Orks are a warlike, crude, and highly aggressive green-skinned Xenos race. Orks are the dominant subspecies of the Orkoids, which includes the smaller Gretchin and Snotlings. Although their society is entirely primitive and brutal, the Orkoid race is also the most successful species in the whole Galaxy, outnumbering possibly every other race. However, due to their aggressive and warlike nature, this massive race is split into hundreds of tiny empires, warring as much between themselves as against other races. In the purely theoretical event all the Orks were to unite, they would undoubtedly crush all opposition.
The Orkoid races are believed to have been genetically engineered millenia ago. Ork legend attributes their creation to the Brain Boyz, a diminutive but extremely intelligent subspecies of Orkoid, who bred the Gretchin to be servants and the Orks to be warriors[1a]. Later evidence establishes that the Ork races may have in fact been created by the Old Ones, who are described as creating the Krork as part of a last-ditch attempt to fight off their enemies such as the Necrons and Enslavers.[Needs Citation] The Orks have had a presence in the Galaxy since that time, and are known to have first battled mankind long before the foundation of the Imperium, tens of thousands of years ago during the Dark Age of Technology. Humanity and the Orks have fought innumerable conflicts over this time and are unlikely to ever stop.
In 544.M32, an Ork Warlord known simply as The Beast succeeded in uniting much of the Ork race and nearly conquered the entire Galaxy. Leading the largest Waaagh! ever seen, in the end he was stopped in an apocalyptic struggle with the Imperium.[6a]
The Orkoid ecosystem includes several species, Gretchin, Snotlings, Squigs and Orkoid Fungus, as well as the Orks themselves. The Ork ecosystem, born from fungal spores, travels with the race itself, allowing the Orks to rapidly colonize and reproduce on worlds across the galaxy.
Orks are unusual in that they can continue to grow throughout their lives and that this growth is directly tied to their social standing - the largest Orks always being the most dominant.[Needs Citation]
Orkoid physiology is a symbiotic combination of animal and fungus, integrated such that each augments the operation of the other and both work in perfect harmony. This fungus makes individual Orks incredibly resilient, replacing several vital organs as well as adding padding around those which remain.[Needs Citation]
The fungus also fulfills the Ork species' reproductive function, and makes them one of the most proliferative species in the galaxy. Adult Orks are constantly releasing spores which lie in the ground, often for years, waiting to develop into Orks or Gretchin. Thus, a world invaded by Orks will be troubled by them for hundreds of years to come, and even if their initial attack is defeated, it is all but impossible to eradicate them completely.[Needs Citation]
Orks were genetically engineered to be tough, muscular, aggressive and primitive-minded. In addition to their warriors (by far the most populous group), gatherings of Orks are naturally divided into a caste of Oddboyz who are genetically predisposed to perform specific tasks exceedingly well. Indeed, the Orks' creators were apparently able to encode information on how to build and maintain technology in their genetic templates; Mekboyz, for example require very little training in their function, since they understand mechanical principles at an instinctive level.
The largest common Ork social unit is the Tribe, a horde usually comprised of numerous Warbands all under the command of a Warlord or Warboss. Even these groups cannot truly be classed as stable, as Ork tribes are constantly growing, conquering other tribes or being conquered themselves.[1c]
A Warband is a smaller social group, usually led by a Warboss. Generally several such warbands together form a tribe under the leadership of the strongest Warboss.
Warbands in turn are comprised of various mobz - groups of Orks bound together as social and fighting units, often grouped together by their preferred style of combat.
Whilst an Ork will belong to a tribe, they also belong to a Clan. Whilst tribes are constantly changing, breaking apart and reforming, clan ties are stable and enduring. Ork Clans are not communities but rather philosophical delineations representing the various aspects of the Orkish character. Each Clan has its own colours, markings, characteristics and ways of waging war.[Needs Citation]
It is possible that Clan affiliation may, in part, be a genetic phenomenon, as members of the same Clan may have physical characteristics in common that distinguish them from members of other Clans - for instance, Bad Moons are identifiable by the faster growth rate of their teeth.[Needs Citation]
An Ork tribe usually contains Orks from many different clans, so when tribes fight each other Orks will often find themselves in combat with foes from the same clan. This is considered normal, as an individual Ork's allegiance is to his Warboss rather than his clan. Despite this, inter-clan rivalry is intense.[Needs Citation]
Although it has been stated that there are many Ork clans, there are only six large and truly significant ones[1c] :
- Bad Moons: The richest Ork clan, due to their teef growing quicker. The Bad Moons are the closest thing Orks have to a merchant class.
