15.0.0 Psionics

Races in games of Fire On The Suns may be psionic. While this may refer to some spectacular mental abilities (such as hiding a ship from view), it will more commonly refer to obscure quirks of neurobiology and physiology.

 

The monsters known as Thought Eaters, for example, subsist by feeding on the neurotransmitter chemicals of a variety of sentient species. While not strictly a psionic ability, their “intellivore” physiology is considered to be a Level III Telepathy/Empathy skill, which is simply called Eating.

 

Some psionic abilities appear to ignore the laws of physics. For example, Cloaking, a Level II Telepathy/Empathy skill, can affect people reading LR scan displays dozens of light years away, even if the psion performing the Cloaking is unaware of their presence. Also, the Unspeakable Ones' intrusion into our reality (FOTS Game 3) caused sensitives across Known Space to collapse all at once, in complete defiance of the lightspeed limit to natural communication. It is possible these abilities are keyed through higher-dimensional space, in which every point in the universe can be said to coexist in a single 1-dimensional point.

 

In order to build a psionic race under the Design rules, you must first spend 10 Attribute Points (AP) on the Racial Trait of Psionic Ability. This is required for any psionic discipline, and allows the player to choose a single Level I Telepathic/Empathic, Level II, or Extrasensory Perception Skill. Additional Level I or ESP skills, after a psionic discipline paid for with 10 AP, cost 5 AP a piece. Level II Telepathic/Empathic skills cost 10 AP each, whether or not other disciplines have been purchased. Level III Telepathic/Empathic skills may not be purchased as part of a Designer Race, and may not be researched until a psionic monster or NPR race has been encountered which possesses that ability.

 

In standard FOTS sufficient psions are assumed either naturally to occur in the population of a psionic race or to be trainable out of that population.

 

Building a Psionic race is not without disadvantages. The GM may rule that certain non-psionic races cause severe and inadvertent psionic interference among your people (see the effects of Shrieking, below). Machine races will be entirely unaffected by the offensive Telepathy/-Empathy powers – they have no fallible subjective perceptions to muddle. (Your defensive Extrasensory Perception disciplines will work against them, though.) You will be more vulnerable to certain types of monster, and will indeed tend to attract such creatures. Also, you may not choose Hyperspace Drive as your method of FTL travel; the physics of that domain drive Psions mad.

 

Research into Psionics should not generally be construed as technology, but as a process of learning to expand existing skills. It does not produce new equipment per se, but allows a race's Psions to learn the newly developed method/skill.

 

A non-psionic race may bioengineer Psions by pursuing research into both Psionic and Biological tech, although this will require access to members of a psionic race or monster. Any research into psionics is very expensive, and will require multiple successes.

 

A non-psionic race may develop technological means of countering particular psi abilities. This will also require access to members of a psionic race or monster, but might be cheaper than “conventional” psionic research. Note that research subjects need not be willing volunteers. POWs or beings “collected” through intel operations will suffice.

 

Psionic abilities, for game purposes, are divided into three categories for in-game purchase and use. The psionic abilities may be societal, unit-based, or cabal-based. Societal psionic abilities are those that are a part of the society as a whole; there aren’t any specific units that have them. Harmonizing is a classic example of this, as is Dreaming. Unit-based psionic abilities are those that tend to affect the functioning of whole FOTS units, and cause the unit to pay an increased cost for their use. While there might be groups of individuals involved who constitute a cabal, this doesn’t show up at the level of game mechanics. Cloaking is an example of a unit-based psionic ability; if you want a ship to have psionic Cloaking, you need to pay a +15% unit surcharge on it (in addition to needing the Cloaking ability in the first place). The cost of Cloaking will depend on the base cost of the unit. Unit-based abilities have no effect on the construction time of most units built with them. Ground units with psionic abilities, however, require a second turn of training. Cabal-based abilities are built around cabal, discrete teams of psionically adept individuals. A cabal is treated as a 0,0,0,1ground unit, but as it consists of far fewer individuals, it can function in any flag bridge or barracks space, including one being put to other uses. The base cost of a cabal is 10 RP’s. However, it takes a +15% unit surcharge for each psionic ability it carries. The cabal can be trained in one turn if it has only one psionic ability. Finding and Illuminating are two examples of cabal-based psionic abilities. A Finding cabal will cost 12 RP’s, and is normally assigned to one sector or another to foil espionage in their zone. An Illuminating cabal attached to a fleet (typically working from the flagship and its flag bridge) will negate enemy psionic Cloaking for the entire immediate fleet. Cabal-based abilities may also be treated as unit-based abilities for ground units; one could, for instance, build an Illuminating space marine division, for a second turn of training time and a +15% surcharge for the unit.

