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I asked a while back about a homebrew orc race for my campaign. And after my 2 players playing it for a few sessions, and getting feedback on the post as well, I have tweaked it so I feel it still fits the world, yet not being as experimental. My players also really loved the concept of reverse proficiency, and since they are both playing as Feral orcs, it creates a super funny and enjoyable time. And we convinced another player to join (who is going to basically be their babysitter).

But the question is: Is the race now viable as a balanced option for players in my games? And have the fixes helped? Reverse proficiency is as it sounds, it's proficiency just reversed so you get a minus instead of a plus.

The old version of changed traits is given in an indent before the new version of the trait.

"FERAL ORC"

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 3 and your Constitution score increases by 2, although your Intelligence decreases by 3.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2 and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age. Feral orcs reach adulthood at the age of 10 and live up to the age of 50 (when they reach 50 they begin to magically deteriorate).

Alignment. Feral orcs tend to lean towards chaotic alignments.

Size. Feral orcs are usually over 7 feet tall and weigh between 300 and 450 pounds. But they often seem shorter due to being leaned forward. Your size is Medium. To set your height and weight randomly, start with rolling a size modifier.

  • Size modifier 2d10
  • Height = 6 foot, 1 inches + your size modifier in inches
  • Weight in pounds = 210 + (2d6 x your size modifier)

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 30 feet of your as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of grey.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 20 feet of your as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern colour in darkness, only shades of grey.

Feral rage. As a bonus action you can go into a feral rage. It halves damage taken for 2 rounds but gives disadvantage on wisdom and intelligence saving throws. You can't use this feature again until you finish a long rest.

Feral rage. As a bonus action you can go into a feral rage. You gain resistance to all damage types excluding Psychic, Radiant and Necrotic damage for 3 rounds, But it gives disadvantage on Wisdom and Intelligence saving throws and Wisdom and intelligence skill checks, for 4 rounds when "Feral rage" is activated. When "Feral rage" ends you gain 1 point of exhaustion. You cant use this feature again until you finish a short rest.

Primal Monster. You gain proficiency in the Intimidation, Survival and Nature skills.

Undying stupidity. When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you gain 5 temporary hit points and you don't become unconscious. These temporary hit points last for (1d4+level) rounds. You can't use this feature again until you finish a long rest.

Horrid looks. You have reverse proficiency bonus in Persuasion skill. You are unable to get proficiency in this skill.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Orc, and understand and speak Common, but cannot read or write it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What is “reverse proficiency”? 5E doesn’t have this sort of thing. I am assuming a debuff to Persuasion equal to your proficiency mod but it’s something that should be spelled out \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 25 at 16:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ What happens when you are reduced to 0hp but don't become unconscious then take another 6hp damage? Do you fall unconscious, automatically fail a death save? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 25 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri I'd assume it works just like Relentless Endurance. If the 6 damage comes from a single attack, you just drop to 0. Normally you don't fail a save if you take 1 damage more than your current HP, from a single source. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr_Bober
    Jul 25 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Gentle reminder that comments are for clarifying the question, not suggesting iterations. If at all, that should be part of an answer explaining why something needs changing (and full on iterative work and suggestion might be suited to chat than main). \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jul 25 at 19:13

4 Answers 4

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Let's begin with your last question: have fixes helped? Absolutely yes.

The older version is incredibly overpowered, so the nerf to feral rage and ability score increase were necessary.


What does a "standard" orc look like:

The latest example of Orc comes from the book "Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse

They are Medium creatures with average (30 feet) walking speed. They have Powerful Build (count as large for carrying capacity) and Darkvision (standard 60 feet like).

Their ability Adrenaline Rush allows them to Dash as a bonus action AND gain temporary HP equals to their PB.

Thanks to Relentless Endurance they can drop to 1 HP instead of 0, once per long rest.


Let's compare it to yours:

You nerfed their Darkvision to 20 feet. This makes it extremely situational.

