And now we come to Psionic Combat, having already trudged through the details of how character become eligible for psionic power. I fully confess to not understanding these rules the first time I read them, but hopefully I’ll be a bit more on the ball this time around.
OK, I’m kinda sorta getting the gist of it. Basically there are two forms of Psionic Combat: that between two psionic characters, or when a psionic characters tries to use his powers on someone without psionic potential. And because this is old-school D&D, each one has a different system of resolution.
First up I need to talk about the various attack and defense modes. The attack modes are: Psionic Blast, Mind Thrust, Ego Whip, Id Insinuation, and Psychic Crush. The defense modes are Mind Blank, Thought Shield, Mental Barrier, Intellect Fortress, and Tower of Iron Will. Most D&D players will recognize those named, partly because they are rad, and partly because they’re about the only thing in psionics that has lasted through every version of the rules. Every psionic character starts with a Psionic Blast, and can gain more attack and defense modes as he gains more psionic abilities.
I’ll start with what happens when a psionic attacks a non-psionic. First up, to do this the attacker needs a Psionic Attack Strength of 120 or more. There’s a complicated formula to figure this out that involves the character’s psionic potential and number of powers. Suffice it to say that you have to be pretty strong to have a Psionic Attack Strength that high (although pretty much every single psionic monster qualifies). The defender needs to make a saving throw to resist, and there’s a chart that gives the number based on the defender’s Intelligence and the distance from the attacker. It actually resembles the Mind Flayer’s mindblast chart quite a bit, which is nice. Smarter characters have the better saves, but as we’ve seen before it’s the average scores that suffer the least from psionic attacks. Stupid characters can be killed instantly, while smart characters can be driven insane. Average guys are usually just knocked out or confused.
Psionic vs. Psionic combat is a bit more complicated. The first thing that gets dealt with is attacks on surprised individuals, and this has a chart all its own. You compare the attackers Psionic Attack Strength to the defenders Psionic Potential, and get a result ranging from a bit of damage, stunning, permanently losing all`psionic powers, or instant death. The damage is subtracted from the defenders Psionic Attack Strength, and once this is worn down it’s much more likely you’ll be killed or otherwise psychically maimed.
If the defender is not surprised, then the attacker picks an attack mode and the defender picks a defense mode. You compare them on yet another chart, and get the amount of damage scored. The only exception to this is the Psychic Crush, which has a small chance of instantly killing the defender. The person using the Psychic Crush can only defend with a Thought Shield or nothing at all, so it’s a calculated risk.
Some of the attack modes have differing effects. The Ego Whip can’t kill, but reduces its target to idiocy. Id Insinuation puts the defender under the attacker’s complete control if it is successful.
The thing I like most about psionics is that use of the powers has a downside, in that it has a chance of attracting other psionic creatures to investigate. It might seem like a good idea to mindblast those gnolls into submission, until the Mind Flayers show up to see what the hell’s going on.
Overall though, these rules seem a little too complicated for use at the table. They probably won't come up enough to become second nature, so when they do come up the plethora of tables and charts will be a major headache.