Creating Your Own Content
These rules are intended to serve as a framework. As such, you can use the systems provided to make your own content. The sections that follow are aimed to facilitate your efforts.
If you are sharing your creation using this system, be sure to link to the system so your readers have everything they will need to use your creation. If you are only using segments of this document, you can copy it verbatim, but please provide the courtesy of credit.
Make sure to also review the sections on creating new material in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (chapter 9).
Creating a Subclass
Creating a new subclass can be both a fun exercise and a means to further develop your campaigns. Creating a psychic subclass is no different than creating any other subclass. You’ll want to expand or enhance the core class in some way that remains within the balance of existing subclasses. When you design a subclass, you’ll want to ensure it meets certain qualities.
Fantasy. When you conceptualize the subclass, you want to imagine what it looks like, how should it appear in a movie or comic book. Think about how you believe a player should play the subclass at the table: what actions does it take? What kind of powers does it use? Is it in the thick of things or does it hang back? How does it aid its allies while navigating a jungle, cavern, or the open sea? Does it embrace social interaction, prefer subterfuge, or maybe both? You want to answer these questions and envision your class to define its fantasy. This will aid you in designing appropriate features and interactions with class features.
Kit. Each subclass should incorporate a number of gameplay tools, called its kit. This includes its proficiencies, powers, spells, and other features. Kit defines what the subclass is capable of doing.
Roles. When you design a subclass, you want to imagine what kinds of roles it can support. Example roles include ranged combatant, social charmer, pathfinder, trap master, and defender. It is best to make your subclass broad enough to allow a player to select two or more roles to pursue so that your subclass can fit in any party without losing its defining niche. With psychic classes, power selection aids you in broadening the base roles that can be fulfilled, but you’ll want to ensure your subclass features don’t overly restrict the character’s choices.
Balance. You don’t want your subclass to be clearly superior or inferior to existing official options if you intend it to be played alongside those options. Compare your features to existing features and see if your feature is doing a lot more. Avoid adding more features than other options have. Most subclass levels should have one feature.
Run the damage and check numbers on your subclass and compare those to subclasses of the same class to determine if your subclass is over performing to a noticeable degree or if it’s looking subpar. Tweak outliers. When you’re confident, playtest the subclass alongside standard character options to detect any remaining quirks.
Uniqueness. Make sure your subclass does something that is unique or approaches a familiar role in a unique way. You don’t want to duplicate another subclass, much less recreate a more powerful version of a subclass.
Before offering a second resource, be certain that tapping the class’s existing resource wouldn’t be more appropriate. For instance, psionic-using subclasses for spellcasting classes typically allow the subclass to convert spell slots into power points instead of granting the subclass a power point reserve on top of its spell slots.
If you do decide to introduce a new resource, you will typically want to use limited uses per long rest. Often you will using an ability score bonus or proficiency bonus, but in some cases you might use a set number of uses or leverage an existing resource system, such as the Psionic Energy Dice mechanic.
Extra resources can be problematic if any of the following is true:
- The subclass is in no danger of running out of resources.
- The subclass’s resources outlast every other member of its party consistently.
- Too many resources require too much bookkeeping, especially if the resources refresh using a mechanic other than rests.
A channeler subclass should grant features at 1st, 6th, 10th, and 18th level. At 1st level, it should have two features. A channeler subclass should include these kinds of features:
Manifesting Ability (1st). The channeler needs a manifesting ability and a selection of unique powers. Typically, it should add one of these powers to its list of known powers at 1st and 10th level. If you grant the subclass a different resource or means to spend power points, you shouldn’t give it the extra power selection or free power picks, instead using something that fits your new feature.
Core Flavor (1st). The other 1st-level feature should be something that expands on the core fantasy of the subclass. Often this will be a utility feature or a feature that expands its core options. With this feature, you establish the base playstyle of the subclass.
Expansion (6th). Early on, you want to expand on the Core Flavor feature in a meaningful way or expand on a channeler feature in some way.
Utility (10th). At this point, you’ll want to expand the channeler in a way that supports a noncombat pillar of adventure or grant it some unique quirk that can affect any pillar.
