Monday, May 07, 2018

AD&D Players Handbook part 57: Appendix I - Psionics

And now we come to one of my least-favourite aspects of D&D, psionics.  I'm fine with them in certain settings, like Dark Sun, but get 'em outta my vanilla fantasy.  I'd rather not have them in Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms, but they're in the rules so they'll be in my Ultimate Sandbox.  I can't exclude stuff just because I don't like it.

It looks like psionics are restricted to humans, and possibly dwarves and halflings.  A character must have an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma of 16+ in order to test whether they have any psionic power.  Those characters with scores of 16 only have a 1% chance, but that chance is a little bit higher for those with stats of 17 or 18.  I think the best chance a starting character can have is 10%.

If a character has psionics, they then roll 1d100 to determine their psionic strength.  Bonuses are added to this roll based on the character's Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma, ranging from 1 (for a character with a 16 in one stat) to 72 (for a character with 18 in all three).  The number is doubled to determine "psionic ability", and half of that total is used for psionic attack and the other half for psionic defense.

Attack Modes
There are five psionic attack modes, and a psionic character randomly determines how many of these they have access to.
  Psionic blast is a cone with a 6" range, and it's the only attack form that works on non-psionic foes. It's weirdly described as being like "stunning news" to the brain.  This to me suggests it would only be mildly startling, but something tells me it's probably more devastating than that.  In a somewhat familiar refrain, the actual effects aren't given.  Gotta wait for that Dungeon Masters Guide, folks!
  Mind Thrust affects a single foe, shorting their synapses.
  Ego Whip also attacks a single foe, attacking the ego either with feelings of worthlessness or megalomania.
  Id Insinuation pits the uncontrolled subconscious mind of the target against their super-ego.  We're getting into some real Freudian stuff here, but don't ask me what the actual effect would be because  have no clue.
  Psychic Crush tries to destroy every neuron in the target's brain, and it can only be defended against by Thought Shield.  So not only Freud, but with neurons we have some modern medical science.  The only thing to conclude is that certain theories were developed on Greyhawk earlier than they otherwise would have been due to magical research.

Defense Modes
Again, the number of defense modes a character can use is determined randomly.
  Mind Blank tries to hide the mind from attack by making it undetectable.
  Thought Shield tries to cloak different parts of the mind from attack.
  Mental Barrier builds a "thought repetition wall".
  Intellect Fortress calls forth the defensive powers of the ego and super-ego.  It can be extended to protect those within 10 feet.
  Tower of Iron Will uses the super-ego to build an unassailable fortress.  It can be extended to protect those within 3 feet.

Psionic Combat
Those in psionic combat can't do anything else, but because each exchange takes a single segment it probably won't matter.  I do balk a little bit at that.  I mean, when there are two guys in psionic combat, do they resolve ten actions for every one taken by the other PCs?  Doesn't that hold up the game a bit too much?  It probably doesn't come up too often, but I could see it getting annoying.
  Anyway, at the start of each exchange, each combatant chooses their attack and defense forms, lowering their psionic strength based on those chosen.  The attacks and defenses are cross-referenced on a chart to see what happens.  You guessed it: that chart is in the DMG.  It's no wonder everyone says that the 1st edition DMG is the best one, it has the whole bloody game system in it.  Multiple psionic creatures can combine their powers to increase their range, and their psionic strength.  If a creature runs out of psionic strength to defend with, they're open to all sorts of nasty effects that aren't in the PHB so I can't write about them.
  Psionic strength points are recovered more quickly than hit points, at a rate of 3 per hour when walking and up to 24 per hour when sleeping.

Use of Psionic Powers
There's a bit here about psionic powers and spells that create the same effects (such as ESP) attracting psionic monsters, but it says that it only happens when such monsters are within range and "attuned to such activity" whatever that means.

