Living Large

Half-Ogre illustration by DM Bill

Playing as the half-ogre race

Intro

The core races within the 1st edition handbook are definitely interesting to say the least, one race stands out however and that is the race of the half-orc, why is that?

…It’s not completely human or demi-human is the reason! And that is something that makes it unique, delving into a somewhat alien mindset of how a part orc lives, breathes and thinks and it’s inability or lack of ability to completely fit into either society like the half-elf is also somewhat interesting. This of course also brings up plenty of roleplaying opportunities, which can be rewarding in and of itself. However one thing is missing from the players handbook which was partially addressed a long time ago in May 1983 issue #73 of dragon that of playing a lower powered large like character, the half-ogre. DM’s may consider these too powerful for play but a closer look at this race will show you that the benefits are just as weighted as the hindrances.

So what is a half-ogre?

Simply put it is the offspring of ogre and human relations, often but not exclusively against the wishes of it’s human parent. The common description of a half-ogre is that of a large human with ogre like qualities, skin color, eye color, sometimes teeth, the half-ogre can look very close to a human and very close to an ogre in appearance and this runs the gamut. Although subdued in skin color to a regular ogre, half-ogre skin color ranges from darkish-blue, to dark green and closer to human colors also. Half-ogre eyes may appear ogre like white with purple, or uncommonly as regular human eyes. One thing that remains of ogre parentage is swarthy, bumpy skin. All half-ogres have black hair. Half-ogre human characteristics are increased intelligence, which can aid him or her in numerous ways especially where survival is concerned.

Although they are part human, half-ogres still have bad tempers, which tends to make them more prone to war-like behavior. Most half-ogres are evil in nature (PC’s are the exception) picking on smaller beings like kobolds, goblins, and even orcs is not uncommon and like ogres they command them through fear and intimidation. It’s more common to see a half-ogre leading a band of ogres then a mingling with other humans as human society quickly dismisses the half-ogre as a threat or danger which means conformity to human life is almost impossible. It’s said that when an ogre war party is organized that among them is a half-ogre this proves that their intelligence is indeed beneficial to it’s tribal way of life. This also proves half-ogre intelligence isn’t completely wasted to this way of living, indeed like hobgoblins half-ogres make sound leaders and war tacticians due in part to their greater intelligence.

Half-ogre vs. Dragon magazine half-ogre

Provided below are my stats for the core AD&D 1st edition world not the ones presented in dragon magazine issue #73:

PC Racial Statistics:

HALF-OGRE

Playable character classes limitations and level limits:

Class:  Max Level:

Cleric  7th

Fighter  14th

Note: Half-Ogres with 17 strength are limited to 13th level as fighters. Half-Ogres with 18 strength are limited to 14th level as fighters. Half-Ogres cannot multi-class or become bards.

Racial statistic bonuses and penalties:

+1 to Strength, +1 to Constitution, -1 to Intelligence, and -1 to Charisma

Ability score minimums/maximums:

Strength: 14/18*

Intelligence:  3/14

Wisdom:  6/14

Dexterity:  3/13

Constitution: 10/18

Charisma:  3/12

*Fighters who get 18 with or without racial bonuses automatically receive /00 exceptional strength.

Natural AC:

Half-ogre swarthy skin is thick giving them a natural armor class of 8. Armor that is less than 8 gives them a +1 bonus to AC, otherwise armor which is better than 8 ignores natural AC altogether.

Hit Dice:

Half-ogres receive hit points based on class, otherwise they receive +2 hitpoints at first level.

Languages:

Half-ogre characters are able to speak the following languages in addition

to their alignment language and the “common tongue” of humanity:

Ogrish, goblin, kobold, or orcish. Half-ogres are unable to learn more than two

languages in addition to those noted above, regardless of how high their

intelligence score is.

Alignment:

PC half-ogres can be of any alignment; most tend to be chaotic.

Advantages:

  • Half-ogres can use large weapons up to 6’ one handed, freeing up a hand to do other tasks or to hold a shield.
  • Weapons big enough (3’ and up) used two-handed do an additional +2 to damage. They also receive a +1 damage to punching attacks.
  • Regardless of strength half-ogres can carry up to an additional 30lbs. At no penalty. This reflects the shear size and mass of the character being able to lift things more easily.

