Game: The Quintessential Psychic Warrior
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 14th, December 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 18
Average Score: 6.00
I’m going to peel the warning label off from my copy of the Book of Vile Darkness and stick it onto the Quintessential Psychic Warrior.
No, not really. The suggestion makes the point though. I shouldn’t go around cannibalising bits from one book to another. Some Psychic Warriors aren’t so concerned about books or even rival psions for that matter. There’s detailed rules for psionic cannibalism in this latest addition to Mongoose’s Collector Series. The word “cannibalism” is appropriate for the organ harvesting procedure. Hannibal Lecter would make a good psychic warrior, able to quickly carve out the chakras from the body of his latest victim. Not all psychic warriors engage in the practice. Some psychic warriors simply slice into the skin above their own chakras, to let the nexus of flesh and psionic energy breath more easily. If they can stand the pain then they can dig their fingers into the wound and pull away more flesh and tissue for another surge of power. This form of self-mutation is the wimpiest of three possible options. Why waste time with carving bleeding troughs into your skin when you can carefully flay away skin and flesh with a scalpel and dig even closer to the mystical chakras in your body. Flensing is more extreme than flaying. A psychic warrior who has undergone flensing will have gaping and bleeding holes cut through his body to expose bone and twitching organs. Oh yes, I can see it now, vast streams of psychic power flowing into the exposed and prepared chakra and total control over it all – for, well, about twenty seconds before you pass out and die for the blood loss. Again, not all psychic warriors undergo these self-mutations just to get a scrap more power. No, some of these uniquely scary people maintain their power through their addictions to drugs and chemical compounds. The Sybarite must experiment with new forms of pleasure – drugs, sex, marshmallow pizza – or start to loose her powers.
Then there’s the artwork. Mongoose keeps most of us happy, some of us ambivalent and a few of us righteously annoyed by keeping their products peppered with T&A art. That’s true here and then there’s another form of more mature art too. Some of the illustrations are rather gory. A noteworthy example lives on page 97 (and you’re all going to turn there first now) that shows a female psychic warrior with an unnaturally veined head using her teeth to pull the skin away from around the eyes of a severed and bleeding head she’s holding. The temptation to show some of the body beautiful psychic warriors flying around like super heroes, in skin tight skimpy costumes and in dramatic poses was one that the artists gave in to. The bloodier of the illustrations remind me rather less of super heroes and more of Clive Barker style Xenobites (or the Nightbreed for that matter) instead.
This isn’t a book you’ll want to let your grandmother read.
Good. I don’t want to be treated like someone’s grandmother. The Quintessential Psychic Warrior takes a popular but rarely expanded character class and adds much needed weight to it. The Quintessential Psychic Warrior certainly does extend the character class and it extends it very much in a particular direction. Many Mongoose books run the risk of being labelled as classic cheese fantasy – but this isn’t one of them. Sam Witt has written for the British company before and so this change of emphases is due to the subject matter and not a new author. The designer’s notes at the back explain that Witt wrote this book in tandem with the Quintessential Psion and so topics and ideas were shuffled around for “thematic reasons”. I think it’s this shuffling around that’s resulted on the darker-than-normal focus for the book.
This is still a Quintessential X, a Collector Series, book though and it begins with Character Concepts. Character Concepts are designed a role-playing aids, background ideas for your character that provide the player with guidelines and the character with slightly different game mechanics. It’s here you’ll find the Cribb Addict, Devil Child, Escaped Thrall, Mindshard, Natural Born Killer and the pleasure seeking Sybarite among others. The prestige classes come next. The introduction to the book makes a point of saying that the psychic warrior who uses a double-bladed sword is quite different to one who wields a dagger. We can guess what the prestige class pattern is going to be. The Double-Weapon Fighter is detailed through 10 levels, the Finesse Fighter through 10 levels, Mind Sniper and Power Fighter too. The Psychic Predator suggests something different – and that’s only a 5 level prestige class, the same for the Spell Killer and Trophy Hunter.
The Tricks of the Trade is a much more meaty chapter than normal. It’s here you’ll read about hybrid psychic combat which allows you to combine melee prowess with psychic prowess. You’ll also find all the different and bloody ways to “open the chakras”. I don’t suppose many roleplayers will need explaining what a chakra is, or is supposed to be, but the book does put it into black and white print just to make it clear what this fantasy take of a chakra is going to be. My cheeky remark about carving away the flesh above your chakra, hugely boosting your powers but passing out from blood loss made earlier on in the review isn’t entirely without basis. The rules for opening the chakra go hand in hand with the rules for just how much hit point damage you’ll take. Personally I’d be tempted to whip out a copy of Cthulhu and flick to the insanity tables too.
There are a couple of pages of feats. We all have enough feats now but psionic feats and metapsionic feats are still rather rare and so these few pages are worth more than most newly published collection of feats is.
The Tools of the Trade chapter is meatier than normal too. Hmm. Actually, the rules for psionic prosthetics would suggest that the characters are carrying around rather less meat than normal actually. There are rules and samples of interesting psionic materials like glyss (which makes for especially sharp swords in the psion’s hands or especially broken swords in the hands of anyone else) and weaves of crystals. There is also a fairly hefty list of psychoactive substances and the tools you need for psionic cannibals.
The book would not be complete without pages of new psychic warrior powers. Indeed the crunch-happy legion would be crying for blood if the list were missing. I think they’ll be happy. There are more than enough new powers to please.
Weapon Meditations are the means by which the psychic warrior focuses their devotion onto one particular weapon. Picking one of these meditations allows the psychic warrior to progress through ranks of understanding and ability. New abilities tend to improve skills or give special ability like bonuses. The Battle Trance is a meditation like ability which gets a chapter all to itself. It’s true that the Collector Series doesn’t just simply power up the classes it looks at – but some classes do certainly walk away with an extra level of power.
Psionic Cannibalism has a chapter all to itself.
A Fortress of the Mind is the name given to a community of psychic warriors – or even an especially powerful one living alone. The table of expected income level and the table of building costs for various parts of the Fortress (let’s include a 20ft by 20ft Crèche of the Mind – I kid you not) seem to be slightly out of place. Only slightly though. Building a powerful community of like-minded adventures is rather more the typical high fantasy found in Mongoose books. There are some nice asides in this chapter though, almost casual observations that so many psychics living together might cause the land nearby to warp, animals to act differently and unpleasant predators to be attracted is another nice speck of grit in this gritty book.
There are some rounding off features too note. There’s a detailed index – huzzah! There’s a long collection of tables and charts in the rules summary and that’s always helpful. I don’t like the too-white character sheet but at least one’s provided.
It’s a good book. If you wanted something light and friendly then you’re screwed. As my tolerance for yet more typical fantasy declines it’s a welcome relief to see a book with unexpected teeth in it.