Psionics in OD&D
Psionics in OD&D were only open to humans, and were much more dependent upon character class than the system in AD&D.  Druids and monks were forbidden from learning psionics, but any other character with an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score of 15+ had a 10% chance of having some psionic ability.  Each class had specific penalties for gaining psionic power; for example, a magic-user lost spell slots with each ability, and a fighter lost Strength and followers.
  Characters with psionic potential had a 10% chance per level of gaining a new ability, so that at 2nd level they'd have a 20% chance, and so on until they had a 100% chance at 10th.  Abilities gained were randomly determined.
  The attack and defense modes in OD&D were the same as those in AD&D, but psionic strength was determined by the number of psionic powers possessed rather than ability scores.  The ranges for the various attack modes were notably longer.  It's hard to say how else psionic combat differs between the two though, because we don't have the complete AD&D rules yet.
  Probably the biggest difference between the two editions is that the psionic disciplines available to a character in OD&D were very much dependent on their class.  There are some restrictions in AD&D as well, but in general more of the powers can be used by everyone.
  I also just noticed that PCs in OD&D were heavily penalised for gaining psionic powers.  Fighters lost followers and Strength, thieves lost Dexterity, magic-users lost spells and clerics lost spells as well as weakening their turning ability.  None of that made the transition to AD&D.
  The two editions seem close enough that I don't think I'd need much of an explanation when doing the transition from OD&D to AD&D.  It might just be a difference in the way that psionics are taught, or a subtle shift in the Astral Plane.  I won't need anything major, if I do an edition shift with psionics at all.

Psionic Disciplines
The number of disciplines a character knows is randomly determined.  The disciplines are split between minor and major.  1st level character can only know one minor discipline, but they earn another one every two levels until they hit the maximum.  Most psionic disciplines grow more powerful as their possessor gains in level.

Minor Disciplines

Animal Telepathy: The character can communicates with mammals, but as they gain levels new types are added, such as reptiles, arachnids, monsters and even plants.
  In OD&D, this ability was only available to clerics.  It had the same advancement in types of animals that could be spoken to, but the levels needed is pretty much double in AD&D, i.e. you could talk to plants at 7th in OD&D and at 14th in AD&D.

Body Equilibrium: Allows a character to adjust their weight to walk on water, mud, sand, or to float down like feather fall.
  Magic-users couldn't use this ability in OD&D.  In AD&D it costs 1 psionic point per round, but in OD&D it could be used for an hour per level, so the duration has been greatly reduced.

Body Weaponry: Allows the caster alter their molecules to use their body as weapons or armor.  AC varies depending on character class, and both become more effective at higher level.  It's not clear if this actually makes the character metallic, or just really dense.  Magic-Users can't use it.
  In OD&D, only fighters and thieves could use this ability.  AC seemingly kept getting better with no cap (it stops at AC 0 in AD&D), and weapon equivalents went all the way up to longsword +5 (AD&D only gets to +4).  There's also a bit saying that a character can use the best possible weapon equivalent he has when Weapon Type vs Armor is in play.

Cell Adjustment: The user of this ability can heal wounds and cure diseases.  Clerics are the best at this, and thieves are the worst.
  Only clerics had this ability in OD&D.  It took 2 psionic points to heal 1 hit point in OD&D, which might be the same as or double that of AD&D.  (I'm not sure, because AD&D says that the cost comes from psionic points used for attack and defense.  I can't find an equivalent rule in OD&D, so they're probably the same, but if it's there somewhere then it's doubled.)  The OD&D ability was limited to once every 24 hours, but had a higher total amount that could be healed at one time.

Clairaudience: It's like the magic-user spell, with a 30 foot range.
  Clerics couldn't use this ability in OD&D.  It also increased in range at higher levels, whereas in AD&D it stays at 30 feet.

Clairvoyance: It's also just like the magic-user spell, but with a 20 foot range.
  Clerics couldn't use this ability in OD&D.  The range of this spell was ten times greater than the m-u spell, and at 7th level it became unlimited by distance.  Easy to see why Gary knocked that out.

