It seems that at least once a week a new thread crops up about something in the XPH being overpowered. Since it has been my personal experience across two campaigns that it is actually very well balanced, I figured I would try to disprove some of these myths on an item by item basis. Feel free to add some or bring up some issues.
Note: I would first like to state that Psionics as a system is based upon the premise set down in the Dungeon Master's Guide that the party will face, on average, 3-4 encounters per day of equal challenge rating to the average party level. Further, Psions are not Wizards. Just as Divine magic can do things Arcane magic cannot, Psionics can do things neither of the others can, and vice versa. As with any system, there are areas that need improvement, others that are inferior, and some that simply need clarification. Psionics is by no means perfect, but if you take into account the way the system is intended
to run, it has been, in most psionic players' experience, very balanced.Myths:Myth 1: Psionic characters can do too much damage with one powerAnswer:
The single most important rule in the Expanded Psionics Handbook is that you cannot spend more power points on a power than you have manifester levels in the class the power belongs to.
This is absolutely essential to understand.
What this means is that a 9th level psion can only spend 9 power points on any one manifestation.
There are two, and only two, exceptions to this rule: the Overchannel feat, which causes damage to the Psion, and the Wilder's Wild Surge, which can stun the Wilder and drain more power points than the power was augmented by. Overchannel is discussed in Myth 22.
More than this limit, Psionic characters have to pay for every extra point of damage they do
. Unlike Wizards, Sorcerers, Druids and Clerics, the Psionic powers do not freely scale in damage. A 10th level psion manifesting the Psionic equivalent of Fireball does not do 10d6 damage as a 10th level wizard does, he does 5d6, unless he pays an extra 5 power points, effectively manifesting that power twice. This type of augmentation is what keeps psionics from being overpowered, as the power point reserve held by manifesting class is finite and, for some classes, extremely limited.Myth 2: Psionic powers are overpowered compared to the magic versions Answer
: The vast majority of Psionic versions of magic spells are identical. Those spells that required monetary items / components instead take a very, very long time to manifest (Identify) or instead cost XP(Greater Metamorphosis).
The other powers that are not direct Psionic versions of spells typically give flexibility to the Psionic characters due to their limited options to choose from. Further, augmented powers count as essentially higher powers due to how much the Psionic character is paying to manifest them.
It should be noted that augmented powers always cost the base power level, not the level at which a normal power would cost that augmented cost. For example, Energy Ray, a 1st level power, augmented for 8 power points for a final cost of 9 power points, is still a first level power in terms of PR and Globe of Invulnerability (if you use transparency).Myth 3: Psychic Warrior feats are too powerfulAnswer:
The majority of combat-enhancing Psionic feats require the expenditure of Psionic Focus, something the majority of characters will only have one of. It is important to understand that Psionic Focus requires a full round action provoking attacks of opportunity
to gain and can only power one feat per focus
Further, to fully utilize these feats, the character must take another feat, Psionic Meditation, to regain their focus in a timely manner, otherwise they are useless for a full round while they refocus. A feat-intensive Psychic Warrior, such as one who utilizes Deep Impact + Greater Psionic Weapon each round must have all of the following feats in order to work:
Psionic Weapon, Greater Psionic Weapon, Deep Impact, Psicrystal Affinity, Psicrystal Containment, Psionic Meditation
For a total of six feats - and that character only gets to make one attack per round and has to use 3 power points to Hustle and provokes two attacks of opportunity in the process and can only take a five foot step. And he can't even benefit from the extra attack granted by Haste or Haste-like effects.