You gave them 3 proficiencies and 1 "reverse" proficiency (HB rule). That's a lot, especially since the "reverse" one (which I'm guessing is supposed to balance this a bit) is on a skill they can easily "bypass" with Intimidate. If you absolutely want to give them proficiency, I'd go with something like "Choose one proficiency from Intimidate, Nature, and Survival", or two at best.

Undying stupidity is not that different from Relentless Endurance. Personally I would either keep the original Relentless Endurance, or let them drop at 5 HP instead of 1 without the time limit (unnecessary for such a small amount of HP).

Feral Rage is what worries me, mostly for the possibility to stack it with other abilities that lower the damage taken. I would change its wording to "As a bonus action you can go into a feral rage, gaining resistance to all damage for 3 rounds". This change alone would already prevent them from stacking it with abilities like Rage, or specifically the Bear Totem Spirit from the Barbarian: Path of the Totem Warrior.

An ability that lasts 3 rounds is pretty strong, but the disadvantage to INT and WIS saving throws and the additional Exhaustion level at the end of it make it pretty balanced in my opinion. As per the Adrenaline Rush, I would extend its recovery to a Long rest instead of a short one. (On a personal note, consider excluding Psychic damage from the resistances)

The rest is ok.


Conclusion

With the above mentioned changes, I think it would be a strong option but not overpowered.


The lack of Powerful Build on a "Feral" Orc feels a bit weird to me, so this is what I would do:

"FERAL ORC"

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age. Feral orcs reach adulthood at the age of 10 and live up to the age of 50. (when they reach 50 they begin to magically deteriorate)

Alignment. Feral orcs tend to lean towards chaotic alignments

Size. Feral orcs are usually over 7 feet tall and weigh between 300 and 450 pounds. But they often seem shorter due to being leaned forward. Your size is Medium. To set your height and weight randomly, start with rolling a size modifier.

Size modifier 2d10 Height = 6 foot, 1 inches + your size modifier in inches Weight in pounds = 210 + (2d6 × your size modifier) Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern colour in darkness, only shades of grey.

[ADDED] Powerful Build You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.

Feral rage. As a bonus action you can go into a feral rage, gaining resistance to all damage for 3 rounds, But it gives disadvantage on wisdom and intelligence saving throws. When feral rage ends you gain 1 point of exhaustion. Once you use this trait, you can't do so again until you finish a long rest.

Primal Monster. REMOVED

Undying stupidity. When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 5 hit points instead, and you don't become unconscious. Once you use this trait, you can't do so again until you finish a long rest.

Horrid looks. REMOVED

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Orc, and Understand and speak Common, but cannot read or write it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How about this for the rage? Feral rage. As a bonus action you can go into a feral rage. You gain resistance to all damage types excluding Psychic, Radiant and Necrotic damage for 3 rounds, But it gives disadvantage on wisdom and intelligence saving throws, for 4 rounds when Feral rage is activated. When feral rage ends you gain 1 point of exhaustion. You cant use this feature again until you finish a short rest. I also changed primal to just a +1 instead of proficiency And my game is using carrying capacity \$\endgroup\$ Jul 25 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Much better! I like the radiant and necrotic addition and the extra round for the negative side. Good job :) As for carrying capacity, I meant that 5e in general gave such a high carrying capacity to characters, that unless you play with negative STR mod (or try to carry an elephant), you're almost never going to have an issue with it xD \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr_Bober
    Jul 25 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Horrid's wording is not a big issue. You could say "You have negative bonus to Persuasion equal to your proficiency bonus.". Since it's a home-brew rule, you should think about this: what happens if they get proficiency in Persuasion from some other source? Do the two things cancel each other out? Is it impossible for such characters to become proficient? Does proficiency remove the Horrid trait? That's really up to you, since it's not an official rule \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr_Bober
    Jul 25 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, this is the final thing needed i have changed the wording to "Horrid looks. You have negative bonus to Persuasion equal to your proficiency bonus. You are unable to get proficiency in The given skill, although your ability score still affects it." Thank you very much for your inputs. hope you have a great day. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 25 at 19:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Looks good, have fun! :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr_Bober
    Jul 25 at 19:27
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My two copper pieces:

It closely resembles the half-orc, but you have two more proficiencies, a more powerful equivalent to Relentless Endurance and Savage Attacks, at the cost of the small and situational drawbacks of short-sighted darkvision, penalty to Persuasion that normally won't matter if someone takes the role of the party diplomat, and illiteracy.

