Saturday, April 30, 2011

Astral Travel and Astral Combat

Dealing with psionics means that you will also need to be familiar with the mechanics of the astral plane.

The astral plane is the spiritual counterpart of the material world. It is, literally speaking, "the spirit realm". It touches the material world at all points, being co-terminus with it, but on a different "wavelength".

Creatures enter the astral plane for various reasons, most usually related to travel. Traveling astrally is the preferred method, and sometimes the only method, for reaching the planets, the stars, and far distant celestial bodies. [Functionally, these can be treated as equivalent to the "other planes" in the neo-Gygaxian worldview.]

Traveling Astrally - the Basics

People can enter the astral plane in one of two ways: 1) spirit projection, or 2) ethereal translation of their material body.

If done through method one, the projected spirit is connected to the material body by a silver cord. This is preferred for long-distance travel. The spirit body travels at essentially "the speed of thought" through the astral plane.

If done through method two, the physical body itself does the traveling, while in an ethereal state. This is much slower. The material body cannot travel any faster while ethereal than physical, and usually, is actually slower. The astral plane is more like moving through water. Because it is not solid, it is difficult to be "walked through".

Rather, while in an ethereal state, the astral plane is easiest to be "swum through" or "flown through". Thus, most creatures who travel regularly through the astral plane have wings (or develop something like the Thought Eater's web paws). [The Githyanki have perfected the art of sailing through the astral sea using the gossamer web of the Phase Spider for sails.]

Implications for Astral Combat

If done through method one, the spirit body is essentiall "naked". The only offensive combat type available would be psionic combat. The astral body is vulnerable to psionic and other attacks that directly effect the spirit body, such as the energy-drain of the undead or certain special magic weapons. The astral body is not physical at all, so it is immune to purely physical attacks.

If done through method two, equipment and magical items can be brought along into the ethereal state, and the ethereal body is vulnerable to attack. Thus, two ethereal bodies could engage in regular combat against each other on the astral plane, using both physical and magic effects. [Think of Frodo being stabbed with the ethereal sword and visible to his pursuers while wearing the One Ring.] As long as they are on the same ethereal "wavelength", they are solid objects relative to each other.

An ethereal body can change wavelength to attack a material body, in a fashion such as a Phase Spider. An ethereal body can SEE purely astral bodies, but cannot affect them without special magic items or some other "spirit attacking" ability. The Githyanki silver sword is such an object, a magic item that can sever the silver astral cord.

The base chance for an encounter on the astral plane is 1 in 20, checked three times, at the beginning, middle, and at the end of the journey.

Becoming Lost on the Astral Plane

The silver cord prevents the projected astral body from becoming lost. An ethereal body, however, can very easily get lost in the dark, gloomy, and windy astral plane. This is another reason that ethereal travel tends to be for very short distances only.

The most significant cause of becoming lost in an ethereal state involve an Ether Cyclone, which is a powerful storm version of the Psychic Wind. Basically, traveling in the astral plane is like swimming in the ocean, making the traveler subject to currents and whirlpool-like effects.

In Appendix C (pg. 181) of the 1e DMG, Gygax recommends a 5% (1 in 20) chance (for a short-hop trip) that an astral projection or ethereal journey will be disrupted by an astral current of some sort.

If Astrally Projected

1-12 --> slows travel, one additional check for random encounter

13-16 --> blown off course, lost for 2-20 days, extra check for encounter each day, then return to starting place

17-19 --> blown off course, arrives at an unintended destination

20 --> dangerous storm, save vs magic or have silver cord snapped, lost for 4-40 days, extra check for encounter each day, then return to starting place

If Ethereal traveling

1-10 --> blown off course, random direction, 12" per round of travel, one additional check for encounter

11-15 --> blown off course, arrives at unintended destination

16-18 --> lost for 5-60 days, extra check for encounter each day, then arrive at unintended destination

19-20 --> lost for 10-120 days, extra check for encounter each day, then arrive at unintended destination

What exactly is an "unintended location"?

Traveling astrally to the moon or a planet, an unintended location would be another planet within the solar system. Travel astrally to another solar system, an unintended location would mean a different solar system than the one intended.

Traveling ethereally, an unintended location would mean you land in something else's lair, such as a Mind Flayer, a Githyanki, an Aboleth, a demon, etc....

Friday, April 29, 2011

Psionics Made Enjoyable - three simple rules mods

There is no "Z" psionic monster, so to end this month-long consideration of psionic monsters, I want to go over the guidelines/rules of psionic combat, which will be necessary if you begin to incorporate these wonderful psi-monsters into your adventures.

The Benevolent Utility of Rounds rather than Segments

Famously, psionic powers take only seconds to launch, measured in attacks per segment, rather than full rounds. I strongly recommend you "house-rule" a modification on this, as that one rule causes most of the practical problems when integrating psionics into normal combat.

The biggest problems with psionic combat in segments are that
1) psionic combat, taking place before regular combat, means that your psionic PC could be knocked out dead before any real action happens, without any help possible from the rest of the party, and
2) sitting around the table, it is unfair and boring to the non-psionic players to watch the unfolding of psionic combat to the exclusion of everyone else.

Thus, I strongly recommend you "house rule" psionic combat to take place in normal rounds, along with everything else. It makes psionic easily and smoothly incorporated into the normal combat sequence.

It makes perfect sense to have one psionic attack per round. Otherwise, are we to allow the Mind Flayer to fire off 10 Psionic Blasts per round? That would not make any sense and is obviously not what the designers intended.

Psionics Attacks Handled as All Other Attacks

Logically, a psionic attack should be handled just like a magical or physical attack: 1 type of attack, 1 attack per round. In other words, in your round, you get one attack: physical, magical, or psionic.

Handling psionic combat in this manner allows psionics to be smoothly integrated into the normal flow of the game. Psionic players are no longer getting knocked out before combat starts, nor is everyone else sitting around bored. Plus, it makes sense according to the in-game mechanics.

Handling Psionics Considering Initiative

Psionics would then be subject to the same rules of initiative as everything else, as well. Let's say a monster WINS INITIATIVE and directs a psionic attack at your PC group.
--Those WITH psionic defences put up the defence of their choice, and subtract some points from their psionic total. They then get their attack.
--Those WITHOUT psionic defenses have to make a savings throw against the psionic attack.

If they succeed on their save, they "throw off" the psionic attack and get to counter-attack like normal.
If they fail their save, they suffer the ill effects as specified in the appropriate table, and probably lose their counter-attack, due to the result of the effect.

A spell caster who failed his savings throw would have his spell interrupted and ruined for that round. Passing his save, he could cast the spell as normal.

If the PCs won the initiative that round, they would get their attacks off first, magical, psionic, or physical, before suffering the psionic attack.
Dispense with table IV.B. (the Table of Certain Psionic Doom)

This table is the "Psionic Attack Upon Defenseless Psionic" table (on page 77 of the 1e DMG). The devastating effects of this table are the second leading cause of people dumping psionics from their campaigns.

Playing a psionic PC becomes very un-fun when you get down to this table, and if you meet a monster with a higher psionic point total, under the "attacks-in-segments" routine, you are pretty much guaranteed to get down to this table.

If you change psionic combat to "attacks per round", you are a lot less likely to get down to this table. But there are still some logical reasons to just get rid of it altogether.

As an alternative, if your psionic PC runs out of psionic strength points, just have him make a savings throw as a non-psionic. Really bad stuff is still possible, but it becomes far less likely.

See my savings throw tables for non-psionics versus the various psionic attacks:

Should You Divide Attack and Defense Points?

I think this is another rule that should tossed for the sake of simplicity [but you could still keep it if you did not mind the extra "accounting load" and illogic of it all].

Supposedly, if you run out of defense points, you could still attack with psionics, and could still use your psionic powers, but you would be considered "defenseless"? Frankly, it doesn't make sense. If you have psi strength left, you should be able to use it. Separating them also adds to the "complication load" due to the extra accounting and necessity of "half points". Screw it.

