Scanners: the Madness

An unofficial supplement to White Wolf's Storyteller series

Set in the World Of Darkness

By Mark J. Janecka

"10 seconds The pain begins
15 seconds You can't breathe
20 seconds You explode."

/-------\  /-------\
|       |  |       |
|       |  |       |
|      /    \      |
|     /      \     |
|    /        \    |
|   /  EPH-1   \   |
|  (____________)  |



"You are a Scanner...and that has been the source of all your agony, but I will show you now that it can be a source of great power." --Dr. Paul Ruth

'Calm down...just let me give you this last injection and I will let you up. There now, you feel clearer don't you? Not so much noise in the head anymore, eh? Good. Now tell me, what were you doing to that woman in the restaurant? You don't really say she was making you think about her. But she didn't speak to you did she? No, she used a voice without words --the ones people speak when their lips don't move. And when people make you think about them it hurts and when you hurt they begin to hurt too. But it is not them, it is you who have a problem -- they don't know anything about it. But I can teach you about your Telepathy. You are not crazy; you are what is called a Scanner, a person born with special extrasensory abilities.

'You were born a Scanner because you are a creation of science gone awry. Let me explain: In the 1940's a drug called Ephemerol was test-marketed as a mild tranquilizer for pregnant women. Years after the births of their babies, the children were found to be abnormal. Many exhibited emotional problems and psychotic behavior. It was also found that all of them were endowed with extraordinary psychic powers. Many committed suicide or were institutionalized either because of their behavior or just because they were Scanners. It was later found that the very drug which created them could be used to control them. Ephemerol can be used to tranquilize a Scanner's powers, making him calmer and more manageable. The more mildly disordered Scanners could live nearly normal lives if they could obtain Ephemerol. Some managed to live without it. When these Scanners had children of their own, it was discovered that the Scanner condition was heritable. Almost all children of Scanners were themselves Scanners, some more stable than their parents, and some less so.

'You are one of these children. Scanners are rare and difficult to detect and find. Believe it or not, this is fortunate for you. There are many, Scanners and non-, who would take advantage of you, control you, for the sake of controlling your power. One of these is the drug company responsible for your creation. Biocarbon Amalgamate has kept a tight lid on the results of their experiments. Few of the public believe in the existence of Scanners, though many have heard of them. Scanners are considered to be only the stuff of Tabloids. Their notoriety kept at a minimum, Biocarbon Amalgamate wants to study Scanners because they, that is, you are dangerous. There are also factions of Scanners who would seek you as well. Some groups exist for simple mutual support of those like themselves, and some believe themselves to be superior to the normal folks and wish to dominate them.

'You have been lost for too long and are lucky that I found you. It is only a matter of time before you are found by others as well and you must learn to use your powers, to survive and to thrive as a Scanner. We'll help you here; we'll teach you what we know. You are among friends...'


The World Of Darkness holds many paranormal phenomena and entities: vampires, werewolves, mages and magick, ghosts, and faeries. The paranormal has always included mention of ESP and the psychicly endowed. The World Of Darkness has infinite room for expansion and I have written this as a supplement to include psychic characters in the tradition of movies such as Scanners and Firestarter to name two. One might consider psychic abilities to be subsumed by magick and thus should fall under the rules described in White Wolf's Mage: The Ascension. It could be worked this way but I believe that it leaves out a lot of flavour and a lot of possibilities. Anyone watching the two movies mentioned above will see that psychic characters have a wholly different character to them from mages, and the atmosphere surrounding them is just as different. I admit that I have taken a lot of the mechanisms already described in the Storyteller series, particularly Mage, to describe psychic abilities, but this supplement allows a wholly different character in the World Of Darkness.

These rules are in the public domain and may be copied and distributed. The use of "Storyteller", "World Of Darkness", "Firestarter" and "Scanners" and the quotes, names, and concepts therefrom is not a challenge to the ownership of the rights to the companies associated with these works. The use of them in this set of rules is without permission.

The "World Of Darkness" and "Storyteller" series of role-playing games are published by White Wolf Inc.

"Firestarter" is a Dino De Laurentis film, and a Universal Release by Universal City Studios, 1984, released on MCA home video, and based on the Stephen King story of the same name.

"Scanners" is A David Cronenberg film, a Filmplan International Production, and an Embassy Pictures release, 1981.


"Telepathy is not mind reading -- it is the direct linking of two nervous systems separated by space." -- Dr. Paul Ruth

The origin of Scanners is described in the Prologue, however there is a little more to tell. There are perhaps only a few thousand Scanners in existence in North America; it is not known how many exist outside of North America. As a result of experiments run by the Progenitor convention of the Technocracy, the drug Ephemerol was developed. Due to a big cover-up, it is not currently known whether the creation of Scanners was deliberate or an accident. Some believe that some members of the Progenitors had been running experiments on the Sleeper populace to see if they could create people who were Awakened at birth and thus wield the power of a mage from early on in life. A side effect which may or may not have been deliberate was that the progeny created might wield their powers without fear of Paradox, thus giving them an edge comparable to the Marauders who seem to be able to resist or do away with Paradox. Regardless of intentions, the experiment was not entirely successful. Success was found in that the Scanners could wield extraordinary mental power in even the most Vulgar ways without being affected by any sort of Paradox. Unfortunately, Scanners are by nature, unstable. They are prone to migraine headaches, emotional outbursts, and psychotic delusions. Perhaps Paradox innately and chronicly affects their minds. Many lack the ability to fully use their powers or even to control themselves, and many lose themselves among the seedier elements of society. They may be hunted by Technocracts who wish to study them and learn what went right and what went wrong. They may be hunted by others who wish to collect Scanners for the use of their power. Fortunately for the Scanners, they have great ability both to conceal and to defend themselves.

Scanner Characters

"Freak of nature born with a certain form of ESP; a derangement of the synapses which we call telepathy." -- Dr. Paul Ruth

Scanner characters are very much like those of normal human beings. Decide on a character Concept. Scanner characters can be of any Concept, but something reclusive or odd is especially appropriate; Scanners usually have rather intense personalities. Ask how old the character is -- is he a first or second generation Scanner? Who were his parents and how did they react when his problems and powers were discovered? Where did he live and where does he live now? Who knows that he has special abilities? Does he take Ephemerol to help him deal with his abilities? Does he get it legally or illegally? Has he encountered other Scanners or representatives of the Technocracy? How has he dealt with them? Once these questions have been thought about, decide upon a Nature and a Demeanor that suit the character's Concept.

