Psionics: How to combat them


Advice


Hey everyone. I've been a DM for Pathfinder for about a year, and I have a question. I've never run a Psionics campaign, but one of MY DM's has bribed me into running a level 10 campaign (Which I will likely have to write myself). The player is talking about all this damage he can cause, and I have no idea how to combat this amazing power, nor do I know what to expect or how to play this out. Can anybody offer me suggestions? I've browsed the forum, but can't seem to find anything that answers this question directly. Any help is GREATLY appreciated.

Thanks!
Tanis41493


The serious answer is to run multiple encounters per day.

Psionic characters are very powerful if they can nova, but much more manageable if they have to manage their resources.

But yeah, expect very high numbers from the psionic character when he doesn't need to worry about his resources.

(Though it's also worth noting that while psionic characters are combat beasts, they often lack the utility spells that the typical Vancian caster has access to. The psionic character often has to take a metapsionic feat just to be able to use his support powers on other party members.)


Zhangar wrote:

The serious answer is to run multiple encounters per day.

Psionic characters are very powerful if they can nova, but much more manageable if they have to manage their resources.

But yeah, expect very high numbers from the psionic character when he doesn't need to worry about his resources.

(Though it's also worth noting that while psionic characters are combat beasts, they often lack the utility spells that the typical Vancian caster has access to. The psionic character often has to take a metapsionic feat just to be able to use his support powers on other party members.)

What kind of creatures should I throw at them? Should I bump the CR at all in order to combat it?


It also depends on if you are running psionics as a different power source than magic. If so then you will need some of the beasts from the psionic bestiary as they will have methods to negate and dampen psionic prowess.

If you have them as being the "same" power, then your beasts with spell resistance and what not will also be useful.

But definitely forcing them to either use more tactics or more resources will help in making it more challenging. also, mind effects...depending on his psionic type many abilities require the opponent to have a mind.


Hzardus wrote:

It also depends on if you are running psionics as a different power source than magic. If so then you will need some of the beasts from the psionic bestiary as they will have methods to negate and dampen psionic prowess.

If you have them as being the "same" power, then your beasts with spell resistance and what not will also be useful.

But definitely forcing them to either use more tactics or more resources will help in making it more challenging. also, mind effects...depending on his psionic type many abilities require the opponent to have a mind.

How do you suggest I do it? I'm seriously clueless here


Challenging psionics characters is no different than challenging a gish or straight caster type character. It will all depend on what they have selected for powers.

You must always remember the golden rule of Psionics: The number of power points a character can spend on a power is equal to or less than his manifester level for that specific power. This is an absolute rule that cannot be broken.

There are ways of artificially increasing your manifester level, but those are feat/class specific.

Moreover, psionic powers are more resistable due to the power's DC being based on the level of the power, which is not increased when it is augmented. (Feats can modify this).

It is also more prone to dispels for the same reason. A inertial armor power that is augmented to provide +10 to AC at really high level still gets dispelled as a level 1 power, regardless of the manifester level. (There are currently no feats that modify this aspect of psionic powers).


Quite honestly, you shouldn't have agreed to write a level 10 game (Campaign is a strong word) featuring a system you have no knowledge about at a level where most characters, especially ones with magic/psionics are getting into the swing of having tons of powers.

It quite frankly sounds like this other GM who 'bribed' you into doing another game isn't interested in whatever story you're going to come up with; he's only interested in seeing how high his damage numbers go and how much of a bad ass he can be by gaming the GM with his superior system knowledge.


Does the player who suggested psionics have the books? Ultimate Psionics (and I believe Psionics Unleashed, which is one of the previous books that Ultimate has been put together from) have a section on advice how to run Psionics as a GM.

As Zhangar said, you must make sure that your players run into multiple encounters every day, that way the psionic characters have to ration their power points and cannot blow them all at once on one or two powers that completely invalidate a single encounter because if they do they end up powerless for the rest of the day. The book will give you a more precise guide on how many encounters you should throw in every day.

