Monday, March 27, 2017

Psi Wars: Environments of Broken Communion: Death

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Psi Wars setting is Communion, the gestalt super-consciousness that influences the world in ways both subtle and grand. Of the three major strands of Communion, Broken Communion is particularly interesting to me, since it touches on aspects of the world that humans find disconcerting and alien to their experience.

This naturally leads to the question of what you find when an environment is particularly strong in Broken Communion (High or Very High Sanctity in game terms). Some answers may be gleaned from Mailanka’s posts on Broken Communion and Broken Communion Paths, while others can be found in the relics such places produce. Further insights can be found in the Planetary Environments series.

The limitation to all of these is that places of Broken Communion are more of a sidenote to the main point of the post. This is fine, but it also whets the appetite for more details and a deeper look into what these environments are like. So, in this series of posts, I’m going to delve into Broken Communion environments, and describe how they can be created, what phenomena occur in them, and why you might want to visit them.

First on our tour are environments of Death, places of destruction, mass deaths, and extinction of humanity.

Creating a Place of High Sanctity to Death

It takes more than simple death to mark Communion so strongly that it begins to resonate with the path. Even a graveyard that has seen many generations buried there is not going to be high sanctity to Broken Communion, because these are natural deaths. Growing old and dying are simply part of the cycle of life, and the pain of these losses heal in time.

Places sacred to the path of Death are places of unnatural death. The mass graves of a terrible war, the burned out cinder of a world ravaged by nuclear fire, and other places of large scale death are the most common locations for a place sanctified to Death. These events cause so many deaths that each one is meaningless, and it’s this lack of meaning that fuels Broken Communion.

Smaller scale events can also create places sacred to death. The room where a noble hanged herself is a prime example, especially if her servants then shunned it for fear that it was haunted. Over time, this belief would feed on itself, until the room became a place of poltergeist activity and disturbing visions. Left unchecked, it might even spread to the whole building or the surrounding estate.

Sites of particularly gruesome deaths are another candidate. The place where a whole family was slaughtered and torn to pieces would leave its mark on Communion, for one example. For another, you have a ship lost in space, low on supplies, and its crew forced to turned to cannibalism to survive. When the last of them dies, all that remains is a place strong in Broken Communion and Death.

Phenomena of Death

Communion Voids

Nothing sears Communion like death, for Communion of all types comes from the minds of sapient beings. When they die, especially in large numbers or in horrific ways, Communion itself begins to break down. This often takes the form of Low Sanctity to Dark or True Communion, but in severe cases you instead find Communion Voids, which are places of No Sanctity to Dark and True Communion, and even Broken Communion may be at Low or No Sanctity in such a place.

Attempts to use psionics are at -5 or worse in such place, and any failure counts as a critical failure. Instead of the standard critical failure table, use the rules on page 422 of the Basic Set for Duration of Crippling Injury, substituting Will for HT. This represents how long it takes for the power to recover after having its energies drained by the Communion Void.

Some psionic abilities are hazardous to use inside a Void even without a critical failure. Any attempt to use ESP powers within a Void causes a Fright Check as they can only see the empty nothingness of the Void around them. At the GM’s discretion, other psionic abilities that involve sensing the environment may also cause a Fright Check.

Even if you wisely refrain from using psionics within a Void, such places are draining. Every hour, make a Will+5 roll, at -1 for every hour spent within the Void. On a failure, lose 1d of energy, taken first from any Psionic Energy Reserves, then from FP. While inside a Void, you cannot recover either FP or Energy Reserves.

Sensory Deprivation

Places of death are oppressive and can dull the senses.At the low end, they mute colors, dim the light, numb touch, and dampen sound. At the high end, they extinguish even the concept of sensation, making it impossible to recall speech or remember the path you took to reach the place.

This phenomenon encompasses a spectrum of possible Broken Communion miracles, a few of which are listed below:

  • Obscure 1 (Hearing; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) [4]
    • At this level, it’s enough to deaden sound in a small room.
    • Cannot be detected outside its area of effect
    • Counts as a Minor Blessing and lasts as long as you Concentrate as a General or Specific Prayer
    • 1 point as a Learned Prayer
  • Obscure 5 (Hearing; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) + Obscure 5 (Vision; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) + Obscure 5 (Taste and Smell; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) + Obscure 5 (Touch; Stealthy, +100%; Broken Communion, -20%; Requires Concentrate, -15%) [68]
    • Applies a -5 to all mundane senses within two yards
    • Cannot be detected outside its area of effect
    • As a general or specific prayer, lasts as long as you Concentrate
    • Requires Broken Communion 10 to learn
    • Costs 14 points as a learned prayer.
  • Obscure 10 (Vision; Cosmic, Affects Memory of Vision, +50%; Area Effect 16 yards, +150%; Stealthy, +100%; Requires Concentrate, -15%; Broken Communion, -20%) [73]
    • All vision within 16 yards fails.
    • Recalling vision-based information requires an IQ-10 roll.
    • Cannot be detected outside its area of effect
    • As a general or specific prayer, lasts as long as you Concentrate
    • Requires Broken Communion 11 to learn
    • Costs 15 points as a learned prayer.


The lingering trauma of death can easily push itself into the minds of those who enter these places. While this is normally good for a Fright Check, make it more interesting and pull the players into a scene from the place’s past, probably the one that led to it becoming sanctified to Broken Communion. Use this as a way to teach them a little more about the place, and perhaps give them a hint for the quest that brought them here to begin with!

The Restless Dead

This is a broad category, and too big to contain within one post. I’ll revisit this topic later, but for now, you can use creatures from GURPS Zombies, Mailanka’s Space Ghosts, and any of the undead from GURPS Dungeon Fantasy as seeds for what players might find in Deathly areas.

They shouldn’t just be opposition, though. Consider what motivates them, and how it ties into the events that created the area of Broken Communion to begin with.

Deathly Adventures

What would bring a bunch of player characters into an area sanctified to the Path of Death? There’s many possibilities, but here’s a few:

  • Relic hunting: Tombs and battlefields are major places where Broken Communion can arise, and these are prime territory to find artifacts from a bygone area. PCs could be searching on their own or racing rivals, and the artifacts they seek need not be sanctified to Broken Communion…
  • The Gauntlet: There may not be anything in the area that the PCs want, but a haunted battlefield might be the only route of escape they have! Can they elude their pursuers and survive the horrors of the Graveyard of Starships?
  • Rituals: Symbolically, sites with high sanctity to Death are linked with the Underworld, and it’s common for heroes to have to travel through it, emerging in a metaphorical rebirth. Thus, this can be a milestone for characters walking a path of Communion. Alternatively, they may be trying to stop someone who’s trying to use the site to support their own journey on the path.

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