- This article was written by Bek D. Corbin and published on the Crystal Hall Forums as part of Canon Material: Explanation of Power Terms.
Note: Telepathy (TP) is a major subclass of general Psychic Abilities (PSI). While still in use, the general PSI rating is being phased out in favour of rating the specific psychic traits that a mutant manifests.
Telepathy is the classic "mind reading" power, the ability to sense and adjust the thoughts of others. Telepathy generally breaks down into three basic modes: passive, active and coercive.
Passive telepathy is rather akin to listening to "broadcast" thoughts and emotions, those which the thinker is "projecting" out from themselves. Passive telepathy is limited to those 'surface thoughts" and active emotional states of those around the telepath. Passive telepathy is in many ways the most problematic of the three modes, as it sometimes requires active effort to 'turn off". A passive telepath who can't 'turn it off" or at least learn to ignore the thoughts and passions of those around them, are in the position of someone with very sharp hearing trying to walk down a noisy city street. Or worse, trying to get to sleep next to a window onto a noisy city street.
Active telepathy, on the other hand, is usually focused on a single target, and "enters" the mind of the subject. Depending on the power and skill of the projecting telepath, the subject may be aware that their mind is being entered. Indeed, the penetration may be anything from not noticeable to actively painful. Active telepathy isn't limited to surface thoughts or passions. Deep, well-hidden thoughts, memories and associations can be revealed this way. However, deep penetration telepathy is rarely that easy. The mind isn't logically organized like a library; rather thoughts, memories, emotion and such are a bizarre tangle of tangental associations, neurotic clusters, obsessions and furious denial. Going deep into another's mind is a risky proposition, and more than one telepath has gone insane by over-associating with the person that they"re trying to "read".
Coercive telepathy deals with causing changes in the mind-state of another, causing them to think things that aren't their own ideas, feel emotions that they normally wouldn't, or perceive things that their senses don't detect. Coercive telepathy is risky to the target, and has been known to trigger psychotic episodes in the emotionally imbalanced.
Some argue that empathy, the ability to sense or broadcast emotions, is a type of telepathy rather than an esper talent.