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Nerd Watching: Also Available In Telepathic Broadcast

Written by Nicholas - Published on July 16, 2009

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

Those of you who are keen on 4e will remember that a few months back we got a sneak peak at the first PHB3 class, the monk. Along with the monk was revealed a new power source, psionic. While I like the monk class, it is not what I was call a traditional psionic character. Now a full eight months before the release of the PHB3, we have another psionic class. You can’t really get more traditional psionic than a class called “psion”, can you?

The Power of the Mind

At a basic level the psion is not surprising. The class is a psionic controller which primarily uses intelligence. The psion comes in two flavors, telepathic and telekinetic. The two are different builds of the same class so that you can take telepathic powers even if you are specialized in telekinesis. Only the telepathic build is available right now. It includes all the classics. Telepaths can send thoughts to their allies, confuse their enemies, fool them into attacking each other or just do an old fashioned brain stab. You can also fortify your own mental defenses and augment your skills with brain tampering. There’s also some newer physic powers, such as digging into your foes sense and deleting yourself from them as an at-will power!

The designers told us that they weren’t done shaking up the established assumptions of 4e. Well, they weren’t kidding.

The Weird Part

Speaking of at-wills, you’re going to be getting a lot of those. There is a special feature of psions. You may remember that the monk introduced a new rule system of “full discipline” powers. The designers were attempting to have a striker who really played up the mobility aspect and told us that they weren’t done shaking up the established assumptions of 4e. Well, they weren’t kidding.

Psions get no encounter attack powers like all the other classes do. Instead, they get power points. You should hold back the groan until you hear all the details. At-will powers for psions can be augmented. A psion can spend power points on these augmentable powers to power up the effects or to add new elements to the power. Power points replenish like encounter powers. Every time you would have gotten an old encounter attack power, instead you get more power points and extra at-wills. Essentially you have a huge suite of abilities you can use all of the time but can put extra effort into them to make it comparable to an encounter power.

There are some complaints about balance due to the new system, but that is pretty typical.  I think it’s quite neat, it calls upon the classic trope of a psionic person approaching a difficult mental task with more and more concentration until their nose bleeds and their brain threatens to burst. Bartoneous over at Critical Hits broke down some of the math of psions compared to classes. He comes to the conclusion that there is only a very minor mechanical advantage and only in the epic tier.

My One Complaint

My complaint about the class actually has nothing to do with the mechanics, but how they were presented. The preview is given in a PDF on the website. Class features were only readable in the character builder. Each individual power was a link to that power’s entry in the compedium. I assume it this was done to prevent people copying the PDF or printing it out for their non-paying friends. Regardless of the reason, I was very interested in the psion class but even I found it annoying to read. Previews are designed to be enticing, but this one was a chore to read.

What do you think of the new psion class? Does the return of power points give you joy or nightmares?

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.



13 Responses to “Nerd Watching: Also Available In Telepathic Broadcast”
  1. kaeosdad says:

    I wish that they used a mechanic similar to power points for all the classes. Augmenting wizard spells or charging up fighter attacks would’ve been real awesome with power points.

  2. zifnab says:

    I’ve never actually made it through 4th ed. PHB (to say nothing of PHB 2 and however many more they’ve released), but it seems like every time I hear something about 4th ed. it seems to be getting closer and closer to a paper version of a computer game. Maybe I don’t understand this new system and maybe I’m bias towards 3rd ed (which I am), but this sounds a lot like mana points or special points and I can’t help but see a little blue or green bar filling up in my mind. Now I’m aware that we’ve had hit points for a while, but I’ve always been glad that other than that and the leveling system, there wasn’t much of a need for mana or similar things.

  3. Dan says:

    Hey Zifnab,

    Don’t forget that power points and the psionics started in 3rd Edition, if I’m not mistaken. However, they weren’t used in the same context that it seems they will be used. It used to be that each psionic “spell” (or whatever they were called) cost a certain amount of power points, and you had a limited supply of power points. When you ran out of power points, out came the weapon. It may be that MMORPS coppied D&D with a similar idea, or vice versa, but you tell me: which sounds closer to Mana Points?

    On another note, I’m not a subscriber to DDI, so unlike all y’all who have subscriptions, I’m just gonna have to see.

  4. Nicholas says:

    @Zifnab, Dan: 2nd ed also had power points that works similar to the ones in 3. These are exactly the least like mana of all the power point systems.

  5. zifnab says:

    @Dan and Nicholas

    It seems I was mistaken in regards to this point system. I’ve never read much 2nd ed and although I own the 3.5 ed. Psionic book, I never got around to reading that either. Shows what I get for commenting without doing my research =) Thanks for the corrections!

  6. Jonathan Zero says:

    Liked psionics in Dark Sun. It made sense in that world setting. But I was the only one in the group that played a psion character and now that I DM it has not been used in a long time. I didn’t like the 3rd edition rules, felt too much like a bastardized mage. Rolled a psion character in the 4th ed character generator and found the character uninteresting. And power points? They feel like one more thing to keep up with.

  7. Bartoneus says:

    Thanks for the link Nicholas, glad you liked my look at how the numbers play out.

    @Kaeosdad: I agree with you that after I read the augmentation mechanic I thought it could be really cool to apply to other classes. I actually think it could be done relatively easily, reflavoring magic missile to have augmentations that boost it’s power (and all of the other wizard powers). Cloud of Daggers for instance, could easily become area burst 1 and kickass! The only problem I have with the idea is that this makes Psionics less unique, and gives people who already think it doesn’t fit in even MORE reason to not like it! :D

  8. Greybunny says:

    Every time you would have gotten an old encounter attack power, instead you get more power points and extra at-wills.

    To clarify this, because I misread it the first time through : you get more power points and extra choices for at-wills. Just like you can never have more than 4 encounter powers, and replace old ones with new as you level up, the psion replaces their at-will powers with new selections available in place of encounter powers. Psions start with the standard 2 at-will powers, up to 3 as they level up. Not quite as flexible as the “get 2 at-will powers plus one every time you would gain an encounter power” interpretation I got out of my first read-through. Probably the fault of the split DDI/Character Builder presentation, really.

  9. Mike Strand says:

    One thing I have to keep in mind is that each new class, while having a unique feel, can’t overpower the other classes. I give props to WotC for keeping powers pretty even. I really like the psion class, it feels different, yet is not overpowered. I have played D&D since ’79 and I enjoy 4E muchly!

  10. andro101010 says:

    Hey 1st edition had Psionic power points! You couldn’t even cast Psionic Blast if your power point total fell too low (I think it was 80 points). I quite like this idea and think it could and should be extended appropriately to the other classes.
    4th still edition won’t let me tell the stories I want to, so we don’t really roleplay it, but it is a good game.

  11. Destrina says:

    4th edition doesn’t prevent anyone from role playing. It is nigh unto impossible to assign a rules system to actual rp, so 4th doesn’t try to. If you’ve read the DMG, it near constantly references trying to get your pcs to rp, and encourages the DM to give good rp descriptions. They can’t really do more than that.

  12. The Reaper says:

    Great! Now I can recruit REAL psionic users. Just add Magic (C) “millers” such as Mind Funeral and Traumatize to the dailies of this class and I can play evil psionic NPCs that can destroy a person’s mind!

  13. The Reaper says:

    Just made some custom power cards for the Psion to satisfy my 1st want……..

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