Telepathy/Mind Reading is a psychic power that allows a character to read another person's thoughts and/or communicate with them mentally.
At its most basic level, it functions as a short range radio, allowing the character to pick up the thoughts of those around him. Sometimes, it has limitations such as touch or proximity, or only being able to 'hear' rather than 'see' thoughts. A common hurdle comes from being unable to probe deeper into the minds of those around them, as well as being something of a Fainting Seer whenever an especially strong willed or horrifying character is around. Psychic overload is also common in crowds, represented by a Psychic Nosebleed. Being a passive receptor and not being able to shutother people's thoughts out can easily drive a psychic insane, making this potentially Blessed with Suck.
More advanced uses of telepathy involve receiving and transmitting thoughts and memories, and probing beneath surface thoughts into memories, or outright going into a Journey to the Center of the Mind or dream travel. Some telepaths may be able to use Astral Projection, or at least see through other people's eyes.
At its strongest, a telepath will be able to Mind Control others, sometimes even to the point of possessing their bodies, create Fake Memories after applying Laser-Guided Amnesia, create a Split Personality and let it take over, or in general be a terrifying god who can Mind Rape their opponents.
It's worth noting that for the above reasons telepathy is one of the most potentially pervertable powers, since it's basically an invasion of privacy of the worst kind. The telepath is the sighted man in the kingdom of the blind, and provided he's discreet he can know everyone down to their most intimate detail, and can use them accordingly. This is a lot worse when he's the overlord. Thus, mind readers in Real Life would be complete Paranoia Fuel. This is why in settings with un-masqueraded telepaths, they are often persecuted, policed, and registered. That is, when they aren't used as weapons or killed.
Heroic telepaths are thus in a difficult position both inside and outside a story proving Bad Powers, Bad People is not true. An author wants them to be heroes, but has to somehow assuage the reader the character isn't a mental voyeur (or if he is, he's got a chivalrous side) and the character will also have to put their colleagues at ease that they aren't likely to turn into a Mind ProbingHive Queen. To solve this, they often practice what they preach with Mind Over Manners.
Telepathy comes in a lot of flavors:
The Empath is usually treated as a low grade telepath.
Many telepaths are portrayed as being able to sense the presence of each other or other people and animals, simply by being able to sense the presence of another mind. This may have a very limited range, or it may have a planetary scale; if suitably amplified. This tends to turn them into Psychic Radar.
Mahou Sensei Negima! has a number of examples; Negi displays very limited mind reading ability in the first chapter (he puts his hand on the target's head and gets maybe 2 words out of it). Later on, the Pactio cards are introduced, which allows Negi and his partners to communicate telepathically. In addition, Nodoka gets a book that allows her to read people's thoughts as her artifact; after an upgrade she can essentially listen to the thoughts of anyone whose name she knows...while another upgrade lets her find out anybody's name.
There are numerous levels and types of telepathy in Negima; it is implied to be an almost universal skill in Mages, with various degrees of power. For example telepathic communication even without Pactio's is rather basic, and Word of God states the reason Eva could instantly recognises Nagi as an aged up Negi is because of another form of telepathy.
Mao of Code Geass has the ability to hear the thoughts of anyone within 500 meters, even on a subconscious level if he concentrates, making him a formidable opponent to the highlythought-orientedLelouch. It does, however, have the drawback of being unable to turn off, meaning he always hears everyone's thoughts within five hundred meters.
The gender-bent Mao in Nightmare of Nunnally had a similar power, which also included the ability to see into a person's memories as a bonus. To a degree, all the geass powers involve a vague form of telepathy (Lelouch controls minds, the Emperor can mess with memories, etc.). At least, the ones in the anime do.
Any Trance user in Psyren, in the form of Mind Jacks.
Joshua Christopher in Chrono Crusade is able to read minds after he takes the horns of a demon from the Big Bad. However, he can't turn it off, so it drives himinsane. Mary Magdalene is also implied to be some sort of empath in the manga version of the series, but it's averted in the anime—she specifically tells Chrono that she can only see the future, and that she can't read minds.
