The Psi-Wars Primer
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The Emperor Ren Valorian rules the Galaxy. He seized it from the Galactic Federation, a diplomatic body of aristocratic houses when they failed to protect the galaxy from the dread invasion of the Scourge. His rule began with rage and revolution, casting down the aristocracy and promising equality for all "true citizens" of the Galaxy. He claims his rule a benign and a rational one, that he embraces logic and compassion. In truth, his reign oppresses the galaxy. He sends his mighty dreadnoughts and his force-sword wielding agents to crush dissent; he casts aliens into labor camps and disappears political activists to remote, planetary prisons; he quietly allows corrupt officials to run roughshod over the citizenry; he reshapes the philosophies and religions of the galaxy with his psychic might, forging an imperial cult that grant him transcendent power. Even those who benefit from the largess of the Empire begin to grow disquieted by the looming power of the Emperor.

Not all of the Galaxy has fallen into the Valorian Empire's grasp. The last remnants of the Galactic Federation, an Alliance of psychic aristocrats, free worlds and alien peoples, fled to the Glorian Rim, the ancestral home of humanity. There, they hid behind the ancient and mighty space fortress, the Hammer of Caliban. This last bastion of democracy seeks to gain new allies in one last bid to liberate the Galaxy of the Emperor and restore peace and freedom to all. In the Dark Arm of the Galaxy, fractious alien races enslave one another and worship in their own ecstasy cults. Where the Scourge slaughtered humanity, once placid robots have risen in revolt, and their Cybernetic Union sends their genocidal machines crashing against the fortresses of the Empire. Scattered throughout the whole galaxy lie the ruins and remains of lost civilizations, or hints of undiscovered tribes of aliens and new psychic philosophies.

Lurking beneath the overt political conflict lies an ancient conspiratorial conflict: the war for Communion and the minds of all sapient beings in the Galaxy. The collective hope, passion and fear of all living beings pool into a vast, galaxy-spanning phenomenon called "Communion," which certain, powerful psychics can tap into to invoke nigh-divine power. The Emperor secretly serves the Cult of the Mystical Tyrant, and seeks to control all of Communion, while the once-hunted Templars of True Communion gather in secret to plan the restoration of their galaxy-spanning faith and to purge Communion of the taint that the Emperor has inflicted upon it.

The Psi-Wars Galaxy teems with conflict, aliens, criminal scum and wonder. In this time of chaos, and with prophecies of a coming doom and the return of the Scourge, it needs heroes to tip the balance away from certain destruction and to bring with them a sliver of hope.

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What is Psi-Wars?

Psi-Wars is a cinematic space opera setting for GURPS heavily, and unapologetically, inspired by Star-Wars. But Psi-Wars draws from more than just Star Wars. It draws on the space opera pulp adventures that inspired Star Wars, the science fiction popular at the time Star Wars was first created, and the space opera that followed after. Space Opera, ultimately, seeks to draw a thin veneer of science fiction over the common adventure fiction of the late 19th and early 20th century, and Psi-Wars seeks to do the same. Psi-Wars is meant to facilitate the same sorts of plots present in Action, Fantasy and Wild-Western stories, but “set in space.” Thus, if it’s a familiar story, Psi-Wars should be able to handle it.

Psi-Wars began as an effort to show how to “rapidly” prototype your own GURPS setting from a favorite fictional universe. This process took just over a year, and you can follow the process here, for those interested in exploring where Psi-Wars came from. Since then, the setting itself has proved popular, and what follows is a “worked example” of that process in setting in fine detail, ready to “grab-and-go” for play.

Part of the intent of the Psi-Wars setting is to create a familiar foundation from which to explore less familiar stories. On the one hand, Psi-Wars seeks to create the space opera world any space opera fan would be readily familiar with, including evil empires and heroic rebels and psionic space knights fighting to rescue space princesses and determine the fate of the galaxy. On the other than, a good space opera setting offers the room to explore new concepts and ideas, to touch on grand set pieces and evoke a sense of wonder. In this regard, Psi-Wars attempts to move beyond “Just Star Wars with the serial numbers filed off” and to create a synthesis of numerous other inspirations and concepts.

Disclaimer

The material presented here is the original creation of Daniel Dover, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.

The Politics of Psi-Wars

The Psi-Wars galaxy is riven in a brutal civil war. A great, galactic federation of aristocratic houses had ushered in an era of peace and prosperity, but their mismanagement and short-sightedness led to a series of catastrophes and miscalculations that allowed a powerful psychic with training in alien philosophies, one Ren Valorian, to seize the levers of power and install himself as galactic Emperor. The remnants of the aristocracy fled to the the traditional home of humanity and reforged a new democratic state, the Alliance, which fights to resist the Imperial advance and hopes to gain enough allies to “restore” the democracy of the Galactic Federation.

  • The Valorian Empire is a dictatorship with pretensions of democracy via a powerless senate. True power is found in the bureaucracies of the Imperial Ministry, the vast Imperial Navy, and the secretive organizations that answer directly to the Emperor himself, including the Imperial Knights. The Empire is totalitarian, at Control Rating 6, militaristic, pro-human, and offers great benefits to its citizens but oppressive to its residents. It is currently winning the war and dominates the Galactic core and has extended tendrils of power into most other parts of the galaxy.
  • The Galactic Alliance is the rump state of the Federation and contains the last remnants of the Great Galactic Houses. Each house is sovereign, and are held together by a complex collection of treaties and governed by a democratic senate. They acknowledge other sovereign bodies within the Alliance too, from independent worlds to major interstellar corporations. The Galactic Alliance is rife with political intrigue and relies on outdated tactics and military vessels to fight its wars, but enjoys the benefit of better relations with the rest of the Galaxy. Control rating varies from 2-4, but averages 3. The Alliance is a democratic state that acknowledges human rights and uses diplomacy and political intrigue where the Empire uses force. It is currently losing the war. It controls only the Glorian Rim, the traditional birthplace of humanity.

