Dragon released the psion as its first “official” debut content. In reality, this seems similiar to the previous playtest content they have released for classes like the barbarian, the artificer, and the monk. In other words, they are providing one build of the class and a couple of prestige classes to get you start.
In fact, the biggest difference is the layout. The PDF now no longer contains full descriptions of the powers in the article. Instead each power has a name and a link that takes you to the D&D Compendium for a full description.
This is obviously an attempt to prevent subscribers from sharing the PDFs with other people. In practice, I found it extremely annoying. That is all I will say on the subject since I am not here to rant about how copy protection tends to create problems for paying customers while doing little to dissuade pirates. Well, at least not today.
The psion itself is a controller with the psionic power source. This is pretty much what most people were expecting. There were two surprises to me though: one is fluff and the other is mechanical.
The fluff surprise is that they have tied psionics into the far realm. Well, more accurately it is a reaction to the encroachment of the far realm into the natural world. Much like the human body will create antibodies to fight off infectious diseases, the rise of psionics is an attempt by the natural realm to fight back against the infection of aberrant creatures.
I am torn on this. On the one hand, it puts helps explain the enmity psions have against their traditional enemies (e.g. Mind Flayers, Intellect Devourers, etc). On the other hand, most of these aberrations were traditionally psionic creatures in previous editions of the game. So putting aberrations at odds with the psionic power source seems a bit odd to me.
The mechanical surprise is even more shocking. Unlike other classes, psions do not have encounter attack powers. Instead, they gain new at-will attack powers at the levels where they would normally gain encounter attack powers. They still gain daily attack powers and utility powers normally.
These leveled at-will attack powers are less powerful than the encounter attack powers gained by other classes. To compensate, psions have small number of power points. These power points can be used to augment the at-will attack powers, as listed in the power descriptions. The powers may have more than one level of augmentation. If they do, you can only choose one augment per use of the power.
The psion regains power points whenever they take a short or extended rest. Since the total number of points is small, basically enough to simulate burning through your encounter powers on a normal character, the additional bookkeeping is not that great or a burden.
I am worried that this new mechanic may be a bit too good. Having so many at-will powers will add a lot of flexibility the other classes lack. This is especially true when you add in the ability to augment these at-will attacks as necessary.
I will reserve final judgment on this until after I get a chance to see a psion in play. I do know that in my characters I tend to favor flexibility over raw power any day though.
As an aside, I couldn’t help but wonder what this system would be like if adapted to the other classes. I know some of my friends have expressed difficulty with the at-will, encounter, and daily power framework when applied to martial characters. They cannot see why a fighter should only be able to perform certain kinds of attacks once per encounter or once per day.
Moving martial powers to this new mechanic might help. Almost all of their attacks would be usable at-will, but not as powerful as those of the arcane or divine classes. However, you give them a small number of “Endurance Points” that they could use to augment these powers when they need to. Its an idea that just might be crazy enough to work.
It is also an idea that would require more reengineering of the rules than I have time to do at the moment. If anyone else wants to give it a try though, I would love to see it!