Orcs are a race of humanoids. They lived in Exandria during the Age of Arcanum since before The Calamity, but Gruumsh, who wanted credit for their creation, successfully spread legends in the Post-Divergence that orcs were created from elves seared with his blood during a battle with Corellon. This false story gave rise to a pervasive false myth that orcs suffer are driven by Grumsh's blood toward an anger and violence called the curse of ruin.

Appearance[edit | edit source]

Exandrian orcs can reach a height of eight feet and are muscular, weighing up to 280 pounds.[4] They are described as athletic, "hardy, physically powerful people".[5]

History[edit | edit source]

Age of Arcanum[edit | edit source]

Orcs lived in Exandria during the Age of Arcanum prior to the Calamity.[6] However, it came to believed in the Post-Divergence that Gwessar orcs were accidentally created in a battle at the Throne of the Archeart from the elves who were seared and changed by Gruumsh's blood during his battle with Corellon[3][7] and that the half-orcs were first born in Wildemount in the war's final days or after the Calamity.[8][9] These untrue stories were spread by Gruumsh, who wanted credit for the creation of orcs, through his followers. His battle with Corellon did create "vengeful, orc-like beings" but not orcs as a people.[10]

The persistence of this myth led to a pervasive belief that orcs are driven to violence and anger by Gruumsh's blood. The orcish call his answer hgar'Gruum, the curse of ruin. The curse of ruin does not exist, and orcs are only drawn to violence and anger for the same natural reasons as other mortal creatures.[3]

Post-Divergence[edit | edit source]

After Gruumsh was defeated and banished, many of his orcish war clans splintered and went into hiding. Included among these were the Odakar orcs who held the Ashkeeper Peaks. Splitting from this group were some leaderless droves who migrated north into the Rime Plains, and these orcs suffered a schism between those who succumbed to Gruumsh's influence (the Jez-Araz marauders) and those who found inspiration in Kord, the Stormlord (the Boroftkrah clan). The latter went on the create the eponymous settlement of Boroftkrah.[11]

Some orcs settled around the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Calamity, which had plenty of weapons to salvage; this settlement was called Bladegarden, and for a time it was a part of the Julous Dominion. After the Julous Dominion fell to the Dwendalian Empire, the empire reached out to some of the more approachable members of the settlement, offering wages and access to goods and services. Many accepted, and Bladegarden was incorporated into the empire; other orcish clans who disagreed with this accord were driven east towards the Brokenveil Marsh.[12][13]

Campaign 1: Vox Machina[edit | edit source]

Near the Glasswalk Road in Othanzia, a raiding party of orcs, accompanied by an orc-ogre hybrid (called an ogrillon)[14] and a dire wolf, attacked the camp of Grog, Lyra, Percy, Scanlan, Vex'ahlia, and Zahra Hydris as the adventurers trekked north to hunt a white dragon. The last surviving orc gave them limited information before Grog executed him.[15]

Campaign 2: The Mighty Nein[edit | edit source]

The Mighty Nein briefly stopped at the house of an orc veteran of the Empire who hated its political structure and its inherent prejudice, deciding to build an isolated cabin. He was well-respected enough within the Empire to be left alone. He has hide armor and meat for trade. Matthew Mercer intended for the character to possibly offer some mentoring to Fjord, encouraging him to embrace his heritage. Since Fjord decided to stay outside during the encounter, some of those same threads were later introduced in the character of Wursh.[16]

On their way to Bazzoxan, the Mighty Nein raced on moorbounders past a small settlement of orc marauders in the Barbed Fields. They deployed a Fireball and an Insect Plague to discourage the worg-mounted orcs from following.[17]

Society[edit | edit source]

Marquet[edit | edit source]

The Gloomed Jungles of Aeshanadoor are ruled over by an erudite orcish society called the Court of the Lambent Path from their capital city of Yios.[18] The society is considered by some to be the "Marquesian peak of collegiate study".

