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I was curious about Machine Spirits. Do they represent ancient super computer or smart systems? Or do they represent the actual spirits of people slaved to the machine after death?

Also, on the sacred oils which unjam weapons, are they supernatural or are they nanobots or what?

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The machine spirit its what is believed to make the machine work. Technology  in 40k is advanced but people don't really understand it.

Prayers to the machine spirit are largely rituals with the actual running or checking of the machine included as part of the general ceremony.

 

I think the reason sacred oils and such work is partially due to the psychic power sheer belief can have in the setting, if you believe in something enough it really does work. 

 

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Grand Inquisitor Fulminarex said:

 

I was curious about Machine Spirits. Do they represent ancient super computer or smart systems? Or do they represent the actual spirits of people slaved to the machine after death?

Also, on the sacred oils which unjam weapons, are they supernatural or are they nanobots or what?

 

 

 

The people of 40k believe that all machines have a spirit and attribute how a machine behaves to it's spirit. Everything from an auspex and lasgun to a starship have a machine spirit; it's what allows the machine to function and do the miraculous things it dose.  What the objective truth of the machine spirit is really doesn't matter as the people of 40k are unlikely to ever view machines in any other way. Since they won't, the players and GM don't need to either. In fact, embracing the idea of a machine spirit without any further explanation as to what it really is should help both players and GM get into the mindset of those in 40k a lot easer then if the objective truth were known.

Just know that the way in which a machine behaves and the means by which it accomplishes it's function is all because of it's machine spirit. To properly commune with the spirit and get it to preform it's function, one must have Tech-Use or other appropriate skills thus informing the user as to the proper rituals needed to appease the spirit and coax it to preform the function desired. If the machine spirit of any machine is ever placed in the hands of an unworthy, grows angry, or is mistreated, it will either leave the machine rendering it inoperable or it will lash out at the offending user through arcs of electricity, exploding, or other nasty things to show it's displeasure.

Sacred Oil is neither nanobots nor is it in any way supernatural. It is an ancient sacred compound from by-gone days, holy and blessed in the eyes of the Omnisiah, which is known to sooth the most agitated machine spirit, dull the pain of a machine spirit which has been injured until it can be healed and it's house repaired, and temper and direct the anger of a machine spirit of war that it might continue to serve it's user.

 

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Grand Inquisitor Fulminarex said:

I was curious about Machine Spirits. Do they represent ancient super computer or smart systems? Or do they represent the actual spirits of people slaved to the machine after death?

Both actually. Along with other religious aspects. Even a boltgun is believed to possess a machine spirit, even thought it hasn't got computer systems or "fleshy parts" integrated into it's functions.

Ancient super computers or smart systems are just forms of machine spirits that are easier to communicate with (because you can tap the keys at a keyboard and ask them to do things for you etc.).

 

Grand Inquisitor Fulminarex said:

Also, on the sacred oils which unjam weapons, are they supernatural or are they nanobots or what?

It could be nanobots. It could also be that the oil in itself is really pretty useless, and it is the very ritual in which you apply the oil which unjam the weapons, but the followers of the Machine Cult believes that it is the oil that's doing the trick. Remember, everything concerning machines has an appropriate ritual tied to it, whether it be pressing the button with the rune "on" while citing the proper incantations, gently kicking the side of an engine, turning a nut exactly three rotations clockwise etc. etc. Most followers have no idea why the mechanism works because you use the proper rituals, they just know that it works as long as youi appease the machine spirits in the manner that the Techpriests describe.

Some of the higher Magos might be more privy to the exact knowledge of how machinery REALLY works, but it is highly unlikely that they'd ever share the information.

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Also as a slight sidenote: Robots of any kind are a big no-no by the Mechanicus. Anything that's an android is evil and must die and blown to bits because it doesn't have a "Machine Spirit" so it's evil.

