Continuing my series of posts exploring the epidemiology of Pathfinder, today I will report on the impact of adding ferocity to the orc stat block. Is the orc still a CR 1/3 monster when one accounts for ferocity, and just how tough does a fighter have to be to walk away from a fight with a single ferocious orc?

For this simulation (and all sims from now on) I am going to be using my updated and revised modeling program, which has been subject to some fairly severe stress tests and which I’m now fairly certain perfectly mimics a basic combat exchange between an orc and a fighter. I posted revisions here, showing the basic survival probability for three types of fighter and four races, for an orc with no ferocity. This is the basic program I’ll be working with from now on.


Previous analysis of survival in Pathfinder have studied conflict between fighters of the four main races and inferior breeds of orc, but it is likely that serious dungeoneering will bring adventurers into conflict with hardier orcs fighting near their lair. It is well known that orcs who maintain a close cultural connection with their tribe are braver and more determined fighters, and this is usually reflected in their ability to fight even when suffering serious physical injuries. For this analysis, this powerful additional trait of “wild” orcs, ferocity, is included in the analysis. Essentially this analysis compares the survival chance of a lone fighter against a lone orc isolated from its tribe, probably in a city, with a lone fighter in combat with a lone orc near its lair, where it will fight beyond death.


A set of 200,000 simulated battles between randomly-generated fighters and randomly-generated orcs was analyzed using poisson regression. Orcs and fighters were generated in the standard way, but orcs had a 50% chance of having the ferocity trait, which enables them to continue fighting until they reach -12 hps. A simple main-effects poisson regression model of survival was built, and the effect of orc ferocity on survival reported from this model; subsequently, a model with interactions between ferocity and all the main variables of interest (fighter type, race and ability bonuses) was also built. Results from both of these models are reported selectively for simplicity.


Mortality for the 100,000 fighters against meek orcs was unchanged, at 37.2%; but for fighters battling ferocious orcs mortality increased significantly, to 63%. Patterns of mortality differences by race and class type were similar to those seen previously, but mortality rates were higher in all class types and races. Table 1 shows mortality rates by race and ferocity type.

Table 1: Mortality rates by race and orc ferocity


Orc Ferocity

Meek Ferocious
Human 30.6 57.1
Dwarf 32.4 60.1
Elven ponce 40.8 65.8
Halfling loser 44.9 68.2

Note that, although survival patterns are maintained in battles against ferocious orcs, the mortality ratios decrease: from a 50% increase in mortality between humans and halflings against meek orcs, for example, to a 20% increase against ferocious orcs. The increase in mortality due to ferocity also varies, from nearly a two-fold increased mortality rate in humans and dwarves to only a 50% increased mortality amongst halflings.

In a simple main-effects poisson regression model ferocity was associated with an average relative risk of mortality of 1.7, which was highly statistically significant (Z=80.12, p value <0.0001). That is, the average increased mortality from adding ferocity to an orc stat block was about 70%. However, in a model including interaction terms between orc ferocity and all main variables (fighter type, race, and all three stat bonuses) the role of orc ferocity varied significantly across ability scores. For example, after adjusting for other ability scores, class type and race, the increased mortality amongst fighters with minimum strength bonus was only 20%, while it was 85% for fighters with a strength bonus of +5. This effect is shown in Figure 1, which plots the relative risk of mortality by strength score for meek compared to ferocious orcs. All relative risks are relative to a fighter with a strength of -2.

Figure 1: Mortality by Strength Ability Score for Meek and Ferocious Orcs

Essentially, strength induces a lower gradient of mortality improvements when fighting tough orcs, and combinations of high scores become more important. In fact, it seems highly unlikely that decent survival will be obtainable for fighters of any race and class type generated using Pathfinder’s standard point-buy systems. These systems will restrict most PCs to ability scores in the 14-16 range, which will not guarantee survival against even a single ferocious orcs.


Adding ferocity to an orc’s stat block significantly increases its lethality, with an average increase in mortality risk for fighters in one-to-one combat of about 70% after adjusting for race, class type and ability scores. Even the strongest and most unusual fighters, with ability scores above 18, have surprisingly poor survival of about 30%. Orc ferocity increases mortality across all races and fighter types, with halflings again copping the pointy end of Gruumsh the Bastard’s falchion and incurring death rates of up 70%. This is further evidence that orcs are not CR 1/3 opponents, and suggests that GMs who want to field orcs as cannon fodder against their PCs should judge numbers carefully, or consider treating ferocity as a leader-type trait. It also suggests that – just on the numbers – Pathfinder is the most lethal of the D&D incarnations, especially when ability scores are restricted by point buy options. This will be tested in subsequent analyses.