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lurkeroutthere

40K/FFG Really needs to understand or settle on how Astropaths Work

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So Navis Primer is finally up for purchase on drivethru, so I started reading it.

"But such communications are far from conventional, transmitting not words, but notions, emotions, and impressions. Even the strongest of astrotelepathic signals is little more than ritual and might very well cost the sender and the recipient their very souls."

Lets set aside for a moment a question on whether or not you could have a galaxy spaning empire without some form of FTL communication. This view is actually completely conflicted by all the examples we see in both the novels and the printed text of the books where you have messages being sent by astropaths that's eventually decoded as plain text.

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I don't think astropathy is that dangerous, but I can see it being…images and symbols.

Like, you as an astropath are trained with the thousands of ciphers and codes, which you turn into images and symbols, then launch through the Warp (never know who is listening). Another astropath, trained in the same ciphers and codes, translate it into plain text and then give it to their masters.

So, you actually can double cipher it. An inqusitor can give an astropath a message in a cipher, the astropath turns that into the warp-cipher, then launches it. Then the astropath on the other end takes that, decodes it into plain text (which is ciphered) and then the Inqusitor's friend translates it into plain plain text.

I mean, all astropaths are trained on Holy Terra, so it actually makes sense for them to have a "shared" telepathic language that isn't actual text.

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Yeah, as I understand it, if you tried to send "The orks are attacking!" as a single thought, you'd be lucky if they understood you. But if you just send "ALPHA. ALPHA. ALPHA. OMEGA. THETA." as five seperate messages, then it's much more likely that they'll recieve and understand you, which is why most of the printed intra-system messages we see read like telegraphs.

 

 

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Actually Astropaths DO deal in symbols and imagery, with metaphor and subtext being their ciphers. The plaintext you see in astropathic communications is simply what they have decoded the messages into so that we boring, normal humans can understand it.
From the fiction in The Outcast Dead which happens in and around the Astrotelepath's HQ on Terra during the Heresy, i can be seen that at least half if not more of an astropaths training actually comes from the ciphers and decoding of messages and not just the raw ability to send and recieve.

FTL communication is something that simply does not exist within the imperium. The closest there is to it are the high powered Librarians of the Astartes whose telepathic communication allows them to instantly communicate across entire sectors. Of course this doesn't benefit the Imperium at large but it explains how the Astartes can continue to be an elite, efficient strike force despite being a mere shadow of their former selfs and without so much support from Terra.

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When role-playing an Astropath, when the captain told me to send a message, I would go into a trance pose and start mouthing everything he (and the person he's talking to) says in his message, saying the last few words in his sentence. For example:

Captain: "This is Captain Marcus Augustus of the Adeptus Terra. This is Imperial space. Identify yourself or be destroyed."

Me: "… or be destroyed."

This became hilarious when the Captain muttered something under his breath that he REALLY didn't want the other party to hear. Speaking with Eldar or Chaos sorcerers would cause convulsions, nosebleeds, and/or fainting.

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Why would you be sending a message ending in "identify yourself of be destroyed" using astrotelepathy? My understanding is that such messages go to other Astropaths. Surely when using astrotelepathy you know who you are sending to. If you don't know that, how do you even know they have their own Astropath to receive the message?

 

Am I misunderstanding the whole concept here?

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Zoombie said:

Well, you'd never use astropaths to communicate with anyone you can contact via the vox.

Unless you're worried that the vox signal is less secure than the cyphers of your Asropaths.

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HappyDaze said:

Zoombie said:

 

Well, you'd never use astropaths to communicate with anyone you can contact via the vox.

 

 

Unless you're worried that the vox signal is less secure than the cyphers of your Asropaths.

 

Then use a whisper-link. You know, direct laser communications. You can only snoop on those if you are directly between the two points (and in space, that's pretty hard.)

An astropathic message has - like all psychic powers - a definite risk and uncertainty. I'd take a machine spirit over that any day of the week myself…

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HappyDaze said:

Unless you're worried that the vox signal is less secure than the cyphers of your Asropaths.

 

But why would you encipher a message that ended "Identify yourself or be destroyed?" If you don't know who they are (and whether or not they have an astropath handy), why the hell would you assume they could decipher it, let alone receive it?

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Plynkes said:

HappyDaze said:

 

Unless you're worried that the vox signal is less secure than the cyphers of your Asropaths.

 

 

 

But why would you encipher a message that ended "Identify yourself or be destroyed?" If you don't know who they are (and whether or not they have an astropath handy), why the hell would you assume they could decipher it, let alone receive it?

I wasn't tying my answer specifically to transmitting a threat, so I really don't have any answer for your question.

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Zoombie said:

 

HappyDaze said:

 

Zoombie said:

 

Well, you'd never use astropaths to communicate with anyone you can contact via the vox.

 

 

Unless you're worried that the vox signal is less secure than the cyphers of your Asropaths.

 

 

 

Then use a whisper-link. You know, direct laser communications. You can only snoop on those if you are directly between the two points (and in space, that's pretty hard.)

