Monday, September 3, 2018

"These are not the murderhobos you are looking for" - Psion v.1

There are dozens of wizards. There are three or four different types of cleric floating around out there. I know of one psion for OSR usage, but I haven't seen a proper mentalist (beyond this one, which is very good but not quite what I'm looking for) designed specifically for GLOG.

I've never felt power/ki/mojo/whatever points felt all that differentiated from spell charges or MD, so they don't show up here. Instead, the Psion is about maintaining spiritual, mental and physical equilibrium in order to allow access to an array of permanent, reasonable strong abilities. Strict diets, blindfolds, silk clothes and meditative regimes are all well and good on the surface, but by the time they are 37 rooms deep into the dungeon, I'm sure it'll be a different story.

In contrast to Psi Points et. al., one mechanic that's been cribbed from mainstream D&D is the idea of Psionic Focus. This is halfway between a new ability and a unique item slot. A fresh Psion starts with three options for them to activate through Focus, and each new discipline adds/modifies the Foci to allow for new tools.

Hooking into the tropes of mystics and yogis, Psions also start with Third Eye, a very loosely designed move. I'll include some examples below, but as a general rule, each restriction should have both gameplay and narrative effect. The first Surge is slightly more potent than an effective skill check, and the second Surge is equivalent to a basic spell.

This version of the Psion hasn't been playtested since its most recent changes but the main differences are reductions in the ease of which new Disciplines can be acquired. Originally, they were acquired at level 1 and every template thereafter, completely for free, PLUS any extra Disciplines learnt from masters. A Psion could do what a Thief OR Fighter OR Cleric could do, and sometimes even better than the original class!

Gasp! It was the 3.5e Wizard all along!

As such, Disciplines only appear at level 2 and are locked behind a list of mini-quests reminiscent of Into the Depths. They need some work, but this should help spread some of the powerful abilities over a wider time-frame. Psions have a very broad toolkit, and the versatility of Third Eye, given safety and resources, is very high. Each Discipline adds even more options, though the narrative locks on acquiring them should assist in keeping the pressure on an aspiring Psion.

Speaking of pressure, the rules for losing Focus need some fine-tuning. I've yet to determine where it sits on the scale of "never happens" to "happens all the freaking time." Breaking Focus prevents a Psion from reFocusing for two rounds, a window of shifting power that will hopefully result in some interesting gameplay.

Final thoughts: Hijinks Potential is the most important factor for each and every one of the Disciplines and Focuses. Whether in or out of combat, each ability should have multiple potential uses, or situations where they are more/less effective. Do all of them achieve this? Hell no. But I'm getting there... slowly. The potential rate of exponential shenanigans is also something that will need investigating, but I'm content with the difficulty required to acquire new Disciplines beyond the levelling progression.


Starting equipment: silk robes, shaved head, incense, five candles
Skill (1d3): Prayer, Archives, Cleaning

Third Eye, Focus, +1 Initiative

B Disciplines, +1 Discipline

C Omens, +1 Initiative

D Eminence, +1 Discipline

Third Eye
For every sense you restrict, remove, or make a sacrifice for, you can increase the effectiveness of a different sense you possess. The examples given are not exhaustive. Improving a sense twice (by restricting two others senses) allows for spiritual or supernatural efficacy. Under certain circumstances, this supernatural ability may apply to a restricted sense e.g. wearing a blindfold and not eating allows you to see magic auras.

Sense Restriction Improvement Supernatural
Sight Wear a blindfold Seeing as well as a hawk or a microscope Seeing magical auras
Hearing Taking a vow of silence Hearing as well as a dog Hearing a potential future in the wind
Taste Haven’t eaten anything today or yesterday Immunity to poisons, tasting poisons without suffering from them Tasting a person’s secrets from their blood
Smell Burning 1g of incense per hour, more in a smelly location Smelling as well as you can see normally (think dog-o-vision) Smelling the taint of unnatural creatures within an entire dungeon
Touch Permanently wearing only the lightest silks, no hair, no injuries Perfect echolocation 10ft, more in a still area Identify magical items or forgeries by touch alone

As an action, roll under Wisdom to Focus on any of your available options. If you are knocked prone, go below half HP or reach zero HP, you must reroll Wisdom to maintain Focus, this doesn't require an action. Other highly distracting situations may also require a reroll. Unconsciousness and similar debilities automatically break your Focus. If you lose Focus, you can’t regain it for one round. Every Psion can Focus on these three effects:
  • Use Wisdom in place of certain stat (decide it now) _____________
  • An NPC without a name must save or believe something that you say, so long as it is reasonably plausible.
  • If you stare at a small unmoving object for two rounds, it shatters, bends or rots.
You can roll Wisdom to switch between a Focus without using an action, but if you fail your Focus is broken. In addition, you can expend your Focus in a Surge. Every Psion can perform these Surges:

  • Automatically succeed at the next Initiative check. 
  • Reroll a failed Save vs Stun.
Once you have Surged and expended your Focus, you must still wait one round before attempting to Refocus.

You can learn Disciplines by studying with a Master in that particular art/fighting technique/lifestyle. In addition, each of the following can be achieved once to gain another Discipline, max 1/template:
  • Teach a sickly orphan or neutral monster everything you know
  • Be betrayed, knowingly or otherwise
  • Outsmart a highly dangerous enemy using your powers alone
  • Spend the night alone in a terrible location
  • Undergo ritual body modification
  • As determined by you and the DM
Each Discipline is comprised of three parts: a Passive, a Focus and a Surge. Add them to your list. Even if you are Focused on one Discipline, you can Surge using a different Discipline.

