The Magic of the Mind

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D&D Home > Magic > Psionics

Psions and their ilk have mastered the art of tapping the mind's own inner potential, and using that psychic energy to knit the Weave into a magical effect. These mental powers allow the psion to create all manner of unnatural effects, often augmenting his own abilities and attributes. The mind is a land of infinite possibilities and potential, that most people only glimpse in dreams or moments of defining clarity. The psion knows every inch of his mind. He has formed neural links to that part of his brain that most people do not use. More self-reliant and proud than any other magic-weaver, the psion's power comes from within.

There is only one branch of psionics chronicled below. Before we reach that point, a few notes:

A note on Spell Points

The rules for psionics have undergone something of a change for this website. Unlike the other branches of magic, the standard rules psionics already uses Spell Points (aka power points). However, the spell point system that appears in the Expanded Psionics Handbook is incompatible with the system that I have always used. In order to bring psionics in line, I need to change that system.

So, here it is. The simple rule you must follow if you want to play a psionic character. Ready? Here goes: Whenever you see a power point cost listed in any source - be it for a power, a feat or any other game mechanic - you must HALF THE FIGURE and round to the nearest whole number. For example, in the standard rules third level powers cost 5 power points to manifest. Half that figure (2 ½) and then round to nearest whole number (3). So a third level power costs three spell points - the same as magic.

Augmenting Powers

Before I get onto Psionicists, a word on augmenting powers. Characters that wield psionics can choose to spend more spell points to augment the effect of their psionic powers. For example, the power Exhalation of the Black Dragon (PSI p105) inflicts 3d6 damage. The standard rules state that for every 2 additional power points the psion puts into the power damage increases by 1d6 points. The number of extra points a psion can spend is limited by his manifester level.

I like the idea of augmenting powers as it makes psionics different to arcane and divine magic. But, because of changes I have made to spell points, I just need to qualify the rules slightly. You always half the power point figure when playing psionicists using the House Rules. Therefore the above power inflicts 1d6 damage for every 1 extra spell point put into it. Remember always to round up. The Form of Doom power (PSI p108) states "For every additional power point you spend, this power's duration increased by 2 rounds." You half the point cost to ½ a spell point, but then round it back up again to 1 spell point.

So how many power points can a psionicist spend? The maximum number of power points a psionicist can spend is equal to half their class level rounded up (are you beginning to see a pattern here). For example, half an eleventh level psion's class level (rounded up) is 6. He can use a maximum of six spell points at any one time. Exhalation of the Black Dragon is a third level spell. This psion can augment it by paying a maximum of 3 additional spell points (making 6) and the power would inflict a total of 6d6 damage.

For psions of eighteenth level or less this mechanic exactly equates with the limitations placed on other spell-weavers. Wizards can augment spells with metamagic feats as long as the effective level of the spell does not transcend the maximum level they can cast. The maximum level spell an eighteenth level wizard can cast is a ninth level spell (9 spell points); halve the class level of an eighteenth level psion and you also get 9 spell points.

However, unlike wizards and other spell weavers, there is no upper limit on this rule for psionicists. A thirtieth level psion could spend up to 15 spell points in one go. These spell points could be spent on augmenting powers as detailed in each description, or by the use of metapsionic feats. So the thirtieth level psion could take the Exhalation of the Black Dragon power (3 spell points), augment the spell ten times over (10 spell points) and then apply the Maximise Power feat to it (2 spell points). The power would do 13d6 damage, maximised to 78 points of damage, and would effectively be a fifteenth level spell! For a wizard to be able to cast a spell of comparable power he would have to select the epic feat Improved Spell Capacity six times! This is the big, big advantage of epic psionicists over other spell-casters.

Psychic Spellcasting

Psionics is a completely different tradition to arcane magic and the two are seldom found together. Psionics fills the role of arcane magic in worlds, planes or lands where sorcery and wizardry are unknown. Because of this most campaigns usually have an either/or approach to psionics - either it exists to the exclusion of other forms of magic, or it doesn't exist at all. It is up to the individual campaign setting to create a balance between conventional sorcery and the magic of the mind.

Availability: This is dependent on the campaign setting. Psionics could be very widely available, or it might be incredibly rare. The availability could well vary from race to race or between countries. Classes that make use of psionics include: psion, psychic warrior and wilder. I refer to these classes collectively as psionicists.

Spellcasting: The potential to use psionics is within every thinking being. In most this talent remains dormant, never manifesting itself in any discernible manner. Individuals with the inclination to be great psionicists may follow a different path, perhaps becoming an arcanist and never realising their talent for psychic spellcasting. There are two ways in which psionic powers can come to the fore. They are be teased out by a skilled teacher or, in very rare cases, they can develop spontaneously.

Psionicists who develop their powers spontaneously often go on to become Wilders. They have no formal training, but use their powers instinctively. This makes them extremely volatile and unpredictable. In areas where psionics is unknown it is probable that all psionicists are wilders. However, in areas where psionics is a relatively common force, trained psionicists are the norm. Psions and psychic warriors are two very different traditions of spell-casters, with a great disparity in the power of their spell-casting. Both enjoy a regimented and tutored introduction into the use and control of their powers.