Almost every Pokémon movie has the Pokémon it centers around being capable of telepathy. This never happens in the anime, and the first time it happens (in, of course, the first movie) everyone is surprised. By the eighth movie, Ash is Genre Savvy enough to know that Lucario is speaking to him through telepathy.
Actually, one Pokémon episode featuring Jynx had a Lapras who spoke to Ash through telepathy.
Some of the Espers of To Aru Majutsu no Index have forms of telepathy. There are only two note worthy cases though; Haruue in Railgun, and Misaki Shokuhou (aka "The Queen of Tokiwadai"). Haruue, as a Level 2, can only receive thoughts transmitted by other telepaths (such as her best friend Edasaki). Shokuhou, on the other hand, is a Level 5 telepath, and thus is capable of mass Mind Control and memory manipulation.
In Dragon Ball, Kame-sennin reads the mind and memories of a powerful Indian mystic without him noticing, just by standing near him. Much later, Goku learns to do this, but he needs to touch his target.
In Lyrical Nanoha, mages can communicate telepathically (but are not able to read minds), which they primarily use for communication from distances at which their voices cannot reach one another, or to communicate with one another without those in earshot finding out. An early episode features Nanoha communicating with Yuuno about the Jewel Seeds while she's still in class and he's at home.
Satori of Ranma ½ can read minds, much to Ranma's annoyance. He uses this power to reveal lies, find out people's most private thoughts, and pit Akane against Ranma.
Yukina from Senkou No Night Raid uses this to great effect during spy missions with the Sakurai organization.
Haruka Kotoura from Kotoura-san is a fifteen-year old telepath who can't turn her ability off. As a child her naturally naive personality causes her to simply blurt out sensitive information. This causes her to be labelled as a compulsive liar, to drive her friends and classmates away, and to cause her parent's divorce. However in highschool she is finally able to meet Manabe, someone who is transparent and honest and not scared of her ability.
Dragon Ball is usually more concerned with physical strength, but telepathy is important to the plot every now and again. The Kais all seem to have some level of mind reading and telepathic ability (King Kai's is so powerful he can psychically communicate with an entire planet at once, from anywhere in the universe). Babidi can use his magic for it, and even Goku and Vegeta will very rarely display low-level mind reading abilities.
Artemis and Luna from Sailor Moon have displayed some telepathic power, mainly the ability to re-awaken the Sailor Senshi's memories during the second season.
In Naruto, this is the signature ability of the Hidden Leaf Village's Yamanaka clan, who can possess others, read minds, perform consciousness transfers, and form psychic communication networks.
Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men has formidable psychic powers and is probably the foremost telepath in comics. A number of others have followed in his wake; the X-Books have more telepaths than any other comics subgroup.
Such as Jean Grey, Cable, Rachel Summers, and Emma Frost and her clone daughters the Stepford Cuckoos being the most prominent examples.
Psylocke sounds like a good name for a telepath, doesn't it? Originally, that was her only power.
Grodd has a grandson (or brother, depending on who's telling the story) dubbed Sam Simeon, one half the comedic crime-fighting duo Angel and the Ape, with a watered-down version of Grodd's powers that just lets him cloud the minds of people around him so they see him as a normal human.
Titanians (formerly Lanothians) are an inherently telepathic race. Of course, Saturn Girl, the Titanian member of the Legion of Super-Heroes is the poster girl for her entire race, with abilities similar to the telepatic ones of the aforementioned Martian Manhunter.
The Threeboot version of the Legion, placed in one of the 52 parallel universes of the DCU, features a retooled version of the Titanians. In this version their powerful telepathy borders on a collective form of Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training, as modern Titanians are a race of mute individuals, evolved without vocal cords as their prolonged use of telepathy made speech useless. Threeboot Saturn Girl may be as powerful as Mainstream Saturn Girl, but shut down her powers and she gets an instant downgrade to the resident Cute Mute.
