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Unearthed Arcana Psionics Hits Unearthed Arcana

If you've been waiting anxiously for psionics to arrive in the D&D Unearthed Arcana column, your wait is over! The Awakened Mystic is a psionic class by Mike Mearls which - currently - has access to three psionic disciplines, with more to come later. Following on from Mike Mearls' question, Should Psionic Flavour Be Altered? (a discussion which promoted 750+ comments here on EN World, and is still ongoing), it sounds like he has answered the question with a resounding "yes". Rather than pseudo-scientific sounding terms like telepathy, clairovoyance, and the like, we have the disciplines Conquering Mind, Intellect Fortress (a callback to earlier editions), and Third Eye.

UPDATE - IMPORTANT NOTE FROM MIKE MEARLS: "For folks looking at the psionics material in today's UA, looks like there was a minor error. Not all the material is there." Keep an eye on it; I expect it'll be fixed soon.

UPDATE 2 - fixed! Updated document includes another three disciplines (Celerity, Iron Durability, and Psionic Weapon) and the basic rules to the class.

Find it here!
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Wrathamon

Adventurer
In 4e I think they had the same problem with the monk ... it felt like a psionic class mechanically and improving the body mind and spirit psuedo science stuff, so they made it sorta one.
 

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Okay, believe it or not, I had basically the same ability as Strength of Mind in the homebrew psion class I've been tinkering with. I say this not to brag, but to point out a problem I ran into: multiclassing. Unless you do something to balance it, it's a free extra save proficiency for a character who multiclasses into psion but not for a full psion. (What I did was say that multiclass psions instead pick one of their existing proficiencies and gain the ability to move that around.)

Generally, I really like where they're going. I would prefer not to see so much of the Far Realm flavor in the fluff text, but it doesn't show up at all in the mechanics we've seen so it's hardly "baked in". I think that the fluff's description of what psionic power fundamentally is is very good, actually: it's basically a pseudo-Buddhist/Matrix-y "reality is an illusion" sort of deal. The problem is the overemphasis on the Far Realm as the source of this realization. It's like the 3e sorcerer saying, "These characters are men and women with an intuitive gift for magic... and they get that gift from a draconic ancestor." Very general character concept, unnecessarily specific source. For the record, not that any one cares, I'm actually a big fan of the Far Realm, but I think the right place for strong Lovecraftian flavor is where it currently is: the warlock.

Order of the Immortal does look a little powerful on paper, but that's just numbers. At this stage in the process, I am so far from worried about that kind of stuff.

However, the old problem of mind flayers using spells instead of psionic powers is back in full force. Personally, as a DM, spending a few hours rewriting monsters to use the new system is my idea of a good time. But I fully recognize that not every DM is like me, and that "the DM can fix the problem with houserules" is a fallacy. The rules, as published, are going to present a disconnect between the narrative and the mechanics. Publishing an updated mind flayer is clunky and awkward and redundant, but may be the best patch. There's really no perfect solution here. I think we all knew it's going to be inevitable in any edition of D&D where the mind flayer appears in the Monster Manual but psionics do not appear in the Player's Handbook.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Time for me to knee jerk all over this.

Firstly, I miss the Grey boxes, those were the best, please bring them back.

A creature wielding psionic power focuses its concentration on a discipline, and in doing so, manifests a minor psionic effect. Once a creature has concentrated on a discipline, it can then tap into its reservoir of inner energy to create even greater effects.
So here it the central mechanic for psionics, that's simple and different enough

Otherworldly Power: Much ado about a little fluff. Fortunately, it does provide an easy out for DM who flat out doesn't want it in their game.

Disciplines and Psi Points:
What a strange mix of continuous and daily power. I almost expected them to refresh on a short rest.

Psionics and Magic Transparency
Oh this is going to cause problems. Ki, the other quasi-magical inner power that can be used to cast spells, doesn't have such a disclaimer. I think there should be parity here, one way or the other.

