Sunday, March 21, 2010

New Gen Psionic Class based on Old School Psionics

Why psionics? Because they are cool. Probably the most under-utilized aspect of D&D, but definitely worthy of updating into OSRIC.

The main problem with psionics is their extreme rarity, always considered a supplement, or tucked away in an appendix.

They were extremely random and therefore rare: in the original rules, you had a base 1% chance of rolling them up if your character had a high INT, WIS, or CHA.

Some of it also seems rather out of place in the typical dungeon-crawl campaign. Hypnosis, read object, precognition, molecular agitation... who cares, right? The fact is, it was almost never encorporated in the standard published adventure modules.

But when you dig into it, there is some pretty cool stuff tucked away: shape alternation, energy control, probability walk, body weaponry! Ok, now that is some cool stuff, and psionically-powered characters are a regular feature in many of the most popular fantasy settings (Jedi Knights for one prime example, along with Professor X and Jean Grey/Phoenix of the X-Men, for another, Harry Potter's occulmency lessons for yet another).

What is the logic of this psionic power, and how can it be encorporated into a fantasy campaign? While the combat powers of the Psionic are formidable and interesting in their own right, I believe the inclusion of Psionics offers a breathtakingly wonderful addition to the wide-scope, character-developing, holistic fantasy campaign.

What follows is an attempt at standardizing and expanding the use of psionic power. On the one hand, all the basics of old school psionics will be kept. In AD&D 1e, psionic powers are more or less random in power and scope. Psionic powers can be grafted onto a character from any class, and the innate power score and psionic disciplines are stable and unchanging throughout the PCs life unless removed by injury. The basic logic was: you are born with it, and there is nothing you can do to expand it. That part of the game has been left basically untouched, and there will always be a place for the "wild, untamed' psionic in the world, especially as NPCs with random minor psionic disciplines (fortune tellers who can tell the future, folk psychics who can remote view and read the history of objects, royal counselors who can read thoughts, shady merchants/thiefs/assassins who are adept at hypnosis, the "lucky" gambler relying on secret telekinetics, etc). In addition to flavoring a wide variety of NPCs, PC's can continue to attain these powers in the traditional random way, played then as a Fighter/Mage/Cleric/etc with some cool supplementary psionic powers.

My main contribution has been the reimagination of the Psionic adept as a character class, someone who is born with a certain skill in these realms, who then devotes his life to exploring and explanding them. Thus, over time, like hit points, greater psionic power points are acquired, and like spells, more psionic disciplines can be acquired.

The Logic of Psionic Power

At their root, the Psionic is an adept of the deepest secrets of the laws of existence. At its deepest level, the universe is Mind, or Logos, and the psionic learns to plumb the depths of the Logical Mind. The Psionic approaches the deep root point at which all magical, clerical, druidical power are originated. Whereas clerics depend on the gods to provide their power, and mages capture discrete packets of universal power through long study and formula, Psionics directly tap that power through the subtle coordination of their own mind with the Universal Mind, which is to say, the physical and mental laws of the universe itself. Because they tap the universal power directly, psionic power unleashes instantaneous effects not depedent on any sacred words, magical ingredients, arcane gestures, or external powers.

Psionics in the Campaign

Due to their combination of high intelligence, wisdom, and charisma, Psionics are born to rule. There is no alignment restriction on Psionics, but it has been remarked that many of them seem to "go bad", embracing heavy handed tactics on the masses, whom they come to view as farther and farther beneath them. Lawful Psionics tend to be empire-builders, often starting out as trusted advisors to great rulers, also frequently seizing power for themselves, if their superior vision and guiadance is not recognized and followed. Chaotic Psionics tend towards becoming great explorers and scholars, world- and even plane-hoppers, braving danger and challenge out of the pure joy of freedom and discovery.

Psionic Apprenticeship

The Psionic begins his career with minimal psionic power, as an apprentice to a Psionic master. The Psionic master, usually a family member (as these powers tend to run in the blood), is responsible for breaking down the apprentice's old mental structures, in order to free his mind from its natural limitations. Such process involves various techniques, such as extreme deprivation (leading to visions and out-of-body experiences), injestion of psychotropic substances like datura or jimson, and lots of telepathic manipulation. The average person would simply have their mind ruined by this process, but due to their strong natural abilities, the Psionic adept comes out of the process with new strengths and skills, rudimentary (1st level) psionic disciplines to be expanded and strengthened throughout his career.

