Unearthed Arcana Unearthed Arcana Revisits Psionics

The latest Unearthed Arcana from WotC revisits some psionic rules! “Shine with the power of the mind in this installment of Unearthed Arcana! Today we revisit several psi-themed options that we released in the past few months. Studying your feedback on those options, we’ve crafted this new collection of subclasses, spells, and feats, found in the PDF below.“

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It could easily have been trimmed back if it had met with a less overwhelmingly negative response, and doing everything better than every other class is exactly what the 2nd edition psion that people are so fond of did.

And anyway, your own suggestion includes no significant differences to the Mystic.

Nope, The truth is it was rejected because the community is deeply divided over what it wants from psionics, and no side is prepared to give an inch.
So you know the truth and WotC was lying.
 





Remathilis

Legend
But they could have taken the Mystic/Psion and focused on a narrower range of archetypes, while moving the Soul Knife to the monk/rogue and the immortal/psychic warrior to the fighter. Have a main psionic class, with two to three subclasses (e.g., Akashic, Transcendant, Nomad, Empath, etc.) but then also spread psionics out a bit so that one class chassis doesn't have to try doing it all.

So I don't think that the KISS method hasn't been disproved here. If anything, your summation points to the point how they KISS and then lost sight of their vision when they tried to make the Mystic do too much.

This. Absolutely this.

The mystic seemed to have the same problem that arcane magic had during the Next Playtest; they wanted to lump a large variety of different classes into one SuperClass and use subclasses to heavy-lift the differences. At one point, there was the Mage: a SuperClass that was supposed to contain the Wizard, Sorcerer, Warlock and even Psion classes using different subclasses to provide caster mechanics and features. I recall it didn't go very far and the idea scrapped. Unfortunately, the Mystic seemed to expand the SuperClass idea and absorbed ALL psionic classes that had existed and try to cram them under one roof, which failed just as much as Mage did. Once it did, it seemed WotC decided against a class-based solution and has gone down the subclass route.

It's a shame, before Mearls was banished from ever being in front of a WotC camera, he had a good idea with his base-class + subs idea. Some of that lingers on here. But since the mystic failed, they seem to want to avoid using a new class or new mechanic.
 


Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
So let's talk about the Psi Knight (which I love by the way).

Specifically, how does this work:

"Psi-Powered Leap. When you make a high or long jump, you can roll your Psionic Talent die and extend the distance of the jump, up to a number of feet equal to twice the number rolled plus twice your Intelligence modifier (minimum of 1 extra foot). This extra distance costs you only 1 foot of movement."

"Long Jump: When you make a long jump, you cover a number of feet up to your Strength score if you move at least 10 feet on foot immediately before the jump. When you make a standing long jump, you can leap only half that distance."

So let's say you have a 16 Intelligence (+3 mod) and a 19 strength (+4 mod). You're 5th level and your die is still a d8. You roll your die and get a 5. So, twice 3 (int mod) plus twice 5 (your roll) equals 16 feet for 1 foot of movement. Simple so far.

You move 10 feet, you jump 19 feet (your strength score), your psi-powered leap takes you another 16 feet but only costs you 1 foot of movement. So you travel 45 feet total, with a jump that goes 35 feet, but it cost you only 30 feet of movement total for the 45 feet you traveled.

Or you can do a standing long jump, in which case you jump 9 feet plus 16 feet for a total of 25 feet at the cost of 10 feet of movement.

So for this example it's a boost of 15 feet of movement at the risk of your die lowering (which could be really helpful on the first round of combat to close with that pesky spellcaster in the back and still attack, perhaps laying down your action surge to kill them before they can get off that fireball). And, sometimes more importantly (though circumstantial) you jump a 35 foot chasm - something normally only your monk or spell-aided PC can do. Pretty neat!

For the high jump, "When you make a high jump, you leap into the air a number of feet equal to 3 + your Strength modifier (minimum of 0 feet) if you move at least 10 feet on foot immediately before the jump. When you make a standing high jump, you can jump only half that distance."

