Over on Nerdarchy the YouTube channel, Nerdarchists Dave and Ted discussed the hottest new Unearthed Arcana — Fighter, Rogue, Wizard. In the playtest document, Wizards of the Coast presents a new take on a classic mechanic in Dungeons & Dragons history: psionics. Wielding the power of their minds, practitioners of psionics present a prickly scenario in various edition of D&D. Often a later add-on to an edition of the game, only in first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons were psionics included in the Player’s Handbook. In the book, all characters have a chance to gain a psionic ability based on a lucky percentile dice roll. Meanwhile in the Star Wars universe, Force sensitive creatures can tap into the energy field created by all living things to achieve mind over matter effects. Whether in 5E D&D or a galaxy far, far away, what’s a creature without psionics supposed to do in the face of creatures with incredible mental powers? When you’re playing in a bounty hunter campaign inspired by the complicated profession of The Mandalorian, you’ve got to ask yourself: did that 5E D&D psionic creature use all 6 of their power points or only five? I hope you feel lucky. (No spoilers.)
Bounty hunting like The Mandalorian in 5E D&D
If you want to get caught up on where we’re at with our 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign inspired by The Mandalorian, here’s the first four parts.
- Bounty Hunting like The Mandalorian in 5E D&D
- Random Encounters like The Mandalorian in 5E D&D
- Dangerous Combat Like the Mandalorian in 5E D&D
- Playing an Anti-Hero Like The Mandalorian in 5E D&D
When it comes to psionics in 5E D&D and several earlier editions too, one of the common considerations is how creatures without psionic abilities match up against those with them. Because the psionic system is almost always added to an edition after the initial launch, it very often includes different unique mechanics. Power points are frequently employed to represent how psionics is different than magic.
Psionics in D&D for a long time reminds me of Force sensitive creatures in the Star Wars universe. Because Jedi and Sith are basically the only psionic characters around, they have a distinct advantage over others. Your average non-Force sensitive creature doesn’t have many defenses against those who manipulate the energy all around us to cloud minds telepathically, control the world around them telekinetically or any number of other abilities to bend reality with their mental powers.
So far on The Mandalorian, the bounty hunter protagonist hasn’t encountered much in the way of the Force beyond the asset introduced in Chapter 1. Since the most recent episode is Chapter 5: The Gunslinger, and there’s only eight episodes in the whole season one, it doesn’t seem like the show will divert very much in this direction. This could be a good sign for Mando, since as far as I know a nifty suit of Beskar steel armor doesn’t protect against the Force. And in D&D there’s not much protection from psionics either.
I like the way WotC explores psionics as subclass options in this Unearthed Arcana and I hope to see more of these for the remaining classes. If they revise the mystic or otherwise come up with a uniquely psionic character class, I feel like it’ll fall into the same morass as psionics in previous editions. Power point spending psionicists will have abilities vastly different than all the other character classes and monsters in the game. Without being baked into the setting, even if new official content provides a setting with it’s own psionic creatures and items, it won’t be nearly as broad as all the other 5E D&D material centered on the core mechanics tend to be.
At that point, the best bet a creature without psionic ability can count on when confronted by psionics is straight up luck.
Enter the Luck Deck
The mythical Old West combined with samurai tales set in a galaxy of blaster pistols and laser swords helps evoke a world where fortunes quickly change. Everyone has an angle and today’s ally might be tomorrow’s enemy — or next bounty. To simulate how circumstances can drastically take a turn for the worse or better at any given moment, the Luck Deck from Nord Games becomes the go-to resource for complications in my 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign.
Whenever a player rolls a 20 on a d20 roll they draw a card from the deck representing good luck. The player can hang onto the card until they want use it. Likewise when they roll a 1, they draw a bad luck card the DM can choose to use against them whenever they choose.
For example, a good luck card could allow a character to move without provoking an attack of opportunity during their turn. A bad luck card might let the DM invoke a -1d6 penalty on a saving throw — after the player makes their roll.
For my campaign I’m using the Luck Deck to add dynamic tension. In addition to the mechanical effects, these cards add to the narrative sort of like the specialty dice in the Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games. Whenever the players use one of their good luck cards I invite them to describe how the effect comes about.
Let’s say a player uses their good luck card to get +1d12 after making an attack roll. The potential bonus here is huge! Maybe the character picked up a one-time use flash bang along the way and flare causes their enemy to drop all their defenses.
Using the Luck Deck this way means the cards become storytelling tokens. I enjoy this approach because it opens the door to filling in gaps between the scenes.
“When we were back in town unloading the contraband we seized with the tinkerer before heading to the Demon Wastes to track down the wanted assassin, I picked up an experimental thunderstone.” — A player describing how their character got a +12 attack roll.
Ready to run a bounty hunter campaign?
Watching The Mandalorian every Friday and developing my 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign along with finding inspiration in Nord Games products is becoming a really fun activity. The players in my home group grow more immersed with each session, and their adventures hold surprises at just about every turn. Leaning into many of the random aspects of these products keeps the players on their toes and turns their bounty hunting into a real test of adaptability.
With the Luck Deck I’m hoping to elicit even more collaboration with the players. Since I typically call for lots of dice rolling in my games, I anticipate drawing and using luck cards quite a bit. I’m excited to see how much they can swing the action back and forth, raising the stakes in any situation.
If you want to check out the Luck Deck by Nord Games, visit their store here. You can use our exclusive promo code NORDARCHY20 to get a huge 20% off everything in your cart! Nord Games creates great products and accessories to help you create amazing experiences for your games. I’ve been a big fan of Nord Games for years now and in particular I love card based accessories for RPGs.
What do you think? Are you excited for The Mandalorian: Chapter 6 but also a little sad there’s only three episodes left in season one? Have you started your own 5E D&D bounty hunter campaign? My game group is having a blast and pretty much everything in our campaign so far is generated using various Nord Games products. Before season one finishes up I plan to share how Remarkable Inns helped me create two distinct adventure paths for the characters to begin their hunt, how Objects of Intrigue adds new wrinkles during their contracts and how Treasure Troves help give players more agency. But Nord Games has so many useful products, we might have to keep things going even after The Mandalorian season one wraps up.
Before wrapping up, in our last newsletter D&D Ideas — Psionics I mentioned sharing more about an idea we had for our take on psionics for 5E D&D. Because of our trip to PAX Unplugged, and because the ideas deserve more development, I’m putting a pin in the planned post for now but don’t worry, you’ll get my take soon enough. Until then, stay nerdy!