No, Ork technology isn’t magical.

“For instance, it is widely believed in Ork society that machines painted in a red colour operate faster. As disturbing as it sounds, ‘facts’ such as this become true. Many captured Ork weapons and items of equipment do not work unless wielded by an Ork. I theorise that many Ork inventions work because the Orks themselves think they should work – the strong telekinetic abilities of the Ork subconcious somehow ensure they function as desired.” – Imperial Scientist, (outdated) Ork Codex 

Ork tech only works if they believe it does.

Or at least that’s the case if you listen to a few people who don’t quite understand what the original background says.

This has been floating around since the 3rd edition codex where, sadly, pretty much the only fluff in the Ork Codex was a few passages written from the Imperiums perspective. One passage in particular described the findings and conclusion of psychic resonance from an Imperial scientist. What people miss is the nuance of this piece and the context it’s presented in.

A common theme with Ork background is people underestimating them. They see the brutish race that has no fear of death, sees their ramshackle technology and assumes that it must be unintelligent and low tech. It’s true that an Ork Meks idea of fine tuning an engine is to hit it with a mallet, strap on a rocket booster and turn the exhaust into a skorcha for good measure, but the underlying technology works. There are many quotes from people who don’t underestimate Orks, such as Eldar Farseers and Commissar Yarrick, saying how impressive Ork technology can be – particularly teleportation and power fields which are more advanced than even Eldar technology.

The passage that people refer to isn’t saying that Ork tech only works because they believe it does, it underpins the idea that people can’t believe that something that looks so backwards, crude and ramshackle is actually advanced. The Imperial scientist guesses that the tech must work because of psychic powers because he can’t dissect it.

There are plenty of examples of humans using Ork tech successfully, from Commissar Yarrick’s Power Klaw to Diggas from Gorkamorka and Armageddon Ork hunters.

To take one of the examples that the scientist gives; he makes Orks race each other in two separate trukks. One trukk painted red, the other not painted red. The red one wins the race. His conclusion is that the Orks psychic abilities make the red one goes faster.

Except one of the fundamental things about Ork vehicles is that no two of them are the same. The chances of them being equal in speed, handling and all other characteristics is practically zero. Just on the bare face of it, the chances of the red one being faster is about 50%. Since the scientist tested just once, there’s no conclusion to be drawn there.

Even if the red vehicles were on average faster, that doesn’t mean it’s a psychic field causing it. We know that Ork Meks’ technical skills are subconscious, genetically programmed into them, so a much more reasonable explanation would be that a Mek instinctively tunes a vehicle if it’s painted red. And by tune, I mean actually tuning it rather than slapping a rocket booster on it (though in fairness that would also mean that the red one is faster, even if it’s more likely to explode). The placebo effect in humans is very real so even an Ork driver would instinctively go faster by simply putting the pedal down.

The specific report, often quoted, was originally printed in the 3rd edition codex. Do you know what the fluff piece report was immediately preceding? A piece on how a different scientist explained not to underestimate Orks, that they were much more complex and intelligent than the Imperium gave them credit for. The notes on the report by the imperium stated not to believe the report.

The piece of fluff before that? A short story about an imperial scientist being tortured by the inquisition for daring to suggest that Orks were intelligent and capable of great tactical skill and cunning.

The report that was accepted by the imperium? The one that everyone quotes? The one that makes Orks out to be too stupid to build working technology. The one that made incredible leaps of logic that even Nigel Farage would pause and say “hang on… that’s a huge leap of logic, based on a false premise, backed up by dodgy data and misinformation… and it’s a little bit racist.”

Many storytelling principles operate in 3 stages – you present an idea, you reinforce the idea, then you pay off the idea. The first fluff piece presented the idea that the Imperium doesn’t like being told that Orks can be intelligent and will go to the extent of torturing someone who adamantly sticks to their beliefs. The second fluff piece reinforces the point. The third fluff piece shows that the Imperium will accept conclusions that Orks are stupid even with a complete lack of evidence.

Admittedly, as the editions of 40k trundled on these articles became less obvious. The 5th edition codex just quoted the conclusion drawn without much of the context. From the 6th edition codex onwards, the idea of psychic resonance was pretty much completely discarded.

There are some Orky psychic weapons

What the title says.

Ork meks are masters of ridiculous weaponry, including force fields and guns that shoot snotlings through the warp itself at their target. The warp and psychic powers are intrinsically linked. The Kustom Force Field only helps friendly Orks, not enemies, so unless the Big Mek is there manually highlighting which Orks it’s to cover and which ones it’s not, it’s extremely likely that it’s psychically controlled.

Orks obviously have no issue with developing technology that requires psychic power to use, even if subconsciously. If a Warboss goes to a Big Mek and orders the bugger to make sure that only the Warboss can fire his favourite kustom shoota, how do you think the Big Mek is going to do it? Fingerprint recognition? Iris scanner? A numberpad (as if a Warboss would care to learn a PIN)? Or would he use the technology he’s already quite versant in and put a psychic lock on it. Only the Warboss can psychically unlock the firing pin.

The Conclusion

I don’t blame people for believing the myth that Ork tech only works “because they believe it does”. It’s a popular meme, much like the idea that humans only use 10% of their brain. Unfortunately, it seems to have spread much like the same.

So yeah. Ork tech doesn’t work “because they think it does”. That’s based on a misunderstanding of the original fluff.

We’z da strongest so we’z da best.

3 Comments

  1. Something similar happened with the “Truescale” marines because of a dodgy height chart at warhammer world, which showed the height of a space marine and 1′ was the ground level rather than the chart starting at 0 and having a ft at the 1 ft mark.

    and a lot of people missed it, and now we have primaris marines to try and pander to the Truescale crowd.

  2. Very comprehensive over view of the Ork tech. I’m a fan of the research format myself. 😀 I found this a Great read! Thank you

  3. I kind of like to think that occasionally they do manage to get something to work that shouldn’t through sheer force of wanting it to and raw psychic potential. But that would a rare thing, even in the heat of pitched battle when there are tons of boyz all worked up all around, not the basis for their technology.

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