"Asperance regarded the young woman in front of him coolly, his brown shiny eyes trying to penetrate the layer of colourful cosmetics that she had applied to her pale human flesh. Was she really legally old enough to hire onto his crew? She looked very young to his eyes, but then he wasn't really an expert on female human growth patterns. If her skills were as she claimed on her resume then he would certainly find her useful on board the 'Astral Tease'. And what was this about an 'Institute for Higher Learning'?"
Yesterday, as I began to imagine the crew that would accompany Asperance upon his adventures in the Traveller setting, I decided that I'd like to look over the Psi rules and see how they might fit into my campaign. As those of you who know me probably realise, I have a great interest in esoteric knowledge and beliefs and, so naturally, I like to draw such elements into my gaming.
Guess what I found? Yes, the new Traveller rules have Psi BUT... it's a Psi chapter written by a person who clearly does not believe in the possibility of such powers and who, with the best will in the world, has codified and structured the rules for such things in an almost completely "scientific" and over-organised manner. In seconds I was turned off from the rules and turned back to the reality that my own vision for Traveller can be more readily realised using GURPS.
Powers Of The Mind
Traveller posits that, although Psi powers have been suspected and a part of the universe since sophont species first stepped into civilised cultures, nobody really understands them. There is a skill entitled 'Psionicology' but this, like all knowledge about Psi, is suppressed and taboo knowledge.
Databanks and common knowledge reveal the following about Psi:
For me, given this setting, knowledge and understanding should be a major quest for the character who seeks to develop their own latent talent. And on this Marc Miller and I agree... but not about the practical upshot.
• Psionics is illegal. It infringes on individual liberties. It invades privacy. It circumvents protections like walls and locks.
• Psionics is quackery; it has no basis in science.
• Small ads (popups, printed pages, spam) promote various “Sciences of the Mind” and potential for “self-development.”
• Supposedly, every major population center has a Psionics Institute devoted to Psionics training.
In my Traveller universe (IMTU) Psi powers are spread thinly and learning more is not only a crime but also a major headache. The Psionic Institutes within the Imperium are certainly hard to locate and access... and that's where the fun starts.
Why Come Back to GURPS?
This brings me to the question of why I immediately discount the official Traveller rules (despite enjoying playing an PbEM game right now) for my own campaign? It's simple.
No, really. It's because GURPS is simple.
I can add Psi in whatever flavour I want because the rules for it are flexible enough for my vision to be accommodated. Given that everything else in the system is also able to reflect the Traveller SF vision, it makes sense to come back to what I know works and use those rules. (See my earlier article)
With the rules question put to one side, today I am able to begin planning my campaign on the Solomani Rim, with Psi included, and focus on the setting and story rather than continuing to learn a set of rules that I don't really need (as interesting and exciting as they are).
Enter Jennie Tur'al
Imagine with me the young human woman who can read minds and cause people whom she questions to tell her the truth. What havoc would such a character wreak upon the shenanigans of interstellar adventure in the Far Future?
Imagine her quest for knowledge and the extension of her abilities. The journey might lead her to the underworld of major high population worlds, to the city's hidden depths, in search of information and Psionic training. It might also take her to secluded desert wise folk who, in their own desire to hide from Imperial authority, have continued their studies in private.
And for the crew of the "Astral Tease", perhaps the quest will lead them into deeper adventure. Risk leads to reward in the Traveller universe and, for those who survive, there might also be lessons for the non-believer as much as for the believer in Psi.
Who knows... perhaps through all of the grey-coloured machinations of the Rim our heroes will find a course towards ethical rightness. Or at least away from the black temptations of those who would enslave, dominate and suppress the truth.
Labels: GURPS, Traveller