The Alliance and the Empire, as heirs to the Galactic Federation, are the greatest and most powerful states in the Psi-Wars galaxy, and the story of the galaxy turns around their political conflict, but they do not rule the galaxy alone. Other states include (but are not limited to):

  • The Cybernetic Union is a robot-dominated totalitarian state created by a mass robot rebellion. It is nightmarishly totalitarian and forces humans and other organics to accept cybernetic controls or face extermination. It wages an existential, grinding, brutal war with the Empire that has reached a stalemate. It is a Control Rating 6 Oligarchy.
  • Slaver States are the various cartel-empires of the alien Umbral Rim, run by the various scattered aliens of that part of the galaxy. They tend to be ramshackle, with inferior technology and engage in “superstitious” psionic cults. They gain power and wealth by raiding one another and through slave-labor economies. The specifics of each state varies and most slaver states would be more oppressive if they could be, but in practice the tend to be CR 2-3 and effectively Feudal, which each warlord and potentate relying on the loyalty of subordinate warlords to retain their power.
  • The Spindel Web Marches is primarily the neutral world of Xen, which remains aloof from the political struggles currently afflicting the Galaxy and trades its advanced biotech to both sides. Ruled by clones of the original ruler, Lord Apex, Xen society is one built on genetic engineering and the labor of clones, and it controls access to the more primitive, tribal worlds of the Sylvan Spiral. It is CR 4 and technically a dictatorship under the total dominion of Lord Apex, but in practice it is a technocracy where the day-to-day governance goes through a council of genetically engineered elites.

The Races and Cultures of Psi-Wars

Humanity dominates the galaxy, and has since the Alexian Crusades, more than two thousand standard years ago. They lost the memory of their homeworld, likely some minor world off of the main “beaten paths” of hyperspatial travel, to history. Humanity, thus, traces its lineage back to three major founding planets and the cultures that sprang from them.

  • The Westerly are the oldest human ethnic group. They colonized the stars first, using extremely slow hyperspatial travel and generation ships or cryogenic storage. Their descendants make up either tribal groups on lost, isolated worlds, the belters and space-farers that continue to slowly ply the farm rim of the galaxy, or they have melted into the general populace of humanity as the everyman and the working class. They tend to value practicality, rugged independence and a pioneering spirit. They have a wide variety of beliefs; many tend to be superstitious, or believe in philosophies like Shepherdism or True Communion.
  • The Shinjurai are the second oldest human ethnic group, who settled the galaxy in the second wave of human colonization. They’re united by a deep faith in the power of science, technology and their mastery of math and logic. They tend to form strange societies built on whatever notion they have of an “optimized society.” They value intellect, education, clever solutions and the use of technology and, most importantly, to be seen as intellectual and educated! They can be found throughout the Galactic Core and in the coreward edges of the Sylvan Spiral and the Arkhaian Spiral. They practice Neo-Rationalism.
  • The Maradonians were the last major wave of human colonization, and they conquered the galaxy in their Alexian Crusades. They mastered the eugenics of psychic powers and forged the Great Houses, each of which has a psychic heritage. They mastered the force sword, the force buckler, and diamondoid armor to create the psychic space knight, whose power allowed them to conquer the galaxy. Today, they retain the traditions of knighthood, psychic aristocracy and they value prestige, elegance and self-restraint. Their dominion over the galaxy, though, ended with the fall of the Galactic Federation, and they have been pushed back into the Glorian Rim, the birthplace of humanity, where they remnants of their houses formed the Galactic Alliance. They no longer practice any major philosophies, but they traditionally practiced the Akashic Mysteries, and that hoary order has become more important as traditionalists seek to rekindle their glory days and kneel before their oracles, asking how best to defeat the Empire.

Humanity as a whole, however, has largely blended together into a single, diverse mass. While some humans have an obvious ethnicity and heritage aligning with one of the three above, many are “just human,” and are the result of generations of mixed heritages that show no particular leaning one way or the other. This is especially true in the Galactic Core, dominated by the Empire.

