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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TwoSix

Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
1) The big one - WotC have repeatedly stated Feats are optional. They even massively modified Eberron's Dragonmark system (apparently at the last minute) to take out the Feats which made it a balanced and reasonable system, and instead made it a weird mess where you have to be certain classes to actually use your Dragonmark, in direct contradiction of Eberron lore.
Ehh...I agree that feats would have been the better solution (I still allow the WgtE feats in my Eberron game, in addition to the dragonmarked races). I don't think I would agree it's in contradiction to Eberron lore, as Keith has always been pretty clear that classes are a metagame tool that you should be using to build your concept, but don't have an actual presence in the narrative. Just because the fighter class isn't good with dragonmarks doesn't mean that the concept of warrior with no magical training has a powerful dragonmark isn't realizable; you simply use a different class framework to do so.
 

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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Another thing to note at this point in time is that we all have to remember that this UA is not the time to complain about math balance with any of the subclasses. As is always the case with these articles, WotC purposefully does not worry about the math when they present there things to us. They have all the time in the world to review the numbers later on in the process. Right now, the thing they probably care most of all is whether or not the Psi Die is a concept that people like or not as a psionics mechanic. The bonus die that can move up and down depending on the power you use on each roll.

If people are good with this concept (regardless whether or not there will or won't be a full psion class that uses it down the line) then at that point they will start working on all the game features that use the die and balance the math around it. Or if people all say they hate the die, then they'll go back to the drawing board again to find some other game mechanic to use for psionics (and probably pushing psionics back even further.)

So right now everyone should be testing how the psi die feels in practice at the table, and whether its a compelling and interesting mechanic or not. That way when they ask, you can tell them that they are on the right track towards a psionics system (at which point you can also tell them that they can adapt further into a full psion class.)
 

TwoSix

Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
So right now everyone should be testing how the psi die feels in practice at the table, and whether its a compelling and interesting mechanic or not. That way when they ask, you can tell them that they are on the right track towards a psionics system (at which point you can also tell them that they can adapt further into a full psion class.)
I like the die as a mechanical subsystem, personally, but nothing about it feels psionic to me.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I like the die as a mechanical subsystem, personally, but nothing about it feels psionic to me.
Heh... it's a game mechanic. Do any game mechanics "feel" like the thing they are supposed to represent? Does adding +2d6 of damage "feel" like actually sneak attacking someone? Like I've never gotten the "feel" that any god is granting me further insight when the cleric gives me a +1d4 for Guidance. It feels like the cleric player just telling me "hey, roll an extra die!" :)

Is there a particular type of mechanical expression they can create that "feels" specifically like psionic power? Has there ever been? Or is always just how we roleplay the mechanics to give us that "feel"?
 

Ehh...I agree that feats would have been the better solution (I still allow the WgtE feats in my Eberron game, in addition to the dragonmarked races). I don't think I would agree it's in contradiction to Eberron lore, as Keith has always been pretty clear that classes are a metagame tool that you should be using to build your concept, but don't have an actual presence in the narrative. Just because the fighter class isn't good with dragonmarks doesn't mean that the concept of warrior with no magical training has a powerful dragonmark isn't realizable; you simply use a different class framework to do so.

I get where you're coming from, and it definitely true that Keith Baker has always been a massive fan of reflavouring, but it is really difficult to convincingly build a "warrior with no magical training but a powerful Dragonmark" under the structure they've given us - and that's not exactly an unusual concept for Eberron either. Whereas with the previous, Feat-based system, it was trivial to build it.

Another thing to note at this point in time is that we all have to remember that this UA is not the time to complain about math balance with any of the subclasses. As is always the case with these articles, WotC purposefully does not worry about the math when they present there things to us.

I get what you're saying, but history suggests that if a class looks broadly underpowered or overpowered, we should say something now, because WotC have had some problems there, historically, and there is unlikely to be another UA version of these unless the Psi-die mechanic is rejected (and if it is, I suspect we're looking at years before we see another version of them, unless they're super gung-ho for Athas, like have actually started writing it).

I'm not worried about the precise numbers but I think it's absolutely fair and the sort of feedback they want to say stuff like "this feels weak" or "these numbers seem" low, or "the odds of losing your dice entirely seem way too high". Stuff like needlessly using a d4 for the second Psi-dagger is also just weird and doesn't help. It's only -1 damage, but it's like, why add that complexity?

Heh... it's a game mechanic. Do any game mechanics "feel" like the thing they are supposed to represent? Does adding +2d6 of damage "feel" like actually sneak attacking someone? Like I've never gotten the "feel" that any god is granting me further insight when the cleric gives me a +1d4 for Guidance. It feels like the cleric player just telling me "hey, roll an extra die!" :)

Is there a particular type of mechanical expression they can create that "feels" specifically like psionic power? Has there ever been?

