Do you allow psionics?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Hakkonen
Shrew
Posts: 21
Joined: Sat Sep 02, 2017 4:55 pm

Do you allow psionics?

Postby Hakkonen » Sat Sep 16, 2017 6:00 am

I don't like mixing fantasy with my sci-fi, unless it's vital to the plot. Yes, I know things like FTL and such are basically fantasy in different clothes. I'm OK with the Force in Star Wars, because Star Wars almost entirely about the conflict between the Jedi and Sith. I quite like White Wolf's Trinity RPG (and eagerly await Onyx Path's forthcoming edition), because the game is entirely about psions.

But it seems like Traveller just tosses psychic powers in because it's expected. "Yeah, yeah, lasers, FTL, power armor, psychic stuff." The more pretense at realism a particular work of space opera makes, the more out-of-place psychic powers seem to me. For all the care that Traveller seems to take regarding its technology, sociology, economics, etc., it just makes psions and psionics stick out like sore thumbs... growing out of somebody's forehead.
mancerbear
Lesser Spotted Mongoose
Posts: 415
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:34 am

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby mancerbear » Sat Sep 16, 2017 6:06 am

I'd allow it if one of my characters rolled it during generation or played a Joe.
ShawnDriscoll
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 2530
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:13 pm

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sat Sep 16, 2017 7:38 am

Psionics is a big part of sci-fi novels. So I see no problem with Traveller having rules for it. Psionics are just skills anyway. I've never been against having skills in Traveller.
Reynard
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 2938
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Reynard » Sat Sep 16, 2017 10:40 am

Psionics is science's magic.
ShawnDriscoll
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 2530
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:13 pm

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:33 am

Reynard wrote:
Sat Sep 16, 2017 10:40 am
Psionics is science's magic.
Everything is magic at a certain tech level in Traveller.
dragoner
Duck-Billed Mongoose
Posts: 1696
Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:37 pm
Location: Indiana, US

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby dragoner » Sat Sep 16, 2017 1:04 pm

Hakkonen wrote:
Sat Sep 16, 2017 6:00 am
I don't like mixing fantasy with my sci-fi, unless it's vital to the plot. Yes, I know things like FTL and such are basically fantasy in different clothes. I'm OK with the Force in Star Wars, because Star Wars almost entirely about the conflict between the Jedi and Sith. I quite like White Wolf's Trinity RPG (and eagerly await Onyx Path's forthcoming edition), because the game is entirely about psions.

But it seems like Traveller just tosses psychic powers in because it's expected. "Yeah, yeah, lasers, FTL, power armor, psychic stuff." The more pretense at realism a particular work of space opera makes, the more out-of-place psychic powers seem to me. For all the care that Traveller seems to take regarding its technology, sociology, economics, etc., it just makes psions and psionics stick out like sore thumbs... growing out of somebody's forehead.
I agree 100%. I hate "magic" and don't really play any fantasy games; I just find it boring, plus weak. Like someone munchkining out with a "high tech long sword that can cut engine blocks in half to threaten the locals," that's silly, it makes me think about what kind of person that is that needs something like that. Zorro, except more metal? I don't know.

The campaign I'm running right now is a riff off the 3I, and the game is getting long in the tooth at five years now, so that if I start another, it will be harder scifi, and no psionics. Mostly now in the current game psionics exists as a threat. Every time I have seen someone create a psion character, they have either been too weak, or somehow breaking the rules to work. Plus in sci-fi, people think outside the box, such as if the have telekinesis, then they should be able to kill with a thought by injuring someone's brain. It's difficult enough keep grips with the results of real science, without dealing with fantasy stuff.
Linwood
Stoat
Posts: 63
Joined: Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:41 am

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Linwood » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:41 pm

So far in my campaign psionics have been along the line of useful but not particularly powerful. There's one character w/ mid-level psi ability and no tech or drug-enabled enhancements. Big contribution to date was in calming a panicky government official in the midst of a crisis which made it easier for the team to accomplish their mission. In an adventure emphasizing social interaction over combat that's useful but not overwhelming.

The more "magical" abilities - like telekinesis or teleportation - would be a different story (those haven't shown up yet and I don't think the psi character has either. But limited forms of telepathy or awareness might fit OK in an otherwise hard-science campaign. Think of the Martian interrogations in The Expanse - it might look like telepathy but it's actually based on reading body language and physiological responses.
Reynard
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 2938
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Reynard » Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:01 pm

"Everything is magic at a certain tech level in Traveller."

Psionics would stand on its own. You can have it no mater what the tech level is. Only real difference is higher tech levels can detect, analyze and hone the abilities more effectively compared to a caveman with the talent.

Magic is very much different from science or psionics as it exists through supernatural sources that often defy or go beyond the regular physical laws. Psionics is usually associated with physical (mental) abilities manipulating known laws.
Varulv
Cub
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2017 8:16 pm

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Varulv » Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:53 pm

Many years ago when we were kids we had space opera adventures, powerful psionics characters and generally fast violent deaths. 30+ years later we have (naturally) adapted a much more mature play style and I would be very reluctant to allow a player to create a character with psionics abilities. Before I’d allow it, the player would have to argue and explain his visions for the character and I would most likely not allow teleportation or other abilities with effects that could not be accomplished using technology available at TL15 or TL16. Much in line with Linwood’s campaign I guess.

