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"Psychics?" Topic

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©1994-2021 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian03 Sep 2020 9:29 p.m. PST

Characters (or aliens) with psychic powers are popular in science fiction, but don't seem very popular in sci-fi miniature wargaming.

Why do you think psychic powers aren't popular in games?

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Sep 2020 3:06 a.m. PST

Many of the effects require complex hidden knowledge mechanisms that are difficult to implement and clunky to play in tabletop games where players have third person omniscient views.

Palewarrior04 Sep 2020 4:02 a.m. PST

I don't understand why, I mean it's just magic by a different name and everyone is ok with that in games ??

Rich Bliss04 Sep 2020 5:06 a.m. PST

I've noticed that most SF miniature rules are an attempt to recreate historical conflicts in a future milieu. No historical conflict contains psychic combat, so the rules tend to ignore it. GDW Striker is a notable exception with the rules for the Zhodani

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2020 6:18 a.m. PST

The premise is incorrect. If you play Star Wars, you're playing a game that includes Psychic Powers, including telepathy, telekinesis, mind reading, mind control, and precognitive abilities. They've just been labeled with a mystic name: "The Force."

altfritz04 Sep 2020 6:20 a.m. PST

As etotheipi says, hidden movement, illusions and similar are difficult to implement in a game. Not impossible, just difficult.

altfritz04 Sep 2020 6:21 a.m. PST

Actually, hasn't 40K always had psykers? And isn't that most of the market?

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Sep 2020 6:48 a.m. PST

hasn't 40K always had psykers? And isn't that most of the market?

Yes. No.

just magic by a different name and everyone is ok with that in games ??

Yes, but most magic in wargames and RPGs is actually technology.

If I can go to a table and look up the Ph, Pk, and AoE for a fireball by range and I have a separate tracker for its ammo (sorry … "manna charges"), it's not magic. It's a squad assault weapon.

To be clear, I said "many" of the effects. Not "all". Psychic combat effects that have direct representations in the kinetic space are easy. From a modeling and simulation standpoint, I really don't care whether your ability to survive a sword blow is based on a shield, skill, armour, chitinous hide, precognition, telekinesis, plasma technology, magnetism, mesmerism, or etc. etc. I have the same effect mechanism with slightly different source stats.

(From a milieu and game design standpoint, I care a great deal about those other things.)

Magic Missile = little chart
Wish Spell = 400 pages of litigation

Insomniac04 Sep 2020 7:23 a.m. PST

It just tends to grant special rules or act as a special weapon type…

It can easily fit in to any game if you want it to. The hardest thing is limiting the range of powers and working out point values.

In 40k it tended to grant special protection or alter stats… or act as a weapon or defensive shield.

Eclectic Wave04 Sep 2020 7:58 a.m. PST

Because it takes either a really good Referee or rules to make the use of the powers fair, balanced and useful.
To little, and it's useless, to much and it's too overpowering. And in either case as soon as one shows up it turns into "KILL the Mentalist!" at least, that was what my friends and I always did in games they showed up in. Same with wizards actually, now that I think about it.

Andrew Walters04 Sep 2020 9:14 a.m. PST

If psychics are really psychics, they're a strategic asset, not a tactical asset. If they're just wizards in sci fi clothes then my guess is they don't get much traction because sci fi players want pew pew, not wizards.

DyeHard04 Sep 2020 9:40 a.m. PST

It looks like it has been pretty well addressed above:

1) Lots of rules are just historics re-badged.
2) There are a few rules with Sci/Fi magic sometimes called Psychic powers.
3) to get the feel of a book or show would be complicated. Like "fog of war" (Perhaps the most critical thing in real conflicts) to cover Psychics would be very complicated, almost certainly requiring a ref or two. This is more likely to be done in a RPG than a set piece battle type game.

But that said, it does not mean that rules authors should not try. If you look at the original "Chainmail" by Gygax and Perren (1971). See: link
The Magic was a last minute add-on and very limited. But with time the subject has really expanded.

Psionics have been in the Sci/Fi mix for a long time as well. "Strike Team Alpha" by Kutick (1978) had a Psionics rules for the T'Rana.

Some rules might even be simple, but would mess with the game balance. Clairvoyance: Player can simply declare the outcome of some action. Mind control: Take over the action of the opposing sides unit.

But this just mean more work and play-testing is required.

Now, time-travel in the play of a game might be real fun!

55th Division04 Sep 2020 9:44 a.m. PST

I knew you were going to say that Bill

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2020 6:12 p.m. PST

I modestly believe that I've integrated Zhodani psionics into StarGrunt II rules with good acceptance by the players in many games.

This does remind me of the time the players forgot to use clairvoyance to check the building from which they were taking fire before they opened up with plasma guns. The spy they were trying to extract was in there, and he ended up a little on the extra-crispy side.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse04 Sep 2020 7:20 p.m. PST

It always struck me that GMs who used "psi" were just reaching. Marvel comics art, BAD Marvel comics art in game form.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART05 Sep 2020 9:47 a.m. PST

Unless you define/refine your initial concept of what 'psychic ability'entails, you are usually just re-branding combat effects. Unless it does something DIFFERENT it's just the same thing with a new label. Chrome backed up by handwavium is an old and cherished part of futuristic miniature rules. Artillery round, Meson blaster or harsh thoughts, it's still (usually) the same blast template.

Now that we got that over with, no amount of applied firepower can ever bend spoons or stop watches. There is no sensor array now, or in the near future that can guess your card with 100% accuracy or guess your late great grandmothers maiden name.

Perhaps the best use of psionic ability is to let those gifted units roll the dice for you.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2020 4:38 p.m. PST

Perhaps the best use of psionic ability is to let those gifted units roll the dice for you.

Great idea. Maybe it could be used this way: Clairvoyance can see what would be simultaneous, contested, dice rolls one roll, or even one die, at a time instead.

Your initial point is well taken: Telepathy is essentially communications. Clairvoyance enhances spotting. Teleportation is a kind of movement.

Telekinesis bends spoons -- OK, it can be used to make a unit's own weapons attack it (as in GDW's Striker). A strong telekinetic adept could pull an enemy out of cover and into an exposed position. You can get pretty creative with telekinesis, even at the relatively low power levels typically found in Traveller.

Psionic mental assaults, illusions, and forced mind-reading won't have any effect if the opposition has psionic shielding, which anyone facing a psionics-trained enemy will.

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