Wednesday, May 8, 2013

FATE-ing Dawning Star: Psionics

Despite the fact that Dawning Star is designed as a relatively firm sci-fi setting (it's not hard sci-fi but there isn't readily available artificial gravity, FTL travel, anti-gravity repulsors, etc), we wanted to have psionics as part of the setting since... well, psionics are cool. However, we didn't just want to make some weak explanation that humans mutate or some such and develop psionics; we wanted it to be something more unsual, involved, and ultimately terrible. The concept did not really coalesce until I was working on Helios Rising where I wanted to do a haunted space station location, but we don't have ghosts. So I came up with the idea of information ghosts, corporeal begins who had been reduced to the information that described their body and mind, and that were able to survive on an alternate level of reality where only information exists. This level of reality ended up being called Red Truth because I use color naming as a reoccurring structure in Dawning Star and because the ultimate truths of the universe could be seen in Red Truth, if your mind was strong enough to find them.

Red Truth grew from there. In it's final form, Red Truth is a different layer of reality that is normally separate and invisible to ours. Certain beings can learn to perceive Red Truth, and thereby gain extranormal amounts of information about their surroundings. For example, if someone looks at a table in Red Truth they can easily discern it's exact height, weight, chemical makeup, etc. With some more effort and skill they can sift through the information to see where it was made, or even who touched it last. The problem is the mind of sentient beings were not designed to perceive Red Truth, and it tends to overload the minds of those who touch it. Thus Red Truth can inflict serious mental stress and trauma and those who regularly expose themselves to it. Also if Red Truth is accessed too much in a given area, the barrier between our level of reality and Red Truth can weaken, allowing Red Truth to infect our reality, casting a dull red glow over the area with no obvious source. It is a virulent infection, almost as if Red Truth wants to come into our level of reality. Reports of creatures living in Red Truth in the information dead space between stars, consuming all information they can, are surely just rumors.

Also as a side note, there are truths (i.e. levels of reality) beyond Red Truth if various legends from more perceptive species are to be believed. According to yaom legend, Yellow Truth has a king that rules it that hungers for madness, while Black Truth is where the spirits of the dead wait for this universe to end and the next one to start. Of course these are just legends.

So what does all this mean for FATE Dawning Star?

Red Truth in Dawning Star is represented by a skill that allows characters to gain normally impossible information from their surroundings. Stunts allow additional uses of the skill, such as reading minds, blocking information from others (effectively blinding them), wiping out information in solid forms (books, computer drives, etc) with a touch, store vast amounts of information, and so on all the way up to actively editing information in Red Truth so to move objects, ignite fires, or bend the minds of others to your will.

Unlike other skills, most characters cannot use Red Truth at all; it is not ranked at Fair as a default, but instead is not ranked at all. The vast, overwhelming majority of sentient life has no ability to perceive Red Truth. Red Truth is an incredibly rare talent that only a handful of species can access naturally. These rare species start with Average Red Truth as one of their racial skills, and can advance it and learn the related stunts as normal. If the players of such characters plan on making Red Truth a major skill for the character, should have some tie to Red Truth in their high concept or trouble aspects.

Other species can learn to perceive Red Truth, but only after massive mental trauma due to exposure to Red Truth, such as a character suffering a severe consequence from interactions with Red Truth. This would most often be caused by staying too long in an area infected with Red Truth, or being subject to attack via Red Truth by someone knowledgeable in its intricacies. For such an event to have happened in the characters past before the game, they must have an aspect that refers to it, which allows them to assign skill points to Red Truth as normal. Otherwise they must go through such exposure in game and afterward change one of their aspects to note this event. The Red Truth exposure must be a sufficiently harrowing experience that it marks the character for the rest of his or her life for it to be severe enough to allow that character to perceive Red Truth afterward.

My thought currently is to allow most basic uses of Red Truth, such as just gathering physical information about something, to occur with a normal challenge. More complex uses of Red Truth, such as reading minds or psychometry would require the expenditure of a fate point. More hostile uses of Red Truth, such as editing information of a heavy rock to change its inertia and thus throw it at someone, would require a contest and an expenditure of a fate point. At any point a character could open themselves more deeply to Red Truth instead of spending a fate point, but doing so inflicts a consequence on the character. Some stunts may allow extra Red Truth only consequences or such.

Locations can have Red Truth aspects if it has begun bleeding into the area, creating a consequence that can be used to add to most uses of the Red Truth skill. If characters spend fate points over some threshold in a given area they may cause an infection, or make an existing one worse, possibly adding or changing the aspects present.

Red Truth and psionics in Dawning Star are meant to be something that is powerful but terrible. Even the races that can access Red Truth naturally fear it and do not well understand it. So I'm hoping to make a system that promises great power at great cost, and where choices may have unexpected consequences.   

1 comment:

  1. I really dig the concept- The Red Truth is kind of the realm of the platonic ideal, and yet touches on the Lovecraftian "knowledge can be horror" theme.