Defense (18th). A channeler should gain some form of defensive feature. This feature may also bolster an existing class or subclass feature on top of the defensive option, depending on how specialized that defense is.
A savant subclass should grant features at 2nd, 6th, 10th, and 18th level. At 2nd level, it often has two features, one that enhances its Psi Blast feature and one that adds proficiencies or some minor benefit. A savant subclass should include these kinds of features:
Psi Blast (2nd). Each savant order’s Psi Blast feature should play or interact differently, whether changing the damage type, granting it a range, or conferring it a rider effect. When adding a rider effect, you may need to limit the frequency of the rider if it is too strong to be in effect on each Psi Blast attack.
Minor Feature (2nd). Grant the savant a bonus proficiency or two or some other utility or defensive feature.
Definition (6th). At this point, you want to enhance the core fantasy of the subclass by giving it something unique that feeds into what kind of psychic it is. This feature can be offensive, defensive, utility, or any effect. A bonus saving throw, Extra Attack, or exploration/social pillar interaction is appropriate.
Defense (10th). You want to include some defensive boost of some sort. It may also include some utility as well.
Supremacy (18th). The final feature should feel potent in a way that clearly defines the subclass as a specialist at its kit. If the effect is especially potent, you should limit its usage or give it a hefty power point cost.
A transcendent subclass should grant features at 3rd, 6th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level. At 3rd level, it should have two features. A transcendent subclass should include these kinds of features:
Proficiency/Power (3rd). You should grant the subclass either a bonus proficiency or power, and often some unique interaction with that proficiency or power.
Identity (3rd). Each transcendent should have a unique identity through this feature. You might consider tying this the Martial Focus class feature or grant the class a limited use feature. Alternately, give it another way to spend power points.
Focus (6th). You want a feature that relies on having the psionic focused condition. The core design of the transcendent class is to always be concentrating on at least one psionic power, and this feature should reward that.
Expansion (10th). Often you want to enhance one of the earlier features at this point. You might grant a limited-use feature instead.
Defense/Utility (15th). A transcendent should have increased defensive options, but you might decide that the fantasy is better served with a utility feature instead.
Mastery (18th). The final feature should grant the transcendent clear mastery over a portion of its kit, be it a (sub)class feature or power. Powerful masteries should be restricted in usage if the piece of kit they enhance isn’t already limited.
Creating a Power
To create a power, you want to be familiar with both spells and powers. You should start by identifying the core theme or fantasy of your power; think about how it scales from 1st through 20th level. You should avoid duplicating existing spells or power, but sometimes your concept may overlap. You never want to supersede or render a piece of existing content obsolete.
When balancing your power, look at existing powers and spells. Power effects should be generally equivalent to spells, but you may opt for them to cost more power points than the equivalent would normally cost to preserve the spell’s niche. Power damage should match the guidelines presented in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
As you design a power, look up and reference spells and other powers that do similar things. This will help you determine how strong its effects should be. It also gives you language you can copy and incorporate so your power is clear and consistent.
Power Stat Block
A power has a stat block just like a spell, and you’ll design it the same way.
Discipline. The power must have a discipline in the same way a spell must belong to a school of magic. The discipline must be clairsentience, psychokinesis, psychometabolism, psychoportation, or telepathy. Powers don’t have spell levels; you should only list the discipline.
Manifesting Time. This is the same as casting time. Most powers require one action. If your power manifests as a reaction, include the trigger of its base effect. Augmentations and empowerments can add new triggers or even change the manifesting time.
Range. This is identical to a spell’s range with one exception: power effects don’t exceed the range, such that an area of effect may be cut short because part of the area exceeds the power’s range.
Maintenance. While similar to a spell’s duration, power maintenance differs in a few ways. First, a power can exceed its maintenance time, triggering the psychic strained condition. Second, powers that are instantaneous are described as having no maintenance. In general, any power that has a maintenance time should require concentration. If a power doesn’t require concentration, it should have no ability to interact with or reshape its expression. Lastly, maintaining a power confers the psionic focused condition.
