Psionic Options Revisited

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Tim Baker
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Psionic Options Revisited

Post by Tim Baker »

The latest Unearthed Arcana is Psionic Options Revisited. The first page and half is introductory material, including psionics' place in 5e. It then details a psionic subclass for the fighter (psi knife), rogue (soulknife), and sorcerer (psionic soul). I'd have a tough time trying to keep those subclass names straight in my head. Finally, there are four feats that grant any psionic PC (any of the three subclasses above) with additional psionic abilities: metabolic control, telekinetic, telepathic, and tower of iron will. There's also the wild talent feat, which can give any PC some minor psionics (a bonus die that you can add to an ability check or swap a damage die out for during an attack) and unlocks access to the previously mentioned feats.

So what do you think of this take on psionics? Does it feel like psionics to you? What product do you think psionics will appear in? Is this setting the stage for a Dark Sun release?

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by shesheyan »

« The philosophy of this approach is most akin to the one taken in the 1st edition of D&D, where psionic powers weren’t the domain of any particular class but were available for characters of different types to experience. We’ve crafted the new options in this article to work seamlessly with the D&D you’re already playing. And hearing your desire for psionic options to feel like one another in some way, we’ve woven a common thread through the psionic subclasses and feats: the Psionic Talent die. We invite you to try out these new options the same way you try out any other subclass, spell, or feat. And as always, we look forward to hearing what you think!»

I'm really happy with this. Psionic will be very easy to use in later periods like turn of the century to 1920 campaigns, when combined with gun powder rules.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by pawsplay »

I like this a lot better than previous versions, although I'd like to see a revised psionic wizard.
Overall I like the "psionic" feel, but there aren't enough weird options.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

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Looks very interesting!

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by pawsplay »

The soul knife may be one of the best versions ever published. Minor quibble: is it really worth the complication to reduce the damage die of a second blade?

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by Big Mac »

Tim Baker wrote:
Tue Apr 14, 2020 9:53 pm
So what do you think of this take on psionics? Does it feel like psionics to you? What product do you think psionics will appear in? Is this setting the stage for a Dark Sun release?
I've only just skimmed it.

As they say: "Different editions of D&D have created different rules for psionic powers, sometimes expressing them in wildly divergent ways."

That's the problem really.

As I see it, psionics is a really important part of Dungeons & Dragons.

They do make it an option, but I think that both arcane magic and divine magic should also be options (so that one or the other could be turned off in a particular campaign setting, to give it a different style).

But I think that psionics has more been treated as an add-on, than an option.

Aside from Dark Sun, I don't think it's ever been given the support it should have been given. Maybe that's not totally fair, as Eberron has a role for psionic stuff.

I think that, if you use psionics with other D&D settings, you are mostly on your own, without a lot of support.

And every time the edition treadmill has turned, the designers seem to have treated psionics as something they can just toss out and reboot. So rather than feel like something that has gradually evolved over several editions, it feels like everyone is reinventing the wheel. You don't get the feeling that you can mix and match different editions, like you can with some other parts of D&D.

So, although this is WotC listening to fans, I can see it being hard for WotC to take out their previous stuff and put in new stuff and please everyone. Maybe they can mix and match their favourite psionic ideas from different editions, but there are bound to be some people unhappy that they didn't include stuff that isn't compatible with the stuff they are trying to emulate.

Whatever they do, they should carry on using it, if they move to 6th Edition (and not reboot psionics any more). This is their big chance to nail this element down.
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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by shesheyan »

I don't see psionics as an important part of D&D. Going in back to AD&D, psionics were almost impossible to get for a character. They were only used by demons, devils and other planar beings. It made them very scary and alien. Something to run from! We didn't meet many of them.

I recall a 2e psionic character wrecking a campaign because he managed to get a Psion gem in which he could store a large number of psionic points (during downtime) and use them abusively during the adventures. I been living without psions in my campaigns ever since.

