This article originally appeared in Pyramid #19

Q & A

by Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch

Here are some clarifications and answers to questions posed on the Internet about GURPS Psionics. Thanks to Elizabeth McCoy for the questions, some of which have been edited from their original, informal Internet form for clarity and brevity.

General Questions

Is the limitation "Usable Only By One Side of Split Personality" really a limitation? Especially with the more extreme version of Split Personality — the two personalities will have different skills anyway; why should they get a point-break for psi?

This limitation is only a limitation when the GM wishes to make both sides of a Split Personality pay for the Power but only let one personality use it. However, -50% is (mathematically) more appropriate than the suggested -40%.

For instance, in a 100 point game, suppose a PC has two personalities worth 70 points each before buying any psi powers. The player wants one personality to have Telepathy, Power 12 (60 points). The GM decides that both Personalities have to buy the Power, but with this limitation (using -50%) — for net cost of 30 points to each personality. Adding this 30 points makes both personalities worth 100 points, and so their real costs average to 100 points.

However, the personality who can use the Power effectively gets 70 points worth of non-psi abilities plus 60 points worth of Telepathy Power, for an effective 130 points, while the other personality can only use 70 points worth of non-psi abilities, for an effective 70 points. These effective costs also average to 100 points, and so the character is balanced — but only because of the limitation.

Astral Projection

Astral projection allows a psi to separate her consciousness from her body, manifesting an "astral body" that travels through the Astral Plane. The Astral Plane is really two planes: the Outer Plane, which is superimposed upon the physical world, and which is where astral travelers normally venture, and the Inner Plane, an isolated realm of pure calm. Astral beings on the Outer Plane can sense the physical world, but it is a lot like a pane of one-way glass: they can look, but they cannot act and no one can look back at them. Astral beings on the Inner Plane are completely cut off from the physical world.

Can an astral telepath in the Outer Plane contact someone in the Inner Plane?

No. Normally, all forms of perception — including Telepathy — are confined to one plane. Since an astral being can perceive people in the physical world from the Outer Plane, she can attempt Telepathy from there (at -5) — but that is a special case. Since neither the Outer Plane nor the physical world can be perceived from the Inner Plane, Telepathy cannot be attempted from there. From a balance perspective, this is probably a good thing, as the 10:1 subjective time ratio would give a psi on the Inner Plane an unreasonable advantage over a psi on the Outer Plane!

Is there such a thing as "astral fatigue"? For instance, if one took enough damage or fatigue in the astral plane, one would presumably snap back to one's body — would one then be unconscious? Or conscious but unable to go astral until the astral body had recovered fatigue?

Fatigue points are fatigue points — there is no such thing as "astral fatigue." Whether you spend your fatigue points while astral or physical, on psi use or just running a marathon, it all gets subtracted from the same total. Once your ST goes to 0, you pass out. Since astral travelers must actively use their Astral Projection skill to stay in the Outer Plane, this means that the instant the next skill roll is required and the psi is not awake to make it, she returns to her body, unconscious.

How does Astral Projection interact with other abilities, like EK, PK, Healing, or Teleport?

On p. P11, it states that Antipsi, Psychic Vampirism and Telepathy are the only psionic power groups that can affect the astral body. This is a two-way street; only the psi skills associated with these three powers can reach out of the Outer Plane and affect beings in the physical world, too — and even then, only at -5 to skill. However, there is no extra -1 for using these allowed skills while also using Astral Projection — see the sidebar on p. P7.

Most other psi skills — particularly those associated with Electrokinesis, Healing, Psychokinesis and Teleportation — cannot cross the barrier between worlds. Even though they normally work on line-of-sight, and one can "see" the material world from the Outer Plane, these psi skills affect physical reality. The Astral Plane is the realm of the mind and spirit, and only powers that affect these things can actually cross the barrier. It is impossible to affect physical objects from the Outer Plane, in the same way that the physical world is unable to affect an astral being.

