So I am in a game of Dark Heresy, playing as a Techpriest. I have decided that as a Tech-Assassin, I wanted to go a more "medical" route, and suggested using Medicae in order to control/interrogate my targets. The conversation led to the idea of using nano-tech instead of drugs, but the issue is the in the eyes of the AdMech, nano-tech is seen as rather heretical.

What about it defines it heretical, and what could I do (if possible) in order to create a non-heretical version of a nano-tech that I can inject and use to control my targets?

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    I see the basis for a cool question here, imo, but do you have a source for the claim that "nano-tech is seen as rather heretical"? I tried googling and the consensus seems to be that AdMech do have nanotech but it is merely unreliable.
    – cryptarch
    Feb 1, 2023 at 3:32
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    @cryptarch unreliable technology? Heresy!
    – OrangeDog
    Feb 1, 2023 at 8:54
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    Nanotech can be seen as heretical, but what about the Grey Goo of Imperial Truth, which is invoked using a specific pattern of incantation, incense burning and runes to stoke its Machine Spirit? The thing about Adeptus Mechanicus et al is that they call heretical things which in other forms they actively use - AI is heretical, but everything seems to have an active “machine spirit” which sounds and acts suspiciously like AI…. In one form its revered, in another its heretical.
    – Moo
    Feb 1, 2023 at 9:00
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    I reckon this is kind of in the eye of the beholder, There's lots of tech priests and inquisitors that use tech that is in some way or another illegal/heretical. For instance in the Horus heresy the tech priest Arkhan Land used a limited AI prostetic limb. And lost of Inquisitors are known to skirt the edges. So it probably depends on the fiction of the campaign. The fact that its heretical might be a cool story point if your priest/group is interested in maybe dealing with the concequences of using such tech. And otherwise you could always invent something cool.
    – NinoM
    Feb 1, 2023 at 12:34
  • @NinoMemelink theres even an Inquisitor who uses a chaos demon…. As in, has him hanging around bound to him.
    – Moo
    Feb 1, 2023 at 19:24

1 Answer 1


Nanotech isn't necessarily heretical

Tech-Heresy can be a bunch of different things, from saying the wrong prayer before turning on your toaster, to making your toaster a different color to style of dial than the Standard Template Toaster Design, to imbuing your toaster with Abominable Intelligence. The most basic rule of Imperial/Mechanicus tech is that anything sufficiently complicated MUST be regulated by an organic brain. (Per dozens of sources spanning all of 40k from the Rogue Trader book to the Battlefleet Gothic Rulebook to the core and codex Adeptus Mechanicus of the current 9th edition) For nanotech the biggest problem it encounters is the last two.

However depending on what exactly the nanotech does and how it functions it can avoid these heretical pitfalls. If the nanobot's programing is simple enough it won't rate as AI. Depending on how much of a "brain" your nanobots need a few neurons of vat-grown ant-brain might be sufficient to control their basic functions, which presumably would be directed remotely by your tech-priest or more advanced cogitator. At that point your nanotech is perfectly acceptable on the face of it.

The problem in the 40k universe is that most nanotech is, based on its occasional cropping-up in books like Mechanicum, archaeotech from the Dark Age of Technology or prior, when Humanity didn't have the same aversion to pure machines and AI. So depending on whose asking it could either be Holy Archaeotech imbued with the Omnissiah's grace... or highly dangerous AI that needs purging instantly. There's a lot of cultural (for want of a better word) differences between Forgeworlds so individual instances of super-old nanotech might be treated differently depending on the details. But the general tone from the limited sources seems to be if you know archaeotech runs off nanotech it's probably AI/otherwise heretical.

So you theoretically could have "approved" nanobots/nanotech, but most humans would probably assume tech-heresy if you told them you used nanobots. There's also xenos nanotech (the jokaero come to mind) which Imperials of a certain rank and disposition use. But all xenotech is tech-heresy on the face of it (despite some inquisitors/other high-ranking people using them with dispensation) so there's no need to dive too deeply into those.

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