Mind over Matter - Chapter 1

Copyright Phillip A. Ellis © 2013

Edited by Terence Wynne for The Guild Companion

"He could sense, almost by intuition, the marshes around him, its movements, its coldness, the living things within it, and the pad of encumbered feet. Hardiz released his breath; he knew, now, where the orc was, in which direction it was heading."

Over 2013, I plan to present twelve chapters of what I have called a psionics companion for RMSS/RMFRP. All of the material contained therein is optional, and should be carefully assessed in terms of game balance by both Gamemasters and Players. What follows is a brief Outline of the supplement, followed by the first chapter, the Introduction and Overview.

  1. (January) Introduction & Overview
  2. (February) School I: Alteration
  3. (March) School II: Control
  4. (April) School III: Self-Mastery
  5. (May) School IV: Visions
  6. (June) Psionic Combat
  7. (July) Psionic Rules
  8. (August) Psionic Skills
  9. (September) Psionic Professions
  10. (October) Training Packages
  11. (November) Psionic Beings
  12. (December) Psionic Treasures

Chapter One: Introduction & Overview

Through the mists, the marshes receded into a uniform haze. Their color was leached into a blank greyness that hid light and shadows alike, and the chances of Hardiz locating his quarry were slipping away. He felt the tension knot at his shoulders: If he were to let the grey orc escape, there would be dreadful repercussions later on, especially among the marsh-folk who had come to rely on him for their protection.

But Hardiz knew what he had to do.

With the easy discipline of long practice, he damped his conscious thoughts, and let the roiling forces of his mind channel themselves into an almost instinctive awareness. His thoughts stilled, his awareness expanded. He could sense, almost by intuition, the marshes around him, its movements, its coldness, the living things within it, and the pad of encumbered feet. Hardiz released his breath; he knew, now, where the orc was, in which direction it was heading.

This is a supplement designed for the RMSS and RMFRP games, designed to develop a body of purely optional material detailing one possible approach to psionics. It is divided into twelve chapters, each focused on one larger, thematic element of the approach. This initial one is to give an introduction and overview of the concepts involved, and what will be covered.

Psionics are not magic. It does not involve the Essence, the foundation for both the three Realms and Arcane magic. It is similar in some ways to Mentalism. Mentalism channels the Essence running through the self, whereas psionics derive their power directly from the mental energy of its wielder. It is also more meditative than Mentalism, although their expressions are sometimes startlingly alike.

Psionics are based on the assumption that there is a force of will in the user's mind, a force that can be shaped and directed towards certain ends. This force is common to most intelligent beings.

Psionics should be familiar from both the various incarnations of Spacemaster, and Spell User's Companion from RM2. While some of the material in this companion is derived from both sources, a fair amount is not. This means that there is some material that will be, seem, or feel familiar, and some material that does not. In addition, a certain part of the material echoes the rules for both spellcasting, and magic in general. This is to maintain a sense of familiarity with the existing material, and to ensure that there is no startling new body of rules to be learned. It is easier to adapt older systems to new purposes than to develop new systems.

As each campaign will vary the availability and strength of psionics (just as they already do with magic and other expressions of power), I have avoided firm rules that limit Gamemaster and Player choices. This means that there is still a fair amount of work to be done before the material can be integrated. It is to this that I now turn my attention.

1.1: Scarcity and Abundance

Campaigns will differ on how common or how rare that psionics will be in them. Some will have almost every being with access to some, if not all. The Dark Sun setting for AD&D and D&D is once such an example. Others will only have the rarest of individuals with any psionic powers. In these, psionics may have to be purchased as a talent, and training in the various lists may be extremely rare to nigh on impossible to find.

Ultimately, it is the Gamemaster who must decide how common or how rare psionics are. Below are some ideas on how to make them rarer than average.

The first of these ideas is to explain the character's knowledge of psionics through their background. In this case, it is up to both the player and Gamemaster to develop a suitable reason for the character's access. It may be as simple and as nebulous as saying that the character comes from another culture. It may be that genetics are invoked, or a the blessing of adeity or similar being. Conversely, if psionics are common, the player (and GM) may need to explain a character's lack of ability.

