Anatomy of a Psychic
A character becomes a psychic when he or she purchases Gateway: Psychic, Minor Gateway: Lesser Psychic or either version of the Paranormal Ability for psychics available in the D-Bee extras list. This gives the character access to an exotic stress track and allows him to use his Will skill to activate psychic abilities.
Using psychic abilities is one of the more complex tasks in a system that deliberately tries to keep things fairly simple and the main reason for this is versatility. Psychics (and mages who share many of the mechanics) can do a lot with a single skill. Still, the task isn’t too daunting. It just comes with a few options to be considered.
The Basic Procedure
The basic procedure for using psychic abilities goes like this: Declare what your character is going to do. This must be something that is in some way related to one of your Psychic Disciplines. Think of this like invoking one of those Disciplines as though it were an Aspect. Once that’s done and agreed on, check off a box of exotic stress and make a skill roll. This will most often be an Will roll, but some other skills may be more appropriate particularly in combat.
Success or failure is treated very much as any other action of the appropriate type. Failure on the roll doesn’t necessarily mean failure of the ability. As per normal outcomes, the ability might succeed with a cost, or it might do something unintended. It very rarely does nothing, however.
Exotic stress represents a psychic’s ability to exert himself to use his disciplines. It’s base level is set by a psychic’s Will skill, though additional exotic stress may be purchased as an extra. By default all abilities cost a single exotic stress to use, though there are options for mitigating that. Like physical and mental stress, exotic stress fully recovers at the end of a scene (there may be rare exceptions to this if a mage finds himself in an extremely magic poor environment). In addition, like other kinds of stress, a psychic may take a consequence if he is unable or unwilling to spend a box of stress. Unlike most other kinds of stress it is possible in some circumstances to spend more than one box at a time.
The basic procedure outlined above works pretty well for most spell work but there are a number of ways to modify it for various situations. Each of these have been described below, with any additional costs or benefits as appropriate.
- Low Power: Low power represents a psychic putting forth minimal power for things that don’t require as much effort, or otherwise conserving energy. When activating disciplines at low power, a psychic does not check off a box of exotic stress as usual, however is powers are rolled at at Will -2. This does mean that psychics who have chosen to have their Will at Average (+1) or Mediocre (+0) may not cast at low power. Their control simply isn’t good enough. (In situations where Will is not the rolled skill, the -2 is applied to whatever portion of the ability Will does affect.)
- Macro Scale: Most disciplines affect a single person, a small handful of people (within reason depending on the ability) or an area equal to a small room. To affect more than that an ability may be used at Macro Scale, by declaring it before casting and spending an extra exotic stress. Macro Scale abilities that affect an area more than a few hundred square yards are beyond the reach of player level psychics. See notes on difficulty for how to handle this. Macro Scale abilities may be cast at low power.
- Overcharge: Sometimes throwing more power at a problem is the best solution. A psychic may overcharge an ability by spending a single extra box of exotic stress to add a +2 to his Will for the purposes of that spell. Only a single point of exotic stress may be spent in this manner.
Sometimes a spell doesn’t behave as described in the Basic Procedure because of what specifically it’s doing. Below are the special cases you might commonly run into.
- Armor Disciplines: Certain spells may be used to protect a psychic from harm by making him more resilient in some fashion. Such abilities confer an armor rating of 7 – Will on the recipient. No psychically generated armor may ever be better than Armor 2. Like psychic attacks, this functions off of ‘effective Will rating’ and is affected by things like psychic mastery and low power activations.
- Attack Disciplines: When psychic powers are used to attack, the skill roll used to make the attack depends on the nature of the attack being made. In general it will be either Shoot or Fight. Will is only used as an attack skill when no other skill is applicable. For example, punching someone with flaming fists is a fight attack. Hurling a fireball or lightning bolt at someone is a shoot attack. Directly setting them on fire is a Will attack. In all cases the weapon value of the attack is equal to the Will skill of the psychic. This is modified for things like low power and psychic mastery for the appropriate purview.
- Multi-Target Attacks: A mage may attack up to a number of targets equal to his Will in a spray attack or may make a blast attack against all targets in a single zone. In either case all affected targets may make a separate defense roll.
- Psychic Recovery: Psychics with the appropriate discipline may make an overcome roll to begin physical consequence recovery with no other justification. This overcome roll is treated as an ability activation.
- Psychic Healing: Psychics with the appropriate discipline may heal physical stress in themselves or others by rolling Arcana and recovering that amount of stress. Psychics may also reduce the severity of consequences by spending exotic stress to reduce them by one step (severe to moderate, moderate to mild, mild consequences addressed in the manner are cleared). The cost for doing so is 1 exotic stress per every 2 stress that the consequence absorbed. The consequences must have existed for at least one scene prior to direct psychic healing.
- Compulsions: Mentally compelling PC’s and major NPC’s involves engaging them in conflict and taking them out to inflict the compulsion upon them. When not targeting a PC or major NPC, compulsions may be handled as consequences, advantages or overcome rolls as the scene runner likes.
Notes on Ability Difficulty
Ability rolls, like most others, come in two forms, opposed and unopposed.
Opposed psychic rolls are the simpler of the two to adjudicate. Most often this will be the case in conflict or when the mage is trying to harm someone but it can come up any time that someone or something else is actively opposing the ability be it using athletics to dodge a fireball, will to shrug off a telepathic attack.
When an ability is opposed, roll the ability as normal and then compare it to the opposed skill roll. The difference between the two is the ability’s margin of success or failure as the case may be.
Some abilities might be ‘passively opposed’. This is usually the case when the resistance an ability needs to overcome is related to some quality of the target or something someone has done beforehand rather than an active effort directed against them. Passively opposed abilities must overcome a difficulty equal to the skill or skill roll that established the opposition.
When abilities are unopposed it will often not even be necessary to roll dice. However when a die roll is needed – because there is a dramatically interesting possibility of failure, because the task being attempted is quite difficult or because it’s important to know how well the spell succeeds – it will be up to the scene runner to determine how difficult the roll should be. This should be done according to the needs of the scene and what makes sense but as a rule if there is no reason the desired effect should be particularly hard, then the difficulty shouldn’t be higher than Average (+1) or Fair (+2).