Wednesday, October 19, 2011
A good case in point is Psi World, which came out in 1984. Subtitled the "Role Playing Game of Psionic Powers," Psi World was written by Del and Cheron Carr and "takes place in our world, the Earth, in the not too distant future." It postulates that sometime in the next 10 to 50 years, a minority of the world's population manifests psionic abilities and whose existence has thrown society into turmoil. The game assumes either that the psionically gifted are hated and oppressed by the government or that the psionically gifted are attempting to use their powers to manipulate society to their own ends -- or something in between.
The game thus seems to have been intended as a platform for exploring a number of social and political issues -- exactly the kind of "serious" subject matter I associated with FGU back in those days. Of course, Psi World contains next to no guidance to the referee on how to use these issues to generate adventures. The bulk of the game's short rulebook is devoted character generation, combat, and psionics. Its world building chapter is a joke, devoting the bulk of its scant pages to sample prices for goods and services. The sample adventure included in the boxed set does little to rectify this oversight, concentrating as it does on fairly low-key events that don't provide much more meat for the referee (or players) to chew on.
Needless to say, this was a huge disappointment to me. I very much like the idea of a game focusing not just on psionic powers but on the various "What if?" scenarios that might arise in the face of their appearance. Unfortunately, Psi World isn't that game. Instead, it's a pretty bland skill-based FGU game that offers little that I couldn't cobble together myself from games I already own. That was even the case in 1984, when I was a lot less experienced at kit-bashing rules and there were a lot fewer rulesets from which to choose. Looking back, I find myself wondering why Psi World was published, since it offers very little that's original or distinctive. Even its psionics rules, which ought to be the game's crown jewels, aren't particularly noteworthy, which may be Psi World's greatest disappointment.