Meanwhile, a non-psionic character with Improved Two Weapon Fighting or Dervish levels or similar, can make 5+ attacks per round and take a 5' step without provoking attacks of opportunity or using power points, and without needing extra feats aside from prestige class and high-tier feat prerequisites..Myth 4: Psychic Warrior is stronger than a fighterAnswer:
It is widely accepted that the fighter as a base class is underpowered after levels 4-6, and possibly before that. Arguing that another class is too strong based upon a widely-accepted weak class is not a valid comparison, for a few reasons:
The Psychic Warrior has fewer bonus feats, a lower BAB, very limited powers / power points, and a lower hit dice than the fighter, making the fighter an easier class to use to progress into a Prestige Class. In a straight comparison, a 20th level fighter versus a 20th level Psychic Warrior, the PsyWar is going to come out ahead, but I doubt most fighter characters are going to stay straight fighter, instead opting for prestige classes that grant other benefits.Myth 5: Energy Missile is overpoweredAnswer:
Energy Missile is first balanced by being Kineticist only, requiring non-Kineticists to use an Expanded Knowledge feat at 5th level to learn it. For Kineticists, this means they get it at 3rd level, doing 3d6+/-3 to up to 5 targets, one of the strongest damage output low-level powers/spells known. Delaying access to this power until 5th level for even Kineticists might not be uncalled for if you find the damage potential abused despite efforts to the contrary.
Energy Missile's power of multiple targets is partly balanced by having no two of the targets farther than 15' apart. Lumping enemies together like that opens up the possibility of other powers / spells such as Fireball, Flamestrike.
Being able to differentiate between combatants is probably one of the strongest aspects of the power, and, if you feel it needs to be toned down, changing the power to affecting a maximum of 3 targets instead of 5, or distributing the damage instead would probably not make the power underpowered. If you do either of these, keep in mind that the power Concussion Blast scales at 1d6 per 2pp and has no
save, and can target multiple opponents with augmentation without dividing the damage.
For further comparison of usage, if enemies are not bunched up, meaning you can get maybe 2-3 enemies at most with the power, it might actually be better to focus on one and use an Energy Ray - a level 1 general power - which has no save, but requires a touch attack. This means that enemies with Evasion / Improved Evasion / good saving throws are more likely going to take half damage from Energy Missile, halving its effectiveness, while on Energy Ray, with a ranged touch attack, they take full. The downside to the Ray is needing to make
the touch attack, or wasting the power points. Some feel, and justifiably so, that 1/2 is better than nothing. But, in the case of Improved Evasion, the best you can hope for is half (unless using cold - as you can see, the logistics of taking all the powers and permutations is pretty intense).
The save DC on Energy Missile has been widely contested, but it is viewed by many that most saving throws are too low at the high end. If you are uncomfortable with Energy Missile's save progression, modify it to 1:2 as the normal energy powers progress. An official errata changing the save DC to 1:2 is expected by many, viewed as not terribly unlikely by more, and only argued against by a smaller group.
The Energy / Damage portion of this power is explained in Myth6.
The targetting powers portion of this power was clarified by the author, Bruce Cordell, in an email response. He stated that the power cannot target attended
objects. However, his choice of wording and memory of the game rules left many individuals feeling he was mistaken about game mechanics and, as such, is still up for debate. The spirit of the power as stated by the author, however, is that it can not
target attended / held objects, and would be a legitimate ruling on those grounds.Myth 6: Energy powers are overpowered
Answer: While there are four versions of every energy power, one for cold, fire, electricity and sonic each, the fact is that no matter which version you use, you are still using an energy type, which many creatures become immune to in later levels. While the Psion does have the versatility of 4 options, fire, cold, electricity, and sonic, the two strongest, fire and cold, are also the two most commonly resisted or immune. Electricity is another that is a common immunity, and sonic is balanced by decreasing the damage per die. The option of Force powers tends to halve the damage output of the Energy powers, and comes in much fewer choices.