Scanners have a maximum rating of 5 for both Attributes and Abilites. Attributes are divided into Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. Each attribute starts with one dot in it already, and 7, 5, and 3 points are added to them in order of priority, just as with other characters in the Storyteller system. Abilities are likewise divided into Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary, with 13, 9, and 5 points put into them, respectively. Players should be allowed to choose Abilities from any of the games subject to the Storyteller's discretion as to what is or is not likely or appropriate for the character.

Advantages for Scanners are all psi-related abilites; they are are the psi-powers of Entropy, Fatalism, Pyrokinesis, Sensing, Telekinesis, and Telepathy. All Scanners start with one dot in Telepathy and may distribute three more among any of these powers.

A Scanner character receives 6 points to spend on Backgrounds. Backgrounds which are appropriate for Scanners are Allies, Arcane, Dream, and Influence, as described in Mage, and Contacts, Fame, and Resources, as described in Vampire. The player of a Scanner character must also choose one Psychic Disorder for his character. Scanners are inherently unstable and if for any reason a Scanner's Willpower Points drops to three or below, he must make a Willpower Points roll (Difficulty = 6) or suffer from his Disorder. Even if he makes this roll, he must roll again each time his Willpower drops by another point below three. For every one point gain in the character's Willpower Points, a new roll may be made to overcome his Disorder if he is currently suffering from it. A Scanner player may choose amongst four types of Psychic Disorders: Derangements, Migraines, Shadow personality, and Voices. These are described later.

A Scanner character starts off with a Willpower Score from one to five: Roll 1d10, divide by 2 and round up.

Once the above have been determined, the Scanner gets 15 Freebie Points to spend on Attributes, Abilities, Advantages, Backgrounds, and Merits & Flaws. Merits & Flaws are purchased just before Freebie Points are spent; full rules for them can be found in the players' guides for Vampire and Werewolf. The costs for use of Freebie Points are as follows:
Attributes -- 5 points per dot
Abilities -- 2 points per dot
Willpower -- 1 point per dot
Backgrounds -- 1 point per dot
Telepathy -- 6 points per dot
*Favourite psi-power -- 7 points per dot
Other psi-power -- 8 points per dot

* A Favourite psi-power is one chosen by the Scanner player during character creation. This represents a single non-telepathic power in which the character has particular talent.


"All right, we're gonna do it the Scanner way..." -- Darryl Revok

Psi-powers are activated by making a Willpower Points roll. At this point it is important to clarify a distiction of terms: A Willpower Score roll is like that usually made in the Storyteller system -- take a number of dice equal to the Willpower Score and roll them against a stated Difficulty number (the standard Difficulty is six). A Willpower Points roll is a little different and is rolled for Scanner characters to use their psi-powers. Most psi-powers require a Willpower Points roll to use, though some do use other rolls. When making a Willpower Points roll, one takes a number of dice equal to the character's current number of Willpower Points (not Score) to roll against a stated difficulty. Also, the maximum number of dice in this Willpower Points pool is equal to the rating of the power being used, so even if a Scanner has ten Willpower Points, he can roll only up to five dice (if his rating is this high) to use a psi-power. A character can have different ratings in different psi-powers. A character may also spend a point of Willpower to gain an Automatic Success; in this case the Willpower Points roll may be made before the Willpower Point is spent; this makes it possible to roll up to six Successes. The difficulty number is 3 + the rating of the effect desired as described under the psi-power's listing; this is just like the Difficulty of a Mage casting a magickal effect. In addition, the Difficulty can be modified by the situation; the following table from Mage has been edited for Scanners:
Activity Difficulty Modifier
Take an extra turn -1
*Connection to target -1
Fast-Cast +1
Distracted +1 to +3

* Connection to target requires the Scanner to have possession of a personal item belonging to or something which was once a part of the target. This reduces the difficulty of the roll only if the Scanner has the power of Psychometry (Sensing III).

Botching a Willpower Points roll costs the character a Willpower point and in addition, at the Storyteller's discretion, a spectacularly bad effect may be caused by the power being used.

A Scanner character regains one point of Willpower at the end of a scene in which he has in some way defeated another Scanner.

Note that neither Quintessence nor Paradox mean anything to a Scanner. They cannot accumumulate either one, nor can they use or be affected by them, respectively.

Scanner Advantages

"The scanning experience is usually a painful one sometimes resulting in nosebleeds, earaches, stomach cramps, nausea, sometimes other symptoms of a similar nature."

When a Scanner uses his powers, it is usually obvious that something is happening. Even if there are no explicit effects upon the environment, a Scanner using a psi-power often wears a grimace of concentration or effort upon his face. Telepathic effects on subjects are noticeable in that the subject usually feels some stress upon his mind and his body may begin to show signs of stress as well. Unless he is familiar with such effects, the subject will not know what is happening and will be at a loss to control or explain it. A Scanner may try to hide the use of his powers by attempting to use them calmly and with subtlety. If the character makes a Manipulation + Subterfuge roll (Difficulty = 6), then neither he nor the subject of his telepathic effect feel or show any signs that a psi-power is in use, unless the effect is a damaging one. The subtle use of a psi-power cannot usually be traced back and attributed to a specific person.

Biofeedback: All Scanners can innately control their own autonomic bodily functions simply by concentrating. This is a facet of their ability to link to and control remote nervous systems via Telepathy. This ability, however, is an inwardly directed awareness and control. There are several abilities specific to Biofeedback, and some can be combined with psi-powers such as Telepathy.

-Scanners can accelerate and decelerate their bodily functions. This ability is essentially the same as the Mage rote "Serene Temple".

-Scanners can use Biofeedback to conquer pain and distress. Once per scene, a Scanner may roll a Stamina check (Difficulty = 6); for each Success attained he may ignore one die of penalties to his Dice Pool due to Wounds suffered. This ability may also be used to ignore non-damaging discomforts of a physical nature (this does not include any Psychic Disorder). The number of successes required is at the Storyteller's discretion.

-A Scanner can reduce bleeding, purify his system, and accelerate healing. Once per set of wounds, a Scanner may spend one Willpower Point to heal one Health level. This requires a full turn of concentration.

