Psionics in HARP SF

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2006

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

In the July editorial of 2005, I talked about the underlying "theory" of psionics in HARP SF. I intended to discuss the mechanics of psionics in the August 2005 editorial, but my appendix intervened by trying to kill me in a very subtle fashion. But since it's August again, I've decided that the time is ripe to talk about psi once more with a quick preview

Once upon a time, psionics was considered "hard sf". Nowadays it is considered rather soft. Fortunately HARP SF is a High Adventure game which steers a middle course between "hard" and "soft" science-fiction, in a determined effort to maximize the diversity of science-fiction role-playing experiences that can be achieved using the rules. SysOps who don't want psionics in their games can simply ignore the Adept profession and the Psionics chapter; the rest of the rules will work just fine without psi.

Still reading? Good.

Psychic potential in HARP SF comes in a variety of forms. Each individual ability is known as a Discipline and the disciplines are grouped into five Fields (e.g. Telepathy, Psychokinesis etc.) [Yes, these are analogous to spells and Spheres in HARP Fantasy].

Psychic potential is deemed a consequence of peculiarities in the brain - characters are either born with the ability or without. Thus a character who wants to be psionic user must have at least one Latent Field Talent (purchased at first level for a mere 5 Development Points). Characters can begin the game with more than one Latent Field Talent, but each additional Field costs more Development Points on a rapidly increasing scale. Members of the Adept profession can gain one or two Latent Field Talents for free as starting abilities of their profession. They are the specialists, after all.

Latent Fields are just that latent. The psychic potential is dormant and must be triggered. The psionically gifted must now purchase Active Field Talents, separately of course for each Field. The Psionic Fields are Tiered - a character who takes an Active Field Talent once for the Telepathy Field, say, will only be able to achieve Tier 1 effects with any developed Discipline in that Field. For the Telepathy Field, Tier 1 effects are normally limited to members of one's own species. To reach Tier 2 effects, our hero will have to buy the Active Field Talent twice (and yes, higher Tiers cost more Development Points.) Each Field has five Tiers of potency so psionic characters have plenty of room to grow.

Having obtained the necessary Talents, the next step is to learn the actual Disciplines. Each Discipline is a skill in the Concentration category. To actually use a psi ability ("activate" in the parlance much as spell users "cast" spells), the player makes a Psi Discipline maneuver, rolling d100 open-ended and adding in the skill bonus from the Discipline skill. The maneuver is modified according to the Tier level of the activation, so a telepath trying to use the Empathy discipline on the Madji merchant would need to use at least Tier 2, and suffer a -10 penalty. The Tier level of each parameter (range, targets, duration, special effect(s)) can be set independently and each parameter set at Tier 2 or above produces its own penalty. In activating psi disciplines, psions use up Psi Energy Points (based on the maximum Tier). By expending more than the minimum number of PEPs, a character can offset some or all of Tier-related penalties.

Utility psions, Attack psions (requiring a Will RR by the target(s), and Physical Attack psions (e.g. Pyrokinetic Bolts) are resolved in the same way as the equivalent spell types, so seasoned HARP players will have no trouble in deploying their characters' gifts in the game.

With five Fields and several dozen Disciplines detailed in HARP SF , there should be more than enough psionics for most campaigns and universes - and all of the abilities are available by default in the Tintamar universe.

That concludes our fly-by of the HARP SF psionics rules - I hope it has been helpful.