D&D 5E Superiority Dice, Psi Dice, and a Way to do Psionics

A new month is coming and we have no active Psionics thread? WHAT???

So, here's the idea.

People always say how adding non-spell spells (psionics) is too much mechanical complexity for the game and is confusing. This is, even though I don't fully agree, such a widespread sentinment across D&D social media that I essentially have to accept it as fact — a lot of people aren't interested in an in-depth psionics system!

But...then I was rereading the current Psionic Subclasses. And I was rereading the battlemaster. And it struck me that psionic powers are literally just maneuvers but with the mind.

This realization made me think that psychic abilities could use the battlemaster's maneuver system literally as is and it'd accomplish pretty much what I want it to do. I mean, the Psi Knight's powers function in literally the exact same way. And, if we want to improve it and add some spice, we can say that spending more then 1 superiority die on a psionic power can unlock different effects for that power.

Say you have basic telepathy. Roll a psi die, you only lose this telepathy on a 1. But if you willingly choose to automatically expend that psi die, you can put maybe 24 hours of memory into someone. And if you spend 3 dice instead, you can implant up to three different suggestions. Spend 5 dice, you rip information from the last month from the target's brain and learn it. Spend 10 dice, you pull an Emma Frost and rewire someone. Add saves, conditions, etc etc to balance, but this is the base idea.

So, this is really no different then the battlemaster. Its actually the same, but with a new axis of spend more dice to use more power. And this uses the same mechanics as the battlemaster, so it isn't like we're learning an entire new system here.

As for Psionics vs Magic, I'd make it so basically anything that is anti-magic or dispel magic works on Psychic Powers that expend the superiority dice (or psi dice, whatever). So, basic telepathy or simple telekinesis is no problem. However, if you use your "Rip the information from their brains!" ninjutsu, someone can dispel magic that, counterspell it, etc.

For ease, I'd probably say that the amount of dice spent = spell level. So if you expend 1 dice to send someone 24 hours worth of memories, that's a 1st level spell. Anything that cost more then 9 dice is 9th level.

You can use class or subclass features to fiddle with this. Recover some on short rest, all on long rest, start initiative without one, regain one when something fails a save by -5, and so on. But ultimately, this would be, in my opinion, a clever and simple way to do psionics that doesn't actually require adding a huge amount of new mechanics in the game. It also is in line with all 3 Psionic Subclasses (who don't get the cool "heighten psionics" feature that an actual Psion would).

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk!
 

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
A new month is coming and we have no active Psionics thread? WHAT???

So, here's the idea.

People always say how adding non-spell spells (psionics) is too much mechanical complexity for the game and is confusing. This is, even though I don't fully agree, such a widespread sentinment across D&D social media that I essentially have to accept it as fact — a lot of people aren't interested in an in-depth psionics system!

But...then I was rereading the current Psionic Subclasses. And I was rereading the battlemaster. And it struck me that psionic powers are literally just maneuvers but with the mind.

This realization made me think that psychic abilities could use the battlemaster's maneuver system literally as is and it'd accomplish pretty much what I want it to do. I mean, the Psi Knight's powers function in literally the exact same way. And, if we want to improve it and add some spice, we can say that spending more then 1 superiority die on a psionic power can unlock different effects for that power.

Say you have basic telepathy. Roll a psi die, you only lose this telepathy on a 1. But if you willingly choose to automatically expend that psi die, you can put maybe 24 hours of memory into someone. And if you spend 3 dice instead, you can implant up to three different suggestions. Spend 5 dice, you rip information from the last month from the target's brain and learn it. Spend 10 dice, you pull an Emma Frost and rewire someone. Add saves, conditions, etc etc to balance, but this is the base idea.

So, this is really no different then the battlemaster. Its actually the same, but with a new axis of spend more dice to use more power. And this uses the same mechanics as the battlemaster, so it isn't like we're learning an entire new system here.

