Toward a Psionic Class

Telecanter's blog post today about psionics, and especially the  older one he references, got me thinking about the details of my own ad hoc psionic system. Not sure if this would end up Crude Simulation Engine or not. I'm thinking more of a snap-on attachment to any pre-4E systems.

I go back and forth about whether to represent characters as classes or just have a single character path where abilities are chosen a la carte. This leans a little in the class-based direction, but is pretty flexible.

Aside from a liberal dose of "middle of the road" attack, save and hit point progression for the psionic class, the class would have the following qualities:

Disciplines ≈ Spells

Trained "disciplines" and wild "talents" are represented by borrowing or slightly re-skinning divine and arcane spells of similar effect. There are a few caveats to this:
  • Psionic powers never consume material components and rarely require words or gestures to work.
  • Psionic powers last either the length of the spell-equivalent, or until the psionist's concentration is broken. Typically forced unconsciousness breaks concentration, and damage taken may cause a saving throw to retain concentration.
  • Each healing ability does one of two things, but not both:
Self healing - This is treated as normal magical healing, but only to the psionist using it. It has no effect on psionic exhaustion (see below).

Heal others - This transfers the damage from others to the psionist, who must use some other means to heal it.

Trained vs. Talented

Taking the a la carte 3.x class levels approach, characters simply acquire a level in the psionic class. Each level in the class gains one discipline or talent. Players should have a particular theme in mind regarding the origin of any powers their character acquires, but mechanically it's all the same:
Want to play a red haired wild talent? Just take one class level.
Want to play a worldless ascetic on the path to perfect self mastery? Take level after level in the class.

Exhausting Work

Use of psionic abilities literally exhausts the character. This comes in the form of non-lethal damage (as per 3.x rules this would typically heal within hours). Damage accrued upon activation is normally twice the equivalent spell level of the power.

Jumping the Power Curve

Any talents or disciplines may be acquired at any level as long as the character has sufficient hit points to produce the effect without going unconscious. Optional: For mutational or hereditary psionics, if you want the random chance to play a part in the process then you can roll to see if you have a power, and roll to see which powers you get.


For mutational or hereditary psionics, if you want the random chance to play a part in the process then you can roll to see if you have a talent. If you do roll as having a talent then you must take a psionic class level. You can then roll to see which power you get.

If you roll a talent that you don't have the hit points to use, then choose another lower level power that's roughly equivalent. Alternately keep the higher power as untapped potential and immediately take the psionic class level necessary for it to manifest as soon as you have adequate hit points.