Psionics Revisited: Quite An Improvement

 

Back in November Wizards of the Coast released an Unearthed Arcana that focused on 3 new subclasses utilizing psionic powers to create spells and magic-like effects. This was their first attempt to do since they released the UA for the Mystic class back in 2017. Mystics were a great idea, and looked like a lot of fun on the paper, but in reality they proved to be clunky, with too many options and a lot of points to keep track of, and in the hands of anyone but a veteran player could really bog down the game. The next psionics UA was a refreshing change from the 28 page Mystics class. It was instead released as subclasses for 3 already existing classes, the Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard. It was much easier to read and had much more simplified, yet still interesting and unique abilities. In my opinion, the psionics revisited options were a great improvement upon the subclasses they chose. Let’s take a closer look at some of the changes they made.

 

 

Psionic Talents 

So to start off, the major change between these two Unearthed Arcana releases is that the first talks about how the abilities and traits presented are birthed from the power of the mind but none of it really seemed to feel much more than magical effects like any other class archetype would get. With the Psionics Revisited they really begin to make it feel like something new and different, and they do so with the introduction of the Psionics Talent die. This special die is similar to a Monk’s Martial Art’s die or a Bard’s Bardic Inspiration die. It is a die that you can roll allowing you to utilize the special abilities of the class. Like those other class dice, it will increase in size as you level up, however, as a psionic you only have one die and its size can fluctuate throughout the day. If you roll the max number on the die while using it for an ability, it will then decrease to the next die size. For example: rolling a 6 on a d6 would cause your Psionic Talents die to become a d4. Alternatively if you roll a 1 on your die it will increase to the next die size, but you can’t go above your starting die size. They explain this as an overexertion of your psionic abilities if you are rolling max numbers and saving and channeling power if you are rolling a 1. Just be careful though, if you have gotten down to a d4 and roll a 4 your Psionics Talent die is gone until you finish a long rest! I really, really like this mechanic. I love the idea of the size fluctuating throughout the day as you may or may not be straining your abilities. It is original and interesting and as you go through the classes that they use it in rather interesting ways as well.

 

Fighter

Original Psionics UA: Psychic Warrior

Psionics Revisited: Psi Knight

Though the general idea of this class is rather similar between the two releases, the ideas are presented in a much different way and there are a few very obvious changes. The Psychic Warrior was originally given two 3rd-level abilities that allowed it to do a couple things: the first allows them to augment their defenses and their strikes, and the other grants the ability to use the mage hand cantrip. The Psi Knight scraps this last ability, because let’s be honest, it can’t hold a weapon in battle so what use is mage hand to a fighter? It then offers the first two abilities as options for use with the Psionic Talent die while adding a third option to drastically increase your jumping distance that only uses 1 foot of movement. The class then makes a big improvement on its 7th-level ability by having it be an additional effect of Telekinetic Strike option under the Psionic Talent die. The Psi Knight at this level also adds an additional way to use the Psionic Talent die. You can decrease the die’s size by one to move an object, or one willing creature, with your mind up to 30 feet. 

The higher levels of this class are really where it begins to show its differences. The 10th level abilities changed drastically. The Telekinetic Bulwark granted by the Psychic Warrior was a really good ability, but I think they realized that it was too good. It allowed you to cast a 10-foot radius aura that granted yourself and your allies the benefits of half cover and advantage on Strength saving throws. That’s pretty damn good on its own. What makes it too good is that you only have to forgo ONE of your attacks on your turn to activate it and you regain the ability to do so again after finishing a long rest OR after you use your Second Wind feature. So basically that means you can use this just about every short rest since every fighter ever is going to use Second Wind before a short rest for the HP bump, especially if they have this ability. Realizing it was too good the Psi Knight now has this as their 15th-level ability, it can only target a number of people equal to your Intelligence modifier, and it takes a bonus action to activate. At 10th-level the Psi Knight gains resistance to poison and psychic damage as well as immunity to the poisoned condition. Not too exciting at face value but the really nice thing about that is the resistance to psychic damage as not many things grant it. At 15th-level the Psychic Warrior used its Agonizing Strikes to deal some extra psychic damage to an attack and force their opponent to fall prone and suffer from disadvantage on ability checks until the end of their next turn if they failed an Intelligence saving throw. It was replaced as well as its 18th-level ability to regain 10 HP at the start of each turn, increase its movement speed by 10 feet, and stand up from being prone for only 5 feet of movement. Instead the Psi Knight becomes a Telekinetic Master at level 18 and can cast the telekinesis spell without components by decreasing the size of its Psionic Talent die.

