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    Default [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Hey playground. I just recently acquired Dreamscarred Press' Psioncs Unleashed and brought it to my DM who promised to give it a look. This book sparked mixed reactions within the group with some excited about the prospect of psionics while others are wary about what they perceive as overpowered abilities. The DM so far is neutral and I cant tell how he would react to the book.

    As it's rather difficult to defend mechanics and classes you don't fully understand yourself, I decided to teach myself to learn by building a psionic character of my own. I was wondering if there was a guide to be found that can help me gain a general idea of what each class can do and its role in the party as well as its relative power level on the Tier system. Particularly I'm looking for a guide that build advice for the various classes to help guide me through the process of building my first psionic character.

    I've read through Psyrens Pathfinder vs. XPH Psionics handbook but as it mostly showed what had changed between 3.5 and 3.PF, it didn't offer much for a newbie to the mechanics of psionics.

    Thanks in advance
    Last edited by Sarakos; 2011-03-26 at 04:07 AM.

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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Hmm. So you're not familiar with psionics at all -- and perhaps Psionics Unleashed doesn't give a good introduction? Well, I can't help you specifically with Pathfinder psionics, but I can give you a primer in 3.5e psionics, so that the changelist you mention will mean more to you.

    Psionic Classes and Powers
    I'm going to assume that you're familiar with 3.5e spellcasting. Psionics is like that, but...
    • You have "powers", not "spells", which you "manifest", not "cast". Powers are divided into "disciplines", not "schools".
    • Psions are Int-based manifesters that must specialise in a discipline; Wilders are Cha-based manifesters that share most of the psion's power list, but manifest powers from innate talent, not study. However, this is as far as any comparison to wizards and sorcerers goes.
    • The psychic warrior is the Wis-based manifester, but is somewhere between bard and ranger in its actual role. The soulknife is not a manifester and will be skipped here.
    • All powers are spontaneous, not prepared, and manifesters are limited in their number of powers known.
    • Powers have nine levels, just like spells (but no level 0), but manifesters do not have slots.
    • Instead, manifesters have a number of power points, which can be spent on any power the manifester knows. A power costs power points equal to (twice its level, minus one) to manifest under normal conditions.
    • Like spell slots, power points are fully replenished by a good night's rest.
    • Powers generally do not have level-dependent effects like spells do. Instead, a manifester can augment the power by spending extra power points on it. The effects are specific to each power. Some powers have more than one augmentation; these can be "either/or" (but you can spend even more points to get both), or can be "all the points you spend to get that augmentation, also count towards this one".
    • This is important: a manifester can spend no more than his/her manifester level in power points on a single power. The wilder has class features that let it break this limit (at some risk). There are also a few special cases where a negative effect can force a manifester to spend more power points than normal; these extra points are wasted and don't count against this limit.
    • Powers do not have "components", they have "displays". That's like all spells being stilled and silenced, but flashing a big neon sign over the caster's head when used. However, a Concentration check can suppress all displays.
    • Powers still provoke attacks of opportunity, however. Manifesters need to make Concentration checks, just like casters, to avoid these.
    • By default, spells and powers interact with each other like they were the same thing, or their nearest equivalent. Powers are affected by spell resistance and dispel magic, and spells by power resistance and dispel psionics. There are few exceptions. This is called "psionics-magic transparency", and optional rules can be selected that change this default to a greater or lesser extent.


    Psionic Feats and Skills
    Any creature with power points, whether or not it's a manifester, is "psionic" and can take [Psionic] feats. (Creatures can have power points as a racial feature, or by taking a feat that gives them points.)
    • Many psionic feats are built around something called "psionic focus". Any character with at least one power point still remaining can make a Concentration check to gain focus.
    • Gaining focus is a full-round action (and so it's costly in the middle of combat). The feat Psionic Meditation reduces this to a much more practical move action.
    • Some feats are active so long as the character is focused.
    • Other feats are activated by "expending" the focus. Once done, the character must take another action, and make the Concentration check, to regain focus.
    • Metapsionic feats (not "metamagic") are of the second variety (expend your focus). This is in addition to, not instead of, costing more power points (which is like using a higher spell slot -- +2 power points is like +1 spell level -- and don't forget the cap on power points spent per power). In return, they either have a smaller cost, or better effects than the equivalent metamagic feat (if one exists -- many have cool and unique effects, like Burrowing Power or Unconditional Power).
    • Spell Focus and Spell Penetration also have their equivalents, which also require expending focus. In return, their effects are strictly better than their magic counterparts. Psionic Endowment boosts the DC of any power, not just one school/discipline. Power Penetration gives a much larger bonus (+4, or +8 for the Greater version).
    • There are also bunches of cool and interesting feats that really don't have equivalents in the core rules.
    • And then there are some that specifically say they violate psionics-magic transparency. Me, I don't really like those ones.
    • On the skills front, Knowledge (Psionics) matches Knowledge (Arcana), Psicraft replaces Spellcraft, and Use Psionic Device fills in for Use Magic Device.
    • There's also a brand new skill called Autohypnosis that lets you use skill checks in place of various saves and percentage chances, in a "mind over body" sort of deal.


