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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.“...

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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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It was the fact the loophole existed that allowed a single 6th level spell effect to be done at the time most mages had 6d6 fireballs that was exciting. It was a failure of relying solely on cost to regulate effect power, and it is why 3e psionics opted to use "spell level" as a guardrail to prevent it. It's what most people cite as a classic example of broken usage.

Another good example; we had a group with a dwarf psionicist and a half-ogre fighter. Both had high strengths (half-ogre had a 19, dwarf 16). The psionicist would routinely use share strength on the half-ogre, which allowed the dwarf to sacrifice strength points 2:1 to give to the half-ogre. So the dwarf would drop his strength 12 points to a 4, while the half-ogre would boost his to 25 (+7 hit, +14 damage). Not much survived that in melee.

Yeah, 2e is not where I want psionics to go back to.
2e was my favorite psionics system. Not because it was broken. It really wasn't. But rather, because of the failure chance each time you rolled. There was a very significant chance of failure every time you used a power. Sure that disintegrate was awesome when it worked, but if you got unlucky and it took 3 rounds to get off, not so much. And not only could you fail to even use the power, but you could also fumble or critical them.

Disintegrate was wisdom -4, so even if you were lucky enough to have an 18 wisdom, you had a score of 14 to use it. That's a 30% failure rate, with a 5% chance to fumble(roll a 20), and a 5% chance to have a minimum success(roll a 1) and a 5% chance for a critical success(roll a 14). Roll that 20 and you hit yourself with it, though you got a +5 to the save.
 

Fenris447

Explorer
I can't help but feel like the Sorcerer subclass is about 75% of the way to meeting every expectation of a full psion class. Full disclosure, 5e is my first and only D&D system and I have no experience with psionics other than what I've read over the years and the implementation on NPCs and monsters.

I've been mulling over what that last 25% is. For one INT-based casting would be a must. Versus the Sorcerer, you're taking away the roleplay benefits of Charisma, so there may need to be a slight benefit for this. Maybe you can use your psi die to add to an INT-based skill check?

Not requiring any components is another. That would necessitate a unique spell list, one that isn't drastically overpowered when ignoring the normally mandatory material costs. If that gets rid of something we really want at the higher levels, maybe add in a feature similar to the Warlock's Mystic Arcanum. Give the psion one of the powerful spells without the material cost, but limit its use one way or another.

We either keep metamagics, in which case this is still halfway a clone of the sorcerer, or we dump them and create something in its place. I'd blow out the psi dice mechanic here. Give them another die. Maybe more as they level, like 1 new one at each tier of play? That instantly makes them more adept at psionics than any of the psionic subclasses. Let them reduce one die to increase another; call it Mental Balance or something. Let the dice play off one another.

And then we give them a bunch of cool stuff to do with the dice. The cheap way is that we just grab most of the cool abilities from the various psionic subclasses and give them all to this full psionic class. But there's other stuff we can do, cooler, unique things. This could be where subclasses come in. Let some gear the psi dice to healing, blasting, shapeshifting, whatever psion class fantasies exist. I know WOTC said the problem with the mystic class was that it stepped on other classes. So use the extra psi dice on this full class to really do cool stuff that you can't do when you just tack one onto a class.

If you wanna get crazy, switch this thing to spell points. But if you do that, you need to come up with a way to intermingle the psi dice with the spell points. Maybe you can expend an entire psi die (it's gone until you long rest) to roll it and get back the rolled number in Spell Points.
 

the Jester

Legend
I think like half of people's memories about 2E psionics are the low level disintegrate. Hardly ever worked, but amazing when it did.

"Hardly ever worked" doesn't match up with my (considerable) experience. At all.

See, the whole problem with 2e psionics was the utter lack of balance. And "sometimes it doesn't work!" is a terrible, terrible way to design balanced options. It just means you're way too powerful much of the time, and useless the rest.
 

the Jester

Legend
Again, until there's psionics in an official book there just isn't any psionics in 5th Edition.

It's been five years. Still no psionics.

