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My question is about the Surge Crystal, a psionic item from Psionics Augmented Vol 1 from Dreamscarred Press. The item itself is a headband-slotted item which grants the wearer a +1, +2 or +3 surge bonus when worn.

The exact writing includes the following:

While the crystal is active, the wearer gains the ability to manifest powers with a wild surge, as a wilder with the free surge type. (...) The wearer cannot manifest a power with wild surge if their power point pool is empty. A wilder who wields a surge crystal instead increases their wild surge by the wild surge level of the surge crystal, but does not increase the penalty from psychic enervation.

My question is regarding the bold text. The description says the wild surge levels increases. This means, if my wilder can already surge for a +2, this will give me a +5 when wearing the +3 Surge Crystal.

This is plain enough, except when it comes to the Chaos Wilder archetype and its Chaotic Surge. The description of this feature includes the following:

Wild Surge and Psychic Enervation: The chaotic wilder unlocks ways to increase her manifester level beyond the dreams of most wilders, but doing so is even more dangerous. When the chaotic wilder invokes a wild surge, she rolls a d4.

If the result is a 1, the chaotic wilder's power manifests at one manifester level lower than normal. (...) If the result is a 2 or 3, the chaotic wilder's manifester level is improved by 1. If the result is a 4, the chaotic wilder's manifester level is improved by 2. When the chaotic wilder's wild surge improves (3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th, and 19th levels) or when using perfect surge, treat each bonus the same way.

In short, this means a 1d4 must be rolled to determine the true strength of the surge.

Now for my question: Does Wilder's base surge level (+2) and the surge level of the Surge Crystal (+3) add before or after the 1d4 surge roll?

The results would then be the following

Before surge roll

  • Roll 1: 5 manifester levels lower
  • Roll 2-3: 5 manifester levels higher
  • Roll 4: 10 manifester levels higher

After surge roll

  • Roll 1: 1 manifester level higher
  • Roll 2-3: 5 manifester levels higher
  • Roll 4: 7 manifester levels higher.
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Hi @Jeff. I've cut out a lot of content from your quotes and done some other minor editing to your post. This was in attempt to make it less of an imposing wall of text: most of the text you quoted from the ability or item doesn't need to be there for the purposes of this question, and you should generally assume anyone answering this question also owns the book and can access the full material. In the future, try to do the same: if you find yourself quoting huge chunks of text, consider whether you can trim it down to only what's necessary for making your question clear. –  Jonathan Hobbs Feb 7 at 7:13
    
Also, it sounds like Chaotic Surge could have each surge point treated individually, such that you'd only get -5 manifester levels if five 1d4's all landed on 1. However, if this is the case, no doubt some groups might prefer to just speed things up and roll a single 1d4 for all of them. –  Jonathan Hobbs Feb 7 at 7:20
    
@JonathanHobbs Thank you for your assistance in making the question more readable. I'm still learning :) –  Jeff Feb 14 at 16:59
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1 Answer

By strict RAW, there is no answer to this, it is a detail that the game designers simply overlooked. Therefore, it comes down to a ruling from the DM. This kind of thing is a big part of why we have human DMs in the first place.

As you have shown, on a roll of 2 or 3, it doesn't matter; the result is the same either way. The "before surge roll" option is 3 levels better on a 4, but the "after surge roll" option is 6 levels better on a 1, thus giving it the better average result. The "after" option is also more normalized (results typically closer to the average result), and provides complete immunity to the "manifester level too low to manifest the power" clause in the Chaotic Surge text. Both of these things are net positives for a PC wilder. On the whole, the "after" option is better for the PC wilder than the "before" option, but probably not by all that much. Personally, I would rule it "after" if the wilder is one of the weaker characters in the group (for example, a group full of druids and wizards), and would rule it "before" if the wilder is one of the strongest in the group (for example, a group full of fighters, monks, and rogues).

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One thing that strikes me as "unbalanced" is that the "After" surge always manifests a power higher, while the "Before" option gives the risk of dropping 5 levels in power. This in itself, IMO, would fit the spirit of a chaotic wilder where the result of a surge can go all ways. What do you think of that? –  Jeff Feb 14 at 16:57
    
@Jeff I don't see the problem. Most wilders already have that. A major schtick of this particular archetype that distinguishes it from the normal wilder is this randomness, including a chance of a downgrade. Most wilders are already guaranteed to never go below non-surge manifester level. This can hardly be concluded to be overpowered considering that with it, wilders are still one of the weakest full-caster classes in the game. While I do acknowledge that it somewhat impinges on the archetype's spirit to hedge against such misfortune, the flavor clash does seem rather mild, and well worth it. –  Matthew Najmon Feb 15 at 23:24
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