    Psionic Creatures
    Mostly, a creature's a creature, psionic or not. There's just one special rule, and two special types of creature, that you need to be aware of.
    • Creatures can have psi-like abilities (Ps) instead of spell-like abilities (Sp). These cost no power points, and -- this is the important bit -- they're always augmented to the maximum that the creature's effective manifester level would allow.
    • Astral constructs replace all the summon monster-type lists. They're built to order, from lists of optional abilities, whose availability depends on the augmentation of the power used to create them. (No astral construct I through IX; one power, increasing augmentation.)
    • Psicrystals replace familiars. (Psionics and crystals have a thing for each other, in case you hadn't noticed.) A psicrystal is a tangible shard of personality and intellect, which is (or can be) self-mobile. It gives its master a skill or check bonus based not on its species (since it's not an animal), but on its personality.


    Psionic Items
    • There are psionic weapons and armours which work more or less the same as their magical counterparts (special abilities costing the equivalent of +1 bonuses, that sort of thing). Psionic weapons don't shed light; they make noise. Most have crystal embedded in them, or are made from it.
    • Instead of "wondrous items", psionics gives us "universal items" (universal 'cause anyone can wear and/or activate them). The variety and kinds are much the same -- amulets, boots, gloves, slotless items -- but they also introduce a few new categories, including "crystal masks" and "psychoactive skins".
    • The one psionic ring in the basic psionics rules is a universal item. Anything comparable to a rod would be, too.
    • Psionic tattoos are equivalent to magic potions. Yes, potions, not scrolls; their scribed nature gives them a superficial similarity to scrolls, but it's only skin deep. Like potions, they're limited to 3rd-level powers or below, and they're usable by anyone who has one, regardless of class. Tattooed powers vanish when used, which is like scrolls... but also like potions. And they're even portable like potions: psionic tattoos can be made to "get up and walk" to a different place on the wearer's body, or even to another creature.
    • A cognizance crystal is unlike any magic item. It's simply a repository of power points that any manifester can use instead of their own pool.
    • A dorje is a psionic wand, plain and simple. It's made of crystal (surprise, surprise).
    • A power stone is the psionic equivalent of a scroll: can hold multiple powers; takes a Psicraft check to "decipher" (which involves "addressing" the power stone, in contrast with "reading" a scroll); chance of mishap if you're not high enough level to manifest that power. A power stone is a thumb-sized chunk of... crystal.
    • Psicrowns are the equivalent of magic staffs, since they use their stored energy (their own power point pool) to manifest any of a specific list of powers, but the wielder's level and ability scores determine the parameters of the effect.
    • The wielder's power point limit still applies when using cognizance crystals and psicrowns.


    Psionic Tiers
    I'll have to go looking for an authoritative list of "the tiers" to be sure, but here's what I recall...

    Psions and wilders are comparable to full casters, but I believe they sit a tier or two below them; they are very powerful, but not easily breakable like full casters are. There are thousands of spells a caster can choose from, but relatively few powers for a manifester, so there's fewer bad ideas that slipped past the playtesters. Additionally, the power point system has been hailed as effective and well balanced by many gamers.

    The psychic warrior is similarly like the bard but less powerful. It's got up to 6th-level powers, but its natural focus is combat, not diplomancy.