Ability Restrictions, Experience Points, and Hit Points

As in the old school 1e, the prime traits of the Psionic are Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. In order to progress down the path of the Psionic adept, the PC must start with minimum scores of 15 in each of those traits, and bonuses accrue for high scores in those areas (5% XP bonus for INT+WIS+CHA total of 49-51, and 10% bonus for INT+WIS+CHA of 52-54). Although his gifts lie in the mental realm, due to his regular training in Body Weaponry, the Psionic progresses physically and martially on the same pace as the Theif class (gaining 1d6 HP per level, and using the Thief combat table). However, the exacting nature of his studies means that the Psionic uses the Magic User XP table for advancement, and acquires weapon proficiencies at the same rate as Magic Users (1 per five levels)

Armor, Weapons, and Class Skills

For hand to hand melee combat, the Psionic is required to rely on his Body Weaponry discipline. The Psionic class is prohited from wearing any armor, and always seeks to carry the absolute minimum encumbrance possible (even scrimping on necessities like food, water, and blankets, relying on his mental disciplines instead). The Psionic can use only light missile weapons for combat (darts, sling, throwing dagger), but those weapons are extremely effective in his hands when combined with his telekinetic guidence (+1 to hit per level, +0.5 points damage per level, 1 psionic strength point expended per throw). Thus, for example, a 10th level Psionic throwing darts with telekinetic guidance is +10 to hit and +5 damage, as his darts always seem to be thrown with great force and find their mark in deadly places.

Blind combat (fighting in complete darkness, etc) is a special skill of the Psionic. It is considered a skill, not a discipline, so it does not use up any psionic strength points and can be used simultaneously with psionic disciplines (such as Body Weaponry). The skill is gained starting at the 2nd level, and the Psionic can engage a number of creatures equal to half his ability level (rounded down) while fighting blind. If multiple creatures attack, the Psionic becomes aware of them in the order they attack, and the ones beyond the Psionic's limit get suitable bonuses for their attacks upon an unseeing victim. The ability only extends to immediate bodily attacks within a 10'' range.

For example, Marvo the Magnificient, a 5th level Psionic, is ambushed in a completely dark cavern by a group of four goblins. Marvo is able to track the first two goblins who rush in to attack, but the second two are considered unseen. After dispatching the first goblin, Marvo is then able to track one of the others, the one phyically closest. Supposing one goblin pulled back out of his 10'' proximity, Marvo could then track the remaining one. After dispatching those two goblins, two more goblins arrive at the cave mouth. Marvo would not be able to track the crossbow bolts they fire at him. Note, however, that while in hand-to-hand combat with an opponent within the 10'' range, if that oppenent pulls up to deliver a missile attack (such as stepping back to throw a knife), the attack would still be tracked by the blind combat skill (as Marvo would be fully aware of the opponent pulling up and throwing). Note: a creature who is Mind Barred is cannot be tracked with the blind fighting skill.

Sensitivity to Psionic Power is also a class skill, starting at 1st level. The range of the sensitivity is 30'' per level, as is perceived much like sound is heard by the average person, automatically as a matter of sense, not requiring any psionic strength point usage. Thus a 9th level Psionic would be able to immediately feel the vibrations of psionic power (from combat or discipline use) anywhere within a 270 feet radius indoors, or 270 yards outdoors, along with their general strength and direction. Note: certain spells used by other classes emit psionic-like power, and those are felt by a Psionic as well (without being able to tell if the origin source is a spell or psionic power).

Immunity to Ambush is also a class skill, starting at 3rd level. Keeping a low-level radar-scan of the immediate surroundings becomes second nature to a Psionic, making them immediately aware of any strong intentions directed at them. This prevents them from being attacked under surprise conditions. Note: this skill does not prevent mutual suprises from occurring. For example, if a party of Bugbears is strolling down the hallway unaware of the Psionic's presence, the Psionic would have no advanced warning if they accidently bumped into each other coming around the corner. Also note: the Psionic cannot automatically detect a Mind Barred ambusher.

