Monday, August 1, 2016

Psionic Character Considerations

I've put off building characters for this because, if I'm honest, I find it intimidating.  Mainly, Communion doesn't really work like the Force anymore, because it's bigger than Star Wars now.  I find that partly necessary for building an RPG based on a movie because (and this will be one of the things I always say) movies make terrible sources for RPGs.

A movie needs to tell a singular, short, self-contained story that should be finished in a couple of hours.  It doesn't have the time to stop and expound on a vast and nuanced setting, nor should it as that would detract from the movie's focus!  A book series, a comic series, a tv series, can afford to expand greatly on a setting and create the huge variety of characters necessary for real PC flexibility, but a movie lacks this.

The result is that Star Wars has exactly one power set (the Force) and one sort of character that uses it (the Jedi) unless you delve into the expanded universe, where we start to have the room necessary to detail the setting, but even this is has problems because the expanded universe has been conservative.  It has tried to stay true to the movie, which means you get things like "All Twi'leks are hot dancers" and "All force users are Jedi" with a few, occasional exceptions (like the addition of the Sith, which are really Jedi of a different philosophy, and some witches).  You don't see things like "The Jedi are just understand one side of the force and are but one set of users" and then proceeds to introduce a dozen new force users and three new concepts of the Force we'd never seen before.  Contrast this with, for example, D&D where we have arcane magic, divine magic, primal magic and psionics/chi, and several users of each power source.

In most GURPS Campaign frameworks, when you include a power-set, you get a template that deals exclusively with that power-set: the Martial Artist uses Chi.  The Cleric uses Divine Magic.  The Wizard uses Arcane Magic, and so on.  Sometimes, you'll see hybrid characters, such as the Paladin, who specializes in both combat and divine magic.

A Jedi, and thus a Space Knight, is more like a Paladin than like a Cleric.  He combines martial arts with the Force to be a master of both.  Psi-Wars, however, has a composite system blending the divine with psionic powers, and between them, you have a huge smorgasbord of options.  The Space Knight needs to have martial arts and psionic powers (but which ones?) and Communion.  The net result is going to be a very different character from our previous iterations of the Space Knight.

But this also leaves room for (and perhaps even requires) other character types.  What about a character that focuses entirely on Psionic Powers?  Or a character who focuses exclusively on Communion?  What about anti-psi characters? I intend to have power-sets that anyone can take (so we can have psionic bounty hunters and psionic spies), but these will represent something minor, an addition to your core concept (You're a bounty hunter who happens psionic, as opposed to a bounty hunter who happens to be cybernetic).

This has the added problem of being deeply tied to the setting.  A character focused entirely on communion might be something like a priest, but a priest needs a church and a belief system.  What does that look like?

But we may be getting ahead of ourselves.  One step at a time!

Today, I'll take a look at some character considerations that pop out, like general traits people can take that have to do with Psionic Powers and Communion (skills, advantages, disadvantages).  Then we'll take a look at building some power-sets so that people can jump in and start adding psionic powers to their characters.  And finally, I'll see if I can add a few templates that focus exclusively on Psionic Powers and Communion.

Psionic and Communion Character Traits

I've not listed traits specific to the powers (for example, the Communion trait, or Psionic Powers, or Psionic talents, or Psionic Perks)

Secondary Traits

Will: At the risk of stating the obvious, Will has profound implications for Psionic Powers, as it powers not just your resistance to most psychic powers, but also gives you greater ability with Extra-Effort.


  • Destiny: We're using the new form of Destiny, taken from Impulse Buys/Monster Hunters.
  • Energy Reserves (Psionic): or ERPs for short.  Given the importance of Fatigue in this system, and the additional sources of it (from Communion or Dark Communion), this means character may want some extra points to spend.
  • Psi-Sensitivity [15/level]: Adds to all psionic skills, cumulative with other psionic talents, but to a maximum of +4.  Requires Communion, Dark Communion or Broken Communion trait.
  • Reputation: The new Legendary Reputation represents a reputation that applies to all people and also to Divine Favor.  It has a maximum of +4, and it requires a connection to a Path (and can only be increased after fulfilling a milestone).
  • Signature Gear: Always use Signature gear as dollar cost, even for communion relics or psychotronic gear.  Signature Gear is required for communion relics.  Failing to have it means that Communion will inevitably find some way to relieve you of your relic.


