Monday, June 1, 2015

GURPS Fuck Psionics

So our next step in hashing out sorcery, psionics, Gifts, and the Nel is to hash out psionics. Shocking.

In my previous attempts, I've basically tried to duplicate Pathfinder psionics with a bit of modification to fit them with the version of Hekinoe that exists in my head. That's fine, but it's not exactly true to the source material. There is very little practical difference between sorcery and psionics in Pathfinder. They each have their quirks, but for the most part they can do precisely the same kinds of things with relatively minor tweaks (like not having to pay 25k gold for material components for psionic wish).

So what are psionics? Psionics are mental arts  that can influence the physical world that are directed by the willpower of a creature and fueled by its mental energy.

This means that when based off of an attribute, the psionic character uses his Will for psionic powers.

Let's also establish who can be a psionic character. Psionics are a racial ability in Hekinoe, not a class every Tom, Dick, and Fell Human can take levels in like in Pathfinder. Elduman,because Elduman. They are the original psionic creatures and anything using psionics on Hekinoe is at least partially related to them, regardless of how thin the ties are.  Elduman descended Uncout, because they have a small crystalline organ in their brains that is one of the few traits they share with their Elduman forefathers. This organ allows them to psionic. The Rankethlek are psionic because they are a sort of mental construct shaped like the remnants of the Soulless/Fallen they are transformed from that is given shape and potency by the lightning heart within them. If that sounds nonsensical or like bullshit, congratulations, you can read. Moving along. Some Fallen (those that take an Unusual Background) can also use psionics.

In non-Pathfinder Hekinoe there are four ways psionics interact with the world around psionic characters: esp, psychokinesis, telepathy, and biokinesis.

Biokinesis is the name for the ability of psionic characters to influence their body with their mental energy. They can use their psionic power to heal themselves, augment their physical strength, and so on. Biokinesis is restricted to Elduman and Elduman descended Uncout. This is because the Elduman can use their psionic energy, which is essentially their lifeforce, to alter and augment their crystalline psionic flesh, rearranging it to suit their needs. At least temporarily. Elduman descended Uncout are capable of biokinesis, but they are much more limited. Unlike the Elduman, the flesh, blood, and bones and such of the Elduman descended Uncout are not innately psionic (aside from the organ in their brain) so they lack some of the functionality that the Elduman possess. Mainly the ability to shift and alter their flesh. 

That's right, Elduman are pseudo-shapeshifters. Didn't know that? Huh. That's weird. You would think that would be common knowledge or something. Anyway.

Elduman descended Uncout can still augment their bodies, but they do it in a much more limited way. They can amp up their strength by turning off the restrictions in our bodies that keep us from snapping our own bones when we use brute force, they can dump a bunch of adrenaline to increase reaction speed, they can cause their lungs to hyperoxegenate blood so they can exert themselves for longer without breathing, etc, etc. Fallen and Rankethlek have no ability to use biokinesis because they are unliving creatures.

Esp is extra-sensory perception. This is the ability of psionic creatures to expand their senses and consciousness. To set their mental energy bouncing around the world to see what their eyes cannot, etc. It also incorporates things like sensing other living beings, having a sixth sense ability to dodge, and that sort of thing. It cannot predict the future or see the past. I am kinda unsure how to implement it right now. There are a few ways that work, but I don't know which one to settle on beyond the Detect and Clairsentience advantages. I also envision esp having a lot of passive effects like Enhanced Block or Combat Reflexes, rather than ones that are activated on the fly. Since esp is a purely mental psionic ability (mostly), all the previously listed psionic creatures can utilize to the same degree.

Psychokinesis is basically using psionic energy to influence matter and the world around you. You can create a wall of telekinetic force or bind your crystalline flesh together with telekinetic energy to make it harder to penetrate, stab with a telekinetic dagger, paralyze by wrapping bands of telekinetic force around someone, or give a person the equivalent of a hyper fast hyper strong rug burn by dragging telekinetic force across their body. Psychokinesis is also the place where teleportation type effects sit. Psychokinesis can be used by all of the psionic races except Fallen.

Teleportation effects are only usable by Elduman. Teleportation effects are also not instantaneous when used long range. Elduman are the only psionic race that can teleport because they are the only race that possesses a psionically energized body at every level. Every molecule of pale faux-skin, crystalline dermis, and liquid crystal blood is psionically charged. This is what allows Elduman to so drastically alter their physical capabilities with biokinesis, their bodies are as psionic as their minds are.

Elduman teleportation effect involve temporarily separating their physical molecules (which hurts, mind you, and in a very bad way), flinging them in a direction with telekinesis, and then reconstituting them (which hurts, but in a good way). Technically speaking, teleportation effects are a combination of psychokinesis and biokinesis.

