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I am GMing a SWNR (revised) game for the first time and one of my players decided to go for Biospionics. The exact paragraph in the description of the Biopsionics Ability psychic succor, that makes me feel, that this ability is way too strong is this one:

Activating Psychic Succor requires the biopsion to Commit Effort for the day. Once used, they can continue to use it for the rest of that scene without Committing Effort again.

In my understanding a scene is one area or combat the players are in. So according to this paragraph, a Biopsion needs to commit one Effort, to use it unlimited for the combat. Provided they have at least level 1 in Biospionics, they could now heal a critically injured target to full in a few action at the expanse of a few points of system strain, when without a Biopsion, these injuries would normally take a week to start recovering from, and then just recover one level of HP per day, when the Biospion can just throw out tons of heals, basically for free, as system strain decreases by one per day, so way faster than natural healing.

My question now is, am I understanding this right? And if yes, is it as massively overpowered, as I feel it is? I am, as I said, new to the system, so I am lacking the general feeling for power levels, but compared to what non-psionics can do and how rough the game generally is with healing and stabilizing, this just seemed way out of place.

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Yes, you're understanding this right

That's precisely how Psychic Succor works--it is a very powerful ability.

Psychics are Powerful

There's no denying this in any way, shape, or form.

A Biopsion can bring you back from the brink with ease that can only be matched by Pretech Stims. A Teleporter can completely bypass security systems if they can see where they want to go or can get something marked with Spatial Synchrony Mandala in there. A Telepath could ruin a politician's entire career with a single well-placed Reflex Response. Precogs can literally undo an entire round of combat (or clean out any casinos in the area)

But wait, it gets stronger!

If your party's Biopsion picks up the Mastered Succor (p.32) technique, now they don't need to Commit Effort at all to activate the basic form of Psychic Succor! They are now, essentially, an endless well of healing.

And you can go even crazier...if your Psychic manages to get high enough level in Metapsionics as well, you can pick up the combination of Flawless Mastery of Major Organ Restoration (ps 32, 35), and now you can freely regrow limbs and stabilize people who were dropped by Heavy Weapons

But...is this a problem?

Not as such, no. See...Stars Without Number is not a "Balanced Combat Simulator" along the lines of modern D&D. You're not sitting down and crunching the numbers to make sure you're placing appropriate CR foes throughout their Typical Adventuring Day with appropriately sized treasure caches to ensure they have expected Wealth Per Level.

The Nature of Combat

Something important to understand about Stars Without Number is that combat is vastly more lethal than in many other RPGs (such as D&D 5E). The fact that healing is so sharply limited in SWN means you can't generally approach combat the same way you would in a game of D&D.

In recent versions of D&D, you have healing potions, you have multiple classes with healing abilities of all stripes, you heal your entire health on a long rest, and can burn Hit Dice to heal on a short rest. In short: you can afford to regularly take damage because it's pretty trivial to recover.

This is not the case in Stars Without Number...unless you have a Biopsion in your party. Basically...having a dedicated Biopsion in your party shifts the tone of combat a little closer to your typical modern RPG, rather than the lethally gritty format it normally is.

Limitations of the ability

The Biopsion can only heal one person per round, and must be physically adjacent to that person in order to heal them (unless they are going to burn extra Effort to do it from a distance with Remote Repair [p.32]). And...quite frankly...

If a reasonably well-trained group of enemies see a biopsion do their stuff on the field, that biopsion is going to get focus-fired in a hurry. It doesn't require any elite martial expertise to kill the healer first, and the awareness that biopsionics exists is a commonplace for most worlds. Thus, a biopsion has to decide whether they're going to take the risk of blowing their cover to patch a downed ally during combat, or wager that they can get the fight resolved before their friend bleeds out.

Or this might well make your Biopsion a target for other reasons...I mean, what warlord or autocrat wouldn't want their own pet healbot?