For that reason, any sort of "robot" in 40k is a cyborg (servitors) or has human parts in it (servo-skulls). Those have the Machine Spirit and are in line with Mechanicus beliefs.

 

I love the Mechanicus, heh. gui%C3%B1o.gif 

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I was curious about Machine Spirits. Do they represent ancient super computer or smart systems? Or do they represent the actual spirits of people slaved to the machine after death?

Machine spirits are almost certainly not spirits in the "ghosts" sense. I assume them to be a liberal mix of simple superstition (The gun jammed because you displeased its Machine Spirit!) and advanced computer systems (Landraider, Titans, star ships...). The latter will often straddle the line between sacred Machine Spirit and profane Silica Animus, being allowed only because they've always been accepted - considering the degree of autonomy a Land Raider exhibits, I don't see how it isn't considered at least a primitive AI. All in all, I guess stuff is Heretecal when your superiors say it is...

 

 

Also, on the sacred oils which unjam weapons, are they supernatural or are they nanobots or what?

Considering their availability, I think nanites are the safest bet.

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I use the following explanation to my players:

"The Mechanicus teach that knowledge is sacred and that machines are the embodiment of knowledge given physical form, the more complex the machine the more manifest and sacred the knowledge. There are exceptions, forbidden knowledge and certain areas of learning more valued than others."

"They also teach that a human or animal is simply a biological machine, no different from a bolter or plasma engine other than in terms of which mechanisms and knowledge are embodied within."

"Thus there is no logical distinction between a human being having a soul or a tank having a soul, both have emotions, appetites and a capacity to give logical or reasoned responses to varying degrees (the human having far greater range of logical response to stimulus and the tank having far greater appetites, but neither is entirely void of the other)."

"Souls can be characteristic to the individual for physical reasons: a bolter may respond in an ornary manner or find itself performing more passionately in the midst of battle because the mechanism lubricates better once warmed meaning the first few shots are sub-standard, but so a human may have a similar reaction due to a metabolism which produces a hormone imbalance or similar. Just as it is necessary to understand the nature and spirit of a person to treat them in a manner which uses them to their upmost and does not needlessly destroy them it is necessary to understand and treat well the machine spirit of a device in order that it may perform it's function in an optimal manner for the great glory of the Omnissiah."

So yeah, it's basically a viewpoint as far as I'm concerned. The difference between a tech-priest and a plain mechanic being that both understand the basic mechanisms by which a device will function, but one views the device as a tool and the other views it no different from a person.

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My personal opinion is that a lot of people go wrong when trying to describe the 40K universe as a science fiction setting. This has one huge problem:   Nothing really wroks when you get right down to it. 

I think it'd be more accurate to describe the setting as a space fantasy.   Also, for the purposes of telling the story I don't see how its at all important exactly what a machine spirit is.   Let the players wonder.

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cetiken said:

I think it'd be more accurate to describe the setting as a space fantasy.   Also, for the purposes of telling the story I don't see how its at all important exactly what a machine spirit is.   Let the players wonder.

In a standard fantasy setting, that might be easy. If anything "magical" happens the GM and the players can all blame it on "magic". A wizard can throw fireballs by uttering a few incantations and spending "magic points", so pretty much anything goes without questioning in such a setting.

The problem with 40K is the fact that the fluff has actually described where "real magic" comes from. It all stems from the warp, and instead of calling it "magic" it is called "psychic powers".

But regarding technology, you can't really blame it on "the warp", because technology that deals too much with the warp is considered heretical and forbidden most of the time. So if you were to reason that the "magical" unjamming of a gun by applying "sacred oil" to it, is induced by the warp, then the person doing it would be a tech-heretic.

But if you simply said that most technology works because the correct form of operation of it has been taught to everyone in the form of religious rituals and incantations, you don't have to deal with that inconsistency.

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Varnias Tybalt said:

cetiken said:

 

I think it'd be more accurate to describe the setting as a space fantasy.   Also, for the purposes of telling the story I don't see how its at all important exactly what a machine spirit is.   Let the players wonder.

