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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Nothing quite strikes terror in the heart of game designers like Psionics. For whatever reason, it's always the the last thing on anyone's mind, the abused step child from some Grimm's Fable with no magic pumpkin.

    You know what I'm talking about. "Psionics isn't magic!"
    "psionics IS magic"
    "psionics doesn't belong in D&D"
    "psionics should be it's own class"
    "psionics should be a subclass of monk"
    "...a subclass of wizard"
    "...have its own subclasses like soul knife and something-something-fire"
    "...screw fire... something something-kinesis!"

    here we are decades later...

    "...-kinesis sounds too sciency... we need to fantasy it up by making MYSTIC..."
    "dude... you just copied Last Airbender, why are you passing this off as psionics?"
    "... Airbender? No way man, look, the whole fire, water, earth, and air powers of the Wujen are totally Psionic er.. i mean mystical!"

    ...

    Does anyone even remember when Wujen was a Wizard class in Oriental Adventures? I think they did that for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition. Somehow it got rolled into Psionics.

    Here's the thing.

    I want you to imagine a nice fat Boris Vallejo Painting. Imagine it with all your might, and thousands of words of description with all that oil and color, flexing 1970s muscles, and politically incorrect scantily clad females...

    Wait... what's this? A laser? A mutant in the distance? Is that a star ship? What? Why is there a star ship blasting beams of scifi energy in my precious fantasy barbarian scene? Even mr muscles' loincloth paint daubs are reflecting the sheen of that high energy beam...

    How is this fantasy?!!

    HERESY! HERESY I SAY!!!

    ...

    But lets step back a moment. Did you know Babayaga's Hut was described as a 4 dimensional Hypercube? Back in some old dragon magazine, one of the most famous dungeons was actually defined as a science fiction concept.

    And how many of your modern wizards are just imitating sciency sounding Psionic Concepts?

    Telepathy? Teleportation? Telekinesis? Pyrokinesis?

    "We call it Pyromancy"

    But is it? Really? I looked up pyromancy once, it involved setting a fire and using it for divination. It didn't have anything to do with zippy fireballs or big gouts of magical dps flame. There was no burning people alive - although there were Buddhist curses for that.. somebody write up a Shukenja.

    Seriously though. Much of modern flashy wizardry pulls straight from old movies like Carrie and Firestarter. Dr. Strange used tons of magic, but also tons of psionics. Whether anyone called it that - or instead called it Psions, Psychics, Clairvoyants, Mediums, or the Butcher's wife,

    the tropes of stuff like Telekinesis, Mind Reading, Levitation, Force Fields, Phasing (Escape to Witch Mountain anyone?) are all very, very psychic, and only more recently, "magic". Some of the oldest magical stories and items come from the Mahabharata Indian epic, and frankly, India/Tibet is the trope capital for a very famous character archetype..

    you might think its Merlin or Gandalf, some druid looking guy with a big beard, but it's not.

    The Himalayas are the Trope capital of the Bald Meditating dude who levitates. Like in that Eddie Murphy movie, The Golden Child; the little bald monk demonstrates Telekinesis. Despite this EXTREMELY SCIENCY setting with all its scifi, that old movie had flying evil demon monsters and not even one Alien Space Ship...


    This begs the question:

    What are people not getting? Why are people hung up on removing Psionics from RPGs, D&D in particular, when it's been in the back of the AD&D Players handbook since the 1970s? We are talking over 40 years.

    And go ahead, ask a Scientist about Psionics. They will call it anything but science. To them its no more scientific than the Thunderbolt of Zeus or a Magic mirror.

    I think the community needs to stop griping about attack modes or bad design, and look at this niche genre with fresh open Eyes. It's been many years since Akira first aired and Carrie remakes abound. (Netflix's I am not Ok with this, and Stranger Things).

    But should Psychics be their own thing?

    Some games say yes. Some editions say yes. Others say no.

    I would argue if your game benefits by having more than one power source, the answer is yes.

    There's Faith based magic, which can be on/off switched by gods,
    there's summoned/entity magic, which is basically non religious faith magic, including demon stuff or even gods/true names,
    there's "sciency magic" where you use "unwritten Arthur C Clarke advanced rules of the planes" to do "magic" with formulas.

    and of course, there's "i made up some word for my power source, like mana/life force/ki/spirit/essence/anime scream" and you spend that unit, which is refilled by resting/stealing souls/blood/sucking life from the wildlife/emotions of others/a magical magicians plumbing system in Fillery approved by the Library...
    and then spent again, and who ever has the most "stuff" wins.

    But What does Psionics have to say?

    Psionics tends to present some key features about their power source that really do offer some unique insights:

    1. you can have a psionic system absent of gods/demons/mystical hidden rules. Meaning the character's power base is consistent regardless of where they are. Variants of course contradict this, but we are forming an analysis of what Psionics has to offer, when and if it is different from magic.

    2. you can have a power source which is based on knowledge/alignment/enlightenment/skill, instead of genetics/race. This isn't always true either. 7th son of 7th son = telekinesis or whatever - these are common magic/psychic tropes. But the potential to have a power source available to everyone with thousands of spare hours to stare at a pinwheel or try to make pineapples explode is appealing, and very different from brooding over thick leather bound grimoires chanting in latin, playing with daggers, blood, itchy poison oak, or going to seminary to learn how to pray and sing to the pope, again in Latin.

    This is kind of interesting because you can take paladin/cleric-esque taboos, like poverty, chastity, or general kindness, honor, etc., and apply them without having to adhere to the trappings of a religion, or worry about some sky god taking your toys away. Carving out your own ethos can be an artistic endeavor.

