Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Biotics is the ability of some lifeforms to create psychic effect fields, either naturally, or using certain BioWare (Augmentations) in combination with Element Zero. Biotic individuals can knock enemies over from a distance, lift them into the air, generate gravitational vortices to tear obstacles or enemies apart, or create protective barriers.
Biotics in the Civilized World
Since the beginning of galatic travel, certain people have been able to connect to a new force of energy, the stuff called Element Zero. This energy is channeled through a person and projected into powers, or to improve their physical capabilities beyond normal limits. The people who can manipulate Element Zero are called “Biotics”. Nowadays, there’s a social order among the Biotics. At the top of the food chain are second- and third-generation Sirens, women who have a special connection to Element Zero and can use its powers to great effects, and Warlocks, people who can channel destructive powers and/or summon incredible effects. Following those are Telepaths, who use biotic powers to influence their surroundings with the power of their minds. Lastly there are Adepts, people who channel Element Zero into their bodies to perform amazing feats, and Vanguards, people who use their powers to shield themselves from harm. They’ve been able to stand on the shoulders of the people who came before them, using biotics the same way kids use technology invented in their parents’ time—reflexively and intuitively. The knowledge that previous generations struggled to obtain, they simply absorb as quick lessons in their youth. They sometimes have more than a touch of arrogance about them, and sometimes they go to ridiculous lengths to claim a biotic heritage for themselves (don’t ever get stuck listening to one drone on about how their great-great-great-greatgreat-great-great grandmother or whatever was burned on Earth's Salem as a witch). But they are good at what they do, they have corporations across the world fighting for their services, and they even have their own organizations for people born into “biotic families.” If they sometimes act as if the world were their plaything, it’s because in many ways, it is. The newer group of biotics has a caste system of its own—the main divide is between natural biotics and enhanced biotics. Even though—or possibly because— ninety percent of those given the gift of biotics are needing BioWare (Augmentations enhancements to sustain and control their powers, those who are naturalas believe they are superior to them, though it’s not like those in the latter group are terribly limited. While biotics have caught the public’s imagination, they’ve also gotten the attention of the world’s various governments and corporate rule-makers, leading to a whole host of regulations covering the use of biotics. Anyone with biotic ability is supposed to list the fact that they are Biotics on their SINs, and generally they need to possess a license to practice biotics. Guilds have to register to be legal, which means they have to prove that all their members are legal biotics. Without registration, they’re subject to being raided at any time by Bio-Ccops on astral patrol, looking for any gathering of biotics that may not be authorized. The authorities seem to think that any unapproved discussion between biotics will eventually lead to chaos and/or destruction. They are not entirely wrong. There are plenty of Biotics who say “Screw that!” and work in the shadows instead. The corps may have the benefit of being storehouses of biotic knowledge, but just because they know stuff doesn’t mean that they’re going to share. On the streets, things are rough, though for the most part, systems work as you’d expect. Need reagents? Do your legwork, track them down, and either find them yourself or get them in a trade. If you’re tenacious enough to find more than you need, you’re in luck—the shadows are full of potential buyers. Biotics are plenty useful on a run, whether the biotic is putting up a shield to deflect bullets or other powers, or concealing the sights and sounds of what a group of runners is doing so they can go about their business undisturbed. Adepts come in handy, too, either launching their bodies into impossible feats or bringing supernatural levels of charm into play. This doesn’t come with the same pressure the corps might level on you—instead, you get a completely different range of problems, from the gangs wanting a piece of you to the snipers looking to take you out with a single shot before you can do some serious damage. Then there’s law enforcement. The law is well aware that there are biotic crooks out there, and they have plenty of means at their disposal to deal with them, including specially designed restraints, hoods to prevent them from establishing line of sight so they can cast a power, and detention rooms treated with substances that inhibit all biotic powers. The worst part of it is that the authorities have a good reason to be worried about biotics, as some warlocks and adepts are doing some pretty nasty drek. The legal term for illegal biotics is maleficium, and it can get pretty ugly. Most of these practices have an impact on the practitioner, twisting their brains until they are as warped as the biotic effects they create. Then they generally either become tyrants of their own small domains or get geeked by runner teams coming out to collect the sizable bounties somebody has inevitably put on their heads.
