Apocrisiarius Kyton and the nature of Truth


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Had a weird realization about the Apocrisiarius Kyton ("Turn of the Torrent") - as a consequence of their inability to speak something untrue, they can indirectly answer any question in the universe. Given a dedicated logician (or organization thereof), they can find out all kinds of things - the nature of the Dark Tapestry, Aroden's cause of death, the geography of Sarusan, James Jacob's address, and so on.

There is, of course, the "out" of the creature possibly deciding not to answer a question, but there are still two ways around that - if the creature itself is dedicated to finding the answer to the impossible questions, or if someone summoning such has enchanted it in such a way as to compel it to help find the answer.

Scarab Sages

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PC: How did Aroden die?
Kyton: I don't know.
PC: Tell me! You can't lie.
Kyton: You are correct. I cannot lie. I don't know.
PC: !@#$


Then you just use your questions to figure out what is false, slowly narrowing your focus until you know that the Kyton (and by extension the Universe) doesn't know whether he died of X or Y


If they know the answer sure. However, from what I've read, they don't just naturally know every single piece of information in the universe. So, "I don't know" is pretty much all you're ever going to find out.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
The Guy With A Face wrote:
If they know the answer sure. However, from what I've read, they don't just naturally know every single piece of information in the universe. So, "I don't know" is pretty much all you're ever going to find out.

They don't know it previously, but they're also unable to speak something untrue. Hence their use in Nidalese diplomacy: Mortal messengers can say things that are not true (even if they don't know it), but this species of Kyton can not.

So you play a game of 20 zillion questions with them, and give them divisive statements to speak, and if they can't say it, they (and you) know it to be false.

Note that this process depends on the concept of fixed and linear time; if history is allowed to change, then the Kyton's answers could change.


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Zachary,

You are getting caught up in equating Truth with Factual. They are not the same thing.

Here is an example:

The Facts:
Rogash killed Prince Popinjay, Sally the servant witnessed the event, Our Kyton witnessed the Interrogations, with Sally telling what she saw and Rogash denying it.

All the Kyton could testify truthfully to was what the witnesses said.
If asked if Rogash killed Prince Popinjay his answer would have to be, "I don't know."

If it is your position that these Kytons have unlimited access to an omniscient information source, why is it that they have not already conquered the Multiverse?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Others use these kytons as lie detectors, by either simply capitalizing on their truth auras when interrogating nearby subjects, or asking an allied apocrisiarius to repeat a phrase. If that phrase contains a lie, the kyton cannot repeat it.

Emphasis mine. While a Kyton is certainly free to answer "I don't know", or could simply refuse to speak outright, their own knowledge or lack thereof is irrelevant. If the statement is true they can repeat it, if the statement is false they are physically incapable of doing so. So yes, as written, a cooperative Apocrisiarius Kyton can be used to determine whether anything is true or false. It doesn't matter whether it's a written message from another lord or a carefully crafted series of statements you yourself wrote to uncover secrets that only gods should know. It just works.

Needless to say, the very existence of a monster like this has huge implications for your campaign world, and I personally would not allow such a creature to exist in its RAW state. A good alternative to avoid these problems would be to define lies as a statement with intent to deceive rather than a statement that is incorrect, but that's not how it's written.


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Now the real fun is how they can manipulate you while telling the truth.


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Thanks for the quote, it answered everything.

The Kyton cannot repeat a LIE, a deliberate falsehood. The Kyton has no access to any Greater Truth, he just knows that the speaker believed differently than what he said. It would have no way of even determining whether the speaker actually believed something that wasn't right.

What you have here is a very good lie detector, not a path to the ultimate truth.
If the Nidalese believe differently, we now totally own them, mwahahaha.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Dasrak, thanks for finding that link! I wasn't fond of the idea of having to type everything out or waiting until I got home with the book in my hands every time I wanted to talk about it.

Daw wrote:

Thanks for the quote, it answered everything.

The Kyton cannot repeat a LIE, a deliberate falsehood. The Kyton has no access to any Greater Truth, he just knows that the speaker believed differently than what he said. It would have no way of even determining whether the speaker actually believed something that wasn't right.

What you have here is a very good lie detector, not a path to the ultimate truth.
If the Nidalese believe differently, we now totally own them, mwahahaha.

