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JMobius
2008-12-17, 11:21 AM
It struck me the other day how weird this is.

As much as I love the psionics system, psi in a fantasy setting feels weirdly out of place to me. I can think of no fantasy universe, outside of D&D, that incorporates it. The reason for this is pretty simple: Psi (or something similar) is usually used in sci-fi settings when there's a need for magic-that-is-not-magic. In a world that already has magic, it is rather redundant.

I just don't really understand what it's doing in D&D, given these factors. Does anyone know of any good justifications?

Solaris
2008-12-17, 11:25 AM
Rule of cool? Hey, they were running out of stuff after they reached the kitchen sink, so...

That aside, it does provide a resource for an alternate magic system for folks who're less than fond of standard D&D's Vancian-derived magic system. I'm not a big fan of their fluff, but I do like the crunch.

Egiam
2008-12-17, 11:28 AM
I'n my game, basically I consider them sorcerors. Just think of it as magic. The fantasy book Eragon imagines a system like Psionics.

Saph
2008-12-17, 11:29 AM
I think it's the "fantasy kitchen sink" aspect of D&D.

D&D already has Merlin-style wizards, Celtic druids, Crusades-era adventuring priests, Cthullu-style aberrations, Conan-style barbarians, Hebrew golems, Christian devils, wuxia monks, Chinese-themed wu jen, Japanese samurai, monsters out of ancient Greece, vampires, werecreatures, and just about everything else.

Psi is maybe a little out of place even in that, but not by much. Part of the reason D&D's successful is that it throws in literally every single fantasy, horror, supernatural, and mythological theme out there and lets them all rub shoulders.

- Saph

KIDS
2008-12-17, 11:33 AM
Yes, as others said, D&D is a mix-up of many many different fantasy visions (which is perfectly fine with me) and has a lot of room for psionics. I appreciate them because normal "enchantment" school or sorcerer just don't convey the mind over body feel good enough for my liking.

If you insist on spell components, which turns spells into a hokey-pokey flying circus with glowing lights, psionics can actually turn out to have a more magical feel while being more limited (read: balanced) than magic. I mean this only for 3.5 though - there are no psionics (yet) in 4E, and magic works a bit different there.

kamikasei
2008-12-17, 11:38 AM
Some (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2232744&postcount=23) posts (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2232873&postcount=26) by VT on the topic.

Mind over matter, the direct imposition of one's will on the universe, reaching so perfect an understanding of yourself or your surroundings that you need only think of a change in order to achieve it... that seems pretty fantastic to me.

I recall hearing Hindu myth cited as a good fantasy example of "psionics".

Starsinger
2008-12-17, 12:25 PM
Phantasy Star has Psionics alongside Magic (The Genesis RPGs, less so PSO and PSU). Mercedes Lackey's books, have Psionics and Magic side by side, Heralds are psionic.

It may be rare, but it's not unheard of.

Tengu_temp
2008-12-17, 12:38 PM
I like the idea of casting spells by sheer power of intellect and will to be much more interesting than spending years learning magic or possessing an inborn gift. Psions are much cooler than wizards or sorcerers. More balanced, too.

My stance comes only partially from the fact that I'm smart, but lazy.

AmberVael
2008-12-17, 12:43 PM
Mindflayers have been around for quite some time, and they've always been rather 'psionic,' and yet I rarely hear complaints about them. It's all about the way you view it.

I also agree with Tengu. Power of mind is pretty nifty to me.

jamroar
2008-12-17, 01:00 PM
It struck me the other day how weird this is.

As much as I love the psionics system, psi in a fantasy setting feels weirdly out of place to me. I can think of no fantasy universe, outside of D&D, that incorporates it. The reason for this is pretty simple: Psi (or something similar) is usually used in sci-fi settings when there's a need for magic-that-is-not-magic. In a world that already has magic, it is rather redundant.

I just don't really understand what it's doing in D&D, given these factors. Does anyone know of any good justifications?

I've always thought psi was a good stand-in for those over-the-top oriental qi-using wuxia types, with the names reflavored to more exotic and less sci-ficy. It's basically the same "mind over body/matter" deal with pseudo-magical effects. "Monks" should really be a variant of the psychic warrior class.

Tequila Sunrise
2008-12-17, 01:03 PM
I just don't really understand what it's doing in D&D, given these factors. Does anyone know of any good justifications?
My usual justification is "it's not psi, it's magic." 'Psionic' classes are just a different way to access the game world's omnipresent magic, like divine classes, binders, shadowcasters, truenamers, etc.

