Psi - Open Discussion (Round Two)

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RobBoyle RobBoyle's picture
Psi - Open Discussion (Round Two)

Starting a new thread for Psi, given the number of changes we mad to the most recent playtest draft (posted 10-12-17).

Here's a Change Log for the new draft:

  • Added Watts-Macleod sub-strains and specific strain effects for each

  • Changed what happens to crit successes on Infection Tests

  • Changed compulsion strain effect to 1d6 hour duration

  • Reducing strain: You may not reduce your Infection Rating if you have active compulsion effects.

  • Psi duration is based on WIL again, not SAV

  • Supercharging renamed pushing

  • Broke Psi Shield into separate Psi Armor (passive) and Psi Shield (Active) sleights

  • Emotion Control sleight renamed Control Emotion; Thought Browse renamed Browse Thoughts

  • Ease Effect changed to Alter Effect

  • Hyperthymesia upgraded to Enhanced Memory, with better effects

  • Added Animal Control and Block Pain sleights

  • Removed Somatic Healing

Rob Boyle :: Posthuman Studios

eaton eaton's picture
Fantastically good: sub

Fantastically good: sub-strains and the "free sleights" that come with each one. That eliminates the frustration scenario from earlier revisions, where points could be dropped into Psi traits without any actual sleights being usable.

Also great: WIL, WIL, WIL. "Pushing." Per-substrain tables of effects. Generally smoothed out mechanical explanations for the assorted sleights mentioned above.

Not so great: I'm still confused why the "strain" mechanism exists. It seems (?) like it could very easily be simplified to just the infection rating. The actual per-sleight strain values only seem to be used when doling out the 1d6 of damage, and the distinctions between strain vs. Watts McLeod sub-strain vs. infection rating vs. stress (which is totally different but sounds very similar) … make the rules more confusing than they could be.

Will have to kick the tires when I get a chance to playtest it with the group — one of the gang has been interested in trying out an async character and I think these rules will interest them.

DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
I recently finished reading

I recently finished reading the new async rule. Asyncs may have been made more interesting with strain effects on p. 6-7, but I still don't want to play as them. I didn't particularly like them before hand either, back in EP 1, so I might be biased.

Other than that, I think the rules were easy enough to read.

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
Beautiful!

I love it! Pretty much everything I intensely disliked about the 1.0 is gone, the focus is again on the idea that you are *different* now to a disturbingly moderate degree: Still in continuity but... maybe not...? While strain effects are nasty the big, red "This is not going to be fun to actually ever encounter at a table" alarm isn't blinking.

The idea of substrains is cool and is easily retooled if a player has a different idea in mind and the GM wants to go ahead with it, and the strain effects are now less losing total control and more being forced to tackle a narative direction (one that is compelling enough so you would want to go there, rather than stripping naked and fornicating with electronics). I know for a fact that my current async players (lets face it, your either into asyncs or your not, its all cool, but this should be designed for people who LIKE asyncs rather than an attempt to win over people who find the core concept a non-starter) will be all over some of this. Like one player will actively have a hard time picking between Predator and Haunter, and will probably ask for a custom strain that is a combination, and the fact that I can imagine this being highly compelling to the point they will likely want to customize it a bit to make it perfect for them, rather than to fix problems, is always a great sign for mechanics!

The virus being, or at least seeming pseudo-sapient, not harmful like regular infection but clearly not 100% benign and perfectly cooperative, is super disturbing compared to it just making you bonkers, and re-opens the possibilities for what Watts is,

Spoiler: Highlight to view
be it an attempt by the ETI to groom a more introspective and cautious line of social evolution that makes transhumanity less [threatening, a "jailbroken" strain by the promethians, or even just some strains of virus "deciding" to align to transhumanity and just being in a lovecraftian way sliiightly too advanced to 100% 'get us.' There is that perfect sweetspot of ambiguity that makes a wide range of answers possible.

I can't stress enough how much I like the new direction for what strain actually makes you do, especially because I gotta give feedback on some stuff that sits sour with me, but still, I can't stress enough how great a change in direction this is. Even though I am about to kinda tear the way infection rating and actually rolling for strain plays out, that is all a significantly less pressing issue than "playing an async with these mechanics feels fundamentally toxic." All further nitpicking of the mechanics is pretty easily fixed at the home table, the math is super weird and bad but at least its a relatively minor part of the whole system and something easily fixed.

The fact that passive sleights and actives have direct and permanent anti-synergy with each other is still irritating. As is the fact that infection is still just really static and not interesting, making it so playing a "total" async still... just dosn't work very well. I think the idea of psi-chi just raising base infection rating on its own is a non-starter because of how wonky the interacts with having any active abilities. Even with the MUCH better results of strain results they are still very 'big' at times, often involving compulsive murder, which has direct anti-synergy with the async as a spy working in firewall and just the idea of them needing to remain hidden, which isn't bad in of itself now that strain still allows you to roleplay but still makes landing a strain result really bad, so you really... just can't ever play a character who has a high base infection rating and who also wants to roll infection a lot. You may as well at that point just disallow playing someone with both psi-chi and psi-gama.

The ideal should be that the async using their powers is risky, but doesn't consistently take over the game session. This isn't 40k where the psyker making a roll should have a non-insignificant chance to make the game about how they got possessed again. Async powers are... powerful now, so they should have significant downsides, but currently infection is still too high variance at all times because it just sits super high. It especially feels bad because as you get better at being an async you also become worse at it. Its just this weird gamey thing that encourages outcomes that don't make sense in universe which is never fun. While its fine to not make it so everyone who has psi gamma necessarily wants to use psi chi, it is really weird and lame that they are basically incompatible systems.

I don't really understand the need to make chi "cost" infection either, from a mechanics or thematics sense. Gamma sleights being limited in usage makes sense because they often do things that are extraordinarily hard to otherwise replicate and make some traditional plot elements, especially spy mysteries, more or less complicated in ways GMs may not anticipate or appreciate being super easy to do, but are still really interesting to have as a "sometimes" food in the PC's toolbox. Chi sleights generally are more set dressing augmentations, spice in the soup that allow you to play a weird mentalist without it getting too complicated. I don't see a need to make psi-chi sleights make a gamma user inherently more likely to go into strain because the chi powers aren't making the gamma sleights fundamentally more problematic to be spammed. Infection, from a mechanics sense, seems to be an attempt to limit how 'safe' powers that defy the genre of the game a bit can be. But chi sleights aren't really defying the genre, hell many like enhanced creativity and pattern recognition play super hard into the genre of cosmic horror for a PC to have, and in the end mechanically aren't worth making gamma sleights more risky. You want to encourage a lot of Chi Sleights, especially ones that allow one to glimpse into things mankind was not meant to know, while discouraging overuse of Gamma sleights. They aren't really connected issues and linking them is weird.

Strain and infection just seems all out of whack. The point of infection is to make asyncs not want to use their big, genre busting powers it seems, but the way strain and infection interplay only serves to make asyncs want to use the biggest, most impactful and disruptive power they can any time they need to use a power. No one is ever going to use Deja Vu, despite it having a lower SV, because strain just isn't the relevant threat of psi. You only suffer strain 1/6 times when you fail an infection rating, and to boot its likely the least threatening result you can get. And because using powers increases your risk of getting the other, really bad results of psi both by more rolls and by increasing infection, there is no reason to ever use "minor" powers like Stab or Deja Vu when you could just use Subliminal or Illusion to completely destroy someone. The 'minor' low SV powers like Stab never were that useful, despite possibly being the most interesting powers for an Async to use, and having the 'size' of the power be such a minor mechanic (and necessarily so, due to how overbearing infection is) seems nonsensical. I want civilian asyncs panicked in a dangerous situation to desire to Stab first in the hopes of avoiding the use of Subliminal to force someone into eating their gun and risking the infection really going nuts, but the way the mechanics work out do the opposite. The idea of power usage increasing your risk of going haywire is interesting, but starting the base infection rating so high so that its a real risk any time you do anything, and making it so all powers raise infection equally, just encourages the things asyncs should NOT be doing. Asyncs doing low grade or disturbing psigames rather than being a mindlord is a healthier space for them, and the base 20% infection pretty much prevents that from working. Prehaps instead of a SV rating, consider an infection rating, with different gamma powers rocketing up your chance at different rates, with weak stuff like Stab, Shield raising it by a few points or even none, to stuff that is an overwhelming advantage for asyncs in the spy buisness like Illusion or Subliminal immediately launching you up to the 20 points gamma users currently start at, meaning using one of these powers always puts you at a 1/5 chance of eating a strain effect the first time you do it!

That may or may not be the best way to handle it, but the point is currently the base 20% chance rising by 5 ever power usage creates a perverse incentive for asyncs to totally eschew subtle or flavorful powers and just go straight for crushing people's brains. When the 'restrained' option is always employing your mechanic's tactical nuke, the system is jank. The math for infection and strain is very broken in favor of playing asyncs in the exact way that makes people NOT like asyncs, as Professor X rather than the spy who just happens to have the weird subtle or disturbing abilities in addition to what they normally bring to the table.

This plays directly into the change to psi shield: its bad in the current system where activating any power gives you a 20% chance (technically a 16% chance because you may get lucky and just suffer strain, again its super weird that the primary thing balancing big powers is the thing you almost always want to get) minimum to suddenly do something remarkably unsubtle, and all it does is protect you against the weakest effect a super rare type of enemy can bring to the table. If it protected others it MIGHT be usable in a hypothetical reality where infection rolls didn't have a base 20% chance to screw with your head on every single power usage, no matter how insignificant, but even then its hard to imagine a scenario where you would want to do this rather than... you know... trying to subliminal the hostile async or infected into eating their own gun instead. To make it really work it needs to not be sustained, there will never be a case where reducing incoming psi damage (again, something super toothless compared to most other ways one can be harmed, and laughable compared to every other psi-effect) is worth spending the time to raise shields even if it affected your entire team, unless you were against so many asyncs who ONLY had access to Stab that you couldn't "race" them for damage by nuking each of them with an illusion reality that incapacitated them or a subliminal to start shooting each other.

Again, can't stress enough though how fundementally good it is that strain no longer hits you with both the NPC beam and the "I am so outrageous/offensive/disruptive that no one else at the table is going to do anything besides deal with the fallout of me disrobing and trying to give the station police chief's cellphone a sexy time" beam. It is just the math on how infection works is weird. It is still good that asyncs have a serious risk of becoming unsubtle and unhinged if they do big things, its just that infection makes everything big so now you may as well always be big.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

DivineWrath DivineWrath's picture
Dr. Maxwell wrote:(lets face

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
(lets face it, your either into asyncs or your not, its all cool, but this should be designed for people who LIKE asyncs rather than an attempt to win over people who find the core concept a non-starter)

Good point.

I don't like them. I don't want to like them. I'm happy with flexbots and infomorphs (which do not mix with asyncs). I don't need you guys to make asyncs suit me more.

o11o1 o11o1's picture
Dr. Maxwell wrote:The ideal

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
Strain and infection just seems all out of whack. The point of infection is to make asyncs not want to use their big, genre busting powers it seems, but the way strain and infection interplay only serves to make asyncs want to use the biggest, most impactful and disruptive power they can any time they need to use a power. No one is ever going to use Deja Vu, despite it having a lower SV, because strain just isn't the relevant threat of psi. You only suffer strain 1/6 times when you fail an infection rating, and to boot its likely the least threatening result you can get. And because using powers increases your risk of getting the other, really bad results of psi both by more rolls and by increasing infection, there is no reason to ever use "minor" powers like Stab or Deja Vu when you could just use Subliminal or Illusion to completely destroy someone. The 'minor' low SV powers like Stab never were that useful, despite possibly being the most interesting powers for an Async to use, and having the 'size' of the power be such a minor mechanic (and necessarily so, due to how overbearing infection is) seems nonsensical. I want civilian asyncs panicked in a dangerous situation to desire to Stab first in the hopes of avoiding the use of Subliminal to force someone into eating their gun and risking the infection really going nuts, but the way the mechanics work out do the opposite. The idea of power usage increasing your risk of going haywire is interesting, but starting the base infection rating so high so that its a real risk any time you do anything, and making it so all powers raise infection equally, just encourages the things asyncs should NOT be doing. Asyncs doing low grade or disturbing psigames rather than being a mindlord is a healthier space for them, and the base 20% infection pretty much prevents that from working. Prehaps instead of a SV rating, consider an infection rating, with different gamma powers rocketing up your chance at different rates, with weak stuff like Stab, Shield raising it by a few points or even none, to stuff that is an overwhelming advantage for asyncs in the spy buisness like Illusion or Subliminal immediately launching you up to the 20 points gamma users currently start at, meaning using one of these powers always puts you at a 1/5 chance of eating a strain effect the first time you do it!

Your idea of making the Infection raise of each sleight stop being a flat 5 all the time and instead be specific to the sleight in question seems pretty solid. To try putting some sample numbers on it:

The Base Infection from having the PSI Trait is 5 and 10 instead of 10 and 20.
Each PSI Chi sleight increases base infection by 1.
PSI Gamma sleights, when used will increase your infection rating by either 2, by 5, by 10, or by 20.
Powers with a current Strain Mod of : -- only increase your infection rating by 2. (Alternatively, doesn't raise but still triggers an Infection Test)
Powers with a strain mod of +1 costs 5 infection rating.
Powers with a strain mod of +2 cost 10 infection rating.
Powers with a strain mod of +3 cost 15 infection rating to activate.
Powers with a strain mod of +4 cost 20 Infection rating to activate.

Looking through the chart, it sure seems like the devs intended for the strain mods to be treated as a balancing factor, or at least to mark the 'severity' of each sleight.

Now, even with these numbers, it does seem like an async in dire straits and at high infection might as well "go for broke", but that early stage where things are calm, it's in their interest to lead with the weaker powers.

A slight smell of ions....

eaton eaton's picture
That mechanism actually makes

That mechanism actually makes it feel like the strain mod would be worth keeping. I hate — hate! — to compare it to spells in D&D, because Psi already gets a lot of grief, but mechanically it makes the strain modifier function something like "spell level" as a limiting factor. Moxie points to avoid infection rolls give some extra flexibility, but I actually like the idea of making the strain mod more significant (and… honestly, calling it something other than "strain mod" because the word feels too overloaded in the context).

cpt.crush cpt.crush's picture
Like new Psi

I very much like the new Psi system in general, and the changes of the October update make it even better.

About the discussion if the new Psi mechanics are too brutal, or possible avoid subtle play, I think we shouldn't forget that the average character will have 3 - 5 points in Moxie + Flex, plus 2 short rests a day, restoring 7 points on average.

Mechanically that means a Psi user can activate his abilities 10 - 12 times a day without any consequences. Only beyond that there is a chance for infection.

I think this is more than enough subtle use of Psi a day.

That Psi becomes much more dangerous afterwards is just fair.

Maudova Maudova's picture
cpt.crush wrote:I very much

cpt.crush wrote:
I very much like the new Psi system in general, and the changes of the October update make it even better.

About the discussion if the new Psi mechanics are too brutal, or possible avoid subtle play, I think we shouldn't forget that the average character will have 3 - 5 points in Moxie + Flex, plus 2 short rests a day, restoring 7 points on average.

Mechanically that means a Psi user can activate his abilities 10 - 12 times a day without any consequences. Only beyond that there is a chance for infection.

I think this is more than enough subtle use of Psi a day.

That Psi becomes much more dangerous afterwards is just fair.

The problem with this math is that you are assuming all the Flex and Moxie are saved specifically for avoiding infection tests, which is not a reasonable assumption. Also when on a mission, the opportunity for short rests is limited. The group might get one in a tense sequence, so I'd lower that to just to the number of Moxie a character has, assuming they aren't also running a social build. If you have the sieghts for it, you can get an extra Moxie + Invigorate, then you are looking at more activations for free readily, which is a preferable build all around. Players in the 8 playtest sessions I have ran use their flex for a lot of things and figured out ways to run themselves dry on action pools across multiple PCs (each player has ran 4 characters) even with one having invigorate to help.