Instead, just keep one running tally: total strength/ability points. In other words, psionic strength is the same thing as psionic ability. That total can be used for attack, defense, or disciplines/sciences, until the points run out. Only then you are truly a "defenseless psionic". [Following this "easy button" rule also eliminates the problem of subtracting "half-points" when using disciplines/sciences.]


If you incorporate these three simple house rules into your game -- attacks in rounds, no table IV.B., and no division of strength points - psionics become a pleasurable and easily-administered element in your regular campaign. Enjoy!

Y is for Yuan Ti - A to Z psionic monsters

A race of evil, genius, psionic, demon-worshiping, jungle-dwelling snake-men... Win! Hard to beat that for a nice villain for fantasy high adventure.

They join the Duergar, the Su-Monsters, and the Gith in the ranks of humanoid-ish races that are entirely psionic.

Between their high hit points, their psionic powers, their magic resistance, their powerful physical attacks, and their genius INT, an adventure among the Yuan Ti would be VERY dangerous.

In the AZ Adventures campaign, the Yuan Ti homeland is slightly "off the map", down in the jungles of Mexico. Subject for a long-range adventure, perhaps. The interaction of the jungle-dwelling but good-aligned Coualt with the evil-aligned Yuan Ti would be a very interesting plot line to work out.

They are in the perfect location: close enough to be on the periphery of awareness, to provide small parties of wandering Yuan Ti in encounters in the main campaign area.

"Pureblood" Yuan Ti, those who look almost human, could also be found ranging the land, posing as ambassadors, perhaps, looking for areas of migration and conquest, while cultivating evil allies.

Keep in mind their polymorph-other power! They would polymorph their kidnap victims for easy transport, as well as for various other evil purposes.

For example, they could be posing as a traveling circus/menagerie. Of course, their menagerie would be polymorph victims!

Although the text only mentions "demon worship", it seems obvious to me that they are worshipers of Marilith (see here: No doubt, it was their worship of the demon snake lady which caused this group of former-humans to degenerate into their snake form, in exchange for their tremendous psionic and magic-resistant powers.

HD: 6-9
attacks: depending on form: bite, tail or weapons attack
INT: Genius
Magic resistance: 20%

Psionic Ability: 150
attack modes: Mind Thrust, Id Insinuation
defense modes: Mind Blank, Intellect Fortress, Tower of Iron Will

Special powers (human-headed only):

1x per day:
cause fear
darkness (15' radius)
snake charm
stick to snakes
neutralize poison
polymorph other

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Xag-ya and Xeg-yi - A to Z psionic monsters

Floating balls of pure energy and anti-energy, that is what we are talking about here. The idea is definitely more sci-fi-fantasy than traditional fantasy.

The 1e MM2 suggests they would be used mainly as guardian monsters, summoned to deal with theft.

They would also be cool if used as a "bodyguard" monster of some wizard, tagging along with him, operating at his beck and call.

Also, they would make a very spooky and intimidating "assassination" monster, sent by a wizard to kill his enemies.

Another nice plot hook would be to have one of these locked into a cube of force in some mad wizard's lab. Of course, it would escape, mess up the wizard in the process, and take off to float aimlessly through the countryside (or underground)...

However you use them, they would be unusual and mysterious. They have no natural ecology, and they are "mindless by human standards", meaning some sort of alien intelligence, nothing in common with us at all in terms of motivation or empathy.

HD 5-8
attacks: tendril slap or energy blast (7-12 damage)
INT: High
Magic Resistance: 15% (+1 or better to hit)

Psionic Ability:130-180
attack/defence modes: all/all

Psionic powers: none listed, but it would make sense (and make them more bad ass) to equip them with Energy Control and Telekinesis.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Random encounter table for Psionic monsters - underground, above ground, and astral

[Well, there is no W psionic monster, so today I am going with this]

The DMG recommends that anytime psionics or psionic-like spells are used, there is a 1 in 4 chance that the next random encounter will be with a psionic monster.

Here are some exapanded tables of my devising, with all 1e psionic monsters included

Psionic Encounter Tables


01-05 Aboleth
06 Agathion
07 Baku
08-11 Brain mole
12-15 Cerebral parasite
16 Couatl
17-20 Crysmal
21-24 Demon, major (type 5 or 6)
25-29 Demon, minor (type 1-4)
30-31 Demon, prince
32 Deva/Planetar/Solar
33-34 Devil, arch
35-39 Devil, greater
40-50 Duergar
51 Enveloper
52-55 Githyanki
56-57 Githzerai
58-62 Gray ooze
63 Hollyphant
64-70 Intellect Devourer
71-75 Lich
76-80 Men (human psionic)
81-84 Mind Flayer
85 Modron
86-88 Mold, yellow
89 Shedu
90 Slaad
91-94 Su-monster
95 Thought Eater
96 Titan
97 Ustilagor
98 Vagabond
99 Xagya & Xegyi
00 Yochlol

Above Ground

01-05 Algoid
06-07 Agathion
08-09 Baku
10-15 Brain mole
16-20 Cerebral parasite
21-25 Couatl
26-29 Demon, major (type 5 or 6)
30-34 Demon, minor (type 1-4)
35-36 Demon, prince
37 Deva/Solar/Planetar
38-39 Devil, arch
40-44 Devil, greater
45-46 Elemental Princes
47 Enveloper
48 Foo Creatures
49 Githyanki
50 Githzerai
51 Gray ooze
52-53 Hollyphant
54 Intellect Devourer
55-59 Ki-rin
60 Lich
61-70 Men (human psionic)
71 Mind Flayer
72 Modrons
73-75 Mold, yellow
76 Opinicus
77 Phoenix
78-80 Shedu
81 Slaad
82-86 Su-monster
87 Thought Eater
88-89 Titan
90 Ustilagor
91-92 Vagabond
93-94 Xagya & Xegyi
96-00 Yuan Ti

Astral Plane

01-03 Agathion
04-05 Baku
06-12 Cerebral parasite
13-15 Couatl
16-18 Demon, major (type 5 or 6)
19-24 Demon, minor (type 1-4)
25-26 Demon, prince
27-33 Deva/Planetar/Solar
34-35 Devil, arch
36-40 Devil, greater
41-42 Foo Creatures
43-52 Githyanki
53-59 Githzerai
60-61 Hollyphant
62 Intellect Devourer
63-64 Ki-rin
65-67 Lich
68-73 Men (human psionic)
74-79 Mind Flayer
80 Modron
81 Opinicus
82 Phoenix
83-84 Shedu
85-87 Slaad
88-91 Thought Eater
92 Titan
93-94 Vagabond
95-96 Xagya & Xegyi
97-99 Yochlol
00 Yuan Ti

The original table was confined to 1e MM:

01-05 Brain mole
06-12 Cerebral parasite
13-15 Couatl
16-18 Demon, major (type 5 or 6)
19-24 Demon, minor (type 1-4)
25-26 Demon, prince
27-28 Devil, arch
29-34 Devil, greater
35-38 Gray ooze
39-48 Intellect Devourer
49-51 Ki-rin
52-56 Lich
57-62 Men (human psionic)
63-69 Mind Flayer
70-72 Mold, yellow
73-82 Shedu
83-92 Su-monster
93-98 Titan
99-00 Triton

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Vagabond - A to Z psionic monsters

Welcome to Invasion of the Body Snatchers! Or, maybe, more like, Cocoon... I dunno, but whatever the case, a Vagabond is some kind of weird E.T. spirit that takes human (or other) form.

Vagabonds want to figure things out... They are curious, naive... They want to see new places... explore new surroundings, that kind of thing. They are like curious little children who don't understand anything, but have a zest for exploration and figuring things out.

Honestly, they sound fun to role play. I think there was a movie back in the 80's with this premise. Jeff Bridges comes to mind, but can't remember the movie title...

Another example I can think of would be the early Data character on the new Star Trek. A total oddball with no social skills, incredibly intelligent, always asking weird questions...