All elves in Wendy and Richard Pini's ElfQuest graphic novels have the ability to communicate telepathically via a process known as "sending". Wolfriders can also communicate this way with their wolf-friends although this requires eye contact and is more difficult than between elves.
Retooled after Flashpoint. Taking a page from some '90s stories and the early origins of the character, Aquaman's telepathy is now greatly toned down, as he can't truly commune with fish or fish-derived life, but just implant compulsions and desires: such as the will to help him.
In The Lion King Adventures, the Hermit of Hekima possesses this ability. In The Curse of Death, he reads Simba's mind in order to get an idea of his personality.
In Kira Is Justice, there is the telepathy necklace, which lets Justice and Landras talk to each other via telepathy. This is enforced to fix the fact that Light talked to Ryuk in his room without his family noticing. And...
In With Strings Attached, the Kansael gives John the ability to communicate telepathically through water. Mostly this means he has to touch the others to “connect their water-strings,” but he can also connect them via a puddle, and he has much longer range in a body of water like the ocean, though just how long is not known. Nor is it known whether he can do more than just talk. He can, however, tap into Ringo's mindsight.
Reflections, a followup story to Last One Standing by the same author, expands further on the idea. Arparently, Luna and Celestia don't even need to speak, be in close proximity, or even use language in order to communicate with each other. They choose to communicate almost exclusively by mortal methods in order to maintain those skills as well as to respect each other's privacy.
In Son Of The Warp, Joseph can read surface thoughts, including what a person is about to do. He can't probe deeper, but he does have enough control to block out thoughts.
Alfred Bester's novel The Demolished Man explores what would happen to human societies if telepathy were discovered to be not only real and provable, but a talent that could be developed in the manner of any other skill. With a guild to maintain ethical standards, "peepers" become valuable, contributing members of society.
Alan Dean Foster has a thing for telepathy; it's heavily featured in many of his Space Opera novels. Of particular note are the (extinct) Tar-Aiym and the Ulru-Ujurrians in his Humanx Commonwealth series and the Solarian Combine in Design for Great-Day, who have developed telepathy into what is effectively a multi-species, intergalactic Hive Mind. In the latter case, this is treated as the natural and penultimate evolutionary stage of all species.
The telepaths in John Brunner's Telepathist covers the heroic range of this trope (split into "receptive" (able to listen) and "projective" (two-way),but most of all it's seen as a benefit to mankind. Actually having the ability to feel and see what someone is thinking is shown to be invaluable in,say,clinical psychology or conflict negotiation. However,when a really powerful telepath succumbs to the temptation to construct a Dream Land like their patients', they can construct a grand hallucination that another telepath has to pull them out of.
In the Inheritance Cycle, it seems that all magic users have the potential to become telepaths. Anyone with sufficient training can attempt resist an attack upon their mind.
John Wyndham's classic The Chrysalids, in which the core characters can share what they dub 'thought-shapes', implied to be an intermediate stage on the way to full telepathy. In the midst of its larger points re: resistance to change and growth, the novel also acts as probably the most famous serious exploration of the fear and horror telepathy might inspire in the wider 'normal' community.
In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, the noble caste (referred to as "Comyn"), have telepathy as one of their defining features, along with red hair. With a society where most of the people (at least those who appear in the books) have telepathy has led to interesting social rules like 'Do not enter another's mind without permission' and if one accidentally 'hears' something they weren't meant too, it is considered polite not to mention it. Also, if one is suffering from mental anguish, one tries to keep their thoughts to themselves so as not to burden others with their emotions. These do not apply to the mind-blind peasant class, who treats the Comyn as descended from Gods. Interesting world, Darkover.
Katherine Kurtz's Deryni have a full range of telepathy from an empathic sensing of emotions through Truth Reading (detecting if someone is telling a lie) through compelling them to speak the truth and all the way up to total Mind Control. They can also send and receive words (Mind Speech) and images at a much faster rate than ordinary speech. These skills prove highly useful when questioning people or gathering information from scouts, not to mention facilitating private conversations in the presence of other people. The good guys tend to reserve Mind Control for maintaining the Masquerade; the bad guys (and girls) have no such compunctions.
