D&D 5E Do you want psionics in your D&D?

Do you want psionics in your 5e D&D?

  • Yes. Psionics are cool, and I like cool things.

    Votes: 85 53.1%
  • No. A rose by any other name does not smell as sweet.

    Votes: 48 30.0%
  • My opinions are legion, and I will explain them in the comments.

    Votes: 20 12.5%
  • I am not an animal, I AM A HUMAN BEING that does not answer poll questions.

    Votes: 7 4.4%

  • Poll closed .


First Post
Not even if I got $100 for every psionic book sold. And a dollar for every time the "P" word was mentioned.
To much sci fic in my fantasy.

See, I've never understood what psionics has to do with sci fi. I've seen alot more psionics in fantasy books than in sci fi books. Where does this idea that psionics is sci fi even come from?

log in or register to remove this ad


Rotten DM
See, I've never understood what psionics has to do with sci fi. I've seen alot more psionics in fantasy books than in sci fi books. Where does this idea that psionics is sci fi even come from?
Xmen. Early books of Pern. Doctor Spock. Some star trek episodes.

Tony Vargas

And then I started pondering the big picture- do I really want psionics in my Dungeons and Dragons?

I will preface this by saying that I love psionics.
Then the answer is 'yes,' no need to over-think it. If there isn't a psionics system in the current ed (yet) you can adapt something from a prior ed or come up with something, or re-skin something (GOO Warlocks seemed like a good candidate, to me, in pre-Mystic 5e) until they get around to it. If they finally come out with something and it's not so great, fix it up to your liking.

So I devised a new set of rules, incorporating some stuff from the appendix and a bunch of homebrew based on some books by Julian May, and that worked out well.
Many-Colored Land? With the torcs and everything? Yeah, that was almost written to be used in an RPG, quite a structured and defined take.

How does a good psionics system work in D&D?
That's a trick question. If a game has any 'good' systems, it's not really D&D. ;P

1. Psionics are cool. We like cool things. Really. This is the most important point in favor of psionics, and it shouldn't be discounted.
2. Intelligence matters. The best, and pretty much only, gameplay reason is because intelligence is, perhaps, the most devalued stat in 5e, and psionics could make intelligence great again.
3. Variety. Variety is the spice of life, and all that.
4. History. We have had psionics in D&D, so, you know, why not?
Of these, honestly, (4) is valid in the context of 5e, and some of (1), as far as the bit about not discounting flavor (that is, differentiating things that are only different in fluff/flavor with arbitrarily distinct mechanics).

(3) Meh, re-stating (1).
(2) Arbitrarily using a given stat as a given class's primary does not make the stat suddenly relevant to everyone. INT is already the Wizard's primary stat, CHA is already primary for several classes. That doesn't make them valued, what makes stats valued is uses everyone puts them too - skills, initiative, saves, AC, hps, etc...

1. Not part of the core rules. It's really, really hard to retcon a new system on to the core rules and get it rights. Stuffing something into an appendix (ahem) doesn't mean that future published products will take it into account.
2. Implementation. This is the big one, and I will explain why I think this is the big problem below.
(1) should be a non-issue in 5e, as it's meant to be modular. OK, it's not modular for any definition I'd accept, but I'm used to use of modular in programming, and that's perhaps overly stringent for the context. Anyway, 5e is meant to be a starting point you can add to, it has lots of stuff you can add (including Feats & MCing rules right in PH). Being left out of 'core' should in no least remotest way disqualify anything from being added later.
(2) Yeah, it should get as good an implementation as WotC can manage with the resources they've devoted to D&D development. But it doesn't have to be perfect, and it's gauranteed not everyone will like it, and thus, many will tweak, ban, change, mod, or totally re-write it. That's how 5e's meant to be (ab)used.

a. First, you have to decide whether it is a class-based system or not.
Not really. 5e is a class-based game. It'll be one or more classes. 5e also lets you poach from classes via backgrounds and feats. There should certainly be a 'Wild Talent' background, for instance, swiping a bit of Mystic mojo the way Acolytes dabble in Cleric stuff.

b. Once you decide to go on a class-based system, you end up with something like the Mystic. But here's the thing. 5e is already built on a spell basis. Really. Almost every class either casts spells or has spell-like equivalents.
Every character class, even the Barbarian has a build that uses a few spells as rituals.

