17 April 2015

Random Psychic Power Generator and Psychic Combat Simulator

[This article is my contribution to Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day 2015.]

These rules are my version of psionics intended for use with Swords & Wizardry White Box, but they are compatible with any version of Swords & Wizardry (or any version of the Original Fantasy Role-Playing Game). They could also be used for any role-playing genre using Swords & Wizardry (or similar games) as a framework.

Psionics can easily unbalance a game, so I decided to design my rules in such a way that emphasizes the unpredictability and relative unreliability of psychic abilities. In some fiction (and even in some alleged nonfictional accounts), psychic powers are described as Wild Talents. Why and how they manifest is not fully understood, and they can typically only be tapped with sporadic success. Despite attempts to study these phenomena from a scientific (i.e. parapsychological) perspective, they have consistently defied, well, consistency. Apart from debunking hoaxes, the realm of the paranormal yet lies beyond our ability to scrutinize it objectively. In that spirit, I present a random generator for your psychic role-playing needs. I thought the Roll All Dice method was appropriate to the subject, but some explanations are in order.

To generate a random Psychic Power for any player character or non-player character, merely roll 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12, and 1d20. What qualifies a player character to roll for a Psychic Power depends on the discretion of the referee, but if more than one Power is desired for a given character, it is recommended that only the d20 be rolled again for further Powers. All Powers for a given character should share the same Psychic Fuel, Psychic Focus, Psychic Rejuvenation, Psychic Enhancer, and Psychic Failure Consequence.

To use a Psychic Power, a character must make a saving throw, with a bonus or penalty applied according to his or her Psychic Focus and (if applicable) Psychic Enhancer.

Psychic Fuel is the attribute that is drained each time the character uses a Psychic Power even if the attempt fails. If the attribute falls into a bracket that would deprive the character of a bonus or impose a penalty, such is the result until the attribute is restored.

Psychic Focus is the bonus or penalty to a character's Psychic Power saving throw based on the bonuses or penalties a character gets for certain attributes.

Psychic Rejuvenation is the specific method by which a character may have his or her Psychic Fuel attribute restored (apart from the usual methods such as healing in the case of hit points or certain spells in the case of actual attributes).

Psychic Enhancer is the specific object or element that the character may use, if present, to increase his or her chances of succeeding in using a Psychic Power. This is a bonus that is added, along with the Psychic Focus bonus, to the saving throw.

Psychic Failure Consequence is what happens to the character whenever he or she fails a Psychic Power saving throw in addition to being unable to manifest the Power effectively.

Psychic Power, of course, is the psychic ability itself. They are largely self-explanatory, and referees may modify them as desired. Powers, once activated, occur immediately and remain in effect until concentration is broken. Certain effects, such as damage caused or cured, last normally. Powers that affect an unwilling target may entitle the target to its own saving throw to resist its effects. Deliberate distractions, injury, or extended periods of concentration may require additional Psychic Power saving throws to maintain concentration, each of which reduces the character's Psychic Fuel attribute.

Random Psychic Power Generator
(Roll All Dice)

Psychic Fuel
That upon which the Psychic Power draws
(Each use drains 1 point from indicated attribute.)

Roll 1d4

1. Strength
2. Dexterity
3. Constitution
4. Hit Points

Psychic Focus
That which harnesses the Psychic Power
(Apply bonus/penalty from indicated attribute/s.)

Roll 1d6

1. Intelligence
2. Wisdom
3. Charisma
4. Intelligence and Wisdom
5. Intelligence and Charisma
6. Wisdom and Charisma

Psychic Rejuvenation
That which restores the Psychic Fuel
(Attributes reduced by use of Psychic Power may be restored by indicated method.)

Roll 1d8

1. Meditation (1 point per hour)
2. Chanting (2 points per hour)
3. Complete immersion in water (1d4 points)
4. Complete immersion in mud (1d6 points)
5. Clapping (1d4 points, once per day)
6. Assumption of sacred postures (1d6 points, once per day)
7. Sleep (1d8 points per night)
8. Suspended animation (all points restored; minimum one week)

Psychic Enhancer
That which heightens control over the Psychic Power
(Apply +1 bonus when indicated Enhancer is present.)

Roll 1d10

1. Crystal
2. Fire
3. Water
4. Wind
5. Mirror
6. Gong
7. Bell
8. Chime
9. Amulet
10. Body Art

Psychic Failure Consequence
That which befalls one who fails to control the Psychic Power

Roll 1d12

1. Psychic paralysis (inability to exercise Psychic Power) for 3d6 rounds.
2. Nosebleed for 3d6 rounds.
3. Double vision for 3d6 rounds (-2 penalty to appropriate actions).
4. Mute for 3d6 rounds.
5. Unconsciousness for 3d6 rounds.
6. Dizziness for 1d4 rounds (will fall or move in random direction).
7. Stunned for 1d6 rounds.
8. Blindness for 1d8 rounds (-4 penalty to appropriate actions).
9. Deafness for 1d10 rounds.
10. Overpowering headache for 1d12 rounds (concentration impossible).
11. Nausea for 1d20 rounds (concentration impossible; vomiting probable).
12. Physical injury (1d6 hit points of damage).

