Psionicist as the Fourth Class

1d30 sets out in a recent post to define classes by what they fight. This differs from the definition of classes by how they solve problems. If you look at classes by how they solve problems, you get Fighter (solve problems by physical force), Mage (solve problems by magic) and Thief/Rogue (solve problems by skill or finesse). Under this paradigm, a Cleric/Priest class requires a bit of convoluted rationale. Do they solve problems by faith? Divine favor? ???

The Fighter/Mage/Rogue paradigm shows up in a lot of games. Two that I can think of off the top of my head are Warrior, Rouge, Mage (Stargazer Games) and Numenera (by Monte Cook).

Using 1d30's paradigm, though, makes you wonder why a Rogue/Thief is necessary. Fighters are a human class designed to fight just about anything, especially other humans. Mages learn magic to fight demons. Clerics rely on their faith to fight undead. This way of looking at class feels more old-school to me, especially in light of the post shared in his post.

Reading the article reminded me of a couple of the design goals of the ACKS Psionicist. Specifically, the ACKS Psionicist would be different than a magic-user and the psionicist would be useful against incorporeal foes. The latter required me to redefine ghosts as something besides undead.

One of the proficiencies of the ACKS Psionicist allows the psionicist to actually grapple ghosts or shadows. It doesn't allow the psioncist to kill a ghost or shadow outright, but he or she can deter such creatures long enough to protect others. Ghosts/shadows can walk through any obstacle and I wanted a way to combat them that wasn't a variation of creating a wall of force.

Using mental powers makes sense to be a quick method of attack/defense against these creatures. More than that, the most vulnerable part of a ghost is the mind. Since it cannot be attacked easily by physical force (fighter) and magic may take too long to cast (mage), the ability to attack the mind of a ghost fits in very well.

Even astral constructs fit because it is the psionicists attempt to fight fire with fire. Astral constructs and ghosts are made from the same substance, so they naturally are able to fight or contain each other.

From 1d30's post, though, reminded me also of the ghost generator I am working on. Instead of a 6-7 HD creature with aging attacks, ghosts can do a whole range of things from cause disease to cause nausea to causing instant death. Ghosts can also have variable weaknesses ranging from silver (or electrum) to nothing. More powerful ghosts are even immune to +1 magic weapons.

Still, I want to go back and add in creatures that range in HD from 1 to 10 as well as add in various abilities. I don't mean a ghost dog for a 1HD ghost, but instead something like a mindless ectoplasmic blob that was formed from a soul that didn't successfully become a ghost.

More to think about.

Template Concepts for the ACKS Psionicist

Yesterday, I mentioned two wild talents that I am thinking about including in the ACKS Psionicist.

One of them, tentatively named Argentum Touch, allows the psionicist to temporarily change a normal weapon into one that can hit creatures vulnerable to silver. The idea behind introducing this power is to provide for adventures featuring lycanthropes as potential enemies. Depending on what the GM wants to do in their campaign, the psionicist could be a type of lycanthrope hunter working independently or as an agent of the king. One idea I have toyed with involves adding a ritual power that can cure lycanthropy. For whatever moral reasons, the lycan hunter could have the goal to "heal" lycanthropes instead of slaughter them.

I treat lycanthropes as crossbreeds generated by mages in order to explain their origins. It also helps to explain why traditional cure disease spells have no effect. Healing a lycanthrope with a ritual power (equivalent to a ritual spell), it more akin to psychic surgery - the psionicist separates what is animal, what is magic and what is humanoid in the process.

The other reason for treating lycanthropes as crossbreeds is to explain all the various types out there. While I don't plan on having thirty different types of lycanthrope, I do want to add a couple major types of lycanthropes and a handful of minor types. I consider the werebear, werewolf and weretiger as major types. The wererat and wereboar are minor (after I change the hit dice of wereboar to 3+1 down from 4+1.) I do want to add a werelion as a major type as well as various were-reptiles as minor types. I also want to add a unique creature that serves as a monster and an exploration xp award. I want to invent a better name than werespider. For the record, it is not modeled after Pennywise from Stephen King's It.

