Saturday, September 19, 2020

Psiioniics II: The Diiscussiion


Click the image for a PDF version of the rules

Here are a couple paragraphs of elaboration on the PSIONICS rules from the last post.

This might be a contentious opinion but I think psionics are cool and good, actually. The only issue is that they can't seem to be implemented right. Every "official" psionics system I've played with is a total drag and all the homemade attempts to remedy them never really land with me. Yet, much like classic D&D, the concept is strong enough that people just keep coming back to it. Some alternative rules are pretty good, like the ones in Carcosa, but they all suffer the same problem of just being just another per-day magic-adjacent ability with an ostensibly sci-fi flavor.

I think psionics should be fun and intuitive, because this is a GAME after all, but they should also be incredibly risky and dangerous and bizarre. The way some people feel that magic should be all occult and twisted and potentially disfiguring to those who practice it—I feel the same way about psionics. While the classic TSR-era psionic rules are no doubt inspired by the cold, academic mind powers dreamed up by writers like John Campbell and James Blish, I'm more interested in the violent, messy psionics from the likes of Akira, Scanners, and Ubik. Psionics are high risk and high reward. If you push them too hard, they will push back. But the only way to grow your power is to push yourself right up against the limit.

This system was designed to have a built-in control to prevent players from using their powers excessively, but still allowing for them to actually feel like they possess meaningful abilities. One thing D&D could use more of are attrition mechanics that aren't determined by the number of [spell slots/torches/rations/etc.] a PC has left but instead by the player's knowledge that the more benefits they extract leads to a higher risk that something bad happens to their character. It's like a second psychological mind game players with psionic PCs play on top of the one they're already playing with the rest of the group.

The rules themselves are pretty easy to suit your tastes. If you want them to show up even less frequently than rolling a d100 below your lowest out of INT, WIS, and CHA than you can just do it the way AD&D does it. If you want less flash, you can remove the additional environmental effects from psychic breaks and maybe tone down the two power roll abilities. I definitely had a specific genre flavor in mind when making the powers, but if that's not your thing then the system allows for modification.

The unique dice mechanic is something I'm pretty happy with. It doesn't seem to be too much extra book keeping for the players, and it serves to really emphasize the idea that psionics are weird and different, unlike all the other weird and different things featured in the game. I've already discussed my love for unique resolution mechanics, so just know that this one fits the bill. I would imagine that the power dice mechanic could be refitted for something else pretty easily, but I haven't tried it with anything else yet. Maybe one day I'll make a magic system to rival the GLOG magic dice. (I'm coming for your throne, Arnold).

One final note: In any other psionic system, psionics don't show up nearly as frequently as they ought to. It makes sense that psionics should be rare, but when there's less than, say, a five percent chance for a new PC to be a psion then in practice the rules barely even matter to me. Inevitably, in accordance with the laws of karmic irony, a PC with psionics won't be rolled until at least four months into play, and then they'll die a handful of sessions later after having barely used their powers. It's just the way these things go.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Rules for PSIONICS




ARE YOU A PSION?

After determining ability scores at character creation, roll a d100. If you get below the highest score out of your Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma, you are a PSION. Roll randomly for a power. If you would rather have fewer psions in your game, roll below the average of the three scores, or below the lowest of the three. 


HOW TO USE PSIONICS

Every psion has a POWER DICE, determined by their level.

Level 1-3: d4

Level 4-6: d6

Level 7+: d8

To use a PSIONIC POWER, roll your POWER DICE and write down the result somewhere on your character sheet. For an enhanced effect (as specified in the ability's description), make two POWER ROLLS and record both results. The power then manifests. 





