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.
These tribal halflings possess a limited form of telepathy that allows them to mentally communicate with nearby creatures with whom their share a common language. Psionic characters are moderately more common among the ghostwise than they are among other races of hin. Most ghostwise halflings with psionic powers are wilders or psychic warriors, but they are not limited to these classes. The most famous psionic ghostwise halfling is Blaen Haltspear of the Channathwood (LG male ghostwise halfling monk 6/fist of Zuoken 10), slayer of the dragon Amilektrevitrioelis. With his fame, outsiders are beginning to learn of these reclusive hin and their unusual abilities. In campaigns featuring psionics, ghostwise halflings are assigned the psionic subtype.
Improved Speak Without Sound [Psionic]
You have expanded the limits of your racial telepathic abilities.
Prerequisite: Ghostwise Halfling, Manifester Level 1st
Benefits: You gain the telepathy special ability (as described on page 316 of the Monster Manual). You must be psionically focused to use this ability. When you are not psionically focused, your ability functions as if you did not possess this feat.
Normal: The range of your telepathy is 20 ft; you can only speak with creatures with whom you share a common language; you can only speak with one target at a time.
The githyanki hold a minor outpost in Middle Old Shanatar called Gathchorof, in the ruins of the ancient dwarven realm of Torglor. Under their ruthless leader Frethen Harmswa (Female Githyanki Fighter 10/Psychic Warrior 6), the githyanki are making small inroads into the Underrealms, where they hope to expand their sphere of influence. So far, their expansion is tentative and focused defense. The soldiers of Gathchorof are distrustful of outsiders and unwelcoming to visitors. Rumors are circulating through the Underdark suggesting that the githyanki are looking for some sort of necromantic artifact. The illithids believe that the githyanki lost a powerful phylactery when a rift opened in astral space. The duergar whisper that the githyanki are seeking an artifact that draws the souls of the dead into the astral plane. Regardless of the nature of the artifact, the races of the Underdark are on edge. They fear an increasing githyanki expansion that will shake up the power dynamic of the land.
The most feared of the psionic races are the illithids or mind flayers, alien octopus-headed creatures that dwell in dank places, manipulating the minds of lesser beings. A small but significant minority of these creatures have levels in psion, though all have significant inherent psionic ability. The most powerful mind flayer city is Oryndoll, a massive complex in the Lower Darklands. Ruled by the Encephalithid (NE elder brain psion 20 [telepath]), an incredibly powerful elder brain, Oryndoll is one of the most imposing and powerful cities in the Underdark. Recently, astral travelers have reported seeing strange explosions in astral space near portals originating in Oryndoll. Psychics among them claim to have heard strange alien screaming and have seen visions of an enormous, tentacle-headed being quaking in anger. Some whisper that Ilsensine, the god of the illithids, is angry with Oryndoll, but this is only conjecture.
The most frequently encountered psionic creatures in the Realms are the yuan-ti. They are most common in Chult and are encountered in Hlondeth, but they can be found throughout the Realms. This race is the most usual introduction people have to the invisible art. From minor charms and attractions to full-blown psionic manipulation, those who cross the serpent folk often live (or not) to regret it. Because of considerable interbreeding between yuan-ti and humans in the Serpent Kingdoms, psionic ability is more common here than in other parts of the Realms. This is also because of emanations from the remnants of buried Jhaamdath (described elsewhere in this series). In most of the Realms, less than 1 in 10,000 people possesses even minor psionic ability. In lands where yuan-ti are more common, the number increases to 1 in 1,000, sometimes even 1 in 500. Other human lands with psionic presences will be described subsequently in the "Psionics Across the Land" installment.
Your yuan-ti heritage has endowed you with psionic talent and resistance to the abilities of your ancestors.
Prerequisite: Snake Blood
Benefits: Each time you take the Psionic Talent feat, you gain one more power point than you normally would. In addition, you receive a +3 racial bonus on saving throws against the special abilities of Scaled Ones (as described in Serpent Kingdoms), including their poisons, psi-like abilities, and supernatural powers.
Psionic powers are significantly more common among monsters (especially aberrations) than among humanoid populations. A number of psionic monsters exist throughout the Realms, with the greatest concentration being in the Underdark.
- Aboleths: A number of small aboleth communities exist in both the waters of the Realms Above and in the Underdark. The largest of these is the city of Dupapn, led by Urdol the Mindseer (see the description of the duergar).
- Alkada (Wingless Wonders): These strange creatures resemble comical walking eggs, but that is where they cease being funny. With strange psionic blasts, an anti-magic shell, and the ability to release wild magic blasts (in a manner similar to rods of wonder) these creatures are dangerous when frightened. For the most part, the alkada -- which are generally found in or near wild magic zones and in areas of strong faerzress -- are harmless, but if provoked, they can prove quite deadly.
- Araumycos: The massive, sentient fungus below the High Forest is possibly the oldest living creature on Faerûn. While generally peaceful, it can defend itself by employing an astonishing array of psionic powers. Its reactions are completely unpredictable; it might use a minor charm when faced with a massive attack or warp reality when a gloaming tries to eat a piece of it. Some whisper that the creature is an avatar of Psilofyr, the lord of the Myconids, but this is only a theory.
- Gem Dragons: Gem dragons (amethyst, crystal, emerald, sapphire, and topaz) are rarer than their metallic and chromatic counterparts in the Realms. When the dragons of Faerûn went mad, the gem dragons used their abilities to leave the material plane. Since the Rage ended, they have begun to trickle back into Faerûn to reestablish their lives, but they often meet with great obstacles.
- Grell: These horrible, disembodied, psionic brain birds are most commonly found in the Vast Swamp, though they can exist anywhere that is foul enough. Those dwelling in the swamp worship the Imperator (advanced grell psion [shaper] 17), a massive grell that dwells completely submerged in the deepest depths of the swamp. The creatures treat the Imperator as a god, but in reality, it is no more than an extremely powerful psion.
- Haun: These malicious, psionic worms inhabit the coldest reaches of the world. Both arctic dwarves and northern barbarians tell of these foul creatures and spit with disgust as they recount tales in which the creatures leapt from refuse piles, inches from biting off the face of a companion. While filthy and foul, the haun are also extremely intelligent. They plan their moves and use clever tactics. When their normal prey -- the giant slugs known as haundar -- is unavailable, they have been known to attack humanoid settlements.
- Intellect Devourers: The strange, walking brains known as intellect devourers are typically found in the employ of illithids. Because of their ability to possess a humanoid host, the creatures are often sent to spy on rival mind flayers, drow, and duergar. They are sometimes found alone in the Underdark, patiently waiting for and stalking sentient foes in order to feast on their brains.
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 Faerûn, 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.