 

 

In a standard fantasy setting, that might be easy. If anything "magical" happens the GM and the players can all blame it on "magic". A wizard can throw fireballs by uttering a few incantations and spending "magic points", so pretty much anything goes without questioning in such a setting.

The problem with 40K is the fact that the fluff has actually described where "real magic" comes from. It all stems from the warp, and instead of calling it "magic" it is called "psychic powers".

But regarding technology, you can't really blame it on "the warp", because technology that deals too much with the warp is considered heretical and forbidden most of the time. So if you were to reason that the "magical" unjamming of a gun by applying "sacred oil" to it, is induced by the warp, then the person doing it would be a tech-heretic.

But if you simply said that most technology works because the correct form of operation of it has been taught to everyone in the form of religious rituals and incantations, you don't have to deal with that inconsistency.

But that, unfortunately, removes the players mind from the game and grounds them further in our way of thinking. Besides, not all magic comes from the warp. A good chunk of it comes from the Dark Age of Technology ;-)

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Graver said:

 

Besides, not all magic comes from the warp. A good chunk of it comes from the Dark Age of Technology ;-)

Precisely. If you can blame stuff on "magic" in fantasy settings, I don't see why you can't blame stuff in gothic sci-fantasy on "technobabble". I mean, much of the technology that the citizens of the Imperium have access to, we haven't even invented yet.

The difference between Star Trek technobabble and WH40K technobabble is that the latter is way more religious and superstitious in nature than the former. happy.gif

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Varnias Tybalt said:

Besides, not all magic comes from the warp. A good chunk of it comes from the Dark Age of Technology ;-)

 

 

Precisely. If you can blame stuff on "magic" in fantasy settings, I don't see why you can't blame stuff in gothic sci-fantasy on "technobabble". I mean, much of the technology that the citizens of the Imperium have access to, we haven't even invented yet.

The difference between Star Trek technobabble and WH40K technobabble is that the latter is way more religious and superstitious in nature than the former. happy.gif

Any sufficiently complicated technobabble is indistinguishable from saying "A wizard did it!", to mangle a well-known phrase.

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I have decided that Machine Spirits in complex devices represent ancient smart systems and AI, where as those in smaller non complex devices (guns) are superstition.

Sacred Machine Oil consists of rare unguents and nanobots/nanytes. If they are self-replicating under ideal conditions, than they can have been doing so for 30k years.

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cetiken said:

I think it'd be more accurate to describe the setting as a space fantasy.   Also, for the purposes of telling the story I don't see how its at all important exactly what a machine spirit is.   Let the players wonder.

I think it is important what a Machine Spirit is since players interact with them sometimes on a regular basis.

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Grand Inquisitor Fulminarex said:

cetiken said:

 

I think it'd be more accurate to describe the setting as a space fantasy.   Also, for the purposes of telling the story I don't see how its at all important exactly what a machine spirit is.   Let the players wonder.

 

 

I think it is important what a Machine Spirit is since players interact with them sometimes on a regular basis.

Just because they interact with them doesn't mean they know what they are in a technical sense. They're just machine spirits. Half the interesting stuff about them is the mystery. You point out exactly what they are, and it removes a point of discussion for the characters (each of which might have different ideas on what they really are).

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They are not just a program you interact with. Machine Spirits of starships can raise hell all by themselves, help or hinder you like any NPC could. They are an NPC Ally or hindrance depending on their treatment, mood, or situation.

If you will recall, during starship creation, some of the machine spirits you might end up with could have prejudices, desires, and emotions which WILL affect scenarios.

So NO, pointing them out and moving along is not good role play. How is it any different than interacting with any other important ally or NPC?

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Grand Inquisitor Fulminarex said:

How is it any different than interacting with any other important ally or NPC?

