Expanded Psionics Handbook



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Expanded Psionics Handbook

Author: Bruce R. Cordell
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Publish Date: 2004
ISBN: 0-7869-3301-1
Pages: 223
Rating: 9 out of 10
Retail Price: $34.95

 

This book is another in the line of 3.5 books in that it updates its predecessor, the Psionics Handbook. However, this proved to be far more than a revision; it ended up being a much-needed overhaul. Gone are the days of clunky psionic feats. A new mechanic, that of becoming psionically focused, was introduced and works flawlessly. Gone is the overly-complicated psionic combat system, which was rarely used in practice. Another bonus thrown in is the inclusion of a plethora of psionic material released between the printing of the Psionics Handbook and the Expanded Psionics Handbook, including articles in the Dragon and Dungeon magazines, various third party resources, and most notably items from the beloved Dungeons and Dragons web article The Mind’s Eye. This book includes a new set of mechanics, six psionic races, psionic versions of three core races, four classes, tons of feats (nine of which are usable in a non-psionic campaign), nine psionic prestige classes, nineteen psionic monsters, psionic versions of four core monsters, and even spells for magic-users!

The psionic races offered are wonderful. They are unique and show a great deal of creativity. However, only a few of them are available without a Level Adjustment, which is a hard pill to swallow. The book details four classes: the psion, the psychic warrior, the soulknife, and the wilder. Each has its own unique style and role. The psion takes the role of the primary offensive manifester (manifest is a psionic term similar to the magical term cast) with his large number of known powers (psionic equivalent of spells) and equally large pool of power points (a uniquely psionic mechanic in determining the number of powers one can manifest each day). The wilder is similar to the psion in that it learns the higher-level powers and has the same amount of power points, but it knows fewer powers in exchange for being tougher than the psion and gaining the ability to Wild Surge, where the wilder increases a power’s potency by risking an ill effect. The psychic warrior combines the roles of the psion and the fighter by using his (albeit limited) array of powers to bolster his ability in combat. The soulknife class offers the amazingly cool ability to manifest a blade of pure mental energy that increases in power and versatility as one progresses through the class.

The list of powers is amazing. There is no other way to describe the huge number of unique, interesting, and useful powers given. Though the psion and wilder share a similar list of powers to choose from, much like the wizard and the sorcerer, the psion also gains access to a single discipline list he chooses at first level. These discipline lists (psychometabolism, psychokinesis, psychoportation, clairsentience, metacreativity, and telepathy) are wonderfully done and help add depth and individuality to every psion. The psychic warrior gets its own list of powers that are very useful in various combat situations as well as powers that are useful in non-combat situations.

The psionic prestige classes are very well done, and each allows a psionic character to attain a distinctive flavor. Whether it is the spatial-bending Elocater or the fiery Pyrokineticist, each prestige class is a wonderfully well-developed class that allows an unprecedented level of customization.

The psionic items, while a novel idea and containing a great amount of flavor, were lacking. Cognizance Crystals were sub par and the lack of useful Universal Items (psionic equivalent of Wondrous Items) disappointed me. Also, aside from Cognizance Crystals, none of the types of items seemed original. They all seemed to suffer from the “Psionic X” syndrome, which is where people tend to slap the word “psionic” on something instead of developing something new. Dorjes are psionic wands, psicrowns psionic staves, power stones psionic scrolls, and tattoos psionic potions.

The monsters, while new and interesting, tend to limit themselves from being used regularly in a campaign. A good number of them are underground or on another plane. What is nice is the adaptation of core monsters that were given magical abilities in the Monster Manual instead of psionic abilities. How to change the aboleth, duergar, githyanki, githzerai, and illithid into psionic-powered versions is nicely detailed.

Though it doesn’t make a good book, the art is wonderful. Usually in each book I own, there is a picture or two that I don’t care for or don’t think fits well with the style. However, every picture in the Expanded Psionics Handbook shows the time and effort that went into their attention-grabbing, colorful and vivid displays.

The final downfall of this book is its adaptability. Though the book actually lists several methods of introducing psionics into a campaign, the fact is that it’s hard to do except from the beginning. It comes with nice tips regarding how magic and psionics interact, and how they might be used to counteract one another. However, psionics is definitely a brand new system and requires a lot of time and reading to understand and implement properly. Most feats, spells, and classes from this book can be taken as is. The DM merely needs to read the description of that element and can then include it. Psionics requires time and learning, similar to the Player’s Handbook. If every rule is not understood, problems will arise. This and the lack of original item types are the only things keeping the Expanded Psionics Handbook from receiving a perfect score, but with the investment of a little time it should prove to be an amazing resource that’s well worth the money.