Continuum II: C’hi Powers, Part II

Quite a lot of things in Continuum II ran on the same general mechanic; you had a power defined by how it worked and by it’s theme. You could attempt anything within your personal limits for handling energy and the limits of whatever energy source you were drawing on that fit in with how it worked and with that theme, at a cost determined by how much power it would require and a difficulty determined by the level of fine control it required – with most basic actions being simple enough not to bother rolling for.

So you had Electrokinesis and you wanted to throw an electrical bolt? A high power cost (depending on the damage and range you wanted), but a really easy control check – so easy in fact that you normally didn’t need to roll that control check because success would be automatic. You wanted to override the circuits of an electronic lock to open a door? Not much power required, but you’d want a lot of fine control – so a difficult roll (made much easier if you had some applicable special senses so you weren’t fumbling around blind). You wanted to reach into a computer you’re touching and directly enter some false data? Almost no power – but a virtually impossible check unless you had supplementary powers like “computer emulation” to make it more reasonable, and probably tricky even then.

Psychic Powers fueled by your personal energies (C’hi powers if they normally operated inside your own energy-aura, and so had direct control feedback and a big break on control checks, Psychomancy if they projected energy beyond that range and so gave smaller bonuses) gave bonuses to control, but had much lower upper power limits because your body only had so much energy available. Powers fueled by available external sources of energy (minor psionics) had no modifiers. Powers fueled by remote, but almost unlimited, cosmic energy sources (major psionics) could accomplish incredible things – but required a low transfer impedance to avoid frying the user’s brain with the waste energies and made fine control extremely difficult. Not too surprisingly, characters who opted to focus on stealth, manipulation, and otherwise being subtle tended to go for personal-energy based powers, those who wanted to balance power and control went for minor psionics, and those wishing to deal in vast amounts of raw power went for major psionics. They could all be equally effective in combat of course; using personal energies to pinch someone’s aorta shut worked just as well as using cosmic power sources to crush them with a mountain.

With psychic powers you could improve your control with rituals, tools, and time, and/or improve your raw power with boosters, foci, and channels. If you wished to extend the theme, or make a power cheaper to use, or improve your fine control, or vary it in a lot of other ways, you invested more skill points in it. That had an upper limit of seven in total, but let you personalize and improve your favorite powers and uses thereof.

Overall, I’ve always preferred this general approach; it means that there’s a lot of ways for a thoughtful player to solve problems and manipulate their character’s powers to meet particular challenges.

And to stop musing and get back to the C’hi power descriptions from lo, those many years past…

C’hi Techniques

C’hi Infusion: This technique allows the user to transfer psychic energy (or vitality) to someone else, usually on a temporary basis. The user simply attunes his bioenergy field to the recipients and channels his or her energy into them. While this sounds simple, the actual technique is fairly complex, and merely setting up the link requires a certain amount of energy. Fortunately, physical contact usually makes it easier. The advanced version lets the user “guide” the recipient’s internal energy flows, making it far easier (and much safer for the student) to teach c’hi disciplines – and even allows a teacher to temporarily imbue his target with some of his own techniques, catalyze a shapechange, or help them heal wounds. Interestingly, this also allows a “teacher” to study his “students” techniques. Further improvements generally revolve around deeper transfers (EG – skills, knowledges, and languages), fast teaching, fast learning, and amplifying the recipients power. As a rule, transfers are temporary. A permanent transfer leaves the donors power permanently decreased, and can lead to problems like those noted under in C’hi Drain, although the voluntary nature of this transfer reduces them somewhat. While it’s possible to manage permanent transfers without the donor actually dying, unless the donor and the recipient share a great mental affinity, the mental link it creates can easily lead to madness.

