Zak’s awesome psionics system, plus some scrawling from me
So, ages ago I asked Zak for a non-sucky psionics system that wasn’t just another magic system, because it seems to me that the whole psychic power thing should be distinctive. And he very graciously invented one on the spot, and I rather gracelessly buried it at the bottom of another tl:dr post because I wasn’t quite sure why he hadn’t published it himself.
Today I’m going to rectify that. Here’s what he said:
1. Once per day, period.
2. If you want to be a psionic PC you are distracted and fucked up, -1 to con and dex.
3. You must concentrate for 3 rounds in combat or 20 seconds. No physical interruptions allowed but you can hear noises or be in the presence of combat.
4. After the 3 rounds you can “hold” the release of the power up to 2 rounds if you like.
5. Psi power is based on traumas and horrors your PCs has witnessed. To wit: the power consists of the PC being able to manifest the effect of any natural power of a living being (or undead or whatever demons are) s/he has seen used to date. The effect of a ghoul’s paralysis, a medusa’s stare, a sorcerer’s intelligence, an ogre’s strength, a hydra’s regeneration etc.
6. If the ability in question can normally affect another creature it can be projected up to levelx5 feet. So like if your PC had seen a giant, the PC could telekinese with the giant’s strength up to 5 feet at 1st level and at 200 feet at 20th level.
6. Spells do not count as powers, but the spell-like abilities of demons and devils do.
7. Feedback: after manifesting the power, the PC must make a wisdom check (ie roll under wisdom, minus the monster level of the creature being mentally evoked) or will save (at a DC of 10+monster CR) depending on system.
8. A failed feedback save/check causes hp damage equal to the level of the creature evoked. A botched feedback save causes that much damage to everyone in a creature-level x 10′ radius including the psion.
9. If the psion is ever knocked unconscious by feedback (alone), this is a traumatic experience that will cause him/her to gain one minor insanity.
10. At the GM’s discretion this may also extend to natural phenomena such as lightning discharges, etc. If there are described dreams in the game, any supernatural ability observed in the dream may be used. If the effective level of the phenomenon is unclear, roll 2d4
11. Instead of the normal botch rules you can use the Dark Heresy weird phenomena psychic phenomena chart which is pretty cool.
Now this seems pretty much perfect for straight-up DnD characters – when you start you haven’t seen anything you can channel and then as you adventure the terrifying awesomeness you encounter becomes a form of treasure you can inflict on others (man oh man, the grief Skeree could inflict on people from playing in Zzarchov’s games). But what if you were a starting character who somehow, say, got uncontrollable psi powers from, completely hypothetically here… being operated on by Greys while you were down in the weapons pit in Carcosa Wacky Races? Then you would undeniably have use-now powers but no experiences to guide them. And it would be uncontrolled, which adds more of a live grenade vibe. What then?
Roll a D6 when the dice gods declare your powers have built up too much and must be vented…
1. old-fashioned psychic blast – your chance to hit is your CHA, the target’s chance to save is their WIS, difference in level between you is a mod on the to hit roll. 3D6+level mental damage: if their hit points are exceeded, they fall unconscious and take the remainder of the damage against their WIS, which they can maybe heal back through story events. Blaster saves vs WIS to avoid also being knocked unconscious.
2. psychic bridge with nearby person (determine randomly unless there’s eye contact when the fit strikes). Lasts D10 minutes. Roll D6 for effect of the bridge:
1 = twins! each mirrors the other’s actions until the link is broken;
2 = suggestion – you implant one geas on target;
3 = suggested – target implants one geas on you;
4 = fate brothers – you are now charmed by each other, cannot hurt, must protect;
5 = body swap – instantaneous and permanent;
6 = evil twin – the target always knows where you are and what you’re doing, and will work to screw up everything you try to achieve.
3. Homing beacon for psychic, astral and psionic entities. Sure, ghosts and whatnot, but also mind flayers, githyanki, nightgaunts, mi-go etc.
4. Purge your inner demons. Like that time your mum hit you with the iron, or you were naked and everyone was laughing at you? All those things go hopping and jumping and slithering right out of you in a cascade, like extras from Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. You feel fantastic: lighter, shriven, free. Also you lose 1d6 SAN or 1 point of WIS because, you know, there goes the old superego.
5. Limited precognition. Lasts 1d6 days, works basically like danger sense but for dice rolls. You still make the rolls as normal but if something awful happens you get to say “ah but but but…” and make up some reason for why you should get an extra save to get out of the mincing machine in time.
6. Bang. Brains everywhere. Stuff like resurrection should still work, as long as it doesn’t need an intact body. 1d6 SAN loss for all your friends.