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AlexanderHowl 02-04-2020 05:52 AM

World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
Imagine that the Austrian-Hungarian Empire invested in the exploration and developed of individuals with psionic powers during the late 19th century. By the beginning of the 20th century, the aristocracy of the Empire finds that such individuals have military and intelligence utility, primarily in the form of ESP and Telepathy, giving them an edge over the other Great Powers, which neglected such investments in favor of dreadnoughts and other prestige investments. In total, 0.1% of the population is trained in psionics, though the average practitioner only possesses 50 CP of abilities and talents.

Assuming that the events that triggered World War One still occurred, perhaps the individuals tasked with protecting the Archduke came down with the flu, what impact would such individuals have had on the initial progression of the war? Would such subtle powers materially change the progress of the war if used effectively? Would that make the Empire more of an effective participant?

johndallman 02-04-2020 06:24 AM

Re: World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
There is a huge variety of possible changes, although they may not be very large if the underlying politics aren't changed.

For example, psychic espionage in Moscow could reveal that Russia was serious about helping Serbia. However, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, the chief of staff of the Austrian army, overrated his country dramatically, and would not have been much concerned about Russia committing to war. Berlin didn't believe that Russia was serious, and Austria would probably not have told Berlin that they were.

Subtle psionic or magical powers don't tend to make much difference on a battlefield in GURPS, from experience in a lengthy WWII campaign. They're much more useful in espionage and counter-espionage, and the effects of those are difficult to estimate at a high level before a game starts.

Some things that would clarify the scenario:
  • What has Austria-Hungary not bought, so that it can afford the psionics program?
  • What does the rest of Europe think about the program? It can't be entirely secret if it has trained 50,000 people during peacetime.
  • Which ethnic groups within the empire predominate in the program?

AlexanderHowl 02-04-2020 07:27 AM

Re: World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
I will discuss your questions in order. First, they would have spent the money on psychics instead of on their useless dreadnoughts (the Austrian-Hungarian dreadnoughts were completely useless). Second, they would have been mocked by the rest of the Great Powers for investing in superstition because of the subtle nature of the powers. Third, they would have manifested more strongly in Transylvanian populations (2× the national average).

johndallman 02-04-2020 08:09 AM

Re: World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl (Post 2307559)
First, they would have spent the money on psychics instead of on their useless dreadnoughts (the Austrian-Hungarian dreadnoughts were completely useless).

Did the Austro-Hungarians have precognitives early on?

It was not obvious before WWI that their dreadnaughts would not be very useful. That turned out to be the case because Italy was at first neutral, then joined the Allied side. Since Italy was a member of the Triple Alliance, the Austro-Hungarians seem to have expected Italy to join with them, in which case their ships would have had access to the main basins of the Mediterranean, and could have been effective. Had the A-H empire consulted with Italy over their steps against Serbia, they might well have been able to keep the Triple Alliance together.
Quote:

Second, they would have been mocked by the rest of the Great Powers for investing in superstition because of the subtle nature of the powers.
All of them, for decades? Once it became clear that the program was continuing, some other powers would have probably taken a harder look, in secret. Unless, of course, the Austro-Hungarians have psychic influence being used against that.

Tomsdad 02-04-2020 08:28 AM

Re: World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
Yeah unless the AH psychic program doesn't bear fruit until Hostilities start, I can't help but think the AH empire will use this ability to massively influence international politics in their favour to the extent that WW1 will likely not happen!

the AH empire's population in 1914 in approx 53m at 0.1% of population that is 53,000 psychics with an average of 50cp on Psychic advantages.

Now I'm guessing some will have more useful powers than others and that some will have more CP than others. But that is a massive advantage, especially in world where such powers are not recognised.


(I know the OP stated assume the events running up to WW1 still take place, with those protecting the arch duke being asleep or the like. But the reality is even if the Archduke is killed in Sarajevo, AH with this advantage will still likely be able to head off a costly war and come out on top)

EDIT: i also think Transylvanian nationalism will become more of a thing.

