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    Default How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [working title][WIP]

    Like the title says, this is intended to be a guide on how to run a 3.5 game with psionics in place of the standard vancian system.

    First let me say that no conversion is strictly necessary. Simply removing the casting classes from the game and using psionics instead makes for a perfectly workable game.

    It is a rather bare-bones approach, however, so the remainder of this and the next few posts will describe how to flesh the idea out so that you'll never even miss vancian casting.

    Do note that this is my first ever guide of this nature, so bear with me if it's a bit of a mess. I'll do my best to make it as clean and concise as I can, and I'll give proper credit to those who contribute in the "credits" section at the end of the guide.


    Why to make the change

    This is naturally the most fundamental question, and it's simply one of taste. Here are a couple of the more obvious answers.

    • Flavor: this one is rather superfluous, but it's also the most likely answer. For some the way psionics feels is just more appealing than the vancian system.
    • Balance: It's well known that the vancian system is terribly imbalanced. Psionics isn't perfect, but it is more balanced than the default system.
    • Book-keeping: Unlike vancian casting, virtually all of the psionics system is contained in only 2 books, with the better part of that available on the SRD.
    • Flexibility: Vancian casting forces you to either use low-level effects or walk around with unused power, because spell uses are divided into discreet slots with specific levels. Psionics allows a character to use every drop of mystical might at his disposal however he sees fit, within the bounds of the powers he knows.


    There, of course, are other possible reasons, but these are the most likely and most common.

    Issues

    Naturally, throwing out the system the game was built around brings up certain issues that should be addressed.

    • Lost Character Types: certain character types get thrown out with the wash, most notably three of the iconic base classes: the bard, paladin, and ranger.
    • Prestige Classes: The Expanded Psionics Handbook and Complete Psionic only have a handful of prestige classes between them and the vast majority of prestige classes are focused on casting or at least have a casting element.
    • Mechanical Options: Several popular and effective mechanical strategies become either limited or non-existent when psionics is the only game in town. The most noteable of these are buffing and minionmancy, but there are others as well.


    Each of these will be addressed below.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-09-22 at 12:11 PM.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Lost Characters

    Let us first address the character types that are lost.

    Paladin/Ranger: These two are getting lumped together for being the easiest fix, and having pretty much the same solution.
    • Option A) Both Complete Warrior and Complete Champion include non-spellcasting variants for both of these classics. The simplest solution to getting them back is to use one of those variants.
    • Option B) If you feel like these guys just wouldn't be themselves if they didn't have casting, the easiest solution is to use the Prestigious versions available in Unearthed Arcana and the SRD, using the prestige class adaptation advice below.
    • Option C) Replace both the ranger and paladin spells per day and spell lists with roughly equivalent power point progressions and power lists. This one is alot of work, but advice will be given toward the end of the guide.


    Paladin: The paladin does have one unique option for replacement that the ranger doesn't; the Divine Mind in Complete Psionic. The two have a very similar feel and power level.

    Bard: Like the paladin and ranger, there is a quick and easy fix in the Prestige Bard found in both Unearthed Arcana and on the SRD. If, however, that doesn't suite your taste, replacing the bard's spells per day and spells known with the power point and powers known progression of the psychic warrior is an obvious solution. Advice on which powers to attach to the class will be given below.

    Sorcerer: This is a painfully simple conversion. Psion is the sorcerer. It's just a refluff. You may want to look at the refluff comments toward the end of the guide. You might also want to switch the manifesting stat to charisma if leaving it on intelligence still feels too cerebral for a sorcerer.

    If psion doesn't differentiate enough between sorcerer and wizard, use wilder instead. Mechanically it's a bit weaker, but it's already charisma based and the wild surge ability lends itself very well to the notion of an inherent tie to mystical power, rather than an intellectual one.

    Wizard: This one's a pretty straight and simple refluff. In this case we're making a straight replacement with the Erudite variant of psion. See the refluff section below for further advice.

    Cleric: This is the last of the easy ones. The Ardent, in Complete Psionic, is a dead ringer for a psionic cleric. Some refluffing may or may not be necessary at your discretion. See the refluff section for further advice.

