Power Sets: Psychic Powers

progenitor-psychic-jarvis-westPsychic powers in fiction fall into some broad, recognizable categories. You have the telepath who can read your mind and control your actions. You have the esper who can see across miles or years. And you have the psychokinetic who can throw cars and cause your blood to boil.

In Wild Talents, psychic powers are relatively straightforward applications of the power creation rules. There are a few tricks to keep in mind for each type of psychic power, however.

Each power group below offers a list of appropriate powers from the Miracle Cafeteria in Wild Talents, as well as ideas for modifying them or creating new powers that fit.

Archetype

Obviously, psychic powers come from the Psi source. They are powers of the mind and come from the interaction of sentient thought with the fabric of the universe. The specifics of this interaction may vary from setting to setting, but the presence of a sentient mind is critical.

Each of the power groups below fit the definition of a Power Theme, so the Psychic archetype uses that permission. If a character can use more than one of these power groups, switch the permission to Super, increasing the cost of the archetype by 10.

Psychic abilities are tied to Base Will and derived from Willpower, so the Psychic archetype has the No Willpower No Way intrinsic. If you run out of Willpower, you lose access to any psychic powers you possess.

The Talent powers of Godlike are essentially psychic in nature. That game features the interesting feature that anyone with a Talent could counteract other Talent powers through sheer force of will. This is appropriate to some versions of psychic powers but not others. In addition, Godlike Talents can sense the use of powers by other Talents they can see. This ability is much more common in psychic powers, and it might even be a Mandatory Power (see p. 102 of Wild Talents for how to build it).

Psychic (0 points)

Source: Psi

Permission: Power Theme

Intrinsic: No Willpower No Way

Additions: Common modifications to the Archetype include Super, Mandatory Power (Perceive Psychic Powers), and Willpower Contest.

Extra-Sensory Perception

Extra-Sensory Perception (or ESP) is the ability to extend your senses beyond the normal human limits. This can mean projecting your senses across space, astral projecting your consciousness, or even peering into the future. ESP powers are typically subtle, affecting only the character using them.

One of the subtlest effects of ESP may be the ability to time your actions precognitively. This could justify just about any power having levels of the Go First extra. Or, you may have a power that adds Go First to any other roll. This would be identical to the Lightning Reflexes power in Power Sets: Speedster.

The following powers from the Miracle Cafeteria are most appropriate as ESP powers: Aces (you see all the possible ways to do something and choose the best), Block (precognitive defense), Ghost (astral projection), Immunity (to illusions, invisibility, etc.), Perceive (any), Precognition, and Vicious (you see the best way to damage someone). Appropriate hyperstats and hyperskills are Sense, Perception, and Scrutiny.

To model clairsentience (the ability to use your normal senses at a distance), take dice in Hypersense with the Power Capacity (Range) extra and as many levels of Booster as you require for maximum range. If you are limited to a single sense (clairvoyance for sight, clairaudience for hearing), add the If/Then (Only for one sense) flaw.

Psychokinesis

Psychokinesis is the power to exert physical force using only mental effort. This can move objects or speed up and slow down molecules. Its effects are very obvious, although they may not necessarily be traced to their source.

Psychokinetic powers may have the No Upward Limit extra, as the ability to move things with one’s mind is limited only by Will. This is especially appropriate for Telekinesis.

The following powers from the Miracle Cafeteria are most appropriate as Psychokinesis powers: Bind, Block, Containment, Flight (levitation), Harm (this can take many forms, including pyrokinesis, cryokinesis, or pure telekinetic force, see below), Heavy Armor (likely reducing Endless to Duration), Invisibility (psychokinetically bending light), Light Armor (likely reducing Endless to Duration), Psychic Artifacts, and Telekinesis. Appropriate hyperstats and hyperskills are Body, Athletics, Block, and Brawling.

Pure telekinetic force is best modeled with the standard Harm power with the addition of the Power Capacity extra, giving it both Range and Mass capacities. For pyrokinesis or cryokinesis, use the following powers.

Cryokinesis (7 pts per die)

Attacks (+2), Daze (+1), Engulf (+2), Non-Physical (+2).

