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Author Topic: Psionics: My Experiences to Date  (Read 3848 times)

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June 05, 2009, 06:39:45 PM

I thought I'd pass along my thoughts on the psionics system as I've experienced it so far. Hopefully, you'll bear with my vague recollections on the subject, as it's been some time since I completed my first run using the class.

I've had the chance to try out two different psions. I've successfully taken a human egoist psion through Endless Nights VI (he finished as a psion 4/wizard 6/cerebremancer 28). I'm also currently going through a second run of Endless Nights IV, using an ogre shaper psion (currently at 23rd level).

Overall, I found that the psion system was a generally well-done system. The casting of the psion's various powers never struck me as jerky or awkward; each casting went fairly smoothly for me. Actually, the only times I can recall getting stuck on a screen involved pulling up the inventory screen (and I'm not sure that's a psionics issue, anyway).

I will admit, however, that it took me a while to get used to the augmentation system, as well as metapsionics. It took me some time to decipher just how each power's effects could be modified via augmentation, as well as how to do so. Similarly, I had to play with the metapsionic buttons a bit before realizing that a metapsionic is always on or off- and when on is always applied to a power if appropriate (and the psion can afford the PP cost, and has established psionic focus- whew!). Once I reviewed the PRC manual, things started to make more sense to me- though here, as in many situations, I did better learning by trial and error.

Apart from figuring out how augmentation and metapsionics work, another intimidating aspect of the system was determining how to set up your hot keys (36 in total) to enable a smooth psionic casting experience. Because the PRC in general has so many features added as feats, it can take some time to find the power or feat you're looking for; as such, I considered adding the bulk of my most needed items to the hot bar of utmost importance. Alas, I found rather quickly that even for my pure psion, 36 hot keys simply wasn't quite enough to access all of your powers, meatpsionics and augmentation possibilities. (You can imagine how batty I was going playing my first character- trying to find places for my favorite spells in addition to all of the psionic items...) My pure psion has his hot keys set up fairly well: six or so devoted to augmentation (including one so I can turn it off quickly), four or five for metapsionics, psionic focus, PRC options, and most of the remainder devoted to his favorite/most used powers. My cerebremancer was set up similarly, though he did have a few of his better direct damage spells snuck in there as well.

Which powers were hits for me? Well, let's start with the general powers first (before moving on to the disciplines in which each character has "majored").

My playing style for all of my characters- even the arcane spellcasters- tends to involve having a lot of buffing spells at my disposal; typically, before an encounter, I'll buff myself to the max, make note of what attack spells I have at my disposal- then jump into the fray (within melee range if the strength of the encounter doesn't discourage such a thing). The psion has a great variety of buff powers at its disposal, making it a fun class for me. Indeed, with enough buffs on me, I found that both of my higher-level psions were nearly as effective in hand-to-hand combat as a warrior of equal level. (Admittedly, though, the road to those higher levels is more than a little bumpy; I must admit that both characters died more than once in their respective adventures [yes, I worship the reload button].) I was able to augment my characters' ability to survive the early levels by finding ways to improve both his weapon selection and armor (psionics not being subject to spell failure is a major plus for me). My cerebremancer didn't worry so much about armor, since his classes were already spoken for (otherwise, I'd ahve taken a level in a more martial class); instead, he spent feats on martial weapons. (My pure psion had an easier time beefing himself up, since as an ogre, he knew all about medium armor and simple and martial weapons.)

In general, I found myself seeking out and favoring the general AC buffs (Inertial Armor, Force Screen, Defensive Precognition), Biofeedback (for damage reduction), Vigor and True Metabolism (for increased or maintained HP), Energy Adaptation (far superior to the magic version, since its effects don't expire based on damage absorbed by the power), and many of the offensive buffs available, both those which affect your enemy when he hits you (Energy Retort and Empathic Feedback) and those which increase your ability to- and damage potential when- hitting your enemy (Offensive Precognition, Offensive Prescience, Psionic Keen Edge). Naturally, I didn't have access to all of these powers right away; however, by the time I did have them, I found that casting them on me simultaneously provided me with a fairly impressive combat presence (especially the ogre, who wasn't doing too badly in that regard on his own).

