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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
I should clarify that there are a small handful of pyrokineticts in Starcraft, but it's rare. But a handful of psionists being able to do a bit with fire doesn't mean that a psionist is capable of every fire spell that a wizard has at their disposal. And in 3e psionics, for example, the pyrokineticist was a PrC rather than a base kit of the psion. As to why lightning and electricity, I think that stems from the origins of psionics: i.e., Psi - Electronics.
Fire is a ball/fire is a cone qualify as different spells in D&D but they are not different effects. It would be difficult to justify in lore why psionics could do cones but not balls.

As for "electronics" that's complete hogwash. It has more to do with blue matching the protoss faction's colour scheme. Down to the Dark Protoss sub-faction making red lightning.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
Fire is a ball/fire is a cone qualify as different spells in D&D but they are not different effects. It would be difficult to justify in lore why psionics could do cones but not balls.
You may want to check my edit. I touch on this a bit.

As for "electronics" that's complete hogwash. It has more to do with blue matching the protoss faction's colour scheme. Down to the Dark Protoss sub-faction making red lightning.
So your rebuttal to my point about how electricity is historically tied to psionics is to point out that both protoss factions use lightning but with different colors? Thanks for the assist.

I said before that the Force in Star Wars likely had an impact on psionics as well, and what do we find there? Force lightning. So there is that too.
 

There is no hardline between magic and psionics, especially now that there is very little real belief in psychic powers and phenomena.

But there are a whole lot of little overlapping textual games going on.

You can get away with a little bit of mild psychic abilty in all kinds of media without the whole thing being taken as fantasy. Dreams of a loved one being in danger, or the psychic that happens to predict the future being two typical examples, while the viewer/reader may not believe in these things, they probably know people who do, so it doesn't seem too foreign (and could always be explained by coincidence anyway).

Then there's something like Dune that goes a little further and takes the above kind of phenomenom and extrapolates it as something that could be developed over time through eugenics. We're not quite in the realm of hard SF anymore, but it's still somewhat harder than outright fantasy.

There's also the game that doesn't get played much anymore, where you take a space colony have it lose track of it's history through disaster and then reach medieval tech again, except some people have magic, which is really psychic phenomena. This has fallen out of favour probably because a big part of the point of it is that is should feel more grounded and believable than straight fantasy, and that doesn't really work any more. However, if we want to reference this old subgenre (like say in Dark Sun) we need to look back to the way it presented itself in terms of psionics.

And then there is psionics, as someone pointed out earlier in the thread, that is linked to real world spiritualist movements as well as religious stories such as levitating yogis and the like. While most people probably don't believe this, it is at least linked to what some people in the real world believe and is therefore less of a stretch than completely made up fantasy powers.

And then there is psionics in space opera that has totally abandoned any real pretense to future plausibility and is just playing with the tropes of the genre for it's own purposes. In such a case you may just call your magic psionics for the same reason that you call your monsters aliens - because it seems more in genre.
 
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Hussar

Legend
I should clarify that there are a small handful of pyrokineticts in Starcraft, but it's rare. But a handful of psionists being able to do a bit with fire doesn't mean that a psionist is capable of every fire spell that a wizard has at their disposal. And in 3e psionics, for example, the pyrokineticist was a PrC rather than a base kit of the psion. As to why lightning and electricity, I think that stems from the origins of psionics: i.e., Psi - Electronics.


You appear to be dashing past their point so you can make your own. Basically everything with a resource cost for their abilities in Starcraft uses Energy, including powering technological abilities. That technological Yamato Battlecruiser? Energy. That psionic High Templar? Energy. That biological attack from that Zerg? Energy. That is why @Minigiant says, "That's because the games use the same styles of engine spaghetti. I don't think anyone wants Extra Attack to be a spell using slots."
The point being though, it isn't necessary for a separate system of magic and psionics. The warcraft/starcraft series shows that it's entirely possible to do it.
 

Hussar

Legend
You may want to check my edit. I touch on this a bit.


So your rebuttal to my point about how electricity is historically tied to psionics is to point out that both protoss factions use lightning but with different colors? Thanks for the assist.

I said before that the Force in Star Wars likely had an impact on psionics as well, and what do we find there? Force lightning. So there is that too.
Ummm, Firestarter anyone? Fire as a psionic power is certainly thematically fine.
 

Scars Unseen

Adventurer
The point being though, it isn't necessary for a separate system of magic and psionics. The warcraft/starcraft series shows that it's entirely possible to do it.
LARP shows that it's entirely possible to represent magic and ranged weapons alike by throwing beanbags and shouting numbers at each other, but that doesn't mean that they are the preferable way to model a system of magic or ranged combat after. You could make a spell list for a monk class if you wanted to. You could give rogues "trick slots" to use for poisons, sneak attacks and the like. You can design any class in any way you want.

