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Psionics
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View Poll Results: Do you like having psionics in a Fantasy setting?

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  • Love it!

    25 40.32%
  • Hate it!

    16 25.81%
  • It doesn't do anything for me either way.

    18 29.03%
  • I'm not sure.. What are psionics again?

    3 4.84%
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Thread: Psionics

  1. #1
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    Question Psionics

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    The month long focus by Ask Wizards on Psionics has me wondering just how many people actually use psionics in their Fantasy games. I'm not sure why exactly, but psionics have never felt right in fantasy for me. In a more modern setting, or futurisitc, yes, D&D .. no. Perhaps this is because when I look back at all of the fantasy fiction I have watched or read, I can't really think of any memorable stories that featured psionic characters beyond basic soothsaying.

    In my D&D games, I disallow psionics. Even for creatures such as the mindflayer, I use the magic equivelants.

    What do you you think? Do you use psionics in your game? Do you like it?
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  2. #2
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    I've never used it in 3.5, and don't know how.

    Sounds to me like another way to jack up a character's LA.

  3. #3
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    Oh, I love this argument!

    From what I've seen, there are two kinds of psionics: Sci-fi and Fantasy versions.

    The Fantasy version is just casting spells that work through the mind. D&D psionics is mystic mentalism and lacks what I'd call modern psionic sci-fi characteristics. The Wheel of Time series is a great example of the blending of mind and magic.

    Does Dragons of Pern count?

    The Sci-Fi version is common enough and has a scientific (biochemical/alien) slant that attempts to explain how psionics work.

    If you use it in D&D, I'd suggest using the Fantasy version that works the same as magic. Treat it like psionics are done by the magicpoint spending spellcasters. When psionics are separate from magic you get an entirely different dynamic to game world interaction and more opportunities for players to take advantage of uncommon abilities (like giving a rouge a machinegun with a room full of orcs).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farcaster View Post
    Perhaps this is because when I look back at all of the fantasy fiction I have watched or read, I can't really think of any memorable stories that featured psionic characters beyond basic soothsaying.
    I'm guessing you've never read Elfquest?

    Since I've gotten inspiration for quite a few of my races from the Elfquest series, yes I use Psionics in my fantasy game. Love it, is too strong a phrase for me to use and I definately don't hate it! I'm guessing my vote will have to be doesn't do anything for me, but I do feel stronger than that.

    I'm working on a 'Psionics and the Law' document/rules set for my current campaign world based on the 'Magic and the Law' document/rules set that I found at http://juergen.the-huberts.net/dnd/urbis/index.html

    I can understand why people aren't to interested in using Psi as I can see abuse for it, but so far, I've kept it fairly well balanced.
    Skunk
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    Quote Originally Posted by Farcaster View Post
    Perhaps this is because when I look back at all of the fantasy fiction I have watched or read, I can't really think of any memorable stories that featured psionic characters beyond basic soothsaying.
    Apart from Elfquest, there's also Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series (how many books?) I read a few as a kid, and don't really remember them, so maybe that doesn't count.

    I don't like the D&D psionic system precisely because it feels like a second magic system, not "classic" psionics as in most science fiction and science fantasy. Then again, psychic powers are really magic anyway ... but a stricter definition of categories like telepathy, telekinesis, ESP, and precognition feels different somehow. Maybe it's that, since only certain powers exist, "magic" is incredibly powerful in some areas and nigh-useless in others.

    In fact, imagine a world where *only* psionics exist (or only a single category, like telepathy). A "wizard" without energy-projecting powers has to play with his opponent's minds ... if they have minds. A precog can see things coming, but then has to decide if and how to avoid them. A pyrokinetic can set things on fire, but that's not always productive.

    Take a look at the True20 magic system, or if you can find it, its earlier incarnation in "The Psychic's Handbook" also from Green Ronin. Adepts have talents that encompass a range of effects ... but only a few of them.
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    I like using it now and then for some variety. But in general it's just another add on.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by fmitchell View Post
    I don't like the D&D psionic system precisely because it feels like a second magic system, not "classic" psionics as in most science fiction and science fantasy.
    Exactly. If you look at the 3.5 and 3.0 psionics books, many of the listed psionic powers are even referred to with a "As the spell ..." which is in the Players Handbook. (Teleport comes to mind.)

    The bottom line is if you treat psionics like science fiction, then that's what it will be. If you treat it like fantasy then it works like fantasy.

    Oh, oh, and Eragon has psionic magic as well.

    This sort of brings me to ask the question about D&D magic. Haven't you noticed how "scientific" it is? I mean, the spells are testable, predictable, and repeatable, following the physical laws of game world reality. Spells go off each time in exactly the same way as it does for every spellcaster. It's not really the mysterious magic from the fantasy books I remember.

    <perhaps crazy>
    Hmmmm..... Perhaps it is D&D magic that needs to be disallowed. Yeah, now that I think about it. It seems right to ban magic from D&D. Psionics Rule! Can we get an official ruling on this? We can make arrangements with WotC and get them to recall all the player's handbooks and have them reprint the 3.0 and 3.5 versions? Or better yet, lets get a petition to have 4.0 rushed out with the magic removed?
    Thank you for all your support.
    <end crazy>

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    It's never been "My kind of fantasy" for my gaming. I selected "hate it" because I never allow it in my games. It's just another system for me to mind instead of the story. That said, I don't feel offended if others have psionics in their games in the least.

