Friday, 11 May 2012

Chapter 10: Squigs: The Wonder Material

“The Orks use Squigs for an amazing variety of purposes, depending on the special characteristics of each species of Squig. Though there are many forms of Squig, and each variety can incorporate many subtypes, there are about twelve main varieties, including edible, musical, hair, medical, parasite-hunting, face-eaters, pet, buzzing and paint Squigs.” (Waaargh! The Orks, pg 5)
All good societies, be they real or fictional, thrive upon a solid foundation. For Orks, that foundation is the Squigs. Squigs fulfil an almost infinite number of roles within Ork society, from simply providing the basic societal cycle, to becoming a myriad of different creatures all with conveniently useful adaptations, which the Orkoids use widely to solve a number of societal needs. In short, the Squigs provide the Orkoids with their own portable eco-system that provides all the basic mod cons any society could need, short of metal, well, so far anyway… The term “Squig” is the shortened version of their descriptive epithet Squiggly Beast. The word is rather perplexing, but has a few notable literary clues to start us off on our investigation. Squiggly is an adverb (a word which modifies a verb), so logically the term Squig is a verb, so “to squig” denotes behaviour associated with what they are. One can make stabs at the meaning, which could all be equally valid. Although the obvious suggestion is that it is either onomatopoeic (so the word resembles what it sounds like) or descriptive of the action it makes, such as scurrying or scratching. However I would take it further. I would suggest that the term “Squig” is supposed to be quite open. It’s an intransitive verb (i.e. the verb doesn’t require an object to form a complete sentence), and thus, much like how Orks work, the term simply denotes the fact that Squigs ultimately do what they do (note: the verb ‘to exist’ is intransitive, and isn’t far from how Orks view their own society in general “I exist therefore I is”). As to what they do, well, it’s almost infinite amounts of things. At their most basic level, Squigs eat the refuse of the Orks, and the Orks eat the Squigs. It’s a happy (if rather smelly and unsanitary) cycle of life and death that underpins Ork society. As I will cover in more detail later in the series, all Ork Settlements have a place for the disposal of refuse, known as The Drops. Most Squigs live amidst it, and it is up to Snotling and Gretchin servants to ferret out Squigs to cook for Ork meals. Drops can be quite hazardous, as most Squigs have a predatory nature, meaning that any trip to the drops can be a very memorable, or even short-lived one. In spite of the Orks’ rather crude nature, they are somewhat prone to gourmet temperaments (especially Nobz and Bosses, who expect a good feeding), and most Gretchin servants are experts at finding and cooking meals, especially using Squigs. Almost all Squigs are edible, but some taste better than others. The nicest and juiciest “eatin’ squigs” are the largest, and found in the darkest and deepest recesses of the drops, and are exceptionally rare, and equally difficult to catch. Orks do prefer cooked Squig, but they will eat them raw as a snack, or if they’re really hungry and there are no Gretchin about. I like to compare eatin’ squigs to fish. The comparison to fish seems odd, but it works rather well. Squigs mostly exist to eat, and if they eat a lot they get bigger. If they live very long, it is because they eat a lot and don’t get eaten, and get so big that the only thing that can generally eat them is a bigger Squig. Many of you may be familiar with “the bigger fish” principle, and it’s exactly the same. Of course, Squigs form a whole eco-system, based on what seems to be adaptations that are exceptionally convenient for the Orks. There are a number of theories as to why these adaptations occur, but it’s actually not that problematic, because there’s a fair chance that any explanation has a slight aspect of truth to it. It’s very likely that psychic resonance plays its part, giving Squigs the ability to adapt or change to suit the society’s needs through resonance. Also with Orks, as a survivalist race, the other Orkoids are not exempt from this process either. Squigs that thrive will develop things that are useful to the Orks, probably as an effort to not get eaten or killed. These attempts at survival don’t always work, but the principle has a solid foundation. All Orkoids adapt, and Squigs do it to absolutely astounding degrees! So as you can imagine, there are lots of Squig variants that make themselves incredibly useful to the Orks. Some take other paths to survival altogether, but we’ll discuss those later. Whether they have specifically adapted to meet a very specific societal need, or that the Orks have developed a use for them according to their traits vary between the types of squig, but certainly the Orks using the nature of the breed of squig almost definitely forms the catalyst for other “useful” breeds to emerge. Probably the most common one is one that not everyone notices, or indeed knows about, but otherwise provides Orks with a very useful commodity that they lack: hair. The Hair (or Hairy) Squig is a small, parasitic squig that comprises of a very small head with clamp-like teeth that latches onto Orkoid skin, and provides a useful, mutually benefiting existence for both Orkoids. The other Orkoids (especially Orks) are quite fond of ornamentation, and an easy method is to acquire hair (something no doubt Orks were at one point somewhat envious of in mammalian races). The Orks get a form of expression that they like (often painting or dying the hair to fit Clan colours, or may already come in a suitable colour), and the Hair Squigs draw nutrients from the Orkoid’s skin. Similarly, there are other Squigs that alter their nature to suit basic societal needs. Another common variant is the Paint Squig, which excretes powerful dyes. Some even develop tufts of hair on their tails, so that they can be used both as a source for paint and a paintbrush at the same time. Another popular generic breed are the Squigpipes, which provide, as one could imagine, a crude working musical instrument. There are also breeds that although not specifically adapted to suit Orks, make themselves invaluable to Orks through their nature, or a quirk of their character. Many Squigs (particularly Growlers) present themselves as useful opportunities for Orks to have pets, which they can train, or otherwise laugh at. Orks and Gretchin can grow exceptionally fond of their pet Squigs, training them to do tricks, or just chortling when the Squig runs dementedly and latches its jaws onto some hapless bystander. Their shapes and forms vary rather vastly, and can resemble dogs, lizards (favoured by Gretchin), or just have some little quirk of character or appearance that makes them far too adorable to eat. Other useful breeds include parasite-hunting Squigs, which the Orks use to crawl about them and eat other parasites, fleas and ticks (although they have a habit of becoming a meal afterwards anyway). Flesh-eaters are also popular for their ability to shed teeth at an alarming rate, providing a useful source of wealth (although their teeth depreciate substantially quicker than Ork teeth). They seldom breed in captivity, making them rare commodities, and usually owned by Nobz. This explains how Nobz can be wealthy without having their own teeth punched out, even if they go out of the habit of getting ones from other Orks. It also probably goes some ways to explaining the curious origins of the Bad Moonz. Indeed, the individuality of Orkdom has potential to alter squigs, although the process being usually biological is naturally far slower, probably taking generations of Squigs of that type to fully develop into something universally useful to Orks. Probably the simplest example of this is the humble Bag Squig, which consists of a Squig with a bag-like body and an internal anatomy of mostly stomach. As it stands, it’s a basic creature, but its slow digestive system made it obvious to the Orks that they could use them as bags, flasks and other items. Usually, they are dried out to make flasks or tanned into belts and pouches, but the Bag Squig’s digestive system is so slow, it can live off bits of food that are stored within it, meaning an Ork merely needs to pick up a Squig and immediately has a bag to store things in, just so long as he thoughtfully accommodates for its basic nutritional needs. The Oddboyz, naturally, have a large affinity with Squigs. Performing various societal roles and services within Ork society, means that they are far more likely to notice and (to the extent an Ork can) appreciate the quirks of the incredibly flexible squig. One of the most common Squigs used by Oddboyz (in this case, Runtherds) is of course the Herd Squig, which usually starts off life as a pet, but is a case of how the Orks have specially bred breeds of Squigs that they have encouraged to suit their needs (much like Dogs). Runtherds have been training Squigs for quite some time to help them control their various herds of Snotlings and Gretchin. Naturally, the relationship between Herder and Herd Squig is often close, almost empathic, using unique calls, grunts, gestures and commands to control the Squig in ways that no other Runtherd or other Ork could achieve. The Mek’s own favourite is the Oil (or Oily) Squig, which emits an oily black secretion from its slug-like body, usually out of a long protruding snout. The Meks use this secretion for machine oil. For spot oiling jobs, the Mek can grab an Oily Squig and simply squeeze its bulbous body and point the snout in the direction of the object that requires lubrication. Of course, Meks get through large quantities of the stuff, so they tend to have ready-prepared barrels of Squig Oil that have been collected earlier. The most efficient manner is to put the Squigs into a large pressing machine, but the old fashioned way is to put them in a large barrel, and have Gretchin jump up and down on them until they burst. It produces a lot of wastage, but is a popular event for Orks to watch and laugh at all the Grots slipping over covered in black goo. Ork Doks, however, have a massive multitude of useful Squigs. They probably use the lion’s share of the Squigs in any Ork settlement. Doks will find most Squig variants useful for some reason or other, but there are quite a few specific Squig variants that are more likely to see use. The Syringe Squig has a long needle-shaped, sharp proboscis with which they use to inject venom into their prey. The venom is quite powerful, but not deadly to Orks, and can knock them out for anything up to three days at