D&D 5E Psionics in a sci-fi D&D

How would you do it?

  • Reskin magic

    Votes: 46 35.1%
  • Totally new system

    Votes: 85 64.9%


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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
No you can't, at least if we are making the dubious distinction between mystical magic and scientific psionics and science fantasy and science fiction.
Sure you can.

If the whole setting is hard sci Fi and there is one minor character who can shoot fire out his eyes, it doesn't become science fantasy.
No, that would make it Science Fantasy.
No it wouldn't.

Again. Hard SciFi with a single minor pyromancer doesn't make it Science Fantasy.
 

For a mass market product, sure. But isn't the whole point of of Level Up so people can prove how hardcore they are with complex mechanics and math? 😉

The Psi Blast: The target takes damage equal to the natural logarithm of the number of psi points expanded multiplied by the cube root of your character level.
given that we want to make a new balanced system making it deliberately complex is pointless only even be as complex as it needs to be.
 

So @Micah Sweet says. Have to admit I haven't been following the project so I'm just taking them at their word.
That is not what I said. I said Morrus has announced an upcoming sci fi supplement for LU, and I suspect that's what this is referring to. I also think such a supplement would be a good place to fit psionic rules. I never said psionic rules are in LU now.
 

So has the argument against Psionics just devolved to people saying "It doesn't fit the hardline definition of Fantasy, so we can't have it" ? That's really what we've resorted to saying? People are against the idea so much in their D&D that they resort to using trite definitions that D&D itself has never in any edition upheld? Crazy.

Anyway, while the topic is about psionics in sci fi D&D, I'm not sure what possible argument could be made to exclude them from sci fi. Plenty of sci fi, such as Star Trek and Dune, already has psionics. Dune is literally a huge amount of certain disciplines, such as biokinesis etc etc.

Note that just because the topic says sci fi btw, that doesn't make the bringing up of Science Fantasy illogical or false. The two genres heavily bleed into each other; Dune is arguably as much a science fantasy as it is a hardline science fiction, and its the pinnacle of both genres in many peoples eyes, even if they consider it just one genre. So, using genre definitions to try and shoot down psionics just doesn't make sense to me, especially in terms of D&D.
 

That is not what I said. I said Morrus has announced an upcoming sci fi supplement for LU, and I suspect that's what this is referring to. I also think such a supplement would be a good place to fit psionic rules. I never said psionic rules are in LU now.
Yeah, that sounds extremely plausible. Which presumably would mean it's only "science fiction" in the way that the "Alien Technology" section on page 268 of the DMG is "science fiction". If it's intended to sit alongside existing casting classes it clearly needs to be somewhat different. A reskin is only a good option if the class being reskinned is written out.
 
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Sure you can.

If the whole setting is hard sci Fi and there is one minor character who can shoot fire out his eyes, it doesn't become science fantasy.

No it wouldn't.

Again. Hard SciFi with a single minor pyromancer doesn't make it Science Fantasy.
Eh, no. That's not what hard science fiction is. Hard science fiction only uses real science, or what can plausably be extrapolated from real science. " a story should try to be accurate, logical, credible and rigorous in its use of current scientific and technical knowledge about which technology, phenomena, scenarios and situations that are practically or theoretically possible. " - Wikipedia. You can't break the laws of Physics "just a little bit". If you do it ceases to be hard. That means no warp drive, no psionics, and absolutely no magic!

The vast majority of science fiction is soft science fiction. Magic is justified with pseudoscience, technobabble, and Clarke's law - it's just "sufficiently advanced technology". Note that "soft" does not mean "not serious". Soft SF can be extremely serious.

Science Fantasy largely doesn't bother with technobabble. Magic just "is", or has an explanation that does not involve (pseudo)science.

If you mix Science Fiction elements with Fantasy, it defaults to Science Fantasy, as the genre that requires the lowest level of justification.
 

So has the argument against Psionics just devolved to people saying "It doesn't fit the hardline definition of Fantasy, so we can't have it" ? That's really what we've resorted to saying? People are against the idea so much in their D&D that they resort to using trite definitions that D&D itself has never in any edition upheld? Crazy.

Anyway, while the topic is about psionics in sci fi D&D, I'm not sure what possible argument could be made to exclude them from sci fi. Plenty of sci fi, such as Star Trek and Dune, already has psionics. Dune is literally a huge amount of certain disciplines, such as biokinesis etc etc.

