Orc (Warhammer)

Orc (Warhammer)

Orcs are one of the races in Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy universe, and are related to goblins. The brutish orcs, though less intelligent, tend to dominate the meeker goblins. In Warhammer Fantasy Battle, rules for using orcs are covered in the book Warhammer Armies: Orcs & Goblins.

Orcs in Warhammer are not very intelligent or knowledgeable but are capable of cunning. In combat they can transform even the most common object into a lethal killing instrument. They are extremely warlike, with a society geared towards constant warfare, living in small tribal groups with a strong chain of command. They are known for large, brutal armies of difficult-to-kill troops, usually supported by a variety of units and war machines. The constant need to fight keeps the orcs from forming anything but temporary alliances with one other. This is described in-game as "animosity"; orc armies must take a test every turn to see if the orcs will fight as the player desires, or squabble amongst themselves.



Orcs are taller and broader than humans, with short legs and long arms much like a non-human ape. They have massive heads which come directly forward on their necks, giving them a stooping appearance. Their jaws are lined with vicious fangs that jut out from their underbite. They have beady red eyes, a generally foul demeanor, and are naturally hairless. An average orc stands somewhere around six feet tall, though more like seven feet tall when stretched out of his characteristic stoop. They are immortal and continue to grow larger and stronger as time goes on until they are killed.

Orcs have tough, thick, green skin which is highly resistant to pain. They can survive even the most horrific of injuries, which is reflected in-game by an above-average Toughness value. Orcs have an "adrenaline-fuelled metabolism," which means that they grow in size, strength, endurance, and belligerence as they fight and defeat opponents. An Orc will only stop growing when he finds an opponent that he can't beat.

Orcs in Warhammer reproduce asexually, though individuals are always referred to in the background material with the masculine pronoun "he" rather than the neutral "it". The nonexistence of genders among the Orcs of Warhammer is almost never clarified, but can be inferred from mention in the 7th edition rulebook (p. 124) that the spores from which Orcs grow first arrived in the Warhammer World either attached to the ships of the star-traveling Old Ones or having floated through space on their own. Given that the orkz of Warhammer 40,000 reproduce asexually, through a symbiotic relationship with a type of fungal spore, it is very likely that the two races are in fact one and the same and that the details of this process as outlined in Warhammer 40,000 background material apply to the Orcs of Warhammer also. This method of asexual reproduction has not always been a feature of the Orcs of Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000, however, and very occasional references to Orc womenfolk can be found in the earliest editions of both games. A female Orc cheerleader model is still available for use with Blood Bowl, the gridiron football game set in the Warhammer world, but no female Orc models for the Warhammer game itself have ever been produced. The somewhat comedic background material of Blood Bowl is, in any case, not considered canonical to the Warhammer world proper but instead forms a light-hearted parodic version of it.


Orc "culture" is dominated by the concept of strength. The strongest and meanest orc is the leader until a stronger orc comes along. There is no law, and therefore no crime. If an orc feels wronged, he can challenge the source of his grievance to a pit fight. Once the fight is over, the matter is considered settled. Orcs have no concept of pity; to an orc, the weak are simply weak, and are beneath them in society.

An orc attains a higher social rank by fighting and defeating members of that rank. Because of their bizarre physiology, orcs receive a steady supply of adrenaline when preparing to challenge a superior, causing him to physically increase in size and muscle-mass. An alert superior will spot this occurring and promptly beat the challenger down before he becomes a threat. If the superior fails to notice this development, then a battle inevitably results. Once such a leadership battle is won, the winning orc undergoes an extreme boost in power, gaining up to a dozen pounds of muscle in the wake of the fight. Orc veterans are known as "big'uns", because they are literally bigger and stronger than ordinary orcs. Grimgor Ironhide, a Black Orc Warlord, is over 15 feet in height. As orcs grow older and beat more powerful foes, they can become "bosses," "big bosses," and eventually "warbosses". A warboss leading several tribes in a Waaagh! is known as a "warlord". Killing a warlord will cause the orcs to break up into factions as the different bosses fight for power.

Orcs communicate through their own language which has been described as a variety of guttural sounds, but they are often shown as capable of speaking humans languages, mostly broken and fragmented Reikspiel. There is one tribe of savage orcs that is said to have a vocabulary consisting entirely of the word "Waaagh!," with variants in volume, pitch, and accents making up for individual words. Their written language works in a similar way to Egyptian hieroglyphics, only louder and cruder.

Orcs worship a pair of gods known as Gork and Mork. one is depicted as a giant orc and the other is a cunning goblin. Orcs can never quite agree which god is which, and many battles have been fought as a result. Although Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 are separate games, it may be useful to note that in 40K, Mork is generally considered the god of brutal cunning (hits you when you're not looking at him) and Gork the god of cunning brutality (hits you hard when you are looking at him). Not all Orks are convinced of this, however, and fights do break out over such theological distinctions.

Orcs tend to ally with Goblins and Snotlings, but their alliance is more of a matter of the orcs bullying their smaller Goblinoid cousins into being everything from servants, to human (goblin) shields, to an emergency food source. Their warbands also often include wyverns, giants, trolls, ogres and other monsters in the same vein.


Orcs seem to have a racially-linked mind, from which some Orcs can draw power; this is known as the Great Green or WAAAGH! (always spelled with capital letters, 3 or more A's and at least one exclamation mark).

Orc and goblin shamans can draw on this power to fuel their magic, which can take a variety of forms, with the most notorious being the ability to summon a giant foot of one of their gods to crush an enemy unit. In the current edition, goblin shamans draw upon the "little WAAAGH!" for their magic, which focuses on mobility, avoiding panic tests, and doing damage to very strong troops. Orcs, however, draw upon the "Big WAAAGH!", which focuses on killing as many enemies as possible. Off the battlefield, these shamans provide healing, fortune-telling and other such services to the tribe. Shamans who draw too deeply from this energy risk their heads exploding. For more warrior-like orcs, the WAAAGH! acts more as a communal group mind, inspiring them to battle. Orcs have a tendency to simply steamroller towards and over their foes, until the impetus runs out and they go off their separate ways again.

The innate popularity of the orcs and orks amongst gamers, due to their humour and their being an entertaining army to play both with and against, has led to WAAAGH! becoming almost a rallying cry for the Games Workshop hobby, and it is frequently heard at gaming conventions and during battles.


Black Orcs

Black orcs were bred as slaves to chaos dwarves by the chaos dwarf priests. They are naturally even bigger, stronger and meaner than regular orcs, and so tend towards command roles. They serve the chaos dwarves as slaves and servants. Some escaped into the general orc population. They do form their own units, which are better-organised, and immune to the effects of animosity (Although if another orc unit attacks them, they will fight back). Being the largest of Orcs, and having an air of authority, they procure large amounts of the heaviest armour from the Camp, and march to battle carrying a variety of Choppas and heavy, two-handed blades.

Savage Orcs

Savage Orcs are not a subspecies as such, but more a specific subset of orc tribe. These tribes have a stone-age level of development, and are even more shamanistic and savage than their regular orc cousins. It is believed by both the Empire and other orc tribes that this lower level of intelligence is due to the Savage Orcs living farther south than other orcs, thus being subject to greater heat, which damages their brains. They are well known for riding giant boars into combat and for painting their bodies with magical tribal designs which provide them with some level of protection in combat.

Named Orc characters

See also

  • Orcs & Goblins

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