Paranormal processes in nature are collectively known under the label psi. Generally divided into ESP and PK, psi involves the exchange of information unmediated by sensory stimulation as well as force-like processes not achieved via energy transfer or instrumentation. In Traveller, psi can be encountered in the wider universe or in the developed psychic powers of sophonts. Depending on the setting, psi can be developed to a greater or lesser extent than other advancements. The following sections provide a revised account of psi powers in science-fiction, as well as associated rulings.
Psychic ability is determined by the Psi characteristic. This characteristic is rolled for at character creation and is unaffected by age modifiers. This characteristic is always considered 'latent' at character creation unless the character receives training. Depending on the setting and civilization, this can occur prior to career selection, during career events, or during play. The character's Psi characteristic determines the size of their Psychic Power pool. This represents of a font of concentration that can be used at a moment's notice and is counted separately from the character's Psi characteristic. This value can be depleted by the spotaneous usage of psi powers, and can be raised no higher than the character's Psi characteristic. The Psychic Power pool can only be used by those who have undergone psychical gene therapies or who are of a species of naturally-active psychics. Psychic Power points equal to the character's Psi characteristic are regained upon the completion of 8 hour's worth of sleep, or 1 hour's worth of meditation.
A character who wishes to acquire psi powers must undergo training. Psi Institutes are the most common places to find training, and can be found with varying frequency depending on parapsychological development and laws regarding psi in a civilization. The first step of psychical development is testing. The character is initially subjected to a battery of physiological exams, brain scans, and assorted parapsychological tests in order to determine the extent of psychic ability. This is factored into the training course to follow. A fully battery of tests costs Cr. 1,000 and takes 1 day to complete. If a character has previously had their Psi characteristic revealed by medical observation and can convey this information, the price is reduced to a token fee of Cr. 100. Testing can be conducted on any planet of Tech Level 6 or higher. If a character wishes to access the Psychic Power pool or Psychokinesis talents, they must undergo psi-therapies. Through a combination of retroviral genetic modification and chemical augmentation, the character's psi functioning is adjusted to facilitate the occurrence of more dramatic manifestations of psychic phenomena. This adjustment does not result in an increase to the character's Psi characteristic. Psi-therapies cost Cr. 500,000. Psi-therapies are available on planets of Tech Level 10 or higher. Training in the use of psi powers requires four months of effort and costs Cr. 100,000. In each training period, the character chooses a single psychic discipline from among the groups of ESP and PK to focus on. At the end of the training period, the character makes a Psi check. On a success, the character learns the powers of that discipline at level 0. On a failure, they learn nothing substantial and may try again. Training in Clairvoyance can be conducted on planets of Tech Level 6 or higher, Telepathy on planets of Tech Level 8 or higher, Psychokinesis on planets of Tech Level 10 or higher, and Apportation, if available, on planets of Tech Level 15 or higher.
Once learned, psychic disciplines function as skills. The list of psychic skills is as follows.
A character can use each power listed under their discipline.
Using Psychic Skills: To use a discipline, the character must first choose if they are using concentration or spontaneity. If the character is concentrating, they must focus for the requisite amount of time listed in the given power's entry. Serious interruption during this period requires the character to begin the process again. Once the duration is complete, the character begins to activate the power. If the character is spontaneously manifesting, they must deduct the Psychic Power pool cost given in the power's entry. In both cases, the character then makes a check using the discipline that governs the power the character is using, applying any DMs as necessary. On a success, the power takes effect. On a failure, the power does not take effect. A Concentration Time of N/A indicates that Psychic Power points must be spent to use the power.
Clairvoyance involves the acquisition of information without the use of the senses, allowing for physically remote locations to be perceived or for subtle environmental data to be acquired. Clairvoyance is in principle undetectable.
An intuitive knowledge of sensorily blocked locations, this ability gives one information that is known rather than understood through sensory association. This means that the exact look of a location cannot be known using this power, but that the presence or absence of basic features can be detected. For example, this can include the fact that a motor vehicle is present in a shed, but not it's brand or color. This power can be directed towards locations that are at least indirectly known by the Psion, or in a general area that is known by the Psion, with the most interesting features being revealed.
