Unearthed Arcana: Psionic Options Revisited Analysis

Psionics are back… again. 

In this UA, we see a return of some psionic-themed archetypes we saw a few months ago. In that installment, we saw the Psychic Warrior for the Fighter, the Soulknife for the Rogue, and the Psionics tradition for the Wizard. In this one, the first two are revisited (although the Psychic Warrior is now called the Psi Knight), while the wizard tradition is instead replaced with a Sorcerer subclass (which is a rework of the Aberrant Mind sorcerer from a year ago). We also get a common mechanic across psionic archetypes, the Psionic Talent die, as well as 3 new spells and 5 feats.

I’m not going to delve into the turbulent history of psionics, in this edition or the others – a small background is given in the article itself, along with some relevant lore, so I’ll just get right into it.

Psionic Talent

All 3 archetypes share this feature, gained at level 3 for Fighter and Rogue, and level 1 for Sorcerer. While the abilities it gives are different for each, it also gives the Psionic Talent Die, which is used for all psionics. Whenever you use a psi ability, you roll this die; its effect depends on the ability, for example adding damage, lasting that many hours, et cetera.

The psionic die starts as a d6, and increases to a d8 at level 5, d10 at level 11, and d12 at level 17. The interesting mechanic about it is that if you roll the maximum number on your psionic die, it’s size is reduced; for example, if you roll a 6 on a d6, the die changes to a d4 afterwards. If you roll a 4 on a d4, you can;t use it anymore until you finish a long rest. Conversely, if you roll a 1 on your psionic die, its size increases by 1, up to its maximum (so if you are level 5 and roll an 8, your die won’t become a d10). You can also use a bonus action to return your psionic die to its maximum size once per long rest. 

While this is a bit different than the usual “You can use it X times before a long rest”, I find it a very interesting mechanic. I get the feeling that unless you are exceedingly unlucky, you’ll never run out of psionics – which is probably what is intended. Changing die sizes won’t be too common, but even so you have equal probability for the size to increase and decrease – and you always have your reset. Honestly I find it a great way to make the psionic abilities have a potentially unlimited number of uses, but still making you keep the limitations in mind – although I feel like the best strategy would be to use the die more as its size decreases, rather than less, hoping to get lucky with a 1. But we’ll talk about the actual abilities and uses of the psionic die in the next segments.

Psi Knight

The Psi Knight is the psionic archetype for the Fighter, and as such focuses more on physical enhancements, telekinesis, and barriers.

Psionic Talent (3rd level)

You get your psionic talent die, and the following three abilities that use it:

Protective Field: When you or a creature within 30 feet of you takes damage, you can use your reaction to roll your Psionic Talent die and reduce the damage taken by the amount rolled plus your Intelligence modifier. This will definitely see a lot of use, since it’s very useful and has a common trigger. 

Psi-Powered Leap: When you make a long or high jump, you can roll your psionic talent die and increase the distance of the jump up to a number of feet equal to twice the number rolled plus your Intelligence modifier. This extra distance only cost you 1 foot of movement. While the jumping mechanics aren’t really used all that often (at least in my experience), this is a significant boost when you actually need it. I guess you can also use this ability to extend your movement, taking advantage of the fact that all the extra distance only costs 1 foot of movement; so you can jump to easily gain 10+ feet every turn.

Telekinetic Strike: Once on each of your turns, when you deal damage with a weapon attack to a creature within 30 feet of you, you can roll your Psionic Talent die and deal that much force damage to them. A pretty big damage boost considering you can use it an unlimited number of times.

Telekinetic Adept (7th level)

You gain two more ways to use your telekinetic abilities:

Psionic Thrust: When you deal damage with your Telekinetic Strike, you can force the target to make a Strength saving throw with a DC equal to 8+your proficiency+your Intelligence modifier. If they fail, you can choose to either knock them prone or push them 10 feet in any horizontal direction. A great upgrade to your Telekinetic Strike, constantly knocking people prone will be a lot of help for battlefield control.

Telekinetic Movement: If your psionic die is available, you can use an action to choose a loose object that is Large or smaller, or a willing creature other than yourself, within 30 feet. You can move it in any direction up to 30 feet to an unoccupied position you can see. If you use this action, your psionic die size decreases by one. I’m sure you can get quite creative with this ability, but something I want to note is that there is no size restriction for the creatures, at least in the way I read it. If it was willing, you could move a kraken or a tarrasque – not that they would need the help to be moved 30 feet. I doubt this will be ever used that way, but it’s a fun thing to note. However, reducing your psionic die is too steep a price to pay to simply move an object, except in very specific circumstances. The only ones I can think of from the top of my head is when you want to close off an entrance/exit or something similar very quickly, or when an ally is surrounded and in danger of dying and you move them to safety.