~Alpha Fork Initialized.
P.S. I often post from my phone as I travel extensively for work. Please forgive typos and grammar issues.

cpt.crush cpt.crush's picture
Fair enough

Ultimately it is a balancing question, both in your campaign, and in the system.

From my side, not having (edit: 10 min) rests is an intense campaign. If that means people are prone to infection and madness, why not? A few wounds / traumas might cripple players and flow the same way I'd assume.

In any case, I just came to say I like how the rules remind you that you are "playing with fire", and for me they work just fine, in particular considering Moxie & Flex.

o11o1 o11o1's picture
I don't think you can use

I don't think you can use Flex to bypass an Infection test. It's allowed to reroll any kind of skill, but it's not a full replacement for each of the other pool points. Same way you can't spend Flex to take extra turns in combat, you need real Vigor.

You could, however, use flex to flipflop the numbers on a failed (passed?) Infection Test.

A slight smell of ions....

Kojak Kojak's picture
I really like all of the

I really like all of the changes here, especially the substrain stuff; I think that in particular will really help async characters find a bit more focus.

My sole complaint is that I loved the addition of Somatic Healing and I wish you guys would keep that. I can see why people might not like it, but I thought it added a neat new angle for async characters.

"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
- Steve Webster on Kojak's lollipop

Reshy Reshy's picture
The substrain stuff is nice,

The substrain stuff is nice, but I really don't like the infection mechanic. As I said before, I'd like to see "Infection" be replaced with a trait that represents how "in sync" the async is with the infection. If it's low, the disease subtlety sabotages the async's attempts to use it's powers, if it's high it actively aids.

However though, it shouldn't ever dictate what the player is to do. It should be like the Geist of the Sin-Eaters, it's a voice in the back of your head encouraging you to follow it's whims. Roleplay isn't something you can slap some mechanics on and say "you rolled this, now do Y". It needs to be something that's soft, like say an additional motivation per level of PSI that the async chooses to reflect the desires of their infection. Fulfilling it is like fulfilling any other motivation, it also gives you "Synergy" or whatever. However, doing activities that goes against it causes the entity to sabotage you, perhaps by draining some of your pool to reflect it's displeasure, disorienting you with intrusive thoughts, or deafening you with a chorus of angry voices only the async can hear. The main thing though is that the Async needs to be able to choose how to react to the situation, they're not a slave to their condition (Unlike true exsurgents).

I'll be seeing about making a write-up for this.

cpt.crush cpt.crush's picture
Reshy wrote:However though,

Reshy wrote:
However though, it shouldn't ever dictate what the player is to do. It should be like the Geist of the Sin-Eaters, it's a voice in the back of your head encouraging you to follow it's whims. Roleplay isn't something you can slap some mechanics on and say "you rolled this, now do Y". .

I disagree with this perspective, I think it makes it more interesting.

Ultimately, there is the implicit contract that actions have consequences, and once the player elects to do a certain action (e.g., activate a dangerous sleigh), there might be certain consequences.

Following your logic players a) either could consume drugs and alcohol without consequences, or b) the effects of such would be purely mechanical-bureaucratic.

I think if lore or logic (in this case the lore about strains) dictates that a certain act implies a certain player reaction, it's that player's task to make an honest attempt to portray that.

I agree, however, that the specific infection consequences should ultimately be a "strong role playing suggestion", i.e., the GM shouldn't enforce these with a literal rubber hose. Instead, there should be rules for people not following them, e.g., accumulating stress and negative modifiers as they basically act against their instincts.

RobBoyle RobBoyle's picture
o11o1 wrote:

o11o1 wrote:

Your idea of making the Infection raise of each sleight stop being a flat 5 all the time and instead be specific to the sleight in question seems pretty solid. To try putting some sample numbers on it:

This is something I considered, but opted to keep it at 5 for simplicity's sake. That said, if folks wanted to play around with this in playtest, I'd be curious to hear their feedback on it.

In the same vein, I also considered basing the Infection Rating raise value on the duration of the sleight: something like instant 3, sustained 5, anything with a duration of minutes+ being 8. But duration is already accounted for in the strain mods, so that may make more sense.

I would also consider lowering the base infection due to Psi trait level to 5/10, but so far I am not convinced that the Infection Ratings are veering too high in playtests, given Moxie use and how often sleights actually get used. This is something else I'd like to hear playtest feedback on.

Rob Boyle :: Posthuman Studios

Maudova Maudova's picture
Infection Rising Too Quickly

My playtests of infection quickly reached 90% in a tense game, making the character nearly unplayable as they passed 3 infection tests. This, of course, is for a character with Chi and using Gamma during the game. This caused the players to be annoyed by the mechanic. So reaching too high too quickly was definitely an issue, at least in my playtest.

~Alpha Fork Initialized.
P.S. I often post from my phone as I travel extensively for work. Please forgive typos and grammar issues.

Reshy Reshy's picture
I honestly think that Strain

I honestly think that Strain should be brought back for immediate drawbacks to PSI power usage (or only run infection tests after the encounter ends). So the character isn't being bothered when it matters most, because I doubt that WML is interested in getting it's host killed. Seems like a bad long-term survival plan.

Still I feel that Infection is a bit too crude a mechanic to encourage roleplay. It's roleplay through RNG, and that's not generally how I like to roleplay. I'd rather something that encourages you to build and think about the things that your async does that's weird and/or creepy, and then rewards you for doing said weird and/or creepy things. Hence why I said motivations and maybe a relationship mechanic with the infection.

Chernoborg Chernoborg's picture
A few small things I'd like

A few small things I'd like to mention.

Purely my preference, but seeing "push" in action doesn't quite work for me. I've thought maybe "amplify" and it's dimunitives "amp", "amped" , and "amping" could be used. This seems appropriate as it increases the sleight effect and the infection rating.

Can the infection rating be permanently raised? Would there be a point where the character becomes an NPC?

I like the idea of different strains of the virus. Will have to come up with some of my own sub-strains!

I liked Somatic Healing, but I'm old enough to remember the Bionic Woman episode "Biofeedback" . Maybe limit it to the async healing themselves and have them able to push it onto others.

Psi-chi got cut back a bit , eh?

Eco-empathy and Xeno-empathy seem kind of too focused Maybe something like BioGrok or Holistics to sense the interconnectedness of things ( Why, yes I AM a Douglas Adams fan, why do you ask?).

Current Status: Highly Distracted building Gatecrashing systems in Universe Sandbox!

ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
Numbers can interact in many different ways...

None of my players is interested in Psi atm, but I'm wondiering if it makes sense to have the Chi/Gamma Infection Ratings overlap instead of stacking, so simply roll whichever is higher.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?

Reshy Reshy's picture
Chernoborg wrote:Can the

Chernoborg wrote:
Can the infection rating be permanently raised? Would there be a point where the character becomes an NPC?

Why would you ever want this to happen?

Trappedinwikipedia Trappedinwikipedia's picture
Could be a good way to model

Could be a good way to model Haunting Virus progression for one, with some extra strong sleights which aren't usable until the Infection Rating climbs high enough.

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
Playtest results

Did a few sessions as playtest with my group, to ease into EP 2e, under the pretense of it being a 'simulation.' We had a quite a few missing players and didn't want to advance their current plot.

2 of our 6 players are asyncs, both of which are psi 2, and they were the only ones able to make it for two weeks due to just general life crazyness with everyone else. One was a social character with all 3 types of psi before we 'soft ported' to 2e, another focused mostly on sense alone and was a sneaky-criminal-combat type.

I introduced my own personal houserule that infection rolls were always secret and could 'sleep' if they resulted in a strain value, so that it was harder to game psi powers by just using them when it was easy to remove the async from a situation if things got 'weird.'

It became rapidly apparent how limiting the base infection rating of 20 (in reality 35 because they both used chi and gamma powers) was, with a 1/5 chance (or over a 1/3rd chance in their case) from the get go that any async power would send you to the table. Our social async immediately concluded that the 'cost' to use powers was Moxie, not infection, and from that point on both players refrained from using their powers at any point they weren't comfortable spending a Moxie for it.

On top of that the combat async got progressively more upset that he was being 'punished' for using more subtle powers to the point I am raaaather sure he made up a lame excuse to bail on the session. It didn't help he didn't hardmax moxie. The fact the costs were flat meant the 'showier' powers of the social async were just better 'value for moxie' because any power that was remotely subtle wasn't worth using.

Meanwhile social async used their powers with far more frequency than they did in 1e, now that they could totally absolve themselves from any immediate repercussions for being an async via moxie use, they essentially brute forced their way through situations where subliminal could be relevant, mainly combat and social scenarios. While strain didn't do a good job of preventing you from using powers when they were useful, it did a good job of preventing you from using it when they weren't the immediate best solution, because strain built up quickly, but simply by having a good moxie pool it became easy to just use a silver bullet subliminal every single situation you needed something done that would be hard to do through traditional means.

Infection completely failed to curtail social async from becoming a cackling mindlord, and instead directly encouraged them towards really crass and unsubtle behavior with their powers.

Especially notable is the fact this player wasn't exactly a powergaming munchkin. He was one of the only people I ever have seen use Psi-stab seriously, just because its fun (to a point that it sorta became a 'trademark' of theirs and in 1e they would hold moxie to use stab especially well). But 2e punishes you so heavily for any power usage that a power with a lower general DV value than a knife just... wasn't excusable to use, even in a fun way. It is important to note that while he formerly favored assault powers, he didn't use a single 2e assault power. Control just was unleashed once the cost of powers became 'flat.'

Session 1's 'simulation' in essence was a pretty catastrophic failure of the psi system. It just fell apart once it entered the player's hands. They never even MADE an infection roll, because there was no point to ever bother dealing with it. It wasn't that moxie was too strong a mitigator (combat async again was rather miffed that it became the defacto way to async now) so much as the fact that costs were 'flat' didn't work. When I asked later about the idea of removing the ability to moxie it was pointed out that while it would make them async a lot less they still would be gaining and risking infection at the same rate so the combat async's portrayal of a character who used traditional style ESP just... wouldn't work.

Session 2 we mixed things up a bit, and I introduced a two big houserules:

Base infection was 5. Permanently. Regardless of psi-level or what sleights you had. Each power increased in infection cost at different rates, with the big control powers being 20 and the weak sense powers being 5.

The second rule is that we increased infection rating BEFORE you rolled infection. So if your busting out subliminal, your rolling against a 25, even if its your first power of the day. If your just trying to sense another infected, you only have a 1/16 chance of suffering strain without moxie.

I even put stab at 0, but was later told by the social adept that he wouldn't use it if it ever risked infection rating. Like I said, the utility of a melee attack that is 1d10 damage flat that requires two rolls to hit is exceptionally questionable, even with "infinite" armor piercing, because it doesn't work on most extremely high armor targets anyway and well... a holdout pistol literally does twice as much as it, so unless your losing like 10 damage to armor it would always be better to just pull a handgun or a blade.

This immediately changed things so that power usage was much more conservative. The fact it was seen as acceptable to roll powers without moxie when you had low infection made keeping infection low useful, and some of the weaker powers saw more play. At this point I actually got to see my houserule for secret infection rolls in play, and while no one at any point failed them (the social async basically started paying moxie as soon as their infection hit 25 and played like before, while the combat async only got up to 15 and was pretty lucky) the tension of each roll became actually real. It became unsettling to use their powers.

More importantly the social async didn't run roughshod over everything.

Looking over it in hindsight, it is very clear how... not a thing strain mods are. They add essentially nothing to the game due to how rare strain is, and themselves form a weird niche rule that crops up so little its likely people will forget how it works.

Its also much more glaring to me, now that I have actually played it, that infection starts at 20 for characters who optimize for it (psi 10 starts you at 10 but psi 1 characters seemingly would never ever roll infection anyway...) makes infection right off the bat this gigantic risk for asyncs that threatens this big result every time they don't moxie. While the actual outcomes for failing infection seem minor, the fact its so constant exuits massive psychological pressure to never let it happen. Infection starting as a more minor risk allowed it to be a mechanic that caused tension, rather than frustration and avoidance.

As is, the infection mechanics basically may as well be blank and read "Spend moxie," and any mechanic that makes you go out of your way to avoid it is probably not optimized for actual table play. Sense players are flat out screwed by the infection rules (as their powers are never enough of a game changer to justify risking losing partial control over your character) and assault fares little better, especially because even in the old system assault powers just had so many hoops to jump through it was always a question of "Why don't you just shoot/hack them?"

Stab remains almost a meme at this point for how comically underwhelming the idea of a psionic trying to burst the veins in your brain actually is. Its more like they are trying to bleed you out via repeatedly tweaking your nose to cause it to bleed, it suffers from the tripple whammy of being really really hard to to pull of, costing significantly more than other similar options, and just not being good at its own niche as a 'holdout weapon.'

As is the flat power costs are just... frustrating and while with totally new characters who didn't pick powers based on the old 3 categories the risk isn't as real, the fact remains that the extreme inequality it created among the 3 categories, along with them being, and I quote, 'punished' for taking fluffy powers like Enhanced Creativity, was bad enough to, again, make one of my players just clearly not want to play anymore.

That is a total non-starter for me, because we play RPGs for fun and if something has become so restricted that it is essentially 'soft banned' from the players, that they feel 'punished' for using it in a way that isn't deliberately exploiting imbalances and oversights in the pricing of it, I am not going to use it. The word "punished" came up a distressing amount from my combat async (who mostly is a quiet, go with the flow, happy just doing his thing super well and laying low otherwise guy), too much for me to be comfortable using this edition of Psi even if we do switch the rest of the system over o 2e.

That said it is pretty easily houseruled. The infection system works, it is fast and simple and unlike strain it isn't constantly in your face and it doesn't cause you to take damage that may be totally irrelevant to thte scenario. It is just really poorly tuned right now with the majority of the risk being frontloaded to the point you may as well always buy out of the risk and therefore always just use the largest powers you can.

It feels like its trying to stop asyncs from using their powers outside an emergency, but in the end all it does is encourage reckless power usage. There is no carrot for asyncs to be subtle and blend passive and low key active powers to play the creepy mentalist. You just go from 0 to Charles Xavier out the gate and if you do anything else your just... objectively using psi not just poorly but so poorly you become a danger to your own team.

The good:

As I suspected combat async really loved how the 'themes' of strain work. He was strangely sorta excited about seeing them happen until he realized how common it was. He ended up making a combination of Predator and Haunter for his sorta 'paranoid but decisively lethal flight or flight' style character. He also liked the fact that his async would never be able to, and wasn't encouraged to, get rid of all his mental illnesses, and instead would just have them flare up or die down. Social character made a stranger. They basically were playing one anyway.

Not suffering strain 100% of the time made using a power less weird at certain times. Sometimes taking DV out of nowhere just didn't make sense as a limitation, other times it discouraged using panic sleights in situations they should use em.

The bad:

It is still somewhat irritating that I am allegedly supposed to fire off strain effects right away. That said its really easy to houserule it to "fire when dramatically appropriate."

Stab, and most low level 'combat' powers are still a joke. But assault is no longer a trap option because it... well... doesn't exist! And a few new assault style powers exist that have utility outside of a fight where any power besides "subliminal to eat gun" is objectively he wrong call.

The ugly:

Any mechanic that makes it feel like the system is judging you for thematic choices is a terrible one. The fact Chi sleights increase infection rating made little sense in theory. The actual results at the table make it clear that rules has no business existing, especially now that a lot of extremely useful chi powers are gamma.

On that note, this system heavily punishes a lack of system mastery. It is so easy to make 'objectively wrong' choices like having low moxie, choosing 'low key' powers, or trying to use weak powers to lower risk and conserve resources because the strain mod 'lies' to you about that being relevant.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

Reshy Reshy's picture
Yeah, the whole system is a

Yeah, the whole system is a mess. I really think that the drawbacks of being an Async shouldn't be tied to whether or not you actually use your psionic talent. They happen regardless of if you try to avoid it or not, so that by actually training your psionic talent you might get some recompense for the fact your mind is thoroughly fucked. The system, as is, is trying to make roleplay crunchy and it's pretty clear it just... doesn't work. Roleplay isn't a metric you can assign a number or probability too.

