Continuum II: Introspection Powers

   Today it’s another segment for Continuum II – a set of rules I’ve had knocking around for many years now. Since they were designed to be modular, some parts may find a home in pretty much any campaign. This particular module is concerned with Psychic Powers – in particular, the lowest levels thereof. Introspection Powers are based on an enhanced awareness of, and the ability to manipulate, the user’s own bioenergy aura and it’s interactions with other auras. They work just fine in all but the most low-psi universes. In fact, there are stories of many of these abilities working in the real world.

   In Continuum II, psychic powers are phenomena of the Empyrean Plane – the interface between Astral Space (the realm of pure concepts and mentalities) and the bioenergy fields generated by material bodies. It is the realm of spirits, dreams, and myths. It’s the medium for psychic powers and through which invocation magic draws its power. Unlike most places, the “landscape” of the empyrean is perfectly free to be contradictory – and many of it’s “residents” are basically a part of that landscape, psychic constructs rather than living (ensouled) spirits.

   Every living thing (and not a few constructs) exists on the empyrean plane. That means that they can, however subtly, interact there. If you are aware of that, and perceptive enough, you can feel and interpret that interaction. If you are skilled enough at perceiving it, you can learn to manipulate those interactions. You can sense impinging fields, cloak or manipulate your aura, control the psychic feedback involved in interpersonal relations, and resist a variety of psyche-targeted devices, drugs, and effects.

   Effectively using Introspection requires an Empyrean Transfer Impedance (the resistance to transferring energy through the Empyrean Plane) of less than 5. Full effectiveness requires a value of 4 or less (at which point the study of C’hi powers – revolving around transferring large amounts of your personal energies from point to point within your bioenergy aura – can begin). Uniquely, introspection still works to some extent at E.T.I. 5 – at which point it permits normal social interactions, such as “feeling” lies or presences (if you’re alert and lucky) and minor biofeedback tricks, such as fooling lie detectors, yoga, and pain control, with extensive training.

   Like most personal abilities in Continuum II, Introspection Abilities are essentially skills; you need at least one skill point in them to use them effectively, and they’re normally subject to an upper limit of seven skill points. Characters who begin with access to Introspection – whether by Class or Talent – begin with (2*Int)/3 skill points to spend on the Introspection abilities listed below or on related psychic skills and gain an additional skill point to expend on such abilities each level. How they use their talents is, as always, up to them – which is why the basic abilities are fairly standardized, while the advanced abilities vary wildly between each user.

   Under stress, a psychic can maintain up to three basic effects at a time – most often an attack, a defense, a utility power or second defense, or doing something physical (usually combined with defensive or sensory effects). Unfortunately, there are times when a psychic will want to do more than that – whether that means raising a combination of defenses, performing some very complex operation or launching an attack built up from five or six basic effects. To do so, a psychic may set up list of up to (Int/2) practiced combinations of up to three basic effects; using such a practiced combination counts as a single effect. They can even change out items on the list given a few months of practice.

   Finally, while Introspection doesn’t usually cost much in the way of psychic energy, there are some disciplines which cost a fair amount. If a psychic wants to overspend his or her energies they may do so – but every two points so used inflicts 1D6 points of damage on the user and one point per die of this damage is on the psychic level and must heal naturally.

   Ritual Channeling is an enhancing skill which allows the user to reduce the cost of using psychic abilities through the use of some minor ritual to aid his or her concentration and fine control. This requires one minute per psychic energy point saved up to a maximum cost reduction of 50%, rounded down. The exact nature of the ritual isn’t very important to anyone except the user; appropriate rites include meditation, tea ceremonies, shamanistic dance, and sandpainting.

   Advanced versions of this skill involve imbuing items or locations with minor psychic energies, while third-order versions resemble the Psychic Ritualist skill (Q.V.).

Introspection Abilities:

 

Basic Ability:

Cost

Advanced Ability

Cost

1)

Analytic Probe

Structural Probe

2)

Animal Friend

Animal Communication

3)

Anticipation

1/T

Muscle Reading

3/T

4)

Aura Detection

Psychic Tracking

5)

Dowsing

Elemental Empathy

6)

Electrocybernetic Perception

Cybernetic Telepathy

1/R

 

-Machine Empathy

-Intuitive Engineering

7)

Green Thumb

Plant Communication

8)

Intimidation

Presence

3

9)

Intuition

Social Perception

10)

Intuitive Healer

Empathic Healer

Sp.

11)

Intuitive Piloting

Intuitive Navigation

12)

Measurement

Eidetic Memory

Sp.