a time. Doks use them (or their venom in metal injectors) as an anaesthetic. This also denotes an interesting linguistic origin from the Ork fluff, of the word “Urty” which refers to the largest of the three size bands for the length of the syringe (Small, Big and ‘Urty. Freeboota “Bad” Doks in particular favour the latter category). Another popular variant among Doks is the Vampire Squig, a bat-like Squig that has long, sharp fangs. It is, obviously, a bloodsucker, and the Doks use them for bleeding patients, and sucking up bad blood and pus from septic wounds. Vampire Squigs aren’t particularly fussy creatures, so long as they are fed blood regularly. When a regular supply of blood is difficult (i.e. when there isn’t much fighting), Doks use other methods of keeping them alive; one of the more ones is suggesting the idea of regular bleeding to exceptionally healthy Orks. Doks also make regular use of Hair Squigs, using them to provide materials for stitches, either using several Hair Squigs, using their pincer-like mouths to seal a wound together, and then twisting the tail off, leaving the head in place, and using as many Hair Squigs as needed to hold the wound together. Alternatively, a single Squig is used, the hair being used with a needle to thread the whole wound together. The head should be able to feed on blood and pus initially, and can live for years in such a state. By the time it shrivels and drops off, the wound should be fully healed. There’s also a special variant of Hair Squig called the “Swab Squig”. Unlike its longhaired cousins, its hair is short and fluffy, allowing it to be used to sponge up and absorb liquids, and is ideal for cleaning up after messy operations, and is also useful as an emergency handkerchief. Most Squigs see use through the Doks, along with a lot of fungus variants, which are killed and preserved to make medicines. The Bloodshade Speckled Fungus, for instance, is used as a coagulant, along with generally enriching Ork blood. It is likely that a Dok’s surgery will have its own indoor latrine, for the (almost) sole purpose of breeding varieties of Squigs. It can often form a bit of a hazard if an unknowing Ork uses it, and gets an injection from a Syringe Squig, before falling into the latrine and never being seen again. All Doks raise their own strains of Squigs, and take a great deal of pride in their potency and effectiveness. Doks are always trying to make new “medical squigs” or adapt existing ones for medical usage, although not every Squig is quite so easy to adapt. This leads me on to another category of Squig. Being part of the Orkoid genus, it doesn’t take too long to realise that there are a lot of Squigs that are just plain nasty. They do, of course, have their uses, but Squigs obviously quickly realise that one of the simplest methods of ensuring survival is to make oneself incredibly unpleasant and hazardous to be around. I’m pleased to tell you that the list of Squigs that fall into this category is quite considerable. Most Squigs are nasty, really, but some of them are so nasty that even the Orks notice. So let’s start with the most famous. You probably don’t even know it yet, but again, I’d be surprised if you’ve never heard of the infamous Face-Eating Contest. It involves one of the more impressively nasty Squigs: the Face Eater Squig. Also known as “Gnasher Squigs” (or simply “Gnashers”), they consist of a small body, with a snake-like tail, and an exceptionally large mouth with an awful lot of teeth. The mouth is so big, in fact, you’d be forgiven for assuming there’s much else, but the tail allows them to grip onto things, such as an arm, branch or rock, from which they strike out with their mouth. They’re the most common hazard during a trip to the drops, where they hook themselves up onto the edge, and wait for a shadow to fall over them, before striking out, and biting the first thing they see, which is often an Ork’s bottom, Gretchin’s arm, or a whole Snotling. Obviously, given their incredibly violent and dangerous nature, the Orks very much approve of these Squigs, and they provide them with endless entertainment. The Face-Eating Contest one of the Orks’ favourite pastimes, and is a regular feature of Ork Pubs; usually after the Ork participant has had a few pints of Fungus Brew. For the contest, an Ork grabs a growler Squig by the tail (which it promptly wraps around the Orks forearm), and the Ork tries to eat the Squig before it has a chance to bite their face off. Sometimes the Ork merely dangles the Gnasher by the tail above his face, usually when he’s had a few more pints than he should, but either way it’s a race, between jaws. The Ork is stronger, obviously, but the Gnasher has a very big mouth. The other Orks and Gretchin watch with delight during the proceedings, as the two go at each other with a gourmet’s gusto. Sometimes, an Ork keels over backwards with a Gnasher embedded in its face (you can just imagine the twitching, can’t you?), other times, the Ork quickly manages to munch on the Squig and gobble it down before it even gets a chance to scratch him. In any outcome, it always entertains. Another fairly common Squig with a nasty reputation are the Buzzer Squigs. They’re actually the earliest instance of a somewhat contradictory nature. They are mentioned in Waaagh The Orks as “Buzzing Squigs”, looking rather like a Hornet with a very unpleasant looking sting. By the time of Ere We Go, and since, they are referred to as Buzzer Squigs, and the picture in that book, is essentially more akin to a Bee with a mouth like a Venus Fly Trap. Their description, however, has remained more or less constant. They are small, winged, insect-like Squigs that are exceptionally vicious and even more vicious when angry. Their feeding method is to bury into the skin of their victims, feeding internally, before emerging again, and either diving back in through a new hole, or flying off to find another victim. They are primarily used as the ammunition used in the fabled Squig Catapults. They are found in the fungus groves and drops, flying around and generally attacking anything unfortunate enough to be nearby. Gretchin are sent to collect these creatures, trapping them in pots made from dried mud gathered from the bottom of the drops (obviously, Gretchin aren’t particularly fond of this duty). Once a Grot has caught enough Buzzer Squigs, the top is corked, and all that remains are the tiny holes that allow the Buzzers to breathe. Once captured in the pots, they are starved for weeks. Gretchin get good at maintaining the supply of pots, and can easily tell which contain the angriest Buzzers; the high pitch generated from the buzzing and droning as the Buzzers try to burrow out of the pots is fairly distinctive. These pots are then used in war, being placed upon catapults and lobbed at the foe. Upon landing, the pots break, and the Buzzers emerge, incredibly angry, and attack the first thing they see. Orks find this weapon quite entertaining, but evidently due to being deployed by catapult, Orks must prefer to watch them from a distance for some reason… The Buzzers are actually one of the more common victims of a major misconception, which for a while I believed myself, and didn’t exactly help with the matter. References are sometimes made to a “Rippa Squig”. But as far as I’ve been able to determine, there isn’t one. The Buzzer Squig is the closest match, and as the ammunition of the Squig Catapult, there are unlikely to be any other candidates. This Rippa Squig supposedly highlights the apparent link to Tyranids, but I have not found a single reference to it, nor to any indicator that Squigs are remotely affiliated with Tyranids in any way, other than on Black Library, which alleges that the Tyranids assimilated Squigs into their species (not the other way around as is often argued). If there was a tie, the link has not existed since the first Ork book (Waaargh! The Orks) was released for Rogue Trader, so, nothing more to say, really. Finally, we come to the Spiky Squig. It always makes me think of some Badnik from a Sonic Game. The Spiky Squig has a ball-shaped body, from which it can produce countless nasty spines that carry a poisonous sting. Spiky Squigs are often used on some of the stranger bionik arms upgrades tend to use these as a surprise weapon. They are typically mounted in cages, and released as a close combat weapon, but they can also be mounted on springs, and fired like projectiles, before being pulled back to fire again. This latter version seems to be rather popular with Freebootas, at least going by models I’ve seen over the years (if anyone has a fluff reference to help explain this, I’d like to hear from you). Spiky Squigs aren’t the only Squig used in such weapons, but they are one of the more popular versions because of how nasty they are. There are a lot of Squigs that are so nasty that they are useful as weapons, entertainment, or simply appreciation by Orks. There are passing mentions to various Squig types in many of the Ork books. Ere We Go mentions the “Stink Squig” that emits gas (and is used as in Bionik weapons similar to the Spiky Squig), and if you know of a reference to the oft mentioned but hard to find “Squigshark” I want to hear from you. The nature of Squigs means that a full catalogue of the Squig variants is impossible, but it means that if you can envisage a problem the Orks need to overcome, odds are you can come up with a clever Squig variant to address it. To close with, I thought I would mention in passing something that has been a problem in the past. The issue of Boars and Squiggoths is still not something that has been completely resolved, but I am hoping to clear this up with this article. The article has been a bit of a pig, and I’m actually publishing this somewhat unfinished. I would like you all to look at every possible source you have so that we can definitely and finally absolutely confirm that Squiggoths are a type of Squig. As far as I’m concerned it is impossible that it isn’t, but some people really would like this spelling out. So if anyone with various editions of Epic, Imperial Armour, and so on could check for me, I want to make sure it’s canonical as possible, and that there is no room for doubt. Boars have never been said to be Squigs, but given the nature of Squigs it isn’t impossible to integrate them in future if necessary. Squigs are indelibly useful to the Orks. Without them, nothing in Ork society would be possible. The lowest of the low just so happens to be the thing that allows the highest of the high to stand up, exist, and conquer whole galaxies. Squigs are marvellous.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Chapter 9: A Simple Matter of Stature? From Snotling to Warlord