Detections. This is how onlookers can determine if a power is being expressed. Almost every power should include the psychic detection. If the manifester needs to make a motion or touch their body, the power should have the gesture detection; psychokinetic effects often have this. Visual detections include beams, glows, and overt clues. Often a telepathic effect has a glow associated with it on the target or the manifester, while many other powers that shoot a target have a beam of psionic light. Overt visual detections are used when the power is clearly apparent to any creature which can see, such as with the skin-altering biomorphic skin power.
When you design your power, the main description needs to include two core components: the core rules for the entire power and its cantrip-level effect. For consistent reading, lead with the core rules and end with the cantrip effect.
Core Rules. These are game rules and considerations that should remain true for all expressions of the power. It can include how various tagged augmentations interact or whether or not augmentation-expressions replace the cantrip effect.
Cantrip Effect. This is the at-will component of the power, the expression a manifester can use without consuming power points. It should be built the same way you build a cantrip, at the same strength and scope.
Augmentations and Empowerments
Augmentations are the primary way you modify the scale and scope of a power. They add or increase damage, change the effect, enable secondary effects, or expand the area of effect.
Empowerments modify or strengthen augmentations. You want to use these when an augmentation should be expanded in a new way or to give a particular augmentation a scaler, such as increasing its damage.
Not all powers need empowerments, but every power should have at least one augmentation. Combined, at the least, you should have augmentations and empowerments that cost a total of 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 power points. If you need an expression for a 6th-level or higher effect, you’ll want an augmentation (with or without an empowerment) that costs 11, 13, 15, or 17 power points.
Power Point Costs
While spells have slot levels that clearly correlate with spell level, powers use power points that don’t align as obviously. 1st-level effects cost 1 power point, and each level beyond increases by 2 power points to a maximum of 9th-level effects at 17 power points.
When designing each effect for your power, you need to estimate the effect’s equivalent spell level and set the power point cost accordingly. Use the Effect Power Point Cost table.
Effect Power Point Cost
|Effective Spell Level||Power Point Cost|
Each power should have an effect equivalent to a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th level spell at a minimum, with few exceptions (e.g. mind spear). This can be achieved through a combination of augmentations and empowerments. At the minimum, you must have an augmentation that costs 1 power point. From there, you can use empowerments or augmentations to reach 3, 5, 7, and 9-power point effects.
You want effects to cost an odd number of power points so you can match the strength of the effect with its spells peers clearly at the intended level it can be manifested. Even number costs occur when augmentations are combined, such as combining a 1-point and 3-point effect.
No single augmentation should have a base cost more than 17 power points. However, through an empowerment or inclusion of another augmentation, the final expression can exceed 17 power points. As such, psionic powers tend to be weaker than typical 9th-level spells. Compared to a 20th-level spellcaster, a 20th-level manifester can technically manifest six 9th-level effects on average each day vs. a spellcaster’s one 9th-level spell slot. Powers are intended to scale better than spells, but do not start at the same plateau as the highest level of spells.
All scaling augmentations and empowerments should cost 2, 4, 6, or 8 power points, and most should stick at 2 or 4 points. A scaling of 2 power points is equivalent to “each slot level above” spell scaling, while 4 power points is equivalent to “for every 2 slot levels above.” Higher costs are reserved to explicit limited scaling that needs a transactional cost. If you want to limit the number of times a scaler can be used, it’s best to just give it a limit or maximum than to inflate the scaling cost.
Unless the power summons external objects or energy, power effects should enable the user to choose the scale. When writing your powers with an area of effect, the effect area should use “up to” in its language to indicate to the player that it can manifest the expression with a smaller area. Psionic powers are expressions of will and should remain at the discretion of its manifester, limited only by the manifester’s ability.
Scaling. Scaling is a core concept in the design of a psionic power. Each power should have a scaling augmentation of some sort, even if it just allows additional targets. This gives the player more control over the final expression and keeps the power relevant across tiers of play. If your power doesn’t lend itself to scaling, you’ll want to flesh out the higher cost augmentations and empowerments beyond 9 power points.