    Druid: Like the cleric, the druid is most easily modeled through the ardent class. The natural world mantle grants wild-empathay and with that and the life and elements mantles the resultant character has a very naturey feel. Fully emulating the druid's other class features will probably require prestige classing though. For example, wildshape is gained easily enough by entering Prestige Ranger and giving up the bonus feats for wildshape. Powerful as wildshape is, having to work for it is more balanced than simply getting it as a class feature anyway. I will not be doing a full psionic conversion of the druid class, as I feel it is outside the scope of this guide.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-09-22 at 12:05 PM.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    On Converting Prestige Classes

    Converting prestige classes with casting progression into manifester progressing classes is pretty simple. Here's how.

    • Caster Level Requirements: Rather obviously, you replace any caster level requirement with a manifester requirement of the same level.
    • Ability to cast spells of X level: This too, is rather obvious. Replace any such requirement, be it for arcane or divine, with the ability to manifest powers of the same level.
    • Specific Spell Requirements: This one's pretty easy too, though not as easy as the first two. Replace the required spell with the most similar psionic power available. Whether you should shoot for similarity in fluff or mechanics is a judgement call, but I suggest erring toward the mechanical match if you aren't sure.
    • Skill Requirements: There are only three skills of note here; Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (arcana), and Spellcraft. Spellcraft should alwasy be replaced with psicraft, and Knowledge (Arcana) should almost always be replaced with Knowledge (psionics) in a prestige class' prerequisites. Knowledge (religion), however, is a judgement call. If the Prestige class has strong ties to a particular religious organization, you might want to leave the requirement as is. If it's clearly only there as a mechanical requirement to prevent early entry, replace it with Knowledge (Psionics). Naturally, if a class grants one of these skills as a class skill, it should be replaced in the class skill list just as it was in the requirements.
    • Once these changes are made, change the prestige class' progression of spellcasting to progression of manifesting.


    Let's use the Prestige Bard, Paladin, and Ranger as examples.

    Bard: The only change needed here is to the "Special" requirement. It should be changed to, "Ability to manifest one 1st-level power from the clairsentience discipline, and two 1st level powers from the telepathy discipline, one from the (charm) subdiscipline, and one with the [mind-affecting] descriptor."

    The bard's class skill list should replace spellcraft with psicraft and use magic device with use psionic device.

    Paladin:
    • The requirement for Knowledge (religion) in this case is more appropriate than Knowledge (psionics) would be, so the skill requirements remain unchanged.
    • The requirement of "ability to cast protection from evil as a divine spell" should be changed to "ability to manifest psionic protection from evil (CPsi pg 95)"
    • The special requirment, the ability to turn undead, should be dropped, and the turn undead class feature should be changed to grant turn undead, rather than simply advancing it.
    • The paladin's class skill list should have psicraft and knowledge (psionics) added.


    Ranger: Only the requirement of being able to cast calm animals as a divine spell needs to be replaced. Instead, the requirement shoud be "ability to manifest animal affinity"

    Add knowledge (psionics) and psicraft to the ranger's class skill list.

    Seperate Casting Prestige Classes

    Some prestige classes have their own seperate spells per day and/or spell list. There is no simple way to convert these classes. The only options are to either drop them, or to convert their casting progression into manifesting progression. WotC made a psionic version of the Assassin prestige class in Secrets of Sarlona that can serve as a starting point for such coversions. In fact, I'm going to be shamelessly snatching that progression for another class later in the guide.

    Certain other classes, noteably the Dragon Disciple, grant bonus spells as though you had a high ability score. Simply convert the bonus spell you would be entitled to as a caster into a number of power points equal to two times the level of the spell you would recieve, minus one.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-09-22 at 02:13 PM.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Changed Mechanical Options

    Certain options that are staples of vancian casters are either dramatically changed or nearly eliminated when vancian casting is simply discarded. This section will discuss each of them, and offer suggestions on how to make adjustments to move the option back toward its default accessability.

    Buffing

    This is probably the most noteable of the mechanical changes for most groups. Under the default rules, a psionicist has rather a difficult time buffing his allies on the fly. This is not to say that buffing is largely unavailable, as that's simply not the case. The onus of buffing has, however, been moved from the caster to the buffing target, since most of the buffing powers are personal range.

