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How should psychic powers work?

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I've delayed this long enough.

I have no idea how we're going to handle psych abilities, but it's time to talk about them anyway! ᕕ(ᐛ)ᕗ

We don't have to replicate how Psychonauts handled them exactly (and we probably shouldn't), but we should try to capture the general feel of how psychic powers work.

Things were know:

  • Psychonauts treats psychic powers as discrete abilities that can be upgraded.
  • Psychic powers don't deplete an overarching psychic energy meter when used.
    • Psyblast and Confusion use ammo
  • Some powers have time limits and cooldowns associated with them.
  • Some powers take time to work.
  • Some powers are passive.

Classic Psychonauts Powers:

  • Raz starts with:
    • Double jump
    • Psychic fist
    • Telepathy
    • Astral Projection (with door)
  • Raz Learns:
    • Psyblast
    • Levitation (float + ball)
    • Pyrokinesis
    • Telekinesis
    • Invisibility
    • Shield
    • Clairvoyance
    • Confusion
  • Mentioned Powers:
    • Head-Exploding
    • Fish Telepathy
    • Hydrokinesis


While we could simply roll them into the main skill system, I believe that runs the risk of either being boring or snapping the game in half like a wooden spoon. Perhaps they could be supplemental and be used in conjunction with skills?

What do you guys think?

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I don't know much about tabletop RPGs, so a big grain of salt is probably needed here. I was suggesting in chat that maybe to balance out high level psychic powers, perhaps accomplishing smaller scale feats becomes harder the more skilled you are (eg: if your pyrokinesis skill is way high, lighting a campfire is risky in that you might blow up your party).

Feddlefew suggested that this might be done by dividing psychic skilles into finesse and aptitude attributes.

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Without any further input, I'm going to have psychic powers work differently from skills. Here's how this will work:

  • Every character has a Psychic Power stat.
    • Psychic Power can be thought of like a faucet- Psychic power doesn't get used up when a character uses their abilities, but there's a maximum amount they can use at once.
    • In order to have an ability available to use, characters have to invest a minimum amount of psychic power (1 for most abilities) to keep it on standby.
    • For now, characters can swap abilities around freely if they don't need to focus on anything else.
    • Additional psychic power can be channeled into an ability to provide additional or more powerful effects.
  • Most psychic abilities add "free" dice to an associated skill when activated, plus other effects. For instance, levitation grants a number of free dice to acrobatics rolls equivalent to the amount of Power assigned to that ability.
  • Like skills, psychic abilities have levels. Unlike skills, untrained psychic abilities can't be used. For now, abilities will go from 0 (can't use) to 5 (mastery). Generally, increasing the ability level of a psychic power is going to increase the amount of power a psychic can safely channel, but there's also other effects.
    • For instance, the basic thought-bubble floating and rolling ball thing that we see in Psychonauts would come from levitation 1, while higher levels would allow you to float freely / levitate other things with you.
      • Maybe works in synergy with TK?
    • Clairvoyance 1 would let you see through people's eyes, while clairvoyance 2 or 3 would behave more like what we see in Rhombus of Ruin, with Raz being able to use other characters as a conduit for his own powers. Clairvoyance 5 is probably something more like full on possession.
      • Psychic targets get an opportunity to fight you off.
  • I haven't quite worked out how to handle abilities like psychokinesis- maybe a generic "focus" skill? I'm not sure what it'd be used for outside of psychic abilities....
  • Some abilities are going to cost more to train than others.

Feedback would be greatly appreciated. I'd also like some suggestions for what psychic abilities you'd like to see in game.

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