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 psionic classes in 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.
All of the 20-level classes found in the Expanded Psionics Handbook and Complete Psionic can be found in the Realms, though some are more common than others. The most commonly seen are psions and wilders, followed by psychic warriors and soulknives. The other classes -- lurks, divine minds, erudites, and ardents are present, but in fairly small numbers.
Ardents and Divine Minds
Ardents and Divine Minds are in many ways the clerics and paladins of psionic characters. They are more detached from their religions than members of those divine classes, believing in the qualities and philosophies their deities represent more than in the holiness or sanctity of the god itself. Ardents and divine minds can be found in an organized religious structure such as a monastery of Deneir or a temple of Deep Duerra but are just as frequently encountered on their own. In general, these characters determine a philosophy and then find a deity that matches it. It's possible that they could be 'called' by their deity, but more often the god is barely aware of the devotion of these characters, being more interested in those who exult in his or her holiness.
While any of the religions of the Realms can produce divine minds and ardents -- as described on page 11 of Complete Psionic -- they are most frequently found among religions with a specific connection to psionics. For more information on these religions, see the Psionic Religions section outlined below.
Psions and Wilders
Psions and wilders are by far the most commonly encountered psionic characters in the Forgotten Realms. Unlike with the difference between wizards and sorcerers, there isn't always much distinction between the development of a psion or wilder's powers. Both usually have innate psionic ability, though in some cases, a psion's ability can be awakened via intense meditation and asceticism, whereas a wilder's abilities are always inherent. The biggest difference between the classes is the method by which they channel their powers. Psions manifest by exerting control over the powers that live in their mind. This is usually done through the use of chakra, meditation techniques, yoga, or other mental and physical disciplines that allow for great mental and physical control. Wilders manifest through the force of their emotions, becoming more powerful when they feel passionately about what they are doing. The more out of control a wilder gets, the more dangerous she becomes. A wilder need no schooling to develop her powers, but generally, a psion must find a teacher, book, or mentor in order to further unlock her gifts, though exceptions do exist.
Few deities in the Realms are concerned with psionics, but there is a small handful of gods that have psionics as part of their portfolio of worship. None of these gods have much in common save for their interest in the mental arts.
- Auppenser: The slumbering god of fallen Jhaamdath retains a glimmer of awareness, granting powers to a select few -- mostly psychic theurges, divine minds, and ardents -- many of whom have taken the Servant of the Fallen feat (from Lost Empires of Faerun). It's quite possible that the elans who awakened at Naarkolyth might discover more about this lost god, increasing his worship and awakening his consciousness. Auppenser grants access to the Guardian, Mental Power, Physical Power, and Repose mantles.
- Deneir: Deneir is not explicitly interested in psionic powers, but it is known that his chosen exhibit significant telepathic and clairsentient ability. A number of his priests are psychic theurges, perfecting both their minds and their faiths through study and devotion. Deneir grants access to the Good, Guardian, Knowledge, and Magic mantles.
- Deep Duerra: The Queen of the duergar is a malicious and violent deity bent on conquest and domination. She demands strength of body and mind from her followers, accepting nothing less than complete control and ruthlessness. While Laduguer is more popular among the older generations of duergar, Deep Duerra has a significant following among the youth of the race, especially those with psionic powers. Deep Duerra grants access to the Evil, Law, Mental Power, and Physical Power mantles.
- Ilsensine: The alien and elusive deity of the illithids is experiencing a strange, new sensation -- anger. It has recently lost a fragment of one of its avatars and has no idea how this occurred. In its anger, it has shocked the mind flayers into searching for the artifact but is not fully aware of how its anger affects its people (or perhaps it doesn't care). Ilsensine will not relax until this shard of consciousness is restored, devoting almost all of its energies to its recovery. It grants access to the Evil, Knowledge, Law, and Magic mantles.
- Laduguer: The chief duergar deity is not as focused on psionics as his daughter Duerra, but his worshippers do include a significant number of mind mages. The worshippers of Duerra consider the invisible art as their key tool in the domination of other races. The worshippers of Laduguer see it as just another part of their might and magic. The Gray Protector grants access to the Evil, Law, Magic, and Protection mantles.
- Piscaethces: The Blood Queen, an elder evil nominally worshipped by the Aboleth, is a wholly alien and unreachable entity. While she does not actively take part in any aspect of Aboleth existence, she does grant domains and mantles to her followers, few though they are. Piscaethces grants access to the Corruption and Madness, Creation, Evil, and The Planes mantles.
- Sseth: The worship of Sseth is complicated, because the true god known as Sseth has been asleep since the Time of Troubles. His portfolio has been subsumed by Set, who is granting domains and mantles. Set (in the guise of Sseth) grants access to Evil, Law, Light and Darkness, and Magic mantles.