    The soulknife is not a manifester. It's a psionic class, but that only really means it can take psionic feats; in all other respects, its class features might just as well be magical, because they're all (Su) or (Ex). It's been called weak (on par with the monk, in fact), as it's a melee character with average BAB, light armour, and no exceptional powers to increase its damage (it has a few, limited abilities that are kind of rogue-like). Its main ability is also its biggest weakness: it has a magic weapon that it materialises out of nowhere. This weapon increases in power with class levels... so multiclassing or prestige classing is fatal to the soulknife's usefulness (except to soulknife-specific classes; the soulbow, I think it's called, is supposed to be good). The magic powers and even the type of weapon are also tightly controlled; no vorpal greatsword for you.

    Still, I think it's a cool and flavourful class that could do well as a skirmisher in actual play, just like I've got a player who plays a monk, enjoys it, and contributes very strongly to the party.

    Some say that psionics is broken because a psion can "go nova", augmenting even a low-level power with a large chunk of their power points, until it does colossal amounts of damage in one single devastating blow. This argument usually overlooks the "no more points than your manifester level on one power" limitation.

    Some have bad memories of psionics before 3.5e and are hard to convince that it's actually good and balanced now. I don't know much about 3e psionics (and really nothing about 2e), but I do know it used an involved system of "attack modes" and "defence modes", with a table of specific interactions between them. I once read quite a succinct and convincing article that said, basically, "You wouldn't accept it if fighters were massively vulnerable to arrows if they'd held their shield in this way to ward off swords, would you? That's what attack and defence modes were like."
    Last edited by Peregrine; 2011-03-29 at 10:16 AM. Reason: Added a pun worth skinning me over, which I forgot in the last edit
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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    This post from a Warforged thread gives a handy overview to the Psionics system.

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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    As a huge psionics fan, I have to say I have nothing to add to Peregrines summary.
    It nails it down completely. Congratulation, by reading that post, you have now learned psionics.

    Only one thing to add: Psicrowns are also made of crystal.
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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peregrine View Post
    Hmm. So you're not familiar with psionics at all -- and perhaps Psionics Unleashed doesn't give a good introduction? Well, I can't help you specifically with Pathfinder psionics, but I can give you a primer in 3.5e psionics, so that the changelist you mention will mean more to you.


    The soulknife is not a manifester. It's a psionic class, but that only really means it can take psionic feats; in all other respects, its class features might just as well be magical, because they're all (Su) or (Ex). It's been called weak (on par with the monk, in fact), as it's a melee character with average BAB, light armour, and no exceptional powers to increase its damage (it has a few, limited abilities that are kind of rogue-like). Its main ability is also its biggest weakness: it has a magic weapon that it materialises out of nowhere. This weapon increases in power with class levels... so multiclassing or prestige classing is fatal to the soulknife's usefulness (except to soulknife-specific classes; the soulbow, I think it's called, is supposed to be good). The magic powers and even the type of weapon are also tightly controlled; no vorpal greatsword for you.
    Just cutting out the parts that I agree with. The new Soulknife is a full bab fighter, gets lot more interesting abilities, putting on par or better than most melee fighters. Plus the magic that you are able to create with the Soulknife are lot more interesting, as you can know manifest a two handed weapon, one handed weapon, or two light weapons. Able to change the damage type from slashing, piercing or bludgeoning with fairly little diffculty.

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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wagadodo View Post
    Just cutting out the parts that I agree with. The new Soulknife is a full bab fighter, gets lot more interesting abilities, putting on par or better than most melee fighters. Plus the magic that you are able to create with the Soulknife are lot more interesting, as you can know manifest a two handed weapon, one handed weapon, or two light weapons. Able to change the damage type from slashing, piercing or bludgeoning with fairly little diffculty.
    I'd heard that the Dreamscarred/Pathfinder soulknife was stronger and more playable than the 3.5e soulknife. This makes me very happy.
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    Post Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarakos View Post
    I've read through Psyrens Pathfinder vs. XPH Psionics handbook but as it mostly showed what had changed between 3.5 and 3.PF, it didn't offer much for a newbie to the mechanics of psionics.

    Thanks in advance
    I'm sorry it didn't meet your needs; I should probably add a disclaimer to the opening post that assumes the reader is familiar with psionics in general as well as Pathfinder. Adding a crash course on psionics (even one as succinct and well-written as Peregrine's) would take up space that I need for other things.

    Speaking of which...

    Quote Originally Posted by Peregrine View Post
    *snip*
    This is a fantastic summary. I hope you don't mind if I add it to my sig!

