Complete Psionics Handbook by homeless poster
Steve Winter Doesn't Understand Probability WellOriginal SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
STEVE WINTER DOESN'T UNDERSTAND PROBABILITY WELL
I was fortunate enough to come across a copy of the above AD&D gaming supplement while browsing my local Bookmans. I like to collect "complete" runs of each edition of Dungeons and Dragons that I played as a kid/teen (complete by my definition meaning PHB/DMG/MM and whatever additional content I personally enjoyed), and seeing as Dark Sun was one of my favorite settings for my favorite edition, I was excited to add it to my book shelf. I vaguely remembered that my adolescent gaming group never really grasped all of the rules in the Psionics Handbook, and we basically treated it more or less like being a wizard but having to spend mana to cast spells as opposed to going by the Vancian system. It turns out that my youthful ignorance may have created a more streamlined system that what author Steve Winter slapped together. I wanted to take everyone for a walk down memory lane because I sure as hell didn't remember most of the weird implementation of the rules, and I definitely didn't recall that 5% of the time, any given power will seriously fuck a psionicist in the butt for rolling poorly. I don't know that psionics (as in the specific rules for psionics outlined in this splatbook) were ever widely implemented into most people's AD&D settings, so I'm hoping that covering this material won't be a complete waste of time for readers of this thread.
INTRO AND CHAPTER ONE:
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The book starts by explaining that the rules for psionics in older editions of Dungeons and Dragons were so poorly implemented that most people hated them and TSR decided not to include them in the core PHB for AD&D 2E. However, Steve Winter promises us that this book isn't just a rehash of those old rules that sucked; instead he's tripled the number of existing psionic powers, re-categorized the new power list in a way that's user friendly and easy to use, condensed a redundant psionic power point system into something more manageable, and streamlined the game mechanics of psionic powers to work essentially the same way as the wonderful 2E non-weapon proficiency system. Then, page seven dares to ask "IS PSIONICS MAGICAL"?
Steve Winters posted:
. . . The AD&D game already has two kinds of magic - one wielded by wizards and the other by clerics. So it is not unreasonable to ask, "Does the game need a third type of magic?" The answer is no, the game probably does not need a third type of magic.
Way to thank us for spending $18 on your 120 page supplement Steve. I believe the intention of this passage was to explain that Psionics should be treated as something different from magic, but it comes across to me as a subtle admission that what we're about to get into is real steaming pile.
With that admission out of the way, we move into Chapter 1, where we learn all the crunchy bits about how the Psionicist class works. Their prime requisite abilities are Wisdom and Constitution, and their minimum requirements are WIS 15 INT 12 CON 11 (which makes sense because Intelligence isn't a prime requisite). Any of the core PHB races can be a psionicist, and their level progression is somewhere between a warrior and a mage. All the standard restrictions for Multi and Dual class characters are included, and of course Humans are the only race who can reach level 20 in the Psionicist class. Also, Psionicists have to be of Lawful alignment, and if you ever somehow turn Chaotic you can't ever regenerate your spent Power Points and you start losing your existing Psionic Powers once you run dry of Power Points on a per day basis. Good to know that on top of being a shit rate caster, Psionicists also integrate the shitty "Fallen" mechanics of paladins, so an asshole DM can really make you regret picking this class. They have the same hit die and THAC0 progression and Saving throws of a Rogue, and they are limited to almost the same proficiency in weapons and armor. Only, since the Psionicist is a casting class, they suffer penalties to their total Psionic Strength Point pool for wearing armor heavier than Studded Leather. Of course, the armor penalties are trivial until you get to Full Plate (and even then the Full Plate penalty is only going to inconvenience a first level character). I guess this isn't such a terrible oversight, because Psionicists can definitely benefit from running around in heavy armor, but it kind of defeats the purpose of even having armor penalties in the first place. Interestingly, the rules specifically state that any Psionicist who dares to wear a helmet (unless it's a piece of magical or psionic equipment mean to enhance psionic powers), regardless of whether or not he or she wears armor (so presumably any kind of head covering would count) is completely unable to manifest ANY psionic powers until they remove their hat. Then, the book makes sure to remind the DM that even though there isn't technically an AC penalty associated with removing the helmet from a given suit of armor, the DM should make sure that monsters capable of making called shots take extra care to single out the psion who foolishly isn't wearing a helmet MWA HA HA. Finally, if you're super concerned about your verisimilitude and need to know what the average rates of mutations are on your fantasy planet that would allow for the spontaneous manifestation of psionic disciplines within a given population, there's also a short section about testing for spontaneous wild talents during character creation (but if you aren't rolling dudes for Dark Sun, your DM probably isn't even going to let you roll for this).
Alright, so what do Psionicists actually get to do that makes them the unnecessary third wheel of the casting classes? Well, their main schtick is that they manifest Psionic Powers, which are divided into six self-explanatory schools:
Clairsentience - lets you see and hear distant places and basically be the main character from every TNT drama that features a psychic detective. While the Divination school of Arcane and Divine magic is pretty bomb and potentially game breaking, this psionic school is utterly disappointing.
Psychokinesis - force choke a bitch or disintegrate a horse or make shit literally appear out of thin air. Sure, all of these powers should be lumped into the same school. I'd imagine starting characters would also have a very difficult time deciding if their first power should be taste sound from Clairsentience or motherfucking create matter from this school. I know it'd take me ages to decide between those two.
Psychometabolism - be Wolverine from the X-men. I don't even care what other powers you can have (and Psychometabolism has some slick ones), no twelve year old boy is going to not choose the be Wolerine from the X-men power. How the shit did something like aura reading even make the cut Steve?
Psychoportation - be Nightcrawler from the X-men. Actually, the more I think about it, this entire handbook could basically be rewritten as "Be your favorite X-Man in your buddy's Advanced Dungeons&Dragons game!"
Telepathy - actually pretty useful despite the fact that Jean Grey was always a lame character on the Fox TV show. Read minds and heal minds and shoot mind lasers.
Metapsionics - probably the worst school that you could start with because it basically modifies the existing powers from other schools, turning this school into an overly elaborate version of the Metamagic feats from 3.X D&D. Not a bad backup school, and only "worse" than Clairsentience because it has little utility without having access to other schools.
These schools then get further divided into Sciences and Devotions, and I think the idea here was supposed to be that the Sciences were like the actually useful spells that you'd want to cast all the time and the Devotions were supposed to be the Cantrips that were maybe only situationally useful, but when we actually look at how the powers were arbitrarily assigned in later chapters, the only thing that they seem to have in common is that Sciences cost more Psionic Strength Points to activate and have a higher chance of failure (but do not necessarily produce more powerful effects).
Speaking of Psionic Strength Points (PSP), they are the resource that Psionicists get to use to spend on their powers. A starting character gets between 20 and 32 PSPs depending on how lucky they got with their starting ability array - roll too low on the dice and you're straight up worse at being a psionicist than another character. This would make more sense if there were actually a mechanical difference between the power of a spell cast by a first level mage or cleric who had an 11 in INT or WIS and the power of a spell cast by a first level mage or cleric who had an 18 in INT or WIS, but I guess there has to be some kind of tradeoff for being the useless third wheel caster.
PSPs get spent whenever a Psionicist wants to activate a power. Each power has an associated cost that the Psionicist has to have enough points left in his or her pool of PSPs to manifest. Additionally, each power also has a different target number that the Psionicist has to roll under on a d20 in order to actually manifest said power. These target numbers start with a Psionicist's base INT or WIS or CON score (meaning if your INT is a 15 then a power with a target number of INT means you must roll a 15 or less to activate) and ramp up to stuff like WIS-3 or CON-10 for powers that have better effects. If you roll the target number exactly it's a critical success and something extra special happens, and if you roll a natural 20 then you suffer some kind of horrible consequence. Also, even if you fail to roll well enough to activate a power, you still have to spend half of the listed cost in PSPs just for the attempt. This puts Psionicists in an awesome situation where being more experienced doesn't necessarily increase your chances at succeeding at the ONE FUCKING THING YOUR CLASS IS SUPPOSED TO DO, and it also means that even a level 20 Psionicist is going to have some kind of potentially fatal failure 5% of the time, no matter what. It also really nails home that whole third wheel thing Steve mentioned at the outset of the book, because arcane and divine casters really have no equivalent system of variability and punishment that they have to endure in order to use their class abilities. Hell, a level one mage or cleric with only 11 in their prime requisite will still cast magic missile or cure light wounds just as well and just as reliably as a mage or cleric with an 18 in their prime requisite, and on top of that neither of those characters have a flat 5% chance to fail casting their spell, wasting both their action and heaping on some other kind of additional penalty. But I guess you don't have to be a vancian caster and you can read the lingering auras of objects at will (via object reading ), so I can see how they had to come up with some mechanism to offset the huge imbalance that provides to a first level character.
Now, Psionicists would already be an abortive hybrid casting class considering all of the above, but Steve Winter wasn't content to stop there. In addition to getting access to a half-assed series of kind-of-spells, Psionicists also get unique access to Psionic Attack and Defense modes! As a matter of fact, Chapter 2 goes into great detail explaining precisely why you should care about these amazing abilities!
NEXT TIME: Chapter 2 - PSIONIC COMBAT OR FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T EVER USE THESE RULES
This Entire Chapter Exists to Explain How Telepathy Affects CombatOriginal SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 2 - PSIONIC COMBAT OR THIS ENTIRE CHAPTER EXISTS TO EXPLAIN HOW THE TELEPATHY SCHOOL EFFECTS COMBAT
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Whatever the fuck is going on here is 100% more interesting than actually playing with the rules for Psionic Combat.
Did you read the summary for this chapter I wrote for the alternate title? THIS ENTIRE CHAPTER EXISTS TO EXPLAIN HOW THE TELEPATHY SCHOOL EFFECTS COMBAT! That's it. Why wasn't this instead included in the chapter that covers the telepathy school (Chapter 7) Steve?
The entirety of chapter 2 exists to detail precisely what happens when you attempt to use the telepathy school of powers against an unwilling target. If you use these rules, you are effectively playing an entirely different game that has been sloppily bolted onto the top of AD&D's already bloated system. I can only wildly speculate that Steve Winter wanted to publish his own RPG entirely focused around psionic spies who battle by mind controlling each other but couldn't find a publisher, and yet somehow got lucky enough to be given carte blanche to write the psionics rules for TSR's flagship brand.
I'm obviously kidding; even back when the D&D brand was being managed by TSR, the rule of the day was bizarrely slavish obedience to whatever systems and rules had previously existed before for no other reason than "that's how Gary wanted it guys". In this case, despite the fact that Steve assured us in the intro to the book that this wasn't just a reprinting of the rules for Psionics from the prior edition of D&D, he basically fumbles his attempt to turn them into something approaching a system that would be fun and easy to use so badly that he might as well just have photocopied the rules straight from a previous printing and called it a day.
Okay, so in addition to Sciences and Devotions, Psionicists also get access to Psionic Attack and Defense modes. Defense modes are gained passively through leveling like most every other class feature, but Attack modes are exclusively Telepathy powers that you can only learn by selecting the Science or Discipline that corresponds to the Attack mode when you gain a level and are given a limited number of powers to choose from. These powers are generally poor choices outside of psionic combat (spend 1/3 of your first level PSPs to deal 1d8 damage 55% of the time!) and really only serve to make the act of actually making telepathic contact against an unwilling target as unwieldy as possible. Not to be outdone, the Defense modes have literally NO utility outside of psionic combat, and still have an associated failure chance; it'd be like if a fighter's armor had a flat percentage chance to just not fucking function, at random during a given round.
Here's what's supposed to necessitate all this ridiculous horse shit - Guy A wants to use a telepathy power on Target B. In order to use any of the other powers from the telepathy school, you first have to use the contact power, which is basically like asking someone permission to root around in their noggin. If they're not psionically active and they are aware of psionic intrusion and they spend their entire action for the round trying to resist your contact , the best they can do is make you 10% less likely to succeed at breaching their mind. But, if Target B is a fellow Psionicist, then Guy A and Target B get to engage in a battle of wills that will surely bore the other players at the table to tears, take entirely too long to accomplish what a single roll could resolve, and ultimately prove to be of little point given what piss poor utility the actual powers a psionicist has access to produce.