-At the Storyteller's discretion, a Scanner character may perform other effects involving control of his body's systems. If a dice roll is required, consider the Scanner's Biofeedback rating to be equal to his Stamina rating.

Entropy: Some Scanners have psychokinetic abilities which allow them to perceive patterns in and directly control probability. This psi-power works in the same way as the Entropy sphere of magick in Mage, although Willpower Points are used instead of Arete for the Dice Pool.

Fatalism: This is the rare ability of precognition. This psi-power works in the same way as the Fatalism arcanos in Wraith, except it costs no Pathos. Mentions of Pathos should be ignored.

Pyrokinesis: This is the spectacular and oft-envied power of psychokinetic control over heat and flame. It is similar to "The Lure Of Flames" thaumaturgical discipline in Vampire. The amount of flame which can be generated, controlled, or extinguished at once is as follows:

Rating Flame size
I Candle
II Palm of flame
III Camp fire
IV Bonfire
V Conflagration

The range of this power is line-of-sight and the effect must be along or project from a surface in the character's environment (including his own body which is immune to any fire which the character controls). The fire lasts for only as long as the character concentrates upon it unless it has a fuel source present. The character uses a Willpower Points roll as described above to determine hits and damage done. This damage is equivalent to that of the Forces sphere in Mage, page 175.

Sensing: These powers are psychic abilities which can be used to sense the outside world. At each rank, the character gains a new extrasensory ability.

-Rating I: Immediate Spacial Perceptions: This is equivalent to Correspondence I, found in Mage, page 184.

-Rating II: Aura Sight: This is equivalent to Auspex II in Vampire, page 94 [in the first edition]. No Willpower roll is necessary.

-Rating III: Psychometry: This is equivalent to Auspex III in Vampire, page 95 [in the first edition]. No Willpower roll is necessary.

-Rating IV: Correspondence Perceptions: This is equivalent to Correspondence II in Mage, page 185. It is especially useful to Scanners because using this in conjunction with other psi-powers allows the Scanner to use the Correspondence Range chart in Mage, page 184, instead of the range limits normally used for the other psi-power.

-Rating V: Astral Projection: This is equivalent to Auspex V in Vampire, page 95 [first edition]. Use a rating of 'Sensing V' in place of 'Auspex rating'.

Telekinesis: This power can grant great physical prowess to a Scanner; it is the ability to remotely move and manipulate things. It is similar to the "Movement Of Mind" thaumaturgical discipline in Vampire. The character's rating in this power determines the size of his Dice Pool of telekinetic strength:

Rating Strength Dice Pool Weight
I 0 1 lb
II 1 40 lbs
III 3 250 lbs
IV 5 650 lbs
V 8 1000 lbs

Make a Willpower Points roll (Difficulty = rating of effect + 3). The rating of the effect is determined by how much strength he wishes to exert, eg: the weight he wants to manipulate or how much damage he wants to do. Effects and damage done (if any) are determined by the size of the Dice Pool of telekinetic strength, as if the character were applying physical strength, not by the Dice Pool of Willpower Points. The character remotely manipulates an object as if he were using physical strength equivalent to this Dice Pool. In addition, a Willpower Score roll (Difficulty = 9) may be made to increase the number of dice in this Dice Pool (+5 dice maximum) as per the usual rules for lifting heavy objects. The Dice Pool may be split to affect multiple objects. The effect lasts as long as the Scanner concentrates upon it, and the range if this power is line-of-sight.

Telepathy: The power of Telepathy is common to all Scanners. It is the ability to forge a "direct linking of two nervous systems separated by space". This allows the Scanner to communicate with and control a remote nervous system, usually the brain of another human being. This power is equivalent to the Mind sphere in Mage, but uses a Willpower Points roll instead of Arete to determine effects. Some special effects that Scanners can learn to do with their Telepathy are described as follows: -Rating I: In conjunction with Biofeedback, a Scanner can use the rote, "Serene Temple" as described in Mage, page 226.

-Rating III: -The Scanner can forge a mental link to a subject strong enough to use his Biofeedback ability upon the body of the subject, in order enhance or heal or perform any other Biofeedback effect upon the subject as the Scanner would upon himself.

-The Scanner can forge a link to a subject in such a way as to give support to the subject's psyche. The Scanner can send one of his own Willpower points to the subject who may keep or spend this point as he wishes.

-Rating IV: If the Scanner has the Psychometry power (Sensing III), then his telepathic ability can also extend to machines. The character can link to an artificial nervous system such as a computer has. Linked this way, the Scanner can perform any telepathic activity upon the computer that he could with a living human mind (subject to the limitations of the computer's 'mind'), including attacking it, withdrawing or changing memories (information), instructing it, or deluding it. A Scanner can also use this ability to record specific telepathic effects inside a computer's memory, on magnetic disk, tape, or other electronic medium, or transmit the effect through communication lines. Such an effect may be something such as a telepathic attack, or an attempt to dominate and give a specific command to whomever views or listens to the recording. The Scanner simply rolls as if he were trying to affect another person, but instead focuses on recording the effort (this has a Difficulty of at least 7, or higher if the effect he is trying to record has a Difficulty greater than 7). If he scores at least 3 Successes, then any time the recording is played back, the telepathic effect which was recorded is invoked. There may be a limited number of times such a recording can be played and still have an effect, however; the Storyteller may limit this to one playback per success rolled during the recording, at his discretion.

-Rating V: At this level, a Scanner can use his telepathic powers to permanently transfer his personality into another body if he can defeat the mind presently occupying that body. In conjunction with Psychometry (Sensing III), a Scanner can also do this with a complex machine such as a large computer or an information network. This is described fully in the section titled Telepathic Attacks, below.

Psychic Disorders

"They're all pathetic social misfits -- unstable, unreliable" --Braedon Keller

"With all those other voices in your head how can you hear your own voice?" -- Dr. Paul Ruth

Due to the nature of their powers, Scanners are innately mentally unstable. Perhaps they do not have full control of their own powers or cannot cope with with the angst of having and using them. Every Scanner has a Psychic Disorder, a sort of side effect of their own mental powers. During character generation, the player of a Scanner must choose amongst four disorders: Derangements, Migraines, Shadow Personality, and Voices.

