Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Psionic Space Knight

If we're going to use Psionic Powers to represent the Force, let's break down what the Force actually does. The Force tends to do one of three things, broadly speaking: Provide information to the Jedi (ESP), allow him to interact with other minds (Telepathy) and allow him to manipulate the physical world (Psychokinesis). There are many edge cases: “Force Lightning” seems to be Electrokinesis; some fiction discusses “force healing” which seems to be psychic healing, and some fiction seems to imply low-level force wielders might have “probability manipulation.” Not all of this works, of course: Force Wielders tend to lack cryokinesis or pyrokinesis, for example, and if they have electrokinesis, it seems limited to lightning blasts (there are jedi mind tricks, but no jedi droid tricks), and so on. Still, we can use this as a basis for where we start with our power choices.

The following attempts to distill the power choices down to a few options, so we can get an idea of what psi in the Psi Wars setting might look like, without trying to digest the entire book at once. I'm choosing the most obvious and iconic powers, just to start with, rather than exhaustively cataloging every power that ever showed up, or could theoretically show up, in Star Wars.

All page references are for GURPS Psionic Powers unless otherwise stated.  For other Psi packages, look at GURPS Psis.




ESP

ESP
Combat Sense (page 37): This ability perfectly represents a Jedi's swift reflexes: he's not moving faster than other people, he's sensing the future and reacting ahead of time. The only thing that bothers me about it is that you need to roll IQ for it each and every turn you want to use it (so an acrobatic Jedi with Combat sense using Precognitive Parry makes up to 4 rolls for every defense. Tedious). It's also exceedingly expensive at 24 points per level. At 2 levels, your 50-point budget is already full.

Prognostication (page 37): Another classic power, giving a psi the ability to read the future. Prognostication is already useful at 18 points for the first level, and additional levels aren't that interesting.

Retrocognition (page 38): A tricky power, it shows up more often in Clone Wars than in Star Wars, but Jedi seem able to sense if a place has bad vibes or not. Level 1 or 2 is usually as far as most Psi will go (14-20 points).

Signature Sniffer (page 38): I'm not sure if anyone used this in Star Wars, but it seems a must-have for Psi Wars: The ability to tell if a particular psi used his powers in a particular area. Signature Sniffer is quite cheap, and level 1-2 is usually sufficient (4-9 points), but ideally signature sniffer is better if you already have psi-sense.

Awareness (page 39): This seems to cover almost all aspects of a Jedi's ability to “see without senses.” It'll do for our purposes. Awareness is also pretty cheap at 9 points +2 per level, but you need quite a few levels before it's useful (360 degree vision out to ten yards costs 21 points).

Visions (page 39): Definitely apply to Psi Wars, as they've exceedingly common in Star Wars. Visions vary between 5-18 points, making them a fairly cheap option.

Psi Sense (page 41): The ability to sense that someone is using Psi definitely fits into the Star Wars model. Psi-Sense seems like must have, and is pretty cheap at 8 points, but rapidly becomes very expensive. I woudn't spend more than 22 points.

Psidar (page 41): As does the ability to sense if someone is pisionic, and perhaps to give an idea of their “signature,” which fits into the Signature Sniffer power above. Psidar is not just must-have, but a decent purchase at between 9-29 points.

Psychic Hunches (page 42): “Trust in your feelings, Luke!”, the ability to know what choice is “best” definitely fits into the Star Wars milieu, but it's very expensive at between 14 and 51 points!

ESP Perks (page 42): Particularly appropriate or useful perks might be Exposition Sense, Insider Glance, Know-It-All, and Visions (Aspected Dreams).

ESPer Characters

What can about 50-100 points of ESP get you? Assuming ESP Talent of at least +1 [5], and ~5 points in Psionic skills, that leaves us with 40 points for powers.

ESPer Warrior: ESP Talent +1 [5], Combat Sense 1 [24] and Awareness 5 [17] with 4 points in Psi Skills (2 in each skill gives (H) IQ* [2]). This character has Danger Sense at IQ, +1 to all defenses and Combat Reflexes, and the ability to see-without-seeing up to 20 yards in front of him.  Lethally dangerous in a dark room or in a fog.

Oracle: ESP Talent +1 [5], Prognistication 1 [18], Visions (Full) [18], Know-it-All [1], and 8 points in Psi Skills (both (H) IQ+1* [4]). This character suddenly receives visions whenever appropriate and also has danger-sense, and can also instantly guess what's coming up in mere moments, allowing him to impress people. If he needs to learn something specific about the future, he can push into a trance and find what needs to be found. You could replace one of the above skills with Retrocognition or Psychic Hunches instead.