Here’s what you need to know to use biotics in Swan Song.
Biotics is a special Attribute that measures a character’s biotical power. Characters do not have a Biotics Attribute unless they select one of the priorities that specifically provide one (see the Priority Table, Character Creation). Biotics has a starting value from 1 to 6 (or 7 with the Exceptional Attribute quality), but you don’t have to settle for that limit forever. You can go through a process called Initiation that can enhance your abilities, or you can use special Biotic-Implants to boost your Biotics Rating. Anything that reduces your Essence also reduces your Biotics rating. For every point (or fraction thereof) of Essence lost, both your current Biotics Attribute and your maximum Biotics Rating are reduced by one. If your Biotics is reduced to zero, you can no longer use any skill requiring the Biotics attribute, even if your maximum Rating is still greater than zero (but you can still raise the attribute with XP and then get back to using powers). If your maximum rating falls to zero, you’ve burned out, losing all biotic abilities. You are mundane forever. Burnedout biotics retain all biotic skills and knowledge, but they lack the ability to use them. All biotic active skills become Knowledge skills.
Jimmy Two-Tone, who has a Biotics Attribute of 4 and a maximum rating of 6, has decided he can’t live without some cybereyes. To keep the Essence loss low, he selects the Rating 1 model, which costs 0.2 Essence. His Essence is reduced to 5.8, his current Biotics Attribute becomes 3, and his maximum Biotics rating is now 5. He can get some more cyberware if he wants, as Essence reductions do not reduce his Biotics rating again until his Essence drops below 5.
Almost everything biotic has an attribute known as Force, including spirits, powers, implants, and more. This attribute is a measure of biotic power of the object or being. Force is used as a limit for biotic effects.
Drain is the price you pay for wielding awesome biotic power. The manipulation of Element Zero, whether forming of a power, using alchemy, or bringing forth a being from another plane, can exhaust or injure you. Element Zero is the most potent form of energy, and channeling greater quantities of that energy can strain the body and mind. This effect is referred to as Drain. Biotic actions that cause Drain have a Drain Value, which is a measure of how much Drain they inflict. The base Drain Value for Biotic Power tests is listed with the appropriate power description. For Conjuring tests, the Drain Value is twice the hits (not net hits) generated by the spirit when it resists the Conjuring attempt. Drain generally is inflicted on you as Strain damage, though there are situations in which it can be Physical damage. You resist the damage from Drain through a Drain Resistance Test (Discipline + Willpower [Mental] each hit reduces the Drain by one. Any remaining Drain is applied to your Strain Tracker (or Flesh Health). Drain damage also reduces your maximum Strain Threshold or Health Pool, making it impossible to heal. Drain damage can only be recovered through natural recovery, also step-by-step restoring your maximum in the process. This means, if you overdo your usage of biotics, you will eventually have to take some time to rest.
Power Points are the quantified biotic energy that Adepts can spend to buy permanent powers. At character creation, Adepts receive Power Points equal to their Biotics attribute. Subsequently, Power Points can come in two ways. If you’re an Adept, you get a free Power Point whenever you increase your Biotics attribute, and you can gain a Power Point through Initiation. Adepts can not gain Power Points through the use of Biotic Implants. For adepts, losing Essence is doubly dangerous because every time your Biotics attribute is reduced, you lose an equal number of Power Points (you have to “un-buy” powers to make up the loss). If your Biotics attribute is reduced to 0, you are cut off from your powers and can no longer access them—which would be a good time for you to avoid anyone you’ve pissed off in the past while you’re trying to learn some new (non-biotic) skills.
Biotics are rarely subtle. Any form of biotics changes the world around it. Sometimes it’s obvious through a biotic’s gestures or incantations. Spirits sometimes cause the air to shimmer, even from the Other Side. People have reported feeling chills, dread, or other unnatural sensations they can’t quite put their finger on when biotic energy is in the area. Noticing biotics is a Simple Perception + Intuition [Mental] Test with a threshold equal to the Skill Rating of the being performing it minus the Force of the biotic, or 6 – Force if there’s no skill involved (minimum 1 in either case). Obviously, if a biotic is throwing lightning from his fingertips, you’re probably going to notice without making a test. But if the power is subtle, then you have to pick up some dice.
