Mountain Orc

The orcs of the North and the Spine of the World comprise the oldest and most numerous of the various orc subraces active on Faerûn. In fact, many people assume that all orcs are like the savage warmongers found in these regions, and do not identify gray orcs or even half-orcs as separate races.

A mountain orc is quite obviously a monstrous creature to most of the civilized folk of Faerûn. Mountain orcs look vaguely like primitive humans but are a fair bit taller at seven or more feet in height; a rare few exceed eight feet in height. They have stocky, powerful necks, and their bestial heads seem to sit directly on their massive shoulders. Their eyes are always a deep shade of red, and their faces are dominated by porcine snouts and large tusks. Mountain orcs often weave braids and tiny bones into their thick matted hair, which is usually black. Their clothing is crude and primitive, often composed of unpleasant colors like blood red, mustard yellow, yellow-green, and deep purple. They are far from the cleanest race on Faerûn and delight in decorating their bodies with scars and warpaint.

Mountain orcs are not a long-lived folk. They use the following aging effect characteristics, as described in Aging:

RaceMiddle Age*Old**Venerable***Maximum Age
Orc, Mountain304050+2d10 years

Mountain orcs are bigger and more powerful than most other peoples of Faerûn, and use the following random height and weight characteristics (see Races of Faerûn).

Orc, male5'8"+2d10150 lb. x (2d6) lb.
Orc, female5'0"+2d10115 lb. x (2d6) lb.


The mountain orcs have been a part of Faerûn for thousands of years, but for most of that time they were little more than feral animals who sporadically ventured south into the lands of the elven nations. The elves had little trouble turning back these sloppy invasions, and often sent parties north toward the Spine of the World to hunt orcs as sport. To this day the mountain orcs have a deep and seething hatred of elves, as well as for humans, since the elves took it upon themselves to protect humans from the orc-raids.

During the Crown Wars and the Wandering Years that followed, the elven nations weakened, and the orcs gained their chance to grow strong. The "civilization" of the orcs of the North took many generations, and in that time the orcs developed important skills such as metalworking, armorsmithing, and weaponcraft. Finally, in -3605 DR, the orcs poured forth from the Spine of the World in the first great orc horde and brought untold slaughter and despair to the fledgling nation of Netheril. This horde was turned back by the combined might of the elves and humans, but the orcs were merely driven back, not destroyed.

Since that initial invasion, orc hordes have periodically streamed south in attempts to take the lands of the humans and elves. One great incursion of orcs occurred not long after the fall of Netheril, in -100 DR; the only kingdom to stand against their might was the elven realm of Eaerlann. Another major incursion occurred in 1235 DR; this orc horde swept down from the northernmost peaks all the way to Calimshan. This invasion lasted for six years, and was only turned away in 1241 DR by determined armies banding together.

Each time a new horde appears, it has been eventually beaten back to the north. Nevertheless, the people of these regions live in constant fear that the next one might prove to be the horde that breaks the back of the civilized world once and for all.


The mountain orcs are above all else warlike and destructive. They firmly believe that one day they shall finally crush the civilized world and inherit the lands that are rightfully theirs. Their previous defeats are not thought of as losses, but as preliminary assaults designed more to test the resources and resolve of their enemies.

Despite this shared vision of a savage Faerûn ruled by orcs, the greatest hurdle they face is their inability to band together for any other reason than warfare. When the orc populations grow large enough and an orc leader emerges with enough charisma and clout to rally them, the orc tribes of the North can shake the world. But most of the time the mountain orcs are consumed with bitter infighting among themselves.

Mountain Orc Characters

Barbarians and fighters dominate among the mountain orcs, with rogues and adepts a distant third and fourth, respectively.

Favored Class: Barbarian; the mountain orcs have built their society around the concept that might makes right.

Prestige Classes: The most infamous prestige class among the tribes of the North is the dreaded orc warlord, those charismatic individuals responsible for gathering and leading the destructive orc hordes south against civilized lands. Mountain orcs sometimes become blackguards or assassins, but these are exceptional characters.

Mountain Orc Society

The mountain orcs gather in immense tribes. Unlike their gray orc kin, mountain orcs are not nomadic. They select a cavern or old ruin as a lair and settle in. As their populations grow, crude new buildings and keeps are built, and in many places in the North, orc lairs have begun to resemble actual cities. When an orc city grows too large, the usual result is a bitter civil war that ends with the losing faction breaking off and fleeing to form its own tribe elsewhere. This tradition of infighting keeps most orc cities and fortresses from becoming too large. The size of a mountain orc tribe varies greatly, depending on the success of the tribe and its age. Smaller tribes are rarely less than 50 members, and the larger tribes, such as the Tornskull Orcs, can number in excess of 5,000 fighting orcs.