Psi Hunter: ESP Talent +1 [5], Psidar 3 [19], Signature Sniffer 1 [9], Psi-Sense 1[8] and 9 points of skills (1 skill at (H) IQ-1* [1] and two skills at (H) IQ+1* [4]). This character can pick up on a psi and learn a great deal about him. He can also sense that psi powers are in use, or that they were in use. The GM might allow you to connect a particular signature with a particular psi that you detect.

For more packages, any of the ESP Psi Packages from GURPS Psis will work nicely (page 24-25).

Telepathy

Telepathy
Emotion Sense (page 58): Another classic Force ability, so much so that most RPGs or computer games fold it in with other abilities. I wouldn't bother with the level 1 version (skin contact?), just go straight for level 2 (9 points)

Telerecieve (page 58): Often featured in Star Wars, especially in the Force Awakens. Any level is appropriate, but it seems to happen most often at close range: Level 3 would be the most common, at a staggering 42 points.

Telesend (page 59): More rarely featured in Star Wars, but might be appropriate for Psi Wars. Extremely close ranges aren't that useful, but any level will do, but it quickly gets expensive at between 9-42 points.

Aspect (page 61): Too subtle to be sure it appears in Star Wars, but it's an ability I'm very fond of, and explains why psionic characters might be extremely persuasive. Also very affordable at 4/level.

Suggestion (page 63): The classic Jedi Mind Trick. The typical version is level 3 (30 points), but any level will do, though level 5 (50) is as high as most characters can expect to afford.

Instill Fear (page 64): While I don't find that Emotion Control is necessarily that common in Star Wars, Instill Fear certainly seems to have a place. The intimidating power of the a dark psion would fit, hand in glove, with this power. It's decently affordable too, starting at 18 points.

Mind Clouding (page 66): This might be what Obi-Wan was using in A New Hope, but regardless, if we have space samurai, we can have space ninja, and this is a perfect element to include. It's also highly affordable at 6/level, though I suspect “true invisibility” starts to clock in around level 5 (30 points).

Telepathic Perks (page 63): Quite a few of the Telepathy Perks are very appropriate. Avatar might not fit Star Wars, but I very much like it. I Know What You Mean is exceedingly useful in a universe full of languages. Intimidation Factor might fit into a “dark psion” type who impresses others with how powerful he falsely seems. Ping seems odd… but it's probably what Luke did in Cloud City when he said "Leia... Leia, hear me." and she suddenly knew where he was  It's arguably more appropriate than Telesend, as you rarely see Jedi communing with one another on a purely telepathic level. Tactical Reading is also a classic, subtle “This is why Jedi are so hard to fight” trick.

Telepathic Characters

Telepathy doesn't feature as strongly in Star Wars. Almost every Jedi shows some psychokinetic ability or ESP, but beyond Emotion Sense 2 and Suggestion 3 (which are affordable in 50 points), most characters don't use telepathy as regularly.

Telepathic Warrior: Tactical Reading [1], Telereceive 3 [42], Telepathy Talent 1 [5], Telereceive (H) IQ* [2]. This character can not only read minds, but use his ability to read minds to better defend against his opponents. Take Instill Fear 1 [18] for an even more powerful warrior.

Psychic Master: Suggestion 3 [30], Aspect +2 [8], Telepathy Talent 1 [5], Avatar [1], Intimidation Factor [1], Ping [1], Suggestion (H) IQ* [4], Aspect (H) IQ-1 [1]. This character can do a jedi mind trick, he impresses everyone around him, and he can reach out and leave a psychic calling card on your psyche. Those who try to read him find staggering depths of power within his intricate psychic avatar. The result is the impression of a legendary psionic master that will have most dark psions hesitating to oppose. The character also makes an excellent center for a conspiratorial web, and he's also the sort of character that other people like when he manipulates them, likely leading to frustration from more aggressive and villified psions.

Inquisitor: Emotion Sense level 2 [9], Instill Fear 5 [32], Telepathy Talent 1 [5], Emotion Sense (H) IQ* [2], Instill Fear (H) IQ* [2]. This character can first get a feel for his subjects, detect if they're lying, or how they work, and then if that line of questioning doesn't work, hammer then with mind-blowing terror (Fear Check -4!). Telerecieve would be even better than Emotion Sense, and makes a good upgrade, but is too expensive for a 50-point package.