Compensation: This ability is most useful to characters with a major permanent impairment, but can be handy to anyone who suffers an from a permanent or temporary handicap. Users simply force their (unimpaired) aura to replace the function of the damaged organ. This ranges from managing with a sore foot up to compensating for total blindness or even a missing limb or organ. Such “compensation” is effective – if often odd – offering minor advantages and disadvantages over the original ability since this is a psychic effect with limited range. A blind man could use this skill to “see” – but might find that, while his visual range is limited, many illusions do not register at all. A phantom limb would have no trouble picking up something hot or picking something out of acid, but might be shocked by something carrying a strong psychic charge. The advanced version acts as a form of empyrean projection with a limited range; the user may explore the psychic aspects of the material world(s), but cannot reach the deeper levels of dream, the various afterlives, or the conceptual realms. Further improvements include things like boosted physical functions, doppelganger effects, the ability to make an easy transition to the empyrean level upon physical death, or even the ability to make such transitions at will (going is easy, rebuilding your physical body when you want it back is a lot harder).

Dim Mak: This technique uses a focused burst of energy to disrupt the target’s life processes, usually on the neurological level. Obviously enough, there are many possible variations. The best-known effect is, naturally enough, the infamous “Death Touch” – causing severe, immediate, damage, pain, shock – and/or neural disruption. More specific variants include “draining” various attributes, stunning or paralytic effects, the “laughing death” (IE; causing uncontrollable spasms in one form or another), and simply inflicting incredible pain. Advanced versions of such skills allow the user to inflict either greater or delayed injuries, causing a subtle, cumulative, disruption, which may eventually kill or cripple the victim. Such subtle effects can go unnoticed for some time – possibly becoming extremely serious in the interval. Further improvements usually involve making such “injuries” more difficult to heal, expanding the number of variations available, or using the technique to disrupt the use of other powers.

Dragon C’hi: This technique allows the user to tap other energy sources to rebuild his personal psychic reserves. Such sources may be magical or physical in nature, but each separate source requires an individual variation or improvement on this skill. Common sources include personal magical powers, symbiotic spirits, great heat or cold, lightning, and so on. These sources must be internal to, or directly in contact with, the user for this talent to operate. The advanced version allows users to draw on fields in the immediate vicinity, such as the electrical power being released by a storm. Note that, while “bio-energy” is a popular choice, the user can only tap excess energies, he cannot forcibly take it. The “third level” of this ability is often used to power C’hi skills directly, greatly reducing their cost. While this may effectively supply several points of C’hi per round, self-recharging is a far more delicate process – and cannot be accomplished at this rate from external sources. There is, however, no fixed limit on recharging through the conversion of exotic personal energies. Further improvements usually involve extending the efficiency or range, learning to tap additional energy forms, or building up “pools” of extra energy, either psychic, or in the original from.

Eagles Claw: This handy technique exploits the natural tendency for creatures to focus on their manipulative organs. Focusing the bodies energy there enables the user to grip with superhuman strength. This makes it extremely difficult to dislodge the users hold, disarm him or her, and so on. It also lets the user to grip even the tiniest surface irregularities, allowing him or her to readily cling to almost any surface. Those already skilled in climbing will find that they can easily cross ceilings and similar obstacles. The advanced version enhances and extends this power, allowing the user to crush stones, bones, and so on, with his grip. While much too powerful to be used in ordinary climbs, it can be used to scoop out or break off pieces of the surface, so that others can easily follow. Obviously enough, such strength has an immense variety of other uses. Further improvements often involve imbuing the hands with incredible toughness, extending power through the arms and shoulders, or enhancing precision and speed to inhuman levels.

Energy Absorption: This technique allows the user to act as a “capacitor” for some form of energy, using his or her body to absorb and store it. The basic form is essentially defensive; the energy is first absorbed and then gradually dissipated into the surrounding area. The advanced form allows the user to control that discharge, storing and directing it. Unfortunately, this has a far lower upper limit then simply dissipating an overload. (Storage limits are usually Endurance – 6 “levels” of magic, Endurance “points” worth of physical energies, and Endurance + 6 points of psychic energy). Further improvements usually involve increasing that limit, storing complex energy patterns (Spells and such) – or imposing a simple pattern on the usual raw energy discharge (for example, creating laser beams instead of simple solar discharges).

Evasion: This technique allows the user to shift his molecules from point-to-point within his bio-energy field at near-sonic speeds – an effect which gives the appearance of near-instantaneous movement. While this is most commonly used to evade attacks, it can also be used to get into position to attack, reach cover, duck out of sight, cross crevices, and so on. Unfortunately, any substantial intervening barrier will block the use of the basic form. The advanced version, or “Vanishing Technique”, allows the user to rearrange his molecular structure in transit, allowing him to penetrate simple barriers, vanish without a “strobe effect”, and escape from bonds. It does not allow him to retain an altered molecular structure at the “end of the trip”.

