Do you allow psionics?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Milodiah
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Milodiah » Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:48 pm

I generally allow one player per party to be a psion, and it's always the one I trust the most to be reasonable with it. I've never had issues with it being abused, because Traveller psionics are fairly self-limiting. The protective powers don't make you anywhere near bulletproof, the offensive powers aren't more threatening than a trained sniper, and the utilitarian powers are frequently useful to the party as a whole. Even having allowed the non-world-shattering Advanced Talents from the Psion book (because yeah, screw time/dimensional travel, that's a campaign breaker), the biggest thing that my current campaign psion has done was incapacitate a pair of station guards in combat armor while in the open without anyone realizing it was her doing it.

In addition, it opens up a lot of opportunities for adventures that wouldn't normally be doable. Right now the party is on a planet that's started to death-camp its psions because elements of the planetary government always hated them and their new status as an Imperial client state gives them the excuse they always wanted. Naturally the psion's mentor, who was established at the beginning as an Ally, is there, and needs help getting 200+ young students of a psionic institute/boarding school off-planet. The fact that this planet has Quisling telepaths who were promised a comfortable home on another planet rather than extermination, as well as imported alien psi-sensitive hunting dogs, means that this character must always be extremely careful, wearing a psi hood and using the aura masking abilities to hide her talents at every checkpoint.

Not to mention blatantly cutting out psionics from the OTU kinda neuters the Zhodani entirely. You could always just never bring them up, or restrict psionics to them, or just say "there ARE psionics but YOU never will get them", etc, but that's no fun to me.
Captain Nebula
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Captain Nebula » Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:00 am

The thing I don't get about why people think Psionics is overpowered or unbalancing in a game is that if your Psi Points are average - a 7, you're not doing a lot in a long drawn-out encounter. With Telepathy, you can't even use Assault with a score of 7. If you use the Evolutionary Modifiers from TNE, you could be burning through points even faster. If your character has more than one Psionic Talent, they're more versatile, but they burn through those points even quicker. A Teleport with 10 kg of equipment can only be done once in a 4 hour period, with a score of 7. Once those points are gone, a character with a score of 7 has to wait 10 hours before being restored to normal points. That could be like getting through half a combat encounter and no longer being able to use your gun.
PsiTraveller
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby PsiTraveller » Fri Oct 06, 2017 10:26 pm

I would allow psionics in my campaign. (My name is sort of a giveaway). I like the quirky chance to occasionally break the rules.

That said, creative uses of psionics can really distort things if you are not opposed. The Psion book in 1st edition is full of opportunities to use the Advanced Talents to really come up with some creative elements. I have some of that in my Drinax campaign. A psionic family moving around in psionic ships.

In 2nd edition the authors really need to look at the Suggestion power (assuming the roll of 12+ is made) can result in Puppet master events. You have to have a real maxed out Psion to pull off the power though. So that is a bit of balance.
Captain Nebula
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Captain Nebula » Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:45 am

PsiTraveller wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 10:26 pm
In 2nd edition the authors really need to look at the Suggestion power (assuming the roll of 12+ is made) can result in Puppet master events. You have to have a real maxed out Psion to pull off the power though. So that is a bit of balance.
That was one I sent to Matt. They modified it a little for the book. It not a constant mind control. It's supposed to be like a post-hypnotic suggestion. Can it be used in a nefarious way? Yup.

But this is what I originally sent them:
Suggestion
The power of Suggestion can allow a Psion to plant a
thought, idea, or command in a target's mind, convincing the
target that the thought is their own. Increasing the Task Difficulty
and Cost by one, the Suggestion can be delayed to happen at a
later time. Suggestion can't be used against a Shielded mind.
Telepathy, Psionic Strength, 1-6 seconds, Difficult (-2)
Cost: 4+Range
I made it using the 1st Edition MgT. As I said, they modified it a bit.
ShawnDriscoll
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sat Oct 07, 2017 7:19 am

Just generated 10,000 psions in about 5 secs with some faster C code I'm using. So ya, I allow them.
Nobby-W
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Nobby-W » Wed Oct 18, 2017 8:42 pm

They're not mandatory but I don't have a problem with them in my games. The first thing to remember with psionics is game balance.

If a power grants some ability that can be replicated with a piece of equipment, then it's unlikely to cause problems with game balance. For example, a psionic attack could do as much damage as a gun without causing balance issues as a character with a gun can make an attack of equivalent power. The psionic ability is intrinsic to the character, but a character could also be a skilled martial artist, which would give an intrinsic attack. If a psionic attack were as powerful as a high level artillery spell from D&D then it might cause issues with game balance.

