Pulp Action Hour: Psi and Cybernetics!

“The first concrete discovery of the aether, a natural force similar to that of magnetism and gravity, though functioning on a plane somewhere between the quantum and sub-quantum was made in 1882. This aether was shown to be connected to psychic powers, and as it was studied; schools of psychic training were started. Aether was found to be susceptible to the mental wavelengths produced by certain people. While the aether did not affect how psychic sensitivity worked, it was found to be the link that allowed more spectacular effects such as telekinesis could manifest.
It was quickly discovered that psychic powers were not the only thing that the aether could be used to manipulate. Machinery could be created that tapped into the aether field around a person. This could be used to manipulate the machine. The first use of this was to use the aether field to allow for functioning artificial limbs, creating the earliest cybernetic arms and legs. The field of science concerned with using a person’s aether field to manipulate machines became known as cybernetics and included any manipulation of machines through the personal aether field, not just machines attached to the body.”

The above passage is from my original history of technology for the Pulp Action Hour setting. It helps to set apart ether – that force that helps to explain how all the fantastic tech works in the setting – from aether – the force that places psychic powers and the tech related to psychic abilities into a pseudo-scientific basis for the setting. While I had a grand plan for psychic abilities when I started this setting some fifteen years ago, I never really developed the idea beyond the passage above and a single sidebar explanation of aether.

That’s where this post series comes in!
In the following posts, I will go into detail on how the fluff text above translates to useable rules

Let’s begin!

I am not completely satisfied with this portion of my setting. I am grateful for any feedback and constructive criticism!!

Psychic Powers

There have always been people who possessed psychic abilities. The only thing new is that science finally found a way to quantify and categorize this power as well as how to manipulate the same forces psychic powers can. This has led to schools that can train those powerful enough with the gift and build machinery that can interface with the human mind through that same natural force.
Called aether, it exists somewhere between the ether; permeating it but not directly interacting with it. The study of aether grew into what is now known as Psionics or Psi, though it is still commonly referred to as psychic phenomena. While Psi has help develop training methods for young psychics, the field’s biggest breakthrough came in studying the aether and how to manipulate it, leading to the field of cybernetics, or the human-machine interfaces for interaction and manipulation of the aether. Now, only about 75% of the population can actually use cybernetic devices, this includes cybernetic limbs replacements.
So, This is the fluff portion that helps explain how psychic powers work. Mechanically, psychic powers or psionics work just like Arcane Background: Psionics.  Most psionic powers tend to be less flashy (mind reading, puppet, sleep, raise/lower trait, etc.) but that does not mean that you are limited to your power selection. There are telekinetics who summon forth bolts, blast and entangle. These are just more rare.

Again, there is no mechanical difference in how A.B.: Psionics works, just use the SWADE Core Rules.

New Hindrance

Psi-Blind (minor)
You are one the the 25% that cannot make use of any cybernetics.
You cannot use any cybernetic devices.

New Edges

Novice, Spirit d6
Your psyche is more attuned to the aether, allowing you to make use of more cyberware. You can use up to twice your spirit in cyberware devices.


The following are a sampling of the types of cybernetic gear that is available in the setting.

Psi-Limit: All cyberware, be it implants or worn devices, have a a psi rating. This represents how much influence in the aether is required to use it. A person can use as much cyberware at one time equal to his spirit attribute.
(Yes, this is my twist/take on the strain stat, but without penalties. Since if someone exceeds their spirit stat, they simply will have to choose which items they are not able to control.)

Traditional Cyberware

This category includes those items that are implanted or otherwise attached to the human body. From prosthetic replacements for lost limbs that offer no special enhanced ability to the amazing inventions that augment the human body.

Prosthesis: This is a replacement arm or leg. It offers no special enhancement to abilities, just replicating the capabilities of the original limb. This type of prosthesis is so intuitive as to have a psi-rating of 0.