Detection of Good or Evil: Allows the user to read the good/evil aura of a creature or object, with a lesser chance to learn their exact alignment.  The success chances get better at higher level.
  Fighter and thieves couldn't use this ability in OD&D.  It worked automatically, and didn't cost any points to use (it costs 2/round in AD&D).  Again, it was another ridiculous power that needed to be brought down a bit.

Detection of Magic: Detects presence and type of magical auras with a 5% chance per level.
  Fighters, thieves and clerics couldn't use this ability in OD&D.  It detected the presence of magic automatically, but had a lower chance of detecting the type.  There was a specific mention here that magic operates on a different plane, which seems consistent enough with what's in the books so far.

Domination: Allows the mental domination of another creature, although more psionic points must be expended the higher level the creature is, and trying to make them commit a self-destructive act also ups the point cost.  (I'm surprised it's allowed at all, D&D usually doesn't let that slide.)
  In OD&D, magic-users were the only class unable to use domination.  In AD&D, it's now thieves who can't use it, which makes a little more sense but also means I might have some explaining to do when the rules switch over.  Perhaps the magic-user's guild actually stole the ability from them somehow?

Empathy: The user can sense the needs, drives and emotions of unshielded minds within range.  Fighters can't use it.
  In OD&D, only clerics had this ability.  It's range was 2"/round, but in AD&D has been halved.

ESP: The user can read the thoughts of unshielded minds.  Interestingly. thoughts in an unknown language are meaningless.  Non-intelligent creatures transmit images or raw drives.
  Fighters and thieves didn't get this ability in OD&D.  Aside from having a longer range, it was otherwise the same.  It also has a bit about the ability allowing the user to "tune in" to thoughts, saying that it's "different from receiving or transmitting thoughts' telepathically".  Different how?  No explanation is given.

Expansion: Allows the user to grow in size, mass and strength, adding 1 foot and +1 damage per level.  Equivalent strengths are given for each level, ending with storm giant strength at level 12.  The ability also causes the user's clothing, weapons and armour to grow as well, but magic items expanded in this manner have a 5% chance of being destroyed.  Clerics can't use this ability.
  OD&D allowed the user to grow 2 feet per level, but still topped out at 12th level and storm giant strength.  It didn't say anything specific about damage bonuses.  It also had an arbitrary maximum duration of 2 turns, although growing to less than your maximum height could extend this.  AD&D dropped this for a flat 1 turn per level duration.  OD&D didn't say anything about items growing or shrinking either.

Hypnosis: The user can hypnotise a number of creatures, forcing them to follow reasonable orders or post-hypnotic suggestions.  The number hypnotised is based on the user's level, but the Hit Dice total is cumulative.  For example, a 4th level character could hypnotise 1+2+3+4=10 HD worth of monsters.  It only works on creatures whose Intelligence is between 7 and 17.
  In OD&D, fighters and thieves couldn't use this ability.

Invisibility:  This works like the spell, but because it affects the minds of its targets, it only works on creatures with a total HD equal to the user's level.  It can't be detected by magic, but a psionic with mind bar can use it to see the invisible creature.
  Only fighters and thieves could use this ability in OD&D.  It didn't mention anything about being undetectable by magic, or being blocked by a mind bar.

Levitation: This works like the spell, but its total duration can be split over a number of different uses.  The OD&D spell works the same, although it says nothing about being able to split the duration.

Mind Over Body: The caster can go 2 days per level without food, water and sleep.  This power can only be restored by resting completely for the same number of days for which it was used.
  In OD&D, clerics couldn't take this ability, but anyone can use it in AD&D.

Molecular Agitation: The psionic can agitate the molecules of an item, and after ten rounds that item will heat up: paper sets on fire, wood smoulders, water boils, flesh blisters, metal heats, etc.  If used on flesh it deals 1 point of damage the first round, 2 the next, then 3, then 4, etc.  On armour it works as a heat metal spell.  At higher levels, this ability works more quickly.
  Only magic-users could take this ability in OD&D.  It's otherwise exactly the same.

