5E In your Years of Gaming, How many Psionic Characters did you See played

When I play/run D&D in any edition, I see psionic characters

  • All the time. At least one per group.

    Votes: 3 1.7%
  • Pretty frequently. It wasn't rare in our games.

    Votes: 33 18.5%
  • Not much and certainly less common than PHB classes.

    Votes: 45 25.3%
  • Almost never.

    Votes: 68 38.2%
  • Nope. Didn't use psionics at all in my D&D.

    Votes: 27 15.2%
  • Lemony curry goodness.

    Votes: 2 1.1%

  • Total voters
    178

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
As a general comment on psionics as sci-fi "magic"...

That's the wrong way to look at it in D&D. Or rather, it's an incomplete way to look at it.

Replace the word "psionic" with "psychic".

That's the deal, right there. Sure, the difference between "psychic" and "magic" gets blurred in real world beliefs, but in common perception there is a pretty clear distinction between a psychic--like Eleven from Stranger Things--and a spellcaster. Look at fiction based on contemporary earth, and most psychics versus spellcasters are easily distinguished.

We could have a debate about what distinguishes one from another, but the basic point is that there is a clear distinction in perception. Part of that is the general lack of spellcasting components, mystical symbols, and arcane lore. I think the strongest places you blur the lines are with psychic abilities granted by supernatural agents. And maybe that's what people are thinking of when they can't see a strong difference. But I don't think that's a good model for D&D, which has traditionally made psionics basically be psychics with their own innate abilities gained from some sort of "mutation" of birth or training.

I think sci-fi makes use of psychics for the very reason that they are normally perceived as distinct from spellcasters. Yes, they are just sci-fi's way of reproducing the sorts of things that magic does, but sci-fi uses psychic abilities instead of traditional magic for the express reason that people don't see them as the same!

I just feel like people are taking an intellectual debate about the nature of magic and using it as justification for why the common perception of the difference between a psychic and a spellcaster isn't sufficient to inform D&D design.

And, as a side note, what new mechanics does the artificer have that doesn't appear in another class?
Assuming the published one is as similar to the last UA as I think it is, Infuse Item is the big one, though Magical Tinkering, Arcane Armament (I'm not sure that one made the cut), and Spell-Storing Item all seem like reasonable candidates.
 

Hussar

Legend
I phrased that poorly. What new mechanics does the artificer have that would require a completely new system? Infusing items is simply spell casting. Not particularly any different from Warlock Invocations. I mean, seriously, is there really a difference between knowing how to make an infusion to make Goggles of the Night and Witchsight (or whatever one lets warlocks see in the dark - sorry, forgot the right name)?

Artificers cast spells exactly like all other casters. Their abilities are not particularly different from warlocks. While the effects might be a bit different, the mechanic is the same - choose a small number of effects at a given level.

Nothing in the Artificer class requires anything remotely like a new subsystem of mechanics. The only real reason they have their own class is because their casting rate is different from full casters.

So, no, there are no completely new subsystems like people are requiring for psions.

Now, as far as a "clear distinction" between psychic (or psionic) and magic, that distinction is because psionics are used in Science Fiction. We don't call Eleven from Stranger Things a wizard or a warlock because Stranger Things is SF. However, plunk her down in Westeros and poof, she's a wizard Harry.

Psionics or psychics or whatever term tickles your fancy is just a way for SF writers to avoid having to actually explain why they have wizards in their SF setting. Heck, Jedi are a pretty good reason why Star Wars ISN'T science fiction but rather fantasy with a funny moustache.

Look, I get the angst. I'm a warlord fan. I've been told EXACTLY what I'm telling you as the reasons why I can't have a warlord in 5e. That the existence of battlemasters and various other classes should be good enough for me and would I please stop bothering everyone.

Well, guess what? You get to join the same boat. So long as WotC believes that there isn't enough money to be made with a dedicated psion class, you are SOL. Welcome to the party. There's drinks at the bar and the snacks are on the table.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
So ... attacking the fact that I have an opinion? That I never personally saw a reason to use psionics? Whew. Those are compelling arguments.
No, just pointing out that your opinion about psionics is dangerously trying to masquerade as a fact. That's all.

