Mike Mearls on D&D Psionics: Should Psionic Flavor Be Altered?
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    Mike Mearls on D&D Psionics: Should Psionic Flavor Be Altered?

    WotC's Mike Mearls has been asking for opinions on how psionics should be treated in D&D 5th Edition. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that he'd hinted that he might be working on something, and this pretty much seals the deal. He asked yesterday "Agree/Disagree: The flavor around psionics needs to be altered to allow it to blend more smoothly into a traditional fantasy setting", and then followed up with some more comments today.

    "Thanks for all the replies! Theoretically, were I working on psionics, I'd try to set some high bars for the execution. Such as - no psionic power duplicates a spell, and vice versa. Psionics uses a distinct mechanic, so no spell slots. One thing that might be controversial - I really don't like the scientific terminology, like psychokinesis, etc. But I think a psionicist should be exotic and weird, and drawing on/tied to something unsettling on a cosmic scale.... [but]... I think the source of psi would be pretty far from the realm of making pacts. IMO, old one = vestige from 3e's Tome of Magic.

    One final note - Dark Sun is, IMO, a pretty good example of what happens to a D&D setting when psionic energy reaches its peak. Not that the rules would require it, but I think it's an interesting idea to illustrate psi's relationship to magic on a cosmic level."

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    Not sure whether I agree/disagree with his original question. I'd more say that I'm not opposed to the idea.

    I do like what he's laying down, though. I think Psi, Divine, and Arcane magic would be best served by being very distinct from one another. Divine is channeling power inherent in some other being (typically a god). Arcane is manipulating energy around you, but external to you. Psionic is drawing on your own, internal energy. If I can accept that divine and arcane magic use the same mechanic, I can accept that psionics do, too. But... psionics are the most alien and non-traditional of the power sources, so it helps to give them a distinct mechanic, and I'd rather have at least one of the three use a different mechanic. It's almost a sacred cow, at this point.

    I do like his take on old ones, though. I've never liked the "outside our reality" idea. Reality is reality. If it exists, it's part of reality. We already have planes in D&D, what is "outside"? But, things from before this iteration or simply long since forgotten -- that I like.

    The scientific terminology for psionics has always bothered me. Feels more sci-fi than fantasy, even understanding that fantasy can be considered a sub-genre of sci-fi. I'd be happy to purge those terms.
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    "Agree/Disagree: The flavor around psionics needs to be altered to allow it to blend more smoothly into a traditional fantasy setting"
    Needs? Disagree. I think the flavour's okay, but that's not to say I wouldn't also be okay if it were changed. Ideally, though, if they do change it then I want the ability to change it back if I feel the need. Options, not restrictions!

    "Thanks for all the replies! Theoretically, were I working on psionics, I'd try to set some high bars for the execution. Such as - no psionic power duplicates a spell, and vice versa. Psionics uses a distinct mechanic, so no spell slots.
    I agree about not using spell slots. I thing the "not duplicating spells" is too much, though - there are some powers that are currently spells that should have psionic equivalents, and I don't see any benefit in reinventing the wheel just to have a power that is all-but the same.

    One thing that might be controversial - I really don't like the scientific terminology, like psychokinesis, etc. But I think a psionicist should be exotic and weird, and drawing on/tied to something unsettling on a cosmic scale....
    I'd much rather it was another expression of the Monk's ki - something internal that some characters can draw on.

    And include a Psychic Warrior class, or similar, with distinctly Wuxia roots.

    One final note - Dark Sun is, IMO, a pretty good example of what happens to a D&D setting when psionic energy reaches its peak. Not that the rules would require it, but I think it's an interesting idea to illustrate psi's relationship to magic on a cosmic level."
    Nope, don't like that. Dark Sun's environmental issues were really about what happens when magic runs amok, with the psionic aspect representing a 'safe' alternative. Tying the environmental waste into psionics damages that setting, IMO.

    Plus, I actually don't like being told "psionic is this" or "magic is that". That may well work for your settings, but that doesn't mean it will work for mine.