Humanity is far from alone in the galaxy, which brims with alien life. Those who walk into a space port bar, or explore a downtown bazaar, can expect to rub shoulders with dozens of species from all across the galaxy. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The Ranathim are a sultry and seductive race of psychic vampires. Their four horns, pointed ears, lashing tails and pointed teeth give them a somewhat demonic appearance, but displays an appealing physique that the other races of the galaxy find quite desirable. They use their display of flesh to draw others close, to allow them to feed on psychic energy. The Ranathim once ruled the galaxy until their own selfish passions and sins tore their empire apart. Now, many of them are slaves, the dancing girls and gladiators of the Umbral Rim, and those who retain a fraction of their former power guard that power and independence jealously. They founded some of the most influential philosophies of the galaxy, including the Divine Masks and the Cult of the Mystical Tyrant. Their culture and language, the Lithian culture, remains dominant in the Umbral Rim and is the single largest collective alien culture in the galaxy.
  • The Keleni are a graceful race of amphibious telepaths. They have soft, bluish or greenish skin that dries out quickly if away from the water, patches of attractive luminescence and long, silken white hair. Their natural empathy and talent for Psychic Healing makes them a compassionate race, but their helpful nature has earned them nothing but trouble as empire after empire has scattered the people all across the Galaxy, forcing them to cling to their beliefs in the face of persecution. They best articulated the concepts behind the great psychic gestalt known as Communion and founded the religion of True Communion, followed by the famous Templars.
  • The Traders are a race of slender and strange merchants. They have greenish yellow skin, frail physiques and mandibular mouths that they keep hidden behind gasmasks. Their minds move and think far faster than the rest of the races of the galaxy, and they can speak to one another in rapid squeaks and squawks barely audible to the rest of the denizens of the galaxy. They once vied with humanity for control of the galactic core, and saw their homeworld destroyed for their efforts. They now travel the stars in great arks and guildfleets, trading goods and their superior technology with the other races of the galaxy.
  • The Mogwai are a small, monkey-like race with an intuitive understanding of machines. They have large, black-lensed eyes, bluish-grey skin and some have great tufts of white hair atop their head. As natural machine telepaths, they see machines as alive: they have names and emotions and the Mogwai can talk to them and persuade the machines to join them in their hair-brained schemes. The other races of the galaxy find the chittering, chaotic Mogwai to be annoying, but as skilled engineers and technicians, the Mogwai are useful enough to tolerate.
  • The Asrathi are a feline race of warriors and mystics. Their claws can slice through armor, and some of their numbers, the “Morathi” or the “Witch Cat” have a natural talent for the psychic power of Probability Manipulation. Some trained Witch Cats learn the ancient Asrathi art of “Death Walking” and become the psychopomps and shamans of their people, speaking to ghosts and other psychic remnants and cleansing haunted locations of their taint.
  • The Gaunt are an artificial race created by the Ranathim during the Monolith War, a war between the Eldoth and the Ranathim millennia before humanity first journeyed to the stars. They were created using the stolen art of necrokinesis to reshape dead flesh into a form of synthetic flesh, which was then used to create strange armors, prosthetics and living robots: the Gaunt. The Gaunt are resilient, robust, and not very bright, but their ability to survive nearly anything has made them ubiquitous across the galaxy.
  • The Slavers, or the Temkorathim, once served the Ranathim as accountants and medicine-crafters, but turned the tables on their former masters and now enslaved the Ranathim in turn. They are a worm-like race,with long, strong arms, an array of tentacles, and long tails that allow them to slither “upright” along the ground. Tastebuds cover their soft, moist bodies, allowing them to taste what they touch, and they particularly enjoy the taste of the hormones found in the sweat and saliva of humanoids, which they can internalize and turn into drugs or poisons that they can secret over their body, poisoning those that dare touch them. They’ve turned this mastery of drugs into an additive criminal empire, the Slaver States.

The Psi-Wars Galaxy is vast and ancient, and many of the races that once dominated it are no more. In some cases, all that remains of a particular race are their ruined monuments or a few scattered exemplars who still wander the stars. In other cases, the race is an urban legend, a whispered rumor that may or may not be true.

  • The Eldoth once ruled the galaxy. The eldest race and the first in the cycle of Empires, they discovered that the psychic disruptions caused by mass tragedy could be industrialized and utilized to create vast, interstellar machines called the Deep Engine. They slaughtered billions across thousands of worlds to create their Deep Engine, and began to destroy the Keleni when the Ranathim intervened in the great Monolith War. The Ranathim succeeded in destroying the Eldoth, who returned to their regeneration sarcophagi to slumber, heal, and await their chance to return to dominion over the galaxy. Some of their number remain awake, quietly pulling the strings behind secretive cults across the galaxy.
  • The Menhiri were an ancient race of stone-like beings that lived on the world of Kronos in the Galactic Core and kept the histories and memories of the galaxy alive in their great archives. Then the Eldoth decided they needed their world and exterminated the race to fuel their Deep Engine. A few Menhiri still exist, wandering the galaxy and trying to rebuild their shattered archives while the rest of the galaxy has largely forgotten that the Menhiri ever existed.
  • The Skairos, also called the Devils of Persephone might not exist at all! When the first settlers of Persephone descended into the strange labyrinthine caverns of their world, they encountered something that gave them mastery over precognition and looking into the deep future. They named these creatures the Devils of Persephone and when the settlers went on to found the Akashic Mysteries, they adopted the imagery of the Skairos as a boogeyman and a symbol of their faith. They depict the Skairos as eye-less humanoids with sharp teeth and strange, alien attire. If they exist, they exist in the bowels of the Labyrinth, a shared, hyperdimensional cavern structure that riddles numerous worlds of the Glorian Rim and the Sylvan Spiral, which they rule in secret.
  • The Anacridian Scourge invaded the galaxy forty years ago from somewhere beyond known space. They brought with them a nanotech plague that rewrote technologies and biologies in their image, and laid waste to much of the Arkhaian Spiral. Their ruinous war with the Galactic Federation pushed it over the brink, and laid the foundations for the rise of both the Cybernetic Union and the Valorian Empire. Their true nature or intentions remain a mystery, and the galaxy has almost certainly not heard the last of this monstrous race.

The Metaphysics and Philosophies of Psi-Wars

For more on Psychic Powers, see Secrets of the Mind -- Psionic Powers.

For more on Communion, see Communion.

Powerful psychics shape the history and future of the Psi-Wars galaxy, but the powers themselves remain poorly documented by science and in the realm of mysticism of and religion.

Psionic powers come from one’s genetics, at least in part. Some races, such as the Keleni, the Ranathim and the Mogwai are naturally psychic. Some humans, notably the Great Houses of Maradon, have eugenically engineered themselves to be psychic (though their bloodline purity has diminished over the past few centuries). Some worlds, such as Xen, have discovered ways to genetically engineer people to have psychic gifts, but this typically leads to madness, with a psychic afflicted with chaotic psychic powers. Beyond these, psychics are rare, but not unknown. A world of a billion might have a hundred psychics of note. Most psychics are only latent, or have only an unconscious expression of their gifts. Those with some training or conscious control typically have a subtle ability: they can only read thoughts, or see a glimpse of the future, or exhaust themselves healing someone’s injuries. But a rare few have unbridled power, able to toss around men with with a flick of their hand, to kill with a thought, or to see not only far into the future, but into multiple possible timelines. However, even these powerful psychics are generally limited to the powers of a single discipline of psychic power.

