D&D (2024) How should the Psion/Mystic be implemented in 1DnD?

Yaarel

He Mage
Here are the traditional spell schools. They can divide the spells up according to the classes, something like:

Conjuration (Multiverse, Planes, Summoning): Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock
Divination (Space-Time, Teleportation): Bard, Cleric, Druid
Enchantment: Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock
Evocation (Air, Fire, Water): Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard
Illusion (Ether, Force): Bard, Warlock, Wizard
Necromancy (Death, Shadow): Cleric, Warlock, Wizard
Transmutation (Earth, Plant, Animal): Bard, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard

Note, Abjuration is a weird school that overlaps all of the other schools, so it is missing from the list above, but the Bard and Cleric have its spells. Abjuration is the protective applications of magic. If there is a new school that is the opposite of Abjuration that is more about inflicting more harm, then Warlock and Sorcerer would have it.

For a Psion concept with "non flashy" magic, the Bard and Psion seem to share the same schools. This commonality suggests the Bard and Psion could share the same Source spell list.

In the above arrangement, certain iconic spells like Magic Missile and Mage Armor would reclassify as Illusion spells, in the sense of ethereal quasi-real Force effects. Thus the Wizard would gain these spells as part of the Illusion school.
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
I definitely think psions should have innate, always-usable abilities that cost nothing. Telekinesis to let you move unattended objects and strike with them (for a fixed amount of damage). Telepathy to let you sense conscious creatures and communicate with them. Et cetera. These should be stronger than cantrips, but not as powerful as leveled spells.

Then they should also have a selection of "power moves" with limited usage; mind control, hurling opponents around, and so forth.

What this leads to IMO is a warlock-like design, with at-will "invocations" and a few "spells" (not as many as a standard caster).
An easy way to do this is, for the Psion class to use its Warlock Invocation-like "Talents" to augment a certain cantrip or other spell, or even to grant a non-spell magical effect.

An Invocation "Talent" works great for the Psion class.
 

By far, IMO, the best version they released was the Mystic (link goes to the UA pdf).

It was not perfect, and like a lot of UA material needed some finetuning. But it was an excellent attempt at making a psionics class for people that like psionics.
No. It was an excellent attempt at making a psionics class for people that like D&D psionics. I like psionics - but I like them from the perspective of someone who grew up on the X-men and sci fi novels. And I've always found a huge disconnect between the way psionics worked in fiction and the way they mechanically work in D&D. The further we get from Tower Of Iron Will and Intellect Fortress the better (which to be fair the Mystic doesn't have)

I find the mystic significantly worse than the Aberrant Mind for actually being a psychic that works in the way I'd expect a psychic to. First the Mystic tries to be all types of psychic while the aberrant mind is much more focused and leaves the physical combat styles to other subclasses (one for monk, one for fighter, one for rogue). The Soulknife for example is a much more low key psychic spy. Utterly inappropriate for e.g. Professor X - but far more so for 70s Sci Fi psychic spies (or even 1930s Lensmen) who were meant to be very competent at a range of things rather than being magic first.

Second they are both primary casters with spell points (the Aberrant Mind changes the conversion rates to metamagic points), and cantrips/talents. But the Mystic is far more inflexible. The Aberrant Mind can pick exactly the spells to suit the character you want rather than entire disciplines being all-or-nothing. This means that when a caster broadens their specialisation rather than growing by only a few spells they get them all delivered to them in a single glurge wave. A level 8 bestial form mystic who first got the ability to bestial form at level 7 is precisely as good at it as one who's been doing that sort of thing right from level 1 - but they only know four disciplines. There's not much granularity in learning; it's all or nothing as if you download literally everything within the discipline as soon as you get it. There's far more granular control and progress if you aren't using such measures.

