Psionic potential is actually fairly common in the Traveller universe. Everyone starts with a minimum of a Psi score of 2, as the score is determined by throwing 2d6. The roll is modified by a -1 for every 4 year block over the age of 18. The difficulty is that the only way to unlock a person’s psionic potential is by being tested at a Psionic Institute (PI), and then receiving instruction. This is a time intensive process, and expensive. In addition, finding a PI is also a difficult process, as psionics are not accepted by the general population.
Presuming that your character manages to find one of the elusive institutes, and discovers that they have a score sufficient enough to warrant the time and money it costs to train them, it is still no guarantee that they’ll actually have any talents. There are 6 possible talents that I psionic character can attempt to learn, and each attempt to learn a talent imposes a cumulative -1 to the roll. In addition, some talents are easier than others. In order, from hardest to easiest, they are: Teleportation (9+), Awareness (7+), Telekinesis (6+), Clairvoyance (6+), and Telepathy (5+). For the more math inclined, you will note that I only listed 5 talents. The sixth is “Special” and needs a 9+ to acquire. What is “Special”? Basically it’s something that isn’t covered by one of the above. Firestarting, phasing, mind control, flight, etc.
It’s entirely possible to roll a character with a really high psionic strength, and no talents, just as it is possible to roll a character with low psionic strength, and lots of talents that they don’t have the strength to actually use. Mathematically it is possible to roll a character with a psionic strength of 12, with access to all 6 of the talents, but it’s extremely unlikely.
So what can a character do with these psionic talents? It depends on which talents, and what strength score the character has. Let’s look at all the talents, and presuming that a character has a high enough score to do everything that talent allows. First up, teleportation. With a high enough strength the character can teleport clear across a continent, or even to the other side of a planet. There are dangers associated with this due to a variety of factors, including the differing speeds of rotation of the planet at different latitudes, and the problems with increasing or decreasing elevation. It’s doable, though difficult. At lower levels, the range is less, as is the ability to bring stuff with you. In fact, at a low enough level, you’re going naked!
Awareness is the control of your own body, allowing you to put yourself into suspended animation, improve your strength, endurance, or even cause yourself to regenerate! Telekinesis allows you to move things from a gram in weight to up to 100 kilograms. Clairvoyance allows remote viewing of distant locations. With a high enough skill you can both see and hear what’s going on. Telepathy allows everything from sensing and sharing emotions to reading surface thoughts to probing deep into someone else’s mind, to finally using their ability as a weapon capable of killing. It also provides the ability to shield your mind from the assaults of others.
So how does this all work out for a real character? Pulling out one of the ones I made way back at the beginning of this series: Mancrel “McDuff” Duffin. He served 2 terms with the merchant fleet, and was mustered out with 10k credits. He’s always had an itching at the back of his head, so he decides to track down a Psionics Institute branch and get tested. 5k credits later it turns out that he is a latent strength 6 psionic (rolled a 9 minus 3 for his age). Training costs 100k credits, which means McDuff is only 95k short, and as his power level isn’t high enough to qualify for a scholarship, he’s at the end of his psionic journey, unless he can come up with more money, and fast. Every 4 years from the determination of your potential that goes untrained, you lose an additional point.
For the sake of this example, let’s say he gets a loan from a less than reputable character, and gets his training. First McDuff will check his “Special” talent, and he doesn’t have one (rolled a 5-1=4). He then checks the rest in the order above. And his scores are: 4, 3, 3, 0, 5. He has no talent at anything except Telepathy, and with a high enough strength that when fully trained he’ll be able to read emotions, surface thoughts, and send thoughts to others. These powers will definitely be of use to the mob boss that funded his training, especially after he spends some time refining his skills so that he can actually use the powers he’s now unlocked. After 4 months at the institute he has the basic skills down, and can shield his mind from others. Every month thereafter McDuff rolls 2d6, and if he scores better then an 8 his level in the talent goes up. Eventually he will be able to do all that’s been written above, and at distances up to 50 kilometers!