In the post yesterday, I also mentioned a different type of animated corpse that is not undead in the traditional sense. This type of unliving creature would be created by alchemical means instead of drawing negative/chaotic energy from the Outer Planes. Although these creatures may or may not be touched by evil, there is a price to pay for living in an alchemical body. The largest price is that once one of these creatures die, they are irrevocably dead. As a minor aside, alchemical undead are also unable to travel in the Astral Plane in the typical manner. Any such trips must be made bodily.

The alchemical undead have a variety of motivations for seeking a form of immortality, so they can be evil, demented, psychotic, etc, but do not necessarily have to be. Since they are not maintained by negative energy, they cannot be turned or controlled by necromancers. It shouldn't be too difficult to come up with a compelling reason to make them a recurrent encounter, good or bad.

Another power, Intangible Touch, allows a psionicist to harm or grapple intangible creatures like shadows, specters, ghosts, even vampires in their gaseous form. The main idea would be to create ACKS ghosts of all kinds. Unlike B/X D&D, ghosts would not be undead. They would not be subject to turning, though I would give Clerics of level 5 or above immunity to the aging attack of a ghost.

These ghosts would range from the traditional banshee and poltergeist to much weaker creatures like animal spirits and will o' the wisp. Characters of all levels could encounter various ghosts and spirits. A typical party can deal with them through magic, but a party with a character that can deal with ghosts more directly provides interesting opportunities to do things like remove ancient curses. I imagine an adventure arc with the characters undoing some ancient wrong which allows a ghost to rest and thereby remove a blight on the land. Sure the psionicist in the party could directly harm the ghost and even kill it, but he or she would need to get to the ghost first. An intelligent ghost makes a great villain, especially if the party cannot just directly attack it, even if they have the power to directly confront the ghost. I'm just thinking of the mind games an incorporeal creatures can play with characters, not to mention some impossible traps. Bwa ha ha ha.

One of the other reasons for ghosts as creatures is to introduce a rationale for psionicists to create astral constructs. Astral constructs, by my definition, are immune to any kind of aging or level draining attack. They can also directly attack ghosts without special provisions. It can serve as a type of anti-ghost, or at least a bodyguard to fend off various ghostly attacks. Thinking in these terms can lead to non-humanoid shaped astral constructs. I Imagine a psionicist with a shimmering, slightly intangible dog as a companion. Heck, make it a ball that can quickly roll between the psionicist and a ghost.

These are just some of the ideas behind these two powers. When I finish the ODT formatted documents, this stuff will probably end up in a supplement, otherwise, I'll never finish. Next post, I hope to provide some stats for other lycanthropes and ghosts.

Wild Talents for the ACKS Psionicist

At one time, I had about 20 wild talents. I whittled them down to a handful. The main reason for this was that I didn’t want a first level character with a Wild Talent to be a vastly more powerful than other characters. The idea of characters with wild talents is that they can do some unusual things, but nothing as powerful as a magic missile or similar spells.

Wild Talents

Those with wild talents cannot perform psionic attacks, but can use psionic defense. Another psionic creature cannot use psionic powers against a character with a wild talent until the character with a wild talent has lost one round of psionic combat and taken power point damage. Despite the fact that a character with a wild talent does not have any power points, they must have less than zero power points, just like psionic characters, before psionic powers affect them.

To determine the presence of a Wild Talent, roll 2d20 and add the ability score bonuses for Wisdom and Charisma. Any roll 40+ indicates a wild talent. This roll can be made at any time, but only once in a character’s life.
Wild Talents are added to characters of any class as a proficiency. It is up to the GM if this will be added as a general or class proficiency. I prefer to add them in lieu of a class proficiency.