 

Many psionic abilities may be combined in the same cabal or other unit. For example, it is possible (though expensive) to create a Burner/Dancer Powered Armor unit. Players are encouraged to suggest different combinations, and entirely new disciplines. Remember that in all cases, the GM’s ruling on feasibility is final.

 

Machine races may never develop psi abilities, although they may develop their own equivalents through nanotechnology and other exotic means.

 

15.1.0 Telepathy / Empathy

Level I – Listening

The 10 AP Racial Trait Psionic Ability grants any one, or an ESP discipline. Each additional costs 5

.

Harmonizing: Allows the members of the race to truly understand each other each other’s thoughts and/or feelings, allowing it to work towards common goals with a minimum of friction. Such races tend to be more productive and unified, with greatly reduced chances of civil war. The Harmonizing discipline allows for the halving of all SR penalties. Harmonizing is a societal ability.

Translating: To reflect the ability to work in the native language of the scientific texts, Translating races get a 25% bonus to RP’s spent on R&D from each free communication bonus rather than 20%, and enjoy a base cost of 200 RP’s for tech transfers rather than 250 RPs.

Linking: Allows perfect synchronicity between two minds on different ships or in different ground combat units. This emulates the effects of Datalinking in the Battle Engine. Linking is a unit-based ability; however, it, like Datalink and unlike most psionic unit-based abilities, is free.

Calling: Caller Cabals supercede FTL Communications rules. A TF/TG with one aboard always responds to orders, regardless of distance. This also increases the chance of tactical surprise, as such ships can maintain communications silence. Note there must be a Caller Cabal at your homeworld for this to work. Calling is a cabal-based ability.

Intercepting: Interceptor Cabals possess the ability to “listen in” on another race’s psionic communication, possibly catching fleet orders being transmitted by Callers or other sensitive information. A psionic Traffic Analysis unit, if you will. Intercepting is a cabal-based ability.

 

Level II – Interfering

Each enhanced ability costs 10 AP, requires Psionic Ability.

Shrieking: General psionic “white noise” broadcast interference, causing headaches, loss of concentration, and possibly temporary madness in unshielded individuals. The end result is similar to ECM Tech. This can be developed as a general, low strength counter to any race, or a powerful counter designed for use against a specific race, and useless against all others. Certain non-psionic races may have this effect on psionic ones, such as the particularly strong feedback human minds cause in close proximity to Q’Tez. The general, low-strength counter variety of Shrieking is a cabal-based ability; the race-specific variety is a societal one.

Cloaking: A unit with Cloaking is one trained to make even relatively distant observers pay it no attention. It broadcasts “ignore me” psionic suggestions all about. A unit with functioning Cloaking is invisible to psi-susceptible units more distant than tactical combat range and less distant than the current range of cloaking devices, the system used to project psionic impulses over astronomical distances. Units entering tactical range are in sufficient instinctive danger that the “ignore me” suggestions simply become unacceptable. Units beyond the influence distance are not sufficiently “hit” with the suggestion to ignore the Cloaked units. The initial range for Cloaking is 0 sections; only units inside that section and outside tactical combat range are incapable of noticing the Cloaked units. This remains a very handy effect, however, in that enemy interception forces need to cover that range between being too distant for the effect and being too close for it, during which time they can’t notice the Cloaked unit and can’t really get over the mental blocks to locate the Cloaked units within the section. Range may be increased by one section per Development success. Nothing done by the Cloaked unit but altering the range or voluntarily ceasing to be Cloaked will void the effect. Psi-shielding and Illuminating are examples of effects on the observer’s part that can void the effect.

           

      Cloaked units will ordinarily enjoy a surprise effect. They do not otherwise enjoy a tactical benefit to Cloaking; once you notice them at all, there’s nothing but the shock to impede locking weapons on them. Minefields will not be surprised by Cloaked units.

     

      Cloaking is a unit-based ability and carries a 15% unit surcharge.

Masking: The ability to make others to perceive you as someone other than you are. Sort of a half-strength Cloaking. Adds a sizable bonus to intelligence and counterintelligence rolls. Also allows the training of Masker Cabals, which make it possible to disguise your fleets as someone else’s (success in this is by no means guaranteed). Masking is a unit-based ability.

Casting: Units with Casting create illusory duplicates in the minds of the enemy, causing many shots to land harmlessly on targets that don’t actually exist. A unit with Casting carries a FLICKER 50 tag; when an attack is “blocked” by the flicker effect, it has been aimed at the duplicate and so does no damage. Casting is a unit-based ability.