I think that the powers need a cost, but it shouldn't be too much. It could be a pool of "power points" like some games use, but I just don't think the infection mechanic should be directly tied to ability use. Under the current rules, PSI 1 is effectively free, you can play an Async that never needs to roll anything, and thus never needs to actually roleplay it out. I really think that Asyncs should have some more thought put into how to present them thematically in such a way that makes the player want to roleplay them without the game's insistence that they do something weird every so often as a cost for using their powers (Except for PSI-Chi, that's free).

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
Reshy wrote:Yeah, the whole

Reshy wrote:
Yeah, the whole system is a mess.

I would argue that the whole system isn't a mess. It is just like... lopsided. The actual idea of "Big psiman is gunna be forced to be a weirdo if they keep using their weirdo powers" is good. It just starts at too high a baseline, goes up evenly, and has arbitrary factors attached to it sarting higher, all of which combine to make it just... really player hostile for the behavior of low key psi users while directly encouraging the actions that make people not like psi in the first place.

Like just because the implementation of a mechanic has unforeseen negative consequences doesn't make the mechanic bad. Its sorta throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It is what playtests are for. For example on paper it seems like making chi raise psi, while an odd choice, won't be too bad because you can just avoid them. But in reality it is now this entire mechanic old psi users mixed, and more importantly it is the more flavorful, colorful version of psi that really plays into their neurodivergent thematics, that you become locked out of entirely by investing MORE into psi. It is deceptively player hostile and infuriating for both my players in actual play despite the fact its easy to make it irrelevant with system mastery, but you wouldn't know that until you see someone actually get upset that what used to be a flavor pic about them making weird and disturbing art for their downtime income now actively hampers their PC.

While not everything needs to be optimal, people WILL chose sub-optimal choices for fun, there are a lot gut-punch mechanics that sneak up on you and actively go out of their way to make you feel bad about choices you made (low moxie, lots of chi, weaker more flavorful powers objectively not being worth the massive 20% base risk out the gate when that is the same risk as high end control powers) that are more invasive than a simple sub-optimal design.

People used old stab, despite the fact that old stab was really really really terrible in every sense, and didn't feel bad about it because it "merely" was sub-optimal. However the context of it being an active malus rather than a passive under-tuning is critical, (trans)humans are loss averse by nature and when the thing holding a mechanic back is alot of in your face penalties it is hard to not feel like your actively being scolded for using that mechanic.

Again, literally no compelling reason Chi raises base infection. It is so bizarre and leads to so many dumb outcomes like psi 1 characters having almost universally higher base infection rates than psi 2 characters. And of course it is a mechanic where you get worse and worse at implementing your powers as the game claims you grow stronger, which I like to call the Truenamer Effect: where due to just poor math behind a mechanic it warps itself and snaps in half to the point it literally can't be called functional.

But if you just recontextualize some of the mechanics (ex: Making infection start low but raise faster for big powers which frames it as a cost-reward judgement rather than you just being garbage all the time at retaining control), and remove some of the pointless player punches it actually... becomes quite good. Quite tense. The numbers and triggers need massaging, but the idea of "use powers too often exposes yourself to risk" fits the themes of EP very well While 'async specialists' can be cool it is nice that your now very heavily rewarded for having abilities to lean on that aren't async powers and the variety of effects that can actually happen are for the most part chilling and horrific.

Like I would love to see them hit the table... it is just that with the current math (no entire system, just math) they never will because you have no incentive as a player to ever allow the remote possibility it will happen. This is trying to be a push your luck system but no one is ever going to push their luck in a system where you lose at a base rate of 20% and it raises by 5% every time you go for it. With two power usages your looking at a 40% chance to suffer some effect. At 3 it is a 64% chance your going to suffer something. And once psi chi enters the picture your just screwed. Having even 2 psi chi effects means that 2 powers puts you over the edge 65% of the time. Hell even if infection literally didn't increase at all, if it was totally flat as you used powers, using powers twice in a scene is still a 40% chance of things blowing up in your face. A base 20% chance is massive if you intend to use powers with any amount of frequency. A rank 1 psi user is

At this level of risk your either going to accept that your under some form of effect a majority of the time, which is really boring and not fun, or your going to moxie every time. There is no inbetween because the math just... doesn't work. For a push your luck mechanic to work it needs to be a pretty low base chance and it needs to (generally) grow slowly, but also have little ability to reduce risk (like say... making short rests worse, but not completely unable to, lower infection) because the very nature of pushing your luck means your rolling the dice many times and that means your chance of any given roll in a series being a failure dramatically increases rapidly. You don't need infection to grow super fast or start super huge because the very fact your rolling each and every time already compounds the risk in a series of usages.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

cpt.crush cpt.crush's picture
I think this is a very

I think this is a very interesting discussion, but I think we are mixing several things, which makes it hard to argue for or against something.

I would like to separate:

  • 1) How is Psi depicted in the universe?
  • 2) What design goals are we trying to achieve with the Psi rules?
  • 3) What are the actual rules we are proposing?

I think we should address them independently, and I think the flow should be 1) dictates 2) dictates 3).

1) How is Psi Depicted?

I don't want to argue so much about this one, as it would be messing with existing lore, which I like. Very briefly though, Psi is:

  • an alien infection, doing inexplicable things
  • a subtle effect based on brain waves
  • dangerous to its host
2) Design Goals

Overall, I think the game rules should reinforce the universe's depiction of Psi. In my opinion they should:

  • a) sometimes produce unpredictable results, e.g., results that add suspense and horror
  • b) occasionally put the Async in danger (seldom enough that it's probably not going to happen, but often enough that it's a consideration -- maybe 5%)
  • c) be more dangerous the more you benefit from it
  • d) NOT make Psi a true alternative to other role playing mechanics (e.g., Guns, drugs, hacking). In other words, players not using Psi should never feel the rewards for other players outweigh their dangers or penalties. Psi should be zero-sum.
  • e) NOT allow for a frequent use of Psi, but instead be an exotic highlight. Personally I think 3x usage of active Psi per day is fine.

In addition the rules should generally:

  • x) allow for growth and character development
  • y) be easy to comprehend and fluent (well, I guess at least be consistent with the other rules ...)
  • z) generally, don't be in the way of role playing

As I said, these would be my design goals. Your's might differ.

In the above, I for example disagree a bit with Maxwell on the premises c) and e) regarding his play test. I think it simply should not be possible for players to use Psi frequently (e.g., in combat), and I think due to all the benefits the Chi-sleights give, they should make things much more dangerous.

3) Rules

With these goals in mind, many of the existing rules actually work for me. As long as characters have Moxie around, Psi actually comes for free, but not having Moxie put you in the danger zone (e). I probably would not mind limiting it even more.

At the same time, using Moxie for Psi withdraws that resource, so there is some natural balancing happening (c, d).

I think rolling for Infection also nicely depicts a) and b), however, and I am starting to agree with Reshy, it can occasionally get into the way of role playing (z). I also agree with Maxwell that there should be a transition from subtle Psi-Chi to more offensive Psi-Gamma to allow for character growth (x).

To address that, and mostly keep the existing rules in place, how about these changes:

  • Increase infection rating with every Psi use, but roll a single infection test before a long rest if Psi was used that day.
  • Using Moxie for Psi would make this event "not count" for the night's roll.
  • No Moxie can be used for the night's roll.
  • Failed infection tests before rest deal out SV, partially prevent rest benefits, and trigger inexplicable nightly actions (i.e., all the stuff on current tables).
  • Psi only directly backfires on a critical miss (in a way that doesn't affect direct role play, e.g., handing out SV or DV) when performing active Psi roll.
  • During longer downtime, players can unlearn / "heal" Chi sleights when they want to move more toward Gamma sleights, possibly even by spending Rez to unlearn.
  • Psi should be more expensive to progress, at least in 'cost per sleight' (maybe in range of 2 - 4 Rez per sleight -- currently learning "Deep Scan" costs as much as increasing Know: Pre-Fall Movies by 5), maybe even for trait costs (3/6?).
Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
Long Rest Infection

I disagree that you should feel encouraged to 'upgrade' psi.

It is critical to remember that psi-chi already cost something to get. They bring something to the table, but so does literally anything else you can buy. More importantly most of the psi chi powers are relatively minor effects that are either upgraded (or in many cases downgraded) utilities of drugs and computers, and the ones that are actually big game changers, like the ones that give more pools, are so unflavorful as to not be worth ruining what Chi are.

Chi are completely benign symptoms of your alien mindset. The idea that you should get rid of them to upgrade your PC is absurd, both because there is no incentive to do that rather than just genning with gamma in the first place and because chi sleights are the most interesting and informative positive aspects of being an Async in terms of portraying a character.

The fact that every Async got and was encouraged to use Chi powers informed a lot about what Asyncs were: They were people who had their brains partially turned into an alien supercomputer. They saw the world in a fundamentally different way, and while it was often terrifying the most critical unifying experience for Asyncs was how they also were allowed unique insights into reality that formed literally the only 'culture' they had.

It is also the most 'in genre' advantage they could have. Powers like pattern recognition allow the GM to feed 'something isn't right' information in a completely alien way to most people. Creative Boost was outright terrible from an RPG perspective but was super constantly taken because the thematic of your PC fully 'Deep Dreaming' their art was super interesting.

The idea that you should make a PC who sees unlimited connections no one else can, using pattern recognition, savant calculation, and hyperthymesia, endlessly recognizing big changes in a situation through things small out of place based on information they collected years ago was interesting, it was what made asyncs actually like playing an alien, and the idea that these super fundemental changes in cognition being something you should 'buy off' is silly. It is already a bitter pill to swallow that some of the most interesting Chi are gone (they were critical aspects of my namesake PC: Dr. Maxwell is basically non-verbal due to neural scarring but is allowed to have these brilliant deductive leaps due to his massive cog and the fact he remembers everything and sees hidden patterns that are blindingly obvious to him, it was just super integral to how he was portrayed to the point it was arguably more important to his characterization than the fact he could mind control people sometimes), but the idea that you can 'turn off' the parts of the infection that help you, not to mention the fact your being encouraged to turn off the most interesting and character defining ones, is really a non-starter in my opinion and shows how badly mangled the Chi downside is, how nonsensical it is. I would rather see the +1 moxie chi go away than for you to have to choose between being interesting and being a viable (Not opimal, viable) PC.

I also find the idea that one should be encouraged to advance an async to being this mind-bully upsetting, because that is the least interesting aspect of asyncs, the idea that they can Charles Xavier people into doing whatever, compared to the powers that are either about collecting insane amounts of data through sense, or poking at very specific parts of people's brains to do weirdly specific things. Honestly if I had my way 'will errasure' powers like subliminal would just be taken out of gamma

Spoiler: Highlight to view
and put into Epsilon
so PCs would have to think about what Psi they take rather than having this one size fits all tool.

Finally, the idea that Psi should be 'zero sum' is seems ridiculous. Hackers aren't zero sum. Combat skills aren't zero sum. In RPGs the ideal is everyone brings things to the table, adding to a greater unit and using their abilities to work together and solve problems individuals couldn't. Designing an archtype to 'not offset the risk they bring' is bad design. Being good at a skill should always offset the downsides of the skill. That doesn't mean psi should be good at everything, but having psi should be as good as being good at something else, and being good at stuff in EP is generally very broadly useful: Hackers are amazing in social situations, can get gear, and in some combat situations are more important than people shooting, not to mention their domain of hacking. It is important to keep in mind that Firewall decided to bring asyncs in, and that means they need to be stable enough to serve as reliable sentinels and proxies most of the time. Firewall wouldn't use sentinel asyncs if they were bad at the primary job of a sentinel, which is to blend into a populace as a sleeper agent. More importantly that is what most asyncs do in universe, they can't be so unstable and overt that their existence can't be a near total unknown to even their close friends.

What is important is things being good in different ways. Psi has a natural niche already in being 'weird' in setting, it is a brute force hack that generally can be replicated in some other way, but the other ways are things people in universe know about, take time, and defend against while the same isn't true for psi. You can get something better than a deep scan by forknapping a guy and running interrogations against them in a VR space repeatedly. You can't do it nearly as quickly or quietly, and a big part of why psi is good is its subtle, which is why pushing for psi to be really overt works at cross purposes.

I think there may be confusion at my saltyness at Stab being objectively unusable to the point its no longer even good as a 'fun power.' I don't think psi should have a strong combat focus, but its combat options should at least be usable. There is a difference between 'sub-optimal compared to the specialist option' and 'you are literally better off just punching them there is no reason to ever use this ability.' It is important to remember weapons in EP are crazy powerful and actually using the 1d10 damage with an infection roll is literally worse than not having the power at all.

I think the ideal for a combat focused psi-power should be worse than an overt weapon, like a firearm, but about on par with or a bit better than a holdout or hidden weapon (like a knife or stunner or lone cyberweapon without all the frills) that requires a skill other than psi to use, because they are meant to be spookily strong in situations where most people don't have all their tools at the cost of permanent character maluses, requiring two attack rolls, and each usage causing risk of future instability. If your super specialized hard to use power that costs a lot to get isn't better in 99% of situations than a shiv you can make in 5 minutes, it needs to be rebalanced, and most of the 'fighty' psi powers are in that space, simply because of 'legacy design' where things are they way they are because that is the way they were, rather than any real reason for it. There is no real reason for stab to be so comically impotent compared to other psi powers forget an attack so free that the only requirement is to take the time to find it in any given room you are in.

--------------------

But all that is garbage because you, Cpt.Crush, are a genius, and your idea of psi infection being a single roll that happens at a long rest is so genius it brings me joy you thought of it and physical pain I didn't.

It is so brilliant on so many levels.

First, the psychology of it from a player perspective. By delaying the shoe dropping psi infections rolls are less of an immediate slap in the face for using your powers and are now a future problem you create for yourself, and that is amazing. It creates dread, and actually creates a push your luck scenario because each percentage increase is now a significant change rather than just further cementing the fact you WILL lose control over your PC.

Second, it gives GMs control over when to make the shoe drop, which is a plus.

Third, it is thematically BEAUTIFUL. Combat async in my group really likes asyncs because he has PTSD in real life. Asyncs allow him to play with the themes of mental illness without making his character's problems prevent him from being a protagonist and without being something that would be trivially cured in setting. And fear of sleep is a VERY common problem people who have mental illnesses face. It drips with flavor, asyncs have a ton of dread any night they used their powers worried that this morning they may wake up a different person, if only temporarily.

Forth, by making it a singular point of risk, you can completely remove the moxie usage (which I think you should) so that the player's control over the risk is their choice of how often to use psi that day rather than having to use moxie. A problem with the 20% base sequenced rolls is that it made things too sure a gamble without moxie. While even with this rule I would still argue the base should go down and the variance on how much infection rises power to power should exist, single rolls are inherently more uncertain than the outcome of multiple rolls over time. Because its a one off roll where the player decides how big the risk is, rather than it constantly happening, they don't need the 'escape' button that moxie provides.

Fifth, by making the infection roll happen at a single point where the story has slowed down and everyone is getting their bearings again, it allows infection to be more complicated. For example you could make the infection roll a DOS test so that merely failing just forces you to be 'acceptably' weird ("...Listen when you map the executive's hab can you count how many toothbrushes they have? It would just... make me feel better") while having a big DOS means the infection gets more and more out there, harmful, and invasive ("...I am going to kidnap the executive while no one is looking to count their teeth. Lets cut their mouth open to get a better look").

The main risks are that strain may become irrelevant (though it already sorta is) and that you may create a scenario where someone feels they are already screwed and decide to just blow up their infection. That said the DOS aspect would discourage it because even when your riding 60% infection maybe things only get REALLY nighmarish when you get 5 DOS so every point of infection up to 100 (where presumably you instantly would roll infection each power or something) would be relevant.

