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[D&D]Psionics only -- anyone tried it?


First Post
Has anyone run a game where psionics were the only form of non-physical power (no arcane or divine magic), ala Kurtz's Deryni novels? If so, what were your experiences, and any stuff to watch out for?

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Never tried it, but I've definitely considered it. Problem is, I've yet to come up with what I feel is a sufficiently solid idea for a setting to make it worthwhile.

the Jester

Verrry interesting idea.

I have run things with no standard casters, limited magic, etc- but never straight up just plain switched over. :)


First Post
I just thought it'd be an interesting switch. Obviously, I wouldn't use too many of the overtly 'magical' beasts (like...uh...magical beasts), but would look at all the psionic monsters I normally just brush over and never use.

It'd have a really different flavour, that's for sure. Even Dark Sun had divine and arcane magic. I'm thinking none of that: just psionics.


First Post
Yeah, one of my groups did a psionics-only group at one point. We played githzerai, working on reconquering the gith homeworld. It was discovered, but magic didn't really work there - the gods were dead, and all arcane magic was wild. We were all required to have at least half our levels in psionic classes, and this was back with 3.0 psi.

Let me see if I can remember the party. This was back when we had a few more players, so...

Monk/Psychic Warrior (me)
Fighter/Psychic Warrior focused on the spiked chain
Psychic Warrior/Gith Knight of some kind... sort of a githzerai version of a paladin
Shaper psion, focused on Astral Constructs
Egoist/Psionic Healer, focused on psionic healing
Psionic Rogue (don't remember what book this was from, but it was similar to the psychic warrior, just with rogue-y powers and some limited sneak attack)
Telepath focused on Recall Pain, with the feat chain that let her do it for free

By my recollection, we were pretty tough in melee combat, but couldn't deal AoE damage at all. In fact, the psions didn't really compare to an arcanist of equal level, except the summoner. The healer was pretty effective, and, since she had all the Psychometabolic powers, could actually tank pretty well too. The telepath and pyrokineticist really didn't pull their weight - the pyrokineticist didn't do as much damage as we expected, and the telepath focused on damage-dealing powers, rather than the knockout stuff. The two other Psychic Warriors suffered from a lack of armor, as I recall - they both took high Dex and light armor, which made their ACs suffer somewhat.

I think, in general, you could do a game with all-psi pretty well, especially with the new rules. You'd have to make up some prestige classes to fill specific niches, but it would work fairly well.


Community Supporter
A player of mine once tried to cajole me into such a campaign. The idea was even more extreme - to use only the XPH for the basic world: only psionics as magic, only XPH races as the basic dominant races, only the XPH psionic monsters as the dominant monsters and threats.

It makes for an interesting world. I turned it down because I felt it needlessly curtailed options. While this player liked psionics, I didn't want to discourage a player that wanted to play a Ranger, Paladin, Cleric, or so on from doing so.


Crystals & Cthulhu

Here are some of my ideas for a psionic campaign that I have posted before. I have not run this yet. Perhaps for a gaming convention one-shot adventure.

Yes, I am very interested in playing or running a psionic only campaign. In fact, a couple of weeks before the Expanded Psionics Handbook came out, I had a sleepless night where my mind was brainstorming (more like brain exploding) such a campaign setting. These are the thoughts that I wrote down during that night, with some clarification.

Psionic Campaign:

Society is ruled by gem dragons: (kinda like how its done in Dragonstar.) Gem dragons are royalty, gem half-dragons are nobility. They all run through the entire spectrum of alignments, but the right and privilege to own other sentient creatures is considered acceptable even though it bothers some gem dragon individuals. Some cheerfully exploit their subjects, while others regard themselves as respectful caretakers of their charges. Only a rare few are inclined to put any effort into changing their society so that slavery is not part of it.

Freedom of slavery? The gem dragon rulers own "mindshare" of the population instead of land. Because of this, they are motivated to "fertilize & grow" their "crops". Each citizen has a facial brand, received when they are born, that identifies which dragon currently owns them, but they are otherwise unfettered in their pursuit of their own goals since the gem dragons can automatically gain control of anyone of their subjects when they need them. Until then, the gem dragons encourage everyone to become as powerful as they can be. When someone becomes so successful or powerful that they could create a monopoly or rule a region, those individuals "ascend" to the direct service of the gem dragons. Subjects of allied dragons peacefully interact and even intermarry with each other, while being alert from attacks of citizens that belong to the gem dragon that is the enemy of their gem dragon master.