A psionic ability like telepathy or clairvoyance can give a player information that they might not otherwise have. Be careful with the limits of this. You might, for example rule that a read surface thoughts ability could give you some random information that might be useful, or might not. A short-range clairvoyant ability could be replicated by a backscatter scanner (i.e. seeing through walls) but might not give complete information. A long range clairvoyance ability might be replicated by a recon drone, or require the user to be at least somewhat familiar with the location. You can balance this by regulating the completeness of the information.

If psionics are a thing in your 'verse then countermeasures like shield helmets might also be a thing ('Got yer tinfoil hats on, boys?'). You could go full Telzey Amberdon and make a universe where psionics are a major part of the setting. Speaking of which, the Telzey Amberdon books, while mainly written in the 1960s, are quite a good source of ideas for things you could do with psionic PCs or NPCs. I've certainly lifted ideas from them on more than one occasion.
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Nobby-W » Wed Oct 18, 2017 8:44 pm

Captain Nebula wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:45 am
PsiTraveller wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 10:26 pm
In 2nd edition the authors really need to look at the Suggestion power (assuming the roll of 12+ is made) can result in Puppet master events. You have to have a real maxed out Psion to pull off the power though. So that is a bit of balance.
That was one I sent to Matt. They modified it a little for the book. It not a constant mind control. It's supposed to be like a post-hypnotic suggestion. Can it be used in a nefarious way? Yup.
Of course, the canonical application of this power is 'These aren't the droids you're looking for ...'
Epicenter
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Epicenter » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:01 am

'Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless. Over the lifetime of the human species we would otherwise have done something with them.'

— Larry Niven


This pretty much sums up my opinion of psionics. There's no indications that psi powers exist in the 3I. The implementation does not take into the account anything approaching the actual effects that such powers would have on a society and its thinking, even sticking with the basic well-described ones in the basic rules.

This suggests to me, that yes, they were literally slapped on as an afterthought and no violence is done to the canon universe by saying they never existed in the first place. The Traveller universe makes more sense and works better without psionics.

Now, if you read the mentions and history of psionics in the Third Impeirum, and you know what it really sounds like?

A conspiracy theory.

IMTU, that's what psionics are. They're Known Space's largest conspiracy theory. Empress Paula's psionic suppression are the Roswell Incident of the 3I. The psionic institutes are the HAARP. Psionics do not really exist but billions, perhaps trillions of sapients in Known Space believe they exist. In the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory believers, every logical denial is merely proof that "they" have gotten to the person denying psionics and that the denier is preaching "false science" and are doubted by ... the scientifically ignorant believers in psionics.

The Zhodani and Droyne do have "psionic" like powers that are verified (it mostly involves "trances" and SQUIID-like devices that can actually read thoughts, in the case of Droyne, "true coyns" actually contain them and are Ancient artifacts), but they can't do the majority of powers that psions are supposed to have. They've actually been studied and if you look, there's papers (lots of them) on how it works in Droyne especially. Sadly, nobody who spends their lives with their heads in the sand cares about facts, after all. They have their own "facts" a thriving multi-billion credit industry of "scholars" and "scientists" who cultivate belief in psionics ... despite the fact that every "psion" who's ever claimed to have powers refuses actual scientific testing or has been exposed as a huckster.
paltrysum
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby paltrysum » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:57 pm

What?! No teleporting commandos in clamshell-helmeted combat armor?! :shock:

Seemingly ridiculous or not, psionics are part of the OTU. Perhaps they were unleashed by early genetic engineering efforts before the Long Night and worked their way, however minimally, into the gene pool. As for the Zhodani, evolving as they did over hundreds of thousands of years on Zhdant, they may have received the gift of psionic abilities from their Ancient benefactors. As for why there aren't more transhuman modifications roaming around, perhaps the others did not withstand the thousand-year timeout of the Long Night, but psionics somehow did.

We don't really know what's possible given the advent of transhuman technology. You can wave them away if you like, but it's part of the lore and hence part of any OTU campaign.
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TrippyHippy
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby TrippyHippy » Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:14 pm

For me, I don't think the issue is about Psionics per se, but I baulk against lazy, hand wavy sci-fi. Just saying 'the power of the mind' as a reason for having magical powers isn't enough and it takes away from the verisimilitude of the setting (including the OTU) a bit. I prefer a bit more paradigm building to explain the phenomena - like discovery of a new fundamental force or the subtle psychology of the Bene Gesserit in Dune.
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Epicenter
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Epicenter » Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:00 am

paltrysum wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:57 pm

Seemingly ridiculous or not, psionics are part of the OTU. Perhaps they were unleashed by early genetic engineering efforts before the Long Night and worked their way, however minimally, into the gene pool.
Assuming you want to stick with Marc Miller's "canon" for psionic powers in T4 it is pointed out there is no genetic basis for psionics. You cannot identify a psion by his or her genes. So there's no special organs or anything else unique to psions generating these effects. They've somehow always existed.