So in this example you move 10 feet, then jump 3+4=7 feet up, and then add 16 feet from the psi-powered leap, for a total of 23 feet up at the cost of 18 feet of movement. Or for a standing jump, you jump 3+16=19 feet up for the cost of 4 movement. That could be pretty handy!

Did I get anything wrong in this example? Thoughts on how this could be used, or more realistic examples?
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Though I am sure it would be controversial, I would like to see WotC experiment with a psion and psionic subclasses that use Ki. Let's take the psion and put it on the other end of the monk, but make its ki focused on being a caster. It could also help reinforce the monk's "mystical/magical" abilities and contextualize its magic.
+1 and this would be an opportunity to test a rewrite of Way of the Four Elements so it doesn't look / feel 'a step behind' the other Monk subclasses.
 

This. Absolutely this.

The mystic seemed to have the same problem that arcane magic had during the Next Playtest; they wanted to lump a large variety of different classes into one SuperClass and use subclasses to heavy-lift the differences. At one point, there was the Mage: a SuperClass that was supposed to contain the Wizard, Sorcerer, Warlock and even Psion classes using different subclasses to provide caster mechanics and features. I recall it didn't go very far and the idea scrapped. Unfortunately, the Mystic seemed to expand the SuperClass idea and absorbed ALL psionic classes that had existed and try to cram them under one roof, which failed just as much as Mage did. Once it did, it seemed WotC decided against a class-based solution and has gone down the subclass route.

It's a shame, before Mearls was banished from ever being in front of a WotC camera, he had a good idea with his base-class + subs idea. Some of that lingers on here. But since the mystic failed, they seem to want to avoid using a new class or new mechanic.
That and they had access to way to much powers (or disciplines or whatever it was).

If they just cut down on the amount of those The Mystic got, it honestly would've been fine, from a balance perspective at least.
 

lkj

Hero
With regard to the 'components' discussion, I fall in the category of 'ignore them till they matter story-wise'. Which is too say, that during combats and such I don't pay much attention (which probably gives casters a bit of a power boost that no one has noticed or complained about so far). But if a wizard loses the their arcane focus or pouch, or the component is expensive, or someone's hands are tied up, or it matters whether the casting would be obvious or not-- then we pay attention. Mostly, the free hand thing gets played fast and loose during a fight.

I think how much components are used as RAW does matter for design, as it will affect how players see features that relate to them and if it were true that very few tables paid any attention to them then they won't like features focused around them. While they certainly shouldn't do design that contradicts their existing rules, WotC wants to design classes that are fun for most of their users. So if very few people use them, then features designed around them should be rare.

That said, WotC has a built in process for testing this. They don't need to know what percentage of tables use the RAW. They just need to know whether players like the features they are testing. If lots of tables use RAW, these component features will look tasty and get high ratings. If most don't, then they won't.

That's what's great about them playtesting these ideas.

With regard to the psion/mystic-- I like the idea of a psion class that is distinct in some way (e.g., Mearls) combined with these subclasses they are trying. I am still gestating on the psi dice. But I'm coming around to the idea. I like there's a distinct mechanic, and I like a lot of the novelty that comes with it. Looks fun really. Just wonder if for psionic class/subclass that is trained in mind control whether there shouldn't be some way to reduce the randomness of how much power they use. Would be a fairly simple addition to certain subclasses/classes (balance notwithstanding).

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
I'm not saying that I want the psion attached to the monk as a monk subclass, but, rather, I would be interested in seeing WotC make a psion class using monk ki points, but as a caster. Ki effectively also serves as "spell points" so it's not as if we don't have a spell point using class. A psion using Ki points would also mean that it's not necessarily different for the sake of being different, since it's also using Ki points. Ki and some of their abilities that monks can spend Ki on also exist in that strange place of "is it magic?" and "it works in an anti-magic field." It would also still allow WotC to lean (at least partially) into the whole "mystic" thing. People who don't necessarily like psionics? It's a like if a monk was a full caster instead of a brawling class.
You run into the same problem as the 4 elements monk - ki points increase linearly, whereas spell points increase geometrically. Thus a ki point caster will always fall behind a spell point caster.

