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The Top 5 Ways Orcus Will Destroy You

Written by Janna - Published on November 3, 2008

Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.

“Those unfortunate enough to meet Orcus rarely survive the experience.” – 4e Monster Manual

“Tell me about it. He’s one sick mofo!” – The Tarrasque

You’ve probably heard of Orcus and his jaw-dropping brutality. He’s the Demon Prince of the Undead, and his stats can be found in the D&D 4th Edition Monster Manual. If you’re a DM, you can totally freak out your players by mentioning his name. If you’re a player, surreptitiously remove pages 206-210 from your DM’s Monster Manual. (You’ll thank me later.)

What makes Orcus so terrible? All the ways he can utterly destroy you. In the hands of a smart DM, this bad boy is an extinction level event unto himself. Let’s take a look at some of the ways Orcus can make your life a living hell:

Means of Destruction #1: His Auras

Orcus don’t play. If you come within 20 squares of him, you’ll begin to rot as his death energy seizes your living flesh. If Orcus becomes bloodied, he’ll get really angry and you’ll take twice as much necrotic damage from his aura.

Within 6 squares of Orcus, movement is difficult. You’ll spend an additional movement point trying to navigate in this vicinity, even if you’re flying. Worse, anyone who dies within this aura is raised as an abyssal ghoul myrmidon – unless they were killed by the Wand of Orcus. We’ll get to that special fate in a little bit.

Means of Destruction #2: His Minions

Masters of the undead have an unfair advantage. They recycle their enemies and use them for their own nefarious purposes. Orcus is no different; he raises his slain foes and puts them to work for Team Evil. Plus, his death powers heal his minions while dealing damage to the living (also known as future minions). Wherever Orcus passes, skeletal arms rise from the ground to creep out his enemies and hinder their movement, and ghosts moan their lamentations. Avoid his evil entourage at all costs.

Means of Destruction #3: His Tail

As if the aura and the minions weren’t bad enough, Orcus will tail-whip anyone who moves or shifts into a square adjacent to him. The unfortunate victims will find themselves in a world of pain, stunned, and knocked prone by his massive, spiked tail.

Means of Destruction #4: His Touch

Believe me, this is one guy you don’t want to get touchy-feely with. He will reach across four squares to reduce a target to 0 hit points, ignoring their immunities or resistances to necrotic damage. Enemies who dodge the backhand still take necrotic damage equal to their bloodied value. Ouch!

Means of Destruction #5: His Wand

The Wand of Orcus is an artifact with a gigantic human skull on top of it. If Orcus whaps you with his wand, you’ll take a lot of damage and find yourself in a weakened state. If you get killed by the wand, don’t worry; you’ll soon come back as a dread wraith under his command. (Actually, that’s not very comforting.)

Orcus laughs at your suffering. Orcus is deeply offended that you still draw breath. Orcus will destroy you and everything you love, including your dog – and he won’t feel bad about it. If ever you find yourself wandering through the Abyss, steer clear of the layer called Thanatos and the obsidian palace known as Everlost. You don’t want to knock on Orcus’s door.

Have you had a close encounter with Orcus? Do you think he’s overrated? Do you agree that he could be Diablo’s evil twin? I look forward to your comments!

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Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.



40 Responses to “The Top 5 Ways Orcus Will Destroy You”
  1. halflingzombierunforyourlife says:

    The title made me laugh out loud (Yes, I spelled out lol – I am old)

  2. newbiedm says:

    Can he even be beat? I plan to use him as my BBEG at the end of my campaign… Has anyone run a group of 30 level PC’s against him as a test?

  3. Steve-o says:

    I love the fact that Orcus has come back into play for the new edition. I don’t think I’ll ever have my player’s ever run up against him, though. But it doesn’t mean I won’t run the minions…

    In all my 27 years of gaming I have never run across this BBEG and I am happy for it. Though i wonder if the butcher from Diablo is based off Orcus. They do look similar.

