D&D General What’s The Big Deal About Psionics?

Clint_L

Hero
I've hated psionics since the terrible way they were shoehorned into AD&D. Back then, they were really unbalanced, added unnecessary complication, and felt like an attempt to cram cheesy 70s soft sci-fi into my fantasy setting. They still feel like the latter to me, and I don't really understand what purpose they serve in a magical setting that already has tons of spells that affect the mind. Why do we need a whole separate system for woo-woo?
 

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Oofta

Legend
I'm okay with the concept of psionics for NPC and aberrations that warp reality and mess with your mind. However, I don't think D&D has ever figured out a way to implement it in a way that it's not just magic with set dressing that's supposed to make it feel alien.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I've hated psionics since the terrible way they were shoehorned into AD&D. Back then, they were really unbalanced, added unnecessary complication, and felt like an attempt to cram cheesy 70s soft sci-fi into my fantasy setting. They still feel like the latter to me, and I don't really understand what purpose they serve in a magical setting that already has tons of spells that affect the mind. Why do we need a whole separate system for woo-woo?
From what some people have said to me, it's (in part) to replicate a form of magic that doesn't require components. Which, OK, yeah, in a lot of media, the spellcaster just casts a spell without waving hands around and chanting and holding up the eye of newt. I don't really think it's necessary either, though.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
From what some people have said to me, it's (in part) to replicate a form of magic that doesn't require components. Which, OK, yeah, in a lot of media, the spellcaster just casts a spell without waving hands around and chanting and holding up the eye of newt. I don't really think it's necessary either, though.
The idea is, to someone who lives in a standard D&D world, even if they cannot use magic, they understand what magic is to a degree. Wizards and Clerics use very similar magical techniques, even if what spells they cast can differ.

Psionics are different and strange and follow completely unknown rules. They evoke wonder, awe, and fear in a fantastical setting where the wondrous is more commonplace.

They stand out in a D&D world the same way a spellcaster would stand out in our world. Psionics was added to AD&D because the people who made the game loved weird pulp fantasy, with alien monsters, bizarre powers of the mind, and lost civilizations with advanced technology indistinguishable but different from magic; all existing alongside fighting men with swords and finger wiggling magic-users.

The people who love psionics think of it as a spice, I imagine. A way to add an element of the otherwise to the standard fantasy game. Traditional D&D characters are supposed to look at psionics, monks, binders, malconvokers, shadowmages, truenamers, soulmelds, martial initiates, spellfire wielders, and the like and go "how in the Nine Hells did you do that?"

And that dash of mystery can make the game much more fun for some, as opposed to "oh look, he cast a fireball. How creative of him. Ok, everyone stand apart so we don't get hit by the blast pattern, you know the drill, guys."
 


Micah Sweet

Legend
From what some people have said to me, it's (in part) to replicate a form of magic that doesn't require components. Which, OK, yeah, in a lot of media, the spellcaster just casts a spell without waving hands around and chanting and holding up the eye of newt. I don't really think it's necessary either, though.
Level Up is giving us new psionics soon, and I certainly trust them well enough to deliver something I'll like.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
The idea is, to someone who lives in a standard D&D world, even if they cannot use magic, they understand what magic is to a degree. Wizards and Clerics use very similar magical techniques, even if what spells they cast can differ.

Psionics are different and strange and follow completely unknown rules. They evoke wonder, awe, and fear in a fantastical setting where the wondrous is more commonplace.

They stand out in a D&D world the same way a spellcaster would stand out in our world. Psionics was added to AD&D because the people who made the game loved weird pulp fantasy, with alien monsters, bizarre powers of the mind, and lost civilizations with advanced technology indistinguishable but different from magic; all existing alongside fighting men with swords and finger wiggling magic-users.

The people who love psionics think of it as a spice, I imagine. A way to add an element of the otherwise to the standard fantasy game. Traditional D&D characters are supposed to look at psionics, monks, binders, malconvokers, shadowmages, truenamers, soulmelds, martial initiates, spellfire wielders, and the like and go "how in the Nine Hells did you do that?"

And that dash of mystery can make the game much more fun for some, as opposed to "oh look, he cast a fireball. How creative of him. Ok, everyone stand apart so we don't get hit by the blast pattern, you know the drill, guys."
I guess my personal problem is that the average person in typical D&Dlandia has no idea how any type of magic works, so they would be equally awed by wizards and psions. Same issue if you play that classes are more descriptors than outright jobs. If you play as a cleric who isn't an actual priest, but the class fits your character idea better than wizard does (maybe your spellbook is filled with holy writ), you might still call yourself a wizard. In my setting, there are priests, who get their powers from gods, and mages, who get their powers in any other way. One of the players is a mage (although he calls himself a sorcerer), but class-wise, he's actually a sun soul monk. I had a BBEG who was a priest (charismatic preacher type) but who was actually a warlock.

