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venkelos

The First Rule of Secrets Is...

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So, there are people in the Expanse who will try to crush you, and some will do it with pure, overwhelming firepower. Some people, though, prefer a more dignified approach, and they might try to restrict you, or even crush you, with their money and resources, paying others to not work with you, or buying up the things you wanted, before you could get your finances in order, and your self to the right place, but then there are those people who are totally unscrupulous, who will try to ferret out your secrets, maybe bribe a member of your own vast crew to sabotage your mighty ship, leaving you in any number of unfavorable spots. Quandary is, though, for the last of these, the Feckwards among Rogue Traders, how do they find out your secrets? Certainly, your ship eventually must enter port, and rating talk, but your vessel might spend months at void, and the only long-range communications for the turncoats to use is astrotelepathy.If Feckward wants to race you to the prize, using your own unhappies to feed him intel, or be his hands on your stuff, how do they tell him what you are doing? A whole little chunk of Lure describes it, but never how it is expected to work. If the one thing a Rogue trader might not be able to keep, regardless of resources, is secrets, how are they getting out promptly, before they are two void trips, and possibly several warp jumps, totaling several months, in all, old? Sorry if it is obvious, but I'm not sure how "clandestine observations" work aboard a void ship, wherein your rivals can stay in the loop, other than docking at Port Wander/Footfall, and having them all spilled in a bar.

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For what it's worth: It is commonplace for Naval officers today not to share details of a mission with the entire crew. This would go double for a Voidship. Remember that the vast majority of your crew has no idea where your ship is going or what it's current mission is. Only the bridge crew may have some portion of the whole picture and they would tend to be the more trustworthy of the ship's personnel. Basically, If you don't tell your crew your plans they don't know. Sure, they may know that you've made port at Footfall but they won't know why!

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The crew might never know you made port, also.  It's not like the ship has windows, and since many of the crew spend their entire lives aboard ship, and even generations do, shore leave might not even exist for the vast majority of the crew.

 

Who says secrets leak out?  I don't remember this part of Lure.  I also didn't much care for the scenario and have never used it since I first ran it.  Too many inconcsistencies, too many outright errors.  Sounds like you found one of them, Venk.

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Astropaths on void vessels may be in the employ of the Dynasty they work for, but most are not.  And in 99% of those cases, their ultimate loyalty lies to the Imperium.  With that said, even though important messages are relayed to the PC's as soon as the Astropath receives them, this is by no means the only messages the Astropaths receive during their voyage.  They could also receive the following:

-Old echoes of messages

-Relay messages sent from one location intended for somewhere/one else

-Warnings/Distress/Emergency calls

-Status updates of a Dynasty/Navy/Ad Mech/ etc (might not be theirs, and is probably heavily encoded)

-Important News

-Not so important news

-Inquisitor messages (might not even know they are as such, and could be seen as a news update like they did in WW2 over the radio)

-Summons/Meetings requests

-Hails/Hello's/Demands/Short messages to other family members

-Other messages GM determines relevant

 

Obviously, in the Expanse, these would be rather limited, but still exist especially in the high trafficked area's. In a normal controlled Imperium Sector, the messages received/relayed/sent could be in the thousands a day.

 

So, not only does the RT send messages, his envoys would send them in his stead or to inquire more information if they are allowed.  Below is a short list (I could think of off the top of my head) on a RT's vessel that could be allowed to send messages:

-Seneschals

-Imperial Envoys

-RT Nobles/Noblesse

-Ad Mech Personnel

-Navigator Pesonnel

-VIP(s) staying on board in Luxury Quarters

-Astropath's themselves

-Other PC's

-Other important NPC's GM deems appropriate to utilize those services

 

Note:  The above lists are not all inclusive. 

 

The information gleamed above is from my experience GMing RT and reading literature related to WH40K.  Simply put, the leak could from anywhere/one, it could be piggy backed on someone else message, or forged to appear to be written by someone else on the ship.

