The other day, b-dog opined that orcs should really be tougher. I replied, basically, that they're fodder because the PCs are powerful, not because the orcs are weak.
This post makes constant reference to Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen and Dungeon Fantasy 3: The Next Level, because I use them as the baseline for building my fodder, my NPCs, and my henchmen. This may read like an ad. It's not, really - I write for publication what I need for game, and that's why DF15 is so thoroughly suited to this approach.
Building the Fodder
The way I look at my DF world is that 62-point Bargain Henchmen are the "base" templates for normal but skilled NPCs. That's what your average soldier looks like (see, Guard), or your average dockworker or porter (Laborer), or your average professional butler type (Servant). Not the bottom of the barrel, but the baseline for what people are like when they're suited for and good at their profession.
125 pointers are the really good ones - the ones with real potential later on down the line, or who've reached a level of professional success. They aren't a dime a dozen, but they aren't exactly rare, either. They're likely to have the tough jobs as bodyguards, elite troops or sergeants, clergy in the local temple, minor wizards, etc. This guys make great henchmen, or great fresh faced delvers in a higher lethality/more dangerous game.
So I build my fodder by taking one of the Bargain Henchmen and bolting on the racial template. Not purchasing it with points from the template, but giving it to them for free. So this naturally makes a 10-point race's basic warrior less tough than a 50-point race's basic warrior.
So for example, I do something like this:
Orc Warrior: DF15 62-point Guard Template + Orc Racial Template
Tough Orc Warrior: DF15 125-point Brute Template + Orc Racial Template
Elite Orc Warrior/Chief/Champion: DF15 Brute + 50-60 extra points + Orc Racial Template
Specific individuals or groups might also come with a prefix, like Determined or Distorted (or suffix, like . . . from Hell) to make them just a bit (or a lot) tougher.
I might use "Squire" or "Skirmisher" or "Killer" instead, depending on the race. A highly organized group might be Squire-based, because they're more organized for war. A more sneaky backstabby group might be Killer-based, because they're more set for quiet murder. I also tweak the results that come out a little, within a range, to make the final NPCs a bit different from each other or to better suit their in-game role.
But so your average orc warrior is worth about 77 points (62 + 15 race). A similar quality ogre would be 102 points (62 + 40 race). And so on. Against a 0-point race (say, a human), coming out to (62 + 0), they have a bit of an edge.
Building the PCs
But the PCs aren't average.
Starting DF PCs are 250+50+5.
I hand out about 5 xp per session.
So you can look at DF PC as roughly equal to a 125+50+5 character (say, a 125-point DF15 template) with 25 successful expeditions under his belt.
Or as a 62+50+5 character (a 62-point DF15 bargain henchman) with 37.5 successful expeditions under his belt.
These aren't fresh-faced new guys. Or if they are, they're as fresh-faced as a first round draft pick - not experienced but the cream of the crop of new recruits. The best you can expect. They start out with a massive edge over the average orc.
Comparing the Two
So a basic orc warrior is a bit more powerful than a Bargain Henchman Guard. Against a front-line DF character, he's going to get smoked. He can't compete. Against a 125-pointer, he's dangerous although outmatched. Against a Bargain Henchmen, he's the odds-on favorite to win.
A tough or veteran orc warrior is closer to a Brute or Squire with the orc template added on for free. He's a tough fight but outmatched against a DF front liner. He's the odds-on favorite against a 125-pointer. Against Bargain Henchmen, he's going to win most of the time.
An orc leader-type, or champion, or elite warrior is probably more like a 187-point DFer, and can go nose-to-nose with a DF front liner for at least a short amount of time. Backed by lesser allies, and he's very dangerous.
If I make a 250+50+5 point orc, I'm saying this guy is like the best orc you can find, literally one in thousands and thousands of orcs, with a solid swath of experience under his belt - dozens of battles, wars, dangerous fights, and so on. He's not spawned out of the orc-lands by the hundreds; he's a tough survivor from a race of tough guys.
So how would it work if I ran a more normal, 100 or 150 point game?
Individual orc warriors would be only a little more effective against them than 50-75 point humans. That is, the PCs still have the edge because I gave them enough points to be exceptional.* But the orcs would be a riskier fight.
Of course, by DF standards Fodder is meant to be dangerous in numbers. These guys are. Their leaders get right up to Worthy, which means dangerous with more-or-less equal odds. The best of the orcs can step up to a starting DFer and make a credible threat of danger without needing to bring along a bunch of friends. Boss monsters are one-on-many tough, and it's a truly rare "fodder" race that qualifies (especially against 4-6 DF delvers.)
In a lower-point game, the Fodder is more like Worthy (equal odds, there is a good chance of a dead or incapacitated PC), and the Worthy are more like Bosses, and the Bosses are fights to avoid unless you've stacked the odds in your favor in every way possible.
Because of this, I'm pretty satisfied with my "fodder" types. They are a challenge to lesser PCs, but I deliberately gave the players better PCs.** And then I built the fodder so they'd be a credible threat in sufficient numbers, and so they'd be interesting (tactics, poison use, different magic approaches, etc.), and so they'd be different from each other. So far, so good.
* A lot of games make this "exceptional" nature part of the system - even old versions of D&D - you start at level 1, not "normal man." So I don't expect most PCs to expect a 50/50 chance of losing versus an orc.
** I've played many games of the "build up to greatness" type. That's a lot of fun. But part of the fun of this campaign is "let's skip right to being badasses." Which makes it even more fun when they're in danger, or when they encounter what in another game was a potential TPK and it's more like a OMV (one man victory.) It's part of the joy, to me, of DF - you get to swim with the sharks, and you're a shark too.