If you make your ki points increase geometrically to match an arcane caster, then what you have just described (right down to the brawling subclass) is almost exactly The Mystic - the psionic subclass WotC designed three years ago and was roundly rejected by the community.

I did the math on this a while back: the Monk is a short-rest half-caster already, following the same progression as the Warlock, compared to the difference between a Paladin and a Cleric. You can basically take the Warlock chasis, replace their Slots with Ki points of the same value, refluff the Invocations and you basically have a full-caster using the same mechanics as the Monk.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
We're currently in dungeon where there are several humans and only one light cantrip. So we use torches. It's added some complexity when the DM says, "Aren't you holding a torch?"

You can drop your torch on the ground for free, and draw one weapon as a free action. No problem. But then you want to move. "Do you leave the torch there?" The other option is to use a free action to sheathe your sword and...a full action to pick it up? It gets left.

Since we're playing on a VTT, the DM then removes the light source from the character and makes it stationary. Then (because our DM is evil) the goblins move the fight around a corner...into darkness.

Now, you could ignore ALL of this and still have fun playing. But having to think about what you are holding, and what else you need your hands for, definitely adds complexity. I don't really track who says what on the forum (unless I don't have a choice because they say it 10,000 times) but if the people saying they ignore drawing/holding/picking up, spell components, encumbrance, etc. are the same ones who complain that 5e doesn't have tactics....well....

See, we are talking about different things now.

Spellcasting focuses only take a single hand, or a shield.

Paladin or Cleric? Sure, focus is on their shield, they might have trouble juggling a shield, torch and weapon, if they are in the dark and don't have darkvision. Of course, cleric's can just cast light on their shield, solving that issue.

Warlock, Sorcerer, Wizard, Bard, Druid, Ranger? Most of them don't have or don't use shields. In fact, for most wizards, sorcerers, bards and warlocks? The have a focus in one hand and nothing in their other, so they can easily carry a torch and cast.

And by 4th level, if you are a caster who has this problem, you usually take warcaster which allows you to cast while your hands are full.

So, we have to get fairly specific and in the weeds for this to ever come up needing
1) Multiple people without Darkvision
2) Using a hand-held light source to see in the dark instead of the variety of cantrips that do so
3) They must be wielding a shield, or commonly have a weapon other than a staff (which is an arcane focus) that they wish to hold while casting
4) Not have a feat, ability, or common magical item to counteract that handedness issue



Yes.

The component was right here. I went ahead and bolded it for a second time, since apparently you missed the bold the first time.

"The biggest I can remember doing is hold Person, and again, "This guy gestures, etheral chains explode around you, roll a wisdom save" is generally what happens."

I don't care if you care about the rules. If the casters are gesturing, they are using somatic components. How you got there doesn't matter.

Well, thank you for informing me, I guess I didn't know my own table

But, doesn't hold person have three components? Somatic (gestures), Verbal (specific words of specific intonation and pitch) and Material (holy symbol or length of iron)

Can we really say that I am using components when I'm only using 1/3 of what is required by the rules? You want to say I'm following a set of standards that I am not following, but I don't understand what you think this will accomplish.

You. Our side is just saying no V, S, M.

Wouldn't that, by default, make them hidden?

Unless you are saying that a psionicist should stand there perfectly still and silent, then light up like a christmas tree

The argument from our side is that they don't use V, S, and M. That's it. If some outlier is saying that there shouldn't be any side effects, that's not a strong sentiment from this side of things.

Not from our side, no. That's not what we are asking for. :🤷:

Ah, so you are willing to die on a hill to split a hair. Carry on I guess.

Edit: Though this still doesn't fix what is an actual balance problem, that is without the limits of speaking or gesturing, you can't shut down a psion like you can every other caster in the game. And that is a legitimate problem, you need a way to stop them from using 90% of their abilities, just like every other caster.

Sincerely very heartening to see others who see VSM on psionics is wrong. And yes, I don't care whether psionics share spell effects, use spell slots, have other components (like for example, PF1's Thought and Emotion, and/or burning ozone smells and glowing skin veins) that can be exploited to detect and/or hinder "casting". Just no reliance on a biophysical vocalization organ + appendage combination.

