Unearthed Arcana Why UA Psionics are never going to work in 5e.

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
To start off with, I will remind everyone about Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Unearthed Arcana: It's a series of articles that provide the internet at large playtest material for 5e. After a publishing a PDF and waiting for a irregular period of time, the 5e Game Devs at Wizards of the Coast send out a servey to see how people liked the ideas, catch any obvious bugs or typos, and theoretically maybe where they should take the UA playtest next. In order for a UA playtest to be successful, it has to pass a ~70% approval margin, because the 5e business strategy is all about mass appeal instead of niche appeal (I mean, it's obviously propelled them to a new golden age of D&D, so they aren't knocking a good thing.) No I don't remember the exact twitch broadcast and timestamp the number comes from, I'm sure someone who isn't working during the current lockdown could do so if they wanted too. But the exact number isn't actually important, it's the idea that the majority of feedback has to be positive. Also of note, an incredibly small portion of the D&D player-base actually participate in the UA surveys, a number that is even smaller than the portion of the Player-base that talks about D&D on message boards, Twitter, Reddit, or the like.

So to trim that: UA comes out every so often, a small number of people see and give feedback, if a UA rule gets ~70% approval it's considered printable. Got it?

Now to discuss Psionics. Basically, every edition of D&D has done something different with psionics.

Sometimes Psionics was an additional super-power that was tacked on to a character, sometimes it was (a) properly coded class(es). Sometimes psionic powers had their own tables and rules, other times they used more or less the same spells everyone else did with mental fluff. So, whenever someone says they want to have psionics in 5e, they could be talking about any one of 4 official variations, or potentially some other non-official flavor of mind-powers that may or may not map closely to one of those things. And keep in mind (heh) that these official takes are in direct conflict with each other.

When talking about making a psion (or psionic powers) for 5e, there are two major questions to be considered: “Are Psionic Powers 'Normal'”? Meaning “are they mechanically similar to spells or other powers that the rest of the classes get”? And “Do you want a Psion Class or do you want everyone to have the potential for it?”

The first question is already answered by WotC: Psionic powers are Normalized. Monsters already do it. They have a spell listing where every class regardless of how they do things uses the same spells. And this automatically makes people who want their Psionics to be special to give negative scores on any kind of Psionic UA. That's right, Psionics, despite being iconic, historic, and possibly popular, are already fighting an uphill battle because having normalized powers isn't cool enough, even if it is literally the only way to get player-psionics into 5e.

OK. You probably want a clarification on that last part. Remember what I said about WotC ignoring niche stuff? They are not going to publish a book of psionic rules which is going to be ignored by over half of the player-base because it's weird, complicated, overpowered, or just different for the sake of being different. It's not that the people who want psioncs to be special are wrong, but that ship has more or less sailed and the people who are voting against normalization are basically just ensuring that if they can't have it their way, nobody can. Even if they don't realize it.

Now for the other question. WotC has also answered this one, they want everyone to have it. Which causes issues for everyone who wants a Psion Class. Once again, there is a dedicated group of people who are ride-or-die for the Psion Class and will vote against any attempt at a subclass. Granted, it's far more likely that we will get a psionic class printed at some point, but until that comes to pass any psionic subclass is going to get unnecessary negative feedback on “principle”, because there might be a chance that WotC stops making at the psionic subclasses.

In conclusion: The UA Psionics are never going to make enough people happy because the people who are interested in UA and want psionics are divided into opposing “all-or-nothing” camps. In order for psionics to make it past UA you would need to somehow appease enough of everyone all at once, which I don't see as happening unless maybe they actually push out an entire books worth of UA that lets most people have something.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Also of note, an incredibly small portion of the D&D player-base actually participate in the UA surveys, a number that is even smaller than the portion of the Player-base that talks about D&D on message boards, Twitter, Reddit, or the like.

Interesting topic, bit this part is very, very incorrect. Many, many more people engage with UA and respond to the surveys than talk here. They have had responses in the 7 digits, per Mearls, but more regularly in the 6 digits most likely. This is not a tight focused group, though it is self-selected, this is Big Data.

Crawford drops the desired success rate in this video, and discusses the process:

 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
The first question is already answered by WotC: Psionic powers are Normalized. Monsters already do it. They have a spell listing where every class regardless of how they do things uses the same spells. And this automatically makes people who want their Psionics to be special to give negative scores on any kind of Psionic UA. That's right, Psionics, despite being iconic, historic, and possibly popular, are already fighting an uphill battle because having normalized powers isn't cool enough, even if it is literally the only way to get player-psionics into 5e.


I disagree, based on the following three assumptions I hold which I think what evidence we have indicates are correct:

1) The overwhelming majority of players are new players who started with 5e.
2) The overwhelming majority of respondents to the surveys come from that same group and heard about it originally either directly from WOTC or on Reddit
3) New players just want more stuff to play with. If they like the flavor of the UA and the mechanics work for them, they will approve it. They have no baggage from prior editions concerning what it's "supposed" to look like.

