log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Psionics in a sci-fi D&D

How would you do it?

  • Reskin magic

    Votes: 44 35.8%
  • Totally new system

    Votes: 79 64.2%

  • Total voters
    123
I suggest we look at Mass Effect as a case study. For those who aren't familiar this science fiction game has it's own brand of space magic, with a it's own name - biotics. Functionally, it focuses on the manipulation of gravity and mass, much like Graviturgy magic from Wildemont.

The conclusion I would draw is your space magic can be whatever you want it to be, but the important thing is it should suit the setting. Without knowing more about the setting it isn't really possible to give a good answer to the question.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Scars Unseen

Adventurer
The conclusion I would draw is your space magic can be whatever you want it to be, but the important thing is it should suit the setting. Without knowing more about the setting it isn't really possible to give a good answer to the question.
I agree with this to a point, but there are enough common tropes in psi-adjacent sci-fi that some commonality could be found to at least come up with some guidelines to keep in mind when creating a system meant to emulate them. It might be more productive for people in this thread to give an idea of what evokes the feeling of sci-fi psi powers to them.

For example, in many sci-fi stories, psionics are stressful. Kaiden's headaches, River Tam's... everything, Prof. Xavier's mental breakdown, resulting in Onslaught(though including the superhero genre under the umbrella of sci-fi is maybe stretching things a bit too much), etc. There are enough examples in fiction out there that one could easily come to the idea of using a stress mechanic instead of spell slots, or, if not that, a mechanic where you can boost the strength of a power at a certain risk to the character. Now whether that could be designed in a way that is fun and balanced is a good question to keep in mind, but then that's what playtesting is for.
 

I agree with this to a point, but there are enough common tropes in psi-adjacent sci-fi that some commonality could be found to at least come up with some guidelines to keep in mind when creating a system meant to emulate them. It might be more productive for people in this thread to give an idea of what evokes the feeling of sci-fi psi powers to them.

For example, in many sci-fi stories, psionics are stressful. Kaiden's headaches, River Tam's... everything, Prof. Xavier's mental breakdown, resulting in Onslaught(though including the superhero genre under the umbrella of sci-fi is maybe stretching things a bit too much), etc. There are enough examples in fiction out there that one could easily come to the idea of using a stress mechanic instead of spell slots, or, if not that, a mechanic where you can boost the strength of a power at a certain risk to the character. Now whether that could be designed in a way that is fun and balanced is a good question to keep in mind, but then that's what playtesting is for.
I'm not sure that's true. Mass Effect rejects all those "common tropes" and still manages to have space magic that perfectly fits the setting.

And a lot of those "common tropes" feel very 1970s now.

Does @Morrus want to evoke a retro 1970s feel? Then go with those tropes.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I'm not sure that's true. Mass Effect rejects all those "common tropes" and still manages to have space magic that perfectly fits the setting.

And a lot of those "common tropes" feel very 1970s now.

Does @Morrus want to evoke a retro 1970s feel? Then go with those tropes.

Mass Effect still keeps many common psionic tropes. The thing is it bases itself in self and remains science fiction despite having psionics. Mass Effect isn't science fantasy nor space fantasy and that broadened it's appeal.

There is only 1 school of psionics.
There is an all psionics/biotics race.
Proud Warrior Race Super Soldiers are super scary if they get Psionics/Biotics
Humans need special tech and situation to get psionics/biotics
The source of psionics/biotics is infused in the science for the tech (spaceships, guns)
Psionics/Biotics exhausts the natural and users and causes pain to implanted users, requiring cooldowns.
Biotic masters can still be shot in the face. (takes a lot of bullets though)
Hero is a maverick
Hero is special and possibly one of the few pure human psionics (if you play adept)
Hero is a sexy beast


All common scifi tropes
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I feel the exact opposite on this. The reason separation is needed isn't because of possibility of confusion. My reasons are basically twofold:

  1. I don't feel that the mechanics that define the D&D wizard would do a sufficient job of capturing the feel of a science fiction user of psychic disciplines.
  2. The wizard class is already so comprehensive that patterning a psion after the wizard would essentially just be a wizard with a restricted spell list. You could literally do that yourself by curating the spell list in about an hour, and if we're assuming that this is supposed to lead to a product, I'd be highly unlikely to spend money on something I could do so easily myself.
Whether it's to use as intended in a sci-fi setting or to scavenge mechanics for use in a fantasy D&D campaign, there is just nothing really useable in a wizard-based psion that I couldn't already get from the PHB.
1 is a personal issue of mine as an actual science fiction or science fantasy setting attempts to bind its crazy in forms of super or psuedo science. However the D&D spell system is so broad in effect that thing it to science is much harder.

And that leads to 2 because the base D&D spell system in 5e if restricted to one class would not be worth a purchase over a fiver in cost.

In order to make psionics spells fit science fiction and make a sellable product, you're looking at multiple classes and subclasses to boost the characters of limited breadth common in scifi.
 

Mass Effect still keeps many common psionic tropes.
Such as? Biotics doesn't do mind control or telepathy, it doesn't seem to drain the user or give them headaches or nosebleeds, but it does let you create black holes, reverse gravity or increase your own mass - not standard "psionic" abilities, but ones you will find in dunamacy magic.
The thing is it bases itself in self and remains science fiction despite having psionics.
Of course it does, that's what psionics is - magic in a science fiction setting. It is however, never called psionics in Mass Effect.
 