Generally, I think it would be hard to remove psionics since it’s such a vital part of the Zhodani society, but it can be used as a subtle threat as soon as the characters are close the Zhodani territory or if they are chasing some Ine Givar terrorists.
ShawnDriscoll
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 2530
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:13 pm

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sat Sep 16, 2017 10:24 pm

Reynard wrote:
Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:01 pm
Magic is very much different from science or psionics as it exists through supernatural sources that often defy or go beyond the regular physical laws. Psionics is usually associated with physical (mental) abilities manipulating known laws.
It's all just tech. Watch Thor.
Varulv wrote:
Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:53 pm
I would be very reluctant to allow a player to create a character with psionics abilities. Before I’d allow it, the player would have to argue and explain his visions for the character and I would most likely not allow teleportation or other abilities with effects that could not be accomplished using technology available at TL15 or TL16.
I just have the player role-play it instead of making them argue why they have it. Role-playing solves whatever problems players might be worried about.
Sigtrygg
Lesser Spotted Mongoose
Posts: 768
Joined: Sat Aug 12, 2006 9:23 am

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Sigtrygg » Sun Sep 17, 2017 7:03 am

Traveller has psionics because the books that inspired it had psionics. Dumarest series, Lensmen, the works of Niven, the Foundation trilogy, Dune, just to name a few.

In CT the psionics are failry limited with many restriction built in to their use. You can not use telekinesis to pop a vein in someone's head anymore than you can put your fingers inside their head to do the same thing - now if you have clairvoyance, telekinesis and a knowledge of anatomy go ahead and try, while you are standing there for a minute concentrating the target is sticking a knife into your heart and lungs several times.
ShawnDriscoll
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 2530
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:13 pm

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sun Sep 17, 2017 9:43 am

Just shoot anyone that's naked onboard your ship. Because you know they teleported themselves onboard.
ochd
Stoat
Posts: 90
Joined: Sat Aug 18, 2007 10:33 am
Location: Wantage, Oxfordshire, UK

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby ochd » Sun Sep 17, 2017 1:22 pm

I have allowed it as a player expressed an interest in wanting to be a psion. They rolled alien artefact as a life event, so I decided that it was a piece of technology that enabled her to use life detection and telepathy.

Since the start of the campaign, the Imperium's proscription of psionics has been a useful device as a plot hook.

I haven't found it to be too detrimental to the hard-science feel, and I don't think the players have either. But I have been careful to keep it within limits, and not to use it to wave away completely nonsensical events.

Dan.
paltrysum
Mongoose
Posts: 197
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:16 pm

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby paltrysum » Sun Sep 17, 2017 6:29 pm

I think it's risky to add to your campaign, but I've done it and it's working out pretty well. My group has a psion, a pretty powerful one at that, and he uses his abilities carefully. I run an OTU campaign, and he definitely keeps in mind the psionic prejudices of the Imperium. In fact, he has kept it secret from the other travellers (the players know, of course, but must roleplay that they do not).

I've found it adds something pretty cool to the story. Takes things out of the norm a bit. It hasn't really created any kind of imbalance. It just sort of gives the team an ace in the hole to solve problems at times. I was initially concerned that it would become some kind of "deus ex machina" that saved them all the time, but it really hasn't happened. All in all, I think psionics is a nice add. I only use the MgT2 rules for it and do not employ the MgT1 Psionics book. I hear that made them a little too powerful.
"Spacers lead a sedentary life. They live at home, and their home is always with them—their starship, and so is their country—the depths of space."
twodsix
Shrew
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jul 28, 2017 2:26 pm

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby twodsix » Sun Sep 17, 2017 9:17 pm

I'm personally against psionics in most settings, and highly against anything apart from telepathy (and even then only because it's the psi in my favourite pulp science fiction).

This is partially because of the science fiction that inspires me, in Night's Dawn there is telepathy but it's been added artificially and there's no other psionics. The telepathy only exists to allow Edenists to communicate with their biological creations, while Adamist telepathy is explicitly 'I've implanted a radio in my head'. In many other modern science fiction novels to get telepathy you have to begin by implanting a radio into your head, and then you can only broadcast to other people with radios.

What annoys me is how psionics worm their way into almost every science fiction setting. They're in Eclipse Phase, which is otherwise a bit harder than Traveller (no gravity technology or human-built FTL, but we have fast grown biological organisms and alien wormhole generators). They work in some settings, Eldritch Skies (which I'm homebrewing a Traveller conversion for) has research on psychics result in a telepathic machine that allows you to control your computer with your mind, but the setting also has explicit magic that can be exploited to move across interstellar distances without all the mucking about in hyperspace everybody's currently doing. But they're often thrown in because someone thinks that a science fiction setting should have psionics, even when they clash with the rest of the setting.