Looking at the description, they also have the following "ability":

Quote:
Truthspeaker (Ex) An apocrisiarius kyton is incapable of lying; it can withhold the truth by refusing to answer a question, but can’t utter or telepathically communicate a falsehood. Any attempts to do so (including attempts to obey commands to do so while the kyton is mind controlled) simply fail, as if the kyton had chosen not to communicate.

It is obviously incapable of lying, right there in black-and-white (thanks, Nethys!), but the second part of that first sentence reads rather curiously - it doesn't say a deliberate falsehood, just any kind of falsehood. One of the interpretations of falsehood is anything untrue, regardless of intention.

Reading further, into "Habitat and society", we also see that "these kytons have no additional insights as to why such phrases are lies", and "The Chelish government accepts whatever the kyton says as truth, knowing that it can’t utter falsehoods even if the Nidalese diplomat somehow tricked the kyton."

I've asked in the [u]Turn of the Torrent[/u] product description what the intention was, but as written it's leaning toward universal truth, since you're not supposed to be able to trick them. (Or at least the Chelish think so.)
Interesting idea, having seriously creepy oracles filled with knives, too. "The Fifth Runelord will rise after the Swallowtail Festival." "It's going to rain tomorrow." "Tonight's lotto numbers are..."

As an aside, I also like how they are written as being able to manipulate politics by choosing not to speak, although diplomats who are aware of this potential for duplicity could immediately after a missing answer ask them a question in the vein of, "If you chose to do so, would you be able to say the sentence, 'Five battalions will march to the Western border?'" (or whatever the skipped sentence was).


I will take your word as their intent.

I don't have to agree to allow something so imminently and infinitely exploitable in my games, or to take it seriously in any case. Is it even fun? If it is to you, why? I really don't understand.


The real trick is getting the Kyton to answer at all; I feel it would quickly clam up, or perhaps even be obliterated by an outside force that does not wish the truth of the matter to come out.


Deadbeat Doom wrote:
The real trick is getting the Kyton to answer at all; I feel it would quickly clam up, or perhaps even be obliterated by an outside force that does not wish the truth of the matter to come out.

According to the description starving them of hidden truths can compel them to talk.


I assume the Kyton's ability is limited to what is actually knowable. They can't for instance predict the weather or when the king is going to die, otherwise there is no free-will and all the players have to hand over their character sheets to the GM.


If you want to prevent these Kytons from talking make them say the following words: "the last digit of the number Pi is". Then enjoy the silence.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Presuming you have the magic to bind the Kyton in the first place, you have sufficient magic to make it cooperative. If the cosmic forces of the multiverse take offense to 'abusing' this Kyton's abilities... well, I think that's a good indication these things shouldn't exist in your campaign world if you're going down that road.


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Good luck using a CR 7 creature to find out James Jacobs address.

I hope you buy in bulk because they aren't coming back alive.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Full disclosure, I'm not planning on exploiting it myself. I'm a GM, running through the adventure paths, and we're still back in Crimson Throne, so it'll be years before any are encountered on the given track, and I expect the heroes will dutifully eliminate it before anyone even asks what its name is. As it is, I don't expect this type of situation to come up; and having seen the possibility of such, we can recognize if players start poking their noses around that direction.

I'm also just interested in the ramifications of "The Nature of Truth", and how it interacts with the fact that James has said there will be some unanswered questions in the universe. As for why they haven't conquered the universe, it seems like they're not that interested in conquest so much as secrets.

Options:
- Subtle influence: Every time you trap one, some tiny thing goes wrong that lets it escape after a few weeks; and your questioning makes such incremental dents in the wall of unknown knowledge that it's still effectively impossible.
- Inevitables popping up.
- Kyton heads exploding.
- My favorite, maybe it only works when repeating a Truth known by someone they're "interrogating" or touching. So they still couldn't play 20 questions about the imponderables unless they're touching someone who knows the Truth about such.

Deadbeat Doom: Part of the idea is either they want to find something out, or are magically compelled to do so.

Boomerang Nebula: Assuming the "can tell infinite truths" option, the first statement would be "π has a finite number of digits." If they can't say that, then they similarly couldn't say, "The last digit of π...", because it contains a false premise.

Pharasma, Lady of Graves: You gave me a fantastic mental image of a dinosaur driving a mecha-dinosaur tearing strappy Kytons into chewy bits. Comes with its own skewer!


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Further plot fuel:

There is an organization dedicated to uncovering all the answers, but Pharasmins tell the heroes that if they aren't stopped, The Dark Tapestry leaks through.

