D&D 5e

UA: The Mystic Class Breakdown, Part Three

The new Unearthed Arcana document dropped toward the end of the West Coast working day yesterday, so getting an article up on the same day, while my perpetual goal, was a non-starter. It is a doozy of a release, weighing in at 28 pages and carrying all the context of its predecessors. In case you’re just now joining in on reading about the Mystic, it’s the 5e name for the Psion. This in itself is a thoroughly divisive point in the community, but I am a huge fan of that name change – it feels like an appropriate in-setting work for the great majority of settings (even of the subset that do include psionics).

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

(Also, I’ve covered the history of psionics in D&D in a lengthy series – check those out if you haven’t already, linked in a directory off of Part One, above.)

 

The Flavor Text and Class Core

The mystic’s flavor text has turned in the direction of the mystic as something rare, their power subtle in its use and never understood by those around them. That’s a pretty strong statement to impose on the majority of settings, though we can still expect Dark Sun and Eberron (if ever fully released in 5e) to take a different tack. This goes far enough that mystics have a d20 Quirk table, from which they are advised to select two. Many of these are lifted from various iterations of the 3.x wu jen class (it turns out that this isn’t mere coincidence). These quirks are presented as oaths or personal rituals. Some are substantially more meaningful to gameplay than others, particularly the one that stops you from hoarding money.

With six subclasses presented here, and based on what we’ve seen in earlier documents, I go in expecting a bare-bones core class, plus a lot of changes from subclasses. Of course, it’s also the first time we’ve seen levels 11-20, and they’ve got to figure out how to handle the equivalent of 6th-9th level spells in a point-based caster, so this will be interesting. (Hint: I’m going to be mostly wrong in that expectation.)

  • d8 Hit Die, no change there.
  • Light armor and simple weapon proficiency.
  • Intelligence and Wisdom as proficient saving throws.
  • Two skills from a list that is similar to but slightly better than the wizard’s options.
  • Talents, starting at 1 and eventually increasing to 4. These are cantrips, more or less, so it’s disappointing that you start with just 1 – I’m of the opinion that giving spellcasters 2 or more attack cantrips, and thus reasons to pay attention to their situation and figure out which one to apply, carries a lot of water for basic gameplay. You get your second at 3rd level, so it’s not terrible. Most mystics should plan to take a damaging talent as their starter, though a few Orders can get away with relying on weapons for their baseline attack.
  • Disciplines, starting at 1 and eventually increasing to 8. Disciplines are families of psionic options; comparing them to 3.x cleric domains is not perfect, but gives you the general idea. That’s what they’ve been doing with this class from the outset of its 5e incarnation, and it’s pretty neat.
  • Psi points, starting at 4 and eventually increasing to 71. The progression makes no effort to be smooth: you get 64 at 10th level, only increasing to 71 at 18th These are, of course, the fuel for your powers.
  • Psi limit, starting at 2 and eventually increasing to 7 – and reaching that limit at 9th level.
  • Intelligence is the primary stat for psionics. This is going to seriously matter for various Orders.
  • Psychic Focus lets you spend your bonus action to focus on a discipline and gain a passive feature from it.
  • Mystical Recovery is quite a surprise. Whenever you spend psi points on a psionic discipline and have a bonus action to spare, you can regain hit points equal to the psi points spent. Right off the bat, we have two features in competition for the mystic’s bonus action.
  • Telepathy – I’m a little surprised to discover that all mystics are telepaths, at least enough to send messages up to 120 feet to any creature with a language.
  • Strength of Mind is a feature we’ve seen before. You can choose to dump your Wisdom saving throw proficiency and replace it with any other saving throw proficiency. I think that’s pretty neat. You can change your choice as part of any short or long rest. It raises a red flag about how this feature works for those who multiclass into mystic, and thus might not have Wisdom as a proficient saving throw. This document does not discuss mystic multiclassing, however.
  • Potent Psionics, or Divine Strike + Potent Spellcasting for mystics. Good job structuring the feature so that both weapon and talent-using mystics get a damage boost at 8th I wish they had structured the cleric this way.
  • Consumptive Power has been overhauled. Once per long rest, you can spend hit points rather than psi points to fuel a power. This also reduces your maximum hit points until you finish a long rest. Much better implementation of this concept.
  • Psionic Mastery seems like it should be the mystic’s version of Mystic Arcana (the warlock feature). It’s not – it’s much stranger, and requires pretty careful bookkeeping. It grants a separate pool of psi points, and you can maintain concentration on multiple disciplines at once if they’re all paid for with this pool. You can’t mix your normal psi point pool and this one in paying for disciplines.
    • To reframe this, what’s happening is that instead of getting 6th-9th level spells, the mystic gets to run multiple Concentration effects at once, within limits. It’s definitely a power multiplier, though its real effectiveness is buried in combinations. It’s also a lot more staying power for normal psionic use, as it eventually represents more than half of your psi power in an adventuring day.
    • This scales both in number of uses per long rest (eventually 4) and the size of the psi pool (starts at 9, becomes 11 at 15th level).
  • Psionic Body is the 20th-level capstone, and reminds me of… I think it was the Uncarnate prestige class? Anyway, a luminous being is you, not this crude matter:
    • Resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
    • No aging. When 900 years old you are…
    • Immunity (boo, hiss, I don’t care that it’s not until 20th level) to disease, poison damage, and the poisoned condition.
    • If you die, you have a 55% chance to just phase out of existence and show up again 1d3 days later, very much not dead (and not a Force ghost, oddly). This is the kind of feature that might be more bad than good at 20th level – it’s not like the party cleric can do anything for you while you’re discorporate.