Derangements: These are among the less crippling disorders that a Scanner can have, but are more pervasive in the character's personality. Derangements appropriate for Scanners are Multiple Personality, Fantasy, Regression, Procrastination, Whiner, Identification, Perfection, Arrogance, Overcompensation, Cynicism, Power Mad, Vengeance, Innocence, Fear Of Death, Fear Of Fear, Paranoia, Amnesia, Depression, Catatonia, Intellectualization, and Delusion Of Grandeur. These are as described in Vampire pages 127+ [first edition]. No distinction is made among Madness, Rage, and Terror Derangements, and the Derangement can not be removed by spending Willpower points -- it is a permanent part of the character. A Derangement takes complete control of the character's personality when his Willpower reaches 3 or less as described in the Scanner Characters section, above. When this happens, his personality and motivations become dominated by his Derangement and his actions will be governed primarily by the Derangement. Even when not actually suffering from his Derangement due to low Willpower, its taint is always with the character and the player should be prepared to incorporate aspects of the chosen Derangement into his character's personality.

Migraines: Chronic migraine headaches can be crippling to a character but there are compensations. The character experiences a migraine only when his Willpower Points reach three or less as described in the Scanner Characters section. When in such pain, the Scanner is all but incapacitated: he can respond to attacks or flee a situation but can do little else, otherwise. In the situations of attacking or fleeing, the Scanner has an advantage: No longer trying to hold back the pain, he can let loose and lash out, using his psi-powers at full strength (Dice Pool = Rating in psi-power), regardless of how low his Willpower has become. This makes attacking an apparently incapacitated Scanner a very dangerous thing to do. Administration of Ephemerol or a strong sedative can relieve the Scanner of his pain (and also the full-dice-pool advantage) -- he regains one Willpower and may make a new roll to conquer the effects of his Disorder.

Shadow Personality: The character has a dark side to his personality that has a will and motivations of its own. This dark side takes over the character when his Willpower Points reach 3 or less as described in the Scanner Characters section above. This dark side is similar to a Shadow Character as described in Wraith and is generated along the lines described in that book, pages 176+. This Shadow Personality has no Angst or Thorns but does have an Archetype and 1 to 5 (1d10/2) Dark Passions. These Passions have nothing to do with an Angst score, though, they are just used as descriptions to outline the goals of the Shadow Personality. This personality will act true to its Archetype and try to fullfill its goals when it is in control. It has great ability to accomplish them, too, because it has access to and will use the character's Abilities and Advantages. The Shadow Personality uses the character's Willpower Score (max Dice Pool = psi-power's Rating) instead of Willpower Points when using psi-powers. A character can recover control from his Shadow Personality by gaining a point in Willpower and making a new Willpower Points roll against his Disorder. Being rendered unconscious or sleeping also lets the character attempt a new Willpower Points roll in order to recover control.

Voices: This Psychic Disorder is just as disabling as Migraines. When the Scanner's Willpower Points reach 3 or less as described in the Scanner Characters section, the character becomes all but incapacitated by the nonstop voices he hears in his head. Dozens to hundreds of voices invade the Scanner's mind, each vying for his attention; the Scanner is receiving thoughts and feelings and images which may be those of real people in his surroundings or may be just imagined. Regardless, the character will feel his head filled with these very real-seeming voices and will be unable to cope with them. He may writhe or twitch, talk to himself, or spontaneously shout at people around him, for instance. The character must make a Wits roll (Difficulty = 6) to respond to what is happening around him, otherwise he will just blunder along trying to cope with the Voices. Like with the Migraine disorder, in situations involving attacking or fleeing, the Scanner has an advantage: No longer trying to hold back the pain, he can let loose and lash out, using his psi-powers at full strength (Dice Pool = Rating in psi-power), regardless of how low his Willpower has become. Administration of Ephemerol or some antipsychotic medications will relieve the Scanner of the Voices for a time --he regains one Willpower and may make a new roll to conquer the effects of the Disorder.

Scanners And Magick

With their paranormal powers based so strongly on the mechanisms of Magick, there is bound to be a host of situations involving combinations of Scanner psi-powers and magickal spheres.

With regard to Scanner powers, it is important to note that, as with magick, Willpower may be used to resist a direct effect as described in Mage, page 176: Willpower Score roll (Difficulty = 8), each Success removes one from the Scanner's Successes.

With regard to repetition of events (Mage page 177), a Scanner may retry failed efforts as many times as he likes -- the situation does not have to change before he tries again. However, if the situation is exactly the same from one attempt to the next, the Storyteller may increase the Difficulty of the roll by one for each failed attempt ("it's just too damn hard to do right now").

Scanners can use Conjunctional effects with their psi-powers just as mages may perform Conjunctional Magick. It is especially useful to conjoin Sensing IV (Correspondence Perceptions) and another psi-power to increase the range at which a Scanner may use this power (usually to beyond line-of-sight). This is described in the Sensing psi-power in the Scanner Advantages section.

Scanners can Act In Concert with their psi-powers. This works just as mages do with their magickal spheres, as described on page 178 of Mage. A Scanner can use "Countermagick" ("counterpsychic") effects against another Scanner who is using psi-powers that he, himself, has. This works just as a Mage uses Countermagick as described in Mage, pages 177-178. A Scanner can also perform Countermagick against magickal effects cast by mages. This works as Countermagick is described in Mage, with the following correlations: Telepathy correlates with the Mind sphere, so all Scanners can use Countermagick against Mind effects. Biofeedback correlates with the Life and Prime spheres: A Scanner's innate control of his bodily functions gives him the ability to resist magickal effects upon his body; his Biofeedback Rating is considered to be equal to his Stamina Rating. The Entropy psi-power correlates with the Entropy sphere of magick. Telekinesis and Pyrokinesis psi-powers both correlate with the Forces sphere and can be used to resist kinetic and heat-related effects, respectively. Sensing and Fatalism correspond to the Correspondence sphere; these extrasensory perceptive abilities allow a Scanner to detect and attempt to avoid the effects of Correspondence magick. If a Scanner has both Sensing and Fatalism, use the one with the higher rating for his Countermagick Dice Pool. Scanners cannot perform Countermagick against the spheres of Matter, Spirit, or Time. Mages can also perform Countermagick against Scanner psi-powers; this works as described in Mage with the following correlations: Mind correlates with Telepathy. Forces correlate with both Telekinesis and Pyrokinesis. At the Storyteller's discretion, the Matter Sphere may also be used to counter Pyrokinesis. The Entropy sphere correlates with the Entropy psi-power. Prime, Mind and Life spheres can be used to counter attacks or effects involving Biofeedback. Correspondence cannot be used to counter Sensing, which is a passive psi-power.