Telepathy is mind to mind interface and whatnot. It represents anything involving mental communication or tricking the mind of another creature into doing something. With telepathy psionic characters can paralyze by poking the target's brain and telling it to halt all movement, they can communicate, they can convince you that you're dying of suffocation, they can convince your heart to stop, probe minds for secrets, make a slave of you, etc, etc, etc. Like esp and psychokinesis, telepathy can be used by all of the psionic races.

So looking at that, you'll see that there's no ability to fling fireballs and lightning bolts. Which is intentional. Don't get me wrong, you can grab lightning or fire (assuming you grab fuel for it too) with telekinetic hands and fling it at someone, but it has to already exist in the environment (thus requiring the Environmental limitation). The goal here is not to make psionics more limited than sorcery, though that ends up being the result. At least partially.

My ultimate goal here is to make them different. Psionics is going to end up more limited, but I want it to heavily surpass sorcery in certain areas, mainly telepathy type stuff. It's going to be tricky, but we'll see what we can do here.

So the first step is to talk about what kind of modifier psionics are. In regular GURPS psionic limitations are -10% modifiers. This value assumes that there are effects and technology that can impede or prevent the use of psionics. The same goes for sorcery. In Hekinoe there isn't any technology or chemical that really prevents the use of sorcery or psionics (aside from blackstone). Sorcery gets to keep its -10% value because of all the misfire shit. Psionic limitations in GURPS are only worth -5% to the cost of an advantage because there is no equivalent to misfires for them and no technology that fucks with them (aside from blackstone, which isn't really tech and is on the rare side). Psionics also has the benefit of working in the middle of the fucking ocean.

There are also four talents related to psionics: Biokinesis Talent, ESP Talent, Psychokinesis Talent, and the Telepathy Talent, each costing 5 character points per level and having a maximum level of 4 (with ancient Elduman able to purchase a 5th level). Talents apply a +1 bonus per level to effective skill levels with things related to the talent. So every psionic power will have one of the following limitations: Biokinesis, ESP, Psychokinesis, or Telepathy, all as a -5% modifier.

For complex powers, when applicable (which is subject to GM approval), you may apply multiple psionic limitations, but their combined value cannot exceed -10%. You may add the appropriate Talent modifiers to the power as well, but add the total bonus from your talents together and divide by how many talents are involved and round up to get the bonus. So a telepathic power that incorporates elements of esp would have a ESP/Telepathy, -10% limitation and would add ESP Talent 2 and Telepathy Talent 3 when appropriate, but you would use (2+5)/2 for a Talent modifier of 3. Wee, math!

I plan on allowing the use of the alternative powers rule. So you could conceivably lump all of your psychokinetic powers together and pay the full cost for the most expensive and 1/5 of the cost for the rest. That's pretty good for reducing costs, but it does pose certain risks. It restricts you to using only one of the abilities at a time and forces you to take a ready maneuver to switch between modes. It also means that if one is disabled, all are. I don't see it being a universally taken option, but it can be of benefit in some instances and I leave it up to the player.

Psionics is something that comes purely from your mind, so all psionic characters must purchase an Energy Reserve (Psionics) of at least 1. This represents the base energy necessary to power psionic abilities.

All active uses of psionic power, like when you use a mental blast to stun foes or probe a target's mind, or manifest a shield of telekinetic force, etc requires an expenditure of the psionic character's mental energy. So they all (probably) have the Costs 1 ER, -5% limitation. This means you have to spend one ER to activate the power for each use or 1 minute duration, depending on the nature of the ability. Because Elduman are the perfect integration of psionic crystalline flesh and psionic energy, they have the option of applying the Costs FP, -10% limitation (which still allows you to use ER to pay for the ability) or the Costs HP, -20% limitation. Elduman descended Uncout may apply the Costs FP, -10% or Costs HP, -20% limitation to their Biokinesis abilities to reflect the fact that they are using psionics to augment their body and push it beyond its normal capabilities, causing increased strain on their physiology.

Just as a random note, there is a way to make an Innate Attack do a variable number of damage dice that increases based on the ER/FP/HP expenditure in GURPS Power on page 101.

Another modifier psionic abilities must have is the Low Signature enhancement. All abilities are assumed to have some sort of sensory effect that is as noticeable as the sound of a gunshot or the muzzle flash of one. Psionic abilities are almost purely mental and when used the only sign is a barely seen shimmer similar to a heat haze in the air. Because there is no act of throwing or cursing or wiggling fingers to direct psionic powers, if the use of the Innate Attack skill is needed, it uses the Gaze variant, replacing DX with Will as the controlling attribute. Low Signature does not have any effect on a target's ability to defend against an attack or effect, it merely means that the nature of the attack is harder to notice.