You attack your target by lowering its internal temperature greatly, causing severe damage akin to serious frostbite. This deals WSK to each hit location; if the target would be incapacitated or killed, it is frozen solid. The cold slows the target’s actions; reduce the target’s dice pools by your Width on the next round. This effect ignores armor, but it can be resisted with an Endurance roll.

Pyrokinesis (8 pts per die)

Attacks (+2), Burns (+2), Engulf (+2), Non-Physical (+2).

You attack your target by increasing its internal temperature greatly, causing it to spontaneously combust. This deals WSK to each hit location and sets the target on fire. This effect ignores armor, but it can be resisted with an Endurance roll.

Telepathy

Telepathy is the ability to interact with the minds of others. You can communicate, read their thoughts, alter their perceptions, or control their actions. And since psychic powers are generated by sentient thought, you can even shut off another psychic’s abilities.

Many Telepathy powers have effects that are “just in the mind.” That is, they only affect the minds of thinking beings and are ignored by machines, for example. Such powers have the No Physical Change flaw. Telepathic attacks directly affect the target’s mind as well, and they get the Non-Physical extra to represent this. They are typically resisted with a Stability roll. Some telepathic attacks merely make the victim think they’re hurt and so have both modifiers.

The following powers from the Miracle Cafeteria are most appropriate as Telepathy powers: Block (a telepathic defense that makes your attacker hesitate), Dead Ringer (with No Physical Change), Harm (with Non-Physical and possibly No Physical Change), Heavy Armor (without the Armored Defense flaw, a psychic “non-violence” field that makes it hard to attack you), Illusions, Immunity (to Mind Control), Invisibility, Mind Control, Nullify (Psi), Puppet, and Telepathy. Appropriate hyperstats and hyperskills are Charm, Command, Empathy, Lie, Persuasion, Interrogation, Intimidation, and Leadership.

One trick exhibited by telepaths in some fiction is the power to draw skills from the minds of people around them. A telepath can become an expert in a second, as long as someone around his is highly skilled. This doesn’t grant information but ability. This power might be built thusly.

Share Skill (12 pts per die)

Attacks (+2), Full Power Only (-1), If/Then (Only for Variable Effect) (-1), If/Then (Only for hyperskills) (-1), If/Then (Limited to greatest pool of any character in Radius) (-1), Radius 1 (+2), Variable Effect (+4).

Defends (+2), Full Power Only (-1), If/Then (Only for Variable Effect) (-1), If/Then (Only for hyperskills) (-1), If/Then (Limited to greatest pool of any character in Radius) (-1), Radius 1 (+2), Variable Effect (+4).

Useful (+2), Full Power Only (-1), If/Then (Only for Variable Effect) (-1), If/Then (Only for hyperskills) (-1), If/Then (Limited to greatest pool of any character in Radius) (-1), Radius 1 (+2), Variable Effect (+4).

You can mimic a skill possessed by any individual within 10 yards. You can only share one skill at a time, and you share it at the lower of your dice in Share Skill and the highest pool possessed by individuals in the area.

Optional Rule: Communion

In some settings, psychic powers “resonate” with each other, allowing psychic to enter a state of communion with one another and combine their strength. This is especially effective for low-level games where characters have small dice pools.

To enter communion, characters must be in physical or telepathic contact with at least one other member of the communion. The character with the largest dice pool in the chosen power is the sink; all other members of the communion are sources. Each source can spend Willpower to add their dice to the sink’s pool (1 Willpower for a regular die, 2 for a Hard die, 4 for a Wiggle die).

If a group is in communion during combat, the sources add their dice during the Declare phase, while the sink declares their action to use the chosen power as normal. No one in a communion can take any other actions. Entering a communion in combat requires an action, but leaving one does not. If any member of a communion takes any damage to the head, they are knocked out of the communion automatically.

Some GMs will allow this optional rule to all characters with the Psychic archetype; the pros and cons should roughly cancel out, especially in combat. Some, however, will charge an extra on any power that can benefit from communion. May I suggest simply a +1.

About Paul Stefko

Paul Stefko is a game designer living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has done freelance work for Steve Jackson Games and is currently developing his own science fiction RPG, Full Moon, using funding from Kickstarter.