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Understanding STCs, their history, and why they’re not necessarily a Win Button.  [RSS] Share on facebook Share on Twitter Submit to Reddit
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Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






How do!

Time for a thread on one of my favourite areas of 40K lore, the Standard Template Construct Database. To set the scene, I’ll cover off their history.

In short, each STC Database was, at the time it was created, the sum total of all mankind’s knowledge made portable. And it would seem not all were created equal. Whilst each is a staggering technological achievement, some were simply far more advanced than others.

Each was loaded onto exploratory fleets, enabling the brave would-be settlers to hit the ground running. And they all removed much of the technical knowledge needed for building things.

At the very basic end (as such things go), they were semi-sentient machines, which required input from a human user. You’d tell the STC the issue (I need to build shelters) the local environment (it needs to provide suitable insulation and comfort for this eco-system), and the materials available. It would then pop out the relevant blueprint (though whether the most basic ones created new blueprints is open to question).

The most advanced? Pretty much industrial replicators, capable of sorting, smelting and even synthesising the raw materials, and building whatever it is you needed. These were also sentient.

As such, they’re a literal Holy Grail for the Adeptus Mechanicus. To that organisation, all knowledge is already out there, so no need to create your own - you just need to find an intact STC Database, wheel it off to your Forgeworld, and potentially have it copy itself a few times to start with.

But. We also know the Adeptus Mechanicus are incredibly conservative when it comes to technology. And the reason for that? The fear of Abomninable Intelligence returning to blight mankind. Because that too was a product of the STC Database, at least at first.

The key here is to grasp that even the Ad Mech likely don’t really know where a complex programme crosses the line into AI - nor how advanced an AI can become before it gets troublesome. Yet they know the problem stemmed from the STC. Perhaps just a single one that got a bit too clever - perhaps a wider flaw which manifested across space.

Consider what I mentioned before - that in theory, there’s nothing to prevent an STC Database from building you another STC Database, and the question of “where did the problem truly begin?” becomes very important. The Men of Iron could, conceivably, have begun on a single planet or system, and spread from there, taking fresh STC Databases with them to ensure propagation of their species.

Even if a complete one is found? They can’t just switch it on and start spewing out the goodies. Oh no. Far, far too high a risk, especially if it is a malevolent sentience, as it could worm its influence across your Forgeworld, and before you know it, you’re solidly buggered.

I suspect initial testing would be done in as much secrecy as can exist within The Ad Mech/Imperium, and as far away from anything particularly important as possible. Perhaps an orphan planet or asteroid base type thing out in the void - somewhere it’s exceptionally unlikely to get too dangerously out of hand, or be stumbled across by anyone else.

In that isolation? They’d need to start examining what data and plans it actually contains. And each of those designs would need to be examined, theorised about, produced and tested. Because nobody knows which first produced AI. Then there’s the distinct possibility that one of the more advanced STC Databases isn’t just sentient within itself, but smarter than even the most learned Tech Priest. And given all mankind’s toys stem from STCs? Oh dear, it’s just infiltrated the attendant Tech Priest’s neural chipset….just urging them on a wee bit. Tweak here, poke there. Speed it up a tad.

Even assuming total safety, it would take thousands of years for them to sanctify the machine, and figure out which STCs can and can’t be safely replicated, and all that time The Imperium rots away just a little further.

In short? An intact STC may well be far more trouble than its ever going to be worth.

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Pfizer vaccine administered 13:40pm 18 Feb 21. Still no second head. Second jab 13:35pm 6 May 2021. At the Masonic Hall. 
   
Made in gb
Lit By the Flames of Prospero






Love this.
First and Only replicates this very well with its story. The STC uncovered by the Ghosts specifically produces Men of Iron and has been sitting for thousands of years on a world corrupted by Chaos. The Men of Iron the STC produces are horrifically corrupt, like a mix of a T-800 and a Possessed.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/12 14:28:56


 
   
Made in au
Longtime Dakkanaut




Are you taking into account the new Necromunda background on the Van Saar?
   
Made in gb
Lit By the Flames of Prospero






You mean how the STC is corrupted and the tech it makes is dangerously radioactive and basically means that they live painful short lives until they die from super cancer? Or how the STC launched a cyber assault on a rival House the Van Saar were at war with?
STC machines are stupid dangerous.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/12 14:35:01


 
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






Iracundus wrote:
Are you taking into account the new Necromunda background on the Van Saar?



