TSoY in space: The inhuman

22 October, 2009 at 9:27 pm (Solar system) (, , , , , )

This post contains thoughts about the inhuman elements of the game world: psionics, aliens, robots and androids, cyborgs and whatnot.

My experience in balancing secrets and keys is not great, so all commentary is gladly accepted. Few of the secrets are intentionally powerful; steel and wires, in particular.


Everyone knows psionics exist. Very few have met anybody capable of manifesting them or controlling their power. There are rumours of gifted children simply disappearing and of secret government programs and corporate assassins and so on. Rumours, nothing more.

Secret of psionics: The character can contact others with her mind. This requires a successful psionics (instinct) test, possibly resisted with resist or psionics. Using a skill through the psionic contact is taxing and costs 1 instinct. Other secrets in this chapter require the secret of psionics. Only those with the secret can take the psionics skill.

Secret of disciplined psionicist: Psionics (reason), not (instinct). Using skills through the connection has no extra cost. The character has been trained by some facility dedicated for this purpose, and is almost certain to either be an employee or a very hunted rogue operative.

Secret of [freaky exotic psionic ability]: The character can use [freaky exotic psionic ability], which may cost reason or instinct, in addition to requiring dice to be rolled. Telekinesis, making the heads of people explode, invisibility, illusions, that sort of stuff.

Secret of the electromancer: Psionics affects androids.

Secret of psionic storm: Pay up to six points from insinct or reason, whichever governs the psionics ability. Roll psionics. On failure, take reason harm equal to the resource spent. On success, deal that much harm to all characters in the great area affected by the power and take half that in reason damage. Named characters get to resist; others die, are in pain, or whatever was at stake. This ability is not fast to use and any psions in the affected area may resist, hence making this a risky proposition. Still utterly powerful.

The following keys, aside from the first one, only make sense for characters with (latent) psionic ability.

Key of shattered mind: Some psionicist has violently invaded the character’s mind. 1 experience for being hostile to such vile mind-rapers, 3 for losing control in public when something important is happening (and sobbing incoherently or going berserk, say). Buy-off: Forgive and accept.

Key of the empath: The character can sense the emotions, particularly strong emotions and pain, of others. 1 xp for revealing this in play, 3 for suffering due to the talent. Buy-off: Silence the pain by becoming inured to the suffering of others.

Key of the wilder: The character has uncontrolled or poorly controlled psionic ability. It manifests at inopportunate times, particularly when the character is stressed. 1 xp for uncontrolled manifestations, 3 for major destruction or set-back by wild psionics. (Note: this could manifest whenever the character fails a roll, particularly psionics roll, or when the story guide or players feel like it. Up to group negotiation.) Buy-off: Characters gets rid of unintended psionic effects (by iron will or removing the ability).

Steel and wires

Our game has thus far not seen detailed robotic player characters. We do know that proper robots and androids are (almost) immune to psionics.

Secret of steel among the flesh: Character can accomplish deeds requiring superhuman strength or endurance. One point of vigour gives 2 bonus dice to such and makes them possible.

Secrets of wires in the head: Character can compute and analyse with great speed. One point of reason gives 2 bonus dice for analysis (not limited to epsilon-delta proofs) and calculations.

Fancy cybernetic gadgets are also secrets. Heat-vision, cleverly hidden needle guns, hidden containers, armoured skin, things out of Cyberpunk books.

Key of programmed mind: Those who built or fixed the character added some unwanted orders. 1 xp when the character acts upon the programmed orders, 3 xp when he does so against his will. Buy-off: Remove the programming.

Key of lost humanity: Some go mad when great parts of their body are replaced with inorganic materials. 1 xp for showing the cold, aloof and cruel nature that is now character’s; 3 xp for murdering or slaughter of humans in cold blood. Buy-off: Become completely human or completely machine.

Key of malfunctioning component: Some component of character is constantly malfunctioning and in need of repair. 1 xp for maintaining it, 3xp for getting in trouble when it breaks anyways. Buy-off: Fix or replace it.

The hive cluster

Just recently there have been aliens discovered. Inspirations are the zerg of Starcraft and the aliens in series of movies with alien in the name. They are not public knowledge, and whether they will ever be is up to gaming. They have a hive mind; all are connected to the collective consciousness and it commands them all, much like a player in an RTS game. The aliens encountered thus far have been somewhat insectile in appearance.

