Even my experienced D&D GM never had a clear answer to "are psionic powers considered magic?". It led to some very ridiculous situations, like our ninja being unable to use his ki powers inside a dimensional-locked antimagic sphere but our psion casually teleporting there with the whole team in a bag of holding, or enemy psionics manifesting their psionic powers and leaving no magically detectable trace of them (even their summons had no magical aura!).

As far as I dug into the Pathfinder rules, I found nothing clear either.

Just for the sake of breaking the traditional fighter-mage-thief comp and truly have fun in a new game, one of my friends wants this question answered to play a psionic class without breaking the rules.

What category (spells, spell-like abilities, supernatural abilities or extraordinary abilities) do psionic powers fit ?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Huh, I thought Pathfinder didn't have psionics rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Apr 5, 2017 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan What's going on with that bounty's text? All the answers agree that they're their own classification, and one even cites the same text. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 5, 2017 at 17:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Pretty sure that ShadowKras’s answer didn’t when I made it (and I still think it’s a kind of confusing answer that seems to maybe? conflate some things), and the then-top answer by GreedyRadish doesn’t make any mention of the statement of the psi-like ability thing. My upvote for that answer is locked in, so the bounty was at least in part my attempt to get Nijineko more upvotes/points to counteract my incorrect vote on GreedyRadish’s answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 5, 2017 at 18:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Oh you're right, I see that there were edits on that one since the bounty. Okay. The wording of the bounty text is a bit more provocative and negative than is ideal though and it can't be edited, so I'll ask that a bit more care be taken with that next time. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 5, 2017 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan i also think my answer is confusing, but i fail on improving it. Honestly i considered deleting everything and starting from scratch. If you have any suggestions, feel free to tell me. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 5, 2017 at 21:15

3 Answers 3


Psionic powers have their own category

The rules for psionic powers state that psionic powers are like spells, with a few differences, explained in those rules. Also psionic powers are considered psi-like abilities:

The manifestation of powers by a psionic character is considered a psi-like ability, as is the manifestation of powers by creatures without a psionic class

Psi-like, Supernatural and Extraordinary Abilities

Psionic powers can be emulated by creatures, which works just as if the creature had a psionic class that grants psionic powers. Psi-like Abilities work very similarly to spell-like abilities.

Supernatural abilities don't have that restriction. Those abilities work emulating a specific power and follow the same restrictions from the bestiary..

Extraordinary abilities are rarely magical or psionic in their nature. So there is no difference here.

This is explained in detail on the chapter about Special Abilities.

Special Abilities

Characters using dorjes, cognizance crystals, and other psionic items can also create psionic effects. In addition to existing spell-like and supernatural abilities, creatures can also have psi-like abilities.

(Psionic creatures may also have extraordinary and natural abilities.)

Which means that creatures and characters can have Psi-like abilitie in addition to Extraordinary, Supernatural, and Spell-like abilities. Those special abilities that emulate a psionic power are either Psi-like abilities or Supernatural abilities.

  • There are no "psionic extraordinary" abilities. So all (Ex) abilities are Extraordinary abilities.
  • Supernatural abilities that emulate a psionic power are Supernatural abilities.
  • And finally, Psi-like abilities work like spell-like abilities.

The GM can rule differently

However, in your example, it seems like your GM was using the optional rule for Psionics and Magic are different. The psionic rules from Dreamscarred Press presents the GM with two options regarding how psionic powers should work on the game mechanics:

  1. Psionic and magic are the same thing (default rules).
  2. Psionics and magic are different (optional rules).

If you decide that Psionic powers are Magic, you are presented with rules to combine psionics and magic, that aims for a better game balance and for an easy mix of magic and psionics on the same campaign. Basically, psionics and magic are only different on their source, the result (magic) is the same. Spell resistance will apply against psionic powers, psionic powers are negated inside an anti-magic zone, and Spellcraft can be used to identify psionic powers, etc.

The rule of thumb is that they work exactly the same (called psionics–magic transparency), and anything that grants spell resistance or increased saves versus spells will work against psionic powers.

If you decide that Psionics and Magic are different (again, a optional rule), it will explain the rules for psionics powers being different from magic (under Variant: psionics As Different), This can be used the default rule on campaign settings such as Dark Sun that, back in 2nd edition, had psionic powers being different from magic for setting-specific reasons. And it is suggested to be used on campaigns where most people and creatures uses psionics powers instead of magic.

If you treat them as different things, then creatures with spell resistance are less of a challenge to your players if none of them uses magic, in constrast, a creature with psionic resistance becomes a greater threat to your players.

So, it's best that you consult with him what rule he is actually using on his table. Or that if he even read those rules and wasn't simply ruling things without a backup on the ruleset.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I find this answer difficult to read (basic copyedit would help), and the lede seems to be misleading if not outright wrong. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 26, 2016 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan updated with better organization. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Sep 26, 2016 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the interest of trying to help with this answer, I think the first thing is that your headings are confusing—you say that “psionic powers have their own category (psi-like abilities)” implying that psi-like ability is unique to powers, but then the next header includes psi-like ability (since Ps, of course, is not uniquely used for powers). \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 6, 2017 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kryan, i could be wrong, since i dont have my book nearby, but on the SRD it says that power manifestations (like from the Psion class) are psi-like abilities. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 7, 2017 at 13:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Which seems different from the relation between spells and spell-like abilities. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Apr 7, 2017 at 13:13

None of the Above

Psionic Powers are in their own classification.

That being said, they do function in similar ways to spells and spell-like abilities.

The default rule for the interaction of psionics and magic is simple: powers interact with spells and spells interact with powers in the same way a spell or normal spell-like ability interacts with another spell or spell-like ability. This is known as psionics–magic transparency.

In your example the Psion should not be able to manifest a power inside an Antimagic Field, but any character could teleport into the field. An Antimagic Field does not prevent teleportation in the way that a Forbiddance spell does.

As far as detecting Psionics goes, they do leave behind an aura that can be detected by use of the spell Detect Psionics but Detect Magic is also able to detect:

powers, their number, and their strength and location within 3 rounds (though a Psicraft check is necessary to identify the discipline of the psionic aura).


The answer to this goes back to Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, the game on which Pathfinder is based. That earlier game's System Reference Document and its Expanded Psionics Handbook on Psi-like Abilities says, "The manifestation of powers by a psionic character is considered a psi-like ability…" (XPH 65).

Paizo's Pathfinder material doesn't directly support Dungeons and Dragons 3.5-style psionics, but third-party material does. That's why on the d20PFSRD on the Psionic Powers page in the Special Abilities section can be found the same statement quoted above.

Thus, if your Pathfinder games are using Dreamscarred Press-style psionics, psionics itself is a psi-like ability. This applies to both psionic characters and to monsters that possess psionic abilities but that are not otherwise called out as supernatural abilities or extraordinary abilities, even if those monsters possess no levels in a psionic class.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Excellent edits, much better than I could have done, thank you for your time. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Apr 8, 2017 at 21:33

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