That brings us to the end of the core of the mystic class. Turns out it’s got a lot going on. My main takeaway is that they’ve ironed out a lot of things that weren’t working right in previous documents, and introduced new things that need serious scrutiny. This communicates a little more identity than, say, the wizard-writeup-sans-subclasses does: the body-mind connection is hammered home in multiple features.

 

Mystic Orders

The six mystic Orders in this document are the Order of the Avatar (leader-like empaths, somewhat reminiscent of the 3.5 Ardent and Divine Mind), the Awakened (still telepaths), the Immortal (psychometabolism, mainly), the Nomad (psychoportation), the Soul Knife (the 3.5-era Soul Knife class – they’re all about shaping psionic energy into blades and stabbing people with them), and the Wu Jen (mystics who dabble in wizardry). I’m sorry to see the Invisible Hand get dropped, even temporarily – it’s incredibly weird to see a deep psionics writeup without a telekinetic class to its name.

 

Order of the Avatar

Thematically, I don’t yet grasp what an empath who reshapes the emotions of others has to do with avatars. It’s not like that word is devoid of context in D&D, and especially not in 5e’s flagship setting. It’s almost taking more of a page from how Unknown Armies uses the term. Anyway, they get:

  • Two bonus Avatar Disciplines. Sure, more options at 1st level is a good idea.
  • Proficiency in medium armor and shields. Seems about right, since they’re going to wind up sharing the cleric’s general gameplay approach, I think.
  • Avatar of Battle grants nearby allies a +2 initiative bonus. This is pretty underwhelming for your first feature that isn’t “more starting Stuff.”
  • Avatar of Healing adds your Int modifier to your psionic healing effects, as long as your target is nearby. As I write this, I’ve only skimmed the Disciplines, but Psionic Restoration is the only healing Discipline I’ve noticed so far.
  • Avatar of Speed allows nearby allies to Dash as a bonus action.

This is a seriously underwhelming subclass, overall. The mystic’s core features are potent, but the Avatar is pretty phoned-in – two features of more starting Stuff (nothing that really alters their gameplay), two features of flat adds to power use, and one new option to allies. There is just not much going on here. I hope to see substantial upgrades in the final version.

 

Order of the Awakened

In contrast to the Order of the Avatar, this Order has thematic clarity in spades. You’re Charles Xavier, go.

  • Two bonus Awakened Disciplines. Still a good idea.
  • Two additional skill proficiencies, chosen from a mostly-interaction-based list. Good support for psychic detectives and inquisitors here.
  • Psionic Investigation means you need to make sure killers don’t leave items behind, especially not murder weapons, and keep the mystic away from the crime scene for an hour. It’s crazy hard to write a feature like this that doesn’t one-shot a mystery, though; at least in this case, the tactics that the murderer uses to avoid discovery are generally sensible and don’t require foreknowledge that an Awakened mystic is the investigator.
  • Psionic Surge cashes in your psionic focus to impose disadvantage on a single enemy’s save against one of your Disciplines. This is almost never worth it, because you’re dumping a minor passive feature for something that still might or might not have any effect – that’s just the nature of disadvantage. You’re locked out of using your psionic focus again until you complete a short rest.
    • This needs to be changed to cash in your psionic focus to force an enemy to reroll a successful saving throw, so at least you have some information (one successful roll) before spending the feature.
  • Spectral Form is an alternate Psionic Body, again granting resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage, but also halving your speed and allowing you to move through solid objects. Overall, broadly useful.