Note that just because the topic says sci fi btw, that doesn't make the bringing up of Science Fantasy illogical or false. The two genres heavily bleed into each other; Dune is arguably as much a science fantasy as it is a hardline science fiction, and its the pinnacle of both genres in many peoples eyes, even if they consider it just one genre. So, using genre definitions to try and shoot down psionics just doesn't make sense to me, especially in terms of D&D.
I don't think anyone is arguing against psionics in general. It's just that there are two vocally dominant opinions on implementation that are in direct conflict with each other. On the one side, you have people saying that the concept of psionics is close enough to the concept of magic that reskinning the later to fit the former just makes sense in a tabletop RPG. No need to reinvent the wheel, as they say. On the other, you have people saying that the details of how the two play out in fiction are different enough often enough that reskinning magic would make for an unsatisfactory implementation of the concept, and that a more ground-up design should be considered instead. To parallel the wheel metaphor, a machine works better when purpose designed, not retrofitted.

There are other concerns being discussed, such as balance and fun, but on the whole, that's it.
 

I don't think anyone is arguing against psionics in general. It's just that there are two vocally dominant opinions on implementation that are in direct conflict with each other. On the one side, you have people saying that the concept of psionics is close enough to the concept of magic that reskinning the later to fit the former just makes sense in a tabletop RPG. No need to reinvent the wheel, as they say. On the other, you have people saying that the details of how the two play out in fiction are different enough often enough that reskinning magic would make for an unsatisfactory implementation of the concept, and that a more ground-up design should be considered instead. To parallel the wheel metaphor, a machine works better when purpose designed, not retrofitted.

There are other concerns being discussed, such as balance and fun, but on the whole, that's it.
Plus there's some semantic differences, since someone suggested reskinning by swapping out some class features and making a new spell list with some brand new spells - which a lot of people wouldn't call reskinning since you're changing the meat of the class (to extend the metaphor). Is a druid a reskinned cleric? If yes, then no one seems to think a psion can't be a reskinned full caster.

I do agree that most people aren't arguing for extremes here - very few people are saying "just play an evoker" and no one has yet argued for a totally independent system that involves totally different dice and resolution mechanics; it's all discussion about degrees of difference.

And really I think people care a lot more about how well done the end result is than exactly how different it is.
 

Plus there's some semantic differences, since someone suggested reskinning by swapping out some class features and making a new spell list with some brand new spells - which a lot of people wouldn't call reskinning since you're changing the meat of the class (to extend the metaphor). Is a druid a reskinned cleric? If yes, then no one seems to think a psion can't be a reskinned full caster.

I do agree that most people aren't arguing for extremes here - very few people are saying "just play an evoker" and no one has yet argued for a totally independent system that involves totally different dice and resolution mechanics; it's all discussion about degrees of difference.

And really I think people care a lot more about how well done the end result is than exactly how different it is.
you have a point but we need an idea of what it should be first in order for it to be made at all.
 

What's wrong with having cantrips that you spend Psi Points on to get more power out of? Have 6 of those as a base, another 6 that are divvied up amongst sublcasses. Players end up with 6 total Cantrips by 20th level, each of which has a full suite of things that can be done only through the expenditure of Psi Points. Then give the class Warlock-esque spellcasting and a very curated spell list.

You now have unique psionics (the enhanced cantrips) and spells in the same class in a roughly balanced way. Lower or increase the numbers as needed.

Are there flaws with this Mearls-rooted approach? If so, what are they?
 

King Babar

God Learner
Eh, no. That's not what hard science fiction is. Hard science fiction only uses real science, or what can plausably be extrapolated from real science. " a story should try to be accurate, logical, credible and rigorous in its use of current scientific and technical knowledge about which technology, phenomena, scenarios and situations that are practically or theoretically possible. " - Wikipedia. You can't break the laws of Physics "just a little bit". If you do it ceases to be hard. That means no warp drive, no psionics, and absolutely no magic!
I think that a lot of books that are generally referred to as "hard science fiction" wouldn't meet that criteria; Ringworld, The Three-Body Problem, some others I can't think of off the top of my head (is Robinson hard science fiction?). Personally, hard science fiction comes across as more of an aesthetic than as strict adherence to scientific plausibility. It's the "mature" science fiction. But this is a tangent. So I'll stop there.