Build Your Own Expression
Some psionic powers are unique in that instead of having level-based effects, their expressions are created by explicitly combining augmentations. Powers like astral construct, mystic arms, and weather manipulation use this model. Designing these powers to scale appropriately is challenging, and you’ll want to make effective use of scaling augmentations and may need to use automatic empowerments to prevent the power from scaling poorly. Keywords are very helpful for these kinds of powers.
At times, you won’t want a manifester to combine multiple augmentations into a unified effect. Often this is because the effects are contradictory, or one renders the other obsolete. Sometimes, an effect interacts with a different one in a way that is beyond the intent of the power, or simply creates an expression too powerful for the effect level. When this happens, add language indicating that only one of a type of augmentations can be chosen or use keywords.
Sometimes a power’s damage fails to maintain the damage by spell level guidelines found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Moreover, a power that deals damage as a base effect should have cantrip-damage scaling. In these cases, and only these cases, should you use automatic scaling.
In other cases, you may need certain effects to only trigger when the power is augmented or augmented in a certain way, but the effect doesn’t warrant a power point cost. For instance, a damage power augmented by power points should generally deal half damage on a successful save, but the cantrip-effect shouldn’t. In this case, you want to incorporate a 0-cost augmentation that enables this effect.
You may also want an aspect of the power’s effect to be optional. A manifester is never required to take an augmentation, so by parsing the optional effect into a 0-cost augmentation, you achieve the goal without adding a tax.
Cantrip-Damage. Damage power should add an extra die of damage at 5th, 11th, and 17th level just like a cantrip. Fortunately, this helps power maintain the damage scaling guideline when paired with scaling augmentations. A power might have an augmentation that offers a similar effect. Sometimes you will want to add this scaling, while other times it’s unneeded. Be sure to compare your power at each effective spell level to the guidelines in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Automatic Empowerment. In the case you can’t balance the power’s damage (or other facet) with the damage guideline or peer spells, you’ll want to employ automatic empowerment. This helps keep the power’s expression relevant at all levels.
Psionic description blocks are long, and trying to incorporate multiple empowerments for a single augmentation can get complex and needlessly wordy. Instead, tag your augmentations with a keyword and create a separate augmentation that requires the tagged augmentation. This will be much clearer for the reader.
Keywords are also useful to enable or limit explicit effect interaction (e.g. mystic arms’ imbued tag). This is a streamline technique to make your description easier to read and understand and cut down on wordiness.
Power Style Guide
When writing your psionic power, there are certain terms and phrasing you want to use to remain clearly consistent with the material in this book.
General Reminders. Powers aren’t spells and have some different terminology.
- You “cast” a spell, you “manifest” a power.
- Powers have “maintenance,” not “duration.”
- Power effects don’t exist beyond their range without a specific rules exception, while spell effects typically do.
- A power is “disrupted,” a spell is “countered” or “dispelled.” For powers, the same term is used since typically powers are maintained. Typically, powers are suppressed instead of ended since they are active expressions of will.
- Powers have “detections,” spells have “components.” While both serve the same function, the way characters and rules interact with them differs.
- Powers can be augmented, augmentations can be empowered. This distinction is important to allow readers to understand how they can assemble powers by spending power points.
- Empowerments with a single cost should include the total cost to spare the reader from doing the addition to save time at the table.
Writing Style. Follow the guidelines below to write in the same voice as the Psychic and Spiritual Handbook.
- “As long as the power is in effect” is use to describe the time a power is being actively maintained, but not in reference to an effect that happens concurrently.
- “While the power is in effect” is used for concurrent effects. For instance, if you have a power that allows a special reaction to be triggered during the power’s maintenance, you’ll want to use “while” instead of “as long as.”
- “Power remains in effect” is used to explain power effects that occur after maintenance, such as residual or lingering effects.
- “The power” should be used when referring to the power your writing.
- “This augmentation” should be used when referring to the specific augmentation.
- “… to a maximum of…” is used for empowerments descriptions when the empowerment can be taken multiple times to a limit.
- “You can take this augmentation…” is used for scaling augmentations that have a limit on the number of times they can be taken.
Let’s say we want to make a power focused around the concept of teleporting the manifester. We identify some peer spells and powers: misty step, dimension door, teleport, dimensional breach, dislocation. This gives use an idea of what level the effects should be.