    All that said, and because the post is probably overly negative as-is: I'm definitely intrigued to see what he comes up with, and would almost certainly buy a psionics supplement. If for no other reason than I want to play both Dark Sun and Eberron, and both those settings include psionics as a fairly integral part (DS moreso, of course).

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    I'm suspicious of meddling. Is the flavour of psionics from 3E/3.5E/4E not still suitable?

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    Quote Originally Posted by delericho View Post
    Dark Sun's environmental issues were really about what happens when magic runs amok, with the psionic aspect representing a 'safe' alternative. Tying the environmental waste into psionics damages that setting, IMO.
    Yeah, I feel like is is misinterpreting the setting at a fundamental level, here. Of course, I only came in to it at 4e. Am I missing something?
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    Pasted from other thread....

    "I" understand what I want...but am having difficulty explaining it. Or perhaps, as I have said, I'm in the minority.


    But I do know this, regardless of what conclusions and debates or motives for my needs anyone chooses to discern.

    1. Don't want re-fluffed magic (in play it does not illustrated the difference I expect enough).
    2. I want something I can add in a spoonful at a time (like a wild talent, granted by an encounter with a psychic boulder).
    3. I like the old psuedo science feel (that's part of its attraction, could it be super science, from a world far far away?, each table's call (read The Many Colored Land by Julian May))

    YMMV.

    Read more: http://www.enworld.org/forum/content...#ixzz3caZjn5JU

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    Where is his question/comments? So I can chime in there...

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    I REALLY like this line of thought.

    Psionics should alter the setting as much as the other power sources do.

    A setting that has divine powers has deities, gods, saints, miracles, clerics, paladins, temples, churches, inquisitions, crusades, and relics. There is a lot that ties this power to the setting.

    A setting that has arcane powers has wizards and sorcerers, witches, necromancy, enchantment, charms, spells, familiars, summoning, orbs and staves. Magic has a definite place in the setting as well.

    I also think the notion of "primal" powers is a solid concept, with druids, shamans, barbarians, animists, totems, trophies, weather and nature magic, spirits and primordial forces.

    So what makes psionics different, and how can its presence or absence affect the setting? I personally think it can work well with the idea of cosmic horror and mind-melting terror that the Far Realm invokes. If you look at the traditionally psionic monsters, they are alien things. I also like the idea of giving the powers common names, rather than the scientific descriptors they have always had.

    Personally if I were to add psionics to my game, it would come with aberrations as a key element of the setting. I would include Lovecraftian great old ones, creatures like mindflayers and beholders, and make psionics powered by the presence of these creatures and how they warp reality. Or it would be a very wuxia-influenced game that used both psionics and ki side-by-side. As mentioned by Mike Mearls, Dark Sun also has a different spin on psionics, but no less world-altering.

    I'd have a hard time just dropping psionics into a standard high-fantasy medieval European world without it being a world-altering event (even if it's slow and insidious at first). I think Eberron is an example of how psionics exists side-by-side with traditional fantasy. Sarlona is a very different place than Korvaire, and the psionics are a result of outside influence. From time to time psionics can bleed into the rest of Eberron, but it is a unique power that has huge implications for the setting.
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    One of the most exciting things in 1e was rolling a character that ended up with psionic abilities. One of the biggest dissapointments is when you realized he had just enough power to have his butt handed to him by every other psionic user (actually making him weaker, since non-psionic character were safe from psionic attacks).

    Of the many versions since, none has really made me think psionics fit well in a fantasy setting. Mind Flayers are cool and all, but that is because they are the exception, not the rule.
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    I am a little uncomfortable with the question being "Should the flavor be changed " and the bit about "...drawing on/tied to something unsettling on a cosmic level"..it sounds to me like he's asking "is it ok if we make psionics tied to the Far Realms somehow" and to that I say, wholeheartedly, Don't. You. Dare.

    The flavor of psionics is that it is mental/psychic powers, exhibiting/manifesting your own internal power. I do not understand/know what he could want to do/mean about changing that flavor and still call it psionics.

    So...No, I guess. No, you should NOT change the flavor of psionics...and it most certainly doesn't "need" to be changed.

    EDIT to add: And no, Dark Sun should not be presented as the "pinnacle" of what a world with psionics can/should be like.

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