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Re: Rick's D&D style psionics for TFT. David's comments.

Hi David, comments inline below.

On 2016-11-09, at 7:57 PM, David Bofinger wrote:


I like the idea of psionic monsters. Maybe there's a hymenopteran caste that does it too? And a psychic fungus that infects the brain of a humanoid or animal and makes them a psion that spreads the fungus,

Good ideas.  I'll use them when I write up the monsters.

I never used D&D 1e psionics so I'm not comparing, just looking at these rules themselves.

I'm curious why you wanted to replicate the D&D 1e psionics rules in TFT. Was there some feature of those rules that you thought especially clever or fun to play?

Two reasons, DMG had created rules to use D&D style psionics which
got me thinking about them.  Second, years ago, I had tried to fix those
rules and failed miserably.  So it was a bit of a personal challenge to 
see if I had grown as a game designer.

I've nothing against short term brain damage, that could be quite a good mechanism. But I've never seen permanent damage to characters work well.

It is the way I see mental combat working.  See also the lyrics to the 
song "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" by Blue Oyster Cult.

I would be interested to see your design for a 32-point psion character who could effectively use a short sword. It is, I suppose, barely possible - but all you'd be doing is delaying the character's psionic relevance for longer.

I agree, he would be a poorish shortswordman.  

The issue as I see it is that a playable psion can't be built on 32 points. So any game that starts at that point is going to make playing a psion boring. That's a huge downside and I can't see why you'd want to leave it in the system. The rules would be much better with that issue fixed.

In my campaigns, people do not stay at 32 attributes very long.  I guess
I am not as worried about it as you are.  Further, i think most characters
will be a wizard, or fighter, or thief first, with psionics being a sideline 
that gradually grows in importance.

A wizard being weak is one issue. I think the linear fighter quadratic wizard feature is one of the many examples of bad game design in D&D. It isn't something it's a good -idea to replicate.

Fair enough.

Incidentally I don't think parties carry wizards in the expectation they will some day become strong. Parties are made of PCs and don't throw PCs out just because they are weak.

But far worse than being weak is being bored. Players want their characters to be doing something. If they spend the first three turns saying, "My character sits there trancing," and the fourth one saying, "oh, so you killed them all then?" that's not much fun.

If a character is a decent wizard, who occasionally gets to use a cool power
that most people have little defence against, then things won't be boring for
that character.  I expect that people won't be using psionics in battle (if all
they have is Trance transfer mode), but rather will be planning ambushes
where the psion is behind a wall or something.  I don't really see psionics in
combat until you have Probe at least.


I understand the advantage of pPSI over PSI. I'm unclear why you'd ever choose PSI. What do you need PSI for, other than making pool?


On 10 Nov 2016 09:24, "Rick Smith" <rick_ww@lightspeed.ca> wrote:
Hi David, everyone.
  If anyone were to take psionics I would have to write up some of the 
disciplines and sciences which would make psionics more flexible &
useful.  These rules just worried about the combat side of things. 
(On my list of things to do is writing up some psionic monsters.)

  My goal in making these rules was to 'fix' the 1st edition AD&D 
psionic rules, while still keeping the feel of them.  Central to that 
system was choosing attack mode and defence mode and indexing
them.  I think I have succeeded, my rules are FAR more playable 
  As for permanent brain damage, it was not too difficult for a psion
in D&D to permanently lose their powers.  If you think about my 
rules, permanent brain damage is on the tables, but in practice it
will come up very, very rarely.  Given that people start with a max
IQ 45 or so, and your max IQ has to reach your current IQ before
there are any severe effects, then for 99% of characters, this won't
impact their characters - and never quickly.

  I think that permanent damage will be less crippling than in the
regular D&D version.  However, the fact that bad results can 
attrition you, adds a dark spice to the system.

  If you feel that in combat a psion is too weak at low levels, you are
free to cast spells or hit people with your shortsword.  It is kinda like
D&D wizards.  At low level they were very, very weak.  But the party
carried them because eventually they would become very, very
powerful.  My system is not so extreme.  However, even if people
never take a second psionic talent (gaining a second transfer mode),
situations will come up, where the prep time will be not a problem.

  I do think that you would like to use pPSI (power Psionic super-
script), as it gives you a way of quickly increasing your psychic pool.  
(In D&D this was a crap shoot, and if you started out weak, you
STAYED weak, which I think is no fun.)  The only purpose for the
pPSI is to increase the size of the psionic pool.  Putting 2 attributes
into pPSI gives you 6 extra points in your pool, which is a pretty 
big increase, (almost doubling it for the suggested character you
were thinking about).  I would expect most psions to fairly quickly get 
a +12 or +15 pPSI.  After that, concentrating on other things (IQ, 
PSI or better talents) all start to look more attractive.

