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When Worlds Diverge

Most people consider the physical world – the place where you and I live, breathe, eat, and sleep – a mundane place. Despite the fact that nature, technology, and psionics are able to produce a seemingly unlimited array of sights, sounds, and effects, we live with these things every day and, to us, they rarely seem too surreal.

There are two other worlds that are roughly parallel but still very different than ours; one created by men, the other a naturally occurring plane with supernatural connotations. Though the former is manmade it is no longer as “virtual” as people once believed it to be and while the latter has been around since the dawn of existence, many people still disbelieve it. These two worlds, the ‘Net and the Astral Plane, are similar in many ways.

The ‘Net

Originally developed well over 100 years ago as a means to connect military and educational institutions around the world, the ‘Net is now an all-inclusive, global phenomenon.

Though it has changed much in the last century, many of the key elements and ideals behind the ‘Net remain the same, and that is why, no matter how many new names for it people have come up with over the years, the word we use to discuss it remains the same.

The ‘Net (or Internet, as it is formally known) is a truly worldwide communications network. No longer confined just to computers, the ‘Net connects nearly every piece of electronic equipment to any number of mainframes around the globe and it is omnipresent. Though it took the better part of a century to reach every inch of the planet, the ‘Net is now accessible from literally everywhere on Earth (and even into parts of near space, like the moon).

Though certain Luddite groups exist which oppose the invasive omnipresence of the ‘Net, none were successful in sparing any part of the planet from its reach.

Still, there are certain “dead spots” within the boundaries of their private properties in which ‘Net signals are jammed, but these are a result of signal-blocking technology (provided by Macroware, the world’s leading computer supplier) and not a lapse of the ‘Net’s overall reach. Removing or disabling one of these signal-blocking devices would instantly un-jam the signal.

In years past, the ‘Net was a jumble of different technologies, both wired and wireless, which allowed computers and eventually other devices to communicate with one another. The wireless movement began in the second decade of the 21st century, in which a push to make all ‘Net connections wireless was made. The capacity of wireless signals had previously been too insignificant to handle the amount of communication traffic that would be required for a global-scale network, but various technological advancements made it possible to handle all of the world’s communications at a near-instant pace. Today, all ‘Net traffic is wireless – save for a few corporate intranets (local networks) which still use wired networks for highly secure communications.

Connecting to the ‘Net

Long ago, users were required to actively initiate a signal between a computer and the ‘Net in order to access it. Only by “dialing up” to the network could a computer access the information that was available. When the user was finished with his session, he would disconnect from the ‘Net and his computer would no longer be able to access it.

Later came the invention of always-on, “broadband” internet access. Users were no longer required to “dial up” to reach the ‘Net; all they had to do was turn on their computer or other ‘Net-enabled device and they were able to constantly access it. This premise remains true today, over 100 years since the invention of broadband technology, but in a slightly different form.

All computers, televisions, phones, and other electronic devices are now built with the capacity to access the ‘Net as long as they have power. Previously it was possible to unplug the connecting cable to a computer to disconnect from the ‘Net. Nowadays, every device is connected wirelessly and there are no built-in disconnect methods (though a few clever hackers have found ways to disable their own connections at will). This constant “awareness” allows users to seamlessly blend their everyday experiences with the connected lifestyle that the ‘Net allows; people communicate, learn, entertain, advertise, shop, and do nearly every conceivable daily activity while connected to the ‘Net.

The Connected Life

While everyone is aware that the ‘Net exists, most people take it for granted. It has simply been there throughout the entirety of their lives, and will continue to be there long after they are dead. Everything they do from work to play is somehow enhanced by the ‘Net. Many of these enhancements come in the form of “augmented reality”, or the ability to receive enhanced information made possible only with the aid of computers.

Augmented reality is not the same as the now-defunct idea of “virtual reality”. Virtual reality (or VR for short) was first introduced in science fiction and later became a very realistic – or veritably realistic – notion.

In the 2040s, the world’s population by and large decided to no longer support VR when it was discovered that people who were experiencing life in a “virtual world” were often susceptible to negative effects in the real world. Basically, in order to be “plugged in” to virtual reality, the user must completely disconnect from ordinary reality – and that was not only a scary thought for many, it had deadly consequences.

Augmented reality (or AR) overlays virtual aspects of the information-heavy computer world without requiring total immersion.

This sort of information augmentation was popularized in science fiction and spy movies of the 20th century, in which characters with special sunglasses or cyborgs with robotic eyes could gain information about their surroundings, such as the exact height or weight of an object, the heat signature of a person, or the distance between two points.

These concepts have grown to include a practically endless variety of information that can be transmitted to a user, either via special AR sunglasses or simply to their handheld computers. Users can find nearly any piece of information they desire (or any information that an advertiser desires them to see) simply by interacting with it.

To some, this feels like a constant bombardment of media. To others, it is simply the way the world is and, without it, they would feel lost.