Subjects have better access to education and knowledge, along with psionically infused learning technologies. All Knowledge skills can be used as if they were "untrained" skills. All races have the bonus skill points human racial trait. Humans double their bonus skill points every level. Cross-class skills cost one point for one rank.

Better quality of life: Commoners make 10x more than default D&D commoners. Everyone else makes more (but not 10x more) than their D&D counterparts. More civil rights and social services (but not up to real-world modern standards), but free enterprise is encouraged.

Legal remedies for lawbrekers: Instead of time in prison or the death penalty, guilty criminals are psionically reconditioned to avoid doing the crime that they were charged with. Reconditioning is done very precisely because any reconditioning tends to arrest the individual from becoming more powerful or accomplished. Other than the dragon brand that conditions everyone to automatically obey their gem dragon masters, subjects are otherwise mentally untampered.

PCs are born special: For some mysterious reason, PCs have the ability to resist the control of their dragon brands. This is undetectable and currently unknown, as the PCs have yet to choose to oppose their gem dragon masters.

Races: Humans & the psionic races from the Expanded Psionic Handbook. No other D&D races. This is a world that from the ground up features the XPH races as the prominent default races of the world.

Classes: Psionic classes & Fighter, Rogue, & Monk (whose abilities would be psi-based instead of magic-based.)

No Magic: No arcane or divine spellcasters. No Knowledge(arcane), Spellcraft, or Use Magic Device. Any magic items in the campaign are actually psionic items.

No gods or religion. People follow philosophies or worship their gem dragon masters, but receive no supernatural benefits for doing so.

Psionically infused society: Psion levels are not counted for multiclassing XP penalties. Almost everyone has PSPs. All classes (including NPC classes) that don't normally grant PSPs grant 1 PSP/level if the person has a INT, WIS, or CHA of 10 or better.

Greater access to powers: PSP-using classes can access powers they don't have by touching a power stone, dojre, or a person with the power they want to use, then spending their own PSPs to manifest it. Although the XPH has a nice system for this described in the Psionics chapter, this ability works automatically and with no extra time in this psionic campaign.

PSP-powered items are common and affordable. These are psionic items that require at least one PSP to function. The least expensive items require several PSPs and only function for a very short duration, whereas the items that run all day on one PSP tend to cost almost as much as a regular continuous psionic item. Currently there will be PSP-driven appliances, vehicles, communications and information access through a social "metamind". Normal gems can be used by anyone with PSPs to store and recall information. Each gem holds one page of text, one mental image, or one second of full-sensory memory per GP of the gem. Costs PSPs to imprint, but anyone can access it at will. Normal writing is still used for public signs and such.

Armor and Weapons are made of "sheen". Sheen costs just as much as D&D steel and works like steel (steel in this campaign world costs less.) A character can spend one PSP as a swift action to psionically enhance or improve a sheen weapon's enhancement by +1 and to double the threat range for one round. A character can spend one PSP as a swift action to psionically enhance or improve a sheen armor or shield's enhancement by +1 and to reduce any critical hits done to the character by one multiple for one round. If the character uses a standard action to enhance their armor or weapon, then the psionic enhancement lasts for 1 round/level. Sheen tools grant a bonus to skill checks in a similar manner. Sheen is not masterwork, but doesn't need to be masterwork to be psionically enhanced. Sheen items can be crafted to be Masterwork if desired. Sheen becomes ultra-shiny when infused with a PSP.

No unneeded obfuscation: The functions of psionic items can be identified with Psionicraft along with Detect Psionics, or with Appraisal or Psionicraft along with a PSP spent for the identification purpose.

Non-psi tech is medieval level: As per D&D. No gunpowder, steam, or electricity, nor is it likely that it will ever advance. Any advanced technology is psi-based and psi-powered.