“Lastly, by fighting Orks, we make them stronger. As insane as it may sound, the Orkoids [Orks more than other sub-species] literally thrive on warfare. Most Orks have similar physical dimensions when they have fully matured. However the more belligerent and aggressive the Ork is, the larger it grows. Due to the way the Orks’ hierarchy is structured, with fighting to determine ranking, the most most highly ranking Orks are the largest. This is not because they are better at fighting, but that a belligerent, aggressive Ork – one who has beaten his opponent – will put on several pounds of additional muscle tissue over the next two to three weeks. Orks preparing to challenge a superior will also put on weight as their psyche develops the necessary aggression, and so the higher ranking Ork will be able to detect this and fight the usurper before it has reached full development. Over extended fighting, the average size of fighting Orks has been known to increase by several inches in height and almost a stone in solid muscular tissue.” (The Anzion Article, 3rd Edition Ork Codex, pg.47)

There are many things about Orks that are simple on the face of it, yet quite incredibly complicated and sophisticated underneath the exterior: Ork Hierarchy is among them. In many ways it is very simple, but once you start delving deeper, it’s not quite as simple as it looks. Either way, the simplicity of the exterior is quite magnificent, but then that’s Orks in a nutshell.

All Orkoids gain in strength and ability, as they get more aggressive. This is reflected both in individuals, and through the society as a whole. Mostly through resonance (which we covered earlier) the whole of the Orkoid race benefits in pretty much every possible way from warfare, especially prolonged warfare. The main difference (and most commonly used example) is physical improvements. An Ork literally toughens up as their aggression builds, be it from warfare or from the Orkish equivalent of social climbing.

Orks have a simple philosophy when it comes to power and war: bigger, is better. If an Ork is bigger than another Ork, it is of a higher social status. Orks are mostly appreciative of strength, and very little else. To them, the mere concept of being bigger and stronger is something you should use, and lord above everything else that isn’t as big and strong. Although not unheard of, it is very unlikely that a bigger Ork would get above their expected station. Certainly if a Nob is about as big as the resident Warboss, or indeed bigger, the likelihood of a leadership challenge, or an underhanded assassination of either the potential challenger or the Warboss is very likely.

It should be noted though that Orks are, surprisingly, not all that ambitious. Most Orks just want to be one of the Boyz, and don’t really nurture ideas that are above their station, unless obvious talent presents itself. Most Orkoids will lead a pretty standard, and rather short life. Unless they are successful (i.e. survive and thrive) then the idea of advancement of anything other than what is usually expected of their caste and creed is unlikely to present itself.

Orks are ultimately a survivor race, and thus the greatest heights of Orkoid potential are reached by those individuals who have survived better than expected and thus thrived in difficult situations. Orkoids improve through adversity; so only those that survive that adversity will improve. Once you understand this concept, the Orkish outlook starts making an awful lot of sense. If you’re not good enough to survive, you’re dead, and your struggle is over. Orks crave the challenge because it makes them better at the one thing they like doing: fighting!

The Ork Hierarchy is very simple. It’s your basic feudal system, which anyone who has studied medieval history will understand very well. The big boss (King, Warboss, Emperor etc) at the very top, with the basic elite below (Nobles, Nobs etc), and then the lowest echelons below that (Peasants, Commoners, Boyz etc). To spot it in Ork society, one can simply judge individuals by size, with the largest Ork being the leader, filtering down to the very smallest (Snotlings and Squigs). There is more to it, obviously, (even was in medieval times) but the basic concept has a singularly unique perk.

It is this simple precedent that actually makes Orks one of the more vibrant and diverse societies within the whole Warhammer 40,000 universe. Because all any Orkoid has to worry about is what is bigger than (and thus literally above) them, and so long as they observe this importance, they are pretty much free to do as they like, so long a something bigger doesn’t stop them.

The closer one looks at how the Orks tick, the sooner it becomes apparent how individualistic they are. Orks don’t have many societal norms. In fact there’s only one main one: “watz proppa”, and its definition is so subjective that you can spot the variance when you observe the differing values of the Clans. What is important to an Orkoid is what works. If it doesn’t work, they merely move on and try something else. How an Ork achieves that is actually to a large extent up to them.

If we look, for instance, at the subjects of the Imperium, there is an awful lot of enforced norms and orthodoxy to observe. Merely the fact that one can be labelled a heretic for simply thinking in a different way is pretty surprising if one compares it to how Ork societies work. Whilst one can view Clans as regulators of behaviour, and the idea of what’s “proppa” as a function of orthodoxy, it is nowhere near as dogmatic as it seems.

For a start, Orks have a very much “Kustom” culture. So long as an Ork displays their heraldry: which can be anything from a familial insignia (although downplayed since Rogue Trader), clan affiliations, to symbols and glyphs of the dominant Warboss or Warlord; the Ork is pretty free in how they present themselves. Orks aren’t really ones for uniform or regularity. Sure, they may display their heraldry and colours, but it is actually quite likely that how those things are represented is highly individualistic: from where the colours and symbols are arranged or placed on their person, to even having individualised variations that are unique to them, or their “family”, and so on.

Weaponry and technology is treated in the same way. If an Ork takes an interest in a particular aspect of Orky life, they are expected to modify their equipment and panoply to set themselves apart from others. If it’s guns, then there will most likely be regular trips to the Meks to get their guns tweaked and fiddled with (this is how you get Flash Gits who are even more obsessed about modifications than other Orks). If they’re warriors, then choppas may be made more “killy” (adding extra spikes and choppy bitz), traded in for bigger versions, or the warrior may want to collect a few trophies from defeated enemies (although in many Ork tribes and clans this can be seen as an open challenge to the Warboss, who is expected to have trophies of victory and conquest). If a culture is more focussed on vehicles, then tweaks to their performance or offensive capabilities are expected. The most common is a fresh coat of red paint, but any vehicle (especially bikes) is as individual as the user.

It sounds counterproductive to promote individuality, especially as it encourages ambition and disagreements. This is true, but when considering this, it is important to understand the nature of Orks. Orks prefer it this way. If an Ork is going to take over the tribe, then that Ork is going to do so. No Ork is afraid of any opposition, and it is vitally important if they are to meet their match, that they meet it knowing who it is, and why they feel it important to bash this uppity, weedy git’s head in. If the Ork fails to do so, the git obviously wasn’t so weedy.

Most disagreements are sorted out with pit-fights (or pub-brawls), with participants facing off against all-comers in a (mostly) fair fight, with the last Ork standing being the victor. Assassinating or otherwise eliminating a would-be rival is not unheard of, but most Orks favour the pit-fights for resolving disputes, as the victor is seen publicly to be right beyond doubt. Almost always, a defeated Ork will accept this and move on with no ill will to the opponent that bested them. It’s the way Orks do things, and even if mutual loathing continues, neither Ork will dismiss the validity of the outcome without good reason.

It’s not just the Orks either. The other Orkoids have their own nuances when it comes to power and influence. Snotlings are generally always at the bottom (mostly of the food chain, eaten even by Squigs) but they have their own subtle influences. They can pacify and influence Squigs, and one can even theorise about other potential influences the Snotlings have. The only real issue with Snotlings is that as the more “juvenile” species of the Orkoid genus, they spend most of their time doing things that are completely incomprehensible, or just being absolutely bloody vicious.

Squigs, well, they work on the bigger fish principle. If a Squig is really, really big, it’s really, really old and it’s eaten a lot of other things that aren’t as old as it is.

Gretchin however, are an interesting case. There are parts of Ork society in which the Gretchin actually have more or less complete domain over. Most trade, planning, building, catering and communications are more or less dominated (if not exclusively utilised) by Gretchin. There will be large parts of pretty much every Ork settlement that are overflowing with Gretchin, and most likely little else. Without Gretchin it is very unlikely that Orks would be able to hold a society together at all.

Then there’s the likes of Ork Castes, where the usual hierarchical system can be interrupted, or even bypassed. An ambitious Mek, for instance, can end up running a whole Ork society if he has enough cunning about him. A group of Meks run the whole show in Gorkamorka, so it’s not exactly what you’d call commonplace. But certainly in the everyday running of Ork society, Meks have a lot of influence and responsibilities that come with their position. Meks and Doks are both shrewd operators, regularly manipulating situations, whether they come to them by chance, or by design. Certainly the infamous tale of Mad Dok Grotsnik and his triggered bombs, which he planted in the brains of most of the richest Nobz in his local tribe is one of the more winning examples of this.

Weirdboyz are an interesting case that has evolved over time. The only constant, really, is that Orks are rather superstitious when it comes to Oddboyz, and certainly endeavour to keep them sweet, although ultimately reminding them of who’s boss if necessary. Orks find it hard to deal with most of the Oddboyz, especially Weirdboyz and Madboyz, and pretty much leave them to their own devices, but find their antics often to be entertaining, especially when used to good effect in battle.