The most common variant form is “Face Dancing”, the ability to reshuffle your personal molecules while remaining in place. The basic form of this ability allows the user to modify his or her; features, coloration, apparent (but not actual) mass, and general body type, within the limits of the basic humanoid (or whatever) form. While this usually includes the users clothing and gear, large amounts of inorganic material may require enough extra energy to be impractical. The advanced version permits a full shapechange to a non-humanoid form, giving the user access to any innate, physical, powers which that form possesses. Sadly, due to the great complexity of this feat, each such form must be acquired separately.

Further improvements commonly revolve around things like repairing damage, adding new or improved physical systems to the users body, combining features from two or more forms (“Wereforms”), or simply acquiring extra forms.

Focused Mastery: This ability permits the user to focus his psi-energies on enhancing his use of various skills or small groups of skills, although the broader the group chosen, the smaller the bonus. At the basic level, the user may select three such skills or groups of skills to enhance – although his (or her) selection is restricted to basically physically-oriented skills. Typical selections include various athletic, combat, and stealth skills, although others are possible. Typical bonuses range from +1 to +5, depending on the breadth, relevance, and importance, of the skills selected. The advanced version provides an extra “+1” on the bonus and allows the selection of two additional areas to boost, either or both of which may be mentally-oriented. Any further improvements generally involve adding an extra area and/or increasing the bonus – to a maximum of +6. Variants which boost the users effective level of mastery of a skill exist, but can get tricky. Pushing the limits of your mastery of dance is unlikely to result in more than stiff muscles or perhaps a strain. Pushing your mastery of – say – shapeshifting presents considerably greater hazards.

Focusing: This handy technique is used to channel the users full effort into a precise moment – commonly the moment of impact when hitting something, but other applications exist. Used in combat, the basic version allows the user to inflict maximum damage with a blow. The advanced version is more flexible. Used passively, it increases the users Damage Bonus by his (Level/2). In active use it takes an extra three phases to invoke, and can be used to either inflict structural damage or to combine a round’s attacks or efforts as a single action. Such combined actions are made with a +3 bonus and have the combined effect of all the actions they replace. While both options can be employed, that requires five extra phases instead of three. Further improvements usually involve the using focusing in combination with special abilities or reducing the preparation time.

Hastening: This technique uses psychic energies to accelerate the user’s metabolism and reflexes – allowing him to select any two enhancements from the list given below. No single enhancement may be selected more then once at the first level. Each additional level allows the user to select two more enhancements – although no one enhancement may be selected more then three times. Selections are permanent once made. The possibilities include Attacks (+1), Initiative (-2), Movement (+8″), Actions (+1. Incidental, unresisted actions only. This means things like getting something out, tying a knot, and so on. Not movement or attack actions, although this does let the character get lots of work done quickly), Resistance to “Slow” Effects (Permits the character to compensate for the effects of efforts to slow him down through magic and psionics, although each effect must be countered separately), Ghosting (a tactic that employs bewilderingly rapid movement to produce an illusion of multiple images – making it difficult to determine the users exact position and angle of attack. This grants the user a “+2” to his Defense Rating and Resistance Rating against individually-targeted attacks and a “+1” on his Attack Raring, provided that the foe has no method of countering the effect), and whatever else the GM and player can come up with.

Hypersenses: This useful technique increases both the users sensory acuity and range. The basic effect is a simple “+3” bonus on the users perception rolls. The advanced version is applied to a particular sense, and permits both active and passive enhancement. The passive version generally provides a “+5” bonus on appropriate perception rolls and an extended sensory range, allowing the user to see slightly into the ultraviolet and infrared ranges, feel electrical and radiation fields, hear sub- and supersonic frequencies, taste normally tasteless substances, or smell weird things, as appropriate to the chosen sense. Active enhancement allows things like telescopic vision, master-class safe-cracking, and a variety of other tricks depending on the sense. Any further improvements usually mean simply extending the active version to additional senses.