Overall, very big changes to the higher levels of the class but I think they went in the right direction. I like that this new version doesn’t feel like more ways to hit things like a lot of the fighter subclasses can. It feels different and original and that is nice.

 

 

Rogue

Original Psionics UA: Soulknife

Psionics Revisited: Soulknife

This roguish archetype is ,all in all, the exact same subclass with some minor tweaks. The introduction of the Psionic Talent die provides a way to use the Soulknife abilities in a way that doesn’t just make this subclass feel like a reskin of the Revived Rogue that was released last year. At 3rd-level the Soulknife still gets the Psychic Blades that were introduced in the first iteration but they are a bit more refined and are functionally better. It is no longer a light weapon but still retains the thrown and finesse properties and instead of having a max range of 60 feet with disadvantage after 30, it just has a range of 60 feet. Makes sense to me that there would be know disadvantage at long range with a blade crafted from your own mind juices. They also took the original Psionic Enhancement ability, used to enhance some qualities of the rogue, and turned it into the Psionic Talent die. Here the Soulknife has an option to add their die to an ability check they failed, causing them to possibly succeed, or they can craft a telepathic bond with another creature that they can use to communicate for the next hour if they are within 1 mile of each other. Pretty great for heists or infiltration missions. At 9th-level, the original Terrifying Blade caused an opponent to make a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you until the start of your next turn. It’s okay but leaves me wanting a little more from a 9th-level ability. The new Soul Blades now gives you 2 more ways to use your Psionic Talent die. You can use it to make a Homing Strike by rolling your talent die and adding it to a missed attack, or you can use Psychic Teleportation as a bonus action to roll your talent die and throw a Psychic Blade up to a number of feet equal to the number you rolled x5 and then teleport to that spot. Seems much more useful than having someone scared of you for a round.

At 13th-level the Psionic Veil abilities are almost identical. The only difference is that the new Soulknife is given the option to dismiss their invisibility, as well as being able to use this ability again by decreasing your Psionic Talent die instead of being able to use it a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier. The first change makes sense and the second change makes the ability feel a bit more organic to the subclass. It also seems to balance a bit more having to decide whether to decrease your Psionic Talent die or not to use it again instead of just being able to have a decent Intelligence score and having the ability more readily available. Finally, the Rend Mind ability at 17th-level, sees the largest change to this subclass. The original Soulknife used to be able to activate this ability as an action, as long as they had a Psychic Blade manifested, and could do so a number of times equal to their Intelligence modifier. The new version can be activated once they use a Psychic Blade to deal Sneak Attack damage. Both versions cause the target to make a saving throw but they are quite a bit different between the two. The first one causes an Intelligence saving throw, using your Intelligence modifier to determine the DC, and can cause an extra 12d6 psychic damage while stunning the target for a round on a failure. The new Rend Mind causes a Wisdom saving throw, using your Dexterity modifier to determine the DC, and just causes the target to become stunned for a round. The new version is definitely less powerful but that’s the point. By 18th-level Rogue’s are already dealing 9d6 for Sneak Attack damage and if something gets hit with it, that in my opinion, is a pretty good reason for them to become stunned for a round. The extra 12d6 seems crazy when coupled with Sneak Attack damage. Yes Rogue, please roll over 20 damage dice for us! 

This subclass seems like a lot of fun to me now that it doesn’t seem like the Revived 2.0. It now feels more balanced and has more versatility that the original version.