Anyway, Guy A and Target B can both choose to use one of five Attack modes (Mind Thrust / Ego Whip / Id Insinuation / Psychic Crush / Psychic Blast) and one of five corresponding Defense modes (Mind Blank / Thought Shield / Mental Barrier / Intellect Fortress / Tower of Iron Will) to try and outmaneuver each other. Both psychic combatants roll their power checks and the winner is the person that rolls the highest will still rolling under their actual power score. Ties go to the defender, and a character that only engages in psychic combat can make two attacks in one round (because there has to be some kind of saving grace to this shit I suppose). Every successful attack gets the victor one "finger" into the defender's mind, and once you've got three successes you've managed to force their mind to accept your contact so that you can then attempt to do to them whatever you wanted to do in the first place. Or, you could just disintegrate their skull, but hey don't let me tell you how to have a good time.
Now, why would you ever want to do this? Well, what if you're a Psionicist and you need to sneak past the sole guard to get into the goblin king's treasure horde, but oh no, it turns out the guard is also a psionicist? No big deal, you might be thinking, I'm a telepath who knows the invisibility devotion, I'll just disappear and walk right by that chump! Well, not so fast there friend. See, the psionic devotion invisibility doesn't function like the equivalent mage spell of the same name, oh no. Instead, the invisibility devotion works thusly:
The Complete Psionics Handbook, page 86 posted:
Psionic invisibility differs significantly from magical invisibility. To make himself invisible, the psionicist must individually contact each mind that he wants deceive [sic]. Once they are all contacted, he makes himself invisible to them only. He can still see himself, as can anyone who was not contacted. . . . Invisibility is a delusion affecting one or more select characters, not an illusion affecting everyone. The only real change occurs in the mind of the psionicist's targets.
Cool, you're not actually going to turn invisible, you're just going to trick the guy in front of you into thinking you're invisible. The ability notation also mentions that you still make noise and still produce odor, so you're going to want to bathe thoroughly and take off all your clothes before attempting this feat. But, let's assume for the moment that the goblin guard is deaf and lacks a functional nasal passageway; you've still got to turn invisible to get past him. Thanks to the fact that you have to contact his mind first, and it's already been established that he's also a psionicist, now you get to waste a bunch of your PSPs (minimum of nine assuming you use the cheapest Attack mode three times and receive three consecutive successes, plus the cost of the invisibility devotion itself) waging a psionic battle against your foe, and basically eliminating whatever stealthy approach you were going for as he's going to become immediately aware that you are somewhere within his line of sight, as all of the psionic attack modes can only be used within line of sight. On top of all that, you're going to spend somewhere between 1/2 to 1/4 of your starting PSP pool, and each attack that you make is going to have at best a 15% chance of just outright failing, not even adjusting for the odds that you might make a successful power roll but the opposing guard might make a higher successful roll (which basically negates your attempt for that round).
There's also a completely unnecessary chart the indexes the relative usefulness of each Attack mode versus each Defense mode because someone somewhere decided that shit should matter, but again it's not anything you will ever reference unless you need to use a telepathy power against another psionicist. Given all of the effort it takes to fucking accomplish that goal, I'd probably be more inclined to adopt a disintegrate on sight policy with regards to other hostile psionicists.
IN CONCLUSION: Do not ever ever ever use these rules. Drop Attack and Defense modes from your game entirely. If you absolutely need to include in your fantasy elf game rules that simulate one guy attempting to forcibly use telepathy skills against another guy who might need to resist the intrusion, just have Guy A make a power check with the contact devotion, and if he's successful then have Guy B make a save vs spells or something. Maybe give Guy B a penalty to the save if Guy A has significantly more hit dice than Guy B or whatever seems appropriate. Fuck, literally anything could have been easier than this complete and utter rules abortion.
NEXT TIME: Chapter 3 - Clairsentient Sciences and Devotions OR WHAT, YOU THOUGHT PSIONICISTS GOT TO SCRY AND DIE TOO? LOL N00B
Of Course a Level 1 Psionicist Can Remote View Activities on Other Planets 5% of the Time, Why Couldn't They?Original SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 3 - CLAIRSENTIENT SCIENCES OR OF COURSE A LEVEL 1 PSIONICIST CAN REMOTE VIEW ACTIVITIES ON OTHER PLANETS 5% OF THE TIME, WHY COULDN'T THEY?
Chapter 3 sets the standard for the next six chapters by listing in alphabetical order the powers associated with each of the schools of Psionics. As previously mentioned, the schools are broken into Sciences and Devotions, where Sciences are supposed to be your bigger, more powerful abilities that get shit done, and Devotions are more like your minor cantrips that might be situationally useful but aren't a great power in every circumstance. Each power is presented thusly:
Power Source - STAT or STAT-X, which represents the target roll-under number on a d20 that a Psionicist is aiming for while attempting to manifest a psionic power. You can't successfully manifest any kind of power without first succeeding at a power check. If you fail your check you don't manifest the power but you still have to spend half of the total number of PSPs that would have been required for a successful manifestation; ostensibly this is to prevent Psionicists attempting to manifest something infinitely until they are successful (because we don't want them to approach parity with clerics or mages remember).
Initial Cost - As above, the cost paid after a successful manifestation. Half the cost is paid even if you fail.
Maintenance Cost - The cost in PSPs to maintain a power for an extended duration. The maintenance cost is paid relative to the length of time that a power originally lasts for, so a power that lasts for one round normally has to pay a maintenance cost every subsequent round whereas powers that have a longer base duration (say a whole turn) pay maintenance costs less frequently.
Range - How well each power can convey a believable performance given a variety of different dramatic material.
Prep Time - Tells you for how long a Psionicist has to spend powering up DBZ style, complete with multi-hued auras and needless grunting, before actually being allowed to attempt to manifest a power. Fail to manifest a power that had a three round warmup? Hope you got three more rounds to power up all over again!
Area of Effect - No surprises here.
Prerequisites - A ham fisted method of trying to gate off low level psionicists from immediately choosing the most awesome of psionic powers. Functionally this barely limits what a starting psionicist has access to, so Steve took the extra step of making most powers completely pathetic in order to prevent psionicists from overshadowing mages and clerics in terms of utility.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1 - Every power does something special if you roll exactly the power score on your power check, or a natural 20, or a natural 1. Further hoses psionicists by making sure that the vast majority of powers have a flat 5% chance to royally backfire. On the other hand, 5% of the time you might also get a slightly more enhanced effect than what you expected! Also, sometimes rolling a natural 1 on the power check also makes something bad happen, so it's closer to 10% of the time that a psionicist, regardless of level or skill, is going to get his shit pushed in just for daring to use his class ability. I'm not even sure why rolling a natural 1 should punish you because I'm fairly certain that a natural 1 is the lowest you can roll in a roll under system.
Alright, now that we're on the same page here, I'm going to go through all of the Sciences and Devotions for each of the schools. I'm not going to bother transcribing every variable for every power unless some of them are especially useless / hilarious, in order to keep these lists from boring you to tears.
CLAIRSENTIENT SCIENCES: As a fun aside, none of the Clairsentient Sciences or Devotions have any prerequisites. It's like Steve knew these were so shitty he didn't even bother to gate them off.
Aura Sight - Requires WIS-5 to activate and costs 9 PSPs, so a starting Psionicist with the minimum required attributes is going to fail at this half of the time. Using this power lets a Psionicist learn either a target's alignment or experience level, but not both at once. You have to manifest this power twice and pay 18 total PSPs (assuming you don't fail either time with a success rate hinging on a coin flip) to learn BOTH a target's alignment and experience level, because the rules specifically state that even though you can use this power on two targets per manifestation, you ABSOLUTELY CAN'T target the same person twice to get all of the necessary info. Also, you can't be subtle when you manifest this power because you have to scrunch your face up really hard and furiously glare at your target(s), so even non-psionicists can definitely tell you're doing something bizarre. This is all literally written in the power's description.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: You can read four auras per round instead of two (still no doubling up on information) / The power fails and you can't use it again on anyone for 24 hours / You read the aura but the DM is supposed to lie to you about one of the dimensions (either you get the wrong alignment or you are told the wrong experience level).
Clairaudience - Project your mind to a distant location and hear everything happening as if you were actually present at that location. Activates on WIS-3 so a stating psionicist will fail 40% of the time. The big draw here is that both this power and the next (Clairvoyance) list an additional difficulty table you incorporate into the power check based on how far away the location you're trying to listen to is relative to you. The amazing thing about this chart is that the maximum distance is INTERPLANETARY , and while attempting to listen to something at that distance adds a hefty penalty, both this power and the next don't have a specific penalty listed for rolling a natural 1, which means that 5% of the time a level 1 psionicist with the minimum required attributes can hear or see things happening on other fucking planets. Steve kind of wised up here because he quickly points out that if you're familiar with the SPELLJAMMER rules, Clairaudience and Clairvoyance can only be used within the same sphere/plane of existence. No Jeremy, your Psionicist on ATHAS can't start some kind of inter-dimensional cooperative effort with Psionicists on Aber-Toril to take over the multiverse.
POWER SCORE / 20: You also gain Clairvoyance at the same location and for the same duration / you go deaf (no save) for d12 hours.
Clairvoyance - As above, but seeing not hearing. Still allowed to peek into the bedroom of some hideous being from the far realm, as long as you aren't trying to peak into an unspeakable horror's bedroom on GreyHawk .
POWER SCORE / 20: You also gain Clairaudience at the same location and for the same duration / you go blind (no save) for d12 hours.
Object Reading - You can learn all about whoever last touched a given thing - their race / sex / age / alignment / how they gained or lost the item in question. The better your power check, the more info you find out at once. You can only scan a given item once per experience level, because it'd be way too OP to allow a guy to learn both the race AND sex AND age of the last person to touch a sword. This power also takes one round to fire up, because it would be literally game breaking if you could read an object's aura at the same speed with which you can read a living thing's aura.
POWER SCORE / 20: You automatically learn all of the possible information / You become obsessed with the item in question and strive to keep in on you at all times until you gain a level and can rescan the object.
Precognition : Activates on WIS-5 and costs 24 PSPs to fire off, also requires you to POWER UP for five rounds prior. You describe a specific course of action to the DM and then depending on how well you roll, he may or may not give you some indication of how that specific course of action might turn out. Of course the DM isn't under any obligation to make sure that what he just told you correlates with what actually happens, and if you don't describe a precise enough sequence of events, the DM is given permission to completely bullshit you. Also, once you use this power, you are so tired that you can't use any other Clarisentient powers for ten whole rounds. Everyone fucking loves the "mother may I?" approach to game play!
POWER SCORE / 20: You can roll some dice and argue with the DM if he doesn't rule the future in your favor (good fucking luck with this) / You see yourself suffer a violent, grisly death and have to save vs. petrification or else all of your power checks suffer a -3 penalty for d6 hours.
Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions : You can tell if events occurred in the past that left strong psychic impressions in the 20 yard radius from which the power originates. What effect this has, if any, on actual game play is left completely up to your imagination. The book makes sure to tell you that you might learn about someone getting married, or having an argument, or having a baby in the area though. The psionicist's understanding of these events is supposed to be murky at best, making me seriously question why this power was even included. You spend a non-trivial number of PSPs to activate a power you'll fail at manifesting 45% of the time to learn vague things about a place.
POWER SCORE / 20: You get a better understanding of what happened and why (still no mechanics to explain what this means) / An angry ghost materializes and immediately casts the mage spell magic jar against the Psionicist. This doesn't make a ton of sense because the ghost isn't stated to be holding a vessel capable of functioning as a magic jar, and monsters in the MM don't generally have a listed WIS score so it's hard to calculate what the Psionicist's penalty to their save imposed by magic jar would be. Based on my interpretation of how the magic jar spell functions, I think Steve was trying to explain that an angry ghost materializes and immediately attempts to take over the Psionicist, but he couldn't really come up with an eloquent way of indicating that and just kind of went with the path of least resistance. I'm aware that 2E Ghosts had the magic jar spell listed as a combat ability in the MM, but it isn't super well explained there either.