You keep saying this, but it's just false. Mind flayers, gith, etc. have psionics. Just because there isn't a fully fleshed out psionic system with base class for players doesn't mean that there are no psionics. Just not as much as you want.
 

Aldarc

Legend
To be perfectly honest, a new, spell-point based caster class with a unique spell list and some discipline-based subclasses would be fine. Allow them to ignore VS components, add a few class features like telepathy, and a few new spells. Basically, the 3.5 psion class redux. It would be safe, boring and work fine for most purposes. The biggest problem is WotC wanted to reinvent the wheel and make it unique rather than go with the obvious system.
Pretty much.

or if the Mystic couldn't do basically everything.
If they initially narrowed the scope of the Mystic but also supplied psionic subclasses for other classes, they probably would have received better and timelier feedback.

Sometimes reading through WotC's feedback, it sounds like WotC hears the feedback it only wants to hear: "Oh, you don't like the Mystic as is? I guess that means you don't want psionics. Oh, you don't like the psionic wizard? I guess you don't want a psion." But as @Remathilis says, they could have gone with something safe and boring in their design for psionics and it probably would have worked well enough for 5e.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
"Hardly ever worked" doesn't match up with my (considerable) experience. At all.

See, the whole problem with 2e psionics was the utter lack of balance. And "sometimes it doesn't work!" is a terrible, terrible way to design balanced options. It just means you're way too powerful much of the time, and useless the rest.
I really liked it.

First, it's not really binary. It's not useful round 1, useless round 2, useful round 3, and useful round 4. The 4 round fight is a whole and each person contributes sometimes and not others. The psion having to roll like it did in 2e and failing is effectively the same as a wizard's spell being saved against and a fighter missing his hit rolls. It happens.

Second, I personally found it enjoyable to shine brightly when powers did work, but not a other times. It's not a terrible way to balance things. It's just a different way to balance things. Some will like it. Others won't.
 

Dausuul

Legend
We could have had it three years ago if people where less dogmatic about having it their way or not at all.
The flip side of WotC not paying a lot of attention to forum discussions is that we can't blame forum angst for WotC not delivering something.

I think the delay in psionics is partly because WotC has limited staff for D&D (they cut way, way back during the 4E era) and most of those staff are working on "bread and butter" products like adventure paths; and partly because figuring out how to do psionics right is a legitimately hard problem.

I mean, look at the history of psionics in D&D. 1E psionics was a crazy tacked-on subsystem whose power ranged from trivial to monstrous depending on the roll of the dice... which is to say, just like everything else in 1E. 2E managed a little more clarity, but there were still severe balance problems and the system required an entire book dedicated to psionics alone. 3E and 4E psionics were little more than a new coat of paint on existing systems (spells in 3E, AEDU in 4E). None of it is up to the standard I would want to see for 5E.

I'm impatient for them to figure out psionics so we can have 5E Dark Sun, but in the end I would rather they take the time to get it right. As a software developer, the pattern looks pretty familiar to me: Build a rough prototype to test your design, and expect to throw out the prototype and start over from scratch--at least once, maybe multiple times, before you figure out the architecture that will do what you need. The worst thing you can do is cling to your first prototype and try too hard to make it work.
 

Pretty much.

Why wouldn't they want to make it unique rather than just "spellcasting but with less ability to counter it" or "a B side to combat that half of the party (at best) can't participate in"?

If they initially narrowed the scope of the Mystic but also supplied psionic subclasses for other classes, they probably would have received better and timelier feedback.

Probably, but that's fairly hefty for a UA, you have to be honest. UA tends to keep itself fairly small, to it's benefit IMO. This way something that jumps out and becomes the only thing that people talk about concerning the UA is less of a problem.

Sometimes reading through WotC's feedback, it sounds like WotC hears the feedback it only wants to hear: "Oh, you don't like the Mystic as is? I guess that means you don't want psionics. Oh, you don't like the psionic wizard? I guess you don't want a psion." But as @Remathilis says, they could have gone with something safe and boring in their design for psionics and it probably would have worked well enough for 5e.
Considering how many times they've tried to make a Psion, (including the fact that they are still doing so) that seems slightly disingenuous
 

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