    Buffing under the default psionics rules: The answer here is psionic tattoos. Their magical counterparts, potions, are derided constantly for their excessive limitations, namely the fact that both personal and offensive spells are off limits, and the fact that potions have to be drawn before they can be used, which eats up actions. Combined with the fact that only going up to 3rd level spells leaves the options available to potion users significantly under-powered for mid to high level play, these limitations make potion use a waste of time and gold.

    Psionic tattoos, on the other hand, are always at the ready and can be made for personal range powers and, thanks to the crawling tattoo, offensive powers. These factors, and the third level cap, make more than half of the psychic warrior list available to anyone that's not afraid to use expendables.

    With over half the psychic warrior list and any power of third level or lower available to everyone, buffing becomes a matter of preparation, rather than something done on the fly, though crawling tattoos of buffing spells are possible. If the party has a manifester with the scribe tattoo feat, the cost becomes very manageable.

    Conversion: If you're not comfortable with the use of tattoos as the only form of buffing, conversion isn't too hard. The simplest method is to make a blanket change of all personal range powers into touch powers. I don't necessarily recommend this, however, as it does take away from the advantage of playing a manifester over a non-manifester.

    A more conservative method is to compare buffing powers to the most similar buffing spell available. If the spell isn't a personal range spell, change the matching power's range to match. I highly recommend this option, since it greatly improves the ability of manifesters to buff their allies, without detracting from the uniqueness of buffs that are supposed to be restricted to mystical characters. An example: Fly is a touch spell, while psionic fly is a personal range power, so you would change psionic fly's range entry to Range: Touch and the target entry to Target: creature touched. On the other hand both the spell shield and the power force screen are personal range with the exact same effect, therefore force screen remains unchanged. For personal range powers that have no analagous spells, it simply becomes a judgement call. Ask yourself, "would making this a touch power simply be nice, or would it have the psionicists allies demanding he manifest it for them at every battle?" Make the change if the answer is the former, but leave it personal if the answer is the latter.

    [I'll be removing the examples and adding a list of the personal buffs I would change the range for.]

    Summoning

    Like buffing, summoning is not eliminated but it is changed and somewhat reduced. Using powers for summoning's intended purpose, putting bodies between you and the enemy, is hardly changed. Its more optimized use, summoning creatures with spell-likes to do things you can't, is largely eliminated.

    Summoning under the default psionics rules: As everyone knows, the astral construct power offers a quick and easy way to get another ally on the field. There is, however, a lesser known trick to expanding their versatility. If you have a psicrystal, and access to the powers expansion, fusion, and planar embrace (perhaps through items) you can have a half-fiend or half-celestial astral construct. This even lets you access summon monster 9 at the same time an arcanist would gain access to it. Fusing your psicrystal to an astral construct will also allow you to buff that construct with any personal range buffs that you like. Between this trick and the ectopic form feats, astral constructs offer an extraordinary variety of options.

    It should be noted that Complete Psionic included an entry for astral construct in which it was errata'd to only allow one construct per manifestation. I highly recommend you ignore this entry. It's an unnecessary nerf to a power that was already balanced.

    There are also the elemental steward, shadow eft, and planar champion powers that allow the summoning of one or more psionic elementals and outsiders.


    Conversion: If the above just isn't enough summoning for your table. Add this power, based on the summon monster line of spells, to your game. Naturally, this power shouldn't be allowed to summon a creature with innate spellcasting ability without first converting that spellcasting ability into manifesting ability using the above guidelines.
    • Summon Monster, Psionic
      Psychoportation [see text]
      Level:psion/wilder 1, Planes 1
      Display: Visual
      Manifesting time: 1 round
      Range: Close (25ft + 5ft/2lvls)
      Effect: one or more summoned creatures, no two of which can be more than 30ft apart
      Duration: 1 round/level (d)
      Saving throw: None
      Power resistance: No
      Power points: 1

      This power functions exactly as summon monster 1 (PHB pg 285)
      Augment: for every 2 additional power points you spend, this power mimics the next highest summon monster (3pp mimics SM2, 5pp mimics SM3, etc)


    Calling

    Unlike summoning, calling is entirely eliminated without some conversion. Given the fact that the planar binding/ally spells are 6 of the biggest offenders in breaking a game, I see this more as a feature than a bug. However, this guide wouldn't be complete without the following

