Saturday, March 21, 2009

S&W Psionics, Part II

Here's the section on psionic combat I promised. I'm a bit ambivalent about it, as it stands now, so I'd appreciate criticism that would improve it. I want it to remain fairly simple to use and I want to keep psionics as a side show by default, meaning that it never overshadows either melee or magic. Ideally, though, it should be easily changed to work as a substitute for magic in certain kinds of settings, so keep that in mind too.

I'm also toying with changing the number of power points available by level, since, as written now, psionic combat would be difficult for low-level characters to engage in for very long. That's by design, but I do worry it might be too hard as written. Once again, comments and suggestions are welcomed and encouraged.

The material in the quote box below is hereby designated Open Game Content via the Open Game License.

Psionic Combat

In addition to employing psionic powers (see below), psionic creatures can also engage in psionic combat with one another through the use of psionic attack and defense modes. Psionic combat functions similarly to melee and missile combat, with an attack roll made against a target's psionic armor class (PAC). If successful, attacks deal damage that reduce the target's current psionic power points, just as melee and missile attacks reduce the target's hit points. If psionic power points are reduced to zero, the psionic creature may no longer use psionic attack/defense modes or psionic powers. Such defenseless psionic creatures are even more susceptible to psionic attacks than are non-psionic creatures, as noted below.

Psionic Attack and Defense

All creatures, psionic and non-psionic alike, have a base psionic armor classs of 9. The creature's Wisdom bonus (if any) affects the PAC. Psionic attacks are treated as if made by a first-level character, meaning that a roll of 10 or more on 1D20 is necessary to succeed against PAC 9, adjusted by the character's Intelligence modifier (if any). A character's Charisma modifier may apply either to PAC or the attack roll, at the discretion of the player. The modifier may be shifted between the two on a combat-by-combat basis, but not within a single combat.

Like melee and missile combat, creatures engaged in psionic combat must select “weapons” and “armor” for the occasion. Each round, players must choose an attack mode and/or a defense mode from among those available to their characters, provided they can pay the power point cost for using them. Power points are expended before the attack or defense is used, regardless of whether they prove successful. However, once activated, they may be maintained without any cost for the duration of the psionic combat. Activating a different attack or defense mode, however, requires the expenditure of power points, as does re-activating modes formerly maintained.

Some attacks are more effective against certain defenses than are others. The following chart shows the bonus or penalty to the psionic combat attack roll.


Empty MindIntellect FortressMental BarrierThought ShieldTower of Iron Will
Mind Thrust-36145
Ego Whip1-2-1-33
Id Insinuation-21-4-10
Psychic Crush-5432-3
Mind Blast30-3-2-1


All psionic attack modes suffer a -8 attack penalty against non-psionic creatures, except for mind blast, which gains a +4 bonus. Conversely, all attack modes gain a +8 attack bonus against psionic creatures who no longer possess any power points.

Attack and Defense Modes

Unless otherwise stated, all attack and defense modes affect only a single creature at a time. Likewise, a psionic creature can always raise a defense mode as a reaction in response to a psionic attack mode, even if he or she has already acted in the round, unless the creature no longer possesses any power points. Such a reaction requires the expenditure of power points, as usual, however.

Ego Whip

Attack Mode

Range: 8ft

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 3

An ego whip targets the “I” or self and, overwhelming it with negative or vicious feelings that inhibit its ability to function properly. As such, this attack mode is only usable against a sentient being. A successful use of an ego whip deals 1d6 points of power point damage to a psionic target, while non-psionic creatures are stunned for 1d4 rounds.

Empty Mind

Defense Mode

Range: Self

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 1

This defense mode induces a low-level meditative trance in which the mind of the creature using it becomes less distinct from the world around it.

Id Insinuation

Attack Mode

Range: 120ft

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 3

Id insinuation attacks a target's basest instincts, freeing them temporarily from the control of his or her higher psyche in order to induce confusion. A successful use of this attack mode deals 1d8 points of power point damage to a psionic creature, while non-psionic creatures are stunned for 1d6 rounds.

Intellect Fortress

Defense Mode

Range: Self

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 5

This defense mode summons the strength of the higher psyche to create a powerful bulwark against psychic attack.