Obviously, this is going far away from your traditional fantasy setting. This psionically-based campaign features several modernisms and will not appeal to those who use fantasy gaming to connect with the history, literature, legends and folklore of our culture. This campaign is all about the sci-fi-like exploration of "what would a world be like if it was dominated by psionics?" and discovering where this will take us and experiencing what it would be like to live there. However, it will make a strong effort to implement the classical elements of D&D psionics in the campaign. The mind-flayers would be a major persistent threat as would be the yuan-ti (part gem dragon instead of part snake?). The use of classical monsters (minotaurs, orcs, goblins, etc.) would be minimized. Some monsters would be retrofitted so that their spell-like and supernatural abilities would instead be psi-based, such as dopplegangers. But the monsters that are Cthulhuian in nature such as mind flayers and gibbering mouthers would be prominently featured in this campaign (although the "we're powerless and helpless against the aliens" element of Cthulhu would not.) There is room for some Twilight Zone twists for the characters to discover, such as discovering the Matrix-like function of the mindshare system, or what really happens to those individuals who become too powerful (something like what happens in Atlas Shrugged would work well here,) or discovering what awesome beautiful beings of pure psionic form that people could be if it wasn't for the "mindshare". Perhaps the mind flayers turn out to be liberators. They don't eat brains as commonly potrayed in propaganda, but instead "free your mind".

Clarification: "we're powerless and helpless against the gem dragons" is part of the campaign, although this is simply a normalized fact of life and not a horror element. But this campaign element is to be followed up by the revelation of "You mean we're not helpless and powerless against the gem dragons?"

I ran two Deryni campaigns years ago. One used a psionic class variant (I'm pretty sure it came from Dragon, but I can't find the issue right this moment), the other was homebrew using Rolemaster. Both were a great deal of fun, but I was fortunate to have players that were into the political intrigue type thing and weren't pure hack'n'slash.

Obviously, this would be a lot easier using 3rd ed, especially if using gestalt classes where everyone took a standard class in addition to psion.
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First Post
We played a medium-length game where Psionics was the only magic. No arcane, no divine, all psionics.

Most of the magical items in the game remained, as there are similar psionic pre-reqs to create things like Gloves of Dex, etc.

It was pretty fun.

One guy played a Psion.
Another guy played a Psychic Warrior/Fighter tank ... big AC, but some choices left him with really low damage output.
And I played a Monk. Without psionics. I cherry-picked my way through the monk Complete Warrior stuff and the Anti-Psionics feats from the XPH. He was pretty much invulnerable to psi powers, and specialized for grappling.

Which was VERY effective against enemy psions.

We also had a Marshal/Wilder, which was very very ... very effective. She took the feat that gave an additional non-list power and took Astral Contruct and used that wilder ability to juice up her constructs to Full Normal Psion levels while maintaining three levels of Marshal ... the Marshal gave her a minor aura that added her big Cha bonus to everybody's Will saves ... shut down pretty much every battlefield control power other than ecto ... then used Leadership to take a cohort that was a psion specialized at ... Ecto dispelling.

It was actually quite fun. What was really lacking was Healing, though the GM hand-waived that with a storyline background that gave us cheap access to Body Control tats (or whatever that self-healing ability is).

The biggest thing I found I didn't like about Psionics was that, 1 v 1, psionics eats magic for breakfast. Magic has a leg up on group effects ... group buffs, group debuffs, and AoE. And Psionics is poor for healing. But for self-effects and damage, Psionics is insane.

The other is a single power ... Astral Construct. It's just silly, really. The GM threw us against a shaper and the guy was throwing down monsters every round that, by my ability to look, were higher CR than their creator, but worth no XP ... the one guy could have taken out the whole party had he been allowed to work for more than TWO ROUNDS. He popped out two of those things before my monk dashed across the board at top speed and started twisting limbs. Even so, the two constructs he did pop out pretty much spanked the rest of the party with impunity.

It's like Summon Monster, but better in every way imaginable.



First Post
Hmm, never done it, but here's some things you want to think about...

1) Healing. While XPH psionics offers some limitted healing through Empathic Transfer and Body Adjustment, this is a lot less than what Clerics, Druids, or even Bards or Paladins can bring to the table.

2) Converting minor spellcasting classes. The major spellcasters (wizard, sorcerer, cleric, and druid) are certainly gone in an all-psionics campaign, but some of the archetypical classes of D&D are minor casters, and you might want them to stick around.

If Paladins and Rangers are reasonable archetypes in your campaign, you'll probably want to turn them into non-spellcasting variants.

Convering the Bard, a sort of mid-major caster, is more difficult; probably the class needs to be rebuilt as a psionics-using class with something like the psi-warrior's progression and a different power list.

