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5E Dark Sun doesn't actually need Psionics

Does Dark Sun actually need Psionics


  • Total voters
    124
  • Poll closed .

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
I guess much depends on what you define as "magic", and whether psionic powers are magical powers or not.
Personally, i have no problem viewing psionic as the third realm of supernatural powers after arcane and divine magic, but I know that some really insist on psionic being radically different.
No matter how different from magic they are, being able to blow stuff up with your brain falls under the "supernatural" umbrella. :)
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Okay, let me redirect slightly, as my point seems to be not very clear:

What central theme in Dark Sun is removed if you take psionics out, other than just not having psionics?

Dark Sun, to me, was awesome because it subverted the tropes of fantasy and mixed in post-apocalyptic themes. The coolest stuff in Dark Sun, again to me, was never mind magics, but instead the defiler/preserver duality. Psionics always felt like a way to ignore that divide and have "normal" magic. As such, it is not required for any of the major themes of Dark Sun. Instead, it's loved not because it made the setting work but because people liked the mechanics, and that's cool but not necessary to have to do Dark Sun well. The argument that's commonly made is that you need a psionics system to do Dark Sun well, and I don't think you do, at all. Dark Sun would work perfectly fine without psionics.

@iserith and @Paul Farquhar's points about making monsters more weird is certainly a good one, but I'm not sure you need psionics to do that.

Sure, the monster issue can be solved by just calling it Innate Spellcasting (Psionics) as with githzerai (?). I'm just not as big a fan of "reskinning" in this edition as compared to D&D 4e. I'd rather there be a different ruleset, but otherwise agree Dark Sun could be done without formal psionics mechanics.
 


TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Death to all false dichotomies!
Dichotomies can be good when they help emphasize the storyline and tropes of the setting. If you feel psionics is necessary to support a coherent visualization of Dark Sun, that's totally fine; I personally can see a vision of Dark Sun that does not.

I guess a conflict here is differing beliefs as to what the central thematics of Dark Sun are.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Dichotomies can be good when they help emphasize the storyline and tropes of the setting. If you feel psionics is necessary to support a coherent visualization of Dark Sun, that's totally fine; I personally can see a vision of Dark Sun that does not.

I guess a conflict here is differing beliefs as to what the central thematics of Dark Sun are.
I guess a conflict here is someone holding the belief that having one theme (e.g., defiling magic) somehow negates the other central themes (e.g., a harsh and alien world of psionics) of the setting.
 


Aldarc

Legend
It seems like a stronger case could be made to exclude arcane magic from Dark Sun. Arcane magic screwed things up for the world, so it is no longer on the table as an option for PCs. Arcane magic is thus only the purview of rare NPCs, such as Dragon Kings, and this could be easily incorporated into stat blocks without needing arcane magic classes.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
A great argument for why D&D doesn't need rangers too.
Heh heh... and this is why they've never bothered to "fix" the Ranger, despite much caterwauling by some players thinking it's a necessity. If people don't like the Ranger they got, they can choose to not use it or replace it with another one they find or design themselves. :)
 

I've always felt that psionics detracted from flavor and setting of Dark Sun.

Perhaps this is because I played other settings with psionics that I never felt it was unique to DS. Perhaps because to me DS is about the destruction of magic, the abuse of great power that the world itself has almost been destroyed.

Adding a friendly superpower that replaces arcane magic was simple, to me, a crutch to allow players to have wizards by a different name. To have the superpowers of magic without the drawbacks of magic that are so central to the setting.

Psionics, to me, in Dark Sun was always a crutch to allow non-martial characters without the central costs or negative aspects of magic in the setting.

i.e. In this setting magic has a cost, you can't play a wizard without accepting that cost. Except if you play a psionicist, then it's just like a wizard in any other setting but without the uniqueness that defines wizards in this setting.
 


Aldarc

Legend
The idea that psionics is a crutch to the theme of the destruction of magic in the setting kinda ignores the existence of clerics and druids in the mix.
 

Didn't even the original developers come to regret putting Psionics in Dark Sun? I seem to remember an Interview or article where one stated that they tried to put too much in DS and it would have been better with Psionics.

It is possible I am misremembering, and even if not, it is perfectly valid to want them regardless of the developer's later thoughts. But for myself, I agree that DS without Psionics is still totally Dark Suns.
 

Remathilis

Legend
There is a cynical part of me that always assumed that free wild talents were part of the "make everyone's PC a munchkin and then enjoy thier tears when you tpk them" design. That said, its one of the three settings (the others being Ravenloft and Eberron) that tried to use and support psionics, and the one that is most married to the concept by virtue of said free wild talents. It's kinda part of it's identity, even if the setting could be done without them now.
 


Iry

Hero
Dark Sun comes from a time when post apocalyptic stories often involved hideous mutants with strange mental powers. Stories like Dune, The Time Machine, The Stand, Captive Women, I Am Legend, and many more. Even Doctor Who and Twilight Zone had a few episodes throw around the mental powered mutant idea.

So yeah. It doesn't need it. But the presence of psionics is woven into the foundation tropes of the setting.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't know why they call it Hamburger Helper. Tastes just fine by itself!

