This article originally appeared in Pyramid #20

GURPS Psionics


by Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch

What follows are some clarifications and some 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

Regarding telepathy with animals — if the bonus from Animal Empathy (sidebar, p. P54) would push your skill with a smart animal above your normal skill with humans, does it, or does the skill max out at normal level for humans?

You can be better at dealing with animals than humans! For instance, if you want to use your Telepathy skills on an IQ 6 pig (base -2 to skill) and you possess the Animal Empathy advantage (which gives +4) you roll at a net +2.

You get a bonus to the Hypnotism skill if you succeed with Telesend or Suggest (p. P99) — can you try to Hypnotize someone using only Telesend? In other words, if you have the Hypnotism skill, can you use it without talking to the subject, via Telesend and maybe Suggest?

Yes. If you have the Hypnotism skill, you can try to use it via Telesend, without talking. However, the +2 bonus on p. P99 only applies when you are both talking and using psi; using one mode without the other gives no bonus. Also, unlike Telereceive, Telesend is never subtle, so this will automatically be seen as an obvious Hypnotism attempt by the target (although it will not be perceived by others who may be watching). You cannot use Suggest in this way, however.


Is Aspect a passive skill? There's no "roll to activate" it.

Aspect has both passive and active modes; the active mode does require a roll to activate it. To quote p. P20, "At level 10, a successful skill roll gives you a +1 modifier on reaction and influence rolls." Later on, it goes on to say that, "This ability (not the charisma bonus) works regardless of skill, as a 'default' . . .". So although the actual telepathic image (the "aspect") that you project is passive and always on, using Aspect to affect a reaction roll or an influence roll is an active use of the skill, and requires concentration and a skill roll. Each attempt to use Aspect to enhance an influence skill or a reaction roll is a separate feat that requires a roll against Aspect.

Why is this? Aspect doesn't seem to be a "use every time you make an influence roll" power, since it says "People will turn their heads to look at you as you pass . . . If you don't want to be noticed, you can voluntarily 'dim' your charisma. . ."

You can have great personal presence that draws people's gaze without it being really useful when you want to talk someone specific into doing something in particular. To clarify the meaning of the sentence that you have quoted, change "charisma" (which has a special meaning in GURPS) to "presence." Essentially, Aspect requires active use to do anything more specific than turning heads in a crowd.

Do Mind Shields protect against Aspect?

Yes. This is an active use of Telepathy, so a psi with Aspect will have to subtract the Power of any Mind Shield from his skill roll with Aspect in order to affect someone who has a Mind Shield up.

Mind Shield

When attacking a psi who has set a Mind Trap (p. P39), the attacker must make his Psychic Vampirism or Telereceive roll by more than the amount by which the Mind Trap roll was made in order to notice the trap. Does the attacker use his base skill or his modified skill after the penalty for the Power of the Mind Shield has been subtracted?

All margins of success for Telepathy (or Psychic Vampirism) skills are calculated by comparing the skill roll to the modified skill level (this is generally true in GURPS). Since a Mind Shield subtracts its Power from all uses of Telepathy, the margin of success is based on skill after subtraction.

If the victim of a Mind Trap breaks free, is he inside the other person's mind, or has he removed himself entirely?

He is still inside the other person's mind! To have sprung the trap, the victim must have already penetrated the other person's Mind Shield, and so the other person has already had the benefits of her Mind Shield against him. If the victim somehow manages to break free, then he is free to act.

Joe gets caught in Teri's Mind Trap and slumps down. Fred, also a Telepath (lower-power than Joe, though), goes into Joe's mind to find out what's wrong. What happens to Fred?

Joe's mind is caught in a loop inside Teri's mind, so Fred finds "nobody home" when he tries to contact Joe. The GM could ask Fred to roll a Fright Check right about now, unless Fred knows what to expect. If Fred's Telereceive succeeds by 9 or more, he will find some deep-seated memories, and will learn what happened to Joe. Fred could then try to read Teri's mind to find Joe — at the risk of being caught by the Mind Trap as well! However, since Fred knows to expect a trap, he can immediately try to disarm it.

If Fred gets caught as well, are he and Joe in separate areas of Teri's trap, or can they try to gestalt? Does Teri get any bonuses to try and read their minds?

If Fred gets caught, he is trapped in the same place as Joe, but since neither Joe nor Fred can make active use of their psi skills, they cannot even Telesend to one another, let alone form a gestalt. Teri has no special bonus to read their minds, however, as she has trapped them "whole," so to speak, without cracking their Mind Shields.

