I attempt to deal with the problems in the AD&D2 psionics handbook and the system of psionics it uses. It is sadly outdated now because of various house rules and edition changes, but it's still an interesting read and an introduction to uncommon logic.
Way back when, there was a time when one could consider the rulebook to be the law of the land. But sadly, multiple rulebooks became prolific, and multiple sets of rules became available for the same item. I played AD&D2 for some time (ugh), and at one point I got into psionics. This adventure spawned from a Dark Sun campaign I used to play back in a gaming/misc shop a friend of mine had. I remember having a sickeningly powerful Thri-Kreen warrior-type.. mmm, it was fun. Anyhow, pretty much every player had some sort of "wild talent" to spice up this campaign a bit.. it was pretty silly in one respect, but it was also quite fun since we weren't a bunch of munckin power gamers or anything. That campaign wound down at one point, but the intrigue of psionics remained.
I ended up becoming a member of a different group when that one was closed down. A few of the same players came into it, so there was a good familiarity which remained. At one point, we made characters for a relaxed, low player-population game and I made a pure psionic. I read and re-read the psionics handbook and I was aghast at how indescriptive the mechanics were. I ended up making a character who was far and above the most powerful low level character one could conceive of (for that world). This was the inception of my first Lawful evil psionic. I was able to remove myself from constraints by being eeeeeevvvviiilll... not your standard "I wanna be really tough, so law isn't for me", or "I wanna do whatever I want, so I guess I ought to be evil". This character was pretty much as evil as a mortal could be, without being Drow. So, morals are completely out the window for this character.. I had few functional limits on how I could use my abilities.
Now, it's obvious that this character was doomed from the start, since this attitude doesn't exactly mix well with others.. character-wise or in real life (See The problem of Evil). Ultimately, this character grew xenophobic-hateful and power hungry to the extreme. At last check, he was turned very NPC and was destined to start a mage-psionic war. He wanted to overthrow the gods themselves.
It was during the rein of this character that I studied the psionic system more and more. The loopholes I found absolutely baffled me.
Now after making and playing my first major psionic character, I wanted to do things right, and clear up all sorts of outstanding questions I had. Psionics were not going to be a major part of this new campaign, but I was going to be allowed psionics because I was doing things much more mellow with this character. Here are those questions, and in italics/ the responses I got for them. The book was still not clear on so many things, even after these questions had house rules made for them.
Answers were written by the GM of that first major psionic character.
Intellect Fortress: If a protected mind leaves the 3ydR and later re-enters it, can I protect it again? - yes
- Can I tell if that mind is attacked? - yes
- How is such an attack resolved? - as per normal
- Can I defend myself at the same time as other minds are attacked? - yes
- Defence Modes: Do they cost the PSP initial cost to use for each defence attempted? - ? (not answered)
Can I let certain psionics through it, without taking down the defence? - no
- Is it a power check? (not answered)
- If I know Bio-Electricity (a house rule from the Net Psionics Handbook), can I instead discharge it as electricity and not a glow? - no
Energy Containment: Is the glow detectable as psionic? Not as magic? - yes - and acts as per faerie fire
- Can it defend vs a magic missile? (e.g. anything without a save is 1/2 damage auto) - no
- Is it automatic, or do I have to state it's used every morning? - automatic when attacked
- Does it protect my aura? = clothing, equipment and anything carried - yes - not other people carried though
Metamorphosis: Allows any nonmagical ability, like gills, no infravision - yes
- During the 5 round prep, is there a visible change? - progressive change, but you still spend full cost if you try to metamorphose just to get the 1st couple of rounds of effect for the half/metamorph mode
- Deactivation of transformation is instant? - 1 round
- Mass approx +/- 10%? - exactly the same mass, no change allowed
- No clothing or equipment may be carried while changing? - yes
- Being must be one-piece, nothing removable - yes
- Transference of one-piece itms (e.g. an earring from one ear to the other?) - yes
- Emulated movement - not exact, must learn the skills over time
- Quality of emulation, mimicry - as above, learned over time or bought as a skill
- Attacking proficiency? - claws, bite, etc.. - not same damage, not same skill, no special effects
- Death in the new form is reversion to my original form? - yes
- Emulating an object and being used for normal use does no damage? - no, if you emulate a big hammer, and get used by a giant to nail 50 lb nails, it will _hurt_.