And then as a DM I would find that the mystic (a 28 page document) with its entire parallel magic system would actively degrade my ability to run the game either by adding psychic NPCs (I'm not going to remember those disciplines) or by being able to assist the players. I don't always agree with what 5e does - but the decision not to have an entire parallel spell point using magic system that works largely in the way magic does was a good one.

So no. I like psionics just fine. I've been playing them in RPGs since the 90s. 5e is the first time in the history of D&D I've seen more than a passing resemblance between the psionics I actually like and the D&D rules for them and find they add to rather than detract from the game. So don't tell me that the problems I have with the Mystic or the reason I actively like the current 5e implementations is that I don't like psionics. We just have extremely different ideas on what psionics are and how they should be represented.

That said I am receptive to the idea that you shouldn't have tentacles enforced on you with the psion-type subclass.
 

Sorry, I am too used to psionic powers with a pool of power points.

Mystic as spirit spellcaster? I wonder if something from incarnum game mechanic could be recovered.

Psionic powers as special game mechanic are necessary for possible future d20 no-fantasy games, for example Gamma World, or something about superheroes.

If psionic manifesters don't need somatic, verbal or material components, then someone could be infiltrated into a dinner of high society to read minds, and nobody would realise.

If it is not by WotC, then it will be by some 3PP. The fact if there are sourcebooks in DMGuild.

I like the idea of "psionic technique", something like at-will catrip, but you can to spend your psionic focus, and this is reloaded with a concentration check.

I like the idea of psion/esper/mystic being different. It is like somebody who wants to wear her own clothing style and not like the other urban tribe.

Psionic is not like Magic. Charles Xavier is not like Dr Strange, Jean Grey is not Scarlet Witch, Tatsumaki(One Punch) is not Hermione Granger. Carrie White (the blooded promotion queen from Stephen King's story) didn't study ocultism. Jedis don't cry abrakadabra.

Psionic could find its space in D&D xuanhuan(Chinese fantasy fiction)

* The last word about Dark Sun hasn't been said yet. The cruch part can return, and the metaplot about the Athasian Tablelands can await. Maybe after the event about Vecna and the black obelisks we could find some reason to explain the new reboot of D&D multiverse. Other option could be to publish a spiritual succesor, something like the demiplane of the desolation.
 

Sorry, I am too used to psionic powers with a pool of power points.

...

If psionic manifesters don't need somatic, verbal or material components, then someone could be infiltrated into a dinner of high society to read minds, and nobody would realise.

If it is not by WotC, then it will be by some 3PP. The fact if there are sourcebooks in DMGuild.
The two parts I've highlighted are literally done by the Aberrant Mind. And for that matter the Psi Warrior and Soulknife.
Beginning at 6th level, when you cast any spell of 1st level or higher from your Psionic Spells feature, you can cast it by expending a spell slot as normal or by spending a number of sorcery points equal to the spell's level. If you cast the spell using sorcery points, it requires no verbal or somatic components, and it requires no material components, unless they are consumed by the spell.
And I'm all in favour of aberrant minds dumping Arms of Hadar, Hunger of Hadar, Black Tentacles, and Summon Aberration for more psionic abilities, which they can explicitly do. I also want an alternative to Revelation In Flesh even if few games reach that far. (Cause Fear should be on the Aberrant Mind list, but that's a minor issue).
I like the idea of psion/esper/mystic being different. It is like somebody who wants to wear her own clothing style and not like the other urban tribe.
As a DM you're going to have to make a hell of a pitch for this before I'll allow it in my campaigns, especially if it comes from a third party. And I think I'm far from the only one that thinks that way. As a DM I prefer more streamlined rules - especially when the existing rules already cover things.
Psionic is not like Magic. Charles Xavier is not like Dr Strange, Jean Grey is not Scarlet Witch, Tatsumaki(One Punch) is not Hermione Granger. Carrie White (the blooded promotion queen from Stephen King's story) didn't study ocultism. Jedis don't cry abrakadabra.
D&D class based game and you're right that psionics is not wizarding magic - but you're going in with a TSR-era approach to D&D magic; sorcerers and bards have been in D&D's core rules for more than the past twenty years.