Two Apocrisiarii disagree. (Related to Age of Lost Omens?)

Something similar to Genie Wishwarping happens when used too often, so one warlord has been using an Apocrisiarius Oracle to great success, but reality is rewriting itself in the process.

The physics canard of it being impossible to know both the energy of location of a particle is in play. The closer our devil-binding sage comes to finding out the truth, the less "the truth" makes sense.


Zachary W Anderson wrote:


Boomerang Nebula: Assuming the "can tell infinite truths" option, the first statement would be "π has a finite number of digits." If they can't say that, then they similarly couldn't say, "The last digit of π...", because it contains a false premise.

It is possible to finish the sentence in a truthful way, the solution isn't obvious and it isn't obvious there is a solution. I expect the Kyton will eventually figure it out, in the meantime you can enjoy the silence.


Zachary W Anderson wrote:

Further plot fuel:

There is an organization dedicated to uncovering all the answers, but Pharasmins tell the heroes that if they aren't stopped, The Dark Tapestry leaks through.

Two Apocrisiarii disagree. (Related to Age of Lost Omens?)

Something similar to Genie Wishwarping happens when used too often, so one warlord has been using an Apocrisiarius Oracle to great success, but reality is rewriting itself in the process.

The physics canard of it being impossible to know both the energy of location of a particle is in play. The closer our devil-binding sage comes to finding out the truth, the less "the truth" makes sense.

I like the "physics canard" idea where you link truth to understanding in a similar way to the uncertainty principle.

Perhaps another way of looking at this concept is: questioning an Apocrisiarius Kyton is a frustrating exercise. In order for a statement to be definitively true or false it would have to be so specific that the information content is reduced to its base unit (that is the bit). You need a huge number of bits before you can glean any useful information. No shortcuts are possible as any vague questions cannot be answered, it may take literally thousands of questions before you can uncover one useful piece of information.


Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Zachary W Anderson wrote:


Boomerang Nebula: Assuming the "can tell infinite truths" option, the first statement would be "π has a finite number of digits." If they can't say that, then they similarly couldn't say, "The last digit of π...", because it contains a false premise.

It is possible to finish the sentence in a truthful way, the solution isn't obvious and it isn't obvious there is a solution. I expect the Kyton will eventually figure it out, in the meantime you can enjoy the silence.

We can prove Pi has infinitely many digits when written out in a decimal system. It is not possible to finish that sentence in a truthful way.


Klara Meison wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Zachary W Anderson wrote:


Boomerang Nebula: Assuming the "can tell infinite truths" option, the first statement would be "π has a finite number of digits." If they can't say that, then they similarly couldn't say, "The last digit of π...", because it contains a false premise.

It is possible to finish the sentence in a truthful way, the solution isn't obvious and it isn't obvious there is a solution. I expect the Kyton will eventually figure it out, in the meantime you can enjoy the silence.
We can prove Pi has infinitely many digits when written out in a decimal system. It is not possible to finish that sentence in a truthful way.

"The last digit of π is...not something I know how to express?"


Snowblind wrote:
Klara Meison wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Zachary W Anderson wrote:


Boomerang Nebula: Assuming the "can tell infinite truths" option, the first statement would be "π has a finite number of digits." If they can't say that, then they similarly couldn't say, "The last digit of π...", because it contains a false premise.

It is possible to finish the sentence in a truthful way, the solution isn't obvious and it isn't obvious there is a solution. I expect the Kyton will eventually figure it out, in the meantime you can enjoy the silence.
We can prove Pi has infinitely many digits when written out in a decimal system. It is not possible to finish that sentence in a truthful way.
"The last digit of π is...not something I know how to express?"

This isn't about knowledge, or being able to express yourself. There literally is no such thing as "the last digit of Pi", in any way, shape or form, because Pi is infinitely long when written out with digits.


Okay so basically this whole thing comes down to one word (or lack of one word depending on your view).

Quote:
Truthspeaker (Ex) An apocrisiarius kyton is incapable of lying; it can withhold the truth by refusing to answer a question, but can’t utter or telepathically communicate a falsehood. Any attempts to do so (including attempts to obey commands to do so while the kyton is mind controlled) simply fail, as if the kyton had chosen not to communicate.

Its been stated that because it doesn't read deliberate falsehood then the kyton can answer everything about the universe even without knowing the answer given the right conditions. Problem is, words can have multiple meanings.