The second of these ideas is to use game mechanics, such as background options or talents. In such a case, it may be that, for the cost of one background option (or equivalent), access is gained to one list and each list has to be developed separately. Alternatively, an option may give access to one field, with this option more suitable for games where psionics are more common, or where characters are more powerful.

A third option is to restrict the lists to certain beings, including NPCs perhaps. In this case, the limitation may be justified based on species, race, or cultural reasons. Psionics may be limited to just the Agothu, or to demons in general. It may belong solely to an extrapalanar race or races (such as those presented in Chapter Eleven). Alternatively, it may belong to a rare and evil order of monks who have developed unearthly powers as a result of intense mental discipline.

The fourth (and last option) is to require special training, equipment or items in order to develop lists. With this, for example, special mind crystals may need to be attuned to, and used as the focus of extended periods of meditation. Or it may be that there are moldering tomes that outline the disciplines needed to awaken the mind, and to channel it along paths of power.

It is also possible that any combination of these may be used. The potential for psionics may be in place for rare individuals, for example, until awakened by meditation on a suitable focus. In this way the second and fourth options may be combined. There are any numbers of ways in which access and use of psionics can be regulated or controlled.

Don't forget that development of psionics may need to be controlled by similar or identical rules governing the development of magic. Again, while the two differ, there should not be a need to devise game mechanics that differ too much from existing mechanics. Nature, in this sense, tends towards being parsimonious.

1.2: An Overview of the Coming Chapters

There are eleven more chapters to come. Each focuses upon a specific theme or set of themes to do with psionics. Some will have more rules and guidelines, others will have less; all of this material is optional.

The next chapter, Chapter Two, lists the first of the schools of psionics, the School of Alteration. This school includes such effects as telekinesis, telepathy, and changes to the state and nature of other objects.

The third chapter details the School of Control. With this school, a target's senses, sensations, and even thoughts are controlled and changed.

The School of Self-Mastery comprises the fourth chapter. This is the school through which a psionicist may control their own body and nature, including many ways involving movement and healing.

The fifth chapter, on the School of Visions, also deals in part with senses. It also covers in part healing and the detection of other minds; Hardiz, in the sample text above, has access to this school.

These schools are similar to the division between Open Lists, Closed Lists, and Base Lists. Normally, you may want to limit access to one. With psionic professions, you may like to treat them similarly to magic lists; there is an option detailing this, in Chapter Seven.

The chapter that follows these lists, Chapter Six, details some of the options involving psionic combat. This includes a number of the powers listed in the previous chapters, as well as options for combat that can be developed as skills, by all who have access to one or more lists.

Chapter seven expands on the general rules covering psionics, rules such as the development of lists and powers, resolving conflicts between psionics and magic, psionics and skills, and so on.

This leads to the chapter on psionic skills, chapter eight, skills which parallel in many ways the same or similar skills involving magic. While this chapter opens up more detail for psionic characters, it is essential to integrating psionics into any campaign.

Chapter Nine details examples of psionic professions. Not all of these should be used, as there are a couple, the Psionicist and the True Psychic, which rely on access to more than one school, and others that rely on more limited access.

An essential part of character development in RMSS and RMFRP is the training package. Chapter Ten covers such training packages, those suitable for psionic professions, and those suitable for others.

Chapter Eleven lists a variety of creatures and monsters that have psionic abilities, and that make suitable encounters for those with psionic ability. There are a number of races that are included, and also covered.

The final chapter, Chapter Twelve, lists a variety of psionically related treasures and items. While rules for their creation have not been detailed, their creation may be treated as being in essence the same as other magic items. Some of these items are of artifact level, and each should be carefully considered before integrating into the game.

Following the last chapter is an index that covers the preceding twelve chapters.

1.3: Some Final Words

Contrary to established usage among other Rolemaster products, the masculine pronouns will not be treated as referring to either sex. There are a number of strategies for eliminating gender bias, and a range of these will be used. Only in specific examples, using sample characters that have a specific sex or gender, will masculine or feminine pronouns be used.

Again, it must be remembered that all the rules presented are optional. Not everything presented here may or should be suitable for all campaigns. And you are free to develop any or all of these rules, or to discard them as needed.