The 20-level classes presented in books other than the Player's Handbook have become popular choices for players and DMs. Previous articles in this series discussed how to import classes from Player's Handbook 2, the Complete series, the Miniatures Handbook, and other sources into the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. This installment focuses on psionics and psionic classes in the Realms. The classes discussed are drawn from the Expanded Psionics Handbook and Complete Psionic. This article begins an examination of psionic races -- blues, duergar, and elans -- as a backdrop for psionic PCs and NPCs. Upcoming articles will deal with additional races, psionic classes, and psionics realities across the Realms.
The history of psionics in the Realms is less complicated than it might appear. Previous editions of Forgotten Realms have held different philosophies on the inclusion of psionics, ranging from complete inclusion -- even granting wild talents to numerous NPCs -- to the complete removal of psionics from the Realms. Third Edition and 3.5 adopt a more moderate approach, acknowledging and developing a small number of psionic organizations, races, and NPCs, but without making psionics a dominant aspect of the setting.
Even at its most pervasive, psionics (referred to in the Realms as the Invisible Art or mind magic) has always been a minor aspect of the Realms, limited to a handful of monster races and aberration types (such as mind flayers, yuan-ti, aboleths, and duergar), a small number of humans and drow, and a few odd religions. Psionics is a mysterious power that is barely understood and often completely unrecognized among the general populace. Despite this relative scarcity, small amounts of psionics are sprinkled throughout the Realms.
A handful of psionic races have sizable populations in the Realms. All of the common races contain a small number of psionic characters, but psionic power is much more common among the races described below.
Wherever there are significant goblin warrens, a small proportion (about 5%) of the population will be born blues, cunning and intelligent psionic goblins. These creatures, when allowed to survive, have an effect on the warrens far out of proportion to their numbers. They bring a startling degree of organization, tactics, and cohesion to these ordinarily squalid and disorganized communities.
The greatest example of this can be found in the goblin warrens of Brikklext under the Earthspur Mountains. Nominally led by Overshadow Wronsa (NE male bugbear fighter 6/rogue 3), the true power of Brikklext is divided evenly between a pair of blue psions and a bugbear cleric. The blues -- Driklret (CE male blue psion 5 [nomad]) and Gryxt (LE female blue psion 6 [telepath]) -- are the brains behind the settlement. Their role is to provide Wronsa with 'news' from outside the warrens, but the information they feed to him is highly filtered through their own agenda and laced with their own ambitions. These cunning psions play a dangerous game, and it is beginning to arouse suspicion from the religious leader of the tribe -- Wronsa's consort, the bugbear priestess Pruet (CE female bugbear cleric [Hruggek]).
The situation was not always this way. Originally, the blues served Wronsa truly and faithfully. They were subverted by Iawan Thelecanter, a professor at the Nautical School of Magic in Hlammach in Impiltur (LE male Damaran transmuter 3/master specialist 10), with promises that they will be paid for their treachery with powerful magic and psionic items to set themselves up as tyrants.
Thelecanter has no intention of handing over the magic and psionic items he is promising to the two blues, as he has a much larger target in his sights. Some time ago, he learned (from a diviner colleague at the school) of a portal leading between the Gray Forest and the town of Longsaddle in the Dessarin Valley. Thelecanter realized immediately the strategic importance of such a portal, and he made it his goal to gain complete control over the gate. Further research revealed to him the presence of the twin blues within Brikklext, and he recognized in them the perfect tool to achieve his goal. Since their secret agreement, the blues have been feeding Wronsa information suggesting that the hobgoblins of the Gray Forest plan to move against Brikklext. Thelecanter hopes that this will incite a war between the two goblinoid tribes -- a war that will weaken both tribes so significantly that he can swoop in and destroy the remnants, thereby gaining control over the portal.
During the time of their enslavement under the illithids, the duergar developed innate psionic abilities. The combination of psionic power, grim efficiency, and racial advantages make duergar fearsome foes. All duergar possess the ability to become invisible and to enlarge their forms. Some develop these innate powers to an even greater extent, becoming psychic warriors and soulknives.
Numerous psionic organizations are attributed to the duergar. The Forak-Erach-Naek is a group of duergar soulknife/assassins based at the Darklake. Recently, the assassins staged an attempt on the life of Urdol (NE aboleth psion 10 [telepath]), ruler of the Aboleth city of Dupapn. Urdol declared war on the group, and that situation is likely to explode quite soon. (The Forak-Erach-Naek is described in detail on page 173 of the Player's Guide to Faerūn.)
The Gray Ghost thieves guild in Gracklstugh has a number of psionic members -- mostly lurks but also multiclass duergar and derro psychic warriors and psions. The guild is embroiled in a bitter war with the Keepers of the Flame, an order of psion/clerics [Laduguer] that serve Themberchaud (young adult red dragon), the Wyrmsmith of Gracklstugh. The war began when Zunkhasp Saltbaron (LE male duergar lurk 14), the nominal leader of the guild, organized the theft of a dragon egg from Themberchaud's treasure hoard. Themberchaud did not lay the egg -- he is a male dragon -- but it might be his offspring or part of the spoils of one of his conquests. The enraged keepers declared war on the guild, throwing the everyday affairs of the city into chaos.
