|Divine Rank||Demon Prince|
|Domains||3E: Chaos, Death, Demonic, Evil, Undeath
5E: Death, War, Trickery
|Home Plane||Thanatos (Abyss)|
|Worshippers||Denizens of Xaphan, Necromancers, Undead|
|Favoured Weapon||Wand of Orcus, Orcusword|
Orcus is the Demon Lord of the 113th Layer of the Abyss, known as Thanatos or The Belly of Death. He has been called the Prince of the Undead, and is infamous for sitting on his throne, clutching his terrible rod (no his mace, you pervert), while minions, cultists, and lesser agents do his bidding.
In all of Orcus's incarnations, it/he/whatever appears as the goat-headed, cloven-hooved monster from medieval depictions of The Devil (except portlier), and wields a rod or mace dubbed "the Wand of Orcus," and has a fascination with or domain over the undead. He has been featured as the BBEG of multiple adventures, campaigns, and campaign settings, where he usually plots to "kill" all ghosts and living beings in the setting and ascend to become a god. Most of the time, he spends the entire campaign sitting on his throne in the Abyss, while the players work their way through the machinations of his minions and worshippers.
And that's the problem with this guy: when the published work tries to give this guy some agency, he's been Poochie from The Simpsons. Whenever he does something awesomely evil, it happens off-screen, where he upstages the heroes of this game who are supposed to be the PCs. Once, he even showed up to warn the player characters from looting his stuff before returning to The Abyss, preferring to leave a verbal smackdown rather than get his hands dirty. This would lead to his apparent death. His character does better when adventurers go after his One Ring - the Wand.
The only D&D edition that started without Orcus was AD&D 2nd Ed, mostly because of a certain someone who wanted to get rid of anything un-Christian and anything else she didn't like about D&D (which was anything that wasn't her beloved Buck Rogers... we wish we were joking). Orcus did come back in 2E with Planescape supplement as the secret BBEG behind the Dead Gods adventure plotline.
Death and Return
To appease the Dark Queen Lorraine, TSR figured out how to get Orcus off the setting whilst allowing for his existence in 1e work especially the H series.
Second-edition Orcus attained the divinity that he so desperately desired, but was shortly thereafter replaced by a Drow goddess of vengeance and undeath who claimed his layer of Thanatos as her own. While her name is not explicitly given in "Core" D&D it is made absolutely clear in the Planescape and Forgotten Realms settings that it is Kiaransalee.
How TSR handled this brutal change to canon: The Drow deity spent much of her time trying to erase every trace of the fallen demon lord, eliminating every written record of him across the planes. Then she got two of her Drow followers (Kestod and Erehe - who will become important in a moment) to bury his magic wand in Pandemonium so that no-one could find it then drowned them both in the River Styx to conceal the deed. Might this be a passive-aggressive commentary on politically-motivated retconning? It just might!
The scheme failed because one of Kiaransalee's high priests got soppy and wanted Erehe back. Kiaransalee allowed the resurrection and forgot that Drow gossip nasty secrets as a pastime. Hence is set up Planescape's narrative module (it cannot be called an "adventure" with a straight face), Dead Gods. The "Out of the Darkness" part of it anyway.
A shadowy undead god of death and darkness named Tenebrous is herein revealed as being Orcus, existing as a demon-wraith after being destroyed and losing his coveted Wand, but gaining control of "The Last Word", a sort of uber-tier Power Word: Kill that can slay even deities. Tenebrous causes all kinds of shit looking for that Wand so he can become Orcus again without losing his divinity in the process that the whole multiverse gets buggered up, including:
- Killing Bwimb, the Elemental Lord of the Paraelemental Plane of Ooze, creating a power vacuum.
- Slaying Maanzecorian the patron of the Illithids and forcing Ilsensine to take his place.
- Murdered Tomeri: Goddess of Wisdom, and Camaxtli: God of Fate. To the point that their respective pantheons swear vengeance on the perpetrator.
