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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

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
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?
How do Midichlorians fit in?

 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
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
It is telekinesis in a sci-fi way.

You lower something's gravity and make a gravitational difference between objects because yo mama got exposed to NoNo science dust. If you aren't Asari who evolved with it, it hurts to do it.
 

Baron Opal II

Adventurer
So internal power to manipulate reality. Isn't that what sorcery is in D&D? Also, even if it was different sort of magic, it is still magic.
No, it's not. I think you are confusion magic with fiction.

Psionics is technological the same way radio is. It is the interaction of a sapient mind with the four forces of the Universe. This interaction can be heightened or suppressed through technological devices or drugs that affect the mind in question. We may not understand the process wholly, but the Scientific Method can be applied to it. It is not supernatural for the forces utilized are part of Nature itself.

Magic is the process of whatever your tradition says it is, usually with the assistance of a supernatural entity. It may or may not interact with the four forces beyond trying to overcome or supersede them. Tradition is usually much more important than experimentation or innovation, and the Scientific Method is marginally applicable. As these powers and effects come from forces outside or apart from Natural Law they are supernatural, by definition.

They have different themes to them and one is inherently more limited in scope by implication. They are both fictional, however. This means we can define the processes how we wish. That said there is the strong implication that one is within and a part of the Universe and the other isn't.

(And I'm replying pedantically to a five day old post, so, yeah...)
 


Anywho, I think while psionics could be called a kind of magic, it's almost always presented in a particular way: psychic powers have scientific or psuedo-scientific (or at least comic-book science-y) explanations. They do not have religious (in the Western sense) explanations: the gods are not involved.

Beyond that, there's some tendencies associated with psychic powers in popular media. Some abilities are common (telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis), some are almost never seen (summoning demons, raising the dead). Some trappings are common (crystals, mental effort) some are almost never seen (arcane texts, magic wands). But there's a pretty big middle ground of "general magic stuff" that also applies to psychic powers.

If we want to tap into the history of psionic powers in Dungeons and Dragons (tm), there's a lot of stuff to call on, some of which is crunch (power points, psionic attack modes, psychic disciplines) and a lot fluff (how these things are named in contrast to how other magic stuff is named). Plus an array of specific psionic stuff to mine like powers and magic items.

None of these lines are hard barriers that must not be crossed. On the other hand, ignore these tropes too much and you won't have something that people will think of as a psion, which would result in a rather disappointing take on the idea.

For my money, psionic powers are a different enough kind of magic to warrant and require a new class. I'm not in favor of treating psionic powers as "not magical" in rules terms, because that creates a bunch of loopholes that tends to wreck game balance - it's really hard to tell an engaging story about a character who's attacks cannot be defended against by most of their opponents.
 

No, it's not. I think you are confusion magic with fiction.

Psionics is technological the same way radio is. It is the interaction of a sapient mind with the four forces of the Universe. This interaction can be heightened or suppressed through technological devices or drugs that affect the mind in question. We may not understand the process wholly, but the Scientific Method can be applied to it. It is not supernatural for the forces utilized are part of Nature itself.
If magic would actually be real, scientific method could be applied to it. And it would work via manipulation whatever forces exist in that setting.

Magic is the process of whatever your tradition says it is, usually with the assistance of a supernatural entity.
A lot of magic is not related to supernatural entities. Also, 'supernatural' is an incoherent concept.


It may or may not interact with the four forces beyond trying to overcome or supersede them. Tradition is usually much more important than experimentation or innovation, and the Scientific Method is marginally applicable. As these powers and effects come from forces outside or apart from Natural Law they are supernatural, by definition.
In a world where magical forces are real, they're part of 'physics' of that setting. Also, whether the practitioner relies on tradition or experimentation is about the attitude of that practitioner. It says nothing about the underlying mechanics. Proper scientific method is a relatively recent idea, it was not applied to medieval study of nature either. It doesn't mean that underlying physics worked differently back then.

They have different themes to them and one is inherently more limited in scope by implication. They are both fictional, however. This means we can define the processes how we wish. That said there is the strong implication that one is within and a part of the Universe and the other isn't.
No there isn't. If it is real in the setting it is part of the universe.

(And I'm replying pedantically to a five day old post, so, yeah...)
I appreciate dedication to pedantry.
 


Aldarc

Legend
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.
Minor Correction: Firefly came out in 2002.

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!
River Tamm seems pretty in-line with Starcraft's "ghosts" who were the terran government's secret psionic assassination program. A lot of psionics (and Star Wars Force-users) feature psionic body enhancement and hyper-precognitive reflexes.
 

Baron Opal II

Adventurer
If magic would actually be real, scientific method could be applied to it. And it would work via manipulation whatever forces exist in that setting.
Not necessarily if there were petulant entities or random factors behind the processes.

