Sample Psionic System
There are three types of Psi traits in this system: Powers, skills, and Psychic Reservoir. Only psionicists have Powers and the skills to activate them, but everyone has a Psychic Reservoir to resist psionic attacks.
7.31 Psionic Powers
The GM must decide how precisely to define Psi Powers.
Since each Power must be bought separately, defining them broadly makes for more powerful characters.
The following chart (see right) shows some broad groups that include more narrowly defined Psi power groups listed with them. These in turn contain even more narrowly defined powers, which a GM may use as individual Powers if desired. This list may be regrouped, expanded, some powers disallowed, a narrowly defined group made into a broad group that includes other powers, etc. The list is not intended to be comprehensive, but merely a sample.
The GM should let the players know what depth of Psi skills she is using. Each Power costs one Supernormal Power (two gifts).
Putting one level in a Power gets it at Terrible. Powers may then be raised at the cost of two skill levels per level, if using the Objective Character Creation system.
For example, raising Telekinesis Power to Poor requires two skill levels, and raising it to Mediocre would cost two more skill levels.
If a GM envisions a psi-rich campaign, of course, the costs should be much cheaper. Allowing many free levels of Supernormal Powers is a good way to do this, but be cautious about trading them for mundane traits.
Power levels define range, quantity or size of subject affected, etc. see Section 2.7, Psi. A Fair Power can do whatever the default average is for the campaign world.
Some tasks require a minimum Power level, as set by the GM. If the character has the Power, but not at the minimum level required, he may not attempt the action unless he uses Desperation Psionics (Section 7.35). If the psi has the appropriate Power at three or more levels above the minimum required, he is at +1 for that use.
No psionic ability can be used unless the character has the Power listed on his character sheet.
A character may take a latent psi Power at the cost of one gift. He can’t use the Power (may not take any related psi skills), but later in the campaign he may spend EP equal to another gift to awaken the Power. He would then have to learn the skills to control the Power.
It is also possible to take some interesting faults that will limit the nature (and reduce the cost) of any Power.
“Usable only in emergencies” is a common theme in fiction, for example.
Very Broad Mildly Broad Narrow
Groups Groups Groups
Projection Telesense Clairaudience Clairvoyance Locate Object
Temporal Postcognition Revelation Precognition Psychometry
Psychokinesis Control Healing Animate Levitation Metabolism Control
Shapeshifting Control Force Shield
Electrokinesis Alter Electric Current
Control Electrical Devices Cyberpsi
Telepathy Empathy Emotion Control
Emotion Sensing Mind Shield
Mental Mind Reading Communication Thought Sending Mental Alter Memory
Prevent Clear Thinking Send Violent Energy
Vampirism Borrow Skill
Drain Psychic Reservoir Drain Health
Teleportation Teleport Self
Teleport Other Teleport Object
Open Dimension Portal
7.32 Psionic Skills
You cannot attempt any psionic action unless you have the specific skill to control the Power in question. Each Power must have an accompanying skill of corresponding broadness or narrowness (Control Telekinesis, Use Telepathy, Read Minds, etc.).
The default for psionic skills is Non-existent. Raising a skill to Terrible costs one skill level, etc. Skills may be taken as high as Fair at the beginning of a game. (The GM may allow higher levels if the campaign is centered around psionic abilities.) They may be improved through normal character development, and new ones may be added if the GM is willing. The player should have a good story concerning awakening new skills, however.
7.33 Psychic Reservoir
Psychic Reservoir is a measure of raw psi power available.
Like most attributes, Psychic Reservoir is at Fair for every character unless deliberately altered. The GM may set the default lower, and there may be a ceiling on how high Psychic Reservoir can be set.
Merely having a Psychic Reservoir attribute does not mean the character is capable of actively using psi.
Other psionic Powers and skills are necessary to activate the Psychic Reservoir.
A low Psychic Reservoir can negatively modify any active psi ability, while a high Reservoir can be tapped to increase your chances of success see Section 7.36, Psi Modifiers Summary.
A psionicist taps his Psychic Reservoir when he uses a psychic skill. Ongoing use gradually drains a Reservoir, and short but heavy-duty use of a psi Power also drains a Reservoir, but normal brief use doesn’t. However, a rolled degree of Terrible or worse on a psionic skill roll always lowers Psychic Reservoir a minimum of one level.
A psionicist can also attempt to drain his Psychic Reservoir deliberately. This may be done to gain a bonus to a psionic skill (see Section 7.34, Psionic Actions), or to a Power (see Section 7.35, Desperation Psionics).
There is no immediate penalty for dropping a level of Psychic Reservoir, as long as it remains Terrible or higher. However, your next use of psi may be affected:
there is a negative modifier for using a Psychic skill when your Psychic Reservoir is below Fair.
If the Psychic Reservoir is drained to below Terrible, the character immediately loses consciousness. It requires a Good roll versus a Constitution attribute to regain consciousness, which may be attempted every combat round.