Disadvantages:

  • Half-ogres take damage as large creatures.
  • Due to their size Half-ogres cannot use weapons smaller than 1.5’ in length. Their hands are just too large to utilize them properly.

Depending on class the half-ogre only has access to the following weapons:

Voulge, Glaive, Halberd, Scimitar, Spear, Battle Axe, Bardiche, Club, Morning Star, Spiked Club (as a monring star), Footman’s Mace, Footman’s Flail, Quarter Staff, Short Sword, Long Sword, or Two-Handed Sword.

Armor:

Armor made for a half-ogre must be specially made and costs double what it would cost regularly due to extra materials needed, because of this it’s extremely rare to see a half-ogre in platemail.

Note: Adding straps and strapping two medium shields as armor to the front and rear provides AC 6 surpassing natural armor. Using a shield and strapping two provides AC 5 this way.  This comes out of necessity and is only allowable to half-ogres.

Racial References:

Racial Acceptability:

Dwarves   Elves   Gnomes   Half-Elves  Halflings   Half-Orcs   Half-Ogres   Humans

Half-Ogre H  A  H      A         N             N   G         A

Age:

Half-ogres live abit longer then typical humans do normally up to 130 years. They follow the same age categories as humans in the DMG.

Weight:

Male and Female Half-ogres typically weigh between 320-440 lbs.

Height:

Male and Female height is typically the same ranging from 8-9’ (96” to 108”) in height

A closer look at the stats

Looking at the statistics a DM may think that a half-ogre seems to powerful to play as, we’re going to look at some of the positives, and we’re going to look at some of the hidden hindrances of playing such a race.

Postives:

  • A half-ogre is typically stronger then other PCs and can lift additional equipment and weight, simply put they are stronger then most.
  • A half-ogre amongst your team can help in negotiations and avoid unecessary battles. Few people would want to willingly tussle with a half-ogre especially if they are low level.
  • A half-ogre can use fear and intimidation to aid the party. Just being big, strong and ugly can sometimes be an extra bargaining chip, it’s up to a DM to determine what this means exactly.
  • A half-ogre is a juggernaught on the battlefield, high strength, being able to lift large weapons one handed, getting an extra 2 hit points at first level, and receiving an extra +2 damage with two handed weapons makes the the half-ogre an excellent fighter.

Negatives:

  • Not only can they not use weapons 1.5’ or smaller, they have a hard time utilizing regular human items (chairs, furniture, utensils, tools, percision equipment, etc.) due to their bulk and strength. A DM can handle this by making a hidden d6 roll everytime a half-ogre attempts to use a human-sized item, on a roll of 1 the half-ogre breaks it (1-2 on dwarven or gnomish sized items). This doesn’t happen with weapons since they are made to withstand a lot punishment, but consider the implications when the character is asked to retrieve a magic item giving it to whomever broken.
  • Consider height and weight restrictions. Being 8-9 feet tall means walking into some human sized dwellings cramped and uncomfortable, and makes fighting with weapons a bit more difficult (-1 to attack rolls). Going into a halfling home is worse and requires the character to crawl on all fours (-2 to to attack rolls). What about weight issues? Going across a creaky rope bridge suddenly beomes more interesting because of an extra couple hundred pounds. Climbing up a human-sized rope, climbing a ladder, or avoiding weight issues suddenly becomes difficult. It’s up to the DM to determine how strict or not strict he or she wants to be with these things. As a suggestion determining whether something breaks due to weight can be as simple as 1 on a d6, or it can be automatic.
  • Not only do half-ogres have big appetites, they have to eat twice the amount of what a normal character eats and drink twice the amount of what a character drinks to feel full. This is also true for things like potions, drinking one may only have half the effect (sometimes none depending on the nature of the potion) and full effect when drinking two. Maybe they need to drink giant-sized potions and human sized ones won’t do anything! It’s up to the DM to determine the implications of this if at all. This doesn’t get into table manners which is another issue altogether.
  • Resting isn’t easy either most beds won’t fit the half-ogre. A bed has to be custom-made which costs twice the amount. Often times a half-ogre has to sleep in a stable or abandoned barn.

