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Psionic Power (4e)

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New options for ardents, battleminds, monks, and psions.

Hot on the heels of Player’s Handbook 3 comes Psionic Power, a D&D supplement that explores the psionic power source in more detail. This supplement presents hundreds of new options for D&D characters, specifically focusing on heroes who channel the power of the mind. It provides new builds for the ardent, battlemind, monk, and psion classes, including new character powers, feats, paragon paths, and epic destinies.

Product History

Psionic Power (2010), by Robert J. Schwalb, with Ari Marmell, is the sixth and final Powered splatbook for D&D 4e. It was published in August 2010.

Ending the Powers Books. Like all of the previous Powered sourcebooks, Psionic Power covers one of the power sources for D&D 4e, in this case the psionic power source that had been introduced several months earlier in Player's Handbook 3 (2010). It includes new builds for the four psionic classes — the ardent, battlemind, monk, and psion — as well as a variety of other options including powers, bloodlines, feats, magic items, paragon paths, and epic destinies.

At the time, it looked like the Powered splatbooks were going strong. In two years, individual books had detailed all five known power sources; there had even been a Martial Power 2 book, suggesting the longevity of the line. Then in late 2010, everything abruptly changed. Following the August publication of Psionic Power, both the core book series and the Powered series for 4e came to an abrupt end. They were replaced the next month by the brand-new Essentials line, which premiered with a Starter Set (2010), Heroes of the Fallen Lands (2010), and the Rules Compendium (2010).

Later books like Heroes of the Feywild (2011), Heroes of Shadow (2011), and Heroes of the Elemental Chaos (2012) were somewhat reminiscent of the Powered books, but tended to focus more on themes and locales in 4e's cosmology, rather than simple power sources.

About Psionics. Psionics date back to OD&D Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976), where it appeared as a bonus ability that allowed any character class to engage in psionic combat if they rolled well — though this was balanced by the loss of class abilities. AD&D 1e (1977-1979) used much the same model, but without the class-based balance. It was also the only edition of D&D that included psionics as a core game system (albeit, in an appendix).

Psionics reappeared in a revamped form for AD&D 2e (1989) in PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook (1991). Psionic powers were now linked to a character class, the psionicist. The powers available to a psionicist were greatly expanded and organized into six disciplines: clairsentience, psychokinesis, psychometabolism, psychoportation, telepathy, and metapsionics. Though psionics had always had a science-fantasy edge to them, that was more obvious than ever thanks to the new detailing of the 2e psionicist.

Psionics got additional attention during the 2e era thanks to Dark Sun (1991), a setting that placed a heavy emphasis on the mental powers. It was a core part of the setting's definition, and also an important plot point in several later adventures, including DSM2: Merchant House of Amketch (1993), DSE1: Dragon's Crown (1993), and DSE2: Black Spine (1994). Dark Sun also received its own psionics splatbook, The Will and the Way (1994), which expanded the system from PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook. After that, 2e psionics were revised one more time in Dark Sun Campaign Setting, Expanded and Revised (1995). The simple system that resulted also appeared in Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995).

In D&D 3e (2000), psionics were advanced through a trio of sourcebooks: the Psionics Handbook (2001), the Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004), and finally Complete Psionic (2006). A number of variant psionicist classes were introduced in the later books, including the ardent, the divine mind, the lurk, the psychic warrior, the soulknife, and the wilder — offering more variety for psionics than every before. The 3e era was also the first time that magic and psionics were integrated, foreshadowing their appearance as parallel power sources in D&D 4e (2008).

About the Ardent. The ardent shares a name with a class that premiered in Complete Psionic (2006). However, other than the use of the word "mantle" to explain some of the character's powers, the similarity ends there. The 3e ardent was a psionicist who drew powers from primal truth (mantles), while the 4e ardent from the Player's Handbook 3 (2010) instead builds its power around emotions. James Wyatt described the 4e ardent as the "the psionic warlord".

About the Battlemind. The battlemind was a brand-new class that had originated in Player's Handbook 3 (2010). As with many of D&D 4e's new classes, it was created to fill a role (the psionic defender), then expanded beyond that to become an integral part of the game's world. The battlemind started out as a totally different class called the "ironjack", which was a fey trickster warrior. It later became a "psychic warrior", repeating a class name from Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004). It finally settled into its place as a battlemind (with no fey connections at all).

About the Monk. The monk was the oldest class to be resurrected in the Player's Handbook 3 (2010). It originally appeared in Dave Arneson's Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975) for OD&D, though Gary Gygax states that the class was created by Brian Blume, based on the martial arts found in the Destroyer novels (1971-Present). The monk reappeared in the AD&D Players Handbook (1978), then a more Asian version of the class appeared in Zeb Cook's Oriental Adventures (1985). Shortly afterward, the monk was unceremoniously dumped prior to AD&D 2e (1989) with adventures like WG8: Fate of Istus (1989) explaining the change.

A "fighting-monk" priest kit was published in PHBR3: The Complete Priest's Handbook (1990), but a real monk wasn't available for most of 2e's run. That changed with the release of 2.5e and the publication of Player’s Option: Spells & Magic (1996), which presented a full monk subclass that was then reprinted in Faiths & Avatars (1996). A different version of the monk subclass — one closer to the class' 1e origins — then appeared in The Scarlet Brotherhood (1999).

The monk reappeared as a standard class in D&D 3e (2000), and so it was a surprise that D&D 4e (2008) players had to wait for the Player's Handbook 3 (2010). The new 4e monk was also a big change from his predecessors because he was based on the psionic power source. The designers had considered using a ki power source (which was never actually published), but they eventually decided that ki wasn't a good fit. They also liked the idea of having an Asian-influenced class that didn't use the ki power source that was to be the basis of other Asian-influenced characters.

About the Psion. As a telepath and a telekinetic, the psion was a more focused version of the psionicist class that had appeared in previous editions of D&D. At first, psionics weren't associated with a specific class, but that changed with Dragon #78 (October 1983), where Arthur Collins detailed a totally unofficial psionicist class. An official psionicist class appeared for the first time ever in PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook (1991). The psionicist for D&D 3e (2000) then appeared in the Psionics Handbook (2001), though he was now called a psion.

The 4e designers had been thinking about creating a "telepath" class as far back as 2005, but they quickly realized that such a versatile class couldn't appear in the first few sets of core books. Like previous versions of the psion, the one that was detailed in Player's Handbook 3 (2010) depended on power points, but they were now a part of the "psionic augmentation" model for psionics: power points weren't required to use psionic powers, but they were needed to improve them. The 4e psion also was different from its predecessors in one other way: he had finally shed the science fantasy theming that had surrounded the class since its earliest days.

About the Creators. Shwalb was a d20 freelancer before he started writing for D&D 4e in 2009. He'd previously contributed to books like Divine Power (2009) and Primal Power (2009) and was also a coauthor of the Dark Sun Campaign Setting (2010).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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File Last Updated:
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