But that doesn't make it a great way to make a sci-fi psychic feel different than a fantasy wizard.
 

Aldarc

Legend
The point being though, it isn't necessary for a separate system of magic and psionics. The warcraft/starcraft series shows that it's entirely possible to do it.
The real point being though is that is an entirely separate argument from "what can a wizard do that a psion can't?" and we should treat the individual arguments with integrity rather than trying to shuffle them around to obfuscate the various points being made in the thread.

Ummm, Firestarter anyone? Fire as a psionic power is certainly thematically fine.
The original question pertained to Starcraft and not psionics in general. Moreover, I did clarify that (a) Starcraft has some pyrokineticts, but it's quite rare, and (b) that the pyrokineticst was a PrC in 3e psionics, though not really a significant part of the default package or kit of powers.

By the way, I voted for "reskinning magic" as I liked the approach in 3.5e, Blue Rose, Pathfinder 1 and 2, and Starfinder. But that approach does not require me to argue "we don't need psionics because we already have wizards."
 
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Hussar

Legend
/snip
But that approach does not require me to argue "we don't need psionics because we already have wizards."
Who is arguing that @Aldarc? Other than you, apparently.

Not one single poster here has said that. No one has even remotely said that.

The only point that has been made is that we can model psionics using the existing magic system. For some bizarre reason, you repeatedly are looking for a fight when none exists. I have absolutely no idea who wee'd in your corn flakes, but, please, take it down several notches. This thread has been consistently productive and positive.
 

Hussar

Legend
LARP shows that it's entirely possible to represent magic and ranged weapons alike by throwing beanbags and shouting numbers at each other, but that doesn't mean that they are the preferable way to model a system of magic or ranged combat after. You could make a spell list for a monk class if you wanted to. You could give rogues "trick slots" to use for poisons, sneak attacks and the like. You can design any class in any way you want.

But that doesn't make it a great way to make a sci-fi psychic feel different than a fantasy wizard.
Again, who is arguing that? That's a pretty slippery slope you're crafting here - because we can use the magic system to model psionics, that means that we're going to use the magic system to model every single element of the game? :erm:

See, the problem is, the argument that it requires different mechanics in order to make an SF psychic feel different from a fantasy wizard needs a bit more proof than just your say-so. After all, we can model all sorts of very, very different concepts - from a artificer to a cleric to a wizard - using the existing system. Additionally, EVERY class in D&D uses EXACTLY the same magic system. So, I'm going to need a bit more than, "Oh, I want it to feel different" to sign off on the idea that this lone concept, out of the thousands of concepts that are covered by the D&D magic system, absolutely needs a new system in order to feel different.

Heck, 4e managed a pretty darn collection of psionic classes that didn't need unique mechanics whatsoever. They used the same system as every other class. 1e didn't even HAVE a psionic class at all. Just a bolt on system for all other classes. Something that has been continued in other editions with things like Wild Talents and whatnot.

I'll be the first to admit, I didn't pay much attention to 3e psionics - was a 3e psion using entirely different mechanics like the 2e psionic classes did? Or did it simply adapt the existing magic system.

The point being, psionics need unique casting systems hasn't always been true. At least one edition made no distinction between psionics and any other class. So far, no one has been able to make a very good argument other than appealing to the feels for why we need a class specific casting system for one class.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Who is arguing that @Aldarc? Other than you, apparently.

Not one single poster here has said that. No one has even remotely said that.
You may have glossed over them, but there are a number of posters in this thread who have proposed essentially "Use [pre-existing class X] and pick appropriate powers from their spell list instead of a psion. Done." Moreover, this sentiment has often been part of a common bait-and-switching rhetoric of "if it's just magic, then we don't need psionics as we already have wizards."

For some bizarre reason, you repeatedly are looking for a fight when none exists. I have absolutely no idea who wee'd in your corn flakes, but, please, take it down several notches. This thread has been consistently productive and positive.
For starters, you have repeatedly in many of our past conversations about psionics. Now that you have poisoned that particular well on a number of past occasions and interactions, it's pretty safe to say that I now distrust your motives and opinions regarding psionics each and every time you poke your head in these conversations. Your conversation here has done little to dissuade me from that suspicion. So maybe you shouldn't be asking who wee'd in my cornflakes while in the process of zipping up your fly.

The only point that has been made is that we can model psionics using the existing magic system.
I agree with the latter point that psionics can be modeled using the existing magic system, but not with your assertion that it's the only point being made in this thread.
 

Scars Unseen

Adventurer
Again, who is arguing that? That's a pretty slippery slope you're crafting here - because we can use the magic system to model psionics, that means that we're going to use the magic system to model every single element of the game? :erm:
I did no such thing. My point is that your argument of "this other thing shows that it is possible" doesn't add anything to the discussion. It's obviously possible to design anything any way you want. It isn't an argument for why it should be designed that way. Other classes could have been designed as a reskin of the wizard and yet they weren't. Why? Because other designs are also possible, and the designers felt those other designs better matched what they were trying to accomplish with the class.

