A wizard is never late, nor early. Sadly, I am no wizard.
This is a late analysis but both Anastasios and I have been busy. Quite busy, in fact, since we also started a podcast. But at least we managed to get the analysis finally out and we’re both excited because we get a taste of psionics.
In the November of 2019 installment we get three subclasses; one for the Fighter, one for the Rogue, and one for the Wizard. All three classes are psychically infused and we finally can get a taste of what psionic subclasses look like. Let’s begin!
A Psychic Warrior is a fighter who augments their physical might with psychically infused weapon strikes, telekinetic lashes, and barriers of mental force.
Psychic Warrior (3rd- and 10th-level Psychic Warrior feature)
When you finish a long rest, you choose one of two abilities. You can use it an unlimited number of times, but only once per turn. With Augmented Defenses, you can reduce the damage taken by you or a friendly creature within 30 feet by 1d10 as a reaction, increasing to 1d12 at level 10. With Augmented Strikes, when you hit with a weapon attack you can deal an additional 1d4 psychic damage, increasing to 1d6 at level 10.
Both options are quite nice, and allow you to focus on either an offensive or defensive playstyle. However, I personally value the damage mitigation higher than the extra damage, especially at low levels and considering it can also be activated at range for other people.
Telekinetic Hand (3rd-level Psychic Warrior feature)
You learn Mage Hand. A feature I am thoroughly unsurprised to find here – psionics almost always comes with some form of telekinesis. I don;t have much to say here – we all know that you can do some very creative things with Mage Hand, as well as all the mundane effort it can save you.
Strength of Mind (7th-level Psychic Warrior feature)
A creature within 20 feet of you must succeed on a Strength saving throw, or take 2d6 force damage and you have the option of pushing or pulling it 15 feet. You can use it a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier. A bit of an underwhelming feature, I’d like to see the damage at least scale somehow. At 7th level, 2d6 is mediocre at best, even with the force damage type. Plus, pushing and pulling usually isn’t that useful – sure, if you’re on the side of a cliff, it’s a godsent, but normally i don’t think it’ll matter all that much.
Telekinetic Bulwark (10th-level Psychic Warrior feature)
You can forgo one of your attacks to create a 10-foot zone around you for 1 minute, wherein allies gain the benefit of half-cover (+2 AC) and have advantage on Strength saving throws. You can use this once per long rest, or, interestingly, until you use your Second Wind feature.
Considering it doesn’t require concentration, this is a very powerful ability, albeit with a short range. It can allow your party to advance under fire and be a bit safer, although clumping up can be quite tempting for a Fireball – so I guess it will heavily depend on the type of enemies you’re facing.
Agonizing Strikes (15th-level Psychic Warrior feature)
When you hit an enemy with a weapon attack, you can also deal an extra 2d10 psychic damage. The enemy must then succeed a Constitution saving throw, or fall prone and have disadvantage on ability checks until the end of your next turn. You can use this a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier between long rests.
This gives a formidable debuff to enemies when it hits, but I feel it could somehow be combined with Strength of Mind – for example, both abilities deal the same damage with a shared number of uses. At level 10 they are weaker, but at level 15 they get more damage and stronger effects – e.g. Agonising Strikes starts with only the prone part, and Strength of Mind starts with 5 feet of pushing/pulling.
Psychic Dreadnaught (18th-level Psychic Warrior feature)
For 1 minute, your walking speed increases by 10 feet, you can stand up using only 5 feet of movement, and at the start of your turn you regain 10 hit points. You can use this as a reaction when you take damage, rather than activating it proactively, and you can only use it once between long rests. The mobility is a nice bonus, but obviously the juicy part is the regeneration – 60HP total, a not-insignificant amount, making the name “Psychic Dreadnought” feel quite fitting. However, the effects feel a bit uninspired. Rather than the mobility, i would prefer some kind of bonus to the other features of the subclass, like increased radius of Telekinetic Bulwark for example.
Overall, the Psychic Warrior is a promising but ultimately a little bit disappointing archetype. I like how it revolves around battlefield control with the defensive features and the debuffs it can apply, while still outputting respectable damage (you are still a Fighter after all, and all those attacks are going to do work), but i just wish it was a bit more “special”.
Soulknives are quite formidable, being able to create psionic blades that not only damage their target physically, but also mentally
Psychic Blade (3rd-level Soulknife feature)
As a bonus action, you can manifest a psychic blade in one or both hands. It is a melee weapon with the finesse, light, and thrown properties, and deals 1d6 psychic damage. It’s pretty much the perfect weapon for a rogue, with good damage that can trigger sneak attack, plus it means you’ll never have to worry about being without a weapon.
Psionic Enhancement (3rd-level Soulknife feature)
When you finish a long rest, you can choose to gain one of the following benefits until your next long rest: Telepathy with a creature within 30 feet, 5 feet of extra movement, or increased maximum HP equal to your Intelligence modifier plus your rogue level. All of them have their applications, but I feel that the extra movement won’t get used all that much. Even if there’s low chance of using your telepathy, I think the extra layer of security that the bonus HP is going to offer is going to edge out the relatively minor movement speed bonus.