Object Reading: The user can "read" an object's history, possibly learning something about its former owner.  Legendary items may reveal a long, storied history, but not all magic items have such an aura.  Thieves can't use this ability (which is weird, it seems very appropriate for them).
  I believe that this ability wasn't in OD&D at all.

Precognition: The user can predict the result of an action in the near future.  The chance of success is increased by level, but it's also affected by the number of unknown factors, by the user's Intelligence and Wisdom, and pretty much by the DM's whim.  This one could bust some adventures, which is why Gary has a note at the end for the referee to adjudicate it carefully.
  In OD&D, only fighters and thieves had this ability.  It's otherwise exactly the same, right down to the wording used.  It's almost a cut-and-paste job.
 
Reduction: The user can shrink 1 foot per level up to 5th.  After that, the reduction is 50% of the remainder with each level.  Clerics can't use this ability.
  In OD&D the reduction is simply 1 foot per level, which would soon get into a situation where you have to figure out what happens when the character's level exceeds their height.  Gary fixed that up pretty well for AD&D.

Suspend Animation: The user can suspend all of their life functions, appearing as though dead for one cumulative week per level (meaning 1 week at 1st level, 1+2=3 weeks at 2nd, 1+2+3=6 weeks at 3rd, etc.).  They set a time at which they want to awaken, and nothing can wake them up until that time comes.  While suspended, the user doesn't need air, and can withstand temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit (that's a bit over 1 degree centigrade in the civilised world).  Upon awakening, the user must rest for a day per week suspended before being able to use the ability again.
  Clerics and magic-users couldn't use this ability in OD&D.  It also didn't mention anything about temperatures, or not needing air.

Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions: The user can sense emotions and see visions in areas where dramatic events and deaths have occurred.  This ability is very much open to DM fiat.  It wasn't in OD&D.

Major Sciences

Astral Projection: The user can travel into the Astral Plane and the Outer Planes, as with the spell astral spell.  It only works for the psychic though, not their companions.
  In OD&D, the ability doesn't point to the spell but rather contains all of the information in its own entry.  It has an odd bit about the speed of astral traveller increasing with their level: at 1st they can only travel at walking speed, but at 10th they can "project into space at the speed of light".  No sign of that in AD&D.  All of the stuff about silver cords and psychic winds is mentioned in the entry for astral spell, and I assume that the actual table used to determine when the wind severs the cord is in the DMG.

Aura Alteration: The user can either hide their own alignment, or use the ability to remove curses from others, as well as the geas and quest spells.
  Only clerics could use this ability in OD&D.  It's only function was the removal of curses; nothing at all was said about geas and quest, and there was zero mention of using it to alter your alignment aura.

Body Control: This grants the user resistance to harmful elements and environments: heat, fire, cold, poison gas, acid, etc.   It lasts for 1 turn per level, and protects against "1 hit die" of damage per level, which I interpret to be one die of damage.  Does this mean that a 10th level character with this power would be immune to a 10-die fireball?  That's how it seems to me, unless it only works against natural hazards.  Given that this ability basically protects from everything, it's probably a bit over-powered.  Oh yeah, as if that wasn't enough it also lets you breathe underwater.
  In OD&D the ability was much the same, but the duration was cumulative: for example a 3rd level user would be protected for (1+2+3) 6 turns, rather than 3 as in AD&D.  If I'm reading it correctly, though, it only gave protection against 1 die of damage, with the severity of the hazard reducing the duration.  It seems like a much more balanced power, to be honest.  Only fighters and thieves could use this ability in OD&D, but now it's available to everyone.

Dimension Door: This works like the spell, allowing short range teleportation.
  Only magic-users could use this ability OD&D, but anyone can use it in AD&D.

