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Thread: What is Ki?

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    Publisher Gamerprinter's Avatar
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    Post What is Ki?

    Rather than further derail the D&D 4e Verdict thread, I thought I'd carry this question to a new thread. My last two posts in the 4e thread discussed this as it regards the D&D game.

    One of the arguments on the Gleemax boards regarding the differences between Ki and Psionics. In that Ki is spiritual power, whereas Psionics is mental power. Since in western thought the mind and body is one and inseparable until death, the idea that Ki could be considered the same thing as Pychic power, it shouldn't matter to the game, that's really the same thing.

    The flaw in that argument is in the orient, everything has Ki in it. Every rock, plant, sentient, nonsentient, organic and inorganic, even manufactured goods has Ki within it.

    Ki is spirit energy, however its the spirit in all things not just the individual.

    The belief in Ki (or its other names: qi, chi, prana, etc.) is strongly tied to oriental martial arts, yoga, and other eastern disciplines. It's derived from Taoism/Daoism which has influenced most of the oriental world before Buddhism and other oriental beliefs. Its related to medicinal treatments in pre-modern times (and still practiced today.)

    Rocks don't have brains therefore can't be psionic, thus Psionics and Ki has nothing much in common.

    Enough of my ranting - any thoughts on this?

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    Last edited by Gamerprinter; 05-13-2009 at 10:31 PM.
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      Nomadic is offline
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    I would have to agree. I am taking Ki Aikido so I have begun to truly understand what ki is (as an aside ki and chi are not the same thing). Ki is everything, the energy that connects each thing to every other time. The reason it is used in several martial arts (aikido uses it the most of any art) is because when you are able to extend ki you are aware of not only any opponents but also of yourself. When you can do that you are able to prepare and execute the moves necessary to stop any attacks and turn them back around on your attacker.
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      Nexis is offline
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    The problem I have with the use of Ki is as you say it is a concept of the East. The monk and Ki should not have been lumped in with the rest as the game is Europen based. The monk and Ki should have been put in an Oriental supplement book. Then it would have been placed in a better context.

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    OK I'll throw my 2 cents in with my own screwy definition(s) as relates to RPGing;

    Psionics - Using the power of thought to affect/manipulate the world around you

    Ki/the Force/etc. - Using the innate (spiritual) energy in all things affect/manipulate the world around you.

    Not sure there is a correct definition - though you probably could go to a dojo and get the resident master to define Ki/Chi/etc. for you.
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    msa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nexis View Post
    The problem I have with the use of Ki is as you say it is a concept of the East.
    Bear in mind that I've never cared much for psionics and I'm only passably interested in Ki. With that said, I'm with Nex mostly. I haven't been keen on the monk class in any edition of standard D&D and I think it belongs purely in eastern supplements.

    I always saw ki as the ability to focus your mind through meditation to gain control over your body and sense (and to some degree control) the world around you.

    Like psionics, the root of the power is in meditation and mental state. So, in that sense, the power source is internal and mental--its not based on physical muscle memory, mastery of arcane rituals, or connection with the divine. Its really all internal and about a state of mind.

    Also the manifestion to me appears very similar. Psionics grants you powers over all manner of things that don't have minds. You can open doors, sense nonliving obstacles, start fires, walk on water, redirect energy, remote sense, or other things often associated with ki. Now, psionics lets you do a lot more, but to me it includes most of the 'ki' powers.

    To me, the differences between the two are fairly minor. To someone who is really into one or the other, you can split a lot of hairs. I think of the discussion as to whether rocks have ki but not minds as one of them. Does it matter much as far as where the ability comes from or what it lets you do?

    As to whether ki and chi are different? Thats sort of like a discussion about whether protestants and catholics are different. If you are really into either of them, you probably think they are completely different. If you aren't, you probably see the differences as minor at best.

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      Karro is offline
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    So, my thought on the Ki/Psionic differentiation:

    Given that rocks have Ki energy, but no brains, therefore possess ki power but not psychic power, the question that immediately pops in my mind is: can the rock, of it's own will, actually do anything with its ki energy?