It is also important to note that desipite this system being absolutely brilliant it doesn't solve the problem (and it is a problem, I still think the idea of encouraging people to give up chi powers critical to a character's identity, and punishing you for purchasing more extremely minor powers you already paid dearly for is incoherent) that base infection rating being higher is suuuper bad. It also does nothing to make using the best and broadest powers less attractive compared to using more subtle and flavorful powers. The sense based character who just 'gets a bad feeling' when they focus is still not remotely good compared to a character who subliminals all their problems away.

Either way though the idea of infection and strain happening at a set point rather than all the time is just... so good. I can't stress enough how great it is. It feels so obvious in hindsight I am kicking myself for not thinking of it.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

Reshy Reshy's picture
Dr. Maxwell wrote:Chi are

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
Chi are completely benign symptoms of your alien mindset. The idea that you should get rid of them to upgrade your PC is absurd, both because there is no incentive to do that rather than just genning with gamma in the first place and because chi sleights are the most interesting and informative positive aspects of being an Async in terms of portraying a character.

I'm not sure about that, doesn't an async need to train their Chi Sleights to actually use them? Thought that the sleights are supposed to be a way for the Async to turn their condition to something that can benefit them, but the infection exists in spite of training. Which is not something really reflected in the game mechanics as is, the fact that you can be PSI without any sleights, and you're still semi-deranged. So with that in mind it seems really weird that infection only cares about how much training an Async has, rather than anything to do with their actual state of mind.

I do agree though, Chi Sleights do have a cost already, and usually something that can already be replicated... so why are they ladened with such a massive drawback for little if any actual gains over the mundane alternative? It kinda feels like a Rube Goldberg Machine almost.

Over-complicated solutions that could be more easily accomplished by other methods. Why get Hyperthymesia when Eidetic Memory is cheaper and often standard in morphs (Or Mnemonic systems in synths)? It doesn't offer anything that those don't. Oh you have a perfect memory! Great! Just like every other synthmorph and half of every biomorph in existence! Even if it doesn't come standard, that's easily fixed with some minor genefixing.

Quote:
The fact that every Async got and was encouraged to use Chi powers informed a lot about what Asyncs were: They were people who had their brains partially turned into an alien supercomputer. They saw the world in a fundamentally different way, and while it was often terrifying the most critical unifying experience for Asyncs was how they also were allowed unique insights into reality that formed literally the only 'culture' they had.

Yeah, I liked how the PSI Chi sleights kinda reflected the strangeness of the Async's mind and the fringe benefits of it.

Quote:
I also find the idea that one should be encouraged to advance an async to being this mind-bully upsetting, because that is the least interesting aspect of asyncs, the idea that they can Charles Xavier people into doing whatever, compared to the powers that are either about collecting insane amounts of data through sense, or poking at very specific parts of people's brains to do weirdly specific things. Honestly if I had my way 'will errasure' powers like subliminal would just be taken out of gamma
Spoiler: Highlight to view
and put into Epsilon
so PCs would have to think about what Psi they take rather than having this one size fits all tool.

Honestly, I think Gamma needs to be expanded slightly and given a face-lift to many of the existing powers. At least from what I've experienced in 1e, most Gamma Sleights are pathetically weak, and 2e doesn't seem to have really changed that any.

Quote:
Finally, the idea that Psi should be 'zero sum' is seems ridiculous. Hackers aren't zero sum. Combat skills aren't zero sum. In RPGs the ideal is everyone brings things to the table, adding to a greater unit and using their abilities to work together and solve problems individuals couldn't. Designing an archtype to 'not offset the risk they bring' is bad design. Being good at a skill should always offset the downsides of the skill. That doesn't mean psi should be good at everything, but having psi should be as good as being good at something else, and being good at stuff in EP is generally very broadly useful: Hackers are amazing in social situations, can get gear, and in some combat situations are more important than people shooting, not to mention their domain of hacking. It is important to keep in mind that Firewall decided to bring asyncs in, and that means they need to be stable enough to serve as reliable sentinels and proxies most of the time. Firewall wouldn't use sentinel asyncs if they were bad at the primary job of a sentinel, which is to blend into a populace as a sleeper agent. More importantly that is what most asyncs do in universe, they can't be so unstable and overt that their existence can't be a near total unknown to even their close friends.

What is important is things being good in different ways. Psi has a natural niche already in being 'weird' in setting, it is a brute force hack that generally can be replicated in some other way, but the other ways are things people in universe know about, take time, and defend against while the same isn't true for psi. You can get something better than a deep scan by forknapping a guy and running interrogations against them in a VR space repeatedly. You can't do it nearly as quickly or quietly, and a big part of why psi is good is its subtle, which is why pushing for psi to be really overt works at cross purposes.

Yes! Exactly! This whole idea that Asyncs shouldn't get any more than they receive, after investing quite a bit of metagame currency into their skill set is nonsense.

Also I strongly agree that Asyncs need to be more subtly creepy and/or weird, not hitting people with a fish because craaaaazy. It should represent a fundamental alteration to their mindset and how they view the world around them, not just "Oh hey roll against stupidity and if you don't fail it you do something stupid." If I wanted to play Mud Dragons in space, I'd already go and do that.

Quote:
I think there may be confusion at my saltyness at Stab being objectively unusable to the point its no longer even good as a 'fun power.' I don't think psi should have a strong combat focus, but its combat options should at least be usable. There is a difference between 'sub-optimal compared to the specialist option' and 'you are literally better off just punching them there is no reason to ever use this ability.' It is important to remember weapons in EP are crazy powerful and actually using the 1d10 damage with an infection roll is literally worse than not having the power at all.

In 1e I at least would spend a mental action to prep it for when I punched someone. At least then my punches had some pepper. Honestly it does need to be more useful... just like the rest of Gamma.

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Forth, by making it a singular point of risk, you can completely remove the moxie usage (which I think you should) so that the player's control over the risk is their choice of how often to use psi that day rather than having to use moxie. A problem with the 20% base sequenced rolls is that it made things too sure a gamble without moxie. While even with this rule I would still argue the base should go down and the variance on how much infection rises power to power should exist, single rolls are inherently more uncertain than the outcome of multiple rolls over time. Because its a one off roll where the player decides how big the risk is, rather than it constantly happening, they don't need the 'escape' button that moxie provides.
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I'm still not sure that I like the idea that you can avoid all the drawbacks of being an async by not using any powers. I'd still [strong]prefer

that rather than having the dice decide when and what to do that there's a proper section on how to roleplay an async so that you can do so without the dice's insistence.

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The main risks are that strain may become irrelevant (though it already sorta is) and that you may create a scenario where someone feels they are already screwed and decide to just blow up their infection. That said the DOS aspect would discourage it because even when your riding 60% infection maybe things only get REALLY nighmarish when you get 5 DOS so every point of infection up to 100 (where presumably you instantly would roll infection each power or something) would be relevant.

Yeah that's true, though it is supposed to be benign. So I don't know if total loss of player control is supposed to meet the definition of benign when the infection can mindjack you. Kinda removes much of the difference between WML and the other viruses.

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It is also important to note that desipite this system being absolutely brilliant it doesn't solve the problem (and it is a problem, I still think the idea of encouraging people to give up chi powers critical to a character's identity, and punishing you for purchasing more extremely minor powers you already paid dearly for is incoherent) that base infection rating being higher is suuuper bad. It also does nothing to make using the best and broadest powers less attractive compared to using more subtle and flavorful powers. The sense based character who just 'gets a bad feeling' when they focus is still not remotely good compared to a character who subliminals all their problems away.

Perhaps a "safe usage" capacity that's dependent on your aptitudes before you have to roll? And possibly let you contest the save with a willpower test? I mean the original Strain system was basically shadowrun's Drain system, but without the resistance test.

I think that aptitudes should, or ought, to have some influence on the capabilities and limitations of an Async.

...I'd still like a way that the Async can learn to better cope with the condition by interacting with the "dark entity" or w/e the book mentions. What concessions do you make to appease that alien consciousness in your head in exchange for it not making your life miserable, or perhaps even making it considerably easier.

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
In no order, because again,

In no order, because again, semi-unfocused from busting myself in my shitty old economy hab called Earth:

Hyperthymesia did have the advantage in that it is true autobiographical recall, rather than just stored memory or remembering things really really well.

It is really niche on its own, but that is fine! It combines really well with other chi (and in fact all chi combine nicely to allow your crazy artist to toss weird cryptographic savant calculation patterns into art to send messages to other asyncs) to allow you to not only have a perfect record of stuff, but always to remember it when it is relevant.

Maxwell, when I get the rare chance to bust him out because of the classic "once your willing to GM your a GM for life" problem, mostly functioned as the guy who always could find the clues that no one else could see, because he sat at a ridiculous cog, and had savant calculation, hyperthymesia, and pattern recognition. That was ultimately the core of his character, his status as a hacker or martial artist or what have you changed from 'interpretation to interpretation' but at his core that, and a ridonk Argonaut-Firewall rep and being a badly neural damaged reinstated, was what was important to him. Despite having anywhere from 1-3 of the gamma suite, Chi were always what he was about and it is super weird to try to make something that is in no way a weaker version of gamma into something you buy off in order to 'upgrade' into gamma.

Chi are interesting in that they are so fundemental to your mindset that they become like a signature advantage or disadvantage or faction or what have you. Thematically, yes, you can train into chi, but once you have a chi it colors how your PC is played and how they perceive the world. It is similar to why I like having exotic senses on my PCs when I play RPGs, the very information the character has access to is different and things some may find as 'side dressing' become highly relevant when you can do things like smell emotions or tell exactly who is currently in a hab section and if any strangers are there just by how the entry way's personal storage is arranged, or if you can figure out which company has the exurgent embezzling money in it remembered super minor conversations from 6 years ago and can correlate it to the stock ticker you watched for 10 seconds on the mesh.

I don't think Gamma is weak, unless you view it as a combat power, which it isn't and never really tries to be outside of comically half hearted efforts like stab. Guns in EP are really really really REALLY strong, and a lot of PCs already specialize in non-firearm forms of combat because the setting is fundementally about spies who may have the inclination to assassinate enemy agents who ambush them outside of a bar but who can't because both them and their opponents are undercover. Having a super weak holdout weapon that requires all the same skills as good holdout weapons and comes with drawbacks is silly, just because you shouldn't desire to wade into combat with psi powers as your primary tool does not mean they should be designed to be the absolute worst option pretty much regardless of context. It should be possible to envision a reason to want to use stuff like stab and the other 'violent' assault powers (because weirdly assault often had a lot of non-combat utility in it) such as them not requiring a close combat attack to get close enough to use so that an async without melee combat skills may employ them in self defense, or making it so that while they don't beat out guns, the cost of potential insanity and discovery is assumed to make them 'earn' more power than a standard 'socially appropriate' weapon like a stunner or eelware, so that the async trying to burst a brain is really scary when your trapped with them (playing up horror elements, being the async is basically being a 'heroic' horror villain) but not a crazy freak able to roll up to someone with a handgun.

But Gamma powers always allowed you access to powerful effects that were impossible for 99% of the setting, and honestly most characters you would ever interact with, to detect or resist. That was always their draw. Yes, a surface telempathy scan wasn't going to do much more than emotion reading software and searching someone's social media... but people know about those things in universe and have no idea that the mute doctor who's hand they are shaking now knows EXACTLY what you did last summer...

The issue is that now that all gamma costs the same it really highlights the fact that gamma are not really... equivalent to each other in power. Which is fine! It is just that because some gamma powers are really potent and really general, the specific niche gamma powers suffer. I don't think it is possible to design any sort of system that would make you not want to just use subliminals as your only gamma power all the time without making some powers cost more and some cost less, because the value of powers is just different. Having more specific and weaker powers cost less to use encourages asyncs to be specific and subtle, and to use these semi-genre defying tools in non-intrusive ways when it is appropriate, rather than going full SR mage tossing 8 sustained spells onto themselves to just solve all the problems.

In 1e, that was strain, strain was much bigger and every power had different strain, but because most of the damage from strain was random this was a bad system, and because you had 3 seperate psi skills and they were not equal at all this failed to balance gamma.

It bears repeating asyncs have plenty of disadvantages when not using their powers. Being an async makes you a worse character inherently, in the sense that, assuming you never were to use your powers, and didn't have to pay for being an async, being an async would be the inferior choice, because you are taking on 1-2 (in the relevant cases here almost certainly 2) mental disorders, and an increased weakness to infection vectors. That, combined with the fact it COSTS something to be an async on top of what it costs to buy powers and skills to use powers and the fact your locked out of synths and now pods, means being an async has to make your character better in the same way investing in more expensive morphs or having more pools or learning a skill makes you better. Hell, from a pure mechanical balance standpoint it needs to be stronger than traditional investments, because you got a bunch of frontloaded costs and downsides in addition to the fact any time you use these abilities you take on downsides. This idea that asyncs are getting a free lunch and there needs to be a drawback for just... having things you paid for that are ultimately not really much compared to other comparable options is completely absurd. It is like saying that because using guns can have a drawback, and not using guns disables that drawback, having skills in firearms should come with an inherent always on drawback. It just doesn't make sense.

It makes sense that GAMMA has downsides in terms of stability. Gamma powers have, again, a lot of inherent utility simply by being a somewhat powerful tool that no one knows about, which in a game about spies is huuuuge. But that stability hit should be scaled appropriately to what you are doing, it really doesn't make sense to value erasing a skill with erasing someone's free will for example. I never felt I was getting "ripped off" for taking gamma because despite the fact I was paying a lot for things other methods can do, gamma always could do them in its own unique way. Was it worth it? Maybe not, probably not. But it could be presented as at least being optimal in its own niches. Good design seeks to make disparate options that have different costs and upsides and downsides to all have some situation where they are the correct choice. Psi needs to be that way as well, and at least some Gamma sleights (usually the more general sense powers and the will erasure control powers) did a fairly good job of offering that. You could fully expect to be in gameplay situations where spending points on reading minds or subliminal was worth it. You could not say the same about things like stab or mindlink... Wow, touch ranged communication that causes damage to you in a setting with skinlink, and your only charging 5CP? Sign me up!

If a cutoff point for infection rating being rolled at all were to be introduced, I would say it should only be done if A: Infection starts at 0%, and B: it is realistic to expect people to be able to use multiple usages of a weak power before having to roll, while that roll still happening at a relatively low point, like 15 or 20%. Part of the strength of rolling it all at once is that it heavily encourages the async to dig their own grave, and having a definite point where you don't risk that makes it really easy to game this and remove all the suspense such a system creates. It would be even worse if the point was high because you would jump from a 0% infection risk to almost a sure thing once you tipped over. That said having a cutoff is nice because it allows asyncs to use some minor abilities sparingly 'risk free' which helps explain how civilian asyncs who aren't basically being protected by spies to function.

Also I don't think it would be full character loss if it was graded on DOS, at least not most of the time. If the DOS for "Your an NPC for a day, and a scary as hell one" 50, and infection started at 0, that means you don't even risk it up until you go to half infection. EP as a game doesn't function that well if your GM can't assume you will honestly play an altered mental state, so the need for async behaviors to remove control doesn't exist and hopefully the hypothetical table of severity of strain effects would assume that it would only be required for extreme outlier circumstances when PCs really pushed their luck.

A system to reduce infection rating by getting in tune with your infection may work. I don't like the idea of ENFORCED personification of the infection, but it would be nice. In 1e it was very possible for your async to be relatively comfortable with their state, even if they didn't remove their derangements. Having a PC who is already acting out some of the things the infection wants to do (like say... Maxwell deciding to only sleeve into exotic morphs) could just be a standing infection reduction. I think the trick is to make it less about 'dealing' or 'avoiding' and more 'coping.' If it is significant enough to reduce infection it should cause SOME issues. Maybe not as much as a botched infection roll, but because your doing it now and it may not even be relevant for any given roll it may balance out.

Again, any async system that forces asyncs to be really overt all the time and to depend on a group of spies to help protect them doesn't make sense with the setting. It should be possible, even likely, that an async operating under 'normal' conditions appears under the threshold of divergent behavior to be a fully productive citizen of a hab. Asyncs need to be capable of, on their own, keeping one of the most lethal secrets of the setting secret.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
Personal Preferences Ahoy!