 

-Loremaster

1/T

-Reflexive Adept

13)

Mindlink

Mindbonding

12

14)

Missile Deflection

Evasion

15)

Mystic Sensitivity

-Analysis

2

16)

Natural Empathy

Vital Points

17)

Persuasion

Mesmerism

2

18)

Presence Sense

Windreading

19)

Projected Scan

3/R

Clairsentience

5/R

20)

Psychic Awareness

Psychic Analysis

1

21)

Psychic Fugue

1/R

Acceleration

3

22)

Relaxation

 

Restoration

23)

Sensitive

Recognizer

 

-Dreaming

-Dreamfaring

 

-Divination

2

-Visions

-/8

24)

Sensory Stun

4

Mirage

3/R

25)

Unpresence

Psychic Camouflage

   Analytic Probe: Straightforward enough in theory, this technique is difficult in practice, relying as it does on detecting the subtle changes in the users aura caused by it’s interaction with inanimate matter. The basic level simply allows the user to locate flaws and discontinuities – “feeling out” points of high stress, tension, pressure, and so on. While this isn’t all that useful against anything that moves, it’s very handy if you want to demolish a bridge, escape from shackles, or otherwise take things apart. The advanced version allows the user to “read” internal structural details. While the range is very short (approximately [Dexterity] inches), this ability gives the user a good shot at solving mechanical locks and puzzles, finding various traps, doors, and wall studs – and helps a lot in things like defusing bombs. Further improvements usually involve things like locating the weaknesses in armor and combat armor, learning to read the contents of books and envelopes without touching them, chemical analysis (a very difficult trick to develop), or tracking, reading and interpreting the tiny traces people leave behind them (fingerprints, trace chemicals, etcetera).

   Animal Friend: Partly a tap into the user’s own, deep-seated, animal instincts and partly a developed affinity, this technique grants the user an intuitive ability to “read”, and understand, non-sapient animals. This grants the user a +3 on his or her effective charisma versus animals – and eliminates the usual penalties for lack of a common language and being of a different species. User’s can readily grasp an animal’s motivations and behavior patterns and project it’s probable reaction to various stimuli. Users also receive a “+3” bonus on any skill rolls involving an animal, including his or her combat skills if such activity becomes necessary. The advanced version permits basic communications with animals, primarily on the nonverbal and emotional level. While this can be very useful, it should be remembered that most animals simply aren’t very smart. Further improvements often involve affinities with particular types of animals, an extended range, extending this to cover alien and/or extremely exotic “animals” (creatures of the sea, non-sapient supernatural beings, and so on), or to sentient beings who are behaving in an animalistic fashion.

   Anticipation: This useful technique lets the user “read” the bioelectrical activity of other creatures nervous systems as long as their auras are in contact. While the “basic” version only allows the user to sense gross neural activity, this does suffice to discern the “subjects” level of tension, how hard they’re thinking – and to sense their muscle activity, allowing the user to begin responding to their attacks and movements before their opponent actually begin to move. This results in a +2 bonus on the users attack rating and defense rating against who- (or what-) ever he’s “reading”. The user may also make a perception roll to detect when someone is about to strike at him, or when some other violent voluntary action is about to occur in the immediate vicinity. The advanced version permits the user to read suppressed responses, “hearing” subvocalized comments (often revealing the targets surface thoughts), functioning as a superb lie detector – and detecting various insanities and neural disorders. Further improvements may involve “reading” a targets neural activity or “thoughts” in more detail, receptive empathy, an initiative bonus, or even slightly enhancing the attack rating and defense rating bonuses – although there are definite limits. The maximum possible bonuses are unlikely to exceed +3.

   At least one user had great success employing muscle reading in rodeo and horsemanship demonstrations. Other applications include enhancing pickpocketing skills or whatever else the user can come up with.

   Aura Detection: A technique which allows the user to “see” psychic auras – in detail. While this gives a rough indication of the target’s raw psychic strength, the fine structure includes a lot more then that. The only problem is that it includes far too much data for easy assimilation. A targets aura is influenced by his or her emotional state, mental disciplines, beliefs, motives, attitudes, thoughts, and anything which affects his or her mind. Worse, each user has his or her own personal symbology, and learning to interpret it will generally take some time. Aura detection is a powerful tool, but it’s only really effective if backed with the intellect. (“I don’t know. He talks like a friend, but his aura shows malice and growing anticipation. I think that he’s trying to lead us into a trap”). The advanced version permits the user to perceive the energy traces left on inanimate matter by contact with bioenergy fields. While this is best employed in an area where a creature remained for some time, such traces can also be used for tracking – although such traces fade quickly and are easily overlaid unless they’re unusual or exceptionally powerful. This technique can also be used to trace back various kinds of energy projections and sendings – but this can get tricky if the path the projection followed is physically difficult. Psychic tracking is subject to modifiers like normal tracking, although what constitutes the skills and abilities which may be applied to confuse the trail and what constitutes “terrain difficulties” differs wildly. Advanced forms of this may include the ability to “read” the target’s personal energy patterns in order to discern physical, psychological, or arcane, weaknesses, to determine the nature of previous incarnations, to extending your “sight” to see mystical auras, the ability to see and read sigils in the targets aura (odd, idiosyncratic glyphs and symbols which offer clues as to a target’s abilities, potentials, and antecedents), more detailed “sight”, or even the ability to “read” a beings evolutionary history.