The Awakened features are lower-impact than I would have expected, though still more influential on gameplay (getting to dominate investigation scenes is a big deal in some games) than Avatar mystics. Good stuff overall, though Psionic Surge is underwhelming.

 

Order of the Immortal

In versions of the mystic class we’ve seen so far, the Immortal has been a psychic warrior, and insanely dominating and hard to kill. This one, it’s clear, is greatly reduced from those heights. Notably, no extra armor, shield, or weapon proficiencies.

  • Two bonus Immortal Disciplines. Sure.
  • Immortal Durability grants one extra hit point per level (functionally like bumping them up to d10 Hit Dice), and gives them an alternate AC formula: 10 + Dex + Con. Wait… what? So you want them to have good Int and Dex and Con? Ooookay then. Depending on how their Disciplines shape up, I guess they might not need too much Int (maybe not a lot of saves or discipline attacks?), but…
  • Psionic Resilience grants their Int bonus in temporary hit points at the start of each of their turns. It’s a passive self-only heroism, which tells you just how crazy good it is. And it tells you that no, they really do need Int for mitigation.
  • Surge of Health cashes in your psionic focus to halve a single instance of incoming damage. This is a solid, reliable benefit, and I am a fan of panic-button mitigation for tanks. As with Psionic Surge, you’re locked out of your psionic focus until you complete a short rest.
  • Immortal Will is one of the fairly few things to do in Denver when you’re dead dying, and also isn’t once per long rest – its only restrictions are its very reasonable psi point cost and that it can only be used at the end of your turn.

I like several parts of what I see here, but the alternate AC calculation in Immortal Durability is just not very good, unless you have a huge list of crazy high ability scores. It really feels like they should have armor, shield, and weapon proficiencies, because if you’re expecting them to use melee weapons (as the list of Immortal Disciplines clearly does), then they also need Strength or Dex for attacks. But also, what’s the archetypal image here? A person in plain clothes with a dagger that is inexplicably impossible to kill? Are they seriously intended as villains from slasher films? It’s rare, at this point, for WotC to go deep on multiple attribute dependency, but boy did they go all in for it here.

Looking at the Immortal Disciplines and the Talent list, there are a ton of damaging powers going on, but there’s this hole where “reasonably good, thematically appropriate at-will attack option” should be – without a psi point recovery mechanic, the Immortal has to use costly attacks (even in low-cost versions) every round, and that’s not ideal. It feels like that should be a weapon attack, but in general, characters that should use weapons for their at-will attack option get more proficiency options. As was pointed out to me, this would also be a good place for a faux-shillelagh Talent to amp up their weapon attacks each round.

 

Order of the Nomad

A subclass that is mostly about psychoportation is one I could have skipped completely – that’s a lot to ask out of teleportation as a character concept. Reading ahead, though, I see that Nomad Disciplines are interestingly character-defining… but the list is quite short.

  • I am shocked, shocked to discover two bonus Nomad Disciplines going on here.
  • Breadth of Knowledge grants two floating proficiencies in tools, skills, or languages, which you can reassign after any long rest. Sure, that’s handy for someone whose concept is wandering around getting into trouble.
  • Memory of One Thousand Steps is an interesting rubber-band teleport, and a good reminder that Mearls loves Overwatch. Jokes aside, it’s a reaction that converts a hit against you into a miss, and that’s incredibly potent. (It also is a huge incentive to move at least 5 feet each round.) 1/short rest.
  • Superior Teleportation boosts your teleportation distance from any psionic Discipline by 10 feet. Simple, straightforward, fine.
  • Effortless Journey converts your move from walking to teleportation. Teleportation is the best movement form, by a long shot, but to be fair, it would be weird not to give Nomads a feature like this. It is their whole deal.

To my considerable surprise, the Nomad turns out to be probably my favorite of the Orders so far. It’s strong on style points. Looking ahead to the Nomad Disciplines, I see that Nomads are all about ranged weapons, so it’s interesting that martial ranged weapons are not on the table here. The light crossbow is quite good, though, and the Nomad gets around its limitations to some extent.