Firefly was in the 90s. Mass Effect was in the 00s, Worm, which features "thinker headaches" began in 2010. Fringe aired between 2008 and 2013. There may be some that fell out of popular use, but many of them did not.
And most of those (unless deliberately retro) subvert those tropes. River Tamm's strongest power is chopping lots of enemies to bits with axes - more barbarian than psion!
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
Such as? Biotics doesn't do mind control or telepathy, it doesn't seem to drain the user or give them headaches or nosebleeds, but it does let you create black holes, reverse gravity or increase your own mass - not standard "psionic" anilities, but ones you will find in dunamacy magic.
Kaiden's L2 implants result in migraines, other L2 implants result in far worse mental disorders. It is heavily implied that in the early days of biotic study, companies would manufacture accidents so that they would have more biotic humans to study. Also, biotics are more or less Telekinesis.

And one of the only naturally biotic races also has a form of telepathy.
 

Also, biotics are more or less Telekinesis.
Only in terms of function, the fluff says biotics manipulates gravity, it doesn't move things with "the power of the mind". I would suggest the reason for the refluffing is the old fluff feels very dated now, and everyone knows the "science" turned out to be bollocks.
Kaiden's L2 implants result in migraines
The implants, not using the powers themselves - it's a deliberate subversion of a dated cliché.

Another example is Stranger Things - it's psionics play into the nosebleeds and all the other old tropes because it's deliberately retro.
 
Last edited:

Magic reskinned, but hyper specialized.

look at the spells themselves and see if you can resort by theme.

Also make a narrative text of how people get psionics. Are there natural creatures that have psionics. Is it done by surgery (perhaps through psionic catalytic creature grafting), a particular biosphere, or is it genetically linked? Whom doesn't like psionics?

Can you use it to power a spaceship?

Does precog happen in the game? How does it affect your adventures?

Does psionic affect the tech? Is it something like legend of korra where tech exists, but needs psionic stimulation?

What are the common attire of psionics wielders? Do they try to blend into the crowd, dress in paramilitary, or look like a cult from the 70s?

Does a cataclysmic even that's accuring trigger all the psychics first?
 
Last edited:

Raduin711

Adventurer
Biotics is the ability of some lifeforms to create mass effect fields using element zero nodules embedded in body tissues. These powers are both accessed and augmented by using bio-amps. Biotic individuals can knock enemies over from a distance, lift them into the air, generate gravitational vortices to tear obstacles or enemies apart, or create protective barriers.
According to the Mass Effect wiki. You have unobtanium in your body, allowing you to mess with gravity. Amps just increase your natural abilities. To me, it's telekinesis, just in a roundabout, science-fictiony sort of way. YMMV
 

According to the Mass Effect wiki. You have unobtanium in your body, allowing you to mess with gravity. Amps just increase your natural abilities. To me, it's telekinesis, just in a roundabout, science-fictiony sort of way. YMMV
Quite. It's moving stuff with space magic. You can fluff it any way you like.

The force-fields and stuff tie into video game mechanics. You make your space magic fit the game mechanics, which in 5e would be the magic system.
 


I'm not sure that's true. Mass Effect rejects all those "common tropes" and still manages to have space magic that perfectly fits the setting.
Most fantasy books reject some or all of the general tropes for magic. Looking for total consistency across decades of fiction is an overly high standard. Trends are enough.

Heck, daily spell preparation isn't a common trope in fantasy, but we use it in DnD.
 

Most fantasy books reject some or all of the general tropes for magic. Looking for total consistency across decades of fiction is an overly high standard. Trends are enough.

Heck, daily spell preparation isn't a common trope in fantasy, but we use it in DnD.
Magic - including space magic - can be anything you like. That's what makes it magic. Whether you look at "trends" or "tropes", ignore them, or subvert them depends on what you are trying to achieve in your setting. But the main basis for magic in 5e D&D is simply what makes for a fun game - ignore that at your peril.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
For the Trek fans who think magic and psionics are different and/or that magic doesn't belong in sci-fi: How do Q and Kevin Uxbridge fit into what would classically be considered science fiction?
 

Most fantasy books reject some or all of the general tropes for magic. Looking for total consistency across decades of fiction is an overly high standard. Trends are enough.

Heck, daily spell preparation isn't a common trope in fantasy, but we use it in DnD.
I agree, spell preparation and spell slot don’t fit for fantasy characters be psionic, arcana, or sorcery.
 

I suggest we look at Mass Effect as a case study. For those who aren't familiar this science fiction game has it's own brand of space magic, with a it's own name - biotics. Functionally, it focuses on the manipulation of gravity and mass, much like Graviturgy magic from Wildemont.

The conclusion I would draw is your space magic can be whatever you want it to be, but the important thing is it should suit the setting. Without knowing more about the setting it isn't really possible to give a good answer to the question.
Let's look at Star Wars again. I think looking at the Force as a kind of magic is a fair take, even though I don't completely agree with it. But Star Wars also has hyperspace, sentient robots, weapons that destroy planets, many, many aliens, and plenty of other stuff that we dont have in the real world and may not be possible through our current understanding of science. Are all of those things "magic" too?
 

Magic - including space magic - can be anything you like. That's what makes it magic. Whether you look at "trends" or "tropes", ignore them, or subvert them depends on what you are trying to achieve in your setting. But the main basis for magic in 5e D&D is simply what makes for a fun game - ignore that at your peril.
Okay, psionic rules should be fun. I don't think I've seen anyone say they shouldn't be.

But "This is a fun mechanic" doesn't mean it's a good mechanic to represent psionics.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top