Skill: Hive mind (instinct): The character is in contact with the hive mind, willingly or not. The skill can be used to communicate and command other aliens, but they can also command back. It works by telepathy. The collective has 4 skill, takes penalty dice for distance (1 for orbit, 2 for solar system, 3 for galaxy, 4 for outside it) and can command the character; resist with hive mind, telepathy or resist. The collective can also lend its knowledge and help for the character, in which case the character gets to help almost any skill roll with the hive mind skill, though failure at the roll inflicts a penalty die. Other keys and secrets of this chapter require this skill.

Key of slave to the brood: The character is unwilling servant of the swarm, yet has little power against it. 1 experience for obeying its orders, 3 for doing so in spite of one’s will. Buy-off: Be rid of the influence.

Key of corrupted monster: Requires some visible mutations. The character looks horrible and inhuman. 1 experience for being shunned and despised for it, 3 when someone’s actively hunting the character for such taint. Buy-off: Mask your true nature.

Secret of contaminated talent: Requires hive mind and psionics. Whenever character touches the mind of another, the brood widens its influence. Pay one instinct to inflict the slave to the brood-key upon any contacted via psionics. Upon first contact they also learn hive mind at skill level mediocre.

Secret of vast knowledge: The character can scan the collective memory for information pertaining to whatever subject; pay as much instinct as desired to get bonus dice for any attempt already aided by hive mind skill, 1 die per point of instinct. This is an awfully big deal.

Secret of regeneration: At the start of a session, or when significat time in the fiction is glossed over, roll endure are heal on level of vigour harm, up to the endure result. Further, given sufficient time, the character can heal from the most severe of wounds.

Secret of [random mutation]: Character has [random mutation]. Claws like knives! Acid spit! Tentacles! Using it may or may not cost vigour. Spitting acid does, for the record.


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TSoY in space – skills

16 October, 2009 at 7:57 pm (Solar system) (, , , , )

This post contains the skill list for the scifi version of the Shadow of Yesterday that I’ve been running.


These are copied from the tSoY wiki, with removed and added entries.

Innate Abilities

Every character in this game has three innate abilities: natural reactions and quantifications of the character’s physical and mental stability.

Ability Name Uses Pool Summary
Endure Vigor This is your character’s ability to push on and persevere though pain and fatigue. It is used to test the limits of a character’s physicality and fitness.
React Instinct This measures the quickness of a character’s body and mind. It is as much “how quick the character notices something” as “how quick the character moves.”
Resist Reason “Resist” is the strength of a character’s will, and is used to prevent compulsion of a natural or supernatural type. This includes physical compulsion: “Resist” would be used for a character to keep her cool under torture, for example, while “Endure” would be used to see how long she could stay conscious under the same torture.

Other Abilities

Open abilities follow a few guidelines:

  • They are either innate abilities to a person (Athletics) or things that can be easily learned. Usually, they’re both, as in the aforementioned case of Athletics, or Scrapping.
  • They are rather wide in scope, encompassing a field of actions, without being overly broad. Movement is too broad; Climbing Fences is too narrow. Fighting is too broad; Broad-sword Usage is too narrow.
  • They are not specialized knowledge that applies only to a certain people or culture. These are the Species and Cultural Abilities, which are much more narrow in scope. Do note that academic skills are open: Internet and various projects for the freedom of information did pay off to significant degree.
  • They often overlap with other abilities, which is great. Two abilities may describe different styles of performing similar tasks.

The pre-made open abilities are below. Examine them to get ideas for your own. They’ve been organized by category. Any character can take abilities from any category, but it may be easier to choose a category or two that define your character and take most of the abilities from them.

Artistic Abilities

Freeload (Instinct)
Freeload is used to get free meals and shelter. Your character can’t really get wealthy using Freeload, but you can manage to survive even if broke, which isn’t bad.
Create (Instinct)
Create is used for painting, sculpting, and other arts where a concrete item is created.
Story-tell (Reason)
Story-tell is used for creating or telling stories, including ballads.
Music (Instinct)
Music is used for singing and playing instruments, and represents musical talent, not lyrical talent. Music and Story-tell are often used together to make an effective song.
Sports (Vigour)
Athletic activities for keeping in shape, as a job, or impressing others. Specialisation is common.

Technical Abilities

Mechanics and electronics (Reason)
Mechanics and electronics is used in building and maintaining various gadgets, equipment and vehicles.
Pilot (Instinct)
Operating vehicles. Everything between motorcycles and huge spaceships, the extreme cases included.
Hacking (Reason)
Operating and manipulating a computer effectively. Programming and gaining access where one should not have it are notable activities.