Entering the ‘Net

AKA Ghosting Most people never actually enter the ‘Net as a plane of existence. Instead, they interact with it through their tablets and other electronics. The ‘Net comes to them, and they manipulate certain aspects of it, but never truly engage it. This is, of course, by design; to literally enter the ‘Net is to cross the line between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality and it has been made clear that the public does not want VR.

However, certain individuals are both able and willing to fully project themselves into the ‘Net, through a process known as “ghosting.” Ghosting requires the use of electrokinesis, which can be performed psionically or magically, and can be done from virtually anywhere on the planet (and even parts of sub-space).

The Ghosting Check 7

Any character with the electrokinesis power, and its cyberpsi Gift, can attempt to ghost. Likewise, characters with access to a cyberpsi magic device can attempt to ghost, though these devices can be expensive and hard to come by. One can attempt to ghost from any location where they can access the ‘Net, which includes the whole of Earth and its moon, except in places which have specifically been denied a ‘Net signal.

Though a ghost check can be attempted from any location, it does leave the ghost’s physical body vulnerable and, therefore, it is best to find a safe or well-guarded place before making the attempt.

To make a successful ghosting check, you must succeed at an electrokinesis check of Great difficulty. Once a successful check has been made, you leave your physical body behind and project a portion of your mind in to the ‘Net.

It is possible to bring others with you.

For every degree of success you may bring one additional passenger. Passengers must physically exist in a space directly next to you; one common practice is for circles of people to hold hands as they travel in this way. These passengers need not possess the electrokinesis Gift, but if the character that made the check is disconnected for any reason all passengers disconnect as well.

What’s Inside

Many science fiction movies of the 20th century attempted to depict what being inside a computer might look like, but every one of them got it wrong; the ‘Net was never designed with conscious thoughts and direct human interaction in mind. There is no user interface because it is not technically a human-created Virtual Reality. Zeroes and ones do not float about in the sky and there are no circuitous highways.

Ghosts alter their own electromagnetic fields in such a way as to join the wireless spectrum around them, enabling themselves to move with and through it as easily as a computer broadcasts data. They are able to sense nearby access points – literally any piece of connected technology – due to the large volume of data being passed through them. By zeroing in on an access point, a ghost can use his cyberpsi power to communicate with the system on a deeper level and gain entry to it, allowing him to further use or control the system.

While inside a system, ghosts and their passengers spoof the device into treating them like any other program. In effect, each ghost (including passengers) is a separate program that interacts individually with the environment. These programs must be appropriate for the type of device a ghost is in; electronic billboards are only capable of running programs related to audio and video, for example, while a mainframe computer server can run virtually any program imaginable.

Ghosts can use a device’s cameras (if available) to view the outside world from the machine’s perspective. When not looking through the lens of the machine, the world appears very different; in fact, ghosts cannot actually see their physical surroundings without using this technique. It may be wise to have a passenger keep watch while a ghost interacts with the computer on a deeper level.

Moving About

The ‘Net is a global wireless mesh network, meaning it is comprised of billions of electronic devices the world over, each constantly transmitting data to and from one another. Every electronic device constantly routes data and boosts signals to enhance the reach of the network, though when moving over extremely long distances the data may be collected by a major hub and then passed back out into the wider network.

Put simply, a file begins at its source system and is passed through hundreds of devices along its route to a regional hub. The file is then passed from one hub to another until it reaches the destination region, where it is split up once more and passed through various access points until it reaches its end destination.

It is virtually impossible to sniff files as they are passed along their route because an individual file may be split up into millions of tiny pieces while it moves toward its destination. Ghosts must capture files either at their source or their end point, meaning they must know where the files are coming from or where they are going.

Because data transfers so quickly from one place to another, ghosts can move their virtual selves, their “ghosts”, from any single point on Earth to another in milliseconds.

Their physical body stays behind in the real world, but their ghost can move about freely. Extremely experienced ghosts (those who can make a Wonderful Technical check) are even capable of duplicating themselves, gaining the ability to be in multiple places at once. One common tactic is to leave one ghost with the physical body and monitor it using the cameras on a personal comm tablet in an effort to watch out for one’s own safety.

While inside the ‘Net, a ghost can visit any place he wishes simply by jumping to a device. Because it is easy to triangulate a device’s location with its built-in GPS, ghosts are capable of very quickly jumping to specific regions and even cities of the world. It may require a bit more time and effort (in the form of another Technical check, with a difficulty depending on how precise he wishes to be) in order to pinpoint a specific building or device. Passengers always travel with the ghost.

While inside a device, ghosts can access its programming, data, security features and cameras. Ghosting is one of the most efficient methods of bypassing security, stealing information, and performing reconnaissance that is available in the world today, though it is not without its challenges. Many computers are highly secure and difficult to penetrate and some corporations even employ security personnel who are capable of ghosting and protecting a system from within.

