D&D 5E 5e Psionics Handbook: What would it look like?


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Assuming, of course, a Psionics handbook does get made... what should it look like?

CHAPTER 1: What are Psionics?
The first part of the book is, of course, going to be a discussion of what Psionics are, how it differs from magic, what sort of sources it has in the worlds, and such. Probably a big heavy article on how to make Psionics work in your campaign setting. This would also be the section of the book that describes the ways that Psionics are -like- Magic. Both in the fact that it is a Supernatural Power and that it can mimic Spell-Structures which can interact with magical effects like Counterspelling, Antimagic Fields, and Dead Magic Zones. When you bring a Low-Power Light Manifestation into a High-Level Darkness effect what, if anything, happens, for example. Does powerful Psionic Light generation overwhelm the Darkness spell? Or does Magic trump Psionics in that instance?

The core idea that Psionics -bends- Physics while Magic -breaks- Physics could place Magic in a more powerful position, overall. It would make Psionics the equivalent of cheating on a math test while magic just makes math work the way you want it to so you pass the test no matter how ridiculous your answers are.

CHAPTER 2: Character Options
You'd need the Psionic Class(es), obviously! Personally I think they could create a central Psionicist Class and not need the Psychic Warrior as a "Psionic Paladin" or a "Psionic Ranger" where you've got a martial-psionic hybrid class. Though, it is worth noting that they renamed the Psychic Warrior a Psionic Knight, possibly to keep that name in their back pocket. Jeremy Crawford, last year, specifically noted that the Psionic Core Class would need a core identity that isn't subsumed in the identity of other classes. Not just -thematically-, but also Functionally. So a Psion couldn't "Just be a Spellcaster" it would need functional differences.

Pumping powers could be one of those differences, but it might need -more- than that. As I've noted in another thread, I think KibblesTasty hits the ball outta the park with their Psion. Because it has those functional differences in power-grouping, pumping spells, and Subclass-Identity, which makes up the bulk of what your Psionicist -does- separate from the central class pillar. Plus, of course, the Psionic Talents as Warlock Invocation equivalents makes excellent use of that function.

That said, the current direction they seem to be taking, Psionic Dice, would make for a hell of a different design element. The question becomes how complex that's going to become when you apply it to a full class rather than a Subclass. Will you be rolling a number of Psionic Power Dice equal to a Power Point expenditure to determine the damage of a power, or will you simply manifest the power and roll your current available Psionic Dice? How will expending your Psionic Dice change that function since that is a part of the current pillar of Psionics for 5e?

Then you'd get the Psionic Subclasses. Yeah, Tasha's already introduced a couple. But there's also the Archivist Artificer from an earlier UA and you could probably create a Wilder subclass for Barbarians who launch their emotions at people during their rage. How about a Quori style Warlock using Psionic Dream power that turns all their Spells into Powers and gives them Psi Dice to roll or expend?

Psionic Feats are also a -necessity-. Not just the ones from Tasha's or the UA, but in general. Feats allow characters that aren't members of the Psion Class or a Psionic Subclass to manifest psionic power. This is where you get into the 1e "Feel" of Psionics for 5e. Though unlike 1e it isn't just a straight up increase to your power's level based on a percentage roll.

CHAPTER 3: Set Dressing
This section I would imagine would go over how Psionics fit into core settings, and even potential future settings. Things like describing how Psionics exist in Dark Sun as a "Replacement" for standard magic to avoid Defiling the world. A whole subsection about the Invisible Art of the Forgotten Realms and the deities which focus in on Psionic Power, like Laduguer and Auppensar. For Dragonlance they could finally confirm whether Channeling and Morhame Targonne are psionic arts and the "Mystic Arts" in general. Whether or not Hickman and Weiss rolled on the Psionics Table at the start of their campaigns, or if they've decided it -didn't- have Psionics, before, but at the DM's discretion it could have Psionics after the destruction of Chaos or the passing of Greygem.

Ravenloft, for example, could have Psionics in it that aren't "Psionics" as far as anyone in the narrative are concerned, but a specific form of Mysticism. Toss away all the Psi Gems and such and instead bring out the crystal balls and tarot cards. Telekinesis? More like you had one (or a bunch) of the spirits who only you, and others with the gift of Sight, can see grab the key off the wall and bring it to you!

Depending on how thorough they get, and how many "Official" campaign settings they touch on, this could honestly be a large portion of the book.

CHAPTER 4: Psionic Powers and Manifestation
If you've got a Psionic Class and a bunch of subclasses and feats that give you access to Psionic Powers you're going to need to define them. This part of the book would likely most represent the PHB's Spells and Spellcasting chapters, with an explanation of how the Psionic Manifestation action works, how to determine saving throws against your abilities, and then a big ol' list of different Sciences, Disciplines, and individual Powers.