Terrifying Blade (9th-level Soulknife feature)
When you damage a creature with your psychic blades, you can force it to make a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you until the start of your next turn. If the creature succeeds, they are immune to it for 24 hours. This is quite a powerful ability, especially because it has no restriction on the number of uses – either in total or per-turn. With a bit of luck, this can trivialize even high-level encounters by fear-locking the enemy – have a caster add Bane into the mix for better reliability, and you’re good to go. Since the psychic blades can be thrown, this can also work at range as well, making it even more potent.
Psychic Veil (13th-level Soulknife feature)
You can become invisible for 10 minutes, and you can do so a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier. Rogues love their stealth, so for obvious reasons this is a great feature – it might not last as long as the Invisibility spell, but you don;t have to rely on a spellcaster to get really sneaky.
Rend Mind (17th-level Soulknife feature)
As an action, you can expend one of your Psychic Blades to force a creature within 30 feet of you to make an Intelligence saving throw – with disadvantage if you are hidden from them . The creature takes 12d6 psychic damage, and is stunned until the start of your next turn – on a success, they take half damage and aren’t stunned. You can use this a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier. It’s not a bad amount of damage, although a normal psychic blade attack is pretty close to it with sneak attack, but the stun is a big bonus – and the synergy with psychic veil is obvious, allowing you to quite reliably ambush people and take them out in a couple of turns, or just apply a lot of control over the enemies, up close with terrifying blade and at range with this feature. The loss of a psychic blade isn’t all that much of a price in my opinion; you can immediately resummon it, and you should still have a spare in the other hand even if you don’t.
Overall, I feel the Soulknife is much closer to my idea of a psionic rogue than the Psychic Warrior, with nice and evocative features that work well with the main Rogue features too.
This Wizard school is self explanatory.
Psionic Focus (2nd-level Psionics feature)
You gain a psionic focus. It’s essentially a spellcasting focus, but it also allows you to reroll 1s on psychic and force damage dice on wizard spells. Considering the new psionic spells that mostly deal those types of damage, this is a good damage boost.
Psionic Devotion (2nd-level Psionics feature)
You choose one of the following cantrips: Friends, Mage Hand, or Message. You learn it if you don’t already know it, and its effects are augmented: for Friends, the target doesn;t become hostile to you after it ends, you can make the mage hand invisible and control it with a bonus action, or you can use Message silently and without pointing at the target. Of these three, the most powerful one seems to be Friends; I don’t know how the target would react in this case (annoyed? Neutral? And why, when they know they were under a minor form of mind control?), but it certainly opens up a lot of possibilities to use, when previously it was not advisable to do so.
Thought Form (6th-level Psionics feature)
You can use a bonus action to transform your body into psionic energy for 10 minutes, allowing you to cast spells without the need for components and gaining resistance to psychic damage and bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks. You also shed dim light in a 5-foot radius. On its own, it’s an alright defensive measure that quickly gets less useful as you gain access to much more powerful defensive spells or equipment, but it’s always a useful, if a bit niche, utility for spellcasting without components – although it gets an upgrade at level 14. An interesting part is that you can take any form you want, as long as it’s the same size as you, and it appears obviously magical. This can open up some opportunities to deception, taking the form of other creatures or pretending to be someone else. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier, so you’ll probably rarely run out of uses for it.
Mental Discipline (10th-level Psionics feature)
You choose between Dominate Person, Telekinesis, or Scrying. You add the spell to your spellbook and can cast it once without expending a spell slot. Quite unimaginative in my opinion, and not very useful either. As a wizard, you can add spells to your spellbook anyway, and it’s not like you’re low on slots to cast. I’d prefer to see something similar to Psionic Devotion, augmenting the spell you chose somehow.
Empowered Psionics (10th-level Psionics feature)
When you deal psychic or force damage with a wizard spell, you add your Intelligence modifier to the damage of one of the spell’s targets. I find it strange that only one of the targets is affected, but it’s still a formidable damage boost – especially considering it doesn’t specify spell level, so cantrips are also included.
Thought Travel (14th-level Psionics feature)
While in thought form, you gain a flying speed equal to your walking speed and can pass through objects. This makes Thought Form a lot better – flight is always good, and especially when it uses your walking speed.
Overall, I find the psionic wizard a pretty good archetype. I don;t have anything particularly good to say about it, but neither do I have something particularly bad.
We also get a few new spells that fit the psionic theme. I won’t go over all of them, they mostly deal psychic or force damage and apply some sort of debuff, but i do want to mention Mind Sliver in particular – it is a cantrip that forces an Intelligence saving throw: if the target fails, they take 1d6 psychic damage and reduce their next saving throw by 1d4. This is very very good – not only does it make other spells and abilities more reliable, it can also allow you to constantly chain Mind Slivers.
Overall, I am pleased with the direction psionics is taking. I can’t say the design is flawless, but the ideas are interesting and I am glad we finally got to see psionic infused classes; something that had been mentioned quite a while ago. What do you think about them? And, most importantly, in what kind of book do you believe we will see them featured? Finally, we will try to write analysis articles for the two Unearthed Arcana installments that were released after this one.
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