Ghosting Challenges

Ghosts often enter places where they are not wanted. To protect against unwanted (and illegal) intrusion, system administrators often ensure that their networks are locked down and heavily guarded against entrance by ghosts. Protecting a network can be costly, but no government, megacorp, or wealthy individual would dare leave himself unsecured against a ghost.

The measures these entities take to prevent unwanted entry can pose severe challenges to even the most skilled ghosts (making it that much more important for them to bring friends).

Ghosting into a system is far more insidious than a traditional hacking attempt.

Though hackers still exist and attempt to breech high-level systems every day, the majority of a company’s security dollars go in to preventing attacks from ghosts. New, high-power, low-level security software has been developed specifically to thwart ghosting attempts and some of that software can cause real injuries to anyone trying to bypass it.

These special security programs have a semblance of sentience to them that is difficult to comprehend. In a partnership rare amongst today’s megacorps, Macroware and Magicorp teamed up to develop a new form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) capable of using magic, generally electrokinesis. For all intents and purposes these programs have real, physical manifestations in the ‘Net and are one of the entities which ghosts can encounter.

Ghosting Combat

When a ghost enters a computer, he may need to contend with its security software.

This can be far more difficult than simply making a Technical (Computer Security) check to bypass the machine’s Security Level, since corporations and governments go to great lengths to prevent ghosting.

Following is an example list of security software that has been developed to thwart ghosting attempts. In most cases, these programs are only employed on high-level corporate and government machines due to their complexity and cost. However, many independent computer hackers and programmers also employ these programs and often run custom versions of them to suit their individual needs.

When a ghost enters a system with a Security Level of Superb or higher, GMs should consider employing any of the following security measures. These programs act as combatants and will attack the ghost as if it were a real person (because, after all, ghosts are the real projection of an individual’s consciousness). Use the standard rules for Combat (see Playing the Game) when dealing with security software in this way, with the following exceptions.

  • Do not add bonuses granted by equipment (weapons, armor, etc.) unless that equipment specifically deals with computer systems.
  • Unless otherwise noted, use the character’s Mind attribute as a defense, not their Body attribute.

Players may opt to use their Technical (Computer Security) skill in place of other combat skills to determine their Offensive Damage Factors when dealing with security software. This skill is opposed by the program’s Security attribute, which replaces the Mind attribute of a human.

When making Combat (Melee, Nonphysical, or Ranged) checks against a security program, the ghost is essentially making a brute force attack against its security defenses. No special Technical skill is required to combat these programs and a few of them are even susceptible to other forms of trickery.

Each program has a special Wound Track known as its Threat Level track.

When a ghost “damages” the software he is effectively reducing the machine’s understanding of him as a threat. Once the Threat Level reaches Green, the program sees the ghost as a valid user and allows him entry into the system.

Likewise, individual programs have their own Technical (Computer Security) skills to use against ghosts. Usually, the software’s Technical skill level is equal to its Security Level, though certain subroutines may alter this depending upon the nature of the program. The software will essentially “attack” a character with its own Technical (Computer Security) skill opposed by the character’s Mind attribute.

Any damage the character takes is considered Mental damage. A character who reaches Incapacitated or Near Death status on his Mental wound track is automatically shunted from the system and back into his corporeal body in a suitably injured state.

Remember if a ghost exits the system, all of his passengers go with him. Passengers other than the ghost who are Incapacitated return to their bodies but do not drag others with them.

Some particularly high-level systems employ multiple security programs to safeguard different areas. Ghosts attempting to infiltrate a system may need to contend with more than one security program before they can reach whatever area they are trying to access. Usually only one program must be contended with at a single time, but highly secure systems may employ multiple security programs at once.

Unless the ghost somehow gains access to the appropriate usernames, passwords, and other security credentials of a system, he will need to contend with the same security programs each time he attempts to enter it.

Finally, a ghost can use his Technical (Computer Security) skill to try to determine the type of program he encounters. To do so, the player simply makes a Computer Security check and the GM secretly compares it to the program’s Security attribute.

If the player succeeds, he may identify the program, plus one piece of additional information about it for each degree of success.

If he fails, he either cannot identify the program or he interprets it as a different program altogether.

For example, a ghost makes a Computer Security check to identify a program with a Security level of Superb (+3). The ghost rolls 4dF and adds his Computer Security skill and gets a result of Wonderful (a Good success). He manages to identify that the program is a Ghost Hunter and that Ghost Hunters have the electrokinesis power. If he had rolled a Phenomenal result (a Great success), he may also have uncovered that the Ghost Hunter is vulnerable to mind control.

Conversely, if the ghost had rolled a result of Great he would have failed the check by a degree of one (a Mediocre failure). The GM would tell him that he failed to identify the nature of the program. However, if the ghost had rolled a result of Fair he would have failed by a degree of three – an Abysmal result. The GM might instead tell the ghost that the program is a Spectral Firewall instead of a Ghost Hunter.

