By Thilo Graf
This book from Dreamscarred Press is a whopping 231 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 2 pages ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 225 pages of content.
I own both the pdf, which is full-colour and the dead-tree version, which is b/w.
For this review, I’m going to break my usual format, partly due to me wanting to finish this review this century and not wanting to write a 10+ pages review, so let me first make clear where I’m coming from:
I always loved the idea of psionics. I always hated the implementation. Offense and Defence-modes? Blergh. I’m going to commit a kind of blasphemy and admit to not liking the mindscape-system from the 3.0-days of old. Then came along the Expanded Psionics Handbook… and delivered. Then, I stumbled over Dreamscarred Press and enjoyed their take on the powers of the mind, too.
I’ve been saddened to hear that Paizo does not plan a psionics-book in the near future, but when the guys at DSP stepped up, I immediately remembered the 3.5-days and hoped that they would be able to bring psionics to PFRPG in style. Their task was monumental: Changing the huge amount of content from the XPH to the pathfinder design philosophy as a little 3pp and still keep it reasonably priced.
In this review, I’m mainly going to take a look at some of the new additions and changes.
The book starts with a section on psionic races that takes up 12 pages. The races are:
- Blue: A goblin sub-race, formerly a monster.
- Dromite: Halfling-sized insect people. I never liked them. Sorry. I just don’t.
- Duergar: My friends, the grey dwarves are back and their new write-up rocks!
- Elan: A kind a creepy modified race, chosen from other races and transformed to something not quite human anymore. I liked them in 3.5, and I still like them here.
- Half-giant: Another race I never considered too cool. I prefer RiP’s Jotun for the fluff-angle and I never really got why they have psionic abilities.
- Maenad: I hated these in 3.5. Thanks to an excellent article in KQ 9, I added them to just about any setting I play. Go check it out, if you haven’t already and be thankful they’ve been converted to PFRPG.
- Ophiduan: A reptilian race. Not sure what to think of them. Mainly because I still have the old Ophidians and Yuan-Ti in my mind.
- Xeph: Ahuman-like race without pupils. They are ok, I guess.
- Chapter 2 details the base classes and boy, have they been streamlined!
- Psions: Psions get to choose from the disciplines and an optional generalist choice and get special benefits according to their selection, further emphasizing the difference between the specialisations.
- Psychic Warrior: They get slightly more PSP and warrior paths to choose from, making them more versatile, too.
- Soulknife: Finally. Finally someone has taken pity on this poor unfortunate class and given it it’s rightful place. Badass, cool and FINALLY balanced and no longer the monks weak little brother, this write-up is just as versatile as the first two classes, not only adding power to the class, but also options. Awesome work, guys.
- Wilder: And a second “finally!” from my mouth: Wilders, the chaotic users of natural talents, have finally been reworked so you actually WANT to build one. Where before they were the Psion’s stupid little brothers and sisters, they are now a versatile, genuinely unique class. Excellent work, DSP! I considered this class unsalvageable.
The classes take up 18 pages.
Chapter 3 features discussions of skills and feats for psionics and new skill-usages. The default method is that e.g. Use Magic Device can be used to use psionic devices as well, dispel magic affects psionics, too etc. A minor rules change I welcomed was that obtaining psionic focus does not require a roll any more, just concentration. At low levels, it was just annoying to wait for the psion to make the DC 20 check in 3.5., so good riddance. We also get 69 psionic feats, many of them updated from PFRPG. One update I didn’t get, though, was Cloak Dance – while a cool feat, I already though this general feat would have been better in another book, but oh well. The feats are well-balanced, balance-issues from 3.5 have been streamlined, I’m content with this book. This chapter also takes up 18 pages.
Chapter 4 (14 pages) details the general rules of psionics in a concise and easy to grasp way – good for newcomers to the powers of the mind. The chapter also thankfully features notes on the “Psionics are different”-approach I personally prefer to the powers of the mind. Dodged a bullet there, DSP! 😉
Chapter 5 is almost half of the book, 86 pages of psionic powers. Enough to provide a huge amount of balanced options. Insta-kill abilities have been streamlined to adhere to PFRPG-design philosophy etc. Nothing to complain, apart from: I want MORE!
Chapter 6 (20 pages) details Prestige Classes, to be precise updated versions of the XPH-classes. The Illithid slayer has been converted to a slayer of psionic creatures in general. On another note: The Pyrokineticist HAS a save-or-die ability, however, it’s element-based and his lvl 10-capstone ability, so I’m cool with that.
Chapter 7 details psionic item on 28 pages and, while all-time-classics like the Annulus are here, I would have loved this section to be expanded upon.
Chapter 8 updates the critters from the XPH (sans the Neothelid – @#&$-copyright reasons!) to PFRPG. The artwork is oriented along the artwork of the XPH, a nice nod.
The book closes with a glossary.
I like psionics and I loved some of the 3.5 DSP-books and, to put it bluntly, they have achieved quite a feat in bringing this book together. Layout is nice and apart from one page that is blank but for one feat, the space is well-used. It can be expected that some typos creep into a book of this size, but they are thankfully very few and far between and none of them hampered my understanding of the material presented or its usability. This excellent quality does not entirely stretch towards the art-side, though: There is a plethora of art-styles assembled here, from comic-style color to some pictures that are a bit anime-like and classic b/w-artwork. While not bad per se, they give the book a kind of disjointed feeling that is thankfully not matched by the content. On the content side: I got, what I paid for: An updated, great core system for psionics I’ll be using in the years to come that finally enables me to update our main-campaign (which has been on a halt since switching to PFRPG, we playing other characters since then) to PFRPG. Thus, due to the minor glitches and artwork problems, I should probably rate this 4.5. stars. Unfortunately I’m a long time follower of DSP and had high hopes indeed for e.g. the brilliant Morphean-class, sequestral and mantra-feats and the like to be included as well. They are advanced options, I get that, but I’d have loved to see them nevertheless. My final verdict will thus be a straight 4 stars. Here’s to hoping we’ll get more material soon and that some of the material gets updated. And what about blending with the new APG-classes? There’s much to be done, folks at DSP! Come on, get in on! 😉
Psionics Unleashed is available from: