Tuesday, March 17, 2009

S&W Psionics, Part I

Here's an early -- and rough draft -- of the basic details of the Swords & Wizardry psionics rules I'm working on. The mechanics are a mix of ideas from Eldritch Wizardry and my own thoughts, plus material derived from the 3.0 D20 SRD (not v.3.5). Comments and suggestions are welcomed at this stage, particularly with regards to making the system more customizable to differing assumptions about psionics and their power. Nothing is yet set in stone, although I'm happy with the general outline I've got here.

Part II will consist of the psionic combat rules. Part III will be the psionic powers themselves. Because of their length, I may not post them directly to the blog but instead make them available in PDF form on a website somewhere.

This isn't formatted very well, so please no complaints about the lack of proper tables.

Determination of Psionic Abilities

In campaigns where psionics are permitted, any character with a score of 13 or more in Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma may potentially possess these abilities. Roll 1D20. If the result is 19 or 20, the character possesses some form of psionic potential. Generally, this roll is permitted only once, at the character's first appearance in a campaign, but referees may permit additional rolls, as they see fit (upon gaining a level, being exposed to psychic energy, surviving a psionic attack, etc.).

Psionic Potential

Each psionic character has an inherent potential to develop psionic powers (see below). This potential is either a bonus or a penalty to his or her dice rolls to acquire specific psionic powers. To determine this potential, roll 2D6 and consult the following table:

Dice Roll Psionic Potential

2-4 -1

5-8 0

9-10 +1

11-12 +2

Psionic Powers

A roll of 19 or 20 on 1D20 indicates that a psionic character has developed a specific psionic power. The range of the roll is modified by the character's psionic potential bonus or penalty. For example, a character with a psionic potential of +1 develops a psionic power on a roll of 18, 19, or 20, while a character with a psionic potential of -1 develops a psionic power only on a roll of 20.

If the dice roll indicates they have gained such a power, the player rolls randomly to determine his or her initial power, using the charts below. Characters may develop an additional psionic power every time they gain a level, at the usual chance, as modified by their psionic potential.

Psionic powers are divided into basic and advanced powers. A character's initial psionic power must be a basic ability. Subsequent powers may be either basic or advanced, but no character may ever have more advanced powers than he or she has basic ones (though they may be equal in number). Re-roll any contradictory dice results.

Psionic powers are also divided into disciplines. Some referees may require that characters develop one or more powers from the same discipline as their first power before developing powers from other disciplines, but, by default, there is no necessity for this. On the other hand, some powers have class restrictions by default, but individual referees may choose to ignore them in their own campaigns.

Attack and Defense Modes

There are five psionic attack modes and five psionic defense modes. These modes are like specialized psionic powers whose use pertains only to engaging in psychic combat. When a character develops psionic powers, he or she gains immediate access to the first attack mode (mind thrust) and the first defense mode (empty mind). Thereafter, characters gain an additional attack mode every time they develop a total of three psionic powers; they gain an additional defense mode every time they develop a total of psionic powers. Thus, a character with four psionic powers would have two attacks modes and three defense modes. Both attack and defense modes are learned in order, according to the list below.

Psionic Power Points

Psionic powers and attack/defense modes use power points to manifest. The power point cost of each is listed in its description below. Power points, once used, cannot be restored until the character has a chance to meditate without interruption for a period of time (exact length and details determined by the referee). The number of power points available per day is as follows:

Level Power Points

1 2

2 6

3 11

4 17

5 25

6 35

7 46

8 58

9 72

10 88

11 106

12 126

13 147

14 170

15 195

16 221

17 250

18 280

19 311

20 343

By default, “level” in the chart above equals character level. However, in campaigns where characters may develop psionic powers after first level, the referee may choose to track psionic ability separately from character level. In that case, “level” refers to their psionic ability level.

17 comments:

  1. It seems as if you're giving a really hig percentage of characters in the campaign the ability. 10% of all those with one of 3 characteristics above 13? Are you presenting psionics purposefully so pervasive?

    ReplyDelete
  2. 10% is the default in Eldritch Wizardry, so that's my starting point.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for sharing this.

    My initial thought upon reading this:

    If INT/WIS/CHA over 13 influence the possibility, then the values of the highest should determine the potential, not a random 2d6 then a random d20.

    Attribute value
    13: -1
    14-16: 0
    17: +1
    18: +2

    For instance, if Bobs WIS is 13, INT is 14, and CHA is 16, then Bob gets a +0 on the check. Janes WIS is 17, INT 10, CHA 13, then Jane gets a +1 on the psi power check.