Security Programs

Though the statistics that follow are similar to those found on a traditional character sheet, security programs lack nearly all human attributes. Each is given a Computer Security skill and a Security attribute. The program’s Computer Security skill is its primary combat trait and is used to determine the Offensive Damage Factors of its attacks.

Conversely, the Security level is its primary defensive attribute and will serve as its Defensive Damage Factors when trying to avoid damage.

Each program also has its own Gifts and Faults which help define its capabilities beyond simply acting as a locked door between the ghost and the system it protects.

Brain Virus

Attributes

Security: Superb

Skills

Technical [Security]: Superb Specialization: Computer Security Gifts Infect Ghost

Faults

Can be manipulated

Psionic Powers

Mind Control [Security]

Threat Level Track

Damage 1-2 3-4 5 6 7+

Wound Red Orange Yellow Blue Green

O O O O O O

The brain virus has but one function: to infect the minds of ghosts. These programs are commonly employed on personal devices owned by other ghosts, but a few corporate security systems have been known to employ them as well. Brain viruses have also been used offensively.A brain virus never attacks a ghost directly. Instead, it constantly attempts to use mind control to gain access to the ghost’s brain and manipulate its victim.

Brain viruses are programmed to force victims into performing pre-defined tasks.

For instance, the brain virus may tell its victim to disconnect from the system or it may trick the victim into believing it has become part of the system itself. The virus’ degree of success on its mind control check determines how much control it has over the victim, and for how long (see Psionics and Magic).

Because the brain virus’ commands are pre-programmed, they may need to achieve a high enough degree of success to have any effect at all. For example, the mere suggestion to exit the system is a simple command that requires little control, but forcing someone to believe they are part of the collective and maintaining a hold on their mind would require a much higher result.

Because brain viruses have enough AI to use psionic powers, they are susceptible to being manipulated by psionics and magic as well.

Ghost Hunter

Attributes

Security: Superb – Phenomenal (depends on system’s Security Level)

Skills

Technical [Security]: Superb – Phenomenal (depends on system’s Security Level) Specialization: Computer Security

Gifts

Faults Can be manipulated Magic

Powers

Electrokinesis [Security]

Threat Level Track

Damage 1-2 3-4 5 6 7+

Wound Red Orange Yellow Blue Green

O O O O O O O

The ghost hunter is a basic attack program designed to deal with low-level threats in a very forceful manner.Ghost hunters are capable of attacking using their Computer Security skill as normal for Ghosting Combat or by activating an electrokinesis protocol which deals a physical electrical shock to the ghost. When using the electrokinesis power, add the program’s Security level to the attack (instead of the Focus attribute that would be used by a human). If the attack is successful, the ghost takes physical damage instead of mental damage.

Ghost hunters do have one drawback:

because they have just enough artificial intelligence to activate a psionic power, they are also capable of being mentally manipulated.

Ghosts who also have a means of using mind control or other similar psionic powers may do so normally against the ghost hunter.

Ghost Trap

Attributes

Security: Superb – Phenomenal

Skills

Technical [Security]: Superb –

Phenomenal

Specialization: Computer Security

Gifts

Prevent Escape, Suspicious

Faults

Psionic Powers

Threat Level Track

Damage 1-2 3-4 5 6 7+

Wound Red Orange Yellow Blue Green

O O O O O O O O O O

Ghost traps are designed specifically to keep unwanted outsiders locked inside the system. These programs are built to be highly suspicious, making it extremely difficult for anyone without the proper passwords to use brute force attacks against them; ghosts must reduce the trap’s Threat Level to Green twice before the program allows passage.If a ghost attempts to leave the system by any means, the ghost trap attempts to block them from doing so. The trap makes a Technical (Computer Security) check opposed by the ghost’s Mind attribute.

If successful, the ghost remains in the system. The trap performs this action for free in reaction to any ghost attempting to flee; it does not use up the trap’s turn.

Pandora Protocol

Attributes

Security: Phenomenal

Skills

Technical [Security]: Phenomenal

Specialization: Computer Security

Gifts

Appears as another program, system-wide alert

Faults

Psionic Powers

Threat Level Track

Damage 1-2 3-4 5 6 7+

Wound Red Orange Yellow Blue Green

O O O O O O O O O

Pandora protocols are designed to mask themselves as another program in an attempt to trick ghosts into behaving differently when facing them. When a ghost attempts to identify a Pandora Protocol using the Computer Security skill, he receives misinformation about the program on any failure, regardless of how close he was to succeeding. For example, a Mediocre failure would provide misinformation even if it would normally just result in a failure to identify the program.The Pandora protocol acts identically to the program it is mimicking but uses its own Computer Use and Security traits, as well as its own Threat Level track, in place of those assigned to other programs.

If the ghost fails to bypass the protocol’s

Threat Level within three rounds, it sends out a silent, system-wide alert signal that fetches other programs and brings them into play. Characters may wind up facing one or more programs in addition to the Pandora protocol when this happens.

