Edit (to be more clear about the intention) : I created this thread to know if people who like playing psychic powers using classes are really attached for these classes to be sci-fi flavored, or if they would be more interested to see them better and more naturally integrated into the fantasy setting of D&D.
I don't think that people who hate psionics in D&D would hate to see a psychic power using witch, what they hate is all the names that come from nowhere in any setting. But it would also be interesting to know if I'm right or not about this.
Edit 2 : When I say psychic, I do not refer to the 4th edition keyword and in no way imply that this keyword has to be the reserved domain of what would be the psionic classes replacing. I just oppose this term to magic because I don't know another term to describe easily psychic power users, not power as a 4th game term and not psychic as a 4th edition keyword. This imprecision from my part seems to have led to some misunderstanding
When I talk about psychic power with other roleplayers around me, there’s a consensus about psychic powers and charm spells:
Charm spells are impersonal, dictated effects send through magic, like an archer killing from afar, where dead people are just falling people within your range limit.
Psychic powers are intimate, printed effects directly from mind to mind, like a fighter killing in melee, where dead people had a voice, left their blood on you, and lost all their hope at your feet.
Some of them started saying that it was the same, but they changed their mind almost immediately after having been focused on the subject.
There was a strange consensus between them about psionics :
- I like psychic powers specialists
- They are interesting, but not enough implemented in any edition (we played since AD&D 1st ed. where psionics were only “wild psionic”)
- I don’t know where to put them in a campaign setting, we treat them as isolated phenomenons.
- Psionics has nothing to do in D&D.
The consensus being that no one of them liked psionics as they are, even the ones who regulary played psionic classes. And when I looked at their old character sheets (and mine), I saw different levels of refluff, from the name of the class adopted within the campaign (witch, warlock, shaman, seidkona) to some of the power names (2nd ed. psionics). Few psionics flavor was left untouched.
We are French, so we haven’t incorporated a foreign word for “witch” like the English language. Sorcerie is an old French word that means witchcraft adopted by the English language as Sorcery. Sorcier = witch or warlock. French translators have to find an entire different name for the sorcerer classes. So English gained “sorcerer” beside “witch” as a name for the same function : witch. So when I write “witch, warlock, shaman, seidkona”, the non translated terms were in fact : Sorcier/sorcière, warlock (English term used), chamane, seidkona (norse witch). As the subject is psychic powers and that the perception of what they are may be influenced by our different cultures (the language we use influence the ways we apprehend things), I felt it was useful to share these informations.
When I wanted to determine if they considered psionics as a D&D sacred cow, the great majority said : No ! Surprisingly, the two who said yes were “psionic haters”.
I don’t know enough roleplayers to consider the above informations as an absolute truth, and I think that people believing in an absolute truth deserve to be burnt at the stake
Shamanic traditions and derived traditions such as witchcraft or seidr in north Europe are all about spirits. The practitioners interact with the spirit of the spirit worlds as well as with the spirit of living people. If we were translating all their abilities into D&D 4th ed. powers, almost all of them would have the psychic keyword.
The obious incompatibility with D&D is that shamanism is magic. In the “real world” psychic powers and magic were or isconsidered as being the same thing. The D&D concept of completely separating the physical and the psychic is influenced by the prevalent monotheistic conceptions of the world. The upside is that we have more room to create classes and special abilities, the downside is that the D&D cosmology is totally inconsistent and appears totally artificial, even during play.
In D&D, the spirit concept is a complete mess.
How can you talk about earth spirits when playing “primal” classes ? There are elementals on the elemental planes, but the “spirit world” is at the other side of the D&D spectrum, a new age concept called the Astral Plane that contains very physical gods, devils and a lot of other creatures. In the 4th edition, primal classes call upon spirits, but nobody seems to really know where they come from or what they are exactly. They are like some roaming monsters that you can meet or call everywhere.
D&D cosmologies (through editions) are awfully complicated and artificial just to match a symbolic concept such as a wheel or spheres. A fact is that an elemental chaos and a spirit world are enough to take care of all the monsters and the specific dualities imposed by the D&D concept.
The current cosmology strongly link some planes to the world, even geographically, when a sort of border before really entering the pure spirit plane would be enough. How two different planes such as the feywild and the shadowfell can be considered as opposed when they never interact directly ? The D&D cosmology is not dynamic, it’s organized, and organized as themed dungeons.
So, in D&D, spirits are strange undefined roaming creatures, insubstantial or not, who could come from the far realm when we see how they are not compatible with the D&D cosmology.
I’ll now focus on the psychic powers users.
In 4th edition, a lot of classes use psychic powers, some use them a lot, such as the warlock or the shaman, but they are not labeled as psychic powers users. One is arcane, the other is primal. The two could be “spirit” or “psychic” class interacting differently with a spirit world. I personally picture more easily a warlock pact with an evil spirit than with an evil fey somewhere in the feywild that can maintain a kind of link with the current warlock. Pure spirit will always have more foreign ways of thinking than material beings, and that leave some room for the DM as well as for the player.
Psionics = Ki
Before 4th ed., The psionicist (2nd ed.) or psion (3rd ed.) used some ki with some current monotheistic concept of soul in it and called it psionics.
The reason why they called themselves psionicists or psion? Nobody knows.
Any historic reference? No.
Any fantasy culture reference? No.
Any logic in calling themselves like this? No. They normally didn’t have access to the novel, psy is a greek letter, and the idea of treating their powers like if they were using little particles called psions has not been precised in the description of their class.
Now, I start to have a little idea why psionics are not universally well accepted, and why their flavor do not blend very well in a fantasy setting…
4th edition has assumed the fact that it was really hard to tell what is Ki and what is psionics.
But it also has killed the psychic power user by turning psychic power users into charm spell casters.
The psychic flavor is lost, and most “psychic” players I know play the new enchanter build to emulate a telepath.
The 4th edition psion is the more balanced of all, but it is no more a class that intimately manipulates minds and obtains a wider range of effects in this field than anyone. It’s just a poor sad debuffer.
And then we have the witch, traditionally able to manipulate minds, making other believe crazy thing like she is invisible, she is their loved one or that they became a frog. Some witches, trade with spirits, some are herbalists, some others are very capable in mundane healing. Spirit healing, exorcism and spirit travel is also in their domains, as well as the evil eye to force people to always make the wrong choices and curse their bad fortune. And when a witch has a familiar, it has the power of the spirit that possesses it and is not dependent of the witch’s will unless she has enslaved it. Or it’s just her housecat.
The fourth edition witch is, again, an arcane class. She can cast wizards spell and is even less linked mechanically to a spirit world than a warden or a barbarian.
I’m curious to know your opinions about psychic powers in D&D.
Do you think psionics are a sacred cow that deserves its place in the next edition without a major change in flavor?
Do you think that psychic classes should completely replace the psionic classes, and let shaman, warlock and witch be the master telepaths and mental dominators they traditionally are?