A lie can be defined as a false statement made deliberately to deceive someone.

A falsehood can be defined as just a false statement. However a falsehood can also be defined as a a false statement made deliberately to deceive someone.

In other words, the two can be synonymous. It all comes down to what definition the author meant when he wrote that line. We'll probably never know.

I personally would side with the idea that they can't speak or repeat a lie (a deliberate falsehood). I, for one, doubt that these creatures were intended to be the secret to knowing anything and everything about the future and universe as a whole.

I also don't like it for a reason that people will probably call me stupid for. I don't like the ramifications it has on the concept of free will in the Pathfinder setting. If I'm wrong about this, correct me.

Lets say you manage to phrase a statement well enough that you can gain the knowledge of a future event (including exactly when, how, and why it will occur). You could spend the rest of eternity trying to stop that event from happening, but nothing you do will matter because the kyton repeated back what you said. In other words, its true that the event will happen. Determinism and free will cannot coexist and if you go with the idea that this type of kyton is an endless font of knowledge then everything is already determined.

In the Pathfinder setting two deities (technically more than two actually), Ihys and Asmodeus, had a falling out over Ihys' decision to give free will to the mortal races. From this, we know that free will exists in the Pathfinder setting. I think that the interpretation I favor would have to be followed if you want to stay true to the Pathfinder setting.


The kyton can read a forged paper out loud and not be able to say the contents. Meaning that it can be a falsehood by anyone anywhere and their ability applies. Unless somehow paper has some sort of mystical quality that makes it okay? At best this means you can ask a kyton to repeat things about any mystery to narrow things down. They obviously were not intended to be able to know the universes every question. But it's how it plays out how it is written.

Edit: I think the disconnect is people assuming you go to a kyton and say "Who killed x?" Then they say "I don't know." No, what you do is "Repeat after me. X was killed by Y" If they can say it, it's what happened. If they can't, it didn't. The kyton doesn't need to know it's true or not beforehand.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Apocrisiariuses and the truth have a funny sort of relationship. Their text goes on to say that while they cannot give voice to a lie, they can remain silent on the truth, should it suit their inscrutable motives. Somehow, speaking a lie is not allowed, but allowing a lie of omission is perfectly fine.

For example, let's say Icehawk wants to know which person in this thread killed the OP. Sure, it can't falsely accuse anyone of the murder. So asking it to say "Snowblind killed the OP" will result in silence if that statement is false. It is under no obligation, however, to answer "Snowblind killed the OP" if that statement is true.

So, yes, given time, you could list out the million and one theories on how Aroden died to one of these kytons, and eventually, maybe, if you're lucky, you'll ask it to repeat the statement aloud that is the truth on that particular mystery. The canny kyton, however, will probably remain silent, content in knowing that it could speak the answer, but doesn't have to. Congratulations - you're ten thousand years older, and are no closer to discovering the truth than when you started.


That's easy to get around though. Just use Planar Binding and make it be obedient. Or mind control. You can't mind control it to lie but you can mind control it to answer. It's not even that strong an outsider so it's easy enough to make it malleble to your will.


Honestly I always viewed this as why the Apocrisiariuses show up in the first place. During their "off-hours" they basically read the equivalent of the news out loud until they can't repeat a story. Then they head out to find out the truth. While it is possible for them to discover all truths from their room, where is the fun in that? Imagine you are immortal and you finish what you were built/born/designed to do in your first decade or two. If you found a good solid theory the Apocrisiariuses would probably be more than happy to fact check for you and even help you research but forcing one to figure out all cosmic truths would likely not only kill the Apocrisiariuses you have but cause enough backlash that you would have some very angry Demagogues looking for you.


Klara Meison wrote:
Snowblind wrote:
Klara Meison wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Zachary W Anderson wrote:


Boomerang Nebula: Assuming the "can tell infinite truths" option, the first statement would be "π has a finite number of digits." If they can't say that, then they similarly couldn't say, "The last digit of π...", because it contains a false premise.

It is possible to finish the sentence in a truthful way, the solution isn't obvious and it isn't obvious there is a solution. I expect the Kyton will eventually figure it out, in the meantime you can enjoy the silence.
We can prove Pi has infinitely many digits when written out in a decimal system. It is not possible to finish that sentence in a truthful way.
"The last digit of π is...not something I know how to express?"
This isn't about knowledge, or being able to express yourself. There literally is no such thing as "the last digit of Pi", in any way, shape or form, because Pi is infinitely long when written out with digits.