After all, what is magic but weird effects that can't be justified by our modern understanding of physics?

TS

Morty
2008-12-17, 01:17 PM
Meh. As far as I'm concerned, psions in fantasy don't look strange, they're just wizards with a different name and more tatoos, but I've never, ever felt the need to use them in D&D.

RightHandless
2008-12-17, 01:56 PM
Nosgoth, the land in which The Legacy of Kain series takes place is a good example of psionics in a traditional fantasy environment.

In regards to your questioning how thematically appropriate Psionics is, it is my opinion that the only difference between the different types of spellcasting is the aesthetic that they evoke.

To my mind, arcane magic has always been dangerous and corrupt, an alien force that breaks the laws of the universe upon which it is unleashed. A chaotic, traitorous force that no man can truly master and which must be bargained with and bought at terrible cost before it can be used to one's own ends, and perhaps even then, still harbours some esoteric and mysterious design. It is the domain of the desperate, those who feel that they cannot work within the laws of the universe within which they exist, of fools and evil men who know not or care not of it's dangerous nature and of the arrogant, who mistakenly dream themselves rulers of an unknowable, untamable force.

In contrast, I have always seen Psionics as the expression of the power of the High Man, the Übermensch who by virtue of his great power, enforces his will upon reality, bending and shaping it as lesser men might bend and shape metals to their advantage. It is the magic of the king, to whose majesty even energy and matter must bow, to serve him in whatever ways he would demand and suffer whatever indignities he would inflict upon them.

I could speak of my thoughts on Druidic and Divine casting, but I think that my point is illustrated.

When thinking of what type of spellcaster a character aught to be, or if a type of spellcasting has a place in your campaign setting, think about what sort of metaphorical and aesthetic message your particular choice of spellcasting sends.

Tengu_temp
2008-12-17, 02:09 PM
To my mind, arcane magic has always been dangerous and corrupt, an alien force that breaks the laws of the universe upon which it is unleashed. A chaotic, traitorous force that no man can truly master and which must be bargained with and bought at terrible cost before it can be used to one's own ends, and perhaps even then, still harbours some esoteric and mysterious design. It is the domain of the desperate, those who feel that they cannot work within the laws of the universe within which they exist, of fools and evil men who know not or care not of it's dangerous nature and of the arrogant, who mistakenly dream themselves rulers of an unknowable, untamable force.


Interesting idea, and in many settings it is that way indeed - but not in generic DND, where neither the fluff nor the crunch of arcane magic have anything to support it.

graymachine
2008-12-17, 02:40 PM
To my mind, arcane magic has always been dangerous and corrupt, an alien force that breaks the laws of the universe upon which it is unleashed. A chaotic, traitorous force that no man can truly master and which must be bargained with and bought at terrible cost before it can be used to one's own ends, and perhaps even then, still harbours some esoteric and mysterious design. It is the domain of the desperate, those who feel that they cannot work within the laws of the universe within which they exist, of fools and evil men who know not or care not of it's dangerous nature and of the arrogant, who mistakenly dream themselves rulers of an unknowable, untamable force.

In contrast, I have always seen Psionics as the expression of the power of the High Man, the Übermensch who by virtue of his great power, enforces his will upon reality, bending and shaping it as lesser men might bend and shape metals to their advantage. It is the magic of the king, to whose majesty even energy and matter must bow, to serve him in whatever ways he would demand and suffer whatever indignities he would inflict upon them.

Actually this is a fair approximation of the Forces of Chaos versus the Imperium in Warhammer 40,000.

Tacoma
2008-12-17, 02:45 PM
I think I always liked the choice of the mana point system instead of the Vancian memorization when it came to 2E psionics. I know little about 3E psionics.

But I never liked how all the other magic stated that it was external, you could never find enough internal power to produce even a first-level spell on your own. But here comes Psionics and now you can do everything a Magic-User can but it comes from inside. Clerics get it from their gods, Wizards from their magical weave, but Psionicists just make it happen. Seemed like a Failure of Fluff.

Artanis
2008-12-17, 02:50 PM
I think I always liked the choice of the mana point system instead of the Vancian memorization when it came to 2E psionics. I know little about 3E psionics.
Details for 3e psionics can be found inthe SRD (http://www.d20srd.org). The gist of it is that it acts a hell of a lot like magic, only with mana-style points instead of spell slots. There's even a fairly blatant equivalence between power points and spell slots available from class levels and stat bonuses.

kamikasei
2008-12-17, 02:54 PM
Wizards from their magical weave

"The Weave" is not a universal explanation. It's in FR and maybe Greyhawk, but not, to my knowledge, in Eberron, Planescape, Dark Sun, Spelljammer, or even mentioned in the core rulebooks.

