Psionics Unleashed, by Dreamscarred Press, finally comes to the rescue of all psionic fans of Pathfinder. This book is a direct conversion to Paizo’s d20 system of the 3.5 psionic rules of the SRD, released by Wizards of the Coast in the Expanded Psionics Handbook (XPH).
Psionics Unleashed opens like its predecessor, by detailing the psionic races. We have dromites, duergars, elans, half-giants, maenads and xephs from the XPH. Gone are the githyanki, githzerai and the thri-kreen. The newcomers are the blue (psionic goblins) and the ophiduans (psionic serpentfolk). The original races from the XPH received only small, cosmetic changes, to adapt them to Pathfinder (for example: their ability scores’ racial modifiers).
The four traditional classes are here – the psion, the psychic warrior, the soulknife and the wilder. This chapter has undergone the most drastic changes from the 3.5 SRD. It’s here that the Pathfinder design principles of customization and core class improvement were strictly followed. Each of the psion’s disciplines now grants an array of secondary abilities, like the wizard’s arcane schools or the sorcerer’s bloodlines. The psychic warrior got a little boost to his power points reserve and a new path mechanic – thematic abilities like monk schools or cavalier orders. The soulknife is a lot scarier, with full BAB and lot of options to improve his mind blade – the closest mechanic analog here would be the rogue’s talents. The wilder is now also customizable, with different types of wild surges.
The authors followed a streamlined approach to skills: Use Magic Devices is used to activate psionic items and Spellcraft is used by manifester. I found this approach a lot practical and in line with Pathfinder (however, we do have a Knowledge [Psionics] skill). Autohypnosis remains the same (literally, because the authors didn’t update the resist dying skill use, keeping the old reference to a d100 roll in stabilization checks).
The psionic feat and the psionic focus mechanics (the last one the best innovation of the 3.5 system in my opinion) are still here. Psionics Unleashed changed the way that some psionic feats work. Most feats now grant a constant benefit if you maintain your psionic focus, together with the old (and stronger) bonus gained by spending your focus. For example: Mental Leap now grants a +2 bonus while you maintain your focus (+4 if you have 10+ ranks in Acrobatics) and a +10 bonus if you spend it.
Unfortunately, Psionics Unleashed missed the chance to correct an old design issue from the 3.5 system. The Psionic Meditation feat remains untouched. This ability is so useful, to any psionic character, that it becomes an obvious choice when you meet the feat’s prerequisites. It should have been made into a class feature (a common house rule) or just removed.
The powers reveal small alterations but nothing really new. The classic variant “psionics are different” is also here – short rules change to accommodate psionic as a different source of power. The old prestige classes from the XPH were also updated, with the exception of the phrenic slayer (known before just as “slayer”), that received a major alteration on its concept.
The rest of Psionics Unleashed is almost a literal conversion from the SRD. Psionic items, materials and monsters are all here, updated for Pathfinder (the only new critter is the phrenic scourge, an OGC version of the mind flayer from The Iconic Bestiary).
Psionics Unleashed is an excellent addition to Pathfinder, even if one day Paizo were to release its own psionic system. The familiarity of the old XPH is both a good and a bad thing. If you had issues with the way psionics were treated before don’t expect any changes. If you liked the system, Psionics Unleashed will surely satisfy you. Dreamscarred Press is a great publisher with a big catalog of books all dedicated to psionics; let’s hope they will also convert it to Pathfinder (specially the Society Mind base class).
P.S.: I found this just now, before posting this review. What can I say? Go Dreamscarred Press!