I still haven't had a chance to test, so this is all just me.
Take it with Salt.
-----

I'm a little off-put by the use of Moxie for Psi rolls; it puts a particular onus on the haracter to use Socially oriented morphs, which in turn pushes them towards Social character builds. This may fit for some characters, but certainly not all.
I'd prefer it if Psi was linked purely to Flex, or maybe came with it's own dedicated Pool. The later could cause problems, but would open up some interesting interactions in how powers work and the Recharge mechanic.

Regarding Combat - I agree that using Sleights with wild abandon should NOT be supported, because thematically EP Psi is supposed to be more subtle and insidious.
That isn't to say Combat Sleights shouldn't be there, but they should work along those lines, effecting the field by creating opportunities or interfering with normal game mechanics.

Taking Psychic Stab as the most extreme example, it could be changed so that you only need to roll once to 'activate' it, after which it can be used for the next [Time Period] at will, or until the fight ends (the Async calms down / no longer feels threatened).
Another possibility is that physical contact is only required for the first attack against the target to establish a connection, after which it can be used at range.

Both make the sleight more attractive but with different connotations; the former can be framed as entering a different state of mind or unleashing something normally suppressed, whilst the later has connotations of Infection.

Other options would be sleights which improve your normal attacks, such as making them all armor-penetrating ("You instinctively perceive and aim for your prey's vulnerabilities") or allow you to use other skills to for the attack roll, maybe as Chi for Melee and Gamma for Ranged.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?

cpt.crush cpt.crush's picture
Thanks for the feedback. I

Thanks for the feedback. I feel flattered about the comments regarding nighty Infection rolls :)

Just a few more things I would like to point out:

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I disagree that you should feel encouraged to 'upgrade' psi. [...] The idea that you should get rid of them to upgrade your PC is absurd, both because there is no incentive to do that rather than just genning with gamma in the first place

The main reason I am suggesting it is to codify character development along Psi.

I can see, for example in our party, that players start with Chi only, but want to upgrade to Gamma later. In that case, the base cost Chi causes for Infection tests might not reflect what the player wants anymore.

If we then already have rules for removing negative Ego traits, why not healing or removing certain Chi sleights?

In my mind it would be lore compatible and better than being "stuck" with something.

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Honestly if I had my way 'will errasure' powers like subliminal would just be taken out of gamma

Personally I like the narrative options they provide, but this is what I meant with "zero sum": Some Gamma powers are just very powerful, and they should not allow Psi players to dominate the game more than non-Psi players on average(!).

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Designing an archtype to 'not offset the risk they bring' is bad design. Being good at a skill should always offset the downsides of the skill

Yes, I agree. Just currently, after some rather small base investment in Psi, I can unlock many fancy superpowers at 1 extra CP / Rez.

Instead, I would prefer non-Psi players should feel that Psi players had to invest about the same CP amount for the same overall "game-influencing effects".

Currently it's like: Non-Psi invests 3 CP to get +15 in guns, while Psi invests 3 CP to get "Basilisk Stare", "Implant Memory" and "Subliminal".

If you could, which one would you pick?

Frankly though I think it's an easy fix by tweaking CP values.

Maybe even each sleight should have individual CP costs?

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I think the ideal for a combat focused psi-power should be worse than an overt weapon, like a firearm, but about on par with or a bit better than a holdout or hidden weapon

Personally, I would remove any "vanilla" combat effects for Psi, like doing "roll DV 1d10", since they are the most mechanical and have least flavor, not really helping the in-game depiction of Psi.

Instead I would go with more dramatic, but short term effects for combat, like

  • cause spasms
  • provoke seizure
  • self-harm

which each have their own support effect in a fight (e.g., target loses 1 turn, target attacks itself 1 turn, ...)

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I'm a little off-put by the use of Moxie for Psi rolls; it puts a particular onus on the haracter to use Socially oriented morphs, which in turn pushes them towards Social character builds.

I would like to add one more dimension to the whole "Infection too fast" discussion:

Depending on the strain you pick, you can easily fire Psi 10x and *not* care about infection during combat or other scenarios: Pick "Stranger", "Architect", maybe even "Predator".

The first two mainly cause Compulsions, which are long-term anyway. The last one has a few impulses, but when used in combat with offensive Psi, they would even be cool in my mind.

With these strains, and, say 10 failed infection ratings in a row, what is the worst thing that would realistically happen?

About DV 2d6 + x damage, triggering your disorder for d6 hours, and having a compulsion.

The damage isn't too bad for all the effects you'd get from 10x psi, and doing two weird things for the rest of the day sounds interesting as well.

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Asyncs - what do?

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a: Mostly I'm just wondering why they're a thing at all
a: Like, hot take time: we have a fairly tech&Science oriented setting so far
a: And...now we have superflu that'll give you space magic-itis
a: It's not that i hate the idea of Asyncs or anything, i'm just wonering what exactly the Devs have (or don't have) in mind

Quoting a friend from a recent chat on the subject (emphasis mine), I share their curiosity/confusion as to the mechanical and thematic ‘point’ of async characters, and psi in general.

Like my friend, I don’t necessarily dislike the ideas or concepts intrinsic to psi abilities and characters, but I’m just as mystified as to what, particularly, psi characters are supposed to do or be in a setting where a lot of their abilities can be emulated, or similar effects achieved - when many psi descriptions explicitly state the opposite is the case in universe.

If there is some defined role that Asyncs are supposed to fulfill at both the squad (read-player party) level, and the organizational level for Firewall, it'd probably be easier to suss out what their abilities should be, beyond the established 'alien' and 'spooky'.

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
Well in 1e Asyncs were able

Lurkingdaemon wrote:
If there is some defined role that Asyncs are supposed to fulfill at both the squad (read-player party) level, and the organizational level for Firewall, it'd probably be easier to suss out what their abilities should be, beyond the established 'alien' and 'spooky'.

I think this actually touches on a really good point in that 2e took everything about 1e asyncs and poured a giant bucket of 'its spooky and baaaaaad to be an async' paint on the whole thing and in doing so lost the plot on the fact that asyncs are supposed to actually bring a lot to the table and be able to participate in firewall as peers rather than transhuman weapons of ambiguous value for pure spook and agnst factor.

1e Asyncs were able to do the following 3 things rather effectively.

Analyze data: Asyncs were able to, using Chi, crunch an amazing amount of information, lore wise, allowing them to be unparaelled analysts. Think of the depiction of the Genetically Enhanced patients in the episode Statistical Modeling of DS9: They are able to make extremely accurate predictions of other people's intentions and motivations based on very small amounts of seemingly insignificant data, which fits pattern recognition. They could accurately guess someone's life history by looking at how they talk, with enhanced kenisis. They also all had extreme mental side effects of their powers, which while not totally crippling made them clearly non-neurotypical. Grok also allowed this.

Extremely potent and subtle 'intrigue' abilities: I mean its been mentioned many times, but Subliminal is just crazy strong. It also happens to be something that, if you pass your roll, is completely undetectable, undefendable, and irresistable. An async able to operate in a social enviroment was able to 'brute force' situations in a way that made them rather terrifying. They could read surface thoughts with a handshake, and make people forget their presence. While other tools like hacking were able to do this more safely and with far less downside, asyncs who focused on disorder that made them seem normal most of the time had the advantage on hackers that no one knew that this threat existed, forget about the fact there was no real defense against this threat. Asyncs could therefore get information off limits to anyone else, and get people to do things no one else could do.

Superior 'cognition': While asyncs weren't smarter than anyone else per-say, asyncs were generally fantastic at mental task actions, making them brilliant designers, inventors, AR simspace creators, and of course hackers. All of these abilities had extreme utility for a more subtle firewall squad that would need to get top end gear 'in the field' with few resources, or who would want to do things like make hyper-realistic AR prisons for fork interrogations.

As a bonus, these things all made them remarkably effective spies, which is what EP is ultimately about. Furthermore, while asyncs had downsides, these downsides didn't 'lock them out' and weren't so crippling that you had to define your PC as an async. In fact a big problem with the current doc is how much being an async totally informs you about your character: the permanent disoders are mostly violence based meaning that asyncs with a combat background, like zone stalkers or most Lost, don't work, because they just lose it. The infection rules also make social asyncs, something formerly quite good, now not really functional, not so much because you may act crassly but because any time it would be optimal to use a power it also becomes extremely likely you will need to either spend your social pool or will just freak the hell out.

Asyncs were never great at combat. Even close combat, despite the fact the art and lore presented asyncs as these spooky people who could do terrible things to you. Async powers just were never good in a fight, and while its nice we don't really have space wizards something is really lost when being touched by an angry async isn't remotely intimidating. While async powers shouldn't replace guns, there should be a reason to want to use assault style powers. The picture of Stab in 1e's core rules is remarkably thematic and sums up a lot about what is cool about asyncs, which is why it is a shame that the picture comically overblown how good stab is. It is critical to remember how agressively lethal most easy to get weapons in EP are. If your attack is going to have a lot of innate downsides (melee only, vs biomorph only, requires multiple skill rolls, causes infection to rise, causes you to get strain, requires a skill that needs a strong combat morph to generally be useful, and requires you to be an async which is a categorically bad thing to be because of a lot of base downsides) it needs to be scary when it crops up, rather than a tickle. If an Async is in a morph able to roll in unarmed, is trained in unarmed, is able to touch you, activate the power, pay infection, resist strain, and you are a biomorph? Something terrible should be happening to you, you should feel like that shmuck on page 222 who is actively having some freaky super charged aneurysm. You shouldn't be saying "Oh. Wow. Ok. Glad you didn't stab me, freak." And that seems to have spread to most of being an async now. It just is "ok... well... glad you didn't use a totally normal method to do that thing because your weird powers with lots of drawbacks aren't even... that good..."

A lot of the problems seem to be that 2e asyncs were designed around their weaknesses and drawbacks and intent to be freaky and unreliable, but not a lot of thought was given to like... their "mechanical fantasy." Like... best case scenario, spotlight on the async, the GM pitched them a fastball right over home plate and they are ready to swing for a home run, the team set them up and is cheering them on, it is their time to shine...

What happens?

We know what happens for a combat character. An unarmed or clubs character manages to throw down with hostile agents who came at them on a firearm free hab with guns or knives, or manages to use their crazy morph weapons to go ham on someone. A gunman John Wicks an entire group of people with crazy shots. A seeker user sets up a targeted blast and wipes people out before anyone sees them.

The hacker gets their data, they upload a scorcher, then evacuate an ego in a kidnapping, wipe the brain, make it look like the stack burst, and now put fork their target in a VR prison to endlessly interrogate them to totally 'solve' their brain and get 100% of the info on it. Freaking scary, they now have the keys to a hypercorp!

Social characters set up something big. Jammers manage to use superior tactical awareness and positioning to destroy everything. The stealthy character gets through everything undetected and unharmed. The morph specialist's freaky mods win the day...

What about asyncs? They don't really seem to... do much of anything big, which is weird because it costs more to be an async, at 2 disorders, permanent rise in risk of infection, and points, not to mention a skill and the need to invest in moxie. Maybe they subliminal someone important? But that is really similar to what social characters do and its really hard for an async to get into important situations because 2e made them radically less stable people. They cant use sense to like... solve a combat because again they are too unstable. And if they go try to have a big moment with a neat combination of async powers they go nuts.

The answer to this seems to be 'asyncs aren't meant to purely focus on being asyncs,' that now asyncs are meant to be spice in another character type rather than purely their own thing, because a big part of this design was to discourage rapid power usage... but... at the same time being an async now has so many inherent unremovable drawbacks that async powers... But that is blatantly not true. Because being an async is already frontloaded with a lot of costs on top of the costs to actively use powers, and because it basically makes your PC a ward of your team because they are borderline mentally incompetent, being an async now requires you to focus heavily on gaining some benefit from it.

In 1e a flavorful stage 2 async worked because you could dodge around the worse disorders and work on curing them out of the gate. Your powers did cause damage to you which meant there was a limit on how much you could use them, but any given power was safe to use so even if you weren't trying to exploit them too hard it was fine. You could play a lot of the canonical examples of asyncs they gave you: Zone Stalkers who are total badasses who were infected on an op. A normal, mid grade hypercorp accountant who got mysteriously infected and is just holding onto their normal life when Firewall contacts them. A social predator stalking the upper crust of society exploiting their powers to their own benefit.

In 2e your async baaasiiically is now a weapon that other people lug around to use subliminal because they can hardly take care of themselves in stressful situations anymore due to their permanent, now less flexible disoders, and they can't use their powers for their own benefit because their powers are really dangerous for themselves. Watts went from being the benign strain that brought a lot of paranoia into your life and encouraged you to be a bad person to being benign to humanity but absolutely crippling for the infected.

Like... what is an async actually supposed to do?

It was super telling that earlier in the conversation when buying off Chi powers was mentioned that they were compared to disadvantages, rather than advantages. Right now it seems like being an async is about getting some rather not useful abilities and a few comically useful abilities while absolutely gutting the rest of your character and basically being forced to play this mentally broken wreck, a 180 from last edition where successful asyncs tended to be unusually willful and social creatures in order to cope with their problems. It feels like they would fit more into something like 40k, they almost seem to be like Wyrdboyz from Orks, being some degenerate you drag around to use useful powers for you rather than a character with their own agency and ability to form opinions on what happened to them, simply because the mechanics are way more focused on hammering home how not good it is to be an async rather than why Firewall wants and respects asyncs enough to make them agents and leaders in spite of how unsettling the source of asyncs is and how they are a potential sleeper agent.

It is not so much that asyncs should be something every PC should want to be. It is more that being an async informs so much negative about your PC without really giving anything back, so you never get to have moments where you say "I am glad I rolled an async, this is so much fun! I feel like a scary mind predator." Instead you generally seem to go "Whelp... call me if you need me to shake someone's hand and compel them to make out with the social character with the Oxytocin in their glands. I will be in the kitchen."

Like if I were to redesign this and absolutely had to keep gamma powers as something you don't want to use frequently I would make Stab some crazy harmful attack that lands solely on a psi roll likely to kill most people it is used on. I would make Basilisk last for minutes after you broke eye contact and when it ended people would hardly be able to remember that they saw a face, let alone what your face looked like. Block sense would last for hours, and on an especially good roll days. Mindlink would be chi. Ect. They would be powers that when they landed just completely leave NPCs who aren't in the know in the lurch about what to do. Being alone in a room with an async should be unsettling, rather than an easier situation to handle than someone with a knife.

Like the core idea of "Build your own infection symptoms, risk getting more and more aberrant as you use powers" is good. It is just the risk-reward ratio is completely skewed to make Asyncs just not fun, which is especially weird because EP didn't have the whole 'everyone is awakened' problem SR did. Asyncs were always less popular PCs because of how little they brought to your character, they just brought it both ways so you could pick em for fluff.

Other things to consider:

Now that we have strains that will continually force abberant behavior when the async does their thing it raises the question of if asyncs should be saddled with disorders out of the gate, rather than just getting a much more mild behavioral disadvantage, because we now have a mechanic that is going to force big freakouts frequently anyway if the async acts like an async. Permanent disorders also make it impossible to have asyncs coping with their infection in different ways, which is thematically ugly.

Consider a limit on number of Chi powers known/active at a time, rather than an infection increase, if there is a concern of people just stacking Chi powers as 'infinite 'ware' because the infection base rating increase doesn't actually do anything to prevent that anyway. Maybe base it on Will. Consider making it possible to turn Chi powers off, despite how brutally thematically ugly it is and how much it harms the metaphor asyncs as non-neurotypical, but gifted. Like people with autism or mental illnesses or other brain disorders that change how they precieve the world for good or ill can't turn it off, but if it makes dual-type asyncs work I guess mechanically it is worth it...

DOS based infection tests allow infection tests to be common without making every async who actually uses gamma powers/pushes an invalid or someone who is constantly out of Moxie. It also encourages asyncs to have small tells, which fits the thematics of 1e and makes the infection roll and strain subtype more likely to actually be table relevant.