Even after regaining consciousness, a character with Psychic Reservoir below Terrible is in trouble. The GM may impose any type of affliction she desires on such a character until the Psychic Reservoir reaches at least Terrible. Suggested afflictions include mild insanity (hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, etc.), physical debility (drooling, shaking, twitching, etc.), attribute reductions, and negative modifiers for even non-psi actions.
A character can regain one level of his Psychic Reservoir for each week (or day, or whatever the GM sets) of rest, up to his current maximum level.
7.34 Psionic Actions
Two kinds of psionic action are possible, Opposed and Unopposed.
An Opposed action is a psionic attack upon an unwilling subject. The attacker rolls against his specific psionic skill, and defender rolls against a Willpower attribute to resist. (A defender may have an appropriate psi skill to use instead, such as Mind Shield.) An example of an Opposed action would be an attempt to create fear in someone.
Unopposed psionic actions usually target inanimate objects.
An Unopposed action could be as simple as examining an object psychically, or as complex as opening a dimensional door at one’s feet. Telekinetically hurling an object at a foe is an Unopposed action because the object, not the foe, is the subject of the psionic skill.
When a Psi wishes to use an ability, the player describes the result he wants to the GM. The GM then assigns a Difficulty level to the action. Even if a psi overcomes a defender’s Willpower roll to resist, he must still roll the Difficulty level or higher to succeed at a task.
There may also be a minimum Power level needed in order to attempt an action. For example, telekinetically lifting a pencil might only require a Terrible Telekinesis Power, but lifting a large book might require a Mediocre Telekinesis Power, and lifting a car might require a Superb Telekinesis Power. If the psi’s Power level is three or more above the minimum needed, he gets a +1 to his skill level.
Note that mentally lifting a pencil might only require a Terrible Power level, but manipulating it to sign one’s name would probably require a Superb skill result. To accurately forge another person’s signature would not only require a Superb Telekinesis skill result, but also a Fair or better Forgery skill result.
The time required to activate a psionic ability depends on the potency of the desired effect and the Power level of the character. It is set by the GM. This can range from a single combat round to hours of concentration. The individual can also vary the time concentrating (which must be uninterrupted) to speed up the results or increase the chances of success see Section 7.36, Psi Modifiers Summary.
The Psi now applies all modifiers and rolls against the Difficulty level using the appropriate skill. In an Opposed action, both parties involved make their rolls. On tie results, the status quo is maintained, whatever that may be.
At this point, a psi (or animate target of a psionic attack) may attempt to sacrifice one or more levels of Psychic Reservoir to augment his rolled result. That is, if a psifails in an Unopposed action, he may stress himself in an attempt to succeed. In an Opposed action, this can be considered two people locked in psionic combat, each struggling to boost their power a bit to overcome the other.
To augment a rolled result, a Psionicist rolls against the psionic skill he just used, with current modifiers still effective.
If the result is Good, he may sacrifice one level of Psychic Reservoir to give him a +1 on the result of the skill attempt. On a result of Great, he may sacrifice one or two levels, gaining +1 for each level, and on a roll of Superb or better, he may sacrifice up to three levels of Psychic Reservoir. On a result of Fair, Mediocre or Poor, there is no effect: he may not sacrifice a level of Psychic Reservoir, but there is no penalty for having tried. On a result of Terrible or worse, however, he not only drains one level of Psychic Reservoir, he also loses one level of rolled result. This can intensify any negative consequences of having failed.
If one party of an Opposed action is successful in augmenting his rolled result, the other may then try to augment his. They may continue to trade sacrificing levels of Psychic Reservoir until one of them fails to change the result, or falls below Terrible Psychic Reservoir.
Someone defending with no psionic abilities rolls against Willpower-2 to augment his result.
Once augmenting if any is complete, the GM decides the duration of the effects the better the roll, the better the results. Some effects will be permanent, such as Healing. Continuous concentration may be required to sustain other effects; this may slowly drain one’s Psychic Reservoir.
Psionic abilities are sometimes dangerous to use. A rolled degree of Terrible or worse will usually result in the exact opposite of the desired outcome, or some other entertaining backfire. In addition, the psi loses one level of Psychic Reservoir, as outlined in Section 7.33. It may also have a gruesome result: brain hemorrhage, loss of sanity, or a similar outcome. A Terrible result on an Opposed psionic action can mean the loser is now psychically open to his opponent. Such an open channel to another’s psyche means that if the winner has any psychic ability at all, he can automatically draw on the loser’s Psychic Reservoir to power his own abilities. The GM should determine these effects based on the situation at hand.
7.35 Desperation Psionics
Ordinarily, if the minimum Power level of a proposed psionic action is higher than the character’s Power level, the psionicist may not attempt the action at all. However, if one is desperate enough, he can try it at a great price.
For each level of Psychic Reservoir voluntarily drained before the skill roll, a psionicist can increase his Power level by +1. Simply pushing the Power level up to match the minimum level needed is all it takes to try the skill but he is at -2 to his skill for each level of Psychic Reservoir he drained for this attempt.