Some argue that the fact that Psionic characters can decide on the fly what energy to use is unbalanced, but the problem with this argument is that the Psionic classes suffers from extreme lack of options. They have very few choices for powers. The Psion only stays slightly ahead of the Sorcerer until later levels, when the Sorcerer has more spells known than the Psion has powers known, and the Wilder has even fewer than that. By giving this flexibility, it keeps the Psion from being a "one trick pony" and making their limited options entirely useless in the wrong situation. The wizard can counter this by preparing new spells (given enough time, granted), but the Psion does not have this option.Myth 7: The Erudite is broken
Answer: The Erudite was a class released in Dragon magazine prior to final revision of the XPH. As such, it is not a core or even WotC class and, as such, is to be used at your own risk. The Erudite in and of itself is not a valid argument to use against the balance of the Expanded Psionics Handbook, of which it is not explicitly a part.Myth 8: Metapsionic feats are too powerful, they cost less than metamagic feats
Answer: Metapsionic feats cost 2 fewer power points than previously, but cost Psionic focus. Psionic focus is something that normally requires a full round action in and of itself to regain and can only be used once per feat pre-epic and is also covered in Myth 3. With yet another feat selected, Psionic Meditation, the manifester can get focus back as a move action and manifest the same round - just like a sorcerer - but has to pay for that in the cost of one of their very, very limited feats.Myth 9: The Metamind is overpowered with Font of Power
Answer: You're kidding, right? Once per day 10 rounds of unlimited power but still restricted to manifester level of power points per manifestation is overpowered? You also lose five manifester levels, which translates into over 150 power points and, if a psion, two bonus feats. You can also never
access 9th level powers as a 10th level Metamind or use Expanded Knowledge to access 8th level powers. The Metamind is commonly viewed as one of the weaker Prestige Classes in the XPH.Myth 10: Metamorphosis, Greater is overpowered
Answer: Met, Gr is a 9th level Egoist-only power. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it is important to understand that only Egoists
or those who paid lots of gp and xp via Psychic Chirurgery, which requires DM intervention anyway, can have access to this power. Further, it costs an XP penalty every time it is manifested and cannot be accessed until 17th level.Myth 11: Schism is overpowered
Answer: There are several aspects of Schism that balance its power:
1. Telepath-only: by restricting it to only Telepaths or requiring a 9th level or higher non-Telepath to use a feat, access to this power is limited or costly to a character
2. Manifester level - 6 for manifesting: Powers at -6 Manifester levels will typically not have a high enough saving throw to be useful if using offensive powers, will not do a substantial amount of damage, or are buff/utility-type powers
3. Spellcasting: To cast a spell with the schismed mind, you must have the Still Spell and Silent Spell feats, plus either Eschew Materials feat or a spell that does not require material components. Further, a Sorcerer cannot benefit from Schism at all, as he only gains a standard action, and a Stilled, Silent spell without material components takes a full round to cast. This makeup also requires the manifester, who must be an effective 7th level Psion, also have levels in Wizard and use two feats at the minimum. If the manifester isn't a Telepath, he must be an effective 9th level Psion / Wilder and also have spellcasting levels.
4. Swift actions: The Rules As Written (RAW) do not grant the schismed mind any swift actions. Further, they specifically state that the only action the schismed mind can take is a standard, purely mental action, ruling swift actions out entirely.
5. Regaining Psionic Focus: It is an official ruling until ruled otherwise that, because the Schismed mind cannot normally refocus (as it costs a full round action), they can therefore not refocus even with Psionic Meditation.
6. Limited Power Points: A Psionic character, as stressed above, has an extremely limited amount of power points to draw from. By manifesting this power and then further drawing from the pool to manifest extra powers per round, the Psionic character is burning out at roughly 1.5 the normal rate. In a multiple-encounter per day environment, this character will be nearly worthless in the last encounter if "abusing" this power.Myth 12: Vigor is overpoweredAnswer:
While Vigor has one of the best HP / PP ratios when comparing similar healing-type spells converted into power points, it is offset by the fact that it is a) self only and b) temporary hit points. Temporary hit points do not stack with each other, they overlap. What this means is that unless you manifest a stronger version of Vigor than the temporary HP you have remaining, you gain no benefit, and actually waste PP if you manifest Vigor while still under the effect of a previous manifestation.
An example would be having 25 temporary hit points from a 5 pp manifestation of Vigor, then taking 10 points of damage. You would have to manifest at least a 4 pp version of Vigor to gain any benefit, as you still have 15 temporary hit points. With 4 pp, you only gain 5 effective temporary hit points, which is not very efficient.Myth 13: Psychic Reformation is overpowered
Answer: Psychic Reformation is one of the most heatedly debated power in the XPH. There are two ways to balance this power if you see it being abused:
1. Make outside sources to purchase the service from unavailable
2. Balance the power if the character takes it themselves
Option two can be balanced in a few ways:
Make the power cost more xp - 500 xp / level or a scaling xp cost based on the number of times it has been manifested on any one target
Make the power take longer to manifest - 1 hour or day instead of 10 min
Limit the number of times the power can be manifested on any one target - once per level / five times in the characters life / etc
Rule out options - cannot learn or remove Item Creation feats at all
Impose limits on changes - require that changes must be legal at time initially acquired
Any one of or the combination of those options above help to balance this power if you, as a DM, feel it is being abused.Myth 14: The Cerebremancer is overpowered
Answer: If you also believe that the Mystic Theurge and Psychic Theurge are overpowered, then you may have an argument. Otherwise, I suggest looking at the Mystic Theurge prestige class which does the same thing for Divine / Arcane that the Cerebremancer does for Arcane / Psionics.