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 3 - Clairsentient Devotions OR I WANT TO HEAR LIGHT AND SMELL SOUND AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME
These Powers Were Designed to be Aggressively TerribleOriginal SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 3 - CLAIRSENTIENT DEVOTIONS OR THESE POWERS WERE DESIGNED TO BE AGGRESSIVELY TERRIBLE
Let's hop right in here shall we?
All-Around Vision - The character can see in all directions simultaneously, which prevents anyone from successfully sneaking up on the character, unless the sneaking character has some kind of concealment. Because tower shields provide a degree of concealment, RAW it is possible to sneak up on someone with 360 degree vision by crouching behind a tower shield and walking very softly. It stacks with Clairvoyance so you can see a 360 degree arc into Azathoth's bedroom. Also, you suffer a -4 penalty against gaze attacks while the power is active, because even if you succeed on your power check (60% of the time for a basic psionicist) you should still have some kind of punishment for using this power.
POWER SCORE / 20: You also gain infravision. Are you an Elf, or any other race with infravision? TOO BAD SO SAD NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS! / You are blind (no save) for d4 hours.
Combat Mind - The psionicist's "side in combat" gets a 1 point bonus towards initiative rolls. Marginally useful because 2E had you check for initiative every round. However, it doesn't define what "the psionicist's side" means, although since the range for the spell is Personal, I'm going to assume they mean that a psionicist can choose to have either the left side or right side of their body receive a 1 point bonus to initiative. This power is made even better by the fact that it keys off INT-4, so a starting psionicist is going to fail to manifest this power 60% of the time. It makes sense, because receiving a 1 point bonus to initiative rolls (and having to spend 1/5 of your PSPs per round for that privilege) is way too game breaking on its own. I mean, a Thief has to equip a Dagger or better to receive that kind of constant bonus (using optional initiative rules) and he doesn't have to commit to any other maintenance, and we don't want them to be overshadowed.
POWER SCORE / 20: You also gain a 1 point bonus to AC / The psionicist and his side suffers a 1 point penalty to their initiative rolls.
Danger Sense - You get Spider Sense, assuming Spider-man had spent the last twenty-four hours on a whiskey bender and he's barely coherent. The result of your check determines how much information you receive regarding the general level of a threat and the rough direction from which the threat will originate. If the power check is 8 or better, you get a full round's warning before the threat strikes; 12 or better also makes you aware of all threats located in a 10 yard radius. Power check of less than 8 means your spider sense goes off a second before the danger strikes, which the power doesn't really define in a meaningful way, except to state that the psionicist should maybe get a +2 bonus to a surprise check, assuming the threat is something that's waiting in ambush and not just an ogre charging down on you or something. The only benefit to this power is that the maintenance cost is 3PSPs / turn, so you actually only have to pay for it every 10 rounds. Considering the nebulous wording of the power, that's pretty damning by faint praise.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: You learn specifically how far away the danger is (but still not what it is) / You can't sense danger again for d6 hours / The power actually tells you a wrong direction for the upcoming threat (but again there's no mechanical definition of what this means).
Feel Light - Somehow your psionicist can experience light via tactile sensation, although the power explicitly states that you can't touch "darkness" because there's no light. I'm going to interpret this to mean that a psionicist manifesting this power can't cross any area that's blocked by shadows. This power at least gives some kind of mechanical function - you gain a +4 bonus when saving against gaze attacks. I guess you could use this power to offset the penalty from All-Around Vision , but this power actually costs more to power on and to maintain, so I'm not really sure what the point would be. I guess if your DM's campaign heavily features basilisk, medusa, and cockatrice encounters then you might spend all of one round considering activating this power before you forget that it exists entirely.
POWER SCORE / 20: You can feel light in all directions. No mechanical explanation is given for this, but since any humanoid can already feel light in all directions (in as much as light produces heat, which a body can detect), I really have no idea how this is supposed to benefit you. Maybe the regular version only gives a +4 bonus vs gazes in a narrow cone facing away from your front, and the POWER SCORE result gives the +4 bonus regardless of where the attack originates from? But doesn't a gaze attack, by definition, require you to make eye-contact with the target? / You become overly sensitive to light for d10 rounds. You are blind, and exposure to any level of light deals 1 point of damage per round.
Feel Sound - Same as above, but with sound. You get a +2 bonus against sonic attacks or effects. Why this was even included is a mystery that's too dumb to solve.
POWER SCORE / 20: The psionicist can detect noise like a thief of the same level. This probably should have been the major effect of the power, especially because a thief of any level is going to have a range of possible Detect Noise percentages depending on race and how the player assigned their class points, and if it was the major effect they could have expanded more thoroughly on what this is supposed to mean / For d4 rounds, all sound causes at least 1 point of damage, and also the psionicist can't understand speech.
Know Direction - You can tell which way is north. I am fairly certain that a non-psionic skill that any character can spend a non-weapon proficiency on can completely replicate this power. Whatever, psionicists can fail to tell which direction is north 40% of the time and pay 1 PSP for each attempt, put that in the book and ship it.
POWER SCORE / 20: The power is automatically maintained for 24 hours / You can't use this power again for d6 hours.
Know Location - When the power works (60% of the time) the psionicist learns general information about his/her current location. Speficially "the information is usually no more detailed than the response of a simple farmer when asked 'Where am I?' and typical answers include 'a few miles south of <major city> . . . as the crow flies' or 'adrift on the <body of water>'". So, this power costs roughly 1/3 of a starting psionicist's total PSPs and channels the friendly hillbilly spirits of the astral plane to provide nearly useless information. If the power check is 8 or more, the location is specific to within a mile of the psionicist's actual position, if it's 7 or less, the location given is somewhere within 10 miles; essentially this means that a starting psionicist will completely waste 1/3 of his starting PSPs on this power 75% of the time (either through failing to manifest the power, or failing to roll a high enough successful power check). Also, if you psionicist wants, you can voluntarilly receive information that is less specific than what the power check result would have provided; why you would do this is not explained.
POWER SCORE / 20: You learn the exact location you're trying to determine (5% of the time here folks, this power functions as advertised 5% of the fucking time) / This power gives a false location that is at least 100 miles from the actual position of the psionicist.
Poison Sense - Hey Jerry, are you poisoned? *vomits blood onto shoes* Yeah, he's poisoned alright. The type of poison isn't revealed, so fuck you if your DM runs a super groggy campaign where a generic 'antidote' item or spell doesn't exist, because this power isn't telling you what kind of poison is making Jerry vomit blood all over.
POWER SCORE / 20: You learn what kind of poison is making Jerry hork up his lungs in glistening, pink chunks / You become psionically effected by the poison and immediately count as having been poisoned by the same type of poison.
Radial Navigation - As long as you manifest this power, you know where you are in relation to a fixed starting point. Not in a useful way, like you can use this power to retrace your steps back through a complicated maze to return to the entrance, but in a general way, like 'you're currently 500 yards from the entrance'. This is literally spelled out in the power's description. I guess the power is maintained at an hourly interval, but come on your body measures how hungry you are at hourly intervals and you don't even have to spend a non-limited resource to make that power work.
POWER SCORE / 20: This power actually lets you recall your positioning well enough to retrace your steps back to the fixed starting point. I can't even begin to speculate why this wasn't the major ability of this power in the first place / You forget where you are entirely for d4 rounds.
See Sound - There's no actual mechanical benefit to using this power. Literally nothing. It does mention that by converting sound waves to visual impulses, you're actually blind in areas of silence. So, manifesting this power at best can cause you to turn blind unless you walk around shrieking like a bat for the duration of the power.
POWER SCORE / 20: You can maintain this power for only 1 PSP/round. That's right, you can voluntarily blind yourself for the low, low cost of 1 PSP/round / Lound sounds cause you to go blind (no save and no duration, so I guess it's permanent).
Spirit Sense - You can sense whether or not some kind of incorporeal being is within 15 yards of you. It doesn't give you any ability to interact with creatures that you might not normally be able to effect (like things that are ethereal) and you also can't pinpoint exactly where the spirit is, you just get some kind of nebulous sense that something is doing something else near somewhere.
POWER SCORE / 20: You learn the exact location of the spirit you're looking for. Still no means of communicating or interacting with said being / YOU HAVE ANGERED THE SPIRITS! There's no mechanical penalty for this one, so I guess it's the most competitive Clairsentient power because there's no literal penalty for rolling a natural 20 on your power score check. I don't even know if that's damning by faint praise at this point.
IN CONCLUSION: Don't ever take any Sciences or Devotions from this school. The powers that sound cool are all deeply flawed in some way, and the powers that sound kind of lame are agressively terrible. Friends don't let friends play psionicists, but they definitely don't let psionicists take Clarsentient powers.
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 4 - Psychokinetic Sciences OR AT LEAST THEY AREN'T CLAIRSENTIENT POWERS
5% of the Time You Will Disintegrate YourselfOriginal SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 4 - PSYCHOKINETIC SCIENCES OR 5% OF THE TIME YOU WILL DISINTEGRATE YOURSELF
The Psychokinetic Sciences attempt to gate off the more powerful abilities by giving them prerequisites that require you to take chains of powers. In practice this means that a psionicis has to wait until level 3 to learn the really cool tricks, like disintegrating stuff with no save. I guess this is one of the few redeeming things for psionicists - they can access their cool powers way before mages and clerics.
Create Object - You draw matter from the surrounding area and create a solid object which exists for as long as you maintain the power, after which it breaks into its component parts. Anything you create has to fulfill one of four qualifying conditions (describing the general size limitations of the power) but since you only have to meet one of the conditions instead of all four, someone who is creative could come up with some seriously outside the box uses for this power. The catch is that the power can only draw materials from whatever physical area is near the psionicist out to a 20 yard radius. You can also combine this power with molecular rearrangement to make diamonds from coal dust or a sword from rocks containing iron ore. The prereqs for this power require that you be at least level three, although the preceding example of making coal into diamonds is held back until your psionicist is level five. Not a lot of mechanical limitations in this power, so get ready to play "mother may I?" with the DM when you try to create something particularly clever.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: The object is permanent and requires no power points to maintain / The power backfires and a random personal belonging of the psionicist's disintegrates (no definition of belonging is given so prepare for an asshole DM to tell your psionicist that his heart just disintegrated) / The item contains a flaw (although the specifics of what this means are also left to you interpretation).
Detonate - This power is disintegrate but it only works on inanimate objects and corporeal undead without free will (animals are specifically excluded and the book makes sure to remind you that humanoids are animals). The power requires that you multiply your power check by 10, and if the roll is 100 or greater (in this case abstracting 100%) then the entire object (or up to 8 cubic feet of material in the case of something huge like a castle wall) is destroyed. If the result is less than 100 then the power abstracts to a rough percentage of destruction (ie 26% or 68% or whatever) and states that several significant chunks of the object remain. Also, anything within 10 feet of the target take d10 damage with a save vs breath weapon for half damage. The actual target doesn't get any kind of save, some portion (between 10 and 100%) of the object is just flat destroyed. The book doesn't explain what might happen if you fail to detonate at least 51% of a hostile object, but I guess you can argue with your DM for 40 minutes about whether or not the skeleton can still crawl over to you and bite on your butt. This power costs less to manifest than disintegrate and is arguably more useful, in that the target doesn't get any kind of resistance to your attempt. You can't nuke a person with this, but you could easily nuke the roof down onto their head or just nuke them 8 feet into the ground. You can learn this power at level three, which is pretty boss.
POWER SCORE / 20: All results of this manifestation are doubled (area disintegrated and damage and etc.) / The air around the psionicist detonates instead and everyone within 10 feet takes d10 damage (no save).
Disintegrate - Works exactly like the 6th level Wizard spell of the same name. It also costs more than twice the number of PSPs to manifest this than detonate and for some reason this power allows objects to save vs disintegration with a successful save meaning the power didn't work; this makes the power straight up inferior to detonate because there's a chance that the power will just fail even on objects. The advantage to this power is that you can target living things, but they also get a save vs death magic to completely avoid the effects. Considering that detonate can blow the ground out from under a dude or collapse a building on his head, I'm having a hard time seeing why you'd choose this power instead. You can't select this power until level three either, and it costs more than detonate , but I guess if you had to fight something in a seamless void and needed to remove it from existence, this power has you covered (assuming the target fails its save).
