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Mike Mearls on D&D Psionics: Should Psionic Flavor Be Altered?

WotC's Mike Mearls has been asking for opinions on how psionics should be treated in D&D 5th Edition. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that he'd hinted that he might be working on something, and this pretty much seals the deal. He asked yesterday "Agree/Disagree: The flavor around psionics needs to be altered to allow it to blend more smoothly into a traditional fantasy setting", and then followed up with some more comments today.

"Thanks for all the replies! Theoretically, were I working on psionics, I'd try to set some high bars for the execution. Such as - no psionic power duplicates a spell, and vice versa. Psionics uses a distinct mechanic, so no spell slots. One thing that might be controversial - I really don't like the scientific terminology, like psychokinesis, etc. But I think a psionicist should be exotic and weird, and drawing on/tied to something unsettling on a cosmic scale.... [but]... I think the source of psi would be pretty far from the realm of making pacts. IMO, old one = vestige from 3e's Tome of Magic.

One final note - Dark Sun is, IMO, a pretty good example of what happens to a D&D setting when psionic energy reaches its peak. Not that the rules would require it, but I think it's an interesting idea to illustrate psi's relationship to magic on a cosmic level."
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

SkidAce

Adventurer
I agree that the psionics system should be just as neutral in origin as the magic system (Weave not withstanding) so that DMs can create/modify their setting as they see fit. IMHO, the rules are a toolkit for the DM to create settings.

Having said that, I must admit having psionics linked to the Far Realm (aberrations) seems like it has always been the case.

Mind Flayers had it, Aboleths had it. Githzerai/Githyanki, gods, powerful fiends.

In my campaign from about 1987/89 onward, psionics (and I used the term ki interchangeably*) was the "mind over matter" true source of universal power (i.e. belief, will etc.). Arcane was magical science, divine (since faith based) was associated with will and the gods. Etc.

I know the Far Realms itself didn't come about until later, but many folks used the Cthulhu mythos** from Deities and Demigods anyway....so...moot point.

Just my thoughts.


---

* Monk abilities seemed mind/body control anyway so that fit

** My favorite rant. Today, as we speak, Cthulhu mythos is trite and overplayed according to experienced players. "Ho hum, the big bad of the universe is Nyarlathtep...boring". What is somebody like myself who sets all their adventures in a long running homebrew supposed to do? Reinvent my legends because TSR/WotC/Pop Culture jumped on the bandwagon of my beautiful concepts. /endrant (I know, I know, the wheel was invented independently and simultaneously in separate locations, sigh. Oh well.
 

lkj

Explorer
I think we're in agreement, except in how strongly we read the primacy of the option. I'll grant that I'm probably a bit over-sensitive to this sort of thing, but I think that's based on experience.

Depending on how strongly Mearls intended to convey the link, my actual response is somewhere between, "Could you maybe make it more clearly an option?" and "Dude, throttle back a bit and make it a co-equal option."


I can get 99% behind this. The 1% comes from a conscious avoidance of hypocrisy. Otherwise, I agree that flipping the relationship between the Far Realm and psionics is substantively better. I see that as accomplishing the same general flavor goals without painting an entire power source into a corner. The new Mystic form of psionics seems like it'd be great for a Wuxia game, for which a tie to tentacled horrors might come as a shock to fans.
Yeah. At this point I think we are left waiting to see what they do in the next iteration. I'm presuming we'll see another UA iteration before it goes to print or development. But, maybe not. I guess it depends on how the feedback looked from the last one.

AD
 
Yes. But I don't think even the current text presents it as the only option. That does seem clear to me. It just happens to be the the option that is highlighted. Which, understandably, irks some people.

AD
Here's where I'm seeing it presented as a mandatory component:

"Psionics indirectly originates from the Far Realm"

That is a direct absolute statement. That paragraph goes on to support it fully. Somewhere near the end of the section they start mentioning other worlds (like Dark Sun) where Far Realm doesn't make sense, but at no point do they modify that statement. I mean, you can't. It's an absolute statement. If they meant to say, "psionics usually originates...", "psionics can originate...", etc, they could just say that. I would be happy if they just changed a couple words. As it is now, those couple of words not being changed is a huge deal because it really does mandate the connection in official lore.
 

lkj

Explorer
Here's where I'm seeing it presented as a mandatory component:

"Psionics indirectly originates from the Far Realm"

That is a direct absolute statement. That paragraph goes on to support it fully. Somewhere near the end of the section they start mentioning other worlds (like Dark Sun) where Far Realm doesn't make sense, but at no point do they modify that statement. I mean, you can't. It's an absolute statement. If they meant to say, "psionics usually originates...", "psionics can originate...", etc, they could just say that. I would be happy if they just changed a couple words. As it is now, those couple of words not being changed is a huge deal because it really does mandate the connection in official lore.
I totally see how you get that. However, I see the word 'indirectly' and then descriptions of other non-Far Realm related origins later, and I interpret it as being intended as one possibility. It is an absolute statement. But it doesn't say 'only originates'. It originates here. It originates there. It originates all kinds of places! Which is how I read it.