Scanner Combat

"I'm gonna suck your brain dry. Everything you are is going to become me" --Darryl Revok

Scanners have many vicious ways to control, warp, and break a human mind or body with just a thought. Different methods have different advantages and disadvantages to them. Depending on the goals and the powers of a Scanner, he has many options open to him in this regard. The following are a repetition of the charts found in Mage, page 175, edited for use with Scanners:

Psi-Power Damage Dice Multiplier
Rank Forces Other
I x0 x0
II x1 x0
III x2 x1
IV x3 x2
V x4 x3

Successes Range
Rolled Correspondence Other Duration
One Line of sight Touch One Turn
Two Very familiar place One close target One Scene
Three Familiar place All in vicinity One day
Four Know of place Select those in vicinity or LOS One Story
Five Anywhere on Earth Any or all in sensory range Permanent

Below are described some special combat effects which Scanners can use; these are much like Rotes in Mage, and are only a few samples of effects of which a Scanner is capable.

Empathic Assault (Telepathy II): This telepathic effect links the Scanner's mind to a subject's emotional centers. Roll the Scanner's Dice Pool (Difficulty = 5); the number of Successes equals the number of turns the target subject is incapacitated trying to cope with intense and conflicting emotions of the Scanner's choice. If the Scanner attains 5 or more Successes then he induces a temporary Derangement in the subject (Storyteller's choice as to an appropriate Derangement -- consider the emotions invoked and the subject's personality as a guide). This Derangement manifests itself after the subject's incapacitation ends and will last for several (11 - Willpower Score of subject) hours.

Empathic Assault is a very dangerous attack to use upon Vampires and Werewolves who must always keep their violent sides at bay. If a Scanner successfully uses this attack upon one of these creatures then the creature must immediately roll a check against Frenzy or Rage, respectively (Difficulty = 5); Vampires should use their Self-Control Virtue for this roll. If the check fails, the Vampire or Werewolf immediately goes wild, entering a full Frenzy or Rage. If the check succeeds, then the Vampire or Werewolf will be incapacitated normally as described above. The Vampire or Werewolf may choose to deliberately fail his check if he prefers Frenzy or Rage to incapacitation for a short time, which is usually the case for such creatures.

Explosive Blow (Pyrokinesis I or Telekinesis I): A psychokinetic Scanner can use his power to suddenly and forcefully shatter, disrupt, or otherwise "blow up" a target. Using either heat or kinetic force, the Scanner can cause physical damage directly to a target using the Forces damage-dice multiplier from the Sphere Effects chart in Mage page 175. In the case of Telekinesis, use the psi-power Dice Pool, not the strength Dice Pool, to determine damage dice.

Goad (Telepathy II): Goad is similar to but simpler than Empathic Assault. It is an attack upon the emotional centres of a subject in an effort to induce a hasty (and usually imprudent or violent) action. Roll the Scanner's Dice Pool (Difficulty = 5); the number of Successes equals the number of turns the subject will give in to his impulsive or aggressive emotions. Depending on the situation, the subject may fly into a rage and attack, leap off of a building, or do something similarly impulsive. Generally he will do whatever he happens to have in mind at the time.

This effect is very dangerous to use upon Vampires and Werewolves, for the same reasons as with Empathic Assault. See Empathic Assault, above, for a description of what happens with these creatures.

Biofeedback Attack (Telepathy III): The Scanner can forge a link to and affect a subject's autonomic systems as described under Telepathy III, but in this case, uses Biofeedback to wreak havoc on the subject's bodily systems. Roll the Scanner's Dice Pool (Difficulty = 6); this does one die of damage to the subject per Success rolled.

Induce Seizure (Telepathy III): This is a telepathic attack which causes a wave of electrical activity to surge through a subject's brain to such an extent that he suffers effects similar to a grand mal epiliptic seizure. This seizure lasts as long as the Scanner concentrates upon the attack and does nothing else. This attack does one die of damage regardless of how long it lasts. Upon termination of the attack, the subject will fall unconscious for one hour per Success rolled (Difficulty = 6) by the Scanner, and wake up bruised and sore. Falling unconscious can be avoided if the subject spends one point of Willpower to remain awake.

Induce Hallucination (Telepathy III): This is often used as a psychic feint in Scanner combat. It allows a Scanner to implant false sensory input of any sort he can imagine (usually something he has experienced himself) into the mind of a subject. The number of successes rolled (Difficulty = 6) reflects the complexity of the hallucination he may induce. One Success would be something simple such as a faint scent of smoke or a flicker of movement in the corner of the eye. Five Successes would allow for a vivid and detailed hallucination involving all five senses. If the Scanner is trying to induce a hallucination of something particularly unlikely or of something that neither he nor his subject have ever experienced, then the Difficulty of the roll is increased by two, to eight. The hallucination lasts for as long as the Scanner concentrates on maintaining it.

Neuropsychic Assault (Telepathy III, Pyrokinesis I or Telekinesis I): This is a violent psychophysical assault often used by Scanners who have greater telepathic proficiency than psychokinetic proficiency. This conjunctional effect assaults a subject's neurons directly with a combination of telepathic and psychokinetic powers --it overexcites the neural system on a physical level and causes a sudden epileptic-like spasm and burns similar to the effect of a high-power electric shock. Roll the Scanner's Dice Pool (Difficulty = 6); use the Forces chart in Mag page 175 to determine damage dice.

Pure Telepathic Assault (Telepathy III): Not quite as effective as a Neuropsychic Assault, this effect is best described as a stereotypical mental attack ("I'm gonna psi-fry your brain!"). Roll the Scanner's Dice Pool (Difficulty = 6); use the standard chart for magickal damage ("Other" column) found in Mage page 175 to determine the damage dice. This effect tends to be more effective than the Biofeedback Attack if the Dice Pool is large, but less effective than the Biofeedback Attack if the Dice Pool is small.

Will Drain (Telepathy III): Will Draining is exactly that: a telepathic attack upon the psyche of a character that drains away his Willpower Points. Roll the Scanner's Dice Pool (Difficulty = 6 or the subject's Willpower Score, whichever is higher); the number of Successes rolled is the number of Willpower Points the subject loses. For each successful attack, the Scanner gains 1 (and only one) Willpower Point, up to his maximum score. He may limit his maximum number of Successes if he wishes.

