A Guide for Converting Psionics to RMSS

Source Material for Rolemaster Standard System

Copyright Elton Robb 1998-9

    This guide is meant for Gamemasters who are interested in adding Psionics to their systems and want to convert another psionic system to the Rolemaster Standard System. This is a guide, which means that the GM must determine what is best for his own game. Some of the suggestions below can severely alter the gaming world and the GM must be prepared to handle this alterations before he includes them.

    There are many options for converting the psionics system, and there is a lot of work involved. The first considerations are the mechanics: professions, training packages, and even ways to handle damage. The second consideration is how the various cultures in your world deal with the psionically endowed. I have included two examples: one will deal with the list specific approach (i.e. RM2), the other deals with the "no list" specific approach (i.e. GURPS). However, be warned. No matter which approach that you take, Psionics is more personal than mentalism, and in some cases, more powerful. The implications of this will be discussed later.

Artwork Copyright by Dika Wolf



The Conversion Approaches

    There are two ways to convert a psionics system to RMSS. One is to organize all available psions into lists, in other words, convert RM2 psionics. Another is to convert the psionics system of another game. Both require some time and work for the GM along with what he wants in a psionics system for his world. He may approach the list specific approach, converting the lists from Space Master and Rolemaster if he wants that kind of system. Alternatively, if the Gamemaster is looking for what he calls a more flexible system, he may use the second approach. That is converting an entire psionics system from one Roleplaying System to another. Of course, both systems have to be extensively examined for ideas.

Advantages of Converting from RM2

    1. RM2 uses psion lists. The psionics system for RM2 is advantageous because it has already organized the psions into four fields and five lists per a field. This allows for quick integration into the system. The flavor is already there if it exists within your world.

    2. Play Balance. All of the rules are already balanced with Rolemaster. The lists allow a psionic character to advance the same as any magician, priest, or mentalist. This allows the psionic to even learn power point development for psions and gain more power. Also, it reduces the power of the psionic character somewhat in the beginning, allowing for more challenging adventures.

    3. Less work in it for you. You, the Gamemaster, will have less work involved. The implications wouldn't be so terrible, and you are free to work on other mechanics in your world. After the conversion of the psion lists from Space Master, all you have to worry about is making up a new profession or using them as talents.

    Disadvantages: The players would have to pick a field of psionics. Also, the potency of the various first level psions would be about as potent as a first level spell. And it should be, since the system is already balanced for the Rolemaster Standard System. But if your players are expecting to do extraordinary things with their telepaths, then you can expect grumpy players.

Advantages of converting Psionics from another System

    1. More Realism(?). A Gamemaster who wishes a more realistic system for his RMSS world and thinks that the old RM2 psionic lists can't do it for him, has the option of converting a psionics system from another system. This will allow the Gamemaster options for a more realistic system. Also, for certain systems, the psionically endowed would have more power than your average mentalist (imagine jumping into the Astral Plane, I bet the standard mentalist can't do that!).

    2. More Flexibility. Converting a system like GURPS or the AD&D system affords more flexibility. The disadvantage of being strait jacketed to a level system for psionics is done away with. In addition, psionic wild talents are handled more effectively.

    3. More Choice. This also affords the PC more choices as to what he wants his Psionic to do. If a player wants his psionic character to jump into the Astral Plane, he may do so. If he wants to use Telekinesis to push himself away from the Earth while he's falling, he may do so.

    Disadvantages: The disadvantages are many. There is usually only one version of the power. In AD&D's system, there are one or two versions of Telekinesis: Telekinesis and Ballistic Attack. The potency of a psionic character is increased; a psionic character may start out with more power than your average spell user. Also, a psionic character would have advantages over a mentalist. But there are ways around this.

    Example: Both Gamemasters Kim and John want a psionic system for their worlds. Kim wants a system that's easy on the Game Mechanics, and besides, she doesn't want to do the work. So she chooses to convert the Space Master psionics system to RMSS.

    John, however, is a romantic at heart. He wants to afford the best for his players. Looking at all the systems, he chooses the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition psionics rules because he reasons those are the best to convert. It will afford him more work in the short run, but he reasons that it will be better in the long run.