Dimension Walk: The user is able to travel great distances by "moving through the dimensions by inter-dimensional travel, rather than along them".  I'm not quite sure what that sentence is trying to say, but in practical terms it allows a character to traverse 21 miles in about 10 minutes.  There's a 10% chance of going in the wrong direction, reduced by level, and also a chance that the trip might take longer than expected (also modified by level).  There are no hostile encounters during a dimension walk, which is disappointingly non-Gygaxian.  I'd also like to know the nature of the dimension traversed: Astral? Ethereal?  Something else entirely?  It's a mystery.
  Magic-Users couldn't use this ability in OD&D, but it's not restricted in AD&D.  The base rate of travel was 1 hour per 100 miles, as opposed to 21 miles per turn in AD&D.  With six turns per hour, this means an AD&D character travels 126 miles an hour, a decent amount faster.  The table for determining extra travel time was a bit more forgiving in OD&D though, and there was no chance of heading in the opposite direction.

Energy Control: The user can dissipate energy attacks directed at them, at a cost of 1 psionic strength point per level of the attack.  It works on spells and energy attacks using fire, lightning, cold, etc.
  Only fighters and thieves could use this ability in OD&D, whereas it's available to anyone in AD&D.  It cost 5 strength points per level, a far steeper requirement.

Etherealness: The user can become ethereal, along with objects equal to 50gp weight per level.  They can also emerge on those planes touching the Ethereal: the Positive, Negative, and Elemental Planes.
  Only magic-users had this ability in OD&D, but now it's available to all.  The OD&D ability goes into more specifics, mentioning that it works similarly to the potion of etherealness.  It also mentions the psychic wind, which has a 1% chance of blowing per turn, and increases the user's chance of becoming lost (though not killed).  Presumably this stuff will be delved into in the DMG.

Mass Domination: The user can dominate up to five creatures, with the hit die of said creatures being higher according to the user's level.  The duration is 5 turns per level, but this is reduced for creatures with a high Intelligence or Wisdom.  As with most charm-type spells, you can't use it to make a creature commit self-destructive acts.
  Only clerics had this ability in OD&D, but in AD&D it's available to everyone except thieves.  It allowed the domination of "5 creature levels for two turns" for every level, with the duration extending to a full week at 7th level, and adding a week for every level thereafter.  AD&D has a longer base duration, but doesn't extend it to weeks at a time at higher levels.  OD&D also doesn't have the cap on maximum Hit Die affected that AD&D has.

Mind Bar: This prevents most forms of mental attack, including the sleep spell (which makes sense, given that it's often lumped with charm as far as resistances go).  This also includes demonic possession, and it also allows the user to see someone who is psionically invisible.  It has a 10% chance of success per level, and past 10th level it grants a chance to instantly locate your attacker.
  Only fighters and thieves had this ability in OD&D, but everyone can use it in AD&D.  It's otherwise similar, though it didn't specify the spells and abilities it works against as well as AD&D does.  It seemed more geared towards protection from possessions and magic jar than against mental attack spells.

Molecular Manipulation: The user can alter the molecules of an object to make it easier to break.  It begins with the equivalent of a thin cord at 1st level, all the way up to a magic plate mail and swords at 14th.  (Magic items get a saving throw, though.)
  Only fighters and thieves had this ability in OD&D, but in AD&D it's available to everyone.  The OD&D ability went up to a 2-foot stone wall at 10th level, and said nothing about magic armour and weapons.

Molecular Rearrangement: The user can transmute one type of metal into another, up to 10gp of weight per level.  The level also determines the hardness of the metal, starting at lead and gold, and ending at adamantite at 16th level.  This ability is demanding and can only be used once per month.
  Magic-Users couldn't use this ability in OD&D, but anyone can in AD&D.  In OD&D the point cost was double, but there was no restriction on the hardness of the metal.