   Dowsing: A technique which permits the user to sense local geologic structures – including caves, underground water, loose rock, fault lines, major ore bodies, volcanic activity, instabilities, and so on. The range is proportionate to the scale of the structure. The fields associated with a few loose rocks in the ceiling will probably only be detectable within the user’s aura, but the energies of a major earthquake or volcanic eruption may be detectable at immense distances. The advanced version allows the user to “commune” with stone, an ability which can be used to identify minerals, to sense and communicate with earth-associated supernatural entities – and to obtain a great variety of information about the local geology and the natural world. It’s a wonderful technique to know if you want to be a farmer, miner, or explorer. There are a variety of advanced techniques – or basic technique variants – associated with the other elemental forces. The most common variations are “Weatherwise” and “Sealore”. Others can be developed involving fire, light, darkness, and so on, but such abilities are rare enough in most settings to lack common names. Other possible improvements include attuning yourself to an element’s mystical side enough to draw the energy for a few elemental cantrips from local sources, using this sense to evaluate items of various sorts, hearing the echoing “memories” of creation woven into the deep structure of the world, concealing the users mind and aura by merging his or her thoughts with those of the earth and waters, or acquiring bonuses on attempts to ritually contact, persuade, and befriend supernatural beings related to an element.

   Electrocybrenetic Perception: This bizarre talent allows the user to “scan” the energy fields associated with electrical or photonic flows, evaluate circuitry, probe electrical systems without the usual instruments, “see” magnetic and electro-magnetic fields, etcetera. This is a rare technique in many settings, although some users simply want a built-in compass. This is very useful in other settings, where it allows the user to “sense” various types of alarms, equipment, weaponry, and instrumental scans. The advanced effect can be used to “communicate” with, and to manipulate, electronic systems. Note, however, that this is a relatively subtle effect – dependent on inductively linking the user’s nervous system with the device to be manipulated. The power output is low, and the difficulty of exerting precise control over things as complex as a computer system is immense. This is a great good way to open electronic locks and such though.

   The “Machine Empathy” variant specializes in larger and more powerful mechanisms – detecting and evaluating high energy fields and radiation, power systems, various mechanical features, and so on. While such mechanisms are far too crude to be influenced by neural feedback, this does allow the user to sense what adjustments need to be made for a given purpose readily, check on how well they’re working, identify places that need maintenance or repair, and otherwise be a good mechanic. The “advanced version” of this variant extends this to an intuitive ability to understand the operation and maintenance of major machines, to make major repairs or modifications on them without proper research and design, and to design and build fairly sophisticated mechanisms based on whatever technical background the user has. This is not the ability to make great advances, but it’s often useful in getting something to work well enough to get by in an awkward situation.

   Further improvements may involve deducing the principles behind new devices, direct “psychic links” with computer systems, reading data directly off storage media, and “tinkering up” quite unreasonable devices and repairs.

   Green Thumb: This interesting ability allows it’s user to sense and interpret the energy fields of plants. At it’s simplest, this permits the user to sense their health, needs, and general characteristics. While this is useful, it’s a rather unspectacular sort of power – unless you’re somehow being assaulted by weird plants. The advanced version allows the user to employ psychic feedback to “communicate” with plants – although their “minds” aren’t very responsive compared with the minds of even the simplest animals. “Intelligent” or active plants can also be influenced in a variety of way, but most plants are pretty unresponsive. Further improvements usually involve learning to link your own energy fields with those of plants – allowing the user to use his own strength to animate them, to analyze their uses and properties, to shrivel them with raw hostility, to encourage them to grow at a fantastic rate, to hypnotize or manipulate intelligent or mobile ones, or to channel energy to them.

   Intimidation: This interesting ability allows the user to manipulate the natural feedback between his or her bioenergy aura and that of a target. A subtle, but curiously potent power, since such feedback is a major factor controlling the “intuitive” aspects of personal interactions – instinctive likings, trusts, hatreds, and friendships, “feelings” about people, first impressions, knowing when someone’s concentrating on you, detecting lies, and so on. Perhaps unfortunately, attempts to take conscious control of such a subtle feedback process is invariably a bit clumsy at first, leaving targets with the impression that some immensely powerful, and quite alien, presence is focusing on them. It tends to be upsetting. It’s a great way to scare people though, and is often used as a fast way to avoid difficulties with them. The advanced version allows the user to make the feedback feel “natural”, avoiding the inhuman quality. This allows them to “radiate” power and importance, an effect that tends impresses people and gives their words considerable weight. Of course, the user may decide to enhance instead of diminishing the inhuman feeling – and thus terrify people. Further improvements may involve inducing attraction or other subtle feelings, inducing “fascination”, beglamourment (creating an “impression” so strong that it overcomes the evidence of a target’s other senses), increasing the radius of effect, “crowd control”/manipulation, seeming incredibly trustworthy, enhancing social skills – and simply dominating people with raw psychic force.