Using a Discipline
Activating a Discipline is action intensive. I guess that is to be expected. Outside of using points, and not using components, it's just like a spell. Except for that hard to parce Combining Psionic Effects bit. It needs some named examples, but I almost get what you are going for here? If you use a discipline to get water walking for 5 min, then switch up to a different discipline for mind reading, you can still water walk for the remaining time right, even if the concentration has shifted, right? In fact, how does disrupting concentration effect those spend points for timed durations abilities? It seems to imply there are exceptions to the rule of "no concentration = no lasting effects", but I don't see any such exceptions.

The Mystic
Didn't want to call it the Psion? Well I suppose they intend to combine all the psionic classes into one mass, instead of making the Psion class and an additional subclass for the Fighter, Rogue, and/or Monk. A bit of a let down.

Class Features
A bit generically simple, save for having one saving throw*
*they don't actually have one saving throw, they have a single static saving throw and a dynamic one

Strength of Mind This is kinda cool, but it's going to be overpowered when your static save is Wisdom instead of Intelligence.

Psionic Order
Finally to the meat, and they are a huge mixed bag of fresh and rotten.

Order of the Awakened
This is the "I wanted to be a Psion" option.

Mind Thrust
Why doesn't it auto-scale? It won't keep up with the cantrips otherwise, and Mystics don't get multiple attacks. (oversight, maybe?) Psi points should do things like "spend one point, you manifest fire for fire damage or crystals for weapon damage instead) Or maybe not even points, each of the disciplines could provide a different damage type to augment this.

Psychic Mind
Seems oddly limited. It's one-way communication, unless you speak the same language. Maybe it gets powered up later?

Object Reading
This is a fun non-combat power. I like it.

Conquering Mind
It's already better than Friends at the concentration level. Damn Friends sucks. :cool:
Exacting Query and Occluded Mind seem like they should be reversed in level.
Broken Will DAMN. That's basically a save or die, at level 5!

Intellect Fortress
Reaction Disadvantage and you hurt them when they hit you. But remember you need Concentration to make it work. And no power point options, that's it? This Discipline sucks.

Third Eye
I take it back, if there is one thing Intellect Fortress has going for it, it's not Third Eye.
Concentration Blindsight, that's handy in the dark.
1 point for Tremorsense? (situational I guess)
1 point for Advantage on WIS checks (useful)
5 points for Truesight (Also situational, but it covers a lot more situations)
This one seems to be the least fun. It's just being able to look at stuff, within 30' of you. But no darkvision for some reason. It needs remote sensors, some form of combat utility, and pizzazz.

Order of the Immortal
Why does this not have multiple attacks? Why does the Mystic not have multiple attacks to begin with?

Durable Mind
Is it really necessary to make their concentration immune to damage? I know they are in combat but why give it to them and not any other third, half, or even full caster with a combat bent? Maybe Advantage on Concentration checks, or better armor instead?

Martial Order
Well at least they can hurt things with a sword, once a round.

Psionic Regeneration
Seriously!? I know they are called "Immortal" but you didn't actually have to make them immortal! At least not at level 3! I know there are ways to kill people besides damage, but damn, If you want one of these guys to stay down you have to out right kill them. :erm:

Celerity
Gotta go fast. Have this on, all the time, every time. Even if you want to do something else later. It combines the speedy powers of like 4 different classes and it's too good not to take right now.

Iron Durability
Great, now they are even harder to kill. At least now I have a way to make the Terminator as a Player Character. Fortunately, it lacks offensive punch, so people will want to make something else.

Psionic Weapon
Now, this right here, despite being the damage option, is probably the least powerful of all three Immortal disciplines. And consequently is at the power level I would have expected of all disciplines.

Ethereal Weapon
I think you can use this at the same time as Lethal Strike, if so, that's good. If not, it's 1 point to for at least 50% damage, which is ok.

Lethal Strike
The Only way for the Immortal to scale damage. I get the feeling this should have been the cantrip option and should auto-scale, or at least give them multiple attacks as the default.

