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Pyrokinesis, my attempt at tinkering

Started by Four Skulls, April 20, 2007, 07:14:13 PM

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Four Skulls

It's been awhile since I've posted, but I've started back working on my Sci-Fan game world.  I've been having some difficulty in using secrets/abilities to model concepts, but I think I might have it hammered it out.  Since in this world, psionics is a force as well as magic, I decided to see how I would do Pyrokinesis(as it's a discipline of Psionics that you could do alot with).  I think it works, but I worry that perhaps I'm spacing it out over too many secrets, and could probably do it with just a couple.  Also, I think it's reasonable to assume that Psionics would use the Reason pool, but I also think that the nature of fire, and Pyrokinesis may make use of the Instinct pool instead.  Thoughts?

Ability: Flame-Shaping -  How well you use your Pyrokinesis to move fire about.

Secret of Pyrokinesis -  (SoP)With a successful Flame-Shaping check, allows you to move flame with your mind for a scene.  Must have a fire handy. Small Fires requires at least a Good success, a medium size fire requires at  least a Great Success, and a major Conflagration requires an Amazing(or higher) Success.Cost: 1pt (Reason/Instinct)for small fires, 2pts for medium fires, 3pts for major conflagrations.

Secret of Ignite -  Allows you to spontaneously combust objects with your mind.  Cost: 1pt (Reason/Instinct)for easily flammable items, 2pts for medium, and 3pts for nonflammables. (Requires SoP)

Secret of Flame Generation
-  Allows you to spontaneously create flames from nothing. Cost: 3pts of Reason/Instinct (Requires SoP)

Secret of Taming the Flame
-  A Great Success at Flame-Shaping allows you to keep a flame kindled, but non-burning, allowing you to carry it with you for a number of scenes equal to MoS.  Cost: 2pts (Reason/Instinct) (Requires SoP)

Secret of Flame Feasting
-  Allows you take energy from a flame, extinguishing it, and recharging your reserves.  Make a Flame-Shaping check against the size of the fire (see SoP).  Gain back a number of Reason/Instinct Pool points equal to the rating of the fire. Cost: 1pt (Reason/Instinct) (Requires SoP)

Key of the Flame-Hearted
-  You enjoy watching things burn.  Gain 1 xp everytime you burn something with your powers.  Gain 3 xp everytime you burn something that has an emotional attachment for somebody else.  Gain 5 xp when you burn something truly unique.  Buyoff: Stop something rare/unique from burning.

Eero Tuovinen

Looking swell enough mechanics-wise. I must have been reading some different sources, because I never saw psionics as a particularly reasonable phenomenon - most psions in fiction seem to be in the grip of forces only partially understood, which seems to fit the Instinct Pool rather well. I guess D&D tradition is different, though. That aside, some suggestions:

Psionics (Instinct)
The character's ability to affect the material plane with his mind. Non-augmented Psionics allows a character to bend spoons, light matches and do other such parlor tricks. The character is psionically sensitive; the Ability may be used to perceive paranormal phenomena normally invisible.

The idea here is to consolidate all psionic abilities under one Ability, which is then used for different purposes via Secrets. This seems more interesting than having a dedicated pyrokinetic Ability, because it allows a degree of synergy - you can make your character a master of several psionic disciplines with a discount, instead of having to buy each Ability separately. This is a good idea whenever you want to tie several special powers together thematically, like you probably want to do with psionics. The other way to build connections is the one used by the threecorner magic system in Near: have separate Abilities, but include Secrets that are usable with all of the Abilities, therefore making it beneficial to learn several Abilities.

Secret of the Mentat
The character has been schooled as a psionicist by a government program, transcendental community or other structured body. The arduous training allows him to use Psionics(I) as a (Reason) Ability in all ways. Also, Instinct costs of psionic Secrets may be replaced with Reason.

Secret of the Wilder
The character is an indigo child or other exceptional phenomenon, with naturally occurring and nigh-uncontrollable psionic abilities. He can use unlimited Instinct to power his psionics, and needs no instruction to learn Psionics(I) or psionic Secrets.

