5e Mystic Class and Dark Sun
I started off playing D&D 5nd edition and 3.5 edition at the same time. When I mentioned the idea of making a psionic character to my 3.5 DM he said he didn’t like psionic characters and that they didn’t belong in D&D. He had the sense that they belonged more in a sci-fi setting, or in a specifically post-apocalyptic setting like Dark Sun.
D&D’s executive team, Mike Mearls, Chris Perkins and Chris Lindsay were actually talking about this at GameHole Con recently, while discussing the mystic class that’s currently being playtested. (You can listen to a recording of the panel at Nerds on Earth. There’s also a summary at EN World. You can download the current version of the mystic class at the DM’s Guild.). They were saying that it doesn’t feel like there is any unifying reason why mystics might have the range of psionic abilities that are currently being used.
They said that as they’ve continued to refine the mystic, they’ve been going back and looking at Dark Sun a lot to see how it fits there. They’ve been considering why there are psionic characters in Dark Sun, why a depleted world focuses on psionics and how psionics are understood in that setting. This makes me wonder if we should expect to see some Dark Sun material along with the official release of the mystic class in 2018.
To get an idea of what we might expect, I’ve been looking over some of the Dark Sun material from 2nd edition. To my understanding, Dark Sun is set in the dying planet of Athas, which has been depleted by magic use. The way arcane magic works on Athas is that magical energy has to be drawn out of nature, and this process has turned the world into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. There are some arcane magic-users who’ve learned to carefully channel magical energy back into nature when they use it in order to maintain balance. Druids can also carefully access magical powers by diligently serving nature and seeking to maintain a planetary equilibrium. Of course, there are also wizards who don’t have any concerns about the impact their magic use has on the fragile environment.
The other option for accessing supernatural powers is psionics. Psionic abilities don’t deplete nature because the required energy can be accessed from within the self. Just about everyone in this setting uses some kind of psionic ability, but anyone can refine and improve their psionic ability by disciplining their mind, body and spirit to work in harmony.
This emphasis on balance in the Dark Sun setting, including in the psionic class, suggests to me that this will be a theme in the final version of 5th edition’s mystic class. Who knows, if we get a Dark Sun book maybe we’ll also get some wizard or druid subclasses that focus on preserving balance?