These protocols are almost always used in lieu of a spectral firewall to protect a system’s most highly-confidential or secure data.

Spectral Firewall

Attributes

Security: Superb

Skills

Technical [Security]: Superb

Specialization: Computer Security

Gifts

Lockout Protocol

Faults Cannot Attack

Psionic Powers

Threat Level Track

Damage 1-2 3-4 5 6 7+

Wound Red Orange Yellow Blue Green

O O O O O

Traditional firewalls are no match for a ghost, so these so-called “spectral firewalls” were developed as a means to prevent unwanted entry by would-be hackers.

Spectral firewalls are the most basic form of anti-ghost protection. They cannot attack a ghost directly, so there is little initial harm in attempting to bypass such a system. However, a spectral firewall will keep track of the number of attempts a person has made to bypass it and alert the system’s other security programs if a ghost fails to bypass it in time.

Each round a ghost spends trying to defeat the spectral firewall’s Threat Level counts against the attempts he may make before the system’s other programs are alerted. If the ghost fails to reduce the spectral firewall’s Threat Level to Green within three rounds, the firewall will immediately call in another program to forcibly eject the user.

When this happens, the spectral firewall’s Security attribute and Technical skill both increase to Phenomenal and its Threat Level resets to Red (it effectively “heals” all damage done to it). It also calls in another program to join the fight. Select any other program and add it to the combat.

Taking Control

After a system’s security programs have been defeated, it is possible to take control of the system. This is the primary purpose of nearly all ghosting excursions and the reason megacorps spend so much money to prevent them.

Each ghost, including passengers, are treated as separate computer programs when inside a system. They may perform any action the system would typically be capable of, such as displaying ads on a billboard, withdrawing funds from an ATM, hijacking a vehicle (even if its owner is trying to operate it), or executing complex commands on a mainframe.

Characters who are inside a system and are not being faced by security software have free access to initiate commands.

Those skilled at Manipulation might attempt to reprogram a billboard to display a specific ad or message, while characters skilled with Vehicles may attempt to operate infiltrated equipment. Any variety of skills may be useful when ghosting in a system; the ‘Net isn’t just the realm of characters with great Technical skills.

The difficulty to successfully employ a skill is still based upon the system’s Security Level, which also represents the complexity of its code. To successfully operate a truck with a Security Level of Superb, for example, a character must first succeed at a Superb Vehicle check.

Stealing Data

Gaining access to the wealth of knowledge a system contains is the other big draw for ghosts. Once a system’s security protocols have been bypassed, ghosts may make a Technical check with a +2 bonus to download data. The difficulty is based upon the system’s Security Level. For each degree of success, a ghost may download one additional piece of information.

Note: Some data is highly secured and protected. If a ghost is seeking specific information about a highly sensitive subject, he may have to contend with a new Security Program dedicated to protecting that specific piece of information. Generally speaking, the Technical skill allows a ghost to gather general information while security programs are employed to protect specific, top secret files.

Disconnecting

Once a ghost has discovered the information he was looking for, or if he feels he is outmatched by the system’s security software, he may disconnect from the system by simply choosing to leave. He may attempt to connect to another system or leave the ‘Net entirely and return to his physical body.

In any case, certain programs may attempt to prevent the ghost from exiting. At times, his only option may be to fight the program until he either defeats its security or becomes Incapacitated and is dumped back into his body. Programs which prevent egress can be found in the example list of security software above.

The Astral Plane

Though most normals deny its existence, those who have visited it will cite its existence is irrefutable. The Astral Plane is another world that mirrors the mundane but has no physical presence. It cannot be seen, felt, heard, smelled, or tasted and yet it appears, to those who can visit it, to be identical to our own world.

One only reaches the Astral Plane in a disembodied state; in other words, when one’s soul is literally projected outward from its body and into this extraplanar existence.

Though it is not a requirement that one be psychic to enter the Astral Plane, few normals have ever experienced it. Only those with the ability to completely still their minds and reach out to the aether have the capacity to transcend the Material Plane (the ordinary reality) and in to the Astral. With today’s invasive technology, mundanes who can do this are increasingly rare.

The Astral Plane (often referred to simply as “the Astral”) is an incorporeal world where nothing has physical substance, yet everything can be manipulated. The powers of the mind and soul are dominant here, while the power of the body is negligible.

Everything we can see and touch in the real world can be seen on the Astral, though it all has a hazy, somewhat “ghostly” look to it.

Connecting to the Astral Plane Visiting the Astral is not easy for most people. It requires peace, quiet, and a lot of patience. Most normals who attempt to project their soul to the Astral are unsuccessful, but a few have experienced this phenomenon and, indeed, have learned to master it.

To reach the Astral Plane, one must first find a calm, quiet place free of distraction.

This is perhaps one of the most difficult steps, as the entire world seems to conspire against anyone seeking even a moment’s solitude these days. However, should one find such a quiet place, he may attempt to still his mind, then disengage his soul from his body and finally “float” to the Astral.