Psi-Enhanced Metabolism (10th level)

You gain resistance to poison and psychic damage, and are immune to the poisoned condition. Poison is quite common, so this is a nice defensive bonus, and while psychic damage might not be something you encounter as often, it’s also a damage type that’s hard to get resistance for. Overall, while a plain feature, it’s a good one that also ties well thematically to the Psi Knight – augmenting your body and mind to withstand attacks.

Bulwark of Force (15th level)

As a bonus action, you can choose a number of creatures equal to your intelligence modifier within 30 feet of you (you included) that you can see. Those creatures gain the benefits of half-cover (+2 to AC and Dexterity saving throws) for 1 minute. You can normally use this ability once per long rest, but you can also use it again if you decrease your Psionic Ability die size by 1. A quite powerful ability that will usually last for entire combat encounters; and unlike Telekinetic Movement, I can easily accept the psionic die reduction to use it again.

Telekinetic Master (18th level)

 If your psionic die is available, you can cast the Telekinesis spell without requiring any components. When you do so, your psionic die size decreases by one. This is just a stronger version of Telekinetic Movement, so I’m not exactly awed by it – it essentially makes that ability obsolete. I’d like to see something extra, maybe something that empowers Psionic Thrust as well.

Overall, I like the Psi Knight; it has a nice mix of abilities that fit the idea of a psionically-empowered warrior, and I feel it is properly balanced with offense, defence, and utility in combat. 

Soulknife

The Soulknife is the Rogue psionic archetype. It focuses more on mental tricks and attacks rather than raw force like the Psi Knight – as you would expect from a Rogue.

Psionic Talent(3rd level)

You get your Psionic Talent die, and the following abilities:

Psi-Bolstered Knack: If you fail an ability check with a skill or tool you are proficient with, you can roll your psionic talent die and add it to the result. Potentially a very big boost to your skill checks, and it’ll come in handy with Thieves Tools as well.

Psychic Whispers: As an action, you can roll your psionic talent die. You can communicate telepathically with that many creatures for 1 hour as long as they remain within 1 mile of you. An important thing to note is that this isn’t a full network between all creatures, so they can’t communicate with each other; only with you acting as a relay. It obviously helps you fulfill your role as a scout, reporting to the rest of your team, as well as coordinating in general.

Psychic Blades (3rd level)

You can manifest a psychic blade that you can use to attack. It is a magic simple weapon with the finesse and thrown properties (normal range of 60 feet, no long range) and deals 1d6 psychic damage, plus the modifier of whatever ability you used to make the attack. When you use this blade, you can also make another attack with another psychic blade as a bonus action, if your other hand is free. This attack deals 1d4 damage instead of 1d6.

This is the core feature of the Soulknife; it allows you to always have a weapon on you (that can also trigger sneak attack), it gives you a second attack without dual wielding, and it deals psychic damage which isn’t easy to mitigate. It also gets some upgrades along the way.

Soul Blades (9th level)

Your Psi Blades get two extra abilities.

Homing Strikes: If you miss an attack with your Psi Blades, you can roll your psionic talent die and add the result to your attack roll. If you now hit your target, your psionic talent die size decreases by 1 regardless of the number rolled. While this isn’t an ability you want to spam thoughtlessly, as you’ll quickly exhaust your psionic die, it can still turn the tide in a battle, allowing you to land an important hit.

Psychic Teleportation: As a bonus action, you can throw a psychic blade a distance equal to 5 times the maximum number on your psionic die and then teleport to it. If you do, your psionic talent die size decreases by one. In every UA analysis I have written that contains a teleportation feature, I end up repeating myself: teleporting is a very powerful ability, so this is obviously good, especially for rogues since it can also help with stealth – again, you won’t be able to spam it, but it’s a powerful trump card to hold.

Psionic Veil (13th level)

As an action, you can become invisible for 10 minutes or until you deal damage to a creature or force a creature to make a saving throw. If you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest – but you can use it again if you decrease the size of your psionic talent die by 1. Access to invisibility – and all the possibilities it opens – is a big thing for rogues, so this is another great feature for the Soulknife.