POWER SCORE / 20: The power affects 16 cubic feet of matter and saves are made with a -5 penalty / BACKFIRE! Disintegrate yourself unless you make a save vs death magic with a +5 bonus. This happens 5% of the time, which makes this power infinitely worse that the Wizard spell.
Molecular Rearrangement - Convert lead to gold, or whatever else you feel like converting. Very specific math given to make sure that players can't turn a profit by using this power indiscriminately. You can also use this power as part of the process to make psionic weapons but the manifesting psionicist also has to make a successful weapon smithing proficiency check when the weapon is fashioned and failure means the weapon is permanently mundane. This power has no effect on living tissue, so you can't turn someone's heart to stone or whatever.
POWER SCORE / 20: The new material is extraordinary (no mechanical benefit is given for this outcome) / The item is seriously flawed (likewise).
Project Force - Throw a psychic punch at someone up to 200 yards away for d6 damage, plus bonus damage equal to their AC (but a negative AC reduces the damage because they're wearing armor). The target also gets a save vs breath weapon to reduce the damage by half. You are also allowed to use this power to push open doors or knock over rocks or whatever but it doesn't allow for the fine manipulation of objects or anything. This power is basically the shitty psionicist version of the first level wizard spell magic missile only it doesn't scale damage with level and the target gets a save and you can't take this power until level three. Yeah this is pretty shit.
POWER SCORE / 20: The attack also knocks the target prone if it is the size of a humanoid or smaller (no save) / WHOOPS you psychically dick punch yourself, take the damage like a man.
Telekinesis - Psychically lift and manipulate objects. This power actually lets you swing an axe with your mind or open a door or fling a dude off a cliff. It's the entry level power for Psychokinesis so it's arguably better than everything but detonate . Moving heavier things is harder and trying to attack with a psionically levitated weapon takes a huge penalty to your THAC0 but I guess it sounds cool and hopefully that's enough to offset the fact that doing anything remotely interesting with this power creates such a significant penalty to your actions that you're not likely to actually succeed at doing anything.
POWER SCORE / 20: The character can lift a second item of equal or lesser weight simultaneously but only for the first round / You fumble the item and drop it in a very embarrassing manner.
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 4 - Psychokinetic Devotions OR MOST OF THESE POWERS AREN'T EVER GOING TO BE WORTH MANIFESTING
90% of These Devotions Could Have Just Been Rolled Into the Mechanical Effects of TelekinesisOriginal SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 4 - PSYCHOKINETIC DEVOTIONS OR 90% OF THESE DEVOTIONS COULD HAVE JUST BEEN ROLLED INTO THE MECHANICAL EFFECTS OF TELEKINESIS
There's fourteen of these things and quite a few of them feel like they exist just so that they can arbitrarily gate off some of the more powerful sciences from first level psionicists. I can't believe there's actually an AD&D rules system that makes me nostalgic for the leveled spell lists of clerics and mages, but there would be less redundant and/or useless powers in the Psionicist's wheelhouse if Steve Winter didn't have to find some kind of artificial way of making them different from the other two casting classes.
Animate Object - You get to animate any object that weighs 100 pounds or less (tables or trees or whatever). There's a penalty to the attempt based on the type of material that the object is made of. The mechanical effect of this power? The object can move around in a weird, jerky motion, and it can also attack with a THAC0 of 20 and deal damage like a club. Kind of weird to me that there's not a separate table listing different damage types based on the weight/material of the object, especially given how spergy AD&D loved to get about the game rules modeling the physical reality of the game world.
POWER SCORE: Animation is smooth and lifelike. WOWIE WOW WOW WOW!
Animate Shadow - You can animate a shadow within 40 yards to dance around or move suspiciously or whatever. The book explicitly states that this power can't be used to create any kind of tangible effect (like maybe startling a mage and breaking his concentration) and basically exists so psionicists can amuse themselves when they're bored.
POWER SCORE / 20: The range is 100 yards / The shadow completely disappears for 1 round.
Ballistic Attack - Attack with a sling even if you don't have a sling, provided there's rocks or other small, loose things around that you can mentally fling at someone. You use your own THAC0 and the "bullet" deals d6 damage regardless of whatever you actually fling at your target; this is awesome because it means you could conceivably kill someone by flinging used tissues at them (the only mechanical requirement is that the object you throw has to weigh less than 1 pound). What's not awesome is that this devotion requires both a power check AND and an attack roll, so at lower levels you are exceptionally likely to have this power do absolutely nothing.
POWER SCORE / 20: The damage die is increased to d12 / WHOOPS you throw the object at yourself! Since you still have to make an attack roll, and I believe you can intentionally always fail a check, this may result in nothing happening. Asshole DMs are going to rule you automatically hit yourself with the stone which is great because if you hadn't critically failed the power check, you still don't automatically hit your target but whatever.
Control Body - Turn someone into your puppet. You have to make a second opposed check against your target's strength score immediately before this power takes effect or else the target is able to break free from your puppet strings; in practice this power is going to do dick and shit because a power score needs to roll low to succeed but the opposed check has to come in over your target's strength score, so until the psionicist is at such a high level that their power score comes in around 30, you're not going to get much mileage out of this power. Assuming you're trying to puppet a baby or a kitten, you can control all of the target's physical movements and make them dance or attack (using their THAC0 with a -6 penalty) or fart their own name or whatever. If you try to puppet them into a fatal situation (walking into lava, etc.) they get to make an immediate opposed roll again to break free of your control.
POWER SCORE / 20: You automatically win the first opposed test / You suffer paralysis in one arm or one leg (roll d4, figure it out) for d10 hours.
Control Flames - You can make non-magical sources of fire 100% larger or 50% smaller. You can make the fire look like a person or an animal and make it do an amusing dance. If you will the fire to move around past its fuel source, it completely dies out after one round. Otherwise your dancing fire horse can move 30 yards per round and deal d6 damage on an attack using your THAC0. This power doesn't place any limitation on the dimensions of a fire that can be effected, so RAW if there was an entire building that was on fire a psionicist with this power could make the fire turn into a bunny and hop away from the building and provided there's open space next to the building that won't immediately ignite, the fire will extinguish itself the next round. In Steve Winter's AD&D, all of the firemen are psionicists.
POWER SCORE / 20: The size change of the fire can range from 200% to 0% (meaning the fire is extinguished) / You burn yourself for d4 damage.
Control Light - You can make bright areas dark and vise versa. There's a whole chart detailing what degree of light can be reduced by what percentage of darkness but no one is ever going to use that table so I'm not typing it out here.
POWER SCORE / 20: The maintenance cost per round is reduced to 1 PSP / The opposite effect of what the psionicist wanted to happen immediately occurs and the power cannot be maintained.
Control Sound - Manipulate one sound to sound like something else (i.e. make the king's rousing speech sound like he's farting the star spangled banner out his mouth or whatever). You can't use this power to make sound arise from nothing however. You can use this power to muffle the screams of your murder victim or make some bandits think that a whole legion of guards are marching through their hideout.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: The maintenance cost per round is reduced to 1 PSP / An explosive noise originates from the psionicist's location (fart joke) / The sound you're trying to make comes out slightly garbled.
Control Wind - Make the wind blow harder or not as hard or change direction by 90 degrees. If you make the wind a lot stronger, flying things take a penalty to their movement. Not a lot of mechanical examples of this rule in action, but a reasonable DM will let you get away with some creative things.
POWER SCORE: You gain total control of the wind.
Create Sound - You can create a sound even if there wasn't any sound previously. Also known as speaking, clapping your hand, stomping your foot, etc. I am now wondering why this power was even necessary because Control Sound would allow you to change the sound of your own voice or of your hand clapping or of your foot stomping into whatever else you needed it to sound like. I guess Steve Winters wanted to make sure that mute, quadriplegic psionicists weren't left out in the cold.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: Sound volume can be as loud as a dragon's roar / An explosive noise originates from the psionicist's location (he reused the same fart joke) / The sound you're trying to make comes out slightly garbled.
Inertial Barrier - Make a shield of air around the psionicist that protects them from harm. They are protected from non-magical missiles (including things like +2 arrows of slaying but not magic missile ), fire, breath weapon attacks, acid, gas, and falling. Only, each of the listed effects has a specific edge case where the effect actually does pass through an inertial barrier, rendering the skill kind of underwhelming. Also, it's completely unable to stop raw heat or cold, pure energy or light, and gaze effects. There's no mechanical description provided for the first two categories, so enjoy your round of "mother may I?" with the DM every time there's a debate about whether or not something should or shouldn't be effected by this power. Finally, the power doesn't just stop missile attacks from harming the psionicist (like protection from arrows because they still have to be inferior to mages), instead it just protects from some/all/none of the damage an arrow would have dealt. The barrier also stops your own ranged attacks from harming things on the other side of it, making this power situational at best.
POWER SCORE / 20: The barrier blocks an additional amount of damage per arrow / You knock yourself prone for one round.
Levitation - You can float up or down but you can't use this power to engage in horizontal movement. In order to do that you've got to get another power involved like control wind , which means spending more PSPs and possibly failing multiple power checks in order to crudely duplicate the same effect that a mage can just perform.
POWER SCORE / 20: The rate of levitation is doubled / You double your weight for one round.
Molecular Agitation - For some reason they decided not to call this power pyrokinesis even though that's exactly what it is. You can slowly make things start to smolder and eventually ingnite. It takes 3 rounds of concentration to actually make something other than paper or dry grass ignite/deal damage, so I'm not clear why you would use this power over just tossing a torch into the barn, but whatever.
POWER SCORE / 20: The speed at which things ignite doubles / One of the psionicist's belongings is randomly afflicted with this power.
Molecular Manipulation - You can make a thing slightly weaker such that when the thing suffers stress, it breaks. There's next to no mechanical support for this power; instead the book says that DMs should use their best judgment determining what kind of objects should be vulnerable and for how long a psionicist might have to focus to make an object breakable. Interestingly there's nothing RAW that stops a psionicist from using this power on a creature's heart or lungs or brain and then slapping them on the back or the head and basically instagibbing the target (because this power doesn't have any mention of saving throws for its effect), but I'm sure that's not something players would ever think of doing.
POWER SCORE / 20: Weakness occurs at twice the arbitrary limit your DM comes up with / The object in question is strengthened instead of weakened.
Soften - This power works just like the last one but it effects the entire object at once instead of just a vulnerable portion of an object. In reality, this power exists solely to gate disintegrate from first level psionicists. Another section where the DM is told to use their best judgement regarding how this power should affect objects of varying sizes and material. Steve started getting exceptionally lazy towards the end of this section, like even he realized he was just churing out powers to meet the pre-agreed upon minimum word content for the book.
POWER SCORE / 20: The item softens twice as fast / The item is strengthened instead of weakened.
IN CONCLUSION: Psychokinesis is at least a functional discipline, as opposed to Clairsentience. The Sciences are the heavy hitters in this school, and most of the Devotions really should have just been rolled into a more expanded description of what the telekinesis power can do. I think it's interesting that a lot of effort clearly went into preventing first level psionicists from learning disintegrate , but by the time you can get said power you can also get detonate which is functionally superior in every way. All together not a terrible place to spend your limited number of Sciences and Devotions, but I'd probably try to limit myself to one major power from this school, picking up telekinesis and either create object or detonate before moving on. All of the Devotions are near useless except that you need to take them in order to produce the more powerful effects from the Sciences.
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 5 - Psychometabolic Sciences OR FOR WHEN YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO BE A DARK JEDI
Powers Cribbed from the Star Wars EUOriginal SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 5 - PSYCHOMETABOLIC SCIENCES OR POWERS CRIBBED FROM THE STAR WARS EU
As an interesting note, none of these sciences have any listed pre-requisite powers either, making me suspect that the whole pre-requisite system was developed simply to keep disintegrate out of the hands of first level psionicists.