Yes to both your questions. Game mechanics can have a feel (for most people, maybe not for you). Sneak attack dice absolutely do feel like making a deadly sneak attack to a lot of people. They might not to you, but I can't help you there.

And the whole design of the 2E Psionics system felt very "Psionics"-y, and not just because it was the first such system I met (it wasn't - I'd seen others in other games before that), but the whole structure and flow it had worked really well for making it feel that way (even if it was as clumsy as most 2e systems). Far better than some contemporary systems which just felt like random superhero abilities, rather than a cohesive whole.

That doesn't mean we need to replicate it of course. Or have anything similar.

But the "random increases and decreases in power over which you have no control" has nothing thematically to do with conventional and D&D presentations of Psionics or similar abilities. Indeed, Psi is traditionally, in both D&D and fiction, typically about control. If you had dice to spend, that would make more sense than this. I get that they already have a couple of mechanics like that (actually several), but that's more "Psionic" than random increases/decreases in power. It's the random increase/decrease element which doesn't fit here.

That's not to say it wouldn't be a good mechanic for something, but Psionics? Not really. And the sad thing is, I think if people say that, they're just not going to put these subclasses in at all.
 

Then ya just make sure you do go below D4 again.

The trouble is, you can't actually do that, because "not going below d4" is functionally the same as going below d4 - the only way to do it is to stop using any powers which roll the die when you're on d4. And not having the die stops you using any powers which roll the die.

They need an option where you can use your powers without the chance of increase/decrease, perhaps by using a die down from your normal die.
 

TwoSix

Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
Is there a particular type of mechanical expression they can create that "feels" specifically like psionic power? Has there ever been? Or is always just how we roleplay the mechanics to give us that "feel"?
Absolutely there is. I know you've been on a kick lately about "only the roleplay matters" and "people worry too much about the combat minigame" but for a lot of us, the mechanics of how the game plays matters a lot.
If I didn't like the mechanical aspect of the game, I'd just play Dungeon World instead.
 

J-H

Hero
Responding to a post on page 21:
Yes, the Soulknife has always struggled to be good.
How about turning it into a Feat?

Soulknife:
(requires Wild Talent or a Psionic subclass)
You have learned how to shape your psychic energy into a weapon. As a bonus action, you can reduce your psi dice by one step to generate a blade made of shimmering psychic energy. The blade deals psychic damage, and its base damage is equal to your base psionic die. It gains an enhancement bonus to hit and damage equal to 1/2 your proficiency bonus, rounded down.

Earliest general availability for this should be the level 4 feat, since subclasses are (aside from sorc) not available at level 1. It ranges from 1d6+1 all the way up to, at Tier 4 levels, 1d12+3 base psychic damage. This competes well with bog-standard +gear, but not so well with +2/+2d6 damage gear...which is fine.
It requires expending your die, so you can't generate it willy-nilly, but there only way to lose it is a disarm. We could add a "make it disappear to recharge your psi die by one step."
The "throw blade" and "throw blade at everyone" features never seemed to have much point anyway.
 

Weiley31

Legend
Responding to a post on page 21:
Yes, the Soulknife has always struggled to be good.
How about turning it into a Feat?

Soulknife:
(requires Wild Talent or a Psionic subclass)
You have learned how to shape your psychic energy into a weapon. As a bonus action, you can reduce your psi dice by one step to generate a blade made of shimmering psychic energy. The blade deals psychic damage, and its base damage is equal to your base psionic die. It gains an enhancement bonus to hit and damage equal to 1/2 your proficiency bonus, rounded down.

Earliest general availability for this should be the level 4 feat, since subclasses are (aside from sorc) not available at level 1. It ranges from 1d6+1 all the way up to, at Tier 4 levels, 1d12+3 base psychic damage. This competes well with bog-standard +gear, but not so well with +2/+2d6 damage gear...which is fine.
It requires expending your die, so you can't generate it willy-nilly, but there only way to lose it is a disarm. We could add a "make it disappear to recharge your psi die by one step."
The "throw blade" and "throw blade at everyone" features never seemed to have much point anyway.
Eh, just make the Mind Blade its own die like the Martial Arts die. Having it as a feat seems, strange.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Hopelessly bland. I still have not seen a better system than the 2E psionics handbook and TW&TW. There are nice bits and pieces like the origins for sorcerers, but again that misses the whole point of having psionics, which is to have a non-magical supernatural power with its own system. Call me when they have a skill-based Psionicist...
Ah yes, I have fond memories of blowing all my PSP to disintegrate the BBEG at 6th level. Couldn't do much the rest of the season but fire a crossbow, but the look on the DM's face when his main story bad guy was atomized in one round was priceless.
 

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