 

Order of the Soul Knife

Boy, is the theme on these guys thin. They’re either perfect warriors or perfect killers. That, my friends, is called “a distinction without a difference.” I recall the 3.5 soul knife getting used as a chassis for Jedi concepts, treating the soul knives as lightsabers.

  • They don’t get two bonus Soul Knife Disciplines, because Soul Knives don’t have their own class of Disciplines. (They do still get Disciplines from other Orders normally, though.)
  • Proficiency in medium armor and martial weapons.
    • There is nothing about this that isn’t a weird decision. For armor, wouldn’t it fit the image more to give Soul Knives the alternate AC calculation (presumably 10 + Dex + Int) and give Immortals armor? (I’m basing this on Psylocke, who for most of her career doesn’t wear armor, I think. Oh, and Jedi.) And for weapons, why does the soul knife need weapon proficiencies beyond the soul knife itself?
  • Soul Knife is, of course, their big feature – and such a Charlie Foxtrot on their action economy. Aie.
    • Bonus action: summon a soul knife in each hand. They are light finesse d8 psychic weapons. I am genuinely surprised, and a little disappointed, that they don’t have the thrown property, even if they wink out of existence once they hit. It’s not like the character wants to spend a bunch of bonus actions switching over to a ranged weapon. I guess that’s what talents are for.
    • Bonus action: dismiss the soul knives. Weird that it even requires that much, rather than just opening your hands and “dropping” them.
    • Bonus action: parry with soul knives, gaining +2 AC until the start of your next turn. Suuuper weird to see a feature like this in 5e. Even weirder given that soul knives presumably duel each other, and even this bit of AC would get ignored. See below.
    • Bonus action (unlisted but implied): attack with the off-hand knife. No off-hand damage add from ability scores.
  • Hone the Blade turns psi points into a flat add to your soul knives – +1, +2, or +4 to attack and damage. No, I don’t know why it skips +3. The benefit lasts for 10 minutes. Does not cost an action.
  • Consumptive Knife feeds you 2 psi points when you kill someone. Interesting to see any psi regen going on, and especially from the subclass that isn’t as hungry for psi points as the others.
  • Phantom Knife lets you spend your action to make an attack against AC 10, rather than your target’s normal AC. You’re not sacrificing any Extra Attack, unless you’ve multiclassed pretty heavily, so I guess you just do this every round. It’s a unique action rather than an Attack action, where that matters.

The Soul Knife features present a really stylish image (that is, again, Psylocke), and a total focus on combat. I expect a fair amount of decision paralysis on how to spend your bonus action each round. I’m surprised there’s no handling for gear upgrades to the soul knives, as there is in the Pact of the Blade. Weapon-wielding classes with no interest in weapon upgrades are always kinda awkward. The subclass is fine, but I would love to see more setting integration.

 

Order of the Wu Jen

I did not expect to see Wu Jen show up in the mystic class, since D&D has always treated them as pure arcane casters, but sure, I guess this works for me. They’re the serious energy projectors (pyro, cryo, electro, hydro, photo, aero, geo, tele, and so on). Filing telekinesis under Wu Jen, as a general statement, does violate theme for me a bit, but at least other Orders can cherry-pick it just fine. This does get them out of building dozens of extra-weird spells just for Wu Jen, though (see the 3.5 Complete Arcane for more on this).

  • Two bonus Wu Jen Disciplines. Since their Disciplines are some of the flashiest, I would expect no less.
  • Hermit’s Study grants two additional skill proficiencies, from a fairly thematic list.
  • Elemental Attunement lets you ignore energy resistance for 1 psi point, declared after you’ve used the power and discovered that the creature is resistant. Since your psi limit still applies normally, make sure you don’t max out your psi limit the first time you use an energy type against a particular creature.
  • Arcane Dabbler lets you spoof three different wizard spells (which you can change out when you level), and convert psi points into spell slots. Creating spell slots costs a bonus action, but you can create the slot and hang onto it until you’re ready to use it.
  • Elemental Mastery is an interesting conditional immunity: first, gain resistance to an energy type through whatever means. When you would take that type of damage, spend 2 psi points and your reaction to instead be immune to it until the end of your next turn. Right on.

