Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spirit of Greyhawk - Psionics, Take 2

(In which I use too many bullet points)

The followup post to my original psionics post has been way overdue. The problem was that the approach I described in the prior post was a wrong turn for Spirit of Greyhawk. Specifically the concept of skill-based psionics wasn't working for me for the kind of stories I want to tell with the system.

A sure sign that I'm on the right track is when the ideas just start pouring out and it's all I can do for my fingers to keep up. Conversely when I'm trying to force something or if I'm going down the wrong path, writer's block is gonna be a sure thing.

After some thought and offline discussion, I realized the following:

  • Psionics in Greyhawk is *supposed* to be very rare.
  • Skill-based psionics implies a certain lack of rarity.

So I dropped back ten and punted on skill-based psionics. Once I switched psionics to being stunt-based, the writer's block quickly evaporated--a good sign.

The following assumptions are still being used:

  • Pushing psionic powers via accepting mental stress
  • The concept of madness (negative mental aspects) as the result of pushing psionics
  • The core psionic categories are Control, Sense and Alter

Psionics as Stunts

Here's the quick and dirty:

  • Each category of psionic effects is a separate stunt. So there is a Psionic Control stunt, Psionic Sense stunt, and the Psionic Alter Stunt.
  • Each stunt gives the psion 3 effects under each category. (SotC fans may recognize this as being similar to the Gadget stunt)
  • Any of the three psionic stunts can be selected multiple times. Each time you select a psionic stunt you get 3 effects.
  • Psionic Control stunt is based upon the Resolve skill.
  • Psionic Sense stunt is based upon the Empathy skill.
  • Psionic Alter stunt is based upon the Resolve skill. (I'm not married to this yet)

Creating Psionic Effects

As a general rule, effects are based upon the following categories (much thanks to Mike for providing the original insight):

  • +1 "general" bonus
  • +2 "specific" bonus
  • Substitute one skill for another skill when attempting an original skill's "trapping"
  • Do something extra with a skill that you couldn't otherwise do with it
  • More powerful effects may assess an additional Fate point cost

Sample Psionic Effects

Here are some sample psionic effects from each category.

Absorb/Dissipate Energy (Control Stunt)

Prerequisites: None

Effect: Allows Resolve skill as a substitute for Athletics or whatever the normally opposed skill would be for purposes of opposing energy-based missile attacks. This would include magic attacks or other energy-based attacks (like dragon's fire).

The power may be kept "up" as long as the source of energy is constant (intense desert sun)— it may not be kept "up" for magical attacks (fireball, lightning) or psionic energy attacks (lightning).

Detoxify Poison (Control Stunt)

Effect: Substitute Resolve for whatever is required when dealing with a physical poison--usually Endurance.


Use the strength of the poison as the difficulty for the psion. For example, a poison rating of Good has a Good difficulty for the psion to detoxify.

Example Difficulties:

  • Mediocre (+0) for a very mild poison, such as alcohol
  • Average (+1) for a mild poison
  • Fair (+2) for an average poison
  • Good (+3) for a virulent poison
  • Superb (+5) for a neurotoxin

Time To Use: Five minutes.

Notes: This power allows a psion to detoxify or eject poisons that have entered her body. If the psion succeeds, the poison has no effect.

Magnify Senses (Sense Stunt)

Stunt Effect: Gives Alertness a +2 specific to increased existing senses the psion normally possesses. Shifts allow for greater distances or (for smell) for greater elapsed time.

Effect can be maintained.

Time To Use: Three exchanges.

Notes: This power allows a psion to increase the effectiveness of their normal senses to perceive things that otherwise would be impossible without artificial aids. The psion can hear noises beyond her normal hearing due to distance or softness (but can't hear beyond normal frequencies). Likewise, the psion can see normally visible things over distances that would otherwise require the use of scrying. However it doesn't allow the psion to see into the IR or UV portions of the visible spectrum if they couldn't ordinarily. The psion can identify scents and odors that are normally too faint for human olfactory senses.

Postcognition (Sense Stunt)

Prerequisite Effects: Hibernation Trance, Life Detection, Sense Psionics

Stunt Effect: Use Empathy as Alertness to get impressions from an object handled. Use shifts as increases on the time chart (starting from about 2 hours in the past).


  • Mediocre (+0) if seeing less than two hours into the past;
  • Fair (+2) for seeing more than two hours but less than a week into the past
  • Good (+3) for seeing more than a week but less than six months into the past
  • Great (+4) for seeing more than six months but less than a year into the past
  • Superb (+5) for seeing more than a year but less than two years into the past
  • Add +2 difficulty for each additional year.

Time to Use: Five minutes; the time to use may be reduced by adding +1 for each minute cut. Minimum time to use of one minute.

Effect: Postcognition allows a psion to sense the tenuous imprints left on objects when they are handled by living beings. The psion must be able to handle the target object.

