Jump to content

Sign in to follow this  
DocPiske

Psionics and Spellpoints, or how I learned to love spell slots.

Recommended Posts

I’ve been running D&D games for 30 plus years and occasionally someone will ask to play a character with psionic abilities. I usually resist allowing this; I don’t want peanut butter in my chocolate. I view psionics as a science fiction component rather than fantasy, the theory that science fiction is a form of fantasy not withstanding. I generally prefer my fantasy to focus on magic and medieval European settings, and leave other historical cultures, aliens or technology out. Over the years I’ve mellowed and come to accept that players just want to enjoy the fantasy of taking on a role they do not (or cannot) partake of in real life. So I’ve come to accept ninja, psion or steam punk peanut butter in my European medieval fantasy chocolate.

 

A bit more than fifteen years ago I ran a D&D 3e game set in the Diablo 2 video game world of Sanctuary, using setting and adventure supplements published by Wizards of the Coast. Included in the setting book were rules for the Diablo 2 character classes. I allowed a mix of D&D and D2 characters, but required the player to chose either the D&D spell system or the D2 spell point system, choosing spells from only from the appropriate list. One of the players chose the D2 Necromancer and used the Diablo 2 spell list and spell point system.

 

This player was a bit of a power gamer and focused on how to maximize the spell point pool, basically never running out of spell points. The character was able to always contribute in a meaningful was to every encounter. I’ve never been a fan of the 15-minute adventure day, so I usually enforce travel time and backtracking, with the commiserate chance for creatures rising the alarm, ambuscades or random encounters. The spell point pool this character had helped this character be less of an liability in these circumstances, but for large or long fights resource management was still important. I was struck by how the spell point system and the psionic power point system were the same, just using different wrappers (terminology).

 

After the end of that campaign we were looking for a new setting, and the magazines Dragon, Dungeon and Polyhedron did a cross over adventure called “Incursion!”, featuring Githyanki invaders. It was a precursor to the modern Adventure Paths, and it included psionics. After having run a spell point system in the D2 campaign I was more open to psionics and bought the psionics handbook. Some of players had their characters take levels in psionic classes, and it worked out fine for most.

 

The same player that played the necromancer wanted to play a Psion, and was keen on creating new powers. His approach was with psionics anything that one could think of could be accomplished with the mind, as opposed to magic which was limited by codified spells, rules and tradition, and relied on an outside source of power. My approach was that both systems use intellect or force of personality to access and control another source of power; the mind is not powerful enough to affect the world directly. We clashed a bit as I was using existing powers to set the power level and point cost of new powers and he wanted to create custom powers with specific effects, so limited in application that he felt the level and point cost should be lower. He was of the opinion that psionics should not be limited, essentially viewing psionics as superior to magic in every way. My concern was that if psionics were always the “better choice”, why would anyone ever play a spell-caster?

 

Around the time we were finishing that campaign, D&D 4e came out and we switched over to that system. I won’t go into my opinion of 4th edition here other than to say I think it is a fine game system, just not D&D. The new daily, encounter and at-will power system precluded spell or power points and I gradually returned to my dim view of psionics. I’m of the general opinion that there is no need for competing power systems in the same game, such as spell points as opposed to spell slots, or psionics to magic. It is difficult if not impossible to balance to power systems across 20 plus character levels. Melee combat and magic systems are difficult enough, but adding another system will only make it even more difficult.

 

The Vancian spell system has serious flaws, but its history and well established structure provides built in limitations and guidelines on creating new spells. That same structure is not unjustifiably viewed as restrictive by some, but inserting another, subjectively “better” system will imbalance the overall game even more. If and when psionics are added to 5e, I hope they reconsider power points and stick with a Vancian system. Or rewrite magic with spell points. Keep the peanut butter and chocolate separate. Sorry fans of Reeeses Peanut Butter Cups.