The Projection Check

After finding a quiet place to meditate, characters wishing to reach the Astral must make a successful Astral Projection, Shamanic Journeying, Soul Travel or similar Spiritual skill check with a Great difficulty.

Moderate distractions increase the difficulty of this check to Superb, and – though it is possible to project ones soul to the Astral when being disturbed – the difficulty to do so is Phenomenal. Upon making a successful 7 projection check, the character may reach out to the Astral for as long as he maintains concentration.

Maintaining concentration requires no check unless the character’s physical body becomes distracted. Once this happens, the character must make another projection check, this time with a Phenomenal difficulty, to remain connected to the Astral.

Distractions

Any number of circumstances could distract a person who is projecting their soul to the Astral. Simple examples include being spoken to, hearing a loud noise, or being jostled. What many novices don’t realize, especially if they are visiting the Astral for the first time, is that their body’s own needs are often the biggest distraction of all.

Though a character who is projecting to the Astral may remain there indefinitely, his physical body still requires all of the mundane things that bodies do, including air, food, water, and sleep. Many spiritual masters have spent years developing their body’s tolerance to the deprivation of these essentials, whether by fasting (giving up food and drink for days at a time) or training their endurance.

Experienced astral projectors know to relieve themselves and to ensure they have had ample sustenance and sleep if they are going to be traveling for long periods of time. Generally speaking, a character may travel to the Astral for three (3) hours per level of his Body trait above Poor. For each hour he remains on the Astral after this time, he must make a successful Body check to avoid being distracted (and thus requiring a projection check to remain on the Astral).

The difficulty for the Body check begins at Fair and increases by one level for each hour the character remains on the Astral.

For example, Yvonne has a Great (+2) Body attribute. She successfully projects her spirit to the Astral and may stay there for 12 hours before her body begins to fatigue.

After 12 hours have passed, she must make a Fair Body check, otherwise she becomes distracted and must make a Phenomenal projection check to remain present on the plane. She succeeds on her check and remains on the plane for another hour.

At the beginning of hour 13, Yvonne must make another Body check to avoid being distracted. This time the difficulty is Good (+1) since it has been another hour since her body first felt the pangs of fatigue. She fails this check and thus is required to make a Phenomenal projection check to remain present, despite her body’s fatigue. Since she fails this check as well, she is plunged back in to her physical body.

Characters who return to their body due to distractions of any sort are dazed for 1 round; they may not take any action as they try to regain a footing on reality. Characters who return to their bodies because of fatigue are not only dazed, but they also suffer one Scratched physical wound for each hour by which they exceeded their maximum. In the example above, Yvonne would plunge back in to her body and be dazed for one round, and she would receive 1 Scratched physical wound due to having exceeded her normal tolerance by 1 hour.

Astral Activities

Astral projection is more than just a neat parlor trick (actually, it makes a terrible parlor trick since onlookers simply observe your body sitting in a meditative state).

Those who travel to the Astral do so with a purpose, one that cannot normally be accomplished in physical reality.

The Astral has no boundaries and no physical essence, so spirits projected to this plane of existence can travel anywhere they wish – even through objects and people.

This is perhaps the number one reason why astral travelers visit this plane; the ability to get in to any location undetected is a huge draw for a variety of reasons, shady or not.

Characters traveling on the Astral Plane may move through the air, through objects and even through space, since none of these things physically exist on the Astral despite their appearance. It is possible to see and hear anything that is happening within your normal range of perception while on the Astral Plane, though objects appear hazy and sounds are muted. It can be difficult to get the full picture of what is happening in a given location, but experienced travelers are adept at piecing together what they experience and determining what it all means.

It is not normally possible to physically affect the material world from the Astral.

Because no object that appears on the Astral has any physical substance, there is no way to manipulate anything. One may attempt to control astral objects using his mind however and indeed combat on the Astral Plane is always a contest of wits and spirit as opposed to brute force and agility.

Characters with psychic abilities may use ESP to try to better perceive their surroundings and characters with other psionic powers may attempt to use them while in an astral form, though the normal limitations that apply to physically manipulating matter (and energy) still apply.

Astral Combat

Should two Astral beings meet and have cause to quarrel, they may find themselves participating in astral combat. This form of non-physical combat is highly dangerous as it poses particularly severe threats to those involved.

Astral combat, like physical combat, is tracked using a character’s Wound Track.

All damage endured while on the Astral is considered mental damage however, since no physical body is present. Attacking and defending are similar in many ways, but the attributes used to determine a fight’s outcome are different.

Use of Mental Force On the Astral Plane, the one with the strongest will – not the strongest body – is the one who will emerge victorious. Instead of using physically-oriented combat skills, such as firearms or martial arts, Astral warriors have an Astral Combat skill. This skill should be tied to a character’s Focus or Spirit attribute, and it will represent the character’s ability to overpower another Astral Being.

