Are You Giving Psionics A Fair Chance?

People hate psionics! I would call it a love/hate thing, but nobody really LOVES psioncis, nobody in the history of the game has ever gotten so excited about finally rolling one up . . . I think that out of all of my friends, I am the only one who has ever played a Psionc PC, and that was just because I wanted to play one, just to experience it.

Personally, I don’t put much thought into it. It is such a rarely used thing that it just doesn’t matter. I ran into Psi powers like any other DM probably does, by reading the Monstrous Manual and seeing those complex and mysterious stats and having no idea what they could possibly mean. They are overly complex, and intentionally vague. Perhaps the Magic system would be that way if it wasn’t such a popular class and it wasn’t right there in the Core Rules, but I doubt it.

I get the class! Nobody plays it much because Psi powers don’t fit into all of the worlds. I have a hobby of delving into the Occult and paranormal, and psychic powers is an interesting subject to read about, but it is rather modern. If you have ever played Dark Sun, you’ve used them, I doubt that too many people have actually played a class, but in the hostel world of Dark Sun, everybody is born with some innate psi abilities, but in that world, it is so hard that you need any advantage that you can get. Could they had just handed out magic abilities? Yeah, but the good folks at TSR freely admitted to the fact that the original point behind creating Dark Sun was originally to sell The Complete Psioncs Handbook, and the Battle System, thankfully the writers took their job more seriously then that and created one of 2es greatest Campaign Settings!

But is it appropriate for all campaign worlds? No, probably not. Psi powers bring to mind Gothic horror stories and strange highly intelligent alien life-forms, they work well for Ravenloft, but probably not highly magical worlds which are ruled by the laws of magic.

Psi power is unique to itself as one doesn’t rely upon outside forces to bring it about. They don’t use magic books or scrolls, nor do they get their powers from some God, it comes from within and can always be accessed as long as they have the Psi Points.


When I am casting spells, I never stat what spell I’m using, I only describe the effects of the spell to my players, the same goes for Psi powers, a good player may know a magical defense to a specific spell once he can identify what is happening, but those magic counters won’t work against psionics.
In Forgotten Realms, anything can happen, there are gates and psi monsters do come through, and we can give them a great bonus by having them hold up in one of the realms famous wild magic or dead magic areas. A kingdom who thinks that they are safe from such wizard tricks would be susceptible to such dominance, and it would be rather hard to detect what exactly is going on.

Psionics also work well with realms based on exotic cultures such as India where they have been showing off their mental mastery for centuries.

Psionics offer a change of pace, and a touch of mystery. They aren’t anything to love and admire, but they aren’t really worthy of so much hatred and DMs refusing to allow anything associated with them into their games either.


Brooser Bear said...

Hey, Rip, I never got interested in psionics. Never got that 2nd Edition Complete Book of. I like the treatment Psionics got in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement book for the OD&D.

One reason I don't like it, is because to develop any latent psionic talent, one would have to become a Monk, join a Wizards' Guild or a Temple, and such a character would not be free to adventure outside the organization that developed them. Psionics by virtue of its power, would dominate the fantasy world and will become a feature of it. I never had any inclination to go in that direction.

Aside from Psionics, a fascinating direction to take your D&D game in would be the Lardil Dream Time (fr. Australian indigenous peoples)

RipperX said...

PC Psionics are difficult to roll, and I keep them extremely rare. They do really force a specific type of roll play style upon the user. I played mine a couple of times, and found it rather limiting. I think, however, that they are a great tool to use from time to time as NPCs, that and I really love the monsters.

Brooser Bear said...

Happy New Year, Rip!
Now that you mention it, I will have players roll for psionics, when they roll up new characters. Anything to make the game experience richer and more varied. I won't tell them what they are rolling (I do quite a bit of that and I also roll all search checks secretly so as to keep power gaming in the dark).

If they do get the talent, I will role play them discovering their talent later during the game, and figuring out where do develop their talent into playable form and psionics training will be its own adventures down the road.

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