A common tendency in homebrew is to create content which is slightly more powerful than the official content, and then balance that with drawbacks that can be avoided in practice.

In this case, it's not unreasonably overpowered, but it is kind of mechanically similar to the half-orc, to the extent that you may as well just use the standard half-orc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. This is what I really think about the race. Why, if it is so similar? Just play a half orc and put the lowest stats on Cha and Int. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 25 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Feral-orc is mean't to be the origin point of Half-orcs and therefore similar \$\endgroup\$ Jul 25 at 18:26
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This is balanced

Let’s analyse this feature by feature. I am using the Detect Balance spreadsheet for this, a tool for balancing homebrew races :

Ability score increase:

Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Standard, on par with other races. Constitution is good for any character, Strength is often a dump stat for non-martials, so this gives the race a martial focus from the start: 12 points.

Age, Alignment, Size: Fluff, no impact on balance.

Speed:

Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Also standard, the same as almost every official class: 0 points.

Darkvision:

You can see in dim light within 20 feet of your as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern colour in darkness, only shades of grey

Most races that have darkvision have it at range of 60 feet so this is quite a bit weaker. Detect Balance spreadsheet rates 30ft Darkvision at 2 points, I’m going to keep it as 2 points.

Feral Rage:

As a bonus action you can go into a feral rage, it halves damage taken for 3 rounds, But it gives disadvantage on wisdom and intelligence saving throws. When feral rage ends you gain 1 point of exhaustion. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a short rest.

This is basically resistance to all types of damage, lasting 18 seconds, once per short rest so around 3 times per day. Similar to Barbarian’s Rage but about 3 times shorter in duration and covers all types of damage instead of just slashing, piecing and bludgeoning. Exhaustion at the end + disadvantage on saves are pretty severe drawbacks though. Intelligence will be less important but Wisdom is one of the most common saves. This is quite a powerful feature but comes at a heavy cost and can only be used a limited number of times, so I’m going to rate this at 4 points.

Primal Monster:

You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill, and Survival skill, and Nature skill.

3 skills proficiency but no choice which skills. 3 skills this is A LOT for a racial trait, most races that include a skill proficiency only get one, 2 are rare and I can’t remember any that gives three. Regardless, one skill proficiency is rated at 2 points, so this will be worth 6 points.

Undying Stupidity:

When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you gain 5 temporary hit points, and you don't become unconscious, These Temporary hit points last for (1d4+level) rounds. You cant use this feature again until you finish a long rest.

This is basically the same a Half-orcs Relentless Endurance*, with some variations but close enough that we can give it the same rating: 4 points.

Horrid Looks:

You have reverse proficiency bonus in Persuasion skill.

As I have said in my comment, there are no reverse proficiencies in 5E. I am assuming here you mean the opposite of a proficiency in a skill - you deduct your proficiency bonus. Since a skill is rated at 2 points, I think we can safely rate this at -2 points.

Languages:

You can speak, read, and write Orc, and Understand and speak Common, but cannot read or write it.

Mostly fluff. Inability to write and read Common will matter mostly in roleplay and Common + one other language is pretty standard - as per Detect Balance, 0 points.

After summing it up we arrive at 26 points which is balanced according to the spreadsheet - ”The average score for PHB and EE races by this scale is about 25. The recommended score for new homebrew races is 24 to 27. Races should generally not eclipse 30 or fall below 20.”

