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Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Thousand Suns Readalong Chapter 7: PSI

The most striking thing about the psi rules is that the psionic powers all cost hit points to use. I think this is stupid, but I can see maybe why we got here. There is no endurance stat and no fatigue system, so unless we are willing to ratchet up the complexity, we’re stuck with either charging hit points for psi actions or balancing them with a lame n uses per encounter/day/whatever. I think I would house rule the system and create sort of an energy reserve that is equal to your will stat that be increased by spending character points or experience. If you go beyond the will-reserve and spend vitality points the cost of the psi power use should be doubled and you should suffer a cumulative -2 on all skill tests for the next three rounds. That approach would make a little more sense and be more dramatic at the same time, I think.

Old School Revival: Thousand Suns psionics are not a development of Traveller style rules, but seem to have more in common with Gamma World powers.

The nicest thing I can say about these psi rules is that they are look easy to learn and accessible to both the rules and the setting. You’re probably going to see a lot more psi activity in a Thousand Suns than in either a GURPS Space game or a Traveller game. The former has a not insignificant learning curve in the form of the GURPS Powers system, though I have to admit that the psionic powers books do everything they can to take the load off of game masters. Nevertheless, those are extra books beyond the core books and they are either PDF-only or else hard to find in hard copy. Traveller, as I’ve said before, makes gaining psi powers into a sort of default adventuring goal for human characters roaming the galaxy. I’m not even sure how many people ever really dug into the psionic rules from the classic Book 3.

The main missed opportunity in this chapter is the chance to emphasize the flexibility and utility of hooks as a means of implementing fickle and developing psi powers. For example, an untrained psi with precognitive powers could spontaneously get flashbacks whenever the game master feels it would forward the plot. Of course, the character would also have seizures or else otherwise make a scene in such situations…. An example of dialog from a session like that would have been invaluable as I’m still not sure I have the hang of hooks and would really like some more direction from the author on using them well. Using hooks as a means of avoiding or postponing the use of rules systems that I don’t feel like dealing with during the first few sessions seems like a good idea, though.

Another typo:

  • p. 108: “campaig” should be “campaign”
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3 responses to “Thousand Suns Readalong Chapter 7: PSI

  1. RogerBW January 18, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I keep finding bits that seem out of place here – for example, familiarity has “visible to the naked eye” and “seen through another power”, but nothing about cameras. The psi rules feel as though they’ve been written separately from the rest of the book so far.

    And maybe I’m just used to a higher quality of editing – for example, in a GURPS book, when you mean the exact same thing (e.g. whether or not a power causes damage when used), you use the exact same phrase.

    All the usual stuff seems to be there, but there’s nothing that stands out to say “hey, this game has a unique and interesting approach”.

  2. Brendan January 18, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Hey, just wanted to drop a note saying that even though I have not been commenting on the Thousand Suns posts, I have been enjoying them. I don’t have the book, so I don’t feel like I can add much intelligent.

    “you use the exact same phrase”

    I’m not sure I like that approach. I think it leads potentially to the illusion of exactness. I prefer a bit of ambiguity, which can lead to creativity.

  3. John E. Boyle October 28, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Agreed, Psionics costing hit points to use IS dumb and has to go. Your idea of using the Will stat to create an energy reserve is much like RuneQuest’s use of the POW stat to generate magic points to fuel spells. A variation of that would work just fine here.

    I might adjust some of the Psi skills in some instances; for example, equating being shot with a 9mm bullet with the effect of being hit with a 500 kg object…hmm.

    I agree also that this chapter could have benefited from an example involving a hook (or two). I mean, I get that the author didn’t want to limit the GMs’ use of their imagination, but there is a difference between explaining how something works and telling someone what to do.

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