I also took Bolt as an initial power (for both characters), as the bolts created came in handy during my early levels- when you're better off fighting from a distance (or at least with a ranged weapon). The bolts don't disappear, either, even though their bonuses do, leaving a steady stream of such ammunition at your disposal. Again, that's quite useful during your early levels, when you're not sure you can survive simply walking outside.

While I did take some direct damage powers as well, I found that I didn't use them as often as my buffing powers. Because of the way psionics works, the energy powers are only equivalent to an arcane caster's spell of equal level when he first gains it. Where the wizard or sorcerer need only gain more levels to see his spell's powers increase, the psion must in addition expend PP to augment his power to that higher level. Often, I found that a waste of PP that could be used in some other manner, such as renewing a short-lived buff. (This was especially true of my cerebremancer, who was fairly tripping over the plethora of offensive spells at his command.) On the other hand, a well-timed energy power was often of great use to me (especially in EN4- the crowds there can get out of control); it also helps that many of these powers come in four flavors, including one allowing for a saving throw other than Reflex (cold), two with extra damage (cold and fire), and one of an energy type to which few beings will have a natural resistance (sonic). My favorites (aside from the previously mentioned Bolt): Energy Missile, Energy Stun, Energy Burst, Swarm of Crystals, Ectoplasmic Shambler, Breath of the Black Dragon, Psionic Disintegrate, Ultrablast and Energy Wave.

Of the miscellaneous powers available, I really didn't take too many. Neither EN4 nor EN6 have any real use for the various social skills (Bluff, Intimidate, Persuade), so powers that augment such skills (Conceal Thoughts, Empathy, Telempathic Projection) aren't that useful there- which is unfortunate, as I think I would have enjoyed having such options. (They vaguely remind me of the warlock's Beguiling Influence invocation in NWN2.) I did grab both Dispel Psionics and Body Adjustment fairly early, though. Dispel Psionics was essential for dealing with all of the pesky spellcaster types who wanted to pound my poor body with their various, unsanitary attack spells. As for Body Adjustment, even though a character of high enough level should be well enough off to have skads of healing potions at his disposal, I couldn't resist the novelty of an arcane-type (well, sort of) having access to healing magic. (Er, power. Heck, you know what I mean...) I took Psychic Reformation when it first became available as well; it's a nice insurance policy in case you think you may have chosen the wrong power at a given level. Finally, I normally would pass on a power like Psionic Moment of Prescience; since it only lasts one round, it's not an especially attractive combat spell for me. However, I did end up grabbing it fairly early (for both characters), as the skill enhancing version can be quite useful (open locks, anyone?).

Which psionic powers didn't appeal to me as much? Well, the most noticeable thing to me while building my characters was that at higher levels, at a time when I should theoretically have been looking forward to finally gaining access to the seventh through ninth level powers... I generally wasn't. Ironically enough, I determined that for the PP cost of these spells, I was happier augmenting one of my lower level powers instead. To be fair, many of these powers are of the insta-death variety (Crisis of Life, Decerebrate, Recall Death, Assimilate, Microcosm), which generally don't appeal to me in their arcane versions, either (though I'll admit the descriptions for the latter two certainly intrigue me). Powers that require melee or ranged touch attacks (e. g., Dissipating Touch, Energy Ray) to work don't appeal to me, either; as a psion- even with the assistance provided by increasing the target area that a touch attack provides- I have trouble hitting the side of a barn. Many of the powers available last for a single round by default, including the various mental shields (Mental Barrier, Thought Shield, Intellect Fortress, Tower of Iron Will); I wasn't inclined to take these in my earlier levels, though depending on the effect (and whether or not I've found a magic item that does the same thing- EN4 in particular is well known for dungeons that have you literally tripping over no end of magic items and armor), I might take it later in my career (when I can augment the duration to a more respectable period of time). Finally, the various alternate body powers (Ectoplasmic Form, Oak Body, Psionic Iron Body, Shadow Form) either didn't, in my mind, provide benefits on par with their level, or else they came with noteworthy drawbacks (e. g., Iron Body's spell failure is of no concern to a psion- unless he's also a wizard- but the reduced DEX and speed is difficult to ignore, despites the form's otherwise useful benefits).