    Just my .02. I can easily see how my interpretation would easily bolt in over your random table. So if you were looking for adaptability, you've got it already.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Most intriguing. And nice to see something in complete form that I've always ever gotten in bits and pieces before.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very nice start. I do hope that any monks (like from Ruins & Ronin)that come along are allowed a chance at psychic abilities, as they weren't in Eldritch Wizardry. I can easily see an iron monk using mystic psychic powers.

    I have found the old Bard Games Arcanum as a great source for levels of psychic power; I used to just drop the notion of mystics being spellcasters since they really weren't in the context of the game anyway and made them psychics and allowed monks from that game the some of these abilities.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The only thing that I'm worrying about right at the moment is that it appears you're going to the same place with Psionic Combat that AD&D and then AD&D 2e went, something that got needlessly complicated: hopelessly so at certain points. There was a chart late in the game that was . . . well . . . ridiculously complicated to govern psychic combat.

    If you're going essentially ground up here with Eldritch Wizardry as a baseline, my suggestion would be to drop attack modes and defense modes entirely and resort to something more akin to physical combat instead. A person can roll on a psychic attack chart against a target's mental AC. Characters could gain bonuses to hit and AC based on how high above 13 the three scores were (i.e., a WIS 15 might give a character +1 Mental AC while a 15 INT might grant a +1 Mental Attack or mental damage).

    Or, since you don't like emphasizing high ability scores, it could be based again off the number of previous powers gained.

    Or both maybe.

    In short, I'm only saying that keeping mental combat from evolving into a side game might be desirable. Making it similar if not identicle to physical combat gives you consistancy and ease of learning for the new folks, and it makes it just a little simpler on the ref.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi,

    Beyond being very ionterested in the system, I would like to cast my vote with Chgowiz as far as the interplay of the Ability bonuses and the Potential modifier.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm going to ruminate over this and post fuller thought over on the development blog. My very initial reactions are that you have nicely captured the feel of the thing without using the same mechanics.

    I was thinking along similar lines with Chgowitz at first, but I'm less sure on second thought.

    But I definitely want to see the Modes in there since that's a large part of what makes Psionics distinct.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Just my .02. I can easily see how my interpretation would easily bolt in over your random table. So if you were looking for adaptability, you've got it already.

    That's a very nice optional rule that I may well steal for the final version.

    The system as it currently stands exists for two reasons. First, to harken back to Eldritch Wizardry. Second, to downplay the importance of having high stats. I toyed with making the stats matter more and rejected it. That said, I do like what you've done here and think it's a good alternative.

    ReplyDelete
  10. In short, I'm only saying that keeping mental combat from evolving into a side game might be desirable. Making it similar if not identicle to physical combat gives you consistancy and ease of learning for the new folks, and it makes it just a little simpler on the ref.

    FWIW, I am toying with making the mechanics of psychic combat very similar to the mechanics for melee/missile combat. The trick is finding a way to do that without losing the flavor of OD&D psionics.

    ReplyDelete
  11. But I definitely want to see the Modes in there since that's a large part of what makes Psionics distinct.

    I agree. I know some people don't like them and that's fine, but the default presentation of psionic combat will use them. I'll try to present ways of using the system without them for those who have issues with modes, but that may take some work.

    ReplyDelete
  12. James, I am really liking what I am seeing so far. And as psionics have been a major part of my D&D games since I snapped up one of the first copies of Eldritch Wizardry to arrive in San Antonio, I'm a bit picky. So far you are doing a great job of converting EW style psionics to S&W.

    Once you get the rules finalized, I'll try to convert some of my EW-era house rules for psionics to fit. Those may help people who do not like some aspects of the standard EW system.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've never palyed with psionics in my D&D game and doubt I ever will. But it's certainly interesting to see what other people are doing.

    ReplyDelete
  14. FWIW, I am toying with making the mechanics of psychic combat very similar to the mechanics for melee/missile combat. The trick is finding a way to do that without losing the flavor of OD&D psionics.

    I understand that, but I think you've managed that already with how psionic potential is determined and how powers are gained. In many things, when it comes to writing out generic rules, I'm a great fan of simplification. Maybe that's a task for another project, though.

    Looking forward to the next step.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Once you get the rules finalized, I'll try to convert some of my EW-era house rules for psionics to fit. Those may help people who do not like some aspects of the standard EW system.

    That'd be great. It's been a long time since I've seen any psionics house rules.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Maybe that's a task for another project, though.

    Perhaps but I appreciate the feedback nonetheless, because I'm of multiple minds on many aspects of the system anyway. Ultimately, what I'd like is to have created a system that works roughly the same even if one referee dispenses with this element or adds that element. I don't know if that's possible, but it's my goal.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is interesting. VADLO comes to mind, it is a science powerpoints search engine. There are good research cartoons also.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.