On top of that, if you exceed a target's Con score in their System Strain, you can't heal them anymore (p 32). And Stims, Cybernetics, and your healing all contribute to this. So, even though you can dispense healing like mad...your party is still not immortal.

If that's not a factor for the biopsion, well, System Strain accretion is. Getting a downed ally back up is going to cost a minimum of 2 System Strain, and if they don't have 2 System Strain then biopsionics can't help them. Even assuming the PCs can get a good night's rest- which is not always the case in the field- they only drop 1 point a night. It doesn't take a lot of back-to-back fights before somebody is looking low.

The other factor is that System Strain is not evenly distributed. The front-line melee specialist is going to get torn up a lot faster than the sniper, and from a party perspective, it doesn't matter if the sniper has 0 System Strain accrued if one more good hit will drop their pal Choppy permanently. If the group knows that the next fight is really likely to kill one of their comrades, they're going to have to factor that into their behavior even if the rest of the group is good to go.

Both quotes sourced from here, Kevin Crawford is very active on the SWN Reddit, and that was him commenting on this exact question.

See...don't look at this as a problem. The Biopsion lets you challenge the party in ways that you couldn't use on a different party. They are much more capable in combat than a lot of other parties might be, so you can push them harder...stretch them thinner...give them more overwhelming odds to have to deal with.

"Unbalanced?"

There are things that are just flagrantly 'unbalanced' and the game just rolls with it because it makes sense in the universe that these things are unbalanced. For example, someone wearing an Assault Suit is just straight up immune to anything short of TL3 explosives or artillery. If you're on a TL2 planet and you have an Assault Suit...their efforts at violence cannot stop you. As another example, a Teleporter can teleport to any location they have ever laid eyes on. So...did the teleporter see the inside of that bank vault once from over the counter? The 'heist' the party was planning is now trivial.

And SWN is just fine with this. Let me give you an example from the sourcebook (page 178) where it talks about characters coming into a vast fortune...

in a sandbox campaign there is no storyline to disrupt. If the PCs suddenly luck into a stellar tyrant’s ransom, then the campaign is about what they do with the money. Maybe it lets them casually crush the problems they used to have, but now they’ve got an entirely new set of concerns befitting their newfound wealth.

That's the basic attitude that Stars Without Number approaches things with...if the party has a thing they can trivialize...that's fine! It's not like the Adventure Path is now screwed up because the party is a lot harder to kill in direct combat. There are still plenty of ways to challenge them.

End of the day, SWN has a very different mindset than many modern RPGs. It's a lot less structured, and a lot more about seeing what your party can do...and finding the right ways to challenge them. You're not tied down by Encounter Balance and Challenge Rating, or the rigid planned encounters of an adventure path, or even by combat being the expected standard way of solving everything.

The Biopsion makes it very hard to kill the party in a direct confrontation that doesn't include heavy weapons. Ok. That's a factor that goes into creating challenges for them, they have something they are really, really good at. Not Dying. Run with it!

Is there not a Biopsion in the party? Ok. This group of people is a bit more fragile and are far more likely to approach combat from the Combat As War mentality, if they engage at all. I've run 2 Stars Without Number campaigns and neither of them included a Biopsion. It went just fine.

You can both shape your challenges to the party you have, and watch your party respond to challenges based on what they are capable of. Your party is probably more likely to solve things with violence than another party may be, because it's lower risk for them--and that's fine! It creates all kinds of neat complications and plot hooks for you to play with.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks a lot. I have been playing DnD for a few years now, I guess that got me stuck in that mindset. I will, well, adjust their options accordingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pauchu
    Jun 23 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to be sure, when you mention DnD, you probably most of the time mean 5e. Or is it still more extreme then 1e? Because SWN is closer to the OSR circle, it can be confusing. Otherwise, enjoy the +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Jun 23 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 Made some minor edits to make it clear that I'm talking about 'modern' editions of D&D. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 at 20:34

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