Field Manual: Psionics
Field Manual Addendum: February 2000: Psionics
A brief working theory
The psionic research group has theorized a "conchfield", or field of consciousness, is put forth by all sentient beings. The scientists speculate that this field exists as an energy on a plane coexistant with our own space but undetectable by Earth technology. They refer to this as "conchspace".
Normally the patterns of a conchfield are individual and isolated. They rise and fall with the electrical brain waves we can measure. No two conchfields can physically superimpose because they are tied to separate minds and bodies in our own space which cannot superimpose. However, there is also some energy which can travel freely in this conchspace and interact with conchfields. Whether by some geometry of conchspace or of our own space, if this energy is continually exchanged between two conchfields, the conchfields start to synchronize patterns.
It is speculated that occasionally this "standing wave" effect occurs naturally, and this has given rise to limited and fleeting psychic phenomena dismissed as superstition.
However the alien technology gives the additional power and control to turn this phenomena into a useful tactical advantage.
The Mind Probe allows an impression of a subject conchfield to be briefly superimposed on the operator. The transmission is mostly one-way and usually the subject has a brief sensation of an altered state or a wider consciousness but is not otherwise affected. The information gathered is stored in the mind probe until accessed. This can convey information as general as a feeling of high morale to as specific as the subject's last assessment of their armour. The operator must know the physical location of the subject to within a meter. The probe takes several seconds (50% TU) to perform its scan so patience is required. No psychic strength or training is required to use this unique device.
Squads report successfully approaching and capturing an alien with no resistance after first determining its fatigued state with a mind probe.
The "Psi-Amp" or psionic amplifier can set up a feedback loop between two conchfields so that the operator can attempt to tranfer thought between their own mind and the target. The physical location of the target must be known to within a meter. The operator must be trained and powerful enough to overcome psychic resistance of the target.
The amplifier is geared for two forms of psionic attack, the first a projected feeling of fear, apprehension, or panic and the second a near-total control of the subject's mind and body. (See Mind Control.) The subject usually perceives this as a change in their instincts or low-level desires that leads them to change their higher-level behavior, similar to hypnosis. The subject may be behaving completely counter to the norm, such as preparing to fire on their own forces, but as their own sense of self is being suppressed, they may not even be aware they are behaving strangely. The subject's companions, on the other hand, can recognize the change almost immediately. Symptoms include vacant stares, inappropriate emotions or lack of emotion, and unresponsiveness.
The subject's perceptions are also fed back to the user, allowing them in effect to look out through the subject's eyes. This on its own gives the user a tactical advantage if they can gain knowledge of how their opponent has deployed their forces, and also allows them to locate and choose additional subjects.
The aliens have implants that perform the role of the Psi-Amp so this item must be manufactured rather than recovered from the battlefield.
The psionic training facility uses "ganzfield" sensory blockers, a sensitive psionic receiver, and a fixed version of the psiamp. The electronics recognize the projection of a trainee and provide auditory feedback through the headset. The trainee attempts to project their impressions of this tone along with their other thoughts. The stronger the feedback loop, the stronger the audio tone. Half of this feedback loop is thus psionic and the return half electronic.
Training consists of both projecting and resisting - projecting is attempting to establish a feedback loop with a remote field, and resisting is attempting to break a feedback loop initiated by a remote field. In combat this corresponds to attack and defence. Psionic skill in attacking is also developed by moving the target, which forces the trainee to be effective in rapidly translating between normal space and consciousness space and performing the projection accurately. Defence depends mainly on psionic strength, a passive ability.
Each station is screened from the others. The headset also muffles external noise. Special goggles flood the eyes with a soft red light. It is in this sensory deprived trance state that projection comes most easily. As the trainee becomes more skilled at initiating and establishing an interface with the psiamp, the sensory deprivation equipment can be reduced and eventually removed. Soldiers are then able to go into this trance state without aid in the field.
This training serves to both screen soldiers for latent psionic ability and to exercise that ability. For several weeks, even the best soldiers may not be able to grasp what is asked of them, so a full month is required for proper evaluation. Psionically gifted soldiers are of course extremely valuable assets. Due to the high casualty rate of XCOM, commanders have recommended that the soldiers undergoing training should be given less hazardous duties or taken off active duty for that month, until at least a preliminary screening report is available.
Psionically strong but unskilled soldiers can be used in any scouting or fire support role. As per standard doctrine, they should relay all information about the position of the enemy as efficiently as possible; this allows both support fire and psionic attacks to be brought to bear.
Psionically skilled and strong soldiers should be kept out of direct combat to allow them to concentrate on using the psionic amplifier. They do not need to leave the landing craft to carry out their duties, so leave them here unless the craft is under attack.
It may be useful to assign them an aide who can evaluate targets with the Mind Probe and help determine the best use of a psionic attack. It's strategically better to have a strong operator with a good chance of Mind Control rather than bothering with panic attacks by weaker operators - unless you have the psi-amps to spare.
Preferred targets would be higher-ranking units, psychically capable units, or heavy weapons units. It is possible to control any alien, including the psionically controlled robotic units. Some skilled psionic operators have had success with simply attempting control of every alien encountered and disarming them, then using the controlled alien as a scout to determine the next target unit, then taking the next target unit and leaving the previous unit for a mop-up squad.
Easiest actions with a controlled unit are movement and firing or throwing the held weapon. It is possible but tricky to do more.
 A bunch of subdued aliens released in front of a firing squad is ideal for Reaction Training. See Laser Pistol Gifts.
 See Alien Inventory Bug under Exploits.