Tal'Dorei[edit | edit source]

Unlike certain races of the continent, clans of Gwessar orcs didn't hide from the Calamity but fought in god-scale, gory battles set on the Dividing Plains, surviving through their sheer endurance, aspiration, and perhaps in part because of the divine power behind their creation. When the war was over, their fury has fade out.[19]

In the early days of Gwessar, orc clans were belligerent to anyone who invaded their territory, especially the goliaths who left their mountain shelters, where they waited out the Calamity, and descended to the plains, and who possess incredible strength and physique to rival orcs'. But the common sense prevailed even in the most passionate warmongers and the conflict has subsided overtime.[19]

In 836 PD, orcs and their descendants live all across Tal'Dorei, many of them found an asset in specific trades intertwined with their with physique, but work in other professions, as well. Though orcs and humans have a long rooted legacy of conflict with prejudice cause, the realm is filled with people who denounce and ostracize individuals who discriminate against their orc neighbors.[20]

Dwendalian Empire[edit | edit source]

Bladegarden is both a military training complex and the core of orcish society within the Dwendalian Empire, a fortified camp built to secure the empire's eastern border.[21] Following the incorporation of Bladegarden into the empire, orcs are among the most celebrated imperial soldiers, but many folk still fear the curse of ruin.[22]

Menagerie Coast[edit | edit source]

Orcs and half-orcs alike, believing that the curse of ruin caused them to lash out at loved ones, seek respite via spiritual peace and belonging in the city of Othe on the Menagerie Coast.[22]

Greying Wildlands[edit | edit source]

The orcs of Boroftkrah in the Greying Wildlands have a strong community that communes with Kord (particularly during thunderstorms) through contests of tracking and hunting, and makes offerings of strong prey. The settlement welcomes outsiders who are strong in the eyes of Kord, but it clashes frequently with the Jez-Araz and sometimes with hunting parties from Uthodurn.[23]

Xhorhas[edit | edit source]

Xhorhasian orcs primarily live in nomadic, mixed bands with humans and bugbears, taming the beasts of the wastes and mostly trading peacefully with the Kryn Dynasty. Though nomadic orcs welcome the city-folk of the Dynasty to join their clans, they become angered when Kryn souls are reborn in orc bodies.[22]

Due to the superstition about the curse of ruin, it is strictly taboo for orcs and goblinkin to have children, as the latter are known to carry the all-too-real curse of strife and the nomadic elders fear the madness that would come from a soul afflicted with both curses. So despite living in bands with bugbears, most half-orcs in Xhorhas have human or drow blood.[22]

Notable orcs[edit | edit source]

NPCs[edit | edit source]

Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]

In the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, in Tal'Dorei as of 812 PD, nearly every living orc was a ruthless killer, the word "orc" was associated with slaughter, and the exceptions were uncommon enough that people didn't believe stories about tender or merciful orcs.[26] Most orcs lived in wandering bands between the Stormcrest Mountains and Cliffkeep Mountains,[26] and nearly every orc in the Dividing Plains is part of the Ravagers, most willingly.[27] Ruthless and violent, the Ravagers worship Gruumsh and follow his commands to conquer and destroy and to feel nothing but fury or joy; they are sometimes hypnotized by their god's gaze from beyond the Divine Gate and fall into a strange bloodlust.[28] Orcs are described as being driven to chaos and destruction either through resentment created by the prejudice of other races or through "the corruption of the Ruiner's blood" driving them to all-consuming fury. However, some orcs are pushed to acts of compassion and tenderness by "what remains of their human and elven ancestry" despite the influence of Gruumsh's blood, which goes unnoticed by the rest of Tal'Dorei as no one has studied the orcish peoples.[27] Humans hold little remorse for orcs and view them as savage, bloodthirsty, and bestial.[26] Orcs are considered "a threat to civilization", albeit a mindless and uncoordinated one;[26] they are characterized as generally struggling to structure and lead their bands, though "with each generation, some orcs grow smarter" and more organized.[27]

Aspects of this lore, specifically in the existence of a corruption from Gruumsh's blood driving orcs to fury and in that displays of orcish compassion come from human and elven ancestry, were superseded by the Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, which refuted the existence of a blood-borne curse from Gruumsh and asserted orcs are not inherently driven to violence more than any other mortal.[22] In other places, Explorer's Guide to Wildemount reiterates lore in the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, such as Gruumsh's ability to hypnotize those who already serve him (though also expanded worship of Gruumsh beyond orcs).[29] In "Explorer's Guide to Wildemount Q&A and Fireside Chat with Matthew Mercer" (Mx09), Matthew Mercer said, in discussing the narrative treatment of orcs in the Exandria and in Explorer's Guide to Wildemount:

