Psionics (1991)

OK, I can see why TSR got annoyed with Mayfair. This is Psionics (1991) which came out the same year as the The Complete Psionics Handbook, the official psionics rules for Dungeons & Dragons. I strongly disliked the TSR psionic system at the time, but I’ve since come around — I really like how priests and wizards are sort of low and wide in terms of power and psionicists are high but very narrow. That makes for unique mixes in party construction I think, even if it also means psionics is maybe a little more cumbersome than it might otherwise have been.

The Role Aids psionics system is definitely the otherwise. Written by Nigel Findley, who was always an interesting read, this structure psionics similarly to the specialist wizards in D&D, with a character concentrating on one school: somniomancy, telepathy, pyromancy, telekenetics and empathy. Each school has unique spell-like powers which are engaged by spending from a pool of daily mental points. This is far more clear cut and comfortable in terms of vanilla D&D than the official D&D system, and I am honestly tickled at the idea of Role Aids kind of competing against D&D by feeling more D&Dish. Because it really is a competition — there is no way you can use both systems.

They both have their charms and I am hard pressed to pick a favorite. I will say there is a big tonal difference, though. The official D&D psionics feel very in step with New Age ideas. Findley’s system often feels more horrific? Bob Giarosich’s interior art often underscores this. Same with Dave Dorman’s cover, which instantly gives me vibes similar to Stephen King’s Firestarter. Its maybe too subtle for a cover piece (love the beads of sweat on his forehead) but I think it is real good.

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