    3. psionics can be characterized as the renunciate power source. St. Francis for instance, could be seen as a Psychic, and more than one Saint is famous for Levitating, after spending a lifetime in poverty, austerity, and having vows very similar to the Dharma renunciates of India. So what im saying is you have a "wizard/ranged dps/utility" version of the Monk.

    You might remember the final fantasy black mage, or the final fantasy monk. That trope exists in multiple RPGs. The monk is interesting because you can play with basically no equipment, nearly no money except for Inns, and wander through start to finish, with no dependency on magical items, books, weapons, etc. You had martial arts.

    The psychic is potentially like that - having basically nothing but an Okra robe and they manage throughout life. The Old Indian texts called them Siddhas - masters of psychic powers.

    Well, that's my 2 cents.

    I hope to hear the many varied opinions of you all!

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    I think the main problem with psionics is that it has frequently been an utter mess.

    *1e psionics was broken in so many stupid ways. 1e is hostile architecture, but for game design.

    *2e had two psionics systems... one of which made it terribly hard to improve as a psionicist (aside from gaining more powers), and the other of which had completely broken psychic combat as a centerpiece (it cost more, on average, to attack psychically, than you would do in PSP damage).

    *3e had a pretty lackluster system, that was replaced by a pretty good system. But, IMO, while the system was mechanically good, it had, IMO, a vocabulary problem.

    *4e was very different, but a lot like the rest of 4e.

    I'm not familiar with 5e psionics.

    But a lot of the problem with psionics in D&D is it's often sucked.
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    Imbalance's Avatar

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    I love the concept of mystical mentalist magic, but I seem to be in the minority. I like the flavor and options added by Tasha's to an extent, though I heard a lot of people calling them broken right off the bat. I like the notion of the Charles Xavier mind controller, or a psychic surgeon who can detach her own hand and have it crawl under a door to reach a switch on the other side, or the villainous Spock from Heroes who could steal your superpower directly out of your brain. There are already some ways to fluff some of these things, but I agree that I would prefer it to be treated as its own proprietary class or something, and am also stymied by the apparent disdain others harbor against it.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Chimera

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by anthon View Post
    Well, that's my 2 cents.

    I hope to hear the many varied opinions of you all!
    Moved up front to address the basic point that I appreciate you sharing your perspective. However, the totality of this post seems pretty rambly and I'm not sure if there was a specific point, so my responses may well miss the mark for what you wanted to talk about. A lot of that is due to the fact that I can't really tell where and when you are pro something or con something.
    Nothing quite strikes terror in the heart of game designers like Psionics. For whatever reason, it's always the the last thing on anyone's mind, the abused step child from some Grimm's Fable with no magic pumpkin.
    Not really. Psionics is used in all sorts of game systems, ranging from Traveller to GURPS to Bureau 13 to, heck, The World of Synnabarr. Likewise, oD&D, AD&D 1&2, and all of WotC D&Ds have had psionics in one form or another.
    Mind you, D&D has often had problems with the implementation of psionics ranging from who should get them (wild talents vs. specific psi-based class vs. archetype), along with what has often happened where psionics have been a piece of add-on supplemental material which only somewhat well integrates with the existing game material, and what associated thematics go best with the base concept.

    Does anyone even remember when Wujen was a Wizard class in Oriental Adventures? I think they did that for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition. Somehow it got rolled into Psionics.
    There was not a OA book for 2e, but wu jen was a kit for wizards in the Complete Wizard's Handbook. Having those become psionics seems like someone following to the farthest logical conclusion the idea that psionics and monks* were related (which at least has some vague historical connection, as late-19th/early-20th century Western fascination with 'Oriental Mysticism' coincided with a a general belief in mysticism and was where a lot of the supernatural powers in the psionic arsenal were lumped together).
    *The two only being related at a 'they're part of D&D's faux-oriental mélange' level.
    *Yes, I am tapdancing around discussing how bad a lot of this is. Can I call something inspired by ~1900 Western thought racist without killing the thread?


    Here's the thing.
    I want you to imagine a nice fat Boris Vallejo Painting. Imagine it with all your might, and thousands of words of description with all that oil and color, flexing 1970s muscles, and politically incorrect scantily clad females...
    Wait... what's this? A laser? A mutant in the distance? Is that a star ship? What? Why is there a star ship blasting beams of scifi energy in my precious fantasy barbarian scene? Even mr muscles' loincloth paint daubs are reflecting the sheen of that high energy beam...
    How is this fantasy?!!
    HERESY! HERESY I SAY!!!
    What exactly is your point, or even position here? That psionics should or shouldn't be something? That you do or don't like mixing genres (because if you don't want sci fi in your D&D, you are 45 years too late -- certainly 40 using Expedition to the Barrier Peaks as a strong guidepost ).

    "We call it Pyromancy"
    But is it? Really? I looked up pyromancy once, it involved setting a fire and using it for divination. It didn't have anything to do with zippy fireballs or big gouts of magical dps flame. There was no burning people alive - although there were Buddhist curses for that.. somebody write up a Shukenja.
    Yes, and Necromancy was more about contacting the dead for guidance than raising armies of zombies.

    the tropes of stuff like Telekinesis, Mind Reading, Levitation, Force Fields, Phasing (Escape to Witch Mountain anyone?) are all very, very psychic, and only more recently, "magic". Some of the oldest magical stories and items come from the Mahabharata Indian epic, and frankly, India/Tibet is the trope capital for a very famous character archetype..
    you might think its Merlin or Gandalf, some druid looking guy with a big beard, but it's not.
    The Himalayas are the Trope capital of the Bald Meditating dude who levitates. Like in that Eddie Murphy movie, The Golden Child; the little bald monk demonstrates Telekinesis. Despite this EXTREMELY SCIENCY setting with all its scifi, that old movie had flying evil demon monsters and not even one Alien Space Ship...
    Yes, that science fiction-adjacent movie uses 'Eastern Mysticism,' which is totally not magic for reasons which have no good explanation*.
    *See aside above.