The rules are taking away less player agency at the table, but still take away a lot of story agency by basically telling the PCs they can't ever be remotely coping with what happened to them, they can't ever be fixed or well or good. Considering how well asyncs worked as a metaphor for PTSD and Aspergers at my table with my players, that is a pretty.... pretty dark message to be putting out. Like EP has a pretty strong "Not being neurotypical doesn't make you a bad person" message and it seems weird to write that out of asyncs considering they were the most concrete and overt way to represent the benefits of living in a society that tolerates people who aren't neurotypical besides maybe the ever popular KATANA OCTOPUS.

Like... I dunno... I think asyncs should be fun to play as and with, before the focus is put on their drama. Right now the spotlight is shined so hard on the drama and drawbacks of being an async/being teammates with one it becomes questionable of why anyone should care about them or want to be them. Again, the current October rendition of Asyncs makes it feel like the mechanics just don't want you to be one, and when you think about it, the fact that the changes were all about making being an 'healthy' async impossible and the fact that the rules literally tell you why you shouldn't want to be an async before even telling you that asyncs have upsides (while 1e was upfront about the bad stuff it at least opened with "asyncs are people with weird powers that no one understands" rather than "Being an async is a permanent alteration to your mind and does all these bad things." 1e has the advantage of having, you know, fluff and a few other chapters that build up the advantages, but it is still interesting that now the disadvantages have top billing) makes it hard to feel like this isn't true.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
And then and then...

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
*Snip*

A lot of good points and observations. I'm kinda relieved I'm not the only one seeing the rather unfortunate connotations of "Wheel out the freak" as well (the Wyrdboy comparison) - where Servers or even Firewall as an organization basically institutionalizes forcing traumatized individuals into doing things that are manifestly even more traumatic to them, for the benefit of their 'normal' agents.

As an example of the difficulties of using Psi: I'm trying to put together an uplift character for a playtest. In short, they're the family 'champion' and one of many strong-arms within the cartel they're part of, and the idea for them was their Psi abilities (chi-only) would make them neurodiverse, but uncannily perceptive and have this indistinct edge that nobody can quite figure out.

Here's some ways it falls flat - and I have to either abandon the concept, or drop psi from it in favor of something that, in the bluntest terms, doesn't suck:

-Mandatory Disorder: At Psi 1 it forces only a single, incurable, disorder on your character. Fine, we can work around that through play. Problem is, not only does my intended Psi strain (Predator) not have any thematically appropriate disorders related to my character's background, it also forces (or at least recommends) disorders which are thematically counter-intuitive to the strain itself, or outright detrimental to the behaviors of the character or the strain. 'Violence' is a listed trigger of about 3/4ths of ANY of the disorders to pick from, which basically means my character can't be the skull-buster I was planning for, because they might go catatonic in the situations in which they are supposed to excel.
-Incurable Disorder: Right, fine, we get it, Psi is for life and you have to find a backup from before you got infection to get rid of it. Except, much like having any of the described mental disorders in real life, having a mental disorder sucks. As mentioned previously, few of the listed disorders would fit thematically for the character or their psi strain - and those that do are completely incompatible both with the strains behaviours and the character's role objective. Unlike other drawbacks, this can't be removed, coped with or 'cured' in the same way someone can eventually get themselves off a blacklist, or pay off their outstanding warrants. Even Hardening can be psychosurgeried away with a good enough roll, if one decides not to keep it on in the first place - as Hardening against Violence would be a natural pick for this kind of character. Except even that doesn't do anything except make violent scenes and interactions less stressful, as hardening has no interaction with disorders/disorder triggers 'Ruled as Written' - when it probably should.
-Don't Push. Ever: Well Chi sleights are nice, bargain-bin passive bonuses. It sure would be nice if I could maybe get a little more out of them, but nope! I want to stack ALL the chi sleights - which would push a base infection rating well over 100, thanks to the fact that Chi sleights automatically make you more prone to loosing it to your infection(?!). This means my character can NEVER push themselves, because they'd not only automatically fail their infection roll, there'd be an almost guaranteed chance of a critical failure - at which point my GM can save a dramatic failure (or two!) for me at some other critical juncture which I have to make a contested WIL roll to get out of - No thanks. This is a minor upside, but it also feels like it's gaming the system - as my character will never risk infection, or their strain's nebulous intelligence screwing with them, as compared to Gamma psi character's who will wrestle with that every time they use their powers.

EDIT: This gets even worse when you realize, that WIL roll to resist dramatically failing whichever roll the GM decides to mess with? That’s based on your infection rating + 30 - meaning if you have a base infection rating of 70 you automatically fail THAT roll too!

No pools for you: Yay! I can get a free pool for everything except Flex! And I don't need ware for it! Except my character is relegated to a Biomorph - which isn't all that terrible - but now can't make use of 2/3rds of the Morph catalogue. If my ST/GM decides the next adventure is going to have morph restrictions to saaay...Cases or Pods, then my character is suddenly stripped of any and all benefit they might have had over others on the team - and are left being just a crazier version of an otherwise functional team member.
No TITANs for you: Oh right. Psi is caused by the Exsurgent virus. Guess what Firewall regularly encounters while trying to save transhumanity? The Exsurgent Virus. While it's nasty for everyone, it's especially nasty for my character now, since they're automatically more inviting (and less resistant) of a target for the various forms of the virus. And Basilisk Hacks - which are basically just as bad as having a Gamma psi use 'Subliminal' on my character, except from range, through any number of stimulus that are impossible to avoid. It legitimately begs the question WHY does Firewall use these guys, when they are, in fact (and has been DEMONSTRATED in 1st Ed lore/narrative) far more susceptible to having their minds subverted, or straight up being turned into something worse than what other agents have been dealing with previously?

These are just the up front difficulties behind the theory of the character. There's probably things I've missed or hadn't considered that might also affect the concept - which isn't all that inventive, and feels like a rather min/maxed and munchin way of making use of the current rules.

Stuff I'd suggest to improve Psi:
-Dominant Strain: Make this 1st Ed trait a FEATURE of being Async. Because Exsurgent viruses are lethal anyways, and there is zero sense to sending someone to fight it who is MORE susceptible to the crap that it can do. For PSi 1, make it a +10 resistance, and Psi 2 +20.
-No 'zero sum' costs: Chi Sleights are bargain bin improvements that are nullified by 2/3rds of the body options a character has. Not only that but, as currently written, having any Chi sleights is a MAJOR detriment to a Gamma psi who wants to make active and regular use of their powers. Get rid of the stacking base infection 'cost' to Chi Sleights, because it literally does nothing other than to tell a psi character: You cannot have this cool thing if you want to do this cool thing.
-Coping Mechanisms: So my character has Predator strain, and has their disorders triggered every time they get into a fight. Have something where the infection can 'step in' and help out, or have some mechanic where the character can adjust and lessen, if not negate, the problems caused by 'giving in' to the alien whims and desires of their Exsurgent strain. At the very least their infection should be looking out for itself, so if things do go sideways, the infection should be ready to jump in and do 'what needs doing' even if it has no concept of the consequences, beyond it's and it's hosts immediate survival and safety.

EDIT: Further thought I had:
-If the above suggestions can’t/won’t be considered, then make Psi a Negative trait. At this point, in both the mechanics and narrative, Psi is a glorified, overly expensive drawback to any character that has it, or takes it. Make Psi 1 a 2cp drawback, and Psi 2 a 3cp drawback - folding the costs of the built-in (INCURABLE) disorders into the whole deal.

I suggest this because of the precedent set by Hardening: where a character gets a minor benefit for a more severe drawback/penalty.

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
Psi as a disad?

I don't like the idea of making someone take Psi as a disadvantage.

It is just that the entire concept has been overloaded with disadvantages to make them seem creepy and weird and sight was lost on the fact that asyncs are meant to stand as characters in their own right.

Like this meme of "being an async shouldn't be fun ICly" has sorta seeped out into OOC and now the design is solely focused on "giving downsides to async powers" rather than... you know... making async powers useful in the first place.

There should be very comeplling reasons to want to be an async, just as there should be compelling reasons to want to be a rep-master, or a hacker, or to be an Ultimate in an amazing combat morph. But the design is so focused on giving reasons "why not" that it forgot to give reasons for "why yes."

Also it has a classic legacy mechanic problem that tends to crop up during edition changes, where things are done just because that is how they used to be done. In this case its giving disorders for each psi rank, despite the fact that the new design is basically to treat Psi like a super disorder, meaning now you have redundant downsides that just make your freakish behavior so constant that you stop really being an awesome member of a conspiracy with agency and just become this wretched thing that everyone else takes care of. Like how the Xenomorph substrain gives you permanent Alien Behavioral Disorder so your acting like a weird alien when psi crops up or you feel alienated because of your psi... and then for strain effects upon using psi it makes you act like a weird alien... So basically your always in some sort of state of incapacitation that often is redundant (triggering your disorder with a psi roll and then on top of that landing an infection strain result).

Basically all of the disorders attached to psi put you in a near permanent death spiral of terrible behavior for no good reason because psi already has a much better way to represent struggling with your condition (even if it has issues) in the form of infection rolls and sub-strain effects.

Like at the moment psi gamma is so backside laden that even as a disadvantage that gives you points its a bit too harsh. While the infection chance increase is rather immaterial in practice, at least in 1e where you generally were either immune due to implants, were protected, or kinda screwed no matter what, disorders got a LOT more intense from 1e to 2e and the move from strain as temporary small damage to strain as you behaving almost completely irrationally at a very high rate means that infection rolls are just not worth it unless your getting something amazing out of it, but more importantly being an async means your defined by a near constant state of severe, almost incapacitating, mental illness which does not jell with their previous depictions of just being prone to non-neurotypical behavior and extremely strange patterns of thought.

No one is going to play a character where your going to be catatonic in most high stakes situations, which is why disorders were always a super unpopular disadvantage to have to take a lot of, because once you get more than one disorder your spending most of your time undergoing a rather distressingly realistic portrayal of how incapacitated severe mental illness makes you. While there is an upshot that there are more disorders that aren't just "you lose all personal agency in stressful situations/just all the time" so it is easier to make more varied disorder combos that actually make a PC functional, there aren't any disorders that you can 'cope with' anymore, your always just operating under a severe penalty if you have more than one disorder.

------

It also is important to note that despite me hammering home the fact that Async powers have a big limitation in only really working on biomorphs, that isn't a bad thing. It is ok for different types of characters to thrive in different situations, like with how kinetic weapons are amazing vs transhumans but terrible vs Factors or Exurgents, or how Synths are just far superior at anything physical but have social weaknesses as well as being literally the worst thing (before braincases were introduced and destroyed the balance around synths) to be sleeved into when facing down Exurgents besides maybe an infomorph.

But these things aren't total, 100%, you don't get to do jack events like they are to gamma using asyncs under the current design. In 1e despite having to spend 3 times as many skill points on gamma powers, you also didn't have to build around them so hard if you didn't want to, and more importantly being an async still got you chi powers so you still had things up your sleeves in a synth heavy enviroment or against a synth opponent.

Now that gamma is, lets face it, exclusive from Chi (so we now have psi mages and psi adepts ala shadowrun) and because Gamma deliberately limits how often you can use it AND requires you to touch someone either socially or in combat AND ON TOP OF THAT introduces an extreme level of mental incapability to your PC, there isn't an excuse for gamma not basically making you a god when interacting with biomorphs because the area of it actually being helpful is so narrow that it needs to basically be a perfect solution any time it crops up. Which, obviously, is not a fun or good design compared to just... you know... easing back on making psi gamma users feel completely miserable all the time and buffing a few of the weaker powers so that they have an actual purpose.

There is talk about 'not wanting to make psi better than having a hacker or using a gun' which I feel is a bit silly because guns are such ludicrously high damage with an extremely low investment and risk factor to use that it would be really hard to make any psi power more attractive than just shooting someone if you had total access to both firearms and psi powers and had to pick one to use. Likewise in EP being a hacker is probably the most useful thing to be in the game to the point that I have literally never seen a PC made who doesn't have 50 or higher infosec. It just makes sense that your conspiratorial spy should understand how to defend their own computers and run basic encryption.

Like if you want asyncs to limbo under those two aspects of the game (which are already probably the most powerful option by a wide margin and most broadly useful tool in the game, respectively) fine... but because the bar on those abilities is so comically high to the point asyncs could be well and clear under it just by walking across the room like normal, it doesn't make sense to try to go so low as to dig a hole under that bar.

Asyncs in never threatened those two aspects of the game in 1e and considering they are taking a major power hit in 2e it is no wonder that, despite how absolutely and amazingly rad the substrain and infection roll systems have become as an idea, the balance on how they were implemented is so off that people are now talking about psi as a disadvantage rather than advantage.

By taking psi, an already rather underpowered mechanic, and taking away power in the form of an async's stability, the design had room to move that power somewhere else to make psi powers much more terrifying and impressive. But that power wasn't moved at all and was just removed, so now psi feels like an anemic mechanic begging for death.

Or to be less wordy about it: Don't take a weak mechanic and then pile nerfs onto it out of fear of the mechanic somehow over-preforming despite no new power really entering the mechanic.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Criticism vs Constructive Criticism

While its rather easy to take apart the current rules draft and criticise how things look, I’d honestly rather discuss suggestions or constructive feedback.

For my part I have been considering and iterating some suggestions as to how things might be made more appealing both for the mechanics and the general themes/memes of Psi:

-The Infection is the Disorder: Rather than tack on an obligatory mental disorder(s) that never goes away, a psi characters infection could easily reproduce similar symptoms on its own. Treatment by psychotherapy or even memory editing would be possible, but the infection, and symptoms, would inevitably reassert themselves after a small reprieve. The symptoms could/should be based on the impulses and compulsions of the current infection strains, rather than the debilitating symptoms and responses of the actual mental disorders. Naturally these symptoms would be somewhat more pronounced in psi level 2.
-Infection should be risk/reward: As infection rating goes up (permanently or temporarily) sleights should gain a meaningful increase in power/applicability. Low infection asyncs might be able to apply their sleights to a single person and even then only by touching, but as their infection goes up, they start being able to affect multiple targets from greater ranges. Naturally if the async rests and resets their infection, they would return to their baseline capabilities. This might encourage a risk/reward style of building asyncs, as one async with a high permanent infection rating might be subject to their strains oddities more often, they can kick off with more powerful ablilities when things go sideways - versus the async who manages their infection, and has to ‘wind up’ to that point through repeated use of their abilities throughout an encounter.

Other suggestions will probably echo sentiments already expressed, but are worth reiterating:
-Double the power of Chi Sleights OR Remove Chi sleight infection ratings: working with the idea that ‘increased infection grants increased power’ Chi sleights having an infection increase suddenly makes sense, but the benefits they provide are still rather mediocre, especially if one compares how much infection the Chi sleights give. To that end the options I can see are either to: a) improve/double the passive bonuses of Chi sleights; b) outright remove the permanent infection gains from Chi sleights; or c) adjust the permanent infection gained down to better represent the relative ‘power’ of certain Chi sleights.
-Infection rolls/results should be resolved on rest: As was suggested waaaay up the page, an async should have their infection rolls as a single roll using their end-of-scene/pre-rest infection rating, with the results taking effect during the next scene/post-rest. This would allow async characters to use their powers as they will - with the main consideration being the risk versus rewards when it comes time to see when (if at all) the penny drops.
-Psi Wares: While not specifically for asyncs, the Brain Box ware was neat and flavourful. With asyncs getting locked out of a lot of morph options, I am pro anything that enables greater morphological freedoms (‘MUH FREEDUMZ’).
-Psi Traits: I really want the Dominant Strain trait to make it into 2nd Edition - as it shores up a major defense against further exsurgent chickanery, and reinforces the chaotic nature of the virus/infection.

ubik2 ubik2's picture
I think much of the original

I think much of the original design of Eclipse Phase draws from Call of Cthulhu.
In that setting, you could learn to do magic, but it's all bad, and your very knowledge of these things degrades your sanity.