Unlike augmenting a rolled result (as described in the previous section), draining one level of Psychic Reservoir before the die roll is automatically successful.
This is obviously not for casual use: the risk of a Terrible outcome is much higher than normal, as well as the guaranteed drain on Psychic Reservoir. Nonetheless, if one were being attacked by the Spawn of The Other, a demon of tremendous power, one might try anything to survive.
7.36 Psi Modifiers Summary
Apply as many modifiers to the skill as are appropriate:
Psychic Reservoir Level: Psionic Skill use at:
Mediocre -1 Poor -2 Terrible -3 Below Terrible Prohibited Skill augmented by draining Psychic Reservoir: +1 per level Terrible or worse result on skill augmenting attempt:
-1 Desperation attempts: -2 per level of Psychic Reservoir drained Power level is 3 or more greater than necessary for the task: +1 Concentration time reduced by half: -1 Concentration time doubled: +1 Certain drugs, devices, fields, star alignments, areas, etc., can also have modifiers. As a GM-chosen option, psionics may be blocked by metal either all metal or just certain ones.
7.37 Psi Examples
Yardmower Man wants to mow the lawn psionically he needs the practice. He currently has a Good Psychic Reservoir and an interesting assortment of psi Powers and skills. The GM decides that to move and control the yard mower is a Great Difficulty level task on Telekinesis skill. It requires only Mediocre Telekinesis Power, however.
Yardmower Man has a Good Telekinesis Power but only Fair Telekinesis skill. It may be tough to do it well, but he’s willing to try it.
Yardmower Man declares he’s going to spend twice as much time concentrating (+1) and is also under the influence of Batch-5, a psi-enhancing drug (+1). He rolls a -1 result, which means a Good Telekinesis effort due to his modifiers. He just missed the Difficulty level. Since his power is adequate to move the lawn mower, he still mows the lawn telekinetically, but doesn’t do a very good job. In fact, it looks sloppy: there are thin strips of unmowed grass here and there, and he took out half of his daisy bed with one poorly aimed swipe.
Since this is a continued use, the GM decides that for each hour spent mowing he reduces his Psychic Reservoir by one level. It takes him two hours.
The next day, Yardmower Man decides the director of the local government psionic research facility should be Molecularly Rearranged. (He’s always snooping around, and has been known to lock up psis in the past.) The GM rules that Molecularly Rearranging a human other than the Psi himself is a Superb Difficulty level task against the Shapeshift skill, and requires at least a Great Shapeshift Power. It is also a taxing thing to do: it will drain one level of Psychic Reservoir at the end of the action. It will be opposed by the director’s Presence attribute, which is as close as this campaign comes to willpower.
Fortunately for Yardmower man, he has the Shapeshift Power and skill both at Superb level. He also consumes a double dose of Batch-5, giving him a +2 in the Opposed action, but severely risking side effects. His Psychic Reservoir is down to Mediocre from activities the night before (-1 to skill). Yardmower man rolls a -1 Result.
This is modified -1 for low Psychic Reservoir, and +2 for Batch-5, giving him a Superb Result.
The poor director has a Good Presence and Fair Psychic Reservoir. He gets lucky and rolls a Great Presence result trying to resist the psionic attack. But Great is not good enough (Yardmower man got a Superb result), so he tries to augment his result by sacrificing a level of Psychic Reservoir to fight the rearrangement of his molecules. His sacrifice roll (against Presence) is a Good Result, so he increases his result to Superb. He’s still holding on, but just barely. Also, his Reservoir will be Mediocre after this round of psychic combat.
Yardmower Man, not to be outdone, attempts to sacrifice his own Psychic Reservoir. He started the combat with a Mediocre Psychic Reservoir and full of Batch- 5, so he still applies the +1 overall modifier to his Superb Shapeshift skill on his augmentation roll. He easily achieves a Good Result, and he therefore augments his result to Superb+1. (After this round, his Reservoir will also drop another level.) The director desperately tries to augment his result again, but rolls a Fair result: he’s reached the limit of his ability to stave off defeat. Yardmower Man rearranges the director into a lovely bush, and stares blankly at the outcome. At this point, his Psychic Reservoir drops one more level, as required by the GM for such a taxing action.
Since he lost one level of Psychic Reservoir augmenting his skill, and another for the difficult Shapeshift action, Yardmower Man is now left with a Terrible Psychic Reservoir; he’d better not try anything this difficult for a while. Also, the GM demands a Good Difficulty level roll against Constitution to avoid any unpleasant side effects from the Batch-5 overdose. Yardmower Man gets a Mediocre result, missing by two levels. The GM smiles at the player, and secretly jots down that the next time he uses Batch-5, he’ll hallucinate that the director has returned to human form and is out to get him. . . .
Yardmower Man may someday drain his Psychic Reservoir fighting someone that isn’t there.