Will Drain can be especially serious to Scanners since they may suffer from their Psychic Disorders when they reach 3 or less in Willpower Points. If this occurs, then the Scanner causing the effect has the option of letting the target experience his own Psychic Disorder, or of inducing the Psychic Disorder that he himself has, in the subject. This works on normal folks and Awakened beings other than Scanners as well: If their Willpower Points reach zero, the Scanner may induce his Psychic Disorder in them. The disorder is temporary, and remains until they regain at least one point of Willpower.

Induce Delusion (Telepathy IV): To induce a delusion is to cause someone to believe something that is not true. The Scanner delves deeply into the memory and cognitive faculties of the subject and literally "changes his mind". This effect will not cause a subject to ignore sensory data or common sense but can change what he thinks is true about something, including about himself. This ability combined with Induce Hallucination could cause someone to fully believe that he is someone else and somewhere else, although this is difficult to do. Roll the Scanner's Dice Pool (Difficulty = 7); the number of successes rolled determines both the length of time the delusion lasts (see the table in Mage page 175 for duration), and the pervasiveness of the delusion. One success could make a subject believe that he left his wallet at home or that a certain person he had just passed by was actually someone else. Five successes could make someone forget his name and entire family.

Mindrape (Telepathy IV (+ Sensing III)): This powerful telepathic effect allows a Scanner to access a mind (or a machine if combined with Psychometry) and transmit or receive reams of information between his mind the subject's.

To rape someones mind of information, the Scanner needs first to drain his Willpower to zero (see Will Drain, above). The Scanner must then roll five Successes (Difficulty = 10) to drain information from the subject's mind. The Scanner can then learn literally everything the subject knows -- personal information, Talents, Skills, Knowledges -- these are all downloaded into the Scanner's own mind. He will have all the Abilities of the subject in addition to his own. Attributes, Advantages, and Backgrounds cannot be gained by the Scanner. For Abilities the characters have in common, use the higher rating between the two characters (the information is considered redundant). For Abilities just gained from the subject, the Scanner uses the subject's rating. Once he has reached in this far, the Scanner has the option of spending one point of Willpower to wipe clean the subject's mind of any or all knowledge: He can reduce or remove Abilities and wipe out memories.

Use of this power entails some risk. The Scanner is subjecting himself and his subject to such psychic trauma that each must roll his Willpower Score (Difficulty = 10) or he will gain a Psychic Disorder. The Storyteller may choose a suitable Disorder or just randomly determine one from those described in the Psychic Disorders section, above.

To rape a machine of information, the Scanner must first gain access to the data he is interested in; this may entail breaking or bypassing computer security measures. Sometimes it is useful to try other mental attacks such as Telepathic Assault to break through, or Induce Hallucination or Induce Delusion to give a machine false input. The Storyteller must adjudicate this on a case-by-case basis. Once access to the data has been achieved, the Scanner must mentally access the machine: roll Dice Pool (Difficulty = 7). The number of Successes indicates the amount of clear information the Scanner can get out of the machine: One success = 20% of what is available in the machine, two successes = 40%, ..., 5 successes = 100% of what is available in the machine. Once he has reached this far, the Scanner has the option of spending one point of Willpower to wipe out as much of the data as he has access to (20 to 100% of it).

Mindfeed: A Scanner capable of Mindrape can also send reams of information into another mind (or machine, when also using Psychometry). This is similar to but simpler than the methods described above. A human being does not need to be incapacitated but must be willing and open to the Scanner's mind. For each Success rolled, the Scanner can transfer one dot's worth of an Ability or a single vivid memory. A machine will accept mental input into it as if it were accessed normally (through a keyboard, data line, etc). Dice rolls must be completed as described in the above paragraphs in order to measure success. When uploading to another living mind, the Scanner still risks psychic trauma for himself and his subject, and each must roll against his Willpower Score (Difficulty = 7) to prevent gaining a Psychic Disorder.

Permanent Possession (Telepathy V (+Sensing III)): A Permanent Possession is the psychic transferrence of a mind and personality from one brain to another. The Scanner takes with him his Social Attributes of Charisma and Manipulation, all his Mental Attributes, all his Abilities (Talents, Skills, Knowledges), and his Advantages. He gains the Physical Attributes and Appearance of the new body he occupies. What Backgrounds he can take with him, or gain from the new body, are up to the Storyteller. This very difficult effect was achieved mind-to-mind between Cameron Vale and Darryl Revok at the end of the original Scanners, and was achieved mind-to-machine by Helena in Scanners III: The New Order.

For a Scanner to transfer his personality to another person's brain, he first must somehow mentally incapacitate his subject or reduce his Willpower Points to zero, like with Mindrape. Next the Scanner must roll 5 Successes (Difficulty = 10) to occupy the subject's brain. At this point he is sharing the brain with the original personality. He must then psychicly assault it to a lethal level --ie: kill off the original personality. This is done by making a Willpower Score roll for each character (Difficulty = the other character's Willpower Score). Whomever rolls more Successes destroys the other character's personality and keeps the body. A stalemate should be rerolled. The Scanner's original body falls into a coma once the transfer has taken place, and it will eventually die on its own.

To possess a machine, the Scanner must use Psychometry in conjunction with Permanent Possession. Like with Mindrape, the Scanner must first defeat any security systems that would prevent him from having full access to the machine. Next he must telepathically access the machine. If the Storyteller considers the system to be big or complex enough to hold a personality (something like a mainframe or an information network should do) then the Scanner must roll 5 Successes (Difficulty = 10) to get in. If there are no other minds in there, then the Scanner has free reign of the system (consider the character's skill with computers if he tries anything fancy). The character need only beware of any security programs he may have missed and of purging by antagonistic sysops. The Scanner's original body falls into a coma once the transfer has taken place, and it will eventually die on its own.


Scanners gain experience in the same way as do other characters in the Storyteller game system. The chart below is a repetition edited for Scanners:

Trait Cost
New Ability 3
New Psi-Power 10
Willpower current rating
Abilities current rating x 2
Attributes current rating x 4
Telepathy current rating x 6
*Favourite Psi-Power current rating x 7
Other Psi-Power current rating x 8
* A Favourite psi-power is one chosen by the Scanner player during character creation. This represents a single non-telepathic power in which the character has particular talent.