Psionic Dicipline Acquisition

The Psionic starts out with 6-9 (1d4 + 5) 1st level disciplines, with Sensitivity to Psionic Power, Body Weaponry, and Telekinesis required as three of those starting disciplines. Addtional disciplines are acquired by level as follows:
2nd: 6-9 (1st level max), 3rd: 5-8 (2nd level max), 4th: 5-8 (2nd level max), 5th: 4-7 (3rd level max, Astral Travel required), 6th: 4-7 (3rd level max), 7th: 3-6 (4th level max), 8th: 3-6 (4th level max), 9th: 2-5 (5th level max), 10th: 2-5 (5th level max), 11th: 1-4 (6th level max), 12th: 1-4 (6th level max), 13: 1-4 (6th level max), 14th and up: 1-3 (any level).

Thus, a Psionic is limited to first level disciplines in his first two experience levels. At the third level of experience, the Psionic gains 5-8 (1d4 + 4) new disciplines, and he can now choose from the second level disciplines as well as the first. At the 14th experience level and above, the Psionic gains only 1-3 (half of 1d6) new disciplines, but can choose from the 7th power level or anything lower.

Bonuses are given for high INT+WIS+CHA score: 49-51= +1 discipline per level, 52-54 = +2 disciplines per level.

Psionic Strength Points and Psionic Combat

Acquisition of psionic strength points depend upon INT+WIS+CHA score, up to a maximum of 344 points:
45-47: 1d10 + 10
48--50: 1d12 + 10
51-53: 2d8 + 10
54+: 2d10 + 10

Psionic Combat technique acquisition by experience level:
1st - Mind Blank
2nd - Mind Thrust, Thought Shield
3rd - Ego Whip, Mental Barrier
4th - Id Insinuation, Intellectual Fortress
5th - Psychic Crush, Tower of Iron Will
6th - Psionic Blast

Psionic combat is conducted according to the tables in the 1e DMG, with one exception to the original rules: strength points are in one pool, as a total, not divided in half between offensive/defensive sub-totals. As long as psionic strength points are available, the Psionic can attack and/or defend, one pool won't run out before the other.

Psionic Combat rules: Psionic can choose to attack & defend, or defend alone, in every round of psionic combat. An undefended suprise attack is not possible, as a Psionic will always have the opportunity to reflexively and instantaneously throw up a defense against psionic attack. However, attacking/defending is not possible at the same time as discipline usage. Thus, a surprise psionic attack will be automatically defended, but would cause a discipline that was being performed at that time to abruptly fail. For example, a Psionic using Levitation to rise up a tall cliff, attacked Psionically, would immediately begin to fall. Or: a Psionic using Possess to control a dragon, would lose control of the dragon while defending from psionic attack. Naturally, the previously-possessed dragon might awaken to its senses with a certain animosity towards the Psionic... [A famous Master Psionic of old, one Elron the Mind Bender, who ruled an ancient empire with an iron grip, was fond of keeping a pet Tyranosaurus Rex in his garden as an impressive symbol of his majesty, until one day a visitor appeared and engaged Elron in a psionic duel while he was taking his "little Rexy" for his morning walk... The stranger, later rumored to be a mischievous demi-god, disappeared a few seconds after Elron the Mind Bender was devoured in one bite by the giant angry lizard, right in front of his stunned -- and shortly thereafter, terrified -- subjects... Most Psionics have avoided keeping large dangerous beasts under semi-permanent possession since Elron's time, although the practice will still occasionally be seen...]

Psionic combat, while not debilitating, is highly distracting. If forced to engage in physical combat and psionic combat simultaneously, the Psionic is -3 on all to hit rolls, opponents are +3 to hit, and any DEX bonuses are lost.

Psionic Disciplines

There are five general categories of psionic discipline: 1) mental communication and control, 2) mind over body, 3) mind over matter, 4) psychic sensitivity, and 5) psychic projection and travel. Abilities in each category start out weak and tentative, but grow more powerful.