One argument against the Cerebremancer is that they have synergy that the other classes don't, since a Psion / Wizard gains multiple benefits from a high intelligence and similarly for a Sorceror / Wilder with Charisma. The important part to note is that at the level a Cerebremancer can be entered, the character is 7th level and only has access to 3rd level spells and powers. Meanwhile, a straight Wizard will have 4th level spells and another bonus feat. The Cerebremancer gives up progression rate and a high caster level for increased flexibility at a lower power.Myth 15: 1st level powers doing 20d6 damage are overpowered
Answer: A 1st level power can only
do 20d6 damage in the following situations (plus a select few other variants):
20th level manifester paying 20 pp - effectively a 10th level power
15th level manifester utilizing the Empower Power feat and paying 15pp - effectively a 7th level power Empowered
17th level manifester utilizing Overchannel + Talented - effectively a 9th level power
13th level manifester utilizing Overchannel + Talented + Empower Power + Psicrystal Affinity + Psicrystal Containment and using two foci (5 feats) and possibly utilizing Psionic Meditation to be able to do it more than once every three rounds (6 feats) - effectively a 7th level power Empowered
15th level Wilder Wild Surging - running a 25% chance risk of losing 15 power points. - effectively an 8th level power
All of the above are paying for, at the very least, an effective 7th level power with a metapsionic feat tacked on. Psionic powers scale because of the very limited number of powers they can learn. They are not the same effective power level at 20 power points that they are at 1 power point, which is why most have scaling DCs when you augment them. See Myth 2 on why most characters cannot do this sort of thing.Myth 16: Psionics are more powerful than wizards due to their damage powers
Answer: While a psion can easily outdamage, on average, a wizard in a single combat due to the way powers are manifested / augmented, the depletion of that psion's power points is so rapid that, in a typical game, the next encounter or the encounter after that, he will be completely drained of power points and useless.
The psionic characters were balanced based upon the entry in the Dungeon Master's Guide
that parties should have four encounters per day of an equal challenge rating to the average party level, or two encounters per day of a challenge rating two higher than the average party level. In situations where a manifester only has one or two encounters in a day's time, they are going
to outdamage the majority of the other characters. However, if that same character has to deal with four or more encounters in a day, or deals with the intended quantity of encounters as set down in the DMG, they are very balanced.
If you translate spell slots a wizard gains into power points to manifest an equal level power, you will see that the numbers for the two classes are almost identical, with the Wizard actually slightly favored due to 0th level spells that psions do not gain. This is the basis for the balancing factor of 4 encounters per day.Myth 17: The King of Smack build is overpowered
Answer: This build utilizes two expansion books, as well as the Expanded Psionics Handbook. As such, it is not a psionics-only build. Alllowing players access to Rapidstrike and Improved Rapidstrike is the majority of the abuse potential of the King of Smack and, as such, is not a cause for arguing that the XPH, in and of itself, is overpowered.
This build also allows the elan access to Rapidstrike, which is a twist of logic and many do not feel is valid due to the nature of monstrous feats.Myth 18: Time Regression is too strong
Answer: Time Regression is a 9th level power
- Nomad only
- meaning Psychic Warriors, Wilders, and non-Nomad psions can never access it without DM intervention
. Only 17th level and higher Nomads can get it normally.
