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An orc warlord
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Orcs are warlike humanoids most renowned in the Inner Sea region for their hatred of civilisation, ceaseless raiding, and violent attitude.23 The nature of orcs, however, is more complex than their reputation, and their loyalty and hardiness make them as respected in some parts of Golarion as they are feared in others.4


Orcs resemble humans with bestial features, most prominently their oversized, boar-like canines and sharp teeth.5 Orcs are normally around seven feet in height,4 but can seem broader due to their powerful frame and musculature5 and shorter due to their low stance and posture.4

Orc skin tones can vary between a sallow pink through various shades of grey to dark green,6 though most are some shade of green.4 They scar easily, and even the youngest orc warriors bear an array of scars that they wear with pride;45 "you are the scars that shape you" is a common aphorism among orcs.4

Orcs possess small, beady eyes that are very sensitive to sunlight. Their facial features are vaguely pig-like, and their hair is wiry like a boar's bristles.6 On average, an orc weighs around 210 pounds2 and reaches physical maturity in their 17th year, with an orc's average natural lifespan reaching approximately 60 years.4

Orcs make up for their short lifespans and the high attrition of their violent societies by reproducing at an astonishing rate.7 Orc mothers are kept from the battlefield and typically give birth to between two and five young at a time. They occasionally birth a single child who has devoured their siblings in utero, which is seen as an omen of greatness.8 Their fecundity is so great that a tribe decimated in battle can almost totally replenish its numbers in as little as a decade.7


An orc raises the head of a defeated rival.

When first encountered in the depths of the Darklands before Earthfall, orcs were little more than ferocious animals. Their earliest fights against the dwarves taught them to adapt, as they could not overcome the stout folk with just fists, teeth, and sheer fury. Eventually, the orcs learned to wield stolen dwarven weapons and to modify stolen armour to fit their hulking frames, but it was not enough. As orcs rose from their animalistic beginnings, the dwarves began their Quest for Sky, the 300 year-long migration from the Darklands to the surface.5

The advancing dwarves forced the orcs farther and farther upwards,5 eventually causing them to withdraw to the surface ahead of the crusading dwarves in places like Deepgate in what is today the Hold of Belkzen.9 Upon reaching the surface in -5102 AR,10 the orcs found a sunless land still engulfed in the Age of Darkness with the survivors from the shattered human empires like Azlant and Thassilon scattered across the land.5

In -5088 AR, the orcs of what would later be known as the Hold of Belkzen were attacked by a coalition of giants near the fortress of Deepgate. The attacks culminated at the First Battle, after which the two sides called a truce.11

During the Age of Darkness, the orcs prospered; to them, this era was known as "The Sacking" as the orcs rampaged across the surface world all but unopposed.5 As the perpetual twilight created by Earthfall slowly gave way to more and more daylight, the Age of Anguish began in -4294 AR and orcs first experienced the burning kiss of the Sun.12

This marked the start of a centuries-long decline for the orcs that was only ceased by the birth and rise of the legendary orc warlord Belkzen. Determined to drive the dwarves back below the surface, Belkzen began a violent campaign that resulted in the sacking of Jerengoff in -3709 AR10 and culminating in the conquest of the Sky Citadel of Koldukar in -3708 AR.13 Belkzen's conquests give rise to the kingdom that still bears his name, the Hold of Belkzen.514

Culture and society


Orcs seems to experience emotions more intensely than other humanoids, but only seem to express rage, jealousy, lust, and similar emotions. This may be a result of their violent culture.5 Orcs have an incredibly high pain threshold, though this is not physiological. They experience pain as vividly as any other sentient race but possess a near unparalleled stoicism.415

Orcs fatalistically embrace pain, allowing them to survive agony that would break or even kill another creature. Some even claim that orc eyes have never adapted to the burning light of the sun, they have just learned to endure it.15

In the Inner Sea region

Orcs at war with the Shoanti people of Varisia.