I think users at EnWorld tend to be older and played prior editions and therefore have a lot of that baggage about what psionics is "supposed" to be. But I think we're a minority of respondents and players. And then even amongst our group of people here at EnWorld, plenty are of the "Whatever, I can work with this, this will do let's just get some psionics" opinion.
 



I'll agree that whatever form of psionics they choose, it's going to make a segment of the player base unhappy. However, I'm positive that they're going to make psionics at some point, mostly because they can't do Dark Sun until they do (and I know Dark Sun is popular enough they want to do it). Like the Artificer, I expect it to be in the Dark Sun book (either AP or setting) once they figure out which form is going to upset the fewest number of players.

I agree that they should keep concepts similar to existing standards, because special snowflake rules go against the nature of 5E. IMO, creating a psion class should be based on either the monk or warlock, using PSP (ki equivalent) or Science/Discipline Powers (Spells/Invocation equivalents), since both of these recover their abilities on a short rest, mimicing the AD&D non-daily recovery. In addition, I'd like to see psionic sub-classes and a Wild Talent Feat that gives a limited use (similar to the one for battlemaster and spellcasting).
 

I think it will be very hard to budge WotC from trying to minimize the number of systems new/casual players to keep track of; I think they think (correctly I suspect) that has contributed to 5e's success. I think that is the primary driver of "normal."

Someone at WotC must be trying to convince them that they can sail past the Scylla of older edition player's views of psychics and the Charybdis of making new systems. Until they hit that lucky path, it is better to lose a few sailors to Scylla than the whole ship to Charybdis.
 

jgsugden

Legend
What they need to do is deisgn a good game mechanic, release it in 5E and then, in a decade, when 6E comes out, release the same thing to normalize it early in the edition. From that point on, it will be normal.

It would be trivial to design a psion right now based upon that UA article. My off the cuff take:

  • They get PSPs! They can use an action to convert PSPs into spell slots at the same rate as a sorcerer buys spell slots with sorcery points. They get just enough PSPs to buy the same number of slots a wizard of the same level would have. They can convert any number of PSPs into any number of slots with that one action.
  • They get a spell list like other classes (which features a good number of psion only spells that trigger off of PSP mechanics).
  • They get the psionic die ability from the article, but start at d8 and get a few basic uses, but more uses based upon subclass.
  • They get subclasses at level 1 and each subclass has specialized abilities - a summoner (astral constructs), a telekinetic, a telepath (mind control), space/time manipulation (illusions, fabrications, teleportation, etc...)
  • Unlike other classes, all of the abilities they get at higher levels come from their subclass - nothing form their class. This is to make them all feel very distinct.

I think we will get a psion class eventually, it will make some people happy, and it will be like every other edition's feedback on the topic.
 

Big Bucky

Explorer
I’ve never understood why psionics needs it’s own class. They’re just sorcerers right? They have an innate power they need to learn to control. Just give them a subclass with more mind control type spells.

And those psionic dice are just a more complicated version of sorcery points. Switching out higher and lower dice seems like adding complexity for its own sake.
 

In conclusion: The UA Psionics are never going to make enough people happy because the people who are interested in UA and want psionics are divided into opposing “all-or-nothing” camps.
I used to think this. And I think up until recently it was evidenced in all sorts of ways. Particularly with the refusal of WotC to publish any previous settings. But then they did. They did it via a trail balloon and the DMsGuild with Eberron. Which then got it's own 'real' book. Now with the new regional setting from Ed and X (sorry, was it a Kevin or someone?).

I think it's good, but I think WotC is starting to realize the all or nothing folks are just a tiny vocal majority that are a bunch of grumpy, cranky and intolerant grognards. And I think the new blood at WotC has finally realized that we just don't matter than much. And that no matter how much we complain, we are still probably going to buy whatever they print because we buy everything anyway. If if just to pull out when one of our two friends comes over so we can say "yea, you remember when they printed this? It was so bad I've only read it three times and would never allow it in one of my own campaigns!"
 

Aldarc

Legend
I’ve never understood why psionics needs it’s own class. They’re just sorcerers right? They have an innate power they need to learn to control. Just give them a subclass with more mind control type spells.
Not quite. Different aesthetics and fantasy. I don't think that it's useful to apply such shallow readings of psions. If you apply equally shallow readings of other classes, then you will find yourself down to about 4 classes, which would certainly satisfy some people.
 

cbwjm

Legend
I actually think they are on the right track with the latest psionics release with the psychic dice mechanic and while I do want a full class (which apparently isn't quite off the table yet) if that doesn't eventuate then I should be able to homebrew something using the existing mechanics.

