Monster Analysis: Orc Warchief, Dire Bears, Orogs, & Orcs

Thanks to @MajorAMonkey for this screenshot. Check out the rest of the animation here!

With the rapid approach of episode 100 and the convenient break in the story this week, we figured it was an equally convenient time to reminisce on older Vox Machina adventures… and finally catch up on our remaining four Monster Analyses.

We’ve previously seen the party (or at least half of it) encounter orcs during the journey to Rimefang. The band of orcs in episode 49, however, had a couple of variations in composition compared to the last pack; besides regular orcs, the band included a war chief leader, an orog, and a pair of dire bears.

War Chief

  • First Appearance: 49 A Name is Earned
  • War Chief Armor Class 16
  • War Chief Speed 30 ft (bonus action move 30 ft toward hostile creature)
  • War Chief Darkvision 60 ft, Passive 10
  • War Chief Suggested Average, Max HP: 93, 132
  • 113 damage taken, 46 HDYWTDT by Grog

Orc war chiefs gain their position of leadership by demonstrating that they are the most cunning and ruthless of their group. The war chief deals more damage on weapon attacks than an average orc due to Gruumsh’s Fury, and their sheer ferocity inspires their allies in combat. Once per day, the war chief can let out a battle cry, giving all of its allies within 30 feet advantage on all attack rolls for one round. (This mostly went to waste as Grog’s reckless attacks already gave them advantage. Not that it helped them much.)

Orog

  • First Appearance: 49 A Name is Earned
  • Orog Armor Class 18
  • Orog Speed 30 ft (bonus action move 30 ft toward hostile creature)
  • Orog Darkvision 60 ft, Passive 10
  • Orog Suggested Average, Max HP: 42, 60
  • 69 damage taken, 25 killing blow by Vax’ildan

Where the war chief has brute strength paired with charisma, an orog pairs their strength with a cunning intelligence imparted on them by the orc goddess Luthic. This intelligence makes them a formidable force in war, especially if their opponents underestimates them as a common orcish warlord. An orog’s cunning can be just as deadly to their leader, as an orog will cut down and take the role of their leader with just as little emotion as that of any common victim.

Dire Bears

  • First Appearance: 49 A Name is Earned
  • Dire bear Armor Class 12
  • Dire bear Suggested Average, Max HP (3.5e): 102, 147
    • DB1 47 Damage, 20 killing blow by Grog
    • DB2 57 Damage, 20 killing blow by Percy

Dire bears are, to paraphrase the Canadians, like bears, but dire. The most notable difference between them and regular bears are their doubled size and the sharp bones that protrude from their necks and heads. Wild dire bears are typically docile until provoked, though those raised in captivity on humanoid flesh quickly grow worthy of the fear their appearances can inspire. The dire bears dealt similar damage with their bite and claw attacks and drew from similar health pools as Trinket.

Orcs

  • First Appearance: 18 Trial of the Take Part 1
  • Encounter Appearance: 49 A Name is Earned
  • Orc Armor Class 16
  • Speed 30 ft (bonus action move 30 ft toward hostile creature)
  • Darkvision 60 ft, Passive 10
  • Orc Suggested Average, Max HP (Orc): 15, 24
    • O1 - 33 Damage, one-shot for 33 by Percy
    • O2 - 43 Damage, 15 killing blow by Percy
    • O3 - 54 Damage, 18 killing blow by Earth Elemental!Keyleth
    • O4 - 59 Damage, 17 killing blow by Trinket
    • O5 - 19+ Damage, Unknown killing blow by Grog
    • O6 - 31 Damage, 12 killing blow by Trinket
    • O7 - 36 Damage, 18 killing blow by Grog

These orcs, on average, had less health than their Othanzian brethren. Their increased numbers didn’t help them much.

Vox Machina

The party entered this battle only slightly weakened by their earlier encounter against the winter basilisks to save Tyriok. The only real limitation came from Vax’s already used Boots of Haste, which by itself had little influence on the end result.

The encounter was very little challenge for the party, and would have been significantly less so had it been a straight fight. Keyleth successfully and accidentally discovered a concealed pit trap (and swiftly sent a pair of dryads back to the Feywild). This pit trap came in handy later when the melee combatants starting tossing orcs into it.

With the element of surprise essentially gone, Scanlan brought the orcs together to harmlessly attack his impenetrable ball while the rest of the party rushed into position. The ball helped pull the hostiles away from the hostages so that when Scanlan and Pike left to usher the hostages into the mansion, the orcs were too engaged fighting off the rest of Vox Machina to concern themselves with the escaping survivors. Even the prisoner hung up in the air was saved by Percy's lucky shot, receiving only a single point of damage as he fell to the ground.

The twins took a series of powerful shots from a safe distance, relying on stealth early on before allowing their melee teammates to take the orc’s frustrations. Percy smugly began the battle picking off orcs from a distance and drawing their attention with the thunderous sound of Bad News before strolling into the fray to finish off an orc attempting to climb out of the pit. While the javelin failed, he comically finished it off with his gun before sharing his bullets with the remaining orcs and dire bears.

In her earth elemental form, Keyleth tossed enemies into the pit, smashed heads together, absorbed damage, and secured a prisoner for post-battle interrogation (after putting him out after he fell in a fire pit). Grog engaged the large group of orcs in melee combat, either pushing them into their own trap pit or killing them outright in the middle of the camp. Grog’s increasingly brutality was further encouraged by his sword.

This fight also presented a stepping stone for Craven Edge to show off its full potential. Since the basilisks and the orcs were both relatively underpowered encounters for the likes of Grog Strongjaw, the very little damage Grog took in relation to the amount of strength he gained from Craven Edge allowed him to consider holding two points of exhaustion to continue to make use of the buff. Keep in mind, Grog at this point didn’t know that Craven would grow even more powerful when the it reached its ceiling. He only knew that +7 Strength is awesome.

Final Thoughts

This is a great example of taking a common monster and enhancing it to meet the challenge rating of your party. Monster Manuel Orcs are typically much less hardy and provide a suitable challenge for low-level PCs. That said, even with their advanced health and damage, equal numbers, and a hostage complication, these orcs were much the same as the last time Vox Machina faced their kind: a minor point of interest and warm-up to a much more intellectually challenging encounter.