Mark Hall
2008-12-17, 02:59 PM
Steven Brust's "Vlad Taltos" and Khavreen Romances. His world of Dragaera incorporates several varieties of power, including:
*Sorcery (casting of spells by drawing on elemental Chaos; usually via the medium of the Orb, a chunk of trellanstone forged by Zerika I, and refined by the Lords of Judgement, but it can also be done by manipulating raw Chaos from the Greater or Lesser Seas of Amorphia. Commonly used for teleportation, reviving the dead, and keeping the rain off)
*Psychics (common things like divinations and telepathy)
*Witchcraft (ritualized use of psychic power and resonant objects to achieve greater effects than unadorned psychic powers are capable of; including, in one case, teleporting a vial of god's blood to the Paths of the Dead, then integrating it into a human body to fool the dead into thinking that the individual was a God)
*Necromancy (traveling dimensions)
*Wizardry (combining multiple forms of magic into a single force)

Palladium Fantasy (and its spin-offs) have incorporated psionics for two and a half decades. However, it has some four types of PC magic, including spellcasting, magical wards, magic summoning circles, and psionics... plus the NPC magic of Alchemy. And that's in the main book.

The way around the disconnect, IMO, is to integrate psionics in the world, and to make it different in aspect from magic. 1st edition psionics would have done this had they integrated the system into the class selection, rather than made it an appendix. Since psionic powers are so much more common in Palladium Fantasy (where about 1/4 of the human population has some psychic power; most other races are a similar proportion, though some don't have any at all), they don't feel out of place. They're everywhere, and part of the core write-ups of the world. In D&D, it was pretty much just something added, incidentally, to one player, that the DM would proceed to screw them with.

RightHandless
2008-12-17, 03:00 PM
Interesting idea, and in many settings it is that way indeed - but not in generic DND, where neither the fluff nor the crunch of arcane magic have anything to support it.

The crunch does not support this, I agree, the crunch says that your character can do [these] things and they do [this]. Doing those things doesn't cost your character anything, save when material components or experience points are required to cast the spell, and this is not represented as loss of humanity. Mechanically however, there is no aesthetic difference between any of the different types of spellcasting. The mechanics cannot differentiate between Arcane, Divine and Psionic any more than they differentiate between physical feats, and magic.

Ultimately, the issue at hand is one of metaphor and aesthetics, and I think that there is a case to made for this portrayal of Arcane magic in the fluff.

In Dragonlance certainly, which I consider to be as fundamentally bound up with Dungeons and Dragons as Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms, what little is spoken of magic, is spoken of in these terms. Raistlin Majere one of Dungeons and Dragon's most iconic characters is so warped by his arcane development as to be almost totally inhuman, with skin of gold and hourglass eyes that force him to see all the world in a state of entropy and decay. All other arcane magic users are described as being profoundly changed by their trials at the Towers of High Sorcery, being described by those who once knew them as being both less and more than they once were.

Lichs, Arcane spellcasters whose lust for power has driven them to turn themselves into undead abominations are one of the most iconic monsters in the game. Warlocks have now been added to the Player's Handbook as a class for those characters who have paid a terrible price for their supernatural powers. The monster manuals are filled with bizzare, unatural monsters born of or warped by magic.

I would argue also that the OP, unless I mistake him, did not limit the scope of the discussion to vanilla Dungeons and Dragons, but rather to Fantasy as a genre. He questioned the inclusion of Psionics in a game inspired by a genre in which Psionics is remarkably rare, and thus, we should not limit the scope of our inspiration to generic Dungeons and Dragons either.

This was by no means an attack upon your position, merely an elaboration upon mine own.

Mark Hall
2008-12-17, 03:05 PM
"The Weave" is not a universal explanation. It's in FR and maybe Greyhawk, but not, to my knowledge, in Eberron, Planescape, Dark Sun, Spelljammer, or even mentioned in the core rulebooks.

Weave?
Fr - Yes.
Greyhawk - No.
Planescape - No.
Spelljammer - Only in Realmspace.
Dark Sun - Most wizards draw their power from living creatures... mostly plants, but Dragons are capable of drawing on the life of people, as well. Some wizards draw their power from the Grey, which envelopes Athas and separates it from Astral and Etheral Space. Others draw it from the Black, which is beneath the Grey. There's a sub-group that draws it from the Cerulean Storm, which is all that is left of the arch-sorcerer (and scarily mutant halfling) Rajaat. Clerics draw their power from the Elemental planes (the Grey being a bit thinner between Athas and the Etheral than it is between Athas and the Astral); druids from the land itself; templars from their sorcerer-kings, who were grafted to an elemental vortex, as species now extinct.

