If you read through the Psiometry section of REWIRED and felt that, while cool, it was a little bit out of place and just sort of tacked on — you’re absolutely right. When I started brainstorming ideas for directions I wanted to possibly go with the game, I wanted to have a framework in place for some often requested sci-fi tropes that aren’t necessarily token of cyberpunk — mutations, magic, “force” like abilities, etc. I decided to go with a “psionics” system initially because there are a few examples of cyberpunk / near-future lit with it. Akira and Minority Report come to mind immediately. I’ll admit I’m a supporter for the cliche of “Psionics is just Magic with a science behind it,” even if it’s still bonkers and fantastical.
Psiometry was presented the way it was simply so it could be taken or removed on an as-needed basis. I didn’t want “kewl powers” getting in the way of the substance for those looking for a gritty, realistic game. I also didn’t want peeps who wanted some edgy abilities other than cyber augments to be turned off, or felt like they needed to brew their own stuff. Interestingly enough, while I mention Psiometry very little past its skill and perk descriptions… it was present in my tabletop campaigns and play testing. Some players took it, but forgot about it. Others had it, and nobody batted an eye when it was used. It just seemed to blend in with all the other crazy stuff going on, and nobody really questioned its existence.
Not every group will let it “just be,” though. Some Game Masters will want a narrative definition of why it is, and players will more than likely want to understand what it is, and how it can function with their concepts. In either case, the following musings are some suggestions to open your mind — and your campaign — to the use of Psiometry.
Source of Origin
What causes a character to heighten their senses to such an extreme? To where the very action of a thought can cause physical force, or grant someone the ability to connect their consciousness with another human being?
- Scientific Conditioning: During the nuclear wars of the seventies and eighties, many intelligence agencies and medical researchers were experimenting with strange abilities of the human mind. It makes sense that an era of fringe science and research that would attempt to map the neural pathways for cybernetics could potentially discover untapped potential. Using this origin, a character with Psiometry has been conditioned to do so – either through genetic augmentation, extreme formulaic schooling, mind altering drugs or lord knows what else. This is almost exclusively an origin for Corporate or Government backgrounds, although they may now be elusive street agents trying to lay off the radar.
- Augmentations: It could very well be that Psiometry is another form of augmentation. Implants, either cybernetic or bionetic, enhance neural stimuli just enough to cause the frontal lobes to do some pretty impressive stuff. How common are the implants? Is this a mass produced augment to help workers and professionals? A classified, high security status mod? Is advanced psiometry an increase in talent with a modification, or is it further installations and add-ons?
- Condition of the Times: Mangled Earth is filled with countless wireless signals, radiation, and lord knows what other awkward environmental effects. Psiometry can be as simple as labeling it a mutation, or it can be something more detailed: In an age where everyone and their dog can neurally interface with computers, or even take complete remote control of mechanical devices or digital systems, it can possibly be a simulated hotbed for psionic activity. Reasonably, we know it’s data being fed to the user, and they’re not really projecting their consciousness into cyberspace. But how real does it feel like it is? You’re already using your brain to neurally command a virtual world… how hard is it to manipulate the real one?
- Good Ol’ Fashion Mysticism: Hey, psychics have been around for ages. The crazy street “magic” the urban primitive is channeling is no different than what his hougan grandfather practiced; or maybe the rituals the wealthy corporate exec does in her office has origins with some Victorian cabal. Whether it’s practiced among the anti-materialistic counter culture or learned through dealings within secret societies, there’s still plenty of elbow room in cyberpunk dystopias for a hint of old fashioned freaky.
- All of the Above. Or none of it, some of it, whatever. I actually accept all of these at my table, and I’m open to some more. (( Feel free to leave some ideas in the comments!))
Applications in REWIRED
As the rules are in the core game, Psiometry is more of a utility than anything. Its purpose in the game was to either enhance a character’s role, or provide a path of concept. The basic, core power of Psiometry is like a Swiss-army knife of basic powers. It doesn’t really give a major advantage to a character, but does give them an edge of sorts. There’s advanced perks, which really hone in on specific abilities. “Psychic” really isn’t a role like, say, a “wizard” would be in some other games. Instead I imagined someone would explore Psiometry to enhance their designated part in the group. For instance, a Doc in my play testing group took the perk so she could also take Recovery, which really enhanced her job. Another person who’s doing more of a samurai/solo type role might opt out of some cybernetics for Psiometry with advancements like Burst and Kinetic Prowess to make them a dangerous close-quarter combatant. But someone choosing to center their character around developing Psiometry could still have a lot of fun generalizing their talents, and could make a great utility belt for the group. Just make sure you don’t gimp yourself in other skills and Perks… cool abilities are fun, but bullets are always deadly.
I want to hear back from REWIRED fans: was this article helpful to you? Do you have any further ideas or suggestions? Want to see more coverage of Psiometry? What other topics would you like to see musings on? Please feel free to leave comments and feedback below.