I don't think psionic characters are supposed to fill a role. Instead, they fill whatever role their character has, and the psionics are something that's very important as a character, but not very important to their role. This is unlike games like D&D or Shadowrun, where if you're a wizard/mage, that's basically your role.

There were two pieces of short fiction that stand out for me from eclipse phase that featured psionics.

The first is from Gatecrashing (pg. 4), where Iftikhar is able to detect something that nobody else can, by seeing patterns. He also has an intuitive sense of who to trust. It's possible the Chi sleights for Heightened Awareness and Pattern Recognition cover this. Qualia granting an extra pool point to Insight may be appropriate too. Superior Kinesics and Social Cunning cover his ability to determine who to trust, and how to persuade them. The character in Rimward (pg. 4) has a similar set of passive boosts to her ability to detect when people are telling the truth.

The other one's just a small blurb, from Firewall (pg. 63), but essentially the async is able to shake hands with the group, and in doing so, determines what their true motives are. At that point, their deal goes south, and the bad guys get away. That may be the Gamma sleight, Thought Browse.

There's also Vaidyar in the Firewall book, whose abilities can probably be handled with the Gamma sleights of Psychic Stab and Short Circuit (though the damage on Psychic Stab is too low to get through 30 DUR). The X-Risks book indicates she also has the Illusion sleight.

What I like about these examples is that it's a very subtle thing that makes a big difference in how things play out.

cpt.crush cpt.crush's picture
Quote:I don't think psionic

Quote:
I don't think psionic characters are supposed to fill a role. Instead, they fill whatever role their character has, and the psionics are something that's very important as a character, but not very important to their role. This is unlike games like D&D or Shadowrun, where if you're a wizard/mage, that's basically your role.

Yes, I very much agree! I think some of the controversy here stems from people's perception of:

  • Psi as a class, or
  • Psi as a feature.

Some (me included) argue from the "Psi as a feature" perspective. For us, Psi is something you mix into any character concept for flavor or effect.

As such, Psi must not become a "dominant strategy", since adding it would create an imbalance against competing mechanics otherwise (e.g., hacking is balanced by "countermeasures", combat is balanced by enemies).

From that angle I do not mind Psi's drawbacks, since again -- like creating a hacker who risks alerting a system and drawing in a security force -- it is just an option.

It seems to me others perceive Psi rather "as a class". That is, during character creation they determine "I want to play an Async" (i.e., "I want to solve problems by using Psi").

From that angle I can understand how the drawbacks of Psi can be limiting to a particular concept. A "Psi-blasting Super Action Hero" would barely be possible without narratively interfering (Infection) with other aspects of that particular character.

Quote:
While its rather easy to take apart the current rules draft and criticise how things look, I’d honestly rather discuss suggestions or constructive feedback.

Yes!

In my mind the "prescription of horror" (e.g., mental disorders), as done by the current Infection rules, is tied to a bigger design decision of how to actually portray horror in the game.

For that one I opened another topic in the Game Mechanics section, as I think it affects more than Psi:

http://eclipsephase.com/game-mechanics-open-discussion-round-two?page=1#comment-63434

o11o1 o11o1's picture
Agree with LurkingDaemon and Dr. Maxwell

It's late, so I can't string together paragraphs of feedback, but I want to say that the posts above, (by everyone) are well written and have my upvotes.

In short:
* Psi is it's own Disorder, it doesn't bring extras on top (unless you want them for some reason)
* Chi powers shouldn't raise base infection.
* As your infection rating clicks up past the 33 and the 66 mark, your powers move from "Low-yield" to "strong" to "high gear". Gamma and Chi both benefiting. Skill powers might go from+10 to +15 and +20. Qualia and the other pool powers give you one point back when you cross the 33 and 66 mark. Stab goes from sword damage to rifle damage to mind-melting. (or replace with a Seizure effect, both good)
* Your Strain has a drawback and bonus that likewise clicks on at the 33 infection mark. Predator for instance might have you wanting to eat your foes flesh but also actually be better at killing them.
* Powers in general have a lot of space to get stronger overall.
* The current "strain mod" can instead affect how fast your infection rates goes up. (maybe 5+strain?)
* The Infection Rating Roll is performed at the Long Rest, and GM is explicitly allowed to sit on the trigger if they need to. (or drama point to force an early roll)

I've said some other ideas further up in the scroll, but these are the ones that stand out in my brain.

A slight smell of ions....

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
"Heavy Psi" vs "Light Psi"

I am actually really in favor of the idea of Psi being a 'lightweight' addition to a PC.

It is just that the current design is bad at that, because it frontloads Psi really hard with drawbacks and then requires a full skill investment on top AND a good moxie pool to boot, with every action also having significant drawback.

Psi can't afford to be a minor aspect of a PC. Just the fact that it requires a skill investment alone means it needs to be as useful as any other potential skill that defines your PC. No one would play a hacker if hacking required 2 skills to be effective, just let you troll message boards and required you to toss an effective !!8!! CP into the fire on top of it! That is nuts!

To give specific feedback on exactly the design I would do (which I avoided because I am not a designer and it feels weird and sorta know it all-y, and because I already sorta gave specific notes earlier in thread) I would change the following:

If Psi is to be a lighter weight part of a PC it needs to have a lot of frontloaded cost removed, such as removing the mandatory 2 disorders. Removing the requirement of a skill at all, and instead making psi powers a WP x3 style situation, would also allow psi to become a much less integral part of a PC, allowing asyncs to be mostly focused on 'paniced' uses of psi Gamma along with their mind being fundementally altered by psi Chi.

Some psi Chi sleights would, in that scenario, need to be made weaker, completely altered, or removed, such as the ones that grant more pool. Some Gamma sleights that mostly serve as light fluff, like mindlink (Everyone already essentially has telepathic communication in setting...) or psi-stab (if it isn't dramatically improved to be on par with a firearm, it really is such a massive amount of hurdles to jump through that it really *should* be something you could use instead of a gun) could be moved to chi. Basically the ideal would be that chi is about thinking differently, granting access to new information on a more fluff level, rather than replacing 'ware. Otherwise if psi is a light entry in order to make it easier to be incidentally psi you end up dramatically encouraging people to go psi to save on MP. You should ideally feel neither compelled to be or not be psi, it should just be what is right for the PC.

At the end of the day however you can't really get around the fact that many many of the sleights dramatically vary in power and some need to really not be a 'big deal' to use and some should be a waaaay bigger deal. By tweaking how dramatically psi powers raise infection it frees up a lot of room to allow psis who go to PSI 2 to be incidentally weird without feeling like they can't have fun being an ESPer without dragging the entire campaign to a halt, while also allowing them the rope to hang themselves if they want to blow up infection on huge powers as the GM's grin gets wider and wider.

And, of course, Chi really shouldn't increase base infection rating.

That lets psi powers be their own thing, without forcing them to compete with the raw utility of having a hacker, or the amazing influence someone who is a good networker grants you. By removing it from being shackled to a skill you have to pay for it is allowed to just kinda be... there... a tool in your toolbelt that you may or may not use because the handle is really pointy.

But with 4 CP of mandatory disadvantages, a 4 CP buy in, an unusually large skill buy in, a sleight CP buy in, an innate disadvantage in the form of infection resistance reduction, the inability to affect non-biological transhumans, and the inability to sleeve into a non-biological morph, there really isn't any way to make being an async fair without making them comically potent when interacting with biomorphs. It is literally the most expensive thing you can be right now, so there is no room to allow it to be just 'this thing you happen to also be that isn't super critical mechanically.' Which is why its really problematic that right now asyncs go dramatically bonkers extremely fast or need to burn pool like crazy to achieve relatively minor effects.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Convenience vs Necessity

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
It is just that the current design is bad at that, because it frontloads Psi really hard with drawbacks and then requires a full skill investment on top AND a good moxie pool to boot, with every action also having significant drawback.

I will point out, for the sake of argument, that, depending on how they're played, Async characters don't need a high Moxie pool or major skill investment - Such things are definitely GOOD to have to offset risk, but none of it is entirely necessary. Case in point:

  • Psi characters have a dedicated Background and Interest they can pick in character generation, which provides AT MINIMUM 30 ranks in the Psi skill. With a baseline WIL of 15, that's an overall 45% success rating for active use skills. Not great, no, but a zero-investment start which can almost resolve psi rolls with a flip of a coin. This is not also taking in to account instances where stacking specific skills through Background/Profession/Interest packages that lead to skill overlap (and thus free distribution) that could be put towards the Psi skill as well.

  • Psi-Chi only characters don't need any Psi skill investment. The only rolls involved are based on Infection Rating, and only occur if the character Pushes for the 'double power' effect. Cases where the boosted passive bonuses from Chi sleights are make-or-break should be exceptionally rare (unless the GM is being mean to their Psi players), but would definitely be worth the risk of setting off Strain of some kind, in those cases. If a Chi-only async simply benefits with their Chi sleights, and never Pushes those sleights, they could easily play a 100+ infection Async and never worry about things getting too weird for them (at least mechanically. GM's might take creative license where the rules don't really say anything either way).

  • As with the above considerations, Moxie is available to evade or completely negate the risk of infection - but it isn't mechanically, or even narratively necessary, most of the time. The use of the Moxie pool is optional, and an Async player could easily have their character eat strain effects in occasions where it won't be immediately detrimental to the rest of the team, or put any other characters in harms way. While everyone has their own style, the attempt I see is to encourage players to save their Moxie for when it MATTERS. If a sleight going off and the Async being on their feet afterwards is going to make or break a campaign, that is when Moxie should be saved for/used.

Those points being raised, I still agree that overall, Psi mechanics and drawbacks still need re-tuning (hopefully in directions informed by existing suggestions).

EDIT:

Quote:
If Psi is to be a lighter weight part of a PC it needs to have a lot of frontloaded cost removed, such as removing the mandatory 2 disorders. Removing the requirement of a skill at all, and instead making psi powers a WP x3 style situation

Except defaulting is already WIL x3, to say nothing of the fact that, objectively, other character roles/archetypes are best served by at least two or more skills:

  • Combat characters rely on either their Melee or Guns skill (sometimes both) AND their Fray skill to keep the selves going in hostile situations.
  • Hackers need the obvious Infosec to do all their hacking work, but are also served equally well with a high Hardware: Electronics skill to make sure they can overcome/override electronic locks and systems.
  • Social/Networking characters all but need a high Persuade skill, potentially backed up by an equally high Provoke, and are also served by a good Research score, to verify their contacts and partners activities.
  • Characters with a focus on crafting/item creation are served by any of the pertinent Hardware fields, and in fact have to invest in each separately, as well as the Program skill, to make fabbers do what they want them to (and not necessarily what the owners want in the case of a commandeered fabber).

There are other scenarios where a certain role or archetype leans heavily on two or more primary skills, so to evaluate things objectively (and be the devils advocate), it’s actually even more unfair/unbalanced to ask for the Psi skill to be done away with entirely - as it effectively cripples the ability to use active psi with starting characters (the theoretical max of 90 on a Psi roll only being achieved with a natural 30 WIL x3). Past that, Defaulting to WIL is already written into the rules for Psi characters without training, and removing the option to bolster their capability based on skill, rather than pure, native ability, would make Psi even more unreliable than it already can be - as async characters would have no way to be as effective as someone who could lean on an Attribute of 30, with their insane skill totals on top (characters like the above fighter, hacker, socialite and crafter examples).

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Infection Resistance?

Sorry for double-posting, but a rather simple idea came to mind:

For every 30 points into an async’s total Psi skill, they gain a stacking -10 modifier on Infection rolls.

With this change it would make it a benefit for any async to invest in their Psi skill, and those with Gamma sleights would be able to venture more risks before infection/strain results become too burdensome. It would allow Psi 2 characters to invest in some Chi sleights and offset the higher permanent infection rating with investment into their Psi skill. Similarly, this would limit the possibility of critical successes on Infection rolls (Very Bad Things), especially early into a scene/encounter.

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
Defaulting isn't linked to

Defaulting isn't linked to attribute x3 it is just flat attribute, unless I am comically missing something, but I didn't see anything in the game mechanics chapter for defaulting, the character creation rules for psi skills, or the psi playtest that says its x3. Fray and Percieve have a base of x2, but a base x3 defaulting is actually quite high because it makes the average person as good as the average professional in setting.

While x3 may not be the best point to sit, it is fully possible with a 5 CP investment and the Self Control Sleight to get you to 70 on a will x3 check, meaning you don't really need a skill investment besides skills generally useful to other roles anyway, like unarmed and fray if you wanna touch people in a fight or social skills if you wanna touch them outside of one.

The fact that chi investment doesn't require a skill and basically lacks drawbacks is why I think that most people agree sitting at psi 1 (kinda) works. It is a bit stronger than it used to be to be psi 1, so the fact that you have the same disadvantage (a mandatory disorder) isn't as much of a gut punch. It still probably is an out of line downside, but chi works.

Psi gamma... doesn't work, and it is why it is getting the bulk of the conversation. It is also the bulk of the chapter, because the way psi chi works makes actual infection tests comically not a good deal for a psi 1 character to take.

I think it is odd you find the fact that full roles are traditionally defined by a double skill investment and yet are arguing that the fact that psi users have a double skill investment AND a trait investment of 8 on top (forget about the fact their skill package, as you admitted, doesn't push them up to a safe number, so in reality you need to spend some odd 8 CP in total to make psi work as well as devoting arguably the most flexible skill package you get to it, worth another 20 mandated CP, discounting the knowledge skill. While your PC is a lot more total CP than 30, it is eating into very flexible and valuable CP that is better spent making your PC actually function as a firewall agent.

It is just this huge cost that gets in the way of it being a minor part of your PC. If you dropped 28 CP (Say by taking the fighter package and putting another 20 into fray, 10 into guns, and took wealth to 2 to get a really swanky morph) you would expect them to be... kinda a badass. Maybe not the best fighter in the universe, but you would expect the fact they could fight very well to the point they can help solve a significant amount of their own problems with violence.

A psi gamma character spending similar resources... doesn't get anything close to that. And that is really bad because that doesn't mean psi is a more minor part of your character, because mechanical costs don't really care about high concept intent, they care about the actual outputs your resources give you. If being an async has a radical amount of downsides and similar investments into it don't result in similar outputs to other things, the mechanics aren't encouraging you to have psi as a minor aspect of your PC, they are encouraging you to not have it as an aspect of your PC.

If you want psi to be a lesser aspect of a character, an aspect of flavor on par with morph choice that informs some of their abilities but doesn't totally lock down their role, which is the closest equivalent (And even then not really because your allowed to go all in on morph with things like swarms and infomorphs) then mechanically you do not accomplish this by making psi just... mechanically worse. You do that through an investment cap, making the resources you spend on psi just as valuable as anything else but preventing players from putting too many resources into psi.

That means that making heavy investment into the psi skill pay off on reduced infection tests works cross purposes to the idea that psi should be a minor aspect of your character. Back-loading benefits, much like front-loading costs, encourages heavy investment into a mechanic, because you have to put a lot of resources into it to mine as much power as you can to make up for a bad start. This is just the complementary skill bonus all over again, where you are going to find that if you attach a huge out of the blue benefit to a being past a certain skill rank a lot of people will just sit at that rank+1.

The current psi design, as in it having a lot of big downsides both front-loaded and baked into actual psi powers means that psi powers need to be these massive unwieldy mechanical things that can just demolish problems to be worth their mechanical cost, because mechanical downsides were added to gamma without mechanical upsides. And because Gamma wasn't exactly good, just invasive lore wise, in 1e, applying a lot of nerfs to gamma without making gamma easier, more powerful, or otherwise better to use would naturally just make gamma go from this thing people only take for fluff to a garbage option that is so mechanically heavy that it is hard to justify even as a fluff option anymore.