So to me, psionics doesn't invoke any greater (or lesser) sense of awe than any other type of magic.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I guess my personal problem is that the average person in typical D&Dlandia has no idea how any type of magic works, so they would be equally awed by wizards and psions. Same issue if you play that classes are more descriptors than outright jobs. If you play as a cleric who isn't an actual priest, but the class fits your character idea better than wizard does (maybe your spellbook is filled with holy writ), you might still call yourself a wizard. In my setting, there are priests, who get their powers from gods, and mages, who get their powers in any other way. One of the players is a mage (although he calls himself a sorcerer), but class-wise, he's actually a sun soul monk. I had a BBEG who was a priest (charismatic preacher type) but who was actually a warlock.

So to me, psionics doesn't invoke any greater (or lesser) sense of awe than any other type of magic.
For me the source and mechanics are important. All spellcasters except for psions draw power from outside. Bards, wizards, sorcerers and other arcane casters draw magic from the weave and the magic of the world. Druids, paladins, rangers and clerics draw through the weave from divine sources. Psions draw on their own personal power, so while their powers may be similar to spells, they access them a bit differently.

Using an existing class doesn't work for a psion. It can't work for a psion.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
For me the source and mechanics are important. All spellcasters except for psions draw power from outside. Bards, wizards, sorcerers and other arcane casters draw magic from the weave and the magic of the world. Druids, paladins, rangers and clerics draw through the weave from divine sources. Psions draw on their own personal power, so while their powers may be similar to spells, they access them a bit differently.

Using an existing class doesn't work for a psion. It can't work for a psion.
I wouldn't say "can't", exactly. In 4e, the Invoker class was a divine caster that drew on magic not from an external source, but from the fragment of a dead god lodged in their soul. But you do run into the Sorcerer problem; if the guy is just using the same exact spells as everyone else, does the source of their power really matter?
 

Incenjucar

Legend
I don't recall Invokers having dead gods as part of their core story. They were more directly linked to their deities, almost a more "pure" priest class than the more martial cleric.

That said, yeah, magic comes from many sources.
Divine magic can be channeled from deities or it can come from faith itself and the power of the outer planes - even in the absence of deities
Arcane magic is the background fabric of reality
Ki is the essence of self
Psionics is the mind

Many creatures and classes have magical powers which are not spellcasting, and many are basically entirely magical entities, like elementals.

They're all magic in the broadest sense, but there's no reason they all have to work the same way.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I wouldn't say "can't", exactly. In 4e, the Invoker class was a divine caster that drew on magic not from an external source, but from the fragment of a dead god lodged in their soul. But you do run into the Sorcerer problem; if the guy is just using the same exact spells as everyone else, does the source of their power really matter?
My issue with "can't" isn't the lore. You can say arcane or divine is internal as you mention. My issue is with the mechanics of sorcerers. Font of Magic, Flexible Casting and Metamagic don't really fit the psion. The psion needs something more in line with what a psion is. The sorcerer is in the ballpark, but can't hit the home run.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I don't recall Invokers having dead gods as part of their core story. They were more directly linked to their deities, almost a more "pure" priest class than the more martial cleric.

That said, yeah, magic comes from many sources.
Divine magic can be channeled from deities or it can come from faith itself and the power of the outer planes - even in the absence of deities
Arcane magic is the background fabric of reality
Ki is the essence of self
Psionics is the mind

Many creatures and classes have magical powers which are not spellcasting, and many are basically entirely magical entities, like elementals.

They're all magic in the broadest sense, but there's no reason they all have to work the same way.
Hm, going back to look at it, I'm not sure where I heard that explanation for Invokers before. I might have gotten confused with Pathfinder's Oracle; looking at Divine Power, it seems that they make pacts with cthonic deities, more like a divine Warlock.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Divine magic can be channeled from deities or it can come from faith itself and the power of the outer planes - even in the absence of deities
Arcane magic is the background fabric of reality
That's how I run it more or less, and how it used to be run. Strictly speaking, however, 5e has reduced divine to being from gods and arcane from weaves(by some name). I think that was a mistake and I think it was the result of 5e's apparent quest to reduce how much lore it writes.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
I don't recall Invokers having dead gods as part of their core story. They were more directly linked to their deities, almost a more "pure" priest class than the more martial cleric.

That said, yeah, magic comes from many sources.
Divine magic can be channeled from deities or it can come from faith itself and the power of the outer planes - even in the absence of deities
Arcane magic is the background fabric of reality
Ki is the essence of self
Psionics is the mind

Many creatures and classes have magical powers which are not spellcasting, and many are basically entirely magical entities, like elementals.

They're all magic in the broadest sense, but there's no reason they all have to work the same way.
Except in the vast majority of cases, they do in 5e. Every casts the same spell in the same ways in different combinations. WotC insistence on simplicity sees to that.
 

Incenjucar

Legend
Except in the vast majority of cases, they do in 5e. Every casts the same spell in the same ways in different combinations. WotC insistence on simplicity sees to that.
Classes still have quite a few magical non-spell abilities. Spells are certainly highly represented, but you also have Bardic Inspiration, Lay on Hands, etc.
 

Smackpixi

Adventurer
So after 58 pages, I’m gonna go with my OP idea, they’re just spells. It’s a thing you can do on your turn. Like whacking someone with an axe, or dropping a fireball. Psionics in 5e are always gonna be just another attack and not weird or special in some other way. It might be greatly themed in some way, but just another POW. Gotcha. So stop pretending Psionics are anything else? I mean I know you won’t, but yawn at this point.
 



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