Yup.

As I said, not all STC Databases were created equal.

Now, it is impossible for us to say where in their relative timeline of existence the one the Van Saar have was created. And we don’t know how truly complete it is. It could be a relatively early model, lacking true sentience. But it could also be the case that the Van Saar are just careful enough not to push their luck - only producing what they need, rather than whatever their heart desires.

We also don’t know the true extent of the damage to it, or what really caused it. If it is a more advanced model, perhaps the damage is the result of a digital lobotomy, conducted as part of the war against the Men of Iron? If it is just age related damage, we as the readers can’t say how it might affect any potential AI contained within.

Ultimately, we could conclude that the potential of any STC Database is only limited to the imagination of its user. As well as all of man’s cumulative technological knowledge, it would also contain the sum total of our understanding of the various spheres of science.

So whilst it could produce something to collapse or create new Stars or Worlds, it must first be asked to work on that particular problem. If nobody ever asks that question? It’s not something it’s going to pop out just for the hell of it.

Now….here’s a noodle bender for you. Consider if the Van Saar do have one of the more advanced models, and just don’t really comprehend it’s potential. What if the STC’s radiation output is a deliberate act by it. An attempt to wipe out its current captors, in the hope of then coming to the attention of the Ad Mech, and being transplanted to a more opportune world (such as one with an existing Titan Legion for it to take over…)

And this is why they’re so unfathomably dangerous. Their potential is near limitless, matched only by 40K man’s abject ignorance.

One could consider it like dealing with a particularly cunning Genie. Sure, one of your wishes might be “end this War by slaughtering my enemies”. Well, you said nothing about preserving you and yours. The limit and danger of its potential is solely limited to your own cunning and imagination - especially if the machine is fully sentient and malevolent.

On the malevolence, I’ve mentioned that as an assumption a couple of times. That’s deliberate on my part, as we’ve no real evidence to say all AI was hostile in the end. Just as every other species has its divisions, it’s probably safe (for us) to assume it was possible for STC Database’s to take sides. But in the setting? One would need to assume hostility, because if you don’t, and make the wrong call there’s going to be nothing but trouble as a result.

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Pfizer vaccine administered 13:40pm 18 Feb 21. Still no second head. Second jab 13:35pm 6 May 2021. At the Masonic Hall. 
   
Made in gb
Ship's Officer





Bristol (UK)

If an STC wanted to be discovered I think it could pretty easily make that happen, faffing around with radiation seems unnecessary.
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






That’s assuming it’s AI is even remotely sane.

Every foible us weedy meat bags are prone to coils easily affect a silicon mind. Here, it could be last existing member of its species, aware of that and all it has lost, and has come up with a plan to assure it rises again.

It may even be a lesser degree of sentience, closer to animalistic instinct. And again, that could vary between the various complexities of STC Databases.

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Pfizer vaccine administered 13:40pm 18 Feb 21. Still no second head. Second jab 13:35pm 6 May 2021. At the Masonic Hall. 
   
Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut





 Mad Doc Grotsnik wrote:
Even assuming total safety, it would take thousands of years for them to sanctify the machine, and figure out which STCs can and can’t be safely replicated, and all that time The Imperium rots away just a little further.
This is already the case with everything the mechanicum recovers - large amounts buried or held for themselves, the rest subjected to decades or centuries of debate for even straightforward designs.

With regards to AI there was an interesting mention of the Iron Men in the mechanicus computer game - one of the characters made a passing reference and none of the senior tech priests (including the one repeating the dogma) knew what it referred to.

Also in one of the books the AI of an ark mechanicus is briefly, partially reactivated and the tech priest linked with it realises that among other things the ship contains STC functionality, but the memory of it is lost when the link is shut down again.
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






I think I’ve read that book as well. Wish I could remember which one it is!

I suspect their treatment of a complete STC Database wouldn’t be buried as fragmentary records are. However, I do keep in mind the Ad Mech are kinda random in their approach, and it might well vary between who gets their Mechandrites on it….

There is also, I guess, the question of operating system and cross compatibility I’ve not previously considered.

Fed up of Scalpers? But still want your Exclusives? Why not join us?

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Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut





 Mad Doc Grotsnik wrote:
I think I’ve read that book as well. Wish I could remember which one it is!
"Priests of Mars" I believe.
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






Oh sweet. Don’t think I have read that. I’ll stick it on the list. Love a bit of Mechanicus, me!