However, yes, it's not clear. Your interpretation is valid. You and I could go in circles around the semantics. Text needs to be changed. I chalk that up to it being playtest wording. Presumably Mearls himself could answer what he intended.

In other words, at this point, probably not worth us arguing. And hopefully people like yourself have provided feedback to them. I'm guessing the designers check Enworld from time to time as well.

AD
 
I would only worry about the Far Realm origins of psionics depending on how much is directly impacts the class. If it can be easily played without any reference to the Far Realm, then I'm not too worried. If the mechanics draw upon the Far Realm, then I will be less enthused about the mystic class and psionics. Thankfully, from what I have seen, even with the indirect origin reference, the Far Realm seems to have less to do with the mystic than it does with the warlock so I'm fine with them keeping the reference to it, I can easily veto that fluff in my games.
An issue is that if you care about official lore, tying it to the Far Realms inherently will mean that Dark Sun, for instance, takes on a different feel.
 

Parmandur

Legend
An issue is that if you care about official lore, tying it to the Far Realms inherently will mean that Dark Sun, for instance, takes on a different feel.

Probably, they will make that explicit when covering Dark Sun; Far Realms related to the magapocalypse in some way.
 
Probably, they will make that explicit when covering Dark Sun; Far Realms related to the magapocalypse in some way.
The problem being, that I expect the majority of Dark Sun fans (myself included) don't want the feel of it altered at all, much less infused with Far Realmedness.
 

Uchawi

Villager
My viewpoint.

1. No psionic power duplicates a spell, and vice versa? There will be duplicates, when it makes sense like mind reading, charm, etc. to totally remove one from the other makes no sense.
2. Psionics uses a distinct mechanic, so no spell slots? I believe it should be a distinct class, and probably use a variation on slots, but not be a mechanic that does not balance well with spells (like super nova) or multiclassing.
3. Scientific terminology, like psychokinesis, etc.? The terms are embedded in the D&D psyche (pun intended). Don't change them for the sake of change or being "too scientific" - whatever that means
4. Source of psi? Something different from martial, divine, pacts, or arcane, but don't go overboard with far realms (Cthulhu-esque) background
 
Probably, they will make that explicit when covering Dark Sun; Far Realms related to the magapocalypse in some way.
I agree. One sentence in a Dark Sun setting guide or more likely some Desert Adventure AP will resolve this alleged issue.

Besides which psychics in D&D predate Dark Sun--Mystics don't need to accommodate Dark Sun, Dark Sun needs to accommodate mystics.
 

Parmandur

Legend
I agree. One sentence in a Dark Sun setting guide or more likely some Desert Adventure AP will resolve this alleged issue.

Besides which psychics in D&D predate Dark Sun--Mystics don't need to accommodate Dark Sun, Dark Sun needs to accommodate mystics.

I don't know Dark Sun much, they may have done that in 4E already, for all I know.
 
I don't know Dark Sun much, they may have done that in 4E already, for all I know.
I don't remember much about 4e Dark Sun. I do remember that they changed defiling, not necessarily for the better for Dark Sun, but in a way that could be interesting for an "evil" class or evil outsiders the PC's could summon (basically you juice up your attack by defiling someone close to you). I thought that would be interesting for, say summoned devils--they could do more damage then their CR (basis for summoning), but only if they defiled an ally (to be extra evil, the summoner would only be defiled if no one else was around). You get a benefit for doing something evil (hurting a party member unless you drag a sacrificial NPC around with you, and what is the barbarian going to do with all those hp's anyway?)--that's how you sell evil in D&D.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
I do have to agree that the sorcerer and magic initiate almost full the same role as psionics. Now, the exact nature of their abilities, and their fluff and thematics, are very different.

I do like the monk as psionic and psionics as ki. But I also like the far realm theme too. It depends on how many "power sources" you want in your game.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Parmandur

Legend
That should be interesting. Get feedback on the UA ranger (new) in Nov, get feedback on the Mystic in Jan. A couple of months to write up other stuff and print books--I am starting to believe the Big Book of Crunch November in 2017 theory.

Definitely getting something next year; might be a box set or something, but a book seems probable. They have bounced a lot of subclass ideas against the wall in the past year, too.
 

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