You do not need to increase the challenge of your encounters. Psionics are no more powerful than magic, as long as you force them to keep track of their power points.

---

What Hzardus is referring to is what the psionics book refer to as transparency. What this means is essentially how magic and psionics interact.

If transparency is ON, things like dispel, detect magic, anti-magic fields, magic resistance and all other things that work with magic also work on psionics, and the other way around everything that detects, dispels, resists or otherwise interacts with psionics also does the same with magic.

If transparency is OFF, dispel magic only dispells magic and not psionics and vice versa.

Generally, and especially for GMs who are inexperienced with psionics i would recomment transparency to be on. That way you can expect for example a golem to interact with a psionic manifester the same way it does with a spellcaster.


Quintain wrote:

Challenging psionics characters is no different than challenging a gish or straight caster type character. It will all depend on what they have selected for powers.

You must always remember the golden rule of Psionics: The number of power points a character can spend on a power is equal to or less than his manifester level for that specific power. This is an absolute rule that cannot be broken.

There are ways of artificially increasing your manifester level, but those are feat/class specific.

Moreover, psionic powers are more resistable due to the power's DC being based on the level of the power, which is not increased when it is augmented. (Feats can modify this).

It is also more prone to dispels for the same reason. A inertial armor power that is augmented to provide +10 to AC at really high level still gets dispelled as a level 1 power, regardless of the manifester level. (There are currently no feats that modify this aspect of psionic powers).

^

Have the enemies spread out to avoid the aoe abilities, use tactics, cover, energy resistance is an iffy since some powers can change (with feats) on a whim otherwise its chosen at the beginning of the day.

Manifester level is their psionic levels from classes. So a level one power costs 1 power point. At level one, the character can only use one power point for that power and can't augment it (in the powers area augmenting makes different abilities duration etc, for more power points) But at level 10 he can spend up to 10 power points on a power. A lot of GM's don't know that since psionics is kinda niche 3PP material (dreamscarred press has the majority of these books).

So the best way is to get his references and do a little study. But it can be combatted with the normal means you would use against any other caster/melee caster type. Spread out the combatants to avoid aoe or the awesome bouncing energy ball. Make a decision if magic is the same as psionics (are they separate powers or are they the same as divine/arcane is in standard PF) Also pay attention to his power points, that's where a lot of people mess up giving themselves more power than necessary.


Tanis41493 wrote:
Zhangar wrote:

The serious answer is to run multiple encounters per day.

Psionic characters are very powerful if they can nova, but much more manageable if they have to manage their resources.

But yeah, expect very high numbers from the psionic character when he doesn't need to worry about his resources.

(Though it's also worth noting that while psionic characters are combat beasts, they often lack the utility spells that the typical Vancian caster has access to. The psionic character often has to take a metapsionic feat just to be able to use his support powers on other party members.)

What kind of creatures should I throw at them? Should I bump the CR at all in order to combat it?

Honestly, it's going to depend. Especially on what the rest of the party is like, and what your psionic PC actually is.


Maybe this will help:

PSIONICS

And more specifically, regarding Psionics vs Magic Combining Psionic and Magical Effects

You'll need to scroll down just a little to find the section.


Remember that Dispel Magic and Antimagic Shell work on Psionics, too.

The psionic version of enlarge person allows you to grow 2 sizes instead of just 1.

Familiarize yourself with the rules, and remember if your players can have psionics, then so can your NPCs and monsters. They'll have no grounds to complain if they are captured by Cavaliers of the Order of the Penitent who have Iron Grip in addition to Expert Captor and Greater Grapple.

Take a long look at those psionic races. And if your don't break out into a cold sweat when your player wants to be a Thri Kreen, then you don't know what a Thri-Kreen is, and count yourself lucky.


Quintain wrote:
You must always remember the golden rule of Psionics: The number of power points a character can spend on a power is equal to or less than his manifester level for that specific power. This is an absolute rule that cannot be broken.

^ This.


Scott Wilhelm wrote:

Remember that Dispel Magic and Antimagic Shell work on Psionics, too.

