The Talent and Psionics – An MCDM Class for D&D5e – Breakdown Part 3
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:
Powers from Talents work in a similar manner to spells from the core game. However, the team at MCDM made sure to play a bit with this new subsystem they were creating for the game to make their own versions of the spells. Therefore, even though you might only have up to 6th order Powers (order being the term they use instead of levels for the powers), you feel like you have as much versatility (if not more) as if you were using spells.
By having the Manifestation die mechanic, you are able to cast (or “manifest” as they call it) 4th order powers at level 1, and 6th order powers (the most powerful ones) at level 5. It feels like committing suicide to try to do that, especially because you can actually die if you do poorly, but there surely are some moments in which you will really want to do that.
- As for the powers per se, many of them are just improved versions of spells. with the huge amount of powers that are at your disposal, you won’t feel like they wasted space in something that already existed. They are just giving you more options!
- The Increased Order sections of the powers (similar to casting a spell on a higher level) make powers extra fun by providing tons of new options. Whereas spending a higher level spell slot usually only means you do extra damage, here using a higher order make powers MUCH more versatile. Take a look at the power Guise for example:
- Creating their own version of “spells” via these Powers allows them to create all kinds of wacky stuff, such as a 2nd Order Power called Read Order that allows you to know everything that happened in the near vicinity of an object you touch in the past 24 hours. Great for investigating!
- Some powers feel like they give you something quite similar ton what the subclasses already give you, but I guess this is mostly to allow subclasses to gain access to things other subclasses have. A great example is 4th order power Fire Form, which does a very similar effect to the Flame On ability from the Pyrokinetic.
- There are several REALLY FUN orders, such as Broadcast, that allows you to do the whole Eren Jaeger sending a message to everyone within a mile, or Detonate, to transform someone into a living bomb (excellent for villains to use on NPCs the PCs love, BWAHAHAA)
- Some powers have very interesting story potential. A great example is Psychic Projection which creates a replica of you that can’t interact with their surroundings much. Imagine this replica actually going rogue and believing it is its own being.
- Some powers may be very similar to already existing spells, but their change in description makes them way better! 6th order power Brain Overload is similar to the spell Disintegrate in that they both deal a ton of damage, and kill you if you drop to 0hp, but this power actually send such an amount of energy to the brain that the brain of the target explodes. How cool is that??
- The 6th order power Souls Intertwined can create that tropey body swap stories we have seen a thousand times in movies. A recipe for a ton of fun at the table!
With 5 new ancestries to choose from (subraces), the gemstone dragonborn provides players with a choice that has psionic abilities built in from the start. These have crystal armor similar to the ones that the core dragonborns have, the ancestry choice that gives you one ability that you can use per short and/or long rest, as well as Natural Psionics and Telepathy. Natural Psionics lets you choose one 1st order power from a list that you can manifest as a spell. Telepathy, on the other hand, gives you what you would expect… the ability to talk telepathically with other intelligent creatures. Is this the only race with built-in telepathy?
There is a single page with five feats. Three of them can only be used by PCs that can cast at least one power. The other two are free for anyone to grab. These are mostly feats that are copies of others from the PHB but for powers instead of spells (I assume if you plan to create a new magic system for 5e you are probably forced to add these things in order to keep them at the same level of power).
- Augmented Force is Elemental Adept but for Powers, except you can also treat immunities as resistances.
- Battlemind is pretty much War Caster but for Powers, except when you gain strain you also get a mini shield.
- Better Under Pressure is its own unique thing, adding an extra mechanic of “pressure points” to make your dice results higher.
- Psionic Initiate is the Talent version of Magic Initiate, having you learn powers instead of spells.
- Psionic Trick is a unique feat that gives you telepathy, the ability to move someone 5 feet in any direction, and to burn small objects until they get broken.
Something very interesting is the way this is presented. The prerequisite for the first three feats is not “being a talent”, but being able to cast a Power. This means that if you are playing any other class and you choose any of the last two feats, then you will get a power, which allows you to get any of the first three.
Among the 10 magic items, there are 4 unique items, all of which cause some sort of psionic ability or power, such as flying, or storing powers within a headband; then, you have the staffs. There is a staff for each of the types of psionics available: chronopathy, metamorphosis, pyrokinesis, resopathy, telekinesis and telepathy. Each of them grant some unique ability tied to the kind of psionic, and charges of several powers. In a way they are kind of similar to the staff of the archimagi, except it’s all about psionics!
As a monster design enjoyed (and designer), I always love checking out what MCDM has to offer on that front. As always, these monsters that use the same sort of Action-Oriented stat blocks as Flee Mortals (review on that next month!) didn’t fail to amaze me. The art is pristine, and the stat blocks themselves amazing to run. This is mostly by simplifying their own rules on how psionics work for monsters (they work pretty much in the same way as spells for simplicity). The creatures in this section are divided into gem dragons, and NPC Talents.
Gemstone Dragon Monsters
Instead of being different types of dragons like in most monster books, here we have 6 different dragons, I believe each of them focused on one of the specific types of psionics? Each of them is unique, with a name and lore tied to it, making them extra special, and making me really want to add them to my campaigns! We have already seen gemstone dragons from MCDM in both Strongholds & Followers, as well as Kingdoms and Warefares. However, at those times they hadn’t already defined how psionics and the Talent would work, so they ended up being more difficult to use. These remakes offer different stat blocks. I fell in love with Nelisardrim the book worm gemdragon, who studies from so many sources they end up contradicting each other and has a small attention span (it me :D)
Like with most bestiaries, you have an NPC section. This one includes three NPC stat blocks for each type of Talent. These are the Talent (CR4), the Expert (CR8), and the Master (CR12). They are simple, don’t include many descriptions as you already know what each of them does, and the core abilities tied to the psionic specializations.
I have only tried the Warefare system once, and both I and my players really enjoyed it. However, I am entirely sure there is still a lot I don’t know about the core design behind it, thus making it difficult for me to fully judge the additions. However, from what I see, the three new additions seem cool af. I need to make some war happen again in my games to try out this again and throw in some psionics.
As Matt does with many of his products, he wrote a full fiction set in his world to be released with the new MCDM RPG. Just like in the other products, this serves as a great way to give an introduction on how they believe the Talent can shine in a game. If you are a DM to a Talent character, or playing the Talent yourself, you may find great use by reading this text to get inspired on how to run your character (or as a DM which trials to put in front of them). It’s also a really entertaining read!
With that, we put an end to the whole breakthrough of The Talent. What an amazing new class! Next up, we’ll check out the phenomenal book “Flee, Mortals!”