Probability Travel: As I understand it, this ability allows travel to the Ethereal Plane, those planes it touches (Positive, Negative, Elemental), and also to various parallel worlds.  It's all a bit vague.  The higher level the user, the more people they can take with them.  There's also a chance that the user might end up somewhere other than their intended destination.
  Only clerics had this ability in OD&D, but anyone can use it in AD&D.  It's a little more specific about what the ability actually does: it "closely corresponds to astral projection with the corporeal body brought along".  It also gives a few possible uses: communing with friendly powers, risking entrance into hostile planes, or exploring the probabilities of a course of action.  It doesn't mention anything about bringing others along, or ending up in the wrong dimension.

Shape Alteration: Like polymorph self, the user can change their shape and gain the physical abilities of the new form, i.e. flight and breathing underwater, but not breath weapons and magical abilities.  The user's gear becomes part of the new form, but the point cost is increased depending on the amount, and turning inorganic items organic costs extra.
  Only magic-users had this ability in OD&D, but in AD&D it's usable by anyone.  It mentioned nothing about what happens to the user's gear.  On the whole, the AD&D spell costs less to use, although this doesn't factor in the costs for converting gear.

Telekinesis: Allows the user to mentally lift and move weights of 30gp per level, cumulative.
  Clerics couldn't use this ability in OD&D, but in AD&D everyone can.  It had a higher weight limit of 50gp per level cumulative.

Telempathic Projection: Like the empathy ability, but rather than sensing emotions the user can project them as well.
  Only clerics could use this ability in OD&D, but in AD&D it's available to everyone except for fighters.  The OD&D ability was likened to telepathic projection, but there seems to be no such link in AD&D.

Telepathy: The user can mentally communicate with any creature with an Intelligence of greater than 5, regardless of language.  For most creatures this requires line of sight, but for those well known to the caster it works within 186,000 miles (or 1 light second, which is a bizarre and somewhat pointless quirk).  This range can be increased if all parties are telepathic, though it seems unlikely it would ever need to be.
  As far as I can tell, this ability didn't exist in OD&D.

Telepathic Projection: This ability grants the user telepathic communication with other telepathic beings, as well as the power to make suggestions and possess others.  Both of these abilities are effective against higher Hit Die creatures at higher level.
  Only magic-users had this ability in OD&D, but it's available to every class in AD&D.  The suggestion ability affected 1 Hit Die worth of creatures per level in OD&D, whereas it is 1 HD cumulative in AD&D.  Possession wasn't mentioned in OD&D.  The helm of telepathy was said to increase the range of this ability in OD&D, but there's no mention of it in AD&D.

Teleportation: This works like the spell, but the user can spend extra psionic strength points to influence the chance of a mishap.
  Only magic-users had this ability in OD&D, but it's available to every class in AD&D.  It's otherwise the same.

And that's a wrap for psionics.  The specific powers are very similar to those from OD&D, with the major difference being that they are more widely available to the different classes.  The debilitating effects of gaining powers have also been gotten rid of.  I'm pretty sure that in earlier posts I was planning to introduce psionics as a side-effect of the encroachment of mind flayers and other psionic beings.  I guess that eventually humans grow more acclimated to this "awakening", making it easier to learn the powers and less traumatic physically and mentally.

At this point, I should note that my posts are going to be a bit less frequent from now on.  I've never been the most prolific poster to begin with, but due to a change in circumstances I'm now spending the majority of my life on Melbourne's wonderful public transport system.  The upside of this is that I have a lot more time for reading, but the downside is that I have almost no time for writing.  I won't abandon the blog, but don't expect a post more than once a month.  It's the best I can do, unfortunately.

3 comments:

DevDigs said...
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Shopnroar said...
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Kouban said...

Psionics in D&D, especially in this iteration, have always felt like trying to shoehorn superhero characters into high fantasy. It probably worked a lot better in the "I'll let you do whatever crazy thing you want if I think it's reasonable/I like you" 70s before "what D&D is" solidified, but it feels more out-of-place today than Wuxia-style action heroes do. Also, saying only one form of psi attack works on non-psionic characters feels like saying "MU spells are largely ineffective except against other MUs" or "Fighters can only effectively hit other fighters with swords" to me.