In the Warhammer 40000 universe are the normal humans enhanced in any way, either genetically or through the use of technology, to ensure that their population can meet the demands of the Imperium?

It seems nearly inconceivable given natural gestation and growth rates that there would be enough people to staff the Forge Worlds, reinforce the Imperial Guard, fill the ranks of the Sisters of Battle and supply the Space Marine chapters with new recruits when taking into account the number of "humans" (civies, IG, SoB, SMs etc) that get killed in even relatively minor confrontations with Orks, Tyranids, Eldar, Chaos and every other xenos with a grudge against man.

  • 4
    I think the Space Marines, specifically among those mentioned, are genetically-engineered and pumped full of drugs (like in Starship Troopers which WH4K apes a little). But it seems you are asking two different questions, "are humans genetically or technologically enhanced" and "how are enough humans produced to keep up with the constant stream of heavy causalities of WH4K conflicts". You might want to focus your question on one, so that it is easier to answer. Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 1:23
  • @MarkRogers Please note that I asked if normal humans were enhanced and that I was asking that in direct relation to their ability to support the Imperium (both in replacing casualties and in working the forges as well as, unspokenly, being able to populate an Imperium of any size).
    – Xantec
    Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 12:54

1 Answer 1


Humanity and the Imperium of Man

Humans in the Imperium of Man do not possess any significant difference from modern humans outside of environmental variances based on worlds they may inhabit, lifestyles and cultures on the worlds of the Imperium.

  • There are two major differences between Humans in the Imperium and modern humans. The first is their potential for prodigious psychic ability. If caught early and properly trained, the psyckers in the Imperium are capable of incredible feats of psychic ability. The greatest and unparalleled example of that psychic potential is the Emperor of Mankind.

  • The second and more important is the advanced technological capabilities of the Imperium. Entire Forge Worlds are dedicated to the Imperial war effort. It is the cornerstone of the Imperium of Man and the primary reason Humanity has not already been extinguished in the Imperius Dominatus and the threats that assail it from all sides and even from within.

  • It is the highly regulated, highly structured Imperial order which keeps the Imperium able to grind out new weapons, technologies and maintain order in this fractious galaxy. At the top of that hiearchy is the Emperor. At the bottom lies the footsoldiers of the Imperium, the Imperial Guardsman.

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The Imperium of Man has tens of quadrillions of citizens scattered across millions of worlds in the Empire. Each fighting arm of the Imperium's vast armies recruits for its soldiers differently.

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Imperial Guard

Despite the fame of the Imperial Space Marines, the bulk of the fighting done in the Imperium is done by the Imperial Guard.

  • The Imperial Guard is the primary defense against many of the enemies of the Imperium. While they are still baseline humans, they are fitted with a variety of mechanized equipment, tanks, and energy weapons that are easy to reproduce on nearly any world.

  • Their mechanized might is augmented by cybernetic prosthetics, relic weapons, and social control agents called Commissars. These fierce warriors recite the Litanies of the Empire, promoting and extolling each member of the Guard to greater effort.

  • In the face of overwhelming enemy and alien threats. Commissars can and do kill members of a squadron to drive others toward greater valor.

  • Imperial Guardsman are most often recruited from Hiveworlds. These are worlds where billions of inhabitants are squeezed into hive complexes of varying qualities of social management.

  • Most hiveworlds are dangerous, others are downright lethal, where the members struggle for their very survival. It is from those worlds, most of the Imperial Guard are chosen. Their training will vary from world to world, but all of the members of the Guard were chosen for their ruthlessness and fearlessness. Only the most brutal will become leaders of this army of cut-throat warriors.

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The Imperial Navy

Worlds where the population may be more intellectually inclined are used to staff the millions of ships of the Imperial Navy who are lead by senior Space Marines.

The Imperial Navy is one of the armed forces of the Imperium of Man. While the Imperial Guard represents the Imperium's ground forces, the Imperial Navy is responsible for the fleets of starships that maintain order between the stars and planets in the Imperium, for all space and air support provided to the infantry of the Imperial Guard, and for transporting those Guardsmen across the galaxy to the Imperium's myriad warzones. The battlefleets of the Imperial Navy are constantly engaging threats both inside and outside the Imperium's borders.

