This is an excerpt from One Page Lore: Fantasy Folk. Orcs and details on 20 other fantasy folk (including halflings, gnomes, lizardfolk, and more) each have their own one-page entry. You can purchase it at rexiconjesse.itch.io/one-page-lore-fantasy-folk.
Orcs are way more interesting than just being total beefcakes. I don’t see much lore about them going into what it would mean to be so naturally strong or how they differ from other folk on a biological level. They don’t have to be warlike or tribal to stand out. Orcs can exist in a variety of ways. They have their own unique abilities and drawbacks.
Few people rival orcs in strength. Unlike other humanoids, their muscles don’t deteriorate as they age. However, orcs are far more than muscle-bound brutes. Their personalities are as distinct and notable as their physical appearances.
While their height can range from 5 1/2–7 ft., their extreme muscle density and reinforced skeletons make them broader than most humanoids of the same height. Thick, rounded biceps, a barrel chest and stomach, and massive, sturdy legs are common among orcs. This increased density means larger orcs can weigh close to 500 lbs.
An orc’s pointed ears usually sit shorter and wider than those of the elves. Their incisors are sharp and slightly serrated, and it’s common for their top and bottom canines to grow long enough to use as fangs or tusks.
Orc skin tones range greatly depending on the heritage of their parents. Orcs from parents who dwell underground or only visit the surface at night often have translucent, pale blue, or light green skin. Those from parents new to the surface often have green, orange, or gray skin. Those used to the surface usually have deep green, red, or purple skin.
While the reason is uncertain, orcs evolved to have no nose. They have two nostril slits on either a flat plane or a small cranial bump.
Fabled Orc Strength
Orcs are generally born strong, and compared to humans, it takes less strain to build more muscles. Their muscles take around twice as long to degrade from lack of effort or even atrophy. Many orcs continue to build muscle and get stronger up until their final days. This added muscle mass usually slows old orcs considerably.
Being strong often comes with awareness of the world around them. Most orcs are sensitive to the tactile strength and weight of objects they touch. Not applying too much force is a trait most orcs learn simply by interacting with objects.
Orcs do not suffer from mental fatigue when physically exerting themselves. An orc sprinting up a mountain carrying a party member on each shoulder can think just as clearly as they would planting flowers.
This physical and mental independence also manifests as a natural resistance to outside mental influences. This can further accentuate personality traits, such as fierce individualism, increased skepticism, nurturing those who need aid, or any number of mindsets as vast and varied as the individual orcs themselves.
Orcs are carnivores, so meat must be the overwhelming majority of their diet. The meat being cooked, raw, spoiled, or still alive doesn’t matter to an orc’s stomach—though it may matter to the orc. Any kind of meat will do: animals, bugs, shellfish, even humanoids, including other orcs. The ability to eat humanoids without any negative physical effects doesn’t equate to a personal belief that they should.
An orc’s stomach treats any more than a small helping or garnish of plants or fungus as inedible. Thus, they will gain no nutritional value from it and will vomit if they have too much. Orc cuisines use vegetation, fruits, grains, herbs, and other plant matter sparingly for flavor, nothing more.
Orcs mature at a rate similar to humans for their first 8-12 years. From adolescence until physical maturity around 20, most orcs experience an explosive growth rate.
Orcs generally live 70-80 years. Unlike other humanoids, they never cease getting stronger as they age. Because of their continued building of muscle, many orcs suffer complications from the unending growth. Some orcs in their late years grow incredibly strong but lack the range of motion to run.
- Strength to Overcome – Your raw strength is a powerful asset
- Large – You are bigger than most humanoids
- Hardened Muscle – Your muscles grow so thick, they can resist damage
- Sturdy – Dense muscles make it hard to overpower you
- No Need for Light – You see well in the dark
- Untiring – Sustained, strenuous actions are easier for you
- Mental Fortitude – You resist outside mental influences
- Concentration – You think clearly regardless of physical strain
- Structural Acumen – Given your astounding strength, you’re sensitive to how structurally sound the objects you touch are
- Carnivore – So long as it’s meat, it’ll sustain you
- Strength to Overcome – Your strength often comes at the cost of quick movements
- Large – Your massive frame is difficult to miss
- No Need for Light – With eyes sensitive enough to see in the dark, sudden changes in light can blind you
- Concentration – Focusing on one thing can distract you from all else
- Carnivore – If you cannot obtain meat, you’ll starve
I’m intractable on