Most monster abilities are written in terms of spell equivalents, and magic items as well. So ... you end up having a mystic, in effect, "cast spells" using their mind. You can fancy it up (they use "psi points") but you still have to call it magic (as the mystic does) in order to incorporate it into the system (dispel magic, etc.).
Or the DM can decide it's different and doesn't get dispelled (nor dispel) magic.
So psionics is basically just a fancy magic system by another name. And then ... what's the point?
Same point as the Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, & Druid. To be, per 'pro' (1), above, cool & fluff-distinctive. So psionics might reference spell descriptions in using their spell-point-like 'psi points?' So what?

Do you want psionics in your D&D?
Personally, whatever system they come up with, I likely won't opt into it. Too sci-fi for my taste.

Tony Vargas

See, I've never understood what psionics has to do with sci fi. I've seen alot more psionics in fantasy books than in sci fi books. Where does this idea that psionics is sci fi even come from?
The word itself only goes back to the 50s, it was coined by some science-fiction writer, a portmanteau of 'psi' (the first greek letter in 'pscyhe,' meaning 'mind') + '-onics' from 'electronics.' (You have to understand that in the 50s, '-onics' was like '.com' in the 90s, it was this buzzword thing that doubled your company's stock valuation if you tacked it on to the end of its name.) The intent wasn't to sell stock, though, but to convey the idea of psychic powers being trainable and/or technologically augmented - those ideas were already popular thanks to Smith's "Lensmen" pulp sci-fi series (and possibly other stories preceding them I don't know about, but Lensmen was kinda huge).

(sci-fi, BTW, also a relatively new term, like wi-fi, a play on 'hi-fi,' which you probably also have never heard of...)

Anyway, psionics had been used in sci-fi since before either word was coined (arguably going back to Bulwer-Lytton's 'Coming Race,' maybe even further), as a way of adapting the storytelling-grease that is magic into the fledgling genre. The idea that supernatural mental powers could somehow not be magic must have started in the Age of Reason, but I'd guess, like pop culture ideas of ghosts and the afterlife, that it was also influenced heavily by Theosophy in the late 19th century.

So, in one sense, psionics /is/ magic with the serial numbers filed off.

As far as seeing psionics in the fantasy genre, the line between sci-fi and fantasy has been pretty blurry for a while now. Fantasy got a pretty bad name at some point, and science-fiction writers were for decades very adamant about the distinction, even when writing things that were obviously fantasy in all but name, planetary romances, for instance, even Star Wars has been accused of being fantasy with a thick veneer of space opera or 'science-fantasy.' By the same token, there's a lot of overt fantasy that underpins itself with science-fiction instead of magical rationales, so is really science fiction or science-fantasy. Darkover's the example that comes to my mind, but possibly the 'fantasy' you're thinking of is similar.
What non-RPG fantasy sources do you see psionics in?

Isn't Pern a fantasy series?
No. It's set on an alien planet, threatened by virulent life-forms on another planet with an excentric orbit that brings it into range in a long cycle. The 'dragons' were bred or genetically engineered from winged lizards native to the planet by human colonists who came there in starships.
Last edited:

ben spock.jpg
Xmen. Early books of Pern. Doctor Spock. Some star trek episodes.

Wait, WHAT?


In my games, Psionics are tied to the Far Realm, Aberrations and oddities. They fit into my games by not fitting into my games neatly. They grate and conflict with the environment - and I use that to create the right atmosphere.

To me, Psionics should not look like just another way to cast spells. I thin k5E is moving in the right direction to make that happen.


There are a couple of questions, here. (i.e. my opinions are legion)

1) Do I want the Mystic in 5E?

Well, I'm not sure want in really the right word. I wasn't missing it before it existed. But... It's kind of cool. I like toys. This doesn't seem unbalanced. It's different enough that it doesn't really seem to trample on anything existing. It seems to make the Monk a bit less "what the heck is that doing here?" So, sure. Throw it in. I'd rather have the Mystic than the Barbarian.

2) Does the Mystic represent a continuation of the idea of Psionics from previous editions?

Eh... Not really. Sure, there are some nods, here and there, but it really doesn't match up particularly well. Psionics in earlier editions were strange and unusual. The Mystic is just pseudo-eastern mysticism. Again, cool, but not really bearing the torch.

3) Do I want Psionic-Magic Transparency (a.k.a. are psionics different)?

If a Wizard can dispel an effect created by divine power then I see no reason why he should not be able to do the same with an effect created by psionics. So, while I don't mind a different subsystem for using psionics (points, skill rolls, whatever), I think psionic-magic transparency is mandatory.

4) What would it take to represent Psionics in 5E? What are the actual characteristics of Psionics?

This is really one of the two big questions, isn't it (the other being about the Mystic)? It can be broken down into sub-questions:

a) Where do psionics come from?

