Can a Half-Orcs have only one Orc grandparent?

Does a Half-Orc need to have one human parent and one orc? Or could it be 25% human 75% Orc for instance, or the other way round?

I am thinking about this for a back story, and also what would happen if you play a female Half-Orc and want offspring in the game.

I can't find that much information in the the Player's Handbook or the Monster's Manual.


Yes, this is given as a half-orc parentage option in Xanathar's Guide to Everything

Chapter 1 of XGtE is all about helping you figure out your character's background and personality, and it includes a brief discussion about parentage. For the races with mixed backgrounds (half-elves, half-orcs and tieflings) there are tables you can use to choose or randomly determine the races of the character's parents, and the half-orc parents table indicates that a half-orc character could be born to any of the possible human/orc/half-orc pairings: a human and an orc, a human and a half-orc, a half-orc and an orc, or two half-orcs.

You shouldn't, however, take those tables as an exclusive list of options, especially since the tiefling parentage table doesn't even include the option that your parents might just have been two tieflings. A more interesting racial history should always be an option at the GM's discretion - one imagines, for example, that a orc/half-elf pairing should probably make a half-orc.

I think in previous editions there was lore suggesting that the half-orc traits were very persistent, and that the children of a half-orc tended to remain effectively half-orcs for a few generations after the original orcish or human addition. However the matter is not discussed in any 5e material that I'm aware of, and your DM is free to decide how the genetics of the combination works in their world.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I vaguely remember reading somewhere about the pairing of an orc with any other race (e.g. human, elf, dwarf) producing a half-orc, but I'm not sure if that was specifically 5e material. IIRC the idea was that a half-orc-half-elf would have some elvish features, but mechanically have the same traits as a half-orc-half-human. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jan 18 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson The half-orc page and parentage page both seem pretty explicit about humans. I couldn't find anything. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Jan 19 at 3:22

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