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You can spend a full-round action attempting to psionically focus your psicrystal. At any time when you need to expend your psionic focus, you can expend your psicrystal’s psionic focus instead, as long as the crystal is within 5 feet of you. Psionically focusing your psicrystal works just like focusing yourself. The psicrystal cannot focus itself—only the owner can spend the time to focus the crystal.

We all know the trick of giving the Psicrystal the Wild Talent feat at level 1 so it can psionically focus itself.

But if you grab the Psicrystal Containment feat, does the above prevent the psicrystal from psionically focusing itself?

We can interpret the text as "the feat does not grant the psicrystal the ability to psionically focus itself."

We can also interpret the text as "any psicrystal whose master has this feat cannot psionically focus itself"

I think it's very clearly the former, but I'm interested in a RAW interpretation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "We all know the trick…". Nope, at least I did not. I think you assume a level of exposure in the arcana of psicrystals that may be not be shared by the average reader. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2023 at 5:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, that trick does not work RAW, because psicrystals have a general rule about being incapable of advancement, as per the Monster entry in the EPH. Only with the psicrystal feat does a psicrystal gain HD, and even those HD are without the normal benefits of HD, such as feats and skill points. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Nov 14, 2023 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko You are incorrect. Monsters with advancement "-" can advance. I can name a dozen examples like Madcrafter of Thoon. Also the advancement definition says these limits are for typical monsters and rare monsters can defy it. Also there is no such thing as hd without normal benefits of hd. Psicrystals have exceptions because specific trumps general so instead of skill ranks, rolling hp, or increase in base save bonus, they use their masters. Everything else follows general hd rules because nothing says they don't. Stat blocks lose to text and the the block got psicrystals skills wrong. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2023 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe you are incorrect, as everything the psicrystal gets is detailed in the feat... HD without feats or skills is one of them. Skills being specifically mentioned as using a different mechanic than HD, and feats not mentioned at all. Claiming that they get something the feat does not specify feels like another, "but the rules don't say I can't" argument. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Dec 7, 2023 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko Nope, it's the opposite. You are the one saying specific rules that don't address every aspect of the rules removes the general rules. You're saying when the rules talk about psicrystal hd, it didn't go out of its way to list every general benefit of hd therefore every benefit that isn't listed are removed from the rules. That's not how specific v.s. general works. Anything the specific fails to mention defaults to the general instead of being removed. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2023 at 5:31

2 Answers 2

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In the context of the general mode of the rules text, “No.”

My answer is basically the same as Nobody’s fine answer, with the exception that I disagree that allowing this to work would be significant “generosity” on the DM’s part. The rules are consistently written from a single-classed, starting-from-1st-level perspective. In almost all cases, each rules element only considers the general, default rules for whatever it is modifying. In other words, D&D 3.5e is what’s known as an “exception-based ruleset.”

Unfortunately, the written text doesn’t inherently hint at this. They rely on the reader’s knowledge of context—the fact that it is an exception-based ruleset—and write their statements quite absolutely even though there winds up being exceptions. For example, Complete Arcane explicitly says a sorcerer/wizard can cast spells prohibited as a specialist wizard from sorcerer spell slots, even though the rules for school specialization say

Spells of the prohibited school or schools are not available to the wizard, and she can’t even cast such spells from scrolls or fire them from wands. She may not change either her specialization or her prohibited schools later.

(Player’s Handbook, Wizard Class Features, School Specialization sidebar, pg. 57)

Here, a sorcerer/wizard is an exception to the rules about wizards casting these spells. (So is a wizard using the Use Magic Device skill, even though “she can’t even cast such spells from scrolls or fire them from wands.”) This could have—arguably, should have—been written “Being a specialist wizard does not allow you to cast spells of the prohibited school or schools, nor even cast such spells from scrolls or fire them from wands,” but that is simply not the way that they write the rules. It’s wordier, it’s arguably harder to read for new players, etc., so they just don’t, and let the exception-based nature of the rules handle it.

Thus, consider:

  • A character does not, in general, have any associated psicrystal.

    • Psicrystal Affinity creates an exception where a character does.

    • A psicrystal cannot, in general, gain psionic focus—despite everything that it is, the psicrystal is not technically a “psionic” creature and does not meet the requirements for gaining psionic focus.

      • Wild Talent creates an exception wherein the psicrystal becomes a psionic creature, and thus can gain psionic focus.

      • Psicrystal Containment creates a different exception, wherein the psicrystal becomes capable of gaining psionic focus on the behalf of its master.

Both Wild Talent and Psicrystal Containment are exceptions to the base rules of the psicrystal creature—we expect each to consider those rules. But we don’t expect either to consider the exceptions provided by the other—each is going to be written in a vacuum assuming they are the only relevant exception to this particular rules facet. And in that vacuum, it’s true that “the psicrystal cannot focus itself.”