    Conversion: Simply adding psionic versions of the planar ally/binding spells is sufficient, though neither power should be allowed to call a creature with innate spellcasting unless you convert that creature's spellcasting ability into manifesting ability using the above guidline. They should look something like this:
    • Planar Ally, Psionic
      Psychoportation [see text]
      Level: Planes 4
      Display: Visual
      Manifesting time: 10 minutes
      Range: close (25ft + 5ft/2levels)
      Effect: One called elemental or outsider
      Duration: Instantaneous
      Saving Throw: None
      Power Resitance: No
      Power points: 7, xp

      This power functions exactly like the lesser planar ally spell (PHB pg 261) It costs 100xp to manifest
      Augment: If you spend an additional 4pp this power functions as planar ally and costs an extra 150xp, if you spend an extra 8pp it functions as greater planar ally and costs an additional 400xp


    • Planar Binding, Psionic
      Psychoportation [see text]
      Level: Psion/wilder 5
      Display: Visual
      [b]Manifesting time:[b] 10 minutes
      Range: Close (25ft + 5ft/2 levels
      Effect: One called elemental or outsider
      Duration: Instantaneous
      Saving throw Will negates
      Power Resistance: No and Yes; see text
      Power points: 9

      This power functions exactly as lesser planar binding. [If you adopt this power, add psionic protection from X to the general psion/wilder list]
      Augment: Spending 2 extra power points makes this power function as planar binding, spending an additional 6 makes it function as greater planar binding.


    Illusion
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-09-23 at 03:38 PM.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    reserve the fifth
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    reserve the sixth

    That should be good, post away.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    I am trying to do something similar to this for my homebrew setting while creating some blood casting, so I am really interested in this.

    For starters I like to combine the metamagic variant: extra spell slots from (Unearthed Arcana pg 152), spell point variant (Unearthed Arcana pg 153).

    That might make spells scale similarly to psionics, without actually being psionics, although completely foregoing spell casting for psionics is also a good option

    I'll keep an eye on the thread.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    This will be interesting.

    Also, I'm rather glad I'm not the one who ended up doing this approach too.

    Anyway, I think we need a list of objectives. What I'd like to see is:

    Coverage of abilities
    A demonstration of how Psionics can accomplish feats comparable to those of spellcasters, with an emphasis on showcasing those abilities that do not have a trivial psionic version (such as Energy Ball is for Fireball, or Ectoplasmic Sheen is for Grease).
    "Difficult" abilities that come to mind now include:
    • Summoning and Calling extraplanar minions
    • Raising undead minions
    • Buffing your allies
    • Battlefield control, including the creation of fogs and damaging/hindering environmental effects
    • Healing and status condition removal
    • Illusions

    If serviceable psionic solutions exist, I'd like to see them, if a psionic solution can work with minimal changes, I'd like to see those minimal changes, and if the ability has no psionic counterpart at all, I'd like to see it created (or, if this is out of scope, pointed out as a lack in the system).
    Coverage of concepts
    An even more nebulous task. Basically, the question I would like you to answer is "how can I create character concept X using Psionics?", where X is a concept well-represented in vancian spellcasting. In other words, I'd like to know how I can create
    • A "Wizard", a knowledgeable and intelligent student of magic
    • A "Sorcerer", a powerful blood-born mage
    • A "Cleric", a spellcaster whose powers stem from devotion to a cause or deity, and has healing powers and/or powers over the undead
    • A "Druid", a shamanistic spellcaster with powers over animals, plants, the natural elements (plus fire), and/or as shapeshifting abilities.

    as far as core concepts go.
    EDIT: Wait, I want the Bard too!
    Balance
    The new options presented should be relatively consistent with the balance level of existing psionic material.
    Last edited by Ernir; 2012-09-21 at 07:44 PM.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Those seem like fairly reasonable goals.

    Be aware that I'm going to be taking my time with this. I like to thoroughly read and re-read things as I go, and this is my first guide ever.

    BTW, I'm open to suggestions for a snappier title.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-09-21 at 07:57 PM.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Are you going to discuss how to use psionics to completely replace magic in a normal D&D setting? How about discussing what kind of setting you get if there are no (or less) priests or scholarly mages?
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomar_of_Uointer View Post
    Are you going to discuss how to use psionics to completely replace magic in a normal D&D setting? How about discussing what kind of setting you get if there are no (or less) priests or scholarly mages?
    That would be fluff, and rules should not inflict fluff upon your campaign world, rather they should be compatable with whatever kind of story you want.