Augmented Weapon +3 to hit for 1 min, which stacks with basically every other bonus so far (other than enchanted weapons, but who needs those?) It's like they are trying to kill bounded accuracy. It should be elemental damage or something.
 

Lancelot

Adventurer
Pro's: It's a noticeable different mechanic (I hated 3e's magic-psionics equivalence; psionics should feel different). It makes Intelligence more useful for all classes. I'm genuinely amused by the "flexible saving throw" ability - I can see that as being a FUN option for players. I like the feel of all of it; it just feels right.

Con's: I don't like the flavor of tying it to the Far Realms, and would rather have that removed from the final article (...but I can ignore that, if I have to). I'm worried about the multi-class synergies. Especially, the discipline that gives another action for 5 psi points - I have an immediate concern about how that's going to play with a warlock splash for hex and eldritch blast.

...but overall, I'm liking it. I could see myself using this, after it has been tweaked and balanced. Well done, D&D design team.
 


Dire Bare

Legend
The mechanics look interesting and fun, cannot wait to test them out.

I do not like the flavor, not one bit. Mysticism and the occult as a concept is magical; "mystics" were often spiritual people trying to get closer to their deity through things like asceticism and meditation. A not small portion of where we get the pop culture ideas for wizards is from medieval and renaissance mystics like alchemists and kabbalists.

I thought the reason people liked psionics in the old editions was because of it's sci-fi flavor. It was incredibly unique and brought to mind pulp "sword and planet" fantasy and sci-fi of the era. I mean, come on! Dark Sun is THE psionic setting and that's got a Sword and Planet streak many miles across.

In my settings, at least, mysticism and the occult is the modus operandi for wizards, warlocks, and even some clerics. The inner workings of many of the temples and mystery schools are definitely what I would call mystical. The Far Realm itself is closely connected to the mysteries of the world; old tomes of great power mention these unknowable beings. I kinda don't like that being used for psionics, which is completely separate from magic.

In the end despite my rant, this is a very tiny minor issue. They're not going to tear up my campaign notebook or force this flavor on me, so don't take this as a wholesale rejection. I just wish, as with many other things in 5e, they would embrace what made people like this in the past, and take a look at where Gygax and co. got the inspiration for those things.

Not a rebuttal, but riffing off your post . . .

The terms mystic, sorcerer, wizard, warlock, and even druid are all terms that in literature and "real life" have very fluid and fuzzy meanings, and can be used quite differently and even interchangeably. It's one of the cons of the D&D hobby is that we codify these terms with very specific meanings. Previously, in past versions of D&D, the term "mystic" hasn't been used much and hasn't worked it's way into the "core" of the game (like the warlock has). It's been used so far to describe a spontaneous divine caster (Dragonlance) and a monk-like martial artist (BECMI D&D) at least. To appropriate it for the psionic class I think fits just fine, and does (in my mind) harken back to European traditions of spiritualism, theosophy, and the occult, which is definitely within the D&D psionic wheelhouse. But it does leave a long-standing D&D tradition in the dust, and that's the science fantasy feel of the psionic rules up to this point. And I think that's a mistake.

D&D has always been more than the genre of epic fantasy, has always been a weird mish-mash of literary influences and styles, and has always had a healthy dose of pseudoscientific oddity like the psionics rules. D&D has a lot of threads woven into it that have become part of it's own unique DNA, and to leave them behind is a mistake. That was one of the cardinal sins of 4E, is that it left behind a lot of the weird and wonky feel (both in the rules and the fluff) of D&D to make a more tight game and setting. 4E was a fantastic game that was tied to a fantastic setting . . . but left out too much "D&D feel".

D&D has struggled to get psionics "right" in every edition (and it seems 5E won't be any different), and has never quite managed to do it. I think majority opinion (purely anecdotal) would favor the 3E "expanded psionics" rules as the best, or at least the most realized, but even that subsystem had its issues. Perhaps that will always be the case, is that psionics is the weird add-on not everybody digs . . .