    This begs the question:
    What are people not getting? Why are people hung up on removing Psionics from RPGs, D&D in particular, when it's been in the back of the AD&D Players handbook since the 1970s? We are talking over 40 years.
    Who? Who are these people 'hung up' on psionics? We are talking about a set of rules which have been in the game for over 40 years (for reference, psionics first showed up in oD&D's 1976's Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry), and they have been in almost every version of the game since then until now, so why do you think people are 'hung up' in some way?

    I think the community needs to stop griping about attack modes or bad design, and look at this niche genre with fresh open Eyes. It's been many years since Akira first aired and Carrie remakes abound. (Netflix's I am not Ok with this, and Stranger Things).
    But should Psychics be their own thing?
    Some games say yes. Some editions say yes. Others say no.
    Okay, well the community not griping seems to be a pipe dream. However, you clearly seem to get that a lot of this back and forth is about the implementation of psionics in the game, but most of your points leading up to this seem to be discussing the very concept of psionics as a distinct concept. People who agree on what psionics are, and whether they should be in the game will have differing ideas about how they should be implemented.
    Last edited by Willie the Duck; 2020-12-28 at 02:45 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    I think this debate has some link with the debates on the Vancian system.
    For a lot of peoples, Psionic are just a mean to have spellcaster that don't follow the Vancian system (no spell slots, no spell components, etc).

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Psionics has always had an odd place in the game. It's a throwback to the "weird science and fantasy" pulp tropes.

    Originally, D&D was in a post-apocalyptic world with ancient civilizations that practiced super-magic and super-science. There were adventures with robots and ray guns right next to swords and spellcasters.

    Barsoom and Middle Earth collided, along with R'lyeh and Hyperboria. It was a hodge-podge of crazy ideas all mashed together to create a kind of deadly "anything goes" environment.

    As D&D matured, it became much more Tolkien and much less Tesla.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Democratus View Post
    As D&D matured, it became much more Tolkien and much less Tesla.
    You mean the version of D&D where hippo people were flying around on spaceships, or the version where my robot PC can ride around on a lightning train?

    Granted you have many players who have very strong preferences for Tolkien flavor, and they often like or dislike books and settings based on that. But official D&D stuff has always been kitchen sink.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    You mean the version of D&D where hippo people were flying around on spaceships, or the version where my robot PC can ride around on a lightning train?
    I mean the public face of D&D:
    • Adventurer's League
    • Acquisitions Incorporated
    • Force Grey (Mat Mercer)
    • The Chain of Acheron (Matt Colville)
    • The D&D Movie (a bad movie, but very much classic fantasy and seen by millions)
    • Maze Arcana (Satine Phoenix)
    • Every D&D module published for 5th Edition



    Classic fantasy is the dominant mindscape of D&D to the public at large.
    Last edited by Democratus; 2020-12-28 at 04:30 PM.

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    That kitchen sink aspect doesn't help.

    At least in my experience, a lot of players look at psionics and just say "ANOTHER magic rubric?". Looking at 5e, sorcerer eats into the "inherent power" space of psionics, monk eats into the "focus and inner discipline" space of psionics, and so on.

    And the settings that specifically include psionics typically do a terrible job of integrating both magic and psionics into the cosmology coherently. Is psionics something entirely different from magic, another form of magic, or what? If it's just magic, why are there all these differents ways to access magic? What the heck is going on?
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2020-12-28 at 04:41 PM.
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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Imbalance View Post
    I love the concept of mystical mentalist magic, but I seem to be in the minority.
    I also like psionics, and both the ideas of innate alien power and 'powers from enlightenment' that comes from it.

    My next D&D character is planned to be a variant human Psi warrior with Telekinetic, Telepathic, Alert (for limited ESP), and then pumping dex and int as high as I can. Accolyte background to be a psychic warrior monk, and dual dao/scimitar because why not.

    Now all I need is a feat that lets me dual wield blades with my mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    I actually like psionics. I never played with them in 2e, but did play psionic characters in 3.5e (human nomad), 4e (elf telepath), and 5e (elf wu jen). And I'm perfectly fine with psionics in D&D as a different flavor of magic, but then again I'm used to the source priests from the Drenai Chronicles being telepaths and astral walkers.

    So I can't really talk about 1e or 2e, but with 3e on, I think the main issue is that psionics winds up as an add-on later in the game's life cycle, and so never got included in core development. That means it gets looked at as an example of power creep, whether or not that's the case, and that in turn puts it out of the core for the next edition, which just feeds into the cycle.

    The main difference, at least in D&D*, seems to be using spell points, or PSPs, instead of spell slots, with a second, lesser difference in types of effects, which I think became less prevalent as editions marched on. And that leads to a potential issue where the psion/mystic can both nova much more and run out of steam much more than a regular slotted caster...be it like an example I saw here that someone's mystic fireballed the orcs in the castle several times and ran out of PSPs** or (as happened to my nomad in actual play) get into a big fight after porting the party all over Khorvaire that day and not having a wand/dorje/whatever. The complaints I see are that the psion player can nova as much as they want and not have to deal with the consequences, since they whine to the rest of the party that they need to pull back and nobody makes them limp along on fumes the rest of the adventuring day, and the DM doesn't have multiple encounters in the same day.


