Back in the old days of D&D, first edition psionics was an oddly tacked on subsystem that tended to blaze like a meteor; if you rolled well, there was a very small chance that you would abruptly gain mighty psychic powers and utterly dominate the game – up until the point where the game master looked at the rules, threw in a few psychic opponents, and (as the rules told him to do) stopped everything else until the “lightning-fast” psionic combat was over.
Which effectively meant that it was your character, and your unaided brain, against all those psychic opponents with no chance for anyone else to intervene. As they say, “Head `splodee!”.
That could actually be kind of fun, both for the player and the game master. The player got to have a big taste of power and the game master got to dramatically portray the price of wild power – but psionics were generally a brief diversion before you got back to the normal game. There were a few attempts to make actual psionic classes, but they rarely worked out well.
Second edition made psionics a very different system. A starting psionic character might well have access to one or two quite powerful effects – in fact, sometimes to effects that were about as powerful as his or her abilities would ever be. But he or she didn’t have many of them, they were pretty unreliable, and you couldn’t even try to use them very often. That was a very unusual kind of power curve; a psionic started out with the ability to occasionally pull off a game-changing stunt – and eventually turned into a solid support character. There’s an Eclipse build or two under the psychic examples for making characters who use second-edition styled psionics, but they are, as the second edition psionicist was, a fairly radical break from the way things usually go.
That did bring up a question though. What did psionicists do? Trying to start with self-teleportation or some such pretty obviously a good way to kill yourself.
The following selection of “Basic Exercises” answers that question. The psionic equvilent of “Cantrips” or “Orisons”, “Basic Exercises” are generally abandoned in favor of the heady potencies of genuine devotions and sciences as soon as a psionicist masters the use of any particular discipline, but a few psionicists put their practice techniques to use.
If the GM is willing, psionicist characters may take one of the following “powers” (Or some similar ability) per discipline to which they have access. They get two in their primary discipline(s), and may develop more at a cost of 2 CP apiece. All “Basic Exercises” have MAC’s of 10, negligible costs (Possibly 1-2 PSP per trick, or hour, for special stunts or extreme situations), and no prerequisite save access to the appropriate discipline, or being within two levels of gaining such access.
- Cardreading (Clairsentience) : This is the annoying ability to “read” straight through a moderate thickness of paper, parchment, or cardboard. While often used to cheat at cards (obviously enough), it can also be used to read people’s mail without opening it, and so on.
- Handyman (Clairsentience) : Most of the people “out there” share a firm belief that quite a few devices can be gotten to work if you can simply find the right spot to bang on them. Characters with this talent know where it is – and may make a dexterity check to bang appropriately on any device the GM is willing to let him or her get away with operating this way.
- Psychic Filing (Clairsentience) : This handy talent permits the user to unerringly locate familiar items in the immediate area. The user will never misplace his or her glasses, book, keys, or spell components. He or she can reach into a massive bag of junk an unerringly pull out whatever it is he or she wants – rather then having to sort through the entire pile.
- Visions (Clairsentience) : This exotic talent grants – or curses it’s user with – sporadic and unpredictable “visions”; full-sensory glimpses across space and time. Such visions always seem to be both relevant, and somehow “linked” with the psionicist. Once a vision has been “seen”, the psionicist can “replay it” at will, and may be able to summon associated visions. Oddly, “visions” often seem to lead to interesting adventures.
- Alter Hair (Psychometabolism) : This pointless power allows it’s user to modify his or her body hair, pretty much at will. Length, color, thickness, and style are all manipulable, ranging from “Bald” to “Bigfoot”.
- Control Fertility (Psychometabolism) : This ability allows the user to either enhance his or her chances of becoming a parent, or to (temporarily) eliminate them.
- Party Animal (Psychometabolism) : Any character with this talent has a fabulous capacity for self-indulgence without ill effects. They can drink enormously and never get hangovers, eat vast quantities of rich food without risk of indigestion (or fat), smoke like chimneys, take various recreational drugs – and engage in endless sexual activities – without physical problems. Social problems are another matter altogether.
- Pleasure Sharing (Psychometabolism) : This pleasant talent allows two or more individuals within about five feet to share pleasurable feelings as the user wills. This has few “practical” uses, but is a lot of fun.
- Dicethrowing (Psychokinesis) : This “classic” power permits the user to manipulate dice, roulette wheels, and similar implements. Of course, doing this too often is a good way to get your throat cut.
- Polytonal Whistling (Psychokinesis) : This throughly entertaining talent allows the user to whistle (and, with practice, sing) several different notes at one time, an effect much like that produced by multiple pipes. This is definitely a novelty, if nothing else.