  • The Imperial Navy protects the worlds of the Imperium, destroys enemy fleets and is capable of providing the most heinous of services to the Empire, Exterminatus, the destruction of entire worlds lost to psychic corruption, alien infestation or the forces of Chaos.

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Imperial Space Marines

Also know as the Adeptus Astartes are most often chosen from particular worlds where only the fiercest of humanity can be found. These recruiting worlds often have warrior cultures where Darwinistic training is used to winnow out the best humans that world has to offer.

  • Space Marines Chapters will then hold contests where hundreds of warriors are chosen to battle until only a few or one remains. That one is chosen for the potential honor of being implanted with specialized materials called "gene seeds" that will herald their transformation into the eight foot tall super-soldiers of the Imperium.

  • Would-be Space Marines start their careers as Scouts and prove their mettle supporting and providing reconnaissance for Space Marine groups. If they live long enough or establish themselves in battle, they will be fitted for a career as fully armored Space Marines.

  • They are then given a variety of organ implants that will give them the incredible resilience, damage resistance, enhanced senses and superhuman strength required to use the Space Marine equipment. Only the best of the very best will eventually be fitted for the most powerful of armor systems called Terminator armor.

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The Inquistion (Ordo Malleus, Ordo Xenos, Ordo Hereticus)

These may be the only humans who are potentially different from baseline humans as we recognize them. They possess psychic abilities that are genetically passed down certain lines of humans.

  • These psychic powers are of controversy in the Imperium because alien forces can use the untrained psychic as a means to take over a civilization by allowing forces from a shadow universe to corrupt the population.

  • As a result, the Imperium does not allow untrained psychics in its populations. Those psychics whose abilities cannot be harnessed are taken to Earth and fed to the Emperor of Man as psychic sustenance. Thousands of psychics a day must be found so there is a constant search for untrained psychics.

  • Psychics with the fortitude and ability for training become members of the Ordo Malleus and their powers are harnessed for the protection of the Imperium from its many threats, internal and external.

  • Inquisitors, the agents of the empire who are known to investigate issues of corruption, psychic infestation or potential alien conquest come from these ranks. Despite their control of their prodigious intellect and psychic ability agents of the Inquisition are some of the Imperium's most feared operatives.

  • The Ordo Malleus are demonhunters who seek out demonic position, sites of demonic incursion and engage demonic legions. The Ordo Xenos seeks out, catalogs and destroys potential alien incursion into Empire territories and Ordo Hereticus ferrets out treason, mutation and heresy in the Imperium.


Since the Imperium of Man has thousands of trillions of humans on its millions of worlds, spanning an entire galaxy, it is always able to find and conscript potential members for its various armed forces.

  • Because of the nature of many of the worlds in the Imperium, many welcome a death as a member of the Imperial Guard, simply because it sets them apart from the billions of faceless members of their worlds.

  • Others despise the Imperium and resent their conscription. If they are not careful or speak heresy against the Empire, they are summarily executed. The Imperium is constantly recruiting and conscripting members for these forces because of its xenophobic, militaristic, fascist and despotic rule.

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Higher Resolution Map

With the forces arrayed against the Imperium, the enigmatic Eldar, the ever-expanding Orcs, the threat of the deathless Necron, the extra-galactic threat of the Tyrannids and the constant assault of the forces of Chaos and the powers of the Chaos Marines, the Imperium of Man, literally a machine grinding out weapons, tools, ships and armies, weathers the alien assault but it does so at a fantastic cost in terms of manpower, technology and social order. To call it a hostile universe would be an understatement.

  • 6
    "Humans in the Imperium of Man do not possess any significant difference from modern humans..." and "The Imperium of Man has tens of quadrillions of citizens scattered across millions of worlds in the Empire" were what I was really looking for, but this is a very excellent overall summary of the militaristic side of the Imperium. I guess being a child of modern culture I wasn't thinking on a grand enough scale to consider millions of inhabited worlds, let alone hive city-planets.
    – Xantec
    Commented Dec 31, 2011 at 13:06
  • 3
    @Xantec Not millions...literally quadrillions....
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 8:51
  • 1
    Being unfamiliar with the 40k franchise (other than dawn of war) I found this summary pretty fascinating
    – Paulj
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 17:20

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