Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Class Struggles: Psionics, Part 2

Last week I went over the various Psionic systems that have appeared in print or digital for the D&D game.  This week I want to look at the classes.

One thing that you first discover that psionics were always something that was added on to the game later.  Often there are powers, but no classes to speak of really.  This is certainly true for AD&D1st ed and OD&D.  Interestingly enough (compared to my discussion last week) that in Eldritch Wizardry it is stated rather plainly that Monks (and Druids) can not be psychic.

1991 was a good year for psionics.  We saw the release of the official Complete Psionics Handbook from TSR for 2nd ed and the unofficial Psionics from Mayfair Games Role Aids line.
Both books changed psionics from it's added on system and made something that seemed to fit into the game a little better.  They sacrificed a little of what made the psionics system so alien and different for playability.
The Complete Psionics Handbook introduces the Psionist class.  This class has access to all the powers in the book.  Psionic powers are divided into six groups with major powers, called sciences, and minor powers, called devotions.  Just like AD&D1, but now they are sorted and there are more powers.   The attack and defense powers, for example, are now part of Telepathy.  The system works well and while the psionists has less overall powers than say a wizard has spells the psionist is not limited to how many times they can use their powers, save by PSPs.

Mayfair's Psionics takes a slightly different approach.  In this there is a Psionist class with five different traditions or schools of psionics, Sonimancers, Telepaths, Telekineticists, Pyromancers, and Empaths. So...every Stephen King psychic ever. The psionist usually stays in that tradition.  Powers are categorized by school and then divided by power level, similar to spell level. There are six levels of powers.  Largely it plays the same as the TSR book, but this one feels more like a spell system.  Getting these two books to work together would be a feat to be honest.  There are so many differences between the levels of the powers, the assumptions of the psionist class and even the PSP vs MP power point costs.  Best to choose one system and adapt the other as needed.

I want to give brief mention to the Deryni in Mayfair's Witch book.  While presented as a witch class the are obviously better suited for Psionic use.  Converting them to Mayfair's psionic system would be easier than converting TSR Psionic to Mayfair's.

3e and the OGL comes around and we get a ton of new psionics options including three new classes (and a spell like system).  This in turn gives birth to Pathfinder and the OSR.  One of the first 3rd party books to support psionics was The Quintessential Psychic Warrior from Mongoose. But like most of Mongoose's products from this time it's not very good.
Pretty much everything for 3.x era psionics can be found in the d20 SRD.  Pathfinder, as a system, had not used psionics or psychic powers till this year with the release of the Occult Adventures book.  I am still going throuhg my copy from Gen Con.  Other companies though built off of the SRD and came up with their own books.
Ultimate Psionics is by far the largest at 450+ pages.  This takes the three basic psionic classes from the SRD and expands it to 10 (7 new).  Not to mention pages and pages of powers. I am hard pressed to think of a more complete book.

But sometimes you don't want a 500 page tome.  Sometimes you just want a couple of pages.  Well if the OSR is about nothing else it is about "less is more".  These books are designed for your old school games and are much smaller.

If you are playing Castles & Crusades then the Mentalist class from Amazing Adventures! would port over with hardly an issue at all.  In fact I have done it before and it works so good that Troll Lords should really consider doing it offically.

White Box Options: Psychic Talents [Swords & Wizardry]
At 10 pages this book really exemplifies what people love about S&W.  Quick and easy rules that slot in nicely with the game they are playing.  This is more of a psychic wild talent add on. Feels similar to the wild talent powers in AD&D1 or even OD&D.  Random table of powers and descriptions of all the powers. Not a bad deal for just under 2 bucks.

Old-School Psionics
Designed to be a new psionics system for OSRIC this book introduces the Mentalist class.  Powers are divided out among disciplines going to 7th level.  Powers are treated mostly like spells, but that works well for adding into OSRIC.  Also some psionic monsters are detailed including my favorite (and worth the price of the book) the Doppleganger as a proper psionic monster.  22 pages including cover and OGL.  Very nicely done.

OSRIC Psionic Combat
This book has a lot of charm. A quick look at the author, artist and contributors leads me to believe this was something a whole family put together and then played.  I can relate and honestly the book gets an extra star just for that.  The books covers a very simple psionic combat system and a psionist class.  Nothing more really.  But that is all it set out to do, so great.  I might not play as written, but the detail here is great and would convert nicely to any of the other systems I have used.

Crypts & Creatures Psionics Handbook
At 12 pages for 50 cents this looks like a deal.  But what we have here is a stripped down version of the psionic classes from the d20 SRD for the OSR crowd.  I would have liked to see some more to be honest.  There are classes and powers listed, but not really detailed.  Now for someone this will be just perfect, but most people I think will want some more.

Psionics
This book is designed for the White Star game.Though it can be ported over to Swords & Wizardry with no issues. The psionist is introduced and powers are detailed.  The psionist chooses a focus power area and sticks with that in the game. A nice, simple system with some useful powers.  11 pages with cover and OGL.

There is a psionic system in Realms of Crawling Chaos as well, but I well detail that one on a later date.

And of course the Basic Psionics Handbook.

So if you love psionics and psionic classes there are plenty of choices out there.

1 comment:

Matthew Skail said...

Thanks for mentioning my Psionics product! You might also want to mention my follow up, Psionics In: Warriors of the Mind which not only includes new classes, new powers, but also Wild Psychics for everyone!

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