Wilders select their powers exclusively from the psion/wilder list. Psychic warriors select powers from their own spell list. In addition to selecting spells form the psion/wilder list every psion must also specialise in one of the six psionic disciplines. Specialisation gains the psion a slightly different list of class skills and access to a list of discipline-specific psionic powers that are not normally available to other psionicists. The six disciplines and moniker of the psion are Clairsentience (Seer), Metacreativity (Shaper), Psychokinesis (Kineticist), Psychometabolism (Egoist), Psychoportation (Nomad) and Telepathy (Telepath).

All psionicists spontaneously cast can freely cast any spell in their repetoire. The psionicist reaches out to the weave with his mind and bends it to form a magical effect. The effort of doing this is mentally taxing, and causes the expenditure of a number of spell points equal to the level of power to be manifested. Talents (0-level spells) are so simple that they do not have a spell point cost. The psionicist may always cast these spells even if he has run out of spell points for the day.

Once a psionicist has exhausted all his spell points he must rest his mind before he can regain more. The psionicist must have eight hours of uninterrupted rest. He does not need to be sleeping for the entire time, but he cannot do anything strenuous like engage in a brawl or a passionate political debate. Engaging in such activity increases the time he must rest by one hour. If the psionicist manifests any of his powers when he should be resting (except for talents) then he can only regain half as many spell points. Note that this eight hour of rest need not be at night. Any eight hours will do, and the psionicist can rest for more than one period of eight hours in a given day.

Gaining Spells: Psions gain access to talents and 1st level spells at level one, second level spells at level three and to each successive spell levels at odd-numbered levels thereafter to a maximum of 9th level spells at level seventeen. Wilders have a slightly slower progression, whereas Psychic Warriors gain access to spells at the same levels as bards.

As psionicists develop and improve their understanding of psionics they acquire new psionics powers. However, their range of powers is extremely limited when compared to other magic weavers. Psions know a maximum number of powers at any given level of experience, and may never exceed that total (see Maximum Spell Levels table in the Spell Point section). Where wizards can continue devising new spells until the cows come home, or sorcerers can choose to learn more spells at the risk of their own sanity, psions are stuck with an absolute limit to their repertoire.

The limitation in known powers is due to the way in which psionicists gain their abilities. Psionicists are continually probing their own mind, searching for new ways to use their mental powers. When they acquire a new power they have achieved a breakthrough. They have found a way to make use of their abilities. The human (or inhuman) mind can only do so much. Sorcerers can attempt to learn any number of spells, but they can only do this because they are working with external energies. The psion is working with the energy contained within his own brain, and there is only so much of that to go around.

When he advances a level, the psionicist gets a number of extra points he can use to select new powers with. The cost of each new power is the power's level (zero level powers are free). These new powers must be of a level the psion can manifest. If the psion wishes. The psionicist automatically gains his selected powers when he goes up a level. It is assumed he has been meditating on his new powers for some considerable time before this. He literally wakes up one morning with the new powers available to him.

To be clear: when a psionicist gains a level he gains access to an additional number of spell levels as listed on the Maximum Spell Levels table. For example, a psion rising from seventh to eighth level gains an extra 8 spell levels. The psion automatically knows new powers to make up those eight levels. This might consist of eight first level powers or any combination of powers that he can cast - as an eight level psion the maximum spells he can cast is fourth.

But I want more powers: Some psychics want access to more psionic powers than their level would otherwise allow. They want what's coming to them before they deserve it. Fate has a tendency to land on these people with the force of a herd of sex-starved elephants. However, there are ways in which increase their repetoire beyond the 'Maximum Spell Levels' total.

Psionicists can take the Expanded Knowledge feat (PSI p46) to gain access to one psionic power of a level they can cast. This power can be from any spell list, even ones normally prohibited by the GM. It does not count against the maximum spell limit. The second method of gaining access to more powers is persuading someone to cast psychic chirurgery (PSI p126) on you. This can permanently implant new powers into the mind, but it is costly.

Non-Spellcasting Psychics: Some character classes, such as the Soulknife, make use of psionics without having a spell point total or using psionic powers. Other characters with the Wild Talent feat have rudimentary psionic skills than enable them to select Psionic feats. Some races are naturally psionic without having access to powers. None of that effects the contents of this section. Just as regular magic can be accessed in various ways, so can psionics. It adds flavour to the setting.

Metamagic: Psions that expend their psionic focus (see PSI p37) can cast metamagically enhanced powers as standard actions. This means that they can make use of the Quicken Spell feat to manifest more than one power in a round. In a change to the rules, psions can still use metamagic feats without expending their psionic focus. They may do this because they are saving their psionic focus for something else, or because they have already expended it and do not have the time to regain it. Spells metamagically enhanced in this manner are full round actions. Please see the section on feats for an explanation of the interchangeable nature of metamagic and metapsionic feats.

Epic Magic: Psionicists who qualify can select the Epic Spellcasting feat. Psions require 24 ranks in Knowledge (Psionics) to qualify for this feat. Note that the psionicist's maximum level of known spells and his spell points do not increase after twentieth level. Epic psionicists can select the Spell Knowledge and Improved Spell Capacity feats respectively to rectify this situation.

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