"I've been in a discussion for a while amongst a lot of creators in this space that orcs always got the shaft, even though where they were born from, and really came to prominence in the Lord of the Rings as this kind of— this idea of industrialization and the evil of, in many ways, of an exploitative capitalist society. A lot of that also lent to orcs being an unnecessarily lambasted and evil-touted entity in a lot of media. I fell into that as well. [...] With Wildemount, I wanted to explore the aspect of evil as— morality is relative, but evil is born from experience and intent, not from bloodline. Not from lineage. So when we came around to making this book, it was very important that we've managed to steer away from that classic idea of the orcs. Even the marauders that we had situated in Tal'Dorei's campaign guide, which was meant to be just one facet, but even then, there were facets of that book that were lazy, looking back on it. I'm not necessarily very proud of that."
—"Explorer's Guide to Wildemount Q&A and Fireside Chat with Matthew Mercer" (Mx09) from 48:47 to 50:54

The orc racial traits published in Explorer's Guide to Wildemount were first published in Eberron: Rising from the Last War,[30] differing greatly from the orc racial traits published in the Volo's Guide to Monsters. The Explorer's Guide to Wildemount version also differs from the Eberron version in that it increases the lifespan and maturity rate of orcs.

In January 2022, the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn updated the lore presented in the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, including a "serious overhaul" to the races section according to writer James Haeck.[31][32]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 178.
  2. "The Gentleman's Path" (2x19) at 1:42:21.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", pp. 177–178.
  4. Note that the description of orcs and the random height calculation do not match up. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 178.
  5. Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, pp. 162–163.
  6. "Excelsior" (E3x01) at 1:31:50.
  7. Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 162.
  8. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 177.
  9. Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 28.
  10. Matthew Mercer (@matthewmercer) on Twitter — in reply to: "A good eye! "It is said" that was the point of their creation, largely by those without interest in historical interest (the unreliable narrator of history). While that particular event created a number of "vengeful, orc-like beings under the Ruiner", they indeed predated it. The Ruiner wishes to take credit for them, and pushed that narrative through his followers. Revisionist history."
  11. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 3: "Wildemount Gazetteer", p. 112.
  12. Grimgolir was absorbed around the same time Bladegarden was incorporated into the Empire. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 3: "Wildemount Gazetteer", p. 86. See also p. 16, about King Alfwin Dwendal "establishing the stronghold of Bladegarden and assimilating Grimgolir into the Empire."
  13. This is seemingly contradicted by the statement that Bladegarden was incorporated into the empire "after the fall of the Julous Dominion, nearly three hundred years ago." Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 178. See also p. 81, on which "When the Julous Dominion was defeated" is quickly followed by, "The empire reached out to the more approachable members of the orc settlement of Blade­garden."
  14. Monster Manual, 5th edition, p. 238.
  15. "Trial of the Take: Part 1" (1x18) from 1:21:33 through 2:16:50.
  16. "Critical Role Campaign 2 Wrap-Up" (Mx10) from 3:59:26 through 4:00:53.
  17. "Beneath Bazzoxan" (2x66) at 1:19:03.
  18. "The Draw of Destiny" (3x01) at 13:54.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 162.
  20. Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, Chapter 4: "Character Options", pp. 162–163.
  21. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 3: "Wildemount Gazetteer", p. 81.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 178.
  23. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 3: "Wildemount Gazetteer", pp. 112–113.
  24. Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, Chapter 2: "Allegiances of Tal'Dorei", p. 40.
  25. Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, Chapter 2: "Allegiances of Tal'Dorei", p. 60.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 126.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 136.
  28. Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 20.
  29. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 1: "Story of Wildemount", p. 27.
  30. "Explorer's Guide to Wildemount Q&A and Fireside Chat with Matthew Mercer" (Mx09) at 48:47.
  31. James Haeck (@jamesjhaeck) on Twitter: "I can't say much more yet, but the races section of this book underwent a serious overhaul." (July 22, 2021).
  32. Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 150.


  1. Official art of an Exandrian orc, by Nikki Dawes (source). This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.

External links[edit | edit source]