As you might know by now, I really started my gaming career after the release of D&D 3.0. I was passing familiar with the previous editions, but 3rd Ed was what I cut my teeth on. When the Psionics Handbook came out for that edition, I was thrilled. It looked awesome and, of course, it was more than a bit broken if you picked the right combinations of powers, classes and feats. With the advent of 3.5 and the Expanded Psionics Handbook, I was even happier. I had fallen in love with Psionics.
Then, years later, I moved to Pathfinder. I was really happy with the changes, but in the back of my mind, I kept wondering about Psionics. Then, I found out about Psionics Unleashed. I was initially a little disappointed that it wasn’t published by Paizo. However, I saw some positive feedback on it and decided to check it out. By and large, I am really happy that I did.
From what I understand, this book had its genesis in the form of a group of people who were fans of 3rd Edition Psionics that were sad/upset that Psionics didn’t get any updates when Pathfinder came out. So, using the power of the messageboards they were on, they set out to create that update themselves. All of the 3rd Ed Psionics info falls under the OGL, so all they had to do was align those rules with the changes that came in Pathfinder. Simple, right?
It took the main authors a year to get all of the material updated, with the help of a very willing community. As I paged through the book, I saw the love and care that went into this update. Everything seems to have been addressed. If you’re at all familiar with Psionics from 3rd Edition, this will all seem familiar to you. And welcome, as well.
There were a few oddities that jumped out at me in terms of the rules. Nothing major, but things that seem to be departures from how similar spellcasting classes work in Pathfinder. The first of those is the lack of 0-level powers. Every spellcasting class in Pathfinder (save for the half-casters and the Alchemist) have access to Orisons or Cantrips that they can use an unlimited number of times per day. I kind of expected to see something similar for at least the Psion and Wilder, as those are full “casters.” Instead, much like the Pathfinder Alchemist, they get additional at-will abilities that sub in for the 0-level powers. Not a major deal, but definitely different if you’re used to the utility of those low-level spells.
Another thing that gave me pause was that the Psion doesn’t have a Psicrystal by default. I might be mis-remembering how Psycrystals worked in 3rd Edition, but I do remember that my Psion’s Psycrystal was a big part of his character. More useful than a familiar (in my estimation) for its telepathic abilities, that little crystal served me well. I know that the bonus feats easily allow any Psion that wants one to get a Psycrystal, but it just struck me as odd that they weren’t part of the Psion class by default. The upshot to having to take a feat to get a Psycrystal is that Psycrystals are now available to Psychic Warriors without having to multi-class. Very useful.
EDIT: As you can see in the comments, below, I was wrong about the 3rd Edition Psions and their Psicrystals. It has always taken a feat to get a Psicrystal. I guess that invalidates most of the previous paragraph, but you’ll have that, I guess.
The rest of the classes are very, very well done. I didn’t see anything that gave me a reason to doubt the efficacy of any of the additional classes, be they main classes or prestige classes. As well, my favorite Psionic class, the Soulknife, now rocks from there to next Sunday. They were good in 3.5, but now they absolutely rock my face off.
Similarly, the Psionic races were done very well also. Blues, Dromite, Xephs, Half-Giants, altered Duegar, they’re all there in their naturally Psionic glory. Any of them could easily be integrated into an existing campaign world if the GM so chose (and believe me, I’m tempted). The same goes for the skills, the feats and the powers. Everything looks good and a lot of balance issues were fixed. My favorite power used to be Schism (kind of like a mental Haste) and it’s still really good, but not overpowered like I was before. (But oh the days of my Psion having Skate and Schism Permanently manifested on himself… but I digress).
So if all of the content of the book is pleasing, is there anything to be aware of that’s not so good? Yeah, a few things.
First, and by far the most noticeable, is the art. Overall, the art is, well, really bad. There are a few black + white line drawings that are good, but almost everything in color just looks goofy. It’s not something that you can really hold against a company when they’re working independently like Dreamscarred Press is, but it’s noticeable. It makes the book less professional than it otherwise could look.
The same goes for the layout. It’s much more akin to reading a 3rd Edition book than it is like reading a Pathfinder book. That’s not to say that the layout is bad, but it could definitely be better. And this is one area where, unfortunately, I have no direct advice to offer. I’m not a layout guy. I couldn’t tell you, or the company, exactly what needs to be fixed, but I know that it could all be better. Not helpful, I know, but that’s what I have to offer.
Overall, this book is exactly what fans of both Psionics and Pathfinder need. It offers all of the mental goodness that we’ve come to expect from Psionics while keeping the rules in line with the design advances that we love in Pathfinder. Now, all we need is a Pathfinder-compatible Thri-Kreen and we can play some Pathfinderized Dark Sun…
Overall Score: 4.25 out of 5. Great content, but the art and the layout take things down a bit. If you’re a fan of Psionics and Pathfinder, it’s a must-buy.
[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games, Pathfinder, Psionics, reviews[/tags]