Maybe more on topic. Would people consider psykers from Warhammer 40k to be psionics?
 

see

Pedantic Grognard
Making assumptions about new systems being broken messes isn't logic.
Right, it's not logic, it's simple empirical observation, based on looking at the last five decades of RPG design, that the first draft of any game system that is simultaneously 1) not a near reskin of a well-playtested system, 2) able to handle a broad variety of powers, and 3) is as powerful as D&D magic, is going to be a broken mess.

You can give up one of those three, or you can spend a lot of time and resources on iteration and playtesting to fix things.

(And for the people saying the new system doesn't have to be complicated, any simple system that's broad and powerful will be broken. The result of playtesting and iteration will be making the system complicated. Just as D&D magic is itself plenty complicated; it's simply that it's not new complexity, but complexity that came "for free", bundled with using D&D.)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Right, it's not logic, it's simple empirical observation, based on looking at the last five decades of RPG design, that the first draft of any game system that is simultaneously 1) not a near reskin of a well-playtested system, 2) able to handle a broad variety of powers, and 3) is as powerful as D&D magic, is going to be a broken mess.
This is purely subjective opinion, though. I get that you believe this, but it's not really any sort of fact that it will be the case.
You can give up one of those three, or you can spend a lot of time and resources on iteration and playtesting to fix things.
Or you can get it right enough to appeal to and be enjoyable to the majority of people. Hell, magic even in 5e still isn't perfect. Why expect psionics to be?
(And for the people saying the new system doesn't have to be complicated, any simple system that's broad and powerful will be broken.
Like magic? When they say "not complicated," they probably mean "no more complicated than magic."
 

I think that a lot of books that are generally referred to as "hard science fiction" wouldn't meet that criteria; Ringworld, The Three-Body Problem, some others I can't think of off the top of my head (is Robinson hard science fiction?). Personally, hard science fiction comes across as more of an aesthetic than as strict adherence to scientific plausibility. It's the "mature" science fiction. But this is a tangent. So I'll stop there.

Maybe more on topic. Would people consider psykers from Warhammer 40k to be psionics?
logically yes but minus sorcery that is more classic magic in structure and function.
 

I think that a lot of books that are generally referred to as "hard science fiction" wouldn't meet that criteria; Ringworld, The Three-Body Problem, some others I can't think of off the top of my head (is Robinson hard science fiction?). Personally, hard science fiction comes across as more of an aesthetic than as strict adherence to scientific plausibility. It's the "mature" science fiction. But this is a tangent. So I'll stop there.

Maybe more on topic. Would people consider psykers from Warhammer 40k to be psionics?
Absolutely, because they are described in the fiction as psychic powers. Now, 40k is 100% science fantasy, so there's a lot of wiggle room there.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Now, 40k is 100% science fantasy, so there's a lot of wiggle room there.

Yeah. 40k is straight up science fantasy.

The level of grimdark it runs on and the fantastic magic skeleton it lays on far exceeded the hardness of all the gruesome psuedo-scientific details it gives out in novels

These genres are not an "on and off" thing. It's a sliding scale.
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Yup, it's called psionics. :D :D :D

I kid, I kid. :p

You kid but it all depends on subgenre

  1. Space Fantasy: Psionics is Magic Reskin the Spell Point Wizard as Psion. Reskin Spellpoint Sorcerer to Wilder.
  2. Science Fantasy: Psioinics is Magic but different. Reskin the Spell Point Wizard as Psion. New Sciencey subclasses.
  3. Military SciFi: Psionics? WHO CARES WHEN WE HAVE GUNS! Psionics is feats, racial powers, and racial feats. And Psi Knights. So you can shoot guns and mindflay!
  4. Steam Punk: Mind power is secondary to Steam power. Psionics is feats
  5. Apcoalyspe: Psionics comes from Radiation poisoning. Magic comes from Chemical poisoning. Who cares how the system works? Roll Con save.
  6. Soft Sci Fi: Psionics are individual classes with their own classes. There is a telepath class and a telekinetic class. Want both? Multiclass.
  7. Hard Sci Fi: There is one psionic power. Ever. It's OP but that's all you get. Ain't no spells, you crazy.
 

I think that a lot of books that are generally referred to as "hard science fiction" wouldn't meet that criteria; Ringworld, The Three-Body Problem, some others I can't think of off the top of my head (is Robinson hard science fiction?).
I haven't read The Three Body Problem, but I have read Ringword, and I would not describe that as hard SF. Whilst the Ringword itself is based on real science, the FTL travel required to reach it is not, and the idea of "selective breading for Luck" is pure magic!

Of course, the more real science you learn, the tighter your definition of hard SF becomes.
 

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