   Intuition: This deceptively simple ability simply makes the user more aware of normal auric interactions (Q.V.; Intimidation, above). This allows him to evaluate the motives, personality, and “congeniality”, of other character’s at a considerable (+3) bonus. It provides a similar bonus with respect to detecting uncertainty or lies, and in reading emotions. The advanced version increases this bonus to +5 and allows the user to detect truth, general intent, and the social relationships in a group, automatically. Further improvements commonly involve evaluating a groups size and structure, “seeing” a target’s social links to people who are not present, enhancing your ability to persuade people by examining their reactions to various lines of argument, picking up “psychic impressions” from areas and objects, being able to tell the difference between shapeshifters, the various look-alike species, and most normal illusions by auric clues, and being able to tell (and possibly even modify) who’ll get along well, make a good leader – or otherwise fulfill a particular role in a group.

   Intuitive Healer: This useful ability allows it’s user to “read” the underlying cause, and proper way to treat, virtually any physical ailment. The user may make an (Int or Per) check in an attempt to understand the mechanism, causes, and vector of any problem that he treats. Regardless of the “technique” the user employs in his treatments (herbs, advanced technical medicine, acupuncture, or whatever), his intuitive understanding of what to do can sometimes accomplish “miracle cures” which baffle more rational physicians. Truly effective use of this discipline does, however, require at least a basic understanding (1 skill point) in whatever mode of treatment the user selects. A herbal healer has to have at least some knowledge of herbs, a massage therapist some knowledge of massage, and so on. The advanced version allows the user to “link” his bioenergies with those of the patient, enabling him to manipulate their life processes, share his or her vitality with them, and employ his own healing abilities on their behalf. This “sharing” of the problem both reduces it’s effects and allows the user to transfer some of the damage as fatigue, with a net result of roughly tripling the result of the users healing abilities or of whatever vitality the user decides to transfer to his patient. A broken bone might transfer as a nasty bruise / strain, poison as a miserable illness, and so on. In extreme cases, the user can even “heal” death – provided that it occurred within the last few minutes (more, if action was taken to prevent brain damage) and that the user is willing to sacrifice a portion of his own vitality to “start” the corpse’s life functions. This manifests as 1-2 points of damage that will never heal, or 2D6 points which will require a month each to do so. On a less drastic level, user’s can also induce or enter healing sleep, a trance which triples the normal recovery rate. Healing sleep may be used on normally lethal injuries, but the energy cost is enormous. Life functions are slowed and thrown into healing mode, major traumas are isolated, and blood loss is stopped, but enough of the body must be functional to sustain life given such assistance. Healing sleep will not be effective if the condition of the body is beyond hope, but can save victims who would normally be expected to die within minutes due to shock and/or blood loss. The user will subconsciously try to enter healing sleep if he or she suffers such injuries, but success is hardly guaranteed. Further improvements include extending the user’s abilities to treating psychological “problems”, an intuitive ability to determine the potential uses and liabilities of unknown drugs, herbs, medical lore, and equipment, psychically-augmented surgery, life support abilities, induced regeneration, healing spiritual injuries, biofeedback techniques – and inducing bizarre, extreme, changes in a cooperative patients physiology.

   Intuitive Piloting: Allows the user to “read” the patterns of the surrounding medium and their interaction with a vessel of whatever type he or she is skilled in piloting. The exact nature of the medium (atmospheric, gravitic, oceanic, ethereal – or even hyperspatial) is basically irrelevant. The user receives a “+5” bonus on his “effective” piloting skills. The advanced version permits the user to extrapolate from his or her immediate surroundings – providing a similar bonus when laying a course or trying to pick a route through natural hazards. Further improvements often involve getting good enough to notably speed up a trip (cutting travel time by 30% or so, depending on the navigation roll), an intuitive talent for ship engineering, enhanced skills with ship weaponry, the ability to get far more information from sensor systems then is strictly reasonable, an ability to make extremely fast (if crude) repairs to a vessel, and even the ability to predict and compensate for the effects of unusual stresses.