The psion must declare how far in the past is being reviewed prior to rolling Postcognition. If the roll is successful, the psion can determine who has handled or touched the object and what events have transpired around it. The psion may "search" for specific incidents or simply review past events, like having a vision.

Interpreting Postcognition success

  • If the success is equal or 1 shift than the difficulty number, then all sensory impressions are muffled, tactile sense is dulled, smells or tastes are indistinct or mixed. The psion receives a vague sense of who handled the object and what events transpired around it.
  • If the success is 2 shifts higher than the difficulty number, the psion gains a good sensory impression of the event, but is limited in that the primary sense (the sense which gives the most information, usually sight) is wavery or obscured; the other sensory impressions come through clearly.
  • If the success is 3 shifts higher than the difficulty number (gains spin), the character can witness events when the object was present as if she were there herself.

Injure/Kill (Alter Stunt)

Prerequisite Effects: Life detection, Life sense

Stunt Effect: Effect allows the use of the Resolve skill to generate physical stress just by touching a target, instead of the Melee skill to damage a target. No weapons are allowed with the use of this effect. Can be defended by Athletics (to avoid the touch, which would likely initiate combat) or Resolve Skill (requiring the Control stunt) to combat the actual psionic damage of the touch.

See below for modifications if target and defender are in active combat.

Physical coverings (clothes, armor) do not protect against this effect's damage. However a Shield DOES protect the defender.

Notes: The psion must touch the target to use this effect, channeling psionic energy through the physical conduit to damage the target. To a non-psionic observer, the attacker could kill a target without realizing what had happened.

In combat, this effect is considered a combination of the following skills:

  • Attacker: Resolve Skill (Primary) combined with Melee Skill (Secondary)
  • Defender: Resolve Skill with Control Stunt (Primary) combined with Athletic Skill (Secondary)

Other Rule References of Interest

Supplemental Actions

These rules are used when dealing with someone doing multiple separate actions being attempted at the same time. There are two basic categories under this, both are pertinent to psionics:

  • Using multiple skills to generate a single effect.
  • Separate effects being maintained (or generated) at the same time.

Multiple Skills to Generate a Single Effect

In short, PC and GM determine what skill is "primary" and what skill is "secondary". The secondary skill provides a modifier to the primary skill.

  • If the secondary skill is higher than the primary skill, its worth +1 to the primary skill.
  • If the secondary skill is lower than the primary skill, its worth -1 to the primary skill

NOTE: There's no explicit mention in SotC about when the secondary = primary. I personally think it oughta be worth something, but the implication is that there's no modifier.

If there are multiple "secondary" skills, then use the above rules for each secondary skill and net out the modifiers.

There are situational rules where the secondary only helps, or only hinders the primary, but that's up to the PC and the GM to determine.

Reference: SotC, pp. 61-65

Link location: http://www.faterpg.com/dl/sotc-srd.html#id247

Multiple Effects at the Same Time

This is the probably the more likely scenario, as certain psionic effects can be maintained over time. This is in contrast to magic, where most persistant magic effects are "fire and forget".

However maintaining effects requires a certain degree of effort that counts against further psionic effects. So each progressive effort after the first effect requires an additional -1 to the next effect. Restated using our favorite bullet points, it looks like this...

  • The first effect is unmodified.
  • The second effect is at a -1 modifier.
  • The third effect is at a -2 modifier.

...and so on.

Adapting D6 Difficulties to the Fate Ladder

Fate 2E provided a translation to WEG's D6 that probably most pertinent to earlier versions of D6. Since I was using the 2nd edition (revised), I felt the translation needed a bit of tweaking. In case anyone's interested, here's the difficulty translations as I saw them:

Fate Ladder Rating

D6 Star Wars 2E (revised) Difficulty

Poor (-1)

Very Easy (low end) (1)

Mediocre (+0)

Very Easy (high end) (5)

Average (+1)

Easy (10)

Fair (+2)

Moderate (15)

Good (+3)

Difficult (20)

Great (+4)

n/a (25)

Superb (+5)

Very Difficult (30)

Fantastic (+6)

Heroic (31+)


Doug Wall said...

I'm surprised you're using the Force as a model for psionics. I would have thought that you would go to the disciplines and modes of AD&D psionics.

Guy Bowring said...

A fair point. In the intro of my original take on psionics, I said...

"And so the implementation of psionics I am presenting here bears much more in common with WEG's D6 Star Wars than the normal AD&D psionics. But there will be no SW-related story conventions: no 'Light Side', 'Dark Side','Force', what-have-you for SoG's psionics. I have retained some of the limiting factors, but redefined them somewhat to fit in with the Fantasy genre."

...which was due to the fact that one of my players in Spirit of Greyhawk has a very specific vision for his character, that took me down this road instead of disciplines, modes, etc from the old "Appendix I" of AD&D.

At some point, I may circle back around and do a more by-the-book translation. Plus I need to get back to SoG's translation of magic--for which I have a much greater motivation to get translated with a good degree of accuracy. :D