- Blood Axes: Distrusted by other clans, the Blood Axes make use of "un-orky" tactics such as camouflage and even battle plans.
- Deathskulls: Famed looters and scavengers.
- Evil Sunz: Epitomising the Orkish love of vehicles that go fast and make a lot of noise, the Evil Sunz have a high proportion of Speed Freeks.
- Goffs: Close combat specialists.
- Snakebites: Staunch traditionalists, who distrust many forms of technology.
Even by Ork standards, some members of their species are fiercely anarchic and actively spurn affiliation with any clan. These Orks often organize into free-roaming hordes, notable examples of which include[Needs Citation]:
- Freebooterz: Space-faring pirates, formed of outcasts from their original tribes and clans
- Kult of Speed: Orks wholly addicted to the thrill of high-speed combat
- Feral Orks: Primitive Orks cut off from broader Ork society
Orks control a significant part of known space, but these territories are not a united or cohesive organisation - rather they are a collection of thousands of individual territories and empires[1a]. These independent factions are as likely to fight with each other as they are with any other species, although on occasion a particularly powerful Warlord will initiate a phenomenon known as a Waaagh! - a mass unification of various tribes and warbands. Fortunately these Waaagh!'s are not permanent alliances and will eventually disband either when they are defeated or when they run out of enemies to fight.[1e]
Ork society is dominated by the strongest individuals, with the largest and most capable Orks forming the ruling elite. The only exception to this rule are the Oddboyz - specialist orks who have an innate talent in a specific field (such as medicine or technology) whose unique skills make them indispensable to their tribe.[1d]
The Warboss is the leader of an Ork warband or tribe; he is always the biggest, strongest and most cunning Ork in any given grouping of such creatures, and gets the best armour, weapons, and equipment. A particularly powerful warboss is often known as a "Warlord," though in practice they can take any title they choose.[Needs Citation]
The Oddboyz are Orks who are born with specific information programmed into their DNA. They specialise in doing things that most other Orks can't. The notable types of Oddboy are[Needs Citation]:
- Mekboyz: Ork mechanics and inventors (also known as 'Mekaniaks' or 'Meks')
- Painboyz: Ork surgeons and doctors (also known as 'Mad Doks' or 'Doks')
- Weirdboys: Highly psychic Orks
- Runtherds: Slave-masters and breeders of Gretchin and snotlings (also known as 'Slavers')
Nobz are the ruling class of the Ork race. Larger and more aggressive than other Orks they act a squad leaders or fight together in their own mobs. Nobz have access to the best equipment, weapons and armour and are often found fighting in groups with other similarly equipped Nobz. Thus there are often different types of Nob mob commonly found on the battlefield, these include[Needs Citation]:
- Mega Nobz: Nobz wearing Mega Armour
- Flash Gitz: Nobz equipped with the most exotic and expensive ranged weapons
- Cyborks: Nobz who, either by choice or due to injury, have been extensively surgically altered by a Painboy
- Nob Bikerz: Nobz who ride into battle on Warbikes
Boyz are the most common form of Ork, although there are still many different types of sub-group that vary depending on status and equipment[Needs Citation]:
- Boyz - the "standard" Orks, usually divided into mobs equipped for either ranged or close quarter combat.
- 'Ard Boyz: Ardboyz are heavily-armoured Ork Boyz who wear 'Eavy Armour. In the Ork hierarchy, 'Ard Boyz tend to hold a position just below Nobz.
- Kommandoz: considered to be the epitome of Ork cunning, they work as units behind enemy lines in order to create havoc and confusion.
- Burna Boyz: a type of Ork Boyz with a preference for flame weapons, normally led by a Mekboy rather than a Nob.
- Tankbustas: a specialist Ork unit designed to take out enemy vehicles.
- Lootaz: Orks equipped with the heaviest weapons that they can find and who specialise in scavenging equipment from the battlefield or enemy camps.
- Stormboyz: Orks equipped with Jump Packs, they are often young Orks with an uncharacteristic disciplined streak.