Animal Affinity - Roll a d20 to determine which animal your aura aligns with most closely and then you can invoke this power to gain one attribute from said animal: THAC0 / AC / Movement speed and type / attack and damage qualities / hit points / "any other special ability".
You might end up being able to manifest something useful like Gryphon but you also might get stuck with Rattlesnake. AD&D game balance at its finest!
If you want to switch the benefit you're currently manifesting for a different benefit you get to spend your PSPs all over again and try not to fail another power check. You do morph the appropriate physical appendages needed to utilize the animal attribute you're emulating (the example given is emulating a hawk's ability to fly grows wings for you) so of course the first thing to do is hope you roll animal affinity for Draft Horse and immediately emulate having a huge dong.
POWER SCORE / 20: You can emulate two abilities at once / Your skin permanently changes to match the type of skin/scales/fur that your aura animal would have until you manifest this power successfully. For a certain group of people, this is not a punishing outcome at all.
Complete Healing - Take a 24 hour nap and wake up completely healed of HP and cured of any afflictions, except for the 30 PSPs it cost to use this power. Of limited usefulness if you were playing in an old school "trapped in a dungeon" scenario but completely underwhelming if your psionicist exists in a setting where divine healers have any kind of established churches.
POWER SCORE / 20: The healing only takes one hour / You awaken after 24 hours and receive no benefit but this only costs you 5 PSPs instead of the listed 30.
Death Field - If you aren't a
POWER SCORE / 20: You only lose half the specified amount and all of your victims lose twice the specified amount / You lose the hit points you specified but every target immediately resists the attempt.
Energy Containment - You get a bonus to your saving throws against electricity/fire/cold/sound damage sources. If you make your save then you take no damage and if you fail your save then you only take half damage. Either way you also radiate visible light as your energy containment field harmlessly dissipates the absorbed energy. Interestingly there's no mention of what happens if you take energy damage from a source that doesn't allow a saving throw, so RAW this spell is completely useless against naturally occurring sources of energy damage (extreme weather or what have you). This power also has no duration listed and is given N/A for its maintenance cost, which leads me to believe that it can't be activated as a reaction to incoming damage and it can't be applied as a buff at the beginning of an encounter, so the only utility for this power is to waste your action each round firing up an energy shield which may or may not even function in the first place.
POWER SCORE / 20: For the first round that the power is activated, all saves against the specified types of damage are automatically successful / All saves against energy damage automatically fail for one round.
Life Draining - Slap a bitch for d6 damage and absorb d6 hit points per attempt. You can only hold 10 more hit points than your current maximum and these bonus hit points vanish after one hour if they aren't used up in combat. I'm amazed that RAW this power doesn't require a successful attack roll in addition to a successful power check (because equally lame powers like ballistic attack did) but I'm also amazed that using this power doesn't send you down the
POWER SCORE / 20: You drain d20 hit points rather than d6. Hope you didn't get the party's fighter to agree to this before you made your roll because he ain't getting those hit points back / WHOOPS instead you give the target HALF of your remaining hit points. This could actually work as an interesting power if it was an outcome you could intentionally choose but in this case it's just supposed to be an arbitrary punishment.
Metamorphosis - This power's description says it functions like the mage spell series polymorph self/other/etc. Actually works worse because you can only turn yourself into anything that has roughly the same mass and shape as your original form. So, you can't become a titan or colossal dragon and you also can't turn into a sneaky mouse or an agile hawk. You retain your own THAC0 and hit points but gain the AC and the attack and damage rolls of the new shape, but you also don't gain any of their special or magical abilities. The usefulness of this power seems limited to pretending to be your neighbor so you can bone his wife or something equally underwhelming. Also you have to make a system shock roll when you transform or else you lose the PSPs needed to manifest the power and pass out for 2d6 turns.
POWER SCORE / 20: The system shock roll automatically succeeds and you can actually pick a form up to three times bigger than your mass (but interesting not down to 1/3 your mass) / Save vs paralyzation or else the form you change into is your new permanent form! Again, there's scenarios where this wouldn't actually be a punishment for having an unlucky roll.
Shadow Form - You turn yourself and all your gear into a shadow that can only travel on two dimensional surfaces and can't cross any lit area. You're completely invisible in the darkness though, except this power doesn't grant you any ability to see in darkness if you didn't have that function innately, so good luck actually maneuvering anywhere useful in this form. You also can't physically interact with or harm anything, and I'm not sure why this power actually turns you into a shadow but the invisibility power only makes your target think they can't see you, but whatever Steve Winter has proven he has no concept of consistent or balanced game design.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: You gain all of the desirable powers of a shadow monster. There's nothing else given to define what this means and AD&D hadn't really hit on the template idea yet of 3.X monster design so get ready to spend 40 minutes semantically debating with your DM what this actually does / You have to roll a save vs lightning for your most valuable piece of equipment or else it turns into a shadow version of itself and is permanently lost to you / You turn into a shadow but none of your equipment does. Frequently a problem for Jessica Alba's interpretation of Sue Reed and any other female character who attempts this power I am sure.
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 5 - PSYCHOMETABOLIC DEVOTIONS OR BECOME AN X-MAN IN JAMIE'S LUNCHTIME AD&D GAME
My Power is That I Have All the PowersOriginal SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 5 - PSYCHOMETABOLIC DEVOTIONS OR MY POWER IS THAT I HAVE ALL THE POWERS
There's twenty-six of these things and guess what, none of them have any pre-requisites. I've stated this a couple times, but I really can't believe that Steve Winter was so worried about players using disintegrate at level one that he came up with an entirely hackneyed system that only gets implemented for a very limited range of abilities. Interestingly, they come back in a later chapter to little actual effect!
Absorb Disease - You're Powder and you can absorb diseases from another person and take them upon yourself. PROTIP: This power doesn't actually heal or nullify the disease, so you'd better have a cleric on hand to heal you after you absorb their genital herpes. Or, you could just play a cleric in the first place and skip this pathetic waste of a power. Also it doesn't work on magical diseases like lycanthropy or vampirism or mummy rot, so it's useless against most of the stuff you'd actually want to use it on.
POWER SCORE / 20: The disease is automatically destroyed by the psionicist's immune system / You catch the disease but WHOOPS you don't remove it from the victim.
Adrenalin Control - You get d6 ability points to add to you STR or DEX or CON as you choose. You can divide the points between abilities as you choose per manifestation, but the unreliability of this power is pretty disappointing.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: You add the d6 roll to all three attributes instead of having to divide it among them / You must make a successful save vs system shock or else lose half your current HP and fall unconscious for d8 hours / You still get the boost but you lose twice as many current HP.
Aging - Evil psionicists can touch a dude and make him age d4 years instantly plus another year if the dude fails a save vs system shock. Again, a power that arbitrarily enforces an alignment restriction despite the fact that you can disintegrate a hole in a child's torso without the same explicit penalty . This power is still marginally useful because the victim's save only determines whether or not they get a bonus year tacked on the end, it doesn't prevent the initial effect.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: The victim ages d20 years instead / You age d10 years / You age the same number of years as the victim.
Biofeedback - A buff you keep up which reduces all damage to you by 2 and lowers your AC by one. Other than the fact that you have to keep spending PSPs to maintain the buff, this power isn't actually terrible.
POWER SCORE / 20: Your AC is reduced by three instead / You lose 10% of your current HP.
Body Control - Your body adapts to exist perfectly in a hostile environment, taking no damage or other adverse effects. This lets you breathe in water or swim in magma, etc. Attacks that deal energy damage aren't protected, so you still take full damage from a fireball spell while taking your hot lava bath.
POWER SCORE / 20: You can adapt to a new environment at will while maintaining the original power (normally you have to drop the first manifestation and re-roll for a new one on the next round) / You become extra vulnerable to the specified environment and take an extra d4 damage from exposure until you successfully manifest the power again.
Body Equilibrium - A buff which lets you walk over uneven or weak surfaces without falling over or through them. Also works like the slow fall spell while being maintained. This one isn't terrible either aside from being a constant drain on your PSPs.
POWER SCORE / 20: The power lasts all day without having to pay PSP maintenance / Your weight is immediately increased by a factor of 10 until you successfully manifest the power again.
Body Weaponry - Turn your hand into a mace or your arm into a club or your dick into a gun. This weapon functions exactly like it would otherwise, but you can't be disarmed while weilding it. Kind of a niche power but still way better than anything from the Clairvoyance devotions.
POWER SCORE / 20: The weapon functions like a +1 weapon of the same type / Make a save vs system shock or pass out for d10 rounds.
Cat Fall - You can jump/fall 30 feet and take no damage instead of the usual 10 foot limit. Fucking grab the smelling salts this power is so awesome I just might faint.
POWER SCORE: You can jump/fall 50 feet and take no damage.
Cause Decay - Just like aging but for inanimate objects. The thing has to save vs acid or else be completely destroyed in one round. Much like in the case of detonate versus disintegrate , this power is way more useful than aging because you can just immediately ruin a boss' weapons or armor and shut him down much more quickly than slowly aging him d4 years at a time.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: The item is automatically destroyed / An item of the psionicist's is immediately destroyed, at random.
Cell Adjustment - This lets you cure a disease that you previously absorbed, although the range on this power is Touch and not Self so you could just use this power on your friend without the risk of exposing yourself to it first. This power still doesn't work on magical diseases so it's the functionally retarded version to absorb disease 's abortive attempt.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: All disease or up to 10 points of damage is healed in the target / You suffer d10 damage and no progress is made at curing the disease / There's these wacky rules for how many PSPs different diseases cost and the table is terrible so I'm not wasting my time with it but let's just say rolling a natural 1 means you fuck up and it takes longer to heal than you thought it would.
Chameleon Power - Just like it says on the label. You get a bonus to your hiding attempts because you blend into the environment. For some reason it works better in natural environments than urban.
POWER SCORE / 20: You get a +3 bonus to your hiding attempts / You get worse at your hiding attempts (with no mechanical implementation).
Chemical Stimulation - Secrete acid from your hands and disintegrate items that you touch. Pretty much identical to cause decay but you can also use this acid to make melee attacks that deal an extra d2+1 damage. This power can be maintained but actually costs significantly more than just manifesting cause decay so I guess Steve Winter really thought psionicists were going to get a boner over being able to deal an extra d2+1 on their unarmed melee attacks.
POWER SCORE / 20: The item is automatically destroyed / An item of the psionicist's is immediately destroyed, at random.
Displacement - You get a +2 bonus to your AC because you project an image of yourself that is 3 feet from your current position. Why this manifests as an AC bonus and not something like total concealment or a flat miss chance is a question best left to philosophers. At least this power doesn't punish you for daring to manifest it, and since it's a buff you can run it through an encounter. Costs slightly more than biofeedback and you probably don't need both powers but I guess it's nice that for once when Steve was including functionally identical versions of the same power, he let both of them be useful-ish.
POWER SCORE: The AC bonus is +4.
That's half of the Psychometabolic Devotions right there, and I think I'll spilt the other half into another post.
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 5 - PSYCHOMETABOLIC DEVOTIONS OR MORE STUPID SUPER HERO RIP-OFF BULLSHIT
Can You Believe They Found 13 Ways to Tell You Not to Play a Psionicist?Original SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 5 - PSYCHOMETABOLIC DEVOTIONS OR CAN YOU BELIEVE THEY FOUND 13 WAYS TO TELL YOU NOT TO PLAY A PSIONICIST?
It's been a bit since I had the time to delve into more of these wacky powers. I want to finish this in a more timely manner but a significant number of schools have Devotions with like 40 different ways of smelling color or turning invisible but only if you roll under a 4 on a d20 while your target is already asleep and it's a prime numbered day of the month. Following the chapter on Psychometabolism, I'm going to try and burn through the rest of the chapters while only mentioning a Science or Devotion if it's especially useful (not likely) or cringe-worthy (more likely). I'm bothering to explain all this because I realized there's another AD&D book I'd really like to sink my teeth into, but I feel like I should fucking finish what I start first.