Ephemerol And Psychoactive Drugs

"It was the other voices--the ones without lips--they were drowning me." --Cameron Vale

Ephemerol is the mutagenic drug which creates Scanners. Any woman given Ephemerol during pregnancy will give birth to a Scanner child, whose powers are active at birth (or sometimes even before, as demonstrated in the first Scanners movie). This drug is a mild tranquilizer and has little significant effect on normal people or supernatural beings. The drug does affect Scanners, however. A dose of Ephemerol (EPH-1) restores a Scanner's Willpower Points by one, thus giving him a new roll against his Psychic Disorder if he is currently suffering from it. One dose also reduces each of the Scanner's psi-power ratings by one point (a Scanner's Biofeedback ability is not affected in this way -- it is more like a special skill than a psychic power). Five doses will completely knock out the powers of any Scanner and, since Ephemerol is also a tranquilizer which particularly affects Scanners, five doses can also render him unconscious for up to five hours: roll against Stamina (Difficulty = 6; # of unconcious hours = 5 - # of Successes rolled). The dosage level in a character's system drops by one every twelve hours, thus a Scanner's psi-power ratings will recover at a rate of one level per 12 hours. Ephemerol is available in injectable and, just recently, also in pill form, as a prescription drug. It is made available (by the Technocracy) to whomever needs it for only $2.00 per dose (of course then they can find and keep track of you, can't they?) Scanners often use it to control their Psychic Disorders and attempt to live normal lives. Illegally, Ephemerol can be bought, costing at least $20.00 a dose.

EPH-2 and EPH-3 are the second and third generation versions of the original Ephemerol, EPH-1. They were designed to help control Scanners and their symptoms, but the drugs were unsuccessful. EPH-2 removes Psychic Disorder symptoms in a Scanner, but quickly numbs his conscience and instills him with psychotic and often megalomaniacal traits. A single dose will restore a Scanner's Willpower Points to his maximum and nullify the effects of his Psychic Disorder, but he also turns self-centred, plotting, and evil. A dose must be administered every twelve hours or its effects will wear off. EPH-2 is also somewhat poisonous: Every week during which even one dose is used, the Scanner must make a Stamina roll (Difficulty = 6) or permanently lose one point of Stamina. A character whose Stamina reaches zero, dies. EPH-3 is only a slight improvement upon EPH-2. It removes Psychic Disorder symptoms just as well, and has the same conscience-numbing effects as does EPH-2. However, these latter effects take several days of continual usage before the Scanner's personality is affected -- say, one day for every two points in the character's Willpower Score. Also, EPH-3 is not at all poisonous. EPH-2 and EPH-3 are not commercially available, although they may be available on the black market for prices of at least $200 a dose. The forms they come in are injectable, pills, and dermal patches.

Amphetamines are a very bad thing to give to a Scanner --they crank up neural and metabolic activity. Depending on the amount and type of amphetamine given to a Scanner, his physical and psychic activity levels will be somewhat to greatly increased. The Storyteller should assign a drug dose a rating from one to five. In game effects, the amphetamine will give the Scanner resistance to pain from wounds such that he can ignore Dice Pool penalties of up to a rating equal to the drug dose's rating. Above that level, the ratings are not reduced, however --the full penalty is applicable. Also, each rating of the drug will boost the Scanner's Dice Pool for using his psi-powers by one (to a maximum of ten). The poor Scanner will also be cranked up so badly that he can't think straight: lower his Intelligence, Charisma, and Manipulation Attributes by one for each rating of the drug dose. How long the drug remains effective in his system is up to the Storyteller; a one level drop in the rating of the drug dose after every one to three hours is reasonable.

Hallucinogens are also very bad for Scanners. The game effects are similar to those for amphetamines except the character is cranked down rather than cranked up, so his psi-power Dice Pool is not affected. He will also automatically suffer from his Psychic Disorder until the drug wears off.

Depressants are the safest psychoactive drugs for Scanners. They affect them in the same way as they affect normal human beings, and neither enhance nor inhibit psi-powers. They can be used to relieve a Scanner of the symptoms of his Psychic Disorder: For every dose of depressant administered, allow the Scanner to make a new roll to overcome his Psychic Disorder if it is currently affecting him.

Psi-power boosting drugs: With the failure of EPH-2 and EPH-3, the Technocracy is wary of trying to make more of these sorts of things. That doesn't mean that they wouldn't try or haven't tried already...

Other drugs affect Scanners just as they would affect normal human beings.

The World Of Darkness

This section discusses Scanners' niche in the World Of Darkness, and how they are likely to interact with other beings and organizations in it. Scanners are few in number; only a few thousand are in North America and they are even more rare in other places in the world. Most Scanners have not been identified as such by official organizations and they lead secret lives amongst the normal human populace. Due to their Psychic Disorders, many have been arrested from time to time and/or been under some form of psychiatric or other medical care, but for the most part their special nature remains undetected. They tend to live among the seedier elements of society since they are often social misfits and often have trouble supporting themselves. Drug use and abuse is common among Scanners.

Scanners are not conspicuous in the use of their powers and many prefer to get along without using them if possible, as they can be mentally destabilizing. Luckier, more competent Scanners (those with high Willpower) may master their powers and make great progress in normal society. They may also interact with other supernatural beings, both as allies and as enemies.

Vampires: Scanners rarely, if ever interact with vampire society. Vampires have their own society and Scanners hide themselves within the world of mortals. Vampires will associate with Scanners as they will with other mortals; usually being unaware of their hidden power. A vampire who attacks a Scanner, thinking him to be a normal mortal will be in for a surprise: A Scanner's psychokinetic powers (especially Pyrokinesis) make him a formidable opponent, and a Vampire's mind is vulnerable to Telepathic attack as well. A Vampire gains normal sustainance from the blood of a Scanner and is not in the least affected by the presence of any Ephemerol in the blood. A Vampire can use his own blood to make a Scanner into a Ghoul or into another Vampire. A Scanner could be a useful and powerful ally to a vampire, as a mortal or as a Ghoul. If Embraced, a Scanner becomes a Vampire of his sire's clan and fully retains his psi-powers. A Scanner Vampire must spend Experience Points to learn clan Disciplines.

