Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Schools of Sorcery

It amuses me to place primitive worlds in Stars Without Number campaigns.  I like the idea of PCs interacting with worlds that are TL3 or less.  Imagine!  You could visit a 1950s America-like and play The Day the Earth Stood Still from the other side of the conflict.

But maybe more interesting than that are worlds so primitive that the ability of centralized governments or mercantile interests to deal with you is effectively hobbled.  TL1 or so.  Medieval planets.  And, with the survival of strange alien megafauna, hostile flora, weird science phenomena, and psychic powers, those worlds could look a whole lot like a fantasy setting.  To that end, I'd like to create one or more new psychic disciplines.  The goal of these disciplines is to have a slightly weirder, more occult, more baroque feel than the powers in the book.  However, I don't want to violate the precepts underlying the design (avoid fight-winning powers, so not much damage and no dominate) nor do I want to eat too much into the territory of the existing disciplines (I can't throw Dimension Door into the middle of a discipline, that drinks too much of Teleportation's milkshake.)


Schools of Sorcery look more occult.  In theory (and game mechanics) they're just like other psychic disciplines.  In practice, though, since TL1-2 worlds don't have access to advanced psitech training equipment, they have to rely on over-complicated kludges.  Specifically, highly technical systems of visualization and symbolic logic, recorded in books using various arcane ciphers and occult diagrams.  The Religion and Tech/Psitech skills (in-class for psychics) are used to memorize and understand the weird equations necessary for Sorcerous training.  There is nothing keeping an off-world Psychic from one of the established academies from journeying to whatever world I institute this on and learning Sorcery as one of their disciplines.  They would need to begin training Religion and Tech/Psitech when they leveled, if they had not already trained those skills to at least 0.

And now, onto the powers.

Level 1: Detect Evil
This power allows the user to detect the presence of sapient minds around them, within a twenty meter radius.  It does not grant a specific location for any person, but the psychic may gain a rough sense of direction.  People in close groups tend to blur together, and a precise count cannot be gained either.  The most useful aspect of this power is that it will allow the user to pick out if any of the minds are non-human or otherwise very deviant from the norm.  The psychic will know if there are alien sapients, AIs, persons whose minds have become sufficiently twisted by maltech, or who have become insane for other reasons. It does not detect psychic ability, unless the psychic has been driven mad by their powers.  It does not allow the reading of thoughts or states of emotion.  The user can exclude people whom they know well and can see, so it is possible for a member of a group of PCs to find out if anyone other than their colleagues is within range.

Level 2: Detect Magic
This power also works within a twenty meter radius, but gives a more accurate reading on location and numbers.  It identifies if any persons have psychic capability, and if any objects are psitech items.  The closer the user is to the thing that is "pinging" their radar, the more precise they can be about the source of the ping.  If they are touching a person or object when they use this power, they can tell for certain if that person or object has psychic abilities.  Otherwise, they gain only direction, whether it is a person or object, and a rough sense of the strength of the source.

Level 3: Invisibility
The psychic can use their Religion skill modified by Wisdom in place of the Stealth skill for the five minutes after using this power.  Furthermore, they can use their skill in circumstances where it would normally be unreasonable to do so, such as walking right past a guard (the guard would make a normal perception check versus the skill check of the user rather than automatically noticing them.)  This power fails if the user attacks or does anything else that would be conspicuously likely to draw attention to themselves.

Level 4: Dowsing
The psychic can tell if something is within 20 meters by using this power.  It can be general like "water" or "gold," or it can be specific such as "Captain Trask's Journal," if the PCs know such a thing to exist.  It cannot be a person or animal.  The power lasts five minutes.  If the thing to be found is hidden and the PCs must look for it, this power allows the psychic to use their Religion skill modified by Wisdom instead of Perception, and grants a +2 bonus to the search attempt in any case.

Level 5: Evil Eye
You can look at an object or person within ten meters, and gain visions of the most important events they have been involved in within the past 24 hours.  The vision of any given scene will not last more than three seconds, so only a momentary glimpse is possible.  However, it will usually be the most informative three seconds possible.  The GM should be generous, here.  No save.

Level 6: Curse
The psychic can strike someone within twenty meters with a curse.  The GM rolls a save for that person in secret.  If they succeed, they gain a sense of dread and foreboding, but nothing occurs.  If they fail, then at some point within the next 24 hours they will be the victim of an improbable accident, which deals 1d4 damage for each level the psychic has.  The GM is encouraged to be imaginative and lurid if this will result in the death of the target.

Level 7: Identify
The psychic can determine the function and purpose of an object.  This is most useful with psitech devices, where it can be fairly specific.  If used on technological equipment, the results of the power will be vague and general: "Point it at your enemy and pull this switch to harm them."

Level 8: Astral Projection
This power must be used before the psychic goes to sleep.  During the next few hours of rest, the psychic will be able to view places that are known to them (Have either been there before or know the precise location), and are no further away than from the surface of a planet to high orbit.  They cannot hear what is said while they are viewing, but if they are capable of lip-reading they may attempt that.  While invisible, unable to use any of their own other powers, and not truly physically present, it is theoretically possible for a psychic using this ability to be subject to the psychic powers of others while in this state.  If a telepath could gain knowledge that an astrally projecting psychic were present, they could potentially target them with telepathic powers, for example.

Level 9: Tulpa
The psychic is able to create a persistent psychic projection.  A psychic may only have one in existence at a time.  Use the sample stat block for any creature type (pg. 147 SWN Core Edition) OTHER THAN the party-butchering hell beast.  The player and the GM should work together to determine any additional or variant capabilities the creature might have.  For example, the GM should certainly allow an aquatic multi-limbed horror to represent some kind of nightmare squid.  The player can always make a humanoid tulpa regardless of the statblock, and can customize their appearance as they like.  However, a tulpa cannot have the precise appearance of any individual (except the creator, if the creator wants a twin...)

The creation of a new Tulpa takes one week of meditation, during which the Tulpa slowly comes into existence.  The psi points must be expended each day, including the last.  The Tulpa will come into existence with a personality and goals determined by the creator, and the creator can furthermore create them with a few skills, if they are skills the creator possesses (A tulpa can always use its natural weapons without skills.)  If the creator wishes, the Tulpa may have whatever memories the creator chooses to craft, and need not be aware that they are a tulpa.  If the creator has the Telepathy discipline, then no telepath with a lower level of the discipline than the creator had at the time of creation will be able to determine that the memories are artificial.

A creator can dissolve their own Tulpa by using this power again in the Tulpa's presence.  A Tulpa that is not dissolved may eventually gain its own independent existence, at which point the creator will forget that the Tulpa is their creation.  If a tulpa that is not independent is slain, the creator will lose a number of HP equal to half of the Tulpa's maximum HP.