Psionic Disciplines by Level

1st level: Body Control, Body Weaponry, Charm, Confuse, Detect Good/Evil, Detect Invisible Creature, Detect Magic, Dispell Exhaustion, Emotion, Empathy, ESP, Hypnosis, Invisibility, Mind Over Body, Molecular Agitation, Molecular Manipulation, Precognition, Sensitivity to Psionic Power, Telekinesis

2nd level: Body Equilibrium, Cell Adjustment, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, Detect Lie, Dominate, Fumble, Jump, Mass Charm, Mass Confuse, Mind Bar, Molecular Control, Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions, Shield, Sleep, Suggestion, Telepathy

3rd level: Astral Travel, Blind Navigation, Detect Living Creatures, Forget, Hallucination, Hold Creature, Molecular Rearrangement, Object Reading, Possess, Push, Pyrokenesis, Summon,

4th level: Aura Alteration, Detect Illusion, Detect Invisible Objects, Expansion/Reduction, Feeblemind, Locate Person, Mass Dominate, Mass Hallucination, Suspended Animation

5th level: Commune with Dead, Contact other Plane, Energy Control, Exorcise, Levitation, Mass Possession, True Seeing

6th level: Antipathy/Sympathy, Commune with Divine, Commune with Nature, Dimension Door, Etherealness, Geas, Stone Tell

7th level: Dimension Walk, Disintegrate, Hallucinatory Terrain, Probability Travel, Shape Alteration, Teleportation

Psionic Discipline by Type

Communication and Control: Charm, Confuse, Dispell Exhaustion, Emotion, Empathy, ESP, Hypnosis, Invisibility, Detect Lie, Dominate, Mass Charm, Mass Confuse, Mind Bar, Hold Creature, Sleep, Suggestion, Telepathy, Forget, Fumble, Hallucination, Possess, Summon, Feeblemind, Mass Dominate, Mass Hallucination, Commune with Dead, Contact Other Plane, Exorcise, Mass Possession, Commune with Divine, Commune with Nature, Geas, Hallucinatory Terrain

Mind Over Body: Body Control, Body Weaponry, Mind Over Body, Body Equilibrium, Jump, Aura Alterteration, Expansion/Reduction, Suspended Animation, Levitation, Shape Alteration

Mind Over Matter: Molecular Agitation, Molecular Manipulation, Telekinesis, Cell Adjustment, Molecular Control, Shield, Molecular Rearrangement, Push, Pyrokenesis, Energy Control, Antipathy/Sympathy, Disintegrate

Psychic Sensitivity: Blind Navigation, Detect Good/Evil, Detect Invisible Creature, Detect Living Creatures, Detect Magic, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, Locate Person, Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions, Object Reading, Detect Illusion, Detect Invisible Objects, True Seeing, Stone Tell

Psychic Projection: Astral Travel, Locate Person, Dimention Door, Etherealness, Dimension Walk, Precognition, Probability Travel, Teleportation

Discipline Power Progressions

Simple minded creatures are easier to manipulate than more advanced creatures, so the following spells require additional minimum experience levels in order to work on the specified targets:

Level 1 Disciplines (Charm, Confuse, ESP, Invisibility): insect/reptile/fish - 1st, animal/bird - 2nd, persons - 3rd, monsters - 4th, plants - 5th

Level 2 Disciplines (Dominate, Fumble, Mass Charm, Mass Confuse, Sleep, Sugguestion, Telepathy): insects/reptile/fish - 3rd, animals - 4th, persons - 5th, monsters - 6th, plants - 7th.

Level 3 Disciplines (Forget, Hallucination, Hold Creature, Possess, Summon): insects/reptile/fish - 5th, animals/birds - 6th, persons - 7th, monsters - 8th, plants - 9th.

Level 4 Disciplines (Feeblemind, Mass Dominate, Mass Hallucination): insects/reptile/fish - 7th, animals/birds - 8th, persons - 9th, monsters - 10th, plants - 11th.

Level 5 Disciplines (Mass Possess): insects/reptile/fish - 9th, animals/birds - 10th, persons - 11th, monsters - 12th, plants - 13th.

Discipline Definitions and notes

as defined in 1e Players Handbook appendix:
Astral Travel, Aura Alteration, Body Equilibrium, Cell Adjustment, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, Body Control, Body Weaponry, Detect Good/Evil, Detect Magic, Dimension Walk, Empathy, Energy Control, ESP, Expansion/Reduction, Hypnosis, Invisibility, Levitation, Mind Bar, Mind Over Body, Molecular Agitation, Molecular Control, Molecular Manipulation, Molecular Rearrangement, Object Reading, Precognition, Probability Travel, Sensitivity to Psionic Power, Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions, Suspended Animation, Telekinesis, Telepathy, Shape Alteration, Teleportation

