As many of you know, for the last year-and-a-half or so, I've been working on a psionics adaptation for classic editions of the game (BX/LL). Throughout the process, I've been lucky enough to remain in contact with Steve Marsh, one of the original contributors of psionics to D&D, and I've gotten a great insight on the process for the development of psionics in OD&D.
The gist of the story/process is this...
Before Steve worked at TSR, he would mail things to Gary. One of the things Steve sent was a concept for a mystic character class (based on the tradition of Indian mysticism). This was envisioned as a standard character class that would gain additional mystic powers as they rose in level (much like a MU). [These abilities would inform the majority of the standard psionic disciplines from OD&D.]
Separately, Gary was developing a psionic combatant class—the devine. The devine had attack and defense modes (though I can't speak to how they changed as the devine rose in level). [These modes are obviously the foundation for psionic combat.]
The most interesting insight is the following (based on a comment Steve made a couple of weeks ago on one of my blog posts in reference to the editorial process on Eldritch Wizardry):
"It should be noted that Tim (Kask) got everything as sheets in a large bowl and told to work with it. He did amazing work given the conditions. As for where material came from, Tim would get clues when Gary would put the credits together..."Yes. Tim had a literal BOWL on his desk that Gary would dump things into as work in progress. [Steve mentioned to me that the "WIP bowl" is something he himself only learned of last month when talking to Tim Kask at the recent NTRPGCon.]
Finally, Tim Kask brought a lot to the psionics party in the forms of the charts and tables. From a Dragonsfoot.org post in 2007:
"I LOVED psionic combat and had great fun devising it with all of its tables and charts. Apparently I was in the tiny minority. I guess mental combat was too esoteric for most D&Ders; not enough of them shared my fondness for the Dr. Strange Marvel comics and Mindflayers."So here's my interpretation of the formula for how psionics developed for OD&D:
[(Marsh Mystic + Gygax Devine) × Kask Bowl] ÷ (Gygax Input + Kask Editing) = OD&D psionics.
[On a related note, the illustration that appears at the top of this post is by F.Y. Cory from a Frank Baum book titled The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale, Founded Upon the Mysteries of Electricity and the Optimism of Its Devotees (1901, Bowen-Merrill). I'm thinking the Cory illustration may be the image that appears on the title page of the Basic Psionics Handbook.]