Psychic Duels?


Advice


Has anyone used the psychic duel rules from Occult Adventures? I have to say, they seem clunky and uninspiring. But maybe I'm missing something?

If you have used them, how did it work out, and what do you suggest?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


I looked over them, and hated them.


They only really work as a formal magical duel system as part of a tournament, dispute resolution, or bragging rights, they're not good in real combat.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've never seen it in play, and I'm curious what people with more experience with it can say about it.

The only use I can see for it in combat is to make the target comatose with a 2nd level spell so an ally can coup-de-grace, then twiddle your thumbs in the duel itself. Of course, since the caster also goes comatose for the duration it's quite double-edged. Even presuming both sides go nova in the duel itself, it looks incredibly likely that someone will get killed in the real world before the duel concludes.

In terms of the actual psychic duel system, it seems to me that defensive stalling strategies are close to unbeatable, which makes HP and AC incredibly valuable in psychic duels. Damage output of offensive manifestations is fairly low unless you're burning high-level spell slots on them, and the psychic redirect reaction means those can be countered at an extremely cost-effective exchange rate. This means that anyone who wants to can force a psychic duel to come down to a slugfest between thought-form creatures, which would massively advantage the character with more HP and AC.

Of course, that's all in theory as I've never had a player interested in using this system and I'm certainly not going to force it on them.


Dasrak wrote:

I've never seen it in play, and I'm curious what people with more experience with it can say about it.

The only use I can see for it in combat is to make the target comatose with a 2nd level spell so an ally can coup-de-grace, then twiddle your thumbs in the duel itself.

You can't CDG someone in a mindscape, which includes those in a psychic duel (or permanently in a Microcosm).

Occult Adventures pg 235, Mindscapes wrote:
While a creature’s consciousness is within a mindscape, that creature’s body in the real world can take no actions and loses its Dexterity bonus to AC, but it isn’t considered helpless, as the unconscious parts of the creature’s mind still provide resistance to the creature’s destruction.
Dasrak wrote:


In terms of the actual psychic duel system, it seems to me that defensive stalling strategies are close to unbeatable, which makes HP and AC incredibly valuable in psychic duels. Damage output of offensive manifestations is fairly low unless you're burning high-level spell slots on them, and the psychic redirect reaction means those can be countered at an extremely cost-effective exchange rate. This means that anyone who wants to can force a psychic duel to come down to a slugfest between thought-form creatures, which would massively advantage the character with more HP and AC.

Of course, that's all in theory as I've never had a player interested in using this system and I'm certainly not going to force it on them.

That's true, except that the high HP/AC people are likely martials who have to burn ability scores for MPs. It's a decent win condition for the instigator of the duel to force them to burn enough to take the permanent exhausted and -4 to all mental stats condition, then quit the duel (via Mindscape Door, both sides agreeing, or having an ally shake you out of it to allow a save) to face them in the real world where they're physically much weaker and have a -2 to their will save.

But you're still usually just better off casting a different save or suck spell in the first place.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Xenocrat wrote:
You can't CDG someone in a mindscape, which includes those in a psychic duel (or permanently in a Microcosm).

Forgot it had that clause, but it doesn't save you from just being clobbered to death the old-fashioned way. The amount of damage output being flung around in the real world is much, much higher than what's being flung around in the mindscape.

Xenocrat wrote:
That's true, except that the high HP/AC people are likely martials who have to burn ability scores for MPs.

There are plenty of d8 HD classes with spellcasting and the ability to wear armor. Throw a belt of constitution, amulet of natural armor and ring of protection on top of that and you've got something very hard to break in psychic duels. Psychic spellcasters don't have ASF, so nothing is stopping them from getting proficiency in fullplate and buffing up their AC that way.

Martials are kinda screwed since they get so few MP, their thought-form creatures have bad accuracy, and their direct attacks are piss weak. I don't think they even have enough MP to deal enough damage to whittle through an enemy with a decent HP total to begin with; winning the duel against a caster who takes them seriously is out of the question.

Silver Crusade

I've seen several psychic duels in-game. Usually the foe makes its save and refuses the duel, but one worked out really well for the party. Our luck cleric gave the mindscape-dueling PC 'Bit of Luck' for the duel, which worked even better.


Dasrak wrote:

I

In terms of the actual psychic duel system, it seems to me that defensive stalling strategies are close to unbeatable, which makes HP and AC incredibly valuable in psychic duels. Damage output of offensive manifestations is fairly low unless you're burning high-level spell slots on them, and the psychic redirect reaction means those can be countered at an extremely cost-effective exchange rate. This means that anyone who wants to can force a psychic duel to come down to a slugfest between thought-form creatures, which would massively advantage the character with more HP and AC.

Of course, that's all in theory as I've never had a player interested in using this system and I'm certainly not going to force it on them.

I thought through some of this and I don't think it would quite work that way.

Creating a thought-form is a 1 round action, and attacking with a thought-form is a full round action that also requires concentration to maintain it. Additionally, "For the purposes of concentration checks, creating a manifestation is considered casting a spell with a spell level equal to the number of MP spent to create the manifestation."