- Most notably murdering Primus and disguising himself as him in order to seize control of the Modron race and being responsible for the events of The Great Modron March.
In Dead Gods, the PCs supposedly rid us of the wand, but Orcus may or may not appear anyway. Another interpretation of canon is that Tenebrous finds the wand and has his followers initiate a resurrection spell on his floating body in the Astral Plane, before getting his ass whupped by adventurers. Though this doesn't put Orcus down forever as his gigantic astral body goes missing. His worshipers eventually manage to resurrect him properly by the time of 3rd edition though he has reverted back to his "Demon Lord" status instead of being a god. However, the divine spark of Tenebrous ends up becoming "the ghost of a ghost of a demon prince", turning into a Vestige that can be called upon by Binders and, in 4e, Vestige Pact Warlocks.
Tenebrous is mentioned by name in 5e’s Curse of Strahd as a vestige sealed in the Amber Temple of Barovia, and a throwaway line in the new *Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft* states that Tenebrous has ascended to become one of the Dark Powers of Ravenloft
|The Demon Lords of Pathfinder|
|Demon Lords:||Abraxas - Aldinach - Andirifkhu - Angazhan - Areshkagal - Baphomet - Cyth-V'sug - Dagon |
Deskari - Flauros - Gogunta - Haagenti - Jezelda - Jubilex - Kabriri - Kostchtchie - Lamashtu
Mazmezz - Mestama - Nocticula - Nurgal - Orcus - Pazuzu - Shax - Shivaska - Sifkesh
Socothbenoth - Urxehl - Xoveron - Yhidothrus - Zevgavizeb - Zura
|Nascent Demon Lords:||Daclau-Sar - Izyagna - Kro'akoth - Menxyr - Murnath - Nightripper - Ovonovo - Shamira |
Sithhud - Treerazer
Third-party work, having Orcus in public domain, pretends that the whole sorry mess of Second Edition (and the Bloodstone Pass series before that) didn't happen. Orcus is a disgusting evil god and the PCs fight his minions. Since that is all a gamer fucking needs, these modules are better, starting with Necromancer Games' awesome Rappan Athuk.
Thrall of Orcus
Tenebrous Apostates revere Tenebrous as a truly divine god, even after the split with his "living" self Orcus, viewing them as two completely separate entities. Some Apostates consider the Demon Lord to be merely a part of their sundered deity, while others consider him to be the reason that Tenebrous failed to manifest. In either case they seek to return Tenebrous to divine status and resurrect him (again).
The Apostates are unique in that they can claim divine spellcasting powers and the ability to rebuke undead even though their deity no longer exists, proving that he must have been a god at some point. They are also permanently bound to the vestige of Tenebrous 24/7 and do not need to summon him, though they must still attempt to exert their control over his influence every day.
The strain of this relationship takes its toll on the Apostate, who lose about half their body weight and become emaciated as if they were undead creatures, though this has the advantage of actually making mindless undead believe they are one of them.
Orcus rules Thanatos, the frozen 113th layer of the Abyss where his seat of power is Naratyr, a frozen city populated by a huge range of undead ranging from run-of-the-mill zombies and skeletons, through ghouls and liches, all the way up to vampire giants and undead demons. The layer has the minor dominant trait, meaning that living creatures here steadily suffer damage as the life gets sucked out of them. If they die then their corpses swiftly turn to ash.
Rules for Orcus
Orcus' rules across various editions, because someone felt it necessary to include copypasta
3.5E Orcus The massive, bloated demon stands 15 feet tall, his immense frame a hideous combination of muscle and bloated flesh. Its head is that of a ram with a great maw filled with tusks, and its thick-furred legs end in cloven hooves. Leathery wings and a barb-tipped tail complete the picture of the archetypal demon.
- Orcus, Prince of the Undead [CR 22] CE Large outsider (chaotic, evil, extraplanar, tanar’ri)
- Init+10 ; Senses darkvision 60 ft., true seeing; Listen +34, Spot +34
- Languages Abyssal, Common; telepathy 300 ft.