Concentration: 1 minute. - Psychic Power Cost: 1 point. - DM : +2
This ability provides the character with an extrasensory alertness regarding their current situation. This allows the character to perceive through smoke or fog unimpeded as well as detect hidden foes. The Effect of this check imparts the character with a positive DM to the next task they attempt during the power's duration. Concentration: N/A. - Psychic Power Cost: 2 points. - Duration: 3 rounds. - DM: +1
This ability allows for the character to perceive a distant location, with visual, auditory, and olfactory information being conveyed to them in exacting detail. Concentration: 1 hour. - Psychic Power Cost: 3 points. - Duration: 3 rounds. - DM: +0
Telepathy involves paranormal interaction with minds, whether that involves mind-reading, communication, or more covert activities. In order to telepathically interact with an individual, the character must generally be aware of the target's existence.
This talent allows the character to psychically perceive the presence of minds in their vicinity. This detection allows one to distinguish between the type of mind involved, such as that of a sophont or animal, the general location of the mind, as well as whether that mind is currently conscious or not. This power detects any being capable of conscious awareness. For example, a programmed droid would not appear using this power, but a true A.I. would. Concentration: 10 minutes. - Psychic Power Cost: 2 points. Range: 30 meters. - DM: +1
Through this power, emotional content can be relayed between beings. Emotive missives can be conveyed to any conscious mind, and any conscious creature can similarly have their emotional state be read in full. This power cannot be used to directly effect mind control, but newfound emotions can influence behavior, particularly if the individual is unaware that they are being telempathically influenced. Concentration: 5 minutes. - Psychic Power Cost: 1 point. - DM: +2
This telepathic faculty allows the character to perceive the immediate thoughts of others. This ability is limited to a stream of consciousness of the target's active cognitions, and is generally undetectable. When coupled with Send Thoughts, this power effectively allows the telepath to psychically communicate with a non-telepath. Concentration: 10 minutes. - Psychic Power Cost: 3 points. Duration: 1 hour. - DM: +0
A tool against other telepaths, this psychic technique allows the character to unconsciously spew out a stream of irrelevant telepathic information, much as a psi-spoofer does. For its duration, the power imposes a -4 DM to psychical mind-reading checks on the character as misleading psi information intermingles with that of the telepath's mental probing. Concentration: 5 minutes. - Psychic Power Cost: 1 point. - Duration: 1 hour. - DM: +1
This ability allows the telepath to actively communicate with another mind through thought-transference. Individuals untrained in telepathy cannot actively send thoughts in response, but can think their responses to mentally communicate if the telepath also uses Read Surface Thoughts. Concentration: 1 minute. - Psychic Power Cost: 2 points. - Duration: 1 hour. - DM: +1
With this power, the telepath can penetrate into the deeper cognitions of a target. Any specific information that the target knows about a topic of the telepath's choice is revealed, and given enough time, the telepath can perform a general perusal of the target's memory. Like Read Surface Thoughts, this ability is largely undetectable. Concentration: 1 hour. - Psychic Power Cost: 5 points. – Duration: 10 minutes. - DM: -4
By telepathically transferring a flurry of sensations to the target, this power can effectively cripple a target through sensory overload. The target takes 2D points of damage applied to intelligence, falling unconscious if this reduces the score to 0. Intelligence returns at a rate of one point per hour. Concentration: 1 hour. - Psychic Power Cost: 6 points. – DM: - 4
Telekinesis involves the mechanical movement of objects that is achieved without an intermediary force. Objects can be manipulated much as they normally would, with the psychokinetic skill of the psychic replacing their physical strength. Unlike other disciplines, psychokinesis is limited to line of sight and usually has a sharply limited range.