They might even agree to join the adventure! Oh yes, now we are talking! Because if they complete an adventure, they will even leave behind a cool magic gift! This would be a cool ally to have if you are about to send your players off on a "psionic campaign".
HD: depends on the form they take
attacks: depends on form
INT: Genius to Supra-genius

Psionic ability: 201-300
attack/defense modes: all/all

Psionic powers:

None listed, but it would be cool to give them some, stuff that really solidifies their status as "powerful alien creature", like Cell Adjustment (healing), Energy Control, ESP, Precognition, Levitation, that kind of thing

Special powers:
immunity to mind control

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Ustilagor - A to Z psionic monsters

Ustilagor.... what can we say... not exactly a classic old-school monster... To tell you the truth, before this article, I had no idea what this even looked look, having never heard of it.

From the "semi-sentient fungus" files, it looks kinda like a brain which can scuttle around like a crab... with caustic alkaline (not acid!!!) tendrils that can whip you in the face. Definitely a creative concept.

While not huge game-changers for a campaign, they definitely provide another interesting random monster encounter for the psionic adventure.

I get the definite impression these things would exist in a symbiotic relationship with some other more-intelligent monsters. Perhaps they are created or cultivated by Mind Flayers, Aboleths, Duergars, or Githyanki as some sort of guardian pets. [Later editions turned this thing into an Intellect Devourer larva... I'm not sure I'd go in that direction.]
HD: 3+3
attacks: 1 tendril slap (2-5 damage + caustic alkali)
INT: n/a

Psionic Ability: 155-180
attacks: Id Insinuation
defense: Mind Blank + immune to all but Psionic Blast

Psionic powers:
Telempathic projection: hate or distrust for associate, fear of fungi, loathing of area, uncertainty
Energy control

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Thought Eater - A to Z psionic monsters

I don't care what anybody says, this is a cool monster. Alright, admittedly, I think the problem is the picture. Some kind of weird flying duck, not exactly epic, yeah, I get that.

But when you consider this thing as an example of a creative, fun, and frankly HORRIFIC monster to throw at your players, well, it is hard to beat. If the duck-image throws you off, just change it so it looks like some bad-ass little demon-looking thing. It doesn't matter what it looks like, it is invisible in the ethereal state anyway.

--Imagine your spells just being eaten in midair... Could be a real disaster in the middle of a battle...

--Then, your head starts to get woozy and you go all glassy eyed as this thing starts feeding on your mental energy...

If you can turn ethereal, you can just wack these things to death (since they have AC 9 and no physical attacks). But if you can't turn ethereal, you could be in for a real rough time.

It has an emaciated look because, like the Githyanki, it is a physical being which spends most of its time in an ethereal state. Like the undead (and probably the Githyanki to a limited degree), it eats the spirit energy of living creatures.

Any psionic or psionic-like powers attract their attention. It will consume psionic and magical power first, and feed directly on someone's INT points if it doesn't get enough psionics or psionic-like magic energy

--Psionic-like magic is considered 5 psionic points per spell level;
-- 1 INT point equals 10 psionic points.
-- it will need to eat 101-200 psionic points before it breaks of its attack (10-20 INT points, yikes!)

You definitely want to add these nasties to your encounter tables, even if you don't have psionics per se, because they are attracted to the psionic-like magic too.

HD: 3
INT: non

Psionic ability: nil

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Su-Monster - A to Z psionic monsters

Lots of options for the "S" psionic monsters:

--I am going to pass on the Shedu, since I have done so many other "Guardian/Watcher" monsters of good alignment. The Shedu and the Lamassu are basically the same beast, mythologically speaking, btw.

--The Solar? Statting out an arch-angel.... wow, ok, that's cool.... I probably won't be using these things, since I am dispensing with the "all-powerful extra-planar gods" thing.... I could see using them as stars in the sky. Literal stars, I mean... like in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a star in human form.

--Slaad are pretty cool. They are basically just frog-demons by another name. I could see introducing one or two of them in that context.

The Su-Monster offers a nice psionic addition to the average "non-celestial/non-demonic" game. They can be used as nice wilderness or dungeon encounter for example.

As far as I can tell, they are unique in being a race of psionic animals. Basically, they are a race of psionic baboons! Come on, you gotta admit, that is pretty cool!

The one thing I don't like in their 1e MM description is the idea that they are "immune to psionic attacks". I say fie to that. If they can attack with psionics, they can also be attacked by psionics. I am not willing to put them in the same class as the Phoenix, as being somehow immune. The Phoenix, sure, he is the apex monster, literally immortal, I'll give him a pass. But a psionic baboon being immune, come on...

Anyway, the Su-Monsters like to hang from their tails and attack in ambush. Makes sense to me. First, deliver a mind attack, and when the victims is sitting there trying to figure out what the heck just happened, drop down on it and tear it to shreds with your four claws! Sounds kinda like an Intellect Devourer, really.

I can see a troop of these blighters carving out a niche in a dark, evil forest... Even the goblins and orcs avoid the area... In AZ adventure, they live mainly up in the Chuska Mountains, which is Ground Zero for the psionic monsters of AZ, nearby the Githzerai fortresses in Monument Valley, the Githyanki lairs of Canyon de Chelly, and the Mind Flayer infestation of Chaco Canyon....

They have a latent "6th sense" for detecting psionic power usage, which as always, includes psionic-like spells... Thus, these things could quickly become your stalkers if you use your powers anywhere in their domain... For that reason, they would also be used underground as guardian type monsters.

--Perhaps taking on one of these things would be a nice "initiation ritual" for a young Psionic Warrior...

--The brains of these things are also highly valued for use as magic ingredients for spells and magic items that emulate psionic powers.... Thus, there would be a definite market for the capture of Su-monsters, which is always a nice plot hook.

HD: 5+5
INT: Average
attacks: 4 claws and bite (1-4 and 2-8)

Psionic ability: 120
attacks: d6: 1-2 Psychic Crush, 3-4 Psionic Blast, 5-6 Mind Thrust
defences: Thought Shield

For the effects of these attacks on non-psionics, see:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for "Release the Kraken" - A to Z Psionic Monsters

There is no psionic monster beginning with R, so I am going to go with something a little creative today: the Greater Kraken. You gotta admit, the Kraken is an epic monster. Its appearance in any number of major motion pictures attests to that.

But there are elements of the Kraken that really intrigue me, evoking the possibility of something greater than merely "extra-giant squid":

-- INT: Genius+
--"It is said that at one time these monsters were smaller, lived in shallow coast waters, and had human worshippers who served them and brought them sacrifices."
--"It is rumored that some kraken maintain complexes of caverns wherein they keep and breed human slaves to serve and feed them."

Taken in totality, Genius intelligence, human worshippers and human slaves all imply one thing: PSIONICS.

Imagine one of these things slowly rising up out of the water, head first, until its eyes are visible, hovering above the still, dark, water...

Red, glowing, pulsing eyes, entrancing you, drawing your closer...

You stare into its eyes, while its mind works its tentacles into yours, taking over your thoughts, strangling your will to fight...

The Role of Kraken in the Underdark

These Greater Kraken are another race of tentacled slavers vying for Underdark supremacy, neutral evil in alignment.

Like the other tentacled slavers of the Underdark -- the Aboleth and the Mind Flayers -- they use their slaves as a proxy army, to wipe away their enemies (especially the hated Duergar, who can resist their psionic powers).

When not fighting to expand their kingdom, the human slaves worship the ego-maniacal Kraken, and build up magnificent temples and monuments to the glory of their Kraken overlords. Kraken slaves can also be found digging, expanding and connecting the underground seas which are the Krakens' domain.

Their power of Molecular Rearrangement is utilized to make their underdark kingdom an incredible sight to see - and full of uncountable riches - as statuary and other objects made of precious metals abound.

Their willing worshippers are often rewarded either with weapons transformed into mithral steel or adamantium (the material base for +4 and +5 weapons).