Maximum Ride has Angel. She's six years old and can make you buy her a teddy bear - or make a flying enemy fall by telling them to.
Sharona's Voices have perfect recall and can send and receieve telepathic messages to each other, including sensory information - sight, sound, smell, and touch, but can't read minds. On the other hand, Sifters can't send messages, but they can tell when other people are lying or telling the truth.
Mentioned at the end of The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf, Galadriel, Celeborn and Elrond appear to communicate without speaking. J. R. R. Tolkien wrote a more detailed account of telepathy among Ainur (lesser deities), Elves and to a lesser extent Men in the essay called "Osanwe-kenta."
Jakub Wędrowycz has this ability. He refers to it as a "frequency" to which one must tune himself, much like a radio.
The technological level of the Culture in the Iain M. Banks novels is so high that the super-intelligent A.I. Minds are capable of reading the minds of humans, thanks to some kind of 'action/sensing-at-a-distance' effect. This is, however, considered taboo.
In the Firebird Trilogy, both the Sentinels and the Shuhr have telepathic powers. The Sentinels are the "good guys", with strict and strictly enforced limits on how they are allowed to use their powers. The Shuhr are much less pleasant, as they do not put any limits on their use of power, leading to rather frequent Mind Manipulation among those they come in contact with (including the less powerful among their own race).
Anyone in morph in Animorphs has this ability. And Andalites and a few other races have it as part of their natural abilities.
In the Uplift series Galactics have several technologies to enhance telepathy and use it primarily to detect sapient minds at great distances or last resort communications (the psionic equivalent of a distress beacon is called a "psi-bomb" for a reason).
All the Martian races in John Carter of Mars are mildly telepathic- mostly this is used to control domestic animals, but can also be used to determine if someone is telling the truth during conversation. The First Born (aka Black Martians) largely do not have this ability, but their leader Issus does, which helps her cement her position as a living goddess. Certain groups have more advanced telepathic powers, such as the Lotharians (an isolated sect of White Martians who have developed tremendous powers of illusion, but become detached from reality as a result) and the kaldanes (crab-like creatures that are almost all brain and can seize control of anyone who makes eye contact with them). Earth humans, for whatever reason, can No Sell telepathic probing, something that comes in handy for Earth-born hero Carter during his adventures.
One of the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's entries references an entire planet of beings who were cursed with telepathy. Everyone on there entire planet could hear every thought in every other mind on the planet, whether they wanted to or not — which quickly threatened to drive them bonkers from information overload and/or sheer boredom. They solved this by adopting the habit of constantly talking loud enough to drown out the constant, unwanted incoming mental transmissions.
Brian Lumley's Necroscope series features telepathy in vampires, as well as humans in varying degree. The humans also occasionally sport other powers, such as locating someone from a distance, clouding someone else's telepathy, or precognition. The telepathy of the titular Necroscopenote as in "microscope" or "telescope," a person who can "see" or focus on the dead extends even to the dead.
Present in The Dresden Files. Although invading the mind of a human is against wizard law - that is, reading minds and mind control - transmitting one's own thoughts is legal. This was used once in a chaotic situation, when an Eldritch Abomination that could kill with a touch was released in a crowded room. A powerful wizard used magic to communicate a tactical plan for dealing with it to everyone in the room, complete with visual aids superimposed on the surroundings, all in the space of a second.
In MCA Hogarth's Paradox series the Eldritch and Glaseah are telepathic, the former species have little control over their powers and shun them, while the latter embrace it to the point of preferring telepathy to verbal speech. Jahir and Vasiht'h are an Eldritch and Glaseah pair of psychologists who use their abilities to affect their client's dreams.
Live Action TV
Babylon 5 had one of the most fleshed out portrayals of telepaths in fiction, even showing how different cultures treated their telepaths. The creator drew heavily from Alfred Bester's novel The Demolished Man, particularly for writing the Psi Corps.
