Author’s note: This talent is based on the psionic ‘howler’ that appeared in James H. Schmitz’s story “Glory Day”, which appeared in the collection T’n’T—Telzey and Trigger Together from Baen Books.
In incarnations of Traveller to date, the focus of psionics has been giving PCs active talents – talents that they can use voluntarily to accomplish certain aims. This overlooks an entire class of talents: passive talents, which the PC cannot voluntarily invoke, and which generally act to thwart the ability of active psions to use their talents in some way. This article covers one such, which I’ve chosen to call the “psiren”.
The psiren’s ‘ability’ is completely involuntary, being invoked automatically whenever the ‘fight-or-flight’ reflex or the ‘startle’ reflex is activated. It causes the psionic talents of all other psions in the vicinity to go haywire, turning them back on their possessors. The effects are both random and predictable; that is, the exact results cannot be predicted, but what generally will happen to a particular psion can be predicted reliably. In all cases, the psiren is (psionically) unaffected. The psiren’s effect lasts until the psiren character has had time to evaluate the situation consciously, usually no more than thirty seconds – but in those thirty seconds, quite a lot can happen to nearby psions.
The specifics of the psiren’s effect is dependent not only on the ‘targeted’ psion’s talent(s), but on the psionic strength of both the psiren and the target. In all cases, use the greater of the two strengths to determine the magnitude of effect. Specific effects should be determined by the referee; in general, the idea is that any psionic talent in the vicinity – except other psirens – is turned against its possessor. In all cases (except for the psiren and any psirens in the vicinity, who are not affected (but who may be triggered by the unexplained and unexpected events happening to other psions in the vicinity)), the application of the effect also causes expending of all available psionic strength points, with the normal requirements for regeneration. Some examples:
- A teleport will suddenly find himself teleported away in a random direction, to the maximum possible range given the greater of his own psionic strength or the psiren’s. Any talent-related protections against materializing in solid objects, or requirements that the teleport know his destination, are not in effect.
- Psionic shields will, instead of deflecting psionic energy, draw it to the psion, effectively resulting in a psionic assault.
- Pyrokinetics will find themselves set on fire by their own talent.
- Telepaths and clairvoyants (including clairaudients and danger-sensors) will suffer the psionic equivalent to sensory overload. If there is enough psionic strength involved, the overload could result in permanent damage to the psion.
Discovering the Psiren
In any situation where a participant may have their startle reflex or fight-or-flight reflex triggered, and where there are known psions, roll 4- on 4D6. If this roll succeeds, someone whose startle/fight-or-flight reflex has been triggered is a psiren, and the referee should apply effects on each psion in the area as outlined above. If there are no known psions in the vicinity, secretly roll 4- on 4D; if this roll succeeds, arbitrarily select one character – PC or NPC; it doesn’t matter – and designate him a latent psion. Then roll 4- on 4D again, and apply an effect of a psiren being “set off” to the character. If the effect is recognized as a psiren being triggered, the psiren may be identified by any psion with the ability to detect psionic potential in a person.
If a PC seeks to learn whether he has psionic potential (or knows he does and is seeking training), he may be a psiren. To determine this, roll psionic testing normally. If the test succeeds, the PC has the talent, as normal. If the test fails (the player does not have the talent tested for), note the difference between the roll required for success for the player, and the actual roll (this is called the “failure margin”, or “FM”). The referee should then roll the same task as the player, with an additional negative DM of the player’s FM. If the referee’s roll succeeds, the player is not triggered, and the player should proceed to the next test (after which, the referee rolls for triggering again, if the player fails). If any referee triggering roll fails (the PC is triggered, and thus is a psiren), no further psionic testing is carried out; the player is told that he is a psiren and untrainable. If the player succeeds (and the PC therefore has a ‘normal’ psionic talent), the referee does not roll any further triggering tests; the PC is not a psiren.
These examples use the psionics rules in the Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook. June and Bill wish to have their characters tested for psionics. Both have served two terms in the Scouts; thus, their Psionic Strengths are determined by 2D6-2.
Bill’s PSI is 8. He elects to test first for Telepathy. This requires that he roll 8+ on 2D6, with no characteristic DM, and a learning DM of +4. He rolls 3; 3+4=7, so he does not have Telepathy. He missed the roll of 8+ by 1; his Failure Margin (FM) is 1. The referee now rolls 2D6 for 8+, with a DM of +4 (the same as Bill rolled), plus an additional DM of -1 (Bill’s FM). The referee rolls 6; (6+4)-1=9, so Bill is not triggered, and may roll for his next talent test. He elects to roll for Teleportation. His DMs are zero for his Characteristic DM, zero for the learning DM, and -1 for having tested for one talent previously. Bill rolls 6; 6-1=5, so he does not have Teleportation. He missed the roll of 8+ by 3; his FM is 3. The referee now rolls 2D6 for 8+, with DMs of -1 (Bill’s DMs for the test) and -3 (Bill’s FM). The referee rolls 9; (9-1)-3=5, so Bill is triggered, causing much panic and consternation among the testing staff, as the Telepaths on the staff all seem to have experienced psionic Assaults, the Teleports have all disappeared, and every Clairvoyant is complaining about a major headache, except for the three that were knocked unconscious. Bill is hustled out the door, told he’s a psiren, and not to come back; there is nothing that anyone can do with him, psionically.
June’s PSI is 10. Her Characteristic Modifier for PSI is +1. She elects to test first for Teleportation. This requires that she roll 8+ on 2D6, with DM +1 for her PSI Characteristic DM, and zero for the learning DM for Teleportation. She rolls 4; 4+1=5, so she does not have Teleportation. She missed the roll of 8+ by 3, so her FM is 3. The referee now rolls 2D6 for 8+, with DMs +1 (the same as June’s) and -3 (June’s FM). The referee rolls 10; (10+1)-3=8, so June is not triggered, and may roll for her next talent test. She elects to roll for Telepathy. Her DMs are +1 for her PSI Characteristic DM, +4 for the learning DM for Telepathy, and -1 for having tested for one talent previously. She rolls 6; ((6+1)+4)-1=10, so June has successfully tested for Telepathy, and cannot be a psiren. The referee makes no further tests for June being a psiren; complete psionic testing normally.