Every biotic that can invoke at least one biotic power is able to try and break other ongoing biotic powers. This also means that pur adepts can't break powers. Breaking is used to counter a sustained or quickened power. A Breaking Test is the breaker’s Discipline + Biotics [Biotics x 2] v. power’s Force + invoker’s Biotics (+amount of XP spent on quickening the power, if any). Every net hit reduces the number of hits the invoker had in invoking the power. This may reduce the effectiveness of the power. If the power is reduced to 0 net hits, the power ends completely. Regardless of how it goes, you take the Drain from the power as if you had cast it — Physical if the power’s Force was higher than your Biotics rating, Stun otherwise.
Invocation is the art of shaping Element Zero to create specific effects. You can use it to activate powers. or protect against or destroy powers. You only have to concentrate to use a power, and then release it through the appropriate gestures.
InvokingInvoking is the art of channeling biotic energy through force of will, turning it into an astral or physical form called a biotic power. Before invoking a power, you have to learn it. Invoking a power involves the following steps:
STEP 1: CHOOSE POWER
At character creation, biotic characters purchase a set of powers for invocations, then add more as they advance. The biotic can only choose from this set of spells when deciding what power he wants to invoke at any given time.
Invoking Multiple Powers
Some biotics have the mental discipline to weave multiple threads of energy into various powers at once. You can attempt to invoke multiple powers simultaneously in the same action, even at different targets. To do this, you have to split your Invoking + Biotics dice pool between the powers you want to invoke, with a minimum of 1 die per power. Since the modifiers per power may be different, they are applied after you split the dice pool. The number of power you can cast simultaneously is limited to your Biotics attribute.
STEP 2: CHOOSE THE TARGET
The next thing you must do is choose target(s). You need to be able to establish a link with your target—depending on the power, you’ll need to be able to see or touch the target in order to establish the link. If you need to see the target, line of sight can be established with your natural vision, including using reflective surfaces and looking through transparent objects. CyberWare or BioWare visual enhancements that have been paid for with Essence count as natural. Any technological visual aid that digitizes or augments the visual input for you (a camera, electronic binoculars, Matrix feeds, etc.) doesn’t work—you’re looking at a generated image, not the light from the real target. Invocation by visual targeting is subject to normal visibility modifiers. You can use visual targeting to target astral targets when you’re on the Other Side (you’re not technically seeing them, but the analogy works). Some powers can only be invoked on targets that you’re touching. You don’t need to see these targets, but you might need to make an unarmed attack to make contact with an unwilling target. Touching a target through clothing, armor, or a layer of paint is acceptable. A biotic in the physical world can only invoke powers on targets that are in the physical world. Similarly, a biotic on the Other Side can only invoke powers on targets that are present on the Other Side (though auras of things in the physical world can be seen, auras alone cannot be targeted).
Area powers can be invoked on a specific target or a point in space that you can see. Unless noted in a power, the area of the power is a sphere centered on the target with a radius in meters equal to the Force of the power. All targets in the area of effect that you can see, friend and foe alike, are valid targets for the power. If a potential target is outside your vision (behind a screen, for example), they’re not affected.
STEP 3: CHOOSE POWER FORCE
You must declare the Force at which to invoke the power. The Force acts as a limit on the power. Higher Force powers are more powerful, but cause more Drain. You can invoke a power at a Force up to twice your biotics rating. If the number of hits (not net hits) you get after applying the limit exceeds your Biotics rating, the powers’s Drain is Health damage instead of Strain damage.
STEP 4: INVOKE POWER
Invoking a power involves some mental preparation and a Complex Action. Make an Invocation + Willpower [Force] Test, including dice pool modifiers for injury, sustained powers, and so on. Any opposition roll or threshold you need to reach is listed in the power's description. If the number of hits (not net hits) you get (after applying the limit or Karma spending) exceeds your Biotics rating, the power’s Drain is Health damage instead of Strain damage.