Ultimately, when observing the Orks, it’s important to note that Orks only care about two things: what works and who’s boss. The rest is completely immaterial, and Orks view it with indifference. They don’t have the same issues as other races. Their kultur has very simple limitations, very few rules, and lots of proppa stuff. Orks don’t really care too much to worry about “heresy”, or “etiquette”, unless they’re a decent excuse for a good scrap.

All of the Orkoids wield their own influence in their own way, and in their own fields of interest they are of far more importance than the others. Over the course of the next 4 chapters, we’ll be looking in more detail at each of the Orkoids, before moving, at last, to Orky Kultur, Know Wats, and Philosophy.

Stay tuned for Squigs: The Wonder Material…

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Chapter 8: Freebootas: Hardly Ever Going “Arr” Since 1990 (and other misconceptions about Orks on the fringe)

“The Freebooters exist on the fringe of Ork Kultur. They are bandits and sell-swords belonging to no tribe or clan. Quite frequently they are remnants of tribes and communities that have been wiped out, together with fugitives fleeing from the wrath of their warlord or the boss of their family. Among the Freebooters are a handful of unstable individuals who are particularly dangerous and aggressive (even by Orkish standards). These Orks wander off and tend to form small, roving bands of pirates and freebooters. Naturally, they are eager for adventure, combat, and booty, and are quite happy to tag along with Ork tribes and armies as mercenaries.” (Waaargh! The Orks, pg.66)

The term “Freeboota” is incredibly specific. It means an Orkoid who does not belong to any Clan. It does not necessarily mean “Ork Pirate”, although most Ork Pirates are Freebootas. For such a specific term, it actually has quite wide-ranging applications; quite the contrary to what a number of Ork players think the term represents.

Still, if you want Pirate Orks, that is a large part of what Freebootas are, and if you want the Pirate Aesthetic almost exclusively, there’s nothing wrong with underplaying other aspects of Freebootas. But any Ork army can have any amount of Freebootas in their force. The most common incarnation of the Freeboota Ork is one who, for whatever reason, has left their Clan behind and sells their services as a free agent, a mercenary. The Freeboota ranks include such familiar faces as Zodgrod Wortsnagga, Old Zogwort, Mad Dok Grotsnik, Kaptin Badrukk, and an argument could be made for the likes of Bosses Snikrot and Zagstrukk too.

How an Ork becomes a Freeboota is by no means specific, however. Some Freebootas could simply be all that was left of a particular tribe that chose not to expand their ranks; whilst others could have been exiled for whatever reason, or were simply attracted to the life of a Freeboota by all of that lovely booty, or the desire to explore the universe with no ties holding them back.

The Freeboota lifestyle is to some extent romanticised by many Orks, despite the fact that most Freebootas are not warmly received by clans and tribes, often because they harbour various undesirables, and are often a bunch of Orks who aren’t just here for a good fight, but are expecting to be paid.

Freebootas are generally a wide-ranging and motley bunch. Orks are quite rigid in what they like and don’t like, but very specific in what bothers them about other Orks. Orks are always fighting, but when most Orks are united in not liking a particular group or individual, then you know the Orks are really displeased by their existence. Such Orks are typically called Bad ‘Unz (literally means “Outcast” or “Renegade”), and if not outright killed by other Orks, they will invariably become outcasts, and thus Freebootas by default, needing to offer themselves as Mercenaries, or following Freeboota Pirate bands, who need effective killers and are less inclined to be choosy.

Orks that fall into that category are usually considered dangerous to the wider Ork society, are viewed to be too different or alien to be considered Orky and/or have offended the Ork Society so badly that they are chased out of their society. Sometimes it is a combination of all or a couple of those reasons.

Most Freebootas are likely to be merely Outlaws, breaking the Ork society’s (fairly limited) rules for some reason. Most Oddboyz can end up outcast for various reasons, being labelled Bad Doks, Renegade Meks or Renegade Runtmasters. Sometimes whole mobs can become Outlaws, such as Bad Ork Biker Mobz, or Gretchin Bandits. Although usually accepted by Ork Society, Madboyz can also end up as Freebootas if they end up following a particularly deranged Weirdboy, or if they become too dangerous or destructive to the Orks.

However there are more extreme (not to mention controversial) cases. Orks can, contrary to popular belief, be tainted by the likes of Genestealers, or Chaos influence. So you can get Mutant Orks, Stealer-Hybrid Orks, Ork Kaptins, Warbosses and Warlords turning to Chaos, along with Ork units, especially Stormboyz who can often turn to Khorne, etc.

There are many Ork players who dispute the existence of such ideas, probably more than any other aspect of Ork fluff. But that cannot, ultimately, change the fact that such instances are written down in black and white: a canonical reality. It may go against the taste of certain Ork players, but in a discussion of canonical Ork fluff (which this is), there’s not really much to argue. It happens, get over it.

Besides, Orks are highly resistant to outside influences, but being highly resistant to them does not make Orks immune to those influences. It isn’t an influence that is welcomed by wider Orkdom, which is why most Orks that are tainted by it are quickly ostracized, and often killed. But it doesn’t make death an outright certainty, merely a likelihood. Exceptions will, and have been stated to in the fluff, occur.

But nothing changes the reality of it. Your Ork army represents your own idea of what reality is to your Orks, disliking wider implications are a waste of time, because you’re ultimately dismissing ideas that other people can use, especially ones that are stated to exist in the Canon.

Ultimately, there are a lot of things that happen on the Fringe of Ork society. What is represented in the current (4th Edition) Ork Codex does not represent the fringe; it represents the mainstream, the commonplace, the infamous, the well known. Lurking in the shadows, off to one side, exists pretty much every aspect of Ork society that has in some way been neglected since it disappeared from more modern books, waiting for the moment of their return. Why wait for GW to do it?

Of course, a lot of Freebootas are actually Pirates. Orks revert rather naturally to the Pirate way of life, because it is simple, exploratory and a lot of fun, mostly. But it is massively wrong to assume that this is all Freebootas are. The word Freeboota to an Ork merely means “one without a Clan”, and that’s a fairly unspecific term. It can mean Pirate, as well, but the two are linked in a similar way: they exist on the Fringe of Ork society.

There’s much flexibility in the concept “Freeboota”. It offers a lot of potential for themed armies that break away from what one usually associates with “Orky” (although what is Orky? Stay tuned for more on this in a later chapter). For those of you who like Chaos but love Orks, Freebootas can cater for you. If you like the idea of mercenaries, renegades, even more violent Orks, or just plain nasty stuff, Freebootas are there for you. Or, if you really like Pirates, you’re probably already a Freeboota.

Just remember next time you think of the word Freeboota, remember that it’s not necessarily synonymous with pirate. But don’t stop yourself from uttering “Yar” or “Arr” anyway, unless you’re a ninja. Or have taste.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Chapter 7: The Truth About Clans and Tribes

“Cutting across warband and tribal boundaries are the Ork clans. The Clans embody a philosophy (for want of a better term) among Orks, each clan emphasising particular elements of Ork culture above others. For example, the Goff clan embraces aggression, hardiness and hand-to-hand combat as true Orky virtues while the Evil Sunz clan is dedicated to speed, lightning attack and having the snazziest vehicles.

Typically, a tribe and its component warbands will exhibit the characteristics of a single clan. Some Orks become obsessed with clan ideals and it becomes something akin to a religion for them. Where this is the case the ork will seek out like-minded individuals and join with them to create a warband which completely exemplifies the purest traits of ‘their’ clan. However most tribes are less dominated by the clan ideal, and clan values merely serve to instill a sense of unity and make a common enemy of tribes which are part of other clans. ” (Tribes and Clans, 3rd Edition Ork Codex, pg. 45)

Let’s get this out of the way. Do you think there are only 6 Clans?

If you do, you’re wrong.

I don’t really like using such extreme language with regards to fiction [blatant lie], but this is one of those that I think trips up a lot of Ork players. I’m sure a few of you may even be wanting to debate this with me, and I heartily welcome you to, at least on the understanding that I have every Ork army book in existence and not one of them has ever said there was only 6. Quite the reverse.

It is true that there are the Big Six, and they really are the Big Six. They span the whole 40k Universe with a sense of universal [bad pun] consistency. There is likely very few Orks, if any, who are not well versed in the nature of those 6 clans. Clans are simply a part of Ork Society, an intrinsic reality of considerable influence. Their origins are a mystery, and even their function within Ork society is not wholly certain.

For those of you who have been living in a shed in Colchester with only an Penguin Book of Astrology for companionship, I should name them. The six dominant Ork clans are the Goffs, Evil Sunz, Bad Moons, Snakebites, Blood Axes and Deathskulls. If you needed me to tell you that, I am very worried about you.