Even the much referenced Jedi (or any force user in general) theoretically don't "need" vocal chords nor a protein hand (just look at Darth Vader, he's a cyborg during the entire Original Trilogy) to use telekinesis.

You don't need a protein hand in 5e for arcane casting either.

Also, just look at War Caster or Ruby of the War Mage. Both of these allow casting without your hand being free.

Edit Tangent: With the Edit I just made to the response to MaxPerson, I had a thought. Do people allow casters with War Caster to cast spells while bound? I've never encountered it, so I'm not sure what the accepted ruling on that is.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
A different forum proposed an idea for a psion using the Psi Die concept, that I felt was kind of interesting.

Credit for the post goes to Zalabim over at GiTP

Expanding on it, I imagine a full psion has multiple dice (a psychic power pool?) and can effectively roll with advantage for minor powers or add multiple dice together to determine the effect of major powers. This would also give them more fuel for powers that automatically downgrade a die. It would only need 4 to 6 dice. Depending on recovery mechanisms, this could be no more than 3 at a time.

I find this an interesting way to go with a Psion for this design
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Well, thank you for informing me, I guess I didn't know my own table

Sure thing.

But, doesn't hold person have three components? Somatic (gestures), Verbal (specific words of specific intonation and pitch) and Material (holy symbol or length of iron)

Can we really say that I am using components when I'm only using 1/3 of what is required by the rules? You want to say I'm following a set of standards that I am not following, but I don't understand what you think this will accomplish.

Yes you can say that you are using them. I don't have to spend every dollar I possess in order to be spending money. I don't have to drink every drop of water in my house to be drinking water. You are using spell components even if you don't use all of them.

Wouldn't that, by default, make them hidden?

No. Not if you understand the history of psionics anyway.

Unless you are saying that a psionicist should stand there perfectly still and silent, then light up like a christmas tree

That's a possibility. The visual effects were varied.

Edit: Though this still doesn't fix what is an actual balance problem, that is without the limits of speaking or gesturing, you can't shut down a psion like you can every other caster in the game. And that is a legitimate problem, you need a way to stop them from using 90% of their abilities, just like every other caster.

I resolved that days ago.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Edit Tangent: With the Edit I just made to the response to MaxPerson, I had a thought. Do people allow casters with War Caster to cast spells while bound? I've never encountered it, so I'm not sure what the accepted ruling on that is.
I haven't actually encountered that yet. That's a good question. I suppose it would depend on the components the spell. If you're gagged, there's still no verbal. And if you are bound, you are unlikely to be able to grab even the trivial material components necessary. Are there any spells that are only somatic?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
A different forum proposed an idea for a psion using the Psi Die concept, that I felt was kind of interesting.

Credit for the post goes to Zalabim over at GiTP

I find this an interesting way to go with a Psion for this design
Yeah. That's an interesting idea for something other than power points or spell slots. I'd definitely be open to seeing a more completed version.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
So, we have to get fairly specific and in the weeds for this to ever come up needing
1) Multiple people without Darkvision
2) Using a hand-held light source to see in the dark instead of the variety of cantrips that do so
3) They must be wielding a shield, or commonly have a weapon other than a staff (which is an arcane focus) that they wish to hold while casting
4) Not have a feat, ability, or common magical item to counteract that handedness issue

1) Most player characters are Humans, and Dragonborn are quite popular (most popular after Humans, Half-Elves, Elves or Dwarves, actually)
2) only Light spell per PC who can do it, and most can't
3) admittedly I like my Gosh builds
4) Not everyone uses Feats, not everyone will have a given ability, magic items are not guaranteed

Honestly, it's not as much a corner case as all that: this stuff comes up all the time.

Edit Tangent: With the Edit I just made to the response to MaxPerson, I had a thought. Do people allow casters with War Caster to cast spells while bound? I've never encountered it, so I'm not sure what the accepted ruling on that is.

This is another exhibit in the case against Feats, right here.
 

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