If you want to have both reason-based and instinct-based psionics, this is how I'd do it. Note that you could still have the ability of Psionics(I) without having either of the above Secrets, if you wanted to allow that. Also note that a character could also have both Secrets. Furthermore...

Secret of the Limit Break
The character's psionic abilities may reach temporarily absurd heights while under psychological stress and distress. Distribute levels equal to number of levels of Harm as Advances between any psionic Secrets and Abilities, or Instinct Pool. The effect lasts until the end of the scene, but the gains may be made permanent via the expenditure of normal Advances. The Secret may be activated multiple times per scene, but only immediately after the character is Harmed. Cost: 3 Instinct. Requirement: Secret of the Wilder can have further Secrets and other stuff that widens the gap between "mentats" and "wilders".

Secret of Pyrokinesis
The character may control the shape and burn of a nearby fire with a successful Psionics check. When used against another character, the fire causes Harm by the success level. Cost: 3 Instinct per scene.

My reasoning here is that just being able to control a fire is certainly cool, but not such a major thing as to require extensive difficulty and cost. Also, I like the idea of having psionic abilities "turned on" for a whole scene at a time, instead of costing them per use. Finally, TSoY does not as a rule recommend requiring higher levels of success from unopposed Ability checks. I know I do it myself from time to time, but I don't think this is one of those places where it fits.

Secret of Ignite/Flame Generation

Combine these two, there's no earthly reason to have them be separate. Price "air" as a "nonflammable" for these purposes.

Secret of Taming the Flame

I suggest killing Secret of Taming the Flame, unless you play in a stone-age milieu (in which that would be rather cool). I would suppose that you wouldn't want players to be paranoid about having a fire handy, but that's exactly what the Secret suggests: according to that Secret, players would have to explicitly procure a fire source before getting into trouble. That's bad design, because players being paranoid about their torches are not focusing on the important things in the game.

If you want to make having fire available in a surprising situation an issue, you are well within your powers as a SG to simply decide whether there is a fire nearby when a scene calls. If not, the player may well call for an appropriate conflict, such as "delay/distract the opposition long enough to get a fire going". And if a character makes a point of carrying hot coals with him for the purpose, then just don't bother making it an issue. Elaborate magics are expensive enough without having to pay Advances for getting to use them, too, after paying to learn them.

Secret of Flame Feasting

This one is no good; as a rule, it's not a smart thing to let characters avoid the refreshment mechanics, unless you really want to replace the substance of the refreshment scene with something else. Doing that is an immensely powerful thing, much more so than giving some extra dice for Ability checks. A central idea of the TSoY mechanics is that even the insane pyromaniac (sadly, about the only type of character you see people creating when given fire wizard rules) needs friends and love to operate; taking that limitation away serves no purpose, unless you see dramatic potential in the relationship a character has with his fire.

That's not to say that you couldn't have some manner of Secret of Flame Feasting. Here's two variants:

Secret of Flame Feasting
The character may draw sustenance directly from fire. Meditating on a small flame replaces the need for sleep for this character, the warmth of a bonfire replaces a warm meal. Bathing in a major conflagration makes the character feel rested and vigorous, gaining him a bonus die to all activities for the next day or so.

This one is mostly color, but intriguing color. The generic bonus die is powerful enough to justify the Secret.

Secret of Flame Feasting
The character draws sustenance from fire. The character may have an Instinct refreshment scene by lighting something inappropriate in fire, something that shouldn't usually be burning. He will then proceed to observe the transformation of the object of his desire into ash. This will invariably have consequences: other people hold some importance to the objects burned in this manner, and will encounter the character about his actions.

This one really just restates the requirement for human interaction in a refreshment scene. Taking this Secret just means that the character will have lots of adversial interaction, and will have to work to maintain relationships that allow him to satisfy his pyromaniac desire.