So the question isn't why can't we design the psion like a wizard, but rather why should we design the psion like a wizard, or alternatively, why should we not. All that other stuff about Starcraft or whatever other properties people want to bring up is superfluous unless the person bringing them up is using them as an example of how they felt something else did a good job of modelling a psionic character or class.
 
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I think with the Psion I'd be tempted to do a short rest spell points refresh class.

Short rest, because it reduces the major downside of spell points which is too much number tracking.

One of the issues with psionics in D&D is that there has always been quite a lot of duplication of powers (although not everything is duplicated, summoning and necromancy don't make good sense for psions), so the game has usually relied on mechanical differentiation to do a lot of the work of making psionics feel distinct.
 

we don't need psionics because we already have wizards.
That's the big question really - do we already have wizards? The OP doesn't make that clear. Strictly speaking, if it's science fiction, then the answer should be "no". If the answer is "yes", then it's science fantasy, not science fiction.

If we have wizards, then we don't need psionics, but then by the same argument we don't need sorcerers or warlocks either. Doesn't mean we can't have it.

If we don't have wizards (and other spellcasting classes) then we probably do need some kind of space magic to provide a sufficiently large range of character options to make the game fun.
 

Aldarc

Legend
So the question isn't why can't we design the psion like a wizard, but rather why should we design the psion like a wizard, or alternatively, why should we not. All that other stuff about Starcraft or whatever other properties want to bring up are superfluous unless the person bringing them up is using them as an example of how they felt something else did a good job of modelling a psionic character or class.
(Not interested in “D&D doesn’t fit sci-fi” responses)

Assuming you accept the premise, would you prefer psionics to be magic reskinned or a totally new system?
If I was making a Sci-Fi D&D, I would probably utilize Starfinder's approach: i.e., The Mystic.

It would also use Wisdom, as I think that Wisdom maps better than either Intelligence or Charisma to common associations with psionics, psychic powers, mysticism, etc. (e.g., intuition, extrasensory perception, enlightenment, wisdom, willpower, etc.).
 

Hussar

Legend
I did no such thing. My point is that your argument of "this other thing shows that it is possible" doesn't add anything to the discussion. It's obviously possible to design anything any way you want. It isn't an argument for why it should be designed that way. Other classes could have been designed as a reskin of the wizard and yet they weren't. Why? Because other designs are also possible, and the designers felt those other designs better matched what they were trying to accomplish with the class.

So the question isn't why can't we design the psion like a wizard, but rather why should we design the psion like a wizard, or alternatively, why should we not. All that other stuff about Starcraft or whatever other properties people want to bring up is superfluous unless the person bringing them up is using them as an example of how they felt something else did a good job of modelling a psionic character or class.
Again, I don't think anyone is insisting that a psion be designed as a wizard. I've seen warlock, cleric, monk and sorcerer all posited as potential chassis.

And, again, while we do have different classes, none of those classes are using a unique magic system. All of them are using the identical mechanics.

I get the feeling that there's a lot of talking past people going on here.

As far as I can see, no one is insisting that we must never have a psionic class. At most, it's being suggested that it's possible to do without one, but, no one seems to be banging that particular drum very hard.

But, there's a WORLD of difference between "I want a psion class (or a set of psionic classes) and "I want an entirely unique set of mechanics for my single class and the only way to make this class different from other classes is by adding in an entirely different set of mechanics that will only apply to this one class and must never apply to any other class".
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Now that you have poisoned that particular well on a number of past occasions and interactions, it's pretty safe to say that I now distrust your motives and opinions regarding psionics each and every time you poke your head in these conversations. Your conversation here has done little to dissuade me from that suspicion. So maybe you shouldn't be asking who wee'd in my cornflakes while in the process of zipping up your fly.
I think it's time for you to disengage.
 

Aldarc

Legend
@Morrus, in your hypothetical about psionics in a sci-fi D&D, would this include other forms of magic (e.g., arcane, divine, etc.) alongside psionics?

I'll be the first to admit, I didn't pay much attention to 3e psionics - was a 3e psion using entirely different mechanics like the 2e psionic classes did? Or did it simply adapt the existing magic system.
It was essentially the 3.5e magic system with modifications. Powers went up to 9th level. It used power points instead of spell slots. You could spend additional power points to augment your psionic powers, likely the basis for up-casting, but there was a level-based cap on how many power points you could spend with each power manifestation. Some feats/abilities* also required that the psionist expend (or regain with a Concentration check) something called "psionic focus."

* For example: running up the side of the wall, psionic jumps, gain temporary fast healing, bonus damage, etc.
 
