D&D General please tell me about the old psionic classes?

Mind of tempest

(he/him)advocate for 5e psionics
given I am mildly skint right now I can't afford to hunt old books and buy them and what few free documentation is left seems to be either gone or unreliable at best.

can someone elaborate on the names, mechanical niches and thematics of them mostly as I find the old and slightly odd always where the most enriching ideas can be refined from or stolen
 

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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
The Psion is your "Wizard" type Psionic character, who can specialize in different "Sciences" of Psionic ability, such at Telepathic, Clairsentient, Clairvoyant, Telekinetic and so on. The Erudite is a variation on this, who more closely aligns with the Wizard's scholarly theme.

Wilders are your "wild talent/Sorcerer" Psionic characters- limited powers known, but get big bonuses when using their power liberally.

The Skulk is a Psionic thief/rogue, using mind tricks to improve their stealth.

The Psychic Warrior is exactly what it says on the tin- using Psionics to bolster their combat ability.

The Ardent manipulates thoughts and emotions to bolster allies or confuse enemies, making them a better support class.

The Soulknife uses their limited psychic ability to manifest a blade of psionic energy, ala Psylocke of the X-Men:
Psylocke.jpg

There's likely more I'm not thinking of, like the Prestige Psionic classes (such as the Warmind) or 3rd-party (the Armiger), but those are the basics.
 

CandyLaser

Adventurer
The classes @James Gasik described are the 3.5 era classes. In 2e, there was basically only the Psionicist, though any character could have wild talents. Psionicists learned multiple psionic powers across multiple disciplines, and wild talents got a small handful of powers at random based on the luck of the dice. 4e had the psion and the ardent filling the controller and leader roles, respectively. It also made the monk explicitly a psionic class and developed it as a mobile damage-dealer focused on unarmed attacks and introduced the battlemind to fill the defender role in 4e's take on the psychic warrior.
 

Mind of tempest

(he/him)advocate for 5e psionics
The classes @James Gasik described are the 3.5 era classes. In 2e, there was basically only the Psionicist, though any character could have wild talents. Psionicists learned multiple psionic powers across multiple disciplines, and wild talents got a small handful of powers at random based on the luck of the dice. 4e had the psion and the ardent filling the controller and leader roles, respectively. It also made the monk explicitly a psionic class and developed it as a mobile damage-dealer focused on unarmed attacks and introduced the battlemind to fill the defender role in 4e's take on the psychic warrior.
any thematics?
 

tomBitonti

Adventurer
1E gave Psionics a science fiction feel. "Probability Travel" vs "Plane Shift", "Force Screen" instead of "Shield". Psionics also leaned heavily into the Astral Plane, and had many unique aberrant creatures, like the Illithid, and Intellect Devourers.

1E psionic combat used a lot of terms from classic psychoanalysis:

Attack Modes: Psionic Blast, Mind Thrust, Ego Whip, Id Insinuation, and Psychic Crush.

Defense Modes: Mind Blank, Thought Shield, Mental Barriers, Intellect Fortress, and Tower of Iron Will.

Reports are that it gave a nice other-worldly feel to certain creatures, but was a terrible subsystem for characters.

I don't think it was divisive, to the extent that things can be now-a-days. However, there are definitely folks that really like it, and others equally strongly don't want it in their game.

Edit: Here is a nice write-up:

TomB
 
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Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
The thing with AD&D psionics (present in an appendix in the PHB) is that they were on top of other aspects of your character: You were a 4th-level ranger and the person beside you was a 4th-level paladin who was psionic, with a whole mess of additional abilities. There was no pretense of balance. Everyone might roll to see if they were psionic, one would make it, and then that person had all sorts of additional abilities and plot complications unavailable to the rest of the party. It was a decidedly anti-fun system, but we didn't talk about things that way back then.

Things have go better, even in the limited way they've been implemented in 5e.
 

The mechanics were usually point based, rather than slot based. Powers often scaled: spend more points, get more oomph.

I felt 2e psionics were less powerful than casters but psi powers had no V/S/M components so they could be subtle, though there were sensory effects that could still give a psioinicist away.

Didn't see a full 3e psionicist but had a player I gave access to Fist of Zuoken (psi-monk PrC) from probably 14-19th level and felt that was a good boost to a 3e monk.
 

GnomeWorks

Adventurer
For 1e, Dragon 78 introduced a psionicist class, as well as additional psionic powers. Can't speak to how balanced it is, though, as I've never seen it at a table.
 

You should remember psionic manifesters without verbal, somatic or material components can be too subtiles. They could be infiltrated into a high society party and using their powers with wrong intentions and nobody would notice.
 

CandyLaser

Adventurer
any thematics?
2e took a lot from 1e, which in turn was inspired by (I think) the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust. They have a vaguely science fantasy feel, with powers named things like molecular agitation and chemical simulation. There's a touch of spiritualism in there too, with powers involving ectoplasm and ESP as well. 4e, on the other hand, had a bit of a shared aesthetic among the psionic classes in the form of glowing energy halos around the heads of psionic characters.
27.jpg

The psionics classes also (mostly) shared a mechanical identity. In 4e, most characters had a mix of at-will, encounter, daily, and utility powers. Psionic classes (other than the monk) traded the encounter powers for additional at-will abilities paired with the ability to enhance their at-will powers a few times per encounter. Each class also had its own gimmick on top of that: psions got to focus on telepathy, telekinesis, or psionic summoning and got some utility powers based on their choice. Battleminds could mark enemies and inflict psychic damage as punishment if their marked foes attacked anyone but them. Ardents could heal and grant lots of bonuses to allies after doing so. Monks got unique movement powers that let them flit around the battlefield and various abilities to ramp up their damage output.
 

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