An astropathic message has - like all psychic powers - a definite risk and uncertainty. I'd take a machine spirit over that any day of the week myself…

 

 

There's also the possibility that those you're trying to communicate with don't have vox. Not all xenos might have vox/radio technology (although most of the known ones seem to), but then you're still guessing if they can actually receive and understand astropathic sendings - especially across a language barrier.

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HappyDaze said:

I wasn't tying my answer specifically to transmitting a threat, so I really don't have any answer for your question.

Ah, sorry, it's just that those were the specific circumstances we were discussing, so perhaps I can be forgiven for not realising your comment was referring to something else.

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Plynkes said:

HappyDaze said:

 

I wasn't tying my answer specifically to transmitting a threat, so I really don't have any answer for your question.

 

 

Ah, sorry, it's just that those were the specific circumstances we were discussing, so perhaps I can be forgiven for not realising your comment was referring to something else.

When I quote something and give a response to that quote, that's specifically what I'm addressing.

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Plynkes said:

My understanding is that such messages go to other Astropaths. Surely when using astrotelepathy you know who you are sending to. If you don't know that, how do you even know they have their own Astropath to receive the message?

Much of the time, I surmise the sender of an astropathic signal chooses the place, and hopes for a receiver. With such vast distances, and time being so wanky thanks to the Earp, you have no idea where anyone ever is. Say you wanted to reach the Inquisitor Council on Scintilla. They have astropaths, but any particular one might have had an incident, and blown themselves up, been killed through the machinations of others, been called away for another reason, or whatever. You really don't have a good way of knowing which Astropaths are in the Tricorn, at the time, and who will still be, when your message finally gets there. I believe you send to a location, skipping it off the heads of other Astropaths, as it goes, to maintain integrity, and it eventually gets to Scintilla, to the Tricorn, and to an Astropath of the Council, who decodes it, and takes it to the Council, or the Lord Sector, or whoever needed to know what's up.

Something I'm sometimes confused by, when the Horus Heresy happened, half of almost everything fell to the Ruinous Powers. They didn't JUST get way too many Space Marines, they got what became the dark Mechanicus, whole chunks of the Imperial Army, and many of the ships and vehicles that came with them. Since then, numerous other individuals have also succumbed to the taint of Chaos. How does Chaos have no "astropaths" on their side, intercepting the messages, who know the same ciphers? I'm assuming it's the Soul-Binding, in a more RP version than the as written mechanic, but I don't know, and with everything else Chaos also has, it's kind of odd that the one thing they didn't pick up was Astropaths, to listen in on the Imperium's messages.

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Well, almost 10 milenia between the Horus Heresy and the present day (and the fact that a non-negligible proportion of assests went traitorous during the Heresy) makes it probable that the ciphers themselves have changed, if not regularly, than at least after or during the Heresy (after all, what is the point of ciphering things if anybody who wants to can decipher them, which, after 10 000 years of using the same one in a galactic empire, could be pretty much any one with any psychic powers). This is without considering the importance of using different ciphers to stop specific individuals from decoding them (such as a rival's inquisitor or an eldar Farseer).

As for more psykers falling to Chaos, the soul-binding and conditionning of trained psykers means that only a very small proportion of lost psykers actually turn to Chaos, and Chaos, due to its own nature, is usually not a centralized enough power to maximize use of it's assets.

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To reiterate my earlier point - astropaths do not just telepathically communicate over vast distances - that's more the realm of Eldar Farseers and Space Marine Librarians, heck even Psychic Inquisitors of great power!


Instead the astropaths of the Imperium are a combination of communication network (their psychic ability being honed to send and recieve messages over incomprehensibly vast stellar distances by piggy backing on eachothers abilities) ciphering system (the messages are sent as images, metaphors and concepts not as literal alpha-numerics) and deciphering systems (complex training regimens allow messages to be deciphered at point of recieving, or passed onto senior astropaths for further deciphering if their ability or security clearance isn't good enough).

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Indeed!  it seems to me that only astropaths at the sector-command level (i.e. the top astropaths in a sector) would have the ability, training, experience, skill, and security clearance to pull off direct, 'verbal' telepathic intragalactic communication (like the librarians, as Kasatka has indicated).  At the common lower levels, (vast) choirs of astropaths transmit, receive, code, and decode the mass of 'lesser' interstellar communications, which are metaphored and coded and cyphered.

And as fer Chaos…..the soul-binding ought to secure the astropaths from generalized corruption….but psyker powers *are* Chaos…..not hard to imagine that a demon of Tzeentch or Slaanesh might be listening to the soul-echoes on the warp-tides and cunningly decoding a vital secret or two…..but, being chaotic, they may not be able to make full use of it……

 

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lurkeroutthere said:

So Navis Primer is finally up for purchase on drivethru, so I started reading it.

"But such communications are far from conventional, transmitting not words, but notions, emotions, and impressions. Even the strongest of astrotelepathic signals is little more than ritual and might very well cost the sender and the recipient their very souls."

Lets set aside for a moment a question on whether or not you could have a galaxy spaning empire without some form of FTL communication. This view is actually completely conflicted by all the examples we see in both the novels and the printed text of the books where you have messages being sent by astropaths that's eventually decoded as plain text.

