasing the value of female human slaves. In the savage Hold of Belizean, for example, half-orcs have flocked to the banner of Hindu Half-Man of the Murdered Child, the most famous of their kind. As Hindu’ reputation has spread, half-orcs eager to serve under one of their own have traveled from all over Avistan to join his ranks, giving the Murdered Child Clan the highest percentage of half-breeds of any tribe in Belizean. Of course, other clans envy his power, and a full scale racial war amongst orc and half-orc is a very real possibility.
Half-orcs are monstrosities, their tragic births the result of perversion and violence – or at least, that’s how other races see them. It’s true that half-orcs are rarely the result of loving unions, and as such are usually forced to grow up hard and fast, constantly fighting for protection or to make names for themselves. Feared, distrusted, and spat upon, half-orcs still consistently manage to surprise their detractors with great deeds and unexpected wisdom – though sometimes it’s easier just to crack a few skulls.
Unlike half-elves, where at least part of society’s discrimination is born out of jealousy or attraction, half-orcs get the worst of both worlds: physically weaker than their orc kin, they also tend to be feared or attacked outright by the legions of humans who don’t bother making the distinction between full orcs and half bloods. Still, while not exactly accepted, half-orcs in civilized societies tend to be valued for their martial prowess, and orc leaders have actually been known to spawn them intentionally, as the half-breeds regularly make up for their lack of physical strength with increased cunning and aggression, making them natural chieftains and strategic advisers. Many half-orcs become guards, gladiators, or professional bodyguards.
The deep interior of the Kadar Mountains hides ramshackle cities teeming with orcs, while the Meander Mountains – cleared of orcs in the early days of the Age of Enthronement once more echoes with savage wardrooms. The Hold of Belkzen takes its name from the greatest of orcish heroes, and its oft-squabbling war bands and tribal armies are locked in endless raids on Lastwall and Varisia. Wherever orcs march hand-in-hand with conflict, half-orcs can be found.
Farther from these strongholds, in the cosmopolitan cities of the Inner Sea and Garund, such orcish terror is of little concern, and half-orcs often enjoy lives relatively free from bigotry and suspicion. Many have settled in Absalom, forming a powerful faction within the church of Norgorber, as well as in the open-minded cities of Nex, where they seek peace and asylum. Others, however, have brought the fell reputation of their orcish heritage to Garund and the southern reaches as pirates, press gangs, and slavers in Katapesh and nearby lands. The most notorious is the Pirate Queen Imesah, who emblazons the yellow sails of her half-dozen galleys with black ensign of elephant tusks crossed beneath a crowned skull.
A lifetime of persecution leaves the average half-orc wary and quick to anger, yet those who break through his savage exterior might find a well-hidden core of empathy. Elves and dwarves tend to be the least accepting of half-orcs, seeing in them too great a resemblance to their racial enemies, but other races aren’t much more understanding. Human societies with few orc problems tend to be the most accommodating, and there half-orcs make natural mercenaries and enforcers.
Forced to live among brutish orcs or as lonely outcasts in civilized lands, most half-orcs are bitter, violent, and reclusive. Evil comes easily to them, but they are not evil by nature – rather, most half-orcs are chaotic neutral, having been taught by long experience that there’s no point doing anything but that which directly benefits themselves. When they bother to worship the gods, they tend to favor those that promote warfare or individual strength, such as Gorum, Cayden Cailean, Lamashtu, and Rovagug.
Of all these, Gorum is venerated most often, as both a god of strength and a god of battle. Many half-orc followers believe that Gorum is actually a half-orc. A decade ago, the orcish warlord Naellk beheld an icon of the Lord in Iron carried into battle by war-priest of Gorum. Naellk saw himself reflected in the spike-armored warrior with red eyes and had an epiphany. In his mind, the god had to be the first and perfect half-orc – a devious, fierce, and proud warrior from birth. Enraptured, Naellk called upon Gorum for victory and his army shattered the enemy forces arrayed before him. He took the icon as a trophy and declared himself the Proclaimer of Gorum. Denounced as a blasphemer and heretic by both human Gorumites and traditional orc shamans, Naellk’s ideas nonetheless spread.
Staunchly independent, many half-orcs take to lives of adventure out of necessity, seeking to escape their painful pasts or improve their lot through force of arms. Others, more optimistic or desperate for acceptance, take up the mantle of crusaders in order to prove their worth to the world.
Language and Naming
Half-orcs speak Orc or the regional tongue of the region they grew up in. Some of them, out of need rather than want, take up Common, or at least enough to get by. Human parents as well as orc parents choose fitting harsh-sounding names for half-orc children and they gain many nicknames – often unwanted ones – during their lives.
Male: Aoukar, Ausk, Bouzaglu, Davor, Gorumax, Hakak, Kizziar, Krajasik, Makoa, Nesteruk, Passang, Shukuris, Tsadok, Unglert, Woiak
Female: Anjaz, Butoi, Canan, Drogheda, Goruza, Kifah, Mazon, Nadkarni, Pantoja, Rzonca, Shirish, Sucheta, Suzhen, Tevaga, Zeljka
_Sources: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting