What a Mind Job – Book Review of Psionics Unleashed

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?

Yeah, 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.

Psionics Unleashed is available from Dreamscarred Press for $24.99 (print version) or $9.99 (PDF version). The version reviewed was the PDF version.

[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games, Pathfinder, Psionics, reviews[/tags]

6 thoughts on “What a Mind Job – Book Review of Psionics Unleashed

Add yours

  1. Good overview. I too highly appreciate the creation of the Psionics book for Pathfinder.

    One thing to note though – I was using DND 3.5 psionics before upgrading to pathfinder, and in 3.5 the Psion does not automatically get a Psicrystal – you have to take the Psicrystal feat to get one. I’m not sure if this was a change between 3.0 and 3.5, but it definitely was that way in 3.5, so Pathfinder didn’t changed that.


  2. Must have been something I mis-remembered. Now that I think about it, it has been, what, six years since I played a 3.5 Psion. Something like that anyway. I doubt Psions got Psicrystals for free in 3.0, either.

    Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll give the article a quick edit.


  3. Still miffed they nerfed Dromites from Monstrous Humanoid to Humanoid (insectoid). The reduced AC I can live with since Dromites had an innate +4 to AC which is incredibly broken, but my dromite ranger’s gimmick is that no X-Person spell would have an effect. Regardless, it’s a very good book.


  4. That’s in line with no Pathfinder playable races having a level adjustment, which is something I really approve of in general. I always hated having to take those extra “levels” into account when making an Aasimar or Tiefling.


  5. Having not been in to 3.x Psionics really, I was always afraid of how broken it was. Going back to the 1st and 2nd Ed days, I never really liked how it was a totally different system from magic.

    I love this book! It feels very much like it ‘just fits’ into the Pathfinder rules, and the mechanics of the system makes total sense in terms of the magic system. Everything seems to offer interesting, balanced new choices (races, classes, feats) that really allow your character to do some really cool things!

    I’m always said to hear Erik Mona say Psionics aren’t something Paizo will probably pursue, as none of the design staff is passionate about them. I’m very glad Dreamscarred Press was able to step into that void and offer such a great product.

    Nice write up!


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