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The Vancian to Psionics project

The "Vancian to Psionics" project is a conversion of the standard (Vancian) system of magic used by version 3.5 of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game over to a different (Psionic) system.

The result is a .pdf with a current page count over 300.

The project has a discussion thread on

Read more (for D&D fans)

I am one of those who thinks the psionic subsystem is one of the most elegantly designed things in D&D 3.5. In many ways, I think it's how spellcasting should have been done in 3.5 to begin with. And I'd like to use it for more things.

But when I try to replace the core vancian casting with psionics, I run into a couple of problems.

  • Options are missing. There are things the core classes can do that simply can't be faithfully replicated with psionics. The psionic system is powerful enough, no doubt about that. It can pretty much always get the job done. But if I wanted to, say, play a necromancer, I'd probably have to reflavor Astral Constructs as my zombies and some Stygian powers as my negative energy effects. Which works, but wasn't really what I was looking for in the first place. Which brings me to the second problem:
  • The flavor doesn't always fit. Now, I think it's cool - if viewed on its own terms. The crystals and tattoo theme the books have going on is a perfectly good way to look at magic, but in my experience, it doesn't always live up to people's ideas about what D&D magic "should" look like. DMs still ban psionics for "flavor reasons", or because it doesn't "fit their setting". Which, I must say, I understand perfectly.

So what can I do? Well, I devised a twofold solution to the twofold problem.

  • I translated the core spells and classes over to psionic mechanics.
  • As for the system itself (as well as some doodads like the basic magic items), I changed every reference to "power", "manifester", "crystals" and "psionic", and so on to... well, their arcane counterparts. In other words, when people say "just reflavor psionics to fit your setting/concept" - I'd like to think I did precisely that.
The result, which can be found to the right, includes a complete conversion of the psionic base system, feats and fundamental items over to magical terminology. More importantly, what fans know as the Sorcerer/Wizard, Cleric, Bard, Paladin, Assassin and Blackguard spell lists have been thoroughly translated to psionic mechanics. For classes presented so far, it should be playable from 1 to 20.

The FAQ (also for D&D fans)

  • There's a spell point variant in Unearthed Arcana/the SRD, as well as about 500 homebrew versions. Why, oh why, Ernir, are you trying to invent the wheel?
    The primary difference between this project and every other spell point variant I have seen is simple - I rewrote the spells so that they take the system into account. No other spell point system I have seen has done this. In addition, this isn't really a new spell point system. This is the well known and researched psionic system, which we all know works. I just added a paint job and a new bell or two.
  • Did you fix magic forever?
    No, I didn't. My primary goal was to give the vancian flavor a better system, balancing it was not my primary concern. The Wizard class resulting from this is still exorbitantly more powerful than any "mundane" class in WotC D&D, if you ask me. That being said, I did rewrite all the spells, and of course I couldn't resist ironing out some of the kinks I know of. When it came to this, I concentrated my efforts on getting rid of the spells that have truly unbounded/uncontrollable consequences. Wizards can probably still solo most level appropriate encounters, but I hope they'll now run into trouble solo-ing some campaign settings.
  • Did you leave some spells out?
    Lots of spells weren't precisely reproduced. Most of those, however, I just merged with others. The augment system provided by psionics makes it particularly easy to merge spell chains (that is, spells that are just greater/lesser versions of other spells). In addition, I merged some spells that I knew would just never be taken as a spell known otherwise.
  • Did you add a lot of your own content?
    Mixing the core spells up with my own eccentricities was not my original intent. Nevertheless, I did eventually decide to make up quite a few spells of my own (and steal a few psionic powers), usually to fill in nearly-empty spell levels. Entirely new content has been delegated to its own section, clearly marked near the bottom of the file.
  • Did you change the psionic base system at all?
    A few changes were necessary, for example, changing the discipline/subdiscipline arrangement to fit the school/subschool structure of traditional casting. But I did make some less trivial changes.
    • Most significantly, save DCs are now calculated using the number of spell points (power points) spent on the spell, rather than the level of the spell (power). Also, you can now spend more points on a spell than given in its spell points (power points) line, usually to increase the save DC (in other words, all spells now have a "null augment"). This is mostly because adding "Augment: For every 2 additional spell points you spend, this spell's save DC increases by 1." to every single thing was starting to look really ugly.
    • I added a "Polymorph" subschool to the transmutation school to contain the mechanics of my new Polymorph-ish spells.
    • I added a "minion" type of spells to put a cap on the number of will-less minions any given caster can control.
  • Are you done working on this?
    No. Next up is to update more magic items, and hack on some epic support. Maybe make some more base classes of my own! I'll be here for a while.
  • What are you working on right now?
    New base classes, and trying to find the courage needed to tackle Epic.
  • Can I contribute?
    Yes, you can! Feedback in the comment thread is always appreciated, much of it has already made its way into the document one way or another. If you are daring (and have the tiniest bit of LaTeX know-how), you can head over to Github (see to the right) and have a peek at the source, too.


The current version of the document is Beta 1.12b, released Sept. 22, 2015.

Previously released:

Older versions still can be found on the project's Github repository.