Campaign of the Month: January 2012
Star Trek Late Night
Psionics is a broad term used to describe supernatural powers that stem purely from the force of one’s mind and will, rather than from the harnessing of the Force or Arcane energies. The past witnessed how yogis, martial artists, warlocks and faith healers entered into altered states in order to command great energies for various purposes. As we are aware, the uses of these energies are countless. Vulcans are famous for their mind melds while Deltans are famous for their psychic healing. Many other species have learned to enhance their psychic potential; some races have even evolved far enough that telepathy has become thier primary mode of conversation.
The exact origin of psionic (or psi) powers is unknown, but there is some evidence that they can be triggered by exposure to supernatural energies. Psionic abilities are also inheritable: a psionic parent is much more likely to have children who are psychic than is a mundane parent, and two psis having children together will likely have a child whose psionic abilities are stronger than either of the two.
Currently, Starfleet has seven institutes dedicated to the study of psychic powers and throughout the Federation there are literally hundreds of such places of learning. Almost every race is capable of using psionic powers, but few ever learn how to tap into the parts of their brains to actually do so.
Types of Psionic Abilities
There are several major classifications of psionic abilities, also called disciplines:
Telepathy: Powers of mental contact and persuasion. A telepath, or teep, can sense the thoughts and emotions of others, and influence them in return. Most teeps also have a strong talent for lucid dreaming.
Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP): The ability to see, hear, or otherwise percieve things at a distance. This ‘distance’ may be in space, in time, or in both. Psis with this ability are called espers. The ability to see things from far away is called clairvoyance (or peeping); the ability to see the future is called precognition (or precog); and the ability to see past events associated with a place or object is called psychometry (or retro). Most espers do not have all of these abilities, at least not reliably; when they do occur, the ‘vision’ is often spontaneous and not under the esper’s control. Like telepathy, precog and retro are enhanced by physical contact with the object (or person) whose future or past is being read.
Psychokinesis: Powers that manipulate matter and energy. This may include the ability to move objects (telekinesis, or teek), or control over fire and heat (pyrokinesis), cold (cryokinesis), or electricity (electrokinesis). Some electrokinetics can even learn how to interface with computers and other electronic devices at a distance, though this requires an extraordinary degree of skill. Many telekinetics who have a small amount of ESP ability are able to sense the air molecules around their bodies and freeze them in place, creating ‘PK Shields’ capable of blocking knives, fists, and even disrupter beams. Psychokinetics often acquire nicknames based on their most prominent power – teeks, pyros, cryos, and sparkies, to name a few.
Psychic Healing: Some psis are able to channel psychic energy to heal injuries in themselves and others. The process is usually taxing for the psi, as it draws on her own life energy.
Psychometabolism: Powers that manipulate the psi’s own body. This is closely related to Psychic Healing, but allows for a greater variety of effects, and can only be performed by the psi on himself. Psis with this ability are called egoists. Some egoists are able to enhance their strength, speed, or dexterity, converting mental energy into physical power to perform superlative feats. Others are able to control their metabolism, greatly slowing their heart rate and respiration to enter a kind of regenerative trance. Most egoists have the ability to regenerate their own bodies to a greater degree than more mundane sapients, slowing the aging process and prolonging life.
Psychoportation: One of the rarest forms of psionic ability, psychoportation is the ability to teleport matter from one place to another. The two known variations of this are autoporting – the ability to teleport one’s own body – and exoporting – the ability to teleport other objects. Psis with the former ability are called jumpers; those with the latter ability are called snatchers. Very few individuals have both abilities. Often a psi can only teleport to or from someplace he has been before, though some snatchers are able to ’port objects without even knowing where they come from. Psychoportation is very difficult to control reliably, and many jumpers first manifest their talents by ’porting in their sleep.
Rumors persist among psis of people who are able to not only resist psychic abilities, but actually negate them. Teeps whisper of shadowy figures stalking the street who can cause their heads to erupt with bursts of psychic static, while psychokinetics tell of PK shields that suddenly failed or levitated objects that fell for no reason. It is unknown whether antipsi abilities actually exist.
Despite the relative rarity of psi powers and the gaps in the scientific understanding of psionics, an impressive array of psi-enhancing drugs and technology has been developed. Many of these grew out of the military and espionage communities (both governmental and industrial), both of whom value psis for their (nearly) undetectable abilities. Other bits of psi-tech were the result of research into technomagic, which later branched out into other directions, and the first psi-drugs were either discovered accidentally or developed to help mages with their spellcasting. Most of these innovations eventually found their way to the street, where tech-savvy psis reverse-engineered them and co-opted the technology for themselves and their community.
A couple of the more common psi-drugs are:
MD-109: This drug, called Mad or Mad Dak on the street, was first developed by the Tal Shiar as a means of improving the effectiveness of their psi operatives, most of whom had high skill but relatively little power with their abilities. Mad is a synthetic neurotransmitter that boosts synaptic activity in the parts of the brain associated with psionic talents, leading to an impressive increase in effective power.
It is quite popular as a black-market psi-drug, since its effects are more predictable than those of Vortex (see below). Thousands of units of the drug are produced every year in illicit underground laboratories.
Vortex: This drug amplifies psi range a hundredfold, but is, unfortunately, rife with problems and drawbacks. First, it is extremely addictive – users can develop a dependency after only two or three doses. Second, 5% of users will experience severe seizures, coma or even death within minutes of taking their first dose; overdoses of Vortex are almost always fatal, as well. Third, while Vortex greatly increases a psi’s power, it makes his abilities much harder to control; several psychokinetics have been killed when their telekinesis buried them under tons of concrete, or a rush of pyrokinetic flame burned them alive.