Edited by DocPiske
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very interesting take on the two, thanks Doc!  It seems to me your player would have found a way to power game just about anything, magic or psionics aside.  It seems to me like he was looking for a way to simply be a _god_ in the game.  As a DM, I would have limited this just like you did.  I often let my players go outside of bounds, but if its clear they are doing it to break the rules, I go back to strick book observance.

 

Take a look at the mystic class for DnD 5E.  

 

https://media.wizards.com/2017/dnd/downloads/UAMystic3.pdf

 

I found that it still has resource limitations that work and require decisions, but because of its sheer versatility, the class can do almost ANYTHNIG - damage, resistances, breathe under water, fly, read minds, sing and dance, heal and pick locks.  Its not unbalanced from a damage or healing perspective, and still can run out of juice, just super versatile.

Edited by edz16
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've used Psionics a number of times in D&D games.  It can be fun having both systems in play at the same time.  But I think it's important to have the flavor of each be kept distinct.  So, I've always made sure that the backgrounds and goals that go with each point the characters in very different directions.

 

The last time I did this (running D&D 3.5) I had magic as being derived from the memory of the world and psionics from the thought of the world.  Memory was much older so magic had been around for a very long time.  Thought was more recent so that psionics were only developing during the course of the game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm ok with either system as long as it is internally consistent within the game world.  An balanced appropriately. 

 

When we were designing our home-brew game system, my friends and I looked at various systems and went with a "if you know a spell, then you can cast it" method.  Since at will casting was available, we had to make sure that it was balanced with the abilities/attacks of non-casters.  We did this in a couple of ways.  For example most weapons were 8 point weapons; sword had a 4/4 (to-hit/damage) stat.  Thus, an attack spell was also an 8 pt spell (add to the fact that some of those points would got into range and AOE).  Casters also had a Magic stat that they had to put points into (the Magic stat also controlled the number of sustained spells- armor, fly, invisibility- that a caster could keep active at one time).  So a particular spell wasn't necessarily more powerful than any particular weapon; this allowed the caster to be able to cast throughout the entire adventure and not have to save their spells for the 'right time' or be relegated to throwing darts/daggers when they ran out of spells/points for the day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMO, the D&D3/Pathfinder sorcerer (and others with similar mechanisms) are just really simple spell-point systems. (They're certainly not standard Vancian "fire and forget" magic.) I like the ability of players to pick which set of restrictions they would like to deal with and have found that the varying feel makes for an interesting addition to the game.

 

YMMV, of course.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Similar Content

    • By boldfont
      I went canon with this. No airbrush. It’s a great sculpt. Really it’s too bad Reaper would have to make a knock off version because of the IP. I bet they’d make a great remorhaz. 

    • By jay_dmloot
      I've been playing D&D for over a decade now, and while there are a lot of great terrain solutions for dungeon crawls, I always felt there wasn't a great option when it came to generic random encounters, like setting up camp for the night.
       
      As a player, and a DM these random encounters often lacked meaning because they didn't have the same customization as encounters core to the campaign. So I decided to come up with a solution that was simple for a DM, and that made the encounter more meaningful for the player.
       
      I made a 36” by 24” iron rubber base on which you can layer smaller magnetic terrain. For a DM It takes second to throw some trees, rocks, and other terrain down to make the scenario unique. Then your players can quickly arrange their tents, wagons and other equipment in thoughtful ways that make random encounters more meaningful.
       
      There is 44 pieces of double sided magnetic terrain, so you can run pretty much any random encounter in the wilderness that you can think of.
       
      If this sounds like something you'd use check out the kickstarter for more information.
       
      http://kck.st/2UiDByd
       
      I love feedback so please let me know what you think of the product. I designed it how I would want to use it, so if you feel like something's lacking, or should be changes Id like to know.
       
      <mod> Full link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dmloot/dmloot?ref=project_link
    • By Paradoxical Mouse
      After the response to my other post, I figured I could post my campaign here. I'm gonna be using spoiler tags for DM notes, just in case people want to follow along. 
       