A lot of magic is not related to supernatural entities. Also, 'supernatural' is an incoherent concept.
I'm about to argue that most magic is related to supernatural entities, but I realize that's my own addition from personal research.
"Supernatural" I find is very specific.

In a world where magical forces are real, they're part of 'physics' of that setting.
Unless it is supernatural, then they originate outside the setting by definition.

All that said, we are arguing over semantics of fictional aspects and settings. So, really, we're both right since we can define the fiction however we want. (c.f. Folding Ideas video on vampires- "How do you kill a vampire? However you want, they aren't real.") We just seem to have very different definitions that are important to us.

I appreciate dedication to pedantry.
Cheers!
 

River Tamm seems pretty in-line with Starcraft's "ghosts" who were the terran government's secret psionic assassination program. A lot of psionics (and Star Wars Force-users) feature psionic body enhancement and hyper-precognitive reflexes.
Starcraft throws an awful lot of additional powers into the psionic bucket, rather undermining the idea that it's "narrow and focused". Look at what the protoss can do with psionics: summon lightning, go invisible, summon monsters, transform their bodies into giant energy beings, etc etc. Pretty much anything magic can do in D&D a Protoss can do in Starcraft.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Starcraft throws an awful lot of additional powers into the psionic bucket, rather undermining the idea that it's "narrow and focused".
It doesn't undermine anything. Those powers in Starcraft are fairly consistent with what we typically find in D&D psionics. And it's still a helluva lot more "narrow and focused" than D&D's arcane and divine powers.
 



Or maybe you can cite actual evidence to support your assertion.
Maybe you could cite an example of what you believe a character in D&D could do that a character in Starcraft cannot. I've read most of the tie-in novels, although I don't have them available to reference directly.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Maybe you could cite an example of what you believe a character in D&D could do that a character in Starcraft cannot. I've read most of the tie-in novels, although I don't have them available to reference directly.
Here is a grand list of psionic powers in the Starcraft universe, including hero abilities from Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm. This list is even separated by the psionic abilities demonstrated between each species. This list is completely dwarfed by the psionic powers list in D&D, which is in turn dwarfed by the list of spells cast by divine and arcane casters. If you believe there is nothing that a D&D character could do that a Starcraft psionic character couldn't, then you must be playing D&D like an ostrich with your head buried in the sand.
 

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?
It is the case of Clarke's “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

My stance is that this whole magic/mystical vs psionics/scientific divide is not a division that exist in the underlying reality, it is mainly one that says something about the attitudes of the practitioners. Stat Trek, or at least good Star Trek, mostly presents the setting, even ludicrous aspects, via scientific realism, and that is the attitude of most of the main characters. Though in DS9 they start to flirt with spiritualism. Is Q a god? He (probably in jest) claims to be, but Picard rejects the notion outright. He treats Q as a powerful alien that, sure is far more advanced than humans, but not some sort of supernatural entity. It really is no different than Picard seeming akin to god to the Mintakans. Sisko has his own encounters with powerful aliens in the wormhole. And he eventually starts to have more spiritual relationship to them, he starts to treat them more like actual gods, like the Bajorans do. But I don't think this says anything about the actual objective godhood of said creatures. Q is probably way more powerful than the Wormhole Aliens, he certainly meets the technical definition of 'god.' The difference does not lie in the objective reality, it lies in the attitudes of those who experience it, and as this is fiction, in how the story is presented.

So similarly if one can manipulate the forces that objectively exist in the setting to levitate objects with their mind, they can contextualise this as mystical or scientific. And whether they do depends on the culture, traditions and the level of scientific understanding they have. But the underlying mechanics remain the same.
 
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Here is a grand list of psionic powers in the Starcraft universe, including hero abilities from Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm. This list is even separated by the psionic abilities demonstrated between each species. This list is completely dwarfed by the psionic powers list in D&D, which is in turn dwarfed by the list of spells cast by divine and arcane casters. If you believe there is nothing that a D&D character could do that a Starcraft psionic character couldn't, then you must be playing D&D like an ostrich with your head buried in the sand.
That only includes powers actually used in the game, not powers used or alluded to in the novels. And if you look at what the powers actually do, rather than spells that have different names but do much the same thing, they cover all the bases in D&D magic: damage, healing, summoning, control, transmutation, transportation, divination, reality alteration etc.
 


As for psionics in most fiction being way narrower in scope than D&D magic, that indubitably is true. However, the same applies to magic in most fiction.
Fiction only presents what characters actually do, not what they might potentially be able to do.

If you look at the number of different spells a typical wizard casts over a D&D career it is only a small subset of what they could potentially cast.
 

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