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Lazzuu

Machine spirits

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Hello everyone!

 

This may seem like a silly question to ask as a 40K fan, but in my opinion none of the RP core source books have provided a satisfactory answer to this question: are machine spirits actual entities, or a fabrication created by the Priesthood of Mars in an attempt to understand how machines function?

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I think there are 3 explanations for Machine Spirits.  All have an element of truth to them and how much you elaborate on this is up to you as a reader/GM.

 

I think the link that Talonair has given is a really cool explanation as to Machine Spirits and the Ad-Mech in general.  it is something I only recently read and I think i'll probably incorporate it in to my vision of WH40K as a GM.  However I don't think it is the whole story and I think the other explanations should also be taken seriously.

 

1. The Machine Spirits are literally true.  As in there is actually a gestalt entity in the Warp that is the Machine God.  It certainly appears that emotions, faith and devotion can be reflected within the Immaterium.  Therefore the billions of humans that one way or another worship the Machine God could well have created a being with power to affect machines.

 

2. The Machine Spirirts are inbuilt computer systems and even AI that need to be appeased through now forgotten means.  The link Talonair has given goes into depth in this explanation and i think provides a really good explanation for why the various rites are needed

 

3. There is a certain amount of redundant mysticism involved.  It is probably unncessary for incense to be wafted infront of computers before they are switched on but tradition and devotion to the cult demands it.  Some of the Ad Mech Tech Priests might even realise this.  Of course there might be elements of certain rites that they think are just in there for religious reasons but actually are necessary (like applying certain sacred Oils etc).

 

I don't think any of these explanations need to be mutually exclusive.

Edited by Visitor Q

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Machine Spirits are pretty much what you like them to be.

 

First you have to understand that the IP as a whole does not enforce a 100% uniform canon, and as such you may read different things in different books, with neither source being "wrong". Here are some quotes from GW designers and Black Library authors on that subject. Unfortunately, this policy isn't exactly common knowledge in the fandom, which is why you have a lot of fans and fan-edited wikis claim to know "the truth" even when it's just "one version of the truth".

 

In this RPG, I would not be surprised if Machine Spirits are indeed supposed to be actual entities. In this version of the fluff, Tech-Priests are basically capable of divine magic, communicating with and influencing machinery on levels that are simply inexplicable without there being a supernatural connection between the cleric and the machine - unless every single Tech-Priest is secretly a Psyker. ;)

 

In Games Workshop's fluff, on the other hand, the Machine Spirit can be one of two things, depending on the item in question: either it is merely the fabrication you mentioned, or a form of biological artificial intelligence. In case of the former, I am not sure if it really was a desire to understand how machines function or rather a desire to spread superstition in an attempt to monopolise access to and understanding of technology (the grimdark twist being that, as generations of higher-ups succeeded one another, the carefully guarded truth became known to fewer and fewer people). In case of the latter, though, it just seems to be the Mechanicus' way to circumvent the Imperial ban on artificial intelligence by using biological components ... such as a human brain hardwired into a Land Raider hull.

 

Here is a half a page of a poster that accompanied White Dwarf issue #245. As you can see, the "M32 Cyclops-class machine spirit" looks rather worldly.  ;)

 

And I have a feeling that lasgun will continue firing just fine in the hands of a traitor, regardless of how much its "machine spirit" has been blessed by an Imperial Enginseer...

 

(and on that note, the only "power" that Tech-Priests get in GW's own d100 Inquisitor game was that they were the only ones who got a bonus on the Tech-Use skill)

 

As far as I'm concerned, the idea of the machine spirit was GW's tongue-in-cheek way of ridiculing the very human habit of people swearing at their computers or begging their cars to start, turning it into an outright religion. By taking its teachings literal, I feel that a good deal of Grimdark would be sucked out of the setting (same goes for FFG's interpretation of Acts of Faith), but that's just me.

 

I'm sure that various BL novels out there may have even more ideas of what a machine spirit could be, though. For better or worse, a lot of the authors prefer to print their own take on a subject, rather than slavishly adhering to every detail that has been published before.