The Wu Jen Disciplines are going to be everything for this Order – these features haven’t told me all that much about how the Wu Jen plays, except to make it clear that they are energy projectors who probably have some easy-ish way to gain resistance to various damage types. I feel pretty weird about the use of the Wu Jen name here, all the same; the mystic’s story is an odd enough fit as is, so what’s with the implied Asian influence? In combination with the Quirks (that were a wu jen thing in 3.0 Oriental Adventures and 3.5 Complete Arcane), there’s an uncomfortable “oh those Chinese spellcasters, so much weirder than our home-grown spellcasters” that persists into 5e. So I dunno.

 

Psionic Disciplines

The forty Disciplines presented here take up the lion’s share of the pagecount. I’m going to go fairly quickly through these, because my wordcount is already over 3500 and God bless you for reading this far.

Adaptive Body is more or less fine until you get to Energy Immunity, because an hour-long immunity for 7 psi points is going to break a lot of encounters (that is, one creature can go alone and solve them), while the mystic chills out and doesn’t risk their Concentration getting disrupted.

Aura Sight is fine, though I am unclear on how Perceive the Unseen interacts with total cover. Should it have some kind of range limit?

Bestial Form is the first damage-dealing Discipline, and it shows the core form of most damage-dealers: spend 1-7 psi points, deal that many dice of damage if you hit – usually d10s, sometimes d6s if there’s something else going on. It looks like most such powers lose any spent psi points on a miss, which is a big reduction in power from what we saw in previous mystic versions. Bestial Transformation also offers a +2 AC boost, which is a great help to Immortals scrounging for AC.

Brute Force a case of a damage-dealing power that uses d6s rather than d10s, because it’s a rider on a weapon attack. Getting to Knock Back a target up to 70 feet is pretty insane, and I imagine results in a lot of chances for falling damage. It does, at least, require both a melee weapon hit and a failed Strength save.

Celerity is still the place to dump psi points for Extra Attack-like functions, but most of the Discipline depends on using your bonus action for various things. Which means that one of the Orders that should be all about it – the Soul Knife – has a hard time using it. Like the Old Man in A Christmas Story, they have overloaded the electrical outlet on bonus actions in this document – there are just too many choices that you need and want to do all the time. There’s little use of reactions here, which feels like it could be a good space for Celerity.

Corrosive Metabolism – acid touch – goes way back in D&D psionics. Here they add in poison as well. It offers two different inflatable damaging attacks, one of which carries the poisoned condition as well, a damaging reaction, and two different damaging AoEs. If you want to kick out damage and only damage, this one’s for you. The two AoEs show some of the awkwardness of how psi limits mesh with cranking up damage – even when inflated with psi points, the acid breath weapon is a smaller area and less damaging than the poison breath weapon, so unless you are facing a creature with resistance to one but not the other, the poison breath simply replaces its predecessor.

Crown of Despair is a blend of damage and control. It’s interesting that only one of the powers is charm-like (that is, immunity to charmed is immunity to this effect). Overall this one seems useful and reasonably balanced. Its control is themed around simple inaction.

Crown of Disgust is a more involved blend of damage and control, with a focus effect that radiates difficult terrain around the mystic. Its control centers on interfering with movement to restrict options. Aaand right at this moment I realized that the Avatar Disciplines are the emotions from Inside Out, plus Command and Courage.

Crown of Rage has a very risky defender-like psychic focus effect. It also mixes damage and control, with a lot of forcing enemies to make bad tactical decisions – what an MMO would call an aggro redirect. It gets a little contrived because it’s drawing so many powers from the same concept, but it’s basically okay.

Diminution shows you can get a lot from being little. It’s a blend of stealth buff, unusual defenses, and a knockback. Strong on defense, nearly absent on offense.

Giant Growth is Diminution’s obvious opposite, and they didn’t have to get nearly as creative in designing powers here. This looks great for Immortal or Soul Knife melee brutes – even if all you do is maintain psychic focus on it to get 5 extra feet of reach.

Intellect Fortress has been one of the mystic Disciplines throughout playtesting, and I really like where it is now – an amazing defensive suite against many kinds of mind-affecting powers, with a very nice reactive defense against attacks.

Iron Durability is a big part of the answer to the Immortal problems I’ve mentioned above. It’s a broad defensive suite against attacks, especially b/p/s weapon attacks. It’s kind of weird that having a body of iron or steel does nothing for your unarmed attacks.

Mantle of Awe is a whole lot of charmed condition sources, and also a way to make all of your allies (but not you) invisible to a particular target. It seems all right.

Mantle of Command is pure mystic tactical-warlord-y goodness. Free movement, attack bonuses, extra attacks – it’s the whole package. You could do nothing but this and be terrifying.