  4. Micah says:


    You’d be surprised at how well PCs do against a BBEG. Usually, the players are much more in-tune with their PCs’ abilities than the GM is with the NPCs/monsters. Unless you practice, prepare to watch the players wipe the floor with your monster. Afterward, you’ll be scratching your head saying, “Oh yeah, I forgot to use power X and I was never adding in Y effect on each hit…”

  5. Janna says:

    @ Halflingzombie: That’s okay, some lols deserve to be spelled out. :)

    @ All: I haven’t had the dubious pleasure of fighting Orcus yet, but my DM has hinted that anything’s possible at epic levels. *gulp!*

  6. AvatarArt says:

    Ah, its easy. Just steal his wand & put it into Tiamat’s dead heart ala Throne of Bloodstone: http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/The_Throne_of_Bloodstone

    That still works, right? ;P

  7. Wow, this brings back some memories. I played a 3rd ed. game once where Orcus was involved. My character was chaotic neutral and tormented. Events transpired, and her alignment shifted to evil. During that particular session, my character killed a fellow PC (secretly – no one ever figured out she was the one who did it!) and they moved on to a room which housed the Wand of Orcus. So, I was given the choice to pick it up, as the only evil character in the group. But if I failed my roll – I think had at roll a 17 or better on the good old d20 – my character would be permanently dead. We stopped there for the night, and before next session I rolled up an alternate character, in case I botched.

    But I didn’t! I rolled a 19, and got to use the Wand of Orcus for a battle against a horde of hundreds of minions! I was quite sad when Orcus showed up and took the wand away, and sent our group to a planar prison. I think I was more sad about losing the weapon than being imprisoned. :)

  8. ninjaguineapig says:

    OMG!!!!! It should be illegal to be that bad!!!! How can he be beaten?

  9. OrcusSlayer says:

    Orcus is dead in our current campaign. After somehow succeeding to banish him for 24 hours we rolled the 20% chance that banished subjects will be sent to a random plan instead of their own. He was lucky enough to be sent to the realm of Law and Machines where absolutely none of his necromantic abilities affected ANYTHING.

  10. AvatarArt says:

    How ironic/funny is it that immediately after one gamer says; “How can he be beaten?!!,” another gamer is like; “Eh. We killed him.”


  11. Mojo says:

    Yea, our 13th level party stumbled upon Tenebrous (Orcus)’s hidden lair in the negative energy plane. We escaped with a strange golden band and a sword which legend lore revealed to be Orcus’s. After a few weeks we tracked down the location of Orcus’s wand, just as I polymorphed into a high constitution troll to pick up the evil artifact Orcus himself showed up.

    As he was proclaimed some nonsense about his majesty and our downfall the only good character in our party grabbed Orcus’s sword and smashed it to pieces. Our rogue modron had already made the mistake of using Orcus’s cursed true-seeing gem on the Wand, and was therefore trapped in a prison with Orcus for a limited time, he was promptly slain. The good Elf rolled vs me to see who would put on the mysterious golden band from earlier…he lost and put on the band, after losing a will save he ended up touching the band to the wand, which ended up blinking him and the top of the wand out of existence.

    God speed fire elf.

  12. dylan says:

    ty so much yax im going to make a campaign were my players are going to fight orcus
    ( in a previous adventure the helped grumar) and grumar shows up and saves our charachters before they die

  13. Kyle says:

    My character’s main goal is to kill Orcus & his cult, along with the other demon lords (I play 3.5 & use FC1: Hordes of the Abyss). My friend has the 4th edition Monster Manual & said that his character, who is incredibly & grossly overpowered (so much that I made him a demon lord in my campaign), said that he might not even be able to beat Orcus.

  14. Igor says:

    Really, Orcus is totaly weak in 4 edition. He has some power, but he can’t deal formidable damage. Almost any party of 30 lvl can kill Orcus. The only fearsome power is “Touch of Death”, this is why it is beter to kill orcus from distance, since his speed is not big (Speed 6, fl y 10 (clumsy), teleport 6). His basic attack deals 2d12 + 12 damage plus 1d12 necrotic
    damage. It is funny damage, because party will have necrotic resistance, so it will be 2d12 + 12 damage. It is not serious at all. His minions are totally useless. I believe it is possible to kill Orcus by party of lower lever than 30. And last thing, compare to Demogorgon Orcus is really weak.