Roleplaying a half-ogre

Why did the half-ogre become a PC?

Perhaps he wasn’t evil by nature or changed his outlook on life in pursuit of creation instead of destruction. Perhaps he was shunned by the ogre tribe he was living in as they considered him weak, which may or may not be the case, perhaps it was because he looked to close to a human. Perhaps his entire ogre tribe was wioed out and he seeks revenge to those that slayed them. Whatever the reason is remember it has to be something compelling or strong enough to force this brute to get up, leave his or her comfy tribal life and take up an adventuring profession.

Interaction in a human or demi-human world

Looking at the racial acceptability you’ll see that other then other half-ogres they generally have little fondness from other races, the exception to this is the PC party the half-ogre character is with. It’s important to roleplay this well and dealing with being shunned by society in general, there are very few places that a half-ogre will be served with a smile. Disguising a half-ogre can generally get abit more acceptability, however this means a half-ogre has to hunch down, bend his knees abit, and should wear loose clothing and robes to hide his monstrous appearance.

This can get tiresome and I recommend that he or she can only do this a number of minutes equal to his or her constitutuion score. The way to successfully do this is planning what he or she is going to do in a town before the character enters. Another way for the half-ogre to deal with the situation is to give the other pcs a list of things he or she needs in town for the other players to pick up however using this method can be sort of boring. Perhaps the half-ogre can have something to do like setup camp for the PC’s in the mean time, the other problem with this method is that doesn’t allow very interesting roleplaying opportunities making a fire or setting up a tent. PC’s may also want to sleep at the local Inn instead.

Just walking into a village with no plan will get this character and other PC’s banished from the village at the very least or even attacked by the local constabulary so having a plan before entering is always a good plan. Alternatively the DM should allow a couple of chaotic or shady towns to freely allow the half-ogre; they do exist however their goods (such as weapons, items, etc.) may not be as plentiful, of lower quality or almost non-existent. Towns with these shady reputations are often crime-ridden cesspools, filled with orcs, hobgoblins, thieves, mercenaries, brigands, and pirates. That said it’s ultimately up to how the DM handles these things, whether or not he wants to enforce these things is up to him, or at what level he wants to enforce them.

Half-ogre personality

It often depends on the player; the alignment of the character and the character intelligence and charisma as guidelines, but one thing remains among all half-ogre characters…they feel they can take what they want. Since most half-ogres come from a society where bigger is better and what an ogre wants an ogre gets, it’s hard for a half-ogre even a pc one to break way from this mold. Often times in a village when disguised it’s not uncommon to see a half-ogre pick up something off a merchants table and walk away with it simply because he wanted it since he knew he could beat the merchant up to get it. This bully mentality sticks with them throughout their profession regardless of intelligence, charisma or alignment. It gets easier though by 3rd level the player or DM can make a wisdom check to resist the urge to take something, by 7th level he gets a –2 bonus to this check. If the ogre fails he takes it and the other PCs have to take it back from him usually creating a scene and getting kicked out of the village. It’s up to the DM to enforce as little or as much as he wants regarding these situations.

Conclusion

As you can see playing a large strong half-ogre character can have ups and downs. One thing for sure is that the DM should only ever allow one half-ogre PC in the party at one time, unless the whole campaign is centered on tribal life. DM’s please feel free to add, alter or introduce anything I’ve missed. One thing for sure is the life of a half-ogre can be fun and challenging roleplaying experience.

Enjoy!

DM Bill

5 comments on “Living Large”

  1. DM Bill

    Sorry I don’t mean to nitpick but the pic is of a half-“ogre”…lol

  2. PC Buzz

    Excellent article, it almost makes me wish I could play one. However, the headings do seem a bit oddly sized.

    I must also give compliments to the art, worthy of a book.

  3. DM Bill

    Thanks Buzz!…I wasn’t the one responsible for the headings…someone else did it…they certainly look nowhere near as big in my original article..thanks for the compliment about the art…you may like the artwork in my next ariticle…

    DM Bill

  4. DM Bill

    It’s a half-ogre illustration not a half-orc…

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