Bio Electricity (house rule, net psionics handbook) - is it real electricity? - yes
- Less damage for more range? - no
- More bolts in subsequent rounds with no PSP extra cost for no preparation? - yes
- Require energy containment? - no
- Body Control - gives protection to that keyed environment, doesn't take natural immunity to normal environments - yes
Cell adjustment - to do more than healing? - surgery?:
- To move moles around? - yes
- To give a tan? - no
- To give/heal scars - yes, the number of points of damage required to cause such a scar has to be accounted for
- To do damage? - no
Dimension Walk - is the wis check needed for short (e.g. line of sight) distances? - yes
- Can I opt to not move in it? - wis check anyways, you can drift
- If I drop something - it reappears in the real world as only my aura is attuned to the dimension? - not in same place though, as if it failed a wis check
- Nothing but me exists in that realm - I don't know
-- [ Later, I would learn that indeed I'm not wholly alone, and this realm is not entirely safe or empty.. neat =) ]
- Self is maintained, no breathing? (there's no air!) - don't worry
- Can I keep the portal open? to come back? to leave as an illusion? - no, the portal closes when you hop through, but only then.. can can be maintained until you hop in
- What orientations can the portal open to? - vertical only, never changes in any way
- The portal is line of sight? At what distance? - right in front of you
- Specify where the exit portal is once I get there? - yes, you only make up your mind after entering the portal and travelling
- Can I be killed by exiting into solid material? - no, in fact you can sortof "feel" where open space is when in that realm.. you can explore a bit
-- [ Functionally, I was never tossed into open air or in solid rock, but I suspect the GM wanted to make this power a bit more wacko than I originally desired. ]
- Like with a teleport, can I choose to not bring, say, shackles along with me? - no
- What if a person grabs me? - They will be grabbing air if you manage to move yourself into the portal, as you're not opting to carry them with you and phase them into that dimension
- Double Pain - used with a punch? - no
- Infravision - on 20 what is "sensitivity to bright light"? - as per heat vision with torches around with other races
- Bio-Electricity / Energy Containment - as per faerie fire? - yes
- Can any touch effect work with a punch? - no
- What is a "touch" - any touch as per touch spells, ignores armor AC
Bio manipulation can only heal physical damage, not moon-dog howling damage, life draining or negative energy attacks, special attacks, acid, poison or fire attacks.. the same way healing potions are limited. - yes
Other outstanding questions still remain ∞
The psionic handbook doesn't explain psychic combat well. If I am attacked, and my defence is used, do I have to pay the "initial cost" PSPs again for every subsequent attack against that defence mode? Or do I only pay the cost to start the defence? If a psionicist is forced to pay PSPs for defence, it will be extremely difficult to defend and also pay the PSPs, although technically a PSP battle, like a war of spending, will give higher level, more PSP-rich psionics a bit more of an advantage, and lots better nearing the end of a psychic combat. Keep in mind that average psionic monsters, in general, have more PSPs than an amazing psionic (6th level with great stats).
Comparing attacks vs defenses ∞
Ok, here's where I get scary. By comparing attacks vs defences I can determine which attack is best vs which defence. See if you can figure it out. (TODO - The Microsoft Works 3.0 for DOS database file is in deep archives, which reveals the formulae involved. I don't know where I put that spreadsheet.) The "Psychic Raptor" attack mode is a house ability (and a scary one).. it was added for reference.
All Attacks and (TW) Tower Of Iron Will defences use WIS (DA) Deflect Attack as their power (IF) Intellect Fortress score base (PA) Psychic Armor (MB) Mind Bar A negative number is (TS) Thought Shield defender's advantage (M-) Mind Blank PSP -7 -3 -2 -3 -3 -5 -2 cost M- TS MB PA IF DA TW Mind Thrust MT -2 5 -2 -4 1 -4 -2 -5 -11 -16 Ego Whip EW -3 5 0 -3 -2 -4 -3 -3 -10 -15 Id Insinuation II -4 -3 2 4 0 -1 -5 -3 -6 -3 Mental Dagger MD -4 3 -1 0 -1 3 -1 -4 -1 -4 Psychic Crush PC -4 1 -3 -1 -2 -3 0 -4 -12 -13 Mind Kill MK -6 0 1 2 -4 1 -3 0 -3 -3 Psionic Blast PB -5 2 3 0 -1 -1 -4 -2 -3 -5 Psychic Raptor PR 10 -4 3 -3 -1 0 2 1 3 5 2 16 -3 -3 -9 -7 -17 -18 9 -6 -5 -12 -10 -22 -20 -7 -3 -2 -3 -3 -5 -2 M- TS MB PA IF DA TW Mind Thrust MT -2 10 -1 -4 2 -3 1 -5 0 -10 Ego Whip EW -3 9 0 -4 -2 -4 -1 -4 -6 -15 Id Insinuation II -4 0 1 2 -1 -2 -4 -5 -9 -9 Mental Dagger MD -4 6 -2 -2 -2 2 0 -6 -4 -10 Psychic Crush PC -4 4 -4 -3 -3 -4 1 -6 -15 -19 Mind Kill MK -6 1 -2 -2 -7 -2 -4 -4 -20 -21 Psionic Blast PB -5 4 1 -3 -3 -3 -4 -5 -13 -17 Psychic Raptor PR 10 -4 6 -4 -3 -1 1 2 1 2 -4 40 -11 -19 -17 -15 -9 -34 33 -14 -21 -20 -18 -14 -36