Rend Mind (17th level)

When you use your psychic blades to deal sneak attack damage to a creature, you can force the target to make a Wisdom saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Dexterity modifier. If they fail, they are stunned until the end of your next turn. If you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest unless if you decrease the size of your psionic talent die by 1. Stun is one of the stronger conditions to inflict, and sneak attack is quite easy to activate. Still, this is a limited-use ability – and it’s not exactly guaranteed that the target will fail the saving throw. Speaking of, however, I am surprised the DC uses your Dexterity instead of Intelligence, although I assume it’s for balance reasons – players probably can’t invest enough points in all the 3 abilities that would be needed (Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence).

Overall, I like the Soulknife as well. I find it a stronger archetype than the Psi Knight, even though its abilities are far less spammable – I find that most of them have a bigger impact or greater synergy with each other.

Psionic Soul

And now for the Sorcerer archetype. How you got your psionic powers is up to you, although the article has a few interesting suggestions…

Psionic Talent (1st level)

You get your Psionic Talent die, and the following abilities:

Psionic Discovery: You can meditate for 10 minutes, roll your pionic talent die, and choose a sorcerer spell. It must belong to the school of divination or enchantment, and be of a level for which you have spell slots. You know that spell for a number of hours equal to the number rolled. While this can be useful on occasion, I’m not sure how often it will be actually used. If you really want a particular spell, you’ll probably learn it normally; and although you might argue that having an extra spell available isn’t costing anything, I would argue that the not insignificant chance of highrolling your psionic die to a lower size isn’t worth it, outside very specific circumstances.

Psychic Sorcery: When you cast a spell, you can roll your psionic talent die. It doesn’t require a verbal component, and if your roll is equal to or greater than the spell’s level, it doesn’t require somatic and material components either. I will assume that this doesn’t apply for material components with a gold cost, or that are part of the target (e.g. the hair or other pieces needed for Simulacrum) otherwise I’m sure it would be mercilessly exploited somehow. Assuming that is the case, this again doesn’t seem particularly useful, but it can definitely come in handy in specific circumstances; e.g. you are paralyzed or in an area affected by Silence.

Telepathic Speech: You can choose a creature you can see and roll your psionic talent die. You form a telepathic connection with that creature for a number of hours equal to your roll, as long as you remain within that many miles of each other. This is very much like the Psychic Whispers of the Soulknife, reducing the number of participants to 1 but increasing the duration and distance.

Psychic Strike (6th level)

When you deal damage to a creature with a sorcerer spell that you spent a spell slot for, you can roll your psionic talent die and deal that much psychic damage to it. You can only deal this extra damage once per turn. The magic equivalent of the Pi Knight’s Telekinetic Strike, albeit a bit weaker since it requires a spell slot to be used and comes 3 levels later. However, I’m alright with that, since spellcasters are generally stronger than martial classes (in my opinion).

Mind Over Body (14th level)

You can use your psychic abilities to enhance your body. As a bonus action, you can roll your psionic talent die, and spend 1 or more sorcery points. For each sorcery point you spend, you can choose one enhancement to apply to yourself (different each time), and they last for a number of hours equal to your roll. The enhancements are the following:

  • You can see invisible creatures within 60 feet of you
  • You gain a flying speed equal to your walking speed, and can hover
  • You gain a swimming speed equal to twice your walking speed, and can breathe underwater.
  • Your body, along with any equipment you are wearing or carrying, becomes pliable. You can move through any space as narrow as 1 inch without squeezing, and you can spend 5 feet of movement to escape from nonmagical restraints or being grappled.

I really like how this feature combines the psionic die with sorcery points. I also like the options given here; sure, you’ll probably just use the flying one 99% of the time, but in certain situations the other ones will be great – although i don’t think you’ll combine them all that often.

Psychic Aura (18th level)

As a bonus action if your psionic talent die is available, you can activate a 30-foot wide aura for 1 minute or until you are incapacitated or you lose your psionic die. Whenever a creature starts its turn in the aura or moves into it for the first time on a turn, you can roll your Psionic Talent die and deal psychic damage to the creature, equaling the number rolled plus your Charisma modifier. If the creature takes any of this damage, its speed is halved until the start of its next turn. Sorcerers aren’t exactly a frontline class, so you probably don’t want to charge forward with this on – although combined with the flight from Mind Over Body you might be safe enough – but the range is large enough that it can affect enemies even while you’re behind your teammates. This is also a great defensive ability since it’s guaranteed to reduce their speed, allowing you to kite them and continually deal damage as you retreat. You should be mindful of your psionic die though, as you’ll roll it a lot of times if there are more than one enemies around.