Well first of all, there's really no evidence that the machine spirits can really "talk" with humans in the sense we're used to. Sure some techpriests might consider it to be "communication" when you type in commands into a control console, but it's not like the machine spirit can "talk back" via the control console and say "hello, im feeling kind of cranky today."

It's more like the complex assembly of several complicated systems that is a starship will act in certain peculiar ways, and it is up to the PC's to interprate exactly what these peculiar behaviors means.

It's sort of trying to interprate why some dogs like to drag their ass across the carpet more than other dogs like, or why some dogs chase and bite their own tails and some dogs don't.

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Grand Inquisitor Fulminarex said:

They are not just a program you interact with. Machine Spirits of starships can raise hell all by themselves, help or hinder you like any NPC could. They are an NPC Ally or hindrance depending on their treatment, mood, or situation.

If you will recall, during starship creation, some of the machine spirits you might end up with could have prejudices, desires, and emotions which WILL affect scenarios.

So NO, pointing them out and moving along is not good role play. How is it any different than interacting with any other important ally or NPC?

 

Imagine bugs in a program. Thats what your talking about. The people of 40K simply 'perceive' these bugs to be the machine spirits whimsy, so to speak.

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alexkilcoyne said:

Imagine bugs in a program. Thats what your talking about. The people of 40K simply 'perceive' these bugs to be the machine spirits whimsy, so to speak.

Based on what?  Look, there's no evidence that, within the confines of WH40K, that blaming things on 'machine spirits' isn't literally true.  Frankly, I find most arguments trying to prove that they don't exist are based on an a priori decision that, since they don't in our world, they don't in game either.

As a great man said, however, 'That's just my opinion, I may be wrong.'

 

- Tom

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We know because the whole point about the 40K universe is how much humanity has fallen from the heights it once occuppied, we know there aren't machine spirits because we know why humanity stopped using robots and how they've carried that down as the myth of the Steel Men. The Adeptus Mechanicus tries it's best to maintain knowledge but they're fighting a losing battle and too much of humanities former glory is just falling into rote repetition, that's why they're Machine PRIESTS they don't really know how a lot of this stuff works, it's just rote rituals and superstition.

Machine Spirit's are a way for to teach the ignorant about things far beyond their understanding. A savage world guardsman won't understand that he needs to strip and field clean his weapon in order to prevent a build up of grime which would screw with the focusing lends and make his weapon useless. But he can grasp that if he does the sacred ritual then the spirit that lives in his gun will be happy and shoot.

For the Tech-Priests simply scale it up, they don't really understand the science and maths behind tearing open a whole in the fabric of the universe and the exact nature of a plasma reactor, but they know what you need to press to make one happen or the exact mechanical steps to build the other. As time goes on the real reason behind why they're doing it gets lost and all thats left behind is the silly little story and the knowledge that you need to do it or else it stops working.

 

 

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Hooligan Tuesday said:

We know because the whole point about the 40K universe is how much humanity has fallen from the heights it once occuppied, we know there aren't machine spirits because we know why humanity stopped using robots and how they've carried that down as the myth of the Steel Men. The Adeptus Mechanicus tries it's best to maintain knowledge but they're fighting a losing battle and too much of humanities former glory is just falling into rote repetition, that's why they're Machine PRIESTS they don't really know how a lot of this stuff works, it's just rote rituals and superstition.

Machine Spirit's are a way for to teach the ignorant about things far beyond their understanding. A savage world guardsman won't understand that he needs to strip and field clean his weapon in order to prevent a build up of grime which would screw with the focusing lends and make his weapon useless. But he can grasp that if he does the sacred ritual then the spirit that lives in his gun will be happy and shoot.

For the Tech-Priests simply scale it up, they don't really understand the science and maths behind tearing open a whole in the fabric of the universe and the exact nature of a plasma reactor, but they know what you need to press to make one happen or the exact mechanical steps to build the other. As time goes on the real reason behind why they're doing it gets lost and all thats left behind is the silly little story and the knowledge that you need to do it or else it stops working.