Various stabs at their origins and function can be made based on reading the source texts, and it is likely that most of those stabs are probably part of the overall explanation of what the Clans are and where they came from. I would however like to offer my own suggestion to the possible origins of the Clans, and this suggestion is based on what the Clanz do in Ork Society.

I mentioned in the Resonance articles that Orks are unimaginative and require external stimuli to enact change. This is mostly true, however it’s actually a little more complicated than that. Your average Ork is completely unimaginative, and wont come up with any new ideas, unless those ideas are required at that particular moment. Most of this is indeed external, but there is a distinction to be drawn: any stimuli that could affect an Ork will be external to their usual experience, but they might not be external to Orks as a whole.

Because this is what the Clan system provides. Orks are infamous for their almost-constant infighting. Some may view this as counterintuitive, or rather silly, but it actually serves the Orks with a societal function. It is essentially an elaborate system of societal analysis; in other words, it gives the Orks a chance to test how well their society works, through conflict and competition.

It’s a classical Darwinian (technically Spensorian) system: testing the strongest so that the weaker aspects are ironed out. I’d argue that Clans are there mostly in order to give the Orks not only an obvious target to fight, but different perspectives and societal attitudes. It encourages the Orks to look for alternative solutions to problems, and testing them to reward success. There is more to Clans than that, but at least in the mainstream, common view of Orks, Clans provide particular divergent traits that can help to provide the Orks with new (or at least better) perspectives.

Ultimately though, it allows the Orks all the practice they will ever need. They can test their abilities on each other, or see how each other works in a combined Waaagh. Ultimately if the Ork wants warfare, or interesting competition, it will be never far away from them.

How an Ork becomes part of a Clan is very much up for debate. In my time I’ve seen it argued as pre-determined, interchangeable, or simply due to circumstance. I believe it extremely likely that Clan creation is subject to all of these. Sounds pretty mad, I know, but bear with me. I certainly think that Clans are most likely (especially the Big Six) embedded in the Ork subconscious, and I think it likely that Clans are somewhat fixed, yet interchangeable at the same time. Again, resonance makes Orks flexible enough for this reason. Certainly I think an Ork’s predetermined traits are likely to steer them in one particular direction, but do remember that Clans can span a whole society, and are thus simply more inclined towards certain traits, but like all Ork societies and Clans, all traits are likely to be present to some degree, even if less common between Clans.

Clans are most likely created and fostered by conflict. Waaargh! The Orks even has a term for Clans created in this manner, called “Splinter Clans”. A good example of a Splinter Clan would actually be the Ork society from Gorkamorka. You have a tribe that is placed in an extreme situation, and is isolated from other Ork Cultures, presumably for quite a long time. From the offset one sees that the society is vastly different to other less isolated ones; the society being ran by Meks, lacking more complicated technology, engaged in a religious schism (very rare), no sign of other clans, and other rather glaring differences to usual Orky Kultur (particularly the Ork treatment and opinion of gretchin). The isolation and extreme situation has caused a completely different attitude than is usual, thus an unorthodox Ork society, with different ideologies. These are the hallmarks of a splinter clan. That would at least explain why the Big Six clans not there, and that GoMo fluff is pretty damn rubbish.

This leads me on to Tribes, because the concepts are pretty interchangeable. Ork Tribes are the subject of multiple misconceptions, and this is often because people are looking for a structure and standardised pattern that simply isn’t there. In fact, it’s a rather wide misconception. I’ve heard many arguments about how Clans are used to enforce orthodoxy and discourage individuality. That is not the purpose of Clans at all.

If you want an example of this, just look at the fluff, artwork or pictures of miniatures that show Clan heraldry. In Space Marine forces, these are typically subject to orthodoxy: the same symbols, the same location, with a little individuality, but only to exemplify differing rank, caste or regiment. Orks, on the other hand will have personalised iconography, variations to exemplify particular “families” or “households” within a clan, placed in differing locations between individuals and so on. So long as a Clan member wears their respective colours and/or iconography, personalisation is completely permitted. Bearing in mind that Orks live in a “kustom” culture, Orks are probably the most individualistic faction in all of 40k!

So then, what’s the difference between a Clan and a Tribe? Well, a Clan is essentially an ideology. Orks united in war might not share the same basic ideology. However any gathering of Orks that fights together can be viewed as a Tribe. A Tribe is usually led by a Warboss, although a Tribe, or a collection of Tribes can be led by a Warlord, such as Ghazghkull or Nazdreg etc (although by that point you’re using the term WAAAGH! as a collective noun of Tribes, essentially). A Tribe can contain any amount of Clans. Some have argued recently that it doesn’t make sense for a Mono-Clan tribe, but such an argument is based on applying a general precedent to Orks that is ultimately not very accurate, because a general precedent will rarely work with Orks.

Orks may seek out other likeminded Orks who share the same clan ideal, or they may ultimately be more interested in finding a worthy skumgrod, or at least a target that yields enough booty and conquest. Some Tribes are Splinter-tribes from divisions brought on from infighting, changes in ideology, or simply death. At the end of a Waaagh, many Tribes will simply split up and go their separate ways. Parts of a Clan or Tribe might leave for whatever reason and go Freebooting instead (more on this in the next chapter).

There is an absolutely infinite amount of possibilities for Ork Tribe layouts, so to apply a singular concept to it actually undermines much of what makes Ork fluff so great.

A lot of what unites a Tribe has to do with the individuals and dominant castes or factions within an Ork society. The direction they take will invariably steer the likely progression of the whole tribe, potentially down to the biological level. Any particular Warlord or Warboss is likely to have prejudices and preferences towards particular aspects of Ork society, and the likelihood is that this will filter down to the whole tribe, potentially killing or exiling aspects that they don’t approve of.

Chance can also play a part, with disagreements happening down the line of a Tribe’s progression, new leaders taking over, the deaths or divisions of various aspects, etc. There could be new alliances; some Clans may fail, causing various disagreements etc. Two Clans might ally on a temporary basis, or a particularly wise Warboss may ultimately embrace the perks of all Clans to give his Tribe military flexibility. A recently exiled/dethroned Warboss may even take an exiled number of his Clan-based followers with him, and seek to make a new mono-clan tribe so that his authority is never questioned again, and so on.

Clans are usually quite deep-rooted and complicated things. They’ll have a view on the entirety of Ork “Kultur”, and not just part of it. We usually take only a mere segment, a stereotype of a particular Clan and make that representative of its entirety. There’s nothing to suggest that a mono-clan society is any different to a multi-clan society in its basic function. Just because there are no Evil Sunz doesn’t mean a Tribe wont have warbikes, trukkboyz or other vehicles, and they may even still be painted red. A Tribe without Bad Moonz may still have Flash Gitz or Meganobz, and so on.

It is certainly true that a Clan or Tribe may have more or less of particular Castes of Ork society. The term “Caste” isn’t quite as widespread as it used to be for Orks, but it essentially represents the various aspects and roles within Orkdom. The Oddboyz each embody a caste, so too do Nobz, Gretchin, Boyz, etc. These days you’d probably have a number of sub-castes that relate to various units that represent those castes (MANz and Flash Gitz for Nobz, for example). [There will be more about Castes in Chapter 9]

Clans in particular tend to favour or shun various castes, depending on their societal inclinations:

Goffs tend to have an awful lot of Nobz, Boyz and Stormboyz, but shun the likes of Runtherds (with their Gretchin and Snotlings) and Weirdboyz. They are not massive fans of vehicles, but they’ll have a few where necessary.

The Bad Moons again have a lot of Nobs (although more likely MANz and Flash Gitz) and Weirdboyz. They’ll also have a lot of Gretchin servants and attendants. Bad Moons aren’t quite as prejudiced as other Clans, but they err more towards “showy” and ostentatious representations of themselves, thus some things will be less common with Bad Moons simply because they are common.

Deffskullz have changed a fair bit, probably more than other Clans, but their most common castes are Boyz (Lootas here as well) and loads of Gretchin (who are the best looters in Ork society). With Oddboyz, they classically had an awful lot of Doks and Madboyz.

The Evil Sunz naturally favour speed, and thus all units associated with it, particularly biker and trukk boyz. They have more Meks than any other Clan.

The Snakebites are traditionalists, so favour Boarboyz, shun technology, and have many Runtherds, Snotlings and Gretchin mobs. They also have lots of Weirdboyz and Madboyz, but very little in the way of Stormboyz.

The Blood Axes have probably changed the most, but ultimately they favour militarised units, taking Stormboyz (and now Kommandos as well), and you could also justify human mercenaries and Ogryns. They also have lots of Nobz, but very few in the way of Weirdboyz and Runtherds. Between them, the Goffs and Blood Axes unofficially compete for Clan who least likes Gretchin.

This is mostly based on the old Waaargh! The Orks model, but it hasn’t really changed that much, really. The one that tends to be controversial is the large amount of Doks in Deffskullz. It is typically argued that it makes more sense to be Meks. But this is a pretty feeble argument really, because it assumes, again, a totality rather than a proportion.

