Sleep Deprived Brainstorming for Psychic Combat

I'm typing this up before I fall back asleep and forget it.

I always want games to have more interesting mechanics for psychic combat than just making Will saves to avoid damage or penalties or compulsions. I want to be able to visualize a psychic battle, and for players to have a sense of their defenses being eroded. I want a default suite of psychic attacks and defenses that becomes familiar to players.

So, idea. This is rough. Bear with me.

We retool PF2 or DnD5E's* combat system from the ground up to have weapon attacks deal HP damage (as usual), but now crits don't do extra damage. Instead they impose temporary penalties in the form of conditions, which come in eight categories:
1. Bleed (HP damage over time)
2. Daze (they lose an action)
3. Break (damage item)
4. Eye Wound (senses)
5. Mouth Wound (communication)
6. Arm Wound (attacking)
7. Leg Wound (movement)
8. Chest Wound (accumulates levels of exhaustion round by round until you spend a round taking no action, which removes all the exhaustion)

Certain types of attacks are better at causing certain crits. Like, bleeding caused by piercing weapons is harder to stanch. Daze from a bludgeoning weapon is harder to shake out of. If you want to wound, you roll a random limb, but with a slashing weapon you roll twice and pick the result you prefer.

We then use a similar framework for mental conditions.
1. Id (HP damage over time as you lose the will to fight)
2. Ego (they lose an action)
3. Memory (lose proficiency in a thing, or memories of events)
4. Gnosis (lose ability to discern illusion from reality; aka advantage on psychic attacks against you)
5. Semiosis (lose ability to telepathically communicate or project mindscapes)
6. Bind (lose ability to use one type of psychic assault)
7. Kinesis (lose ability to physically navigate the world around you)
8. Superego (become vulnerable to compulsion and charm as your sense of values are eroded)

Psychic attacks would come in a lot of varieties, just like physical attacks, and likewise, some are better at causing certain types of mental crits.

The main suite is:

Mindscape - You create illusions to mess with the person, doing minimal damage but basically teeing up your next attack so you get advantage. Comparable to bludgeoning.

Mindstrike - Just does damage. Comparable to piercing.

Compulsion - Try to make them do or think or feel what you want. Comparable to slashing.

Okay, I'll figure this all out when I'm awake.

*This probably works better with PF2, where a) you have multiple actions, and b) you crit if you beat the DC by 10, instead of having to roll a 20. So it can be worthwhile to spend an action to improve your attack bonus, because crits are cool and we want them to define the big splashy moments of a fight.
 

JohnF

Explorer
Ambitious and very inspiring! I've only read through PF2, not played (group in mid-PF1 campaign), but I see where you're going with this.

Question: That main suite of psychic attacks - - if you are avoiding the Will saves as the only defense (which I like), how do you see variety in defending against each?
 
Well, I'd still have Will saves*, but I wanted psychic attacks to have more of a framework that can be used for a variety of effects, whereas right now every monster/spell/item has a sort of ad hoc design. But as the system gets fleshed out, there would be some defensive options.

Like, if you're using PF2's three action system, there'd be a mental equivalent of Raise a Shield to improve your defenses. (And people with the right psychic training would have an improved 'shield' that they can use to soak a hit, having the shield take damage or an effect instead of the target, but breaking the shield until they can rest and restore it.

And maybe some mindscape tricks. Like, if someone's trying to distract you with mental illusions so they can burrow into your mind, you could use an action to change the mindscape, or reveal the attacker, or actually hide inside the mindscape so you can try to ambush them.

*What I actually want is a 4E style "attack roll against static defense" system, because I have another component of my 'dream RPG combat system' that gets a lot simply if the attacker is always the one rolling.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Ambitious and interesting.

I don't use psionics in my game, as I consider them to be just a subset of magic and a psionic is just a mentalist sorcerer of some sort. But I could see using them in a more modern or sci-fi campaign where you wanted to throw some clothes on magic to allow it to be respectable in a different genre.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
In my heavily customized take on D&D 4e Zeitgeist, and in my upcoming mid-level Pathfinder 2e mini-adventure, I am going to have a fair deal of psychic combat that takes place in mindscapes and dreamscapes. I just use the regular combat rules. I do not see any reason to try to come up with a new subsystem for combat that has to be meticulously balanced, when there is already a perfectly sufficient subsystem already in place.

Under this method, characters focused on more physical ability scores and skills rather than more cerebral abilities and skills are not penalized for the way they have been built; everyone can contribute in a fight the way they are supposed to.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
*This probably works better with PF2, where a) you have multiple actions, and b) you crit if you beat the DC by 10, instead of having to roll a 20. So it can be worthwhile to spend an action to improve your attack bonus, because crits are cool and we want them to define the big splashy moments of a fight.
You must have been getting sleepy, because a critical roll module is pretty easy to add on to D&D 5 - one that includes the appropriate bonus actions/reactions.

And maybe some mindscape tricks. Like, if someone's trying to distract you with mental illusions so they can burrow into your mind, you could use an action to change the mindscape, or reveal the attacker, or actually hide inside the mindscape so you can try to ambush them.
This sounds like a parallel combat (one real world, one mindscape). Don't need a separate ruleset for this, just a second map and some psychic-sounding names.

But don't let me stop you from retooling the combat systems from the ground up :poop:
 

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