Military Abilities

First Aid (Reason)
First Aid is simple medicine: bandaging cuts, binding broken bones, and washing out wounds. If someone’s been physically hurt, this can be used to heal them.
Melee (Vigor)
Killing and surviving in close quarters combat with or without weapons. Weapons are highly recommended, though. Also, using exoskeletons and such in melee combat.
Sense Danger (Instinct)
This ability is used to perceive anything that might physically harm your character. It is not a “sixth sense”: the danger must be somehow perceivable, if only barely. Here’s where you get those cat-like reflexes.
Tactics (Reason)
Tactics is the basic skills and techniques known by any military commander. It is used for giving orders in combat and planning attacks, including ambushes.
Shooting (Vigour)
Using and taking care of weapons that shoot targets from a range. Includes weapons installed in various vehicles.
Military training (Vigour)
The daily routines, etiquette, basic combat and technical skills, rough knowledge of organisation. Can be used when fighting in orderly situations. Generally useful as an auxiliary skill.
Explosives (Reason)
Controlled and precise use of explosives. Timed explosives, mines, excavation and sabotage. Nuking it from the orbit just to be sure.

Black ops Abilities

Stealth (Instinct)
Stealth is used to sneak up on people, hide from other characters, and conceal objects on your character’s body.
Theft (Instinct)
Theft is used for picking pockets, cutting purses, lockpicking, breaking and entering without being noticed, and safecracking, as well as any other theft-related activity.
Deceit (Reason)
Deceit is used to fool other characters, including pretending to be someone else, forge a document, or straight-out lie well.
Underworld (Reason)
Underworld is used to know information about the illegal underground, including where to buy illegal things, sell stolen goods, or know who controls organized crime.
Security (Reason)
Security is used for building, recognising, analysing, avoiding and disabling various electronic security implements, such as cameras and locks.
Assassination (Instinct)
The art of killing someone unaware of the menace. Common equipment includes poisons, long-range weaponry, discreet explosives and various fancy gadgets.

Outdoor Abilities

Surival (Reason)
Survival is used to track people or animals, know what sorts of plants and animals are present in an area and their properties, as well as set traps.
Animal Ken (Instinct)
Animal Ken is the social skill for dealing with animals, and is used to deal with domesticated animals or wild ones. Domesticated animals are much easier to control, of course, and this may be used to give them commands. For wild animals, on the other hand, this works about as far as scaring them off, or convincing them not to eat you.
Outer planets (Reason)
Measure of the character’s familiarity with strange, unexplored and hostile planets, asteroids and moons. Settling them, using them and surviving therein to the extent possible.

Academic Abilities

Psychology (Reason)
Psychology can be used to bring peace to someone via private conversation. It is the spiritual equivalent of First Aid. It also is the academic knowledge of mind and workings thereof.
Rhetorics (Reason)
Rhetorics is used to sway opinion with speech or demagoguery, and is generally used with crowds. Media makes it an effective tool for crowd manipulation.
Biochemistry (Reason)
Biology and chemistry. Knowledge and research of nature (of several worlds) and processes happening therein.
Physics (Reason)
Knowledge of space, relativity, quantum mechanics and various less exotic fields of physics. Used for surviving the process of gating.
Research (Reason)
Research is the valued skill of finding and interpreting highly specific and useful information to solve a particular problem.
Diplomacy (Instinct)
Diplomacy is used for negotiating treaties between corporations, nations and other large groups.
Politics (Reason)
Knowledge of the various political parties, shadowy or influential organisations, military establishments and important people. Manipulating the aforementioned for one’s selfish benefit.

Social Abilities

Sway (Instinct)
Sway is used to affect individuals through conversation. Unlike Orate, this works better one-on-one, and the character being swayed may not even realize your character’s intentions.
Savoir-Faire (Instinct)
Savoir-Faire is used to act smooth, dance, get a kiss from a lady, and get another character into your character’s bedchambers.
Etiquette (Reason)
Etiquette is used to know your way around a society, including knowing who is important and where to get favors. It is the non-illegal society equivalent of Streetwise.
Pray (Vigor)
Pray is used for meditation, blessing actions, and performing religious rituals. It involves the character’s belief that she is connected to something better than her.
Discern Truth (Instinct)
Discern Truth is used to tell if someone is being honest, or read a person’s intentions.
Athletics (Vigor)
This is a measure of raw physicality and fitness. It is used for running, jumping, swimming, climbing, or any other strength-based task not listed as a separate ability.
Finances (Reason)
Investments, stock markets, accounting, keeping one’s finances in order, finding items of quality at affordable prices.

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