Personally, I really like the way that the Mystic (And KibblesTasty's Psion) use Disciplines as narrow groupings of effects a given Psion can create. And I would hope that they continue that, going forward, in whatever arrangement they decide to follow through with. My ideal? Sciences divide the Disciplines into 3-4 groups. Telepathic, Telekinetic, Psychometabolic, and the Metapsionic Sciences.

Then have the Disciplines be under those, with power-groupings. Why break it that way? So you can limit subclasses without -savagely- curtailing them. Like make it so only Psions can access all four sciences, but have different subclasses accessing different sciences. Throw the Nomad into Telekinesis and let Psionic knights teleport and fire mind bullets, Kyle. While a Bardic Psionic Subclass gets Telepathy and Emotion control so they've got the power... to move you.

CHAPTER 5: Psionic Items
Honestly... I'd kind of prefer this specific subsection of the book either not exist, or not exist in the "Standard" way. We've got Magic Items. We don't need a separate set of individual "Helmet of Brain go Brrrrrr" or whatever.

If we -have- to have Psionic Items I'd rather see them as Metapsionic stuff. Changing your Psionic Powers in a variety of ways that fit the core ideas of Psionics in fiction. Maybe a "Psionic Resonator" which is a fancy way of saying "Big heavy crystal that is easily destroyed that you keep closely guarded in your stronghold and once a month you perform a special ritual to dominate lesser minds in the countryside with your psionic power for another few weeks"

Oh. You thought I wanted Psionic Items for PCs? Not so much...

Psionic player characters should typically use things like Psionically charged areas to benefit from Long Rests in shorter times, or have items that let them access specific powers or Disciplines, even Sciences, that they normally wouldn't have access to. Like a Psi Crystal of Psychometabolism that allows your Soul Knife or Archivist or Psionic Knight or whatever whip out powers they normally couldn't. But, really, that's almost more of a "Spellbook" by 5e's standards.

CHAPTER 6: DM's Toolbox
Extra-Special DM Materials. This is where you get into Psionic Monsters, the revising of the Monster Manual's idea that Psionics only exist as a subsection of Spellcasting, touch on the optional idea and gameplay of Psionic Combat. But also things like example Psionic plots or adventure seeds, Psionic Illnesses or Parasitic Thoughts that travel through Mental Contact would be a particularly fun thing to do!

Maybe also introduce the idea of an external to class Psionic "Boon" system for games where the DM doesn't feel the Psion itself fits but does recognize that their player(s) wants to make a character whose central narrative is being a powerful psionic character. Could do it through a Symbiotic entity like the Kalashtar, manipulation of spiritual energy, or something similar to flavor it for your specific setting.

What kind of things would you want to see in this hypothetical book?

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I would not expect a book like that to happen in 5E.

It doesn't make sense to how 5E works. What I would expect is that in a book with a different focus, like say, Dark Sun, a Psion class appears, maybe a little longer than the Artificer but not excessively so, and that generally Psionics are just treated as "character abilities". The whole weeble wooble stuff about how they interact with magic and so on is both unnecessary and makes no sense in 5E.

It would in 2E or 3E, where magic was explicitly magic and Arcane or Divine (no such division exists in 5E), and where there were generalized rules etc. about this, but look at the Soulknife or Psi Warrior, do they have any special interactions with magic? Nah because they just have abilities. The same for say, a Paladin's Smite. Sure it uses up spell slots, but does it interact with magic/spells? Not unless they say it does.

Psionics would be the same - character abilities. Do they interact with magic? Only if the magic says they do.

Think 5E, not 3E, imho.


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I might agree with you, @Ruin Explorer, but the designers have gone out of their way to express that Psionics and Magic are separate in the UA. Maybe it didn't get added into Tasha's because they're discarding the idea, certainly. But it could also be that such a sidebar would be better suited to a segment of a more focused book.

That said: Yeah. We're probably not getting a Psionics Handbook. This thread isn't about that question, however, it's about what such a book would, could, or should, look like.

If Psionics hits D&D it's far more likely to be in a campaign setting book for Dark Sun (The Wanderer's Guide to Athas, perhaps?) as a core class with some abilities and then any form of Structured Psionic Powers would just be "Here's a list of Spells that you Manifest as Powers instead of Casting them".

But if it -were- it's own book, which this thread makes the assumption of in the first sentence... what would it look like?

How about Artwork?

Should it have 3e's obsession with slathering Crystals all over every weapon, armor, and character? Or should it look more like Pathfinder's take on different ideas of Mysticism and Spirituality? Or should it not have an explicit, specific, look... and just look like an Adventurer who delves dungeons like everyone else but also gets mind powers?