    Since it has no brain, and therefore no will of its own, the answer, I suspect, is no. This leads me to suspect the difference between an eastern interpretation of ki energy and a western interpretation of psionic energy is mostly academic. Only things that can think can actively use and manipulate ki energy. Only things that can think can actively use and manipulate psionic energy. The effects of the use of the two are frequently similar. What's different is the terminology and the flavoring: one is very eastern and one very western.

    Considering that terminology and linguistic usage can often strongly color our perceptions of a thing, it's not surprising that it's not entirely clear whether the two are different or the same.
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    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    I've been thinking about it a little bit, and it may come down to a matter of that word "source." Ki and psionic power are both internal power—inherent in the practitioner, whose training brings it forth to manifest outside of the body. In a sense, they are both a mystical "self" power. While the two things are quite dissimilar, they're really not much further apart than some of the other variations in 4e power sources.

    For instance, both the Warlock and the Wizard utilize the Arcane (literally "hidden, secret") power source, but while the Wizard's power comes from the study of hidden knowledge, the Warlock's comes from a bond with a supernatural force.

    Another example would be the Druid and Barbarian. Both are Primal ("basic, essential, first") heroes, but the Druid draws on a symbiotic relationship with nature, while the Barbarian taps his animalistic essence.

    I think I might have chosen a different name for the Psionic power source, but I think a case can be made that psionics and ki bear a certain similarity that makes it reasonable to lump them together into a single category. I don't know what name I would pick, though. Maybe simply Internal?

    edit: and I see I have cross-posted with two others who have said much the same thing. Great minds think alike, but what's our excuse?
    Last edited by Midgardsormr; 05-14-2009 at 11:08 AM.
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    Post My point is Ki is not just internal.

    You're missing my point here. Ki is in fact only partially internal.

    In my mind a PC utilizing Ki energy to power spells and effects is using Ki within himself, his fellow party members, the ground that he stands on and other elements surrounding him. In fact a manifester of Ki could actually draw Ki source from an opponent's Ki, especially if the opponent is not a Ki manifester.

    Psionics is individual only. Ki is everywhere.

    While manufactured goods contain Ki for instance, it is much less so than an natural rock, tree, stream or animal. When in a city environment, though Ki is present (especially in people), but weaker as the Ki in manufactured goods is weaker.

    If both Ki and Psionics were internal to oneself only - I'd say you're right, the difference is only semantic. However, I know that Ki is everywhere, thus a Ki class is accessing power from everything around him, including himself.

    To me, that's a huge difference. And I enforce that difference in my Kaidan Japan-based setting.

    @Karro, while it may seem silly to us, in the orient, that rock with Ki in it that is just sitting there is actually doing something - its sitting there absorbing the energy at that location. It is not inert, and is as much alive as we are. Just that rocks don't move - which is part of its "life cycle."

    GP

    PS: except that Ki is also internal, I think it would be a better argument that Ki and Primal was the same thing - much truer than Ki and Psionics.
    Last edited by Gamerprinter; 05-14-2009 at 12:38 PM.
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    msa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamerprinter View Post
    You're missing my point here. Ki is in fact only partially internal.
    I think the point we are all making is that the mechanics end up being pretty much the same. Ki and Psionics users both manifest their ability through inner focus and meditation. They both use their power to augment their own strength, sense the world around them, and create and wield latent energy. So the difference is mostly flavor.

    The truth is, I always just assumed psionics were rules for an eastern style of power anyways. The whole concept is just not well defined in western mythology, where humans largely petition external sources for power. I just thought psionics were a fantasy version of the force... eastern-inspired mystical power.

    Now I'm not saying this isn't a valid or interesting avenue to explore in your game or your work. I just think that, to us uninitiated, the difference between the two is pretty marginal. If you want them to be different, it might be interesting to have ki work worse in cities or have slightly different effects. But I also think you could just reflavor 'psionics' to 'ki' a bit and very little would be lost.

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      NeonKnight is offline
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    Yeah, put me down as another person who disliked Monks in D&D (too much like Xena Warrior Princess for me )

    Now, that wasn't to say I didn't have them. I had an oriental area in my old world, but they were not common place, and certainly no-one campaigning in my World's Physical location of Jolly Ol' England would not walk around a corner and find a fist full of monks waiting for them.

    But I do agree with the concept of Ki (chi, or however), being different from Psionics
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