Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Update: Basic Psionics Handbook

I realized recently that it has been quite a while since my last general/public post about the status of the Basic Psionics Handbook. I figure one was due. A lot has changed since my original inception of things, but for the better. Here's a general overview of where things stand.

Underlying System Structure Updates

Based on the suggestions of a couple of key people, the individualized psionic saving throw number has been eliminated in favor of a save vs. paralysis, modified by INT. I cannot tell you how much this simplified things, while still feeling... "right".

The system now uses a very simplified PSP model where major science/minor devotion costs for the "lower 5" chakras are 3/1 respectively, metapsionic major science/minor devotion costs are 5/2 respectively, and combat modes have PSP costs ranging from 0-6 (by the strength of the ability). Conversion of monsters/PCs/NPCs from other systems is pretty simple (based on a direction conversion from Oe/1e Psionic Ability into a psionic level/PSP # combination for this system).

WIS-based PSP acquisition has also been eliminated, and is now a "flat" rate of acquisition by psionic level and class. Mystics and psionic monsters/creatures get 5 PSPs per level, and monks get 3 PSPs per level.

As a related update, the Mental Class stat is gone, and psionic combat has been simplified. What was originally a "to hit" roll followed by a saving throw, is now a simple saving throw system with no additional "to hit" roll needed.

Character Classes

The refinement on the mystic and monk classes has been small, slow, and gradual. They both feel like they are in a really good place. Most of what changed here was retention of treasure and use of magic items. However, based on some materials that Steve Marsh shared with me from his Cupric Text zine from 1977 (as well as a direct suggestion from him), I've tweaked some of the level names for the mystic.

The 7 Chakras

The first six chakras are designed to stem fairly seamlessly from the 6 established psionic disciplines. For characters of the Mystic class, they are usually accessible in order, but GMs may allow 2 alternate acquisition paths: 1) a relational acquisition, where you can only learn a chakra connected to a chakra you already know, and 2) a "wild" acquisition, where you choose any chakra at such time as you gain an additional one. Regardless of acquisition method, the third eye chakra (metapsionics) must come last.

I have added officially a seventh (crown) chakra, but only as a pathway to becoming immortal. Its abilities, therefore, are not accessible by most mortal creatures. For now, the crown chakra remains a reference to the idea and concept, but without mechanics.

The Disciplines

These have been gradually refined as issues pop up with their use. The biggest change here was going to the simplified PSP (psionic strength point) cost structure noted above.

Psionic Combat (Attack/Defense Modes)

Okay. This is the section that has been getting the majority of the attention lately.

The first key change was going to a simple save vs. the attack to avoid its effects. A failed save for non-psionic individual means a mental effect (emotion effect, confusion, stun) or hp loss. A failed save for a psionic creature means PSP loss plus the individual effects per above. The additional effect is then mitigated based on the defense mode being used against that attack.

Now!!!... My insurmountable gratitude goes to Mr. Marsh for the following comment made recently about the attack/defense mode combinations, "...you can have defense modes that work in a rock, paper scissors fashion." That's what I'd actually been trying to do, but had never thought of it in such "black and white" terms (I was trying so hard to retain the intricate subtleties of Oe/1e attack/defense mode combos that I missed the forest for the trees). This really opened the door to combat mode simplicity. If you have your 1e DMG handy, take a look at pages 76-77 and ask yourself, "Quick! What's the best defense mode for each attack mode?" Unless you've actually used psionic attack/defense modes before, it may take you a while to answer that question. Now, take a look at the chart below and ask yourself the same thing (BTW, "—" means that attack mode has no additional effect against that defense mode, other than PSP loss)...

How simple is that?! Exactly, as simple as it should be for BX/LL!!! The above system is still being tested. I'll keep you updated, but right now the prognosis seems positive.

One of the things you may notice about the table above is the slight tweak to the names of the various modes, including the addition of a new one. The old Psionic Blast is now called Mind Blast, which is its original name per the Mind Flayer entry in Strategic Review #1. This is an area (cone) attack that affects all in its path (causing hp damage). The targeted/individual attacks of Mind Thrust (which attempts to short synapses) and Psychic Crush (which assaults the neurons) have been combined into Psionic Overload (causing hp damage to an individual target). You'll also see the addition of Superego Vortex; this is another item courtesy of Mr. Marsh's 1977 Cupric Text. If you have id and ego attacks, of course there should be a superego attack! I've also refined the id/ego/superego effects based on his ideas. Id attacks unleash underlying emotions (per the illusionist spell emotion), the ego assaults the victim with feelings of inferiority (causing stun), and the superego attack challenges the value system of the victim (causing confusion, per the MU spell). Again, any of these attacks against a psionic creature cause PSP loss (on a failed saving throw).

Psionic Monsters

I haven't really had a chance to dig into these yet, but I will need to refine the combat modes per the above. However, these are really simplified from before (since there is no need for a Mental Class stat, inclusion of INT rating, etc.) Apart from the name changes of the modes, a quick look at any of the psionic-using entries from Petty Gods (e.g., the god Xumaltet), which show you how simple these listings are now.

Okay. That's all for now. More to come after my July 4th weekend testing of the new combat modes.


  1. I am really looking forward to this.
    Been picking at some Psionics rules myself for a bit.

  2. Really looking forward to this so I can supe-up my '80s Citadel Astral Raiders.

  3. Things I like:
    * More intelligible attack-defense system
    * The idea of a "secret chakra" as a non-mechanical lore element of the class
    * The retro name "Mind Blast", replacing Psionic Blast (see below)
    * Vastly less work required to find the costs of everything
    * The distinction between id and superego effects, which seems to map fairly well onto Eastern mystical categories (yin vs yang, or ida vs pingala).

    Things I don't like:
    * The overly-literal names "Psionic Overload" and "Psionic Fortress", since it seems wrong to attach the overall class name to specific abilities. That would be like calling one particular cleric spell "Clerical Protection", which counters a spell called "Clerical Attack"; it sounds too generic where it ought to be precise. I'd prefer something like "Psychic Thrust" (if it's intended as a hybrid of those abilities anyway), and to just keep the familiar "Intellect Fortress" for its counter.