Mental Barrier

Defense Mode

Range: Self

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 3

This defense mode draws on innocuous, repetitive thoughts to shield the mind against unwanted intrusions.

Mind Blast

Attack Mode

Range: 40ft.

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 9

This attack mode blasts the minds of all creatures in a 40-foot cone with mental energy, dealing 1D12 points of power point damage to a psionic creature. A non-psionic creature is more susceptible to mind blast than to other psionic attack modes. On a failed saving throw, a non-psionic creature is stunned for 3d4 rounds.

Mind Thrust

Attack Mode

Range: 60ft

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 1

This attack mode shapes mental energy into a “psychic blade” with which to “stab” the mind of the target. This deals 1d4 points of power point damage to a psionic creature, while non-psionic creatures are stunned for 1 round.

Psychic Crush

Attack Mode

Range: 25ft.

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 5

This attack mode uses neural impulses to assault the target's mind, thereby rendering mental activity more difficult. A successful attack deals 1D10 points of power point damage to a psionic creature, while a non-psionic creature is stunned for 2d4 rounds.

Thought Shield

Defense Mode

Range: Self

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 1

This defense uses ephemeral, surface thoughts to protect the mind from attack.

Tower of Iron Will

Defense Mode

Range: Self

Duration: Immediate

Power Point Cost: 5

This defense mode harnesses a creature's determination and mental resilience to fashion a psychic barrier so powerful that it can protect other creatures, psionic or not, within a 10-foot radius around the user, who gain the full benefits of this defense mode as if they were using it themselves.

16 comments:

  1. I like these psionic abilities and the way you have pieced them together. Is there room for expansion into non-combat psionic powers (telekinesis, pyrokinesis and anything else rambling around that is an "other than combat" ability)?

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's what's coming in Part III. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very cool. I like it a lot.

    Very simple, but still has that veneer of complexity to it along with the old names that sit just right.

    Looking forward to part 3.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I posted a reply as a blog comment since I wanted to use a table. Man, blogger sucks at tables.

    ReplyDelete
  5. James,

    Your psionic combat system looks pretty close to the original, at least in intent. Although, thankfully, it is much more playable in execution.

    I'm not sure about the attack/defense table, however. It seems as "random" as the original, but I'm not sure that is a good thing. I know I revised it heavily when I was first using the EW rules in an attempt to make it more playable (and sensible to players using it), but I can't find my old chart at the moment.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I posted a reply as a blog comment since I wanted to use a table.

    Good suggestions. I may incorporate them into the next revision.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I know I revised it heavily when I was first using the EW rules in an attempt to make it more playable (and sensible to players using it), but I can't find my old chart at the moment.

    If you can find it, let me know. I'd love to rationalize the system a bit so long as it remains true to the spirit of the original.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Just poking my nose around to see if Part III was ready. Do you happen to have this in MS Word?

    Pardon me if I'm being too pushy!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Part III isn't yet completed, partially because I'm busy with other stuff and partially because I'm rethinking a few aspects of Parts I and II. I will get around to completing it, but it may be a while still.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Any thought about getting back to this James?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes, I do plan to get back to it but not soon. The problem is that many of the psionic disciplines have no clear OGL counterpart, meaning I have to re-invent them through some other means and that takes time.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Just FYI: I got kind of inspired the other day when my mind turned to Dark Sun. I've started posting some ideas on running it with Spellcraft & Swordplay, including a psionics system.

    [http://wheel-of-samsara.blogspot.com/2009/08/dark-sun-fiendish-way.html]

    ReplyDelete
  13. That's awesome. I think I like your take better than my own, honestly.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Cheers very much, James. I don't really know why, but this Dark Sun thing has really inspired me.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dark Sun was an awesome S&S setting strangled by an ill-conceived novel-driven metaplot. I can completely understand its appeal.

    ReplyDelete
  16. The funny thing is that I had no idea what it was before a few years ago, so that I fortunately avoided all that novelization stuff.

    But I find it weird that my Hypernotus setting didn't inspire me as much as DS. Ah well. I hope to get this stuff done soon and playtest.

    ReplyDelete

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