    He mentioned that clerics and scholarly types remain intact in the ardent and erudite.

    I didn't see mention of changing all personal buffs to touch, a change I encourage in all settings and magic systems to promote party cooperation and aid balance with the mundanes.

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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Quote Originally Posted by sdream View Post
    That would be fluff, and rules should not inflict fluff upon your campaign world, rather they should be compatable with whatever kind of story you want.

    He mentioned that clerics and scholarly types remain intact in the ardent and erudite.

    I didn't see mention of changing all personal buffs to touch, a change I encourage in all settings and magic systems to promote party cooperation and aid balance with the mundanes.
    There will be a suggestion of turning -some- personal buffs into touch spells.

    IMO, changing them all into touch spells is just a bit too much of a departure from the norm.

    Otherwise, this is spot on.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-09-22 at 07:20 AM.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Can I get a link to the WotC page with the psionic assassin please?

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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    Can I get a link to the WotC page with the psionic assassin please?

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    Divine Mind might be a good paladin replacement. The fluff is pretty similar, after all. Heck, he's even horribly underpowered like the paladin !

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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Badaboom!

    Divine Mind might be a good paladin replacement. The fluff is pretty similar, after all. Heck, he's even horribly underpowered like the paladin !
    Thank you sir. I may add that comment about the divine mind to the advice on recovering lost class types.

    I will give proper thanks to anyone that helps me with the guide in the final post, under the heading "credits."
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-09-22 at 12:06 PM.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [working title][WIP]

    Actually there are 2 versions of assassin that use psionics, there is an ACF in Secrets of Sarlona pg. 113.

    I personally like Lurk 5 / Psionic assassin 5 / Psychic Assassin 10
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [working title][WIP]

    Druids shouldn't be too hard. I'd say just give them the psiwar stuff, but that kind of renders that class somewhat moot, so... Give them, say, Wilder/Ardent power known progression, psiwar pp/day, and a list composed of, oh, the Elements, Guardian, Life, Light and Darkness, Natural World, and Physical Power mantles. Add text that manifesting is impossible while wild shaped, due to the need to concentrate on the transformation.

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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [working title][WIP]

    I'd suggest making Druid an ACF, maybe. Give up the Psywar's bonus feats and maybe some power progression for the PHB II Druid's shapeshifting.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [working title][WIP]

    Quote Originally Posted by God Imperror View Post
    Actually there are 2 versions of assassin that use psionics, there is an ACF in Secrets of Sarlona pg. 113.

    I personally like Lurk 5 / Psionic assassin 5 / Psychic Assassin 10
    Were those two significantly different?

    *grabs SoS*


    Edit: Huge difference. Correction made.
    Last edited by Kelb_Panthera; 2012-09-22 at 02:13 PM.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [working title][WIP]

    The most painful lost spells, in my opinion, are illusions. Introducing an Image power that, like Astral Construct, scales well, and reproduces the various Image spells, would handle that.

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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelb_Panthera View Post
    There will be a suggestion of turning -some- personal buffs into touch spells.

    IMO, changing them all into touch spells is just a bit too much of a departure from the norm.

    Otherwise, this is spot on.
    Which ones?

    If your guide is only going to contain vague suggestions like this that still require someone using it to go through the entire list of powers and make judgment calls, then all you'll have accomplished here is proving Ernir's point and making it obvious why his work is necessary.

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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [WIP]

    Quote Originally Posted by Answerer View Post
    Which ones?

    If your guide is only going to contain vague suggestions like this that still require someone using it to go through the entire list of powers and make judgment calls, then all you'll have accomplished here is proving Ernir's point and making it obvious why his work is necessary.
    I'll be getting to that after the more general info is provided.

    I don't use other peoples homebrew and I haven't done this sort of thing before. Have a little patience.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [working title][WIP]

    My usual solution is to be cheap and just refluff psions, psychic warriors, and wilders. Add a good cure, restoration, and resurrection spell, and everything is ready to go.
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    Default Re: How to replace vancian casting with psionics. (D&D 3.5) [working title][WIP]

    Has there been any progress on this front? It has been almost two months.
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