Mantle of Courage is inspiring-warlord-goodness. It’s slightly less universally useful than Mantle of Command, but still solid.

Mantle of Fear is about what you’d expect from the name, though the particular implementation does interesting things – I like the “panic” upgrade to frightened, and I like the difficult-to-approach-the-mystic mechanic.

Mantle of Fury lets you make people angry, in a blend of the warlord-y mantles and the bad tactical decisions of Crown of Rage. The indiscriminate advantage on melee attacks of Aura of Bloodletting makes it an exciting choice.

Mantle of Joy has less going on than one would hope. This feels like a good place for some kind of overt healing effect, rather than just granting more temporary hit points. I’m not convinced there’s much of a PC niche for Aura of Jubilation.

Now we get into the Masteries, which are all Wu Jen Disciplines and, as mentioned, very flashy. There’s also a good bit of “why would you need anything other than this one Mastery Discipline?”

Mastery of Air offers damage, defense, movement, flight, and conjuration (really probably creation) of an air elemental.

Mastery of Fire offers damage, resistance to fire, zone damage, more damage, a damage aura, and conjuration of a fire elemental. Not as versatile as Air, but solid nonetheless.

Mastery of Force has a lot of the really classic telekinetic tricks, including some of the Bigby’s Hand concepts and force armor (Immortal mystics, take note).

Mastery of Ice is a combination of solid damage output and varied defenses – slippery ice, ice walls, and temporary hit points.

Mastery of Light and Darkness is sort of odd – great for darkening or lighting an area at first, and then it gets into conjuration and damage. This should be one of your later picks.

Mastery of Water is all over the place. Damage, forced movement with damage, soft crowd control, and conjuring a water elemental. Great broad-spectrum effects.

Mastery of Weather goes deep on damage-with-utility in a wide variety of functions. Hungry lightning is the simple version; everything else is more involved, and typically a sizable AoE. Wall of Thunder is especially harsh, as a highly damaging wall. Now the absence of a wall of fire from Mastery of Fire seems weird.

Mastery of Wood and Earth makes some atypical choices, such as changing a target creature’s Armor Class mid-battle. That is just not something that happens in 5e. This Discipline is quite varied: locking down foes that use weapons or armor, turning melee weapons into ranged weapons, improving the mystic’s mitigation, building a wall, and conjuring an earth elemental.

Nomadic Arrow is the sign that Nomads should be ranged weapon users. The focus effect to ignore disadvantage on ranged weapons means that shooting invisible enemies is no problem. That bugs me. Anyway, the rest of the powers are fine, and Faithful Archer acts like Extra Attack.

Nomadic Chameleon is the stealth one, both personal and team stealth. It’s enough to make you want to pair Nomad with Rogue or something. (Why don’t Nomads or Soul Knives, or at least a Discipline, get a little Sneak Attack action?)

Nomadic Mind is the really interesting addition to the Nomad’s psychoportation theme. It’s something like “synapses are roads too” and “having to explore everything on foot is bullshit.” This Discipline is phenomenal for most conceivable non-combat scenes. I’m also amused with Item Lore, because it fixes the one drawback that keeps biting my Diviner with his identify spells – some magic items are triggered by touch, and the identify spell requires touch… Also, Find Creature doesn’t get into what kind of information you need to have about a character before using it, so I see a lot of plot-spoiling possibility here.

Nomadic Step is sort of worrying, in that it gives so much teleportation power to any mystic who gets a hankering for the Nomad’s schtick. The Nomad uses these a little more effectively than others, but I’m not sure it’s enough. I’m surprised to see an absence of teleporting any distance greater than a mile (plus 10 feet). Even stranger, no astral travel. There are also useful “attack” and utility teleports here.

Precognition is always tough to design, since the DM doesn’t know what’s going to happen either (emergent play is emergent), so this is a combat-heavy Discipline full of self buffs. Cool, but maybe a little disappointing for the implicit promise of “I’m a precog!”

Psionic Restoration is the whole healing package, up through revivify and greater restoration, though there’s no way to heal as a bonus action (as with healing word), so that’s a little disappointing. Getting to both heal and attack (cast a cantrip/talent, whatever) makes playing The Healer a lot more satisfying, in my experience.

Psionic Weapon is here to make Soul Knives and Immortals into damage machines, using Lethal Strike. Because the Soul Knife needed more competition for their bonus actions. Augmented Weapon is the +3 weapon enhancement that was missing from Hone the Blades.