-- Antipathy/Sympathy: as magic user spell of the same name, requires 6 strength points

-- Blind Navigation: PC uses psychic energy emanating from non-living material as a guide to blind movement (in conditions of total darkness, etc). Movement is at half normal rate. Limitation: in an area that no living creature had been to before (unexplored caves), this discipline would not be possible. Requires one strength point per turn; pre-requisite discipline: Sensivity to Psychic Impressions

-- Charm: as magic user spell of same name, requires 1 strength point, target gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Confuse: as magic user spell of same name, requires 1 strength point, target gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Commune with Dead: as magic user spell of same name, requires 5 strength point per round, first round must be used to establish connection to specified dead person (5% chance per experience level), one yes/no question answered per round thereafter, maximum of five questions per deceased person, only one communication with specific dead person per year

-- Commune with Divine: as clerical spell of the same name, requires 6 strength points per round to contact a known deity, successful contact based on 5% chance per experience level, note: contacted deity may or may not be happy to be contacted, depending on nature of contact and random factors.

-- Commune with Nature: as druidic spell of the same name, requires 6 strength points per round, base chance of successful commune equal to 5% times PC's experience level, one one attempt per area per day, one piece of information per round revealed upon successful commune

-- Contact other Plane: as magic user spell of same name, requires 5 strength point per round; allows contact with one named creature on another plane of existence. Note: creature contacted may or may not be happy about being contacted, depending on the nature of the contact and other random factors

-- Detect Illusion : as magic user spell of same name, range 40''; requires 4 strength points

-- Detect Invisible Creature: allows PC to detect the presence and direction, but not the exact location, of any invisible living creature in his immediate vicinity (20'' radius range); countered if creature is Mind Barred; requires 2 strength points

-- Detect Invisible Objects: allows PC to detect the exact location of any invisible object in his immediate vicinity (20'' radius range), requires 4 strength points

-- Detect Lie: as cleric spell of same name, requires 2 strength point per round; target can only prevent with Mind Bar

-- Detect Living Creatures: scans in one direction (east, west, up, down, etc.) up to 30'' range per level, for evidence of living creatures. PC will know the number and type of life forms in that direction after 1 round of scanning. Requires one strength point per round.

-- Dimension Door: as magic user spell of the same name, requires 6 strength points

-- Disintegrate: as magic user spell of the same name, PC must be able to tuoch the object, requires 7 strength points per object, target gets saving throw vs psionics, pre-requisite discipline: Molecular Manipulation and Molecular Rearrangement

-- Dispell Exhaustion: as magic user spell of same name, requires 1 strength point

-- Dominate: as magic user spell of same name, requires 2 strength point per round, target gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Emotion: as magic user spell of same name and as Telempathic Projection defined in 1e PH

-- Etherealness: as magic user spell of the same name, requires 6 strength points per round

-- Exorcise: as cleric spell of same name, removes possession of a creature's mind; requires 5 strength points, successful exorcism based on 5% chance per experience level

-- Feeblemind: as magic user spell of same name, requires 4 strength point, target gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Forget: as magic user spell of same name, requires 3 strength point, target gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Fumble: as magic user spell of same name, requires 2 strength point per round, target gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Geas: as magic user spell of same name, works only on intelligent creatures. Minimum PC level required: persons - 11th, monsters - 12th, sentient plants - 13th; requires 6 strength points per level/HD of target, target gets saving throw

-- Hallucination: as illusionist spell of same name, requires 3 strength point, target gets saving throw vs psionic, if successful, targetted individual will suffer programmed hallucination for 1-6 turns

-- Hallucinatory Terrain: as illusionist spell of the same name, but based on programmed hallucination in targets' minds; requires 7 strength points, targets gets saving throw vs psionics at the highest individual score within the targetted group, if successful, target group will be lost within hallucinatory terrain for 1-6 turns

-- Hold Creature: as magic user spell of same name, requires 3 strength point per round, target gets saving throw vs psionics or is help immoble until released

-- Hypnosis -- works only on intelligent creatures: Minimum PC level required: persons - 3rd, monsters - 4th, sentient plants - 5th; requires 1 strength point per level/HD of target, target gets saving throw

-- Jump: as magic user spell of same name, requires 1 strength point per jump, pre-requisite discipline: Telekinesis