HD: 20
attacks: 6-8 tentacles (2 barbed) + bite -- 2-8 (2-12) + 5-20
INT: Genius+

Psionic Ability: 236-265
attacks: Mind Thrust, Ego Whip, Id Insinuation, Psychic Crush
defenses: Mind Blank, Thought Shield, Mental Barrier, Intellect Fortress

Psionic Powers:
Animal Telepathy, Detection of Good/Evil, Mass Domination, Molecular Rearrangement

Special powers:

at will:
airy water
faerie fire
control temperature, 40' rad.

3x per day:
animal (fish) summoning III

1x per day:
control winds
weather summoning

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Psionic Warrior class for player characters

[There is no Q psionic monster, so I am going to interrupt the A to Z psionic monster list to print out a nice playable template for the Psionic class. If you enjoy incorporating psionics in your campaign, going all out with a Psionic Warrior class player character is really a fun way to do it.]

Psionic Warrior Class

Ability Restrictions, Experience Points, and Hit Points

As in the old school 1e, the prime traits of the Psionic are INT, WIS, and CHA. In order to progress down the path of the Psionic Warrior, the PC must start with minimum scores of 13 in each of those traits, with a 16 in at least one of them.

Due to his regular training in the psionic discipline of Body Weaponry, the Psionic progresses physically and martially on the same pace as the Cleric class (gaining 1d8 HP per level, and using the Cleric combat table).

However, the exacting nature of his studies means that the Psionic Warrior 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

For hand-to-hand melee combat, the Psionic Warrior is required to rely on his Body Weaponry discipline (i.e., no melee weapons).

Psionic Warriors are allowed to use light missile weapons (darts, sling, throwing dagger). These weapons are extremely effective in their hands, as they are given subtle telekinetic guidance (+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 Warrior throwing darts 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.]

The Psionic Warrior is prohibited 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).

Class Skills

--Sensitivity to psionic power and psionic-like spells, range of 3'' per level – gained at 1st level
--Blind combat: no penalty fighting while blinded, versus invisible opponents, or in darkness – gained at 2nd level
--Immunity to surprise – gained at 3rd level

Starting Disciplines

All Psionic Warriors start out with the following psionic powers at 1st level:

--Body Weaponry
--Mind Over Body.

Starting Psionic Ability Points

Roll d100, adding 1 point to the total for each point of INT, WIS, and CHA score above 12. In addition, if 2 of these scores are above 16, the number of points is doubled, and if all 3 scores are above 16, the number of points is quadrupled. The base score (1-100) plus bonuses (1-72) are added together. The total is the psionic strength of the individual, the strength for attack and for defense. Psionic ability is double psionic strength (10-344). One–half of psionic ability is attack strength, one-half is defense strength.

Additional Psionic Ability Points per level

1d12 (maximum of 344 points)

Acquisition of Psionic Combat techniques (by level)

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

Acquisition of New Psionic Disciplines

At each new level, roll d20 for the new psionic powers gained:

01-02 none
03-12 1 minor discipline
13-19 1 major science
20 1 minor discipline and 1 major science

Choose from the list of psionic powers, or roll randomly.

Special Psionic Warrior Class Powers

At the indicated level, the following powers are gained. Powers are usable one per round, once per day. Starting at 8th level, powers are usable twice per day, and at 15th level, powers are usable thrice per day:

2nd – Detect Lie
3rd – Locate (object/animal/plant/person)
4th – Jump or Protection from Normal Missiles
5th – Charm Person/Mammal/Monster
6th – Paralyzation
7th – Spectral force or Hallucinatory Terrain
8th – True Seeing
9th – Forget
10th – Commune (with dead, with divine, with nature)
11th – Mass Charm or Mass Suggestion
12th – Antipathy/Sympathy
13th – Phantasmal killer
14th – Geas
15th – Disintegrate

(Effects of these powers are as of the spells of the same name. No verbal, somatic, or material components are required.)

P is for Phoenix - A to Z psionic monsters

The Phoenix bird, as written up in the 1e MM2, is quite possibly the APEX monster of Good alignment. Naturally, it would only be used in some high-level situations, especially against great demonic forces.

It is interesting to note that the Phoenix has the ability to polymorph self, 3x per day. Thus is added great role playing potential, as there is no guarantee the players would recognize the creature when they encounter it.

In AZ Adventures, there is a Phoenix aerie in central AZ, giving its name to the Phoenix settlement. The Applied Spellcasting University towers were built nearby to befriend and study this powerful creature, and it has a positive relationship with the head wizard located there. [Fawkes and Dumbledore, you say? Perhaps, but imagine Fawkes not as a pet,, but far more powerful than Dumbledore, and play that scenario out.]

HD: 20
attacks: beak or talons (2-12 or 1-8/1-8)
magic resistance: 50% (+3 or better weapons to hit)
INT: Genius

Psionic Ability: powers (see below), but no ability points
attacks/defences: immune to all attacks

Psionic powers:

at will:
astral travel

3x per day:
Energy control
Molecular agitation

1x per day:
Cell adjustment (20th level -- 100 hp max.)

1x per week:
Probability travel (10th level)

Special powers:

at will:
affect normal fires
audible glamer
control temperature, 10' rad
continual light
cure light wounds (limit twice per person per day)
cure disease
dancing lights
detect charm
detect evil
detect magic
dispel illusion
dispel magic
find traps
fire charm
fire shield
improved invisibility
produce fire
remove curse
remove fear, 10' radius
snake charm

3x per day:
color spray
heat metal
polymorph self

1x per day:
call woodland beings
duo dimension
find the path
fire quench
fire seeds
fire storm
neutralize poison
wall of force

1x per week:
incendiary cloud

in extremis:
double-strength fire storm/incendiary cloud

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Opinicus - A to Z psionic monsters

Opinicus are magic winged camel-lions, with a monkey-looking face. Sounds pretty wacky, but they can bail you out in a pinch.

Due to their clerical and psionic powers, they could easily be played as "guardian spirits of the deserts", to which creatures would make pilgrimage and offer sacrifice in exchange for blessings or favors. Consider them as wild Clerics of the desert lands. Like Hollyphants, they seem specially designed to combat undead and demonic threats.

Unlike the other "Sentinel/Watcher/Guardian" psionic good monsters, these guys are Chaotic in alignment, and noted to be quite mischievous. They would be fond of "testing" their worshipers, and playing jokes on those they deemed superficial or unworthy, which would definitely restrict the popularity of their cults...

HD: 7+7
attacks: 4 claws (1-3, 1-3, 1-6, 1-6)
Magic resistance: 35%
INT: very to exceptional

Psionic ability: 205-250
attacks/defenses: All/All

3-5 minor disciplines (choose from):Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, Detection of Good/Evil, Detection of Magic, ESP, Molecular Agitation, Object Reading, Precognition, Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions

1-2 major disciplines (choose from): Body Control, Energy Control, Telekinesis, Molecular Manipulation, Molecular Rearrangement, Shape Alteration

Clerical spells per day (all spells available, including turning undead):
4th level - 1, 3rd - 2, 2nd - 3, 1st - 3

Other powers:

at will:
Astral Travel

1x per turn (10 rounds)
Sun Sparkle Gaze attack (2-16 damage on undead and devils/demons)

1x per day:
Holy Word

2x per day:
Dimension Door

3x per day:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Nalfeshnee - A to Z psionic monsters

Nalfeshnee is the name of one of the powerful type 4 demons.

HD: 11
Attacks: claw/claw/bite (1-4/1-4/2-8), +2 to hit
Magic resistance: 65%
INT: Very
Psionic Ability: 150

attacks: Psionic Blast, Ego Whip, Psychic Crush
defenses: Mind Blank, Thought Shield, Mental Barrier

Special powers:

at will:
cause darkness, 10' rad,
create illusion
cause fear
levitate (1200 pounds)
detect magic
read languages
dispel magic
polymorph self
telekinesis (500 pounds)
project image
symbol of fear
symbol of discord
gate: demon (d6 for type) - 60%

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Marilith - A to Z psionic monsters

[Mind Flayers are obviously the most iconic "M" psionic monsters, but I have already done a detailed post on them,]

A Marilith is an awesome psionic monster, a demoness in fact. Unfortunately, while you are busy trying to check out her bodacious double D's, she is going to be chopping your head off with one of her six swords...