- AC 48, touch 20, flat-footed 42 (–1 size, +6 Dex, +28 natural, +5 deflection)
- hp 455 (26 HD); DR 20/cold iron and good
- Immunities: ability drain, critical hits, death effects, electricity, energy drain, mind-affecting spells and abilities, negative energy, paralysis, poison, sneak attacks
- Resistances: acid 10, cold 10, fire 10; SR35
- Saves: Fort+28 , Ref+21, Will+20
- Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares), fly 40 ft. (average)
- Melee: Wand of Orcus +44/+39/+34/+29 (2d6+18/19–20 plus 2d6 unholy plus 2d6 chaotic plus death) and claw +35 (1d6+6) and gore +35 (1d8+6) and sting +35 (1d6+6 plus poison)
- Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
- Base Atk+26 ; Grp+ 42
- Special Actions summon tanar’ri, summon undead
- Spell-Like Abilities (CL 20th): At will: astral projection, command undead (DC 18), desecrate, detect good, detect law, enervation(+31 ranged touch), greater dispel magic, greater teleport, telekinesis (DC 19), unhallow, unholy blight (DC 18); 3/day: quickened enervation (+31 ranged touch), finger of death (DC 23), symbol of death (DC 24); 1/day: wail of the banshee (DC 25)
- Abilities: Str 35, Dex 23, Con 37, Int 27, Wis 20, Cha 19
- Special Qualities: tanar’ri traits (see Fiendish Codex I, page 28)
- Feats: Dark Speech*, Greater Spell Focus (necromancy), Hover, Improved Critical (heavy mace), Improved Initiative, Multiattack, Quicken Spell-Like Ability (enervation), Spell Focus (necromancy), Weapon Focus (heavy mace)
- Skills: Bluff +33, Climb +41, Concentration +42, Craft (alchemy) +37, Diplomacy +8, Escape Artist +35, Forgery +37, Intimidate +35, Knowledge (arcana) +37, Knowledge (religion) +37, Knowledge (the planes) +37, Listen +34, Search +37, Sense Motive +34, Spellcraft +39, Spot +34, Use Magic Device +33
4E Avatar of Orcus
- Aspect of Orcus - Level 24 Elite Brute
- Large elemental humanoid (demon)
- Initiative +15 Perception +21 (darkvision)
- Aura: Lesser Aura of Death (Necrotic) aura 10 inflicts necrotic 5
- HP 560; AC 37; Fortitude 39, Reflex 35, Will 36
- Immune: disease, poison
- Resists: 20 necrotic, 10 variable (may change 3/encounter as minor action)
- Saving Throws +2
- Speed 6, fly 8 (clumsy)
- Action Points 1
- Melee attack(default): Skull Mace (standard; at-will) (Necrotic, Weapon) Reach 2; +27 vs. AC; 2d10 + 5 damage, and the target is weakened (save ends).
- Melee attack: Tail Lash (immediate reaction, when an enemy moves or shifts into a square adjacent to the aspect of Orcus; at-will) +27 vs. AC; 2d6 + 10 damage, and the target is knocked prone.
- Close Burst: Necrotic Burst (standard; at-will) (Necrotic) Close burst 3; targets enemies; +23 vs. Fortitude; 1d10 + 5 necrotic damage.
- Alignment Chaotic evil Languages Abyssal, Common
- Skills Arcana +23, History +23, Intimidate +24, Religion +23
- Str 30 (+22) Dex 17 (+15) Wis 19 (+16) Con 30 (+22) Int 22 (+18) Cha 25 (+19)
- Huge fiend (demon), chaotic evil
- Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
- Hit Points 405 (30d12+210)
- Speed 40 ft., fly 40 ft.