It's just nobody's ever done anything useful with them in all this time, except the Zhodani and maybe a few other races. But the burgeoning masses of Solomani and Vilani? Nope.
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Hakkonen » Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:35 pm

Epicenter wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:00 am
paltrysum wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:57 pm

Seemingly ridiculous or not, psionics are part of the OTU. Perhaps they were unleashed by early genetic engineering efforts before the Long Night and worked their way, however minimally, into the gene pool.
Assuming you want to stick with Marc Miller's "canon" for psionic powers in T4 it is pointed out there is no genetic basis for psionics. You cannot identify a psion by his or her genes. So there's no special organs or anything else unique to psions generating these effects. They've somehow always existed.

It's just nobody's ever done anything useful with them in all this time, except the Zhodani and maybe a few other races. But the burgeoning masses of Solomani and Vilani? Nope.
That really bugs me. If there's no physical difference between psions and non-psions (blanks? neutrals?), then why isn't everyone a psion? It raises more questions than it answers. :P
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby AnotherDilbert » Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:12 pm

Hakkonen wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:35 pm
That really bugs me. If there's no physical difference between psions and non-psions (blanks? neutrals?), then why isn't everyone a psion? It raises more questions than it answers. :P
Everyone is a psion, not everyone is trained.

Note that you can't fail a test for psionic potential, you can only get a too low PSI strength to be useful.
dragoner
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby dragoner » Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:46 pm

Hakkonen wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:35 pm
Epicenter wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:00 am
paltrysum wrote:
Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:57 pm

Seemingly ridiculous or not, psionics are part of the OTU. Perhaps they were unleashed by early genetic engineering efforts before the Long Night and worked their way, however minimally, into the gene pool.
Assuming you want to stick with Marc Miller's "canon" for psionic powers in T4 it is pointed out there is no genetic basis for psionics. You cannot identify a psion by his or her genes. So there's no special organs or anything else unique to psions generating these effects. They've somehow always existed.

It's just nobody's ever done anything useful with them in all this time, except the Zhodani and maybe a few other races. But the burgeoning masses of Solomani and Vilani? Nope.
That really bugs me. If there's no physical difference between psions and non-psions (blanks? neutrals?), then why isn't everyone a psion? It raises more questions than it answers. :P
Same thing I asked Don when he was writing Zhodani, and he said everyone was a psion, which is about as close as it gets to word of from on high. My reply was about the same as yours; though iirc the Empress Wave, Project Longbow, and mimic tech from the Republic of Regina would somehow even it all out, though those plotlines don't seem to be being developed anymore.
Hakkonen
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Hakkonen » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:10 pm

AnotherDilbert wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:12 pm
Hakkonen wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:35 pm
That really bugs me. If there's no physical difference between psions and non-psions (blanks? neutrals?), then why isn't everyone a psion? It raises more questions than it answers. :P
Everyone is a psion, not everyone is trained.

Note that you can't fail a test for psionic potential, you can only get a too low PSI strength to be useful.
What determines a person's psi strength? (Other than a die roll, I mean.)
AnotherDilbert
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby AnotherDilbert » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:24 pm

Hakkonen wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:10 pm
What determines a person's psi strength? (Other than a die roll, I mean.)
At a guess genetics, like any other characteristic.
Sigtrygg
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Sigtrygg » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:25 pm

MWM has stated many times there is no genetic link to a high psi score.
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby TrippyHippy » Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:42 am

AnotherDilbert wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:24 pm
Hakkonen wrote:
Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:10 pm
What determines a person's psi strength? (Other than a die roll, I mean.)
At a guess genetics, like any other characteristic.
Education and Social Standing aren't due to genetics.

Psi isn't a definable characteristic in any case as it's fictional. The paradigm offered in the OTU is that everybody has potential of differing levels, but it fades with time. It's as nebulous as Star Wars' Force beyond that - and damn those midiclhorians.
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Hakkonen
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Hakkonen » Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:48 am

TrippyHippy wrote:
Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:42 am
Education and Social Standing aren't due to genetics.
On a side note, I kind of wish Social Standing had a more indicative name; Social Aptitude, maybe. If I understand it correctly, the attribute isn't actually related to your place in society, but the character's ability to socialize.
Epicenter
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Re: Do you allow psionics?

Postby Epicenter » Sun Oct 22, 2017 1:44 am

Hakkonen wrote:
Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:48 am
On a side note, I kind of wish Social Standing had a more indicative name; Social Aptitude, maybe. If I understand it correctly, the attribute isn't actually related to your place in society, but the character's ability to socialize.
That's really a side-effect of people trying to extend Social Status' role in the game. SS is really about your "class" in society. That's why from 10 and beyond you get noble ranks.

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