STEP 5: DETERMINE EFFECT
Details on the type of power are listed under each power. Some powers require an Opposed Test prior to resolution, while others can possibly be dodged by the target.
Note that this is Step 5, and Drain is Step 6—the effect of the power happens even if Drain takes you out.
STEP 6: RESIST DRAIN
Drain calculation is listed for each power; the Drain Value is determined using the Force and the listed calculation, but can never be lower than 2. After invoking a power, you must resist Drain with a Discipline + Willpower [Mental] test. Remember that if the number of hits you rolled when invoking the power (Step 4) exceeds your Biotics rating, then the Drain causes Health damage instead of Strain damage.
STEP 7: DETERMINE ONGOING EFFECTS
If you sustain the power (that is, if you want the effect of a Sustained power to continue), you take a –2 dice pool penalty to all tests while it is sustained. You can sustain multiple powers, but the –2 penalty is cumulative for each power. Area effect powers that are sustained can be moved as a Complex Action, provided that the power area is in the biotic’s line of sight. Characters that drop out of the affected area are no longer affected by the power, while characters that are enveloped by the new affected area must defend against the power accordingly.
A glitch on a power might cause extra drain (generally a +2 Drain Value per glitch severity), invoke a different elemental effect than what was intended, hit the wrong target, or any other bit of mischief your gamemaster can think up. On a critical glitch, the power could get away from you and cause all sorts of havoc, or you might not get to resist Drain, or it could go off in an unconventional and unpredictable manner that could harm you or your team — again, your gamemaster gets to decide what happens.
In the small segment of the world that has access to biotic powers, there is an even smaller segment who are able to channel the Element Zero into themselves, giving them enhanced physical abilities that made them more than they normally would be. They are called physical Adepts — or, for those who like fewer words, just Adepts — and they are known for their very disciplined self-improvement. They include athletes, martial artists, religious acolytes, exercise gurus, and others who seek to combine mind and body. Adepts are concerned with the harmony of body and mind and the strengthening of both, and they focus their biotic power toward those ends. In the early days of galatic travel, when the world saw the rise of people who could use biotic to increase their own physical and mental potential, adepts didn’t face the same prejudice as biotics or sirens. Instead they found themselves facing a mythos generated by corporate vids extolling their biotic athleticism. This put adepts up on a pedestal—people either wanted to try to fight them to gain rep or to worship them, thinking that perhaps that would be the path to getting some abilities for themselves. Registration of adepts is less common than registration of other biotics. As an adept, you get Power Points equal to your Biotics Rating at Character Creation. You then spend the Power Points on buying adept powers. The maximum number of levels you can have of any one power is equal to your Biotics Rating, or up to a limit listed by the power, whichever is less. If your Biotics Rating is 4, you get 4 Power Points, but could (for example) only buy 4 levels of Critical Strike (at a cost of 2 Power Points).
Some powers are activated, and some are intrinsic. Adept powers that need to be activated before they have any effect have an activation cost listed in the power’s description (usually an action of some sort). When a power doesn’t list an activation cost, their effect is intrinsic— you don’t have to take any action to gain the benefit of the power.
Some powers cause Drain. The Drain from adept powers is Strain unless specified in the description, and is resisted with Body + Willpower.
As biotic characters grow in power, they find that their initial explorations into biotic and the Other Side can only take them so far in understanding and increasing their abilities. Initiation allows you to wield greater biotic abilities known as Metapowers and raise your Biotics attribute beyond the natural maximum of 6. Only characters with a Biotics attribute can initiate. Initiation is a serious process that requires a great deal of mental and spiritual preparation, training, and study appropriate to your tradition. A biotic might spend months in research on a particular point of biotics, writing a scholarly thesis in order to prepare. The time it takes to complete initiation is determined by an Willpower + Intuition [Biotics] (1 + initiate grade, 1 month) Extended Test. Initiation is measured in Grades, beginning with Grade 1 and increasing from there. At the end of a character’s first initiation, she is a Grade 1 initiate. When she completes her second initiation, she is a Grade 2 initiate, and so on. The numerical system is for tracking initiation levels in game terms: each tradition refers to grades of initiation with its own system (generally not with numbers). The cost to initiate is 15 + (Grade x 5) XP. After you’ve finished your preparations, spend the appropriate XP and you’ve got yourself a shiny new initiative grade and all of its benefits. Your initiate grade can never exceed your Biotics rating. If your Biotics is reduced below your initiate grade, you lose an initiate grade right along with it.