It has a 1000 xp cost
and only works for ONE ROUND
. Basically, it's a costly last-round redo in case something went horribly fubar and you had a near total-party-kill. Using this power on a regular basis is quickly going to cost you gobs of XP, something most characters would not want to do on a regular basis.Myth 19: Astral Construct is too good for a 1st level power
Answer: Astral Construct - first and foremost, is Shaper
only. All other classes / disciplines must use a feat to access this power
. Second, Boost Construct, while nice, is yet another feat a Shaper / Psion must spend of their limited 12 / 13 (if human) feats in their career.
The Astral Construct is not all that different from Summon Nature's Ally / Monsters of the same level as the augmented power. You must keep in mind that druids get 9 different Summon Nature's Ally, while the Psion must augment his to get the nicer ones, effectively making a 3 pp Astral Construct equal to Summon Nature's Ally II / Summon Monster II.
If you compare apples to apples, Summon Monster V to Astral Construct level 5, you tend to find that, while in some cases, one or the other is better, typically it is not overpoweringly so.Myth 20: Empathic Transfer, Hostile is overpowered
Answer: Empathic Transfer, Hostile is Mind-Affecting
. This is very, very, very important and usually overlooked. Many, many, many creatures in D&D are immune
to mind-affecting effects. Undead, constructs, mindless, innate immunities, buffs, etc. Yes, this power is nice, but it is easily negated
by having mindless / immune enemies. Situtationally being very good does not make a power too strong - it means it is situational
Harm type spells, conversely, are Negative Energy - which many, many more creatures are not immune to, making it far more likely to work.
Further balancing this power is the fact that the damage dealt is limited to how much damage the manifester themselves is suffering from. A psion / psychic warrior at full health cannot use it, as they have no damage to transfer. As Telepaths tend to not have high number of HP due to d4 hit dice, a 5th level Telepath who manifests this power is probably not going to do the full damage, unless they're near death or higher level. Psychic Warriors, who will have the larger HP pool, but gain this power later in level, are limited in usage of this power by the power point cost and their power point pool.
While this is definitely a nice power, and at times can be very devastating, it does have several limiting factors.Myth 21: Elans are overpowered
Answer: The Elan racial abilities, at first glance, are quite powerful. However, several things need to be taken into account before deeming them overpowered. First, usage of any of the saving throw / damage negating abilities uses the character's immediate action. Use of an immediate action means the character cannot use another immediate or swift action until after
turn. So, a character playing an Elan could activate the damage reducing ability and negate 10 hp of damage, but if the next enemy casts a spell on him, he now cannot boost his saving throws - he's already used his one action for that round.
Second, the cost of the damage reducing ability is subpar compared to the temporary HP buff of Vigor. A quick Vigor buff will not only save the Elan power points, but grant them better HP usable for more than just a one-shot.
Third, unless the character is a psion or wilder, their number of power points is more than likely extremely
limited, meaning the number of times per day they can use these abilities can usually be counted on one hand. If the character is a Psion or Wilder, they are then taking away power points used to manifest more efficient powers / offensive powers, taking away from their combat ability.
The Elan racial abilities, while nice, are mostly for extreme emergencies than anything else. Use of them on a regular basis will end up with a character who, while hard to kill, won't be able to contribute as much to combat. If you feel that these abilities need to be brought in line, limit the number of power points that can be spent on any of these abilities as 1 / HD or 1 / 2 HD, or something that suits your taste.Myth 22: The Overchannel feat is too strong
Answer: The Overchannel feat, for those unfamiliar, allows you to boost your effective manifester level by up to 3, thereby letting you spend more power points on powers than would normally be allowed. The downsides to this are that:
a) You must spend a feat on Overchannel
b) You take damage for using the feat (1d8 for 1 point, 3d8 for 2 points, 5d8 for 3 points)
c) The boost is capped at 3 extra manifester levels and no more
To avoid taking the damage, you can take yet another feat, Talented, which allows you to avoid the damage - but only up to 3rd level powers - and you must expend psionic focus to do so. What this means is that if you want to Overchannel every round, you need a 3rd feat - Psionic Meditation - to do so, otherwise it's every other
This boost is offset by the extra power point cost to the already limited power point pool, the need to take anywhere from 1-3 feats out of the 12-13 you get as a (human) psion, and the fact that, for damage-based powers, after 7-8th level, Empower Power is more efficient and costs fewer power points, as well as one-two fewer feats.Myth 23: The Slayer is overpowered
Answer:No, I don't mean Buffy. There exist two versions of this prestige class, the Illithid Slayer in the XPH and the Slayer in the SRD. The first is balanced by requiring DM intervention to meet the prerequisites, something that can easily be used to keep it out of any game. The second has no RP requirements and is the main focus of this myth.