  15. 3.5 FTW says:

    okay. Anyone thinking of running any games on Orcus or any other Demon Lords/ Arch Devil’s.Please do your research. 1. It does’nt matter if Orcus is sent to Mechanus. He’s a Demon Lord and can Plain Shift his ass outta there. 2. Why would any DM allow a party of 13th lvl characters anywhere near Orcus or his wand? It screams TPK. 3. Why would you play v.4? It’s not real D&D! 3.5 was perfect, the only reason they changed it was because the game was sold to Blizzard who decided they wanted to turn it into a table top version of world of warcraft. And anyone who responds with “3.5 was Broken!” . Then you obviousley havn’t been using pragmattic judgement. The game is meant to evolve and change,offering players the chance to take characters to an untold level. 4.0 lets you character plateu,lvl 30 and thats it! Are you really going to tell me that not one person in the game decided that it was not a good idea to make every character retire? It seems to me that Blizzard was just too lazy to factor in a monster progression system. Honestly I enjoy the sudden twist when the goblin you just cornered turns out to have more than a few levels in rogue. Or perhaps a medusa with monk training. Or just the fact that You can increase the natural HD on a purple worm and add the half-fiend template.Throw in a few bugbears and goblins to worship it and you have the makings of a long running campaign. My personal favorite though has to be the minotaur cleric of erythnnul that ultimately leads up to a confrontation with the god slaughter himself

  16. D&D guy says:

    lol it takes multiple lv 30’s to take him down… around 10(at least) because all of them need healing abilities and lucky roles and a lot of hitpoints(ALOT!!!!) im saying 10(which is over the limit over players to have a cool game) becuase one will definately die in the process sadly. unless you can keep ur hitpoints up through the whole game

  17. AvatarArt says:

    Speaking of Orcus’ BFF (aka Demogorgon), apparently the Prince of Demons/Lord of All That Swims in Darkness is included in Paizo’s Savage Tides Adventure Path.

    I know that’s old news, but the point is if one demon lord can be included for PC’s to realistically rumble with, no reason other ones couldn’t.

  18. AvatarArt says:

    Apparently Orcus heard all the trash-talking & has been appropriately beefed up for E3: Prince of Undeath.


    Overview of stat changes, courtesy of Mustrum_Ridcully via EN World:
    – “The E3 Orcus is changed. He is a level 34 Solo Brute. he still has the same hit points as his MM version, and is defenses are also the same.” {but he has the possibility of +10 to damage, +2 to defenses and extra hit points if the PCs suck out & don’t stop him.}
    – “He does not have Variable Resistance but fixed resistance instead.”
    – “He has an extra at-will power (Close Blast 4, all the benfits of the Master of Undeath power apply)”
    – “His attack bonuses are slightly higher (fitting to the extra level).”
    – “He is accompanied by 10 Level 30 Minions.”
    – “He now raises Abyssal Madness Ghouls (Aura) and Dread Wraiths.”

    That’ll teach ya to make fun of demon princes. :P

  19. Samuel says:

    In my current game Orcus is a broken creature without his wand and most of his necrotic powers have been lost to him…His aspirations to over throw the raven queen are also lost since she was destroyed and consumed by the same villain who shamed Orcus. However, the wand of Orcus is going to be a playable Item in my campaign, does anyone have stats on it?

  20. AvatarArt says:

    What, OrcusSlayer got him there too? Is there no stopping him?! Ahem.

    What’s especially badass is the guidelines for roleplaying the wand. :P

    Plus check out this for some cool fluffy backstory, including whose skull that is on the end:

  21. Elden ranger says:

    Yeah I took down orcus 3 times already I’m looking for prices to sell the wand for any ideas?

  22. AtraVesica says:

    So our party just found the wand of Orcus and, well, took it. Idk the details just yet, i wasn’t there for the actual session, but

    WHAT DO WE DO? We’re all 6th&7th Level.


  23. elden ranger says:

    get rid of the wand now orcus will rape your skull if you dont give it away to a hobo or something.

  24. Arylith says:

    I found the stats for the lvl 34 version of Orcus (he’s lvl 33 normally) and ran him up against five lvl 30 characters who had been built from level 2 for this fight. On the first round, Orcus got knocked prone and stunned, and on the second round the warlock had him dominated and singing ‘I’m a Little Teapot’, and on the third round they finished him off. He didn’t even get any attack rolls. So in other words, he’s a pushover if you really know what you’re doing. :P

  25. strlen says:

    Orcus is so much easier to deal with in NetHack. weilded cockatrice corpse, snyone?

  26. Ameena Leffeld says:

    My group is going up against Orcus and his minions tomorrow. Thursday September 17th, 2010. Some time around 7 or 8 pm. He’s already sent 2 waves of DM-built minions after us, and there will be more of the same to come with him in the third wave. May all the gods have mercy on our souls. Luckily we’re level 26, but equipped with custom magic items and VERY powerful arms and armor. If anyone has any suggestions, now would be a good time!