The psionic version of enlarge person allows you to grow 2 sizes instead of just 1.

Familiarize yourself with the rules, and remember if your players can have psionics, then so can your NPCs and monsters. They'll have no grounds to complain if they are captured by Cavaliers of the Order of the Penitent who have Iron Grip in addition to Expert Captor and Greater Grapple.

Take a long look at those psionic races. And if your don't break out into a cold sweat when your player wants to be a Thri Kreen, then you don't know what a Thri-Kreen is, and count yourself lucky.

Elan is the best. Harder to kill.


As Threeshades mentions, transparency pretty much needs to be on.

That means any effect that works against spells works against psionics (SR, for example), and any effect that works against psionics (Psychic Resistance is a thing) will also work against spells. That makes life much easier for you.

Beyond that, they're not far removed from casters in their baseline. How do you challenge a damage based psion? Basically the same way you challenge an Evoker Wizard. You either hit him with enemies where his Fireballs aren't as effective (for a Fireball that's evasion, high Ref saves, elemental resistances/immunities, etc.) or you make him use all his Fireballs. Same thing against a psion.

Now, you should sit down and have the player work through his character with you. I've run characters that had a lot of options, and I tended to rush through things during play in declaring what I was doing because hey, I knew what was going on. All that mattered for the rest was rolling dice. After the DM had me pause and break things down a couple times, I learned that whenever I get a new option that I'm going to do a lot, I should make sure the GM understands the game plan. Faster in play there.

Make him do the same with you. You should understand how his character operates.

Silver Crusade

Monsters that directly attack ability scores with drain and lots and lots of them.


Erm, yeah, the fact that you have to come to these forums for advice on this seems a bit sketchy to me. You shouldn't have needed to, because the player with the Psionic character should have given you a rundown on the system if he wanted you to GM for that character so much.


All non-combat encounters. Make a bunch of political/intrigue oriented dinner parties and state dinners.


Fig wrote:
All non-combat encounters. Make a bunch of political/intrigue oriented dinner parties and state dinners.

At this stage PF is probably not the system for you.

How much of the CRB is devoted to tactical wargaming?

This isn't even getting into the fact that a lot of the skill rules are terrible.

Silver Crusade

Arachnofiend wrote:
Erm, yeah, the fact that you have to come to these forums for advice on this seems a bit sketchy to me. You shouldn't have needed to, because the player with the Psionic character should have given you a rundown on the system if he wanted you to GM for that character so much.

Smacks of someone who wants to powergame but isn't good at it so picked something they could easily break.


Snowblind wrote:
Fig wrote:
All non-combat encounters. Make a bunch of political/intrigue oriented dinner parties and state dinners.

At this stage PF is probably not the system for you.

How much of the CRB is devoted to tactical wargaming?

This isn't even getting into the fact that a lot of the skill rules are terrible.

Agreed on all counts. A dinner party with psionic characters might make for one interesting session, though.


Arachnofiend wrote:
Erm, yeah, the fact that you have to come to these forums for advice on this seems a bit sketchy to me. You shouldn't have needed to, because the player with the Psionic character should have given you a rundown on the system if he wanted you to GM for that character so much.
Mystic_Snowfang wrote:
Smacks of someone who wants to powergame but isn't good at it so picked something they could easily break.

Eh. Some people don't think about it, that's all. It's clear and obvious to them, why don't you get it just as easily as they do?

Now, I like to think that I'm a more experienced tabletop gamer than when the little anecdote I told occurred, because it really just happened out of inexperience. I knew my GM was a smart guy, and I knew that everything I was doing was above-board, and each piece approved by him. It was the combinations that were throwing him off, and I didn't explain them because to me they were really obvious. To him, not so much. But I learned from that. So now, if I want a new thing (third-party feat or some such) and I see that he has any hesitation, I explain to him what it is and what it can do in combination with what I already have.