As far as warlock vs other spell-casting classes, have you even read the class? Sorcerer vs wizard is a little closer but even then you have a different primary stat, metamagic and limited spell list vs flexibility and so on.
Have you answered the questions? Nope.

Could you come up with a unique psion? Sure. But nobody seems to agree on what it would look like.
You're repeating this bad faith argument again. I don't think you're really good at attentive listening or otherwise you wouldn't.

I get tired of this argument and being accused of telling people they can't express their opinion. Don't blame me that it's never been a popular class.
You can express your opinion, but that does not mean that your opinion is with merit or made in good faith. I am not blaming you for anything other than not approaching this discussion with good faith and you repeatedly falling back on strawman arguments. But I look forward to you accusing others of "blaming the anti-psionic Illuminati" again when all else fails.

The whole "spell points" thing is a non-starter right from the get go. Plus the whole "psionics are different, for no real reason that just to be different" completely turns me off. EVERY other caster uses spells the same way - VSM. Why should psionics be any different?
I don't necessarily care if psionics uses spell points or spell slots or Mystic-style power augmentation, but your overall argument doesn't seem to hold much water under scrutiny. Many casters are given workarounds for these things as well. The arcane/divine focus is meant to bypass most material components as per eschew materials of old. The Sorcerer can select subtle spell for its Metamagic. The GOO Warlock does not need VSM for its telepathy as its a subclass feature. The Artificer can work around VSM with its infusions, spell storing, and magic items. Then there is the Shadow Monk and 4 Elements Monk who are already using their Ki point as spell points for their spells (equivalent to 1/3 of a level equivalent warlock's Pact Magic converted to spell points). Feats exist to help spellcasters bypass somatic components. So it seems that psionics can be different because other pre-existing casters are also permitted to be different. So what if psionics doesn't need a traditional focus, feat, or metamagic for it? Why are you so reticent about this? Furthermore, it's not like spell points aren't already an option in the DMG.

Insisting that psionics HAS to mirror earlier editions is a non-starter for me. No other class does, so, why should psionics be any different?
Wasn't this a requirement of the wizard? Vancian or Neo-Vancian spellcasting with level 9 spells and a spellbook? As Tony says, 5e classes have been mostly about mirroring earlier editions in various ways and forms.

To me, the UA captures a psionicist perfectly well.
Maybe for someone who has no interest in psionics but not for people who actually plan on using psionics.

Also, @Hussar, no one has advocated an entirely psionics only supplement or book. That seems like a disingenuous strawman. I think most would probably expect psionics to appear in either Dark Sun, much as the Artificer in Eberron, or in a Xanathar's Part 2 which also featured non-psionic subclasses for other classes.

I phrased that poorly. What new mechanics does the artificer have that would require a completely new system? Infusing items is simply spell casting. Not particularly any different from Warlock Invocations. I mean, seriously, is there really a difference between knowing how to make an infusion to make Goggles of the Night and Witchsight (or whatever one lets warlocks see in the dark - sorry, forgot the right name)?
So what if psionics were more like a Warlock's invocations? A bunch of at-will and per Short Rest powers? Because right now, I'm hearing much the same as your argument above, "spellcasting is all the same except ALL the differences we find."

The only real reason [Artificers] have their own class is because their casting rate is different from full casters.
Lolz, no.

Now, as far as a "clear distinction" between psychic (or psionic) and magic, that distinction is because psionics are used in Science Fiction. We don't call Eleven from Stranger Things a wizard or a warlock because Stranger Things is SF. However, plunk her down in Westeros and poof, she's a wizard Harry.
Likely not. Wands are a big thing in Harry Potter. Sure, wandless magic exists, but it is usually something that comes with mastery of the wand form. So the aesthetic of Eleven's powers is wrong for HP-style wizards. Plus, her skill set is more restricted than what a typical wizard in Harry Potter's world would be expected to know. This is also a point of contention regarding psionics vs. arcane magic. It's the everything else that a psionic would be saddled with if they were just reclassified as wizards.