    Options are always good, in that you get to pick the ones that are right for your game. You don't have to allow an option when you are the guy running the game. ;P
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    Grimwell

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    Strictly speaking, it doesn't bother me in the slightest; however, most of the games where I might use psychic abilities, the crunchy bits are either identical or pretty similar, while the conceptual elements are varied from the other possible magical (in the general sense) effects.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronpyatt View Post
    This sort of brings me to ask the question about D&D magic. Haven't you noticed how "scientific" it is? I mean, the spells are testable, predictable, and repeatable, following the physical laws of game world reality. Spells go off each time in exactly the same way as it does for every spellcaster. It's not really the mysterious magic from the fantasy books I remember.
    I'm sure I've posted this before, but John H. Kim made the same point in "Breaking Out of Scientific Magic Systems".

    Quote Originally Posted by ronpyatt View Post
    <perhaps crazy>
    Hmmmm..... Perhaps it is D&D magic that needs to be disallowed. Yeah, now that I think about it. It seems right to ban magic from D&D. Psionics Rule! Can we get an official ruling on this? We can make arrangements with WotC and get them to recall all the player's handbooks and have them reprint the 3.0 and 3.5 versions? Or better yet, lets get a petition to have 4.0 rushed out with the magic removed?
    Thank you for all your support.
    <end crazy>
    I'm the same kind of crazy. As is Greg Stafford in Pendragon, (almost) Mike Mearls in Iron Heroes, and (sort-of) Fantasy Flight Games's Midnight.

    I've posted some of my wacky alternate magic ideas before, but another one is simply to remove all the spellcasting PC classes (which leaves Fighters, Rogues, Barbarians, slightly depowered Rangers, and depending on definitions radically altered Monks). Magic would still exist, but not as a tactical maneuver; it would be a way of setting up a plot device, or defusing said devices.

    Mechanically, magic would have Knowledge and Craft skills, and maybe one or more Feats. (How many depends on the modes of magic.) For example, following the Lovecraft/Howard model, magic might be a matter of finding/devising the right ritual, and surviving its performance. The powerful sorcerors of literature have merely done enough rituals to forge pacts with powerful entities, and to transform themselves into something other than human ...
    Last edited by fmitchell; 06-29-2007 at 05:51 PM. Reason: Greg Stafford, not Steve Perrin
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    We use a spell point system for D&D magic, so psionics isn't much different. I've only twice in 30 yrs of D&D had a player interested in playing a psionic. Why would I tell someone "no"...? It's no big deal. DM still has final arbiter status on whether something works or not.

    Side note (on the Eragon having "psionic magic"): Of course it does - it's called the Force. After all, Eragon is just Star Wars wearing an Amulet of Alter Self...
    " 'He looks at me as if he's Sensing Motive'? What the hell is THAT supposed to mean!?"
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    Quote Originally Posted by QumullusTheNimblest View Post
    We use a spell point system for D&D magic, so psionics isn't much different.
    Heh, that's probably why it isn't a problem in my campaign either as I use the spell point system as well!
    Skunk
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    Although I certainly don't want to bother learning all of the psionic mechanics and figuring out the abilities, the reason I don't allow psionics in my games has more to do with the feel of it, not the system.

    And, by the way, I'm probably one of the few gamers out there who didn't care for "The Wheel of Time." Perhaps I didn't give it enough chance, but I got one of those first-half-of-the-first-book promotionals and I read through it, and at the end of the book, I put it down glad that I hadn't bought the book. It just didn't do anything for me. Now, on the other hand, I recall a Clancy novel that I used as a natural sedative at night until I got past the first 500 pages. After that, I couldn't put the damned thing down. Admittedly, I didn't give Jordon's writing that much of a chance.
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  14. #14
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    I just realized that although the word psychic is a relatively modern term (1800's, I think), before that psychics were called witches, oracles, and (as mentioned above) soothsayers. They were assumed to have some innate magical power, or they made deals with other-world beings, or they learned a little mage-craft or nature-magic.

    Using the term psionics to describe psychic abilities does twist it to sound even more sci-fi and out of place in a classic fantasy setting. However, there are enough fantasy stories out there that hint at wide spread use of psychic power, but they just don't call them psionics.

    Perhaps to bring out the fantasy flavor of D&D psionics, one should treat psions as if they were their original fantasy equivalents?
    That might make an interesting way to convert or create a whole series of witch classes. (I like the witches.)

  15. #15
    Ed Zachary Guest
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronpyatt View Post
    I just realized that although the word psychic is a relatively modern term (1800's, I think), before that psychics were called witches, oracles, and (as mentioned above) soothsayers. They were assumed to have some innate magical power, or they made deals with other-world beings, or they learned a little mage-craft or nature-magic.
    Did you watch History Channel last night, the show on 2012?

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