Psionics lore and names

I’m currently delving into psionics to understand the system and shape in a way that feels more in tune with the setting, and perhaps my own sensibilities. I’ve had some issue with the names of the Disciplines and the names of primary practitioners of those disciplines. It seems to me with such a deep history and so many imbued with powers that there should be a whole philosophy (probably more than one) surrounding the use of the way and terminology that is specific to the setting.

I was wondering if anyone has any alternate names that they use for 6 Disciplines or for their practitioners? In particular I find the names psychoportation, psychokinesis, and psychometabolism problematic, and the term egoist seems to fly really wide of the mark.

These are mostly pretty awful alternates (in parentheses), but I’ve got to start thinking somewhere.

Telepathy/Telepath (Mind Bending/Mind Bender)
Clairsentience/Seer (Farsight/Auger)
Psychokinesis/Savant (The Force/Floater)
Psychoportation/Nomad (Vanishing/Mind Walker)
Psychometabolism/Egoist (Shifting/Skindancer)
Metacreativity/Shaper (Manifesting/Assembler)

I was also looking at how the disciplines relate to each other and where the boundaries/points of contact are between. With the original 5 (sorry, metacreativity) it seems like they form a pentagon with metapsionics in the middle like the attached image.


I love the psionic pentagram, although I’d be curious how you picked the boundaries/relations.

I also like the idea of psionic names that aren’t modern pseudo-sciency. I actually think telepathy/telepath and augury/seer work really well, but I don’t like the psycho-disciplines.

I actually think mindbending/mindbender/floater both work well for psychokinesis. I think calling the discipline itself telekinesis works better than psychokinesis. Or even kinetics/kineticist. The Force only makes me think of Star Wars, so doesn’t get me away from science fiction.

For psychometabolism, the sensei kit is a really good one, and I don’t hate metabolics/sensei. Yogi is actually really close but has connotations of Lululemon fitness culture that doesn’t totally feel right.

Vanishing or even teleportation as the practice. I kind of like sojourner as the practitioner. It means traveler or itinerant but isn’t closely associated with something more specific than that.

Metapsionics I’m a bit stumped. Although nobody else is technically a “psion” so it might work as the meta-practitioner of the craft…

I’m a bit stumped too but love the idea of trying to come up with something better.


Here is my updated schema which names different students of the way based on their alignment to the disciplines. There is some insight into connection between them in it. I do like your ideas for some of the names, still playing around with ideas I have a few others I could use somewhere that aren’t in this schema as well. I also figured that different cultures might have different understandings of the different paths and roles of the way, so I wanted a decent universal starting point that sounded less modern.


Also as a very basic schema that could be used by tribal people, those unlearned in the way, or maybe as a particular cultures understanding I like the idea of associating the 6 disciplines with aspect of the person, so you would have something like the following:

Voice = Telepathy
Sight = Clairsentience
Grasp = Psychokinesis
Form = Psychometabolism
Presence = Psychoportation
Spirit = Metapsionics

I also like the idea of representing the way as a hand with 5 fingers and a palm. This could be favored by monks/martial artists In that case I guess I would have it set up like this:

Pointer Finger = Psychoportation
Middle Finger = Psychometabolism
Ring Finger = Clairsentience
Pinky Finger = Telepathy
Thumb = Psychokinesis
Palm = Metapsionics


Some ideas about the different sort of psionics careers or roles that exist in the tablelands with some thought to how that relates to the disciplines and my charts. Trying to identify and fill in roles. It seems to me like there wasn’t enough effort put into integrating psionics into Athasian society and culture in the source material. I would love to hear anyone else’s thoughts on the roles that psionics play in the city-states and wastes and how it impacts Athasian society.

