Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Class Struggles: Psionics
Obviously one of the reasons I wanted to cover this topic this week was the release of the Basic Psionics Handbook. It is not the first psionics book out there for old school gaming, but more on that later.
Psionics was always an interesting addition to D&D/AD&D. Back in my AD&D1 days I loved it. Nearly every character had a psionic wild talent or five. We used and abused the hell out of the rules in the AD&D Player's Handbook. I know a lot of people at the time hated them, but my group loved them. Probability Travel became a big deal when traveling between worlds and being Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans, Improbability Travel became a thing too. We even created more powers (including a third tier past Sciences) and built our own psionic classes, The Riddlemaster, Shadowmaster and the Beastmaster.
During this time between AD&D1 and AD&D2 I started playing with a group that was using the OD&D rules and a heavily modded set of psionic rules from Eldritch Wizardry. We all played Deryni characters. I have to admit these games really got me to rethink how to structure various psionic powers in a game. On a side note I just picked up a bunch of the old Deryni books at my Library's recent book sale and looking forward to delving into those again.
When I got to college and then AD&D2 I dropped psionics from my games. I had decided that magic and psionics just don't mix and should not be part of the same world. I did pick up The Complete Psionics Handbook for 2e because I really wanted to know how they were going to revamp the psionic powers and of course see the first psionic classes. While I never used the Psioinc rules when running 2e I enjoyed the book. I even converted my group's old Riddlemaster to a more balanced Adept class.
D&D 3 came around and again Psionics were not part of the corebook, but seemed to be designed with the core rules in mind a little more. The first book out was the Psionics Handbook. Psionics for this version are more akin to spells mechanically than any other version. This was updated for 3.5 in the Expanded Psionics Handbook and the Complete Psionic.
There is something going on here that I will get to in a bit.
We come up to more modern times and D&D 4. Player's Handbook 3 and Psionic Power introduce us to yet another psionic system. Now in this edition the Monk is a psionic based character class, which I like.
The interesting thing here is that between all four major editions of D&D, the psionic systems are all different and for the most part largely incompatible with each other. There are really only a few classes they have in common. Each edition has their fans. I personally like the AD&D1 system the best, but that is largely because that is the one I used the most. D&D3 and D&D4 have some great points about them, mostly how well the psionics system fits in with the main game systems. D&D 3's "Spell like" system appeals to my sense of game design, even if they lack a certain level "differentness" that I like in my psionics.
There is a new psionic class coming out eventually for D&D 5. It is called the Awakened Mystic and it looks really cool to be honest. It's also different.
Which system do you like? Which classes?
Next week I want to look over some of the classes in detail.