Welcome to 2020. So Evan (Mardin) convinced me to write this. Although I say convinced it was far less dramatic, a barely two sentence question posed through Discord. I enjoy writing so it took very little convincing honestly. By the way, my name is Christopher otherwise known as Xeir and, on occasion, Kelkorian.
That said, this shitshow I will be writing is regarding Dungeons and Dragons. Ye olde satan worshipping parties thrown by nerds. My goal is to give my thoughts on the game in general and new developments. Might as well dive right in.
Recently, Wizards made the world of Exandria, of Critical Role fame, a canonical setting. Matthew Mercer, Exandria’s creator, is a great storyteller and has a great setting that he has clearly poured his heart and soul into. Kudos to him. Also over the last few months there have been several Unearthed Arcana articles for every class. Some were testing out psionic subclasses, a concept I have always had a few problems with, especially within 5e.
Let’s talk about that shall we? The base concept is magic, but with no components, all achieved through sheer force of the mind. An interesting premise for sure, but ultimately flawed. Magic without components is very powerful as they limit your ability to use them in every situation. A person who can cast mind altering or reality altering spells without the use of words, hands or materials can be terrifying and nearly impossible to keep at bay without very powerful countermeasures such as something like an anti-magic zone. Does that work though? Is psionics still magic? At the end of the day, it is magic, but is it magic within the rules of D&D?
It’s up for debate with the ruling on such things shifting its wording several times. One source states that magic and psionics are two different effects. Another states that psionics create magical effects and a tweet from Jeremy Crawford, the lead game designer of D&D, himself states that innate spellcasting is still magic, but does not specifically mention psionics. Crawford is quite articulate and when he states something he usually states it in a specific way, so for him to omit the term psionics seems indicative. Of course, he’s human and isn’t infallible, but the point remains.
Ultimately I think psionics is something that should be more flavor than substance. Perhaps a peppering of intriguing features over high powered, lack of component magic. By the rules, a wizard technically only needs his or her spell book to prepare and add spells to their repertoire. This way of doing magic is very Vancian and, to me, is already quite close to psionics. Luckily, for the most part, this seems to be the route Wizards of the Coast are taking with the concept. I don’t agree with the way they formed a few of the subclasses, but Unearthed Arcana is a beta test after all. We will see how they get shaken out when and if they are published into a source book.
There is some speculation online about a return of Spelljammer to accompany all these psionic subclasses. I hope it’s true. Spelljammer takes this concept of the astral sea being a literal sea and just runs with it and it’s amazing. Of course that mixture of space and fantasy doesn’t float everyone’s boat, but it does for mine and that fucker is powered by magic… in space.