Psionics or psychics or whatever term tickles your fancy is just a way for SF writers to avoid having to actually explain why they have wizards in their SF setting. Heck, Jedi are a pretty good reason why Star Wars ISN'T science fiction but rather fantasy with a funny moustache.
Sure this is why Star Wars is Science Fantasy, but I doubt that either of us would argue that jedi and sith should use a spell slot system or typical VSM requirements for how they use the Force. Most reasonable people would agree that Force-use fits closer to the subtlety of D&D psionics (or a monk's Ki) far than it does D&D arcane or divine magic. This is because psionics has accrued a different set of aesthetics, flavor, and power source than what we typically think of as D&D arcane magic or wizardry. When we look to games like Pillar of Eternity, the Cipher is referred to as a psionist - with subclasses like the Psion, Soul Blade, Ascendant, and Beguiler - and it's different than a Wizard or other class. So it's not as if psionics and its ilk is exclusively restricted to Science Fantasy. And it already exists in Eberron and Dark Sun. So you are welcome to dismiss it as something that should be restricted to science fantasy, but its inclusion as a concurrent part of Fantasy alongside Arcane/Divine magic is a ship that has long sailed for decades now.

Look, I get the angst. I'm a warlord fan. I've been told EXACTLY what I'm telling you as the reasons why I can't have a warlord in 5e. That the existence of battlemasters and various other classes should be good enough for me and would I please stop bothering everyone.
FYI, you sound like the anti-warlord crowd and making similar sort of arguments too. If you can sympathize - and I don't know, maybe it's a false sympathy - then maybe you should not be in the business of contributing to the angst. Golden Rule and all that.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Let's take a look at the 5E poster child for psionics, the Mind Flayer. Creepy attitude? Check. Ability that does psychic damage? Check. New or different spells that are different from any other spell casting monster? Nope.

They just have spell like abilities, a list of spells from the PHB and the psionic label attached to their Innate Spellcasting. Take away a bit of fluff and there's nothing about them that's different. Based on just stats and not story you wouldn't know they were psionicists.

So lets say I take a hell hound, swap out breath weapon damage type, give them advantage on saves vs magic instead of immunity to fire. Does that make them a psionic puppy?

If it does, then just give a sorcerer or warlock different power source and you're done. If it doesn't then I would argue that there's no real difference between a mind flayer and any other monster with innate spellcasting abilities.

But if you give a psionic based characters there's a couple of questions. If you ignore the common trope of people using psychic abilities also having visible gestures, words or focus (aka, V,S,M components), then they've just gotten an advantage over other spell casters. What's the counter-balancing cost? What happens in an anti-magic zone? If they work just like other spell casters, what's the point?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I phrased that poorly. What new mechanics does the artificer have that would require a completely new system? Infusing items is simply spell casting. Not particularly any different from Warlock Invocations. I mean, seriously, is there really a difference between knowing how to make an infusion to make Goggles of the Night and Witchsight (or whatever one lets warlocks see in the dark - sorry, forgot the right name)?
Yes there is a difference. How one goes about getting from A to B is supremely important, since it completely changes the feel of the ability. I would play a Warlock and use that ability. I wouldn't play an Artificer.

Artificers cast spells exactly like all other casters. Their abilities are not particularly different from warlocks. While the effects might be a bit different, the mechanic is the same - choose a small number of effects at a given level.
Just look at 3e. Psions were basically spellcasters, but the feel was drastically different.

Nothing in the Artificer class requires anything remotely like a new subsystem of mechanics. The only real reason they have their own class is because their casting rate is different from full casters.
Infusing IS a new mechanic. It does not get from A to B in the same way the Warlock does.