And then there’s Psychic Assault, which is just ridiculous. Psionic Blast (not to be confused with Psychic Blast, also a power in this Discipline) deals damage to one target. No attack roll, no saving throw – it’s an inflatable magic missile that deals 1d8-7d8 damage. I have no idea how this is okay alongside all the Disciplines that deal scarcely more damage, but have to worry about misses or saves. There are some damage-with-control powers, sure, fine, and then there’s Psychic Blast (not to be confused with Psionic Blast, did I mention it’s a power in this Discipline?) which is a high-damage AoE with better damage scaling than any other power we’ve seen (+2d8 for 1 psi point, rather than 1d:1). Oh, and Psychic Crush, which I am sorry to say is not a song on REM’s Green album, which is a high-damage AoE with a possible stun. Yikes. Psychic Assault is Best Assault.

Psychic Disruption looks like a real waste of time next to Psychic Assault, but if it weren’t for that, it would be a small but reasonably good damage-with-control Discipline. As it is, it’s pretty redundant with all the other damage-with-control Disciplines, both within the Awakened list and out of it. Mind Storm is pretty nice, though.

Psychic Inquisition is some straight-up Psi Corps mindfuckery, and I respect that. It has a damage option, so don’t be afraid to take it as one of your starting Disciplines, but you’re here for the stuff it gets later on. The potential for plot-breaking is high, but I think there are enough loopholes and requirements that it can stay interesting. I would consider something like Dark Side corruption for using this power to its fullest extent.

Psychic Phantoms looks a lot like an Awakened remix of some of the Avatar Crown Disciplines. It’s reasonably interesting in its own right, but it’s mostly superseded by other Disciplines.

Telepathic Contact includes handling for people who have this Discipline but aren’t mystics, which I assume is either for mystic-flavored subclasses of other classes (as Mearls has signaled that the true psychic warrior is a fighter archetype), or for wild talents. I’m particularly hoping for the latter, just to see how they handle that concept in 5e. Anyway, this Discipline is the more combat-useful variation of Psychic Inquisition – no damaging effects, but some great control, and also a telepathic team chat channel as its psychic focus. Do your pals a solid and get the Chat Client Discipline by around 5th level.

Third Eye is another Discipline that has been around for all of the documents to date. It’s a Perception enhancer, offering Tremorsense, advantage on Wisdom checks, Detective Mode from Rocksteady’s Arkham games (A+, would Batman again), and truesight. Good solid utility – maybe not one of your earliest selections, but not bad either.

All together, some Disciplines are a clear cut above others – Psychic Assault, Mastery of Force, Mantle of Command, and there’s basically no excuse for not eventually picking up Psionic Restoration. Even if you don’t want to Be The Healer, missing a chance at another revivify-like power (with no material component, even) in the party is just irresponsible. Some Disciplines feel like filler – they’re viable concepts in principle, but with a shorter power list and narrower applications, you can almost always find something better to do with a Discipline slot.

 

Talents

The final section of this massive document is Talents, which is to say mystic cantrips.

Beacon is light, but for mystics.

Blade Meld grants immunity to disarming attacks. Which monsters almost never have. This will almost never be worth one of your four precious Talent slots.

Blind Spot makes you invisible to one creature in a group until the end of your next turn. It’s a long-prep way to gain advantage, and it will be great if we get a mystic roguish archetype.

Delusion is minor image, but for mystics.

Energy Beam is a damage effect, Dex save to avoid, with an energy type chosen from a list of five. It’s fine.

Light Step is super-short-duration longstrider for mystics, but also lets you stand up from prone for free once in your turn.

Mind Meld is telepathic contact, but also shows you one memory of the target’s choice. This doesn’t seem like a great use of a Talent slot to me.

Mind Slam deals force damage with a knockdown effect – traditional telekinesis stuff. It’s fine.

Mind Thrust is mystic fire bolt, but psychic damage.

Mystic Charm is a super-short-duration charm. Still kind of odd for a Talent, but sure I guess? You can lock down one target for “free,” if you’re willing to keep spending your action on it and they keep failing the save.

Mystic Hand is mage hand for, er, mystics. Not mages. You know.

Psychic Hammer is like Mind Slam, but longer range and it pushes the target on a failed save rather than knocking them down in place.