AlexanderHowl 02-04-2020 08:31 AM

Re: World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
I am not sure that anyone else would have concrete evidence of the effectiveness of subtle psychics early on (IRL, governments dabbled with the research until the 1970s, but pretty much gave up because of a lack of concrete results). If the Austrian-Hungarian Empire benefits from first mover advantage, they might be able to recruit potential psychics from other nations and/or sabotage the research of other nations so that their competitors actually do think that psychics are bunk. The investment in psychics over dreadnought would just be a difference in priorities rather than necessarily a prediction.

For example, Austrian-Hungarian telepaths could use conditioning to give thousands of people within a competitor nation the delusion that they have psychic powers in order to foul up any potential research. With a large number of false positives and high profile lunatics claiming psychic powers, the majority of nations would probably just focus on building dreadnoughts. Of course, the fact that Austrian-Hungarian psychics could easily spy on their competitors would give the government an accurate assessment of relative military strength and attitudes.

Tomsdad 02-04-2020 08:34 AM

Re: World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl (Post 2307568)
I am not sure that anyone would have concrete evidence of the effectiveness of subtle psychics early on (IRL, governments dabbled with the research until the 1970s, but pretty much gave up because of a lack of concrete results). If the Austrian-Hungarian Empire benefits from first mover advantage, they might be able to recruit potential psychics from other nations and/or sabotage the research of other nations so that their competitors actually do think that psychics are bunk. The investment in psychics over dreadnought would just be a difference in priorities rather than necessarily a prediction.

For example, Austrian-Hungarian telepaths could use conditioning to give thousands of people within a competitor nation the delusion that they have psychic powers in order to foul up any potential research. With a large number of false positive and high profile lunatics claiming psychic powers, the majority of nations would probably just focus on building dreadnoughts. Of course, the fact that Austrian-Hungarian psychics could easily spy on their competitors would give the government an accurate assessment of relative military strength and attitudes.

yep nice,

Also if it's smart AH will keep the existence of it's own successful physic powers a secret (also more easy to do when you have physic powers available).

AlexanderHowl 02-04-2020 09:14 AM

Re: World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
An effective, though odd, way of keeping psychic powers secret is to use conditioning to give people within your own nation the delusion that they have psychic powers (such as ex-convicts or other undesirables). As long as your nation knows who is a false positive and your competitor nations do not, they will focus their attention on the lunatics. When they realize that the vocal psychics are lunatics, they are probably going to discount any reports of secret psychic programs (or think that the AH Empire is run by lunatics as well).

During the first stages of the war, the ability to accurately predict the tactics of enemy commanders would have massive consequences. Imagine if the AH Empire quickly defeated Serbia and then was capable of deploying more of its army against Russia earlier in the war. Italy may have remained neutral if the AH Empire showed that it was effective, meaning that the AH Empire could have focused on beating Russia, allowing Germany to focus on Western Europe. Of course, it is to the benefit of the AH Empire for the Allies to waste their strength on its allies (and for its allies to come out of the war weakened), so the AH Empire would likely not have shared its access to effective psychic powers, only any resulting intelligence.

The Colonel 02-04-2020 10:00 AM

Re: World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl (Post 2307577)
During the first stages of the war, the ability to accurately predict the tactics of enemy commanders would have massive consequences.

Being able to accurately predict the behaviour of their own commanders might have been a significant benefit IIRC - from what I recall, the AH's main problems were a lower than average level of competence from staff level upwards and massive internal cohesion issues. CCC and internal security might be at least as effective as applications.

Žorkell 02-04-2020 10:40 AM

Re: World War One Psychics [Powers]
 
They have ESP and still screw up and sent Franz Ferdinand to his doom? They didn't get a "Don't go to Sarajevo" memo? Or one which says to arrest Gavrilo Pricip and associates?

How is Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf still in his position? No psychic powers to reveal his incompetence?


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