Category Archives: D&D

Dungeons & Dragons

Thoughts on the Psionics Wizard

There has been an awakening…

Background

I’ve been a huge fan of psionics since I started playing D&D back in 2nd edition. The very first campaign I played in featured psionics quite a bit, using The Complete Psionics Handbook for the rules. The rules in 3.5’s Expanded Psionics Handbook were also some of my favorites. Bruce Cordell’s work was amazing, as was his work in Malhavoc Press’ psionics books. And I would be remiss if I forgot to mention D&D 4e’s Players Handbook 3.

In other words, I’ve been a fan of psionics for quite a while.

Psion
Psion from Dragon Magazine

Psionics in D&D 5th Edition

I have been following the evolution of psionics in D&D 5e, from the mystic to the recent Unearthed Arcana article showcasing new psionic subclasses for the fighter, rogue, and wizard. I think the most recent take does a lot of things right, such as with the psychic warrior and soulknife subclasses, but the psionics wizard has me torn.

The fan in me thinks that psionics should be an inner power, and thus would fall under the umbrella of the sorcerer. When I think of psionics, I immediately go to Professor X, Jean Grey (Phoenix, thank you), Emma Frost, and Psylocke of the X-Men. I also think of the Jedi from Star Wars. In each case, each of them has an inner power. So the sorcerer makes sense, right?

Here’s the problem. Psionics as a whole really is intelligence-based. This is the magic of the mind. As such, the wizard becomes the primary class. This seems a bit odd at first, but consider that Jean Grey honed her talents at Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. She had to study and practice in order to hone her abilities. Yes, her talent was innate, but could not the same be said of many wizards, most notably Raistlin Majere?

I would still like to see the option of a psionic sorcerer. While we do have the Aberrant Mind sorcerer, I personally would like something that isn’t so Lovecraftian.

The Larger Picture

Psychic from Pathfinder’s Occult Adventures

Psionics has ever been the red-headed step-bastard child of D&D. It’s either been an add-on, or a totally new subsystem that required the purchase of another book. Either way, the system didn’t integrate as well with existing mechanics.

It’s also about avoiding the creation of a new class just to suit a new set of powers. The psion needs an identity all its own. There can be a whole new psionics handbook just for this new power, but past experience has shown that these sort of niche books do not sell as well. Nor do players and dungeon masters use them.

Wizards of the Coast wants something integrated that more gamers would get use out of.

Random Thoughts

Godmind

For those of you who want to make the psionics wizard feel more natural or more in tune with prior editions, there are a few ways that one can enhance their psionics experience.

First, I’d like to think that wizards with the psionics arcane tradition have an awakening. They have studied and unlocked the secrets of the mind.

Second, a psion would not be a psion without Psionic Strength Points (PSPs) or power points. Luckily, 5th edition has you covered. The Dungeon Master’s Guide has rules for spell points on pages 288 – 289.

Third, consider having an organization for your psionic character. Malhavoc Press’ Hyperconscious: Explorations in Psionics has a psionic organization called the Colorless Lodge, which is a guild of psions. The accompanying Colorless Adept prestige class included mechanics for power sharing. Sounds a bit like wizards trading spells, doesn’t it?

Perhaps your character graduated from some sort of school for psionics. GURPS has a Psionics Studies Institute (PSI). This could be a force for good or evil. One could model PSI after Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, or something more nefarious like Babylon 5’s Psi-Corps.

As a side note, in the case of the psychic warrior, perhaps he is part of an ancient order of mystic knights. Jeremy Crawford did say “more Vader”, right?

In Conclusion

The recent take on psionics in Unearthed Arcana seems like a breakaway from previous editions. However, Wizards of the Coast has a history in 5th edition of combining concepts to get an even stronger concept.

This recent take on psionics strengthens the archetype, allowing it to be integrated better with the existing D&D game. Give the psionics wizard a chance. With a little ingenuity, gamers can bring back a bit of that classic psionics feel while also taking the concept in new directions.

Dragonhelm’s Essentials D&D Encounters Report

For the first time tonight, I got to play Encounters. This season, the adventure is none other than the classic Keep on the Borderlands. I had never played it before, so I was excited to do it.

My friend Curtis and I were it for our table, so we were going to play two characters each. Another group was also short, so they combined us. What’s funny is that we had a lot more role-playing when it was just me and Curtis. The others were probably half our age (or close to it) and only out for the combat. One guy was metagaming like crazy, and another guy kept rolling his eyes any time anyone else did something.

We basically had a bit of setup, then proceeded to the encounter. We battled some dragonborn and various other reptilian creatures, all servants of Tiamat. The DM was a lot of fun, and pulled no punches.

For tonight’s game, I played the pre-generated fighter, Quinn. Quinn utilizes the new knight build found in Heroes of the Fallen Lands. I have to say, the pre-gen felt like a knight to me. Of course, I played up the part. One might even say I hammed it up.

At one point, I had a battle with a monster that kept trying to throw a net over me. He got me in a pit, but I climbed out. Another player moved him into the pit. I went all Hollywood, and jumped in after the monster, pressing my advantage. Eventually, I defeated him.

I have to say that I really enjoyed playing the Essentials fighter. It felt more like the basic fighters of prior editions. Yet the cool stance and aura abilities made for some fun possibilities and nice visuals. I miss having the daily power, but the rest made up for it.

While the Essentials fighter was good, I can’t say that I was terribly enthused about Encounters. It’s a neat idea, but the name is self-explanatory. You’re just playing encounters. Our DM commended the role-playing that Curtis and I did and said that they didn’t have that much role-playing the entire time they did the Dark Sun encounters. I just found that sad.

Now, I’m debating on whether to go back or not. Did I have fun? Yeah, it was a good time. But it wasn’t a great time. I haven’t made any decisions yet, but I think I prefer games where we can get into our characters a bit more.