The Dark Heresy Rulebook also says that astropathic comunication is exremely vague. My question is, does this come from established 40K fluff? I'm not going to go digging through all of my Black Library books, but I could swear that I've read examples of word-for-word astropathic messages in canon sources, like the Gaunt's Ghosts novels…

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I don't believe the claims that the typical Librarian is better at sending/receiving astropathic messages than an Astropath Transcendent. For most Librarians it might be a useful power to develop, but it's not their focus. OTOH, for almost every AT, it's their primary purpose.

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The Navis Primer has rules for intercepting (and changing!) messages, and states that hostile psykers (Farseers, Sorcerers, etc)  are capable of doing so. There's a difficult check to decipher them, but it can be done.

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well that was some of the point of my post without semireliable interstellar communication the empire just couldn't function but for some reasin they are really in love with the concept of astrotelepathy being really mystical when on a macro level in order for things to work it would have to be fairly mundane.

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lurkeroutthere said:

well that was some of the point of my post without semireliable interstellar communication the empire just couldn't function but for some reasin they are really in love with the concept of astrotelepathy being really mystical when on a macro level in order for things to work it would have to be fairly mundane.

It reminds me of the 'classic' period of BattleTech when ComStar ruled the interstellar communications unopposed. They added mysticism to the process despite there being no real need to do so. In the case of Astropaths, there is at least some support that the mysticism and rituals improve the ability to perform the task. Astrotelepathy is going to be widely used, but I don't think anything involving the Warp is supposed to be mundane (much like voidship travel is not mundane). That Astrotlepathy has a high risk of 'dropped calls' and other problems - including operator failure in some cases - says that it's not entirely reliable. Of course, none of the other forces of the galaxy (not even the Eldar) seem to have flawless interstellar communications either.

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lurkeroutthere said:

 

So Navis Primer is finally up for purchase on drivethru, so I started reading it.

"But such communications are far from conventional, transmitting not words, but notions, emotions, and impressions. Even the strongest of astrotelepathic signals is little more than ritual and might very well cost the sender and the recipient their very souls."

Lets set aside for a moment a question on whether or not you could have a galaxy spaning empire without some form of FTL communication. This view is actually completely conflicted by all the examples we see in both the novels and the printed text of the books where you have messages being sent by astropaths that's eventually decoded as plain text.

 

 

Except in those self same novels, while the message is eventually spat out as plain text, it's up to the Astropath to determine the content of the message by interpreting the vision they are sent.

That's something that appears all over the place, though the best backup is in The Outcast Dead, since half the book is about Astropaths.

 

edit: oh, already covered, that'll teach me for not reading the whole thread…

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new post, cause the forum's edit feature sucks

 

Zoombie said:

Well, you'd never use astropaths to communicate with anyone you can contact via the vox.

There's still a light-speed lag within a solar system. For example, it takes 6 whole minutes for the light of our sun to reach our planet. So ships trying to communicate via laser link (setting aside how you'd even aim it right), or vox would still suffer from a communications lag unless they were within relatively close proximity to one another.

Astropathic communications, while marginally dangerous, are an altogether better option if you want to run real-time communications.

 

HappyDaze said:

I don't believe the claims that the typical Librarian is better at sending/receiving astropathic messages than an Astropath Transcendent. For most Librarians it might be a useful power to develop, but it's not their focus. OTOH, for almost every AT, it's their primary purpose.

It's more because Librarians are chosen as much for their raw power as they are for their worthiness of becoming a Space Marine. The Astartes and the Inquisition pretty much seem to get the first pick off the Black Ships, with everyone else getting to sort through those deemed unsuitable for whatever reasons. And no, this doesn't necessarily contradict anything written in the fluff. The psykers getting herded off to be fed to the Emperor or Astronomicon get the shaft because they're too weak to be safe, or of any other use. But in general, one can assume that the very cream of the crop, best and brightest, come to the scrutiny of those two groups before anyone else.

 

lurkeroutthere said:

well that was some of the point of my post without semireliable interstellar communication the empire just couldn't function but for some reasin they are really in love with the concept of astrotelepathy being really mystical when on a macro level in order for things to work it would have to be fairly mundane.

Really? I'm sorry but is there anything simple about the real world global telecommunications network? Hundreds, maybe even thousands of sattelites all linking the phones, internet, gps, and other marvels together in to one huge system. Yeah, so simple there.

Just because of the mystical trapping of Astrotelepathic communications, the need to interpret the visions that other Astropaths are, sending, etc.. Well for one it's a warp-based system, and anything involving the Warp is going to be wonky no matter what. It only has to be mundane for the people who are reading the end result, which has to be decoded from the Astrotelepathic message. What is so overwhelmingly complex about this concept that it causes the feasability of a galaxy wide empire to crumble? The Astropaths are all working from the same cipher, they have relay points, so a message does not lose the strength of its signal, travelling accross the galaxy. Your disbelief, because you didn't do a very good job of explaining it, seems to come down to "visions are silly".

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