The Corps is Mother. The Corps is Father.
Matt Parkman of Heroes is unusual as being a telepath who isn't inordinately brainy.
Parkman's power is actually "full control over the brain", meaning, in effect, every single power in the Mind Manipulation index. Superpower Lottery to the max. Telepathy happens to be his earliest discovered ability and the most prominently featured.
Throughout Season 6, Willow shows the ability to communicate telepathically with the people around her at will. She can give messages to others, who "hear" her voice in their heads. She can also read people's "surface thoughts," though most of the Scoobies prefer to speak aloud when communicating with her telepathically.
The plot of the TV series The Listener is about a telepathic paramedic.
Sookie Stackhouse, the central character of True Blood is a telepath.
She also met a character named Barry Horowitz, who is a telepath.
Clark gained this ability for one episode of Smallville.
The Doctor (from nine onwards anyway) has a mild version of this. It mostly consists of being able to access other peoples minds and memories upon contact, transfer images/sensations on a level which only he is aware of from his mind to someone elses, and weirdly enough, what seems to be a mental version of the Cooldown Hug.
This is actually present in ALL Time Lords. It's a trait of the species, as witnessed by the Master all the way back to the Third Doctor, and mentioned specifically by the Fourth Doctor in the Deadly Assassin.
The TARDIS is also telepathic; she most notably uses the power to translate for the Doctor and companions. However, she can directly communicate with them, although a human may need to look into her heart.
The Auronar in Blake's 7 are a race of telepaths. Cally, a member of Blake's crew, was exiled from Auron and is therefore isolated from other telepaths - all alone. Cally could be heard by other people (although reception varied) but could not read minds. She did, however, act as an Evil Detector.
In Farscape, members of the Scarran's ruling caste all have a certain degree of telepathic power; most of them use it for forcing their captives to tell the truth while under their influence of their heat projection, though a few have used it to read the surface thoughts of others.
The Skreeth assassin, who can telepathically speak through anyone wearing its bio-organic reciever (even over thousands of light years away) and read minds by touch.
Don't forget Zhaan's traditional Delvian mysticism, which lends itself to the occasional Mind Meld.
And of course, there's Maldis, the vampiric Evil Sorcerer, who knew all the details of John Crichton's life without being told. As he said once "Your mind is an open book. Big print and lots of pictures!"
Similar to Psi Ops,Second Sight has this as one of the two powers John doesn't unlock- the other being Deflector Shields. Oddly, the only psychic in the entire game that uses direct telepathy at any point is the remarkably ambiguous Jayne Wilde.
While it's never exactly established as such, Mitsuru and later Fuuka must use some form of telepathy in Persona 3 to communicate with the protagonist and his party while in Tartarus, considering the fact that electronic devices don't work during the Dark Hour. More confusion is caused by the fact that such communications are displayed as electronic communications, complete with static, even though it's been stated that that's impossible.
The actual scouting seems to be telepathic, but the rest is just specially adapted technology. Unless her motorcycle works by telepathy too.
Pokémon has a move, Mind Reader, that allows the user to make sure that the next hit does not miss.
A lot of Pokémon (usually Psychic types, though sometimes Ghost or legendary or just special) can communicate telepathically, and some can read thoughts and emotions.
The Komeiji sisters of Touhou, being satori, can read minds using their third eyes (which are located on their external hears). Though Koishi blocked this ability by closing her third eye, which somehow gave her control of the subconscious mind at the expense of being unable to read her own mind.
Razputin in Psychonauts has mild telepathic abilities. They generally only come into play when his Love Interest is thinking about him, to her embarrassment.
Kotori Shirakawa in the Da CapoDating Sim / anime. It stems from a childhood wish to be able to understand the people around her after her sudden adoption. She is devastated when depowered near the end and retreats back into the Stepford Smiler mask she wore before she got her powers.
In the Murder MysteryVisual NovelJisei, a voice that only the protagonist can hear tries to help the main character with his investigation. She is able to transmit her thoughts into his mind and read his thoughts.
