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Psychic Powers in tabletop games.


  • Science Fiction role-playing games almost always include psionic powers of some sort. There is a difficulty in these games of trying to provide adventures for characters who are neither cops nor soldiers but are not obvious parallels to mundane activities such as street crime, computer hacking, smuggling, and cryptozoology. In other words, the easiest way for both TV series and role-playing games to lend an "unearthly" aspect to adventures is to give characters, machines, or creatures psychic abilities. Anything else tends to be very complicated or too subtle for a lot of the audience.
    • Later fantasy RPGs merged the powers (and naming conventions) from magic and psychic traditions and treated them as roughly equivalent uses of preternatural powers.
    • Unsurprisingly given all the precedent in comic book form alone, superhero RPGs in general have these, and "psychic" or "psionic" is typically treated as its own distinct "power source". (This holds true even in more effect-based systems; psychic telepathy will be considered to be at least a different "special effect" or the like from for example magical or technological versions, even if they then all end up using largely the same mechanics.)
  • White Wolf also has their Aeon/Trinity series, which focuses on this exclusively. All the players are different flavors of Psions with their splat specific Psychic Powers which cover every form of _____-kinesis there might be.
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    • Adventure!, set in the same universe, features mesmerists, the psions' predecessors.
  • CthulhuTech has its parapsychics, who vary quite a lot in power. At the low end, they can keep their coffee hot. At the high end, they can crush a Humongous Mecha into a little tin can, set fire to buildings with a thought, and rebuild your personality from the ground up. For this reason, they're subject to mandatory registration with the OIS, and those with powers deemed Dangerous or Invasive have to wear public identity tags. On the plus side, both the government and corporations love their abilities, so they tend to migrate to high paying jobs.
  • Several creatures across the various Dungeons & Dragons settings have psychic abilities such as telepathy, mind control, and telekinesis, even if they don't always use special psionic rules, including the relatively common mind flayer.
    • D&D has rules for psionics, but the original game system had any number of magical spells and powers that mimicked the stock psychic powers and later retained spells with names like ESP and Telekinesis, so the relevant themes could be used without any separate mechanics. Most of the older versions of psionics had rules that were not fully integrated with the original system, so many monsters weren't equipped to defend against psionic attacks (which had separate defenses from magic), which meant that psionic classes could easily mop the floor with most non-psionic enemies. This was fixed in later editions.
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    • Eldritch Wizardry from the original setting gave us "psionic combat", which could be used as optional replacements for characters' and creatures' basic abilities.
    • AD&D has a set of psionic powers (or at least supplementary talents for exceptional individuals) as a part of core rules (or at least Players' Handbook appendix). Monsters statistics got "Psionic ability" entry.
    • AD&D 2nd ed. got psionics cleansed out of the core, in exchange for the much more developed and ordered system along with a dedicated class (the Psionicist) introduced in The Complete Psionic's Handbook as an option. The Dark Sun setting built upon it.
    • The Dark Sun setting uses psionics more than any other. Practically everyone has it there. In fact, it's considered an aberration if a creature with even rudimentary intelligence does not have at least some skill with psionics.
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    • Late AD&D (Player's Options) got the Skills & Powers psionics system, which employed the Big Hit Points approach instead of skill checks and tricks. In its initial published form, the attacker in telepathic combat lost more than the target. It was used for the new Dark Sun as well.
    • In the 3rd edition, psionics became an almost-core part. ...And essentially became one more strange sort of magic (up to sort-of-Familiars).
    • 3.5 made a few changes to the psionics system, including the removal of psychic combat rules and "supernova".
    • In Eberron, though psionics are very much a presence in the setting, they're mostly connected to the Kalashtar, Inspired, and Dreaming Dark. While there's a whole Myth Arc relating to these races and factions, it mostly takes place on a different continent from the main setting.
    • D&D 4th Edition introduced the Psionic power source in the Player's Handbook 3, which includes the Psion, Battlemind, Ardent, and Monk classes. Plot-wise it is mentioned to have been produced by the world in the humanoid races as a defence against the many Eldritch Abominations coming from The Far Realm.
    • "Psychic" is simply a damage type that describes attacks that damage the mind in 4th Edition, with no special rules. It is used by several spells usable by players as well as creatures such as aboleths, mind flayers, grells, etc.
    • 5th Edition is planned to get psionic rules, but as of November 2015 only the first draft of parts of it have been seen.
  • Eclipse Phase: Asyncs, as psychics are termed, result from exposure to the Watts-McLeod strain of the Exsurgent virus. Given that the Exsurgent virus is quite simply The Virus, most asyncs in the know worry that they might be slowly being corrupted by the TITANs.
  • Fading Suns has both psychic and theurgic powers.
  • GURPS has nine flavors of psi (astral projection, ergokinesis, ESP, probability alteration, psychic healing, psychic vampirism, psychokinesis, telepathy, and teleportation), along with anti-psi for players who'd rather mess up the psychics' day. Psi is treated completely different from magic spells — in general, psis are less versatile than mages but their abilities are safer and more reliable.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • A staple of blue magic. In terms of game mechanics, "psychic" abilities most often take the form of forcing your opponent to discard from their hand and/or directly from their deck (attacking their mind and knowledge), removing cards from their graveyard (their memory), blocking or otherwise preventing them from playing cards (in line with Anti-Magic and Dispel Magic), and even playing their own cards against them (landing somewhere between Mind Control and Mind Rape).
    • The (in)famous Blue-aligned Planeswalker Jace Beleren — Mind Sculptor, Memory Adept and Architect of Thought — is particularly skilled in mental magic. Jace's magic consists of summoning illusions, countering the spells of others, stealing secrets from peoples' minds, and outright erasing them. In the opening of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, even Nicol Bolas acknowledges Jace's prowess, and states that Jace has a "supremely powerful mind" whose only limitation is the inability to see how he could rule all.