The following talents have been created or changed.
  • Devotion [5/level]: +1 to Autohypnosis, Meditation, Mental Strength, Philosophy, Psychology and Religious Ritual.  See Talents 9-10 for reaction modifier and alternate bonus.
  • Party Animal [5/level]: +1 to Carousing, Connoisseur (any food, drug, alcohol or club), Current Affairs (Pop-Culture), Gambling, Games, Savoir-Faire, and Streetwise. provides reaction bonus to people looking for a good time, or as an alternative bonus to HT rolls to recover from the effects of a party or a game (drug use, hangover, eating too much, physical exhaustion, lack of sleep, etc)
  • Occultist [10/level]: +1 to Anthropology, Archaeology, Hidden Lore, History, Linguistics, Literature, Meditation, Mental Strength, Occultism, Philosophy and Research.  See Talents 14 for reaction modifier and alternate bonus.
  • Thanatologist [5/level]: +1 to Expert Skill (Thanatology), Meditation, Mental Strength, Occultism, Philosophy, Professional Skill (Mortician) and Religious Ritual. See Talents 16 for reaction modifier and alternate bonus.


  • Dark Communion Resilience: Gain +1 to resisting the effects of Dark Communion taint. You may purchase this as a leveled trait.  This is, in effect, a highly limited form of Energy Reserves (it effectively gives you one free point of energy, but only once per day, and only if you have dark communion, and only if you've used it to gain dark communion taint).
  • Dark Healer: You may access Psychic Healing despite having the Dark Communion or Broken Communion trait.
  • Saintly Vampire: You may access Psychic Vampirism despite having the Communion trait.
  • Signature Symbolism: The character has a unique symbol associated with his path, as he slowly diverges from it and creates a new path.  A character may have no more levels of Signature Symbolism than his Legendary Reputation, and upon achieving 4 signature symbols, the GM might consider creating a new, unique path for the character, with new milestones and new powers.


  • Dark Destiny [-5/level]: The disadvantageous version of Destiny.  This supplies the GM with impulse buy points he may use to drive you towards a particular destiny.  Good examples include the darker milestones of various paths, or the slaughter of millions, etc.
  • Psychic Disconnect [-1]: A rule exemption quirk, this disallows a psionic character from gaining access to Communion.  Furthermore, Communion as an NPC should ignore the character.
  • Weirdness Magnet [-15]: Now allowed in Psi-Wars!  Treat it as a -15 version of the Destiny disadvantage, granting the GM 3 impulse buy points that he may spend conjuring Broken Communion Miracles around you.  They may or may not harm you, but slowly infecting the world with Broken Communion is likely disadvantage enough!