Considering all the disparate DnD communities that will talk about UA, I think the numbers would be quite large. I also think that WotC are able to sort through the survey data and see the more extreme view points and ignore them, or at least not give them as much weight. They will release something and there will be people who moan about it, but so what, let them complain while everyone else gets on with adding psionics to their game of Dark Sun (which I'm assuming will be how psionics are released to the world... maybe).
 

Big Bucky

Explorer
Not quite. Different aesthetics and fantasy. I don't think that it's useful to apply such shallow readings of psions. If you apply equally shallow readings of other classes, then you will find yourself down to about 4 classes, which would certainly satisfy some people.

I get that the fluff is different but compare them with the rest of the classes. Wizards get their power from learning spells. Clerics from their god. Druids from nature. Warlocks from their patron. Sorcerers have innate powers. Where do psions fit in there? Do they have unique enough powers to separate them from the others? Just my opinion.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I get that the fluff is different but compare them with the rest of the classes. Wizards get their power from learning spells. Clerics from their god. Druids from nature. Warlocks from their patron. Sorcerers have innate powers. Where do psions fit in there? Do they have unique enough powers to separate them from the others? Just my opinion.
Power of the mind.
 



Big Bucky

Explorer
I feel like I am being tasked to convince someone who has already made up their mind and determined not to change it.

Haha you may be right. Like I said I don’t really get psions. To me Divine Soul seems much more of a departure from traditional sorcerers than psions.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Haha you may be right. Like I said I don’t really get psions. To me Divine Soul seems much more of a departure from traditional sorcerers than psions.
The sorcerer flavor text emphasizes supernatural bloodlines, raw magic, cosmic exposure to magical radiation, and the like. A sorcerer is described as being a spellcaster that suffused with magic so that it comes naturally: they are magic. This isn't really at all how a psion is described. Their powers are innate to the extent that the mind is part of the self.

Psions are described as spellcasters who harness the power of the mind through a form of mental discipline. It's not necessarily either a narrative of "born this way" (as per the sorcerer) or "learned this way" (as per the wizard). What matters is that the power comes from what the mind, and psionics is concerned about what the mind can achieve. The wizard may ask, "What are the bounds of magic?" but the psion will likely ask, "What are the bounds of my mind?"
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
The sorcerer flavor text emphasizes supernatural bloodlines, raw magic, cosmic exposure to magical radiation, and the like. A sorcerer is described as being a spellcaster that suffused with magic so that it comes naturally: they are magic. This isn't really at all how a psion is described. Their powers are innate to the extent that the mind is part of the self.

Psions are described as spellcasters who harness the power of the mind through a form of mental discipline. It's not necessarily either a narrative of "born this way" (as per the sorcerer) or "learned this way" (as per the wizard). What matters is that the power comes from what the mind, and psionics is concerned about what the mind can achieve. The wizard may ask, "What are the bounds of magic?" but the psion will likely ask, "What are the bounds of my mind?"

Honestly, I think you are splitting hairs. The examples you mention above...which are essentially direct quotes from the PHB...to me sound like they could neatly cover psionics. I get Big Bucky's point and am sympathetic to it: both sorcerers and psionicists (intentionally not using the word Psion here because I think maybe it carries baggage/connotations/expectations) have innate power. You either have it, or you don't. So, yeah, in many ways the Sorcerer could make a good chassis for a psionicist.

The flip side is that oodles of Sorcerer spells don't really fit the (or my) image of a psionicist, and there's not real mechanism or precedent in 5e for removing spells from a base class spell list.

Another downside is that Sorcerers are very clearly...it is stated repeatedly...about magic. And even if psionics officially are considered magic (for the purposes of detecting, dispelling, etc.) to me they feel like...something else. Certainly if Divine and Arcane magic are siblings, or half-siblings, psionics are a distant cousin, several times removed. And probably the result of a hushed-up affair with an exotic dancer.

And, finally, I've always been in the camp that Sorcerers are really so close to Wizards...Vancian casting, spell slots, etc. etc. etc....that why even bother including them? So I'm all for a totally different mechanic. Not because a psionicist couldn't simply be a refluffed sorcerer...it could...but because it would be fun to use a completely different set of mechanics.

Is there any possibility that's really where you're coming from, too? If so, I don't think it's necessary to try to argue why a different concept can't re-use mechanics and must have distinct mechanics. It's simpler, and irrefutable, to say, "I'm tired of the standard spell mechanics and I would have more fun playing something more distinctive."
 

I get that the fluff is different but compare them with the rest of the classes. Wizards get their power from learning spells. Clerics from their god. Druids from nature. Warlocks from their patron. Sorcerers have innate powers. Where do psions fit in there? Do they have unique enough powers to separate them from the others? Just my opinion.
Yes, they would. The Sorcerer doesn't have innate powers, but can innately cast spells, wherease the Psion draws the power directly from the mind (it would be Int based, rather than Cha based). It's a subtle difference, but not that different from the Cleric and Druid. Think of them as a non-martial version of the monk, using their inner power to create supernatural effects.
 

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