As for Psionics vs Magic, I'd make it so basically anything that is anti-magic or dispel magic works on Psychic Powers that expend the superiority dice (or psi dice, whatever). So, basic telepathy or simple telekinesis is no problem. However, if you use your "Rip the information from their brains!" ninjutsu, someone can dispel magic that, counterspell it, etc.

For ease, I'd probably say that the amount of dice spent = spell level. So if you expend 1 dice to send someone 24 hours worth of memories, that's a 1st level spell. Anything that cost more then 9 dice is 9th level.

You can use class or subclass features to fiddle with this. Recover some on short rest, all on long rest, start initiative without one, regain one when something fails a save by -5, and so on. But ultimately, this would be, in my opinion, a clever and simple way to do psionics that doesn't actually require adding a huge amount of new mechanics in the game. It also is in line with all 3 Psionic Subclasses (who don't get the cool "heighten psionics" feature that an actual Psion would).

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk!

Personally, I am hardcore in the psionic camp that insists: psionics = magic = normal spell casting mechanics.

Psionic, Arcane, Divine, and Primal, are all normal "sources" of magic.

That said, different classes can have features that do psionic magic in different ways. For example, I like the feel of the full-caster Warlock mechanics for a separate Psion class. I wouldnt have done the Psi Knight Fighter subclass that way in Tashas, but I dont mind it, and the flavor is perfect.

The problem with maneuver mechanics is: it works great for low-level spell effects of slots 1 to 3, but is worthless for high-level spell effects of slots 7 to 9.

Full-caster psionic mage classes need to use normal spell mechanics for psionic effects like Wish, Foresight, Shapechange, and so on.

But for partial-caster psionic gish classes, maneuvers and other fiddly mechanics can work well enough.
 

I am all-in on the idea of superiority dice being the same as psi dice. Although I'd make monks the big dice user class, and expand chi/qi to being the same sort of thing.

In-fiction, it means that among those who have studied it, there's a recognition that what monks and psions and skilled fighters do is essentially the same thing - at least to the same degree that wizards and sorcerers are dong the same thing. In areas where monks are an established part of the community, fighters (and anyone else with sup. dice) know that they're using chi but may or may not have any understanding of what that means. It could be a pretty deep understanding, or totally wrong. (It doesn't matter, you still hit the bad guy)

I would really want to use this with a maneuvers-for-everyone* rebuild of classes, but that's a much bigger project.

*well, more than half of weapon users, but they're not just for one subclass here or there.
 

Personally, I am hardcore in the psionic camp that insists: psionics = magic = normal spell casting mechanics.

Psionic, Arcane, Divine, and Primal, are all normal "sources" of magic.

That said, different classes can have features that do psionic magic in different ways. For example, I like the feel of the full-caster Warlock mechanics for a separate Psion class. I wouldnt have done the Psi Knight Fighter subclass that way in Tashas, but I dont mind it, and the flavor is perfect.

The problem with maneuver mechanics is: it works great for low-level spell effects of slots 1 to 3, but is worthless for high-level spell effects of slots 7 to 9.

Full-caster psionic mage classes need to use normal spell mechanics for psionic effects like Wish, Foresight, Shapechange, and so on.

But for partial-caster psionic gish classes, maneuvers and other fiddly mechanics can work well enough.
I would probably make my ideal Psion use Pact Casting-style spell slots and psi dice, give them a super restricted spell list, and have the subclasses expand the spell list.

High level psionic effects in this system ,as stated, are meant to be equal to spells. A 9+ dice-spent psionic effect should be equal to something like Foresight or Wish. Let's say this is still telepathy we're talking about, I think completely brainwashing someone perm and changing how their brain works is a 9th level effect. I think that is pretty on point.
 

I am all-in on the idea of superiority dice being the same as psi dice. Although I'd make monks the big dice user class, and expand chi/qi to being the same sort of thing.