- Touchfire (Psychokinesis) : This handy ability lets the user pyrokinetically generate a small flame – about equal to that of a match – with a range of around three inches. He or she can throw away his or her tinderbox, matches, and cigarette lighters.
- Vaudeville (Psychokinesis) : This power enhances the user’s skill at “slight-of-hand” (And, for that matter, at picking pockets) with tiny telekinetic “nudges”. The net result is a +3/15% bonus on performing any relevant silly tricks, building houses of cards, running the old “peas-and-shells” game, ventriloquism acts, and similar sideshow techniques.
- Cardsharping (Psychoportion) : This ability permits it’s user to “teleport” very small, very light, objects he or she happens to be in contact with an inch or so – provided that it has someplace to go. Objects cannot be embedded in other objects with this power. On the other hand, it’s an ideal way to slip poison through a goblet into the wine, to stack a deck while dealing it – or to get a ring off someone’s finger while holding hands.
- Split Second (Psychoportion) : While this “ability” spans space and time, it does it only for that most intangible of objects – the mind. Most people master this to a limited extent; they experience intense flashes of memory, moments of deja vu – and occasional instants that somehow stretch into long, echoing, seconds. While no real use has been found for those momentary shifts into the future which produce deja vu (except for nihilists, who’ll always have a justification for bored yawning, and for situations so silly that most people lose the round to shock), flashbacks can be amusing – or even useful if the GM happens to like offering “Kung Fu”-style advice – and giving yourself an extra minute to study something, or to consider a rushed and critical decision, does not hurt a thing.
- Trademark (Psychoportion) : This talent essentially creates a tiny pocket dimension closely associated with the user. This may either contain an indefinitely large supply of some small personal “necessity” (E.G.; a chain- smoker who ALWAYS seems to have another pack about), or a specific item that always shows up again (E.G., a “pet” dagger you always clean your nails with). Sadly, there has to be at least a brief period between “withdrawals” – thus any attempt to exploit this by throwing the same knife fifty times in a row, or going into the cigarette business, is doomed to failure. Many user’s never even realize that they HAVE such an ability.
- Mediumism (Psychoportion) : This skill opens up the weakest possible kind of gateway; a portal allowing the passage of a certain amount of psychic power and no more. This can be used to cast thoughts “into the beyond” (E.G. – towards the outer planes) – or to allow anything that chooses to respond to this (Slightly amplified) form of “prayer” to respond (If only via an ectoplasmic vision, telekinetic rapping, or some such). Attempting to reach powerful beings is generally a waste of time (There are always LOTS of people trying to reach them), but trying to get a response from minor spirits (Such as most dead people) with an interest in something is usually a good deal more productive.
- Cold Reader (Telepathy) : This sideshow talent lets it’s user combine reading “leaked” thoughts with shrewd deduction – and often a bit of showmanship – to provide remarkably accurate evaluations of passers-by. Details which are normally available include their apparent age (and whether or not it conforms to their manner), a rough idea of their social station, height, weight, a decent- to-excellent chance at guessing their exact profession, some odd bits about their families and current worries, and all the rest of the stuff that goes into convincing a mark that you’re marvelously clairvoyant. While this is considerably less effective when used against people skilled in disguise, or who are otherwise attempting to conceal their identities, that fact alone can be rather revealing to a clever fortune-teller.
- Detect Infestation (Telepathy) : This (semi-)useful talent allows the user to detect the presence of swarms of things – Rats. Bees. Termites. Head lice. With a bit of concentration, the user can even trace such “swarms” back to their lair (If he or she is fool enough to want to do so). While this is occasionally a useful warning, it’s probably most handy when you’re buying property.
- Gossipmonger (Telepathy) : This “marvelous” ability gives it’s “user” a direct line into the rumormill. The power to always have the juiciest bits of gossip on tap. In essence, it it allows him or her to pick up “leaked” thoughts – the things people tend to think about – want kept quiet – and know that the servants and such may find out at any time. Affairs. Illegitimate children. Lost/ stolen items. Heirs lechery and gambling debts.
- Meaningful Glances (Telepathy) : This exotic talent permits the user to get a brief (A few phrases) message across to a nearby (Up to around 30 feet) target with a simple glance or gesture. While this is faster and more private then simply speaking, it does require that your target look at you.
While there are many, many, many, other “exercises” – any psionicist may have his or her own unique set – the list given above should suffice to establish a starting point.
- Spell Research – Changing Spell Types (ruscumag.wordpress.com)