Iron Fist: This skill allows the user to channel a burst of psychic energy through whichever limb he uses to attack with. While the basic effect gives the users unarmed blows Attack Rating and Damage Bonus bonuses of +(Level/3), generates a blinding psychic “flare”, and allows the users blows to affect creatures normally resistant to such attack, it’s primary purpose is to learn to generate and channel that burst of energy. The advanced version allows the user to focus that burst into a concentrated pulse, an effect which can be used to cause tremendous damage to inanimate targets or quite a lot to living beings. The pulse can also be focused into another ability, vastly increasing it’s effects. Further improvements usually involve using the pulse to overload psychic blockages, focusing it into specific abilities, or converting the pulse into other forms of energy. A chi pulse usually multiplies the effectiveness of whatever technique it’s fed into by the same factor as it multiplies the points expended in using it. This is usually limited to around three times the normal level of effect. Going beyond that risks psychic burnout.

Iron Flesh: Is a basic toughening technique which allows the user to resist injury through inner control and conditioning exercises. It can be used both actively and passively. The passive version slightly enhances the users Defense Rating and Toughness (+2 each). Actively, it can be used to attempt to “moderate” an attack – reducing the damage by 50% with a successful Endurance roll. The advanced version channels psychic energies into the outer level of the users aura, generating a protective force field known as protective air or “golden armor”. Passively, this technique is simply a more effective (+3) version of Iron Flesh. Actively, it’s a visible glowing aura, offers increased (+5) protection, and extends somewhat beyond the surface of the body. Further improvements may offer increased defenses, allow the user to extend his protection to someone or something he or she is holding, or enhance the users ability to resist specific forms of attack.

Kinetic Aura: Allows the user to impose a simple kinetic vector field on his bio-energy aura, generating any of a variety of effects, ranging from just pushing everyone away, to cyclones and wedges of pure force. The effect can be tuned to living things, unliving things, or (weakly) to both, but this must be decided when the ability is acquired. The advanced version will either greatly increase the strength of the effect – or allow the user to “re-tune” it at will. While not usually the best form of attack against an individual, this talent is especially useful against barrages of missiles and/ or large numbers of attackers. One popular trick is to raise a sphere of whirling junk as shield, weapon, and source for a barrage of missiles. Further improvements usually involve strengthening the effect, more complex fields, selectivity, maintaining an air bubble / force field, or simply throwing things around skillfully.

Latent Energy: Put simply, this is the art of the delayed effect. While only of value when combined with some other C’hi ability, the user may delay the effect of that ability for anything from seconds to a week or so. Greater delays are possible, but the latent energy is increasingly likely to dissipate in the interim. As a rule, latent energies can be detected by any form of psychic scan, although more subtle effects can be hard to analyze. The advanced version of this skill allows the user to trigger (or dissipate) the “latent” effect remotely, at ranges of up to (Per) miles. One popular trick is to “pay” for several attacks, set to “go off” sequentially, effectively making the attack continuous over several rounds. While expensive, this still only counts as one action – and the cost of this skill need only be paid once. Further improvements often involve selective effects, various “automatic” triggers, and the ability to “store” raw psychic energies.

Light Foot: This dramatic ability allows the user to “brace” his personal energy field against another – given a clear boundary to focus on. This allows him to “touch” the field and any associated substance without actual contact. It can thus be used to move over water or cross mud without leaving tracks, to walk on a thin wire, or even to stand on intangible energy fields and illusions. Other applications include handling objects without actually touching them and striking immaterial beings. The “advanced” version dispenses with the need for a visible boundary, permitting the user to “walk on air” or float around. Further improvements usually involve speeding up (often in combination with other techniques), a form of “immovability”, or simply making “steadying yourself” a reflexive act.