The Steps for Converting the System to The Rolemaster Standard System

Step One: Damage and Critical Hits

    The first step in converting another psionic system is to look at any damaging telepathic and telekinetic powers. This will help you, the Gamemaster, to possibly apply certain elemental attack tables and critical tables to the power. Of course, this isn't necessary if you are converting RM2 psionics to RMSS, but for other systems, it is necessary because of the unique nature of the Combat System in Rolemaster. For some powers, however, you need to get out your old RM2 companions.

    Example: John decides that he wants to preserve as much flavor in the AD&D System as much as possible. So he examines the telepathic attack modes to see where he can assign the attack tables and critical tables. Since he still has his old Rolemaster Companion III, he gets that out in an effort to preserve the effects of the powers as much as possible. He then decides how the Telepathic Defense Modes: Mind Blank, Thought Shield, and the others are going to affect a Mentalist's attack.

    He decides he wants to convert the psychic power: Psychic Crush. He decides to use the Crush/Fall attack table for this one and assigns the Shock Critical table. He rules that if his Psionicists want to use Psychic Crush, they must roll on the Crush/Fall table in order for the power to be effective.

    On another note, he decides in order to convert the powerful psychic power: psionic blast, he decides that it will use the Lightning Bolt table and the following criticals: Shock, Stress (Mental), and Depression. All three of which are found in the RMCIII.

    He has decided that the telepathic defense mode, Mind Blank, would be totally ineffective against Mentalism and some Essence Spells. He also gives those who choose Tower of Iron Will some defense over a Mentalist's attack.

Step Two: Psionic Powers

    The second step is to evaluate the psionic powers themselves to see exactly how they would affect the game mechanics. This is a crucial step, and perhaps one of the hardest of all, because the GM is converting a heroic psionics system (AD&D, possibly GURPS ) to a much more austere game (Rolemaster). The process isn't simple, but worth it. Of course you have complete freedom in making the psionics system work with your game.

    Example: John takes a look at his psychometabolic powers in the AD&D System. The power he wants to convert is flesh armor. Looking at it, he decides that plate mail would be next too impossible for the Psionicist to duplicate with his power. He decides to restrict it to armor type 4, but give a bonus to defense. He ends up assigning either armor type 3 or 4 with extra DB. With this in mind, he has come up with a summary on how the psionic powers would work in his world and his game in general.

    He has decided that the telepathic attack modes would use Elemental attack tables with mental criticals (shock, stress, depression). He has then decided that the defense modes would give a DB against these telepathic attacks, and since there is a similarity between psionics and Mentalism, a modified defense against Mentalism Magic (somewhat reduced).

    Some powers he has decided will inflict criticals instead of using the Elemental Attack tables. For instance, detonate and   disintegrate, both psychokinetic powers, would inflict Disruption criticals. On others, he has decided that they will raise certain physical stats temporarily. For example, adrenaline control, a psychometabolic power, would give a temporary stat gain to either strength, quickness, or constitution.

    He also decides that the following stats will be used instead of the original stats: Self Discipline for Wisdom and Empathy for Intelligence. Constitution stays the same.

Step Three: Game Mechanics

    The GM must decide how the game mechanics will work in his game. Normally this would be an easy step. But it can be a stumbling block. For instance, some systems do not have levels (i.e. GURPS ), while others have levels (AD&D ). But in such level systems, the Psionicist has a maximum potential of 20th level, while in Rolemaster, a character has specifications for advancing to level 50. Thus it is up to the GM to figure out how psionics will progress in his game. What's better, he has to come up with psionic resistance rolls for his game. Then the GM has to worry how the psionic powers would work in his game.

    Example: John has been looking at this psionics system for mechanical conversion. He decides to keep the rules on tangents, although he rules that a Psionic Attack Roll (PAR) of 100 (unmodified) offers complete contact with another Psionicist. Looking at the psionic power progression table, John decides to add a few more powers at levels 25, 30, and 50. A new devotion at level 25 and 30, and a new science at level 50 seems fair to John and decides to go with that. Now for psionic resistance: John decides that only his Psionicists would have inherited psionic resistance, but he gives other people a chance with the psionic resistance against contact rules out of the AD&D book. He decides that an unwilling person would make life hard for his Psionicists so he imposes a -10 modifier to the Psionicist's Contact Roll (CR) before the Psionicist can make true contact.

    Kim, on the other hand, has it easy. She uses the Psionics Guidelines presented in the Spell Users Companion for RM2. Kim hums at how easy her work had become and ridicules her GM friend John for not taking a quick and easy path. John ignores her.

