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Psion Review/General Stuff

Posted by paradisio on July 7, 2009


First before I begin, the first part of this is a bit of a rant, if you are looking for info on the newly release 4e Class I recommend you scroll down a bit to the review heading, read on at your own risk.

Well, today the Psion was released on Dungeons & Dragons insider, a preview of the class appearing in Player’s Handbook 3. and with it rampant hatred that follows anything in D&D with the word “psion” or “psionic”. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought of the power of the mind as a very interesting thing, and one that unlike many people, actually seems fitting in a fantasy setting, just like magic. Psionics in general get extremely harsh treatment due to past editions and people feeling like they are out of genre, but from every time I sit down and talk to someone who hates Psionics the true hatred seems to seethe forth from one or two sources.

A.) Misunderstanding the Rules
B.) Horrible experience

I’m not gonna lie, psionics before 3.5 were a terrible screw up and even then players didn’t help by not following the core rules laid out for them. Even in 3.5 many DMs got the feeling psionics was rampantly overpowered because a player didn’t follow the “you can’t spend more power points than your level” rules, so PCs went around doing epic level damage and destroying the campaign, sad that so many people spoil it for the whole bunch.

The other is horrible experiences. Early editions had ridiculously overpowered psionics that many DMs and even a few players horribly abused, resulting in a lot of hurt feelings mostly due to DMs not remembering the game is about fun for everyone. I can’t comment on that really, I’ve generally left groups were the DMs and other players were that exploitative and uncaring. Really though, it’s time to get over the fact that your 1e character was killed by a psionic jerk. I’ve even met second hand people who have been told by another person how broken psionics were, so they just assumed psionics of all editions are the same (and they’re not.)

As far as people who feel psionics are out of place in D&D, there isn’t much I can say. Everyone has there own different variations or settings where they deem what is and isn’t appropriate, but those days seem to be fading with 4e for the most part, since in a way all classes are in some minor or major way magical or at least possessing extraordinary abilities. The other answer is: Mind Flayers, one of the classic D&D creatures is and always will be psionic at heart. Some players feel it’s sci-fi or something, but really if you just reflavor the class and change up some keywords it should still fit into your world even if the feel is a bit different. And at heart, both the Psion and the Wizard are both guys who just use their brains for special abilities.

In the end, after many years of trying it’s simple that some DMs will never get over it, which is a real shame, but I can only hope that if you’re one of those DMs you’ll give a player a shot if they ask to play one. Really, it’s no extra work for you as long as the player knows what they are doing. Heck, back in a 3.5 campaign, I got fed up with irrational DMs, so I rolled up a psion, called him a wizard and the DM wasn’t any the wiser for several sessions until I told him. I’m not proud of it, but I think it proves my point (it certainly did to him).

Psion Class Review

Now on to my review of the new class. As I said before, it’s a “smart guy” intelligence based class, and it’s a controller. To me the class seems like a mixture between a tactical warlord and a Wizard. Not a huge emphasis on area effects but more on abilities that give very specific advantages.

There will likely be two builds upon full release, but the preview contains only one: Telepathy Focus, which lets you have an encounter psionic communication ability and an ability that makes a creature grant combat advantage to the next person who attacks it, no attack roll and scales to multiple creatures.

Not much to say about skills, they didn’t make a “psionic” skill or anything like that. They do get ritual caster as a bonus feat just like all the other big smart guys. There’s only a few feats to start off with, the most noteworthy seems to be the one that lets you sent a “point” which I’ll get to in a minute, the other lets you use your Focus abilities twice per encounter, which seems nice. I imagine it’ll be more fleshed out upon full release.

Powers… well, time to break the news. This class doesn’t follow the power system of previous classes, and the old system of “Power Points” makes its return. Basically you spend your power points to augment your abilities. I know, I know, but it’s done right in my opinion, and trust me, it’s not some big hassle. Basically, the Psion gets NO encounter powers (aside from utility/paragon/etc.) instead it gets three at-will powers and can trade them out for better ones as his level progresses. Each of these at-will powers has two effects, each with a cost in points that lets them basically become encounter powers, in general it has one weak effect that slightly modifies the at-will and a major one that is much better. There is no scaling on any of the powers (they never scale to 2d8 or whatever at 21st level), and you can only augment a power once, the end. It’s extremely simple, please take a look at it if you can before making any harsh judgements.

“But Para, this makes them broken, they get a ton of encounter powers!” No, you’re wrong, I said take a look, didn’t I? Actually, compared to any other class the Psion gets LESS, yes that’s right. He only ever has 3 at-will powers that can be augmented to encounter level strength, and at high levels you know how many times he can actually do that to his highest level power? Twice with some change, or roughly half the number other classes get. It makes up for it with two things: better at-will powers and versatility. He only has three at-will powers that can be made really strong, but he also has three other abilities as well as the unaugmented at-wills, giving him a lot of options in any given situation. As well, his base at-will powers do seem a bit above the curve compared to other classes, making sure he’s still useful in the situations where others are still burning their own encounter powers.

People have also raised concerns about Psions hanging on to low level powers and spamming them considering they cost cheaper power points to augment, and yes, this is potentially an issue, but a player has to go out of their way to do this, and I really see no reason to stop them, they would probably be better off augmenting a higher level power than being repetitive.

As far as the actual point reserve goes, you get at most 17, a number you should be easily able to manage with a D20 or your noggin, really it’s not much of a hassle, I promise, and 17 is probably a high number most players will ever see. Seriously, If your DM doesn’t trust you enough to manage it yourself and complains about the additional workload, I recommend you move on to another group.

Anyways, it still get daily and utility spells. It currently has two paragon paths: Cerulean Adept and Uncarnate, both give 2 additional power points. Uncarnate is my favorite of the two, focusing on being incorporeal, hitting incorporeal things and making things incorporeal, in the latter case by killing them. The Cerulean Adept on the other hand is kind of an anti-aberration paragon path and has some interesting abilities as well. Unlike normally, these do grant encounter powers which can also be augmented, but they only have one options.

I look forward to the rest of this class and the inevitable “psionic power” sourcebook, although it looks like we won’t see those for several more months.

I’m pretty pleased with the class and it’s interesting change on the powers system, I just can’t wait to see more, and I hope I have convinced you to give psionics a second chance. Sorry if this was a bit ranty, it’s a sore spot of mine.


One Response to “Psion Review/General Stuff”

  1. […] other blogs have commented on the Psion playtest.  I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about […]

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