Key of the Flame-Hearted

Really, do you need to encourage the pyromaniac behavior? Or, to ask it the other way around, do you yourself want your players to play pyromaniac fire wizards? I'm asking because I find those things completely tiresome myself. They seem to never get anywhere as far as human interaction or psychological intricacy goes.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Four Skulls,

My own TSOY setting has a similar vibe to psionics, so I'm willing to throw my 2 cents in. Much like you seem to be doing, and Eero's second suggestion, I have psionic abilities, similar to the Three Corner Magic Abilities of Maldor, and they're broken down by type (a Telepathy ability tied to Reason, a Telekinesis ability tied to Vigor, etc etc.). There are Secrets that apply to all of the Psionic Abilities, and Secrets which are "school-specific" a la the Creation- or Destuction-specific Secrets of Three Corner Magic.

I'll second a lot of Eero's comments, and add that its still possible to do a lot of things using the Three-Corner style, and not devoting everything to one Psionic Ability. If you keep it the way you have it, I agree with your initial assessment that you might be slow-walking your players through the advancement of their power. It seems a little weak in comparison to how much gumption you can get from just an ordinary unmodified ability in TSOY, such as Tree-Bond or Destruction or what have you.

Do what you'd like of course, but my recommendations would look like this:

I like your linking of flame to the Instinct pool, and think it works. Not all psionic stuff has to be Reason-heavy just 'cause it comes from the mind (any more than magic does), and the idea of emotional firestarters is a classic one from fiction and movies and such.

The Pyrokinesis Ability itself should do what the Secret of Flame-Shaping does. They replicate each other rules-wise, so why not? Give 'em some agency. I'd suggest reducing the mandatory difficulties you have there a little as well-- even an SL 1 should move a small fire around, or what's the use of the ability at low levels at all? Reward players for sinking their ability points into things, like so much of the TSOY mechanic does. It's okay to enfranchise them. Even a rating of 1 in Pyrokinesis should do something cool, just like a rating of 1 in Sway or Dueling or Complex Crafts.

I wouldn't even attach a pool cost to it. You have to already have a fire present, and make a check. It deals harm, as Eero suggests, equal to the SL of the check.

Secret of Ignite -  You can pretty much keep this as it is, and include the caveat that it now deals damage as per the SL of the check without the need for a pre-existing fire. The beauty here, of course, is that you can continue to "press" an attack in BDTP by using a one-time pool expenditure from Secret of Ignite and follow-up pool-expenditure-free rolls of just the Pyrokinesis ability. Making people pay a continuous outlay of pool points just to keep pressing the attack in BDTP can be very unsatisfying, at least in the circles I game in. And your Secret of Ignite solves that nicely.

Secret of Flame Generation -  I'd just get rid of this, if Secret of Ignite is doing what its doing above, and the Pyrokinesis ability works as I discussed.

Secret of Taming the Flame -  That's cool and quirky, but probably really over-costed, as Eero suggests, unless its a culture that hasn't mastered control of flame. This doesn't do much more than what a torch would do for a Pyrokinesis user. I'd go with his recommends there.

Secret of Flame Feasting -  I'm with Eero's comments on this one, as well, in that it becomes a less-interesting method to refresh pools. His suggestions open up some options, and here's another one:

"You can draw energy from existing flames and hold it within you, providing you with temporary power you can release to control or form flames. Make a Pyrokinesis ability check to gain a number of 'flame pool' points equal to the SL of the check. This extinguishes the flames you target, and allows you to spend those 'flame pool' points to add a bonus die on any Pyrokinesis ability check, or defray the Instinct costs for other Pyrokinesis Secrets. Any 'flame points' not used by the end of the scene are lost."

Key of the Flame-Hearted -  Perhaps redesign this as a 1/3 XP Key? I'm worried that it encourages a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction from players which is that the best route to XP is just burning everything up, which can be a little bland dramatically. Keys are often exciting when they are placed on a collision course with something you want, forcing you to make interesting choices. The choices inherent here frighten me a little -- "Gee, this village is nice, but I could get more XP from burning it to the ground, right?" It's a little bit back to the worst elements of video-game style RPGing; I'm worried you might get the equivalent of Grand Theft Auto: Near.