Alright, so there are a few tweaks for each race due to their unique natures. I know I've mentioned a few of the racial options already, but I'm going to hash out a few more.

One ability shared by all psionic characters is the ability to detect and analyze psionics. This is done using the Detect advantage. Psionics are considered an occasional substance (sorcery is common and Gifts are rare, fyi). It would also have the ESP, -5% limitation and Costs 1 ER, -5% limitation. As psionic characters grow in power they could modify it to be more discerning and could learn to detect other sorts of things like sentient minds, living creatures, metals, etc.

Elduman have access to all four types of psionics. Elduman are also the only psionic characters that can use psychokinesis to teleport.

As previously mentioned, when applying limitations to activated abilities, Elduman may apply Costs ER, -5%, Costs FP, -10% (which may also be activated by paying ER), or Costs HP, -20% to those abilities. I supposed you could in theory apply all three to the same ability, meaning it would take 1 ER, 1 FP, and 1 HP to activate, but you'd get a -35% to the cost. So maybe it's worth it? Pro-Tip: It's totally not.

Elduman are sort of solar powered so they can have Regeneration of any strength with the ER Only or FP Only (not both, but they could buy it once for their Energy Reserve and once for their FP) limitation for +0% and the Accessibility: Only In Direct Sunlight, -10% limitation. Normally, ER and FP heals by 1 every 10 minutes (every 5 minutes for FP if you have the Fit advantage). So taking Regeneration (Regular) with these limitations would cost 23 points and would restore an additional ER once an hour for a total of 7 ER restored each hour.

Elduman Descended Uncout
Elduman descended Uncout have access to a more limited form of biokinesis, a more limited form of esp, psychokinesis, and telepathy.

As previously stated, the more limited form of biokinesis that Elduman descended Uncout have does not allow them to manipulate their bodies the way it does Elduman. Elduman can bind their crystalline flesh and faux skin together to resist damage, but their descendants cannot. In theory, Elduman can use their psionic energies to fuel rapid muscle and bone growth to increase their size and strength, their descendants could not.

What Elduman descended Uncout could do is buy Damage Reduction with the semi-ablative or ablative limitation and a temporary disadvantage like Ham-Fisted or Numb to simulate their psionic abilities turning off their pain receptors and that sort of thing. What they could do is fire off all of the adrenaline in their bodies at once and override the biological restraints on their muscles to hit with greater force and move faster to dodge blows better. 

Elduman descended Uncout also have a more limited form of esp than Elduman. They are basically restricted to using the crystalline chunk of their brain to process information quicker. So they can't displace their senses with Clairsentience. They can augment their reaction times with psionic versions of things like Danger Sense, Enhanced Defenses and Combat Reflexes though. They can also augment their preexisting senses with advantages like Acute Senses and other sense based advantages.

As previously mentioned, Elduman descended Uncout may apply Costs ER, -5%, Costs FP, -10% (which may also be activated by paying ER), or Costs HP, -20% to their biokinesis abilities.

Fallen do not normally have access to psionics, but can purchase an Unusual Background at character creation to gain access to them.

Fallen do not have access to biokinesis or psychokinesis. This is because they are dead things with no functioning biology and the crystalline material of their bodies is inert in terms of psionic energy. They do not possess psychokinesis because the innate talents of psionics that Fallen possessed prior to being transformed by The Bleak Tyrant burnt themselves out during the transformation from Elduman to Fallen. As the essence of the Elduman was bound irrevocably to existence, their psionic talents sort of fused their bodies together to maintain their physical presence and allow them to retain their physical body. Without this extinguishing of their psychokinetic abilities, the bodies of the Fallen would have crumbled instantly to bluish crystal dust and they would have become incorporeal spirit creatures. Which is the eventual fate of all Fallen.

Fallen may purchase a version of the Leech advantage. This version of the Leech advantage only functions against sentient creatures and has the Malediction 1, +100%; Ranged, +40%; Steal IQ, +300%; Reduced Range: 1/5, -20%; Telepathy, -5%; Only Heals ER, -20%. The cost comes out to 124 points for level 1 + 20 points/level. Super expensive. But also super fucking cool. They can literally eat your mind to fuel their psionic abilities.

Fallen, being undead creatures, have no FP. So to use psionics, they must have an Energy Reserve (Psionics). They, unlike the Elduman, may apply the Special Recharge: Leech, -70% limitation to their Energy Reserve, reducing the cost of their Energy Reserve to 1 character point per point of ER. Woo! This restricts it to being recharged only by the use of their Leech ability though, so it may or may not be worth it. Probably not. That version of Leech is super expensive.

Rankethlek, being creatures of unliving metal, do not have access to biokinesis. They also must use an Energy Reserve to power their powers, so any activated abilities need the Costs ER, -5% limitation.

