Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Psionicist: Phenomenon

"George Malley is an ordinary man, who is about to become ... extraordinary."

This horse is probably long-buried, but I keep coming back to the idea that Psionicists are just ordinary people, who somehow find themselves with a special gift (or curse). In the case of the character, George Malley, played by John Travolta in the movie Phenomenon, that special power is telekenesis, along with some other interesting powers.

Telekenesis, Firestarter, Precognition and Invisibility are four of the 10-12 "wild talents" that i'm thinking Psionicists might start with. I'm picking away at other ideas for talents, and am always open to suggestions.

I'm still trying to work out the way that Psionicists improve their wild talent, and gain new talents. It seems obvious (at least to me!) that gaining those talents should follow level-progression, but how to keep a Psionicist balanced against the Magic-User and Cleric (the other two "casters") but still give the Psionicist class its own "flavour", is the challenge I am currently wrestling with.


Lord Gwydion said...

Obviously, a telepath should be in there. Some sort of 'travel' related psionics might be interesting, too. Maybe start small with speed or freedom of movement type effects, and working up to astral projections and teleportations?

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Mind reader, yes, your right. In fact, in that vein, I like the idea (back to the idea of Psionicists being cursed) that mind readers can't control whose mind they read, and are loners as a result. Just an idea.

Wasn't there a movie recently, called Jumpers, about people who could teleport? Yes, that would make for an interesting wild talent as well!

The Rusty Battle Axe said...

You know, as I think about it, part of the charm back in the 70s with psionics was that it was not a class. It was this sort of random ability that characters had a small chance of possessing that made it so cool. We only had one character with psionics, a hobbit thief of all things (we had Holmes + the 0e supplements + Ready Ref Sheets=an odd mix). The idea was cool, in practice less so. It was complicated in play and no fun to DM with a thief character whose power was all out of whack with the rest of the universe.

Psionics, as a character class, is probably much more playable in game, but it kind of loses that cool factor. I'm really curious to see where you go with this. I think you have identified the challenge--how to make it distinct enough from the MU and cleric.

JB said...

I'm with Rusty a bit on this one. Why do you need to "balance the class." Hell, why make it a class at all?

In the "old days" of straight AD&D, I don't recall anyone grumbling when a particular character had psionics and others did not. After all, this was D&D where your characters are a product of random rolls. Would someone fault a fighter that had 18/96 strength? Or a halfling thief with a 17+ dexterity?

Besides which, other than a handful of additional powers ("disciplines") most psionics had no effect on the game as the majority of psionic attacks could only be used on other psionics. So if you come up against an Intellect Devourer or something you'd have a character to deal with it (like having a cleric to deal with undead). It was not a matter of "his guy is cooler than the rest of us and that's un-balanced."

At least, that was not MY experience.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Interesting comments. Thanks for those perspectives.

As I posted earlier, I've never been a fan of the old D&D psionics system. For one, it seemed hopelessly arcane. For another, it was almost impossible to "legitimately" roll a character with psionics. In addition, I have never been a fan of the specialist classes, like the paladin, monk, and the like, where you had to have extraordinary stats, and where you got extraordinary abilities as a result.

For all those reasons, and more, I have been toying with the idea of recreating those specialist classes as standard classes, and reigning in their special abilities and required stats.

Psionicists seems like a great place to start, since it is arguably the most difficult, and most complicated of the "specialists" in D&D.

From a role-playing perspective, I think it would be interesting to have a psionicist class, as psionicists in literature seem to be tortured and misunderstood souls. In fact, I think it would be fun to run a campaign of just psionicist characters, who had banded together because of their "alienness" and became adventurers as a way to survive.

I suppose I need to provide a better argument, other than simply to allow everyone to equally enjoy their gaming experience, for enforcing some amount of game balance between players and classes. In my experience, many a game was ruined by the super-character. Since I play D&D with casual gamers, I want to make sure they all have fun at the table, and having a 18/96 Strength Paladin with psionics at the table, when everyone else is a standard class, is a recipe for disaster.

Others will no doubt see it differently. I'll be curious to get your reactions once I put this all together. I gather my "ordinary person" with extra-ordinary ability approach is not terribly compelling!