Auditor - Psionic investigators rigorously trained in Clairsentience & Telepathy. Auditors who also delve into Psychometabolism may also act as interrogators, while those who dabble in Psychoportation can act as far ranging agents or covert recovers of high value stolen goods.
Psionic Beast Master - Handlers of dangerous and untrainable beasts for merchant caravans and
the arena or occassionaly for hunting sport or the defense of noble estates, psionic beast masters
are rigorously trained in Telepathy and Psychometabolism so they can understand and control their charges, and heal injures to themselves and their animals. Minor Clairsentience tends to support these abilities to better sense danger or track missing animals.
Ship Floater - Masters of Psychokinesis, ship floaters, are vital to trade along the sea of silt. Mosthave a secondary focus in Clairsentience in order to act as effective navigators as well, both charting a proper course and avoiding the many dangers of the dust. Smart ones may have a Psychoportive ace in their pocket for escape, or a Psychometabolic one to survive being stranded in the harsh and alien environment.
Sentinel - Very similar in terms discipline focus, Sentinels act as tactical support, early warning systems, and defense of strategically important structures and locations. They can be found employed
by many merchant houses in defense of forts or merchant caravans, but are most common in the region surrounding Balic and their client villages to defend against Giant attacks. Both Hammanu andTecktutilay also employ a large number, with Hammanu’s force being referred to as Battleminds andTecktutilay’s as Eagle Warriors.
Empath - In tune with the life force and pulse of living creatures including of course other people,capable of healing, bridging divides and making peace. Empaths may be pure of intention acting as diplomats and envoys. The reverse is of course manipulation, gamesmanship, and the capacity to cause subtle harm and disease. This is a common path for nobles to learn especially in city states where telepathy is severely regulated, it is also a common path for the bard/assassin and other covert agents of the merchant houses. Empaths usually have some small measure of Telepathic training which theyuse cautiously.
Psionic Slaver - As terrible as it is, there is a significant demand on Athas for Psionic Slavers to handle particularly dangerous and difficult slaves and to act as a backstop against rebellions. These individuals also act to capture and control criminals pending interrogation and possible execution. Psionic Slaversfocus on a combination of powers used to subdue and control people typically Telepathy, Psychokinesis,and some measure of Psychometabolism.
Envoy - Envoys are masters of communication delivering important messages and high priority packagesas well as serving as representatives of Major Trading Houses, the Sorcerer-Kings, and Powerful noble families. They specialize in Pyschoportative powers followed by Clairsentience and Telepathy in smaller measure.
Dreamwalker - Seers and mystics with a air or voodoo or shamanism about them, dreamwalkers
are practictioners of the way among the people of Gulg, the Halflings of the Forest Ridge, certain Elven
tribes and other tribal peoples. Skilled Telepaths, Nomads, and Seers, Dreamwalkers alternatelyknown as Greywalkers and Psychics, specialize in psionic powers that relate to the ethereal, astral, andrealms such as the black and grey, as well as psychic impressions, residue, and precognition. They are known to enter people’s dreams and battle demons therein or bring powerful visions.
Kensai - Apart from the many state sponsered schools of psionics, there is a parallel tradition of remote monastaries and hermit masters known as Kensai. Their training is more varied than many of the other roles with different masters following different paths, but there is a universal rooting in discipline of the body and mind which connects to martial arts and yogi style practices. Survival, self-sufficiency, and self-mastery are fundamental tenants of all Kensai. Kesai have a more spiritual bent than most other practictioners of the way and can almost be thought of as a sort of psionic priest.
Shadow Dancer - Less commonly known than the Elemental Singers of the elven tribes, are the Shadow Dancers. They tend to be associated with whatever elemental patron the tribe reveres though they are in truth something more akin to powerful wild talents that have followed the intuitive elven path of the way. Though not common these individuals have a unique mastery of time, space, and trickery well suited to the elven lifestyle and spirit. They are always foremost masters of the Psychoportative arts, with only a smattering of ability in other disciplines, manifesting powers such as Chameleon Skin, Danger Sense, False Sensory Input and others more focused on evasion and trickery than anything else. They make ideal thieves and assassins.


I have been a fan of psionics since I was first introduced to it in the original Dark Sun boxed set, and I would love to elaborate as to why I feel psionics has never really gained a foothold in the fantasy rpg world, but I feel that you hit one of the nails on the head in stating that the names of the disciplines fly really wide of the mark. These names are much too scientific sounding, which makes them very un-fantastic and thematically out of place - especially in Dark Sun.

TSR 2431, “The Will and the Way” goes into a lot of detail regarding psionics on Athas, but even then, I feel there is much of the same wording that flies wide of the mark; except for the terms and concepts of the “Will” and the “Way.”

The booklet describes how Athasian refer to the “Will” as one’s innate ability for psionics (which are prevalent everywhere on Athas). Yet, it also states, that most Athasians never even scratch the surface in learning to control their psionic powers. These are what I believe account for as “Wild Talents.” Examples of Wild Talents are deja vu, or having the feeling that someone or something is watching. These are actually just unrealized and unlearned psionic powers that manifest randomly because the person hasn’t learned to control them. When a character realizes, or becomes aware of the fact, that these unusual abilities are actually more than just random peculiar events, they become “Awakened.” Once awakened, under a teacher, and through study and discipline, a character can learn to control their psionic powers, this is the “Way.” The “Way” is taught at academies and schools throughout Athas.