Now, as far as a "clear distinction" between psychic (or psionic) and magic, that distinction is because psionics are used in Science Fiction. We don't call Eleven from Stranger Things a wizard or a warlock because Stranger Things is SF. However, plunk her down in Westeros and poof, she's a wizard Harry.
No. It's not because it is used in science fiction. It's because psionics has that distinction. Look at it this way. A car can be in a science fiction story and it's a car. That car will be distinctly different from a cart. Now move that car into a fantasy show and it's still going to have the same distinction when compared to a cart. The clear distinction is not dependent on science fiction. psionics is the same way.

Psionics or psychics or whatever term tickles your fancy is just a way for SF writers to avoid having to actually explain why they have wizards in their SF setting.
Eh, no. I doubt many of the original science fiction writers were like, "Hmm. How can I fit magic into my sci-fi story without it being magic. I know! I'll call it psychic." You're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole here and it's not working.

Heck, Jedi are a pretty good reason why Star Wars ISN'T science fiction but rather fantasy with a funny moustache.
Sure. The Jedi are even referred to as sorcerers by Grand Moff Tarkin. Star Wars is sci-fi/fantasy, not sci-fi. As such, it's one of the few exceptions out there. And note, Jedi don't have any internal power. They use a symbiosis with bacteria to draw on the weave, I mean the force. Which begs the question, why can't they just inject the bacteria into others and create more Jedi?
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Let's take a look at the 5E poster child for psionics, the Mind Flayer. Creepy attitude? Check. Ability that does psychic damage? Check. New or different spells that are different from any other spell casting monster? Nope.
If by nope, you meant yep, you would be correct. The mind blast ability recharges on a 5 or 6, which is distinctly different from the Medusa petrify ability which has no recharge rate and can be used infinitely. That's a pretty significant difference between the two.

They just have spell like abilities, a list of spells from the PHB and the psionic label attached to their Innate Spellcasting. Take away a bit of fluff and there's nothing about them that's different. Based on just stats and not story you wouldn't know they were psionicists.
They aren't Psions. They are more like Psychic Warriors or Soul Knives. They have a psychic ability, rather than a magic one. Some of them are also wizards who have a psychic ability and get spells. They are arcanists, not Psions.

So lets say I take a hell hound, swap out breath weapon damage type, give them advantage on saves vs magic instead of immunity to fire. Does that make them a psionic puppy?
Depends. Is the ability purely psychic and not based on external access to magic? If so, yes. If not, no.

If it does, then just give a sorcerer or warlock different power source and you're done.
Except this is blatantly false. It takes more than just a power source change to make a Psion. As has been noted, even if you give the sorcerer a different power source, if you are requiring the sorcerer to use verbal, somatic and material components to use the abilities, it is not psionics.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Let's take a look at the 5E poster child for psionics, the Mind Flayer. Creepy attitude? Check. Ability that does psychic damage? Check. New or different spells that are different from any other spell casting monster? Nope.

They just have spell like abilities, a list of spells from the PHB and the psionic label attached to their Innate Spellcasting. Take away a bit of fluff and there's nothing about them that's different. Based on just stats and not story you wouldn't know they were psionicists.
I'm not sure this is proving what you want to prove. 5e at the time of the mind flayer's design lacks a distinct subsystem for psionic so, of course, they're given abilities like other spell casting monsters. There's no alternative. And, you're right, you wouldn't know they are psionicists - they might as well be using magic.

If it does, then just give a sorcerer or warlock different power source and you're done. If it doesn't then I would argue that there's no real difference between a mind flayer and any other monster with innate spellcasting abilities.
And there's the problem. You have a monster that could be distinctly weirder (as they were kind of in 1e) if a subsystem existed that made them clearly different. But lacking that, you lack that ability to put them apart in that way. The same will be true of the classes - why call one a psionicist if he's pretty much just a sorcerer?