Step Four: The Psionicist Profession and Training Packages

    As suggested in Gamemaster Law, designing new professions for RMSS is a delicate matter. It's best for some GMs to just allow wild talents in their games and leave it at that. For other GMs, psionics in their world play a more significant role, so they go through the trouble of designing the Psionicist profession. Still, some other Gamemasters just convert the Psionicist profession the quick and easy way.

    To convert the Psionicist profession to RMSS the quick and easy way, all you need to do is specify that the Psionicist is a Mentalist with the Adventurer or Cloistered Academic TP and the psionic lists detailed either in Space Master or the Spell User's Companion; even the psionic rules from the Space Master Companion II would be acceptable.

    However, to really convert the AD&D Psionicist to RMSS requires an intensive examination of the Psionicist and the various psionic kits.

    Example: We return to Kim, who has been doing a fair amount of easy work for converting the RM2 psionic system to RMSS. She decides that Psionicists, or Telepaths in her world, would be Mentalists with either the Adventurer Training Package or the Cloistered Academic training package with a choice of one field of psionics (Visions, Telepathy, etc.). She sings a little song for her work.

    John, on the other hand, wants to maintain the flavor of the AD&D Psionicist as much as possible. He decides to go about the delicate matter of converting the Psionicist to RMSS, plus with a few psionic only skills and training packages.

    John first decides which stats will be prime requisites are for his Psionicists and chooses Self Discipline as his realm stat and Empathy as a supporting stat, since Self Discipline is really where the power comes from. He then looks at two professions in RMSS: the Mentalist, because of its similarity to the Psionicist; and the Monk, because the profession requires Empathy and Self Discipline.

    John then decides that the Psionicist is a non-spell user, but a Psionics user. So he makes spell lists an unviable option by increasing the cost to 25 per rank. He also allows the Psionicist to have weapon skill costs that are similar to a Monk's, but has the mentalist profession written all over it. Then he takes what he thinks is the best of each skill category cost from both professions.

    Once the headache subsides, John has successfully made his new profession. But is it balanced? The only way to determine this is to test it. But he decides to design the Training Packages, which are easier in his point of view. He designs three: the Adventuring Psionicist, the Astral Traveler, and the Psionic Academic TPs. One of which, is summarized below:

The Adventuring Psionicist (V)
Example

    The Adventuring Psionicist is the Psionicist who makes a life of adventuring out in the wild. He uses his powers to aid others, defend himself, and to get the most out of his adventuring life. Most adventuring Psionicists are good at concealing their powers from others, so many of their adventuring fellows see them as simple laymen. This assumption, however, is a fatal mistake.

Time to Acquire: 28 months

Starting Money: normal + 1d100

Special:

Psionic Weapon with one devotion and

one science (Gamemaster's Discretion) 40

Psychokinesis or Telepathy as a primary

discipline 20

Psionic Item (GM's Discretion; +5 to any

one psionic skill) 50

Room at the Master's Sanctuary 30

A choice of one telepathic defense mode 0

Category or Skill:

Urban Skill Category 2

choose (2) two skills 2 (total)

Wilderness Skill Category 2

choose one skill 2 (total)

Deception 2

Rejuvenation (Psionicist only skill) 2

Body Development 2

Beginning Powers:

    Choose two psionic devotions and one science from either the Psychokinesis or Telepathy disciplines.

    Skill Note: Rejuvenation (SD,EM) (Static Action): This power allows the Psionicist to recover psionic strength points quickly, as if he were sleeping. The character achieves a state of deep meditation, from which he can gather and recover his mental energies. The Psionicist is still aware of his surroundings, and is not surprised when attacked. Note: this is a Psionicist only skill. Skill Cost: as Meditation: Death.

    Other Notes: A Psionic weapon and a psionic item are empowered with psionics usually by a powerful Psionicist; although an alchemist can attempt the same if he has the right Spells (i.e. Psionics Embedding) and a Psionicist as a partner. A devotion is a lesser psionic power, and a science is a greater psionic power.