My view would be to either remove psionics completely, or go all in. Have everybody roll for Psionic Strength, and allow them to use psionic versions of the various careers. I'm doing the latter for my Eldritch Skies adaption, while sorcerers only get one career anybody with a Psionic Strength attribute of 8 or higher can attempt to enter a psionic version of a career, with the possibility of advancing the small number of psionic talents I think are suitable to the setting (mainly telepathy, clairvoyance, and telekinesis, as humans haven't uncovered time travel in the setting). Those who aren't PCs don't get the luxury of a good chance of a high Psi attribute, but I've met several players who wouldn't mind the chance at playing a psychic.
Saladman
Stoat
Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:30 am
Location: Southern Oregon

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Saladman » Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:54 am

Not yet; I'm not absolutely opposed, but I'd rewrite the careers to match my setting better first.
steve98052
Lesser Spotted Mongoose
Posts: 467
Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2013 6:13 am
Location: near Seattle

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby steve98052 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 5:48 pm

I see two objections to psionics: science and playability.

In the case of science, we can dismiss it. But we can also regard it as something that depends on a basic science discovery we just haven't made yet, like jump. Maybe some people have psionic potential, but without the knowledge of how to train it, it only exists through accidental self-training or rare reflexive use, too rare to acknowledge as anything more than coincidence or charlatans.

Maybe some few practitioners of "magic" or alleged divine gifts were actually psionic, maybe even with some sort of slightly useful training, but the knowledge was spread too thinly to survive competition with technology.

That line of science explanation is reasonably consistent with the science fiction that includes psionics. I have no problem with it; I also don't have a problem with science fiction that leaves it out. But it doesn't violate known basic science any more than jump drive.

In the case of playability, it has to be something that doesn't break stories. In an investigation heavy setting, if lots of puzzles can be cracked simply by telepathically snooping into people's minds, the puzzles have to be hidden somewhere else. Maybe the key to a mystery is in a computer file, and unless the people characters interact with can be tricked into reading the files, so they're visible as surface thoughts, they're out of reach. Maybe there's a panic about Zhodani spies, and everyone who can afford a shield helmet gets one. (Maybe a shield manufacturer even triggers the panic itself, to pump up sales.)

In other types of adventures, other powers can be disruptive, particularly teleportation. But there, maybe people who are worried about Zhodani teleportation commandos install motion sensors that alert people to the presence of anything that moves that isn't accounted for. Again, a business that sells that sort of equipment might exaggerate the risk.

The other playability risk is that a psionic among non-psionics might be the key to every adventure, inspiring player jealousy. Keeping psionics in the closet is one solution; if the psionic character can only save the day when no one else is looking they can't steal the spotlight too often. But psionics aren't the only possible character type who can hog the spotlight; a wealthy noble could hog the spotlight just by lording money over the party, or a combat monster might take over the show when violence breaks out. For this problem, you need cooperative players.
Rikki Tikki Traveller
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 3314
Joined: Mon Aug 06, 2007 3:20 pm
Location: Arlington, TX USA

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Rikki Tikki Traveller » Tue Sep 26, 2017 3:40 pm

My personal opinion is that Psionics has always been underutilized in Traveller.

Marc included the rules in the very first LBBs, and then created an official setting the outlawed and basically ignored it.

I tend to create my own careers to be specific to the setting, and I ALWAYS have a psionic Event.

Also, I have worked out how psionics is treated in my settings, by each culture. I am working on expanded equipment etc. One important thing is to NOT let everyone be psionic (unless you design your setting that way). I make psionics a genetic thing, so families of psionics etc. but only available to less than 1% of the population. BUT, as soon as you do that, then genetic manipulation means that at higher tech levels, more and more people can be psionic until everyone (or almost everyone) is.

I say go for it with Psionics, but think it through and remember, whatever your players plan to do, generations of people have probably tried before, so there will be consequences and likely protections already in place.
My friends call me Richard.
You can call me Sir.
TrippyHippy
Greater Spotted Mongoose
Posts: 1083
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 9:33 am
Location: NZ

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby TrippyHippy » Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:09 am

I allow psionic in OTU because it's part of the setting - but I have disappointed players before when they have been given permission to play a Psychic (as in a character choice, not just because of a random roll) and have ended up getting a mini-mortgage to pay off for the training. To me, that point is simply one of fairness - if you want a power based character then you need to pay. I also enforce the illegal nature of it, as a means of generating story.

In other settings, especially 'hard sci-fi' like 2300AD is simply makes no sense. There is no evidence, whatsoever, of psychic powers in the real world and that is that.
Outtasight!
Rikki Tikki Traveller
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 3314
Joined: Mon Aug 06, 2007 3:20 pm
Location: Arlington, TX USA

Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Rikki Tikki Traveller » Thu Oct 05, 2017 1:16 pm

One of my favorite characters from days-gone-by was a Psionic Scout. He had a PSI of 4 - so the only thing he could really use was Life Detection. Still had a lot of fun using that one little power in different ways.
My friends call me Richard.
You can call me Sir.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: dragoner and 18 guests