Burning: A crippling/incapacitating directed version of Shrieking, strong enough to cause hallucinations, delirium, or permanent psychosis. Any ground unit type can be built as a Burner unit, and receives a 50% boost to damage ratings and a 10 point DEFENSE bonus. Psionic combat units tend to be disproportionately expensive, and slow to train. Burning is a unit-based ability.

Hushing: A psionic “ECCM” ability which counters Shrieking. Hushing is a cabal-based ability.

Illuminating: Counters Cloaking and attempts to Mask ships as another race’s. Illuminating is a cabal-based ability.

Reading: Actually tracing the pattern of another’s thoughts, and browsing the accrued contents of their mind. The ultimate lie detector; counters the Masking bonus to intelligence and counterintelligence rolls. If a race possesses both Masking and Reading, it may spy on non-psionic enemies virtually at will, with minimal chance of detection. Reading is cabal-based ability.

Scattering: Counters and dispels the mental illusions created by Caster Cabals. Scattering is a cabal-based ability.

Quenching: Quencher Cabals counter the psionic abilities of enemy Burner units, reducing them to just another ground unit. Quenching is a cabal-based ability.

 

Level III – Controlling

Normally only available to monsters and NPR “bad guys.”

Eating: Eaters strip neurotransmitters from a brain immediately upon direct physical contact, usually for the purposes of nourishment. Every organic enemy ground unit’s Hl rating is reduced to one in ground/boarding combat – once defenses are breached by Eaters, the troops are quickly “devoured.” Death of the mindless body is quite swift. Treatment as a unit-based, cabal-based, or societal psionic ability is at GM discretion.

Chilling: Chillers cause irrational fear in enemy forces, drastically lowering their break off level. Treatment as a unit-based, cabal-based, or societal psionic ability is at GM discretion.

Twisting: Twisters subtly alter the electrical activity and chemical balance of a brain, allowing memory and personality reconstruction. Useful in creating deep cover agents, double agents, loyal servant races, or in taking over a world without a fight. Think pod people. Treatment as a unit-based, cabal-based, or societal psionic ability is at GM discretion.

Flaying: Flayers are capable of quickly and brutally ripping the personality and will from a being, effectively taking control of their body. At the start of ground/boarding combat, a roll is made for each enemy unit present - each success brings one of them to your side for the duration of the battle. Unlike the victims of Eaters, after combat is concluded the flayed units survive, and continue to serve as your loyal soldiers. Future attempts to exert any form of psionic control over flayed units will be fruitless; there is no mind left to effect. Players may flay their own units to combat psionic races. While morally reprehensible, such troops ignore the combat effects of all psionic disciplines. Just pray this doesn’t make it on to GNN. Treatment as a unit-based, cabal-based, or societal psionic ability is at GM discretion.

Breeding: Breeders are a nasty variant of Flayers, which alter the neurochemistry of their victims such that they become new Flayer-type monsters upon the conclusion of combat. Breeder infestations are best left unmolested, or annihilated from orbit. Treatment as a unit-based, cabal-based, or societal psionic ability is at GM discretion.

 

15.2.0 Extrasensory Perception

The 10 AP Racial Trait Psionic Ability grants any one, or a Level 1 Tel/Emp discipline. Each additional costs 5.

Dancing: A “danger sense” and acute 3D situational awareness. This provides ships of any size a -10% ECM-like penalty to enemy fire on them, and a –30% penalty to enemy fire on any ship of Hl 14 or smaller. Larger vessels are too cumbersome and unmaneuverable to benefit to that degree from the few seconds of warning this skill would provide their helmsmen. Any ground unit may also be built as a Dancer Cabal. Dancing is a unit-based ability.

Finding: Finder Cabals are Security and Secret Police units par excellence. All non-psionic enemy intel operations in their sector automatically fail, usually in the most disastrous way possible. Finding is a cabal-based ability.

Seeking: Seeker Cabals are inexplicably drawn to psionic ruptures, spatial anomalies, paleotechnological artifacts, undiscovered sentient races, and monsters. You’ll never know which until you get there. Seeking is a cabal-based ability.

Echoing: This ability is hard to make practical use of, but creative players will find innumerable applications. This is the ability to recover knowledge about the history of any object merely by physical contact and meditation. One application of Echoing may be assigned mechanics as follows: An Echoing cabal at work on a recovered derelict or archaeological ruins provides a 50% bonus to RP’s spent on reverse-engineering or dig efforts. Echoing is a cabal-based ability.

Dreaming: The ability to gain impressions or glimpses of the future. This is the most unreliable of the espar disciplines, and you will be unable to use it on demand. Rather, this is a device for the GM to use to move the plot along, with hints and suggestions of what will occur. If you believe that forewarned is forearmed, you will want this discipline. Dreaming is a societal ability.

 

 

 

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