Basically, Marilith are the perfect physical manifestation of the Feminist Ideal. Let me quote directly from the 1e MM on this one:

"Lower level [males] greatly fear the domineering and cruel [feminists].... [Feminists] of this type are likely to desire the sacrifice of strong warriors to them."

See what I mean? There is more:

--They slither around looking like strippers, and they can Charm Person at will, but all they really want to do is sqeeze the life out of you...
--They are experts at looking great, making appearances, and causing sparks (polymorph self, project image, cause pyrotechnics)...
--No, you CANNOT touch them (AC: -7)!!!!
--They are, however, vulnerable to sweet talk, especially if you use their right name... ("All of these creatures have names which can be used to aid in negotiations.")
--They are chaotic evil! 'Nuff said.

Frankly, with so many attacks, with such a low AC and such a high magic resistance, combined with their psionic and magic powers, if your players don't handle a Marilith encounter skillfully, they could very easily be looking at a TPK. Your best bet is definitely to mind blast them into submission.
HD: 7+7
attacks: 6 hand weapons and 1 tail (2-8)
Magic resistance: 80%
INT: high

Psionic Ability: 130
attacks: Psionic Blast, Psychic Crush
defenses: Mind Blank, Thought Shield, Mental Barrier

Special powers:
at will:
cause darkness, 5' rad
charm person
levitate (1100 pounds)
read languages
detect invisible object
cause pyrotechnics
polymorph self
project image
gate demon (50%): type 1 (30%), type 2 (25%), type 3 (15%), type 4 (15%), type 6 (10%), lord or prince (5%)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Lolth - A to Z psionic monsters

Lolth is a well-known demoness, hardly needing introduction. Chaotic evil spider/Drow goddess, the star of her own old school module, Queen of the Demonweb Pits. The premise of that module is interesting, but invading her extra-planar lair is a bit much more most campaigns. Using a little creativity, she can be integrated a bit more seamlessly into your campaign.

Spider Invasion scenario

Imagine the local forest suddenly being overwhelmed by huge webs. Perhaps the local Elf clans send envoys asking for assistance... Perhaps the local human authorities investigate on their own.

The deeper you get in the forest, the more webs and spiders appear... Strange "dark elves" also seem to be afoot...

At the center of the forest-disturbance lies an old temple... Demonic creatures patrol the ground... A pit or cave leading underground...

Somehow, a gate down to Hell has been opened, and Lolth is staging an invasion... She seems to be intent on establishing a lair on the upper world... Our brave heroes need to shut that gate, before it is too late...

CHAOTIC Evil Alignment

The Vault of the Drow classic module was a tour de force of Underdark mapping and scenario building. I only have one big problem with it: the Drow are supposed to be chaotic. I found that the complex hierarchical society of the Drow depicted therein to be just a bit too lawful....

In my mind, a Drow society would NOT be organized that well, and the Spider Invasion scenario described above would not be well organized. I don't imagine chaotic evil armies forming. More like, a chaotic evil horde makes its way haphazardly around... With a certain amount of in-fighting and a decided lack of organization marking their progress.
HD: 16 (66hp)
attacks: 1 poisonous bite (4-16) and 1 web strand (1-4)
Magic resistance: 70%
INT: godlike

Psionic ability: 266
attack/defense: All/All

Psionic disciplines (16th level)
Minor: body equilibrium, clairvoyance, domination,
Major: dimension walking, mind bar, molecular rearrangement, probability travel

Special powers:
In spider form only:
at will:
comprehend languages
confusion (by gaze)
darkness, 10' rad
dispel magic
3x per day:
Heal self
2x per day:
phase door
read magic
shape change
1x per day:
gate (66% chance): type 1 (45%), type 2 (35%), or type 3 (20%) demon
summon spiders: 9-16 large (20%), 7-12 huge (30%), 2-8 giant (40%), 1-4 phase (10%)
true seeing

While in Drow form:
16th cleric/14th magic user (but no psionic powers):

Cleric spells per day (all spells available):
7th level - 1; 6th - 3; 5th - 5; 4th - 6, 3rd - 7, 2nd - 7, 1st - 7

Magic User spells per day (all spells available):
7th level - 1, 6th - 2, 5th - 4, 4th - 4, 3rd - 5, 2nd - 5, 1st - 5

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Ki-Rin - A to Z psionic monsters

Ki-rin are like flying unicorns with shaggy, luminous gold hair; they are striking and majestic indeed. They are incredibly powerful creatures of lawful good.

It is easy to see how these things are essentially gods of the aerial kingdoms. If you throw out the Deities and Demigods extra-planar pantheons, as I have done, going for the "primitive, naturalist" religious concept, these things are pretty much at the top of the food chain in D&D.

I think a great way to incorporate these things into the campaign would be as the "distant benefactor". Imagine a Ki-rin living on a nearby mountain top... He tends to keep the whole area cleared of evil monsters... Naturally, humans would tend to bring gifts and sacrifices of thanksgiving to his lair on that mountain top...

But then, one day, after an epic nighttime battle, with flashing lights and explosions viewable for miles around, the Ki-rin seems to be gone... Dark evil begins to stalk the land... Heroes are called to investigate the Ki-rin's mountain lair...

Or, suppose this strange, golden, flying unicorn begins to make new appearances in the area... But so are demons and devils... The humanoids and beast-men are on the move... The dark forces are gathering, and something portentous seems to be gathering momentum...

The Ki-rin lands in the middle of the town square amidst a huge lighting storm... He calls for the bravest and most valorous warriors, priests, and magicians, to ride forth immediately with him to stem the tide against the ancient foe....

Whatever it is, the presence of a Ki-rin signals something big, very big.

HD: 12
attacks: hoof/hoof/horn
damage: 2-8/2-8/3-18

Magic resistance: 90%
INT: Supra-genius
Psionic Ability: 130-200
attack/defense: All/All

4 major disciplines (choose from): etherealness, astral travel, body control (hostile environs), energy control, mind bar, molecular manipulation, molecular rearrangement, telekinesis, teleportation

6 minor disciples (choose from): cell adjustment, clairaudience, clairvoyance, detection of good/evil, detection of magic, invisibility, molecular agitation, object reading, precognition, sensitivity to psychic impressions

Spell use (18th level), per day:
9th level - 1x, 8th - 2x, 7th - 3x, 6th - 4x, 5th - 5, 4th - 6, 3rd - 7, 2nd - 8, 1st - 9 (note: sky/air related spells at double strength)

Other powers:
at will:

1x per day:
Create food, water, and Ki-rin beer, 2-24 people
create minor goods
create metal goods
create programmed illusion
assume gaseous form
wind walk
call lightning
summon weather

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Juiblex - A to Z psionic monsters

Juiblex, the Faceless Demon Lord, a nauseating and disgusting pile of sentient, poisonous slime. He can spread himself in a pool or rise up in a column, but his filthy and loathsome form will always evidence several glaring red eyes. The more you study these high-powered demons, the more fun they seem.

Psionic Random Encounters - with Demons

The use of psionics, or psionic-like spell powers, will attract the attention of psionically-powered creatures. Think of it as "a disturbance in the force".

The 1e DMG recommends (on pg. 182) that if a player has used psionic or psionic-like powers in the last turn, if a random encounter turns up, there is a 25% chance that random encounter will be a psionic monster.

According to the table, there is a 19% chance that this random psionic creature will be a demon or a devil. Thus, if psionic powers are used, there is a roughly 5% chance that the next random encounter will be with a demon or devil. Ha, now that is a pretty sweet stat.