The special cases are ESP skills and the Astral Sight skill. Astral Sight can see into the Outer Plane from the physical world; otherwise, it would be useless. As well, ESP can be used to scan the physical world from the Outer Plane. In both cases, distance is measured from the psi's point of perception in the other world, so an astral esper whose consciousness (i.e., the "eyes" of his astral body) is at some point in the physical world measures all distances from that point, as if he were physically standing there.

For those things which get a bonus for touching, does astral interpenetration count?

No. The psi is on another plane, after all, and is not truly touching the target. Treat astral interpenetration as being at range 0, but with no +2 for touching the subject.

Does Psi Static interfere with an astral psi — i.e., potentially forcing an astral person away from the Antipsi's area, or even plopping the astral psi back into his body?

Yes. If Psi Static causes the psi to fail a roll against Astral Projection, then the psi's consciousness immediately snaps back into his physical body.

What's the ruling on spell-casting while astral? Is the psionic astral plane the same as the one in GURPS Magic? What are range penalties/restrictions?

The Astral Plane has low mana, so all spell use is at a base -5. Only mind- and spirit-affecting spells of the colleges of Communication and Empathy, Mind Control and Necromancy can cross the barrier. If the astral mage is the subject of such a spell, he resists at -2. These effects are identical to those listed for the Ethereal Body spell (p. M72); but just to make life interesting, the Ethereal Plane and Astral Plane are not the same place — after all, magic and psi do not interact directly (for instance, Mind Shield and Hide Thoughts are not interchangeable as defenses). The range penalty for spells is calculated from your point of perception; i.e., where your astral body's point of view is in the physical world.

What about the Astral Plane from GURPS Grimoire?

It is the same Astral Plane, which means that it is different from the Ethereal Plane. The Astral Vision spell (p. G61) can see beings in either plane; this is not meant to imply that the two planes are identical — they are not.



If you have a neural interface (from GURPS Ultra-Tech), which gives one a +4 to one's abilities while jacked-in, do you still get that bonus when you are using your Cyberpsi, as well as your bonus to computer programming, etc., derived from your Power level?

No. It is an either/or proposition. Both a neural interface and Cyberpsi are ways to plug your brain directly into a computer; in many ways, a neural interface is like technological Cyberpsi with Power 4. You must choose to use one or the other, but not both. On the other hand, since touching the computer gives you a +2 on your Cyberpsi skill, and since a neural interface would definitely qualify as "touching," it would give you a +2 (but not a +4) to your Cyberpsi skill to affect any computer attached to the interface, regardless of its physical location. In general, it should be easier to affect a computer with Cyberpsi if you have direct contact; touch, a neural interface or even a serial cable held between your teeth all count.

If you had a "beamed signal" kind of thing (such as an implant computer with a cellular link), could you go netrunning in any computer that accepted the "beamed signal"?

The computer would still have to be within your range to do so. You can "netrun" to computers outside your range only if they are physically connected to the net; a beamed signal does not qualify. Note, however, that if you are using a beamed signal to contact a computer that is also within your Cyberpsi range, you qualify for the +2 skill mentioned above.

Could a human with Cyberpsi form a gestalt with a Telepathic AI, even if the human didn't have Telepathy himself?

Yes. Just use the usual rules for gestalts (p. P37) and substitute the Cyberpsi skill for the Telesend and Telereceive rolls needed to set up the gestalt.

Energy Sense

Could you clarify what is meant by "normal use" in the second paragraph, which could be read to contradict Energy Sense being a passive skill?

Energy Sense can be used actively to read magnetic media, trace power conduits, locate power cells and so forth; or it can be used passively to get a last-minute warning about a concealed security device, sense another EK using Dampen or Surge, notice that the power cell in your hand laser is drained when you Fast-Draw it during a battle and so on. The only difference is that the GM rolls for passive uses.


How much ambient light is required to use this ability?

Since the visible effects generated by Photokinesis glow, no ambient light is needed — the psi produces all the light she needs. However, unless there is sufficient light to see by (to disguise the glow), it will be obvious that illusions created with this skill are a hologram or a projection of some kind.

Does the fact that the image glows in the dark imply that it can be used to create a "candle flame" (similar to the Light spell) in a dark environment?

