Brain Power : Secrets of the Illithids

By Clifford Horowitz, Dragon #313

The Illithid Empire is a vast, multiplanar organization, feared for its alien inhabitants as much as for its formidable power, but at least once in the mind flayers' history, a slave race successfully resisted them. The results of that upheaval reverberate through the planes to this day. Continually tested by this revolt-turned-war with the descendants of Gith, the mind flayers have spent centuries developing weapons with which to crush their former slaves once and for all.

One result of this research was psi-spellcasting, the practice of focusing magical power through a psionic lens. While many psionic powers produce effects similar to those of magical spells, those who use psi-spells understand that very different paths can lead to the same end, and that those paths can be separate without being incompatible. Although students of psi-spellcasting rarely uncover the depth or elegance within either discipline that a dedicated psion or wizard would, their research into both leads them to a unique understanding unattainable by others.

Psionics involves the awakening of the mind's dormant areas and the uncovering of hidden, internal wellsprings of power, as well as the discipline to bring forth and manifest this inner strength. Magic, on the other hand, deals more with the understanding of vast external energies, the knowledge of how they behave, the skill required to manipulate them, and the strength to manifest the desired results. But what the two studies share is a cornerstone, an essential element that neither can do without - strength of will. It is through this shared fundamental pillar that the psi-spellcaster learns to simultaneously walk both paths.

When a psi-spellcaster manifests a spell, he uses his arcane training to pull mystical energy to him in the same way as a wizard, but while he shapes this energy from without, he simultaneously crafts sympathetic power from within. In the moment of completion, he melds all of this power together in a tightly woven mesh of will before releasing it upon the world.

This article presents psi-spell feats (the cornerstone of psi-spellcasting) and the mind mage (a prestige class that specializes in blending magic with psionics).

Psi-Spell Feats

The practice of psi-spellcasting boasts few powers of its own, although slender codices of psi-spells do exist. The bulk of the training that a psi-spellcaster receives does not involve generating new spells and powers; plenty of those exist already. Rather, she learns to recognize where existing psionic powers and magical spells come close to converging, thus determining which are the most promising candidates for the unique kind of merger that psi-spellcasting makes possible.

To reflect this special awareness, psi-spellcasting is represented by a new category of feats called psi-spell feats.

Although similar to metamagic and metapsionic feats, psi-spell feats require both arcane spell slots and psionic power points to use, and some also require the ability to cast specific spells or manifest certain powers. The cost of using the feat can be either spell levels (if the feat is used to enhance a psionic power) or psionic power points (if it is used to enhance a spell). To "spend" a spell level in this way, the caster must voluntarily give up prepared spells equaling or exceeding the requisite spell levels (if she prepares spells) or equivalent spell slots for that day (if she does not prepare spells). Spells spent by a spellcaster who prepares spells are given up when the psi-spell is prepared. Spells spent by a caster that doesn't prepare spells (like a sorcerer) are given up when the psi-spell is cast. Casting a psi-spell for these latter casters does not increase spellcasting time like spontaneously casting a spell affected by a metamagic feat. Power points spent to apply psi-spell abilities are likewise spent when the spell or psionic power is cast. Spent spells are not cast; their energy instead goes to fuel the psi-spell. A psi-spellcaster cannot elect to use extra power points to apply a psi-spell feat to a psionic power or vice versa; both energies must be present for the feat to work. Normal metamagic and metapsionic feats can still be applied normally to powers and spells affected by a psi-spell feat, and regular limits on power points spent per round still apply as normal.

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