WotC isn't run by fools and they do a lot of marketing to help them guide their decisions. If they have left the pseudoscience behind in favor of mysticism and the occult for psionics (which, BTW, Pathfinder has already done), I'm sure that's based on good data. But it's still a bad choice to totally ditch the science fantasy feel of psionics, at least entirely.

I would suggest that WotC continue to use the naming conventions in the draft rules we're discussing now, but map some of the character classes and archetypes to "classic" pseudoscience psi and include language like, "The mystic, also known as the psion . . .", "Some awakened mystics refer to their order as telepaths . . . .", etc. If the classic archetypes are easily modeled by new class/archetypes and called out as such, then changing names from an "occult" feel to a "pseudoscience" feel would be very simple and hopefully keep everybody happy.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
I really like the core mechanic for the mystic class, but the specific options are mostly crazy-overpowered. Especially with multiclassing.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
No one is twisting your arm to use this fluff. It's just one way of presenting how psionics might mesh with a universe suffused with magic.

Wait . . . we DON'T have to use fluff as written? Well golly, thanks for the insight, I've been doing it wrong for ages now!

Sorry for the snark, but "no duh" we don't have to use fluff as written. Doesn't mean we can't discuss what we like and what we don't about the fluff, or that it isn't an important part of D&D. Changing the fluff and leaving behind classic D&D setting elements is what happened with 4E, and that left a lot of fans alienated. I'm hoping that the final psionic rules for 5E don't make the same mistake.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Maybe rename the ‘Order of the Invisible Hand’ as the ‘Order of the Forcer’

Codifying a gravity-like telekinetic force as a ‘hand’ is lame.

I like it! And it makes perfect sense! If you see a guy concentrating real hard, and then a boulder is ripped from the earth and thrown at the bad guys, you could easily describe it as, "It's like he used a giant invisible hand to throw that boulder at the horrible monster!"

As long as in the description, we have language like, "Sometimes, members of the Order of the Invisible Hand are known as telekineticists."
 


D&D has struggled to get psionics "right" in every edition (and it seems 5E won't be any different), and has never quite managed to do it.
Part of the issue, of course, is that psionics are sci-fi trope, not a fantasy one. Small problem, since D&D really doesn't stick to the fantasy genre too tightly, but it's an issue.

WotC isn't run by fools and they do a lot of marketing to help them guide their decisions. If they have left the pseudoscience behind in favor of mysticism and the occult for psionics (which, BTW, Pathfinder has already done), I'm sure that's based on good data.
It's not like it was run by fools who didn't use the best data they could get in 2007, either. Maybe fools would do a better job of guessing what they heck we crazy nerdraging D&D fans actually want?

If the classic archetypes are easily modeled by new class/archetypes and called out as such, then changing names from an "occult" feel to a "pseudoscience" feel would be very simple and hopefully keep everybody happy.
5e has gone heavily for 'classic D&D feel,' and changing the tenor of psionics at this late date would seem to be at odds with that. But, I guess when you've got so few designers working on a game, it's going to start really reflecting their vision (or bias) pretty closely, for good or ill.
 


fuindordm

First Post
Overall, not too bad.

Disciplines are sort of like cleric domains (always prepared) that you can swap out. I would hope that at higher levels the class gets to maintain more than one domain at a time somehow. The saving throw mechanic is also neat, but I'd expect most PCs to leave it set to Con rather than Dex to improve their Concentration checks.

The only thing that I don't like is that they are using the spell point scale from the DMG. I think spell points work better when low-level slots still consume a significant portion of the pool--I don't like to see characters that at high levels can cast hundreds of low-level spells per day.

The rule for psi/magic transparency is fine with me. You can say that psi learns how to stimulate a spell in the weave, or that some magic spells imitate psi--either way works. Some refinement of this concept is possible down the line.
 

GX.Sigma

Adventurer
I like this a lot. At first, I was concerned that you had to lock yourself into one subclass from level 1. I played a psion in 4e, and my character could do all kinds of psionic stuff. After reading it, though, it seems like the different subclasses really are totally different archetypes. This is a neat way to fit a lot of character types into one class (I wish they did this with the Bard/Cleric/Druid/Sorcerer/Wizard in the core game, but oh well).