Double Pain - You force the target to take double damage from all sources for one round but actually only half of the damage is real damage and the rest is imaginary and if the target doesn't take enough damage during this one round to lose all of his or her hit points (including real damage and fake damage) then all of the fake damage goes away and you wasted your time. If somehow the target does take enough damage to deplete all of his or her hit points then they pass out for d10 rounds because they're not really dead, it's just their imagination.
POWER SCORE / 20: The victim has to make a system shock roll each time they are successfully attacked this round or pass out from the pain / BACKFIRE you get effected by this power for one whole hour rather than one round.
Ectoplasmic Form - You become the psionic version of ethereal; this is no different from being ethereal in any meaningful way.
POWER SCORE / 20: The maintenance cost of this power is lower / Everything you are carrying but you becomes ectoplasmic and you have to successfully manifest this power again to get your shit back.
Enhanced Strength - Exactly what it says on the tin. You pay PSPs to boost your strength. You're limited to a maximum score of 18 and you can't qualify for exceptional strength and it costs more to use this power the lower your starting strength is, which basically makes it useless for its intended purpose.
POWER SCORE / 20: You can boost yourself to exceptional (remember, percentile based on AD&D rules) strength / BACKFIRE you lose d6 strength until you successfully manifest this power again.
Expansion - Make your dick up to four times bigger. If there's any other intended use for this power, I can't think of one.
POWER SCORE / 20: You can make your dick up to ten times bigger / Shy turtle situation occurs, shrinking your dick by 50% until you successfully manifest this power again.
Flesh Armor - Mage armor for Psionicists but you have to pay PSPs both to manifest it and to maintain it and the value of the armor is also randomly determined each manifestation so pretty much the shittiest version of mage armor .
POWER SCORE / 20: Whatever AC bonus you roll, you add 1 to that result / Your body grows ugly hair all over which reduces your Charisma by 2 until you take the time to shave everything.
Graft Weapon - You can manifest this power to get a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with a weapon with which you are proficient for as long as you maintain the power. Not the worst power in this section but thoroughly underwhelming.
POWER SCORE / 20: The damage and to-hit bonus increases to +4 / Attack rolls that generate a natural 1 break the weapon and whatever limb you had it grafted to.
Heightened Senses - Hear, see, touch, smell, and taste better. This gives you a minor bonus to activities that might engage one of those senses.
POWER SCORE / 20: One of the heightened senses lasts for a whole day without having to pay PSP maintenance costs / You lose one of the five senses at random for d12 hours.
Immovability - You make yourself immovable by attaching yourself to the very fabric of the universe for a given locality. Considering that the universe is constantly in motion, I'm not sure how this wouldn't end up flinging you off into space, but hey who gives a fuck. Interestingly, the power states that you only need a horizontal surface upon which to initiate this power, but it makes no rules for whether or not this surface has to be able to initially support your weight/physical proportions; the power is also personal range and doesn't mention that you need to be able to touch or see the "horizontal surface" so I'm guessing you could have your partners hold a sheet of paper up into the air and you would magically become immobile at that specific space/time location. Fuck I'm putting way too much thought into this throw-away power.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: Moving the psionicist is impossible (instead of merely difficult with an opposed strength check) / You can't willingly end the power until you run out of PSPs with which to maintain it / You can only end the power by making another successful manifestation attempt.
Lend Health - You can heal someone by giving them hit points on a 1 for 1 basis. You can't do this if you have five or fewer hit points remaining.
POWER SCORE / 20: You give your target hit points on a 1 for 2 basis / You instantly acquire any wounds or illness or diseases that the target has and no healing happens.
Mind Over Body - For every hour that you meditate, you can go one whole day without food/water/sleep. You can do this for up to five days, after which you need 24 hours of complete rest before attempting again. You can also use this power on your adventuring partners as well for a higher PSP cost.
POWER SCORE / 20: You don't need to rest after using this power / The power fails and you immediately need 24 hours of complete rest before you can do anything else.
Reduction - The opposite of expansion . Become really small and hide in the ladies locker room and look at their hooters while they change or whatever.
POWER SCORE / 20: It costs fewer PSPs to use this power / BACKFIRE you become twice as large until you successfully manifest this power again.
Share Strength - A terrible mix of enhanced strength and lend health where you deal yourself temporary strength damage to make an ally stronger. Unless they die before the duration is over, in which case you permanently lose however many points of strength you gave to them.
POWER SCORE / 20 / 1: You trade strength more efficiently / You lose one point of strength for a day and must make a save vs paralyzation or else the lost point is permanent / It costs more points to trade strength.
Suspend Animation - You can try to take a really long nap. There's no mechanical benefit to this (you don't age slower or require less food or water) and you might not actually fall asleep for as long as you wanted depending on your Power Score roll. Figures that psionicists would need a power just to fall asleep, and that power would still randomly suck donkey balls.
POWER SCORE / 20: You're completely aware of your surroundings while you sleep (this seems counterproductive) / Once asleep, only violent force can awaken you. It ends there, so I imagine you will starve/thirst to death if you botch the power score roll and there's not anyone around to stab you in the dick or something.
IN CONCLUSION: The entire Psychometabolic school is just thoroughly underwhelming. While the powers might be situationally more useful than the shit in Clairsentience, basically none of this shit is really worth even dipping your toes into the pool for. Compared to the Psychokinetic or Psychoportation schools, Psychometablic powers are really just a waste of PSPs. I guess next to none of them have any pre-requisites so if you're really in a pinch to pick a new power at a given level you could just write each of these powers on a list and blindly throw a dart at said list.
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 6 - PSYCHOPORTATION SCIENCES AND DEVOTIONS OR MERCIFULLY THE SHORTEST CHAPTER IN THIS TERRIBLE BOOK
Bamf! Mother Fucker!Original SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 6 - PSYCHOPORTATION SCIENCES AND DEVOTIONS OR BAMF! MOTHER FUCKER
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The best part about this picture is that based on how the Dimensional Door power works, that troll is going to follow him right through his little worm hole.
This chapter is mercifully short, which is great because the next one is the longest in the book. It deals with all of the myriad ways that a Psionicist can teleport (or BAMF! to borrow from the X-Men once more) themselves and others. To be honest, they probably could have just rolled most of these features into teleport and been done with it, but no one ever accused Steve Winter of being a competent game designer.
Banishment - Pay PSPs every round to forcibly teleport something else into a pocket dimension. The target stays in this pocket dimension for as long as you pay PSPs to maintain the power, and when you run dry it pops right back to where it was. If the target itself can travel astrally or plane shift or teleport it can just leave the pocket dimension whenever. Strictly worse than a Cleric's ability to permanently banish outsiders of a given variety because this power is way less permanent, despite the fact that you can target pretty much anything.
POWER SCORE / 20: The target can't return until the psionicist wills it, even if they can teleport or otherwise leave / You get stuck in the pocket plane with the target but you can't leave willingly without manifesting another psychoportation power to escape.
Probability Travel - You pay PSPs to physically travel across the Astral Plane in order to find a gateway to another area that you want to visit. The book says this version of Astral travel beats the Wizard version because you are actually manifesting on the Astral Plane and you don't have a silver cord to sever, but you can still die because of something that you encounter, or because if you are manifesting this power and you run out of PSPs before you find the gate you're searching for, you're stranded on the Astral Plane until you die of thirst or something eats you. Also even if you find the gate you're looking for, it might deposit you slightly off target; slightly in this case can be up to 10 miles away from where you wanted to land.
POWER SCORE / 20: The gateway takes you exactly where you wanted to go / You immediately have to roll for a random encounter on the Astral Plane, although the DM is offered that the encounter doesn't have to be hostile.
Summon Planar Creature - You randomly summon a creature from a different plane to your plane. Unlike magical summoning, this power grants the psionicist no control over the creature and offers no measure of protection against a creature that might be angry about being spontaneously ripped from its home plane. You also don't get to pick something to specifically summon, you have to roll randomly based on the random encounter table for whatever given plane you're trying to contact. Strictly worse than any other kind of summoning; I seriously have no idea why you would bother with this shit power.
POWER SCORE / 20: The creature you summon is predisposed to be at least neutral towards you / You attract the attention of a very powerful astral creature but don't summon it. There's no mechanical implementation beyond that first sentence, so I guess Steve was at least being generous enough to cut anyone dumb enough to manifest this shitty power a slight break.
Teleport - Does what it sounds like. You pay PSPs to travel instantly to any other location you've ever visited before. You can't leave the plane that you're currently on, but you can travel interplanetary distances if you have enough PSPs and you roll well enough on your power check. Unlike the Clairsentient Sciences, they gate off teleporting to other planets 5% of the time from first level characters by attaching an increasing PSP cost for traveling greater distances. You can also take other people with you if you pay more PSPs. Although a first level psionicist can take this power, you're likely to be limited to 100 yard distances or less for a few levels based on the sheer PSP cost of traveling more than a football field's distance from your current location.
POWER SCORE / 20: The PSP cost is reduced by 20% / The power has no effect.
Teleport Other - The previous power already listed the criteria for teleporting other people, and this power literally just says that it follows the same rules as using teleport to send other people somewhere. Why the shit was ink even wasted on this power's description?
POWER SCORE / 20: The PSP cost is reduced by 20% / The power has no effect.
Astral Projection - So remember how probability travel was better than astrally traveling like a Wizard because it was somehow safer? This power functions exactly like the Wizard version of astral travel! That's it, they literally came up with two powers that accomplish the same thing, listing the second after explicitly stating how much shittier it is than the first power.
POWER SCORE / 20: The gateway takes you exactly where you wanted to go / You immediately have to roll for a random encounter on the Astral Plane, although the DM is offered that the encounter doesn't have to be hostile.
Dimensional Door - Works just like the Wizard spell dimension door only you have a penalty to your power check the greater distance you want to travel, and using the door at all also disorients you and prevents you from acting at all for one round after using the door. This power costs way less than teleport but also maxes out at a distance of 200 yards, so it's of dubious utility.
POWER SCORE / 20: You aren't disoriented during the round immediately following transit / You're disoriented just as if you had gone through the door for one round after manifesting the door.
Dimension Walk - Just like the above power but you can only take yourself on the trip and you also have to make a Wisdom check for every round that you spend traveling through the alternate dimension and if you fail any of these Wisdom checks you wind up at a destination miles from where you wanted to end up. Also if you have any bags of holding or other items that use extra-dimensional pockets for storage, those items completely lose all of their contents as soon as you use this power. Fuck you for being a psionicist, that's why.
POWER SCORE / 20: You receive a +2 bonus to your Wisdom checks to navigate while dimension walking / You have to barf really bad for three rounds. I did not make that entry up.
Dream Travel - You travel somewhere in your dreams and then when you wake up you are actually in that place that you dreamed about visiting. I guess this means you could theoretically visit locations that you've never been to or that don't exist because most dreams make fuck-all sense. This power probably works better as an adventure hook or world building seed, and the book says as much. The power costs one PSP per every 25 miles you want to travel, but there's no real rate of failure and you can take other people with you by spending more PSPs, so strictly speaking in a mechanical sense this is actually the most useful and reliable form of teleportation over vast distances that a psionicist can use. Granted, it doesn't do you any good in the heat of combat, but neither do most of the other powers listed.
POWER SCORE / 20: Nothing / The dream is a nightmare and AHHHH IT'S SO SCARY YOU DIE OF FRIGHT UNTIL SOMEONE VIOLENTLY ATTACKS YOU IN THE REAL WORLD! But then, was it only a dream, or is this some new dream you inhabit because you died in the real world?
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Believe it or don't, this is the most reliable way for a Psionicist and his companions to travel.
Teleport Trigger - Kind of like the Wizard spell contingency only the conditions that you specify all end with you being teleported to some predetermined location. Worse than contingency for many reasons, but specifically because even if this shitbird power fires off, you still have to then spend PSPs and make a power roll to safely manifest teleport and escape danger. Not enough PSPs left when the shit hits the fan? Fuck you buddy!
POWER SCORE / 20: You can ignore the distance penalties for trying to teleport all the way home / Nothing.