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The option of using radio communication is feasible, but limited in scope and ability.  Obviously, the culprit would have to wait till the PC's returned to an area where the spy has other fellow agents to receive the message, to send it on.  This could be an Imperial colonized world, space station, passing by another void ship, etc.  Sending it back to Feck or someone else could also be via Astropath messages.  The major drawback of this concept is that it assumes the PC's need to return somewhere to re-supply between/during various endeavors.

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Even though Astropathic messages can be intercepted/overheard and decrypted it doesn't mean you'll get to learn all (or indeed any) secrets in doing so.

 

"It"s hard to explain," said Vetinari, aware that what to him were the lucid waters of politics were so much mud to Leonard. "These new ones you have are... merely devilishly difficult?"

"You specified fiendishly, sir," said Leonard, looking worried.

"Oh, yes."

"There does not appear to be a common standard for fiends, my lord, but I did some research in the more accessible occult texts and I believe these cyphers will be considered "difficult" by more than 96 per cent of fiends."

"Good."

"They may perhaps verge on the diabolically difficult in places - "

"That is not a problem. I shall use them forthwith."

Leonard still seemed to have something on his mind. "It would be so easy to make them archdemonically diff - "

"But these will suffice, Leonard," said Vetinari.

"My lord," Leonard almost wailed, "I really cannot guarantee that sufficiently clever people will be unable to read your messages!"

"Good."

"But, my lord, they will know what you are thinking!"

Vetinari patted him on the shoulder. "No, Leonard. They will merely know what is in my messages." 

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The Astropath enters the bridge claiming, "I have intercepted a message.  It comes from Relwyn, the Choirmaster of the Dynasty's rival dynasty, the Machenkos."

 

The Rogue Trader says, "That's excellent!  Now we can discover what they are up to.  Have you decrypted the message?"

 

The Astropath replies, "Yes, I have.  It reads, "John has a red mustache."

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Ah yes the excessively detailed drawing of the veins in a partially eaten leaf actually details warp routes that can get through a particular system without incident.

 

I think steganography, particularly the sort that Baden-Powell practiced would have a limited use in a system where every message is a huge effort to send and inconsequential messages would be almost non-existent.

 

Finding a 'tourist' with sketches of flora and fauna on their person may easily be overloooked but discovering the same sketches in an Astropathic transmission means they must be important.

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Armies and navies try hard to enforce secrecy, especially concerning operational information, but in reality this hardly ever works. Only the most important and best guarded secrets remain secrets.

 

Regular “secrets” such as deployment orders for a ship would likely be widely known by the ship’s crew. Any (former) soldiers or sailor will be able to confirm that they love to gossip and things like likely destinations are things that are both widely discussed and usually guessed/found out correctly.

 

It is often said that if you want to know something, you ask the NCO’s. Officers give the orders but NCO’s make it happen. Which means they supervise the actual writing of the orders and the distribution etc. Which means they know. And will tell their buddies…..in the strictest confidence of course.

 

Just an example, I work for a government agency. The security detail guarding our head of state during a state visit carries arms etc. which are classified at a high level. But guess who has to type up the form informing the host nation what arms will be entering their country....? Not that I leaked it but I knew without having the actual security clearance to know…)

 

And so, information is potentially spread…..

 

WH40k will not be any different. The captain/RT wants to go to planet Big Secret. He tells his navigator. The navigator asks his orderly to get the required charts. The orderly plays space poker with his buddies and tells them the navigator wanted charts for the Secret system.

 

The warp engine engineer’s mate will mention they took on enough fuel to reach that system while the cook will confirm they have just enough food to reach the Secret system etc….

 

And thus very soon everyone aboard “in the know” will have a very good idea where the ship is going. And nobody will tell the bloody officers everybody knows already while the officers congratulate themselves on having kept the destination a big secret from the lower ranks….