Roll 2d20 at dawn, each can be used in place of any other roll within your line of sight.

1d10 students show up desperate to learn the ways of the Psion. It’s up to you to awaken their latent psychic potential. Each that reaches concordance will send 1d10 new students to you, or equivalent in assistance or valuables.

Discipline of the…

… Iron Fist
One of your hands is completely indestructible, you can use it as a shield
Focus: While your hands are clasped you have 20 Strength against being pushed, moved or shoved.
Surge: Struck target is sent tumbling away from you.
Credit Skerples for these ideas

… Crouching Tiger
Sneak attack, +1d6 damage to unaware enemies.
Focus: Make an opposed Cha check against one person. They can’t see you while you remain focused, but will see you if you touch them, move quickly or make a loud noise.
Surge: Make an opposed Cha check against the person in a group with the highest Charisma. The whole group is affected as above for 3 rounds.

… Hovering Waterlily
Small objects float at your touch.
Focus: Run on walls, falling leaves, water etc. but not air.
Surge: Deal double damage to any airborne target you are adjacent to, or higher than.

... Dragon’s Gaze
Resistant to fire damage, equipment not included. If you do nothing but meditate, immune to fire.
Focus: Anything you stare at feels uncomfortably hot. If you maintain line-of-sight for two rounds, it bursts into flame.
Surge: Phoenix - Instantly stand if prone, dealing 1d6 fire damage to nearby area.

… Ghost Palm
Spend an action to manipulate an object at a distance. Not useful for attacks, or disarming aware creatures.
Focus: +5ft reach with all weapons.
Surge: Your Ghost Palm can be used for attacks and disarming.

… Nightmare Blade
You can create a single weapon out of pure mind-stuff. If you lose it, you lose 1 Wisdom until you regain it.
Focus: If you kill an enemy, make an additional attack.
Surge: Spend a round charging. If your next attack hits, it does x1d4 damage.

… Stone Heart
Reroll failed saves while at max HP.
Focus: Immune to natural exposure, thirst, hunger, fatigue, or suffocation.
Surge: Shrug off one effect, or suppress for 1d6+1 turns if extreme (vacuum, wildfire, landslide).

… Whole Cloth
Create illusionary objects, if unrealistic a target can Save to realise they are insubstantial. Dealing any damage to an illusion pops it.
Focus: Illusions you create can move on their own, or sound real (your choice)
Surge: Illusion becomes solid for one round, can still be saved against.

… Crimson Flower
Resistant to poison and bleeding damage. If you meditate and are focused, completely immune. Focus: Take 1d6 damage to create an object out of your own blood.
Surge: All slashing/piercing weapons deal +1d6 damage for one round.

… Diamond Mind
You always know if something is reading your thoughts, and can create false substitutes with ease.
Focus: Telepathy with anyone who can see you, at greater ranges if you possess some of their hair, blood etc.
Surge: Anyone touching you or maintaining eye contact must save or be stunned.

… Eternal Crystal
While standing still and doing nothing, you gain +3 to all rolls.
Focus: Bestow a Curse upon an enemy. If they fail a Save, they take double damage from a specific event, weapon or threat until your focus ends.
Surge: Attempt to do two different things this round. At the end, decide which version of reality you like best, that is the one that happens.

… Devil Spawn
You receive three random mutations with offensive/defensive stats. Takes 1 ration to reroll a mutation.
Focus: Suppress all visible/magically detectable elements of all mutations.
Surge: Enhance one mutation for a round. Likely involves a Save vs. Fear if it was suppressed beforehand.

… Subtle Tempest
You gain a swim speed equal to double your move, and can hold your breath for additional rounds equal to your Wisdom.
Focus: Manipulate water as the equivalent Control spell.
Surge: Negate an attack against you, as long there is enough water to counter it.

… Ascendent Soul
You can sense the attention of dangerous entities (HD>level)
Focus: gain a stack of Ascension every time you take damage. Gain 2 stacks the first time a dangerous entity damages you. Each stack grants +1 Attack and melee damage, up to a maximum of [templates]+1. Lose all stacks if you break Focus.
Surge: for every stack of Ascension, gain a round of flight, a 1d10+blast beam weapon, and +[level] to Save vs. Fear.

… Silken Thought
Default focus ability #2 can now apply to people with names, though they get a Save each round to dispel the effect.
Focus: You can crudely control the actions of someone without a name. Abhorrent actions allows them to Save to stun you.
Surge: Target has a vivid hallucination of something you suggest being real, Save ends.

… Galvanic Perception
You take no extra damage from sneak attacks. You can also declare up to three Readied actions
Focus: If you pass Initiative by under a third, gain a bonus action.
Surge: See the next action of every enemy in the room

<sidebar> Initiative: At the start of every round, everyone makes an Wisdom check, ignoring any criticals/fumbles. If you succeed, you go before the enemy. If you fail, you go afterwards. You can choose to Delay your action until after the enemy have gone. You can choose to Ready your action, but you'll need to give a very specific trigger for what action you'll take. Only one action, but multiple triggers (e.g. the first enemy to come in range) is fine. </sidebar>

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