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A Code of Conduct for Psions

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue, and was reprinted in the September/October 2022 issue.

In the course of creating my Varan campaign, I waged an internal debate on the pros and cons of psionics in society. I thought about how to strike a balance that prevented excessive abuse, but also did not form a major blockade for those that might have some form of ability. The following is the basic premise I am using in my Varan campaign. It may form a good baseline for your use, and should be simple to modify for your Traveller universe.

The Psionic Articles of Conduct, also known as The Psionic Regulations or Psi-regs, are implemented throughout Varan space. While not considered formal law, they are upheld by virtually every society in the Varan sector. Psi-regs are a set of moral guidelines, meant to prevent abuse of power, and yet allow a Psion to function as a viable member of society. They provide a consistent set of guidelines, and tend to integrate well in a functional society.

The articles are meant to apply on a personal level. Each planet may have its own legal guidelines, and throughout Varan space there are legal representatives that use their talents for the good of society. Local and planetary laws are specifically designed to allow this.

I’ll start with a list based this on what I'd consider normal for a moral society, rather than an opressive or controlling society. Rather than detailing each article, I'll provide a generalization of the intent of each. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to write up the details for their campaign.

The Psionic Articles of Conduct

  1. I will not use my talent for personal gain.
  2. I will not use my talent for monetary gain.
  3. I will not use my talent to invade privacy.
  4. I will not use my talent for immoral or illegal purposes.
  5. I will not use my talent to subjugate or control.
  6. I will not use my talent to influence.
  7. I will not use my talent to cause harm.

The first two articles are meant to limit the Psion to normal means when it comes to making money, gaining influence, or otherwise advancing in society. Under most circumstances, it would be pretty easy for a Psion to use their ability to read minds, emotions, or other signs, and turn that to their advantage. This applies individually, as well as cases in which the Psion is working for or representing a corporation or similar entity.

The third article is meant as a general hedge against mind-reading, listening in on conversations, and so on. It covers situations not specifically dealt with in the first two articles. This applies individually, as well as cases in which the Psion is representing a corporation or similar entity.

The fourth article is meant to integrate the articles into local or planetary laws. This does tend to vary from place to place, but generally is for the protection of the population.

The fifth and sixth are included to keep any Psion or group of Psions from taking over leadership or exerting improper control over any person, persons, group, and so on. Under many circumstances, it also limits a Psion’s position in the governing body, where such position may be influenced by their ability, unless specific measures are in place to prevent such influence.

The seventh is to prevent mental, physical, or emotional damage inflicted by use of talent such as pyrokinesis, telekinetic punches, and so on. It typically restricts self-defense to non-harmful measures, such as telekinetic bindings or restraints, induced sleep, and the like.

These guidelines give the referee a lot of leeway. They can be as general or specific as you need, and are relatively simple to customize. They are meant to limit power, but not restrict role-playing.

In my campaign, breaking these articles can have several outcomes, depending on the severity and reason for the breach. I've integrated them into the legal systems in many cases, especially law enforcement, the courts, and similar instances. It also sets guidelines for the legal repercussions and forms of punishment for breaking those laws.

That integration can allow the Psion to use their ability for legal purposes, for example, infiltrating a racketeering ring to gain evidence, or tracking down a ring of grav-car thieves.

I hope this will give you some ideas for including psionics in your own campaign. I find it a good balance between the Zhodani and Imperial points of view, without the attendant problems or restrictions each viewpoint entails.