 

As to the problem of getting information from a spy to his master, radio transmission works within a system. Astropaths are only required for sector wide communications (and beyond). A spy aboard a void ship could "easily" have a radio set somewhere where he can use it without being noticed. A well funded enemy RT would likely have “assets” in all heavily travelled systems who could receive such radio communications and send it onwards…

 

Void ships need to replenish their stocks and take on cargo etc. Dockyard crews are not allowed aboard void ships for security reasons so the ship’s crew must go out and get the stuff from the docks, thereby allowing the spy to pass on messages. A well funded RT would likely have “assets” at all major docks/way stations who could receive such communications and send it onwards…

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The crew might never know you made port, also.  It's not like the ship has windows, and since many of the crew spend their entire lives aboard ship, and even generations do, shore leave might not even exist for the vast majority of the crew.

 

Who says secrets leak out?  I don't remember this part of Lure.  I also didn't much care for the scenario and have never used it since I first ran it.  Too many inconcsistencies, too many outright errors.  Sounds like you found one of them, Venk.

I don't know, most people seem to talk like, on a ship, everyone knows what everyone else is doing, like any other "small town". As for the bit in Lure, p. 55-56 describe how the opposition goes about finding the Dread Pearl, in a way that explains why each world isn't an eight-way clusterf***, since nothing but the GM decides what competitors, if any are where you are, at that time, AND in a way that you can't break by simply destroying the clues, as you find them. Some do most of what you do, some do it in a different way, and a few use their special resources to blatantly cheat, and don't follow your plodding, money-rich pattern, at all. In the case of Feckward, he uses his underworld pull to gain intel from the underworld elements on EVERY ship, be it Navy, merchant, or yours. If you don't rid yourself of a mutineer, he might pass on info to Feckward.

 

This was where it caught me as peculiar. In other sci-fi settings, you might find a way to "covertly transmit a burst-signal through hyperspace", or something, and get a message out, to wherever in the galaxy it needs to go, but in 40K, such a thing is impossible, as the AdMech haven't done this, despite that their Necron masters probably...sorry, I suppose the proof of that is iffy. ;) Anywho, with the only real long-range communication being astrotelepathy, I wouldn't know how Krooker got in with Feckward, and got info back to him, but that's the style they give for the slaver-king to find the Pearl. If Krooker went and found one of the astropaths, however, I don't imagine they'd agree to send the message.

 

The Astropath enters the bridge claiming, "I have intercepted a message.  It comes from Relwyn, the Choirmaster of the Dynasty's rival dynasty, the Machenkos."

 

The Rogue Trader says, "That's excellent!  Now we can discover what they are up to.  Have you decrypted the message?"

 

The Astropath replies, "Yes, I have.  It reads, "John has a red mustache."

I find it hard to believe that any message that took so much effort to send would be that, but I like it, so I'm going to wish it were so. It's a shame so much of everything in the grimdark is s laborious, or impossible.

 

Armies and navies try hard to enforce secrecy, especially concerning operational information, but in reality this hardly ever works. Only the most important and best guarded secrets remain secrets.

 

Regular “secrets” such as deployment orders for a ship would likely be widely known by the ship’s crew. Any (former) soldiers or sailor will be able to confirm that they love to gossip and things like likely destinations are things that are both widely discussed and usually guessed/found out correctly.

 

It is often said that if you want to know something, you ask the NCO’s. Officers give the orders but NCO’s make it happen. Which means they supervise the actual writing of the orders and the distribution etc. Which means they know. And will tell their buddies…..in the strictest confidence of course.

 

Just an example, I work for a government agency. The security detail guarding our head of state during a state visit carries arms etc. which are classified at a high level. But guess who has to type up the form informing the host nation what arms will be entering their country....? Not that I leaked it but I knew without having the actual security clearance to know…)

 

And so, information is potentially spread…..

 

WH40k will not be any different. The captain/RT wants to go to planet Big Secret. He tells his navigator. The navigator asks his orderly to get the required charts. The orderly plays space poker with his buddies and tells them the navigator wanted charts for the Secret system.

 

The warp engine engineer’s mate will mention they took on enough fuel to reach that system while the cook will confirm they have just enough food to reach the Secret system etc….