Among the human regions of the Realms, psions and wilders are most frequently found in areas built over the remains of the civilizations of psionic humans and monsters. This includes the Vilhon Reach (along with the rest of the Serpent Kingdoms), areas that are built above illithid and duergar cities, and areas with strong wild psionic fluctuation. Most others in their regions view the powers of these mysterious folk as just another type of magic. They are as mistrustful of psionic characters as they are of other magic users.
Even among experts, psionic characters are not normally thought of as healers. An unusual exception to this is a group of itinerant caregivers known as the Hands of the Glade. Based in the city of Gildenglade in Turmish, the group is of mixed race (elves, half-elves, and dwarves, as well as a few humans and members of other races), but of equal mind. They are dedicated to aiding injured and weary travelers and adventurers in Turmish, using their unusual psionic abilities to renew the bodies and minds of their charges. All are or aspire to learn the art of sangehirn, an unusual discipline of psionics devoted to the healing of others.
Erudites are generally psions who are so studious that they have expanded the capacity of their minds. This has increased versatility in that they can manifest a vast array of powers, but they must compensate by limiting themselves to having a small number of powers available at any given time. Erudites can be found anywhere that psions are found, though they are more likely to live in institutions of learning such as Candlekeep.
The most well known erudite in the Realms is Mendelon Shroudkeeper (NG male Damaran erudite 18). Mendelon is a recluse, having holed himself up in Candlekeep, away from the prying eyes of his family, a devoted line of priests of Shar. He is one of the greatest scholars of psionic lore in the Realms but grants appointments very rarely.
For some, psychic power is a matter of physical and mental balance. They channel their mental energies into enhancing their bodies and fighting styles. These combatants are psychic warriors and soulknives, mind mages with a decidedly martial streak. Psychic warriors are similar to psions in that they must receive training to access their powers. Some manage to develop their abilities on their own, but almost all find that mentorship greatly increases their understanding of their abilities.
At the martial academy of Melee-Magthere in the drow city of Menzobarranzan, a small group of psychic warriors covertly meets to duel and practice their skills. Decidedly anti-establishment but extremely cautious, they keep their activities secret, fearing that after the catastrophe with house Oblodra, the matron mothers would destroy any hint of psionics in their city. They are led by Dormiil Dek'Theima, the son of the weapon master of House Dek'Theima, a minor house known for its expertise in poisons. Most of the six members hope to join Bregan D'aerthe, but some speak of forming their own psionic company with plans to explore the world above. They secretly worship Selvetarm, exulting in the 'male power' they feel is denied to them in Menzobarranzan.
Soulknives are split between self-taught warriors and those who studied under mentors. No one knows why some psionic individuals develop mindblades instead of manifestations. Among all psionic characters, the powers of the soulknife are the least cerebral in origin, stemming from complete physical rather than mental control. This is not to say that soulknives lack discipline. Their power lies in knowledge and respect for their bodies rather than contemplation of their minds.
The Forak-Erach-Naek is not the only organized group of soulknives in the Realms. Based in Impiltur, there is a unit of the Knights of Imphras II known as the Order of the Bladewright. These soulknives serve their country, dedicating themselves, body and mind, to the protection of the hidden Boy King, who is himself secretly a member of the Knights of Imphras II. Considering the frequent assassinations of kings in Impiltur's history, the crown is taking no chances with its heir, keeping him under constant protection despite his many protests.
Lurks are psionic characters with a penchant for sticking to the shadows. The talent necessary to become a lurk is similar to that of a psychic warrior but with more focus on subtlety and stealth. Lurks can be found in small numbers in any area with a significant thieves' guild. Lurks naturally congregate in major cities, as they grow tired of dominating the underground trade of smaller urban centers. They use their considerable advantages to carve a niche for themselves as deadly assassins and information brokers.
Surprisingly, lurks are more common among the dwarves than any other race in the Realms. A small guild of dwarven lurks, affectionately known as the Knights of the Wall, runs an illicit trade operation out of Hammer and Anvil in the Great Rift. Under their wily leader Harhault Hammerheart (CG male gold dwarf lurk 8), a worshipper of the dwarven god Marthammor Duin, the Knights make seedy bargains and illegal trade deals with greedy human merchants right under the noses of the guards of the Steel Shields at the outer wall of Eartheart. Part of their success is owed to the dwarven tendency to assume that other dwarves are law-abiding citizens and industrious workers. But like anywhere else, a few individuals always go against the grain. Little they do is truly malicious. Harhault has ambitions to break down the rigid trade barriers limiting the Great Rift, and most of the group's activities are geared toward this end.
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.