We've got a pretty good idea of what arcane magic is. It's manipulating cosmic forces through codified incantations and gestures. Wizards do this by learning the details of these and there's probably a nit to pick with Charisma-based arcanists. Divine magic, on the other hand, comes from some outside force (usually a deity, but could be a force, philosophy, or just tapping into faith). Pretty much all divine casters use Wisdom to represent how well they understand the will/nature of their benefactor. It really doesn't matter whether the divine agent is manipulating the same forces as an arcanist or producing raw power -- they're doing it as an aspect of their nature and it's innate to them.

So.... Psionics.... To be meaningfully different, regardless of system, it can't be just arcane manipulation of cosmic forces. Nor can it be channeling the power of some other entity. It could be a different cosmic force, which could make sense, but raises the question about psionic-magic transparency, again. Or, it could be some sort of power that comes from the psion, themselves. This works pretty well with the whole "exposure to the Far Realm awakens you". It also works with "magical mutations" from Dark Sun or the way I've seen it used in many home brews.

b) What "modules" should be used to add Psionics?

There are two major ways psionics have been played offered over the editions: wild talents and classes. I think both need to be present, to really be psionics of the D&D tradition. I wouldn't carry over the "roll d% to see if you get psionics" from 1E any more than I still roll for stats. With the introduction of feats, I think the wild talent problem is solved and balanced, though. Use something that looks like the Magic Initiate feat (or even just actually use that feat, depending on class implementation).

So, feats + classes. Maybe even sub-classes, depending on specific ideas. I think I prefer an Eldritch Knight sort of sub-class to Fighter over the stand-alone Psionic Warrior from 3.5E. YMMV. Also, that's a detail, at this point.

c) What's been consistent about Psionics, over the years?

I'm going to discount 4E, which totally scrambled basic game structures. In all other editions, psionics has had some sort of power point structure (I think, can't remember 2E, for sure) and has avoided the VSM components of other "caster" classes. Also, there wasn't any spell preparation; you just knew your powers. Plus, there was a subsystem for psychic combat. The details of some of those varied, but they were there.

d) Is there anything in 5E that's similar?

Well.... Actually, the Sorcerer is pretty close, if you look at the flavor text: The Sorcerer gets power from themselves, not from some outside entity and not from codified practice. The fact that the mechanics of the class still require them to use the VSM is something of an odd design artifact. Really, a Wild Sorcerer is someone who has so much power coursing through them that they can't hardly contain it. When they really work at it, they can focus that raw magic into something meaningful -- like a ball of fire. The fact that this looks like the fireball used by Wizards is either incidental or is because some historic Wizard did a lot of work to duplicate what some Sorcerer did. From a rules perspective, there's no good reason not to just say, "use the rules for fireball". From a flavor perspective, there really shouldn't be any mechanics forcing the Sorcerer to use VSM.

If you hand-wave the VSM and use the spell points rules from the DMG, you end up with a Sorcerer who could pass for a Psion at least 80%. No, they don't get their own "spell" list. There's also no psychic combat. But, it's pretty close, otherwise.

I don't think the separate spell list is a real issue. There's been a pretty consistent march towards having a standardized list since 1E became 2E. Plus, a lot of the "neo-Vancian" aspects of 5E magic is really just the normal casters looting some of the 3E Psion's goodies. Psychic combat is of dubious value (and always has been), but could be added in a variety of ways.

5) Do I want to see Psionics implemented in 5E?

Yeah, I do. I've always used them and like them. I may not use them the same way as some, but I think that's part of the beauty of them -- they're a poorly defined subsystem that works well for "I have something different".

6) Do I want (a) dedicated Psionics class(es) added to 5E?

Eh, not really. I think I'd rather just see Sorcerer fixed. Even if you don't want it to be the new Psion, it's still hard to swallow that they need the VSM restriction. Even without Psionics, I'd like to see the Sorcerer actually perform like someone who is a living mana battery.

Once you get to that point, there's really not much mechanical difference between a 5E Sorcerer with a Mentalist subclass with thematic toys and a 3.5 Psion -- unless you really liked the ectoplasmic trappings. If you like power points, just use the DMG spell points on the (VSM-less) Sorcerer. Personally, I don't care about power points vs. slots.

As far as psychic combat, either make it a feature of the Mentalist/Psion sub-class or do it through some new spells. The latter option seems to be where the Mystic has gone. Personally, I'm just fine ceding psychic combat to the Mystic and letting the Sorcerer take the mantle of "wild talent".

An Advertisement