- Str 27 (+8) Dex 14 (+2) Con 25 (+7) Int 20 (+5) Wis 20 (+5) Cha 25 (+7)
- Saving Throws Dex +10, Con +15, Wis +13
- Skills Arcana +12, Perception +12
- Damage Resistances cold, fire, lightning
- Damage Immunities necrotic, poison; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing that is nonmagical
- Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned
- Senses truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 10
- Languages all, telepathy 120 ft.
- Challenge 26 (90,000 XP)
- Wand of Orcus. The wand has 7 charges, and any of its properties that require a saving throw have a save DC of 18. While holding it, Orcus can use an action to cast animate dead, blight, or speak with dead. Alternatively, he can expend or 1 or more of the wand's charges to cast one of the following spells from it: circle of death (1 charge), finger of death (1 charge), or power word kill (2 charges). The wand regains 1d4 + 3 charges daily at dawn. While holding the wand, Orcus gains +3 AC and can use an action to conjure undead creatures whose combined average hit points don't exceed 500, These undead magically rise up from the ground or otherwise form in unoccupied spaces within 300 feet of Orcus and obey his commands until they are destroyed or until he dismisses them as an action. Once this property of the wand is used, the property can't be used again until the next dawn.
- Innate Spellcasting. Orcus's spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 23, +15 to hit with spell attacks). He can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components. At will: chill touch (17th level), detect magic. 3/day each: create undead, dispel magic. 1/day: time stop.
- Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If Orcus fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead.
- Magic Resistance. Orcus has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
- Magic Weapon. Orcus's weapon attacks are magical.
- Master of Undeath. When Orcus casts animate dead or create undead, he chooses the level at which the spell is cast, and the creatures created by the spells remain under his control indefinitely. Additionally, he can cast create undead even when it isn't night.
- Multiattack. Orcus makes two Wand of Orcus attacks.
- Wand of Orcus. Melee Weapon Attack: +19 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d8 + 8) bludgeoning damage plus 13 (2d12) necrotic damage.
- Tail. Melee Weapon Attack: +17 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d8 + 8) piercing damage plus 18 (4d8) poison damage.
- Legendary Actions. Orcus can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature's turn. Orcus regains spent legendary actions at the start of his turn.
- Tail. Orcus makes one tail attack.
- A Taste of Undeath. Orcus casts chill touch (17th level).
- Creeping Death (Costs 2 Actions). Orcus chooses a point on the ground that he can see within 100 feet of him. A cylinder of swirling necrotic energy 60 feet tall and with a 10-foot radius rises from that point and lasts until the end of Orcus's next turn. Creatures in that area are vulnerable to necrotic damage.
|The Demon Princes of Dungeons & Dragons|
|Tanar'ri:||Baphomet - Demogorgon - Doresain - Eltab - Fraz-Urb'luu - Graz'zt |
Juiblex - Kostchtchie - Lolth - Malcanthet - Miska the Wolf-Spider
Orcus - Sess'innek - Shaktari - Turaglas - Yeenoghu - Zuggtmoy
|Obyrith:||Dagon - Obox-ob - Pale Night - Pazuzu - The Queen of Chaos - Sertrous|
|The deities of Ghostwalk|
|Good||Durann||Aluvan - Eanius||Soggelos - Wyst|
|Galaedros - Nessek||Tephaneron|
|A goat's head with ram's horns|
|Divine Rank||Eternal Immortal|
|Portfolio||Wereswines, destruction, death|
|Domains||Entropy, Chaos, Evil, Destruction, Death|
In Mystara, Orcus has a very different backstory. In the past he was once a wereswine in what would one day become Karameikos, with a hatred for all living beings. This hatred eventually attracted the attention of Thanatos, who sponsored him to Immortality in the Sphere of Entropy.
Orcus appears and acts much as he's descibed above. He has no real allies, though Thanatos occasionally uses him for his plans, and has many enemies, most notably Djaea his most ardent opponent, and is in a bitter threeway rivalry with Alphaks and Demogorgon.