I think the point he's raised (and that doesn't seem to have been solidly refuted yet) is that psionics are not the thematic meat of the setting.

Psionics are a mechanical element that folks like their characters to use to resolve conflicts. But their removal doesn't substantially change the theme or plots of the stories told within the setting.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
...you mean with things like psionics?
More like the devestated landscape, fighting over extremely limited resources for survival, and warlords. Psionics can be part of post apoc settings, sure, but it's not a necessary nor sufficient part. Maybe I'm in a minority, but when someone says, "Hey, I want to try this post-apocalyptic setting/game," I don't immediately go, "cool, I love psionics!"

The coolest stuff in Dark Sun, again to me, was the mind magics of psionics having a viable place in this Sandals & Sorcery setting.
Okay. That says to me that, for you, any setting that has a psionic system is good for you (caveat: psionic system that you like). I say that because nothing in Dark Sun relies on psionics to exist except psionics, so primarily liking psionics suggests that the rest of the setting is just a vehicle for you.

Except psionics doesn't replicate what arcane magic does.
I mean, we can disagree about this again, but I haven't seen a convincing argument for this yet. It's mostly just 'but it's flavored differently so that makes it totally different' or 'it uses different mechanics to do the magic stuff,' and, fundamentally, those don't make it not another magic system.
You mean apart from the Dragon Kings, weird alien creatures, and its relative ubiquity in PCs?
Question, then, did Dark Sun have psionics because it was thematically important for the Dragon Kings to weild psionics in addition to defiling magic and Dragon magic, or were Dragon Kings powerful psionists because psionics were included in Dark Sun and they needed to be formidable even against the new magic system?

My vote is the latter. The Dragon Kings are just as terrifying and powerful if no psionics exist. Their place in Athas has pretty much nothing to do with psionics. This goes to the root of my OP question.

And, we have plenty of weird alien creatures in D&D without psionics. Psionics is just another way to make things weird and alien, it's neither necessary nor sufficient to do so, though.

Just like you don't need arcane magic to make a harsh desert world.
Nice strawman -- of course you do not. But the defiling nature of arcane magic is rooted deep into Dark Sun, is a primary point of contention in the setting, and is a primary point of contention with the PCs. Psionics is none of this with regards to DS.
Death to all false dichotomies!
Was it false? I mean, that's the opposition the setting creates intentionally. Or is it that you think psionics is part of that equation?

For what it's worth, I find fisking to be intentionally rude and a rhetorical trick to place things out of their surrounding context and attack them as isolated statements rather than supporting arguments.
 

Okay, let me redirect slightly, as my point seems to be not very clear:

What central theme in Dark Sun is removed if you take psionics out, other than just not having psionics?

The theme that magic was absurdly selfish and destructive. Magic was the lazy way to do everything. Anyone could train to be psionic; it's just difficult and time consuming to do. Everyone has the Will; that's why everyone was typically naturally psionic. You must only learn the Way. Magic is the easy way out because it gives you power without effort. And it destroys all life around you to accomplish it's goals.

In Dark Sun, magic is evil. The books never come out and say it plainly, but it's actually just evil. Visibly, tangibly evil. The more evil you are, the more magic you get. And it's so, so much worse because you could do basically the exact same things with psionics... and psionics doesn't destroy the planet to accomplish it's goals! It's just harder to do that.

Without psionics, you can say that magic is a necessary evil to accomplish some things. Psionics turns magic into a clear antagonist of the setting.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The theme that magic was absurdly selfish and destructive. Magic was the lazy way to do everything. Anyone could train to be psionic; it's just difficult and time consuming to do. Everyone has the Will; that's why everyone was typically naturally psionic. You must only learn the Way. Magic is the easy way out because it gives you power without effort. And it destroys all life around you to accomplish it's goals.

In Dark Sun, magic is evil. The books never come out and say it plainly, but it's actually just evil. Visibly, tangibly evil. The more evil you are, the more magic you get. And it's so, so much worse because you could do basically the exact same things with psionics... and psionics doesn't destroy the planet to accomplish it's goals! It's just harder to do that.

Without psionics, you can say that magic is a necessary evil to accomplish some things. Psionics turns magic into a clear antagonist of the setting.
I agree with you 100% about magic and what it is on Athas. I don't see where you made the case the you need psionics to do things -- things like what? Psionics in the game didn't enable life very much, but it did enable more violence. You don't need psionics to be violent. I'm curious as the the case for what psionics means to the world of Athas aside from a way for creatures and PCs to be more dangerous? Is it that magic is a necessary part of playing D&D, even in Athas, so if normal magic is cabined off as bad (and preservers aren't evil, even if no one's going to wait long enough to figure that out) you have to have some alternate fluff magic that you can do?

Honestly, last last bit I spitballed is the strongest argument I've seen so far for inclusion of psionics. Other than that it's argument from tradition (psionics has always been part of Dark Sun, it doesn't need more reason than that) or special pleading (psionics isn't really magic, or you need psionics to make weird alien monsters).
 

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