He might be trying to game the system, but what it sounds like to me is a guy who really likes psionics and hasn't had a chance to use them in a while, if ever. I read this more as fanboy than powergamer. Not that the two are exclusive, of course, but I wouldn't judge so quickly.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Ok, it sounds like your player/DM is planning to abuse a common misunderstanding of the psionics rules.

Basically psionics run off a point system instead of spell slots. If you spend the minimum points to activate a power, it goes off at the minimum CL needed to manifest that power. But by dpending more points you can make powers do more damage, last longer or even raise the DC.

Some people miss or ignore the rule that you cannot spend more than your level though, leading to 80d6 psychic fire blasts at 10th level. DO NOT allow the player to do this. Psionics have more endurance than spells by operating in low gear and saving their power for big fights. Trying to keep up with a blaster caster for raw numbers drains them fast, and they can't actually outdo them for damage dice.

Silver Crusade

The let him play one of the new occult psychic classes. They are psionic like and paizo's version of said type of caster. They balance well and are awesome, and won't break your game. And they're fun, one is based of Avatar (TLAB and LoK), and another is totally ghost rider.

Also non-psionics can unload massive amounts of damage. In the mythic game I'm running my boyfriend's brawler does 2 grand in a single round if she crits. (she's got a 50/50 chance).

In the non-mythic game I'm going to be running the spiritualist 3d6+9, this is at level 1.

I've had a slayer (also mythic) who via dual-wielding put out over 2000 damage per round, because improved critical.

There was an NPC Kasatha Gunslinger, who even without the mythic stuff was putting out about 500 per round because four revolvers.


I'd be iffy on recommending Occult Adventures just yet. We know that some of those classes are going to change and change heavily. The Kineticist is a grand example. I blitzed the Beastmass with the playtest version without any real difficulty. But two of the core tricks I used are things we know are changing in the final version of the class.

And while I love the psychic classes OA is bringing (or at least one of them, the Psychic is getting the stink eye), they're not psionics. If the guy in question here is fanboying over psionics, telling him that he has to play another Vancian caster isn't going to make him happy.

If he was fanboying over the 3.5 Warlock, I'd point him to the Kineticist in a heartbeat. But psionics are not psychics, for better or worse (personally, I think better, but that's me).


Tanis41493 wrote:
Hey everyone. I've been a DM for Pathfinder for about a year, and I have a question. I've never run a Psionics campaign, but one of MY DM's has bribed me into running a level 10 campaign (Which I will likely have to write myself). The player is talking about all this damage he can cause, and I have no idea how to combat this amazing power, nor do I know what to expect or how to play this out. Can anybody offer me suggestions? I've browsed the forum, but can't seem to find anything that answers this question directly. Any help is GREATLY appreciated.

As has been said, psionic manifesters are pretty much just like arcane casters. Sure, silence doesn't generally bother them and being grappled isn't as big a problem, but if those two tactics are you only counter to wizards, you've got an issue to start with.

You don't need to increase the CR of your challenges. You don't need to change what monsters you use. This is pretty much a question of "the guy who usually plays a wizard is going to play a blaster sorcerer now... what do I do?"

What you do is recognize that you've got a player who's chosen damage over utility. Don't be afraid of psionics in particular.

That said, definitely learn the subsystem. Don't have your player teach it to you, if you can avoid it.


Mystic_Snowfang wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Erm, yeah, the fact that you have to come to these forums for advice on this seems a bit sketchy to me. You shouldn't have needed to, because the player with the Psionic character should have given you a rundown on the system if he wanted you to GM for that character so much.
Smacks of someone who wants to powergame but isn't good at it so picked something they could easily break.

For that, get the Book of Nine Swords.


Tanis41493 wrote:

Hey everyone. I've been a DM for Pathfinder for about a year, and I have a question. I've never run a Psionics campaign, but one of MY DM's has bribed me into running a level 10 campaign (Which I will likely have to write myself). The player is talking about all this damage he can cause, and I have no idea how to combat this amazing power, nor do I know what to expect or how to play this out. Can anybody offer me suggestions? I've browsed the forum, but can't seem to find anything that answers this question directly. Any help is GREATLY appreciated.

