The Talent and Psionics – An MCDM Class for D&D5e – Breakdown Part 1
Having already created 2 classes (The Illriger and the Beastheart), MCDM went to create what will probably be their last MCDM class before they go all in with their own RPG. The talent and psionics was something MCDM has been promising since the very beginning of their company. I can assume that it took this long to come out due to how it makes sure to create new mechanics for their spellcasting-like powers. They needed to feel special, and different enough to be their own thing, while not being either OP or underwhelming.
Due to how complex and lengthy the document is, we are going to divide this analysis into three parts:
Psionics and The Talent | Talent Psionic Specializations | Powers, items, and more
Psionics and The Talent
Can we first stop for a second and talk about that cover? It’s fu&*ing fantastic! It creates a very cinematic feel of a superhero team attack, with the old school mini chart on the side with all the superheroes being featured. I was surprised the characters in it are not the same ones featured in the other classes’ PDF covers, not the ones on the cover from Flee, Mortals (review for that coming soon!). HOWEVER, I noticed that the character that looks like a D&D female goliath is the same one MCDM showed a few days ago for their Pillar archetype/class from their new RPG, so maybe the characters from this cover are a tease from what we may find in the new RPG?? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Powers are like spells, except they are not because they have their own set of mechanics. What I mean by that is that powers have levels (here called “orders”, thank you for changing that awful name!), a casting time, might require a saving throw from the target, some of them require concentration (except you can concentrate on more than one power at a time), and you have a limit you can cast per rest.
The “Oder” that would come to replace the spell levels shows how powerful that power can be, meaning you can only cast powers from a high order if you are high level. Order 1 powers work just like cantrips, as you don’t have a maximum you can cast by day. However, you can get strain from them, just like higher-order powers.
You get to start with 2 2nd order powers and 4 1st order powers. As you increase in levels, just like with cantrips, you get to learn more 1st order powers. For higher order ones, you get a new one per level that can only be from your higher order powers available or lower. Additionally, just like wizards can learn new spells, Talents can try to learn new powers from seeing other people cast them. There is even a whole mechanic surrounding how much time it takes for you to decipher how a power you saw works, which I found extremely cool.
Strain is possibly what better differentiates the Talent from your regular spellcasters in D&D5e. To be honest, this strain system is usually the way I like magic to be treated the most. Being able to cast a gigantic spell but dying in the process is something that is full of drama, and I had some NPCs in my campaign do, even though mechanically is not possible. I really hope MCDM treats regular magic in this way in their new system.
So strain is what your character gains by making use of powers. By casting powers they can either get more powerful, or accumulate strain, which will weaken your PC. It’s similar to how characters like Eleven from Stranger Things, or Xavier and Jean Grey get nosebleeds, or headaches when using too much of their power. The more powerful they become, the more resistant they are to strain, as they have a higher strain maximum. When a character reaches their strain maximum when casting a power they can either cast it and die, or just drop to 0hp. I absolutely love this push your luck mechanic, mixed in with a dramatic decision. If I were designing it I would play a bit more with that mechanic, allowing characters to cast a power they shouldn’t be able to cast, but sacrificing themselves in the process, but as I have not read all subclasses in detail I am still not sure if I can find something like that somewhere, or if it has been tested and removed after playtesting.
When your character accumulates strain, they can decide if they want it to strain their mind, body, or soul. I have seen some games play with this sort of way of the player choosing where to accumulate their damage, stress, etc, and I always find it to be amazing design. In this case, the more strains you have in each of them, the more they affect your character, in a similar manner to exhaustion levels. For example, if you decide to take 3 mind strains, you become unable to take the Dash, Disengage, or Dodge actions, and you lose proficiency in all skills until you get a rest. Short rests can be used to remove strains with hit dice, which is another mechanic I absolutely love.