Step Five: Wild Talents

    If you are using either system: the RM2 psionics system or the AD&D system, there is a question of psionic wild talents. Generally, for both of these, a Gamemaster should choose a talent point cost that is fair to everyone involved, including him. Psionics are very powerful, and very demanding disciplines; almost on par with the power of an Arcanist. There should be very few wild talents running around in your world (and for that matter, Psionicists), about as few as any people who are able to learn arcane open lists. Generally, the rule of thumb is for the PC to pay 30 talent points or more for the privilege of gaining a wild talent (ie. to choose one psionic list or to gain a roll on the wild talent tables). This way, the instance of psionically endowed people is kept to a bare minimum.

    Of course, you can enforce psionic flaws. Like uncontrolled potential, the power only activates reflexively (this is fun!), or something else that's nasty (eg. The PC isn't aware that he has psionic potential; so in a crisis situation, the power activates, but he thinks it's luck or magic). Another psionic flaw (their powers always fail when they least expect it). Of course, if you are converting AD&D, you can rule that the wild talent only receives enough power to use the power once per period of time, plus ten psionic strength points. And those with sustainable powers receive enough power to maintain the power for three rounds.

    Example: Both John and Kim decide to use a talent point cost for their psionic systems. Kim decides to have the cost at a moderate value, since she is only allowing one psionic list to be learned to fifth level. Her PCs only have to pay 30 talent points.

    John, on the other hand, knows how powerful the psionic system he's converting is. So he rules that the PC must pay dearly for the chance to exhibit psychic potential. He orders that a PC wishing to become a psionic wild talent must pay 50 talent points! He also gives them a choice of psionic flaws: from a flaw that says that the wild talent has unknown potential psychic energy to a flaw that states that the power will fail when the character needs it the most. Thus he can control the instance of psionically endowed people in his game. Of course, he uses the AD&D rules for wild talent Psionic Strength Points.

Step Six: World Considerations—Burn Him!

    Now we come to the fun part: considerations and implications in the World Setting you've defined. This can be anything: just recognize that psionics can unbalance your world system pretty darn quick. A quick charting of attitudes from each culture or nation is acceptable. Attitudes might include:

    Another consideration is to decide how psionics appeared in your world. Is psionically endowed people an appearance of Homo Sapiens Superior? Did psionics come about because of a lack of Mentalism magic in an area? Did a spaceship carrying Psionicists or a psionic race crash land on your world? Did they appear at random? Or are they a gift from the Gods (see the First Attitude)?

    These is all important considerations for your world. Finding out how psionics originated in your world is useful for gauging the attitudes of the people towards their psionic brethren. This could be the tie between the paranoid farmer down the street to the socially tolerant sorceress in the big city. Oh, and attitudes can be very personal.

    Some people mistrust their fellows because their neighbor can read minds. It's scary to think this because this is paranoia in the extreme. It's bad enough to have an Evil Mentalist rampaging through the countryside, making people go crazy. But a Psionicist? A person who could be quite calm and in control of himself; and has the ability to read minds? The thought is horrible. This causes psychic witch hunts in some remote towns, where anyone accused of being a Psionicist could be tortured or killed.

    Of course there are places that could be very tolerant of psionic activity, or might even embrace it. Remember the tolerant sorceress? A town who has the benefit of psionics or felt the benefit of Psionicists may allow the psionic individual to walk among them without worry.

The Role of Psionics in a Campaign

    This depends on the Campaign World used, but the role of psionics could be like magic. Rare, inaccessible, and used by only a small amount of people in the campaign. After all, psionics is like magic, it's a short cut. For instance: two people are in danger of falling. One of them is Turin, a well known Fighter from the Lankur tribe. The other is Juri, a Psionicist. The GM rules that both fall. Instinctively, Turin grabs the ledge and saves himself, but Juri's mind is so well trained that reflexively he activates his Psychokinetic powers and manages to use his telekinesis to slow his descent, a bit. The GM only rolls a small Fall-Crush attack.

    Psionic items, if they exist, should be rarer still. It takes a powerful Psionicist to endow those items with mental energy and they should be treated like high intelligence items or as artifacts. Alchemists shouldn't be able to craft those items: it's based on the will of the Master Psionicist alone.

    Or it could be the opposite, where everyone has some degree of psionic talent, and it's a blessing to be chosen to develop one's psionic potential. In any case, the GM should examine the role of Psionics in his campaign. How much of it does the GM want to be accessible to the players? How are Psionicists going to work in his world?