As for the disciplines, I've been able to play with two so far. First up: my human cerebremancer's pick, psychometabolism.

My favorite egoist power: probably Animal Affinity. Having the capability of boosting my stats in a variety of ways came in quite handy- especially since I didn't have to poach on my second level wizard spells to do so. Also wonderful: Thicken Skin (for more AC goodness- with all of the AC buffs at his disposal, my cerebremancer can hit an AC of 70 or more), Empathic Transfer (at least the idea sounds useful; actually, my Leadership follower was a troll fighter, so I rarely used this one) and Psionic Restoration (with all of the beasts in EN6 able to drain either stats or levels, it was quite handy not having to worry about looking for a potion or scroll to remove such ill effects). On the other hand, I stayed away from powers such as Chameleon (I rarely use the Hide skill), Ectoplasmic Form (immunity to critical hits may have been useful- but easy access to Stoneskin means the damage reduction wasn't as helpful to me), Hustle (haste for one round? True to PnP, but not worth using a power slot; since he was also a wizard, he instead learned the Haste spell, which lasted longer and was easily replaced once he found a magic item with Haste baked into it), Psychic Vampire (in EN6, I'm the only source of PP around; if draining an enemy's mental stat is useful- and I can easily reach him to do so- I can also bash his head in instead) and Psychofeedback (I generally don't pursue powers or spells that can reduce any of my abilities, even if they might also enhance a different one).

I did grab Psionic Revivify (again, the novelty of a sort-of arcane type raising the dead was too much to resist), but found that it wouldn't work on my Leadership follower (he was a troll fighter). I didn't have the chance to try it out on other companions in EN6, either, so it didn't see any real use during the mod. [I just reloaded my last game from EN6 to check on the troll issue some more. I tried killing off or dismissing the troll and summoning cohorts of differing races, killing them, then trying Psionic Revivify. In each case (human, aasimar, goblin and mind flayer), it worked fine- though I found that the original level of my new cohort (38th, like me) had dropped down to 16th after being raised. Weird, that, isn't it? Wonder what I did? ]

(Incidentally, I was curious: neither Metamorphosis nor Greater Metamorphosis were implemented for the psionics system. Any reason why? I ask because the absence of higher level powers for the egoist is quite noticeable...)

My current character is an ogre psion (23rd level), studying the metacreativity discipline. The shaper has a lot of nifty powers at his disposal. My favorite has to be Genesis, the arcane equivalent of Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion; it's worth casting in succession just to see what each of the demiplanes you've brought into existence looks like (though its use as a portable rest area cannot be ignored, either). Because few of the high-level powers appealed to me, I didn't mind Genesis being two levels higher than its arcane counterpart. Other fun powers for me in this discipline include Astral Construct (the psionic Summon Monster- building your construct takes a little while to figure out, but is worth the effort), Greater Concealing Amorpha, Hail of Crystals and Astral Seed (or at least the idea- given the way EN4 handles death, I have at least 20 deaths to go before I see how the Seed actually brings me back to life). The two Ectoplasmic Cocoon powers interest me as well (though I usually don't have the patience to wait for an enemy to stand still before I start my attack).

On the other hand, I haven't bothered selecting Psionic Repair Damage (my constructs don't last long enough for me to worry about my healing them- and other constructs I'm likely to encounter tend to want to beat me up). Also, despite having chosen it, I rarely use Crystallize (essentially a psionic Flesh to Stone- and I'm not that wild about the arcane version, either).

When all is said and done, though? Playing psionics in NWN is a total gas. As I stated previously, it did take me some time to get used to all of its various nuances and individual trademarks. However, doing so is truly worthwhile- and I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface regarding the possibilities available as a psion. (That's certainly true enough: while I've analyzed the general powers to my satisfaction, the disciplines are another matter. Two down, four to go...)
That is not dead which can eternal lie.
 And with strange aeons even death may die.