 

And thus very soon everyone aboard “in the know” will have a very good idea where the ship is going. And nobody will tell the bloody officers everybody knows already while the officers congratulate themselves on having kept the destination a big secret from the lower ranks….

 

As to the problem of getting information from a spy to his master, radio transmission works within a system. Astropaths are only required for sector wide communications (and beyond). A spy aboard a void ship could "easily" have a radio set somewhere where he can use it without being noticed. A well funded enemy RT would likely have “assets” in all heavily travelled systems who could receive such radio communications and send it onwards…

 

Void ships need to replenish their stocks and take on cargo etc. Dockyard crews are not allowed aboard void ships for security reasons so the ship’s crew must go out and get the stuff from the docks, thereby allowing the spy to pass on messages. A well funded RT would likely have “assets” at all major docks/way stations who could receive such communications and send it onwards…

This I can see. I'm not sure how much time-lag would interfere with things, where just getting a signal from the Sun to Earth takes 11 minutes, or so, but the potential "time lag" of warp travel can probably more than balance that out. I can see Feckward, and others like him, having a few people everywhere. This also might explain a little, for me, with how a dynasty and the Rogue Trader can stay in contact, when the dynasty contact learns of a potential endeavor, from people talking in the streets of Footfall, but their Trader is half a sector away. Eventually, an astropath will need to be involved, but he may not, by then, know who he is sending a message for, or to, and the receiver on the other end might just be another guy with a radio, who happens to be in the same system as their master. Still a bit tricky, and makes me more wish that the tool-people (AdMech, Navigators, and Astropaths) worked for, and maybe were even made by the dynasties, rather than work for the IMPERIUM, and sort of put on loan to the dynasties. I still remember reading Lure, and saying "one of your contacts heard about the Auction, but now how do they tell you about it, and in a way that you can get there in time, since trips through the void can still take weeks, or more, and the trip between system edge and planet can be slow, at realspace-speeds?" It still never made total sense to me, but sometimes, you just have to let the game be fun, and not worry over minutiae.

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I think you are overthinking it. It is a game after all.....

 

But to answer the question how do you inform the RT in time of a business opportunity....?

You don't. Instant access etc. is something that became common after the technology became available to facilitate it. Before telegraph communication, leaders were forced to delegate power to large degrees. For example, colonial governors, generals leading armies and ambassadors had very wide lassitude and powers to represent their government, simply because communications took so long.

 

In this case, I'd expect every RT to have representatives at every major location with the authorisation to act on their behalf, likely with some upper limit on how much they may spend on any deal or the knowledge that any deal must be approved by the RT as soon as possible. Just as merchant houses did in RL.

 

For the Auction, I would expect the witches to either inform most RT's with enough lead time for them to arrive or just inform

all local representatives and any RT's which just happened to be 'in port' about the Auction.

 

 

Lastly, IMO tool-people don't work for the IMPERIUM any more than RT's or Inquisitors work for the IMPERIUM. They serve their own needs, nothing more and nothing less. They may have to work within certain restrictions (e.g. pay lip service to the Emperor....) but that's it. RT's make contracts with Navigator houses and astropaths for their ships but treachery can be everywhere. Another RT might offer a better deal....

 

And that is just the political game between RT's, Navigator houses, astropaths etc.

 

The personal angle offers even more opportunities to subvert 'loyal' followers of a RT. Every person has vices and some are more exotic and difficult to satisfy than others. Catering to them might offer an enemy RT the opportunity to subvert an astropath etc...

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I'll willingly admit I probably am overthinking it, but this is still a game where the players are supposed to be the movers and the shakers in the galaxy, or at least their facet of that galaxy, and not every adventure can just be a "you were drifting along, aimlessly, and you happened to stumble across a wrecked ship, or a nice planet, or a populace at war with X"; for you to be doing the important stuff of your dynasty, you need to be able to communicate in a meaningful way, preferably secretly, but at least punctually, and while I admit that, in most respects, your opposition is equally limited (they don't have real-time communication, and predictable FTL travel, either), some phenomena aren't so large-window, barring the GM making them so, deus ex style. If you were going to be able to attend the auction, which is sort of critical for Lure to start, you'd either need to "just happen to be on Footfall", or someone there, loyal to you, would have to let you know. I accept that the Seven Sisters are powerful, but did they get their vision a year in advance, between you needing to get there, and get around, and all? If one of your underlings attended, for you, you wouldn't have the compulsion thing, or the images of what, and where.