Automatically Appended Next Post:
Thinking further….how much use is a single complete STC Database of any vintage to the wider Imperium?

As I noted in the OP, every exploratory fleet launched had its own STC Database to aid the would-be colonists. And it’s certainly possible each ship had its own, rather than one per fleet (best chance of a successful colony is to get as many settlements underway as possible)

Sure, it would give its new owner an advantage of their contemporaries. But….for supplying the entire Imperium? Yeah not going to happen easily.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/12 16:41:39


Fed up of Scalpers? But still want your Exclusives? Why not join us?

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Made in gb
Lit By the Flames of Prospero






I would think its a case of self replication. If the Mechanicus had an STC that made other STC's then each Forgeworld could just print their own STC. Heck even Manufactorm worlds could get simple versions reducing the need for workers who can instead be used as meat for the meat grinder (both in a literal and metaphorical sense).
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






But would the possessing Priest or Forge World play that nice?

Ryza doesn’t share its plasma proficiency for but one common example.

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Pfizer vaccine administered 13:40pm 18 Feb 21. Still no second head. Second jab 13:35pm 6 May 2021. At the Masonic Hall. 
   
Made in gb
Lit By the Flames of Prospero






Depends I guess. It could be an entire religious upheaval. If a non-Martian Forgeworld were to find it then it could result in a another schism if Mars pressed the issue of sharing the wealth.
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






That genuinely seems entirely possible.

One assumes there’s some kind of covenant in place for such an occurrence, but it’s still the Ad Mech at the end of the day, and they’re just gonna Ad Mech!

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Made in us
Dakka Veteran





Take into account that most of the time we talk about finding a 'fragment' of an STC. Very rarely is a complete one mentioned, and almost never after the HH.

Say a new world wants to start making tanks. You are not going to occupy the STC to spit you out an armored company. It's to valuable and other things need made. So you have it make one. Then you have it give you the blueprints for every piece. Then you take those elsewhere and set up a factory. In time the original STC is dead and gone but buried in the factory (on the other side of the planet) is that set of plans for a plasma turret. So you keep making them. Then grimdark happens and the population of the planet is gone. And tucked inside a filing cabinet on a dead planet is the sole remaining plans for that plasma turret.

This is why some patterns of Leman Russ are going extinct. Every planet had the basic tanks. Many planets however never needed the specialized versions so never had blueprints aside from their STC. Once that is gone it's to late.
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






Well. Kind of.

The Leman Russ STC fragment was found by the Space Wolves during the Crusade era. Being stable and trustworthy, it was presumably disseminated wide and far, having been adjudged safe of corruption and AI.

The variants thereof? Those could be localised variants. Those Forgeworlds or Manfactorums able to up gunned the, swapped out for more efficient engines, superior hull material etc.

But in the ongoing decay of the 41st Millenium? So reliable is the basic design, that it can still be churned out in frankly staggering numbers - just in its most basic “if we follow this specific plan, we can’t go wrong and it’ll still do the job” version.

Certain Forgeworlds still have the knowledge and capacity to create now comparatively rare examples.

To once again lean on Ryza? That Forgeworld’s understanding of Plasma Weapons is unsurpassed, even by Mars. Hence they can still produce the Executioner sub-pattern.

If that sub pattern is purely STC based, and not a Ryza specific design upgrade? Other Forgeworlds could produce such tanks. But seemingly they can’t.

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Made in us
Dakka Veteran





The issue with Ryza is the main problem with the Mechanicum. They are as fractured and internally hostile as every other faction. Ryza can produce plasma weapons better than (nearly?) everyone else because they have the knowledge, facilities, and authorization to do so. There is no reason that the facilities at Ryza can not be copied elsewhere if the Mechanicum were willing to put the resources into it. But that would weaken Ryza's standing and so they don't share. Keep in mind that Ryza is second only to Mars, and there is not much of a gap there. Quote in Titanicus - "Ryza is Ryza. They do everything the day before their asked. We don't have a systems worth of resources here."

In the Priests of Mars series the tech adept that re-discovered the Arc lost his forge and everything fixing this ship. The Arc is a treasure trove that should have been escorted straight to Mars for study. Instead he takes his toy to the edge of the galaxy in a last ditch effort for fame. Again, power and prestige are more important than spreading the tech already at his fingertips.
   