I like their approach of making psionics an option (class archetype) and not a full fledge class. I believe the next D&D book will be a toolbox book like Xanathar's and it will let players and DMs decide which portion of the optional rules they want to use. It will include psionics, magic tattoos and other ideas that were trial tested with the more recent UA articles.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by Tim Baker »

Here's a fairly lengthy review of these options: https://www.tribality.com/2020/04/15/ua ... breakdown/

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by pawsplay »

That review kind of gives the randomness a side-eye, but that's a traditional element of several versions of D&D psionics: risky, swingy powers.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by Tim Baker »

Big Mac wrote:
Wed Apr 15, 2020 10:54 pm
Aside from Dark Sun, I don't think it's ever been given the support it should have been given. Maybe that's not totally fair, as Eberron has a role for psionic stuff.

I think that, if you use psionics with other D&D settings, you are mostly on your own, without a lot of support.
I think you make good points about psionics feeling different in each edition. In regards to setting support, the Nentir Vale setting and its ancient history planted seeds for psionics from the beginning of the 4e era. So I'd include that with Eberron – psionics may not be as central to character and monster concepts as in Athas, but it feels like the world was built with it in mind (even if it's optional).

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by timemrick »

I finally got around to reading this UA today, so I'm still mulling it over. I do, however, appreciate the intro that sketched the evolution of their approach to psionics for 5E. It's been a long time coming, but it sounds like they are trying very hard to finally nail down how they want to present psionics for an upcoming sourcebook.
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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by zontoxira »

Even though I'm not fond of AD&D 1e's take on psionics, it being quite messy, I can see merit in keeping psionics as a separate power that anyone can have access to. However, I seem to take a liking to the psionic talent die and the wild talent feat. A die that represents your psionic power pool looks much more streamlined than keeping a score of psionic points (akin to spell points); plus, you can also expend it to receive certain benefits. And the wild talent feat is a neat way of giving you a psionic boost to an attribute of your choice.
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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

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as someone who has liked psionics for several editions:

I think the fighter subclass is pretty cool. the rogue subclass feels like it could use a bit more. the sorcerer subclass doesn't particularly feel psionic to me at all. I don't particularly like the random psionics die (though I don't think it's necessarily a balance concern, just that it's something I don't particularly like).

I am very disappointed to hear that their policy is essentially "well, turns out making a psionic class that everyone likes is hard, so we just decided not to try any more. instead, here's a handful of slightly psionic subclasses".

they've got multiple psionic systems they can draw inspiration from and yet they have run out of inspiration, and they still haven't figured out that a large portion of D&D players are never going to like psionics in their D&D no matter what they do, based on a thing that went wrong because those fans didn't understand the psionics rules several editions ago.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

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At some point, someone is going to go sane and create one or two core psionic classes because otherwise they cede that whole realm to 3pp.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by Tim Baker »

For anyone who hasn't spent much time with the Unearthed Aracana playtests, I wanted to make sure you were aware that in roughly three weeks, a survey will be posted. Some of you have expressed strong opinions on the playtest, so I'd encourage you to complete the survey when it's available.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

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I've been a fan of psionics since 2e. I've enjoyed the 2e and 3e systems, including Bruce Cordell's work for Malhavoc Press. I also enjoyed the work done for 4e psionics, which is perhaps the most integrated and flavorful version to date.

I've been following the progression of psionics in 5e, and I think they're onto something here. I've also been studying the reasoning behind the changes.
  • Wizards of the Coast is trying to create a system that will integrate with the core rules well.
  • They are seeking to avoid a niche product that only a fraction of fans would pick up.
  • They want something that would appeal to a greater number of fans.
  • They are not going to create a new class just for the sake of creating a new class. If a concept can fit well with an existing class, that's the way to go.
  • The sorcerer and the psion fill much of the same niche - inner power. Heck, the sorcerer even has spells known that is similar to a psion's spells known.
  • Many of the psionic powers of 3rd edition were just "[SPELL NAME], Psionic." I think I counted something like 51 of them, IIRC.
Anyway, I need to cut this short. No pun intended, but my thoughts are a bit disjointed. I hope to chime in more later.
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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by Tim Baker »