Along with Powers, and Strain, the manifestation die is what makes the Talent so unique. As the character keeps leveling up, their manifestation die does as well. Starting from a d4 and going all the way to a d8, this die is the one in charge of making sure you get strain or not. Every time you cast a power of 2nd order or higher you have to roll the die and attempt to roll higher than your manifestation score, which is basically a number you get depending on how many powers you are concentrating at the same time. This allows the player to concentrate on a lot of powers at the risk of rapidly gaining strain. You can even have a manifestation score higher than the max number in your manifestation die, meaning you will always gain strain. You just have to hold that power for a little bit longer!
I saw subclasses (or psionic specializations as they are called here) do play a bit with the manifestation die as well. We will see more bout that on the next article!
- 1. Psionic Powers. You can use powers as a Talent
- 2. Strain to maintain. Failing concentration checks gives you strain
- 2. Psionic Specialization. You get to choose from the following subclasses: Chronopath, Metamorph, Pyrokinetic, Resopath, Telekinetic, or Telepath
- 3. Psionic Exertion. Similar to sorcerer metamagic options, you gain one psionic exertion on lvls 3, 7, 11, and 15. These are extra things you can add to the effects of a power, like launching the enemy in the air, charming an attacked creature for a minute, increasing your power damage, making it hit more people at once, making them scared of you, etc. Most of them involve gaining strain in exchange.
- I believe these psionic exertion are fantastic to further improve the theme of the talent. If you want your talent to be all about telekinesis, you can make your attacks yeet enemies away from you. If your character is all about mind control, you can charm an enemy when you use another power.
- 4. Ability Score Improvement. I believe there is no need for me to explain this
- 5. 3rd Order Powers. You get access to getting 3rd Order Powers when you lvl up.
- 6. Psionic Specialization Features. Things from your psionic specialization (subclass)
- 7. Psychich Boost. Similar to the fighter’s second wind to gain hit points with a bonus action, except this one is used to remove strain. You can use it twice per long rest at 12th lvl, and three times at lvl 17.
- I can see this being extremely useful at this point in leveling, as you still don’t have as high of a strain maximum.
- 8. Ability Score Improvement. I believe there is no need for me to explain this (again).
- 9. 4rd Order Powers. You get access to getting 4th Order Powers when you lvl up.
- 10. Psionic Specialization Features. Things from your psionic specialization (subclass)
- 11. Psionic Bastion. You are immune to charm, and frightened conditions, and you can’t be magically put to sleep.
- While I usually hate immunities in general, I see it making perfect sense on the talent for being immune to those conditions at this level. However, this impedes the ability to create stories in which the Talent can be charmed, making them unstable, to later become one of the most powerful and destructive forces of the cosmos. Not being able to mechanically allow a Dark Phoenix storyline to exist is a bit of a bummer. At the same time, we can just assume Jean Grey was low level when that happened.
- 12. Ability Score Improvement. I believe there is no need for me to explain this (again)(again).
- 13. 5rd Order Powers. You get access to getting 5th Order Powers when you lvl up.
- 14. Psionic Specialization Features. Things from your psionic specialization (subclass)
- 16. Ability Score Improvement. I believe there is no need for me to explain this (again)(again)(again).
- 17. 6rd Order Powers. You get access to getting 6th Order Powers when you lvl up.
- 18. Shielded Mind. You get advantage on Wisdom, Intelligence and Charisma saving throws, and are immune to spells that allow you to get something from your mind or essence.
- I really like that thematically this ability makes it feel like you have an impenetrable mind, which makes total sense at this level.
- 19. Ability Score Improvement. I believe there is no need for me to explain this (again)(again)(again)(again).
- 20. Ignore Strain. When you finish a long rest you get to choose mind, body, or soul, and you ignore all strain effects from that.
- This means you get a 8 strain threshold before you start getting the effects of strain in the sections you didn’t choose. I dig that. it really shows you have a strong mind. I’m not sure it is cool enough to be a lvl 20 ability, but considering this allows you to concentrate on EVEN MORE powers at once, I can see how this makes your character look so much more powerful!
Well, that’s all for now! Stay tuned for the next part in which we’ll be covering the Psionic Specializations!