I'm to be joining a Fate Core game soon that involves superpowers and was considering the role of a psychic.

The thing is, what is the difference between a Psychic character and any character that uses the Empathy skill? If a non-psychic character can use the empathy skill to learn aspects about the opponent, what could a psychic do differently, besides maybe getting a +2?

I'm mainly hoping to have a character that can create a variety of aspects but not necessarily be much of a fighter or shooter, and hopefully be fun to play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. Take the tour. If a non-psychic character can use the empathy skill to learn aspects about the opponent what could a psychic do different besides maybe getting a +2? seems to be the only question here. Can you give an example--perhaps from another specialty, like super-speed or fire powers--that could serve as a template for an appropriate answer? That is, are you looking for a list of psychic powers, trying to figure out what they do in the game, or something else? Thank you for participating and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21, 2016 at 17:04

3 Answers 3


Mostly the answer comes down to what your group decides is appropriate for your story: what can psychics do in your story that regular people cannot? (I'm not going to leave it at that though: there is definitely stuff that the game would have to say on the matter.)

Usually, empathetic people can get a pretty good read on what a person is, and the empathy skill's for doing that, but being a psychic typically goes much further. In fictions like X-Men, a Psychic can read someone's mind — a good one could pick the Death Star Plans out of the brain of an engineer sitting on the other side of a concrete wall. Sometimes said Psychic can also meddle with peoples' minds — insert memories, change their present thoughts, even attempt to mind-control people. There is no way at all for a person to do that with Empathy, no matter how good they are at it — it's just flat-out unjustifiable. (They'd have to have something freaky about themselves that'd be stunt- or aspect-worthy.)

So, work out with your group the answer to that question: what do psychics do? Then, if your character's a psychic, they can do those things, because aspects are justification for unique things. You'll also be justified in picking up psychic-themed stunts, and doing so would be highly advisable for the more powerful effects.

You don't need to answer that question comprehensively. You can list a few things, then leave the question open to further development: indeed, what can psychics do? That's a fun thing to explore on its own, and we're still exploring that question from time to time in our game's world.

In that game (based on Atomic Robo RPG), one character's a psychic ex-government agent, working with the other player characters in an organisation that confronts and suppresses the supernatural (like in Hellboy). Our psychic hero's nature justifies him picking up the Hallucinate skill (not something found in Fate Core, but introduced by ARRPG itself), and could justify him picking up freaky stuff like Hover or Telepathy one day. He has at various points had stunts for one-off powerful uses of his abilities, like altering peoples' memories or convincing them he's someone else entirely.

Because aspects also tell us what's important, you being a psychic might also mean the group wants to centre parts of the story around that. You've introduced that psychics exist, and that you're one of them, and that's pretty often a cool thing to explore all on its own. Our game's got a psychic antagonist, and opened up the psychic hero of ours to having a shady past where he was once that antagonist's colleague.


The key here is to highlight and make use of the differences between mundane skills and true psychic abilities. doppelgreener makes a good point, in that you must ensure the game you're joining includes the capacity for a psychic character.

The skill of Empathy - in Fate Core and in most games - is not in an way paranormal, but a mundane skill some can hone to great effect. Specifically in Fate Core:

Empathy involves knowing and being able to spot changes in a person’s mood or bearing. It’s basically the emotional Notice skill.

Body language, voice patterns, micro-expressions... these are all things any person can and use - and to some extent abilities we all use.

But a 'psychic' character (and based on how your question is phrased, I'm using Empathic abilities, but as Quentin notes, there are many other 'psychic' abilities possible) will define new ways you can use existing skills. Using Aspects and Stunts, and sometimes spending a Fate Point, you'll take the ability past the simple +2 or reroll. You'll create new abilities. Here's a quick example aspect:

Sometimes I Know More Than I'd Like

This gives you a nicely double-edged Aspect, one which suggests your Empathy skill goes beyond the mundane abilities of others. It gives you a good idea of possible benefits and risks; this can give you great information, but can also be used against you.

Perhaps in play, your ability gives you added insight. Any old PC with Empathy can see the guard is a little sad, maybe. But your connection goes deeper. Perhaps you get flashes that tell you why he's sad. Perhaps you see he's worried about his sick child; now you have something to use to improve your chances of bribing him to let you through.

Here's a related example:

Sometimes I Share My Feelings

Imagine using Empathy in reverse. This is nicely double-edged too. Perhaps you can occasionally make people empathize with you. But sometimes they read you more easily, too. The guard from above might see through your faux sympathy. Or maybe you can nudge his feelings to be less sad, more hopeful, timed with your offer of a bribe, to make him more agreeable to the idea.

Ultimately you have to define your aspects in a way which fits your character but also the setting/premise of the game your joining. These examples hopefully show how its possible to shift Aspects into being a bit more than just a +2 bonus on the skill roll.


"Psychic" is a pretty broad term. Abilities that could come under that umbrella include:

  • Mind reading
  • Mesmerism
  • Mind control
  • Memory manipulation
    • implantation
    • suppression
    • recovery
  • Sensory manipulation (to create illusions inside someone's mind)
  • Dream manipulation
  • Past life regression
  • Perception of the spirit world
  • Communication with the spirit world
  • Aura reading
  • Telepathy
  • Psychometry

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