Psychics can be controversial across the galaxy. While some races and bloodlines are naturally psionic, the aristocracy tends to jealously guard its mastery of psychic powers, and the Empire requires the registration of psychics. Most low level psychics use their powers as fortune tellers or to assist law enforcement or to engage in petty crime, while powerful psychics either hide their powers, or use them for criminal gain. While psychic powers aren’t especially controversial, high levels of psychic power tend to make people nervous, and laws in various regions often require psychics to make their status known; violation of these laws can result in a small fine (the Alliance) or a lengthy prison sentence (the Empire).

Psionic energy pervades the galaxy. It can collect in greater strength in some areas, creating regions of pace and sanctity, or dark places of psychic hunger. In the worst places, where psychic energies have been twisted up by tragedy, negative emotion, and strange rituals, they become haunted by psychic echoes and eldritch energies that disrupt and taint psychic powers used within the area. Philosophies disagree on the nature of this all-pervasive psychic energy, but the most common explanation for it is that all living beings have some measure of psychic potential, and the sum accumulation of their life experiences, their beliefs and the way they interact with the world creates this vast, unconscious gestalt. The Keleni call this gestalt Communion.

The greatest psychic can tap into the power of Communion. When they do, their power is no longer their own. Instead, they tap into the global unconsciousness, this vast psychic energy, this god, and draw upon its power. Communion has three faces, three natures. The Communion of the Keleni, called True Communion by those who follow the Keleni religion, is shaped by the Super-Ego. It is the Communion of community, healing, self-regulation, and self-denial. The Ranathim have a deep bond with another form of Communion, the psychic energy of their ecstatic cults, called Dark Communion, shaped by the primal Id. It is the Communion of selfish hungers and primal lusts, the unconscious gestalt of our inner beasts. Finally, the Eldoth learned and mastered a form of Communion that arose from twisted psionic energy fields, the Communion of thanatosis, or the self-destruction impulse, or psychosis, the mind reeling from that which it could not understand. This Communion, called Broken Communion is the communion of self-destruction, fear of the other, and the incomprehensibility of the human condition.

Those who wield the power of Communion often find it overwhelming. They do not command it so much as petition it, or channel it through themselves. Communion does what It will, and the user of Communion is but its vessel. But those who achieve the most success do so by walking a path of Communion. They align themselves with a primal archetype understood intuitively by all sapient minds that have been embedded in the global unconsciousness of Communion: the Righteous Crusader, the Beautiful Fool, Death, etc. This limits their power and forces them to behave in specific ways, but it also makes the form of Communion they draw upon more reliable. Indeed, many people who use Communion do so by unconsciously aligning themselves with a path. They unintentionally become avatars of the Bound Princess or the Rebellious Beast, and then Communion acts through them.

Those who wield Communion consciously gain additional benefits. They can draw on the energies of Communion to empower their psychic powers. True Communion draws its power from meditation and oneness with the universe; Dark Communion tempts its users with offers of addictive rushes of power; Broken Communion twists those who draw upon it with corruption, madness and psychic disease. Finally those who wield Communion can liberate themselves from the restraints of genetics, and can access any psychic power.
Psychic powers and Communion have shaped the religions and philosophies of Psi-Wars.

  • True Communion is the faith of the Keleni. It embraces the power of Super-Ego Communion and seeks to create unity between all beings. Its prophets listen to the urgings of Communion to guide their people, and draw on it to miraculously heal. The faith and philosophy spread to other races, and when humanity embraced it, they liberated the Temple Worlds of the Keleni and created a new breed of psychic space knight: the Templar. Though the Templar were destroyed in a war centuries ago, some chapters of the illustrious order carry on in secret, guided by the urgings of Communion and masters of esoteric forms of martial arts. True Communion followers can be found throughout the galaxy and anywhere where the Keleni gather, but they tend to be secretive because of historical persecution.
  • The Divine Masks: The Ranathim worship the paths and their manifestations as great psychic gods. They created a complex umbrella philosophy under which they placed every form of Communion worship, calling each a “divine mask” for the same set of gods. The gods of the Divine Masks are vengeful and mercurial and demand their followers obey strict oaths. Those that fail to do so call down divine curses upon themselves. They worship in ecstatic cults at the feet of mighty stone idols that depict their gods. The Divine Masks are isolated to the Umbral Rim and Lithian culture.
  • The Cult of the Mystical Tyrant is, technically, an off-shoot of the Divine Masks, as it began as a cult dedicated to the Path of the Mystical Tyrant as an Imperial Cult of the first Ranathim Tyrant to rule the Galaxy. It has, since, evolved into a brutally cynical philosophy of realpolitik and will to power. The Cultists see Dark Communion as a tool to advance their interests and their power, and see the universe as a struggle for power, with morality as window-dressing for one’s own will and ambitions. The Cultists of the Mystical Tyrant keep their worship secret, and create secretive conspiracies to advance their power. The Emperor Ren Valorian is among their number.
  • The Akashic Mysteries were the animating philosophy behind humanity’s rise to power. The Maradonian settlers of a world called Persephone found that strange caverns and mazes, the labyrinth, riddled their planet. When they explored it, they discovered powerful psychic secrets that let them see far into the future and map out the fate of mankind. What they found in the far future was a dreadful disaster that only they had the power to avert. They built an entire religious Order around training oracles and advising rulers on what best to do to avoid this great disaster. Their project failed with the death of Lucian Alexus, the last of the Alexian Dynasts, and largely relegated the Akashic Order to the ashbin of history. However, the Order persisted, and with the fall of the Galactic Federation, the Great Houses turn once again to their oracles for advice, the Mysteries find themselves once more on the rise. The Akashic Mysteries are largely isolated to Humanity, in the Glorian Rim.
  • Neo-Rationalism is the animating philosophy of the Shinjurai people. Once, faith in the scientific method brought them to the stars and almost gave them control of the galaxy, until Alexus Rex and his space knights and psychic oracles took it from them. Since then, their understanding of science has devolved into a mystical adoration of the sages of the past, catechisms and an elevation of literature over process. However, they retain enough understanding of the advances of the past to hone their mind into powerful engines of logic, and with the Valorian Empire embracing Neo-Rationalism, it has undergone a renaissance that might see the scientific process once more brought to the forefront. Neo-Rationalism can be found on any world where the Shinjurai hold sway, and variations of it animate the Cybernetic Union, and many Imperial officials adhere to it, formally or informally.

