Fixing Psychic Attacks

One design flaw I’ve been aware of for a little while in the core book is the psychic attack power. It’s wimpy at the best of times in core Genesys, but with 40k’s exaggerated weapon profiles and soak values, it’s a real pea shooter. Figured it’s time to fix that. Feel free to skip to the bottom of the post for the proposed houserules (which will likely be integrated in the next update). Otherwise, stay tuned for my design ramblings!

The Current Situation

Functionally, a psychic attack without any extra effects added on is basically a ranged weapon. Let’s look at its profile, relative to other ranged weapons. We’ll assume a psyker with a 4 in their relevant characteristic, so well built, but not totally min-maxed.

  • Psychic Attack: Damage 4; Critical –
  • Stub Automatic: Damage 6; Critical 4
  • Laspistol: Damage 6; Critical 4; Reliable, Variable
  • Sling: Damage 4; Critical 5

So a psychic attack on a reasonably beefy character is… Slightly worse than a feudal peasant’s sling. This isn’t looking great. Let’s add Kineblades or a Runic Staff into the mix and see what happens.

  • Runic Staff Psychic Attack: Damage 8; Critical –
  • Kineblades Psychic Attack: Damage 7; Critical -; Pierce 2, Autofire
  • Autogun: Damage 6; Critical 3; Autofire
  • Lasgun: Damage 7; Critical 4; Reliable, Variable

So with these costly and quite rare psychic implements, we get to a point where psyker attacks are about on par with entry level guns. Slightly better, even. Except by the time your psyker can afford these, the gun-toting acolytes are probably bringing bolters. Not great.

There are a couple of key differences to keep in mind with psychic attacks, but they don’t help the situation much.

  • Psychic attacks cost 2 strain to perform. This makes them much less appealing than just shooting a gun, generally.
  • Psychic attacks have their difficulty upgraded once. Again, a severe drawback.
  • They risk Perils of the Warp. You aren’t going to open a portal to hell firing your stub revolver.
  • You can’t be disarmed of psychic powers. This is a nice benefit, and could be really useful in some situations.
  • You can add a whole lot of cool effects to psychic powers. Other characters don’t get this versatility from one weapon, although the difficulty dice add up real quickly.

Overall, I think it’s clear psychic attacks are a bit too wimpy. So let’s fix that.

Fixing It

The first change I’d propose is simple. The base damage of psychic attacks should be twice the relevant characteristic. Let’s revisit using our hypothetical psyker with their 4 in the relevant characteristic.

  • Psychic Attack: Damage 8; Critical –
  • Runic Staff Psychic Attack: Damage 12; Critical –
  • Kineblades Psychic Attack: Damage 11; Critical -; Pierce 2, Autofire
  • Lasgun: Damage 7; Critical 4; Reliable, Variable
  • Heavy Stubber: Damage 12; Critical 2; Auto-Fire (Only), Cumbersome 4
  • Bolt Pistol: Damage 10; Critical 2; Pierce 2, Scarce Ammo, Vicious 2

This is looking a bit better. A decent psyker without any implements is basically firing lasgun shots, while a psyker with implements can start to match their fellow acolytes toting around heavier weaponry.

One problem this creates is it makes the Empowered additional effect kinda useless. So for that, I’d just propose that it makes psychic attack base damage triple the relevant characteristic. Which would mean something like this (bear in mind Empowered adds two difficulty dice, it’s a hard one to manifest).

  • Psychic Attack: Damage 12; Critical –
  • Runic Staff Psychic Attack: Damage 16; Critical –
  • Kineblades Psychic Attack: Damage 15; Critical -; Pierce 2, Autofire
  • Plasma Gun: Damage 12; Critical 2; Gets Hot, Maximal, Pierce 5, Vicious 2
  • Meltagun: Damage 15; Critical 1; Breach 2, Destructive, Scarce Ammo, Vicious 3

Now we’re cooking with gas. If a psyker is willing to make an attack check with two extra difficulty dice, and a decent psy-focus, they’re hitting like some of the most potent infantry weapons.

One final gap in a psyker’s ability to do any real damage is their ability to deal with armour. In the lore, psykers can smash tanks apart with their minds and bowl over Space Marines. Currently, even with the odds stacked very much in their favour they’re pretty bad at dealing with high soak, and vehicles are practically impossible to dent. To that end, I’d change the Destructive additional effect to grant pierce equal to twice the character’s rank in Discipline, and add the Destructive quality to the attack. This means a psyker with 5 ranks in Discipline effectively adds breach to their attacks with this effect, which seems like a reasonable reward for so much invested XP (and two extra difficulty dice!).

TL;DR – What are the house rules?

I’m proposing the following changes;

  • Psychic attacks deal damage equal to twice the characteristic linked to the skill used to make the attack, plus 1 damage per uncancelled [SU]. So if a character uses Telekinesis, they would deal damage equal to twice their Intellect.
  • In Table 7-3: Attack Additional Effects, apply the following changes.
    • Change the Destructive effect to read – “The attack gains the Destructive and Sunder qualities. The attack also gains the Pierce quality with a rating equal to twice your character’s ranks in Discipline.
    • Change the Empowered effect to read – “The attack deals damage equal to three times the characteristic linked to the skill (instead of dealing damage equal to twice the characteristic). If the attack has the Blast quality, it effects all characters within short range, rather than engaged.”

I’ll be giving these a whirl in my own campaign. I’d encourage you to give them a shot too and let me know what you think.

If you have any comments or insights into this change, feel free to chuck them in the comments section below and I’ll take a look!

Published by Ross

Designer of the Dark Heresy hack for Genesys. Pretty cool dude.

One thought on “Fixing Psychic Attacks

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