The Complete Psionics Handbook
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|The Complete Psionics Handbook|
|Series||Player's Handbook Rules Supplements|
|Subject(s)||Dungeons & Dragons|
|Preceded by||The Complete Wizard's Handbook|
|Followed by||The Complete Book of Dwarves|
With The Complete Psionics Handbook, psionics in the AD&D game became the domain of an entirely new class, the psionicist. The psionicist's skills are based on the Wisdom and Constitution ability scores, and while humans can attain higher levels of expertise, all races are eligible for the class. Characters of chaotic alignment are not allowed to become psionicists, with the rational given that volatile chaotic characters lack the discipline required to focus their mental energies. Psionic powers are assigned to six disciplines, which include clairsentience (divination), psychokinesis (animating and controlling existing objects and forces), psychometabolism (body-changing powers), psychoportation (teleportation variants), telepathy (mental communication and psychic attacks), and metapsionics (enhancement of other psychic abilities). Powers are designated as either sciences (major powers) or devotions (minor powers). As a psionicist gains experience and advances in level, he acquires more powers, and as a psionicist rises through the ranks, he also gains access to defense modes - special telepathic powers, which are received free of charge and don't count against a psionicist's normal power limits.
The use of psionic powers involves a variant of the proficiencies system developed in the 2nd Edition rules. Each power has a score rated in terms of a particular attribute. When attempting to use a power, the player makes a Power Check by rolling 1d20 and comparing the result to the Power Score. A roll less than or equal to the Power Score means success. Additionally, each power description includes a specific penalty suffered by the psionicist if a 20 is rolled. A psionicist has a fixed number of Psionic Strength Points, derived from his wisdom score, to expend on psionic powers. A psionicist expends the number of PSPs required by a particular power, then attempts a Power Check. If the check fails and the power doesn't work, he forfeits half the PSP cost but is free to try again later. If he passes the check and the power is successful, the psionicist has the option of expending additional PSPs to maintain the power in subsequent rounds. Psionicists recover lost PSPs every hour in which no additional PSPs are expended. The less physical exertion, the more PSPs recovered; a walking PC recovers 3 PSPs per hour, and a resting PC recovers twice as many.
The book contains over 150 psionic powers, and includes an entire chapter on psychic combat. The book also includes psionic monsters, such as the thought eater and cerebral parasite. The book has a discussion of society's reaction to psionicists, and a section describing the role of psionics in various TSR campaign settings.
 Publication history
The Complete Psionics Handbook was published as a 128-page softcover book by TSR, Inc., with design by Steve Winter, and monster updates by Blake Mobley. Editing was by Andria Hayday, with illustrations by Terry Dykstra and Dee Barnett, and graphic design by Stephanie Tabat.
Tsr code 2117, ad&d 2nd edition code PHBR5.
Rick Swan reviewed The Complete Psionics Handbook for Dragon magazine #180 (April 1992). Swan found the absence of psionics rules in the AD&D 2nd Edition revision curious, and noted that while "the 1st Edition rules amounted to little more than an appendix in the Players Handbook with a few pages of combat rules in the Dungeon Masters Guide thrown in, a 128-page expansion may strike some as not only too much of a good thing but downright intimidating". He goes on to note that while most of the book consists of power descriptions, "the rest is a straightforward presentation of an easily managed and highly playable system that clears up the ambiguities in the 1st Edition game and adds a number of elegant new touches". He considered the restriction on chaotic characters not being allowed to become psionicists "an understandable limitation in the context of the rules, but an unfortunate one in terms of drama, as it seems to eliminate the possibility of scenarios featuring psionic loonies on brain-blasting rampages, leveling villages and disintegrating innocent bystanders. But you can't have everything." He considered psionic disciplines "roughly comparable to a wizard's schools of magic or a priest's spell spheres" and noted that the psionic defense modes are "a concept carried over from the 1st Edition rules but refined and clarified in this handbook". He considers the basic procedure of PSPs to be "similar to the magic-point system used in other fantasy games (such as the Runequest game) and has the obvious advantage of increasing the player's options and giving him more control over his actions". According to Swan, the recovery system for PSPs "makes sense, but it's a pain to manage; not only must the DM keep track of time to the hour (awkward even in the best of circumstances), he also must estimate activity levels (difficult in complex encounters). I'd have preferred something along the lines of automatic recovery after a good night's sleep. This reservation aside, the rules as a whole are succinct, entertaining, and-best of all-distinct from those governing spell-casting." He calls some of the book's psionic powers "expected and pedestrian" but others "wildly off-beat", and notes that many of them "push the limits of what I consider to be mind-associated effects [...] but that doesn't mean they're not fun to use". He found more vexing "the clutter of powers that echo existing wizard and priest effects [...] While no psionics system would be complete without these, I can't help but wish that the designer had gone the extra mile and come up with another twist or two to distinguish them from their wizardly counterparts." He also commented on psychic combat: "Psychic combat merits its own chapter, good news for those of us who relish the idea of brain duels but have never figured out a satisfying way to stage them. Unfortunately, the standard rules for adjudicating psionic clashes boil down to dice-tossing festivals; the best rolls win, and that's about it. Much better are the rules for telepathic combat, an elaborate rock-scissors-stone variant involving the play of defense and attack modes, and establishing partial contact (called tangents) to destabilize the enemy." Swan comments on the book's extras: "The book takes a no-nonsense, nuts and bolts approach to psionics, which means that it's long on game mechanics and power descriptions but short on game-mastering advice and campaign design. Aside from updates on psionic monsters [...] there's not much here in the way of extras. The discussion of society's reaction to psionicists is informative but all too brief, and the section describing the role of psionics in Ravenloft and other TSR campaign settings is frustratingly superficial. I'd have gladly traded a dozen or so power descriptions for a chapter or two of adventure outlines and role-playing tips." He concludes his review with this evaluation: "The triumph of The Complete Psionics Handbook is its clear delineation of the differences between magic and psionics. The deceptively simple mechanics complement the rules for spellcasters without slavishly copying them, which makes playing a psionicist a unique and memorable experience. By assigning powers to sciences and devotions instead of levels, and allowing easy access to the disciplines, the rules give the psionicist a freedom of choice that the wizard and priest can only envy.