The Technology of Psi-Wars

For more on Psi-Wars Technology, see The Technology of Psi-Wars.


Psi-Wars is a TL 11^ Retrotech setting. It has wonders of highly advanced society, including rapid healing technologies, force screens, faster-than-light travel and communication, and functioning robots. On the other hand, it lacks many of the more transformative technologies predicted by futurists, and its society in many ways resembles the social order of the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, only with blasters and robots in it. In some places, such as drugs, robotics and economic prosperity, it lags behind into TL 10, while in some isolated pockets, unique prototypes reach TL 12, or have some aspects of the transformative technologies promised by advanced technologies.

Hyperspace

For more on Hyperspatial Travel, see Navigation.

For more on the Galactic regions, see the Galactic Atlas.


Hyperspatial travel stitches together the interstellar societies of Psi-Wars. Hyperspace is fast, allowing one to reach a new star system in hours instead of centuries. A determined pilot with a modern ship can cross the entire galaxy in a year. Similarly, FTL communication relays allow for realt-time communication with farflung star systems.

This would seem to suggest that one can get anywhere in the galaxy in but a little bit of time, but in practice, this is not so. Hyperspatial travel moves through a mysterious and poorly understood hyperdynamic medium. This medium varies in intensity and difficulty to travel through or escape from, creating a hyperspatial “geography.” Some star systems are connected by “easy passages” through the hyperspatial medium, while others require movement through nigh-impassible “rough” hyperspatial medium. The medium itself shifts and rages into “hyperstorms” that also disrupt navigation. Most interstellar travel takes place through the easiest and most stable of passages, and the worlds that are more difficult to reach are abandoned to those of sufficient pioneering spirit, or unlawful ambitions, to brave the dangers of less tame parts of space. Thus, while it can be said that Psi-Wars is a truly galactic civilization, the vast majority of stars lay untouched, as most of society is built upon a slender skeleton of trade networks.

Ships in Psi-Wars come in roughly four sizes:

  • Starfighters and shuttles are typically the size of a car or a bus, and can fit a single person in the cockpit and, in the case of shuttles, a few passengers behind them. Fighters are light, small and noble, and have sufficient firepower to threaten much larger ships, but tend to be easily destroyed.
  • Corvettes are the size of large planes and small sea-going ships, like yachts. They typically have a pilot and a co-pilot and move with almost as much maneuverability and speed as a fighter. They’re often the vessel of choice for smugglers, tramp freighters, or aristocrats on a cruise. They also make up the smallest scale of military vessels, typically orbital patrol vessels.
  • Capital Ships are the size of the largest sea-going ships and make mighty naval vessels. These include cruiser, battleships and carriers, which often act as flagships for fleets, artillery platforms for orbital bombardments, or transport vessels for fighters or invasions of ground troops. Similarly sized vessels might act as freight liners.
  • Dreadnoughts are the largest vessels in Psi-Wars, and can reach multiple miles in length. The Empire deploys them as their largest military vessels, and a fleet of these can turn a planet’s surface to cinders while unleashing wave after wave of fighters. The Trader Arks are this size, and house millions of people.

The Technologies of Daily Life

Fashion

The common citizen of the Psi-wars galaxy typically wears either a jumpsuit, or a loose set of pants and a jacket, usually with some sturdy boots and a wide utility belt that holds a variety of tools and the holster for their blaster. Their clothes usually have some technology built into it, such as Buzzcloth (UT 39) which keeps the clothes clean; the poorest of the Psi-Wars galaxy might have only one or two sets of garments and rely on the buzzcloth to keep it clean.

Those who can afford it often wear a body stocking of battleweave. Battleweave is an armored fabric that can absorb light blaster fire and soften the kinetic energy of physical blows. Battleweave is light and tends to be worn as a single, form-fitting black garment beneath the rest of the character’s clothes.

High status humans typically eschew battleweave in favor of haute couture. Fashionable men typically wear trousers, shoes and heavy jackets reminiscent of military uniforms, or buttonless shirts with standing collars and a slim business jacket over it. Women currently favor skirts that bare some leg, such as mini skirts or long, tight skirts with a slit, though trousers are hardly a faux pas, especially among older women. The high heel is very popular among human women, either as a shoe or a boot, but it remains primarily isolated to humanity: few aliens bother with them, though those humanoid aliens that often interact with humans have reluctantly adopted them. They tend to go with form fitting tops, and necklines have been creeping up, with many women wearing tops that have the same standing collar as men and bare some of their shoulder, though maradonian aristocracy defiantly hold onto their current fashion trend of generous displays of cleaveage.