The natural maximum for your Biotics attribute is 6 + your grade of initiation. You’ve still got to pay normal XP costs to increase your Biotics attribute.
Contact Other Side
Upon your first initiation, you learn how to contact beings on the Other Side. To do so, roll a Biotics + Willpower [Mental] test opposed by the Biotics + Willpower [Mental] of your target. If you succeed you can send them a telepathic message and they can reply.
Travel to the Other Side
Upon your third initiation, you learn how to travel to the Other Side. To do so, roll a Biotics + Willpower [Mental] (12, 1 week) Extended test, upong whichs completion you are drawn to the Other Side. Coming back from there might be a whole different story...
Every time you gain an initiative grade (including the first), you learn a metapower. Unless otherwise noted, you can’t learn a metapower more than once. Some metapowers are for adepts only, and some are pretty useless to adepts.
All Nymphea are naturally biotic from birth, though not all choose to develop their abilities. Biotics of other species are individuals who were exposed to dust-form Element Zero, or colloquially, "eezo", in utero and subsequently developed eezo nodules throughout their nervous systems. These nodules can generate psychic effect fields when energized by electrical impulses from the brain. Eezo exposure is by no means guaranteed to result in biotic ability. On the contrary, most fetuses that are exposed are not affected at all. Others will develop brain tumors or other horrific physical complications. In humans, only about one in ten eezo-exposed infants will develop biotic talents strong and stable enough to merit training, and these abilities are not always permanent. In extremely rare cases, humans who were exposed in utero but did not manifest biotic talents as children can develop them during young adulthood through additional exposure. Once identified as having biotic ability, a person might be outfitted with a surgically implanted BioTech amplifier around the age of puberty. This amplifier is designed to make their talents strong enough to be useful. Once the implant is installed, its user must then develop conscious control over their nervous system, which is a long, slow, difficult ordeal. Biofeedback therapy is often used to assist the progression of this process, and once they fulfill their training, a biotic can control their emission of dark energy to generate psychic effect fields that move objects, generate protective barriers, or restrain enemies.
Table of Contents
Biotic powers fall into several general types:
To use most biotic powers you need to invoke them. To do so, you decide a target and the force level you want to use the power at and then roll an Invocation + Willpower [Force] test.
The use of biotic powers causes Drain. Drain is usually Strain damage, unless noted otherwise. If your hits on a power test exceed your Biotics rating, the Drain is Health damage. The amount of Drain a power causes is determined by the power and the force you are using it at. To resist Drain, roll a Discipline + Willpower [Mental] test.
- Distortion. The creation of shifting effect fields which rip apart any objects caught within them.
- Phasing. Various abilities that cause matter to glitch in and out of reality, which causes varying effects.
- Qi-Control. The qi-fueled permanent powers of Adepts.
- Supporting: The creation of benefitial effects like biotic healing.
- Telekinesis. The use of mass-lowering fields to lift or hurl objects.
- Telepathy. Psychic connections, like mind-altering or -reading abilities.
Note that to learn a power of a specific type, you need explicit access to that type, granted either from your playbook or some other quality.
With all the recent fuzz about biotics, let's make one thing perfectly clear: Biotics and especially natural biotics are stupidly rare. Even when counting every single Nymphea, there are still less than 3% of the total galactic population, that are biotics.
Gestures & Ritual
Biotic abilities are activated using a technique called "physical mnemonics", in which the biotic uses a physical gesture to cause neurons to fire in a certain sequence, sending an electrical charge through their eezo nodules and creating the desired effect. A biotic may enhance certain aspects of his or her biotic abilities by installing implant upgrades called bio-amps.