Clans embody preferences and prejudices, but this does not mean there aren’t the hallmarks of a regular Ork society underneath it. Deffskulls will still have a normal amount of Meks for an Ork society. This is the key, ultimately. Ork society usually functions by having all castes available in some way; there is nothing to say that Clans wont have their own similar representations, it’s more that they’ll err towards particular solutions, but they are still an Ork society first.

Let’s take Deffskulls and Meks, for instance. To assume Deffskulls have a lot of Doks suggests they have more than a typical Ork society would have. But Ork societies typically have a representative need of most societal castes. Any Ork Tribe is going to have a lot of Meks, and the bigger it is, the more Meks they’ll have. It just means that Evil Sunz have an abnormal amount.

All castes will be somewhat representative in scale. Ork Society in any form wouldn’t get far without certain services and subtypes, and it is likely that all Clans have evolved to provide their own solutions in the absence of other Clans that usually fill those roles. It’s an easier case to make with the Big Six, as splinter clans usually form up out of isolation, and that generally makes for very unpredictable results.

Ultimately, the best thing to take away from Ork Society, Clans, Castes and Tribes is that Orks can be massively individualistic. No Ork society will ever be the same, and that means that orthodoxy is ultimately a pointless endeavour for those who truly understand Ork fluff. Hell, even the general gist of what Clans are is fairly subject to change. If you want your Deffskulls to have more Meks, you’ve just got a Deffskull clan out there that has needed more Meks for some reason, and their own society has served them up.

Orks are very flexible, and so should your view of them be.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Chapter 6: Are Orks Really That Funny?

“Beneath us stretches a massive furnace room that eventually disappears into the smoky gloom. The heat is intense from the high open furnace doors; everything is bathed in a red glow. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, toil at great coal heaps, with pails and shovels, to feed the furnaces. From young children to old women, their pained frames are smeared with sweat and toil. Their labour keeps the fires burning. Braziers gutter everywhere, lending their smoke to the fumes of the furnaces.

As the elevator touches down with a loud crunching clang, Supurnis opens the door and we step out. He swings the door shut and slaps loudly on the framework of the cage, which lifts off a moment later, clanking back up into the gloom.

It's then that the noise hits me properly. There's the crackle of flames, the creaking of great steam wheels and the hiss of boiling water. But there are also groans, moans and the crack of whips. Through the gloom I see large, stooped shapes shuffling amongst the lines of workers, barbed whips in their hands, cudgels and clubs occasionally raised to beat a flagging worker about the back and shoulders.
They're unmistakably orks.” (Annihilation Squad by Gav Thorpe, page 303).

How often do you think, is it that some 40k player, somewhere, is telling someone, probably an Ork player, or writing on a forum, blog, or website that Orks are too silly (extra irony points if they call themselves “The General”) for 40k? It occurs with rather tiresome regularity. It usually revolves around the perceptions of many non-Ork players, who have most likely been enduring countless losses from a faction that doesn’t even appear to take the whole thing seriously. Of course they’ll dress that up as some comment about how it jeopardises the “grimdark” setting (the recent Grey Knights notwithstanding that actually definitely managed to) of 40k.

The sad thing is, that the Orks are not a big threat to grimdark 40k, and with Matt Ward around you’d be forgiven for thinking those days are long over. They are, rather ironically “lolgrey” instead. But let us for a moment assume that grimdark is still the dominant theme of 40k. Are Orks actually a detriment to this incredibly serious theme of death, destruction and dismay?

Of course not, they’re a primary cause of it.

Besides, who says that the 40k universe is serious? The point is that it is a glass half empty, dark, depressing, and ritually unpleasant. Some people will probably assume that such a thing is always serious, that hilarity is simply not an option. As someone who has worked as a Support Worker, and is thus one of those people for whom life can be rather unpleasant; I’m here to tell you that humour is more likely, not less. One of the ways we deal with stress is to laugh about it. I defy anyone to go into the medical profession and not come out of it with an extremely black sense of humour. It’s rather difficult not to.

Orks wont be the only ones who make things “funny”. There are many instances of hilarity from the Imperial ranks, it’s just well, there’s those damned Space Marines, who take everything absolutely seriously to a fault, and for some incredibly silly reason, they are the benchmark that applies to the whole hobby. Sometimes I wonder if some people would be happy if every faction was more like the Space Marines, but not as powerful, obviously.

Still, you’ll hear about how silly the Orks are, and how they don’t fit in. That’s just it, they do. You have a universe of only war. That is a pretty simple concept, but you add in a large collection of factions with varying perspectives about that. The Orks are one of the main factions who are extremely happy about this. They love their work, and they enjoy it immensely. Their “silly” shenanigans are simply a rather “in character” portrayal of what Orks would be like.

The question is how this fits into the “grimdark” setting. Notwithstanding the fact that 40k is pretty much a parody of itself, Orks have a rather vicious side. What seems silly concerning the Orks is actually rather serious, if you look at it from the right angle. The Orks find war funny, they chortle with delight, and mess about with silly devices that are masochistic more than they are methodical. But that’s how the Orks see it. Place yourself on the receiving end of it, and the joke isn’t quite as funny.

We view Orks as the comedy relief of 40k. That is a rather accurate observation, but we often overlook that the fluff also shows that Orks are callous, vicious murderers, thieves, and despoilers. They conquer whole worlds for sport; they enslave entire races to make weapons for them, and to sell to other races (or Ork tribes) as beasts of burden. They torture living beings for fun; they make them fight each other to death in vicious pit-fighting blood sports for a gambling pastime. They steal from corpses, and often adorn parts of them upon their armour as symbols of conquest.

Now imagine those creatures exist on your planet, and no matter how many of them you kill, more will return. If you kill them well, burn their corpses, and napalm whole areas, you might slow their replication down. You can’t track their sporing grounds, aside of digging up every shaded area in a massive radius from wherever an Orkoid might have spent any amount of time. What’s worse, is that the more you fight them, the bigger struggle you put up, the stronger they get, and the more they enjoy it.

This realisation reaches many of 40k’s near-infinite planets. Imagine being an Imperial Scholar, or perhaps even a Soldier, who learns that their planet has found Orks upon it. So, you will think, this is it, this planet’s non-greenskin lifeforms are doomed to slavery or extinction.

Sounds hilarious.

There is, of course, a silly side to Orks. But those who fight Orks, the likes of Yarrick, Dante, or Cain don’t quite see the funny side. What they see is a horrendous abomination that needs to be exterminated, because if it isn’t, their factions are ultimately doomed.

The secret to this, and many misconceptions about Orks, is, of course, having the correct context and the correct perspective. In their own context, Orks are absolutely hilarious, and every Ork player will be in on that joke. But that’s one of the wonders of perspective. We play the role of the Ork. We know how funny and hilarious all of 40k is. But there are different contexts and perspectives. It’s just sad that many 40k players lack the wit to notice. But then for something like RAW to still endure to this day, it’s clear a lot of GW’s fanboys are incapable of reading things very well, or understanding something so wonderfully simple as context.

Or perhaps the secret is even simpler. Other 40k players are jealous, and scared. They’re scared that we might have the coolest faction in the whole of 40k. Ork players have one very simple thing to say regarding that:

Hur hur hur.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Chapter 5: Resonance (Part 3): It’s Not Just About The Orks: TWC Speculates On Resonance in Other Orkoids

“The Waaagh tendency as seen in Orkoid individuals is an organism-scale reflection of a biological activity occurring at a cellular level. Separate orkoid organisms, be they adult, be they embryonic or cellular, generate a constant and stable field of resonance (probably psionic) that, when they intersect, cause biological processes to accelerate, engorge and expand.” (Xenology, pg.44)

So this is where we somewhat move into the grounds of conjecture. It isn’t quite as unsupported as others have claimed previously, but as Orks are the Orkoids with the most emphasis put into them, one is required to look at sources that don’t outright state things literally. In spite of the somewhat indirect nature of the fluff with regards the “lesser” Orkoids, there is much of that fluff that speaks very loudly indeed.

The misconception is very obvious – there are many 40k fans and Ork players alike who conclude that resonance occurs only in Orks, and not in the others, or if it does, it adds nothing the Orks are already capable of, and there is no overlap. In light of, as I said earlier, the amount of fluff that doesn’t directly contradict this doesn’t exactly help. But that’s just it, without resonance fluff there to explain the oddities of our Orkoid entourage, what explanation is there?

So what evidence is there? Well, there are, actually, only three primary sources for both the sporing process, and the resonance fluff (or at least how both of them have been clearly explained, even if resonance has been in the Ork fluff since Rogue Trader), and that is the two Anzion Articles and Xenology, which if you’ve been following this series, should already be very familiar to you; at least by name, if you haven’t yet read them.