Physical weapons and armor modifiers do not apply, nor do any physical objects or skills. Battle on the Astral is purely a matter of wits. Use of psionic powers is permitted, though many powers simply lack the ability to manifest on the Astral Plane. Since fire, electricity, and cold do not exist on the Astral, for example, psionic powers which produce or manipulate these forces simply do not function there. Other powers, such as telekinesis may work despite the opponent not having a physical form, since they represent exerting ones will over another.

Resolve all combat checks as normal, with the above substitutions. If a character takes damage it is treated as mental damage, and the character must make a Superb projection check to remain on the Astral Plane.

If a character is Incapacitated or brought to Near Death status while on the Astral, he risks suffering very severe results.

Defeating an Astral Being If an Astral Being is reduced to Incapacitated or Near Death status, its link to its physical body is severed. The physical body’s functions do not cease, but it becomes a soulless husk incapable of motion or thought. It is essentially comatose, though it continues to breathe and maintain sustainable levels of bodily functions on its own. However, it is subject to death from thirst or starvation, and it is highly susceptible to physical forms of attack.

To return to its body, the soul must be retrieved and guided back by another being.

The creature that defeated the Astral Being may have also obtained dominance over the soul once it was defeated and may not be willing to give it up without a fight or a bargain of some kind.

Soul Retrieval

Finding a soul can be tricky at best. The easiest way to begin a search would be to enter the Astral Plane from the same physical location as the being’s physical body.

If the soul is not in the immediate vicinity, one can use ESP or other powers to attempt to locate it. The further away from its body the soul traveled, the harder it might be to find. Furthermore, if the creature that defeated the soul chose to capture it and take it elsewhere, it may complicate search efforts.

Some branches of law enforcement and some psychic private investigators specialize in soul retrievals. If nobody in the character’s group is capable, they may be able to contact someone for help, but they need to act quickly before the soul’s body dies. If the body dies, the soul becomes lost on the Astral forever and may one day find itself preying on other Astral Beings.

Astral Predators and other Beings Not all beings on the Astral Plane have physical bodies attached to the Material. The Astral is also home to souls which live there, most of whom are ex-humans who lost their physical lives while projecting. These souls sometimes go mad after spending years, even decades, living in the Astral world with the ability to look in to it, but not return to it.

Many of these souls become Astral Predators.

Predators seek out fresh souls who arrive on the Astral Plane and attempt to submit them to their will. It is said that these predators have the ability to track a soul back to its body and commandeer the vessel while the soul remains outside. This phenomenon can explain why many people are driven insane for seemingly no reason; the soul inside their body simply isn’t their own, and likely has spent decades brooding over its lack of substantiality.

There are, however, other Astral Beings which have always lived on the Astral and are not necessarily insane. These beings can come in any variety of shapes and often creatures of folklore and legend actually have a basis in the reality of the Astral Plane.

Giants, unicorns, trolls, and even fairies exist on the Astral as mere spirits, though they rarely like to make their presence known to common Astral travelers.

The shapes these beings take are largely subjective; they represent the way a human being might see that souls’ personality and are not necessarily indicative of their true nature.

Faeries, for example, might be Astral Beings with flighty personalities while giants, have very forceful personalities. It may indeed be possible, though it is quite rare, to befriend one of these beings and have them act as a traveling companion and guardian . Of course, it may also be possible to make an enemy of one of these Astral Beings and find yourself doing astral combat with a soul far more powerful than your own. Traveler beware!

Astral Rogues Gallery

Following are some examples of beings you might expect to find on a journey to the Astral Plane. Note that Astral Beings have no physical form, therefore even beings such as giants, which are traditionally viewed as physically powerful beings, have no Body attribute. Powerful Astral Beings instead have superior mental traits and forceful or boisterous personalities. Remember that the physical forms we perceive are a representation manifested by the person perceiving them and these examples are simply an attempt to make sense of the creatures in a way which other humans can relate.

Fairy

Attributes

Mind: Wonderful

Focus: Superb

Soul: Good

Persona: Superb

Presence: Superb

Status: Fair

Skills

Combat (Non-physical) [Focus]: Good

Manipulation [Presence]: Superb

Specializations: Bluff, Flattery

Covert [Presence]: Great

Specialization: Pickpocketing Social (Informal) [Presence]: Great

Specializations: Practical Joker, Witty Insults

Gifts

Charmer (+1 to Flattery and mind control) Can use psychokinesis powers across planes (Astral to Material)

Faults

Flighty Personality

Easily Frightened Psionic

Powers

Mind Control

Alter Memory

Photokinesis

Sonarkinesis

Telekinesis

Mental Wound Track

Damage 1-2 3-4 5 6 7+

Wound Scratched Hurt Very Hurt Incapacitated Near Death

O O O O O O

Fairies are fond of playing jokes on people, and their ability to use psychokinesis powers across planes allows them to manipulate objects, sights, and sounds on the Material plane. When objects mysteriously go missing, only to later mysteriously turn up, you can bet that a fairy was responsible.

