Psionics are a form of supernatural power manifested purely by mental discipline. Sometimes the term Psion can also refer to a person with the power, i.e. “She is a psion”. “He has psionic abilities.” Sometimes other terms used for psionic people are “psychic” or “clairvoyant” though these only apply to a specific type of psion. Not everyone with the ability practices the same way, and there are three common sub-categorizations of the ability. Psionic powers can often be abused and misused in roleplay, and this guide is to help you shape your roleplay in such a way that it adds to the storyline without overstepping your bounds in terms of power-gaming or meta-gaming.
While there are a number of different psionic abilities, the three most common and widely accepted ones are Clairvoyance, Telekinesis, and Telepathy.
I would recommend sticking to only one of these abilities, as they are the most widely understood and the easiest to work with in free-form roleplay.
- Clairvoyance is a precognitive ability. Those that practice may also be known as Oracles, Seers, and Physics — [Not to be confused with future-predicting divination, such as runes and tarot cards], psions who have clairvoyance can have a wide variation in what they see and experience in the mind. Some can only see the past, others can only see glimpses of the present [a.k.a remote viewing], and some can only view the future. Few are able to see all three. Additionally, clairvoyant psions often require an intense amount of concentration, meditation, and energy to view their glimpses. They also most often require the use of a target item with an impression of spiritual energy, such as a cherished souvenir, a lock of hair, or holding the hand of an involved party.
- Telekinesis, also referred to as psychokinesis, is defined as the ability to remotely manipulate matter, even one’s own matter, through mental power alone. A psion who specializes in psychokinesis is known as a kineticist. Many of these powers produce spectacular effects such as a moving, melting, transforming, or blasting a target. Psychokinetic powers can potentially deal large amounts of damage, but at the expense of the wielder. It is not unheard of for a kineticist to black out after a large manipulation. Telekinesis is a blanket term for a number of different cognitively-manifested kinetic effects, including self-healing/regeneration, shapeshifting, moving and changing matter, manipulating photons, and teleportation. Telekinesis requires an enormous amount of mental concentration to produce effects. Telekinesis should not be confused with the schools of magic known as conjuration and transmutation.
- Telepathy, a form of extrasensory perception, is the induction of mental states from one mind to another between individuals that are shielded from their traditional senses by distance, time, or physical barriers. A psion who is telepathic is called a telepath. Telepathic abilities manifest in a number of different ways, but the main ones are emotive telepathy, intuitive telepathy, and super-conscious telepathy. Emotive Telepathy is the sharing of emotions from one mind to another. Intuitive Telepathy is the real-time transfer of information [thoughts or images] from one mind to another. Super-Conscious Telepathy, the least common, is the tapping into the consciousness or collective wisdom of a body of people or communal living entities. Often associated with telepathy is empathy, the perception of emotions, moods, and mental mind-states of those around them, often without the others’ realization. Often, an empath is unable to control this sensitivity to others mental-mindstate, and so, whilst a telepath is often also an empath, an empath is not always capable of telepathy as a developed skill, and can become distressed or find that their own emotions are affected by those around them.
Developing Psionic Abilities
Psionic abilities are usually inherited talents, often shared between those of the same blood. A parent may pass on the psychic gift to their child, twins will often share the gift of telepathy, and so on. Psionic abilities are more commonly attributed to females, though it is unknown whether the trend is actual or perceived due to cultural gender differences. Psionic abilities are also found in magical or immortal creatures such as elves and fae. Vampires are also capable of telepathy, if such a gift is embraced, and is most often used to prey upon potential victims through mental manipulation. Psionic abilities, like any inherent talent, require constant dedicated practice to hone and sharpen them. One who has a life-long devotion to honing their clairvoyant talents will be far more accurate and skilled than one who hasn’t. Consider which age your character discovered his or her ability, what level of skill they have reached, how much training they still intend to do and whether they have a mental guide, or spiritual group to apprentice them — and let that guide your roleplay.
Roleplaying Psionic Abilities Realistically
It is of critical importance when roleplaying a psionic character that the abilities be expressed in the most realistic manner possible. It is when players get bombastic and overpowered that things start to go incredibly wrong with psionic roleplay scenarios, and players cry foul.
Consider your character’s level of ability. The level of ability will often determine the power and accuracy of psionic ability. One who is young, or has newly discovered their ability, will be significantly less powerful or accurate than one who has practiced for decades. Novice psions might struggle, lack the power or energy to pull off the ability fully, may only get partial, hazy, or inaccurate representations of images or thoughts, or may lack the sheer focus needed to perform their desired action.
Avoid mixing psionics with magical casting. Though similar in some constructs, the power of the mind comes with its own set of approaches, learning, and application, and only in very limited situations are the two successfully aligned. Rare, ritualistic, or experimentation circumstances may allow for use of combined approaches, however, when in stressful situations, surrounded by distraction, and particularly when involved in conflict, it is simply too taxing upon the caster to attempt multiple spells or concentrations simultaneously.