Mechanical powers matters and it matters a lot. The desire of the designer is immaterial in comparison, it doesn't matter if you want an adventuring party in dungeons and dragons 3.5 to consist of a fighter, rogue, cleric, and wizard, if you make being anything besides 2 clerics, a druid, and wizard so mechanically unpleasant even people who really like fighters and rogues won't play them. Shadowrun had/has a similar problem where fluffy choices like being a rigger (AKA shell jammer in EP terms) has become so pathetically weak and diluted as a role it just doesn't function anymore and die hard rigger fans were just forced to abandon the archtype no matter how much they liked it.

Psi gamma is in a similar spot right now. It was always sorta tenuously useful and hard to parlay into good outcomes at the table, and its now getting dramatically less useful and its costs and weaknesses are for the most part staying static (and arguably increasing because the background system makes spending resources inefficiently worse). On top of that because more and more of your actual playtime is now being devoted to your own insanity (due to constant infection rolls when using the stuff you payed 28 CP for and thus kinda need to use) you just are forced to use your things less. It is a big pile of unfun and it seems pretty clear that psi is being designed to more adress the concerns of people who don't like psi than for people who enjoy psi, with almost the entire rewrite focusing on forcing psi users to use their powers less and to experience more downside for their condition to the point where, again, people are talking about psi as on par with something that gives you CP rather than eats up a massive amount of them. That is a huge red flag that sorta indicates the core math of the system is so toxic you aren't going to get around it with a minor tweak, that a lot of numbers really need to change, even if the actual system of how the downside works is crazy interesting and, again, something I rather like.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

ubik2 ubik2's picture
I think most roles require

I think most roles require around 5 skills to fill that role. If you dump 10 CP into each skill, that's 50 CP.

Being an async isn't a role, but if you're going Gamma, you'll want to dump around 10 points into the skill. This is in addition to the 5+ points you'll need for Psi 2 and a sleight. Obviously, it's less efficient to just have one Gamma sleight. The Chi sleights are an excellent deal, often both providing something that isn't otherwise available, and being between half and a quarter the cost of other options (which lets them make up for the Psi penalties).

For the Gamma sleights, there's the infection free uses you get from Moxie. If you're doing 2 short, 1 long rest each day, and refresh 3 moxie on the short rests with a pool of 3, you get 9 uses of a Gamma power before you have to take any risks. This is a lot, but with 9 opportunities to mind control someone every day, you've certainly justified spending 15 CP.

Where it gets messy is when you attempt to overcast beyond what you have Moxie pools to fuel. This happens for the combat async, that has a minimal Moxie pool. The Charisma sleight can help a little with this, so even if your morph has no Moxie, you'll still end up with around 3 power uses a day.

I think there's an issue in the presentation of the infection rolls, where it looks like Infection is the normal way to use these abilities, so people focus on how bad that is, but if you view it as the desperate option (like using your life force to cast one more spell), it makes more sense. You probably have to pay a price (loss of control), but you get that one last usage that may save the team.

Edit: This doesn't address two issues. The first is how heavily you're pushed to a social morph for asyncs. The second is that the infection mechanic ends up being a lot of rule for little gain, since players are so heavily driven to avoid it. Without infection rolls, players have no incentive to use the less powerful versions of gamma sleights.

o11o1 o11o1's picture
Which means that we're still

Which means that we're still in the situation of wanting to make the Infection Roll need to be much less painful, so that it's actually worth rolling on. Otherwise we might as well just make the cost of Using PSI be a moxie point and drop five pages of rules.

A slight smell of ions....

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
Exactly.

Exactly. While I heavily disagree with the idea that a role is 5 skills, either way we come back to the fact that infection rolls are hitting crazy hard to the point no player ever has a reason to ever risk one, meaning moxie is the real cost of async powers.

And Moxie being the primary currency of asyncs is really boring and nonsensical lore wise, and the concept of infection is really good and much more interesting than passive insanity or morph fever.

I would much rather have infection be mild enough so that not allowing moxie to be spent to avoid it is fair than for moxie to be a get out of infection free card, especially as a GM. It is just at the moment so heavily leaning against asyncs, both 'side asyncs' and 'primary asyncs' that, in addition to the fact that many old weaknesses were also ported to 2e, it collapses in on itself.

I still strongly feel that if infection rolls are the primary drawback of psi that outweigh strain damage heavily that you will not be able to make a good system that balances the varying power levels of sleights without making them interact with infection differently.

It is also important to note some sleights are so good that infection rolls being where they are at the moment (a 1/5th chance to blow it, rising by 5% or even faster) seems kinda fair. It is just that these sleights are the most generic and least evocative ones, and most of the flavorful ones also are severely undertuned.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Whoops, But...

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
Defaulting isn't linked to attribute x3 it is just flat attribute, unless I am comically missing something

No that’s my mistake - I mixed up the mechanics for Defaulting with Attribute Checks/Tests.

The point I was attempting to make is still valid however - Maxed out, an Attribute can only go to 30, thus:

WIL 30 + Psi 100 = 130 Skill total, before modifiers (effectively 99).

Versus

WIL 30 x3 = 90 Skill total, before modifiers.

Stripping away the higher (theoretical) skill cap makes Psi abilities more likely to be resisted by their targets, which defangs them as weapons, and blunts their effectiveness as tools. With the current Attribute + Skill model, a maxed out WIL +Psi character would effectively negate up to -40 worth of modifiers, before seeing a skill roll equal to the suggested alternative.

By contrast, the Attribute x3 model would suffer from modifiers immediately (and painfully in the example of a -40 modifier).

This feels especially at a cross purpose, as despite how it would simplify the (already very simple) skill rolls, it would unintentionally alienate Psi for its reduced potential, and increased unreliability.

Such a change would also alienate players attempting to start new Psi characters, as they would have to make severe attribute or CP sacrifices to get WIL up to the ‘magic number’ of almost-guaranteed success that most people strive for, at character creation. If said characters don’t aggressively optimize their characters right from the start, they are left with the advantages and drawbacks of Psi, but unable to use the advantages because of how mechanically unreliable they are to achieve - before having to worry about strain, or the other, lingering drawbacks of the mandatory disorders.

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
I think it is odd you find the fact that full roles are traditionally defined by a double skill investment and yet are arguing that the fact that psi users have a double skill investment AND a trait investment of 8 on top (forget about the fact their skill package, as you admitted, doesn't push them up to a safe number

I was attempting (again) to point out that Psi isn’t at all difficult to acquire as a skill, and is less investment to include in a character than other concepts/archetypes, some of which need much more skill investment. Psi is the only skill actually needed for an async character to use their talents and compliments, and is complimented by, the skills used for other roles. Psi only needs 1 skill to pull off, while your own assertions are that other character roles need 5.

Considering the ease of which a Psi character can be generated:

The Lost background provides 50 ranks in Psi, along with a number of good observation/social skills. The Async interest provides a ‘mere’ 40 ranks in Psi, with yet more useful and complementary skills. Taken together that’s 90 Skill ranks from character generation alone, with a host of near-equally high social skills. Because of the limit of 80 on Attribute + Skill for new characters, this means the character now has 10 surplus skill ranks (at least) which have to be redistributed, +/-15 ranks or more based on the character’s WIL.

By the same token, using the character generation system to focus a character around specific skills often means you’ll have roughly 30+ skill ranks to redistribute - which can easily go in to Psi, if you took neither of the Psi-based background or interest.

Criticizing the Psi mechanics for taking the ability as an add on for a character that has been optimized entirely differently feels unduly harsh. There is certainly a lot that can be done to balance Psi, but there is also the concern of overshooting ‘balanced’ and ending up in ‘overpowered’ territory - mechanics wise.

Lurkingdaemon wrote:
For every 30 points into an async’s total Psi skill, they gain a stacking -10 modifier on Infection rolls.

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
That means that making heavy investment into the psi skill pay off on reduced infection tests works cross purposes to the idea that psi should be a minor aspect of your character. Back-loading benefits, much like front-loading costs, encourages heavy investment into a mechanic, because you have to put a lot of resources into it to mine as much power as you can to make up for a bad start.

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
I would much rather have infection be mild enough so that not allowing moxie to be spent to avoid it is fair than for moxie to be a get out of infection free card, especially as a GM.

The changes I suggested are aimed at these issues, as even a low Psi skill, from investing CP/RP elsewhere in the character would provide at least some benefit even if a character isn’t focusing on their Psi to the exclusion of all else. It would also address the recurring concern I’m seeing that Moxie is a ‘must have’ in order to leverage the most out of Psi abilities exclusively - something I also disagree with.

To illustrate:

A newly created character, with Psi 2 and a total Psi skill of 80 would automatically get a -20 modifier to their Infection rolls. This would nullify their starting Infection rating of 20, allowing them to possibly invest in Chi Sleights, as even the they would have to get upwards of 5 of said sleights before Infection successes become likely. Without any Chi Sleights, this character could fire off a Gamma sleight with a 1% chance of their Infection succeeding on an automatic success (a roll of 01 on the infection test). Subsequent success rates for infection would go up as normal, until the character would start spending Moxie to obviate the tests entirely.

If we want to call an Infection rating goal of 20-25 (after modifiers) the ‘threshold’ of when a character wants to use Moxie to bypass their infection tests, that's 5 instances of activating Gamma Sleights, or Pushing, that could be done with a relatively low risk of setting off their Strains.

And that would be with a Psi 2 character. A Psi 1 character with 2 Sleights would have the same starting Infection rating as their counterpart, and likewise would be able to Push their Sleights ~5 separate times with reduced worry (presumably pushing for extra pool points), before having to worry about the likelihood of a passing Infection test.

This would make it so that Psi 2 characters would have even more of a reason to invest in a skill they are already going to invest in, as well as open up opportunities to invest in Chi sleights (albeit sparingly) before they have to worry about reaching the ‘medium-high risk’ point of their Infection rating. Beyond those benefits, it would allow Psi 1 characters to actively use the Push mechanics with their sleights, even with their naturally higher permanent Infection rating - something that the current mechanics highly discourage (what with their being all of a single applicable Push effect).

This idea is not a magic bullet to fix all of Psi’s current tuning problems, but it addresses a lot in a (I feel) very simple, easy to follow manner, which enables more varied play with the existing mechanics - and that’s if this is the only mechanic that’s introduced to smooth things out.

ubik2 ubik2's picture
An opposed roll of infection

An opposed roll of infection vs. Psi skill would also give you significant resistance to infection with a high Psi skill. I like the idea of the Stranger taking over (based on Infection), but then you are able to fight back with your own Psi to keep him in the background. This is far from a safe dynamic, though, and I don't know if players will want to risk it.

Based on your example of high skill granting -20, I wonder if you think the Infection dynamic would be fine if there were no Psi level factored in, instead.

Lurkingdaemon Lurkingdaemon's picture
Opposed vs Passive/Innate

That could work as well, granting that Psi characters would start to get heavy on extra rolls - which is something I’m trying to avoid with my suggestions and hypotheticals. And while it does give a further feel of risk/reward, I think character stability and general reliability is a big concern at the moment.

My thoughts were that the modifiers to the Infection roll would be purely passive (-10 at Psi 30+, -20 at Psi 60+ and -30 at Psi 90+), and would allow Psi characters a few low risk rolls on their Gamma Sleights/Pushes before they ‘have to’ dip in to their Moxie.

The general ideology is similar too - by way of their training, the async asserts control over their infection, if not bending it to their will, at least getting it to do something mutually useful before it starts trying to take the reigns for itself.

ThatWhichNeverWas ThatWhichNeverWas's picture
Engineer Training Activate!

RL assignments are kicking my Chakras at the moment, so I apologise for my lackluster posting.

Taking a step back from Psi's creepy aspect, it's role in a character or group can be summarised as Narrative Convenience or 'Meeting Impossible Prerequisites'.
Asyncs are supposed to do things that are ostensibly impossible, but that can be functionally rephrased as 'Can perform tasks as though they possessed the required information, skills and/or tools'.

This allows us a second distinction – Sleights can function by creating opportunities for the character to use their other abilities (using social skills on otherwise Hostile or non-Solar intelligences, interact with technology despite lacking appropriate tools or previous experience, that sort of thing), or by allowing the Async to use their Psi abilities instead of more mundane methods to perform a role or task.

Whilst sterile, this does demonstrate why some Sleights and mechanics are problematic; Stab does not adequately perform either, Subliminal does both.
It also helps illustrate the issues of the current Infection mechanism – Sleights provide situational advantage at the (potential) cost of global disadvantage.

It's also as issue thematically, causing the Async to actively avoid the story/plot issues which should typify the character.

So let's flip it on it's head: in any given scenario, the Infection/Async gets an extra 'subtask', associated with their SubStrain and/or Mental Disorders. This need not be actively sinister or hostile, but pursuing that goal should disrupt other activities by eating up time or resources.
The character's base infection level is determined as written, and increases when Sleights are used, while Strain on the other hand works by adding kinks and details to the Subtask, whilst tactual disruptive effects are minimized.

The kicker comes when the Async tries to recharge their pools – they have to Fail an alienation roll to rest properly. If they succeed they don't recharge as much as normal, relative to their roll as determined by the 33/66 rule.
Essentially they've become too receptive to the infection, with it's compulsions and issues whirling around in their head (ever try to sleep and you can't stop thinking? That.)
If they want some peace, they have to Ease The Infection – they have to work towards their subplot, or at least give in to the lesser urges.

This should change the infection from an explicit threat into something more disruptive and eerie, whilst rewarding the Player for incorporating those aspects into the narrative.

In the past we've had to compensate for weaknesses, finding quick solutions that only benefit a few.
But what if we never need to feel weak or morally conflicted again?

eaton eaton's picture
So, my frustration with PSI

So, my frustration with PSI as it stands in EP2 is that it adds a cluster of related mechanics (extra pools to track during combat, numerous extra rolls to make throughout a given encounter, etc) without enough payoff. A cluster of "homebrew" tweaks that I've been talking over with my async players boils is as follows:

  1. PSI is a negative trait rather than a positive trait — it "pays off" with abilities but the overall downsides are considerable.
  2. Strain is simply stress. Failing a roll for a gamma sleight "backfires," and the async takes that slight's stress value, doubled if they're pushing. Critical failures trigger an infection roll in addition to the stress.
  3. Asyncs roll for infection whenever their stress crosses a trauma multiple — even if it was accumulated over time, rather than taken in one big hit.
  4. The infection rating is 20 for PSI-1 and 40 for PSI-2, plus the amount of stress the async has accumulated.
  5. When an async reaches their LUC threshold, instead of being rendered insane, stress begins to accumulate as physical damage.
  6. Asyncs can spend a point of MOX to eliminate 1d6 stress. The Downtime gamma slight is eliminated, trauma and disorders still take the same amount of time to heal.
  7. Asyncs receive a bonus on rolls to resist exsurgent infection rather than a penalty. The exsurgent virus recognizes its own, and they are literally already infected.

I'm sure folks will poke holes in it, but our thinking so far has been this: Asyncs are supposed to be weird and powerful and dangerous but also unpredictable and deeply, terrifyingly flawed. This should be apparent not just when they're using active sleights but in lots of different situations.

Moving strain to stress means asyncs will accumulate stress MUCH faster if they actively use their powers. Even asyncs who rely entirely on chi-sleights will have to deal with the trauma triggers and infection rolls in stressful combat situations. And the more stress they're under, the more likely they'll fail their infection rolls.

However, the ability to bleed physical health once they've burnt through LUC means they can soak up amounts of stress that would annihilate uninfected humans… and the MOX-to-reduce-stress ability means that they can "cool down" faster than other characters, too.

The end result is fewer distinct stats to track and more ways to trigger async weirdness even when Gamma sleights are avoided. In game-fluff terms, it also helps explain to my players why Firewall might risk sending them on more missions. They're volatile and unpredictable, but they're also incrementally less vulnerable to new infections, and can "bounce back" from significant stress and trauma easier than other transhumans.

It's probably too much of a departure from the EP2 rules that have already been proposed, but I'm definitely going to be playtesting through it with my group to see if it's worth keeping as a long-term homebrew.

lets adapt lets adapt's picture
I logged in just to say that

I logged in just to say that those changes sound really fun, Eaton. I'm a little wishy washy on #7 but your bit about why Firewall would even bother with asyncs really puts a nice bow on this post.

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