-- Locate Person: requires a personal possession of the person to be located; successful location of person's physical body is based on 5% chance per experience level, plus 10% for an extremely intimate personal object (like their personal diary or wedding ring), minus 10% for a non-intimate personal object (like a shirt they wore once). Location requires 4 strength points and 1 turn, times the following distance category: same town x1, same district x2, same geographical region x3, same country x4, same continent x5, same world x6; if located successfully, PC can also determine whether person is dead or alive, which requires double the previous strength points, and if dead, PC can determine what plane they went to (or if soul is trapped in this plane), which requries quadruple (x4) the previous strength points used. Note: someone who is alive but whose soul is trapped on another plane, must be located bodily before the plane the soul is trapped in can be identified. An unsuccessful attempt cannot be attempted on the same object, but location can be attempted again on another object of equal or greater intimacy. pre-requisite disciplines: Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions and Astral Travel

-- Mass Charm: as magic user spell of same name, requires 1 strength point per round, target gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Mass Confuse: as magic user spell of same name, requires 1 strength point per round, target gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Mass Dominate: as magic user spell of same name, requires 4 strength point per round, targets gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Mass Hallucination: as illusionist spell of same name, requires 4 strength points per round, targets get saving throw vs psionics

-- Mass Possession: as magic user spell of same name, requires 5 strength point per round, targets gets saving throw vs psionics based on highest score in the target group

-- Possess: as magic user spell of same name, requires 3 strength points per round, target gets saving throw vs psionics

-- Pyrokenesis: the telekinetic ability to move fire. The size of the fire cannot be increased or decreased, it must be set and grow on its own. This discipline allows the Psionic throw the fire that already exists through the air, to catch other things on fire or to harm an enemy. Damage is based on the size of the original fire, from torch-sized (1d4), to fireplace sized (1d8) to bonfire-sized (1d12) to house-sized (5d8). The use of pyrokensis does not put the source fire out, nor can it be used to extinguish flames. Nor does it affect magical fires. Requires 3 strength points per round. pre-requisite discipline: Telekinesis

-- Push: as magic user spell of same name, requires 1 strength point, pre-requisite discipline: Telekinesis

-- Shield: as magic user spell of same name, requires 1 strength point per round, pre-requisite discipline: Telekinesis

-- Sleep: as magic user spell of same name, requires 2 strength point, target gets saving throw vs psionics, if successful, target sleeps for 1-6 turns

-- Stone Tell: as magic user spell of the same name, although the stones reveal their information only to the Psionic's mind; requires 6 strength points per round (one bit of information per round), pre-requisite discipline: Read Object

-- Suggestion: based on Telepathic Projection, defined in 1e PH

-- True Seeing: as magic user spell of same name, requires 5 strength points per round

Editorial notes

Anyone who has ever contemplated turning Psionics into a class immediately confronts the problem of the traditional usage of slot-based limitations on spell power and spell acquisition. The problem is that psionic power was originally defined by strength points, which were necessary for psionic combat, and the use of psionic disciplines subtracted from those strength points. There is really no way to rid the system of strength points without completely reformulating the whole concept.

So, I have grafted the idea of level progressions into the disciplines where applicable. Some disciplines were specifically defined as starting at first level and gaining power with each level-up, those disciplines I left as level one disciplines. For disciplines not specifically defined, I penciled them at a reasonable power level.

I then mined the spell lists of the other classes for psionic-like powers and added those to the list, placing them at a reasonable level.

Certain other obvious extensions of power presented themselves to mind which would technically be new disciplines, which I also added to the list: such as Pyrokenesis based on telekinetic control of fire.

Finally, certain implications of powers came to mind, and I included them, like Shield and Jump mirroring the magic user spells but based on telekinetic power, Disintegrate based on molecular control power, Blind Combat based on psychic awareness.

