Greatest Hits 2009: Psionics Suck!

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 29, 2009

While the Dungeon’s Master team enjoys some well-deserved vacation time, we’re breaking out the greatest hits and shining a spotlight on a few of our favourite articles from 2009. We’ve searched for hidden gems that our newer readers might have missed and our long-time readers will enjoy reading again. Enjoy a second look at these greatest hits from Dungeon’s Master.

It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong, so this is me being a big man – I was wrong. When I wrote the original article Psionics Suck! I did so based on a lack of experience or knowledge of how psionics were to be used in 4e D&D. I (incorrectly) assumed that new classes relying on a psionic power source would be no more than poor imitations of arcane classes with a more mental focus. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Since running the original article and reading the abundance of comments from readers with very strong opinions, I’ve had a chance to see the Psion and the Monk in action. Although I haven’t played either class, or the Ardent (the latest psionic class), I must admit that they have intrigued me.

Wizards of the Coast took the psionic power source and made it unique. It doesn’t behave like the arcane or divine power sources at all. Looking back I’m not sure why I expected it would. The Psion’s Psionic Augmentation and the Monk’s Full Discipline both take the psionic power source and use it in a way that makes sense for those classes. It’s not just reading minds and moving objects without touching them, it’s full incorporation of psionic energy and channeling it to suit each class and role.

By making these classes available through DDI and Character Builder months before their release, Wizards has turned me completely around on psionics and I’m now a true believer who can’t wait for the PHB3.

From July 10, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Psionics Suck!

This week Wizards of the Coast released their first complete preview class from the forthcoming PHB3 through DDI and the Character Builder – The Psion. This is the first of many new classes relying on the new psionic power source, a useless and altogether unnecessary addition to 4e D&D. To put it bluntly: psionics suck.

I’ve been playing D&D for 25 years and I’ve never played a psionic character, I’ve never played at a gaming table where anyone else has played a psionic character and I’ve never had a DM use monsters with psionic powers against me. Dungeons & Dragons is all about swords and sorcery. A Wizard who can create a fireball or summon a demon is an acceptable and expected part of the game. A Fighter in shining plate armor, brandishing a glowing magic sword is another typical character you’d expect to find in D&D. But an opponent who can read my mind and move objects with the slightest thought falls way outside of the parameters I expect to find in a fantasy role playing game.

In all my years of playing D&D I’ve never felt that the absence of psionics has hurt the game or my gaming experiences. Monsters like the Illithid, Githyanki and Githzerai are certainly less powerful without their psionic enhancements, but on the few occasions when my DM has used them he’s either swapped their psionics for something magical or he’s just made them weaker. Previous versions of the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio have even presented these monsters with both psionic and non-psionic stat blocks. Wizards isn’t dumb, they know that psionics really have no useful place in D&D.

I’m not saying that playing characters with psionics is all-together a bad thing, but if you want to experience psionics then you should play a superhero role playing game and not D&D. I grew up playing both D&D and Marvel Super Heroes. When I wanted to play a psionic character I played Professor X, Psylocke, Phoenix or any one of the other mind-bending characters from the Marvel Universe. When I wanted to play a Wizard or a Paladin I returned to D&D. I never felt that either game was missing the elements the other game offered.

One game can’t possibly meet everybody’s needs. The addition of psionics to D&D is Wizard of the Coast’s feeble attempt to appease those vocal few who love D&D and won’t switch to a different RPG to satisfy their need for a psionic fix. I for one won’t play the Psion class.

Where do you stand on the topic of psionics? Do you think they have a place in D&D or should they be reserved for different RPGs?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 marius March 9, 2010 at 11:54 am

to be fair psions make for terrifying villains and talor made for evil campians. with a little tweaking they form a unique and versitle challange for players and if the dm doesnt mind a useful comrade and makes for entertaining gameplay, atleast in my limited experance

2 Ameron March 11, 2010 at 11:03 am

@marius
Now that I’ve seen the PHB3 and have a better understanding of how psionics work in 4e I’m coming around on the idea of using them in D&D.

3 JEB March 17, 2010 at 4:17 am

Thank you for being the big man … :-)

I agree that Psionics was a weird addendum to 1st and 2nd edition (I didn’t play very much 3rd or 3.5) and that it probably was broken …

I, however, really enjoyed the randomness of rolling a perfectly normal fighter and giving him some lesser psionic abillity like making his hands into swords … not a game-breaking mechanism, but just plain different…

And Dark Sun … I really enjoyed the grit and harshness of this world … I really hope that Wizards will capture this in their 4ed version. Here Psionics really have a natural place, since most magic is “banned” on the fact that the world is lessened each time it is used.
Ameron I think you have something to look forward to …

I wonder if Muls and Thri-Kreen will make their appearance in the new version … and Gladiators as a class?? (even though Wizards have said that no new classes will come in the Dark Sun Handbook, if I recall correctly)

4 Ameron March 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm

@JEB
From what I’ve heard, the Dark Sun setting relies heavily on psionics. Given how much I’m enjoying the new stuff in PHB3 I may have to give 4e Dark Sun a go when it comes out this summer. I read somewhere that Thri-Kreen are definitely in the 4e Dark Sun books.

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