    Quote Originally Posted by Peregrine View Post
    I'd heard that the Dreamscarred/Pathfinder soulknife was stronger and more playable than the 3.5e soulknife. This makes me very happy.
    Very much so! The full BAB is only the tip of the iceberg - I go in-depth on its new abilities in my guide.

    In brief, it has a niche now besides "always has a weapon" - it's graduated to becoming possibly the best TWF base class in the game, not least of which because it's one of the only ones that doesn't have to buy and maintain two expensive magic weapons instead of one.

    Also, Jeremy has confirmed that a Psionics Unleashed SRD is in the works. I'll be overhauling the entire thing with links once that comes out.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peregrine View Post
    Impressive breakdown of Psioncs worthy of a prize *hands an interwebz cookie*
    In particularly helpful was the breakdown of the psionic items which left me floundering. Its not that Dreamscarred gave a bad intro to psionics, but they seemed to assume anyone who bought their book had a working knowledge of 3.5 psionics and id have so many new terms thrown at me in the first few paragraphs with little or no explanation of the meaning that i quickly became discouraged as I'd have to sift through the book to find the term and its definition before I can go back and read the paragraph. Actually, maybe that does qualify as a bad intro

    Either way, once I began picking up terms everything started to fall into place and was pretty well explained by Dreamscarred.

    Psyren, your thread did help me get my first foot in the door of understanding psionics. By keeping your thread and Psionics Unleashed open I was easily able to figure out the basic mechanics of psionic classes and some of their strengths and weaknesses. Where I floundered when trying to build a character is the nuances of the system such as how many power points does a power cost and how many can I spend to improve and "go nova" as the psionic classes are famous for. That and I was totally confused by the item lists and didn't dare venture there.

    Just one question, psionic tattoos are like scrolls/potions??? so they disappear once you use them? and you can transfer them to another person???

    Edit: reading your the thread you linked now Ninethe Puma
    Last edited by Sarakos; 2011-03-26 at 06:23 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    A Psychic Warrior will likely look overpowered compared to any fighter not optimized to hell and back ... but that is really more the fault of PF, by not providing fighters with good magic items and making all the good polymorph spells personal range.

    An Inquisitor will outclass fighters to the same extent.

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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    What do you mean good magical items? To my knowledge they haven't really changed many magic items so I'm unsure of what you intend to say.

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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    They haven't changed anything compared to core. They turned back the clock from MiC though ... which provided non casters with some much needed flexibility through relatively cheap and swift action items.

    (Of course it gave a huge unnecessary boost to casters as well with with the Circlet of Rapid Casting and by allowing the Belt of Battle to be used for generic standard actions.)

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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    I do so miss my Belt of Battle since our group upgraded to Pathfinder *le sigh* Although new uses for swift and immediate actions in Pathfinder helped take away some of the sting.

    As this thread was meant to help me learn about psionics and make a practice character to help familiarize myself with the rules, I'd like to hear some suggestions or tips for helping me build a character. I'm a very teamwork oriented person in games whether they are D&D, Pathfinder or an MMO. As such, I usually end up as a support character (whether Healer, Tank, or both) and I enjoy filling those roles though D&D provided me with a new way to contribute to the team through lockdowns and battlefield control. Does the playground have any suggestions for Psionic classes or PrCs that might fit this playstyle?

    The party is pretty large so the DM frowns upon classes whose focus is on summoning or in some way making the party even larger and slowing down combat *cough* Summoner *cough*

    with one exception, everyone is level 6. Party make up is:


    1. Combat focused dual wielding rogue
    2. Combat focused Archery rogue with an Oathbow and an item that lets them
    3. make sneak attack from any range (sniper goggles I think he called them)
    4. Level 8 Scout-like halfling rogue with some social skills as well
    5. Wizard/rogue going Arcane trickster with many fun utility spells
    6. A sorcerer couple with the plant and water bloodlines, good for comic relief
    7. Bardicus, the bard with a 25 Charisma and 10 in everything else. His quest for glory and worthy stories has caused the party numerous headaches. Party face
    8. Lawful/Evil Oracle of the Heavens with the highest AC in the group. Aiming to become party tank
    9. Greatsword wielding, Power attacking Beast totem Barbarian


    Myself, I am an Oracle of Life and the only party member with cure spells as well as some divinations and control spells to add variety and aid in combat.
    Bardicus' exploits have resulted in several near death experiences for me already (average of 1-2 per session ) so a back up psionic character may be a good idea if the DM allows the book

    The archery rogue's oathbow and sniper goggles and the Halflings extra levels came from lucky draws from the Deck of Many things and are the two powerhouses of the party so far. The halfling decided to hold onto the deck and wont let anyone else draw from it as its tempting fate too much.