Psionic power plays a major role in the city of Dunspeirrin, capital of the Steel Kingdom. The Spear of Conquest is a massive temple complex to Deep Duerra. Its membership comprises over 300 priests and 500 followers led by War Queen Ovdana Xothcorlar (LE duergar cleric 3 [Deep Duerra]/psion 3 [egoist]/psychic theurge 10). It also serves as a war college, a school of psionics, and as the primary religious congregation of the city. From her seat as the head of the complex, Ovdana is the real power behind Dunspeirrin, even though she nominally serves the War King. Under the influence of Deep Duerra, the dominant deity in the city, the college of psionics is one of the largest schools of psychic studies in either the Realms above or the Realms below.
A second prominent organization in Dunspeirrin is the Invisible Blades, a group of psionic spies and assassins that serves the Steel Kingdom. This group undertakes both internal and external missions -- it might equally send spies against a foreign power or assassins against dissenters in the capital city of Dunspeirrin.
The Mindstalkers of the Invisible Art are a secretive group of duergar psychic theurges with cells in most northern gray dwarf settlements. They hope to unify their race under a single consciousness for the purpose of power and conquest. In recent years, they have extended their sphere of influence into the duergar settlements beneath the Savage Frontier and in Skullport. Rumors abound in the human cargo trade that the Mindstalkers are buying slaves with psionic talent in order to breed those abilities into their population through psionic experimentation. It is unknown what the results of these experiments might be (or are), but opponents of the organization fear that this breeding program will enhance the power of the gray dwarves.
Elans first appeared in the Realms during the time of Jhaamdath, powerful psions that used their mental abilities to become immortal. The secret of this transformation was lost when the elves of Nikerymath destroyed the 12 cities of Jhaamdath (see Lost Empires of Faerūn) with a mammoth, magical tidal wave. The citizens of the capital city, along with the leaders of the other 11 cities, were all in attendance at a massive gala in the Palace of Naarkolyth to celebrate the launching of a new naval fleet when the entire city was inundated by crashing waves. Unable to save themselves, the entire population drowned. When the citizens died, their consciousnesses merged into two beings -- a massive caller in darkness known as Bpdethrys (22 Hit Dice, see the Expanded Psionics Handbook) and a strange vestige, now known as Abysm the Schismed (See The Mind's Eye: Three Psionic Vestiges and The Tome of Magic). Abysm represented the majority of the population, good citizens who were too swept up in the success of their empire to realize the destruction it was causing. The souls of a minority of the population which enjoyed the conquest and was completely callous to the loss of home and way of life being suffered by the elves were congealed into Bpdethrys, a malevolent entity that seeks nothing but the consumption of souls.
Not all of the citizens of Jhaamdath died when the city was destroyed by the elves. Many of the more powerful citizens had psionic contingencies that saved them from destruction by allowing them to teleport to safety while their poorer kindred perished. This included all of the heads of the cities, whose descendants went on to form many of the noble families of the region's later kingdoms. Eventually, the 12 scions of Jhaamdath realized that their time was at an end. Approximately 300 years after the fall of Jhaamdath, the scions placed themselves in temporal stasis in the ghostly, extraplanar Palace of Naarkolyth, only to awaken when mortals entered the floating city. Abysm stands guard over their bodies, ready to lure in mortals when the time is right.
Since the destruction of Jhaamdath, a phantom palace has been seen floating above the city once every few years. In the month of Flamerule, during the Year of Lightning Storms (1374), it rose above the waters of the Vilhon Reach. A ship happened to be traveling those waters, transporting dignitaries from all over Faerūn to Arrabar for a gala summit, when a massive electrical storm swept across the water, buffeting the vessel with strong wind and lightning. The storm was so intense that it plunged the ship below the surface, where most of the passengers drown. Twelve alone were saved by the telekinetic power of Abysm and brought to Naarkolyth. Abysm instinctually knew to bring the mortals so that they could serve as new recipients of the elan transformation. When the mortals arrived, the scions awoke, understanding what needed to be done. After many centuries, the psionic energies of their stasis had decayed, making it impossible for them to leave Naarkolyth. The scions believe that the mortals, imbued with psionic power, may eventually come to free them. Unfortunately, before they had a chance to impart this knowledge, Abysm sent the mortals away.
Now the scions are awake but unable to affect the outside world in any substantial way. Despite their significant power, they cannot breach the psychic barriers created by Abysm and Bpdethrys. Their only hope is that the imbued mortals put together the pieces of their puzzle and locate Naarkolyth before the chaotic energies of their prison collapse it, thereby destroying both it and them.
The twelve elans awoke in random locations all throughout Faerūn, sent back when Abysm's lucidity wavered and its mind descended into chaos. They have no memory of their former lives or the events at Naarkolyth (save for the vision of a massive, dark cloud of human faces screaming at them) but all know that they are somehow different -- better than they were before, but also diminished. Most have a minor relic of their visit to Naarkolyth -- a power stone, dorje, or similar object.
About the Author
Eytan Bernstein hails from exotic Long Island and spends his days writing and editing projects for numerous game companies. In addition to his work on Dragons of Faerūn, the Magic Item Compendium, and numerous other projects, Eytan serves as a partner and PR & Marketing Manager for Silven Publishing. Eytan enjoys hunting for gems and minerals in rock quarries, studying religion and theology, composing music, and playing with his many pets. For more information about Eytan, check out www.eytanbernstein.com. Send questions and comments for Eytan here.
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