 

 

 

 

I agree with this and your discription is good.  However I like to think that there are some smart computer programs, or even parshal inteligent mashines, and that these are given the name "very active Mashine Spirits" such as in the land Rader.   Along with this I think basic computer programs are also considered the normal type of mashine spirit.  So you may have a peice of equitment that wants you to update it to "Imperium 7.0", and because the average person has no idea what that is, they have a ritual to press the "not at this time" button, and that is considered a interaction with the mashine spirit.  And a mater crafted peice of equitment might already have that update, so it does not need all the ritiauls to say no.

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One of my issues with this future is that in many Sci-fi games, such as Transhuman Space by SJG, it is merely 100 years in the future, and they have smart pistols and nanobots. This is in near future settings.

How prevelant was high technology in the Dark Age of Technology? Was it so pervasive that every item had a smart system, from the smallest doohicky to the biggest warship? Was it so prevelant for so long, with self repairing systems, simple or complex decision making, that it became as natural to humans to have a talking toaster as it was to have a lighter is today? Was it taken for granted? I am curious.

So 10k years of the Empire, built on lost technology, some of which is complex enough to replace half of a humans brain successfully, and machine spirits are merely a superstition?

I for one will use the machine spirit as smart systems, AI programs. That is logical.

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Grand Inquisitor Fulminarex said:

I for one will use the machine spirit as smart systems, AI programs. That is logical.

This is something that a lot of people seem to overlook. The highest technology the Imperium has are relics from the Age of Technology... the commonplace stuff that can be produced in their thousands on massive production lines, often by hand, by people who have little technical knowledge, will be anachronistic in its construction. Smart systems and the like aren't beyond the ability of the Imperium to produce - they're evident in titans and starships - but they are beyond the ability of the Imperium to mass-produce, because the knowledge and skill to create them is strictly limited by a culture who considers the phrase "knowledge is power, guard it well" to be something to live by, and whose access to technological knowledge is heavily guarded and regulated by an organisation that worships machinery and logic as if they were divine.

Few people seem to consider that Machine Spirit might be one term used for a variety of things. In Titans and Starships and other advanced devices, it's known to be the computer system that operates the device in conjunction with the crew. Their programming is of little more than animal intelligence (as true, intelligent AI is illegal in the Imperium, and has been since the start of the Great Crusade), and akin to the 'AI' that controls enemies in computer games, but they're still sophisticated devices in their own right.

In lasguns and tractors and lightbulbs... the 'Machine Spirit' is a superstition, the natural extreme of something we see (and perhaps do) every day. How many times have you shouted at your car or computer because it's done something different to what you wanted it to do? How many times have you urged or pleaded with a device to keep working just a little bit longer, or berated it for failing? That personification of inanimate technological devices is, in a rudimentary form, an easy way to understand what is meant in many cases by the term 'Machine Spirit'.

Beyond that, it ends up being a simple way for those who understand (Techpriests, etc) explaining maintenance and upkeep to those who don't understand without giving them access to blessed knowledge.

"Clean this part here, and those parts there, and the machine's spirit will be pleased and it will function properly. Failure to do this will displease the machine and it will defy you." conveys knowledge of how to maintain a device, and the consequences of not doing so, without explaining why it's important.

That's how I've always interpreted it, anyway.

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@Millandson

Except that the Good-Craftmanship MIU gives you a +10 for interaction tests with Machine Spirits, so if they don't exist, that bonus is a bit rubbish

Unless of course it applies to the systems in which the machine spirits are supposed to be housed...

 

@N0-1_H3r3

That's how I've always interpreted it, anyway.

Same here, except for the part about true AI. That seems to be relatively flexible, depending on who does it and if he's got a sacred STC pattern after which he constructs the stuff. Landraider machine spirits would IMO be considered heretek if they weren't built into a Landraider, whose pattern is holy by definition.

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