Thanks!
Tanis41493

If your player only has 1 or 2 combats a day and he knows it, then he can nova. What you do is not let the world revolve around the player, and let the world move on.

As an example if the party tries to do the nova then rest routine, then have them be attacked a few times while resting. The psion may be out of power points, and that puts the party in a lot of danger.

Also be sure your player actually knows the rules, and that you know the rules. Most of the time when a psion is complained about it is because of people breaking the rules, and be sure to enforce the transparency rules.

What types of things is he claiming to be able to do. There is more than one way to build a psion so we need to know his tactics.


Never run a game with a system/subsystem that you do not understand. What you need to do is learn the psionics rules first, and I would suggest for your sake not starting at level 10 if you do decide to run it. You will be better off starting at a lower level so you can learn more about the system as you go, even once you know the basics.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

My advice?

I'm keying to what others have mentioned.

Learn the system in question. Sorry it's some work but you have to know it before running it.

Basic rule of thumb, if it sounds too good...he's probably mistaken.
But one thing to keep in mind is psionics is like spell-casting with regards to some limitations. So there is no way he will be throwing 2x or 3x his level in dice damage per attack...now per round with high optimization it is possible, just like a Blockbuster Wizard.

Without knowing which sources are being referenced it is hard to give specific builds. Another very important factor is what the rest of the party is doing. If the player is making an overchannel freak for massive nova damage and you counter with high-reflex/evasion but low normal defenses...and another player in the group has a OMGWTF quadrupounce Eidolon threshing machine you have two headaches to deal with.

While there are some creatures that are immune to psionics I find that to be a bit brute force.

I much prefer the more encounters per day. Sure the psion shines in that 1 fight a day, so would any nova-caster. But 4 a day (the norm by the way) 5 a day? 6 a day? Even chaining multiple encounters with a few minutes rest (just enough for those round/level buffs to fade) can make the psion/caster more careful in his resource expenditures.

Another approach is the red herring. Use doubles/disguised/clones/etc...
GM: "You see...the Big Bad Evil Guy!"
Psion: "Blow all of my psionic power for the day and win the fight!"
GM: "Yup...he's vapors...and then the real BBEG steps out. Thanks for taking care of my minion he says..."
Psion: "Crap, well I have this handy dandy way of doing it all again! But now I'm out..."
GM: "Okay...now the REAL BBEG steps out."

Oh when you do get the character...post his build and let the forums catch any mistakes. For all we know, he may be missing a few basics (just like with Summoners and their Eidolons).


The most easy way to deal whit Psionic, just use monsters whit high PR (Psionic Resistanc), and remeber that creaturs whit SR automatic have the same in PR, and the other way around. So a creatur whit SR/PR 21 will likly negate 50% of all the powers your 10 level player use against it.


Warp Demons


This is just my experience but so far combating psionic characters have been no different than combating any other caster. Anything a psionic power can do there's a spell that does the same thing only way worse and the whole 'nova' phenomena, especially when playing the rules right, is more of a pipe dream that quickly kills the lone big ugly monster who would die just as fast either way. At best the conservative manifesters have a better ability to trickle out their powers to last through the henchmen so that they have enough juice to shoot down the boss if they need to better than casters can. Otherwise I find they less powerful because they have fewer 'weird' powers that cheat out powerful effects.


Have to agree with Malwing. For the most part, Psions work just like any other casting class. Honestly, the only thing I can think of that really makes them scarier than normal wizards and sorcerers is their flexibility with elemental blasting, since their blasts aren't locked into a single element. And even then I would argue that wizards can ultimately win out if they're built to get really scary with metamagic.


Not a serious suggestion, but here's a classic story that's a bit relevant.

Teh Internet wrote:

In this party I was playing a TWF barbarian with two mauls, Diehard, and Quick Draw. The other party members were a psion (kineticist), a druid, a ninja/monk, and a spellthief. We were all at level 16 and fighting one of the BBEG's lieutenants, a marilith with a nasty set of weapons. I had dealt quite a bit of damage to it so far.