Different human ethnicities have their own fashion sensibilities, as do aliens. The Westerly tend to favor robust and practical garments and Westerly Belters take pride in their spacesuits. Maradonians favor cloaks and hoods, and ostentatious displays of wealthy via diamondoid signet rings and psuedo-gauntlets. The Shinjurai prefer sleek, minimalistic outfits that emphasize the natural shape of the human form and the artificiality of the fabric, though wildly colorful “punk” styles have taken over the streets of Denjuku by storm. The Traders make use of their “skinsuits,” skintight vacuum suits that protect them from the germs of other races, and the Ranathim are famous for their revealing, exotic attire.

Domestic Technology

The people of Psi-Wars live in recognizable homes. On the frontier worlds of the Rim, or on alien worlds, most people live in homes constructed of natural materials, or in concrete constructed into naturally cooling domes. In urban worlds, most people live in small, prefabricated cubical apartments of metals, plastics and glass a few rooms large, similar to the accommodations they might find on a starship or a space station. Wealthier characters live in palatial mansions or penthouse suites atop grand, glittering towers of glass and diamondoid. Electricity, artificial lightning, artificial gravity and atmospheric reprocessing are ubiquitous. If necessary, hostile worlds might have domed cities, but in practice the Psi-Wars galaxy has so much untapped real-estate that most people choose to colonize worlds with “shirt sleeve” climates; only Belters and Pirates live in hostile star systems, or corporate work complexes if the star system is especially resource rich.

The furnishings of a home in Psi-Wars look familiar to anyone from modern-day Earth, though with more advanced materials. Family members perch on couches or sit at tables or lie in beds. The Westerly might furnish their homes with local woods or leave the metal bare, while Shinjurai might favor minimalistic decorations of glossy white, black or grey with a great deal of plastic and enameled metal and simple thin cushions, while Maradonians might favor very traditional materials of wood and stone for the lower class, and opulent art deco furnishings with contra-gravity glow-lap chandaliers for the uppercrust.

The poorest urban residents might bathe with a sonic shower (UT 70) but if people can afford it, most use water showers, or better, luxuriant baths. Those who can afford it might purchase a Kitchen Foodfac (UT 70) to assist in food preparation, a Smart Stove (Pyramid #3/37 page 32) and utility tools (Pyramid #3/37 page 32). Poorer homes might use built-in stoves and prepare their food with simple utensils. Entertaiment is typically handled in a family room with a holographic Entertainment Console (UT 51) which handles computer games and holographic “TV” programs, such as news programs, the latest action adventure holo-movie, or romantic comedy. Most homes have a single entertainment console, but the upper middle class might have several, to prevent arguing over what to watch or play. Poor homes have none.

Communication is handled via holographic calls or, for the poor, video calls. Calls local to the planet are extremely cheap, and work on a technology almost exactly the same as radio. Most people can afford a palm-sized holographic communicator for private calls. Interstellar calls are possible, but one must transit the call through an FTL relay, and this are tightly controlled by Imperial bureaucracies or corporate monopolies; calls within the local region are affordable for all but the poorest (about $50 for a lengthy call), while calls across a constellation might be staggeringly expensive ($500+ for a lengthy call). Calls from one side of the galaxy may not be possible, but if they are, best reserved for the highest channels.

Holograms are ubuitous and cheap. While people still use enjoy art and sculptures, many people will store their memories in the form of holotech players (UT 52), or leave static holograms of family members on their desk or near their bed.

The entire house typically has a single, central computer that has at least one interface in the central pillar of the house, and may have interfaces in other parts of the house. More advanced or opulent homes will have a computer with a voice interface. The computer is “dumb” and has no personality, nor does it “think ahead"; if the home owner wants their bath prepared and heated by the time he gets home, he’ll need to program that it himself. However, the computer does handle the security of the house, and the owner can order doors open or shut or locked. Data is carried with Datachips (UT 51).Individuals may carry a Dataplayer (UT 51) or a Book Reader (UT 51). Physical books, with paper, are obsolete but still beloved and collected. More expensive books may include “paper displays” for animated pictures, or responsive text that can be updated with new data.

The home, and other places, are typically secured with an electronic lock (UT 102) that might use a keypad or, more commonly, a security card. Biometric locks (UT104) that respond to voice prints or handprints are also very common. Homes and offices often have electro-optical cameras programmed with facial recognition software to sound an alarm if they “see” someone they don’t recognize; these can be touchy, though, so people turn them off when the office or home space is in use.

Economic and Industrial Technologies

The most common currency in the galaxy is the Galactic Credit, a cryptographic currency meant to allow for massive interstellar commercial exchanges. It is primarily used as an accounting measure by corporations and government bureaucracies. These exchanges tend to be handled by major financial institutions and processing centers, which might handle all the exchanges for an entire constellation. Alternatively, the cryptographic sequences of credits can be stored on a datachip, which has sufficient storage space to transfer $1,000,000, but this represents a considerable security risk and so is rarely done outside of criminal circles that don’t wish to have their transactions traced. A single Galactic Credit, conveniently, is worth $1 or one GURPS dollar.

A Galactic Credit can be withdrawn as a physical currency. These tend to be precious metals, including gold coins such as the Imperial crown, the Trader Mir, or the diamondoid currency of the Alliance. These tend to be outrageously valuable, though, and so more common transactions take place with simple, machined metal bands or paper currency, which have demarcations of their credit value.
Aliens use a variety of their own currencies as well.