 

Regardless of which version of the fluff you follow, this is something you'd best discuss with your group so that everyone operates on the same ground. On the other hand, it's not as if this should truly matter for your game, as none of the characters - not even the Tech-Priest - would know any different.  :P

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We treat machine spirits as fragments of The Omnissiah, which in our take on the setting is a Warp deity much like the Emperor & The Ruinous Powers. Which is why even things that are purely mechanical have machine spirits.

 

The official fluff is pretty much what Talonair linked.

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One version of the official fluff.

 

/nitpick  ;)

Show me another :P

I'm not suggesting 40k has a uniformly consistent canon, but it's not an "anything goes" setting either. For example, back in The Lost & The Damned days, the studio opened the door for my group's take on the nature of divinity in 40K and, topically, machine spirits. They've subsequently made every effort to close that door again.

Kage of Dark Reign made an interesting thread at those forums, about people's "heresies" - people's changes to the setting that most definitely weren't within the realms of 40K canon. It's a pretty interesting read for any 40K geek, but perhaps especially so as a kind of demonstration that 40K indeed does have a canon - just one that is more prone to self-contradiction than most.

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Oh, yeah, I'm not suggesting it's an "anything goes" approach - however, details on a level as discussed in this thread are very much open to interpretation, and as such, have been portrayed differently depending on which source you're looking at. Gav Thorpe explained it fairly well in this blogpost. And I'd say the Land Raider poster I linked above is one such "other" version of what machine spirits can be: a technological device built into the vehicle.

 

Divinity, now that you mention it, is another subject where the contrast between the sources is even more crass. You're probably already aware of my deeply negative opinion on how far FFG's Blood of Martyrs has deviated from Codex fluff, though, given how often I vent on it.

 

 

It's a pretty interesting read for any 40K geek, but perhaps especially so as a kind of demonstration that 40K indeed does have a canon - just one that is more prone to self-contradiction than most.

 

Somewhat off-topic, but I find the term "canon" problematic because it seems to be interpreted/used differently by people.

 

To some, "canon" just means the library of officially licensed and recognised material. Does 40k have this? Absolutely. And the contradictions are indeed regarded as a feature, not a bug.

To the majority of fans, however, "canon" seems to mean a 100% consistent collection of facts and truths. Does 40k have this? Absolutely not. What the setting does have is a minimum of "common ground" (the Emperor is a dead guy, Ultramarines wear blue, etc), with thousands of people piling their own frequently contradicting takes on the finer details (how does a lasgun work? how much crew does an Imperial battlecruiser have? how powerful are Space Marines?) upon it. As stated and explained by Gav Thorpe, Andy Hoare and Aaron Dembski-Bowden in the quotes I linked in the 1st post. Which pretty much already explained this.

 

In the end, what I'm fighting for is universal recognition of this "freedom of choice". Because every fan deserves to know that there are multiple options to pick from if they don't like what they see. Perhaps then they will manage to avoid the frustration I experienced.

 

... or sometimes still experience, when I notice how readily deviating interpretations are absorbed by the community and treated as fact, just because the original fluff is a little more obscure. It leads to a slow shift in how the setting is perceived and portrayed amidst the community*, and there are times I really don't like what I see.

I'm probably way too emotional about such things, but I suppose this is what it means to be a fan, given the origin of that word.

 

 

*: always influenced most strongly by what is popular at the time - such as the Horus Heresy novels right now, and their new idea of an anti-religious Emperor or those immortal "Perpetuals". Thank the gods GW still keeps that sort of stuff out of their studio books, or even outright contradicts it.

Edited by Lynata

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What I think would be best to take away from this is, it is pretty much up to the GM how 'real' the Machine Spirit is and what exactly it does. I am very much in favour of the view presented in the 1d4chan page, because it enhances the grim-dark feel of the setting and it, to me anyway, makes sense, especially with the explanation as to why the Mechancius continues with the mysticism

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