- Biker Boyz: Speed-loving Orks riding Warbikes
Orks believe in two gods: Gork, the god of cunning brutality and Mork, the god of brutal cunning (the subtle difference being that Mork hits you when you aren't looking, Gork hits you hard when you are). As such, sometimes Orks can't remember which is which and fight over it. They have no real priesthood, although the infamous mighty Goff Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka claims to be receiving visions from them.[1e]
Orks use their teeth ("teef") as currency. This is quite a natural solution to inflation and income support, as Orks regrow their "teef" in a similar manner to Terran sharks, replacing them quite frequently. They degrade over time so it is impossible to hoard them. This keeps prices constant, ensures all Orks have access to money and allows constant values to be placed on commodities. A toof will buy a good squig pie and a tankard of fungus beer, while a bag of teef will buy a cheap Warbuggy. A big flash Battlewagon could cost a Warboss hundreds of teef.[1b]
Orks speak their own language. It is very crude and has many dialects varying across the galaxy. Often it incorporates loan words from other languages, including Imperial Gothic.[Needs Citation] Writing is beyond the abilities of most greenskins, but they do use a limited range of pictograms and glyphs for, among other things, drawing crude maps.
Ork "teknologee" appears ramshackle and slapped-together, but is as potent as any weaponry used by the Imperium. Ork technology is characterised by a constant stream of poorly thought-out experimentation and constantly trying to outdo the competition to build the biggest gun, the largest Gargant, or the fastest Warbuggy. Therefore Ork technology is not uniform, lending Ork Warbands a cobbled together and random appearance. Ork Mekboyz are specialists in the field of producing powerful Force Fields that can protect against damage, and at battlefield improvisation of repairs. They can salvage almost any burnt-out wreck, and many Ork vehicles have been reported destroyed dozens of times, only to be cobbled back together, given a fresh lick of paint (if even that), and sent back into the fray. The tough, resilient nature of Orks means they accept crude bionic enhancements, transplants, and other medical shenanigans being performed on them with ease.
Orks in the Galaxy
The Orks are the most widespread of the sentient races, inhabiting worlds across the whole of the galaxy.[1a] For the most part, their movements are erratic and their "domains" lack anything approaching cohesion, although there are some notable exceptions, including the Ork Empires of Octarius and Charadon.
The most infamous and successful Warbosses, called "Warlords" or "Great Bosses", lead several tribes and have carved out their own, often petty, empire of Ork worlds. The most powerful are usually are known by a unique title of their own devising (such as Arch-Arsonist).
- Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka - Goff Warlord, infamous for his two invasions of the Armageddon system[1h]
- Nazdreg Ug Urdgrub - Bad Moon Warlord[1f]
- The Overfiend of Octarius - Ruler of the Ork Empire of Octarius
- Snagrod - The Arch-Arsonist of Charadon
- Grog Ironteef - Warchief of Alsanta
- Tuska - The "Daemon-Killa"
- Grukk Face-Rippa - Boss of the Red Waaagh!
- Garaghak - The Overfiend of Tallarax
- Klawjaw - The Mighty Mangler of Bork
- The Arch-Maniac of Calverna
- The Beast - Warboss who nearly unified the Ork race
- Gharkul Blackfang - Powerful Warboss slain by the Emperor
- Urlakk Urg - Warboss defeated in the Ullanor Crusade
- Mekboss Buzzgob
- Kaptin Badrukk - one of the most infamous Freebooterz of all time[1g]
- Kaptin Dedeye, see also his quotes
- Mad Dok Grotsnik - famed painboy [1g]
- Old Zogwort - a powerful Weirdboy
- Snikrot - Ork Kommando boss
- Wazdakka Gutsmek - legendary Ork biker[1j]
- Zagstruk - Stormboy boss
- Zodgrod Wortsnagga - renowned Runtherd[1i]
- 1: Codex: Orks (2nd Edition)
- 2: Codex: Orks (3rd Edition) by Andy Chambers, [Needs Citation]
- 3: Bloodquest (Graphic Novel Series) (2005) by Gordon Rennie [Needs Citation]
- 4: Imperial Armour Volume Eight - Raid on Kastorel-Novem, pg. 114
- 5: Codex Imperialis, pg. 50
- 6: Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition Rulebook
- 7: Death or Glory (Novel) - Ciaphas Cain: Defender of the Imperium (Omnibus) by Sandy Mitchell, Chapter Seven, pg 84, fn 1.
- 8: Games Workshop
- 9: Games Workshop
- 10: Games Workshop
- 11: Strategy Cards for Planetary Empires expansion game, card "Battle Fate - Minor Stratagem", (saved archive page, dated February 2011, last accessed 5 October 2015)