The number of orc tribes in the North is past guessing, and tribes rise or vanish on a monthly basis. Nevertheless, several tribes are large and old enough to have become infamous throughout the region. The three major tribes of the Rauvin Mountains are a perfect example: the Red Fangs, the Heart Takers, and the Tornskulls have long terrorized this region. The orc tribes in the foothills and heights of the Spine of the World are by far the most numerous in total number, and it is also here that one of the most notorious and successful orc tribes now dwells - the Many Arrows tribe, led by King Obould.

Language and Literacy

All mountain orc characters can speak Orc and Common. Unlike the gray orcs, the various northern tribes speak very similar dialects of Orc, most likely due to the fact that there is much more interaction among the various mountain tribes than there is among the independent tribes of the east. Mountain orcs often learn Giant and Goblin as well, so they can communicate with their like-minded neighbors, and Common so that they can interrogate prisoners.

All mountain orcs are illiterate, except for those who have a player character class other than barbarian.

Abilities and Racial features

Mountain orcs all possess the following racial traits:

Mountain Orc Magic and Lore

The mountain orcs are more interested in physical combat than magic. Nonetheless, they understand and appreciate the tactical value of having magical support in a war. Their spellcasters focus on magic that can be directly applied to combats, especially spells like haste, keen edge, bless, prayer, and others that support the fighting troops. Despite this, many tribes of orcs think of magic as the coward's route, something used by their hated enemies (especially the elves). To embrace the use of magic is to concede that one's enemies are to be respected - a concept that doesn't sit well with many orcs.

Mountain Orc Magic Items

Mountain orc magic items are nearly always weapons or armor. They prefer to use items that anyone can access, such as potions, rings, weapons, armor, or most wondrous items and rods. Scrolls, staffs, and wands are items of mockery, mostly because the majority of the mountain orcs simply can't make them work and thus deride them to inflate their own importance.

Iconic Magic Item: Some mountain orc spellcasters manufacture spears of impaling, designed to slay the elves and dwarves they hate.

Mountain orc Deities

The mountain orcs acknowledge the various orc deities, but they do not let matters of faith and religion get in the way of their goals. They assume that the orc deities placed them in this world to do what they do best and do not feel the need of constant support from clerics and the like. Almost all mountain orc clerics are worshipers of Gruumsh, since the other members of the orc pantheon are thought of as little more than the servants of Grumsh. There are also a large number of orc druids in the North; these are usually loners who dwell apart from orc tribes. An orc druid is either Chaotic Neutral or Neutral Evil. They serve as oracles and advisors for orc chieftains, and are often called upon to use their power over nature to aid orc armies.

Relations with other Races

The mountain orcs are consumed with hatred toward most non-orc races (in particular elves, humans, and dwarves). Despite this, they remain on good terms with other races like the various goblinoid races, giants, and other evil denizens of the North. Often ogres, trolls, and hill giants can be found living in orc communities. It's often said an orc will willingly breed with anything even vaguely humanoid; see Half-orc for more on their most common mixed race progeny.

Mountain orc Equipment

Mountain orcs have the technology and skill to build their own weapons and armor, and have specialized in the construction of specialty axes such as the orc double-axe. For equipment, armor, and non-axe weaponry, though, the mountain orcs prefer to outfit their armies with gear and weapons looted from their defeated enemies. A mountain orc treats his axe with respect, but most of the rest of his equipment is neglected and ignored; when it finally breaks or falls apart it is simply discarded and replaced at the earliest opportunity from loot taken from another enemy. They prefer to wear the best armor they can find or afford, usually scale mail.

Animals and Pets

Mountain orcs often use animals, beasts, and other monsters as guardians for their lairs, but usually such guardians are just as dangerous to the orcs as to potential intruders. They reason that taming a wild animal dulls the creature's instincts and senses, so a completely feral creature is much more effective a guardian. Generally, an orc tribe sets aside a section of their territory as a lair for these creatures. Chimeras, displacer beasts, manticores, phase spiders, and winter wolves are often found living with orc communities in this manner. If the guardian creatures are unintelligent, the orcs instead incorporate them into traps, stocking underground pits and caves with the monsters and then rigging chutes and trap doors in the floor to drop intruders into these caverns. Oozes and monstrous vermin are often used as living traps in this fashion.


Races of Faerûn
Character Creation