Every time there is a sentence that uses the word “Orkoids” instead of Orks, it is applying the concept to the whole species, genus or whatever word you want to use to describe the entirety of Orkdom. The biology of Orkoids, their symbiosis, resilience and sporing process naturally invoke the word Orkoids, but so too do many other of the fundamentals of Ork fluff: when the fluff discusses the idea of genetically inherited skills, it says Orkoids, not Orks; when it discusses the idea that warfare makes Orks stronger, it again, uses the word Orkoids (even if it makes it clear this effect is more pronounced in Orks, it still occurs to the others); and Xenology, well if there is any doubt about whether the fluff mentions Orkoids having resonance, the article quote solves that one.

The issue isn’t so much “can other Orkoids use resonance”, but more what can be said about what they do with it. There isn’t a whole lot to go on, which isn’t actually that surprising; when, rather perplexingly for such a subtle and outright important aspect of the Orkoids, there is barely more than a page or two worth of fluff describing the whole thing; let alone what it does for the other Orkoids.

Interestingly, it’s actually easier to support the claim of what it does for the simplest Orkoid organisms (Snotlings and Squigs) than what it does for the more complicated species of the Gretchin, for whom there’s barely anything to suggest they use it. We will come back to the Orkoids in more detail in the next series (Orks and Ork Society), so for now I’ll only mention aspects that are relevant to resonance. Quite frankly I could mention all of it, but a few strong examples from each should be sufficient.

So let’s start with Squigs. As I mentioned in Chapter 2, Squigs come in a lot of shapes and sizes. These variations vary quite vastly between different types of Squig, but what is remarkable about them is how the Orks make use of them. There is not a single Squig in the Ork fluff that Orks don’t use for something, even if it is as simple as being eaten. Some of the more exotic variations get used for all sorts of things. Buzzer Squigs are commonly used as primitive ammunition (Squig Catapults); Oil Squigs provide almost all of the oil and lubrication for Mek’s machinations; Vampire Squigs are one of many used by Doks, and is used for drinking up bad blood and septic pus from wounds; Hairy Squigs are the source by which Orks have hair; Paint Squigs are the source by which Orks get paint.

If I was a Xenologist in that fictional universe, I’d find it hard to conclude that all these incredibly useful perks turned up simply by chance. Of course, they probably did. But it’s their resurgence and capacity to be commonplace that tells you something about the Orks. Although not outright stated, the likely culprit of all of this must be resonance. Just consider for a moment, that these various perks are likely filling gaps in the Ork’s environment that they require at the time. So it is likely that the resonance alters certain Squigs so that they produce an affect that the Orks’ society needs at that time.

It can in some cases be quite a radical manifestation, if you look at Feral Tribes. Take for instance, the Boar or the Squiggoth. The Squiggoth is definitely a type of Squig, but the Boar, well, that depends. Certainly originally, they were indigenous to the Ork’s original home world, and the Orks kept breeding them. But I think that should they return, it’s fairly possible to say that they’re Squigs, simply because they provide Orks with a beast of burden before they have mastered Bikes, in the same way that Squiggoths replace tanks and transports for primitive Orks.

Snotlings are an interesting case. Pretty much everything they do has subliminal implications, most of which have not actually been revealed. They are ineffably mysterious, after all, what can be said for a small green adolescent biped that occasionally turns into a mushroom with a face?

Snotlings’ main societal role is that of cultivator. Without Snotlings, it is questionable that Orks could remotely manage to cultivate fungus. It also seems like they have a fundamental role to play in the sporing process. The Anzion article, during the bits on sporing mentions their role in the sporing order:

“…followed quickly by the Snotlings who can start to prepare the area.”
(The Anzion Article, 3rd Edition Ork Codex, pg.47)

This is so understated, and barely explained, but it seems intrinsically linked to their roles as fungus cultivators. It seems rather likely that without Snotlings, you’d not actually get any Gretchin or Orks. You’d just get a fair amount of Snotlings and lots of Squigs.

Snotlings also have an interesting relationship with Squigs, whom they frolic with. They also, for reasons I’ll explain in the next series, can trap Daemons. Snotlings have the capacity to be the most interesting and fundamentally important Orkoid in the whole 40k Universe. If the sagely fluff is right, they most likely already are, we just don’t know it yet.

Finally, we have the Gretchin. “Ah, but” you say, “they’re just slaves that generally meet a sticky end. How on earth can a lowly slave manifest resonance?” because they’re not merely slaves. That ultimately explains how the Orks treat them, and how Ork society works. It’s a classical feudal system, and Orks, along with the other “lesser” Orkoids sit on the lowest peg. But that doesn’t make the influence those Orkoids have insignificant. In many ways it is far more important and impressive than the influence of the Orks.

Gretchin have the most interesting, and underestimated aspects of resonance. They can shift resonance in such an absolutely radical way, that it can actually do more for Gretchin than for any other Orkoid. It has a rather radical, if understated manifestation, which for the purposes of Gretchin has a fairly submissive, but absolutely massive impact upon all of Ork society. Just what is this manifestation?


The greatest argument for Gretchin resonance is Makari, the luckiest Gretchin who ever lived. In 2nd Ed, that Grot had a 2+ unmodified (essentially invulnerable) save against any and all damage he received, for any reason. The only save that could never, ever, in any circumstances, be ignored. Woof.

It actually makes sense, really. Gretchin can prove themselves invaluable to their Ork masters, something that the Ork will never get again. The resonance takes that idea of their irreplaceable nature, and makes it a reality. Gretchin themselves become literally lucky mascots.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Gretchin have a fair amount of influence on resonance. Contrary to quite wide-ranging and incredibly wrong Ork player belief, Gretchin build most things in Ork Society, starting with Ork Society itself. Whilst the Orks are developing under the ground as spores, Gretchin will have sought out a moderately distant, but suitable site for an Ork Settlement, and built one by the time the Orks arrive.

It may get replaced by a bigger one once the Orks arrive, but what is likely is that this original settlement will become the Gretchin part of Ork society, where some of the most important aspects of Ork society will occur: trade and organisation. It is pretty likely that in this arena, Gretchin will once again be able to tap into resonance, in order to help them convince the Orks that the Gretchin wares are absolutely necessary to their lives and they simply must buy them with teef, and not beat up the Grot and take it anyway.

Grots are smart and resourceful enough to make trade work anyway, but it is unlikely that the whims of resonance are far away from any process in Ork society. So, you know what this means: it means Grots also have mechamorphic resonance, and like the other Orkoids, have inherited skills and knowledge, and part of that will include construction and engineering knowledge. Not quite so useless, or harmless, eh.

So we come full circle now. We come back to the point we arrived at in the beginning of this part of the series. Orkoids are virtually inseparable, their whole is as great as the sum of their parts, successfully steered by the wonders of their fictional superpower: psychic resonance. It could be easy to conclude that it is far too powerful, and it does too much, to the point of devaluing the influence of the whole Orkoid race.

But we’ve already seen this argument, the one I mentioned in Part 2, which suggests that Orks are imbeciles who can’t build anything. We now know how wrong this outlook is. It is quite simple, really. Resonance is not infallible, and it wouldn’t exist either if the Orks didn’t have the potential to awaken it. Gretchin have always been capable workers, Orks capable warriors, Squigs edible food, useful and tenacious beasts, and Snotlings, well, they’re the only ones that have truly changed, imbibing much of their original potential into the Orks, to the point that this whole species can actually tap into what the Brainboyz were, and what ultimately they all could be.

To undervalue Orkoids because of this influence is pretty pointless, because it doesn’t actually matter. Resonance is as fallible as the species it supports, and it is as ingrained and fundamental as every aspect of what makes them the coolest fictional faction ever created in 40k, and perhaps the whole universe of fiction itself.

There is of course, one final lesson to learn about resonance. Orkoid Resonance is a whimsical thing, and it is no shield from reality. It is merely natural selection on acid.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Chapter 4: Resonance (Part 2): Ork Guns Don’t Work Just Because They Think They Do (and other misconceptions about resonance)

“However, disturbing as it sounds, these ‘facts’ become true. Red Ork vehicles do travel perceptibly faster than those of other colours, even when all other design aspects are nominally the same. Similarly, many captured Ork weapons and items of equipment should not work, and indeed do not work unless wielded by an Ork. I believe this is linked to the strong psychic aura surrounding all Orkoids and have developed the Anzion Theorem of Orkoid Mechamorphic Resonant Kinetics. I theorise that many Orks themselves think that they should work. The strong telekinetic abilities of the Orks’ subconscious somehow ensure that the machinery or weaponry functions as desired.”
(The “Other” Anzion Article, 3rd Edition Ork Codex, pg.48)

Almost all misconceptions in fiction are based upon a general misreading of a particular feature within it. It’s usually a blank, sweeping generalisation of something, usually acquired by taking a literal, unimaginative (and often incomplete) conclusion based upon only what is emphatically said, and/or taken from currently given examples. This is what I like to call stroking the canon. Most fanboys do it constantly, and there’s an easy way to spot it, just look for a moment when any fanboy says: “No, X wouldn’t do that…” That’s usually a good indicator that what they really mean is: “I have no imagination. I need this to be untrue because it rocks what little certainty remains in my life.”