Carry White might not have studied occultism - but although some D&D Sorcerers have a key difference is that they aren't required to (there is nothing preventing them doing so to find out what these abilities they've manifested are). In D&D terms Dr. Strange is a wizard, Charles Xavier is an Aberrant Mind Sorcerer who casts literally everything through the Psionic Sorcery points pool. Scarlet Witch might very well be a warlock in D&D terms or a wizard. Jean's another Aberrant Mind sorcerer (although neither Xavier nor Jean use Revelation in Flesh). One Punch is a Monk - and guess what? There's a psionic monk subclass - so not Hermione Granger.
 



The Psion is its own class, using a Warlock-like spellcasting chassis.

Except, it uses spell points, where each spell slot level costs 1 spell point to cast. So, a slot 3 Fireball spell costs 3 spell points to cast. The spell point pool equals 1 + Psion level. This pool refreshes after each short rest.

All psionic spells are innate and never use spell components.

The Psion has at least four solid, distinctive, subclasses.

A choice of Warlock "Invocation"-like options allow the player to customize the mechanical features for the psionic character concept.

The Warlock "Arcanum"-like spell mechanic allows the Psion class to access slot 9 spells, when advancing to the highest tiers.
this could be interesting, and would allow for a short rest recharge of power pts.

from levels 2-11 you have 2 slots of the highest level you can cast that always recharge, what does that look like in mana?
if they cost 1 per level
2 1st level spells is 2
2 2nd level spells is 4
2 3rd level spells is 6
2 4th level spells is 8
2 5th level spells is 10
you can track that to level and say you start every day with your level (to a max of 11) in power pts and you regain them on a short or long rest, you can spend them on any power you know.
starting at level 12 that gets problematic though
 

So in my game Im going with a Dice pool mechanic that keys off either Stamina, Mana, or both for resources.

The player gets a dice pool of a certain die size and escalating die amount, and they have immediate access to certain Levelled powers that they can use with no restrictions other than the Energy cost.

Roll the die pool, and count the successes, and that determines how strong the power is.

Its solid, it feels sufficiently different from conventional magic, and the effects will also be distinct, exclusive, and unique, further setting it apart.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
this could be interesting, and would allow for a short rest recharge of power pts.

from levels 2-11 you have 2 slots of the highest level you can cast that always recharge, what does that look like in mana?
if they cost 1 per level
2 1st level spells is 2
2 2nd level spells is 4
2 3rd level spells is 6
2 4th level spells is 8
2 5th level spells is 10
you can track that to level and say you start every day with your level (to a max of 11) in power pts and you regain them on a short or long rest, you can spend them on any power you know.

starting at level 12 that gets problematic though
The highest level spells are only once per day ... because that is how the Warlock chassis with its arcanums, and other other full casters work.

Good enough.

But actually,

the spell points even work well for the highest level spells too. Every spell level can be cast by means of points.

What keeps the class balanced is the short rest. The short rest allows the amount of spell points at one time to remain small. So, novas become less doable. There is no accumulation of many points from low spell slots that can be used for high slots instead. Rather, with the small short-rest pool, to cast the highest level spell slot diminishes the pool rapidly at any caster level.



Initially I intended to avoid spell points for the Psion, and just use normal 5e spell slots, because I didnt want fringe mechanics. It is important to me that there is a "normal" Psion class for 5e. I care about flavor, and dont want to risk mechanical balance, and dont want inelegant mechanics.

However, the short-rest spell point refresh is so excellent. So mechanically balanced. So simple. So intuitive. So narratively appropriate. The spell points are so much better, it is worth having the Players Handbook.

Indeed, now wish all the full caster classes − Wizard, Bard, Druid, Cleric, Warlock, Sorcerer − would use the short-rest spell points instead! It is so much better.
 


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