Dark Sun had a really NEAT cosmology.

Morty
2008-12-17, 03:07 PM
Even in FR Weave isn't a source of magic but a medium through which spellcasters, not only wizards, acces the raw magic that saturates the world.

ghost_warlock
2008-12-17, 03:11 PM
In the 'shipping thread(s) a few of us have been working on a collaborative storytelling/shipping project set in a magical-reality version of Bulgaria/Byzantium around the middle 900s; IStLY (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=5329708&postcount=127). Basically your run-of-the-mill magical alternative history setting. :smallwink: My namesake character (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1387553&postcount=132) in the plot is a psion (egoist, actually, although this may not be readily apparent from reading the fics). So far, it seems to work just fine.

Psionics is really just another form of 'magic' or supernatural power.

Lert, A.
2008-12-17, 03:14 PM
Psionics is very similar to the mind power of the Viking culture. Since there are already berserkers (barbs) and such, psionics is fairly natural. Of course, the fluff doesn't really support this, but if you keep the concept in mind it fits well thematically.

AslanCross
2008-12-17, 04:29 PM
I like how Eberron represents Psionics. Psi is otherworldly in Eberron in that it came from another plane (Dal Quor) but it fits well enough into the world via humanoid races that developed symbiosis with the Quori (the Kalashtar and the Inspired).

BRC
2008-12-17, 04:58 PM
Psionics is just magic by a different name and with a different system. One could refluff them and switch them around completally.

SurlySeraph
2008-12-17, 05:11 PM
Mindflayers have been around for quite some time, and they've always been rather 'psionic,' and yet I rarely hear complaints about them. It's all about the way you view it.

I also agree with Tengu. Power of mind is pretty nifty to me.

True, but mindflayers are from the future. Or was it the past? They keep changing it.

Callos_DeTerran
2008-12-17, 05:21 PM
True, but mindflayers are from the future. Or was it the past? They keep changing it.


No no, their past is OUR future. Get it now?:smalltongue:

Tengu_temp
2008-12-17, 05:30 PM
stuff

Remember that there's a difference between a setting where magic is intrinsically corrupting/damaging and one where some/most casters become drunk with power and start pulling off some really bad stuff. Warhammer or Dark Sun would be examples of the first. Vanilla DND world, even though there are liches, aberrations and warlocks, is the second.

Doug Lampert
2008-12-17, 05:44 PM
Mindflayers have been around for quite some time, and they've always been rather 'psionic,' and yet I rarely hear complaints about them. It's all about the way you view it.

I also agree with Tengu. Power of mind is pretty nifty to me.
Mindflayers were introduced in the old Eldritch Wizardry supplement (copywrite 1974) specifically as a monster to go with the Psionics system introduced in that book.

Note that Eldritch Wizardry Psi was totally broken.

The_Snark
2008-12-17, 05:44 PM
True, but mindflayers are from the future. Or was it the past? They keep changing it.

'They' keep changing it... as in the mind flayers keep changing it? Amazingly, this makes sense, or as much sense as time travel ever will.

Seconded on Eberron's portrayal of psionics. At first, I was a little irritated by their apparent fixation with making everything psionic relate to Dal Quor and the Inspired, but then the reason they're doing that hit me—psionics represents the ability to shape the world with sheer force of will. Dal Quor is the realm of dreams, and is influenced/created by mortal dreams at the same time as it influences the mortal world. In a lot of ways, it's like the elemental plane of psionics.

Elsewhere, I tend to use psionics as being somewhat like magic (except that it involves sheer force of will, rather than mystic chanting and runes). I usually pass on the crystal fixation, and don't make a lot of use of psionic terminology—I don't think I've ever played a character who'd call themselves psychic, or nitpick if referred to as a sorcerer. I like the mechanics, and the personal enlightenment/sheer force of will explanations often appeal to me more than vague explanations for arcane magic.

My aversion to actually using the words psychic and psionic in-game stems half from a general dislike of characters referring to game mechanics, and half from the common preconception that psychic powers are associated with science fiction, not fantasy. I was never sure why I felt like that until I decided to make a character from the Dune universe in a crossover game. Dune (and Star Wars, which derived inspiration from Dune) has a lot of responsibility for that preconception, I feel.

Tacoma
2008-12-17, 05:46 PM
Mind Flayers come from the Semi-Elemental Plane of Retconning.