   Measurement: Also known as “Man is the measure of all things”, this exotic ability employs psychic means to enhance the accuracy of the user’s senses. The user can accurately measure weights or pressure by feel, distances and angles by eye, distinguish shades of color and fractions of a degree of temperature, “analyze” tastes and odors, time things to within a fraction of a second, and so on. While such remarkable accuracy can be useful in a wide variety of ways, the user must actively seek such data – and it doesn’t enhance the users senses. Being able to determine the exact frequency and volume of a sound is an invaluable asset when tuning things, but is of very little help in determining what it means or picking it out of the background noise. It’s of no help at all if said noise is too faint, or of an inaudible frequency, in the first place. Obviously enough, the precise uses of this ability depend on the user’s creativity. The advanced version extends things to the psychic level – psychic senses and the users memory. Total recall. A very useful ability – although the difficulty of using it varies with the complexity of the information and how much attention the user gave it the first time around. While this vastly accelerates the users acquisition of the “basics” of many skills, it doesn’t provide him or her with the ability to properly access, organize, and interrelate that information. Even worse, most skills require practice and experience. Still, the user will be able to acquire a basic familiarity with (Int/2) skills and an additional two general skills – given time. It may take several years to do so. Further improvements may involve a precise understanding of the structure and workings of the users body (and, by extension, others), the ability to evaluate the precise impact of assorted drugs and external influences, the ability to sense, and neutralize or ignore, external psychic influences, the ability to precisely evaluate and tap the resources of the users body, or just gaining more skill points (two for one, albeit with a probable delay of several years).

   The Loremaster variant stresses a similar precision focused on the user’s own thought processes – a finely focused concentration on logic and deduction, bringing “hunches” to the conscious level, organizing and using all available data on a subject. While this is handy, the user will still need at least a basic knowledge of the subject to work with. The net effect is to enhance any scholastic or knowledge-based skill with which the user is at least “familiar” by one skill point as long as he or she employs this discipline. The “advanced” form extends this focus to the purely physical level – the level of dance, of movement, of acrobatics, and of the martial arts, with similar effects. Sadly, it must be improved even further if the user wishes to enhance intuitive, social, or artistic skills. Other possible improvements include the ability to seek deeply enough to tap the (your?) racial mind, hyper-calculation and/or probability evaluation, empathic prediction, the inner knowledge to deal with personal psychological trouble, and intuitive psychology.

   Mindlink: Another ability drawing on an aspect of natural auric interaction (Q.V.; Intimidation), Mindlink taps and amplifies the low-grade telepathic component. The basic mode is also known as “The Gift Of Tongues”, as it allows the user to understand any form of speech directed to him from within a radius in feet equal to the user and target’s combined dexterity scores and to make his own words understood in a similar radius. Sadly, the more alien or damaged the target mind, the more limited this ability becomes. At some point the user will be reduced to communicating simple ideas or even basic emotional states. Unfortunately, this only works on directed speech – and so does not permit eavesdropping or addressing a group. Obviously enough, it also does not extend to recordings, writing, “live” transmissions, or similar media. While there are many possible improvements, Mindbonding is the most common. It allows the user to attune a portion of his personal psychic pattern to another’s, creating a permanent, if low-grade, psychic link. These links provide a “basic” awareness of each partners general location and situation and can transmit especially strong images and impressions. Short of some tremendous psychic trauma such links are irreversible, although they can be manipulated in many ways or even temporarily blocked. An unfortunate side effect is that creating such a link can lead to severe psychic disorders if the beings involved are seriously incompatible. Worse, such a mental link can be a point of severe vulnerability if one partner is captured or under mental attack. Other improvements often involve extending the effect to a radius, “tapping” the racial mind (or even, with further extension, an alien mind), gaining conscious control of bonded links, the ability to “feel” and recall mental patterns, the ability to adapt to local cultures, extended range, learning to pick up the psychic traces of meaning left on unliving media, improving the level of communications available over mindbonds, impressing psychic messages on unliving material, and the ability to produce psychic “yells” loud enough to damage or momentarily override minds.

   Missile Deflection: This handy ability allows the user to sense, and reflexively move to avoid or block, incoming attacks that would otherwise strike home. The basic level of this ability is limited to missiles, to a maximum of [(Dex+1)/3] missiles per round, and by the necessity of making a Dexterity check to succeed. Arrows and such usually require a 4D6 check, but circumstances will modify this. While most users simply deflect or dodge these attacks, some like to catch the missiles (+1D6) or use flashy powers to divert them (neat-looking, but no real effect). The advanced version bypasses neural delays thru extremely low-level psychic energy transfers within the user’s central nervous system. This vastly speeds the evasive response, allowing the user to roll one less D6 then usual when deflecting missiles – and providing a bonus of +2 to the users Defense Rating and Resistance Rating. Further improvements often involve increasing those bonuses (+2 to each per extra point, maximum +6/+6), acquiring the fractional-second precognition necessary to evade lasers and other high-speed attacks, using the neural-bypass techniques to neutralize the effects of spinal injuries and some paralytic agents, developing a “radar sense”, evading melee attacks, simply increasing the number of attacks that can be avoided – or even attempting to manipulate other peoples muscles (this rarely works against much resistance though).