Other less obvious extensions of power seemed reasonable as well, such as:
Blind Navigation and Detect Invisible Object are higher level extensions of the Sensitivity to Psychic Impresssions ability.
Stone Tell as an high-level extension of the ability to Read Objects, with Antipathy/Sympathy as the high-level ability to intentionally leave psychic traces on objects.
Commune with Nature as a high-level extension of the ability to communicate with plants

Mental communication and control encompasses the majority of Psionic disciplines. Creatures with simple mental processes are easier to understand and control than creatures with complex and foreign mental processes. Thus, insects, fish, and reptiles and be affected easier than animals and birds, which are easier than persons (humans, demi-humans, and humanoids), which are easier than intelligent monsters. Plant life, even sentient plant life, is sufficiently subtle and foreign to be considered hardest of all for Psionics to understand and manipulate. As Psionic power grows, the ability to charm, confuse, hold, summon, dominate, and possess becomes more sure, and can be extended to masses of creatures. Eventually, even the ability to mentally communicate with creatures on other planes becomes possible.

Mind over body disciplines also grow in complexity and power as the levels progress, so that the what begins as a slight hardening of the skin at first level becomes skin as hard as iron at high levels. Abilities progress from walking on water to floating on air, growing or shrinking the body, to a complete shape shift at the highest level.

Mind over matter progresses in difficulty from the warming of objects and starting of fires, to being able to change the elements withing an object, to complete disintegration of objects.

Psychic sensitivity starts with simple detection of good/evil or magic, to being able to read the faint psychic residue on objects or even whole areas, to eventually being able to implant psychic messages on the objects themselves.

Psychic projections range from clairaudience and clairvoyance, to astral travel, to etherealness, to dimension doors and physical teleportation. Precognition, the ability to project oneself into the variable possibilites of future events, grows in power and accuracy as well.

If you think I've dropped the ball on any of these developmental or theoretical schemes, let me know.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why Old School AD&D Gaming?

I have recently had the opportunity to return to Dungeons and Dragons for the first time in a LONG time. My last gaming was late elementary school and junior high, and it as all first edition stuff. I still had all my books and modules in a crate, which I had dutifully carted along with me through all these moves across the country...

Anyway, one of my good buddies is an active gamer, and he has been gaming forever, and has all the books from all the editions since. So I got a chance to look them all over, as we tried to decide what edition we wanted to game out of. All I can say is, yikes, things have gotten weird. And not in the good way!

The things that jumped out at me:
--Massive complexity. Good grief, specializations and loopholes for everything.
--The aesthetic has gone all comic-bookish. I mean good lord, does every orc now look like the Incredible Hulk?
--Use of "she" as the neutral pronoun? Blech!
--Multi-culti madness: illustrations full of minorities, lots of chicks, and White samurais... WTF???
-- Seriously dumbed down writing. Seeming target audience, what, a stupid 10 1/2 year old?
-- Halflings now an outgoing, warlike, nomadic race? WTF?

Anyway, I could go on... Needless to say, the latest editions are abominations.

The more I read up on what happened, the more it became obvious that it all began in the 2nd edition. Not really bad until 3rd edition, but it clearly began in 2nd. Just perusing the ability tables, with scores up to 25... the superhumanization of PCs had been sanctioned. So many specializations and proficiencies, yup, the drive for maximal complexity blooming...

Screw all that. Return to the source, insert floppy in drive A, time to reboot.

When I found OSRIC, I was like, sweet! Its like somebody edited and rearranged AD&D, so its all like, logically organized and stuff... I know, crazy idea, huh! The only potential organization they missed, that I could tell, was not having a specific section in the monster list for Insects. Otherwise, brilliant all around.

To me, old school gaming is all about freedom, imagination, and fun. The rules were fairly simple because the focus was on fantasy, and any necessary rules or modifications could be made up on the fly. Keep it simple, use your imagination, no need for battlemats and five thousand rule exceptions.

Especially now as an adult, most of the fun is in the role playing, the acting, the puzzles and paradox, the spectacle, the mystery, the on the fly negotiations with the DM... Keep it loose man! Get'r done! Incidentally, these are also the aspects that my 13 year old daughter finds most appealing too.

And let me just add for the record: the game is a product of European cultural and history. There is an entire body of our people's imaginative heritage wrapped up there, that has connections to countless novels, fairy tales, and ancient myths, culminating even in such contemporary movies as Harry Potter. Don't screw with it! Our fighters are based on Vikings, our wizards on Merlin, our clerics and paladins on King Arthur's court, our mileau on Medieval Europe, with castles and guilds and dragons and vampires. There's a reason the monk class seems so stupid and out of place! In short, don't get all multi-culti with this great cultural heritage. Its our People, its our myths, its our game, keep it that way. 'Nuff said.