Secrets of the Mind - Psionics

Psionic Powers, unsurprisingly, define Psi-Wars. Space Knights wield powers of the mind against their opponents, and nearly every major philosophy of the setting makes use of them or related phenomenon, or seeks some way to disrupt them.

Psi-Wars uses GURPS Psionic Powers for its psychic powers, and the books is indispensable. However, the psychic powers of Psi-Wars tend to achieve greater heights of power and have flashier effects, appropriate to a cinematic setting, and alters some rules to better suit an Ultra-Tech setting.

The Fundamentals of Psychic Powers

Psionic Powers and Character Creation

Psychic abilities must be purchased at character creation. If a character purchases a single ability, they have that one ability and no other and may not purchase any other abilities. If they have purchased a psychic talent, this holds the door open to additional psychic powers from the power they have a talent for (so, a character with Telepath Talent may purchase more Telepathic abilites, but not ESP abilities). Characters may purchase the Weak Latency (Psi) perk to allow their character to purchase psionic abilities later in the game (See Psionic Powers page 19).

Any character who acquires any form of the Communion trait may ignore these limitations and purchase psychic abilities from any power.

At the GM’s discretion, the philosophy of True Communion claims to be able to unlock the psychic potential of anyone, so characters who study with them may purchase the Weak Latency (Psi) perk after character creation. The GM might also allow someone to retroactively realize they were psychic the whole time, and spend points later, but this typically involves an adventure of self-discovery and high weirdness and psychic experts glaring at the character over a hand of Zener cards.

Psionic Talents

Characters may purchase up no more than 4 levels of any talent unless they have a feature or perk that says otherwise. Characters might purchase the (Psionic Power) Mastery perk up to two times. Each level increases the maximum level of their talent once.

Cinematic “Chi” skills are powered by one’s mastery of the body, and that mastery is ultimately psionic in nature. Psionic talents also grant a bonus to certain cinematic skills (if a character has two talents that apply to a cinematic skill, use only the best one):

Electrokinesis: Breaking Blow, Power Blow (with an energy-based weapon that allows it), Invisibility Art
ESP: Blind Fighting, Precognitive Defense, Throwing Art, Zen Marksmanship
Psychic Healing: Autohypnosis, Body Control, Breath Control, Pressure Points, Pressure Secrets
Psychic Vampirism: Hypnotic Hands, Hypnotism, Pressure Points, Pressure Secrets
Psychokinesis: Breaking Blow, Flying Leap, Immovable Stance, Kiai, Light Walk, Lizard Climb, Power Blow, Push, Throwing Art
Telepathy: Autohypnosis, Blind Fighting, Hypnotic Hands, Hypnotism, Invisibility Art, Sensitivity

New Character Traits

Energy Reserves (Psionic)

Energy Reserves act like fatigue for the purposes of psionic powers only. Problems that afflict general fatigue (such as starvation or cold) cannot harm your Energy Reserves, but nor can you spend it on physical actions. You may spend it on technique costs or extra effort, for any Psionic Power that costs fatigue, or to power any Cinematic “Chi” skills for which the character has an appropriate psionic talent. Finally, the Psychic Vampirism ability “Drain Energy” can afflict both normal fatigue or Energy Reserves.

How Psi Works: Extra Effort

Everyone's a little bit psychic

In Psi-Wars, everyone who has any psychic talent may have access to Precognitive Defense. This suggests all psychics have at least a little ESP. Given the possible connection psychics have with Communion, this is likely true, and even a psychokinetic might get flashes of insight into moments. To represent this, characters may apply their best psychic talent as a bonus to any roll to detect the use psychic powers (for example, with Expert Skill (Psionics)) and allow them to attempt the roll at a default (Perception-6 + their best talent) even if they don't have Expert Skill (Psionics). The GM might also allow players to roll the same value to detect something, such as the presence of a ghost, the fact that they're in an area with twisted psionic energy, or that the news they're watching is significant (a la Exposition Sense) or that someone nearby is important or psychic. A success means they "feel off" or get a sense of deja vu, with no additional information as to why; uusally, this just gives the character the realization that they should investigate further. The GM can use this rule to highlight things he wants the characters to notice to further his plot; it does little more than that.

Anti-Psi characters also benefit from this optional rule. They're more likely than most to find psychics or to notice something is strange. This stems from their connection to Broken Communion.