Prometheus
2008-12-17, 05:48 PM
In medieval times, psionics = arcane magic = divine magic.

Our modern notion of Psionics as a feat of intellect or esoteric knowledge is a counter-reaction to what the feats the technology pulls with intellect and knowledge. People don't like the idea that everything that moves the world is man-made and is subject to further improvement - so they rewrite history and say there is a secret tradition that is, for whatever reason, incompatible with technology and the scientific method. This is why we have psionics added to D&D. The only other place we see it is in futuristic sci-fi, in which the magic of psionics is accomplished with technology to come full circle (just like beam swords).

Tacoma
2008-12-17, 05:51 PM
It also helps that alien creatures can use psionics without spellbooks - typically human technologies. The psionicist also doesn't need some old school piece of technology to use his magic - and in 500 years he still won't need to upgrade anything.

In Shadowrun Hermetic Mages still use spellbooks, not in the same way of course, but they can choose to use hardcopy libraries or digital libraries held in a pocket computer. I liked the juxtaposition of ancient and modern. The need for old mystical ways but with the practicality of human innovation.

SurlySeraph
2008-12-17, 05:52 PM
No no, their past is OUR future. Get it now?:smalltongue:

Um... maybe?


'They' keep changing it... as in the mind flayers keep changing it? Amazingly, this makes sense, or as much sense as time travel ever will.

Yes! Yes, the mind flayers keep changing it! Who did you think owned Wizards of the Coast?!

http://www.fohguild.org/forums/attachments/retard-rickshaw-hall-shame/38304d1174697751-why-all-nerd-rage-against-vanguard-tinfoil-hat.jpg

Raum
2008-12-17, 06:21 PM
It struck me the other day how weird this is.Why is it weird? The only difference is terminology. Magic is defined as "of, relating to, or invoking the supernatural" while psionics is "pertaining to the telepathic, psychic, or paranormal". Not much, if any, difference. If you like the system but not the terminology used, change the terminology.


As much as I love the psionics system, psi in a fantasy setting feels weirdly out of place to me. I can think of no fantasy universe, outside of D&D, that incorporates it. Several have been named. Western myth also uses tropes often defined as psionic - some oracles, most mind reading (many vampires had both psychic and magical powers attributed to them), psychometry, and other powers. Other fictional settings with psionics include Andre Norton's Witch World (classic fiction!), David Weber's Oath of Swords series, Robin Hobb's Assassin series, and many more. I really don't think it's uncommon at all.


The reason for this is pretty simple: Psi (or something similar) is usually used in sci-fi settings when there's a need for magic-that-is-not-magic. In a world that already has magic, it is rather redundant.

I just don't really understand what it's doing in D&D, given these factors. Does anyone know of any good justifications?I think your premise is faulty. As for why you'd want it, many authors (or gamers) want more than one 'flavor' of supernatural. Used well it adds depth to the setting.

Devils_Advocate
2008-12-18, 12:14 AM
It struck me the other day how weird this is.

As much as I love the psionics system, psi in a fantasy setting feels weirdly out of place to me. I can think of no fantasy universe, outside of D&D, that incorporates it. The reason for this is pretty simple: Psi (or something similar) is usually used in sci-fi settings when there's a need for magic-that-is-not-magic. In a world that already has magic, it is rather redundant.

I just don't really understand what it's doing in D&D, given these factors. Does anyone know of any good justifications?
D&D is not really designed to be a fully generic fantasy setting. Magic and weird creatures are assumed to be all over the damn place, instead of incredibly rare. Prior to 4E, there's the weird Vancian spellcasting system. There's divine spellcasters -- guys who get magical power from the gods, and in the form of spells, like wizards cast, with gestures and intonations and everything, for some reason.

Heck, I don't know how common "battery-powered magic" in general is in fantasy literature, though it's obviously common in fantasy games. Anyway, it's the only type there is in core D&D. You have to go to supplements for unlimited-use magic.

Thurbane
2008-12-18, 01:18 AM
It struck me the other day how weird this is.

As much as I love the psionics system, psi in a fantasy setting feels weirdly out of place to me. I can think of no fantasy universe, outside of D&D, that incorporates it. The reason for this is pretty simple: Psi (or something similar) is usually used in sci-fi settings when there's a need for magic-that-is-not-magic. In a world that already has magic, it is rather redundant.

I just don't really understand what it's doing in D&D, given these factors. Does anyone know of any good justifications?
I feel exactly the same way. Our group doesn't use psionics for this very reason.

It's strictly a matter of personal taste, though...