   Mystic Sensitivity: This straightforward technique allows the user to detect the interaction of his / her personal energy fields with Mana – the stuff of magic. At it’s most basic, this can provide the user with the ability to sense magic’s presence, location, strength, and general nature. The advanced version allows the user to examine the structure of a pattern of mystic force, permitting him or her to examine its attunements, triggers, and other occult features. Unfortunately, determining the exact function and nature of such patterns usually requires some knowledge of the underlying theory – and works best if the user understands the specific branch of magic involved. Further improvements often involve improved precision, turning this ability into an automatic “sense”, increasing it’s sensitivity, seeing how to use your personal mana to tinker with magical constructs, and enhanced analytic abilities.

   Natural Empathy: This subtle ability permits it’s user to attune himself to the natural energy fields of the environment, thereby sensing atypical or unnatural presences, energy patterns, and forces. Thanks to the fact that such fields extend far beyond the users, the range can be considerable – although it depends a good deal on the scale of the disturbance. It also gives the user a good chance at predicting the weather, lets him “feel” the presence of various natural hazards, and the presence and general health of nearby life-forms. As might be expected, such “feelings” become increasingly vague with increasing range. It can also be extremely uncomfortable, and so is usually only developed by those with special interests in nature. The advanced version allows the user to “focus” on the life energy patterns of individuals. While this has many benevolent uses in healing, acupuncture, massage, diagnosis, and therapy, it’s often used to enhance the user’s effectiveness in combat by guiding nerve pinches, aiming blows at vital points, and so on. While such tricks usually require Dexterity checks, and often allow resistance checks, they can still be handy. Further improvements may involve extending the range, learning to analyze unnatural disturbances, learning to speak with nature spirits, remote mapping, enhanced empyrean magic, and tracking unnatural entities by the disturbances they produce.

   Persuasion: This subtle talent allows the user to directly sense how his presentation is affecting his audience – and to quietly slant his arguments, tone, accent, and choice of words to suit. While it is possible to sabotage yourself if you want, most choose to enhance their oratorical talents (+3 bonus, up to +6 with good roleplaying or a decent strategy). This skill is often known by other names – such as “psychescan”, “fortune telling”, and “fast talk”. The advanced version enhances the effect through auric feedback – allowing the user to convince people of remarkably unlikely things, lie most convincingly, and gradually, subtly, condition people. Further improvements may involve full-scale hypnosis, a radius effect, the ability to sense moods, attitudes, and lies, swiftly implanting suggestions, issuing preemptive commands, calming and moodcasting, the ability to “intuitively” come up with effective arguments, evaluating people through subtle clues, and rapid conditioning.

   Presence Sense: This ability is based on a fairly “generic” sensitivity to any form of impingement on the users aura, whether of matter or energy. Sadly, such a generalized ability provides little detail. Still, it greatly reduces the penalties for maneuvering “blind”, lets the user roll to awaken if someone approaches – and greatly enhances the user’s ability to protect himself against attacks from the rear (halving any bonuses the attacker would otherwise receive). It is, naturally enough, most effective when concentrated on – suffering a substantial penalties otherwise. The advanced version allows the user to maintain an “automatic” awareness of the general layout and contents of a (Dex) foot radius. This readily compensates for the effects of blindness or darkness within that area, and includes the location and activities of those within the area. It negates positional bonuses for attackers, and lets the user attack in any direction without penalty. Further improvements may involve the ability to “scan” through solid objects, increasing the level of detail the basic ability provides, developing a “radar” sense, automatic awakening, and “seeing” the subtle fields associated with sensor systems.

   Projected Scan: This energy-intensive skill allows the user to voluntarily expand and shape his bioenergy field, allowing the user to exercise introspective abilities at far greater then normal ranges. The “basic” form of this ability is often used in conjunction with sensory talents – although such extended scans tend to lose detail. They are also quite conspicuous, and rather vulnerable, on the psychic level. The advanced version extends the effect to “process” feedback-input through the usual sensory channels, resulting in clairsentient effects – if at a high cost in psychic energy and rather short range. Further improvements may permit the user to cloak others within his auric “bubble”, to “extend” personal defenses to affect an area, to “pool” his own vitality with others (or simply to absorb area-effects himself), fascination (and other field-intensification effects), and resisting (or overloading) vampires who attempt to drain his or her energies.

   Psychic Awareness: An extremely basic discipline, this is simply the ability to “feel” the interaction between external psychic energies and the user’s own. In may ways, this is equivalent to sight; the range at which a psi-effect can be detected is determined by the amount of energy involved, it’s subtlety, the psychic background level, intervening obstacles, attempts at concealment – and by just how attentive the user is. An effect that doesn’t “radiate” (well-shielded, passive/introspective – and/or very subtle) is usually undetectable beyond the user’s aura. Truly subtle effects are usually best studied at contact (or near-contact) range. The advanced version allows the user to “analyze” psi-energies more deeply, gaining a rough idea of their nature (IE, what they’re being used to do) and power level, a more precise idea of the activities range and direction, and possibly even the general nature and power level of their source.