Farming in Psi-Wars looks remarkably primitive. To be sure, some farmers can afford great swathes of land and massive, industrial-scale combines that go over the land, but in many places, farming is still done by hand or with the help of robots. Farmers pick the fruit of their orchard and carefully inspect the family plot of land. Various labor-saving technologies, such as robots and the aforementioned industrial combine, and advanced pesticides allows a simple farmer to produce a living wage off of the land, to feed more than his own family and especially fertile worlds can serve as a breadbasket for entire constellations, but as one walks through the farms of such a world, they see familiar small stone walls, and great fields of grain and bleating herds of gheap.

The dietary needs of space stations or colonies on hostile worlds are harder to fill. Most food on such installations is imported off-world. After all, interstellar travel is cheap and quick. Those that live far from the standard trade routes, however, might use some form of hydroponics, using yeast cultures and algae blooms to fill their diet. The Westerly are famous for their yeast-steaks and their “scum beer.” The Shinjurai have perfected “food pills” (UT 73) but they remain unpopular in the rest of the galaxy.

Resource extraction and industrial production are, similarly, a mix of primitive and advanced. Men with pickaxes work alongside humanoid robots to extract ore, while great industrial processors and foundries turn it hard metals. Most factories have assembly line processes that mix human (and robotic) labor with automated machinery. Safety might be overlooked by corporations seeking to maximize their profit, or imperial bureaucracies for whom workers are but numbers. More advanced industrial processes do exist, but tend to be reserved for the most elite: the Maradonian aristocracy have vast, cathedral-sized nanofacs that can “print” a desired item to a precisely defined pattern customized for a specific aristocrat, but this is an expensive process, equivalent to tailoring an item to a specific person, and is rarely available to the average person, and rarely used for the creation of anything but personal equipment.

Fusion Generators (UT 20) power the technology of Psi-Wars. Small-scale fusion generators, such as those found on starfighters or corvettes, use a fuel harvested from gas giants and the inner cores of worlds called Hyperium which optimizes the fusion process. A single tank of hyperium can power such a ship for weeks. Larger fusion generators, those used on dreadnoughts, capital ships and to power entire space stations or cities, use classic fusion; their fuel reserves last decades. Power can also be stored in Power Cells (UT 18). Psi-Wars power-cells are “super-science” and last five times as long, or provide five times as many shots, as noted in Ultra-Tech.

Military Technology

For more on the weapons of Psi-Wars, see Weapons.

For more on the forms of armor in Psi-Wars, see Armor.

The military weapon of choice in Psi-Wars is the blaster (UT 122). However, Psi-Wars takes artistic liberties with the science of a blaster, and instead of behaving like a beam of particles, a blaster shot behaves like a “glowing bullet” inflicting incendiary piercing damage. Other than their superior armor penetration, blasters act remarkably like T7-8 firearms. Most people who travel in the dangerous parts of space carry at least a blaster pistol.

Psi-Wars also makes use of plasma weapons (UT 127) and EM Disruptors (a sort of visible directed EMP attack that disables electronics). They sometimes use lasers, but they tend to be continuous beam weapons. Psi-Wars also makes use of projectile weapons, typically gauss grenade launchers, though some more primitive races still use gauss or even caseless bullets.

The explosives of Psi-Wars tend to be plasma shells (UT 158), plasma lance warheads that operate like advanced shape charges and, for the heaviest explosives, the isomeric nuclear weapon, which is an unstable explosive that tends to be loaded into anti-capital-ship torpedoes.

Psi-Wars armor can be anything from battleweave, a form of fabric armor that can be anything from a thin body stocking to a heavy jacket, coat or uniform, to a heavy armor crafted of titanium carbide, or just “Carbide.” The Empire, in particular, armors its soldiers in thick combat suits of carbide laminate. Most civilians in a slender battleweave stocking can reduce the damage of a blaster pistol from lethal to merely debilitating, while battleweave vests with carbide inserts or imperial carbide suits can stop a shot from a blaster rifle. Maradonian nobles know the secret to “diamondoid,” a powerful carbon-based crystalline armor that they craft their full plate armor out of. These tend to cost several years salary of an average worker, but they afford the aristocracy a shocking amount of protection. Heavier armor, such as battlesuits, are rare.

Outside of the force buckler, personal-scale force screens are rare outside of advanced Shinjurai prototypes. However, vehicles such as tanks or starfighters typically carry a force screen.

Melee weapons include the famous force sword (UT 166), used by space knights, templars and cultists of the Mystical Tyrant. These can deflect blaster fire (especially when paired with a force buckler, UT 192) and carve through other melee weapons with ease. Few forms of armor outside of battlesuits or diamondoid armor provide sufficient protection to stop a force sword. These tend to be expensive and take a great deal of skill to master. The rest of the melee fighters of the galaxy use advanced vibro weapons (UT 164) and neurolash weapons (UT 165) which tend to be either set to stun the target or to induce agony. Neurolash fields can, with some training, turn a force sword well enough to prevent the weapon from being destroyed, which makes it a popular addition to vibro-weapons. Ranathim slavers often make use of neurolash whips!

Robotics

For more on robots in Psi-Wars, see Robots.

For more on cybernetics in Psi-Wars, see cybernetics.

Psi-Wars has perfected the art of artificial intelligence. The vast majority of robots use neural nets, which are integrated into the chassis. Artificial intelligence, then, is a physical process that cannot be casually duplicated or migrated from one chassis to the other. To move a robot’s mind to a new chassis, a mechanic has to physically remove their electronic brain and put it into the new chassis. Outside of a few, dangerous prototypes, robots are no smarter or faster than humans.

Robots tend to look obviously robotic; the finest biomorphic sculpting is usually mannequin (UT 28), and that’s typically only found on advanced Shinjurai robots. Most robots have simple, metal chassis. Robots tend to be designed for a singular purpose, and do that singular thing well.