3) Other things psionics are bad at (relative to arcane or divine magic) are going to be hard to do. Psionics aren't good for buff effects cast on others, or illusions, or necromancy just for a start.

Jackelope King

First Post
I'm running such a game now. Psionics is the major casting force in the game, with warlocks being secondary "witches" living outside the mainstream casting method of "the scientific study of psiocalculus". The major differences I've noticed both in developing the game and running it have been:

- Groups have less endurance, since psionic casters have poor spell endurance to begin with and the game largely lacks effective healing magic. Furthermore, psionics definitely lacks creature comfort spells (like the ol' rope trick, tiny hut, secure shelter, magnificent mansion, hero's feast and the like). Between a lack of magical healing, the difficulty in raising the dead, and a lack of "convienience" magic, psionics fits what I see magic as slightly better than core magic.

- In order to access the more powerful (and often indespensible) magicks of a given level, a character needs to be a specialist, or he needs to be willing to sacrifice a feat to do so long after the power became accessible to a specialist. All the big-tickets like teleport fall into this sort of power structure... either a specialist has access to it or the party suffers through until a non-specialist can spend a feat on it a few levels lowers.

- All my favorite abberations have a much nicer home in the setting :)

- Magic seems a little darker and a little more sophisticated in most cases. I'm not creating a magical missile of force: I'm impaling you with a piece of otherworldly crystal. I'm not scaring you to death: I'm actually disrupting your autonomic nervous system and interfering with your normal breathing patterns.

- The setting itself is one of a stalled Age of Enlightenment, where an Age of Exploration was brought to a crashing halt with the destruction of the motherlands of two great empires, leaving the colonists and natives of the land of Aedin more or less alone in the world. Because of the atmosphere of the game, I have psionics representing all at once the divine power of the church, the scientific understandings of natural philosophers, the ancient magic of shamans, and even the enlightened traditions of eastern philosophies of all stripes. It's a very one-size-fits-all system, and the lack of definite divine magic means that uncertainty about the nature (or even existence) of the gods of the game is quite reasonable, which again fits the ambiguity and confusion I'd like the game to represent.

- The psionic races described in the XPH translated very well to either otherworldly spirits from beyond the veil (the dromites, elans, giths, and druegar) or as different human societies (the half-giant, maenad, and xephs) with very little tweaking. The only non XPH races in the game at the start were an Aztec-like race of my own design and a very slightly modified race of humans, though as I developed the setting further I included heavily modified illumanians, aasimar, and even neanderthal. I also experimented with including kalishtaar for awhile, but decided that I was happier without them... though I did steal plenty of their racial background from Races of Eberron.


First Post
I've considered doing this myself. However, I'd also use the Incantation rules from UA for some of the things that psionics can't handle, as well as offering non-psions some magic at a heavy price (Taint).


First Post
I'd love to try such a game, but it would lack quite a bit in healing and AoE damage dealing.

Still, I'm a HUGE fan of psionics. I played in a campaign where wizards were hunting down psionic-types and it was awesome.


I'm running a PbP here that is mostly psionics, only a few minor forms of nature/shamanic magic exists and they are only in the hands of a few specific cultures/races. It's an interesting experience.


Registered Ninja
I DMed something like this. One thing I did, which I would suggest, is giving body adjustment and body purification a range of touch, to deal with the lack of clerics.


First Post
Back in the days of second edition, we had one very long Darksun campaign. As there were no preservers in our group, we did not encounter arcane magic very much except for the occasional defiler, or some veiled alliance members. For those who do not know, darksun is a heavily psionic world where almost everyone has at least some minor talent. It worked really fine, but I don't know if it was due to the lack of arcane magic or the unique feeling of the darksun setting with its thri-kreen, sorcerer kings, endless deserts... Ah good old memories...



First Post
The idea seems intressting. I'm obssessed with Magic though. Plus I've been playing in the same campaign setting for pretty much my whole entire D&D-life and I don't plan to switch so I don't have TO much time for experimination. On the other hand my world is flat and goes on forever so atleast one of the infinite numbers of continets might have no-magic and only psionics.


Penguin Herder
I'm jealous. I'd like to play in one (or DM one) but my group is less 'psionically gifted' shall we say. :)

-- N