For more packages, check out Empath, Local Scan, Mental Guard and Shadow from GURPS Psis (page 31).

Psychokinesis

Psychokinesis
PK is where elements begin to break down for Psi Wars, as much of what happens in Star Wars is simply not economical, point-wise, in a TL 11 setting. You're better off with a blaster at your side than with TK-Bullet, for example.

TK-Crush (page 54): It doesn't do much damage, but it fits into Star Wars nicely (especially the Throat-Squeeze version) and it bypasses DR, giving an unarmed Psion a potentially lethal weapon against even heavily armored foes. At 5/level, it's also quite affordable.

TK-Grab (page 55): This is the other typical power: the ability to pick up stuff and move them around. At 7 points per level, it's not too bad… but you need to realize that it's fairly weak. Level 1 will struggle to pick up even a single pound. Level 3 will fairly easily move a pistol, and level 7, which costs nearly 50 points, will pick up around 10 lbs. A cheaper version, the Short-Ranged version, will work for most cinematic scenes and costs a mere 4 points per level. Thus, for 40 points, you can have as much strength as a typically grown man.

Super Jump (page 57): A classic Jedi, and wuxia, trick. Rather than fly, Jedi leap about, thus our Psi Wars characters would be expected to do the same. Rather expensive at 19/level, but you only need one or two.

Increased ST (page 57): Darth Vader seemed impossibly strong, and perhaps that was the cybernetics, but we could as easily make the case that he used the Force to temporarily amplify his ST. This improves both Striking ST and Lifting ST by +1 per level, but is rather expensive for your utility at 7.2/level.

TK-Thrust: A new ability that represents the typical Jedi ability to knock things over with a blast of invisible force. Each level applies two points of no-wounding knockback. Innate Attack (Crushing, 1 point of cr dbk nw) (double knockback +20%, No Signature +20%, No Wounding -50%, Reduced Range 5 (max only) -10%, Increased Range (1/2D only) +10%) [1.35/level].


  • TK-Burst (Hard; TK-Thrust-3): You apply your thrust to everyone immediately around you, blasting them away from yourself. Modifier: Emanation -20%, Area 1 +50%
  • TK-Pull (Hard; TK-Thrust-3): You may apply your thrust from a different direction: pushing the target towards you, rather than away from you. Modifier: Overhead +30%
  • TK-Wave (Hard; TK-Thrust-7): You may apply your TK thrust to an entire group up to 10 yards away fro your attack point (typically your hand) up to three yards across. Modifier: Cone 3 +80%, Reduced Range (Max Only) 10 -15%


TK Perks (page 56): The most appropriate are Small-Scale TK, for budding psis, and Telekinetic Tether, for rapid retrieval of dropped force swords. Strong Blade might apply if a character is forced to fight with a vibrosword vs a force sword.

Psychokinetic Characters

Psionic Powers has a great suggestion that I'm totally going to recommend: Unified Telekinesis. Most Force Users in Star Wars just seem to be able to move stuff. They can be delicate (TK-Grab), or they can brute force something away from them (TK-Thrust), or they can choke it (TK-crush), or they can super jump. We treat these all as alternate abilities for one another.

If we use the same basic rules as unified TK here, we get every level of unified TK contains TK-Grab (short ranged), (4/level) and TK-Thrust (1.35/level). Every three levels contains TK-Crush (1.67/level), and let's make every five levels give us Super-Jump (1.8/level). This gives us a cost of 4.964 per level, or ~5.

We could do the same thing and grant a level of Striking/Lifting ST per level of unified TK. This makes Psychokinetic ST (7.2/level) the prime trait of our alternate abilities, and the total of all the other aiblities plus Psychokinetic ST becomes 8.964, or ~9. Thus, this becomes about 4 points more expensive. Given how rare it “touch-based PK” seems to be in Star Wars, I feel safe ignorking it.

A typical Unified-PK wielder could then chooose to take 8 levels of Unified TK [40], PK Talent of +1 [5] and five points worth of skills. Such a character can inflict 16 points of knockback (which will push ST 10 characters back two yards, and ST 18 characters back one yard), it will inflict 2 points of crush damage per turn, it will allow a character to double his jump distance, and it gives him a Basic Lift of ~13 out to 20 yards.
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