Maximized Arcana: Psionics

Hello readers!

Today we’re going to review the latest Unearthed Arcana publication “Psionic Options Revisited“, an inauspicious name for the three years awaited follow-up to the second version of the Mystic class.

This is part 1 of a 4 part series:

  • Psionic Options Revisited – This Article
  • Psi Knight
  • Soulknife
  • Psionic Soul

Overview

The new Psionic Options Revisited (POR) addresses most of the issues with Mystic v2 class, such as decision paralysis and a multitude of game-breaking combinations by deconstructing the Mystic class into three subclasses and five feats.

In this article we’re going to break down POR, with a review of each subclass, a review of feat options and then finish with a holistic analysis of the publication.

Is Psionics Magic?

POR begins with a breakdown of the oft-recurring “is psionics magic?” question. The writers provide a historical perspective on the role of psionics throughout the various editions of D&D. I won’t reproduce it here, but it is well worth a read if the history or evolution of D&D interests you.

The long and short of it is: psionics is a superset of magic. Psionics can create spells and spell like effects, but magic cannot create psionic effects.

Psionic Talent Die

Before we explore the subclasses offered in POR, we should discuss the Psionic Talent Die (PTD) as it is the core mechanic of each of the classes.

In short, you have a die that powers your psionics. If you roll the maximum on this die, it shrinks to the next smallest size to represent your growing fatigue from the use of your powers. If you roll the minimum on the die, the die grows one size to represent your character conserving their psionic energy.

This is a simple, powerful, and intriguing mechanic that makes psionics stand out without being overly difficult to manage.

Psi Knight

A fighter subclass, the Psi Knight uses telekinetic power to hit enemies harder, protect allies with force fields, and move objects and creatures around the battlefield.

It has a flavor that is less like a Jedi and more like a pusher (see the film Push) with a strong telekinetic and shoving focus.

The ability to move allies around the battlefield, use a reaction to reduce damage to an ally by a small amount, and to provide allies cover from attacks are somewhat reminiscent of the Warlord class from 4E and will feel spiritually similar to a lot of Paladin abilities.

It’s a great subclass if you want your Fighter to gain a lot of combat support capability in a unique way that does not step on the toes of any existing class.

Soulknife

Perhaps the most well-known Psionic archetype in D&D, the Soulknife makes a return in POR as a Rogue subclass. This time the soulknife has a distinct aura of spies and intrigue about it, making it feel almost like playing a psychic secret agent.

Limitless range telepathic communication, concealed weapons, and the ability to boost failed skill checks into possible success define the core of this Bond-esque class. Needless to say, you can two weapon fight with your psionic blade, but now you can also throw it.

As you level up the Soulknife gains more combat ability rather than utility, giving you the ability to turn invisible, to teleport during psionic blade attacks, and to force enemies to save or be stunned similar to the Monk’s Stunning Strike ability.

The flavor of the Soulknife is fantastic and the increased battlefield mobility makes it a great option for players looking to fill the Striker role of darting in and out of combat.

Psionic Soul

A new sorcerous origin, the Psionic Soul makes its debut in POR. Complete with a table of 10 random origin stories, it has more than enough content to stir your imagination.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Psionic Soul is the ability to circumvent a key restriction of the Sorcerer class: limited spells known. From 1st level, the Psionic Soul can meditate for 10 minutes and gain the ability to cast any enchantment or divination spell of its choosing for which it has spell slots. There is, however, a soft restriction that this spell can only be cast for the next few hours as determined by the PTD.

The Psionic Soul can also roll the PTD when casting a spell and, depending on how well they roll, omit verbal, somatic, or material components of the spell. It’s a very flavorful ability that is akin to having a chance at free metamagic.

Lastly, from 1st level, the Psionic Soul has an ability similar to the Soulknife, allowing psychic communication over infinite distance with another creature.

At 6th level the Psionic Soul gains the ability to add a small amount of psychic damage once per turn to its spells.

However, at 14th level the Psionic Soul gains a much more interesting ability to use a Bonus Actions and some Sorcery Points to grant itself up to 4 magical benefits, concentration free, for a number of hours. These benefits include a fly speed and the ability to see invisible creatures, among other possible benefits.

Honestly, the 18th level ability is impressive in a cinematic sort of way (a large field of psionic energy that slows the enemies it hurts with 30 ft of you) but it is far outshined by the subclass’ level 14 ability.

This is certainly one of the more powerful class options introduced in POR and should appeal to a wide range of players.

Spells and Feats

The spells are interesting and offer new mechanics, such as ever increasing save penalties each time a save is failed (Mind Sliver).

Notably, Mind Thrust is back, in all its save-or-be-screwed glory: a 2nd level spell that forces an Intelligence save (the best save to target) causing a creature to have to choose between an Action, Move, or Bonus action on its next turn, and forfeit its reaction if it fails the save. In other words: pass an Intelligence save or say goodbye to your Action economy for one round.

The spells present strong options to say the least and it would difficult to argue against taking at least one for most characters.

The feats section presents some interesting options that would also be difficult pass up. Metabolic Control allows you to mediate for 1 minute and reduce the size of you PTD in exchange for all the benefits of a short rest. This feat is somewhere between tempting and must-have for all short-rest based classes.

The Telekinetic feat allows you to attempt to shove enemies in combat, but more interestingly, if you already know the spell Mage Hand its range is extended by 30 ft. While not up there on the power curve, this feat does allow for interesting options and will have a wide appeal to rogue-like characters.

Telepathic is largely skippable as your character will most likely already have good enough telepathy and the added Detect Thoughts just isn’t worth a feat.

Tower of Iron Will will appeal to some tanks and support characters. If you have no use for your reaction, it’s a great feat to help support the party by allowing an ally to add your PTD to their saving throw, potentially turning it into a success.

When viewing these types of abilities in D&D 5th Edition, it’s good to keep in mind that Death Saving Throws are also a type of Saving Throw.

Lastly, Wild Talent is back. This feat grants a +1 to any stat and a PTD with the ability to add it to ability checks or to substitute it for a damage die when dealing damage. Notably, you cannot have more than one PTD. It will be a must-have feat for anyone reaching for impossible skill checks i.e. rogues and bards, but is largely skippable for everyone else.

Conclusion

Overall, Psionic Options Revisited addresses many of the issues with the Mystic class including game-breaking combinations and severe decision paralysis.

However, while the Mystic v2 felt like the developers were throwing everything they had up against a wall to see what sticks, POR suffers front the opposite problem: it feels thin, implying options and possibilities that simply aren’t available yet.

That may be a good sign. The options that we have in POR are interesting and within bounds for game balance of Unearthed Arcana content. The missing content may be indicative of preparation for publication in short-to-mid term.

In other words: the content we have is well designed and thought provoking and the content we don’t have is likely in the early editing stages of the publication process.

Check back later for our character builds from POR and a sneak peak of our upcoming D&D 5e publication featuring new 50 magic items. Sign up for the Friendly Neighborhood Newsletter to receive a discount when its published.

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