    I'd personally love psionics to be part of Core D&D, so it all works at the same time, everything's taken into account, etc. There's enough fantasy that has psionics in it that I don't think it should be an issue. The main issue I see is deciding the effects that psionic classes should have available, and then designing spells/powers for them such to have usable options at each level...which is going to mean another, say 20% more spells in the spell section. I suspect, though, that the eventual Dark Sun book is going to have a Psorcerer subclass that's going to be their answer to psionics, and they'll move along and play Cyberpunk or whatever the new hot video game is.


    * - This mostly references 3.5 and 5e. 4e psionics kind of adhered to the AEDU system, with the difference that they didn't have specific Encounter attack powers (except in the Paragon paths), but could instead augment their At-Will powers with PSPs for Encounter-power effects. Which was fine...except that the higher-level powers both were less efficient to augment and didn't do nearly enough to warrant their extra cost, so it wasn't uncommon for psionic PCs to skip the higher-level powers and thus have far more encounter-level powers by just using the lower-level powers over and over and over (with the greater # of PSPs they got at higher level) long after the rest of the party ran out of encounters and dailies, which is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of the bookending editions' psionics.

    ** - "Dude, they were dead after the second fireball." "Well, I saw one twitch."

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Scots Dragon's Avatar

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Democratus View Post
    Classic fantasy is the dominant mindscape of D&D to the public at large.
    I'd argue that the more kitchen sink pulp fantasy is more classical than the supposed classical fantasy, which was only really properly popularised and codified in the 1950s.

    Dungeons & Dragons is much more suited to its origins in the pulp subgenres.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    A game setting does need to be designed to be fun and functional to game in.

    But there's more to good worldbuilding than piling the "parts to game in" on a big pile.

    Farmland isn't there to be adventured in, primarily, but one assumes it's still there and part of the landscape -- just because adventurers don't go there often doesn't mean it doesn't or shouldn't or needn't exist.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Telwar View Post
    I actually like psionics. I never played with them in 2e, but did play psionic characters in 3.5e (human nomad), 4e (elf telepath), and 5e (elf wu jen). And I'm perfectly fine with psionics in D&D as a different flavor of magic, but then again I'm used to the source priests from the Drenai Chronicles being telepaths and astral walkers.

    So I can't really talk about 1e or 2e, but with 3e on, I think the main issue is that psionics winds up as an add-on later in the game's life cycle, and so never got included in core development. That means it gets looked at as an example of power creep, whether or not that's the case, and that in turn puts it out of the core for the next edition, which just feeds into the cycle.
    i think many got exactly what I was getting at (summarizing the problem stretched over 40 years isn't exactly a 1 liner so sincerest apologies to those lost in my mental drift) but this statement really hits one of the nails on the head (the psionics issue is so large you can build a whole table with the nails)

    It's not that psionics was power creep, its that introducing it as a step child add-on, an afterthought, meant people who are really strict to the rules of editions at hobby shops absolutely and utterly refuse to see anything outside the core book as anything but optional, and view with suspicion and hostility whatever changes to their native CORE landscape of balance is supposed to be.

    And the Vancian parallel? Totally true.

    Psionics for many was an escape from Vancian magic, especially if D&D was their first/early exposure to some concepts of magical systems. Final Fantasy 1, for example, was Vancian Magic, while Final Fantasy II (4 in japan) used spell points, very similar to the PSP system of Steve Winter in the AD&D 2e Complete Psionics Handbook.

    Mental Harbingers and Attack Modes was clearly a pet idea that people in the industry loved a lot more than most of the players. Sometimes pet ideas turn into bad game mechanics. Attack/Defense Modes could have been seen like Weapons and Armor equipment lists for mental dungeons in mental battles, but I think they just led to confusing tables for lots of people.

    I still love the idea of a mental construct fighting some other mental construct, like Christopher Reeves in Village of the Damned erecting a mental brick wall, or Professor X creating some mental glowing construct of a person or animal to fight another. This has some Hal Jordan/Sword in the Stone Dueling Wizards ideas behind it,

    and you all probably know such concepts are basically the same premise behind YuGiOh and other Poke t Mon ster card games. It's the same as Blood Sport/Grappler Baki: What happens when two ideas clash?

    In Philosophy class, you hear professors talk about the Unstoppable Force vs. the Immovable Object. This trope is carried over into stuff like Wolverine's Adamantium, Dark Phoenix vs. (insert big bad), and "Will a Vorpal Sword Cut it?"

    So yes, D&D has mental constructs battling each other. That's kind of the Jungian Archetype at its best: Paladin/Knight in Shining Armor vs. Lich/Dragon/Pit Field. You see this clash of Ideas when Gandalf faces the Balrog and roars "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

    This is the essence that was supposed to be attack/defense modes...

    but failed. again, and again... for decades.

    By the time 5th edition came along, there was so much "psionics isn't core. psionics is broken. psionics suck. psionics is magic. psionics isn't magic and doesn't belong"

    that the entire sweep from 2014 ish through 2020 saw 0 implementation of Psionics at an officially sanctioned Table. Instead, you have this "mystic" thing. And I think in the future,

    if we don't address this, it will continue to feed a cycle of ostracism into future editions.

    Many of you are like me, you like the concept of Psionics, but see it either ostracized or implemented badly.

    I think though, one of the solutions is ironing out what Tropes makes psionics work, and addressing the over-lap issues and flaws.

    >Using Psionics to escape Vancian restrictions is definitely a flaw.
    >Seeing Psionics as anti-vancian then using Sorcerers as an excuse to not have them is a flaw of psionics too.