This ability allows for the manipulation of objects at a displaced location. The Effect of the check determines the strength of the psychical manipulation. Concentration: 5 minutes. - Psychic Power Cost: 3 points. - Range: 10 meters. - Duration: 10 minutes. – DM: +0
This power involves the application of psychokinesis to the body of the psychic, allowing them to move without touching the ground or even enabling flight. For the duration of the effect, the character can fly at a rate of six meters per round. Concentration: 10 minutes. - Psychic Power Cost: 4 points. - Duration: 10 minutes. - DM: -1
This power involves the direct application of psychokinetic force upon a target. This causes damage equal to 2D plus the Effect of the check. Concentration: 5 minutes. - Psychic Power Cost: 3 points. - Range: 10 meters – DM: +0
Through the subtle application of psychokinesis, the psychic can affect RNG outputs, interact with specially designed micro-PK locks, and generally perform statistical tricks. Concentration: 1 minute. - Psychic Power Cost: 1 point. - DM: +2
Apportation involves the immediate translation of an object to a remote location without travelling through the intervening space. Depending on your setting, such teleportation may or may not be available. Apportation can be applied both to objects and one's own body, though the latter is substantially rarer. Apportations cannot be achieved via concentration.
With this ability, the psychic can cause an object to disappear at one location and reappear at another. The psychic must know of the location they are to teleport the object to, though this can be inferred of indirectly. An apportation can transport 5 kg of substance. Concentration: N/A. - Psychic Power Cost: 6 points. - Range: 1 mile. - DM: - 4
This rare power allows the psychic to apport their body and equipment to a distant location. The psychic must have a general knowledge of where they are to teleport to. Energy and momentum is not conserved in this jump. This power can only transport up to 5 kg worth of equipment along with the psychic. Concentration: N/A. - Psychic Power Cost: 8 points. - Range: Planetary. - DM: - 4
The use of technology to enhance or interact with psi phenomena is known as psi-tech. The presence of psi-tech varies depending on the level of psychic development within a civilization, related technological advances, and cultural attitudes towards psi. A polity can make use of some psi-tech while disregarding others, and its prevalence can be further determined by planetary specializations.
Science, Parapsychology: The study of ESP, PK, and paranormal phenomena.
While there are yet mysteries to psi, there are a few key observations that make a working model. Most plainly, psi is defined by what it is not, and is generally considered to refer to fundamental processes in nature itself. In the far future of Traveller, the view of psi that has gained the most traction is that perception does not require sensation in order to occur, and that movement can similarly occur without instrumentation. Alternative models propose that quantum tunneling can account for extrasensory phenomena, though it could not apply to psychokinesis. Models of psi based off of physical wave-carriers have almost entirely fallen by the wayside due to task-complexity independence, the unitary nature of psi, and a host of other observations. Being a natural process in perception and motor activity, organisms throughout the universe have developed varying capacities for psychical activity. Cognition itself holds psi as a fundamental attribute and it is thus impossible to find life completely devoid of psychic ability, though some organisms show inverted activity similar to the relationship between psi-missing and psi-hitting in psi research. Due to the lack of signal-based processes in psi phenomena, it is in effect impossible to block out clairvoyant spying or telepathic scans, though psychokinetically-moved objects are still subject to outside physical factors, and ornamentation can be used to distract a psychic spy in a psi-trance.
As a science-fiction RPG, Traveller has been influenced by the mileu within which it was developed and the preferences of its creator(s). At the time of Traveller's writing, different literary trends were in vogue and a different level of academic understanding of various subjects was present. The aim of this minor revision was to both convey an understanding of psi more in line with contemporary parapsychological developments and to make psi as a mechanic more fun to play with. References to psionic energy and similarly energy-based models were removed as such models have not been supported by modern research. Certain pieces of psi-tech, such as psychic shielding gear, were removed as part of this. Awareness as a discipline was removed as it did not sufficiently differentiate between body control and psychokinesis applied to one's own body. Teleportation was nerfed for largely aesthetic reasons, with the remaining powers being used to cover apports, as a nod to bilocation, or to the few teleportation phenomena reported in history. In general, technology that could limit psychic activity was limited, and the strength of psi disciplines was largely nerfed. The divide that psi-therapies provided also served as a built-in limit on the degree of dramatic psi manifestations, though this was mediated somewhat by the philosophy of fun mentioned prior. The static nature of the Psi characteristic was to account for the lack of a decline effect due to age seen in psi in real-life, a fact that was presumably ignored for 'setting-balance' reasons in most, if not all, versions of Traveller. I think Traveller itself could go for a complete overhaul of the current psi system, but as I cannot think of one at the moment I don't want to make too many claims about that currently.