A Psychic Warrior 6 / Slayer 10 / ClassX 4 is not commonly viewed as overpowered. Any hit to the Psychic Warrior's manifester level is huge due to the extremely limited nature that is the Psychic Warrior's manifester chart.
However, a Psion 8 / Slayer 10 / Full BAB class 2 has been seen as pretty strong, bordering on the overpowered side.
What needs to be taken into account when deciding if this prestige class is acceptable to use would be two things: other sources allowed, who is taking it. If the answer to the second is the Psychic Warrior, I would say it is not going to cause much of a problem. The Psychic Warrior will be somewhat stronger, but not overpoweringly so. Remember, he's also losing out on effectively 2 bonus feats (due to the bonus feats of the Slayer) along with a manifester level.
If the answer to the second is a Psion and the Complete series and 3.0 splatbooks are not allowed, I'd rethink allowing the generic SRD Slayer into the game. This class is decidedly stronger than the Core Eldritch Knight and grants far too much for any Psion to be able to enter into it. The psion does lose out on 3 Psion bonus feats (10, 15, 20) and 3 manifester levels, but can get 9th level powers and be considered a strong Gish build. Worst case scenario, stick with the XPH version, as then, unless you have the party hunt an Illithid, they won't be able to get access anyway.Myth 24: Split Psionic Ray is too powerful
There are two ways to interpret Split Psionic Ray:
1) You can send the two rays at the same target, thereby doubling the damage or
2) The two targets must be separate, as the feat states two targets and not up to two targets
The way to rule on this is if the DM allows the Complete line of expansion books from WotC. Complete Arcane has Split Ray which specifically states it allows you to target the same creature with both rays, thereby making it logical that the psionic version would do the same. If Complete Arcane is not allowed, then it is recommended not to allow it, as it is quite powerful.
The power point cost is accurate in that metapsionic feats effectively cost one level less because they require focus expenditure and do not gain free damage scaling.Myth 25: Synchronicity is overpowered
The wording of Synchronicity is actually the problem with this power. Does it grant an extra standard action? By the way it specifies move action + standard action, I'm inclined to say no, and that would be the way to keep it balanced. The overpowered view comes from those who feel that this grants them their normal allotment of moves in a round plus an extra standard action, which the power description does not state is gained.
Now, were this power Contingency-ed or Quickened, you would essentially have your first round of full actions (minus your swift) and your second round of actions where you can take the standard anytime you want. This sounds better than it is, since the power never states you get an extra standard action. While this does allow you to change your place on the initiative count based on need, it does not, nor should be thought to, grant you an extra standard action.
Even using Anticipatory Strike does not grant an extra
standard action. The rules of readying an action, which this power does, clearly state that once you take your action, you have essentially used a new turn's standard action and your initiative count changes.Myth 26: Anticipatory Strike is overpowered
There are a few things about this power that need to be understood.
First, immediate actions cannot be taken until your first turn in combat. This is often times overlooked, but you cannot use an immediate action if you are flat-footed. The basic rules for combat also state that each character starts out flat-footed until they are able to act. So this ability cannot be used on a surprise round or before the character's first turn in initiative.
Next, the power does not grant any extra actions, per se, it simply lets you use them earlier. It also uses the swift action up for the next round, eliminating any Quickened-type effects. The next round, you must either spend another 3 pps in order to act or wait until the initiative count recycles.
While this is definitely a nice power, if you take into account that it borrows actions, not creates, uses the next swift action, and can't be done before the character would normally be able to do something, it is fairly well balanced.
[Edit] - Typos + Schism levels, Energy Missile, Psychic Reformation, Encounters per day, King of Smack
Psychic Reformation addition, Energy Missile Houserule, Encounters per day
New additions: Time Regression, Astral Construct, Hostile Empathic Transfer, Elans, Overchannel