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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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up vote 10 down vote accepted

This is how it works - it increases the effective surge value. So the way it works is this with the above example:

  • Roll 1: 5 manifester levels lower
  • Roll 2-3: 5 manifester levels higher
  • Roll 4: 6 manifester levels higher

In effect, it acts as if you had leveled up enough to have Wild Surge +5.

Note: I am part of Dreamscarred Press and wrote the above surge.

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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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