DM: Okay, the marilith's really mad at you, so it decides to sunder your hammers. *rolls attacks, then rolls damage* Good-bye hammers.
Me: :mad:
DM: It looks at you, grins, and says, "And as a follow-up..." and lays into you with the rest of its attacks. *rolls a couple of crits and high damage all around* It then moves back 5 ft.
Me: That puts me at... :eek: -9 hp.
DM: The marilith slices off one of your arms and the top of your head. (to the party) You have a nice view of his grey matter.
Party: :yuck:
Psion: See, that's why I prefer to kill things with my brain: so I don't get killed back.
Me: Shut up. :mad:
DM: It's your turn, by the way. You have Diehard, right? So you can still act.
Me: Okay. I have no backup weapons, I die next round, I can't close without being stabbed...you said te top of my head was sliced off?
DM: :confused: Yes.
Me: I have Quick Draw, so I throw my "grey matter" at the marilith.
DM: :uh-huh: Are you serious?!
Me: I have nothing else and I'm going down anyway. Yes.
DM: Roll Fortitude to see if you survive long enough to actually throw it after tearing it out.
Me: 31 good enough? :D
DM: :looloo: Roll your attack.
Me: 1.
DM: You miss horribly. *rolls* the brain goes right past the marilith and keeps going. Anybody else in the line of fire?
(all check the mat)
Psion: Me.
DM: Roll to see if you hit him.
Me: ...20.
All: :blink:
Me: ...20.
All: :mymy:
Me: ...20.
All: :OMG!
(long silence)
Psion: ...You killed me.
Me: *nods* With my brain.
All: (Lasts about 1.5 seconds, then bursts into laughter)
Psion: I! HATE! YOU! SO! MUCH!


Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Mystic_Snowfang wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Erm, yeah, the fact that you have to come to these forums for advice on this seems a bit sketchy to me. You shouldn't have needed to, because the player with the Psionic character should have given you a rundown on the system if he wanted you to GM for that character so much.
Smacks of someone who wants to powergame but isn't good at it so picked something they could easily break.
For that, get the Book of Nine Swords.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.


Zhayne wrote:
Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Mystic_Snowfang wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Erm, yeah, the fact that you have to come to these forums for advice on this seems a bit sketchy to me. You shouldn't have needed to, because the player with the Psionic character should have given you a rundown on the system if he wanted you to GM for that character so much.
Smacks of someone who wants to powergame but isn't good at it so picked something they could easily break.
For that, get the Book of Nine Swords.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

It's not heavy enough, the PF CRB is WAY better for smacking a powergamer with.

Then you can hand him Bo9S so he won't break your game.


kyrt-ryder wrote:
Zhayne wrote:
Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Mystic_Snowfang wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Erm, yeah, the fact that you have to come to these forums for advice on this seems a bit sketchy to me. You shouldn't have needed to, because the player with the Psionic character should have given you a rundown on the system if he wanted you to GM for that character so much.
Smacks of someone who wants to powergame but isn't good at it so picked something they could easily break.
For that, get the Book of Nine Swords.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

It's not heavy enough, the PF CRB is WAY better for smacking a powergamer with.

Then you can hand him Bo9S so he won't break your game.

Just make sure the Paizo Devs never see that book. They might have an aneurysm when they see all the nice things martials get in there.


Chengar Qordath wrote:
kyrt-ryder wrote:
Then you can hand him Bo9S so he won't break your game.
Just make sure the Paizo Devs never see that book. They might have an aneurysm when they see all the nice things martials get in there.

If Martials getting nice things would cause someone an aneurysm, I feel absolutely zero guilt for giving said person that aneurysm in that manner.


kyrt-ryder wrote:
If Martials getting nice things would cause someone an aneurysm, I feel absolutely zero guilt for giving said person that aneurysm in that manner.

Eh, you can just IHS the aneurysm anyway :P

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