This power allows a character to move at a faster rate for one round. To determine the new movement rate, treat the character as if he or she has 3 less stone in encumbrance. If a character has less than 5 stone encumbrance, the combat movement rate will be 50? per round and the running movement rate will be 150? per round. This power can only be manifested once per hour and no more than four times a day.

With this power, the character will know which direction is North. This knowledge prevents the character from becoming lost. The individual with this talent will gain a +4 to save against any spell or spell-like effect that creates disorientation.

Control Shadow
With this power a character can manipulate any normal shadow within 30? (usually their own) like a puppet. This power will not affect Shadows listed in the Monster section of the core rulebook.

Detect Poison
With this power, a character can determine if an object or creature he is touching contains poison or has been poisoned.

This power allows a character to transform any non-intelligent object into any raw substance or plant. Regardless of the character’s skills, the result of an exchange cannot be a manufactured item like a sword, a table, a meal or even a bolt of cloth. Common items created by an exchange include grain, trees, stone, even small quantities of gold or uncut gemstone. During the transformation, some value is lost. This means that turning lead to gold will never be profitable.  The rationale for turning any object into gold is that it is worth losing some value to transform a barrel of preserved fruit, a heavy treasure, into a small quantity of gold, a much lighter treasure.

One common story tells of a man that overcame a powerful orc warlord. When the orc died, the man took the orc’s magic sword and transformed it into enough grain for the people of nearby villages to eat until the next harvest season.

Results of Proficiency Roll
Roll — Pct. Value Lost
1 — 100
2-6 — 75
7-14 — 50
15-19 — 25
20 — 10

This power allows a chosen object within 30? to float on any liquid. Roll 2d6 on the following table to determine the amount of weight that the power can affect:

2 — One small item
3-5 — One stone
6-8 — Two stone
9-10 — Three stone
11 — Four stone
12 — Five stone

This power will allow a character to catch any one missile weapon throw at him or her. The character must make a successful saving throw vs. Staff & Wands to catch the missile. The character will not be able to do anything else in a round besides catch the missile weapon. When the character declares that he or she will be using this wild talent, he or she will act last in a combat round and will not roll to determine initiative.
It should go without saying, but this power provides no benefit for catching boulders thrown by giants or other large creatures. It's not catching the boulder that's tricky, it catching it and not being crushed by it that is difficult.

Potential Additions:

Argentum Touch
This powers causes a weapon to do damage as if made of silver.

Use of this talent is limited to once per day for characters of any class except psionicists. Psionicists with this wild talent can use it once per level.

Note: Lycanthropes are traditionally vulnerable to silver weapons. In some myths, mostly modern ones, vampire are also allergic to silver. For this power to be useful, a campaign must have some creatures vulnerable to silver. Another idea for this is to create a separate form of animated corpse that are not traditional undead. These unalive creatures can be radically different, yet vulnerable to silver.

This power creates a boomerang effect for any thrown object. The object must weigh less than 1 stone and is limited to being a small item. The normal range for this power is 90?. However, the minimum range if used as a weapon is 20?. Any object used as a weapon does 1d4 damage on a successful hit. After attempting an attack on a target, the object returns to the manifester’s hand in time for action during the next round.

Note: This basically creates an auto-loading sling with half the range and normal damage as listed in the core rulebook. However, this can also do cool things with enchanted stones. Charge a stone with a power that takes effect upon a successful strike.

Intangible Touch
The character with this talent can strike any incorporeal creature while unarmed. This talent will not work in conjunction with other powers or spells. On a successful attack, the Intangible Touch does 1d4 points of damage.
A character with this talent can also briefly hold an incorporeal creature for one round, once per encounter.

Note: Examples of incorporeal creatures include shadows, ghosts and vampires in their gaseous form.

Two of these powers are derived from Encyclopaedia Psionica: World Shapers by Mongoose Publishing. They are weaker than the powers as described on the Grand OGL wiki, but this book will be credited as a source in the final published document.