Using the sci-fi companion, the following cyberware types are available. Their strain is their psi-rating. Please note while all of the following have flavor text to help it fit into the Pulp Action Hour setting, mechanically they work just as described in the Sci-Fi Companion.

Adrenal Surge: This looks like a bulging plate at the base of the skull. Hair and wide brimmed hats can help to conceal it.

Aquatic Package: These look like metal and plastic gills implanted on the neck. The webbing between the feet look like plastic membranes between the toes.

Attribute Increase: These will all look like fairly obvious modifications when not covered up. Strength, Agility or Vigor enhancements will look like cabling, wires or pistons just under the skin running along the musculature or protruding from the rib cage. Smarts looks like mechanical bulges along the skull. Spirit cannot be enhanced.

Autodoc: This looks like a ceramic plate near the sternum, it extends into the torso, attaching the the aorta to deliver the needed medicine and micro bots.

Communicator: This looks like a steampunk robotic ear with an some wires or plates running just behind the ear.

Filters: These are located just above the vocal cords, causing a slight bulge in the upper neck, making the neck look thicker.

Vision Enhancement: The eyes are replaced with camera-like lenses. These can be concealed with large sunglasses, but they are pretty obvious.

Leg Enhancement: The legs are replaced with powerful piston driven limbs.

Weapon, melee: The weapon will have a steampunk like connection to the limb. Typically retractable with pistons and gears used to move it into place.

Weapon, ranged: Similar to the melee weapons, they can be retracted

Other Cybernetics

These are devices that are not implanted into the users body. Each of these devices are powered with an ether crystal but controlled through the aether connection with the user.

Disguise Suit: This is a robe with a hood. When worn, with the hood up and activated, it can disguise the wearer to look like any other person of roughly the same size and build. Clothing, hair, skin and face can all be drastically altered. When active, this has a psi-rating of 3.

Mental Blocker: This looks like a helmet with some wiring and extra plating built in. When worn and active, it provides protection against all forms of psionic attack or detection. The wearer gains a +4 bonus to resist any psionic mental effects such as puppet, illusions or mind reading. When active, it has a Psi Rating of 3.

Drone Controller: Looking like a helmet with several small antenna protruding from the top and mechanical bulges to the sides. This allows the wearer to control one drone at a range of 500’ x their spirit die. Each drone is custom made. The GM and player should meet to create the drone or drones the player is interested in. For statistics, use the small cat for ground drones and raptors (birds of prey) for flying drones. The operator can see and hear through the drone. When active, this has a Psi-Rating of 4.

Lie Detector: Used by police, this consists of a helmet and neck brace with a dozen wires leading out of the headset to a receiver about the size of a bread box. When worn by a subject, it grants an interrogator a +6 bonus to see through any lies/bluffs or misdirections that the subject may attempt. This device uses the subjects Psi and is designed to force the subject to comply, so if the subject does not have the available psi, the least powerful psi device or cyberware he is using is shut down to make sure this works. This also means this device cannot be used by any psi-blind individuals. When active, this has a Psi-Rating of 3 for the subject.

Well, there you go!
This is my take on psychic powers and cybernetics for the Pulp Action Hour!

Please feel free contact me with any comments or ideas on how I may be able to improve this work in progress!


2 thoughts on “Pulp Action Hour: Psi and Cybernetics!

Add yours

  1. Nice ideas here.
    However, what does SPI mean? I’m guessing its Psi misspelled. But, just in case it isn’t.

    There is no psi-rating for the drone controller. I’m guessing 2 plus one per drone? Just to limit the drones.
    There is no psi-rating for the Lie Detector. I’m guessing 4, just because of the bonus.

    Thanks for the ideas.


    1. SPI is a misspelling. (oops!)
      I’ll take a look at the drone controller and the Lie Detector again. Thanks for the heads up on these!!
      Update: I corrected the typos and added some more information on the drone controller as well as the psi-rating to the lie detector.

      Thanks again Chip for pointing these out!!


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