Sunday, June 3, 2012

Minor Disciplines in Psi World

This illustration doesn't have anything to do with Minor disciplines,
but neither do any of the remaining illustrations in the rule book.

Compared to the Major disciplines, the Minor disciplines in Psi World are 'minor' in terms of power and versatility; however, I consider them to be more interesting. During character generation (as indicated in this post), a player of a psionic character may forgo a Major discipline in order to either (1) choose two Minor Disciplines or (2) randomly determine 1d2+1 Minor disciplines. The rule book lists eighteen Minor disciplines and – for random determination – a player roles a d20; a result of 19 indicates an “additional roll on the Minor table” and a result of 20 indicates a roll “on the Major table.”

So, if a player chooses to roll on the Major table, there is a 7% chance of also obtaining at least one Minor discipline. With two rolls on the Minor table, there is a 10% of obtaining at least one Major discipline. (This 10% includes the 0.25% chance of getting two Major disciplines by rolling on the Minor table.) The Hammer Shall Strike adventure/supplement includes ten new Minor disciplines. For random determination, one of the suggestions Hammer provides is to number the new Minor disciplines 21 – 30 and roll a d30. Naturally, this reduces the chances of also gaining a Major discipline to about 6.5% (given two rolls).  (I am certain that I have enriched everyone's life by providing this information.  No need to thank me.)

Most of the Minor disciplines are 'powers' that require power points to activate and maintain – Astral Projection, Invisibility, Lie Detector, et al. Some Minor disciplines represent permanent abilities that require the character to reduce his or her PSI attribute score by one-fourth. Among these disciplines are: Direction Sense, Perfect Balance, Photographic Memory, Phonographic Memory, Genius, and Forgotten.  Genius adds:  2d6 to the character's INT attribute, 1d10 to initial number of skill points, and 10% to skill improvement rolls.  The character also gains a 'lightning calculator' ability.  'Forgotten' is my favorite discipline: 
A person will completely forget this Psionic character after an amount of time equal to the time spent with him/her, or after 8 hours of sleep.
That would be a challenge to role-play; it's like a converse Memento.

Other noteworthy Minor disciplines include:  Mind Melder (“Acts as a central channel through which other Psis may combine abilities”), Psi Amplifier (“the ability to double one effect of another's psionic ability”), and Null Psi (“may create an area in which psionic activity cannot be detected” and also “may create an area where all psionic abilities...are negated”).

A character with the Poltergeist discipline can spend five points to have a random effect transpire for 2 - 4 turns.  “If the table gives a result that is impossible, use No. 2, roll again, or whatever you want.”
1.  Knocking/Tapping on walls, furniture, etc.
2.  Objects flying around (usually small)
3.  Windows being broken
4.  Glassware breaking (flying to the floor)
5.  Stones falling from the air (possibility of 1d3 damage)
6.  Lights and other electrical switches toggle off/on
7.  Small fires start (size of a candle flame) & chance of igniting flammables
8.  Random gusts of wind (indoors); Dust devils (outdoors)

Another interesting Minor discipline is Time Shifter:
The psionic may travel in time.  The cost is 5 points per day traveled, plus 5 points per hour stayed.  The past is fixed, and may not be changed.  The future is not fixed, and the psionic must state which of the infinite number of possibilities are being checked...
What happens when a character encounters him or herself and possibly other characters in a scene that's already played out?  Or is the GM supposed to arrange things so something like this doesn't happen?  When traveling to the future, a single possibility is to be chosen.  The example given in the rule book has a character stating, “In exactly 3 minutes I will shoot the guard and wound him.  What happens?”  The trouble here is that there are an infinite number of possibilities that might occur once the guard is wounded.  The guard might defend himself (or herself), bite down on a poison capsule, call for help, run away to the left, run away to the right, play dead, beg for mercy, or even activate his (or her) Null Psi discipline sending the Time Shifter back.  Sure, the Time Shifter talent could be used to help a party succeed in an adventure but, as a game master, I would be tempted to engineer a self-fulfilling prophecy in the same vein as the conclusion of Bradbury's The Illustrated Man.

On the last page of the rule book – an afterthought it seems – there is a boxed section of text detailing a power called 'The Force Shield.' Interestingly, the same text box also appears in Hammer – at the end of the 'New Talents' section. In Hammer, however, The Force Shield is included in the table of contents, distinct from 'New Minor Disciplines.' The title page of Hammer has a summary of the contents which announces “the definition of The Force Shield.”

Basically, The Force Shield allows a psionic character to use power points to cancel “physical damage on a point-for-point basis.” It seems odd that any psionic character could create a Force Shield, but given the way it is presented – and the lack of clarifying information in the rules – it is reasonable to assume that this is the authors' intent.

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