Orc society in the Inner Sea region is centered around strength and combat; every orc has a right to take what they are strong enough to take and control those too weak to resist them. Childhood is brutal; the weak are culled without hesitation, and combat training begins as early as 8 years old.8

This creates a brutal hierarchy that is only able to function due to a few ingrained traditions. The first is family loyalty, as it helps all members of the clan to survive. Secondly, respect for hierarchy allows weaker members of society to survive. While they might abuse those weaker than themselves, orcs rarely kill those below them unless they are directly challenged.8

These dominance challenges are an integral part of orc society, as each orc faces constant danger from challengers below them and constant reminders of their comparative weakness from those above them. As the consequence for a lost battle is normally death, challengers carefully bide their time waiting for a moment of weakness. This hierarchical structure is so fundamental to orc culture that the very idea of equality seems like madness to them, and orcs cannot imagine life in a society where they do not know whom they serve and whom they can dominate.8

Beast riding

Whilst only average riders in skill, orcs value having fearsome mounts for the prestige they bring. The most common mounts include dire wolves, dire boars,16 gortheks,17 elephants, rhinoceroses and even owlbears, but orcs value rare or exotic creatures even more highly. Mammoths and other megafauna from the Realm of the Mammoth Lords are highly prized, particularly if it gives them the opportunity to fight and defeat the famed Kellid mammoth riders.16

In neighbouring Numeria, the orc tribes favour strange beasts brought from beyond the stars by the crashing spaceship that now forms the Silver Mount. Some cunning orcs have even learned how to ride the various robotic creatures that inhabit the land.16

Dhalla Winddancer, a wand-wielding orc wizard.


Orcs are interested only in magic when it has immediate, tangible benefits making them unsuited for any kind of spellcasting that requires education or discipline. Instead, orcs favour magic that taps into primal sources of power like sorcerers, oracles, shamans, and witches, though they also have a surprising respect for both bards and skalds for their ability to manipulate emotions and whip orcs into a supernatural frenzy.16

Magic users in orc society often either use their abilities to make themselves an integral part of the tribe, rising rapidly through it hierarchy, or in a self-imposed exile, seeing their strange powers as making them above other orcs.18 Due to orcs respect for the sheer power of their deities, spellcasters will often try to associate themselves with them, with arcane casters often pretending that their power instead extends from the divine.16


The Happy Fellow is a legend told by orc mothers to their young about an elf who comes to eat orc children who smile too much in their sleep.19


The orc mother goddess Dretha.

Orcs tend to view religion as simply an exchange of power with whichever god will help them most in battle. In violent holds and lands, orcs have no interest in any peaceful deities and most commonly the Rough Beast Rovagug, as he is a god of near limitless power and infinite fury, or Lamashtu4 or Gorum.20

Orcs are also prone to demon worship; the most common demon lords they follow include Baphomet, Orcus, Nurgal, and Zura. There are also small tribes of orcs that devoutly worship the less powerful nascent demon lords, such as Treerazer (who roams amongst the tribes that dwell within the Tanglebriar), Daclau-Sar, Murnath, Ovonovo, and even murderous Nightripper.20

Orcs also boast their own pantheon of racial demigods whom they worship somewhat interchangeably, often blending their various roles and myths to suit current needs. Some believe these are paragons of the orc race, raised to divinity by virtue of their sheer orcness, while others believe they have always been divine. They have worshipped these deities since before the Age of Darkness making them ancient beings either way.20

Countless orc demigods exist; the eight commonly worshipped on Golarion are Dretha the Dark Mother, Lanishra the Slavelord, Nulgreth the Blood God, Rull the Thunderer, Sezelrian the Fire God, Varg the Iron Warrior, Verex the Despoiler, and Zagresh the Destroyer.2122 However, orcs also hold that if a being has a face and a name, then it is mortal and therefore a challenge to be defeated rather than a being to be revered. This leads some orc holds to attempt to challenge these deities in order to replace them and become gods themselves.4

Orcs in more peaceful, or at least less violent, communities also venerate the fire and glory of Sarenrae, as well as her promise of redemption.4

In other parts of Golarion


A Matanji orc.