PSIONIC POWERS

  1. Clairvoyance: Your psychic power manifests as a supernatural second sight, allowing you to see through walls, view the contents of containers, and detect fine details. Two power rolls can be made to sense aspects of the world beyond mundane understanding such as the abilities of a creature and the features of a magic item.
  2. Clairaudience: You can achieve full sonic perception. Using this ability gives you perfect echolocation, effectively granting omnidirectional awareness as long as you can hear. Alternatively, you can choose to tune your hearing to a specific target, like a whispered conversation in a crowded room or the footfalls of a mouse in a rainstorm. Two power rolls can be made to “hear” the latent psychic energy that exists in all organic material—functioning as a one-way Speak With... spell directed at a specific object. Clairaudience lasts 1 turn.
  3. Pyrokinesis: Your psychic energy can excite particles to combustion. This can be used to ignite flammable objects and create flames that can damage targets. Attacks with Pyrokinesis have a range of 60’, use the ranged attack bonus, and deal damage equal to twice the result of your power roll. Two rolls can be made to combust a target and cause the damage automatically, although there is a 1-in-6 chance that you ignite as well and take an equal amount of damage. 
  4. ESP: You can detect the presence of minds and read the surface thoughts and emotions of a target. Two power rolls can be made to perceive another location within 60’, such as an adjacent room or the interior of a closed box. 
  5. Telekinesis: Your mind can push, pull, lift, or hold with a force of  up to 20 pounds. An additional power roll can be made for finer work, although line of sight is required (so no squeezing hearts or slicing brains). Additionally, the max weight capacity of your Telekinesis increases by 60 pounds for every additional power roll you make. If you need a quick and dirty way to calculate attacks with Telekinesis, assume attacks use the ranged attack modifier and deal damage equal to the power roll(s).
  6. Psychometry: You can touch an object to “read” its history. You understand its purpose and function, as well as the circumstances surrounding its creation and any notable events it took part in. Two power rolls can be made to glean more details, or focus in on one specific event in the object’s history and see the event through its perspective. 
  7. Telepathy: Psychic communication. Brief one-way messages can be sent to people you share a language with without a power roll at a range of up to 1 mile as long as you have at least one psionics number written on your character sheet. A power roll can be made to establish a telepathic link with other people, allowing for two-way communication between a number of minds equal to your level with a range of up to 10 miles, which lasts for one hour. Other psions and particularly brilliant individuals can attempt a save vs. magic to resist telepathic communication. Two power rolls can be made to thoroughly read a target’s mind or search their memory. The target can save vs. magic to resist, but they receive a -1 penalty for every one HD you have more than them.
  8. Precognition: You can see up to one minute into the future, allowing you to “retcon” decisions and actions you made in that time. If two power rolls are made, select a number between one and twenty—for the next day, you can replace the outcome of any d20 roll with that number. At level 4 you can write down two numbers, and at level 7 you can write down three. Each number can only be used once. The two power roll ability can only be made once a day. 
  9. PSI Blast: You can use your psychic power to assault an enemy’s mind. Deals an amount of damage equal to your power roll. If two power rolls are made, deal an amount of damage equal to the higher of the two dice and add an additional effect to the PSI Blast: 1) target is dazed the next round and cannot attack 2) target gets knocked to the ground 3) target gets a -1 penalty to attack and damage rolls for one round 4) target is frozen in place, unable to move for one round round 5) target is temporarily maddened and spends their next round attacking the nearest creature (attacking themselves if no one is in range) 6) target is forced to make a morale check at a -2 penalty. Other psions and particularly brilliant individuals are allowed a save vs. magic to negate the damage. If the damage is negated this way by a psion, the power roll result is not recorded. Instead, the opposing creature can spend their round to attempt a free PSI Blast against the original psion, using the original result of the power dice +1 to calculate damage. The original target is then allowed a save, and if passed they can repeat the process on their turn using the original power roll result +2, and so on. If either psion gets interrupted, the damage is split between the two of them and each gets a save vs. magic to negate it.
  10. Psychic Barrier: Through supernatural focus you can create a mental barrier to shield your psyche. Using this ability automatically negates any effect that can charm, cause fear or otherwise afflict your mind. This ability can also be used to cancel any other psionic effect, such as ESP and PSI Blast. Furthermore, due to the mental control this power allows you to exert, it can be used to reduce incoming damage from a single target by an amount equal to the result of the power roll. Two power rolls can be made to momentarily project a barrier of force around you—all matter not worn or carried is repelled from the barrier, negating any damage from physical attacks. This ability has no duration, instead it should be treated as a reaction to attacks or effects. 
  11. Hypnosis: After at least one minute of interacting with a creature you share a language with, you can make a verbal suggestion which the target will be inclined to obey. The suggestion cannot be something that would obviously put the target’s life at risk or directly endanger their friends and allies. An additional power roll can be made to induce a sensory or emotional effect, such that the target would feel they are covered in insects, incredibly warm, remarkably angry, etc. This effect lasts for a number of minutes equal to the sum of the two power rolls. Alternatively, an additional power roll can be made to put intelligent creatures to sleep, functioning the same as the Sleep spell affecting a number of HD equal to the sum of your power rolls. You and the target(s) must be able to see each other. Creatures that are hostile to you, along with other psions or people with remarkable intelligence, can resist hypnosis by succeeding on a save vs. magic.
  12. Physical Augmentation: You can use your psionic power to consciously control and enhance your bodily processes. On the round that you use this ability, you can move twice as fast and can gain as a bonus the result of your power roll to your AC as well as any attack rolls and Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution tests you make. Alternatively, you can heal a number of HP equal to the result of your power roll or receive a bonus to any save against poison, drugs, and the like. If two power rolls are made, you enter a trance-like state where the effects of Physical Augmentation last for two turns. At the end of the two turns, you must succeed on a Constitution test (without the benefit of the bonus) or else become fatigued until you get a full night’s rest—all ability tests and attack rolls are made at a -1 penalty, and you move as though you are one level more encumbered. 


SHOCKS AND BREAKS
There is no hard limit to the amount of times you can use your abilities. That being said, excessive use can and will cause setbacks. If you make a power roll and get the same result as one you have already written down, or make two power rolls and get doubles, then cross the repeated number out with a slash and suffer a SHOCK, detailed in the table below. The ability still manifests. If you make a power roll and get a number you have already crossed out, cross the number out again to form an X. You then suffer a shock and fail to manifest the ability. If you continue to roll and get a number that has been crossed out with an X, the power fails to manifest and you suffer a PSYCHIC BREAK.