Giant

Attributes

Mind: Superb

Focus: Superb

Spirit: Fair

Persona: Wonderful Presence: Superb Status: Good

Skills

Combat (Non-physical) [Focus]: Superb Specialization: Astral Combat Knowledge [Focus]: Superb Specializations: Folklore, Psionics Manipulation [Presence]: Phenomenal Specialization: Intimidate Infamy [Status]: Superb Social (Informal) [Presence]: Superb Specialization: Storytelling Gifts Fearsome Reputation

Faults

Greedy (-3 to resist being bribed) Conceited (-3 to resist being flattered) Quick to Anger

Psionic Powers

Mental Communication Telecommunication Mind Control Alter Memory Mental Shock Mental Wound Track Damage 1-3 4-6 7-8 9-10 11+ Wound Scratched Hurt Very Hurt Incapacitated Near Death

O O O O O O O O O O O

Giants are strong-willed, greedy creatures who are not above forcing their will upon others to get what they want. Like their fairy-tale counterparts, giants have a reputation for being fierce combatants, but on the Astral Plane they force their wits upon others as opposed to beating them down with brute force; though there is functionally little difference.Most giants share a love for storytelling and love a good folktale, especially if it involves one of their kind getting the upper hand on a lesser being. They can be easily manipulated by characters who play to this strength. Their weaknesses are best kept in mind when facing one on the Astral.

Unicorn

Attributes

Mind: Wonderful

Focus: Good

Spirit: Superb

Persona: Good

Presence: Great

Status: Fair

Skills

Combat (Non-physical) [Focus]: Great

Social (Formal) [Spirit]: Superb Specializations: Detect Lies, Diplomacy Spiritual [Spirit]: Wonderful Specializations: Giving Comfort, Patience, Pray for Miracles Gifts Calming Aura (supernatural; nearby creatures are never angry)

Faults

Benevolent (always helps the needy)

Psionic Powers

Empathy Empathic Healer (but does not take physical wounds for healing mental wounds) Mental Communication Mental Wound Track Damage 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 9+ Wound Scratched Hurt Very Hurt Incapacitated Near Death

O O O O O O O O O

Unicorns are known to be kind, warmhearted creatures who are swift to aid those in need. They are healers by nature and use their gifts to both sooth and repair the mind. They have been known to perform great acts of generosity and even miracles.

These creatures are, however, exceptionally good at judging one’s character. They never aid someone whose intentions are impure, and are skilled at noticing when someone is being deceitful.

Unicorns can be vulnerable to aggressors since they have very limited defense against other astral combatants. They are not exceptionally skilled in combat, but they do possess gifts which dissuade others from engaging them in battle.

Troll

Attributes

Mind: Phenomenal

Focus: Phenomenal

Spirit: Fair

Persona: Great

Presence: Great

Status: Fair

Skills

Combat (Non-physical): Phenomenal Specialization: Astral Combat Manipulation [Spirit]: Phenomenal Specialization: Intimidate Gifts Feeds on Astral Energy (see description)

Faults

Voracious (must consume Astral Energy regularly) Instinctual (does not think before acting) Light Sensitive (-2 to all checks while in bright light) Vulnerability to Light (-3 to defensive factors against photokinesis attacks)

Psionic Powers

Mind Control Mental Shock (only mental shock; cannot charm, suggest, or dominate) Mental Wound Track Damage 1-3 4-6 7-8 9-10 11+ Wound Scratched Hurt Very Hurt Incapacitated Near Death

O O O O O O O O O O O

Trolls represent the most primal of all Astral Beings. They are fierce combatants with a hunger for Astral Energy which keeps them constantly on the hunt for new sources of nourishment. Trolls must consume the souls of other Astral Beings on a daily basis or lose energy at an alarming rate. For every day a troll spends without consuming a soul, he takes a cumulative -1 penalty to his Focus attribute; trolls die if their Focus attribute reaches Abysmal.Conversely, trolls thrive on consuming the Astral Energy of others. When they defeat a foe in combat, they immediately consume its soul. This soul is permanently destroyed and even a soul retrieval is powerless to bring it back.

When a troll consumes a soul it staves off its immense hunger for another day and heals all of its wounds.

Also, consuming a soul does not immediately renew the troll’s Focus attribute to Phenomenal. Instead, it increases the attribute by 1 point. Thus, a troll who has gone several days without eating may need to consume several souls in a single day to fully replenish itself. Trolls, therefore, are on a constant hunt for Astral Energy.

It is rare to find a troll that is at the peak of its energetic state. Indeed, such a force would be nearly impossible to overcome, or even outrun, and surely any creature which crossed its path would become its victim.

Most trolls have trouble finding meals more than three or four times per week, so their Focus attribute is more commonly at Great or Superb than Phenomenal. At any level though, a troll is a force to be reckoned with and not to be underestimated.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Psi-punk Copyright 2012, Accessible Games; Author Jacob Wood