      Characters:
      Red Sash - Warforged Paladin. Currently trying to earn money for the Cyran refugees. Was a medic during the war and is still not sure exactly what to do now that it is over.
      Son of Bork - Warforged Barbarian. If you want to know his backstory, see here. Warning: untagged spoilers in link.
      Thicket - Shifter Rogue. Currently over his head in gambling debt to Draask. 
      Lell - Gnome Warlock. Member of the Trust of Zilargo. 
       
      Session 1:
       
      Sul, Zarantyr 1, 998YK - King of Fire Tavern, Middle Dura, Sharn, City of Towers, Breland
       Opening Scene (as written):
       
      Thicket manages to win his hand - thanks to a little cheating - and goes over to join those betting on the arm wrestling competition. Meanwhile, Red Sash convinces the girls to give a donation be helping them complete the clockwork dragon they were making by touching an out of place gear and popping it into place. Having received the donations, he asks for their names. The brunette gives the name Kara, while the red-head is named Ashley. Red Sash writes down their names and also moves to watch the competition, hoping for donations from the betting parties. Son of Bork manages to win his match. Having won, he picks up a stein of beer from a table (that was definitely not his) and drinks. Thicket attempts to - unsuccessfully - pick a pocket, while his cards competitor manages to pick Lell's pocket. Son of Bork finishes his glass and sees a shield with the Crest of House Ghallanda and takes it down from the wall to take a bite from that. The tavern goes silent, and the bartender threatens Son of Bork into putting the shield back. Lell receives a sheet of paper telling him to investigate the suspicious individual - the warforged. He moves forward and introduces himself to Son of Bork. Instantly upon noticing Lell, Son of Bork picks him up, affectionately calling him "Hornswaggle"...
       
      Suddenly, a fire breaks out and there are patrons running about. The elf at the bar sneaks out the back, and Lell gives chase with Son of Bork quickly giving chase after Lell. Thicket, not wanting to be involved in the fire, rushes out of the back of the bar as quickly as he can. Red Sash, meanwhile, attempts to save a patron surrounded by fire by walking directly through the fire.
       
      Thicket runs into a man he'd been caught cheating against - a muscular dwarven fellow by the name of Kiel Tarvernworth and promptly turns around, catching up to Lell in the process, as Son of Bork had managed to catch Lell and pick him up (again). The two make a deal, and Thicket shifts to catch the elven fellow while Lell negotiates with Kiel, convincing him to wait for them later by giving him a 1 Galifar (gold) down payment on Thicket's debt to the man. Thicket manages to catch the elf, and Lell interrogates him only to find out he was only a guest lecturer at the university and didn't want to get caught up in the fire. They let the elven man go. 
       
      Meanwhile, Red Sash fails to convince the man to let him save him, and the patron blinks away quickly. Frustrated, Red Sash starts to gather volunteers to put out the fire and aid the tavern. Lell, Son of Bork, and Thicket also help with relocating the stock in return for the promise of coin. The fire out, the group goes their separate ways. 
       
      (Zarantyr 2 coming tonight)
      Thoughts/comments appreciated! I have no IRL dm friends to talk to about this campaign...
    • By Paradoxical Mouse
      I'm currently working on writing my first homebrew campaign set in Eberron (as well as DMing the early phase of it). I'm trying to plot out story arcs, but I have a dilemma with placing an arc. I want the final villain to be Nyarlathotep, inspired by both the Mourning and Bones 4. But my other arc requires my players to be unwillingly sent to another plane (player backstory arc). I was going to have the extraplanar arc be caused by Nyarlathotep's summoning by House Cannith trying to make a great war machine for the Prince of Cyre, but if that is the order, I don't think I can make Nyarlathotep powerful enough while avoiding a mid campaign party wipe. Does anyone have any suggestions?
    • By Aquaknightus
      Started painting all of these old D&D pewter chainmail minitures game minis.


  • Who's Online   57 Members, 6 Anonymous, 117 Guests (See full list)

×