Overall, I have a positive view on the Psionic Soul. The Psionic Talents might not be all that exciting, but Mind Over Body and Psychic Aura make up for that.

And now we move past the archetypes, to the spells and feats provided.

Spells

We have 3 new spells with a psionic theme.

Intellect Fortress

A 4th level abjuration that lasts for 1 hour, with concentration. For the duration, you or one willing creature you can see within range has resistance to psychic damage, as well as advantage on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws. This can come in handy in multiple situations, mostly against other spellcasters or Fey creatures, which use a lot of Wisdom and Charisma saving throws – and obviously against psionics as well.

Mind Sliver

An enchantment cantrip with a range of 60 feet. It forces the target to make an Intelligence saving throw: if they fail, they take 1d6 psychic damage, and the next time they make a saving throw before the end of your next turn, you can roll 1d4 and subtract the result from their saving throw. A very powerful cantrip in my opinion, not only does it help with setting up stronger spells that require saving throws, it can also allow you to hit it every turn much more reliably.

Mind Thrust

A 2nd level enchantment with a range of 90 feet, forcing the target to make an Intelligence saving throw. On a fail, they take 3d6 psychic damage and cannot use reactions until the end of their next turn. In addition, on their next turn, they have to choose between using a move, an action, or a bonus action. On a successful save, the target takes half damage and the other effects aren’t applied. A strong spell that can seriously interfere with your enemies’ actions, especially since you can target additional creatures when you use a higher-level spell slot.

Feats

We have 5 new feats that give you access to psionic abilities. These are usually weaker versions of abilities granted to psionic archetypes, and personally I probably wouldn’t get most of them, but some might be interesting. However, they demand a lot of investment, because 4 of them require you to either have the Psionic Talent feature or the Wild Talent feat.

Wild Talent

This is essentially the core psionic feat that gives access to the others if your character doesn’t actually have a psionic archetype. It gives you the psionic talent die, same as the Psionic Talent feature. It also gives a +1 to one ability score of your choice, and two abilities:

Psi-Boosted Ability: When you make an ability check with the ability increased by this feat, you can roll your Psionic Talent die and add the number rolled to the check. You can choose to do so before or after rolling the d20, but before you know whether the check succeeded or failed. 

Psi-Guided Strike: Once on each of your turns when you hit with an attack roll that uses the ability increased by this feat, you can roll your Psionic Talent die after you make the damage roll and then replace one of the damage dice with the number rolled on the Psionic Talent die.

The abilities are good for all classes, but obviously you wouldn’t get this if you already have a psionic subclass.

Metabolic Control

Requires Psionic Talent feature or Wild Talent feat.

You increase your Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution by 1. You can decrease your psionic talent die size by 1 to either nourish yourself for 24 hours, or to meditate for 1 minute to gain the benefits of a short rest. While this is an interesting feat, I don’t see it being all that useful except perhaps if you play a game very focused on survival. A Warlock could take advantage of the 1-minute short rest, but it would require you to get Wild Talent as well; a big investment for just a gimmick.

Telekinetic

Requires Psionic Talent feature or Wild Talent feat.

You increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma by 1. You learn the Mage Hand cantrip, can cast it without components, and you can make it invisible. If you already know it, its range increases by 30 feet. You can also use a bonus action to roll your psionic talent die and force a creature to make a Strength saving throw. If they fail, you can push them a number of feet equal to 5 times the number rolled. Nothing particularly exciting here.

Telepathic

Requires Psionic Talent feature or Wild Talent feat.

You increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma by 1. You can speak telepathically to any creature you can see within 30 feet of you, and you can reduce the size of your psionic talent die by 1 to cast Detect Thoughts. Again, nothing special in my opinion; neither this nor Telekinetic is a feat I would normally pick.

Tower of Iron Will

Requires Psionic Talent feature or Wild Talent feat.

In contrast to the other feats, this one is a must-have in my opinion. After you or another creature you can see within 30 feet of you fails a saving throw, you can use your reaction to roll your Psionic Talent die and add the number rolled to the saving throw. An incredible bonus that I would suggest for each and every character of a psionic subclass, and might even be worth it to pick up Wild Talent just for this one as well.

Overall, while I am not blown away by the contents of this UA, I have to say I am satisfied by the portrayal of psionics. I am still unsure which is the best way to implement them – a full psionic class like the Mystic, or various subclasses as shown in this article. What’s your opinion on psionics, both as a concept lore-wise and as an implementation in the game mechanics?

You can read the full article here, and download the PDF here.

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