    When you see Psionics as only genetic (mutants from X men or Heroes?) then as a class its de-facto ostracizing, and not inclusive. In 2021, inclusive is probably nigh mandatory...

    and considering Psionics was originally for everyone who had sentient-sapient mental capacity (in Darksun literally everyone) it was always intended to be an inclusive power source.

    Steve Winter's whole "psionic powers come from within, not without, and are definitely not magic or subject to dispel magic/magic resistance" worked really well i think, for saying "this is NOT magic."

    The 5e mystic originally started down this line, but then defaulted back to spells.

    When 5e psionics were going to start making use of the intelligence saving throw, or an intelligence Armor Class, I was enthusiastic, because it really felt like its own animal. It wasn't a dog or a cat. it was a 9 tailed fox with its own bag of tricks.


    Whatever the community wants psionics to become though, it should be something that stands on its own two legs apart from other class/power sources.
    Last edited by anthon; 2020-12-28 at 05:45 PM.

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by anthon View Post
    I want you to imagine a nice fat Boris Vallejo Painting. Imagine it with all your might, and thousands of words of description with all that oil and color, flexing 1970s muscles, and politically incorrect scantily clad females...

    Wait... what's this? A laser? A mutant in the distance? Is that a star ship? What? Why is there a star ship blasting beams of scifi energy in my precious fantasy barbarian scene? Even mr muscles' loincloth paint daubs are reflecting the sheen of that high energy beam...

    How is this fantasy?!!
    There was no genre conflict between "fantasy" and "lasers" back when D&D kicked off.

    Some of the most famous D&D modules played with the concepts of sci-fi ships crashing into fantasy worlds, and those modules followed in the footsteps of fantasy giants (Conan, Dying Earth, Fafhrd & Grey Mouster, etc.).


    Quote Originally Posted by anthon View Post
    But lets step back a moment. Did you know Babayaga's Hut was described as a 4 dimensional Hypercube? Back in some old dragon magazine, one of the most famous dungeons was actually defined as a science fiction concept.

    And how many of your modern wizards are just imitating sciency sounding Psionic Concepts?

    Telepathy? Teleportation? Telekinesis? Pyrokinesis?
    Yup. As a concrete example, Detect Thoughts (3.5e) was originally called ESP (1e).


    Quote Originally Posted by anthon View Post
    What are people not getting? Why are people hung up on removing Psionics from RPGs, D&D in particular, when it's been in the back of the AD&D Players handbook since the 1970s? We are talking over 40 years.
    I see those arguments as more about status than fact.

    The trappings of Tolkien-esque fantasy ("High Fantasy") are regarded by some as having higher status than "kitchen sink" settings where you have silly fun as a barbarian with a magic sword stabbing a robot for its rod of electrical recharging.



    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    I think the main problem with psionics is that it has frequently been an utter mess.

    *1e psionics was broken in so many stupid ways. 1e is hostile architecture, but for game design.
    1e Psionics felt like it was supposed to be "balanced" by two factors:

    1 - It was rare. This is obviously not great game design, but look at 1e rolled stats and 1e classes (where you only got better classes if you rolled well, and also you got +% XP for rolling well). The guy was at least consistent with this bad idea of rarity "balancing" OP.

    2 - If you actually used your extra-good powers, your whole party got attacked by psionic monsters. These monsters had free attack and defense modes, so you with your limited power point pool were basically hosed against them.

    Attack modes and defense modes seemed like they were mostly there to punish PCs who interacted with the system.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    *2e had two psionics systems... one of which made it terribly hard to improve as a psionicist (aside from gaining more powers), and the other of which had completely broken psychic combat as a centerpiece (it cost more, on average, to attack psychically, than you would do in PSP damage).

    *3e had a pretty lackluster system, that was replaced by a pretty good system. But, IMO, while the system was mechanically good, it had, IMO, a vocabulary problem.
    2e and 3.0e seemed to codify and systematize the attack & defense modes, but without understanding that they were punishment rather than power.

    3.5e psionics was perhaps the best balanced magic system in 3.5e. Not perfectly balanced, of course, but usually much better than any of the alternatives.

    Regarding vocabulary... in 1e, the higher category of psionic powers was named "Sciences".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    *4e was very different, but a lot like the rest of 4e.
    Personally I liked the 4e psi stuff, but yeah it was its own thing.

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    *3e had a pretty lackluster system, that was replaced by a pretty good system. But, IMO, while the system was mechanically good, it had, IMO, a vocabulary problem.
    Could you elaborate on the vocabulary problem, please?

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Psionics is just magic for science fantasy settings.

    But it's okay to put science fantasy in your magical fantasy kitchen if it fits what you want.

    Personally I'm a fan of having it be a crashed alien spaceship or weird dimension you're temporarily exploring before it gets cut off again, with some phat loots you bring back. But I like that for magical stuff too. That means I don't have to worry about tippyverse in the base world. Maybe just for a isolated corner of it, like Glantri, or off the edge of the map, like Alphatia.

    It would help if Psionics wasn't usually such a mess. 1e, 2e, and 3e were all disasters with first release. 2e revised was ... okay. I've heard 3e revised was similar. 4e was probably best out the door, but that's because 4e gave a very sound structure for bolting on new modifications to the system.

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    Psionics is just magic for science fantasy settings.

    But it's okay to put science fantasy in your magical fantasy kitchen if it fits what you want.

    Personally I'm a fan of having it be a crashed alien spaceship or weird dimension you're temporarily exploring before it gets cut off again, with some phat loots you bring back. But I like that for magical stuff too. That means I don't have to worry about tippyverse in the base world. Maybe just for a isolated corner of it, like Glantri, or off the edge of the map, like Alphatia.

