AD&D psionics. Everybody either hates the hell of them or never used them (or, paradoxically, both). But not me. I think AD&D's is a very solid, very usable psionics system and I'm here today to tell you why.
Could it be that I was a counsel for the defense at Nuremberg in a former life?
Anyway, psionics in Dungeons & Dragons certainly pre-date their most well-known appearance in the first appendix of 1978's AD&D Player's Handbook. I, however, do not. Therefore, I'll be focusing on AD&D in this post. That being said, if somebody out there has additional relevant insight into how these systems differed in TSR publications that predate the PHB, that's fine with me. Comments sections are there for a reason, after all.
Let's jump right into it, shall we?
1. Psionics "don't work."
I hear this one a lot. The psionics rules were somehow either incomprehensibly convoluted or completely illogical and simply didn't function if you attempted to run them as written.
Wrong. AD&D psionics are actually quite simple. Everything from calculating a character's chance to be psionic, to determining a psionic character's overall strength, to allocating psionic powers is as straightforward as any other aspect of character creation.
The effects of the various powers are as clearly explained as those of magic spells. No more so, but certainly no less.
Psionic combat is a simple matter of cross-referencing two values on a chart and applying the indicated results, the same as regular physical combat.
2. Psionics are "unbalanced."
This misunderstanding is a lot more understandable. The psionic character gets all these special powers for nothing, right?
So you might believe until I point you to a little thing called the psionic encounters section of Appendix C of the Dungeon Master's Guide. It turns out that each time a psionic power is used within one turn of a wandering monster check, that wandering monster has the potential to be a psionic one.
And psionic monsters? As per the Monster Manual, they're really, really damn nasty. And prone to target psionic PCs. As written, it's only a matter of time (the chance is a full 25% upon a positive wandering monster check) before some brain-eating nasty rolls up and pulls a Scanners on your psionic wunderkind PC, and quite possibly the rest of his party, too, considering that psionic encounters are rolled on a chart that includes arch-devils and demon princes and doesn't discriminate by PC or dungeon level.
Not so unbalanced now, it is? In fact, the check that the DMG encounters appendix places on psionic PCs is such an outright gruesome death lottery that I don't think I'd opt to run a psionic PC in AD&D even if I could.
3. Psionics "don't fit in a fantasy game."
Seriously, this one has to piss me off the most. Go back and actually read the fiction that inspired D&D. Many of you reading this already have, but it bears emphasizing how the artificial and stifling separation of fantastic fiction into rigid genres is a Crappy Thing, as are its effects on RPG gaming (as exemplified in this sad stab at a criticism).
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