Of course, if you are really itching to encounter one of these things, just start screaming out its name while in an ethereal state -- Gygax recommends a base 5% chance that the named demon will pay attention to the summons.

Spells Resembling Psionic Powers

astral spell, augury, blink, charm (any), clairaudience, clairvoyance, cure (any), detect (any), dimension door, enlarge, ESP, feather fall, feign death, heal, heat metal, hypnotism, invisibility (any), know alignment, levitation, plane shift, polymorph (any) remove curse, shape change, stone tell, tele- (any), temporal statis.

Basically, any power that taps into the spirit/astral plane to find information or create some physical effect is emulating psionics. I would think that gate and summons spells would also fall into that category.

This is just like Sauron, with his big flaming eyeball, being immediately able to see anytime his ring was used. That ring was like a ring of etherealness, allowing Frodo to see things also in the ethereal state, and of course, to be seen by things in the ethereal state. "Popping into" the ethereal state gets the attention of things who can see into that state.

In other words: BEWARE! When you use these astral powers, you call the attention of astral beings.

Back to Juiblex specifically:
HD: 88 hp
attacks: lashing blow (4-40 dam.)
magic resistance: 65% (+2 weapons or better weapons to hit)
INT: genius

Psionic Ability: 225
attacks/defences: All/All

Special Powers:

at will:
astral travel
circle of darkness (15' rad)
cause fear
circle of cold (10' rad)
regenerate 2 hp per round
detect invisible
locate object
dispel magic
invisibility (10' rad)
charm monster
hold monster
telekinesis (1500 pounds)
project image
phase door
putrify food & water
cause disease
speak with monsters

1x per day:
unholy word
gate (1-4 type 2 demons)

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Intellect Devourer - A to Z psionic monsters

Boy this is a classic, isn't it? A giant brain on four monstrous-looking legs, it feeds upon your dying shrieks as it psionically attacks you, then takes over your body to seek more victims. Nice.

Uh, yeah, it is chaotic evil. If I am remembering correctly, Expedition to Barrier Peaks implies that it came from another world.

This is one of those cool monsters that can sense psionic or psionic-like magic being used nearby, which then launches it into "stalk mode". They can hide in shadows as a 10th level thief, meaning a 63% base chance. Combined with their ability to go ethereal, that makes them VERY effective stalkers...

This is a GREAT monster to really screw with your players, putting them into the "hunted prey" category. Imagine them being attacked with Id Insinuation or Ego Whip from this thing while it was hiding in shadows, i.e. they had no idea where the attack was coming from... Or hit-and-run tactics, as this thing tried to pick off stray members... Trying to put out any bright lights, attacking in the dark, then disappearing when the lights come back on... Yes, this monster should be used for maximum "player terrorism" effect!

I have postulated elsewhere that ALL psionic attacks should be able to affect non-psionics, and this thing's description in the 1e MM implies as much, as it will attack your mind with Id Insinuation or Ego Whip while it jumps on you and claws you. See my tables for saves vs these attacks for a helpful resource if you decide to go with this fun house rule:
Pseudo-Undead Characteristics

Many of its characteristics demonstrate that it is a pseudo-undead monster, being a living beast but drawing power from and feeding on spirit/astral energy.

--It can go ethereal and travel on the astral plane
--It feeds on the psychic energy of pain and fear
--It takes magic weapons to hit it
--It is warded off by strong light and protection from evil

Physical combat with these things would not be fun. It takes a +3 weapon to hit them, and that only causes 1 point of damage if it hits. Yikes.

Additionally, they are immune to most magic. A fireball is just a bright light to them, and lightning bolts cause only 1 hp per die.

Clearly, outside of powerword kill, your best bet is to take this down with psionic attacks.
HD: 6+6
Attacks: 4 claws (d4 x 4)
INT: Very

Psionic Ability: 200
attack modes: Ego Whip, Id Insinuation
defense modes: Mind Blank, Thought Shield

Special powers:

Etherealness (at will)
Astral travel

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hollyphant - A to Z psionic monsters

Little tiny elephants with glowing-golden fur and golden wings. If you are good, you will have an overwhelming desire to pet them and do whatever they say. If you are evil, you will want to puke and run. That's the Hollyphant!

As far as campaign integration, they are lawful good "messengers and helpers". When you study their powers, they seems to be especially designed for wars against the undead, or against demons/devils.

Thus, they might show up to help the PCs in some hopeless battle against supernatural evil. I consider them a nice "bail out" or "special ally" monster, for when PCs are in way over their heads.

The use of "bail out/special ally" helpers is a nice way to allow your PCs to embark on adventures that are not "level-appropriate". I am a big fan of throwing PCs into the deep water, having them feel overwhelmed and harried by superior forces. You know, just like every good drama-conflict scenario we see in the movies.

Who is On Top - Good or Evil?

Think of the Transformers, for example. In the real thing, Optimus Prime is the alpha dude. But in the movie, Megatron was the alpha. Beating him would require some superhuman effort, something really clever and brave. This was the basic structure of Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars, too.

How much fun is it if you can just walk into the bad guy's lair and smack him around like your bitch? I guess that is the "Superman" model of adventuring. Since Superman is the alpha dog, the bad guys have to be the ones sneaking around and trying to survive on the sly, using their guile against superior power.

In D&D gaming, for the purposes of dramatic tension, I think it should be the opposite. That is how it is set up in my AZ Adventures milieu: a dawn of civilization environment, in which humans have to struggle to hang on. Wandering out of your fortified settlement means you are in extreme danger. Greater forces constantly threated to overwhelm you.

Integrating Helpers/Allies into the Adventure

Aside from the "last minute rescue" scenario in which the "bail out" monster shows up to prevent a TPK, the Hollyphant could also be used in a "pilgrimage to potential ally" manner as well. Like: we know a Hollyphant lives up in the mountain vale over there on the edge of the horizon, let's go see if we can find him and get his help for that war against the forces of evil who are trying to wipe us out...

Maybe the Hollyphant would come looking for the PCs! "Friends, there is a great evil approaching. I need your help to turn the tide and rid the land of this grave danger..." Nice plot hook, I would think. It would give the players a nice feel for "pawns in a larger war" dilemma. In this case, the Hollyphant would be mainly used "off-stage", controlled by the DM, popping into the PCs awareness only every so often.

Or, maybe against a high level evil opponent, such as a Demon Lord, the Hollyphant would actually join the expedition. Certainly, he would be there for any kind of "climactic battle". Maybe you could even give your players the Hollyphant as a resource to be used, like a "loaner" character to be played. You gotta admit, it would be fun to play one of these critters.

HD 8+8
attacks: two tusks (1-3/1-3 dam.)
Magic resistance: 60%
INT: genius
Psionic Ability: 201-300
attack/defence modes: All/All

Psionic Powers:

4 minor (choose from): clairaudience, clairvoyance, invisibility, molecular agitation, object reading, precognition, sensitivity to psychic impressions

2 major (choose from): body control, energy control, mind bar, molecular manipulation, molecular rearrangement, telekinesis, shape alteration

Special powers:

permanent globe of invulnerability (to 1st-4th level spells)
immunity to disease and poison
immune to non-magic weapons

at will (16th level):

banish (beware of potential backlash!!!)
detect evil (2" rad.)
etherealness/astral travel
limited telepathy

3x per day:
Trumpet blast - as Horn of Blasting, Drums of Deafening, or Sun-Sparkles (8d6+8 dam. from positive energy particles on undead or devils/demons)

2x per day:
cure serious wounds
protection from evil (1" foot rad.)

1x per day:
flame strike
raise dead
gate: lesser (70%) or greater (30%) good creature
[lesser: hollyphant, baku, lamassu, opinicus, shedu;
: deva, greater lamassu, greater shedu, ki-rin, phoenix]

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Githyanki - A to Z psionic monsters

Githyanki are psionic mega-monsters, truly epic, who are the sin qua non of any psionic campaign. Kick ass on so many levels. The 1e FF describes the nicely: "they quickly gained a reputation as powerful psionicists and deadly fighters with an instinct for violence".