ACQUIRING MORE PSIONIC POWERS

When you have every number of your power dice written on your character sheet without any X'd out, you gain a new random psionic power. This can only happen once per level. You also gain a random psionic power after surviving a psionic break. More powers can potentially be acquired if you receive training from a master psion. The parameters of training are left up to the DM.


MELLOWING OUT

During downtime between adventures, you can spend a full day to mellow out, which lets you erase one number from your sheet. You can’t spend the day doing anything other than basic activities like going for a walk, meditating, nursing your migraine, etc. You can also speed up this process by partying, doing drugs, donating to the needy, or whatever other frivolous waste of money would suit your character. Spend a number of SP (assuming a silver standard) equal to 10 times your level and roll your power dice. Erase an amount of numbers equal to your result. 



LIST OF PSYCHIC SHOCKS

  1. The release of psionic power creates a storm in your brain, giving you a minor seizure. You fall to the ground and are effectively incapacitated for 3 rounds. 
  2. Blood vessels burst in your head, making blood pour out of your nose (and perhaps eyes, ears, etc.). Take 1d6 damage. If you were to die from this damage, you instead pass out and wake up an hour later with 1 HP.
  3. The mental effort leaves you with a splitting headache. Every attack roll and ability test you make for the rest of the day suffers a -1 penalty. 
  4. The voices in your head are getting louder... for the next hour, any activity that requires careful focus and attention to detail (searching for a trap, listening at a door) automatically fails. 
  5. Your higher-order thinking slips away, leaving you in a state of heightened suggestibility. You must follow the commands of anyone that succeeds on a charisma test, as long as the command isn’t directly harmful to you or your friends and allies. This lasts for 1 hour, after which you only have a vague, hazy memory of what occurred during that time.
  6. The release of psychic power causes parts of your brain to stop functioning properly. You lose one random sense for one turn: 1. Sight 2. Hearing 3. Touch 4. Smell 5. Taste 6. Roll twice
  7. Your subconscious mind creates a temporary mental block as a response to built up psychic trauma. You are unable to use psionics for the rest of the day.
  8. You overexert your mind and your psionic powers run wild. Write down another number as if you had made another power roll and channel an additional random psionic power. If all the numbers of your power dice are already written down, cross one out and suffer an additional setback.



THE PSYCHIC BREAKDOWN

Psychic breaks are incredibly traumatic, life-altering events, but they have the potential to give way to new insights and abilities. When you suffer a psionic break, roll a d100.


1-60: Roll 1d4 and subtract the result between your Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. A tremor shakes the immediate area.

61-70: As above, and lose one known language. Every sentient creature within a 100’ proximity must save vs. magic or take 1d6 damage.

71-80: As above, and lose half the experience you have gained since leveling up. You seep unstable psychic energy, causing every mechanical or magical device within 100’ to go haywire.

81-95: As above, and you gain 1d4 mutations. You release waves of sheer psionic power in a 10 mile radius. Carts and wagons begin to levitate, roofs are blown off of houses, weather systems are disrupted, animals go insane, babies are born already knowing how to speak. 

96-100: Immediate death. If you are level 7 or higher there is a 1-in-6 chance you erupt in a massive, terrible explosion, obliterating everything in a 10 mile radius.


After suffering a psychic break, you fall unconscious for 1d6 days and gain one random psionic power upon awakening. 


Saturday, September 5, 2020

Who I Am

I've had this blog for about four months now, so I figure it's time I introduce myself. My name is George, I've been playing and thinking about D&D for a long ass time, and I wanted to make a blog to post about it. 

If you're at all familiar with the Old School Renaissance/Revival, it should go without saying that this blog follows in the footsteps of many OSR creators before it. A lot has changed in the past decade or so since the OSR first became a thing, and I think it's safe to say it is reaching the autumn of its lifespan as a niche internet-based subculture. Many great bloggers and creators will certainly continue posting and making things into the indefinite future, but every movement has a point where it somehow simultaneously fades into obscurity and becomes co-opted by the mainstream.  

This is something I will consider with a sense of easygoing detachedness. While I would like to ride the zeitgeist and be a part of an up-and-coming "scene," I simply like old school D&D and its derivatives too much to write about any other type of game. Alas, I have relegated myself to post from this dying world. 

That being said, I don't know if I would characterize what I post or how I play my games as strictly "OSR." Maybe DIY D&D would be a better term. But I guess when you get down to this granular of a level the labels don't really matter. 

So what's the point of this blog? I want to write, and actually follow through on ideas instead of having them exist loosely in my thoughts and on various notes. I spend enough time thinking about D&D I feel like I ought to have something to show for it beyond just what my players see from session to session. I want to share ideas with other people and hopefully do my part enrich the noosphere. 

At some point I'm probably going to post about other stuff, but for now I want to get the ball rolling with D&D stuff.