So given that you know that, how do you finish the sentence in a way that is not a lie?


Snowblind wrote:
Klara Meison wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Zachary W Anderson wrote:


Boomerang Nebula: Assuming the "can tell infinite truths" option, the first statement would be "π has a finite number of digits." If they can't say that, then they similarly couldn't say, "The last digit of π...", because it contains a false premise.

It is possible to finish the sentence in a truthful way, the solution isn't obvious and it isn't obvious there is a solution. I expect the Kyton will eventually figure it out, in the meantime you can enjoy the silence.
We can prove Pi has infinitely many digits when written out in a decimal system. It is not possible to finish that sentence in a truthful way.
"The last digit of π is...not something I know how to express?"

Nice try, but not quite right. That answer still implies that there is a last digit of Pi which is false. I feel like you are close to getting a correct answer.


Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Klara Meison wrote:
Snowblind wrote:
Klara Meison wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Zachary W Anderson wrote:


Boomerang Nebula: Assuming the "can tell infinite truths" option, the first statement would be "π has a finite number of digits." If they can't say that, then they similarly couldn't say, "The last digit of π...", because it contains a false premise.

It is possible to finish the sentence in a truthful way, the solution isn't obvious and it isn't obvious there is a solution. I expect the Kyton will eventually figure it out, in the meantime you can enjoy the silence.
We can prove Pi has infinitely many digits when written out in a decimal system. It is not possible to finish that sentence in a truthful way.
"The last digit of π is...not something I know how to express?"
This isn't about knowledge, or being able to express yourself. There literally is no such thing as "the last digit of Pi", in any way, shape or form, because Pi is infinitely long when written out with digits.
So given that you know that, how do you finish the sentence in a way that is not a lie?

You can't. Nobody said this wasn't stupid. Pretty sure that's what a lot of us are saying. It's a poorly written creature that doesn't take it's own abilities into wider consideration. Which is compounded by how it's even used in the adventure it exists in. It's there as a gotcha moment to force a fight if you try to bluff your whole way through. Cus forgeries count as falsehoods. And the thing doesn't even need to know why it's untrue, just that it is because it can't read it out loud.

If it just worked off the zone of truth it always has, this wouldn't be an issue. But it's not. And so it reaches stupid consequences. If it can just say outloud anything and know if it's true or false, it's bad. If it can only do that with deliberate falsehoods, it is still bad because it can just play twenty questions still. "Repeat after me. This was a murder. This was a suicide. This was an accident." Anyone attempting to conceal a crime has to take into account the all knowing police force.


Statements like: "this was a murder" are too vague to be definitely true or false. Murder is an illegal killing, to which law is the statement in reference to?


I am now thinking about how in Starfinder, the Nine Hells-based corporation's systems function via Quantum Kyton Computing.


I think the more fun way is to interrogate Pinocchio for everything. :p


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!

I think I'm leaning towards the interpretation of "no road to universal truth", and "falsehood" being dependent on intentional communication. But then there's a few weird details in around the edges with that assumption:
- If one sees a mirage, and fails its "Knowledge (Nature)" roll, it could say there's water up ahead when there isn't.
- On the other hand, if it sees Mirage Arcana, it tries to tell someone there's water up ahead, it fails because it's an intentional deception and knows something's up.
- If it's traveling the First World, whether or not that puddle ahead is real "water" depends on one's point of view; it could be a dream or illusion or a being that is "sort of" water. It tries to say "There's water ahead." and can't decide whether to say it because whether it's real water is open to interpretation. I'm assuming they hate things that can't be reduced to binary facts, and this kind of riddle would drive them to distraction.

- If two people genuinely believe conflicting accounts, and tell a Kyton their "truth", it could say both sentences. "The boy is Brandy's. The boy is Monica's. Congratulations on your new trio!"

- If the Nidalese convinced an agent of a falsehood, and the agent truly believes it, and they tell the Kyton, the Kyton could repeat an untrue sentence as "true". I'm struggling with whether this structure works because there would be something "false" about the method of conveyance. Layers of separation, and only used very sparingly because the possibility of cracking the process would destroy the trust for all the other <b>true</b> messages conveyed.

- There's still a very small window for subterfuge for the players in the adventure: If they convince a human it's a valid document, and find a way to subvert SOP so the officer reports validity to the Kyton rather than letting it read such directly, the Kyton believes it.

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