The details of how Psi works from page 6 to page 11, as well as the rules for how to Detect Psi on page 11 of Psionic Powers all work exactly as described with the exception of Extra Effort. Additionally, Psi-Wars uses the “Just Like Riding a Bike” option from Psionic Powers page 8

Characters who use Extra Effort may choose between the standard “Power begets Power” rules of the Psionic Powers book or the “Space Opera” rules found in the Psionic Powers Designer Notes (Pyramid #3/09 “Space Opera,” page 14, “Altering Extra Effort”) and they may make this choice on a case-by-case basis. Most will choose to use the “Space Opera” version for expensive abilities with only a few levels (like Suggestion) while the “Power begets Power” for the cheap abilities with many levels (like TK-Grab). This is permissible, and players can choose a different version later. As a rule, let them use the best option for their circumstances!

God-like Psionics: All psionic Extra-Effort is God-like. For every two fatigue spent when applying Extra-Effort to an ability, increase the multiplier for the power by 1. Thus if a characters spend 2 fatigue and applies a -5 to his Will for Extra-Effort, they gain +50% effect; if a character spends 4 (2+2) and applies a -5 to his Will for Extra-Effort, they gain +100% effect (50% × 2); if the character spends 6 extra effort (2+2+2) and applies a -5 to his Will for Extra-Effort, they gain +150% effect (50% × 3). This also applies to the “Space Opera” version of Extra-Effort (if the character applies -4 to Will and spends 6 fatigue, they gain 3 levels rather than 1).

Some psionic powers in Psi-Wars have explicit caps to prevent unreasonable results (such as Aspect 20), but Psi-Wars also assumes that characters will occasionally reach jaw-dropping levels of power thanks to Extra-Effort.

Psi and Esoteric Medicine

While technological medicine certainly exists and works in Psi-Wars, treating injuries by understanding how psychic phenomenon affect the world also works. Esoteric Medicine has numerous possible benefits depending on tradition, but in general, Esoteric Medicine may do the following.

Characters may use Esoteric Medicine to perform First Aid. Characters may roll Esoteric Medicine to diagnose an ailment that is psychic in origin, corruption (and its source), or to diagnose a crippled psychic ability. Characters with Esoteric Medicine at 12+ who attend a patient daily help the body “heal itself,” and improves all HT rolls to recover from wounds or illnesses by +1 (for psychic ailments, this may be the only way to recover!). For those with lasting crippled psychic abilities, treating the wound with Esoteric Medicine reduces the recovery time by 3 months (to a minimum of 1 month).

Esoteric Medicine may also help reduce Corruption. See Corrupted Psi below.

Corrupted Psi

Some forms of psionic energy, especially Negative Psi and Twisted Psychic Energy, can corrupt the user’s natural expressions of psionic powers. This can happen to anyone, whether or not they are psychic, but psychic characters are more vulnerable to this than most. As an optional rule, the GM can inflict 3d6 corruption on the target if they critically fail their psychic roll, rather than crippling their ability. As a general rule, Corruption is more likely to occur when using psychic powers angrily or to perform wicked or “forbidden” deeds, or when using "dark" psychic powers like Psychic Vampirism, or Anti-Psi.

Corruption points accumulate permanently. At the end of a session, if the character has 25 or more corruption, the character must roll Will at a penalty equal to every 10 points of corruption he’s accumulated; if he fails, the character loses character points equal to -1 for every 25 corruption points. The GM assigns the new disadvantage (the player is free to make suggestions). Precisely what disadvantage the character gets varies, but typical traits include Distinctive Feature (red or yellow eyes, or strange markings on the face tend to be common), reduced Appearance, reduced Self-Control rolls on disadvantages, and supernatural traits like Unluckiness. If the character ever accumulates 125 points of Corruption, this automatically converts into a -5 point loss for the character!

Corruption can be healed. Characters who isolate themselves from the world in a sacred place (such as a Communion temple), or under the guidance of a character with the True Communion trait may roll Meditation (with Religious Ritual as a complementary roll) to "cleanse their spirit." If they can get through the day with no failed Self-Control rolls, they cleanse 4 points of corruption. Esoteric Medicine may also cleans the character of Corruption, reducing 4 points per day with a successful roll. Proper emotional therapy via Psychology can also heal 2 points of Corruption per day. Finally, acts of heroic redemption might “wipe the slate clean” and remove any or all Corruption, depending on how great a deed it was (the default value is 25 corruption).

Psionic Powers

Not every psionic power is appropriate to Psi-Wars, nor is every ability. Each power below lists the appropriate abilities and perks, and further expands them with new techniques and new abilities.

The Jam Technique (Psionic Powers page 31) is always available for all psychic powers! As a technique, all characters can use it even if they haven’t learned it. This means that psychic characters can always contest and resist people with the same ability!

The Hide Signature Technique (Psionic Powers, page 41) is always valid for any all psychic powers!

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