The full question is: Can a character voluntarily dismiss their psionic focus and, if so, what type of action would it be?

The rules clearly state how to gain or expend your focus. They also explain in which situations you would lose it involuntarily, for example if you become unconscious. But not a word about whether you can actually dismiss your focus.

Why would you want to dismiss your focus? For example, at the beginning of an encounter when you know for sure that one/some/all of your opponents either resist, are immune to or (even better!) are vulnerable to a specific energy type.

As you know, when a psionic character gains his focus, he must choose an energy type. The exception being the Kineticist. So if a player wants his character to dismiss his focus in order to subsequently gain it with a different energy type, what happens?

My GM says, no problem, you can do that. You just need to concentrate a bit, so it would be a move action.

I'm thinking, if someone can physically drop an item as a free action, why couldn't they also drop something psionically as a free action?

I'm also thinking: if a barbarian can end a rage (in which some of her body may have physically changed into bestial forms) as a free action, then why can't psionic characters just drop something which is purely mental also as a free action?

And now to make matters even worse: what happens if you have Psicrystal Containment or Deep Focus? How long does it take to drop two focii? If you're focused twice, with either of these methods, can you gain two energy types? I would say no on this one.

Food for thought. Thanks for your input. C.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to asking questions on rpg.se. For a general orientation please take the tour and look at the help center for further guidance. Happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Dec 3 '20 at 7:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG SE! I took out your first line because we don't answer with opinions where we can avoid it (and when we do it's only if we have demonstrable strong subjective experience, as is portrayed in KRyan's answer). \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Dec 3 '20 at 15:43

The manifester may choose to change which energy is his active energy by gaining psionic focus. If he is currently maintaining psionic focus, he may expend it as a free action and then gain psionic focus normally to choose a new energy type.

(Ultimate Psionics pg. 131, emphasis mine, with thanks to Powerdork for pointing it out)

And I would say, if anything, a free action is actually too long—plenty of active uses of psionic focus are non-actions, not even free actions, which can matter because you can take a non-action outside of your turn. For example, the basic usage of psionic focus—absent any class features or feats—is to “take 15” on a concentration check, which is something that almost always happens in response to others’ actions. Of course, since you won’t then be able to re-focus to choose a new type (as it is not your turn and focusing is definitely an action), there probably is never any reason you would want to do that, so the point is largely moot.

However, I also want to offer a bit of editorializing: Pathfinder psionics is based on the Expanded Psionics Handbook psionics for D&D 3.5e, which is also available as open-game content, e.g. here. In 3.5e, manifesters never picked an energy type when they focused—they could just freely choose the energy type they used for each power they manifested. See the 3.5e version of energy ray for example—no mention of “active energy type,” because that wasn’t a thing, instead you just chose when you manifested the power. This change to make the active energy type fixed when you focus was a mistake. There is simply no good reason for it—it’s awkward and makes some of the weakest psionic powers weaker. I strongly recommend that your GM just remove it from your games. They’ll be better for it.

And my source for all of this is that I worked for Dreamscarred Press for a time, on psionic material. I came after Ultimate Psionics—and so missed the opportunity to push back against the active energy type—but the fact that they paid me to write psionic material for them is hopefully worthy of consideration. I was hired on the strength of my homebrew portfolio and the deep conversations I’d had with DSP devs about psionics, and those things were based upon my extensive experience with psionics as both DM/GM and as player. I have pretty considerable experience with games that skip the active energy type, either 3.5e where it never existed or Pathfinder where it was houseruled out, so that recommendation is coming from a place of pretty deep expertise.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Kryan, Thank you for your detailed answer and suggestion to drop the fixed energy type altogether. I pitched it to my DM, we'll see how he feels about it. If you don't mind my asking, if we were to follow your suggestion, how would you: 1) handle a character with 2 focii (such as one with Psicrystal containment); and 2) the fixed energy type also dictates what energy you are resistant to. What happens if there's no fixed energy type? \$\endgroup\$ – Christophe Feb 23 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Christophe With no active energy type, psionic focus has nothing to do with energy types and so I’m not really sure what you’re asking about in #1—if anything, I would expect that to be a question when you do have active energy type (and off the top of my head, I’m not sure of the answer, though I have spoken about other questions with regard to multiple psionic foci with the author of Ultimate Psionics, and he has always suggested that the two should work in exactly the same way, so one would presume you can change your active energy type any time you gain either focus). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 23 at 19:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Christophe With #2, what I am recommending is basically that everyone is a kineticist for the purposes of determining the energy type of powers you manifest. If you have other features that rely on active energy type, you should probably just use the usual rules for active energy types, just as a kineticist would. I don’t believe there is any rule saying you get any resistance to your active energy type, at least by default. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 23 at 20:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry if I wasn't clear, English is my second language and sometimes I miss my DC... In #1, I was trying to understand how a character with 2 foci would change his active energy type. You've answered that, so thank you! \$\endgroup\$ – Christophe Feb 24 at 3:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Christophe Yes, the energy blast customization (and those related to it) would change so that the aegis chooses which of the four energy types they are shooting each time it is used, ignoring the active energy type. (Note, however, that these customizations are very weak—on purpose. The aegis was designed to be in melee and the ranged attack customizations were intended as a back-up only. I have spoken to the author on this, and it matches my own analysis.) The energy resistance and energy immunity customizations would continue to use the usual active energy type rules. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 24 at 4:40

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