Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #94 - Review: Mind Games

Buy it now.

Dungeon Crawl Classics goes mental!

Vitals

Published By: Shield of Faith Studios • 67 pages • $4.99 (PDF) • B&W PDF with Full Color Cover

What's In It

I've always liked psionics. At times, and for some game systems, even more so than I like magic. There's something about the way a psion's power comes entirely from within. They are not beholden to a god, a patron, or finding spell tomes and other books to learn from. With nothing more than time and dedication a psion can develop their own powers.

So when I found out about this 3rd party supplement for Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) from +James Walls and that he was not only willing to allow us to play with it but willing to allow me to change classes after a couple of sessions I jumped at the chance & grabbed the PDF.

Mind Games is everything you need to add a Psion character class to the core DCC rules. It has the class, the powers, rules for psychic duels, a handful of psionic monsters, and rules for psychic weapons and baubles. Basically it's one stop shopping for all things of the mind.

The Psion is the kind of class that I think DCC really needed. It's a class that lends itself to almost any character regardless of stats, and can offer a legitimate alternative for players who don't feel like using one of the core options, but may feel pigeonholed to do so based on their stats. This works out because psionic powers are broken into four broad categories and each uses a different statistic to gain modifiers. Furthermore because of the way that psions invest in a focus dice (which act very much like a warrior's deed die) even psionic disciplines corresponding to a low statistic do not suffer overmuch.

The psionic power disciplines are psychokinesis (mind over matter), telepathy, psychometabolism (mind over body), and clairsentience (ESP). For each of these disciplines there are powers to attack, defend, assist, and utility powers; one of each in three levels, and finally a fourth level transcendent power that is very powerful but requires a great deal of dedication to gain.

The player can invest focus points into each discipline they want to use and gain a focus die that starts as d3 and steps upward from there to a maximum of d10. As mentioned before this functions like a warrior's deed die by adding to the psionic power check and also adding to the base psionic effect based on how well the deed die rolls. A dedicated student of one or two disciplines will be more powerful and more reliable with their abilities than a psion who dabbles in all the disciplines.
Example: At level 2 I had 4 Focus points to invest and could gain a maximum of 6 powers. I could have invested a Focus in each discipline for d3 Focus across each, but instead I invested 2 each in Telepathy and Psychokinesis, gaining a d4 Focus die in each. With 8 total powers available and a limit of six powers I chose the ones that would best compliment all aspects of play, exploration, roleplay, combat offense and combat defense. 
The choices involved with investing your Focus points and power slots helps to make for both meaningful choices but also to ensure that even 2 psions in a group will not play the same. Again these abilities also key off of different statistics and a player may choose to invest according to their strengths, or despite their weaknesses. All in all it's a strong system that ensures that psions do not feel too similar in play and can be accommodating of different characters and play styles.

While reading, I had concern that some of the psionic power may feel weak compared to wizard and cleric spells, but in play I found that, at least at second level, the abilities were pleasantly potent when used at opportune moments. Utilities like Psychic Hands provided a safe way for the party to cross rapids, while combat spells like Distraction and Kinetic Burst proved very useful in keeping our party safe. While higher level play will need still more time to evaluate I think that the psionic powers presented allow a breadth of options that may be less expansive than those of a wizard but are no less utile.

I cannot speak yet to the psychic monsters, though perhaps in time I will face them in a game. They are an interesting and varied lot ranging from cybernetic overminds to psychically powered lobster monstrosities, and a truly vicious psionic bear creature. Likewise the rules for psychic baubles and weapons read well but I have not yet played with them, though with luck perhaps a bauble will pop up in a soon to be raided swampy keep.

Closing Thoughts

I'm going to limit my thoughts here to the Psion class and the psychic powers because that's all I've really had any time with (and rather limited at that), but I rather like what I've read and in play the character was able to shine. The powers seem well balanced thus far, and offer a great deal of utility. My only real complaints stem from some typoes and a couple of rules that I thought could have been slightly more explicitly rendered, but I was able to suss out the correct answers, and gain confirmation from the author (+Reid San Filippo). If you are a fan of psychic powers and are looking to add an optional class that will feel truly different from the core DCC offerings the Psion is certainly set to fill your need.

Rating
  • Psionic Class & Powers - 95% really enjoying this so far!
  • Psychic Items - TBD, hopefully I'll be able to try these out soon
  • Psychic Creatures - TBD, these are interesting but I haven't seen them in play as of yet