In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , the 'cubi have thought hearing as an innate ability, which starts to manifest in their twenties, along with empathy, etc. Actual mind reading and dream entering are advanced techniques which have to be learned.
In Sluggy Freelance all the Lysinda circle vampires have this ability, though Sam rarely seems to use it.
The FreakAngels make heavy use of their telepathic abilities, both to communicate quickly and easily, and to absorb knowledge on their areas of specialty.
In Juathuur, sometimes juathuurs communicate with each other this way. Both participants must be willing.
The Loroi of Outsider have a variety of psychic abilities, mind talking being among them.
A technological equivalent appears as a plot point in Freefall. All of the robots on the planet share information via that planet's equivalent of the internet using built-in radios. This is functionally a type of telepathy as it's virtually instantaneous. Overlaps somewhat with Hive Mind although each robot is actually an independent entity.
Asia and Malloy from morphE are Mastigoes mages with mind reading and telepathic abilities.
In The Gamer's Alliance, several mages are capable of telepathy although the recipient can always resist a mage accessing his or her mind with enough willpower.
This is common enough in the Whateley Universe that Whateley Academy has an entire Psychic Arts Department. Telepaths are required to learn the ethics of telepathhy and pass the ethics test afterward. Some telepaths like DonSebastiano don't follow the rules.
Though Psychic Powers in general are the rarest of all superpowers in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, Telepathy is definitely the most common mental power. The most powerful telepath in the setting is Oracle, a former member of the Global Guardians, though the supervillain Cerebellum contests this point. Other notable telepaths are Headcase, Iron Angel, A Espada, Halazgo, and Mikula.
The Scions are a group of four telepathic siblings. They've been pursuing a private war against their father, Cerebellum, in addition to their normal super-villainy.
In the TV Series W.I.T.C.H., a character named Taranee Cook could read the minds of her fellow guardians and talk to them through their minds.
Aqualad of the Teen Titans animated series claims to have telepathy, but he has yet to use it on anyone who isn't a fishsea creature.
Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has limited telepathy, as she can alter the minds of Parasprites to not eat food and force her memories of friendship onto her friends.
In Dark Heresy, psykers can have a range of these powers, from simple telepathy, through mind control, to full blown mind rape.
Naturally, virtually every superhero RPG as well as most science fiction-, horror-, or fantasy-themed ones will have some version of this. In the last case, even if the word 'telepathy' never comes up and psychic powers as such ostensibly don't exist, magic spells and items allowing their user to read or control the minds of others will still be pretty standard fare.
Traveller deals with this in an elegant way. The Zhodani Consulate is ruled by a caste of Psi-nobles. Everywhere else psionics tends to be distrusted and severely limited. This way the PC can have widely used telepathy or not, just by being in a different part of The Traveller Universe.
Telepathy is a standard blue ability in Magic: The Gathering. The Telepathy card allows you to see your opponent's hand. There are many variants on the ability, usually involving revealing hidden information in some way.
The current page image is that of the Yu-Gi-Oh! card, 'Mind Haxorz'.note Yes, that is how it's spelled. Its effects is functionally equivalent to reading your opponent's mind, too: by paying 500 Life Points, you get to see the opponent's hand and all their face-down cards on the field.
Language - speech and writing, in particular. (Note that this form is much less reliable than most of the fictional ones.)
Early psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung believed that telepathy was an atropied sense in humans, based on the seeming mind-reading abilities of animals and what they thought were personal experience of telepathic dreams.
Three words: Rodent Mind Meld. Scientists have successfully found a way to link one lab rat's mind to another. What is basically an electronic form of telepathy, experiments found that one rat's mind can communicate with another rat from halfway across the world when both of them are hooked up to the same electronic device. One rat is provided with a problem, and the other knows the solution and tells it to the other. Both of them usually act in tandem, both flipping a switch at the same time or what-have-you.
Okay, that should do it. Hmm, why do I have that feeling that I'm Being Watched?