Psionics and Magic

    Psionics and Magic (Channeling, Essence, Mentalism) are two different things. They are completely separate forces. This distinction is especially true between Mentalism and Psionics, where effects can be blurred, or almost the same thing. For example both Psionicists and spell users have means of becoming invisible, traveling instantly, and controlling other people or creatures. But, psionics and magic are like oil and water, they do not mix. Here are some guidelines:

Example: A party containing a Fighter, a Thief, a Mage, a Seer, and a Psionicist all come across a locked stone door where they think their nemesis, Haldan the Rampaging Illusionist, is. The Gamemaster knows that the door is an illusion of a stone door placed over a hallway; and it manipulates all five senses. The Fighter goes in and tries to break down the door. He pushes on the door with all his might; sorry, the GM says, the door is made of stone and you cannot move it.

The thief offers to pick it. Sorry, no effect, said the GM. The Seer tries to set up a spell of Woodsight. Sorry, the GM says, although you know that Haldan is beyond the door, you cannot discern anything about the door. The Psionicist decides to teleport through the door. Making his roll, the GM groans and tells him to make a Resistance Roll. The Psionicist makes it and tells the others that it's just an illusion and the Mage casts a prepared Dispel Essence on the Stone Door, removing its feel mirage.

Example: Returning to the recent example, the Party had come across Haldan the Rampaging Illusionist. The Illusionist casts a Phantasm, combined with feel sense. The Phantasm created is that of a large gorilla. Everyone is afraid of the large gorilla that had broken tables and chairs. The Psionicist, however, tries to make Contact against the Phantasm. The result is that he finds it has no psychic feel, so, although still afraid, he knows that the gorilla is just a dangerous manipulation of light. Some Guidelines on Spells vs. Psionics

    Some spells have some advantages over Psionics. For instance, the spell from Barrier Law, Psion Barrier, allows an Essence user to erect a Psionic Barrier to protect his fellows from enemy Psionicists. Psionics cannot get through this barrier. Some spells that can detect charm can detect telepathic control. These are the only exceptions.

Blur: No additional effect.

ESP, Mind Touch, and other mental contact spells: A Telepath or Psionicist gets a free +10 bonus to their RR. Otherwise, no effect.

Misfeel <type>, Change to <type>, and other personal alteration/illusion spells (except blur): Any Telepath or Psionicist who tries to contact the subject's mind will realize the deception immediately. Of course the first contact attempt will fail.

    And other guidelines as the Gamemaster may see fit.

Magical Items

    This is generally based on the GM's judgement. But they should follow the guidelines above. Two items, however, deserve special mention: they are the Legendary Artifacts and the Philosopher's Stone.

    Legendary Artifacts: The relationship between the Legendary Artifact and the Psionicist is the contest of wills. This should also fall under the GM's discretion, but for Legendary Artifacts, being intelligent, are subject to the Psionicist's telepathic powers.

    Philosopher's Stone: A Philosopher's Stone is the ultimate in an Alchemist's creation. It is a metaphysically balanced object that has some special meaning towards a Telepath and/or Psionicist. A Psionicist can rely on the Stone in giving him a bonus in his base psionic rolls for his primary discipline/list. If it is of the particular crystalline variety, then this bonus is not only conferred on his primary discipline/list, but another as well. If it is of the extremely rare white powered Stone, then the bonus to the primary discipline/list is not only conferred, but the Psionicist can recover power points at double the rate.

Psionic Creatures?

    Can there be an instance of Psionic creatures and NPCs? Yes. There can be. But this is, of course, up to the GM's world. NPC enemies who are Psionicists, on the other hand, should be treated as high powered Wizards, Clerics, or Mentalists.

Conclusion

    This article should give you a start in converting one Psionics System to RMSS. The GURPS system, because of some similarity to the AD&D system, should be quite easy to convert with the guidelines here, with some adjustments in mind. Since it is a level-less system, all one has to do is worry about converting the profession and arranging a system of gaining powers. Maybe even through a skill like Psion Development, or something like Psion Lists. It all depends on what you want for your world and what flavor you want to convey. Or you can wait for the official Psionic Companion to appear in the stores. After all, RMSS was designed to be a flexible system where you can use some, much, or all of the standard and optional rules and even a bit of your own.

    Bill, a good friend of Kim and John, reports that he has just bought the Psionic Companion for RMSS. Both of them congratulate him on his success, but they tell him that they have been using their own systems which they have worked on with their own two hands for weeks. Bill, feeling a little small, respects them for doing what they managed to do.