I miss the old terminology, and I'll definitely say that in the survey, but if I'm outnumbered I can't really argue with that.

Also, holy crap, they just won't quit jamming the Far Realm into the lore. I get that they want to push the IP, but I think they could've been more subtle with it. They could've just had a sentence saying "In some D&D worlds, psionic power is said to come from a plane called the Far Realm" and leave it at that. Maybe even have a description of how different worlds interpret psionics (the "evolution" and "dreams" things sound cool), implying it's up to the DM to figure out how it works in their world.
 

This is neat, but it's 1/4 of a class and so far they haven't revisited any topics on Unearthed Arcana. The usefulness of the article series really depends on if they actually start revising in response to feedback.

However, this just suggest that down the road we're going to have 2-3 UA that are just revisits of this class. Or months of just repeated content. There are six UA articles already. Mearls could just revise and coast for the rest of 2015...
 

My initial thoughts:

1. I could do without the explicit Far Realm connection. The Far Realm is absent from Dark Sun lore, and not the primary source for psionic power in Eberron. These are the two published settings with the heaviest psionic influence, and the psionics rules should play well with those.

2. I like the basic structure: concentrate on a discipline to get a minor static bonus, spend PP to get bigger effects. Some of the specifics need work, however.

3. Mind Thrust: This is very wacky. IMO, it should force the target to make an Intelligence save or take damage, possibly doing half damage on a success (or perhaps have that as an potential upgrade, either via a straight-up class feature or via a discipline power). Also, I think it could do with a bit of automatic scaling, like a cantrip. Giving it a free 1d8 per tier sounds about right.

4. Psychic Mind: I don't have any problem with this, but someone earlier in the thread misunderstood it. The ability says the target can respond if you let it and it speaks at least one language. Someone thought that meant you needed a language in common, but that's not what it says. It's just there so you can't use it for two-way communication with creatures that lack language entirely, like most beasts.

5. Intellect Fortress: Could do with some abilities to spend points on.

6. Order of the Immortal: Since they're primarily "beat things up" characters, they could do with an extra attack. Though it's possible that that comes at 8th level instead of the customary 5th, because of the cleric parallels.

7. Psionic Regeneration: Should state that it does not work while unconscious.

8. Celerity - Surge of Action: I feel that this has too much potential for abuse, at the same time as the cost is very steep. Some have stated that they think this is an invitation to multi-class-dip into the Mystic class, but I think that's a small risk. After all, you need to be 5th level before using this ability, and I don't really think you can call a 5-level multi-class a "dip." But at the same time, it is kind of robbing the fighter of his biggest ability, and letting the character use it multiple times in quick succession, albeit at a steep cost (a 5th level mystic can do it 5 times). I think this would be better as a Cunning Action/Haste-like feature - something like "For one minute, you can take any of these actions as a bonus action: Attack (single attack only), Dash, Dodge, Help, Hide, or Use An Object."

9. Psionic Weapon - Lethal Strike: On the other hand (compared to issue 6), it's possible that this is supposed to be the Immortal's primary damage boost. If so, I don't approve on account of needing to have this discipline running in order to get it, and because it eats your psi points for what should be an at-will thing. It's also possible that this is supposed to be something on top of regular damage, in which case the reasonable thing to do would be to compare it to Divine Smite - at which point this is much superior. Smite gives +1d8 + 1d8 per spell slot expended, whereas this gives +3d10 for 3 PP which is the equivalent of a 2nd level slot, or +5d10 for 5 PP which is the equivalent of a 3rd level slot.

10. Psionic Weapon - Augmented Weapon: For a caster to get a +3 weapon out of the magic weapon spell, they have to use a 6th level slot. This guy gets it for 5 PP = 3rd level slot. OK, for a shorter duration (potentially - 1 minute vs 1 hour, but the 1 hour spell requires breakable concentration while this guy can't lose concentration to damage), but still.
 

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