But if you give a psionic based characters there's a couple of questions. If you ignore the common trope of people using psychic abilities also having visible gestures, words or focus (aka, V,S,M components), then they've just gotten an advantage over other spell casters. What's the counter-balancing cost? What happens in an anti-magic zone? If they work just like other spell casters, what's the point?
Paizo tried to deal with this with their occult classes. Some of them have powers that would be modeled via psionic powers, particularly the mesmerist. They've got alternative spell components to mirror the VSM. And they might as well just be another caster as far as how they play. Not really much of an alternative. Some of the classes feel sufficiently distinct, others don't. I'm not a fan.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
If you ignore the common trope of people using psychic abilities also having visible gestures, words or focus (aka, V,S,M components), then they've just gotten an advantage over other spell casters. What's the counter-balancing cost? What happens in an anti-magic zone? If they work just like other spell casters, what's the point?
So far, nobody here has shown any psychic that needs to use gestures or words to use their abilities. Jedi don't have to. Professor X didn't have to. And I haven't seen any other examples offered up. Do you have an example?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
This is such a pointless thread that I've let myself get sucked into. :( But I thought I'd summarize.

Facts
  • I've never seen a psion in play that I remember. There may have been some in 4E, but if I did I didn't realize they weren't just another magic user.
  • Jeremy Crawford has stated that one of the reason they haven't come out with a new class for psionics is that new players don't see a need and old players have different opionions on what they should be.
  • For purposes of this discussion, magic and psychic abilities are both fictional ways of supernaturally manipulating reality.
  • If a psion doesn't need to use components, if their abilities can't be counter spelled and/or are unaffected by anti-magic zones that can be a big advantage, particularly at higher levels. This one will depend on campaign.

Opinions/Observations
  • I don't see much difference between a Mind Flayer and any other monster with innate spellcasting.
  • I don't see psionics fitting into my campaign world. No different than, say, warforged. I have nothing against warforged, I even played one back in 3.5. It just doesn't fit my vision.
  • I don't see a difference between magic and psychic abilities other than fluff.
  • There should be some limitiation or cost if psionic abilites cannot be counter spelled and/or are unaffected by anti-magic zones.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
If it does, then just give a sorcerer or warlock different power source and you're done. If it doesn't then I would argue that there's no real difference between a mind flayer and any other monster with innate spellcasting abilities.
Congratulations. You just constructed a false dichotomy and a disingenuous one at that too. Maxperson addressed this matter, so I will not dwell on it here.

But let's take this hypothetical Ship of Theseus, no wait... Class of Oofta. If we make changes to the Sorcerer/Warlock at what point does it become a different class or would making a new Psionic class be easier. Would simply changing the power source of a Sorcerer/Warlock work? Nope. The spell lists don't match. Okay. So let's change the spell lists. Would it be a good psionic character then? Nope. A Psion traditionally has Intelligence casting and not Charisma. So let's change that. Does the Sorcerer or Warlock model psionics well then? Nope. Because the Warlock has patron/pact-based subclasses and the Sorcerer has non-psionic themed subclasses. So we would have to change casting, probably the saves, the proficiencies, the subclasses, the casting stat, the spell list, and most everything about the respective classes to make them into good Psions. I don't think that you genuinely thought this through, Oofta.

But if you give a psionic based characters there's a couple of questions. If you ignore the common trope of people using psychic abilities also having visible gestures, words or focus (aka, V,S,M components), then they've just gotten an advantage over other spell casters. What's the counter-balancing cost? What happens in an anti-magic zone? If they work just like other spell casters, what's the point?
VSM is overestimated as a cost and the game provides plenty of workarounds for the supposed "cost," again surch as Arcane Focus, War Caster Feat, Metamagic, Free Subclass Ability, Invocation, etc. Plus a number of groups ignore these "costs" in practice. You only have to worry about the tables where the GMs care. While one could cite some VSM for psychic abilities, one could also cite ample evidence where this is not present in fiction as well as its relative absence as a trope in its D&D tradition.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Facts
  • I've never seen a psion in play that I remember. There may have been some in 4E, but if I did I didn't realize they weren't just another magic user.
Okay. That may be a fact, but it's an irrelevant fact.