  27. Wasted says:

    Anyone remember 3.0/3.5 Orcus? When he was actually scary and you needed more than a level ten character with a bow on a horse to kill him? Yeah, those were good days…

    For anyone who is struggling/plotting to kill him in 4.0, let me give you some advice. Use mounted archery…… Seriously, that’s all you need to do. The horse means you can keep out of his auras and away from his nasty spells and such. Just plink him, over and over, for tiny amounts of damage until he is dead. This gets really easy if you have multiple people on horses, or even (GASP) flying mounts of some kind. A party of 4 lvl 14 characters killed him in playtest using some flying carpets and longbows. If they can, you can too!

  28. Drygn The Supreme Lizard Deity says:

    I created a creature that makes Orcus seam like a newborn baby.
    Drygn has 8,000HP and cannot be hurt by anything other than Radiant Damage and is immune to all effects. His Tyrannosaurus skull can be turned into a flail or a mace and deals 20d100+529 damage with a maximum damage of 2529 but cannot crit. He can also transform the skull into a weapon similar to a gun that shoots a fireball 25 squares. Plus he has his own undead army that is nothing but zombies. In my game this creature killed many Deities so far including all humanoid gods and Tiamat. Bahamut is to strong because he deals radiant damage and cannot be killed by mass damage. And as if that wasn’t bad enough the only why to perminatly kill the zombies is to vaporize them. This guy is amazing.

  29. Darren says:

    @Drygn The Supreme Lizard Deity

    That honestly sounds like you’ve simply created an undefeatable creature.
    I can do the same. The thing about creating statistics for a foe is so that the foe IS defeatable. Orcus can be beaten. Otherwise there’s no point making a full character sheet of combat stats for him.

  30. Ukret The God Slayer says:

    Funny, because I just built a bugbear barbarian and had him fight against Orcus by himself. I massively overkilled him, and finished with completely full hit points. I still had 17 out of 18 healing surges left, and I could have theoretically used them all as soon as he used touch of death on me.

    He couldn’t deal enough damage to me to get past my 37 regeneration per round from Demigod, even with all of the other ridiculous self-healing abilities I had.

    Orcus is a total pushover.

    I’m planning on having Ukret the God Slayer fight against Lolth relatively soon, she might actually put up some challenge.

  31. FG42 says:

    Guys, guys! Whoa there! The 4th ed is entirely designed for parties of five characters (striker, striker, defender, leader, controller) therefore Orcus can be beaten by that same typical party. Plus his stats aren’t that high, I mean at level 15 you can already hit his defenses. Yes he’s tough, but not unbeatable! Far from it.

  32. Demonslayer says:

    My lone character, a level 20 Slaughter Paladin of 3.5 rules, beat Orcus all by himself while the party and an an army stood and watched. Orcus is nothing, if you are undead with a high will save and decent damage reduction + fast healing he cant even hurt you. Point is, he was built to be a terror against living creatures but against undead with good will save most of his abilities are a moot point.

  33. iPlayer says:

    That’s it, I’m ripping tomorrow those pages from DM book.
    Thank You for noticing, I will do that for the greater good…or at least greater SURVIVAL o_o

  34. Flynn and Alec the orcus slayers says:

    Halfway game update:- Having raised orcus purposefully in order to destroy the gods who it turns out were using all living creatures as playthings and denying us our basic free will, we now have to go to battle to clean up the mess we left. The mess we left was orcus. There is two of us (plus my bear) We are epic teir. We are likely to die in about 20 minutes. We have packed many pairs of underpants in our adventure kits.
    Wish us well humans FOR IT IS FOR YOU WE FIGHT!!!!! TO BATTLE!!!!!!!!

    Love Flynn and Alec (and Pikaro)

  35. Living, Soon to be Minion says:

    My DM is throwing us a “broke as fuck” campaign wherein we’re all Lvl 30 and we take on Orcus. Will update after we all die.

  36. Erechel says:

    Meh, I agree with the guy who point out the mounted archery thing. Mongols can kill Orcus with relatively ease, even if they aren’t that much of a level.

  37. MythicParty says:

    This is by far and away our longest running comment section. So much so that we’ll be doing an update on it/him for Halloween.

  38. Janna Weiss says:

    Original author here. Thanks for the great comments through the years! I’m running a game right now where I’m using Orcus as a plot twist leading up to an even bigger baddie — but don’t tell my players. ;) Mwahahaha….

  39. Ettina says:

    Regarding Orcus vs mounted archers – in Pathfinder, Orcus has Greater Teleport at will. So you can’t kite him, he’ll just teleport beside you.


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