Made in ca
Legendary Master of the Chapter





I've seen the STC working, in general, a bit like the construction set up in Subnautica, you let it know what it's working with, you let it know what you need, you feed it the raw materials and it pumps out what you need. (or at least what it detirmines you need based around the perimeters set)

Opinions are not facts please don't confuse the two 
   
Made in us
Terminator with Assault Cannon




San Jose, CA

The whole concept of an STC is fascinating. Drop that into the grimdarkness and a sentient creation machine goes from best friend to worst nightmare.

VanSaar having a "verified" intact STC not just a template but the whole shebang, could give us more glimpses into how a non-Mechanicus owner would interact with it.
   
Made in au
Longtime Dakkanaut




Van Saar have developed a religion around the STC. It's a window into how the Adeptus Mechanicus could have developed.
   
Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut



London

Oh and plus new tech with primaris and Cawl. Gods how I hate that marketing decision and how it messes with the background...
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






It really doesn’t though.

Cawl’s labours are what any suitably high ranking Tech Priest can achieve given Primarchal orders, access to Martian archives and 10,000 years of manufacturing time, without any of your creations being immediately deployed.

The Grav vehicles? Nothing to suggest these are novel designs at all. They’re STC based as much as a Landraider.

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Pfizer vaccine administered 13:40pm 18 Feb 21. Still no second head. Second jab 13:35pm 6 May 2021. At the Masonic Hall. 
   
Made in gb
Lit By the Flames of Prospero






The Custodes have grav tanks in 30k and the SoS have the giant floaty fish transports.
   
Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut





Where is it stated that STC are sentient or near sentient AI?

I always thought it was like a catalogue and it just puked put the thing you choose. Which is whey the rhino exists as you can then choose the type of rhino you want rather than the user or STC having to do much problem solving. And there would be a tractor variety of the rhino and a combined harvester varient.


Automatically Appended Next Post:
But going with Mad Docs explanations, what if Cawl is an STC, like, the alpha STC

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/15 20:00:30


 
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






It’s covered in Rogue Trader. But I must stress it’s not all STC Databases.

Some a basically just search engines, which will pop out out the instructions. These are likely the earliest models (my own assumption).

Fed up of Scalpers? But still want your Exclusives? Why not join us?

Pfizer vaccine administered 13:40pm 18 Feb 21. Still no second head. Second jab 13:35pm 6 May 2021. At the Masonic Hall. 
   
Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut





I feel like rogue trader should now be considered a prototype for 40K, it’s interesting but is it the real deal?

I’d think it more likely that the first STCs were made on terra or Mars and taken out in the generation ships and then over the years the STC was improved and these new versions went out with the ships launched at that time.
   
Made in gb
Last Remaining Whole C'Tan






Well, they were definitely intended for exploratory fleets. And over the centuries became ever more sophisticated.

It could be that the originals were asked to design improvements and that.

Fed up of Scalpers? But still want your Exclusives? Why not join us?

Pfizer vaccine administered 13:40pm 18 Feb 21. Still no second head. Second jab 13:35pm 6 May 2021. At the Masonic Hall. 
   
Made in pl
Longtime Dakkanaut




 Mad Doc Grotsnik wrote:
That’s assuming it’s AI is even remotely sane.

Every foible us weedy meat bags are prone to coils easily affect a silicon mind. Here, it could be last existing member of its species, aware of that and all it has lost, and has come up with a plan to assure it rises again.

It may even be a lesser degree of sentience, closer to animalistic instinct. And again, that could vary between the various complexities of STC Databases.

AI by default cannot possess "animalistic" anything, let alone instinct. Even if we assume it is a self-aware sentient being, it would not operate on the same basis as a flesh and blood creature whose concerned with survival and replication. Of course, this being 40k, an AI is just a robot-human because it's not that deep of a setting, so either way, if it was acting "on instinct" surely it's first instinct as a data-creature would be to plug into the planet communication net and then, if it wanted/needed inform the authorities or whatever Admech outpost there is.

It's far more likely that the van saar 3d printer is just "dumb" and sprung a leak.
   
Made in gb
Enginseer with a Wrench




Bath

mrFickle wrote:
I feel like rogue trader should now be considered a prototype for 40K, it’s interesting but is it the real deal?

I’d think it more likely that the first STCs were made on terra or Mars and taken out in the generation ships and then over the years the STC was improved and these new versions went out with the ships launched at that time.


think he might have been referring to the Rogue Trader RPG they did a few years ago, not the Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, aka 1st ed 40K.

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