   Further improvements may involve the ability to see individual psychic “signatures”, the identification of precise disciplines, reading psychic traces on objects and from areas, analyzing peoples psychic abilities or (even more subtly) their psychic potential – and using this ability to permit a kind of “psychic dodge”, improving the odds of evading incoming psychic attacks.

   Psychic Fugue: At it’s simplest, this is merely a controlled version of the usual timesense “distortion” which occurs under stress or when extremely bored. The basic effect is entirely mental; the user may “stretch” or “compress” a period of time, allowing him or her to leisurely note the details of a brief event, read a page at a glance, take time to consider options and plans during a fight (this can be especially handy if you’re mentally linked to any allies – but can also be used to get a substantial advantage in combat. Time to plan your responses can be quite invaluable. +2 on Attack Rating, Defense Rating, and Resistance Rating when so employed) – and make hours pass like minutes when bored. The improved version allows the user to take an extra unresisted action each combat round – or to convert the usual unresisted action to a resisted one. This is, sadly, subject to restrictions; neither can be an extended action (attack sequences or complex rituals), at least one must be relatively fast and simple – and the combination must be acceptable to the GM. Absurd combinations usually are not. Further improvements may involve multi-tracking, increasing the users ability to handle data overloads, improved fine control of other faculties, reducing the psychic strength cost of other disciplines somewhat through enhanced fine control (Q.V.; Ritual Channeling. At this level the user is normally able to spend the equivalent of two or three combat rounds on using other psychic disciplines – even under combat conditions), and even increasing the effect to the point where you can fit hours of thought into a few seconds. Unfortunately, this level is so divorced from physical reality that thinking is really the only application.

   Relaxation: This ability begins with superb – but not superhuman – biofeedback control, techniques which allow the user to control tension, addictive cravings, and a variety of physical functions, half the need for sleep (and regulate it’s length), hold completely still, resist apprehension and pain, and tap deep reserves of energy (Q.V.; Optional Attributes, Power). The advanced version allows the user to regain his psychic strength at twice the usual rate, substitute an hour (or so) of meditation for a nights sleep – and roughly double his or her natural healing rate. Further improvements may involve tapping into various “latent” attributes (see; Optional Attributes), delving for memories of previous incarnations, “improving” that into “channeling” them, hibernation, supernormal states of awareness (see; Advanced Meditation), gradual regeneration, transferring your entire consciousness to the astral level (This is a useful defense against many telepathic effects, lets the user function on a purely intuitive level, and has a variety of other effects. Q.V.; Astral Space), boosted vitality (+1 die per skill point), “transition” to the empyrean level upon physical death, or even karmic invocation (essentially using your contact with your own “past incarnations” to stir up things from a target’s. This can get truly strange).

   Sensitive: This most generic of psychic senses is essentially little more then the ability to “detect” a disturbance – the energy fields of magical, emotional, psionic, physical, and spiritual, forces, beings, auras, and residues. Unfortunately, the price of such a wide range is incredible vagueness. This “ability” is noted for producing “feelings”, chills, brief and obscure bits of descriptive dialogue (“Don’t open it! It hungers and it waits!”), peculiar images and sounds, and various other manifestations of data being “processed” through entirely inappropriate sensory channels. The advanced version lets the user subconsciously sense distinctive characteristics and patterns – allowing him to recognize anything he / she’s previously encountered, regardless of attempts at disguises. Interestingly, this ability extends to the users physical senses, although it does require the use of the same senses – being able to recognize a voice heard from behind a wall does not mean that you could recognize the speaker by sight. It can also be used on items and “makes” of items, allowing the user to recognize a particular swordsmiths or jewelers work. Further improvements may include tapping into the “currents” of the empyrean (permitting the user to engage in prophecy or “the-map-is-the-territory” style divination), enhanced empyrean magic, getting a better idea of what’s causing a given sensation, the power to intuitively sense how to use various devices, acting as a “cultural chameleon”, the ability to swiftly evaluate the various tensions and relationships within social situations, acting as a focusing “lens” for psi and empyrean energies, generating ectoplasm, feeding raw psychic energy into empyrean constructs, spirit-sight, and acting as a classical “medium”.