Edit Though... there is the Dragon UA to consider. Is there going to be a specific "Dragons" book that looks more like 3e WotC content or is that just a whole bunch of stuff meant to be spread across a bunch of different books thrown into one UA for ease of similarity?

I suggest to hire Dreamscarred Press as outsourcer. They had got some good ideas.

Adding "Athanatism", a discipline about control souls and spirits.

The fraals (little gray alien) from "d20 Future" as psionic PC race.

The optional penaly for the wilder's psychic enervation to be dazed by a round.

Maenad (PC race) allowed to use rage even if they are barbarians with lawful aligment.

Aegis, at least as subclass, about to create an astral construct as an "exosuit".

The return of the brainstealer dragon.

Lurk and ardent as psionic subclasses for rogue and cleric.

Psiloi (=stripped) as a monk subclass

The "occult classes" by Pathfinder are good examples of how psionic can be wellcome in Ranveloft.


According to 5e, and comments from Crawford and Mearls.

• Psionics is magic
• Psionic, arcane, and divine are magical sources.

Any of these magical sources can create
• spells
• effects that are magical but are not spells
• effects that are not magical

For example.
• There are arcane spells
• There are arcane effects that are magical but are not spells
• There are nonmagical effects that are created by arcane magic

• There are psionic spells
• There are psionic effects that are magical but are not spells
• There are nonmagical effects that are created by psionic magic


What I would like from a psionics handbook...

Psionics-as-spells and a system that sit besides but meshes 100% with the current pseudo-vancian system.

A new class cementing psionics as a magical tradition indépendant from arcane and divine spellcasters. Ideally, psychic/magical powers similar to that of the warlock insofar as it doesn’t multiclass with anyone, and multiple always active or at-will powers.

A selection of new psionic “spells”.

An alternative casting system that doesn’t use spell slots for those who’d rather have it different (a considerable proportion of this target audience). Similarly, a variant “psionics is not magic” treatise extrapolating on its implications.

An introduction to psionics in the D&D multiverse and published settings.

A bestiary of psionic-able creatures, and a reprint of updated creatures using psionics in published materials.

Art that doesn’t feel like a new-age boutique.


What is psionics?

• The mind is nonmagical
• The magical Weave is psychosensitive

The Weave itself is an "interface" between "raw magic" and spellcasters. It is impossible to access raw magic accept by means of this interface. The spellcaster "plucks" (manipulates) the Weave to create a magical effect.

Psionics appears to engage the Weave directly by means of thoughts, possibly by using words and chanting to articulate and focus their thoughts. In this way, the nonmagical mind creates magical effects.

Psionics can appear on both sides of the arcane-versus-divine generalization. The Bard and the immortals access the Weave directly by means of words to create reality magically. The Paladin oath is a kind of sanctification of the will of the mind.

I view Psionics and Primal to be the same thing. Psionics is the most ancient and primordial form magic, where a mind manipulates the weave directly. The only difference is, Psionics focuses on humanoid minds, while Primal also includes the minds of rocks and trees. Rocks and trees have nonhumanoid minds, but they still have a kind of mind.

I view the Wizard as a kind of technology that manipulates the Weave that is inherent within objects and other spell components. So manipulating the components channels the directions that the Weave flows. The Sorcerer manipulates the Weave inherent within ones own magically infused body and blood. The Aberrant Mind is a body with an aberrant heritage. Warlocks and Clerics often partner up with other beings who have mastered the Weave.


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@Yaarel. I get that this is a hill you're hoping to die on, someday.

This is not the thread for it. You wanna make a thread to try and convince everyone that all supernatural options in D&D are just Magic with a different name, you feel free.

But this is not the thread for it.


@Yaarel. I get that this is a hill you're hoping to die on, someday.

This is not the thread for it. You wanna make a thread to try and convince everyone that all supernatural options in D&D are just Magic with a different name, you feel free.

But this is not the thread for it.
The official 5e rules concerning psionics are relevant to any future 5e psionic product.

You are making up houserules, and misinforming readers about what the official 5e psionics is.


Frumious Flumph (Your Grace/Your Eminence)
I like psionics to have a different mechanical implementation than magic, so that it feels different in play, a different resource to be tracked. I know that's antithetical to the way they're going, but that's okay. My preferred Psionics in 5E is this supplement by /u/ZDnD from 2017:

EDIT: Wow, that's my first experience with the MEDIA tag, and I'm not a fan of it when it comes to these long Reddit posts with changelogs. Changed to a URL. Aaaand... it changed it back to a MEDIA.

EDIT 2: Okay, go to reddit.com, and add on /r/UnearthedArcana/comments/5zhixe/the_psionic_handbook_tweaking_the_mystic_and/
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