Roses of Britain
Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity; +2 Strength or +2 Constitution
Speed: 6 squares
Languages: English, Giant
Skill Bonuses: +2 Endurance, +2 Intimidate
Half-Orc Resilience: See Player’s Handbook 2 pg. 14 or Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms pg. 258.
Swift Charge: See Player’s Handbook 2 pg. 14 or Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms pg. 258.
Furious Assault: See Player’s Handbook 2 pg. 14 or Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms pg. 258.
The origins of the half-orc race are murky, although fragments of ancient Saxon tales on the matter still survive in some corners of southern England. Most of these stories describe how the thunder god Thunor looked upon the orc race and saw not merely a ruthless foe of humankind, but also a wellspring of physical might. Striking down the orc exarch of a mighty frost primordial, Thunor wove his foe’s potent orcish blood into a divine ritual. From his most favored mortals, he selected a clan of cunning human warriors and remade them into a new race with strength and fortitude greater that of their kin. In some versions of the tale, the half-orcs arose by happenstance when the blood of Thunor’s foe spattered on the deity’s mortal allies. In others, it was the deity Wodan or even a primal spirit that gave life to the race.
Initially, there were no orcs or half-orcs in Albion, but both races eventually found their way to her shores from continental Europe around the sixth century B.C. Some half-orcs carved out a place for themselves within the orc clans, serving as feared scouts and even leaders. However, many half-orcs settled in remote corners of the wilderness with small groups of their own kind. They disdained contact with the other races of Albion, as such encounters almost always resulted in bloodshed. The orcs had quickly established themselves as remorseless enemies of the island’s native population of elves, halflings, and humans, and these races rarely distinguished between full-blooded orcs and their half-blooded kin. At best, half-orcs were assumed to be the bastard progeny of pillaging raiders, rather than members of a true-breeding race.
For centuries, the half-orcs dwelled on the outermost margins of civilization, until the arrival of the Roman legions brought a more discerning and pragmatic viewpoint. Half-orcs found themselves much sought-after as soldiers within the Empire, where their superior strength was a valued asset and their orcish heritage rarely proved to be a stumbling block. Gradually, the other races of Britain came to regard half-orcs as a discrete race with a notable capacity for honor and heroism. The eventual Roman withdrawal from Britain ushered in an era when half-orc power and prestige was at its apex, from roughly the fourth through seventh centuries, A.D. With the Empire’s might crumbling and newcomer half-orcs arriving in Britain with the Germani, many half-orcs rose to prominence and assumed the mantle of nobility. Petty half-orc kings emerged during this period, ruling with a firm hand over diverse tribes encompassing humans, half-orcs, shifters, and other races.
However, the rise of Christianity among the Germani and the eventual unification of the English Kingdom resulted in a step backwards for Britain’s half-orcs. Some Christian sages deemed the orcs to be cursed relations of the goliaths of ancient Canaan, or even a Satanic mockery of humankind. These views were not widely accepted, even among the clergy, but most Christians nonetheless regarded the half-orcs as a tainted people whose monstrous heritage made them violent and rebellious. Such views persisted for centuries and became the conventional wisdom among the English nobility. This rendered life difficult in the extreme for half-orcs, who retreated into the wilds and often succumbed to raiding with orcs, goblins, and ogres. It was only during the reign of Edward III in the mid-fourteenth century that such hostilities relaxed somewhat, in part due to the fearlessness English half-orcs exhibited in fending off gnolls carrying the Black Death. In the past century, half-orcs have begun to settle in human towns and villages with greater frequency, where they often serve as laborers, smiths, sailors, and guards.
Place in the World
Like members of their race the world over, English half-orcs are a proud and no-nonsense people, naturally inclined to speak their minds and rise to any challenge. However, given that English humans vastly outnumber them and often retain a lingering disdain for their race, the Kingdom’s half-orcs have learned not to draw attention to themselves. Many maintain an archetypal “strong and silent” persona in public, while reverting to their more lively selves when among other members of their race or trusted companions. Rarely, a group of half-orcs will surrender to bitterness over the centuries of ostracism that their race has suffered, leading to violent clashes with local nobles and traders. Such uprisings are usually small and short-lived, but they stoke human perceptions that the half-orcs are an unruly and aggressive race.
The half-orc population of England is small compared to that of other peoples, but the race’s numbers have been growing in recent years. Half-orcs are generally a more common sight in the rugged country of Wales and the North, but they dwell in every corner of the Kingdom in small numbers. Although wholly half-orc settlements have not existed in centuries, even the smallest human hamlet is often home to a half-orc resident or two. Meanwhile, some half-orcs prefer a life deep in the untamed wilderness, far from the often exasperating complexities of human civilization. Such half-orcs may pursue a solitary path surrounded only by wild beasts, or they may band together as outlaws and prey on luckless travelers. The Crown and the nobility often point to these fearsome half-orc brigands to justify their rough treatment of the race, and many commoner humans assume the worst about half-orcs they do not know personally.
The greatest half-orc heroes are usually fighters, rogues, or rangers. However, members of the race excel at many paths, and are second only to humans in the diversity of their talents. Half-orcs also make fine barbarians, clerics, druids, paladins, runepriests, seekers, sorcerers, swordmages, wardens, warlords, and even wizards. Half-orcs are not often religious, but those that are usually venerate St. John the Baptist, whom they consider worthy of admiration due to his solitary way of life in the wilderness. Most half-orcs are skeptical of tales that name Thunor as their race’s creator. However, of all the old deities, he is the most like to be revered in addition to or in lieu of a Christian saint. Tiw and Bran also receive their share of half-orc prayers, as do the primal spirits.