I view Athasian society, while rich and varied, to also be quite uneducated (in large part due to laws prohibiting literacy) and so believe that in using these rudimentary and simplistic terms, psionics becomes more approachable and fits more thematically with Dark Sun. And to my way of thinking, even though psionics is more common and likely to be accepted by the people of Athas, at the end of the day, most of them will never understand it and skeptically regard it simply as “mind magic.”

So to continue with simplifying the naming convention of psionic powers and disciplines, I have reorganized and recategorized them by the affects they have rather than how they are produced.

  • Psionic powers that allow a stream of mental communication to pass from one creature to another, or telepathy, are referred to as the “Way of the Mind.” For example, Sensory Link

  • Psionic powers that allow emotions and mental functionality to be manipulated or amplified, or empathy, are referred to as the “Way of the Spirit.” For example: Fearful Shadow

  • Psionic powers that augment and alter the physical state of living creatures by influencing the alteration of the character or the composition of the physical anatomy, or metabolism, are referred to as the “Way of the Body.” For example: Adrenaline Surge

  • Lastly, psionic powers that create a heightened state of awareness, surpass ordinary abilities and limitations, or are able to affect the area in the immediate vicinity of the character, or transcendent powers, are referred to as the “Way of the Shadow” (because the shadow is able to go beyond the body, yet cannot ever be removed from it, and sometimes does not exist at all). For example: Nomadic Navigation

So, there is my very long explanation of how I have tried to make psionics more accessible and more palatable to the players in my rpg group, as well as how I made it more thematically “Dark Sun” by using more rudimentary and simplistic terms that I believe would be more widely utilized across the face of Athas.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it certainly feels more like the way most people would think about these things and talk about them.

Firstly, nice work and I love the discussion of making the psionic discipline names themed more for the Fantasy of Dark Sun. If you don’t mind me asking about a post over six months old, how do the student’s alignment figure in? I mean which side of the schema is what alignment? Is Dreamwalker a Chaotic aligned Student of Psychotelepathy and an Auditor a Lawful aligned one? Is the Psychic neutralally aligned. I love the schema and most of the names. I’m just trying to understand where the alignments are patterned on the schema. Again, nice work.

I don’t think there is any particular alignment relationship to most of this stuff. But you can of course read into them and think about how alignment would relate if you like. I’m not a big fan of the alignment system personally. I don’t think it works very well for describing people.


Aah okay, I goofed, I misunderstood. You meant the alignment of the names on the schema. I actually thought you were referring to the alignments of the students determinning their Psionic discipline names. LOL WOW I still like the idea either way and I do appreciate you responding to my question so fast, especially since it has been so long since this was originally posted. Still I don’t mind alignment too much. I use the 3 alignment system from BECMI D&D or similar to Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series. Anyway, I’m trying to use Dungeon Crawl Classics ruleset for Dark Sun and they also use a 3 alignment system. SO, if you do not mind, I’d like to use your schema for my campaign with alignments determinning the psion’s title?

I’ve been toying with the idea of making telepaths, seers, nomads, floaters and senseis as unique subclasses, but haven’t totally figured out how to make them “distinct” enough.

On alignment, another idea might be for lawful aligned psionicists to be more specialized in one discipline, and chaotic psionicists preferring to develop skills across disciplines. Alignment could perhaps influence the course of study in this way?

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I actually did this for the campaign I’m running right now. It is using the DCC/MCC (Dungeon Crawl Classics/ Mutant Crawl Classics) ruleset on Fantasy Grounds Unity. The classes are more akin to templates because I wanted anyone to be able to take them in addition to another class or be able to advance as their own class. Orginally, I let them be of any alignent. However, after seeing your Schema and the different titles which is also a thing for DCC/MCC classes. I decided to incorporate it into the psionic sub-classes. Each one has its own HD, Bab, and a few special powers that only they get instead of every psion getting. This coupled with some alignment specifics and coming up with some more lore/background to implement them into Dark Sun should give us 6 sub classes where there was only one and make them definitely different from each other. Hopefully my players will appreciate the work.

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This sounds interesting. Any feedback from your players yet?

I love “skin dancer” but shapesmith works as well. When my son thing one finishes programming my Dark Sun Character generator, i’m thinking of having a bunch of weird names just like all the freaky names in first edition, for the different levels of a class, but based on the talent selection. You pick up psychic surgery so your title changes from mindbender to brain shredder.:wink:

For metabolist, I like Shapesmith.