    It would help if Psionics wasn't usually such a mess. 1e, 2e, and 3e were all disasters with first release. 2e revised was ... okay. I've heard 3e revised was similar. 4e was probably best out the door, but that's because 4e gave a very sound structure for bolting on new modifications to the system.
    2nd Edition Revised was awful. The first 2nd Edition version was much better, and all it needed was a rule to let you improve power scores as you level up.

    The Revised psionics system is busted. It failed at both of its stated aims of being less confusing and easier to use.
    - First off, you need to determine an MTHAC0 for every psionicist or wild talent. It's not trivial, and I've lost count of the number of people I've had to help figure theirs out.
    - Next you need to calculate a MAC for absolutely every living thing a psioncist could conceivably want to use a power on. Yes, even that. This is also not a trivial calculation. It's not hard, but it's not simple, either. And it adds a substantial load on the DM when stating out encounters. Again, I've had to help multiple people figure theirs out.
    - The Revised psionics stripped out the Power Score and Natural 20 results, which removed a lot of flavor to the psionic powers, and removed the drawbacks from powers like disintegrate.
    - Then there are psychic contests. In Core psionics, these are trivial to resolve. It's a pair of adjusted ability checks, and the highest successful roll wins. In Revised, to resolve a contest between two psionicists, the lowest successful roll wins. Fine. But between a psionicist and a non-psionicist - say, in a telekinetics attempt to wrest a weapon from the grip of a warrior - the psionicist wants the lowest successful roll, but the guy trying not to lose their spear wants the highest successful roll. If both rolls are successful, determining the winner is *not* trivial. Again, it's not really hard, but it's time-consuming to determine the winner, and it's not immediately apparent just from looking at the die rolls.
    - The real problem is psychic combat. In Core 2nd Edition, it's a series of adjusted ability score checks (like the psychic contest mentioned above) and you need to win three of these with your attack mode to establish contact. In revised, you establish contact by running your opponent completely out of PSPs. But every attack costs more PSPs than the average damage it inflicts on your target. You know what? Seika said it better than I can.
    - And since Contact has been changed from something that connects you to another's mind to a NWP that gives you access to telepathic psionic attack modes, the only way to open a mind is to ask nicely, or to psionically attack it. You cannot connect to someone's mind without their knowledge, which makes powers like Invisibility, False Sensory Input, ESP, and several others effectively useless. Plus, anyone who's mind you have opened can kick you out pretty easily. Telepathy has been hamstrung.
    - After removing the Contact power, Revised still provided MACs and PSP costs for the powers that make using Contact on other species easier. But since Contact has been removed, Reptile Mind, Plant Mind, and Insect Mind have no purpose.
    - Both the PO:S&P and Revised Dark Sun books still require you to purchase The Complete Psionics Handbook, Dragon Kings, and The Will and the Way to get full descriptions of all the psionic powers. Except now you've got 4 (or 5) books, plus a Dragon Annual to flip through to find precisely what you're looking for.
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by anthon View Post
    "We call it Pyromancy"

    But is it? Really? I looked up pyromancy once, it involved setting a fire and using it for divination. It didn't have anything to do with zippy fireballs or big gouts of magical dps flame. There was no burning people alive - although there were Buddhist curses for that.. somebody write up a Shukenja.
    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    Yes, and Necromancy was more about contacting the dead for guidance than raising armies of zombies.
    Technically, all forms of "X-mancy" were forms of divination. Piscomancy used the movements of schools of fish, Ornithomancy was the movements/cries of birds, Oneiromancy was interpretation of dreams, Cartomancy is using cards (so Tarot is cartomancy), and even Tyromancy, which was divination based on the curds and fermenting of cheese...I wish that was a joke, but it is not.

    On topic, I agree that the main issue with the "fear" of psionics has been that it was tacked on, and seen either as power creep and/or poorly implemented (based on edition). Which only further perpetuated the cycle, as it would be left out of the "default/core" for the next edition. I heartily agree that 4e was the most balanced, but, as Tanarii said, that was primarily because 4e was a system that was designed from the beginning to allow for such "modular" add-ons to fit in well.
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    In D&D specifically Psionics seems to have run into 2 main issues -
    If it's not functionally different to magic, then a Psion is just a wizard in a less funny hat.
    If it is functionally different, then it needs a different mechanic. And designing a good mechanic is hard to get right and even if gotten right, will not please everyone

    So, why do you want psionics?
    If it's purely a style thing, then you just call your user of magic a Psion or a mystic or whatever, change hats, and off you go. In some versions you can take feats in still and silent casting if you like, or maybe sweet-talk your DM into letting you do that for free but with some other trade off.

    Or do you want there to be a different source of power? Why?
    I can think of a few reasons:
    • You want to have stories of going to places so far from the normal that magic itself doesn't go there. But that's hard to balance* if you have some characters who've lost magic and some who are just fine
    • You like the idea of being able to do an end run around "[affect] magic". So when the enemy casts dispel magic, your psionic flight doesn't change, detect magic doesn't make your psionic sword glow etc. Also difficult to balance* if psionics is rare since the counters will be too. But if Psionics are common then you loose the end run.
    • You have a 2nd magic system you want to use which is incompatible with D&D magic. So, you know how there's much talk about power balance, especially for wizards? Now do it all again.


    I think those 2 main problems can't be solved until you make a definite decision about why you want Psionics in you game.