Rankethlek only have one unique ability. They can use their psychokinesis to wield electricity themed psionic powers. To do so, such a power must have the Environmental: Only When Electricity Is Already Present, +0% limitation. This is a zero value limitation because the lightning heart of the Rankethlek is always present wherever they are. They would be dead if it weren't. Such lightning powers may have the Costs HP, -20% limitation applied to them. This is used to reflect that the Rankethlek is fueling the power with the equivalent of their lifeforce and is possibly damaging their lightning heart by putting abnormal stress on it. It isn't mandatory, but it's an option.

So that's pretty much psionics and stuff, or at least the rough draft of this version of psionics. I still need to hash out a thing or two about esp nonsense, but I'm sure that will be quickly resolved.

There's one issue left to figure out, how to make psionics better at something than sorcery and to determine what that should be. How to make them better though. Should it be something innate, or an option. Oh. Cary is going to like this. Maybe. Probably. Hehe.

Psionic characters that achieve a talent level of 4 or higher with psionic powers may apply the Cosmic limitation to some of those powers. So an Elduman with Psychokinetic Talent 4 could apply Cosmic (No Active Defense Roll, +300%) to simulate telekinetic strikes moving at the speed of thought and not allowing targets to dodge them. If you wanted to be nasty, you could throw on Cosmic (Ignore DR, +300%) as well. You could also apply Cosmic (Irresistible Attack, +300%) to Mind Control, so it wouldn't be protected from by Mind Shield. All kinds of nasty and unstoppable options.

GURPS Hekinoe Psionics tl;dr
  • The Known World psionic races are Elduman, Elduman descended Uncout, Fallen, and Rankethlek.
  • Psionics breaks down into four types: biokinesis (manipulation of the psionic character's body), extra sensory perception (using psionics to gain sensory input normally unavailable to the character), psychokinesis (using telekinetic force to interact with the physical world), and telepathy (using the psionic character's mind to affect or communicate with the minds of others). 
  • Psionic abilities are directed by willpower and use Will as their controlling attribute when appropriate. When an Innate Attack is needed for a power, it uses the Gaze version but replaces DX with Will as the controlling attribute. 
  • Each type of psionics has an associated talent that costs 5 points/level. Maximum level for normal characters is 4, ancient Elduman can possess up to 5 levels of each talent. 
  • Psionic modifiers are -5% limitations, not 10% like in the GURPS Basic Set. Multiple psionic modifiers may be applied to a power, with GM approval, but the total limitation value cannot exceed -10%. Talent bonuses apply as normal, but add the value of the Talents together and divide the result by the number of applied talents and then round up for the applied modifier. 
  • Psionic abilities with the same type limitation (esp, psychokinesis, etc) may be folded together as alternative abilities (GURPS Powers pg. 11) if the player wishes to do so.
  • Psionic characters must have an Energy Reserve (Psionics) advantage of at least 1. 
  • Most psionic powers will have the Costs ER, -5% limitation. Elduman may instead apply the Costs FP, -10%, or Costs HP, -20% limitation to their abilities. Elduman descended Uncout may apply Costs FP and Costs HP to their biokinesis abilities to reflect that they are pushing their bodies beyond their normal capabilities and it hurts and stuff.
  • Unless it would be patently ridiculous (whatever that means), psionic powers must have the Low Signature enhancement. 
  • Detecting psionics is done with Detect (Occasional: Psionics; ESP, -5%; Costs 1 ER/minute, -5%) [9]
  • Psionics cannot interact directly with sorcery. Psionics could be used to detect fire and by extension sorcerously created fire, but not sorcery or sorcerous fire specifically. Psionics could protect from fire damage and by extension fire spell damage, but not specifically from fire damage from spells. 
  • Each of the psionic races has some unique things they can do that nobody else psionic can. Hekinoe, now with 200% more unique snowflakery for players!
  • At Talent level 4, a psionic character may apply certain versions of the Cosmic limitation to certain psionic abilities with GM permission and for the normal character point cost. 

Edit After The Effect: Yeah, Cary was right. There is a financial cost for using reality revision (psionic wish). Whoops. Evidently I only read the discipline, casting time, display, etc statblock and didn't actually ever reading the description of the power. Whoopsie. 

1 comment:

  1. You keep saying that "Psionic Wish" has no material cost. Did you actually read the power, son?

    "Manifesting reality revision requires channeling psionic power through specially-treated crystals similar to cognizance crystals that cost 25,000 gp. The crystal is consumed in the manifestation and becomes inert, unable to be used again and losing any value. If a power or spell duplicated by reality revision has a material component that costs more than 10,000 gp, you must provide that component or additional crystals of the same value."