We’re all probably guilty of this from time to time, usually unconsciously. Certainly, not every statement that claims a fictional entity can’t do something is wrong, because much of fiction relies on people intrinsically understanding things that are quite well (sometimes even rigidly) defined. But one should always be wary. A writer sometimes expects you to read between the lines, and take logical conclusions. There are many debates on the internet, that spout from the apparent logical paradoxes of actions committed, usually by characters or factions in fictional works, as if the only sensible solution they can come up with is the one characters are always going to arrive at, even in stressful situations.

It also pays if you actually truly understand the character or faction you’re ranting about.

So this leads me quite well to resonance. Resonance plays host for a myriad of quite horrific misconceptions, and is famously quite bad for confusing people, or being such an unknown entity that some 40k fans aren’t even aware that the fictional device exists at all! By far the worst of it though, is those who know it quite well, and use it with tiresome regularity as evidence that Orks suck, are stupid, or don’t make sense. Tonight, I will provide all Ork fans with the final and clinching argument that ends all of this nonsense, and to those who have used said argument, a quite thorough literal thrashing. Because anyone who says Ork guns only work because Orks think they do (what TV Tropes terms “Clap Your Hands If You Believe”) is actually wrong.

The key to understanding this particular misconception is actually the key to understanding the Orks.

Before we deal with the misconception, we should discuss why such a conclusion could be made. As I mentioned previously, all Orks are slightly psychic, and Orks utilise this energy via resonance, which controls various aspects of their biological processes (notably growth and replication), as well as assisting their existence by promoting success.

In addition to the benefits of the Waaagh! , resonance also has a massive impact upon the day-to-day needs and beliefs of Orkoids. Orkoid Resonance doesn’t actually stop working, and it is actually a constant that most likely affects all Orkoids in various ways throughout their existence: shaping, aiding and controlling the Orkoids’ progression in Ork society. The two best known of these applications are Orkoid Weapons and the infamous Red Paint Job.

The concept of Red Wunz Go Fasta will be well known to most Ork Players, and most likely most 40k players. How and why it works is all down to resonance, an aspect of which mentioned in the second Anzion article from the 3rd Edition Ork Codex (see Chapter quote above), and is termed: the Anzion Theorem of Orkoid Mechamorphic Resonant Kinetics. Quite hilariously pompous, but shortened to Mechamorphic Resonance, it can be somewhat functional.

As is explained in the article, its origins are likely quite innocent, with an imperceptible change in speed between two vehicles, one of which was red. Likewise it could also spring from ideas promoted by Evil Sunz and/or the Cult of Speed, trying to suggest that their vehicles were faster, or more likely they adopted red vehicles because they were indeed faster. One could theorise the origins of the true adage until the Squiggoths turn up, but it works for the Orks just the same.

Some people think that Andy Chambers invented this for 3rd Edition. This is partly right, Andy C probably was responsible for it, but the concept itself is as old as Rogue Trader, being mentioned in Waaargh The Orks! (like pretty much everything else, aside of sporing). Although the clear explanation is a 3rd Ed invention, it’s likely that the characteristics of Waaagh Energy were clanking around in Andy’s deranged mind for the many years it took him to get it down on paper.

So, as we know from last time, resonance responds to the belief and perceptions of Orkoids. If those perceptions are common enough, they start to actually happen on a massive and universal scale. So once all Orkdom was convinced that Red Vehicles are indeed faster because they are red, it becomes a constant truism for Orks. But as mentioned last time, that perception has to have originally been ground in some form of reality or otherwise the Orks would have never believed it. Orks can make quite fanciful conclusions, but they don’t get them from nowhere. They need something to conclude from.

Thus we are led to the major misconception. It is true that resonance plays a big role in how most Ork technology works. Orks are by and large “can-do” thinkers, not exactly optimistic, just not pessimistic. Thus the concept of failure is something Orks don’t think about, so resonance is merely helping to eliminate the likelihood of failure. Bear in mind that this wont always work, because Orks have to be convinced of its value, and reality is going to rear its ugly head quite often (take note of the fact that Orks can be killed, which shows that realism is still there; no Ork expects, wants or believes they are going to die, yet invariably will, in spite of resonance). Orks have a tendency towards some rationalism, so it is unlikely that Orks would suddenly be able to teleport, or master anti-gravity. Bear these limits in mind, because they’re important.

The Anzion Resonance Article mentions that Ork weapons don’t really work without Orks being there. This is technically true, but there are a number of important distinctions to bear in mind. Not bearing said distinctions in mind leads to the quantum leap that Ork weapons and technology only works because they think it does. Sadly said conclusion is based purely on ignorance of the fluff.

Taking note of where the offending fluff comes from is the first important distinction. Because it notes quite clearly that Meks are spored with an inherent knowledge of “basic physics and mechanical engineering theory”, so even if Meks are completely unaware of what they are building and how they built it, it seems likely that their understanding is at least intuitive enough to be mostly efficient and workable. So it would seem pretty rash to conclude from the fluff that Meks can’t actually build anything, and that an Ork gun is a rusty pipe and a stick held together with gaffer tape. It’s as likely to be as good attempt at a gun as any other engineer with a flair for building would do.

So, Ork technology can plausibly work. Thus it is already clear that the claim of belief being the only factor is clearly wrong. Then if you include the idea even mentioned in the example for the Red Paint Job in the same article (again), you are faced with the fact that something had to form a realistic influence (i.e. a red vehicle perceptively went faster for some unforeseen technical reason than a non-red vehicle) in order for the perception to be enforced by resonance; so at one point a Mek presumably managed to replicate the affect of a weapon that they encountered, or originally used, and at some point it actually stopped mattering whether the technology all worked or not.

Besides, it’s not as if the Imperials are any better. Let’s look at their lasguns.

Psychic resonance on Ork weapons is a fundamental aspect of Ork construction. Psychic energy is channelled from the powers of the warp. Other races channel the warp as a power source, creating warp engines and so forth. If Orks are the only means by which their technology gains that empowerment, then to say that Orks believe stuff works merely because they think they do, is to take a battery out of a torch and expect it to work on its own.

Aside of the fact that this is a real life example versus a fictional one, the point is twofold: Of course, the torch won’t work, so therefore the maxim is true, surely? But that’s just it, the maxim is just as much wrong. Because with or without a battery, you still have a torch. The fact humans have a battery rather than the power of belief is no difference. A Battery is a maguffin that makes something work, and so too in the fictional universe of 40k is waaagh energy. If belief is reflected in psychic resonance, and that resonance can be channelled into making things work, it is a power source in the same way that atomic energy is. So it is only absurd in that it is fictional, and in its own context (i.e. fiction) such a consideration is irrelevant.

Although I doubt the powering up of your battery caused a dead man’s eyes to open and caused a psychic space explorer to jump to his death, did it? You thought your battery hadn’t run out either. You were wrong on both counts.

Well I said lasgun and meant torch… it’s pretty easy to mix those two things up. They both run on power packs that are essentially called batteries. Besides, the Imperials view technology as part of a religion. The mocking should really be coming from the Ork players.

So there we go. You need some logical basis for the thing to happen, or at least some kind of basis. I’m perfectly sure that it doesn’t matter anyway. Because resonance is an inseparable part of the Orks, and it makes no difference either way. To belittle the influence of resonance as a cop-out, or evidence of stupidity would be a bit like hand-waving every advancement humanity has made through the use of opposable thumbs. If a feature exists for a race (fictional or real) then said race is going to make use of it, or it’s a bit pointless it being there at all.

Understanding that resonance works in particular ways and is always present can help to solve a number of mysteries about the Orks. In particular, it can answer a few things about what makes Orks tick. It can explain why Madboyz can be physically stronger than all other Orks, and also explains a few of their powers (in Rogue Trader, some Madboyz could make things float about like poltergeist activity), as their irrational minds can actually bring out the true potential of resonance, because they are not as grounded by reality and rationalism as other Orks.

It also can also help explain why Goffs are smelly and Bad Moons teeth grows faster, also why blue is lucky, probably why Blood Axes are Sneaky, and also how Ork anaesthesia works. The likes of smelly goffs and teeth-rich Bad Moons probably started off life as insults from the other clans, racial slurs upon them that eventually started being true. Most likely at one point they were based in fact: perhaps a particularly successful Goff Warlord was really smelly for some reason (or perhaps non-Goffs foresaw a particular problem about shunning transports in favour of running…), and perhaps a infamous Bad Moon trader, mek or warboss had teeth that seemed to grow quicker (or perhaps Bad Moons were just so good at business and making teeth that Orks began thinking it was because their teeth grew quicker).

So, the next time some player makes some sarcy comment about Ork weaponry, get them to take the battery out of their mobile phone.