In-fiction, it means that among those who have studied it, there's a recognition that what monks and psions and skilled fighters do is essentially the same thing - at least to the same degree that wizards and sorcerers are dong the same thing. In areas where monks are an established part of the community, fighters (and anyone else with sup. dice) know that they're using chi but may or may not have any understanding of what that means. It could be a pretty deep understanding, or totally wrong. (It doesn't matter, you still hit the bad guy)

I would really want to use this with a maneuvers-for-everyone* rebuild of classes, but that's a much bigger project.

*well, more than half of weapon users, but they're not just for one subclass here or there.
While I'm designing this idea to work with Ki points initially, I am doing my own kind of D&D off-shoot (can't...resist...hrng...) that uses a lot of manuevers, so this wil ldef fit in there.

As for Monks, that would be cool, but I do like Ki being points as well...I just wish the Ki points were DOUBLED, and that subclass features were PB per long rest AND THEN COST KI. But making Monks use dice I think is also really on brand. You could roll a superiority dice and the result is how many flurry of blows attacks you make, each one dealing 1d4 + Dex/Str. That'd be super neat.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
All magic, including arcane, divine,
I would probably make my ideal Psion use Pact Casting-style spell slots and psi dice, give them a super restricted spell list, and have the subclasses expand the spell list.
I can probably live with something like that.

Take the Warlock mechanics:

The high-level spell effects are more like Arcanums.

However, the extremely diverse and flexible "Invocations" can be almost any kind of mechanics: ranging from innate magical features to modifying cantrips to almost any kind of spell augment. Certain maneuvers can easily be a kind of Invocation.

I agree that Psions should be "thematic" with regard spell selection. (I think every caster should be thematic, especially Wizard!) The way to do this is to reorganize the entire official spell list by "themes", instead of schools, so it would look a bit more like choosing spells for a Cleric domain. One way to balance this is: the highest spell slot available can only be used for the thematic specialization, and only lower slots can be used for nonspecialized themes. This means the most powerful casting will always be thematic.

I would divide the entire spell list into the following five themes:

• prescience-teleportation-spacetime-astral
• telepathy-enchantment-illusion
• shapeshifting-healing
• telekinesis-force-forceconstruct-fly-ethereal
• elemental-earth-water-air-fire-plant
 

One other thing: I would want to make superiority dice fully fungible with bardic inspiration - if you have access to both, they become one resource pool (much like spell slots form different classes) and if you are given an inspriation die and know maneuvers, you can use the inspiration die as a superiority die.

Some other thoughts I've had:

Spellstrike as a maneuver covers a lot of ground in making gish concepts work without needing a new class or dozens of subclasses. Just multiclass (gishes are kind of a gamey concept anyways, I say as a huge gish fan). Something like "spend a superiority die and a spell slot, if the weapon attack hits so does the spell." But wordier.

Stances as a type of maneuver that grants a static bonus for a duration, only one stance at a time (the concentration spells of maneuvers, but you don't lose them for getting hit unless you're knocked out or a special rule is involved) How these interact with Fighting Styles is a bit rougher to figure out.

I would allow for magical maneuvers - ie Strike Spell that lets you hit an active spell / spell being cast and disrupt it. I love the visual on this particularly. Not for every class/subclass would have access to these - a fighter would only get the magical maneuvers of their subclass (if any), and paladins would only get paladin-y ones, but monks/psions/bladesingers can have a lot.

Certain weapons can grant maneuvers (ie tridents and swordbreaker can be used for the disarm maneuver) without knowing the maneuver although they don't grant dice. Magic weapons can go nuts with this, teaching maneivers, granting dice, etc. Intelligent weapons should pretty much all have such features IMO.

They really ought to put a "Normal" paragraph for some maneuvers, like they did for 3e feats. "Normal: Without this maneuver, your can use the Shove special attack (see page XX) to knock enemies prone." "Normal: characters are assumed to be attempting to parry most attacks that target them, this is factored into the character's Armor Class. This maneuver represents an exceptional parry." Normal: Intimidating enemies is usually an Action. The dm sets the dc and decides how intimidated enemies are effected - they may choose not to use the frightened condition."
 

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