Yes. A successful skill roll (even one made by 0) can produce light. This light will illuminate an area of Power yards in radius. So Power 1 can produce a candle flame, Power 2 can softly illuminate a small room, etc.


In the Advanced Psionic Techniques chapter, it is claimed that one can restore attributes lost due to psionic attacks (p. P44). Can one also restore attributes lost due to a temporary disease or to aging?

Sure, but the psi would have to have enough Power to affect the underlying condition (as per the guidelines on p. P15) in order to do so. In other words, to restore DX lost to radiation damage would require at least Power 12, and to restore HT lost to AIDS would require at least Power 15. Treat aging as if it were a terminal disease like cancer or AIDS, requiring Power 15 to affect. Assign the usual skill penalty for the underlying condition to the die roll (typically -2 or more).

Why is there a -2 for an unconscious subject?

Mostly because you need to have some form of feedback from the recipient of the healing — and this is usually verbal. After all, the Healing skill does not automatically include any kind of empathic or diagnostic skill, so the patient may need to tell you where it hurts! Certain forms of non-verbal feedback will suffice; successful use of a TL9+ medscanner, a successful Sense Aura roll or a Telereceive roll made by 5 or more will all eliminate the -2.



If no concentration or skill roll is required to use Levitation, then why does the Using Psi With Normal Skills sidebar (p. P44) indicate that one would need the Instantaneous enhancement to allow Levitation to assist with Acrobatics? Does it take a second to activate, despite being "as easy as walking" and requiring no concentration or skill rolls?

As written, the rules are rather unclear; however, Levitation should require a second of concentration and a skill roll to start, just like any other psi skill. It just does not require a skill roll to maintain.

Given these assumptions, one would need to enhance Levitation with Instantaneous to allow Acrobatics, unless one took one second to prepare. Note that even with the Instantaneous enhancement, a Levitation skill roll is required to carry out complex acrobatics. This follows from the example of the Telekinesis skill, where simple, straight-line motion requires no skill roll, but complex motion (e.g., acrobatics) does.


Water and smoke can be affected in a "mass" with TK — what about dust? Sand? Gravel? Fallen leaves? Shrapnel?

True fluids (liquids, gases, and even charged plasmas), as well as things suspended in fluids (such as smoke), can be affected as a single mass, because they are held together by atomic or molecular forces. Large collections of small solids (such as sand, gravel, leaves or shrapnel) cannot be affected as a single mass, because they are not strongly held together by any particular force. The GM may make an exception if the smaller objects are all powerful magnets or something similar.

Below the Throwing Damage Table (p. P34), check the math in the example, since I think somebody added an extra 1 somewhere — "damage increases by 1, so he does 2d" would seem to be more correct.

Actually, the example is correct, but perhaps unclear. All damage adds are per die of damage. So the ST 20 psi in the example rolls his thrust damage of 2d-1, at +1 per die, giving 2d+1. Think of this as 1d + 1d - 1 = 2d-1 becoming (1d+1) + (1d+1) - 1 = 2d+1.


General Questions

Under Two-Way Communication (p. P36), the first two paragraphs would seem to indicate that Telepaths normally communicate with just Telesend. However, the sentence right after Full Communion suggests that both Telepaths are using Telesend and Telereceive. Which is it? Full Communion requires both, but does Two-Way Communication?

Two-Way Communication and Full Communion are two utterly different ways of communicating. Two-Way Communication allows the telepaths to "talk" at conversational speeds using their telepathic "voices" (i.e., Telesend skills). That is all that this technique implies. On the other hand, Full Communion is a step up from this; it is a true psychic rapport that "transcends normal communication" and allows communication at 10 times the speed of normal speech. Since Full Communion involves sharing emotions and sensory input, it requires the skill for receiving such things, which is Telereceive.

Is there a penalty for telepathy with sentient non-humans?

There is a -4 if you do not share a language, since you have to read beneath the surface thoughts to understand the concepts as opposed to their linguistic representations, but GURPS views telepathy as "universal" between species, so there is no additional "interracial penalty."

Article publication date: May 1, 1996

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