The first problem we uncover from analyzing the peer effects is action economy. Misty step takes a bonus action, but higher level similar effects take an action. To address this, we make the power take “1 action”, but include a 0-cost augmentation that changes the manifesting time to “1 bonus action” if the power teleports the manifester no more than 30 feet and we expend at least 3 power points in augmentations.
From here, it’s simple to adapt dimension door and teleport as 7 and 13-power point cost augmentations, and misty step as a 3-point augmentation. We might include maintenance with a reactivation as a 4-point augmentation to allow some scaling, but we still need an at-will/cantrip effect and a 1 power point effect.
For these low-level effects, we should look at the *dislocation* power and adapt something similar. We decide the base effect allows teleporting up to 5 feet along a surface, and for one power point, we can teleport 10 feet in any direction.
To round out the power, we add an empowerment to the dimension door-effect to allow a passenger for 9 power points. We rule the repeat action is distance enough to fulfill the 3rd-level effect spot at 5 power points. For a scaler, we might want to include a distance increase, but this means that the misty step-effect becomes obsolete. We trim that out, and have the 2nd-level effect covered by the scaler augmentation.
Creating Monsters and NPCs
You create psychic monsters and NPCs the same way you do any other creature. Below, you’ll find some guidelines on incorporating psychic traits in your stat blocks and descriptions.
If your creature can manifest psionic powers, give it a roster of powers it can use. Only give it the powers it needs to fully realize the creature’s fantasy and challenge. If you can achieve the fantasy with one power by reskinning it to fit your concept, then do that instead of adding a second or third power to make your creature as easy to run as possible.
If you want your creature to manifest only a single type of expression of a psionic power, it is better to translate that as an independent action than to grant the creature the power. For example, the brain mole’s Aversion action is based on the aversion expression of the psychic domination power.
When you create an NPC, it should have a number of power points as a full manifester of its manifesting level plus any racial trait bonuses. When you create a monster, you may want to increase its power point reserve so that it has the full daily range of its powers at its disposal to challenge the player characters.
Innate Psionics. Unlike with spells, psionic powers are always innate, so there is no difference in manifesting traits. To duplicate the innate sense of an innate spellcaster, certain monsters have a trait that allows them to recoup a portion of expended power points by using a bonus action.
There are a number of traits and mechanics introduced in this book. If you create a monster or NPC that uses these traits, be certain to include all the relevant statistics.
Possession. If your monster can possess a target it needs a save DC, which is normally Charisma based. If you are using the additional rules included within this book, you also need to identify the type of possessor it is, what potential hosts it can target, and under which circumstances.
Spiritfont. If the creature can create a spiritfont, it needs an Intensity score which is equal to its Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score. Typically it uses its spellcasting or manifesting ability, but use the score that best fits the method the creature uses to create the phenomenon.
If the creature can take control of a spiritfont, you need to set a save DC for the spiritfont’s Intensity saving throw. Typically you will use its spell or power save DC, but you may create a creature that uses a different score or even one that doesn’t add its proficiency bonus.
Supernatural Resistance. In a campaign with both spells and powers, you may consider giving your monster this trait instead of Magic Resistance or Psionic Resistance. Always use this trait instead of giving a monster both of the aforementioned ones to condense your stat block.
The Psionic Tag
Whenever you give a creature a trait you want to interact with psionic powers and to be disrupted by psychic means, give it the psionic tag. If you run your game where magical and psychic energies are separate, this tag also voids most interaction with spells and magic-based features and traits.
When you calculate the CR for your creature, certain psychic traits will affect it. Consult the Psychic Monster Features table for what traits effect the CR calculation.
Psychic Monster Features
|Name||Example Monster||Effect on Challenge Rating|
|Dream Avatar||Dreamstalker||Calculate the avatar’s CR as a separate creature.|
|Haunting Presence||Lurker||Increase the monster’s effective attack bonus by 2.|
|Living Impression||Haunt||Increase the monster’s effective AC by 1.|
|Time Hop||Temporal Filcher||Increase the monster’s effective AC by 4.|