Psychic Power
The nature of the Psychic Power
(All Psychic Powers manifest instantaneously and last as long as concentration is maintained.)

Roll 1d20

1. Astral Projection (as the spell Astral Spell).
2. Cellular Adjustment (as the spells Cure Light Wounds and/or Cure Disease).
3. Clairaudience (enables one to hear sounds in distant or obstructed locations).
4. Clairvoyance (enables one to see things in distant or obstructed locations).
5. Cryokinesis (enables one to mentally control coldness).
6. Density Control (enables one to float like a feather, walk on water, etc.).
7. Empathy (enables one to sense and project emotions).
8. Etherealness (enables one to assume ethereal form).
9. Hypnotic Suggestion (as the spell Suggestion).
10. Levitation (as the spells Levitate and/or Fly).
11. Mind Control (as the spells Charm Person and/or Charm Monster).
12. Mind Reading (as the spell Detect Thoughts (ESP)).
13. Mind Shield (protects one from magical scrying and psychic detection).
14. Precognition (enables one to see flashes of future events).
15. Psychic Invisibility (as the spell Invisibility).
16. Psychometry (enables one to read psychic impressions on objects and places).
17. Pyrokinesis (enables one to mentally control fire and heat).
18. Telekinesis (as the spell Telekinesis).
19. Telepathy (enables one to communicate with thought).
20. Teleportation (as the spells Dimensional Portal and/or Teleport).

Psychic Combat Simulator

Beings with Psychic Powers may engage in combat with one another or with non-psychic beings by using their Psychic Attack Bonus, which is equal to their level or, in the case of monsters, their hit dice. (Thus a 5th level magic-user — or fighter, or cleric — who happens to have a Psychic Power would have a Psychic Attack Bonus of +5.) This operates exactly like a Base Hit Bonus. To make a psychic attack, a character must roll 1d20, add the Psychic Attack Bonus, and equal or exceed the defender's Psychic Defense Rating (in the manner of Ascending Armor Class), which is equal to the defender's Wisdom. Psychic beings add their Psychic Focus and Psychic Enhancer (if applicable) to their psychic attack rolls and their Psychic Defense Rating. For monsters that lack a Wisdom attribute, the referee may roll randomly as follows: 1d6 for lower animals, 2d6 for higher animals, 3d6 for sentient species, 4d6 for superhuman/supernatural beings.

In a psychic duel, both combatants attack and defend simultaneously each round. The effects of successful hits by both are counted and inflict damage even if one of the characters is killed or defeated during the round. In a conflict between a psychic being and a non-psychic being, the latter may only defend against psychic attacks, but may engage in other actions such as physical combat, spellcasting, etc.

Psychic attacks, just like uses of a Psychic Power, reduce the attacker's Psychic Fuel attribute by 1 point.

If a psychic attack is successful, the attacker causes 1d6 points of damage to the defender's Psychic Fuel attribute, or, in the case of non-psychic beings, the defender's Wisdom. If the Psychic Fuel attribute is reduced to 0, the defender dies. If the non-psychic defender's Wisdom is reduced to 1 or 2, he or she effectively becomes a robot under the attacker's command. If the defender's Wisdom is reduced to 0, the defender dies.

Summary of Psychic Combat

  • Psychic Attack Bonus = character level or monster hit dice of psychic being.
  • Psychic Defense Rating = Wisdom.
  • To make a psychic attack against a psychic defender, roll 1d20 + Psychic Attack Bonus + Psychic Focus + Psychic Enhancer equal to or greater than defender's Psychic Defense Rating + Psychic Focus + Psychic Enhancer. A successful hit reduces defender's Psychic Fuel attribute by 1d6.
  • To make a psychic attack against a non-psychic defender, roll 1d20 + Psychic Attack Bonus + Psychic Focus + Psychic Enhancer equal to or greater than defender's Psychic Defense Rating. A successful hit reduces defender's Wisdom by 1d6.
  • Psychic attacks reduce the attacker's Psychic Fuel attribute by 1 point.
  • Psychic Fuel attribute: 0 = death.
  • Wisdom: 1 or 2 = robot.
  • Wisdom: 0 = death.
[Psychic Power Generator: example #1 and example #2]

[Edit: I changed the term "Wild Talent" to "Psychic Power." 2015-05-13]

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