Warm regards, Rick.

On 2016-11-09, at 4:06 AM, David Bofinger wrote:

I was looking into Rick's psionics and thought I'd investigate what a starting psionic character looks like. A 32-point character in TFT is of typical experience for a typical group, neither the most callow nor the most capable, and should IMO be both playable and a natural path to more powerful psions. In fact even a less capable character, representing green recruits, should be playable, just like 11-11-8 swordsmen, 12-9-9 crossbowmen, 9-12-9 archers and 8-11-11 wizards.

Buying IQ 16 would preclude being an actual psion so the character will have ST 8, DX 8, IQ 12 (allowing Psionics 1 talent) and 4 points left for psionics attributes.

I read Rick's posts but I'm unclear what non-superscript PSI can do that superscript PSI can't so I'm not sure what the correct split between them would be. Maybe Rick will point out the bit I missed.

Huge issue: Psionics 1 means it takes three turns to enter and leave trance. So most combats will be approaching over before the psion takes a role. Unless the psion spends most of his operational life in trance and is carried everywhere (a padded stretcher dropped as combat erupts? a goblin in a dwarf's backpack?) which may not be believable in very many circumstances. I think this is a really bad feature of the system, it makes playing a starting psion not a lot of fun. Imagine if starting wizards could only cast spells after several turns of taking no part in the combat other than as an unwilling and passive target, they'd be a lot less fun. Instead, make the convenient, fun attack modes accessible to weaker characters - preferably even to, say, a 30-point character, let alone a 32-point one. The levels of Psionic talents should be useful/necessary/desirable for some other reason.

If the character is in combat then he will presumably be using psychic blast most of the time, since that seems to be the standard against non-psions and presumably that's what most enemies will be. It's reasonably effective: most 32-point opponents, smacked with a psychic blast, will most likely be pretty much crippled afterwards. Admittedly how they will be crippled will be a complete lucky dip which I find a bit odd but they probably will be. So it's a reasonably effective attack, probably better than anything any non-wizard in the party will have, but it is only going to last a few attacks before the psion runs out of puff. Its range of 4 hexes is respectable but not awesome. The fact the character is fixed in place and needs to be completely protected is a major tactical nuisance.

The whole system leaves me a bit cold, too many cards for something that should be a minor sideline to the real battle, too much "roll on the wombat exfiltration table with a +3 modifier" but a lot of D&D makes me feel that way.

Any attack that permanently reduces a PC's attributes is nastier than I want to have in my game. Where's the fun in it?


On 29 October 2016 at 19:00, Rick Smith <rick_ww@lightspeed.ca> wrote:


A psion who has no defence (either by choice or because his or her psychic pool is exhausted), is treated as non-psion for all purposes.

Non-psions can only be attacked with the Psychic Blast. The default target is a single person, but by spending 3 times as many points from the psychic pool, it can affect ALL figures in a hex and in all 6 adjacent hexes. If affected by an area attack, each victim rolls on the table below with a –2 modifier. (Thus figures who are being hit by an area effect psychic blast, are very unlikely to have to roll on the brain damage tables, since only a natural 18 will generate that result.)

If a psion attacks a non-psion with a Psychic Blast roll 3d6 and resolve the results:

Psychic Blast on Non-Defending Victim:

Roll 3d6: Results:

3 or less If victim can make a 2vsIQ, there is no effect, otherwise roll again on this table.

4 If victim can make a 3vsIQ, there is no effect, otherwise roll again on this table.

5 If victim can make a 3vsIQ, there is no effect, otherwise, the victim is clumsy with a –3 DX. This lasts 3 turns.

6 Attacker makes an X:X–2vsIQ Battle of Wills with Victim. If the victim loses the Battle of Wills, then the victim falls, 

and can't get up on next turn.

7 Victim has trouble coordinating muscles. They must make a 3vsIQ or be at –4 ST for

3 turns. During this period no great efforts are allowed. This does affect

weapon use, but does not trigger damage effects in any way. (In other words, this –4 ST 

is not treated as damage for being at permanent negatives, etc.)

8 Victim must make a 4vsIQ or drop all weapons, falls and can't move for 1d-1 turns.

9 Victim must make a 5vsIQ or is confused for 5 turns: (If they make the saving throw they are only confused for 1 turn). 

 While confused, 1die IQ points lost. This IQ loss affects IQ saving throws, and totally prevents psionic use, 

but does not prevent any talents or spells from being used. (But if a talent or spell requires

an IQ roll, the lower IQ would affect that roll.)