  • Every supernatural in the New World of Darkness has some variety of stereotypical psychic power, ranging from mind control to telepathy to psychometry to pre-/postcognition. However, the most "purely" psychic examples are psychic rules for mortals (ranging from medium powers to telepathy to pyrokinesis to biokinesis to mental assault). There's also the Vanguard Serial Crimes Unit from Hunter: The Vigil, a branch of the FBI that gains access to Teleinformatics, psychic powers dedicated towards interrogation, evidence gathering, and skill augmentation. Think Frank Black on steroids. Well, at least VASCU's powers seems psychic. It's actually MKULTRA drug therapy that supercharge information processing centers in the brain, granting abilities that seems to have parallels with psychic powers. However, while the process does produce undeniable powers, it's still artificial, thus not really compatible with natural psychic powers.
  • In Paranoia, many mutations grant various psychic powers. This being Paranoia, they tend to be dangerous to all involved. Oh, and if they find out you have them, you can either register them (and be subject to the whims of R&D) or be executed.
  • Pathfinder features several psionic using creatures such as the intellect devourer (a D&D monster), which have been used in place of mind flayers by many players, since they're not restricted by copyright issues. Several third party sourcebooks have been released which add rules for psionics.
    • Pathfinder has now added Occult Adventures, finally giving players non-third party access to Psychic classes, including one that is pretty much a bender, like from Avatar. The key difference to previous editions' psionics is that psychic magic is exactly that in its entirety and with no ambiguity or variance — magic.
  • In RIFTS, many creatures and humans have psychic powers. This makes them second class citizens or enemies for the human supremacists, the Coalition.
  • All sorts of psychic powers are available for purchase in Rocket Age. The greatest practitioners of the psychic arts are the Europans and the Venusian priest-hood, although nearly any intelligent person may have psychic abilities.
  • The Traveller universe has a human-variant subspecies, the Zhodani, whose ruling class has psychic abilities. The Zhodani consider other humans dishonest and criminal, since a society of mind-readers cannot lie or steal. Other humans consider the Zhodani to be raving fascists, since a society of mind-readers has no privacy or individual rights (there are no laws in Zhodani society at all to forbid higher classes from reading lower-class Zhodani's minds at will).
  • The Slann in Warhammer fantasy battles have a telepathy rule that allows them to cast spells through skinkpriests (for range and line of sight and such).
  • Warhammer 40,000 features a lot of these, tied heavily into the hell-dimension full of daemons used for faster-than-light travel. Psychically sensitive humans ("psykers") can have their power amplified by various twisted procedures, and are used for long-range communication (Astropaths), steering ships through the aforementioned hell-dimension (Navigators), combat units (Sanctioned Psykers, Space Marine Librarians) or just plain sacrifices for various awful machines. The processes used generally leave them completely insane, but sanity is highly overrated when working for the Imperium anyway. Plus all the other really nasty things that could happen when attempting to use your psychic powers. Like your head asploding. And those psykers without such "treatments" can attract daemons of the Warp and wind up with even worse fates.
    • Special mention goes to the fan Imperial Guard regiment the 1st Membranes, who do to a quirk of Only War regiment creation rules are almost all (97%) psykers- often incompletely trained, at that.
    • Not just humans either. Eldar, Orks and Tyranids are all latently psychic, but use their powers in different ways:
      • The Eldar are all latently psychic and draw their power from the Warp like humans, but unlike the other races, they have developed means to ensure safe use of their psychic powers. However, for the majority of them, their powers never develop past being able to share a Psychic Link with other Eldar, or manipulating Wraithbone, a kind of living metal which all Eldar technology is derived from. Eldar seeking to develop their powers further join the Path of the Seer and become Warlocks or even Farseers, able to perform such incredible feats as psychically guiding projectiles towards their targets, Mind Raping enemies, protecting allies with psychic shields, and conjuring up eldritch storms and flames capable of tearing through enemy squads.
      • Orks use "Weirdboyz", Orks which act as sponges for the latent psychic energy Orks give off. Weirdboyz can build up a charge by being around other Orks, the more Orks and the more fun they're having, the more energy the Weirdboyz gets. Weirdboyz randomly discharge this power and they usually come in the form of highly destructive powers, including but not limited to psychic lightning, streams of boiling psychic vomit, and crushing enemies under a giant psychic foot, the "Foot of Gork". However, Weirdboyz lack the discipline of other, more civilized races, and there is always the chance the Weirdboy cannot contain or discharge the psychic energy in a controlled manner, resulting in...Even without Weirdboyz, the Orks' psychic gestalt field bends reality according to Ork belief. How powerful this effect actually is remains uncertain.
      • The Tyranids use Zoanthropes, a subspecies which uses the latent psychic power of the Tyranid Hive Mind and functions as a form of artillery piece. Other large Tyranid creatures, called Synapse creatures, can produce a psychic network which binds lesser Tyranid beasts to the will of the Hive Mind; without the Synapse creature projecting the field, lesser Tyranid creatures are known to revert to a feral state or die outright. This makes Synapse creatures a prime target for enemy forces.
      • The Dark Eldar's psychic potential has actually atrophied compared to the rest of their race. They deliberately allowed this to happen. The Dark Eldar live in the Webway, which is even easier for daemons to breach than the physical realm. Psykers are basically daemon bait. Even if they weren't the favorite prey of the Chaos God of Squick, letting psykers run loose in their city would be a very bad idea.
  • Psychic Monsters in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, however they activate their effects, require you pay life points.


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