Communication babble

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This is meant to be more of a comment about communication considerations for personnel than the description currently available on the Ship Communication page, but some of the basic information is similar. Canny referees will probably see how many concepts cross-pollinate well... and others do not. Be careful to avoid making communication too complex, though, or else it can bog down game play with frivolities.

Let's start simple.

Verbal Communication

This is the mode in which most role-playing characters interact as a default... or, at least, they used to. For ease of visualization, though, it's usually conducive to imagine all the beings in a bar chattering to each other using some version of mouth parts or speakers and ears or microphones. During the reign of the Confederation, a phoneme-based language known as "Common" proliferated through the known galaxies, and is still considered the standard for communication and trade. However, the heady days of Confederation dominance were also a time when primarily humanoid species were most populous, along with mostly-similar capacities for verbalization. This is becoming less so, and along with it many beings are instead resorting to communication devices that don't necessarily require the ability to produce and hear human-like sounds. Verbal communication isn't gone, not by a long shot, but most bars tend to be buzzing with other forms of communication too.

Some Non-Verbal Communication

Virtually all beings in AIF will intrinsically have communication devices inside them for autoneural access. In mechanical beings this was obviously always so, but the same degree of functionality exists for modern biological beings in AIF as well thanks to the ubiquitous nanoscopic robots. They are easily programmed to create these common communication devices inside the physical structure of a biological being. So successful and widespread are the nanoscopic robot devices that even the maintenance nanoscopic robots of mechanical beings have come to emulate the same function. These communication devices can interface directly with the neural connection used by the nanoscopic robots, allowing any being to transfer voice, data and text simply by willing it.

As with old-fashioned communicators, these internal communicators can function via broadband electromagnetic, tightbeam electromagnetic, and etheric modes. Typically the functional range is 1 kilometre under normal conditions, except the tightbeam mode which is limited only by line of sight. It is possible to disable another being's internal communicator by either a biological or mechanical tamper of seven (7), and this is almost always performed under duress. A conscious being with functional nanoscopic robots can usually grow an internal communicator in about an hour.

When communicating via a large network, it is sometimes possible to obscure the routing of the message or data you are sending for the purposes of avoiding being located... if you are a mathematician. Likewise, it requires mathematician skills to actually accomplish the tracking of a message through a network, and the effort must exceed obscuring efforts.

Broadband Electromagnetic

General EM communication has been around for longer than most civilizations, and is pretty much ubiquitous throughout populated space. It allows for immense bandwidth, and so is very popularly used for everyday communication and data surfing. Because general EM is non-directional, anybody else nearby with a stage of mathematician may be able to decode the leakage. Also, general EM away from a noisily chattering population can act like a beacon, and may not be suitably stealthy for some purposes. The range of a broadband electromagnetic conversation is limited by the shortest range of the equipment participating.

Jamming broadband EM is easy; almost too easy. It can be accomplished most readily with another EM communicator of equal or greater power, however tinfoil works too. So does bad weather, and sometimes pets with abnormal amounts of static cling.

Tightbeam Electromagnetic

This form of communication is specifically designed to keep a conversation private. The radiation used for the communication is narrowly directional and usually of a wavelength that is readily absorbed instead of scattered, meaning that for most settings only the sender and receiver will be directly privy to the content of the transmission. The most obvious limitation of this mode is that both ends of the conversation must be in direct line of sight. Additionally, it can be difficult to maintain connection if either node is moving. The direction of the transmission is completely obvious to the receiver.

The only way to jam a tightbeam transmission is to block the line of sight.

Direct Contact Communication

The ultimate in secure communication is accomplished by having two entities establish physical contact, allowing their nanoscopic robots to create a closed communication link. The bandwidth is huge, eavesdropping can only really be done by mentalists with read thought, and jamming is impossible.

There is a bit of a range problem, though.

Etheric

The primary value of etheric communication is that it is instantaneous over any distance. However, since the internal communicators commonly used by most personnel only have about a 1 kilometre range of useable clarity ethereally, this isn't really a big deal. Etheric communication is non-directional, but the source of etheric output is generally quite obvious. Thus, it is generally considered the least tactically secure mode. The range of an etheric conversation is limited by the longest range of the equipment participating, allowing even a dinky personnel communicator to maintain contact with an interstellar vessel a parsec away.

Etheric communication can be jammed by etheric communication or sensor equipment of equal or greater range.

Discourse

It behooves us to mention discourse in a somewhat less-official manner. In the combat rules, a being can spend up to 2 dice on discourse to inflict willpower and persuasion on others. Typically, however, we also consider the dice spent to be a measure of clarity, even when no willpower is really being used - such as when communicating to compatriots. Now, this is primarily only done with Non-Player Characters, because players are generally given the luxury of chatting at length with each other about their coordination. We usually say that spending a full 2 dice on "clarity" means that a being can express pretty much whatever they want, within reason. Spending 1 die on clarity is usually sufficient for expressing a complete thought during their turn, while spending no dice on clarity means that a being can't say much more than a single line of a blues riff... "Da-daa da-dum."

More Non-Verbal Communication

The most common and possibly most useful means of stealthy communication is gestures. Combatants with any significant training or experience will typically be familiar with a large repertoire of common tactical signs, and groups that have been together for any length of time often develop their own uniquely-coded gestures.