One Key we built during the last game I ran which we had a lot of exciting ideas about ran something like this. You might find it useful for going for that "firestarter" vibe and not just getting into a "burn the world"/pyromaniac player:

Key of the Uncontrolled Power
You have a power or supernatural ability that doesn't respond to your control, or sometimes activates without your urging.
1 XP: Every time your power marks you as someone weird, dangerous, or a target of various organizations or interests.
3 XP: Every time your power harms someone you care about or costs you something you really want.
Buyoff: Learn to control your power.

It leads to really awesome scenarios where players can elect to activate their Pyrokinesis DESPITE what the character would want, because they think it'll lead to a dramatically exciting scenario. A pyrokinetic who is accused of being out of control by his friends gets upset at the allegation, and ends up lashing out with his flame, burning people who were only trying to help him. Ta da-- 3 XP, and it was a cool decision by the player to invest himself in a troublesome situation.

If you're interested, also, I could post some of the Secrets from my own psionic system, which I think had only four abilities to it, and folded much of the pyrokinetic stuff into a larger Telekinesis Ability.

By the way, Eero, I love your Limit Break Secret, and might well be stealing that for my own nefarious purposes. Of course, bootlegging from you is becoming my official pastime, it seems. Which is why I still remain hopeful we'll see an English translation of the additional material from the Finnish edition of TSOY one day.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)

Four Skulls

     I probably should have said this, but in this setting I'm coming up with, there is a race that is "psionic".  However, Humans straddle the line between psionics , magic, and technology.  So, while the psionic race and the magic race both have immense power in those spheres, the Humans are more limited (at least thats the way it's in my head at the moment). 
      The way I envision Pyrokinesis (at the base level) to work is similar to the Marvel comics character "Pyro" (as seen in the X-Men movies), who can control fire, but must have an external source to generate it.  Secret of Flame Feasting came about because I couldn't see how a Pyrokinetic wouldn't run out of gas quickly...I felt that another way to recharge would be necessary.  I like the idea of giving bonus dice though.  I could see a psionic booster or battery item being handy as well.  Bonus dice or cost reduction?
     Would it be okay to go with just a secret and attached ability?  Say have Secret of Pyrokinesis (Instinct, allows manipulation of fire, does harm by success level, cost 2pts instinct/scene), and have Flame-Shaping ability to see how well they manipulate fire?  That would allow a more broad interpretation of power, and is fairly easy to buy.
     I think my main problem is that I haven't really played a game of TSoY yet with the standard backdrop.  I've been bouncing this gameworld between BESM 3.0, and TSoY, and I think I've finally settled on using TSoY.  I think I could use some playtime to get the ideas of how secrets and abilities can interact before I go to customizing the rules.  I still have several things left to model: Elemental Magic used for planetary terraforming, other Psionics (telepathy, mind control, telekinesis), Armadillo people who can roll up into an armored ball, and a semi-liquid race that can shapeshift (think of Odo from DS9).

Eero Tuovinen

Oh, I definitely recommend playing a session or three of standard TSoY! That's really the best way of getting a sense for how the system works and how it's best modified for your own use. Actually, I was going to list some ideas for the concepts you mention about your setting, but I think I'll save those for when you've played the game and can tell us whether you're going to continue developing for TSoY...
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Four Skulls

I have some ideas on how I could do some of the stuff.  Like for the Armadillo-like guys, they could have a secret that gives them +1 to resist phyical harm, and spend a point of vigor to roll up all the way giving them +2 to resist physical harm, but restricts action.  Psionics we've already detailed somewhat.  I think I could get away with Secret of Psionics, and then a Telepathy, Mind-Control, Sixth Sense, and Telekinesis ability...

My understanding is that Secrets are effects that are ether on or off, and abilities are used to determine how well you do at something.