Saturday, August 7, 2010

OD&D Psionic Limitations

In Eldritch Wizardry, not every character may possess psionic ability. It's started early on that "All player-characters with psionic ability ... must be of human origin." Interestingly, in the AD&D Players Handbook, it's stated that dwarves and halflings may "possibly" have psionics. In both cases, though, elves are seemingly excluded from being psionic (or "psychic," as Supplement III calls characters with psionic ability). Personally, I like the limitation of psionics to only certain races, although I'd probably vary which races can be psychic from campaign to campaign.

It's also noted (in bold text, no less) that
Monks & Druids do not have psychic potential, they are therefore prohibited from becoming psychics.
Again, I can see limiting psionics to certain classes but a universal prohibition does raise questions. For example, of all the classes available in OD&D, the monk strikes me as the one that's most compatible with the notion of psionics. Indeed, many of the class's abilities strike me as conceivably psionic in nature. So why the prohibition? And why are druids unable to be psionic while clerics can? It's an oddly specific ruling. No mention is made of paladins (who, presumably, count as fighting men) or assassins, nor of classes from The Strategic Review, even though rangers at least are referenced elsewhere in Eldritch Wizardry.

Needless to say, OD&D psionics are a lot more "quirky" than even their AD&D counterparts, which is saying something. Right now, I'm trying to figure out if there's any discernible logic behind these quirks or if they're just things that are. Regardless, I'm having a lot of fun plowing through this stuff.

11 comments:

  1. Monks surely spend plenty of time on various esoteric disciplines, but presumably their energies are focused on physical mastery rather than mental.

    Druids are highly attuned to nature and the earthly realm, and have little truck with more systematized, theoretical forms of mysticism. They can't even use scrolls if I recall correctly.

    Just a couple possible explanations. Another, equally or more likely, is that the authors didn't want to add an additional layer of complexity to already complex characters (see also, multiclass demihumans). It's one thing to slap extra bookkeeping on a bog-standard Fighting Man you've presumably played a dozen times before, but another thing entirely to use it with Monks or triple-classed Elves and their additional special rules.

    Applying the "psionic class penalties" to a multi-classed character would be an epic pain in the butt - a Fighting Man/Magic-user/Cleric would lose followers, Strength, spells, and turning ability.

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  2. Applying the "psionic class penalties" to a multi-classed character would be an epic pain in the butt

    ...I see wonderful curse possibilities.

    I know you support a reading of the classes as archetypes rather than professions. This sort of thing makes me wonder, though, about the boundaries between class and race in the game - reading that neither elves nor druids "have psychic potential" is weirdly suggestive.

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  3. James, you've already answered for yourself why the monk cannot have psionic abilities. "He's already more catholic than the pope" as it were. He already is a psionic--one that channels through his body for the most part, so it makes no sense to give them even more. It's like asking why not give more magical abilities to the magic-user, after all they're magic users!

    The answer to the druid, begins by looking at the psionic creatures in the game. Su-Monsters, Mind Flayers, Intellect Devourers, malevolent entities and lords from the nine hells and the abyss. Psionics is the color from out of space, it is [i]Eldritch wizardry" more cyclopean in power and scope than even vancian magic. After all, vancian magic goes hand in hand with the great mathematicians, it is science made fantasy. Mazurian magnificient and Hermes. Rational men of numbers and books, while psionics is non Euclidian Geometry . It is Dexter Ward and gibbering mouthers, creatures that step-sideways through the universe to drive you mad.

    There's a reason opening oneself up to psionics is to invite entities from beyond the stars to swallow your soul. Men become masters of magic, yet use of psionics is a matter of when, not if, you will be driven mad when something obscene from something long ago whispers in your ear. Elven also, have no truck with this. Psionics didn't appear in Eldritch Wizardry for nothing. It's not some peace-loving-hippy-flower-power type magic. It's Eldritch Wizardry!

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  4. There could be a logic for monk & assassins: they come from Blackmoor, a world without psionics. I won't argue it's a logical logic, but why not? ;)

    Verification word: numpsyle

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  5. James, I too really like the "trading" that goes on with psionics in 0d&d. Where a fighting-man looses his potency for psionics et al. I would go further and say making pacts with a powerful outsider could increase ones psionic power (again with a sacrifice of other abilities) or even grant psionics to one who had none. A real faustian bargin. This too, screams lovecraft to me.

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  6. There's a reason opening oneself up to psionics is to invite entities from beyond the stars to swallow your soul. Men become masters of magic, yet use of psionics is a matter of when, not if, you will be driven mad when something obscene from something long ago whispers in your ear. Elven also, have no truck with this. Psionics didn't appear in Eldritch Wizardry for nothing. It's not some peace-loving-hippy-flower-power type magic. It's Eldritch Wizardry!

    It's a very interesting interpretation and one I can definitely go for. In fact, I like it a lot.

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  7. Actually, the psionicists in my campaign (psions) are very monk-like, and psionic powers are known as 'mantras' here. The classic d&d monk in my campaign is a psionic-monk, pure and simple- to distinguish from the historical monk that also exists here.

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  8. Emerikol had enslaved the demon-lord some time ago. It floated in the pentagram, it's lower half obscured by the green mists of the nether realm. Part of him was happy it's trunk was obscured. Every once in a while, what seemed like a wind swirled the fog out of the way and the demon-lords genitalia made him dizzy and vomitous.

    Emerikol decended the spiraling staircase from the 3rd level of his tower down into the dungeon below. Where the demon was. Three wishes he had already extracted from him--it? Them? Wishes Emerikol had used to increase his intelligence and wisdom in preparation for the test the demon said he must do on Emerikol's mind. They must have worked because doubts slithered into his brain like a snake through a hole in a masonry wall. He was going to take from the demon-lord an eldritch craft other than that which he had been taught since his apprenticeship. A craft that some creatures outside of the color of time had. He would be changed it said, what he would learn would scramble his brain a bit...make magic more difficult to remember, the even squares of simple spell formula will take on the shape of tesseracts--making his mind swim. Emerikol heard tales of fighting-men who, when touched by psychogenic electricity begin to behave erratically and begin to drive even their most loyal hirelings and henchmen away with their mad ramblings.

    But he was tired of studying tomes and grimoires; working by the numbers and formulae that all magic-users adhere. First read magic, then the adequate color spray, then fireball, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, stop! You're not smart enough to understand 6. No skipping out of turn! No variation! "Follow the rules" master said, "slowly and in time the magical formulae will begin to make sen...gurrgle....". Of course he didn't say, "gurrgle". That was the sound he made as the blood filled his lungs as Emerikol pulled his dagger from his chest. The day after he had successfully made his summons. If he would never be able to fathom the books that held disintegrate, death spell, bigby's forcefull hand, then he would go around them!

    Emerikol opened the door to the room. The demon-lord turned to him and laughed. It was the sound of children crying. lokiremE ecid eht lloR.

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  9. I had a psionic monk group of NPC's in a 2nd ed campaign once. They were body guards, confessors and advisors to royalty.

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  10. While I think there's a reason for this, I doubt it's Lovecraftian.

    A more mundane interpretation of the two class limitations could be that Psionics are not something that occurs as part of the natural order but is more or less a mutation. Note the complete randomness of psionic powers. It's possible the original authors saw this as a mutation akin to what you'd get in Gamma World or The X-Men, and as such, it would conflict with both the Monks nature to master personal "Chi" like abilities, and the Druids support of the natural order.

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  11. While I think there's a reason for this, I doubt it's Lovecraftian.

    Probably not but I can't blame anyone for taking the Lovecraftian angle and running with it. I'm considering doing it myself :)

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