 

I don't know, I don't think I can properly explain it in a way that isn't just me whining ;), which I probably just am. I suppose this is one of those nice things about the GM being able to take what he likes, and then tweak little things more to his liking, like astropathic communication delays. If Captain Picard, Darth Vader, and all the others can talk across vast space, in real-time, I'm willing to flub that people in 40K can communicate thus, at least in a quicker fashion than "1 message every few hours, which might take as long, or weeks, to reach you." I accept that astropaths can't be quantum entanglement communicators, though that would be cool for associated ones in group service to someone, who happen to be in the upper echelon of powerful, but...I'm actually out of whining juice. In a game I might run, I may tweak these a bit, say that degrees of success decrease time delay, to give powerful ones a benefit, beyond range, assuming I didn't just miss that in the book. Thanks everyone.

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Yeah.  I guess I was hoping some people would get the reference.

 

"John has a red mustache" or "Jean has a red moustache" was the code phrase from the Allied command to the French Resistance that the invasion (D-Day) was underway.  Alternately, some sources report it as "John has a long mustache."  It's kinda famous.  I thought that at least some people in a RPG forum would know the reference.  I guess my age is showing...again.

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-Inquisitor messages (might not even know they are as such, and could be seen as a news update like they did in WW2 over the radio)

 

"John has a red mustache"

Hence why I liked it; however, it's possibly between that phrase, Beethoven's 5th Symphony and Paul Verlaine's poem "Chanson d'automne" which were the notifications for "Operation Overlord."  They also used a similar phrase in Red Dawn too.  Loved the older version more than the new one, but ohh well.  Anyhoot back on topic.

 

Yep, it's a game.  Thinking to much about it will blow you noggin.  Either hand wave it with a fancy explaination, or toss it out like a bad fairy idea game developers sometimes say.  Every game has it's head scratching moments.

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I feel like you are overthinking it because in my experience, the players don’t care too much how they are led into an adventure as long as the adventure is pleasurable, profitable and they have plenty of freedom (no railroad tracks or at the very least heavily camouflaged).

 

Space faring in wh40k is quite similar to the age of sail. Those guys weren’t just drifting along, waiting for something to happen. The major sea lanes were known, the major ports were known, pirate infested areas were known. Pirate captains, privateers and naval officers could all plan ahead, based on this knowledge. Getting a bit of valuable information in some seedy waterfront dive would be par for the course…Or you could have a Mr. Johnson provide information for a price…

 

In this case, you don’t just happen to be in Footfall like it is some backwater port you’d never visit if you could help it. It is a major port/planet, perhaps the most important in the Koronus expanse. It is very likely that RT’s and their main henchmen would quite often be on Footfall for business. And that’s all the hook you need 99% of the time.

 

And if that’s too simple for you, why do you think the witches would be the only one to have a vision? Or knowledge of the treasure? Why couldn’t a RT’s own pet psyker not have visions too? (or navigator if there isn’t a psyker amongst the crew). Perhaps guiding the RT to Footfall for an important revelation? A bit of snooping would then lead to the Auction….

 

Wh40K is more a mood than a properly written setting IMO….if you try to make sense of it and/or impose consistent logic, your head will explode….. 

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How about a method wherein the conspirators use a form of the 'dead drop'? With a basic idea of where the RT may be headed a scout ship with baffles, running silent, etc could trail the ship and collect dead drop coded or uncoded messages in a ships refuse that it shoots into the void?

 

I can think of all kinds of ways of xmitting a message once you leave the ship if the agent is with you, but while in transit with no leads... not so much.

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