Jeremy Crawford has stated that one of the reason they haven't come out with a new class for psionics is that new players don't see a need and old players have different opionions on what they should be.
This is not a fact. He did say to someone asking about psionics what his view was, because players have different opinions on what psionics is, but he didn't give that as a reason for why the new class hasn't been made.

Also, if you start a thread here for what wizards should get, including each school, you will also get different opinions from old players on what those should be. Different opinions is not a good reason for not making the class.

For purposes of this discussion, magic and psychic abilities are both fictional ways of supernaturally manipulating reality.
Okay, but this is also an irrelevant fact.

If a psion doesn't need to use components, if their abilities can't be counter spelled and/or are unaffected by anti-magic zones that can be a big advantage, particularly at higher levels. This one will depend on campaign.
Sure, but there are other ways to balance the class, so this is not a good reason not to make a new class.

So we have two irrelevant facts, one fact that isn't a fact and also isn't a good reason not to make a new class, and one fact that is not a good reason not to make a new class.

I don't see much difference between a Mind Flayer and any other monster with innate spellcasting.
Okay.

I don't see psionics fitting into my campaign world. No different than, say, warforged. I have nothing against warforged, I even played one back in 3.5. It just doesn't fit my vision.
Okay.

I don't see a difference between magic and psychic abilities other than fluff.
Okay, but you're wrong on this one. And yes, opinions can be wrong.

There should be some limitiation or cost if psionic abilites cannot be counter spelled and/or are unaffected by anti-magic zones.
I agree. There needs to be balance in some other manner.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
People who don't care about psionics: why are you still in the thread writing multi-paragraph arguments about it?
Because people like you keep asking questions like this and it feels rude to ignore them? Bad habit? Boredom? I originally just asked for an explanation of how psionics would be different than any other spellcaster and got sucked in because none of the justifications felt particularly compelling? Because I get tired of people complaining that the game isn't perfectly designed for them personally?

Combination of all of the above I guess.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Let's take a look at the 5E poster child for psionics, the Mind Flayer. Creepy attitude? Check. Ability that does psychic damage? Check. New or different spells that are different from any other spell casting monster? Nope.
That they don't have any spells unique to themselves is, from my view, a missed opportunity in design.

Ditto with their psyonic abilities - if all they can do is replicate existing spells (albeit with a different casting mechanism) then what's the point?

But if you give a psionic based characters there's a couple of questions. If you ignore the common trope of people using psychic abilities also having visible gestures, words or focus (aka, V,S,M components), then they've just gotten an advantage over other spell casters. What's the counter-balancing cost? What happens in an anti-magic zone? If they work just like other spell casters, what's the point?
Well, first off if they're going to do psyonics right* there'll be a whole list of not-all-that-powerful abilities that are unique to psyonics; which they CAN use without gestures (other than maybe looking in the intended direction of effect) or components and CAN use in null-magic zones...and CAN use as reactions or bonus actions depending on the ability and-or situation.

Then, have their more powerful abilities - which again would ideally not just replicate existing spells for the most part but be unique to psyonics - require some sort of focus and-or gestures a la wand use in the Potterverse, if needed. They'd still work in null-magic zones. (and think of the nasty challenges an adventuring party could face when psyonic opponents set up their lairs as null-magic zones - their psyonics work but the party's magic doesn't. The front-liners would get a real chance to shine for a change!)

The counter-balancing cost could simply be that using psyonic powers is fatiguing and-or painful, expressed by losing some h.p. every time. Even just losing 1 h.p. per 'level' of the ability adds up over time, and there's nothing sayng the number of ability levels has to stop at nine; and to make it even more 'costly' have it that points lost in this way require two long rests to recover instead of just one.

* - not holding my breath on this...
 

Slit518

Explorer
In my 20 years of gaming, I have not seen a Psionic played once.

We have discussed it a few times with a couple different groups, but none of us had the actual desire to sit down and play one.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
In my 20 years of gaming, I have not seen a Psionic played once.

We have discussed it a few times with a couple different groups, but none of us had the actual desire to sit down and play one.
I'm curious what the reasons were that you passed them by.
 

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