If you’re a gaming or nerd culture fan, chances are you’ve come across the term “psionics” before. But what exactly are psionics? In short, they’re the practical use of psychic powers or paranormal phenomena.
A Brief History of Psionics
The term “psionics” was first introduced in 1942 by biologists Bertold Wiesner and Robert Thouless in an article published in the British Journal of Psychology. The word “psi” (from ψ psi, the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet) was chosen to represent the unknown factor in extrasensory perception and psychokinesis—experiences that were believed to be unexplained by any known physical or biological mechanisms.
Since then, the concept of psionics has been explored further in both fiction and non-fiction works. One of the most famous fictional examples is the X-Men character Professor Charles Xavier, who can read and control minds.
Some individuals claim to have similar abilities in the real world. However, there is no definitive proof that such abilities exist in anything but fiction and tabletop role-playing games.
Growing up, I was always fascinated by illusionists such as Uri Geller. Geller openly claimed to have psionic abilities (he bent a lot of spoons). While I was never quite sure if he was genuinely using psychic powers or just extremely good at sleight of hand, the idea of mind over matter continues to intrigue me.
The Role Psionics Plays in “Psi-Kids: A Dark Coming of Age Science Fiction RPG”
Psionics plays a significant role in gaming, especially in tabletop role-playing games. For me, the most influential were “Traveller” and “GURPS.” In these games, psionic characters often have access to a range of abilities that non-psionic characters do not, giving them an advantage in combat and other situations.
Psionics is one of the main hooks of the Psi-Kids setting. At first, it appears that our otherwise underdog kids have a bit of an advantage over their adversaries. However, this same new ability also makes the kids targets of several organizations on Elysium that would study and abuse the kids’ abilities.
How psionics works in the Psi-Kids setting is heavily influenced by movies like “Scanners,” “Carrie,” and “Firestarter .” The abilities are uncontrollable, especially in the beginning. They seem to manifest in kids and have side effects for their usage.
But, they are also flexible and cinematic when they need to be. And, abilities can be spontaneous and change in how they are used as the characters grow and learn more.
Lester Smith’s “Bookmark HP RPG” core rules are a simple system allowing wild psionic abilities to emerge spontaneously in play. The setting-specific Psionic rules I’ve written for the setting help emulate the feeling I was hoping to achieve with the game.
I hope that players will enjoy my game for its mixture of psionics and coming-of-age story. It’s a setting that I’ve been working on for a while and I’m really excited to share it with others.