  • Archaeology: Can locate communion relics, assist in acquiring them (such as digging them up without damaging them) and knowing archaeological context can help identify a communion relic: treat as a complementary roll to identifying relics.
  • Architecture: Complementary roll for identifying places of power.
  • Connoisseur (Places of Power): Allows the character to identify places of power.
  • Connoisseur (Relics): Allows the character to identify Communion Relics.
  • Electronics Operation (Psychotronic): Making use of psychotronic technology
  • Electronics Repair (Psychotronic): Allows repair and improvisation of psychotronic technology
  • Engineering (Psychotronic): Allows for the creation of entirely new Psychotronic devices, though Expert Skill (Psionics) will tell you what his theoretically possible.
  • Expert Skill (Psionics): This works as described in Psionic Powers: It can be used to repair crippled psionic abilities, to notice use of psionic powers, to understand what psionic power is being used, etc.  It can be rolled to understand the limits and abilities of psionic powers, and to understand the theory behind psychotronic devices.  It also grants some understanding of communion: that it exists, that it contains primordial images, what its nature largely is.  It doesn't necessarily understand deeper imagery.  For that, use Hidden Lore.
  • Hidden Lore (Communion): Hidden lore gives the character access to the real knowledge of how communion works (all forms of communion are sufficiently covered by a single Hidden Lore skill).  He can roll against this to identify which Path a character is following, what sort of miracles someone is using, and to what extend their power is.  It can also identify communion relics or places of power.
  • History: Can provide context for a given communion relic (which are always very old), and thus acts as a complementary roll in identifying relics.
  • Literature: Knowing the legends and lore of ancient items can provide context for communion relics, and thus act as a complementary roll for identifying relics.
  • Meditation: Characters may use this to improve their Petition rolls, to improve certain miracles (generally by gaining greater closeness to Communion), and can be rolled to see what course of action, morally (or in keeping with one's path), a character should undertake.
  • Mental Strength: Exceedingly useful in resisting mental invasion... but after spending 4 points on it, additional levels of Will are generally better than additional levels of Mental Strength.
  • Mind Block: To keep people from reading your mind.
  • Occultism: Occultism covers the traditions people have about Psionic Powers and Communion.  Treat it as a "folklore" version of Expert Skill (Psionics), in that it can provide you similar information, but cloaked in people's beliefs and always contains inaccuracies except on a critical success.  It grants you the ability to identify a psychic ability after seeing it used (Occultism-2).  It can also provide a similar level of information about Communion, including a greater degree of knowledge about the Paths than Expert Skill (Psionics) can, though again, cloaked in folklore and superstition. It can readily recognize symbols of a path and through those symbols, recognize if someone is following a specific path.  Finally, it can identify, or act as complementary roll to identify, communion relics.
  • Philosophy: Philosophy is related to a specific set of ideals (that is, there are different philosophies, like "Philosophy (Jedi)".  If those ideals include the ability to follow a Path, then a character may roll Philosophy to know if a particular action would violate their path's symbolism or to recognize a milestone.  They may also roll an appropriate Philosophy specialization to gain greater understanding of a miracle (see various miracles for examples).
  • Propaganda: Someone, upon reading about Communion, asked if you could somehow shape how someone saw them enough to rewrite their destiny.  The answer is, of course, yes!  Manipulating people to fall inside of a particular path, for example, seems like exactly the sort of thing a wiley jedi-type might do.  How does that work?  You'd definitely need Hidden Lore (Communion) to understand enough about Communion to know what you needed to do, but broadcasting it on a large scale would require Propaganda.  I'll get into the exact mechanics of that later (probably when I get into Social Engineering).
  • Psychology: Can help heal crippled psionic abilities, can identify psionic abilities on use, and can give a rough perspective on Communion using understanding of how the human mind works as a basis.
  • Religious Ritual: While not explicitly important for our version of Divine Favor, being a priest might well still matter in a setting that features religion so strongly.  Where Meditation is important internally for communing with Communion, Religious Ritual helps you direct congregations to assist you in your communion.  It also helps you understand, and perform, the ritual nature of a Path.  You may use Religious Ritual to gain a +1 reaction when making a prayer for a Path miracle.
  • Theology: This works the same as Philosophy, only from a more distinctly religious perspective.  Treat all references to Theology as references to Philosophy and vice versa.

Skills Sets

Without getting into power-sets, we can certainly look at what these various skills might do for various templates.

Relic Hunter: 25 points

The Relic Hunter specializes in understanding, locating and extracting communion relics. An excellent addition to the Scavenger or Smuggler (rather than creating an entirely new template).

Advantages: Explorer +1 [5]
Skills: Archaeology (IQ/H) [8], Research (IQ/A) [4], Connoisseur (Relics) (IQ/A) [2], Cartography (IQ/A)* [1], Navigation (Land) (IQ/A)* [1]; And two of History (IQ/H) [2], Literature (IQ/H) [2], Architecture (IQ/A) [2],
*+1 from Explorer


For characters who cultivate a deeper relationship with Communion itself

Advantages: Devotion +3 [15]
Skills: Philosophy (IQ/H)* [4], Meditation (Will/H)* [4], Hidden Lore (Communion) (IQ/H) [2]
+3 from Devotion.


For characters with a deep understanding of psionics and who regularly deal with them.

Advantages: Psientist +3 [15]
Skills: Expert Skill (Psionics) (IQ/H)* [4], Psychology (IQ/H)* [2], and either 

  • Electronics Operation (Psychotronic) (IQ/A) [2] and Electronic Repair (Psychotronic) (IQ/A) [2]
  • Mental Strength (Will/E)* [2], Mind Block (Will/A)* [2]

*+3 from Psientist


An occultist resembles the Psionicist, but has a more spiritual/mystical leaning.
Advantage: Occultist +1 [10], Corruption Resilience [1]
Skills: Occultism (IQ/A)* [2], Research (IQ/A)* [2], Hidden Lore (Communion) (IQ/A)* [4], Mental Strength (Will/E)* [2]; Choose two of Archeology (IQ/H)* [2], Connoissuer (Relics) (IQ/A) [2], History (IQ/H)* [2], Literature (IQ/H)* [2]

*+1 from Occultist

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