10 Attacker makes an X:XvsIQ Battle of Wills with Victim. If the victim loses, then he or

she falls asleep. He or she can't be woken for 1d+1 turns.

11 Attacker makes an X:XvsIQ Battle of Wills with Victim. If the victim loses, then he or

she is mentally stunned. No actions for 1d+3 turns, then treat them as if they had

been affected with the 9 result (confused for 5 turns) above. (Ignore the saving

throw, assume the 5vsIQ had already failed.)

12 Victim is at –4 MA and –6 DX for 5d+5 turns.

13 Victim drops all items and has an epileptic fit for 1d+6 turns. Then treat them as if they

had been affected with the 12 result (–4 MA & –6 DX) above.

14 Controlled. Attacker makes an X:X+1vsIQ Battle of Wills with Victim. If the victim loses, then he or she is treated 

as if a control person spell cast on them by the psion who hit them with the psychic blast. No saving throw, 

unless they are commanded to do something that will likely result in their death, in which

case they must make a 3vIQ to throw off control. Lasts for 1d+1 minutes.

15 Victim is sent into coma for 1d+3 days.

16 Roll on Brain damage table below at a –3 modifier.

17 Roll on Brain damage table below at a –1 modifier.

18 Roll on Brain damage table below.


People on the losing side of a psionic attack can take brain damage. The GM is welcome to introduce the rather ugly results of brain damage, but it is suggested that brain damage should not badly affect PC's until their maximum IQ is equal to their current IQ. The brain is quite resilient, and there should be quite a bit of abuse before the character is badly and or permanently affected.

Brain Damage Table:

Roll 3d6: Result:

3 or less No Effect, or minor GM generated quirk that lasts for less than a minute.

4 or 5 Victim vividly experiences a long forgotten memory. (No other game effect.)

6 Victim must make a 3vsIQ, or is at –2 DX for the rest of this turn.

7 Victim loses sense of smell and taste for 1d+1 turns. (Or another GM effect.)

8 Victim must make a 4vsIQ, or say or do something that's totally socially inappropriate.

9 Victim has a blinding headache. 3vsIQ, or lose all actions from the terrible pain. Roll each turn to avoid debilitation, 

for the next 6 turns when the headache wears off.

10 Victim is dizzy. Must make a 2vsDX & a 3vsIQ, if victim fights or runs. If they fail,

they will fall prone. The victim will remain dizzy for 1d+5 turns.

11 Victim is at –1 MA and –2 DX, for 1d+8 turns.

12 Victim is confused. –4 IQ, for 1d+5 turns. This may affect language, spells & talents.

(That is, if IQ is now too low for a language, spell, etc. it can't be used.)

13 Victim's vision becomes confusing. –4 DX as if everything is blurred for 1d+3 minutes.

14 Victim loses 1d+1 points from the max size of their psychic pool for 1 week. Also, victim won't 

form memories for the next 1d * 10 minutes.

15 Victim permanently loses one point from their psychic pool. (This can be shown with a

negative PSI power superscript, that can be bought off with experience.)

16 Serious Brain Damage, roll 2d6 on the table below, but subtract 1 from the roll.

17 or more Serious Brain Damage, roll 2d6 on the table below.

Serious Brain Damage Table:

Roll 2d6: Result:

2 or less Paralysed. Victim falls over for 1die turns. Then at –2 DX & –2 MA for an hour.

3 Victim blinded for 1d+1 minutes. No psionic powers may be used for an hour.

4 Victim struck dumb for 1d+1 hours. No psionic powers may be used for an hour.

5 Victim loses 3 random talents or spells for 1d+6 hours. No psionics may be used for a day.

6 Victim loses psionic powers for 1d+9 days.

7 Victim gains epilepsy, narcolepsy, tourettes, aphasia, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc

which lasts for 1d+1 months. If the same damage occurs again before it clears

up, then it may become permanent. (GM choice of type of syndrome.)

8 Victim permanently loses one point from their maximum PSI attribute.

9 Victim permanently loses one point of maximum IQ and one memory superscript. *

10 Damage to Cerebellum: Victim permanently loses 1 point from max ST.

11 Damage to Cerebellum: Victim permanently loses 2 points from max DX.

12 Victim loses 1 IQ attribute & permanently loses two points of maximum IQ. **

* The mIQ can be regained with experience. If you are not using the optional superscript rules, then just treat this as losing one from the maximum IQ.

** The IQ lost may be regained with experience. But note that with out wishes, a maximum attribute can not be improved.