Ultimately, this is getting into a semantic argument about what exactly is considered to be a part of the rules, as written, particularly the “simple” rules as written that the question requests. RAW analysis is many things, but “simple” isn’t really one of them. Anyway, I would argue that the nature of the system as an exception-based ruleset is absolutely necessary to understanding the text they wrote. It certainly was something the authors assumed was understood. So I would not call it “generous” to understand Psicrystal Containment’s statement in that context, and see Wild Talent as creating an exception to that statement. There is some ambiguity, some room to rule otherwise, but I’d consider this position—that is, a “No” to the title question—the much more likely conclusion.

Finally, it wasn’t part of the question, but it seems relevant: if we rule that a psicrystal with Wild Talent, whose matter has Psicrystal Containment, can still gain its own psionic focus, how do those interact? Unfortunately, the answer to that is anyone’s guess, since we have basically nothing to go on. I guess, strictly speaking, they don’t interact, and each works fully and independently, but that is firmly in the “nothing says they can’t” rules hole that tends not to fly at tables. I would strongly recommend asking the DM for clarity on that point if it is relevant to you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I upvoted your answer, as I think it has a better take on the "gestalt" of the overall rules body, that my text-based technical reading does not have. Rather than further changing mine to remove the "generous", I will let it stand as a contrast, espcecially as they come to fundamentally different concusions (yes/no), beyond there being a strong element of DM judgment on how to run this. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2023 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin Yeah, I think that works. I’ll upvote yours too, as it’s not really “wrong” and it’s a good analysis of the text in a vacuum—and my answer kinda relies on the contrast! \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 14, 2023 at 19:06
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Yes, unless you have a generous-minded DM

It may be implied by the rules that Psicrytals can gain feats, but that may be an unintended result, and you should check with your DM if they allow it.

Assuming they do, you are right that that Wild Talent would allow a Psicrystal to focus itself because that feat says "you gain a reserve of 2 power points", and there is a general rule in the SRD that states:

Merely holding a reservoir of psionic power points in mind gives psionic characters a special energy. Psionic characters can put that energy to work without actually paying a power point cost—they can become psionically focused as a special use of the Concentration skill.

There is also a rule on the Order of Rules applicaton (p. 5, Rules Cyclopedia):

The D&D game assumes a specific order of rules application: General to specific to exception. A general rule is a basic guideline, but a more specific rule takes precedence when applied to the same activity. (...) An exception is a partular kind of specific rule that contradicts or breaks another rule (general or specific). The Improved Disarm feat, for instance, provides an excpetion to the rule that an attacker provokes an attack of opportunity from the defenender he is trying to disarm

Following this principle, we have a general rule that says the psicrystal can focus because anyone that has power points can focus, and a more specific rule that contradicts it and says it cannot focus. Purely RAW, the psycrystal cannot focus.

The feat in effect creates a buffer of an extra use of psionic focus for you, and assumes that the way you charged the crystal with focus is only through you, to avoid giving you a free source of extra focus by having your crystal charge itself and sharing it with you. Allowing another, more general rule to get around this also seems to be against the intent of what this feat can enable. Oherwise, a statement that "The psicrystal cannot focus itself" would be entirely unneccesary, as a normal psycristal cannot focus, and the feat only states that you can focus it.

I think the only other explanation would be that the sentence is "unhelpful reminder text". In this reading, even though the feat never states the crystal could focus itself, it goes out of its way to make it clear that the feat itself does not allow that to avoid misunderstanding of what it enables. I could see a generous DM declaring that the sentence applies only to the context of the feat itself, and allowing the psion to tap into their psicrystal as a self regenerationg source of focus in spite of what the feat says. The text however does not say "The psicrystal is unable to focus itself through this feat", it makes a blanket statement that the crystal is unable to focus itself.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ “The simple rules-as-written take however does not support this. The text does not say "The psicrystal is unable to focus itself through this feat", it makes a blanket statement that the crystal is unable to focus itself.” Eeeeeehhhhhh. That’s how they write, though. To an extent, even a RAW analysis has to acknowledge the language the rules are written in, and this is, IMO, part of it. Cf. sorcerer/specialist wizard casting “prohibited” spells, which uses the same kind of language but is explicitly allowed. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 14, 2023 at 7:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I will mellow the language but I'm not quite sure what you are saying. Do you think the feat would still allow it? Or are you trying to say the rules are written so inconsistently that RAW generally is not a useful approach?The question was explicitly asking for an "as written"interpretation. If there is a better answer, I don't think I can write it in the way you could. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2023 at 7:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think RAW doesn’t—can’t—guarantee a singular unique and definitive result in general, and ambiguities abound in both the English language and in the rules language that they use here. (Keep in mind that they weren’t writing with the intent that the rules be interpreted strictly as written or to a particularly high degree of consistency.) I don’t think that means RAW is “not a useful approach”—I’ve written extensively about how it can be useful. Anyway, here I would say it working or not is possible, but working seems more likely to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 14, 2023 at 14:19

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