Although this race isn’t unbalanced in the ordinary sense, it is designed in a way that doesn’t really conform to the design principles behind the official races, you are introducing new mechanical effects, the wording of some of the abilities seems potentially problematic and instead of generally giving flavourful traits and small but beneficial abilities, like the races usually work, you are going for bigs buffs and then are trying to offset them by equally big debuffs. It is not necessarily a problem, just something to keep in mind.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Personally I feel the Horrid Looks should be -1 point at best. Considering you still get your Charisma bonus to it (instead of a deficit) and more importantly it's a skill which can easily be replaced by other "social" skills (including Intimidate which he gives them proficiency to) \$\endgroup\$
    – Mr_Bober
    Jul 25 at 17:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mr_Bober I don’t know, personally I feel like Persuasion is a better skill than Intimidation, much more widely applicable whereas Intimidation is situational. A lot will depend on what type of character you make with this though. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 25 at 17:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin I was struggling to assess Feral Rage tbh, on one hand, being able to halve all damage for 3 rounds with refresh in short rest is awesome for a racial feature, on the other hand with wisdom save disadvantage it has the potential to do more harm than good in some situations and exhaustion level is a pretty harsh penalty too \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 25 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I remade the rage Feral rage. As a bonus action you can go into a feral rage. You gain resistance to all damage types excluding Psychic, Radiant and Necrotic damage for 3 rounds, But it gives disadvantage on wisdom and intelligence saving throws, for 4 rounds when Feral rage is activated. When feral rage ends you gain 1 point of exhaustion. You cant use this feature again until you finish a short rest. -- Hopefully this is better then before. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 25 at 18:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TeleportingZealander the wording seems ok and like I said, I think the balance is alright, you will still have to playtest it though, there are probably edge cases and interactions that aren’t obvious straightaway but will come up in play \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Jul 25 at 19:24
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This is strong but still balanced

I am using the Detect Balance sheet to score your build, which assigns point values to various abilities, and sums them up. The average for official races is 25 (ranging from 17-33). Balanced races are expcected to score between 24-27 points, and should be no higher than 30.

Going through your build:

Ability Score Increase. With the newest rules from Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Universe, racial allocation of bounuses to specific ability scores has been given up, and the new rule presented for all races there is: When determining your character's ability scores, increase one score by 2 and increase a different score by 1, or increase three different scores by 1. I personally dislike it being generic, but you could consider adopting this. Normal, 12 points.

Age. Has no impact on scoring (as long as within reasonable ranges I guess). 0 points.

Alignment. No impact. 0 points.

Size. Medium is normal. 0 points.

Speed. 30 feet is normal 0 points.

Darkvision. There is no entry for 20 feet, the lowest is 30 feet worth 2 points, and commonly PC races have 60 or 120. I score this like 30 feet at points, as it is better than half, and being able to see in darkness at all has to be of some value, too. 2 Points.

Feral rage. This the hard one, as it does not match existing standards. Detect Balance has 10 or 12 points for a physical resistance like slashing or bludgeoning that is always on, and 4 points for common ones like fire. This is even better, it works against everything. Most fights last 3-5 rounds, so this is good for a typcial fight. On the other hand, it causes exhaustion, so you have to budget with it. How good it is depends on how many encounters you have in a day. A normal number would be 4-6, somewhere between Medium and Hard, so let's assume 5. It's not practical to use this more than once a day, so you can reset it, other than in dire circumstances. That means you get the bonus that might be worth 35 or more points (adding all of them up would be a lot higher even), but only for one in five fights, so lets cost this at 35/5 = 7 points.

Undying stupidity. I'm not sure why you are not just renaming relentless endurance, which is quite similar and a tested standard implementation. Here they will collapse a few rounds later, in exchange for 4 more temporary hits. I don't think it is stronger, and just use the value for Relentless Endurance: 4 points.

Primal Monster: Three individual skill profiencies, worth 6 points.

Horrid looks. Reverse Proficiency is not a thing in 5e. Maybe reword this to say that they have a malus to Persuation equal to their proficiency bonus. I count this as an inverse skill proficiency, worth -2 points.

Languages. Normal common and one language, not being able to write it has not enough impact to change the point value. 0 Points.

In total, I get to 29 points.

The deciding question is how to evaluate Feral Rage. If you counted it as worth less, then this might be even more balanced. If you just added up all the value of all the resistances to all damage types, it could be a lot higher.

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