    So with that criteria, what do you guys think would contribute the most to the party (other than rolling a cleric )

    Edit: The main antagonists are some homebrew dragon-like humanoids (think Dragonlance) and some real dragons are featured in the campaign as well though whether antagonist, protagonist, or bystander we dont yet know
    Last edited by Sarakos; 2011-03-26 at 10:04 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    One problem of the psionic classes is, that they have very few powers that can affect other party members. It's all about you and the enemy. However, if you want to assist your teammates, use powers that makes the enemies easier to attack for them.
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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    This is a fantastic summary. I hope you don't mind if I add it to my sig!
    Not at all!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarakos View Post
    Just one question, psionic tattoos are like scrolls/potions??? so they disappear once you use them? and you can transfer them to another person???
    Yes... in fact, I perhaps ought to edit my summary to make it plain that the resemblance to scrolls is purely superficial. They are potions, really: anyone can have and use one, they're limited to 3rd-level powers and below, and using a tattoo ("tapping" it) is a standard action that provokes. The only major difference is that they only work on the character that's currently tattooed -- but yes, the wearer can make the tattoo "crawl" over their skin and even onto another's body, for them to use. (You can use a tattoo on an unconscious character as a full-round action, or "steal" it from them as a standard action.)
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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    One problem of the psionic classes is, that they have very few powers that can affect other party members. It's all about you and the enemy. However, if you want to assist your teammates, use powers that makes the enemies easier to attack for them.
    I noticed many of the Psions Disciplines were roughly the equivalent of a Wizard's schools. Kineticist is similar to evocation, egoist to transmutation, etc. The last questions I have is, is there a psionic discipline that contains debuffing powers? If not ill just build that psionic kineticist/pyrokineticist that looks so much fun

    and one more question about tatoos, I found these "crawling tattoos" in the universal items section. Do they disappear once used as well?

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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Yes, tatoos are potions in the same sense that dorjes are wands and psicrowns are staffs. Just a different name and look, but works exactly the same way.

    To cripple enemies, I would probably go with Telepath and spam their brains. Most good powers for that are on the standard psion list for all psions anyway, so it doesn't make that much difference what discipline you chose.
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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarakos View Post
    and one more question about tatoos, I found these "crawling tattoos" in the universal items section. Do they disappear once used as well?
    If Psionics Unleashed doesn't explain these fully, the 3.5 SRD entry does a good job.
    Quote Originally Posted by SRD
    Crawling tattoos resemble standard psionic tattoos, but their effects are often harmful rather than beneficial. ... The wearer of a crawling tattoo can tap the tattoo... the tattoo animates, drops to the ground, and scuttles toward the target. ... Should the target be killed, teleport away, or otherwise absent itself before the animated tattoo reaches it, the wearer can reclaim the tattoo. If it is destroyed, a crawling tattoo shatters and evaporates. ... The tattoo makes one touch attack per round thereafter until it strikes its target or is destroyed.
    It doesn't say explicitly, but it would seem that yes, a crawling tattoo is a one-shot item that fades away if and when it successfully delivers its power.
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    Default Re: [3.PF] Pathfinder Psionics. How do they work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    To cripple enemies, I would probably go with Telepath and spam their brains. Most good powers for that are on the standard psion list for all psions anyway, so it doesn't make that much difference what discipline you chose.
    I was divided between kineticist and telepath, but if I can get most telepath powers normally and take the feat to acquire the others then I think ill go kineticist. Trying for an all around self sufficient character with emphasis on the blasty first, mind controlling second, all else third. Probably going into Metamind once I saw pyrokineticist doesn't advance manifesting.

    so far it looks like this:

    Race: Elan
    Class: Kineticist Psion 5/ Metamind 1
    Feats: (I get 5, 6 if I go human)
    Overchannel
    Psicrystal affinity
    Psicrystal Containment
    Psionic Meditation
    Endowed Mind

    I dont know how common the DM would make psionic items in game. So I may have to pick up some craft feats and craft some of what I need. Any comments on the relative usefulness of the various crafts? Also, any powers in particular I should bear in mind when choosing?

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