- Consider your surroundings – A character who is surrounded by chaos, violence, noise, and activity may not be able to successfully harness their psionic abilities. A telepath in a busy tavern with twenty loudly gossiping people will more often than not struggle to read an individual’s mind, or struggle to find concentration to send thoughts elsewhere. A psychic who needs their concentration and quiet time will have a very tough time if distracted in battle or a large, noisy carnival. Always take into account the surroundings and how they will affect your character’s performance.
- Consider the preparation – With many psionic abilities, a certain level of preparation [read:posting] is required to adequately pull off the ability. This may include meditation, induced intoxication [mushrooms], long periods of silence, connecting with a person/place/thing by touching a momento or item charged with energy or memories, and even going into a trance-like state. Nearly all psionics require some level of this, which should always be included in your roleplay to allow others the potential to disrupt the action. Don’t forget certain other factors can disrupt your preparation too, such as being in pain.
- Consider your fellow roleplayer. – This is the most important part of any roleplayed psionic ability. A player should get consent of all parties involved before attempting their ability. To fail to do so can result in OOC conflict. For instance, if your character is going to be reading another character’s thoughts or sending them mental images, please get consent first. Additionally, with psionic abilities like telepathy where another individual is involved, it is up to them to determine their character’s reaction. Some characters will also possess the psionic ability to bloc mind reading, and it is within a player’s right to exercise this. Still yet, if your character is sending mental images to a character, that player should also consider how the images are received. If the receiving character is dreaming, or being attacked, results may vary drastically.
- Consider the statistics of failure – Nothing is perfect, and rarely do things go off without a hitch, especially in stressful or extreme situations. In your roleplay, you should never be a hundred percent accurate with psionic abilities. This will make for smoother roleplay with less complaints if you take the extra step to ensure that your psion’s accuracy is realistic, not perfect. As a clairvoyant, your character may get emotions or images — however they might be cryptic, fuzzy, incomplete or without context. As a telepath, your characters mental images and thoughts can often fail to connect to another mind, or might send cryptic or incomplete thoughts. As a kineticist, your character might drop the thing they are trying to manipulate or fail altogether if they are perhaps drained of energy. If you want to go the extra mile, break out the official hundred side dice and perform a roll for accuracy. You can determine something like eighty-a hundred is critical success, fifty to seventy-nine is a partial success and one to twenty is a critical failure, so on.
The Pitfalls of Psionics
Wielding such great power does not come without a price. There are drawbacks to every great power, and the same is true for Psionics.
Clairvoyants are often hit with fatigue, mental exhaustion, and weakness after harnessing and expressing their abilities. Self-doubt and issues of self-consciousness can plague the clairvoyant as well, and can negatively affect their performance. Powerful clairvoyants can also be plagued with information they wish they never knew [such as partners cheating on them, or knowing how and when they will eventually die] which can in turn cause an extreme level of emotional stress. Clairvoyants can also experience extreme horror, sadness, or rage when flashing to traumatic scenes, such as a murder. Clairvoyants can also be outcast from society, because of their skill which can harbor mistrust among the have-nots. As such, clairvoyance can be a terrible burden to bear.
Kineticists are often zapped of physical energy and mentally exhausted after performing feats of telekinesis. The grander the spectacle produced, the more physically and mentally taxing on the person’s body. Lifting a heavy boulder up in the air has the potential to cause the keneticist to pass out completely, only to wake up hours later too weak to walk. From a young age, kineticists discover the ability by chance often times, concentrating on a small object and finding they can move it a little bit. However, telekinesis is not scalable in terms of the amount of time one concentrates, but the level of mental brain power devoted to the task. As such, any distractions or breaks in concentration can really throw off the accuracy of telekinetic feats. Because of this, it is important to remember that in roleplay, it’s not likely a psionic character can do numerous things at once, like fighting an enemy at the same time as manipulating a nearby object to fly at his head. This is just unrealistic, and I advise against it because it pushes into power-gaming territory.
Telepaths can often end up physically or mentally drained after sending and receiving thoughts or images to another. The longer or the more intense the communication, the more taxing it is to the parties involved. One of the major drawbacks of telepathy is the emotional anxiety that comes with being able to read the thoughts of others, especially thoughts that are traumatic, harmful, or potentially dangerous information. Telepaths are also highly sought out by those looking to gain power through subterfuge, and so telepaths often conceal their ability to avoid being targed by those who wish to exploit them. Telepaths sometimes have the ability to “invade” the minds of the weak-willed, in waking or in dreams. For those sensitive enough to notice telepathic intrusions, they can cause unwanted response which can turn dramatic or violent, depending on the situation. As such, telepathy can be a terrible burden to bear.