Orcs are perhaps the most classic fantasy villain of all time, and this trope holds just as true in Dungeons & Dragons. Driven by their need to destroy and conquer, orcs gather in tribes led by the strongest of their kind. These warlords command their troops to raze villages to the ground, taking whatever they can before moving on to another ripe target.
If there's one trait that best describes an orc it's aggression. While they certainly have their fair share of weaknesses, unwitting players can easily fall into the trap of meeting orcs in the battlefield on terms that favor these heavy hitters. After all, it's not like they give you the choice of not going toe-to-toe with them.
5 Inhibit Their Movement
The most iconic trait that orcs possess in Dungeons & Dragons is fittingly named Aggressive. This ability allows an orc to dash as a bonus action as long as a hostile creature is in its sight. As a result, orcs are capable of crossing large swathes of ground while still maintaining access to their powerful greataxe attacks.
The best way to prevent orcs from taking advantage of this ability is by reducing or removing their movement. Spells like Entangle and Web are perfect for providing battlefield obstacles that orcs will have to move through in order to reach your party. Even basic adventuring gear like caltrops or ball bearings can prove extremely helpful in a battle against orcs, and while movement reduction abilities like cantrips such as Ray of Frost won't completely stop an orc charge, they will often make a meaningful difference.
4 Maintain Your Distance
Of course, inhibiting the movement of enemy orcs is only useful as long as you also maintain your distance from them. While some orcs are known to use shortbows and longbows on occasion, most orcs limit themselves to simpler ranged weapons such as javelins. These simpler ranged weapons have shorter ranges that will force orc attacks to be made at disadvantage as long as you stay more than 30 feet out of reach.
While the orcs struggle to pass through whatever difficult terrain you've put between you and them, you can rain down ranged attacks with longer ranged weapons, cantrips, and other long range spells. To this end, it's important to make use of your movement speed every turn to run as far away from the orcs as possible.
Any turn that you don't use your movement to move away from them is a turn that the orcs get closer. Once you've been hit by an orc with a greataxe once, you'll understand why getting close isn't exactly a good idea.
3 Target Their Mental Scores
While orcs are physically impressive specimens with above average Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores, their mental acuity usually leaves something to be desired. The Intelligence and Charisma scores of orcs are almost always lacking, so spells that target these scores with saving throws are especially effective against them.
Spells like Bane, Tasha's Mind Whip, and Enemies Abound are all perfect candidates for sowing disorder in orc ranks that can easily lead to a victory for your party. It's worth mentioning that while using spells that target Wisdom saving throws will still prove effective against most orcs, it won't work quite as reliably. In fact, some orcs are actually priests and druids that worship evil gods, providing them with Wisdom bonuses you wouldn't expect.
2 Sate Their Bloodlust
Of course, all of these previous tips assume your party is in a situation where they can afford to fight the orcs descending upon them. In some cases, your party may just be outmaneuvered and outnumbered. When forced to deal with orcs in the arena of diplomacy, it's important to remember that they are primarily driven by a desire to pillage and destroy.
You can use this desire against groups of orcs by bribing them with new raid targets, challenging them to one-on-one bouts of strength, and convincing them to sate their bloodlust by joining forces with you against a common, more threatening enemy. Knowing a monster's motivation is sometimes all it takes to turn a group of enemies into powerful new allies.
1 Outsmart Them
While satisfying the desires of orcs you meet is one potential diplomatic route, there's also the option of using your superior intelligence to gain the upper hand against them. This includes things like taking up defensive positions before a battle, laying traps, or using logic in conversation to otherwise persuade orcs that their goals and your goals truly align (even when they really don't).
Despite being physically superior humanoids, orcs repeatedly fail in taking control of the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy settings due to their inability to see the big picture. After all, if orcs were ever to succeed in their aims of pillaging and destruction, they would eventually run out of places to loot and things to destroy.
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