Better Dig Two (Psionic and Psychic Interactions)

Temple of Shadows - Tease

In the past we have looked at the reasons to clarify power Source mechanics in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Source is frequently assigned rules (such as arcane spell failure chances) however the game is often silent when addressing a Source as a whole. Other than indicating which classes draw on what Source, we are left to define the specific nature of those interactions. When it comes to reconciling Dreamscarred Press’ psionic powers rules with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Occult Adventures psychic magic, clarity on Source is more important than ever.

Why Source Matters

A lot of design is devoted to the smaller edges of Source mechanics. Determining relative strengths and weakness and how energies will interact (if at all). The knowledge of the reasons chosen behind these in game and their continued consistencies will set precedent for possible future interactions.

Possible Source Interactions Include:

  • Resistance: Probably the most common feature referenced in mechanics. Traits like History of Heresy make Source mechanics relevant as early as 1st level. Even the most direct Full Transparency (see below) games need to be aware of Source on some level.
  • Dispelling: Some powers may be better or worse at impacting one another. Maybe Divine magic is harder for Arcane Source characters to resist but easier for them to dispel. Maybe psychic spells can’t dispel psychic powers at all? Try not to be too arbitrary with this sort of assignment.
  • Suppression: Does an antimagic field from a wizard shut off all magic AND powers for all  classes? Just arcane casters? Only Divine? Consider the implications of each and make sure the choices made support the reality of the story you want to tell. An empire of Priests of the God King are not likely to rise in power if divine magic is weaker than sorcery unless the Priests are far more numerous.
  • Synergy: Maybe some magic feeds off another? Maybe some have advantageous after effects if used in the presence of a similar or opposing force.
  • Fusion: Can two powers be combined? Prestige classes like Mystic Theurge illustrate potential advantageous power combination in a way that suggests even different sources can be combined with proper skill.

Oppositional Levels in Source Mechanics

Understanding that determining our Source interactions can have long term consequences, we can take a quick look at Source conflict and opposition. In the ancestral system different editions handled these relative strengths several different ways but some suggested options might include:

  • Sources are Different: In this model each source is effectively invisible to one another. This means that dispel magic can’t touch psionic powers and a priest cannot lift a curse from a man afflicted by a wizard. Source interaction of this nature requires a lot of bookkeeping but can lend enormous flavor and reality to magical systems in games. It is however an extreme departure from Core Rulebook reality and should probably be discussed at the beginning of a campaign. Relative numbers of casters really impact the relative power of a character in the game.
  • Sources are Highly Dissonant: In this model, different sources have a difficulty fully interaction. It is generally represented by a -5 circumstance penalty to caster or manifester checks to impact a resistant effect. Cross sources have massive issues dispelling or countering one another and generally are considered too different to mix.
  • Sources are Slightly Dissonant: Here we have powers that almost line up. A -2 circumstance penalty to active power checks to impact a resistant effect. Cross Sources become less efficient but are still viable ways to impact one another.
  • Sources are Advantaged: It is possible to have some sources stronger than others. Be very careful with this design choice as that it sets up clear hierarchies of strength between casters and power users. If this is the case, invert above bonuses when checking against a resistant effect, +2 for Mildly Advantaged and +5 for Highly Advantaged.
  • Sources are Vulnerable: It is possible that having one Source makes you vulnerable to another. The Advantaged bonus also applies to saving throw DCs in this case. Highly Advantaged vulnerabilities can be very upseting to player characters and should be made clear from the beginning of the game.
  • Sources are Fully Transparent: In this model (currently the default for the Core Rulebook and Dreamscarred Ultimate Psionics ruleset) powers resolve as equals. No one Source is stronger or weaker when dealing with another. Some classes can fuse Sources (Mystic Theurge and Cerebromancer) to enhance effects.

Sources for Psychics and Psionics

Understanding the above Source mechanics it then comes to question what Source interactions if any do we have when a setting pairs psionics and psychic magic? Reviewing our Sources’ generalities we start to see that despite differences in rules and classes commonality abounds:

  • Manifesting/Mental Casting: Components for most psychic casters are mental and skew many of the general issues that other Sources present. The power is simpler to channel in many was and often less obvious.
  • Costly Activations: Both expenditures of Psionic Focus and Thought Components require extended action economy costs and generally make casual uses of psionics and psychic magic more complex than other sources.
  • Modular Resources: Undercasting as a spell mechanic extends similar flexibility to psychic casters as manifesters get from power point. This allows each resource expenditure to be efficient to the force the mentalist chooses.
  • Lack of Physical Complications: Neither manifesting or casting requires somatic components or is hindered by armor.

It seems considering the above similarities that when it comes to campaigns with dual psychic and psionic characters we have two options when viewing mechanics. The first is that the two are evenly matched near opposites and probably have strict Transparency (although that doesn’t have to be the case).

Another, perhaps more interesting option is that they are the same Source. A combined Mental Source that includes psychics and psionics in a manner more similar to Arcane’s divisions of spontaneous and prepared casters. In this case (which is the Lost Spheres Publishing default) it stands to reason the powers can also interact and smoothly synergize…

Book of Beyond Preview: One Mind

One Mind (Liminal, Psionic)

Prerequisite: Psionic subtype, psychic magic casting.

Benefit: Your Will is one when channeling the power of the Mental Source. Your psychic magic caster levels stack with your manifester levels when determining the strength of your effective caster or manifest level. You may expend your Psionic Focus to cast thought component spells without increasing Concentration DCs.

Normal: The DC for any Concentration check for a spell with a thought component increases by 10. A psychic spellcaster casting a spell with a thought component can take a move action before beginning to cast the spell to center herself; she can then use the normal DC instead of the increased DC.

For more liminal energy interactions, you can get the Book of Beyond WIP subscription now or wait for the stand alone Book of Beyond: Liminal Power! Available at:, drivethruRPG, Paizo and RPGNow.

This entry was posted in 3rd Party Options, Lost Spheres, Occult Adventures, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Better Dig Two (Psionic and Psychic Interactions)

  1. Pingback: Mirrors… (Psychics & Psionics) | "Find the Hero Within" – Lost Spheres Publishing

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