Dragonhelm wrote:
Tue Apr 21, 2020 11:24 pm
I've been a fan of psionics since 2e. I've enjoyed the 2e and 3e systems, including Bruce Cordell's work for Malhavoc Press. I also enjoyed the work done for 4e psionics, which is perhaps the most integrated and flavorful version to date.
I don't have a deep knowledge of D&D's psionics over the editions, but in terms of settings, I'd put Nentir Vale behind only Dark Sun in terms of feeling like psionics were integrated and flavorful (good description).
Dragonhelm wrote:
Tue Apr 21, 2020 11:24 pm
I've been following the progression of psionics in 5e, and I think they're onto something here. I've also been studying the reasoning behind the changes.
That's a good breakdown. There were some elements of the playtest that I didn't care for on my initial read, but I really appreciate seeing these highlights of what they're trying to do.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

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Dragonhelm wrote:
Tue Apr 21, 2020 11:24 pm
  • Many of the psionic powers of 3rd edition were just "[SPELL NAME], Psionic." I think I counted something like 51 of them, IIRC.
can't entirely agree here. for one thing, 51 sounds like a lot (though I did a quick check in the SRD, as far as I can tell it's not even 40, unless the supplement that nobody liked had some), but there were a heck of a lot of powers that were quite substantially different but similar to spells that filled the same or a similar role. of the powers that very definitely were just psionic version of spells, those powers tended to be the ones nobody was terribly interested in... I mean, yes, there *was* a psionic version of daze, but I don't think I ever saw a single person use it. or talk about it. psionic grease, maybe a little bit more interesting (grease as a spell was better than daze, generally speaking), but still hardly anyone cared that it even existed.

the most interesting psionic powers I saw people using, talking about, and being excited for were *not* just "[SPELL NAME], Psionic". some were similar but with a twist, some were completely new and different, and that's where the focus was (well, that and third party material. Dreamscarred Press had some really cool stuff).

now, as I said, I think these new subclasses have some interesting things, though I do think they are not at all remotely equally strong offerings. I have absolutely no problem with WotC continuing to explore the idea of psionic subclasses that have a handful of interesting psionic tricks they can do; I think those have a place, they can absolutely fit in wonderfully, and I think many people would be interested to play something like that.

but I also feel that there absolutely is a place for a class that is about psionics, and not just as a slight variation on an existing class. I'm not interested in a sorcerer that has an anemic subclass with a couple abilities that vaguely feel like psionics paired with advice to just cross off large portions of the sorcerer's already-gutted class spell list. I mean, I'm fine if there's someone out there who is thinking "man, I sure could use a sorcerer subclass that has like, 3, maybe 4 unique abilities over the course of 20 levels and is otherwise not any different from any other sorcerer in existence", they can have that subclass if that's what they want, but I certainly don't want that to be the replacement for an actual full-blown psionicist.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

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Jaid wrote:
Tue Apr 28, 2020 9:36 am
can't entirely agree here. for one thing, 51 sounds like a lot (though I did a quick check in the SRD, as far as I can tell it's not even 40, unless the supplement that nobody liked had some),
You're right, it was 39. That's still a large amount.

BTW, what is the supplement that nobody liked?
the most interesting psionic powers I saw people using, talking about, and being excited for were *not* just "[SPELL NAME], Psionic". some were similar but with a twist, some were completely new and different, and that's where the focus was (well, that and third party material. Dreamscarred Press had some really cool stuff).
Dreamscarred Press has done a phenomenal job with psionics. They've made it their own.
now, as I said, I think these new subclasses have some interesting things, though I do thin[k they are not at all remotely equally strong offerings. I have absolutely no problem with WotC continuing to explore the idea of psionic subclasses that have a handful of interesting psionic tricks they can do; I think those have a place, they can absolutely fit in wonderfully, and I think many people would be interested to play something like that.

but I also feel that there absolutely is a place for a class that is about psionics, and not just as a slight variation on an existing class. I'm not interested in a sorcerer that has an anemic subclass with a couple abilities that vaguely feel like psionics paired with advice to just cross off large portions of the sorcerer's already-gutted class spell list. I mean, I'm fine if there's someone out there who is thinking "man, I sure could use a sorcerer subclass that has like, 3, maybe 4 unique abilities over the course of 20 levels and is otherwise not any different from any other sorcerer in existence", they can have that subclass if that's what they want, but I certainly don't want that to be the replacement for an actual full-blown psionicist.

Really, what 5e does well is take a concept and give it broad applications.

Creating spells/powers with one's mind is just fluff. Power points/psionic strength points? Nope, covered with the alternate spell points rules.

So what would set a full-blown psion/psionicist class apart from the sorcerer?
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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by pawsplay »

I like the idea of building with schools of psionics. Not just a retread of wizard arcane schools, but more like the traditional schools/sciences concept, with telepathy, telekinesis, etc. You could specialize in one area or pick a few clusters.
Powers would be less reliant on components, but might demand a little more of the psion.
Psionic Styles?
Psion, Wilder, and Mystic as subclasses.

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Re: Psionic Options Revisited

Post by Jaid »

the supplement that nobody liked was called complete psionics in 3.5 I think. in any event, it was the only official one... Bruce Heard I think did an unofficial one called hyperconscious, and of course there was a ton of DSP material, which was also not official.

and I wasn't just saying that DSP made new and cool powers that people were excited for. I mean within the expanded psionics handbook for 3.5, most of the powers that people were interested were *not* just "[spell name], psionic". it was stuff like Astral Construct or Crystallize, the various precognition powers, touchsight, share pain, quintessence, energy conversion, dream travel, and so on.
Dragonhelm wrote:
Thu Apr 30, 2020 7:17 am
Really, what 5e does well is take a concept and give it broad applications.

Creating spells/powers with one's mind is just fluff. Power points/psionic strength points? Nope, covered with the alternate spell points rules.

So what would set a full-blown psion/psionicist class apart from the sorcerer?
could be any number of things.

consider that about half the base classes now had absolutely no real *need* to exist; they exist because people wanted them to. why do we need a ranger? couldn't you just play the concept with a fighter or rogue, possibly with a little bit of subclass support? isn't *that* "just fluff"? why do we have a barbarian? you could just roleplay an angry fighter; sounds like "just fluff" to me as well. why do we have the bard? what archetype is that coming from? was the fellowship of the ring incomplete due to not having a musician? or the story of beowulf, or jack the giant killer, or Conan, etc? why do we have warlocks and clerics that both draw power from more powerful beings? why do we have both nature clerics and druids? why do we need sorcerers at all, couldn't we just have a subclass of wizard that doesn't use a spellbook? it is at least as easy to describe those things as "just fluff" as it is to apply that description to psionics.

well, we have them because people wanted them, therefore the designers gave those classes some mechanics to call their own. in some cases, they did a better job of that than others (sorcerer and ranger were, last I heard, the two classes someone was most likely to feel unsatisfied while playing, and druid is iirc one of the least played classes in spite of fairly consistently being considered among the most powerful classes in the game).

now, as far as what I would like the psionicist to be to make it distinct from any other class, I'd like to see new powers. a whole bunch of them. not, like, "here's a couple of abilities for your subclass, now pretend that the rest of your class is psionic", but an actual separate list, emphasizing some areas that are not as well represented in magic, all with a different feel to them. it should be worse at some of the things that wizards are good at, as well, to keep the flavour intact. and it should probably be more specialized; that has been a hallmark of psionics in most editions, that you are not just a psionicist, you specialize in one discipline and generally don't get the same level of access to the other disciplines, but then again neither do the other discipline specialists get the same level of access to yours.

ultimately, I don't have a perfect concept of what a psionicist would look like in 5th edition. I'm not a game designer. but I am quite confident in saying that "well, it's just a sorcerer with a couple of subclass powers that vaguely might be described as psionic-themed if you squint at them in the right lighting" is not what I'm looking for.

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