If the victim of a Mind Trap doesn't try to break free at all, does he still lose Will? Or can someone in a Mind Trap just be patient (especially if he has a better range than his captor) until he's released?

If he wants to, the victim can just bide his time, make no effort to break free, and just wait. The victim should have to make a Will roll every 10 minutes to avoid panicking and making a break for it, though. Keep in mind that the victim's body is unconscious and his mind is trapped. All that it would take to ruin his day would be for the trapping psi to root him out with Telescan. Biding his time may be the worst thing he could do!

If somebody's extended a Mind Shield over you (sidebar, p. P38), is his Mind Shield still protecting him from your psi skills?

Yes. You are inside the physical extent of his Mind Shield — not inside his mind. However, his effective Power has been reduced to cover the area, so he will be easier to affect . . .

Does Emotion Sense work as Empathy through a Mind Shield?

Yes. Empathy and Emotion Sense are not active uses of psi that have to pierce a Mind Shield. They are completely passive, and Mind Shield has no effect on them.


Can Mindwipe be used to shove information down into the subconscious, and thus preserve memories against Ultra-Tech brainwipe? The subconscious is left intact in such a wipe.

This is exactly what Temporary Mindwipe (p. P41) is for. If you do this, though, the subject loses her access to the memories as well, until either the Mindwipe is undone or it wears off. The person doing the brainwipe operation has to win a Quick Contest of his Electronics Operation (Psi-Tech) skill versus the Mindwipe skill to delete such memories. He is at -4 unless he is also telepathic.


Does Telecontrol actually require that Telereceive be "on" while it is in use? Or does it just demand that Telereceive be successful first, like other "hostile" indirect attack skills (e.g., Sleep, Suggest, etc.)?

The issue here is that you cannot very well control your "robot" unless you have some feedback from him. Quite often, you do not want to stand in sight of your victim or those with whom he interacts (especially while you yourself are at -4 on all your skills), so you cannot get this feedback just by watching. To adequately control a victim who is out of your sight requires sensory feedback, and you must use Telereceive to acquire this feedback from your victim. This requires that Telereceive be used concurrently with Telecontrol, and that the initial Telereceive roll be made by 5 or more.

If Joe is operating Fred like a robot, does he then feel no pain if somebody guns down Fred?

Since Telecontrol implies control but not the ability to use your victim's senses, you usually need to have Telereceive in effect, too (see above). If you are receiving all of your subject's sense impressions (Telereceive roll made by 5 or more), then you are also susceptible to Shock, Stun and Fright Checks if your puppet is harmed, as per p. P25.

If you don't want that, I presume that a telepath can "stop" at the desired level of contact?

Yes, but it must be stated in advance — it is the telepathic equivalent of "pulling a punch."


If one has used Telereceive on someone, in preparation for using something like Sleep or Telecontrol, is the Sleep or Telecontrol roll at a -1 for having a Telereceive on? Since it's required that you start with Telereceive, is it really a "multiple feat"? Or does one instantly "drop" the Telereceive as the Sleep goes into effect?

Since you get the full benefits of two psi skills here (you get to read your foe's mind and you get to do something else nasty), you have to take the usual penalty for multiple feats. So you do use your Sleep skill (for instance) at -1. Once the Sleep skill is in effect, you can drop the Telereceive if you do not wish to continue to read your subject's mind, but you cannot drop it before the Sleep roll is made. Thus, that Sleep roll is made at -1 because Telereceive is "on."

According to the rules, if you succeed by 5 or 6, "You receive all the subject's sense impressions . . . On the flip side, telepathic lovers experience shared pleasures." I seriously want to know how telepathic lovers make those Telereceive rolls every minute, while engaged in distracting activity.

For the lovers to activate their Telereceive skills requires a second of concentration and a skill roll. However, once the initial contact is made, the ensuing skill rolls are passive "maintenance rolls" that require no concentration, as per p. P7, Continuing Effects (reinforced on p. P25, under Telereceive).

So a telepath reading somebody's mind doesn't suffer from distraction? Say the telepath's gotten into an orc's mind, and the next round gets sliced with a sword — no penalties to the maintenance roll? No instant roll because of distraction?

If you are injured on the turn when you have to make the maintenance roll (which is made once per minute), then the Shock penalty would apply to the die roll. However, since no concentration is required to maintain contact, no distraction roll is required.

Article publication date: July 1, 1996

Copyright © 1996 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to