    * I know, not everyone cares about balance. Systems are much easier to just hack as needed if you don't care about that, so I'm assuming for this post that we do
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Duff View Post
    In D&D specifically Psionics seems to have run into 2 main issues -
    If it's not functionally different to magic, then a Psion is just a wizard in a less funny hat.
    If it is functionally different, then it needs a different mechanic. And designing a good mechanic is hard to get right and even if gotten right, will not please everyone

    So, why do you want psionics?
    If it's purely a style thing, then you just call your user of magic a Psion or a mystic or whatever, change hats, and off you go. In some versions you can take feats in still and silent casting if you like, or maybe sweet-talk your DM into letting you do that for free but with some other trade off.

    Or do you want there to be a different source of power? Why?
    I can think of a few reasons:
    • You want to have stories of going to places so far from the normal that magic itself doesn't go there. But that's hard to balance* if you have some characters who've lost magic and some who are just fine
    • You like the idea of being able to do an end run around "[affect] magic". So when the enemy casts dispel magic, your psionic flight doesn't change, detect magic doesn't make your psionic sword glow etc. Also difficult to balance* if psionics is rare since the counters will be too. But if Psionics are common then you loose the end run.
    • You have a 2nd magic system you want to use which is incompatible with D&D magic. So, you know how there's much talk about power balance, especially for wizards? Now do it all again.


    I think those 2 main problems can't be solved until you make a definite decision about why you want Psionics in you game.



    * I know, not everyone cares about balance. Systems are much easier to just hack as needed if you don't care about that, so I'm assuming for this post that we do
    Muchness this.


    But let me present a NEW IDEA to people.

    When you look at your soul knife character subclass, for whatever reason, this idea has survived through multiple edition revisions. It's not a Psionicist, but it is a Subclass of Psionicist that really stuck with people. You can see it reappear in Pillars of Eternity the video game.

    A bit of history:
    When the first character class for psionics came out, it was an expanded version of the PHB, and sorted like the Druid/Monk classes in 1e.

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    Other variations have included things like the Adepts, Telepaths, and various breakdowns of 5-6 Science Categories, like the Nomad/Psychoportive type from 3.0, the Wilder from 3.5, or the Wujen Elementalist from 5e Mystic. What these were, generally speaking, is akin to the Necromancer, Enchantress, and Invoker types of Wizard specialists, or like Specialty Priests from Forgotten Realms.

    Despite being very different from each other, they were all under the same Big Tent of Psionics for their respective editions.
    ...
    But when I look at some of the narrative challenges of what makes a psionicist/psychic, far more critical to differentiating them isn't their category of powers, i.e., which powers they have,

    but how their powers work.

    More than one player has complained Psionicists have too many different, often unwanted powers. You are forced to assign slots of things in weird chains in 2e, or forced to fill in dead slots in later editions. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not so much. You easily end up with something creeping further and further away from what you want. I had a player who tried making a Psychic medium based on Umbrella Academy, and they ended up with a whole suite of powers completely off base.

    Some key issues I've seen are

    Q. is psionics magic?
    A. What if the answer is both.

    as in, there's a subclass where psionics is magic
    and a subclass where it isn't?

    what about Mutants? Mutants are definitely NOT magic... but neither are many meditating monastic types. And some are. Uh Oh! We have a Venn Diagram of Overlap already:

    Take a Tibetan Prayer Wheel Diamond Sutra style Psionicist. To them, psionics is:
    1. magic
    2. religion
    3. learned

    but is it a mutant power? No. Some people in their mythology can be born with greater powers, or reincarnated with greater power than other infants, but they aren't mutations of existing humans in the same way Heroes, The Gifted, or Legion handles things.

    Also, ever notice Mutant powers aren't really learned?
    they are inherited. Like the 5e Sorcerer dragon subclass, where you inherit good AC, Wings, Elemental Resistance, and so on.

    By comparison, the Warlock learns/Earns their powers. Some mutants /do/ learn, as Professor X, Jean Grey, and Legion all had to. But notice a pattern in those three?

    They were all human looking psychics with more than one power.

    Wild Talents introduces Psionics as an idea about mutants, or gifted people, where it's random what you get, and you can cultivate that thing you have, but it doesn't develop further.

    Wizards generally don't have this fundamental question, about whether they will only ever know one spell their whole lives, or go through apprentice school and learn dozens.

    THAT, I think is a fundamental difference between psionics and many other systems.

    Q. What about ethical code? Isn't that ethos a religion?
    A. I think it can be. And it's totally possible for it to be unrelated to gods

    in Chinese fantasy movies, the gods have something called Cultivation. (they have a similar concept in Tenchi Muyo). The mortals can even become immortals with enough cultivation, and learn super powers similar to gods as they practice more. This is very similar to the Guru relationship (such as the Autobiography of a Yogi). This pattern of Master-Student-Ascension is repeated throughout Tibet, with people like Milarepa and Padmasambhava - Famous Tibetan heroes on par with the Boddhisattvas and Taoist immortals.

    Cultivation is a concept tied to knowledge, but also moral behavior. It doesn't necessarily mean Austeries or Filial Piety or some other Piety to a pantheon, but there does seem to be a code of conduct - like the old Paladin/Cavalier from AD&D - which acts like alignment restrictions, or Alignment QUESTS required to make it to the next level (druids, monks, and kensai from AD&D will be familiar with level-up quests and duels, and those familiar with Dragon Lance Wizards of High Sorcery should know about moral/life threatening tests in the tower).

    So what im saying, is this ethical dimension of a Psionicist Class or Subclass is a major building block, and it can greatly differentiate one psychic archetype from another.