I'll just put it this way: they make pets out of Red Dragons, they worship a lich-queen, and they hunt Mind Flayers for fun. Nuff said!

As I have explained elsewhere, the Githyanki are a "half-undead" race. They are living creatures with a home on the material world, but they spend so much time in an ethereal state upon the astral plane, they have grown emaciated and withered, fed mainly by the astral energy of emotion and pain.

Githyanki will be encountered in only a few ways: small/medium hunting parties, Mind Flayer hunting parties, underground lairs, or astral lairs. As we know, Githyanki prefer to live in an ethereal state in cities upon the astral plane.

However, in order to breed, they must return to their physical state. Their earthly underground lairs are their breeding grounds. The hunting parties, which emanate from these underground lairs, have two primary purposes: 1) clearing the area of any danger to their breeding quarters, and 2) acquiring food for the breeding females.

Occasionally, of course, Githyanki "adventuring parties" can be found which are questing for treasure or magic items far from their breeding pens. Usually, the purpose of such adventuring parties is related to the hunting of Mind Flayers, which appears to be some sort of rite-of-passage for the Githyanki. They might also be acquiring treasures to give to their dragon pets. These hunting parties are larger and more powerful than the other type.

HD: 1 up to 11 (see below for distribution tables)
INT: exceptional or genius
Psionic Ability: 150-250
attack/defence modes: All/All but Tower of Iron Will

Special Powers:
Etherealness, at will

Silver Swords: capable (20% per round) of cutting the silver cord that connects an astral body to the material body

Small (Food Hunting) Parties, 1-4 (d4) members (85%):
1 leader: fighter/magic user: 7th/6th level
1 guard: fighter: 4th-6th level
2 lower ranks: fighter, magic user, or f/mu, level 1-3.

Medium (Treasure Hunting) Parties, 4 members (10%):
1 anti-paladin knight: 8th level
1 fighter/magic user: 7th/6th level
1 fighter: 4th-6th level
1 trainee: fighter, magic user, or f/mu, level 1-3

Mind-Flayer Hunting Parties (5%):
1 supreme leader: fighter 11th (50%) or f/mu user 7th/8th (50%)
1 captain: fighter 8th level (50%) or f/mu 7th/6th (50%)
1 anti-paladin knight: 8th level
2-7 lower ranks: fighter, magic user, or f/mu user: 1-6 level
5% chance of 1 illusionist 6th level

Underground (Breeding) Lair:
1 supreme leader: fighter 11 (50%) or f/mu 7/8 (50%)
2 captains: fighter 8th level and f/mu 7/6 level
1 anti-paladin knight: 8th level
2 warlocks: magic user 4th-7th level
3 sergeants: fighter 4th-7th level
2 gish: fighter/magic user 4th/4th level
10-19 lower ranks: figther, magic-user, f/mu: 1st-3rd
5% chance of 1 illusionist 6th level
(2d20 females and 1d10 young)

Astral Castle Lair:
Supreme Leader: f/mu 10/8 level (75%) or 11/9 level (25%)
40 anti-paladin knights: 9th level
10-100 elite troops: fighter, magic user, or f/mu, level 4-7
100-1000 lower ranks: fighter, magic user, or f/mu, level 1-3
(100-1000 females)

***note: Githyanki society is rigidly militaristic and patriarchal. Githyanki females are barely sentient, existing mainly to please and serve the Githyanki males.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tips for Running a Good Dungeon Crawl

Some great tips for DMing an enjoyable game, shamelessly copied from here
I would also mention that these same tips apply to an above-ground campaign as well.  I think Pacing is one of the keys, and it is a live-action thing, the rest are more amenable to prior planning.
Here is what Dr. Warlock has to say on the matter:
What makes a Good Dungeon-Crawl Good? (or hopefully even Great). What makes a Dungeon an enthralling place to explore and adventure in - a suitable environment to "Fight the Good Fight" - rather than it being some boring repetitive exercise in monster bashing and door breaking . . . .

1- A Goal

The PC's need a reason to be there (outside of the obvious Treasure and Glory). A mission - often one of the three "R's" (Rescue, Retrieval, or Revenge).

2 - A "Hook" or Theme

Its important that the Creatures/Monsters have a common link - Whether it be they all work for a Villain, or come from the same (or related) families of Monsters.

3 - Style or "The Look"

When describing the environment, remain consistent. If its Medieval, keep the descriptions as such. If its Egyptian styled, don't start throwing in Renaissance Torture Chambers in - suspension of disbelief is really important during FRP games - if you break from your internal consistency, you can ruin it for your players.

4 - Pacing

DO NOT allow your players to pause for breath, keep the descriptions coming - and the encounters rapid. The minute they finish with one problem, introduce another. It seems a daft thing to mention, but the more you keep your players on their toes - the more they will enjoy it.

5 - Traps, Tricks, and Puzzles

A lot of modern DM's don't like including Traps, Tricks, or Puzzles - they find them trite or old fashioned. BUT when a Player beats/circumvents such an encounter they will be bouncing with excitement MORE than if their Character had slain the biggest of Dragons.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

F is for Fraz-Urb'luu (Demon Lord) - A to Z psionic monsters

Fraz-Urb'luu is the Demon Prince of Deception, detailed in the 1e MM2. I use him here as a specific example, but within the larger concept of demon/devil lords, whom are all psionically powered, and could be used in similar ways.

Incorporating a high level demon like this into your campaign might be quite fun. Even at lower levels, he would be a nice background figure for any campaign, directing evil minions in various nefarious schemes.

Keep in mind, demons cannot materialize on the earth without some human aid. The Demon Prince of Deception would be especially keen to deceive some hapless humans into providing him a gateway onto the earth.

They are capable of traveling ethereally on the astral plane. Thus, they could invade the dreams of the living, or cause other problems in that state. A demon lord might even stalk the land in his astral form. Animals and people with psychic vision would be quite freaked out, of course.

His presence in the land, even astrally, would cause all kinds of negative phenomena, not the least of which would be a pilgrimage of evil creatures who wanted to be in his presence or please him in some way. Naturally, some means of removing him would need to be taken if the land was to avoid desolation.

As an "astral battle" would be psionic combat, this is the perfect plot hook for a psionic campaign! Only the highest level characters could handle his physical form, but a psionic battle on the astral plane would be a great equalizer.

Fraz-Urb'luu would be an especially good candidate for the "demon invasion" scenario, because, according to the text, he was recently trapped by humans, and is not only looking for revenge, he is seeking his lost staff. A race to find his lost staff, and destroy it, would be a great plot hook.

Keep in mind, he can polymorph self at will, so he could be encountered in any suitably deceiving appearance. With his powers of illusion, suggestion, and polymorph other, he would be very fun to play for any DM who enjoyed messing with his players' heads.

Heaven help whoever is around if he attains material form, as he is by far the most physically powerful demon. He is 18 feet tall, has the most hit points of any demon (233), as well as greater strength (storm giant, i.e. STR=24), and his claw/claw/bit/tail routine causes a total of 30-64 hp of damage per round.