Time Shift - Jump up to three rounds into the future to escape combat more easily or to better position yourself for a deadly blow to an opponent which confers a +4 bonus to your next attack roll. For however many rounds you skip forward you cease existing, so you're immune to damage or whatever else happens until you skip back into reality.
POWER SCORE / 20: Nothing / You are disoriented and suffer a -2 penalty to all rolls for the next three rounds.
Time Anchor - Pretty simple buff that prevents others from teleporting you against your will. That's it and that's all.
POWER SCORE / 20: You receive a +2 bonus to resist attempts to forcibly teleport you / You take a 5 point penalty to AC for d6 rounds.
IN CONCLUSION: Psychoportation isn't as aggressively bad as Clairsentience or Psychometabolism but most of the powers are way too limited in scope to see use in anything more than a corner case situation. The fact that many of these effects are directly mirrored by Wizard spells is pretty insulting, and the worst part is that Wizard spells don't have a chance of random failure. It sure would be awesome to have this special ability to avoid danger only to have said ability fail when it's really fucking important that it doesn't fail!
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 7 - TELEPATHY SCIENCES OR THE LONGEST AND MOST BORING CHAPTER IN A BOOK THAT REDEFINES TEDIUM
There's Way Too Many Powers That Are Inappropriately Preoccupied With TasteOriginal SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 7 - TELEPATHY SCIENCES AND DEVOTIONS OR THERE'S WAY TOO MANY POWERS THAT ARE INAPPROPRIATELY PREOCCUPIED WITH TASTE
I'm not going to lie, I've been dreading doing this chapter for a while because it's really tedious and most of the rules and powers set forward were actually covered way back in Chapter 2. There's damn near 50 total Sciences and Devotions, though I really feel like the powers in this chapter are mostly representative of what your average person would equate with psychic power; not that the preceding four chapters full of superhero fantasy bullshit weren't just amazing to read through, but I think the powers in this chapter should have been reworked so that they made up the entirety of powers in the book. At any rate, I'm not going to bother listing and defining every Science and Devotion because most of them either do exactly what they say on the label (Domination is a straight copy of the Wizard spell dominate person except shittier because you have to constantly expend PSPs, etc.) or have been previously outlined. Instead I'm going to look at some of the more uselessly silly powers that Steve Winter somehow thought someone somewhere might want to use.
Fate Link - PSIONICIST USES DESTINY BOND! IT'S SUPER EFFECTIVE! Link your fate to that of another so that if either of you take damage or die then the other has take the same amount of damage or make a save vs. death or else also immediately die. As a kicker, the penalty for rolling a natural 20 causes you to lose d6 CHA for one day. Why? Why not, asks Steve Winter.
Mind Link - Your Psionicist becomes a 2 way radio and you and one other creature can send mental messages back and forth. If you botch your power roll, instead you must save vs. petrification or be stunned for d4 rounds.
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Noting says PSIONIC! like abstract art of purple face lasers overlaying a solar eclipse.
INVISIBILITY SIDEBAR - So you might recall that in an earlier update , I made fun of how completely useless the Telepathic Devotion invisibility was compared to the Wizard spell of the same name, because the Psionic version doesn't actually turn you invisible, it just projects a mental block into the mind of your target that prevents them from seeing you. Critical to note here is that the power only prevents your target from seeing you, they can still smell and hear and touch and taste (?) you. Well, rather than deal with that waste of shit power, you can instead learn the superior invisibility Science, which functions similarly, only with the added benefit of masking your sound and smell too (although you can still be tasted (?) and touched). Both of these powers still require that you waste a huge amount of effort and PSPs to hack into your target's mind, overcome their resistances, manifest your shitty invisibility power, and oh yeah all of those steps are required per each person you want to fool into thinking you aren't present . Or you could just be a Wizard and cast a second level spell and be completely invisible with no other effort required. These two powers, along with the entire Clairsentience school, have more or less convinced me that Steve Winter actually hated Psionics in his games and made it his personal crusade to make the Psionicist character class as useless as possible.
Switch Personality - Just in case you ever wanted to recreate FREAKY FRIDAY: THE MOVIE in your fantasy elf game. Bodies that have been switched begin to decompose daily (because why wouldn't they) and both people have to make daily system shock rolls or else lose one point of Constitution permanently or until the manifesting Psionicist activates the power again to switch back to their original bodies. Barring that, the switch is permanent, so it's a pretty cool way to literally become the king of the realm or whatever, provided you have something to keep you from failing those CON checks. It doesn't say what happens if one person dies before being switched back, so I assume the survivor just has to make daily CON checks or else degenerate into nothing.
Attraction & Aversion - Two sides of the same coin, which probably should have just been one power that could do either effect. You can either make someone really really uncomfortably obsessed with a person/place/thing or you can make someone really really irrationally afraid of a person/place/thing. There's no actual mechanical implementation for what being attracted to or averse to something means, so you'd better hope your DM isn't a pedantic asshole or else these powers do fuckall.
Awe - This power forces other characters to become in awe of your psionicist. The rules explicitly state that this power gives the target no desire to serve or befriend the psionicist, but they won't try to attack you either, unless someone else tells them too. So basically, you wasted a bunch of PSPs for no effect!
Daydream - Cause a target with less than 14 Intelligence to become completely lost in their imagination of what it'd be like to get rescued by Drizz't or whatever. This power actually has mechanical effects associated with it although they're pretty underwhelming - Thieves get a +20% to all their thief skills against a daydreaming target, and non-thieves can attempt to use thief skills as an average 4th level thief against the same target. On the plus side, this power has a range of Unlimited, so if you're ever caught daydreaming it's good to know some Psionicist from another galaxy is just fucking with you out of boredom.
Incarnation Awareness - You can tell how many times a given person has been raised from the dead / reincarnated / etc. There's no real mechanical benefit to this, it's more of a "gee whiz ain't that barely useful" kind of thing.
Mind Bar - Not a trendy Psionicist hangout, instead this power gives the manifesting Psionicist a flat 75% resistance to Wizard spells from the Enchantment school. This is actually a legitimately useful power as long as you know ahead of time what kind of wizard you're going up against. Seems oddly out of place given the relative uselessness of the rest of the powers.
Phobia Amplification & Repugnance - Hey remember the aversion power from several pages ago? That power was pretty vaguely defined, so Steve Winter though he might as well add two additional powers that completely duplicate the effect of aversion , because you can't have too many poorly defined powers that make characters nebulously averse to a given person/place/thing.
Sight & Sound Link - See or hear whatever your target sees or hears. If they're subject to an effect that forces a saving throw while you're linked up (like say a Medusa's gaze attack) you're also forced to make the same save or else suffer the appropriate consequences. Another set of powers that fit thematically with the psych schtick but fail to deliver interesting or useful implementation.
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The erotic side of sense linking always starts with a probe.
Taste Link - I'm really not even sure what to say here. Steve Winter was scraping the bottom of the barrel so hard he actually thought that there would be merit behind developing a power that would explicitly allow you to taste what someone else was tasting. This probably says more about me than anything else, but I feel like this is a power that would have gone better in the Book of Erotic fantasy or something. Why the fuck couldn't they just make one power called Sense Link and then scale the level of success such that you got to choose how many of your target's senses you actually got to share? Why were Smell Link and Touch Link conspicuously omitted while Taste was the sense that just couldn't be left out? The mind boggles at you, Steve Winter.
IN CONCLUSION: Taste Link is a power that was seriously printed in a core AD&D splat book. Steve Winter unironically thought this would be something people would be excited to use in their fantasy elf games. Between the needlessly convoluted rules for establishing telepathic contact with someone else and the redundant powers and the egregiously useless shit ( invisibility and taste link et. al.) I'm pretty sure that this chapter is the worst in the book. At least the Clairsentience powers didn't fucking include Clairtastience.
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 8 - METAPSIONIC SCIENCES AND DEVOTIONS OR AFTER CHAPTER 7 HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE
Arguably, The Best Way To Play A Psionicist Is To Roll As Any Other Class And Get Lucky On The Wild Talent ChartOriginal SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 8 - METAPSIONIC SCIENCES AND DEVOTIONS OR ARGUABLY, THE BEST WAY TO PLAY A PSIONICIST IS TO ROLL AS ANY OTHER CLASS AND GET LUCKY ON THE WILD TALENT CHART
The final chapter that contains psionic powers, chapter 8 is loosely based around powers that make your existing powers better in some way. It's debatable whether or not this goal is accomplished, because half of the powers in this chapter just function on their own without relation to your other abilities, and the ones that do modify your other powers usually cost an obscene number of PSPs to activate; my guess is that this was a way to discourage low level characters from taking powers that they wouldn't even be able to activate, but trying to make these modifying abilities equivalent to the other powers just smacks of bad game design to me. Hey, it's like I've discovered the running theme of this entire supplement!
Appraise - You get to play Mother May I? with your DM and attempt to get him or her to reveal a portion of the plot of the adventure you're currently playing. The power flat out says that a single person can't possibly comprehend all of the various possibilities and threads of fate and unintended consequences that are attached to any given action, and tells the DM to be as vague or misleading as they want, even if the psionicist seems like they've worded their intended question as tightly as possible. Why this wasn't put in with the Clairsentient powers I have no idea.
Aura Alteration - You can mask a given character's alignment for d6 hours. There's no maintenance cost and it only requires 10 PSPs to manifest. I'm not really sure why this was given placement in the Science tier of power when it would have worked just as well as a Devotion; the utility of this ability is of dubious use as well.
Empower - This power lets you make psionic weapons and armor and items. It's the psionic version of crafting magic equipment.
Psychic Clone - This power causes the psionicist to fall into a deep coma and manifest a psychic clone that can see and hear whatever is around, and for reasons only known to Steve Winter, the comatose psionicist keeps their sense of touch, smell and taste. What the heck is the deal with Steve and his obsession with the sense of taste? The clone can hover around and do everything the psionicist could do, but it's also completely indestructible and immune to damage, except for psionics or mental attacks. Basically this power is of marginal usefulness if your psionicist is a special snowflake in the campaign, but of considerably less usefulness if the DM populates the rest of the world with other psionicists or psionic empowered monsters.
Psionic Surgery - Either cure existing mental trauma (marginally useful if you're playing in the Ravenloft setting maybe) or allow a character to roll for wild psychic powers. Remember that in AD&D if your character rolled a random power and got, say, disintegrate , you also automatically are given all necessary powers that would normally be required to access disintegrate as well as enough PSPs to manifest each of those powers once a day. Potentially the best way to play a psionic character is to play a cleric or wizard and roll well on the wild power chart.
Split Personality - This power requires several pre-requisite powers and also requires the psionicist to be 10th level (or roll very well on the wild power chart) but it's pretty much worth it. With this power, your psionicist can perform two actions at once, or perform two different actions in the same combat round. Definitely one of the most powerful sciences from a mechanics perspective (if not the most powerful). Anything that lets you fuck with the action economy in a turn based game is automatically amazing and worth taking (see also: any game where the number of combat actions your character receives is linked to a stat that can be intentionally manipulated by the player). The initial cost of 40 PSPs isn't going to be a huge deal for a 10th level psionicist, and the meager 6 PSP/round maintenance cost means every 10th level psionicist can run this power for basically every combat scenario (and realistically should).
Ultrablast - Unleash a psychic scream that stuns everyone else for 2d6 turns if they fail a save vs. paralyzation and also drains all the PSPs of any enemy psionicist that are affected. Also if you fail the power check when manifesting this power, you immediately go into a coma for d10 days! If you critically fail the power check, you DIE! A power that replicates the first level Wizard spell sleep is totally worth the risk of spontaneously dropping comatose (or dying!) during combat. Why wouldn't you want the power with ULTRA in the name? It's not like there's another power that allows you to act twice in every combat round.
Cannibalize - Trade temporary CON damage for more PSPs at the rate of 1 CON : 8 PSP. The power doesn't cost anything to manifest so maybe it could be useful if you were somehow in a position where you were out of PSPs but had a surplus of hit points and needed to teleport home immediately or something.