    A transcendent monk psychic with a plethora of learned abilities,

    vs.

    a morally bankrupt mutant with a single, well practiced wild talent,

    i think these are sharp contrasts.
    Last edited by anthon; 2020-12-29 at 01:09 AM.

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Where sorcery is intuitive, wizardry is methodical and theurgy is assisted. This, unless I am very very mistaken, is widely accepted as D&D lore that transcends campaign settings. But once you introduce ki, psionics or incarnum, you have to go deeper into a theory of magic that may not be welcome everywhere.

    Personally, I am okay with the 5e PHB's claim that all official settings have some version of the Weave, an ambient thingamagic that sorcerers, wizards and clerics are all reliant on, which may be tangled or torn in certain regions of the world. But I know that many people are not okay with that. Even among Forgotten Realms players, the idea that sorcerers do not have all the mojo within themselves, or that even divine agents would have trouble with a wild or dead magic zone, doesn't seem all that popular.

    So if in your world, say, a sorcerer uses the power of their blood, a wizard uses the power of their mind, and a cleric uses the power of their soul (with divine guidance), then there is little room for monks, psions or incarnates. Well, monks still get to be martial artists, but ki is less special.

    Quote Originally Posted by Duff View Post
    You want to have stories of going to places so far from the normal that magic itself doesn't go there. But that's hard to balance* if you have some characters who've lost magic and some who are just fine
    There is also the possibility of using areas where ambient magic works differently. Like a tower where highly-specialized arcane research was conducted, galvanizing a certain school of spells at the expense of the others. Or a planar manifest zone, where certain damage types become ineffective while others are maxed out. A psion would gain no bonus or malus from such an area.

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    D&D's entire appeal and raison d'etre is being familiar, or "iconic" if you will. And whatever might have happened before, for at least 20 years now, D&D's brand involves magic, but no psionics. 5E's whole underlying purpose was to retreat to safe ground - psionics are controversial, so it wasn't going to rock the boat by introducing them. That's the long and short of it.

    That having been said, if you want to use psionics, why not... play something else? "Fantasy but with psionics" is admittedly not too common in general, but for instance Savage Worlds lets you use psychic powers and magic together without any fuss.
    Last edited by Morty; 2020-12-29 at 08:57 AM.
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    2nd Edition Revised was awful. The first 2nd Edition version was much better,
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    And whatever might have happened before, for at least 20 years now, D&D's brand involves magic, but no psionics.
    Did you fact check this?

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Democratus View Post
    Did you fact check this?
    I'm fully aware existed psionics have existed in 3E and 4E. I'm also aware that they were subject to the controversy the OP is describing. And I know what 5E did with them. So yes, I did indeed fact-check this.
    Last edited by Morty; 2020-12-29 at 09:19 AM.
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Millstone85 View Post
    Where sorcery is intuitive, wizardry is methodical and theurgy is assisted. This, unless I am very very mistaken, is widely accepted as D&D lore that transcends campaign settings. But once you introduce ki, psionics or incarnum, you have to go deeper into a theory of magic that may not be welcome everywhere.
    I did quite like how 4e tied psionics in, but that could be YMMV.

    As a side note, a lot of the issue with psionics is that they either tread on the toes of the Sorcerer (if inborn) or the Monk (if Englightenment based). I personally don't have a problem with it, I like my psychics and the limitations psychic powers can bring to the table.

    I've been trying to work on a Psychic class for 5e, going in a very different direction tot he official version of psionics. Psionics is related to ki, but instead of training your body you train your senses, eventually developing to first limited telepathic ability, thank a limited increase to skills, and then finally developing into either a Clairvoyant or full blown Telepath (at the moment, might add more later). Unlike mages a psychic cannot have powers from all over the place, they must specialise in one area which brings with it a specific set of powers,

    I find this works for me. Other psionics fans might disagree. Other people might just not want psionics at all.

    Of course, it's not going well because I'd much rather run other systems that tend to have psionics either built-in or easily creatable with the existing rules.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    You're wrong, but that's okay.
    Why are they wrong?
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    As a side note, a lot of the issue with psionics is that they either tread on the toes of the Sorcerer (if inborn) or the Monk (if Englightenment based). I personally don't have a problem with it, I like my psychics and the limitations psychic powers can bring to the table.
    That's part of what I was getting at above.

    Of course, even the magic of the base classes doesn't mesh in some cases... would love to see more functional interaction between Sorcerer and Monk mechanics, for example. But that would require mechanics from different classes to work together, and clearly the devs didn't give a fig about that. Any synergies are accidental, and it shows.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2020-12-29 at 09:34 AM.
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    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Could you elaborate on the vocabulary problem, please?
    Looked back over it; it's less severe than I recall. A few powers are obtusely named, but I remembered it being a lot worse.
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    Default Re: Fear of Psionics and its Impact over 5 Editions in D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    That's part of what I was getting at above.

    Of course, even the magic of the base classes doesn't mesh in some cases... would love to see more functional interaction between Sorcerer and Monk mechanics, for example. But that would require mechanics from different classes to work together, and clearly the devs didn't give a fig about that. Any synergies are accidental, and it shows.
    Honestly I wouldn't have a major problem with D&D dropping the Sorcerer.

    They won't, because many people would have an issue with it. But those people wouldn't include me.

    Although the devs of 5e very much did not intend synergy between class mechanics, and I'd argue that's because they didn't intend characters to mix the classes at all. I'm about 8% certain multiclassing is o the game to avoid backlash, and that the developers intended archetype mixing to be handled by subclasses.

    I do think psionics has a place in 5e, even as a full class. But I don't think WotC has put enough effort into making it meaningfully different, whether mechanically or conceptually.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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