 

 

Sorcerer

Original Psionics UA: Psionics Wizard

Psionics Revisited: Psionic Soul Sorcerer

As you can see the third option offered changed to a different subclass completely. Originally released as a Wizard, they have now decided to go with the Psionic Soul Sorcerer, which is actually a re-working of the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer that was released in another UA back in September 2019. I like this decision. The point of a Sorcerer’s power is that it is latent abilities that have awoken inside them and psionics doesn’t really feel like something that could be sought after and learned if you just study hard. The Thought Form the Psionics Wizard is able to turn into is pretty cool and allows the Wizard to cast spells without any components lacking a gold cost, but other than that it was basically just a subclass that granted additional spells as you leveled up. Not that exciting. The new Psionic Soul Sorcerer is not only a vast improvement over the Psionic Wizard, but it is also greatly different from the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer it originated from as well.

With the introduction of the Psionic Talent die into this Sorcerer subclass, it immediately makes the 1st-level abilities between these releases immediately different. They aren’t even close. The Aberrant Mind Sorcerer was a Warped Being that was protected by their aberrant nature, essentially giving them the bonus of a permanent casting of the mage armor spell, while the Psionic Soul presents the Psionic Talent options just like the previous subclass options. It allows them to use their talent die to do things such as cast spells without components, form a telepathic bond with someone, or even cast a sorcerer spell they don’t know. Three very good options for a sorcerer to have at level 1 while still being able to cast mage armor if they so choose. At 6th-level, the Aberrant Mind was given two abilities, one allowing them to cast spells using sorcery points instead of spells slots, and one that gives them resistance to psychic damage and advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened. The second ability is rather good while the first is ok at best unless you plan to cast low level spells all day and never use your meta magic options. At this level, the Psionic Soul gains the ability to use their Psionic Talent die to deal extra psychic damage, once per turn, when they cast a spell. The 6th-level abilities on both of these really seem pretty solid to me. I do think that they could scrap the first of the abilities for the Aberrant Mind and there would be no loss of value to that subclass though. 

Here, at 14th-level, these releases stayed almost identical. Both abilities allow you to spend a number of sorcery points, as a bonus action, to physically transform your body, allowing you to do things like gain a flying speed, a swimming speed, or the ability to see invisible creatures. The difference is that the Psionic Soul rolls their talent die to determine how many hours the effects last for while the Aberrant Mind only got the benefits for 1 minute. The 18th-level abilities of both versions have the same idea as they are both creating auras, as a bonus action, that they can use to affect enemies. The Aberrant Mind uses its aura to Warp Reality causing it to become difficult terrain for enemies as they take 2d10 psychic damage. Where this ability gets way too good is that you can end the aura early to teleport yourself, and any number of creatures in the aura, to a location you can see within 1 mile. Crazy good ability. I think they realized how good it was with the alteration to the Psionic Soul. They are able to roll their Psionic Talent die to deal psychic damage to a creature inside the aura anytime they start their turn there or move into it for the first time on a turn. Additionally, if the creature takes any damage from this, their speed is halved until the start of their next turn. They are both powerful abilities but in rather different ways. Being able to teleport a group of people up to a mile away as a bonus action is great, but so is being able to deal psychic damage to anything bad near you, especially when there is no attack roll or saving throw required to do so.

 

To sum it all up, these three new subclasses are all very interesting and unique in their own rights and the introduction of the Psionic Talent die is a step that WotC took in the right direction. It’s new and original and definitely makes the classes feel like their own thing while not just flavoring a grouping of magical abilities. The Psionic Soul Sorcerer is my favorite of these three and I can’t wait to take them for a spin. Let us know if you have played any versions of this material and tell us what you think!

About The Author

Justin Dixon
Justin Dixonhttps://help-action.com/
Dix has been playing D&D for just about 5 years and has been a professional Dungeon master for the last six months. He is now a DM for the acclaimed pop up tavern Orcs! Orcs! Orcs! and plays Amelia Whiteheart on The Swordcast Adventures. He is also the producer of The Swordcast Adventures, Help Action, and the DM on The Swordcast Adventures plays Waterdeep Dragon Heist every other Wednesday evening on Twitch.tv/swordcastadventures.

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