Convergence - Ostensibly, this power allows psionicists to combine their powers Captain Planet style and manifest more powerful psionic attack or defense modes. However, RAW this power is way more useful than Steve Winters intended:
The Complete Psionics Handbook posted:
. . . If one participant knows a power, now anyone in the [linked group] can use it.
Enhancement - Manifest this power right after you manifest another power to give yourself a two point bonus to further attempts to manifest powers within the same school. Note that this power requires a 6th level psionicist, while learning every psychic power ever only requires that you attain 4th level.
Gird - Maintain any power without having to think about it just by spending TWICE the usual number of PSPs. This is supposedly useful so that a psionicist can continue to manifest his enlarge -ed dong while he sleeps or whatever, but the power specifically says that you continue to burn PSPs on a power you gird regardless of what other activities you're doing and that sleeping while gird -ing doesn't let you restore PSPs, so this seems like a complete prank power if I ever saw one.
Intensify - Raise CON, INT, or WIS, by one point by reducing the other two by two points. The stat that is increased is only treated as increased with regards to manifesting psionic powers, while the two stats that are decreased are decreased with regards to everything (loss of HP, etc.). Sure, okay, this is a great deal.
Magnify & Prolapse - Precursors to 3.X spell caster meta-magic in that they allow you to double the damge or range or duration of another power as long as you spend 25x the number of required PSPs. There is no way that any math was involved to see whether a 2500% increase in casting cost was worth dealing a few more d6s worth of damage.
Psionic Inflation - Make an area of mental static that causes every other psionicist to pay twice the number of PSPs to manifest a power within your zone. Not an altogether terrible power, but its usefulness is going to depend heavily on how common psionics are in your DM's campaign.
Splice - You can try to manifest any number of psionic powers simultaneously. You have to succeed at way too many rolls and pay way too many power points to make this viable if you try to manifest more than two powers, and at that point you should be using split personality to achieve the same effect for way less effort. If you fail the power check for any of the powers you're trying to manifest, you lose all of them! Fail the fifth of five rolls, when the first four were successful? Sucks to be you!
Wrench - You force a creature that exists on two planes simultaneously to exist only on one of your choice. You could force a creature like a ghost that exists on the ethereal and prime material to only be on the prime material, which might make it easier to kill in combat. On the other hand, this power requires continuous maintenance to use, so you're probably better off just getting a +1 sword or whatever.
IN CONCLUSION - It's good to know the Metapsionic School is just as schizophrenic as every other school. You've got some thoroughly underwhelming powers like gird next to heavy hitters like convergence or split personality , further cementing my belief that absolutely zero play test time was put into this product. In this case, the good powers outweigh the bad by miles (and are likely among the best powers in the entire supplement) but the whole thing still reeks of being an unedited, untested play test doc that somehow got professionally published.
On the other hand, there's only one chapter left! Chapter 9 is the wrap up chapter that attempts to give DMs advice on how to run psionics in their campaigns and provides some sample psionic monsters. Will it be just as underwhelming as the other eight chapters? Is a psionicist completely outclassed by a wizard or cleric of lower level?
NEXT TIME: CHAPTER 9 - A PSIONICS CAMPAIGN OR BAD ADVICE FOR DUMB PEOPLE
Permission For The DM To Relegate Psionics To His Unique Snowflake DMPCs (Bonus: Racism!)Original SA post ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2ND EDITION - The Complete Psionics Handbook
Chapter 9 - A PSIONICS CAMPAIGN OR PERMISSION FOR THE DM TO RELEGATE PSIONICS TO HIS UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE DMPCS (BONUS: RACISM)
Since the rest of this book was poorly thought out drivel or abortive attempts at modeling super powers, it should come as no surprise that the chapter intended to help a DM integrate Psionics into their ongoing campaigns is full of bad advice for dumb people. It's actually a pretty short chapter, and it gets padded out with a handful of sample monsters that are supposed to show what kind of threats psionic monsters could pose (they are all ridiculous and dumb). Let's finish this shit!
The first section Look What I Got cautions the DM not to let the players actually use the rules presented in this book to actually play a psionic character. In Steve Winter's infinite wisdom, he already knows that either everyone will want to drop their current character and immediately reroll as a psionicist (which would ruin whatever plans you had with your lovingly crafted home brew campaign) or none of your current players will want to play as a psionicist (I am assuming he is aware of the terrible shit he filled this book with). In either case, he reasons that the best approach to make a brand new ~*~ Special Snowflake DMPC ~*~ to introduce into your campaign so you can show the players how much fun psionics are without them trying to ruin it by integrating psionics into a cooperative attempt to tell a story, and maybe kill some dragons and drink a few beers with your buds while they do it. Instead you should lord over your players just how awesome this new DMPC is and make sure he/she is at the forefront of every adventure and solves every puzzle and gets the killing blow on every monster and spends time banging the hottest bar wenches (and you should also pause the game to describe in excruciating detail just how good at sex your DMPC is). I'm using a little hyperbole here, but not much. Steve even encourages DMs to refrain from telling the players that the new DMPC is a psionicist; rather the DM should try and set up improbable scenarios where the psionicist's powers can be explained via other means (poltergeists are throwing shit, not telekinesis , etc.). This is so you can demonstrate just how much more powerful your DMPC is and really underline how meaningless the contributions of the players are in the grand scheme of your campaign. Once you get bored of your DMPC you can let players roll a psionicist if you really want, but you should make sure to exercise even more scrutiny over how the character is built and over what actions they take during an adventure to make sure they don't overshadow everyone else at the table (namely YOU).
Next up is BURN HIM! , a section where Steve wastes ink explaining that psionicists can be treated however you want by the population of your campaign. They might be considered as normal as wizards and clerics or they might be shunned and persecuted because a psionicist might read someone's mind at some point in the future and that's equivalent to rape and regular people wouldn't want those psionic jerks living in their town. No comparison is made to whether someone reading your mind is as dangerous as someone else accidentally gating a Balor into the middle of town, but whatever Steve's on his soap box here and logic isn't going to stop him. Steve also mentions that psionicis require no verbal or material or somatic components to manifest so that automatically makes them infinitely more dangerous than wizards or clerics because they can work their powers without anyone knowing who is responsible. That might be a valid point if most DMs didn't just hand wave away material components for arcane spells as ridiculous "Mother May I?" bullshit except for when the component is somehow central to the plot of a campaign, but I digress (not to mention that divine magic just works, without components). Steve follows that insightful commentary up with a list of
Forgotten Realms - Before the Time of Troubles, psionics was extremely rare. Now, it's becoming more common, although most folks can't tell it apart from magic.
Greyhawk - Psionics has been on Oerth forever, or at least since an illithid spaceship crashed on Oerth ages ago. People are as indifferent towards psionics as they are breathing air or being forced into undead servitude by Vecna.
Dragonlance - No psionics exist here at all, and even the most learned sages would have only fragmented, rudimentary knowledge about what psionics is or how it works.
Ravenloft - Psionics is common enough that the average person might know about it. It is also limited by Ravenloft's setting specific rules in the same way that arcane and divine magic is limited (re: no crossing the mist or closed domain boundaries or leaving Ravenloft, attempts to read alignment or the minds of intelligent undead are foiled, etc.).
Spelljammer - Psionic powers function normally in all forms of space and are super common. Psionicists still can't use Spelljamming helms though, because fuck you that's why.
Conspicuously absent from the list is the best setting, Dark Sun , but I'm going to assume that Steve was aware that psionics are hella common on Athas and such an awesome setting didn't need him impotently fucking with it.
The chapter concludes with Psionics and Magic which attempts to redefine how psionics and magic overlap and interact. There's a whole list of Wizard/Cleric spells that may or may not be specifically affected by certain psionic powers, but I can't be fucked to transcribe that because it's boring minutia that most people won't ever give a shit about. Magic items and psionic items are said to basically be the same thing, differing only if an item specifically gives a wizard more spells per day or a psionicist more PSPs; in those cases the bonuses are specific and don't translate over to the other type (so a psionicist with a ring of wizardry I doesn't get anything from it). Villains and monsters that use psionics are said to be infinitely more dangerous and deadly and devious and dastardly that other villains because they tend to have intricate webs of minions and contacts and they're masters of manipulation and etc. We get it Steve, you only want the DM to be able to use any of the rules in this book.
Steve ends the book with the revelation that psionics are not often considered to be powers that fit with the pseudo-medieval mythology that D&D
Okay, so Psionic monsters! I'm not sure if these were updated from an earlier edition of D&D (pretty likely) or if Steve Winter just farted them into the book as an afterthought, but either way they're pretty underwhelming.
Baku - Kind of like a gryphon, but they're elephant/tiger/dragon hybrids. They're also psychic and they are good (85% of the time) and they love people, except for the darker pigmented Bakus who are evil (15% of the time, no subtle racism here, what are you talking about) and like to cause mischief and mayhem. Either way they're pretty content to just sit around using their invisibility power to silently watch people go about their day.
Brain Mole - It's like a regular mole but it eats PSPs instead of grubs or dirt or whatever real moles eat. It's literally the size and shape of a regular mole, so I'm not sure how threatening these things are to your average adventuring party unless they pick a really unfortunate place to camp for the night (and then it's really more of a fuck you to the party psionicist). The description says that royalty love to keep brain moles as pets because it keeps enemy psionicists away, but the animal doesn't have any kind of innate psionic resistance or nullification, so that sounds like a dubious method of keeping psionics away at best.
Cerebral Parasites - Because just having one enemy who's only schtick is "eats PSPs" wasn't enough. That's all there is to these things, they just latch onto psionicists and drain their PSPs every time the psionicist tries to manifest a power. They can only be removed by a cure disease spell, or by not using any PSPs until all the parasites starve and die, which the text says can take d4 months.
Intellect Devourer (Adult and Larva) - Possibly the dumbest looking monster, this thing is a brain on four legs that hunts by using their psionic powers to stun a victim before pouncing and raking with all four claws. They require +3 weapons or better to hit but otherwise aren't very impressive. Supposedly the adults are so aggressive that they often eat their own young, so I'm not really sure how this species is supposed to survive long enough to threaten anything. Mindflayers keep them as pets because those dudes have the biggest boners for brains.
Shedu - I was wrong, this motherfucker is the dumbest looking monster of the bunch. Imagine a pegasus with the head of an elderly dwarven man. That's it, that's the whole deal with this thing. It's a good aligned outsider, which makes it possibly the most terrifying mount that a Paladin could learn to summon.
Thought Eater - The art director for the book fucking pulled a hat trick on this one, the three dumbest looking things ever are layed out sequentially one after the other; in this case, a Thought Eater looks like a skeletal platypus. They exist solely on the ethereal plane and their only motivation is to avoid death. If they ever somehow get shifted into the prime material plane, they instantly die. In other words, these things look dumb as hell and have no reason to ever interact with a party of adventurers. Why are they even included in this book?
Su-Monster - Giant intelligent evil monkeys who predominantly have black fur, except for their hands which are stained red with the blood of all the innocents that they've killed. Steve, I feel like you really have a message you want to share about race relations, why not just come out and say it? Not-so-subtle racism aside, there isn't anything else to get excited about here.
IN CONCLUSION - Holy hell am I glad to be done with this. I think I was most frustrated with this book because it doesn't match at all with my childhood memories of playing a psionicist in a D&D campaign. It's definitely for the best that my friends and I basically just skimmed this book, because RAW psionicists are a terrible third wheel to wizards and clerics. Mind, this doesn't mean that they can't invalidate a rouge or fighter provided that they're built correctly, but I'm seriously disappointed at how poorly balanced this class was, and how anemically most of the mechanics were implemented. Seriously, the entire chapter on mental combat (and all related powers) could have been completely expunged from this book and the work as a whole would have been greatly improved. As it is, this book is an embarrassing testament to the heydays of TSR - it encourages groggy, antagonistic DMs and most of the powers barely function as written; other things are such bizarre niche cases that one wonders under what circumstances they were ever imagined (see: the persistent, weird obsession with involving a taste specific version of several powers). Apparently implementing psionics and psionic characters into a fantasy role playing game is the holy grail of game design for the Dungeons and Dragons team, because it took the until fourth edition before they actually created a class that was mechanically sound and fun to play.