You’re drifting off to sleep in your bed, when suddenly you startle and get the sensation of falling. Your eyes shoot open, and and your heart is pounding. You’ve just experienced a hypnic jerk, but whether or not you realize it, your body just experienced what might be considered the real world precursor to psychic damage. Some TTRPG and D&D players are often confused by the notion of psychic damage, but it’s far more relatable than you might think. If you’ve ever been hypnotized, or seen hypnosis done, you’re a lot closer to having witnessed “mind magic” than others.
I’ve recently had the pleasure of buying Super Hot VR on Playstation 4, and it is an intensely investing game. One that makes me wonder if I am not just slowly turning into John Wick, but VR is much like a sense-encompassing illusion, and good VR is wickedly immersive. If seeing is believing, then that is where the harm from illusion spells like shadow blade from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything come into play. In Super Hot, you’re getting shot at, all be it in slow motion, but you’re essentially playing Twister with bullets, while trying to fight back. It’s really fun, but as I was playing and getting shot, sometimes I would “feel” it. Not quite a pain, but if I saw the projectile coming, and it hit me somewhere other than the face, I knew where it hit, as it is accompanied by the sound of breaking glass and both controllers rumbling.
For instance, I watched at the last moment as a bullet hit where my leg would be, and the game registered it as a hit to which I automatically replied, “Damn it! Got me in the leg!” My brain put two and two together. Even though I can’t see my whole body in this game, my spatial awareness fills in the gaps. At one point, one of these imaginary projectiles went lower than my vision around where my throat would be and I coughed reflexively as though I had been hit in the Adam’s apple. I was fine, of course, but my brain momentarily tricked me into thinking otherwise. With a spell like shadow blade, I have to try to hit my target, relying on my own physical skill (to a degree), but upon a hit, the enemy believes they’ve been hit and takes psychic damage that is powered by magic forcing them to believe they actually have been hit and feel it too. So, when using psychic damage, consider even more so the experience. If you’re describing a spell, use vivid descriptors because in that vividness is where the power of the spell lies. If you are throwing illusory daggers, like Kannah has illustrated for our header image in the form of our original phantom dagger spell, describe that! The more vivid. the more psychic damage! (If only!)
If you like spells like this and doling out psychic damage, keep your eyes peeled for Merae’s Mesmerizing Manual coming to DMsGuild in the near future featuring a Beguiler subclass for wizards, and a number of new spells and magical items for confounding the senses and dishing out imaginary but real pain all illustrated by own Head Curator Kannah!
Let us know what you think of this and how you use psychic damage at your table on Twitter! If you like what we do here and are interested in supporting us and seeing all the fun spells we come up with, you can support the Mage College on Patreon at a number of reward levels for more exclusives and previews.
Until next time, keep creating and stay awesome!