Over on James Maliszewski's blog Grognardia, he has his open Friday post about psionics, so I figured I'd talk about it a bit more. See Earlier Sessions below for information on the character and psionic basics.
So far my PC's are low level. The person playing with psionics is a thief, and did not get them from random rolls. He got them because he took a package that as a feature allows them to automatically get psionics.
Here is the first discipline he's received. He's only level two, and will receive his second discipline at third level. From the GMG pages 112/113:
Strength Point Cost: Special
Saving Throw: Special
Area of Effect: One level/hit die per level of mastery cumulative
Explanation/Description: This discipline is similar to Suggestion and Charm Person/Charm Monster spells
Right here is where my little alarm went off. Like all powers in Hackmaster and 1st edition, this was rolled for randomly, so it isn't like he picked it to min/max.
Suggestion and charm person/monster are *nothing* like each other. One gives a worded suggestion, the others make people respond to you favorably. I've been letting him use this power as if it does both.
It affects only creatures with intelligence greater than 7 and less than 17
Thank goodness the party leader is a Double Specialist Conjurer with an 18 Intelligence.
The power basically allows you to immediately instruct a creature as to a course of action, and then plant a post-hypnotic suggestion that has a cumulative 5% chance per day of wearing off. It affects 1 hit die of creatures equal to the total of the player's levels. (i.e. at second level he can affect 3 (1+2) hit dice of creatures, at third level he can affect 6 (1+2+3).)
You only get a save (vs. magic) with a 15 or 16 int or if you have over 10 levels/hit dice.
Is this powerful? Yes. He can, for a few of his 70ish points, give an instruction to anyone to do anything he wants. It is very likely the target will not get a save. He can even leave them with a suggestion in place. It does affect monsters. It takes 1 segment to use. He can leave any suggestion that seems 'reasonable'.
It gives little information about the specifics which is fine. So far, he's used it to force the quartermaster of town to 'be nice to them' and to make a random farmer make cages in town as an offhand threat to the party's annoying boarman. The boarman is annoying, not the player. He has run into several monsters, but has not been able to use it against them. A great number of them have a 6 or lower intelligence. Knowing Gygax, this is by design.
He's about to get a second power, which is going to make him even more powerful. Do I really think this is a problem?
Psionic creatures can sense each other. Each round of psionic combat takes 1 segment.
When he runs into a psionic creature (i.e. any mutated or alien animals I give powers to - I'd be more specific about which ones actually have them, but he might find this blog. :-)) he will have to deal with a little factor called 'number of appearing'. And he didn't roll all that well with attack modes, or psionic strength points. There is only one end to this first psionic encounter.
The bad end.
By the time surprise is over, he will have to deal with psionic attacks from each of his opponents. He will rapidly run out of power points, and when you're out of power points bad things start to happen. Bad things like (from the DMG page 77) Confused, Dazed, Idiocy, Killed, Dazed and Permanent loss of 1 attack/defense mode or discipline, Coma for 1-4 weeks that is 99% likely to be mistake for death, (you know Gygax was grinning when he wrote that), Robot, and wounded psionically. Not to mention that damage occurring beyond 0 causes hit point loss on a point for point basis.
Having psionics makes you like a very deadly delicate crystalline vase in a room full of mauls wielded by angry bugbears infected with poison ivy.
Am I ok with this? Yes. Yes I am.
Why? The player has fun until his violent and shocking death, and entertainment is had all around. I am an impartial adjudicator, I don't care how they choose to play in the sandbox, there's always some cost to having too much power. In fact, there is nothing about it that does not improve the game. The more powerful he or she is, the more attention will be drawn. He can't ruin the game by having too much random power, he can only change its scope. It's a win / win.
That's what I think about psionics. Comments welcome.