   At the basic level, the Dreaming variant simply takes advantage of the immense sensitivity of a sleeping mind, opening the user to the energies of the empyreal and astral planes – and clairvoyant, prophetic, meaningful, or otherwise helpful, dreams. While simple autosuggestion usually permits the user to dream about particular subjects, the most helpful dreams are often spontaneous. Attempting to “have another dream” about the same subject usually results in repetition, unless some major element of the situation has changed. This skill is limited by the basic nature of dreams, things tend to be heavily stylized, buried in symbols, and very disconnected. Highly sensitive users, along with those who choose to invest an extra skill point, may develop low-grade links with individuals in other dimensions and places, “living other lives” in their dreams – whether in whole or part. Users normally acquire 3D4 “regular” contacts – but others may occur pretty much at random. Perhaps fortunately, links depend on psychic affinity, although exotic stresses may result in peculiar short- term contacts. The exact effects of this are up to the GM, however “living” relevant “lives” often “supplies” small amounts of experience. Irrelevant ones are noted for bestowing equally irrelevant skills. A bronze age shaman might easily thus acquire hyperdrive mechanics, tridee gameshow hosting, automobile driving, steamship handling, cordon bleu microwave cooking, heavy blaster use and maintenance, lightfiber sculpture, flint working, squaredance calling, and fluency in old Martian. These are unlikely to do him much good. As a final benefit, if the adept ever goes dimension hopping his “regular” contacts may become real local contacts if he (or she) happens to run across them somehow. It’s worth remembering, however that such links are definitely two-way. The advanced version allows the user to employ short-range empyrean projection, walking the realms of dreams and the near empyrean. This does not allow it’s user to reach the deep empyrean, or the afterworlds, without additional improvements. Further improvements may involve extended “range”, the ability to manifest thoughtforms (QV), dream-sending and -weaving, creating psychic constructs, enhanced empyrean combat, developing pure astral projection, limited powers of empyrean magic, and empyrean “armor”.

   The Divination variant employs subconscious psychic senses to draw appropriate interpretations from, or to influence the results of, various classical divinatory methods. This allows the user to get better-then-usual results from things like tarot cards, the I-Ching, and sets of symbolic tokens – receiving helpful hints even if they normally wouldn’t work, and extra information if they do. Whatever the means, the GM should compose the augury based on his knowledge of the situation. Sadly, the classic methods of divination can be rather vague. As a rule, each practitioner has his or her own method of divination – and will have little luck with others. The advanced version is equivalent to the rogues “Minor Divination” skill, although the users limit to attempts to call on his gifts is dependent on his psychic strength rather then his perception. Further improvements often involve adding new modes of divination (allowing a bit of cross-checking), spotting true illusions, the ability to sense when you’ve just heard someone propose a really BAD idea, perceiving hidden patterns, an ability to sense the currents of the empyrean plane and make long-range prophecies, riddlemastery, hyper-alertness, a form of danger sense which reacts to hostile intent, and even a form of nymic awareness.

   Sensory Stun: This bizarre ability uses inductive neural feedback to manipulate a target’s sensory nerve endings, a technique bordering on c’hi or psychomantic techniques. It’s only possible because sensory neurons are the most sensitive and exposed cells in the entire central nervous system. In any case, the basic version of this ability simply attempts to “scramble” a single sense, overstimulating and briefly exhausting the nerves involved. Most targets will attempt to resist, and the effect is very short-term in any case, but blinding or deafening an opponent for a few moments can still be a very useful effect. The advanced version allows users to employ complex manipulations – imposing illusions and subtle sensory modifications. For example, the wielder might simply “edit himself out” of what a guard sees – and so slip past him. Further improvements may involve affecting more then one sense at a time, “borrowing” a targets senses, manifesting thoughtforms (Q.V.), causing terrific pain or pleasure, extended duration, a radius effect, allowing feedback-based “interaction” with the hallucination you’re weaving, generating a distracting “field” of random sensations – and using the sympathetic link to inflict your own sensations – and injuries, if any – on your target (An interesting defensive option, sometimes called a “death link”).

   Unpresence: At it’s simplest, this ability simply involves pulling your innate bioenergy aura tightly around you and damping it’s interaction with other energies – such as those of other living creatures. This makes the user difficult or impossible to spot with “passive” psychic senses, and negates the subliminal sense of “presence” creatures normally produce. While this doesn’t really make the user invisible, it makes him / her incredibly easy to overlook or dismiss as insignificant. Almost any distraction will suffice to let the user fade into a crowd, and any witnesses will probably forget what the user looks like. Sadly, it’s still possible for users to sabotage themselves by being over-conspicuous. This ability is helpful, but not, in itself, sufficient. It’s usually worth a “+3” bonus on appropriate skills. The advanced version allows the user to generate an overlay that simulates the feedback of some other type of creature. While this doesn’t change what the user actually looks like, it can greatly modify how people interpret it. (It’s amazing! If you don’t inspect him carefully, you would swear he was a troll!). Given a decent disguise, this can usually be counted on to cover up things like inappropriate body language and minor errors. Further improvements may involve generating a low- grade psychic shield, the (expensive) ability to briefly override people’s physical senses with the impressions you’re “broadcasting” (“Psychic Disguise”), drawing on the power of various archetypes and empyrean nexi, minor powers of invocation magic, faking death really really well, aspect assumption, generating an aversion field, allowing would-be possessors and mind-readers to think they’ve succeeded (or even entrapping them), “masking” the presence of personal mystic abilities, acting as a focus or amplifier for empyrean forces, very low-level psychic grounding, or allowing someone else to channel psychic or empyrean powers through you.

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