So not only do you forgo doing any damage on your first round, you are subject to concentration checks for any damage you take. That definitely includes both during the first round you cast it (so it can fizzle out before it even is created) and seems to also apply during subsequent rounds. After it's up you not only can rely on Psychic Redirect to push all damage onto your thought-form, you'd better if you don't want to risk losing it.

Which is great, except that a thought-form only has half your HP, and if an offensive manifestation spends 1 MP on making it a save or negate (or 2 MP to make it a save or take half), both you and your thought-form take damage, so you're potentially taking double damage to your half HP thought-form. And once it dies you're once again facing a round of no damage to create one, plus the risk of a failed concentration check.

(Relevant feats: The Alter Binary Mindscape feat is a way to keep Psychic Redirects in check, as it will increase their cost to 2 MP, and the Psychic Defender feat gives you some temporary HP to soak that first hit and help with your concentration check to get your thought-form up. Psychic Combatant can give a few free MPs every day if you're specializing in this and want to go big once per day.)

So if an opponent is creating a thought-form you probably want to do an offensive manifestation to hit him for as much damage as possible and force a hard concentration check. He, on the other hand, will want to play rock/paper/scissors and guess at the most effective counter to avoid taking that damage. Evasive mind for to avoid a save attack? Hardened mind to avoid an AC attack? Nimble Mind to avoid a touch AC attack? Or just go with a Thought Barrier to soak 5 points of damage and make that concentration check easier?

If you're a Psychic Duelist with the Extended Effect manifestation amplification (spend phrenic pool to extend conditions from offensive manifestations) who wants to create a thought-form (the most MP efficient method of attack and defense in a psychic duel), you might want to lead off with an offensive manifestation that inflicts a debilitating condition lasting two or more rounds, preventing them from attacking and disrupting your own thought-form you begin creating on your next turn. Blinded (3 MP, any save) is a decent option, but Dazed (4 MP, will save), or Nauseated (4 MP, fort save) are better lock down options preventing any chance of an offensive attack, assuming you are a high enough manifester level to be able to afford it and can target a weak save.

So there's a certain risk/reward trade off with trying to get a thought-form up, and specialists in psychic duels (feats and/or archetype) have more advantages than I thought.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Xenocrat wrote:
Creating a thought-form is a 1 round action, and attacking with a thought-form is a full round action that also requires concentration to maintain it. Additionally, "For the purposes of concentration checks, creating a manifestation is considered casting a spell with a spell level equal to the number of MP spent to create the manifestation."

That's a very good point; it might not be realistic to get out a thought-form creature if your opponent forces a concentration check by throwing a big blast your way. While this approach would probably work fine against martials, since they're stuck with a low number of d4's for damage and are stuck with predictable direct attacks, casters could probably force the psychic duel into a nova war.

Xenocrat wrote:
He, on the other hand, will want to play rock/paper/scissors and guess at the most effective counter to avoid taking that damage.

Not quite RPS; a manifestation is considered a spell, so it can be identified with a spellcraft check. That just adds "spellcraft" to the list of very important things for anyone partaking in a psychic duel, though.


After additional thought I've realized that the Alter Binary Mindscape prevents those without a caster level from using any defensive manifestations at all if they have fewer than 8 HD. That's pretty good!


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Xenocrat wrote:
After additional thought I've realized that the Alter Binary Mindscape prevents those without a caster level from using any defensive manifestations at all if they have fewer than 8 HD. That's pretty good!

To be fair, a martial with under 8 HD is pretty screwed is a psychic duel to begin with since the maximum damage they can do with a manifestation is 1d4. In most cases they'll run out of MP before their enemy runs out of HP...


Dasrak wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
After additional thought I've realized that the Alter Binary Mindscape prevents those without a caster level from using any defensive manifestations at all if they have fewer than 8 HD. That's pretty good!
To be fair, a martial with under 8 HD is pretty screwed is a psychic duel to begin with since the maximum damage they can do with a manifestation is 1d4. In most cases they'll run out of MP before their enemy runs out of HP...

Yeah, they HAVE to try to get a thought-form going for that sweet 1d6+mental attribute damage per attack.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Xenocrat wrote:
Yeah, they HAVE to try to get a thought-form going for that sweet 1d6+mental attribute damage per attack.

Not as helpful as it sounds, since its attack bonus is 1/2 HD + best of int/wis/cha.

So a 5th fighter with 14 wisdom creates thought-form creatures with +4 to hit. Good luck hitting anything with that...


Taking a step back: one person reports using the duel rules, and apparently it worked out okay. Anyone else try these in actual play? How did it go?

Doug M.


My major problem was that if a martial character gets drawn into a psychic duel there's basically nothing they can do. It's basically just an I win button against any martial character that fails their save. And since the spell is low enough level, it's pretty easy to spam.

I would prefer it be treated more like other save or suck spells of the level, which typically offer a save each round.

Personally I just feel it's too strong a way to remove a powerful melee enemy from combat.


The smart way to play it is that damage acts like an ally shaking you, granting another save.


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:

Taking a step back: one person reports using the duel rules, and apparently it worked out okay. Anyone else try these in actual play? How did it go?

Doug M.

Milo v3 mentioned a couple of years ago playing a psychic duelist, maybe send him a PM. It looks like he still occasionally posts in the Playtest and Starfinder forums, so he'll probably see it before too long.

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