The robot’s place in society is a much debated topic, though recent events have decided most of the galaxy in favor of robots-as-slaves. Robots develop their own personalities and quirks, and a robotic rights movement had sprung up in recent decades, but the horrors of the Cybernetic Union have turned public sentiment against robots. The Empire, in particular, is very hostile to robots and requires the registration of anything with human-level intelligence.

Humans who lose body parts cannot generally have them regrown or new limbs attached. However, cybernetics have advanced to the point that people can “upgrade” themselves with cybernetics. This is not common, and heavily augmented cyborgs face a social stigma. The superhuman capabilities of cyborgs, thus, are generally left to the most adventurous characters.

How to Play Psi-Wars

Psi-Wars makes use of a wide variety of GURPS books, but most of them are either isolated to specific sections that you can ignore if you miss the requisite books, or are updated sufficiently that I feel safe printing my own rules, allowing you to ignore their original inspiration. However, you will need some GURPS books to play.

Recommended GURPS Books:

  • GURPS Basic
  • GURPS Action 2: Exploits
  • GURPS Martial Arts
  • GURPS Psionic Powers
  • GURPS Ultra-Tech

Running Psi-Wars

Psi-Wars simplifies a lot of rules and has numerous house rules meant to facilitate making high-powered characters with great physical capabilities in an Ultra-Tech setting that allows people to gain similar advantages with purchased technology. Broadly, it operates using the simplifications found in the GURPS Action Framework.

For more on the rules and mechanics of Psi-Wars, see The Rules of Psi-Wars.

For more on the house rules and details of character creation, see Traits.

Making a Psi-Wars Character

For a list of all background lenses, where your character is from, see Background Lenses.

For a list of all templates, what your character is does, see Templates.

For a list of all power-ups, what makes your character awesome, see Power-Ups.

Psi-Wars uses templates similar to those found in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy or GURPS Action. These templates are aimed at 250-point characters, which is the minimum recommended point total for Psi-Wars. However, most games have been played and playtested on 300 points, which allows the characters some flexibility for special powers or unique alien races. A character is typically constructed from a 250-point occupational template with an integrated 20-point background lens, and then the player adds a 50-point “power-up.”

I Want To Play As…

Psi-Wars draws its inspirations from numerous sources, which means it has a bewildering array of possible character options. If you just want to jump straight in, here are some pointers. If you want to play as…

  • A Jedi: take the Space Knight template, with any background (Humble Origins is likely the most common). The Apprentice Templar lens is closest to a jedi. The most common power-ups would be a Martial Art (to expand their force swordsmanship; consider the Serene Form or the Simple Form), Psychic Powers, additional levels of True Communion, or a race (Asrathi or Keleni are good choices for a beginner).
  • A Space Princess: Technically any template will do, as what matters is the Aristocratic background. Take high levels of status, and choose what sort of aristocracy you come from; Maradonian Aristocrat is a good starting point, especially House Sabine. The best occupational template for a generic princess is probably Diplomat. For power-ups, consider additional psychic powers, or spend more points on Aristocratic advantages.
  • An Imperial Officer: Take the Officer template with the Imperial Navy lens. Any background will do, but the unique Imperial Academy background is the most common. Study up on the empire! The most common power-ups is to just dump more points into Officer Advantages, especially Rank, to gain access to a Dreadnought.
  • A Rebel: “Rebel” is a fairly broad concept, but your best bet is either the Commando template or the Fighter Ace template. Either could serve the Alliance, but an independent mercenary might be a more classic approach. The most common background is Humble Origins. Any power-up will do, though Alien is common (Consider the Asrathi).
  • A Robot: WIP
  • A Bounty Hunter: Take the Bounty Hunter template; any lens will do, independent bounty hunter is a good starting point, but lodges can be a lot of fun. Any background will do, but Outcast is the most common. Power-ups can be anything, but Martial Art (Blaster Style) or Cybernetics are the most common.
  • Killjoy: A specific example of a Bounty Hunter, above, from the Exilium Lodge.
  • A Bene Gesserit Witch: WIP
  • A Space Marine: WIP
  • A Gunslinger: WIP
  • A Space Pirate: WIP
  • A Junkworld Scavenger: Take the Scavenger template, typically with a Survivor or Outcast background. The most common power-ups are cybernetics or alien (consider one of the Gaunt).
  • A Firefly Companion: Take the Con-Artist with the Courtesan lens. Any background will do, but escaped slave, aristocrat, humble origins or outcast all have interesting implications. Any power-up will do, but the most classic one is either an unarmed martial art, or just apply more points to the Con-Artist template.

I Want Something Different!

Or perhaps you heard that Psi-Wars was “original” and “not just Star Wars with the serial numbers filed off.” If so, you should be able to play as something that isn’t a totally familiar trope. Some curated suggestions include:

  • A Maradonian Space Knight: take the Space Knight template with the Maradonian Space Knight lens and the Aristocratic background, and choose your House (House Kain or House Elegans are the most straightfoward starting options). The most common power-ups would be a Martial Art (to expand their force swordsmanship), Psychic Powers (to expand your eugenic powers) or apply additional points to the aristocratic lens. Make sure you invest in some of that sweet Maradonian armor!
  • A Shinei Bodyguard: WIP
  • A Rim-Walker: Take the Frontier Marshal template with the Rim-Walker Lens. The most common backgrounds are Humble Origins or Wanderer. Most Rim-Walkers invest in the Way of the Rim blaster martial art.
  • A Keleni Prophet: WIP
  • A Saruthim: Take the Bounty Hunter template with the Lodge Hunter lens, with a focus on the Saruthim lodge. Any background will do, though Wanderer or Outcast are common. You’ll want to play as a Ranathim for starters, though other races are technically possible. Be sure to design your flesh carapace!
  • A Zathare Sorcerer: WIP
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