Note: saying his name in an ethereal state is 5% likely to catch his attention

HD: 20+ (233 hp)
INT: Supra-genius
Magic Resistance: 70% (with complete immunity to mental influence spells)
Psionic Ability: 233
attack/defense: All/All

Special Powers (20th level):

at will:
astral travel
darkness (30 foot rad.)
dispel magic
polymorph self
polymorph others
hypnotic pattern
programmed illusion
telekinesis (1000 pounds)

once per day:
prismatic spray
plane shift
power word: blind
gate: Type 1 demons (25%) or other demon lord (75%)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for Elemental Princes - A to Z psionic monsters

The Elemental Princes are some kind of arch-deities of their respective elemental planes.   The 1e MM alludes to a "boss" of each elemental type, and these characters are statted out in the FF. 
20 hd Elementals,  genius-level intelligence, highly-magically resistant, extremely low AC, high-damage dealing, evil-minded embodiments of the natural forces.  These are bad ass monsters. 
Now add powerful psionic packages.  We are talking demi-god powered evil monsters here. I postulate that these beings are the "gods" prayed to, by druids and shamans, for powers related to "elemental magic".   
I prefer my "embodied gods" like in Conan 2, when they attempt to summon that god, but it all goes awry when the virgin is not sacrificed.    Sure, it's a god and all, and everyone is all like "ahhhh, run", but Conan defeats the thing!    This is quite unlike the Deities and Demigods vision of gods, with 400 hp, 20th level in all classes, 360 psionic strength points, powers that are available "at will" with no savings throw...  Come on, throw me a bone here!  The Elemental Princes are like that god in Conan 2, strong, but defeatable. 
These Elemental Princes are basically the gods of nature.  Imagine some wacked-out priest, attempting to gate them into the local milieu... what a blessing, no? Or imagine an ambitious magic user attempting to extract some power from one of them... But suddenly he loses control, and the thing starts rampaging! 
I also postulate that these things could be in the middle of any extreme weather condition or natural disaster.  Along the lines of the ancient concepts of religion, these intelligent beings are at the CAUSE of powerful weather/elemental events.  They don't live on some "plane" far distant, they live here in the world, directing the natural forces of the planet.  
As elemental powers, they would not usually be concerned with humans.  They spend most of their time causing earthquakes, typhoons, volcanos, floods, and freezes.   A human who was "out in the elements" at that moment might encounter them, or someone could go looking for the Elemental Princes out in those elements. 
Or: A great Hero might be called upon to "save civilization" by ridding the land of one of these things.  Can't you just imagine the scene: "Be gone, Cryonax, go back to your northern wasteland, you are not welcome here!" 
Stats given in this order: Princes of Cold/Fire/Earth/Water/Air
Psionic Ability: 200/190/185/210/220
Psionic attacks/defenses: All, All
Magic resistance %: 75/85/85/70/90
Common Powers
at will: Detect Invisibility, Dispel Magic, Infravision, Know Alignment, Suggestion, Teleportation, Telepathy
3x per day: read languages, read magic
1x per day: Telekinesis (600 pounds)

Monday, April 4, 2011

D is for Duergar - A to Z Psionic Monsters

Duergar pack more punch than you would expect. Not only are they evil dwarfs, they are PSIONIC evil dwarfs! According to the book, every single last one of them is psionically endowed. That makes them quite unique in the humanoid realm, placing them on similar footing as the Gith.

They are nasty and evil in the extreme. Their HOLY MEN are dual classes ASSASSIN-CLERICS! You gotta admit, that is pretty bad ass. Of course, they love to keep slaves. They can work their way up to 9th level as fighters or assassin/clerics.

I imagine these nasty little beasties to be one of the central players in the battle for underdark supremacy, their natural psionic talent making them effective shock troops against the Mind Flayers and Aboleths, for example. It would only take small group of Duergar to overwhelm the slavers with psionic attacks alone. Those slaver races probably hate the Duergar for that reason, and so they would to organize their slave and client races to get the Duergar out of the way.

They have so many supplementary powers, they would be quite formidable opponents, not the least of which is their psionic Invisibility power. They are surprised only 1 in 10, they save vs magic at +4, and they are immune to paralysis and poison.

For illustration, let us imagine our adventurers attempt an invasion into a Duergar lair. The Duergar will be lead by a genius-level intelligence, and they are lawful, so their defenses will be well-organized.
--The 9th level leader will be able to Expand into the size and strength of a Frost Giant.
--Imagine their 9th level assassins using Reduction to drop to the size of a fly, or their psionic Invisibility (which affects the minds of up to 45 hd of enemies) to sneak up on you.
--Their 9th level assassin-clerics and fighters can cause your metal items to become blistering to the touch, to the tune of a Heat Metal spell in 2 rounds.
--Of course, they will have some nasty pet monsters guarding their lair as well.

HD: 1+2, up to 9
INT: average to genius
Psionic Ability: 71 + 2/hd
Attack Modes: Mind Thrust, Ego Whip, Id Insinuation
Defense Modes: Mind Blank, Thought Shield, Mental Barrier

Psionic Powers:
Expansion, Invisibility, Reduction, Molecular Agitation

Now, to be sure, the description actually says Molecular Attraction, but that is not a psionic power. They must have meant either Molecular Agitation, Manipulation, or Rearrangement. Given that Agitation is the only minor discipline of the three (and they only have minors otherwise), and it begins with A, I am pretty sure that is the correct one.

C is for Couatl - A to Z Psionic Monsters

The Couatl is pretty crazy if you think about it: half bird, half snake, genius intelligence creatures of lawful good who are worshipped as gods in the rainforests. It is not hard to surmise that this beast was based on the Mayan/Aztec god Quetzlcoatl. Clearly, any Meso-American campaign would benefit from the presence of Couatl.

I think most depictions of the Couatl over-emphasize its "serpent-ness". By contrast, I would tend to emphasize its "bird-ness", which highlights its 'lawful goodness' and essential friendliness. The 1st ed. classic picture of it does it no favors, emphasizing that wicked-looking snake eye staring right at you, with slithering tongue and sharp teeth, with its scaley body dropping off behind it. I imagine that if it kept its mouth shut, having large wings and covered with colorful feathers, it could easily pass for a bird with a long body.

Keep in mind, though, because they can polymorph self at will, they will most likely NOT be encountered in their natural form. To humans, they would no doubt appear as a "feather-plumed" human, with spooky-looking snake eyes and an aloof personality. If it came down to combat, we would get one of those dramatic moments when they would suddenly assume their true form before opening the can of whoop ass. They could also assume their true form in the context of the culmination of a religious ritual. Whatever the case, their polymorph self power should provide some good dramatic role-playing fodder.

The 1e MM description of its psionic powers in vague, basically leaving it up to your creativity, suggesting only 2 major/4 minor disciplines with "commensurate attack and defense modes". They are definitely NOT psionically overpowered, with one of the lowest psionic ability points of any psionic god-like creatures out there. However, consulting the relevant table in Appendix I, we see that the combination of 4 minor/2 major disciplines is actually at the top of the chart. "Commensurate" attack/defense abilities, if we follow the "top of the chart" logic, would imply they have them all, and as that makes the whole thing much easier, I'm just going to go with that.

As for filling out their power package of psionic disciplines, given that they are often worshipped by the locals, we can imagine a fairly typical and appropriate set. Powers like Cell Adjustment (healing/cure disease), Object Reading, Precognition, and Molecular Rearrangement (transmute metals) would be especially likely to draw human worshippers.

HD: 9
INT: Genius
Psionic Ability: 60-110 (50 + 10d6)
Psionic attacks: All
Psionic defenses: All

Special Powers:
Etherealness, at will
Polymorph self, at will
Spell use: d100: 01-45 --> 5th level magic user, 46-80 --> 7th level cleric 35%, 81-00 --> both
[Typical clerical package: Bless, Protection from Evil, Create Water, Know Alignment, Hold Person, Silence 15' radius, Dispel Magic, Remove Curse, Neutralize Poison
Typical magic user package: Sleep, Charm Person, Affect Normal Fires, Identify, Detect Invisibility, Locate Object, Monster Summoning 1]

4 minor disciplines (suggested choose from): Cell Adjustment (healing/cure disease), Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Detection of Good/Evil, Object Reading, Precognition, Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions

2 major disciplines (suggested choose from): Telekinesis, Energy Control, Molecular Rearrangement (transmute metals), Molecular Manipulation (weaken objects)
The Other Psionic Monster starting with C

The Crysmal (of the 1e MM2) is listed as having psionic powers, as well. As some sort of weird sentient crystalline creature, sure why not! Like some of the "sentient plants" that develop psionic powers, it could definitely throw your players for a loop.