Metabolic Control: This complex talent allows the user to manipulate his or her own biochemistry and metabolism. While this helps the user stay comfortable in hot or cold weather, most users are more interested in the “+3” bonus against toxins and disease and in the way it similarly increases the users healing rate and the effects of occult healing effects (also by +3). Other uses include; enhancing your stamina, compensating for a poor or minimal diet, going into hibernation, and so on. The advanced version allows the user to create new enzymes and take such metabolic tinkering to an extreme, permitting him or her to counteract most toxins, digest cellulose, drastically slow the aging process, go into suspended animation, stay comfortable in extremely hot or cold weather, resist metabolism-altering effects, and further enhance their healing processes (+5 instead of +3). If appropriate complementary techniques are used to avoid destroying yourself, metabolic control can be used to generate tremendous internal heat or cold. Further improvements may involve adapting to outre’ environments (breathing water or toxic gases, extremes of temperature), easing the necessary rolls, generating peculiar biochemicals, form changing (basically a total physical redesign. This can be very tricky), and genetic shifting (do-it-yourself designer genes or even changing species). Some of these tricks take a lot of time, or power, or both, but the real limiting factor is usually knowledge and control.

The Bio-enhancement variant involves tinkering with your bodies structure and natural chemical balances in an attempt to improve things. Unfortunately, the body is a complex interactive mechanism – and improving one thing usually means paying a price elsewhere, if only in the form of overload-stress. However odd it seems, artificial physical augmentations fall under the rules for Cyber/Bio-ware, regardless of how they’re induced. Such augmentations are innate once “installed”, and so do not require even the passive use of this skill to sustain. While c’hi-based “cyberware” is easy to “purchase” and “install”, both the selection, and the number of cyberware points available, are sharply limited. Selection is primarily limited by what the GM can be talked into allowing. The “point value” is limited to three times the users level of Bioenhancement skill. The Pheromones variant allows a subtle manipulation of the users body chemistry, generating chemicals which subtly influence the attitudes, reactions, and moods, of those around the user. The effect is sharply variable, depending on the local conditions and the users actions. Pheromones tend to augment the users social talents, not replace them.

Mystic Channeling: This technique taps the user’s personal mana, allowing him to wield a small selection of cantrip-level magics. The “basic” effect allows the user to acquire a selection of (Intellect/3) cantrips. (This may be modified by skills and techniques such as Eidetic Memory). Unfortunately, wielding them drains both the users personal mana and psychic strength. The advanced version expands this list to (Int) cantrips and allows the user to counteract cantrips. Further improvements might include various mystic “senses”, access to small (Int/3) lists of higher-order spells (Up to level 3 at the most), and improved countermagics. All of this is, unfortunately, limited by the fact that personal mana tends to be an extremely limited resource itself. Note that Mystic Channeling DOES NOT permit faerie, demons, and gods, to channel their dynamic mana flow / Might into magical effects. Linking together their chi and might that way is an extra two-point Talent (Major Ramifications on the C’hi powers), and has the potential to completely unbalance the game. Combined with a good memory, it would allow them to work extremely powerful magics. Combined with Dragon C’hi, it would allow them to do so almost endlessly. GM caution is advised.

Parting Waters: This technique generates a “wedge of force”, a field within the user’s aura which causes a violent repulsion between objects. Perhaps the most spectacular use is to literally “part the waters”, but parting things like flights of arrows is somewhat more practical. It’s also a great way to get through crowds and brush. The advanced version enhances this effect to the point where it can disrupt, and tear apart, solid stone. While a handy escape technique, this is hard to beat when you’re looking for a dramatic way to express yourself or if you’re annoyed with a door. Further improvements normally involve things like generating a spherical shockwave, faster burrowing, using the field to hurl things away, erecting a force-field sphere, or focusing the disruption-field to do fine work with it.

Polarity Shield: This technique requires that the user have a recognizable “polarity” – a personal theme or style. Given that, the character may then choose to be highly resistant to that style or to it’s opposite. Thus a “Master Of The Glacial Wind” might be resistant to either extremes of cold or to fire and heat. Such resistance extends to various levels, hence a “Servant Of The Light Incarnate” might be resistant to darkness in all it’s various forms – magical, psychic, negative emotions, and so on. The more general the effect which the shield protects against, the weaker the resistance it grants is. The advanced version can either be used to protect a modest radius or as a more potent version of the basic shield. Thanks to the immense variety of possible “polarities”, the mechanics of any particular case must be worked out in consultation with the GM. A fixed percentage, a reduction by the users level, or a bonus to resistance rolls, are among the simpler ways. Any further improvements must be negotiated.

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