Werewolves: Scanners are usually secretive urban dwellers and would not often encounter the Garou. In a chance meeting, the two would regard each other neutrally as long as neither gets in the other's way, since the Garou fight for Gaia and Scanners fight for themselves. Since Quintessence has no meaning for Scanners, they have no interest in Werewolf caerns or territory. Scanners are as physically vulnerable as normal mortals are to a Werewolf's attacks, and similarly, Werewolves are as vulnerable to psi-powers as they are to comparable Vampire Disciplines or Mage Spheres. Scanners are unnatural beings, and being a Scanner and a Werewolf are mutually exclusive: Garou will never be Scanners and Scanners cannot ever be Garou.

Mages: Scanners and Mages will interact on occasion. Both tend to be secretive urban dwellers and wield similar powers. In fact a Scanner may mistake a Mage for another Scanner or vice versa. Scanners and Tradition Mages will likely get along with each other very well. There is no reason for conflict between them and much reason for them to help each other as they both are victims of the Technocracy which would like to see both groups controlled or eliminated. Technocrats will treat Scanners as they would Tradition mages or Hollow Ones except they are more interested in capture and study than in elimination of them, since Scanners are not considered rebels or rivals of the Technocracy but a curious and unintended product of it. Scanners are most akin to Orphans such as the Hollow Ones. Like these mages, their powers are self-discovered and often have no one to help them learn to deal with them. They also occupy similar niches in society, although Hollow Ones like to be different and have their own sub-culture, whereas Scanners usually prefer to conceal themselves among the more normal general populace. Theoretically, a Scanner could also be a Mage, but he would need to find a mentor to teach him. Such a character would need to spend Experience Points to gain magickal spheres and would pay Experience costs as if they were Hollow Ones. Combative and other interactions between Scanners and Mages and Magick are detailed in the Scanners And Magick section, above.

Wraiths: Wraiths and Scanners would not normally interact very much, since Scanners inhabit the mundane, living world, and Wraiths inhabit the Dark Umbra and rarely manifest themselves on Earth. Since all Scanners have some measure of Telepathy, however, it is possible to detect and establish mental contact with a Wraith within the Scanner's telepathic range. For detection and contact to succeed, the Scanner must first have some idea of what he is looking for, and must succeed in an appropriate roll with his Telepathy psi-power, the minimum difficulty being the thickness of the Shroud in the area. Mental combat with a Wraith works similarly, with the Shroud being the minimum difficulty of the appropriate die rolls. Scanners can try to use appropriate psi-powers to resist Wraiths' Possession and other Arcanos. Psychokinetic effects often cannot affect Wraiths at all, and must be adjudicated by the Storyteller, depending on what the Scanner tries to do. A Scanner who dies and becomes a Wraith fully retains his psi-powers, but being on the other side of the Shroud, must pierce it to use his psi-powers in the physical world (minimum Difficulty = the thickness of the Shroud). His psi-powers work essentally normally on his side of the Shroud, except in the world of the dead, Pyrokinesis burns cold as do other forms of 'fire' there. He must spend Experience points to learn any arcanos.

Changelings: As with Werewolves, Scanners would not often cross paths with Changelings. The two would regard each other with neutrality, their only common ground being that they each have supernatural powers. There is no reason for conflict nor for cooperation between them. Being a Scanner and being a Changeling are mutually exclusive, as with Werewolves.

Biocarbon Amalgamate: This Canadian company does biochemical and neurochemical research and creates, patents, and sells pharmaceuticals throughout North America. This is the company responsible for the creation of Ephemerol, and for the original experiments with it, and with similar drugs, which created Scanners. The company never suffered any repercussions for 'failed' experiments involving the use of Ephemerol or the creation of Scanners. Scanners are the stuff of tabloids and no one was ever able to make the company take any responsibility for them. Biocarbon Amalgamate has a large department devoted to maintaining the cover-up of Scanners' creation, and to tracking down Scanners for study or for its own use in corporate espionage and the like. This is why EPH-1 is commercially available by prescription to anyone who needs it. Biocarbon Amalgamate is not a huge company and has limited resources. Its projects are not always funded by the Technocracy, despite their association with it. As a result, they occasionally can find and convert Scanners to their cause, but lack the ability to find and keep track of most of them. As long as a Scanner does not make himself too obvious and can defend himself when and if he does, he can remain free.


A Scanner character should fit in well in any chronicle involving several different character types. Physically, they are no more powerful than normal human beings; they are vulnerable compared to Vampires or Werewolves. But, like Mages, they can wield great special powers so their Advantages compensate for physical weaknesses. Their psi-powers ensure that they can hold their own, and will complement the capabilities of other characters. Scanners' resistance to certain forms of Magick plus their abilities of wielding arcane powers without fear of Paradox makes them enviable characters. Their ability to fight on a psychic rather than a physical level gives them some advantage over physically powerful characters whose minds are vulnerable to Scanners' telepathic attacks and manipulations.

A Scanner character can contribute to group harmony. His aims and goals are unlikely to conflict with those of other characters. Werewolves may wish to increase their Renown by combating the Wyrm; Vampires may seek to grow in personal power and influence or attempt to achieve Golconda; Mages may seek Ascension, Wraiths seek Transcendence, and Changelings to return to Arcadia. Within a Chronicle, a Scanner may find reason to help other characters in attaining their long-term goals, but will probably find more common their immediate interests in the story taking place. Companionship with those who understand and appreciate the supernatural world is a good simple reason for a Scanner to join and remain with such a group. A Scanner character can make a good part of a team in World Of Darkness games.

Last Words

I hope you find this unofficial supplement to White Wolf's World of Darkness useful and enjoyable. I have always been intrigued by psychic characters in movies, on television, and in books, and I really wanted to bring them to life in a way similar to their portrayals in these media.

To reiterate: These rules are in the public domain. Distribute them as you wish, but I ask that they remain intact and that appropriate credit be given where it is due. I do not dispute nor wish to infringe upon the ownership of rights to White Wolf's Storyteller series products, Scanners, Firestarter, or any other company or title that has inspired me to write this. I also would like to thank Hank Driskill and John Gavigan whose Highlander: The Gathering supplement also inspired me to write this work. Comments, ideas, and suggestions can be sent to me at my email address, which is presently:

Mark J. Janecka 1995 03 14.