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Scars Unseen

Adventurer
Again, I don't think anyone is insisting that a psion be designed as a wizard. I've seen warlock, cleric, monk and sorcerer all posited as potential chassis.

And, again, while we do have different classes, none of those classes are using a unique magic system. All of them are using the identical mechanics.

I get the feeling that there's a lot of talking past people going on here.

As far as I can see, no one is insisting that we must never have a psionic class. At most, it's being suggested that it's possible to do without one, but, no one seems to be banging that particular drum very hard.

But, there's a WORLD of difference between "I want a psion class (or a set of psionic classes) and "I want an entirely unique set of mechanics for my single class and the only way to make this class different from other classes is by adding in an entirely different set of mechanics that will only apply to this one class and must never apply to any other class".

So there have definitely been people asking for just a wizard reskin. No, I'm not digging through 23 pages to engage in a quote war over it. But setting that aside, I think you may be right about talking past each other. But that last paragraph is playing into that hard.

Just to speak for myself, not trying to claim what others are or are not suggesting, my big ask is to think of the goals of a psionics system first, then think of how best to meet those goals. I personally don't think a reskin is likely to meet the goal of modelling a sci-fi system of psi powers. I also don't think a single class could encapsulate the various psi tropes to satisfy me(but note that the OP mentions a psionics system, not a class). I don't think the toolbox nature of D&D magic really suits sci-fi psionics.

Combine all of those, and I think that the best fit may borrow from existing classes to an extent, but should also incorporate entirely new systems to meet the final goal. No, I don't think that those mechanics should never ever be borrowed from in turn. As for what kind of systems I'm talking about, I'd need more time to flesh out my ideas, but off the top of my head, some of the concepts I can think of might include:

  1. Fewer abilities, more flexibility - instead of having a toolkit of various spells like casters, I'd prefer a core of a few abilities along a theme (telepathy, telekinesis, self-targeted biomanipulation, etc) with more ways to use them, expanding in scope, magnitude, etc. as the character develops.
  2. Stress-based resource management - have a floor and a ceiling for ability use based on level. Usage below the floor is at will with no resource usage at all. Usage within the bounds of the two costs stress resources that return with a short rest. Usage at one level above uses double the resources and those resources don't return until a long rest. Usage at two levels above cost the same as one level above, but require a saving throw, a failure which exhausts all resources until a long rest (leaving at will use probable just for playability purposes).
  3. Ways to customize abilities on a character basis so not all characters of the same theme play the same. Not sure on how to elaborate on that one yet.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Some thoughts:
  1. Fewer abilities, more flexibility - instead of having a toolkit of various spells like casters, I'd prefer a core of a few abilities along a theme (telepathy, telekinesis, self-targeted biomanipulation, etc) with more ways to use them, expanding in scope, magnitude, etc. as the character develops.
I would not be opposed to a more limited toolkit of spells/powers. Again, Starfinder reduced the spell level across the board for all of its magic classes to 6th level spells max. Using the 5e Engine, this might be 5th level spells max or a half-caster design, but with highly flexible cantrip/talent casting alongside core abilities like telepathy.

In regards to the current fantasy half-casters: A "fantasy ranger" may (unfortunately) use spells in Fantasy D&D, but they may be more likely for a "sci-fi/fantasy ranger" to use technology for a similar purpose. So one could reduce magic across the board as technology would potentially fill a similar function.

  1. Stress-based resource management - have a floor and a ceiling for ability use based on level. Usage below the floor is at will with no resource usage at all. Usage within the bounds of the two costs stress resources that return with a short rest. Usage at one level above uses double the resources and those resources don't return until a long rest. Usage at two levels above cost the same as one level above, but require a saving throw, a failure which exhausts all resources until a long rest (leaving at will use probable just for playability purposes).
This is close to how powers work in Green Ronin's Blue Rose (both in True 20 and AGE). You are rolling a check against a DC to either cast or to avoid fatigue. But powers in Blue Rose (or True 20) are generally not as universe-shaking as what one can find in D&D as it hews closer to magic in Romantic Fantasy, which is a genre with a number of characters utilizing psychic or empathic abilities.

Similarly, Stars Without Number has a Psychic class. It uses a skill system, but with each Psionic discipline being a separate skill. Going further into your skill training unlocks access to further psionic techniques in that discipline. Psionic powers are fueled by Effort, which may require committing for as long as the power is active, the scene, or a day, etc.
 

Hussar

Legend
But, you're not really countering my point, @Scars Unseen. None of what you're talking about can't be done with the existing magic system. What you've just listed is pretty much a warlock with the ability to upcast spells over and above the usual limit by level.

IOW, why do I need a, for example, proficiency based casting system like 2e, in order to achieve what you're talking about? Why can't simply "Spells Known" and a daily/short rest limit cover things?

I guess my question is, what is your new system? You've talked about effects, but, not mechanics.
 

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