Psychedemia is a marvelous gem of a setting with just a few flaws in the stone that need to be cut away. I really liked running this game, but I had to rewrite the storyline, fix inconsistency within the book, and beef up the psychic powers before anything worked right. Character creation is fine, walking you through the ordinary Phase Trio, but with a twist appropriate to the setting. Instead of being the cream of the crop, the party is set up as the rejects. These are the candidates that everyone else expects to wash out. Everything in the setting is stacked against them, from the faculty to the other students, to the mechanics of the game itself. There is potential here to engage your players in an uphill climb to victory instead of just slugging their way through the campaign. That part of the game really appeals to me.
Mechanics. The psychic powers in the game are really underpowered, especially compared to other games based around psychics. There are only three abilities: ESP, Psychokinesis, and Telepathy. You are given automatic rankings in the three psychic powers, but there are few reasons to invest in ESP and virtually no reason to invest in Telepathy. The problem is that these powers are essentially passive, serving as perception checks and defensive rolls; players don't get to actually use them for much of anything at all. It frustrated my players and really stripped the feeling of "being psychic" out of the game when they realized that their "psychic powers" were actually weaker and less useful than their regular skills.
Story and Setting. I really wanted a military academy war story. Instead, I got a peacenik view of war and the military in general. The setup and situation is really incredible. I love the potential of using the astral realm as a means of conflict and see many stories rising from the problems generated by battlefield that is inaccessible to adults. Unfortunately, the story carries a heavy bias against adults in general and the military in specific, to the point where the adult military are portrayed as bloodthirsty warmongers. It's very limiting, requiring you to tell the specific story in the book the way they have it written. The alien "threat" turns out to be a case of misunderstanding, a "spoiler" that's revealed in the first paragraph of the introduction. Conflict arises because the evil humans want to war against the peaceful aliens and must use their innocent children to do it. Maybe I'm old and know too much about politics, but I don't buy it.
A more serious flaw involves the way the astral realm is treated. The author can't seem to decide if it's a physical realm where you can actually go or the mental construct of a shared consciousness. It's written both ways inconsistently. Ultimately I just picked one paradigm and ran with it.
The author's single-minded focus on presenting an evil military results in one-dimensional and uninteresting characters on both sides of the story. There is great potential here for complex stories involving the kinds of real problems of self-identity and responsibility that teens face. They could be writ large against a backdrop where rampant hormones blow everything out of proportion and every decision can have catastrophically fatal consequences. The book missed the mark in presentation, but I give it full credit for inspiration. I thought many things about the premise were intriguing, but the book presented no interesting mechanical toys and insisted on developing the setting in a way into which I could not buy.
[3 of 5 Stars!]