Matanji orcs are the predominant orc ethnicity in the Mwangi Expanse. Renowned for their demon-slaying prowess, they have a better relationship with their neighbours than their brethren in the Hold of Belkzen.23

Even though they live far from Arcadia, the Matanji are a major centre of worship for Kazutal, who they know as Majagua. Her focus on community, and especially the protection of it, fits well with the philosophy of the Matanji, who pride themselves on how their strength can shelter their allies.24

Despite not spending too much time with them, the Matanji greatly revere and respect the Ekujae elves. They have learned many tactics for demon hunting from listening to the stories of this community and even follow many of their superstitions, such as eschewing gold. Indeed, many Matanji orcs would consider it the greatest honor to marry an Ekujae elf and bring their skill and history into their society.24

As adventurers

An orc's drive to overcome challenges and prove themself spurs many to become adventurers, though orcs are more likely to set out on their own or with other orcs than alongside adventurers of other ancestries. They thrive in martial classes like the barbarian and fighter.25


Orcs often use the same types of weapons wielded by their ancient ancestors, such as falchions and greataxes.26 Orcs of the Hold of Belkzen sometimes capture deadly rockwasps in globes of wax, in order to hurl them at their enemies.27


Paizo Inc. published a major section about orcs in Monster Codex, a Pathfinder Player Companion sourcebook titled Orcs of Golarion, and the Pathfinder Campaign Setting sourcebook Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes.

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Orcish" has been used in Paizo publications as an adjective, but that usage but is no longer considered canon. Please see the Discussion page for more details. Pathfinder Second Edition uses "Orcish" for the language spoken by orcs.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jason Bulmahn. (2009). Bestiary (First Edition), p. 222. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-183-1}
  3. Steve Kenson, Rob McCreary, Richard Pett, et al. (2010). Orcs of Golarion, p. 5. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-256-2
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 Logan Bonner et al. (2023). Player Core, p. 70. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-64078-553-3
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Benjamin Bruck, et al. (2015). Inner Sea Races, p. 148. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-722-2
  6. 6.0 6.1 Greg A. Vaughan. (2008). Orc. Classic Monsters Revisited, p. 53. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-079-7
  7. 7.0 7.1 Greg A. Vaughan. (2008). Orc. Classic Monsters Revisited, p. 54. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-079-7
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Benjamin Bruck, et al. (2015). Inner Sea Races, p. 150. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-722-2
  9. Tyler Beck, Jason Garrett, Alex Greenshields, and David Schwartz. (2015). "Adventuring in Belkzen". Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes, p. 44. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-710-9
  10. 10.0 10.1 Tyler Beck, Jason Garrett, Alex Greenshields, and David Schwartz. (2015). "Belkzen Gazetteer". Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes, p. 5. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-710-9
  11. Tyler Beck, Jason Garrett, Alex Greenshields, and David Schwartz. (2015). "Belkzen Gazetteer". Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes, p. 5. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-710-9
  12. Erik Mona et al. (2008). "The World". Campaign Setting, p. 201. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  13. Erik Mona et al. (2008). "The World". Campaign Setting, p. 202. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-112-1
  14. Greg A. Vaughan. (2008). Orc. Classic Monsters Revisited, p. 56. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-079-7
  15. 15.0 15.1 Benjamin Bruck, et al. (2015). Inner Sea Races, p. 149. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-722-2
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 Benjamin Bruck, et al. (2015). Inner Sea Races, p. 152. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-722-2
  17. Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, Logan Bonner, et al. (2014). Monster Codex, p. 172. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-686-7
  18. Benjamin Bruck, et al. (2015). Inner Sea Races, p. 153. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-722-2
  19. Richard Pett. (2008). The Storm Breaks (Pathfinder's Journal). A History of Ashes, p. 77. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-093-3
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Benjamin Bruck, et al. (2015). Inner Sea Races, p. 151. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-722-2
  21. Tyler Beck, Jason Garrett, Alex Greenshields, and David Schwartz. (2015). Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes, p. 29–31. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-60125-710-9
  22. Robert Brookes et al. (2018). "The Great Beyond". Planar Adventures, p. 186. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-64078-044-6
  23. Laura-Shay Adams et al. (2021). "People of the Mwangi". The Mwangi Expanse, p. 92–101. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-64078-340-9
  24. 24.0 24.1 Laura-Shay Adams et al. (2021). "People of the Mwangi". The Mwangi Expanse, p. 92. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-64078-340-9
  25. Logan Bonner, Lyz Liddell, Mark Seifter et al. (2020). Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide, p. 19. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-64078-257-0
  26. Logan Bonner et al. (2023). Player Core, p. 72. Paizo Inc. ISBN 978-1-64078-553-3
  27. Richard Pett. (2008). The Storm Breaks (Pathfinder's Journal). A History of Ashes, p. 78. Paizo Publishing, LLC. ISBN 978-1-60125-093-3