Oh psionics…you had me at “psi.” The powers of the mind are one of those things that people have either loved dearly or hated passionately every since they were introduced to D&D, and now thanks to the efforts of Dreamscarred Press, they live again in Pathfinder in the form of Psionics Unleashed. But will this repository of psionic material blow your mind, or just give you a walloping migraine? Let’s take a look.
Weighing in at just under 250 pages, Psionics Unleashed handles itself admirably on the technical details. A single PDF file has full, nested bookmarks and has copy and paste enabled. The book’s artwork is somewhat sparse, usually manifesting as illustrations (usually black and white, but with the occasional color piece) set in the center of the page, letting two columns of text flow around them. Interestingly, most have a caption beneath them.
The major thing that needs to be made clear about Psionics Unleashed is that this is the Pathfinder version of the 3.5 psionics rules. This cannot be overstated. Dreamscarred Press went out of their way to emulate the design principles and philosophies that Paizo Publishing adopted when creating Pathfinder – from having an open playtest to removing XP costs for powers, the changes here are pervasive, but many of them are subtle.
The biggest not-so-subtle changes are among the various races and the classes. All of the familiar psionic races are here (save for those protected by WotC’s PI), alongside the blue, now treated as a PC race in its own right, and the serpentine ophidians. Similarly, the four psionic base classes have gotten a fairly significant overhaul. Psions now choose a particular discipline to specialize in, or simply be a generalist, with each discipline having a number of additional powers and bonus abilities (much like wizard schools). The psychic warrior now selects various warrior paths that add skills, powers, and abilities as they level. Similarly, wilders can select various types of wild surges, which can also be utilized in different manners.
The biggest class to be changed, however, is the soulknife. Fans of Dreamscarred will know that they’ve been applying ways to fix this sub-optimal class for a long time, and here they put that history to good use. Finally upgraded to a full-BAB progression class, the soulknife now can take various blade skills at every even level to improve or alter his mind blade in various ways, alongside simply increasing its power as he gains levels. It’s nice to see such a thematic class finally be made strong enough to hold its own.
The remaining changes are somewhat harder to spot, but as with the Pathfinder Core Rules, tend to add up. The Psicraft and Use Psionic Device skills, for example, are now gone; folded into their magic counterparts. A number of feats – oftentimes ones that relied on maintaining psionic focus – now have additional functionality, usually being based around expending your psionic focus for a short-lived greater boost. Psionic powers no longer have XP costs (instead requiring expensive crystalline components to act as a sort of focusing device), and in many cases have had their names changed. These nomenclature alterations are reserved to those that were called “[magic spell], psionic” so as to stop with the impression that these are second fiddle to magic. Want to control someone else’s actions? Use “mind control” rather than “dominate, psionic.”
It should also be noted that virtually none of the expanded options from the Advanced Player’s Guide are reproduced here. Most psionic races do have a favored class option to take an additional psionic power point instead of a skill rank or hit point, but that’s about it. No new racial options, class archetypes, etc. are to be found. This isn’t something I held against the book; that will most certainly come in time. Rather, it should be made clear that Psionics Unleashed is what you get when you merge the PF Core Rules with the old Expanded Psionics Handbook.
Ultimately, this book won’t win over anyone who wasn’t already a fan of psionics, but then again, it’s not meant to change the whole dynamic. What it’s meant to do is give the people who want psionics in their Pathfinder game a means of having them. And in that regard, Psionics Unleashed delivers in spades. Fixing what needs it and leaving alone what doesn’t, this book is a true Pathfinder upgrade to 3.5’s psionic legacy. So, if you’ve been waiting for a chance to dust off your old telepath, or have your soulknife power up his mind blade again, or want to attack your PCs with some unexpected mental powers, pick up this book, convert your character, and unleash the power of the mind in your Pathfinder game!
[5 of 5 Stars!]