Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The latest purchase from my FLGS, pt.10

Traveller Book 4: Psion by Lawrence Whitaker

Since rediscovering Traveller a few weeks ago, this time in its current Mongoose edition, I have grown to appreciate the depth of the system for dealing with all sorts of different science-fiction genres. I suppose Mongoose has come to a similar conclusion as they have begun adapting several of their licenses to the Traveller system, including Babylon 5 and Judge Dredd. Obviously, incorporating such a wide variety of campaign settings demands that the core rules have to be made more flexible and nowhere is that design imperative more obvious than in the psionics rules, as described in Traveller Book 4: Psion. In the "Third Imperium", the default setting for Traveller, psionics play a prominent, but subtle role. One of the main races contending the Imperium for control of the galaxy is the Zhodani, a race of humans in which the ruling caste is made up of telepaths. Mistrust of the Zhodani leads to similar mistrust of psionically-gifted individuals within the Imperium. Therefore, those with latent psionic abilities often have a difficult time finding training and support. Even those who do have developed psychic powers often refrain from using them as many planets have laws forbidding their use. Psionics in the default Traveller setting are, therefore, generally weak and often discarded completely. On the other hand, psionics in Babylon 5 are front and center. Such powers can decide the fate of whole civilizations.

To accommodate such a wide range of psionic capabilities, the rules have been greatly expanded in two important ways, psionic strength and advanced talents. In the traditional Traveller game, psionic strength is a 2d6 roll with a -1 DM for each 4 years of adulthood spent without training. This would give a typical starting psionic character 6 or 7 psi points. Since even something as basic as reading someone's thoughts would cost 2 to 3 points, and a psionic assault would cost 8 or 9 points, we are obviously not looking at high-powered psychic abilities here. Psion introduces new levels of psionic power with examples of campaign settings where such levels would be appropriate. For example, a hard sf setting with prominent psionics, such as Babylon 5 would have a power level of basic psi + Int DM, just a slight boost (and a bit low in my estimation). A science fantasy setting such as Judge Dredd, on the other hand, would have a power level of basic psi x 2. At the very top of the scale is what is referred to as transcendent culture sf (Dune being an example). An appropriate power level for such a campaign is given as basic psi x 2.5.

Beyond the basic psionic talents of telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, awareness and teleportation, Psion introduces a bunch of advanced talents, some of which will knock your socks off. Among the most powerful of these are dimensional manipulation (i.e. interdimensional travel), ship integration (i.e. folding space), tapping (i.e. psychic vampirism) and temporal manipulation (yeah, time travel). These new advanced talents really open the door to using Traveller as the be-all-and-end-all of sf game systems. I've definitely found my system.



tayloritos said...

Looks cool, I have read through the core book and like it so far.

Rognar said...

In the past few weeks, I have picked up the core rules, the psionics book, the military vehicles book and the equipment book. These four books seem to be the most indispensible, although I would like to see a book on robotics come out soon. I have a early edition robotics book in pdf, but it doesn't really interface very well with Mongoose Traveller.

Obiri said...

I've been playing around with this tonight and while I seem to have a knack for rolling decent ability scores, I seem to always roll 1s and 2s during the advancement or survival rolls.

Its all very random. How many shots would we get to comer up with a player that we intend to play?

I'm just worried you have some sort combat scenario in mind and we all end up as drifters since we flunked out of all of the miltary paths.

Rognar said...

Don't worry about it. I'm going to have a two term moratorium on survival rolls and everyone will have automatic enlistment in one of the relevant careers. You won't necessarily have to go military, but some careers, like drifter, citizen and rogue won't be very useful or appropriate. At least one character with medical and/or scientific skills will be highly desirable.

Rognar said...

One more thing, while it may be tempting to try to get a bunch of terms in during chargen, there will be compelling campaign benefits for younger characters. If you decide to muster out after one or two terms, you may be glad you did.