 

Conclusion

I would call this document mostly a solid success. There are some issues in the Orders – particularly the Immortal – and a few Disciplines still need some tuning, but they took their time on this and I think it shows. The surprise favorite is the Nomad; they’re Mastigos warlocks from Mage: the Awakening, with their particular approach to Space/Correspondence and Mind. The Immortals have lost a lot since the previous document, and I’m not really sure what their point or theme is as a subclass. Right now they’re a power set, not an archetype, and their unarmored AC feature is probably pointless.

I predict that, as playtesting on this document proceeds, high-level mystics eat up a lot of time fitting as much power as they can into psi point limits of Psychic Mastery. Maintaining concentration on multiple things at once is cool, but it does scale up the out-of-character mental load and decision pressure – and it shows up for the first time when you already have a lot of options at your disposal. As long as you don’t sweat the things that aren’t quite working yet and have a lax policy on respending build choices, this class looks ready for full-time use to me. In no particular order, the Wu Jen, the Nomad, and the Awakened look like top-flight choices, and the Soul Knife is hard to judge but probably fine as long as you start with Psionic Weapon. As always, I’m curious to see what happens in the final release… or even what kind of book its final release shows up in. (And please, pretty pretty please, let WotC do us all a solid and add the mystic, the Awakened, and a smattering of Disciplines and Talents to the OGL.)

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  • MTi

    I liked it a lot as well. Especially the flavor text and the quirks did most of the trick for me. Only thing I did not like is that obviously it forces you to take the Hermit background. I think no other class did that until now.

    Well, the multiclassing thing is a … thing, but none of the UA classes is fine-tuned for multiclassing, so this is logical.

    I’d like something more of a rogue-ish Soul Knife, or we might see the Soul Knife as a Roguish Archetype at sometime soon. As presented it looks kind of incomplete.

    I’d like to see the Wu Jen as something similar to the elemental warrior of 3.5e. I was not too much sold on this UA version.

    I stand with you fully for the rest. I also liked the Nomad a lot. Actually, I’d like to play one sometime soon.

    Finally, and this is something that has been discussed a lot in the past, I’m pretty sure they’re going to publish them in an other FR-based book, shoehorning them in the setting (well, in the same way they’ve done to pretty much everything else) and not in a 5e version of popular settings with psionics. Let’s just hope I’m falling short on this one.

    • It doesn’t so much force you to take the Hermit background as paint a big sign saying “wouldn’t this be a fine idea?” You can still do whatever with it and it works out.

      We’ve heard murmurs of a collection of class content, which they hasten to state will NOT be titled “Player’s Handbook 2.” They could try for FR as a base for the whole book, but personally I find that less likely – I mean, “how this fits into FR” will be in every entry because that’s what they’re doing in 5e, but I don’t think it will be an FR book from first principles. But that’s a pure guess, just based on what I see as common sense. I don’t think it will be a Dark Sun or Eberron book either.

    • There was a fellow who compiled all the UAs into a single PDF that recently got (politely, of course) told to knock it off by Wizards, so the evidence for a not-PHB2 is definitely there.

      Avatar is just 4E’s Ardent in a different wrapper, so I’m surprised they didn’t go with that name. But like you say, especially if it’s an FR-based book, the term “avatar” carries with it a lot of baggage. I’d be surprised if that name survives to the final iteration.

    • Unexpected Dave

      I’m guessing that one reason why so many Mystic Orders get extra skills is so that they don’t have to sacrifice skill versatility for flavor. They don’t need to rely on their background to get skills, so they can freely select Hermit.

  • I feel like you can get away from Immortal’s tri-stat dependency problem by having their non-Immortal discipline be Mastery of Force to get Inertial Armor, but it’s still not super great. My Dark Sun game’s mystic (who understands he’s playing an unfinished class and is a champ about adjusting between sessions) is an Immortal mystic and he has some concerns about his durability now since his stats aren’t good enough to do a tri-stat build.

    Nomad is pretty cool, but I *really* like the Wu Jen. I confess I was perplexed how it got that designation when it’s clearly based on a combo psychokineticist/metacreative hybrid, but hey, it’s still really stylish.

    • Andrew

      I feel like the Immortal’s AC formula should be Int+Con, that way you “only” need Int, Con, and a choice of Str or Dex, instead of feeling shoehorned in to Int/Con/Dex.

      I’d also like to see the unarmored AC traded to the Soul Knife for the weapon and armor proficiency, that way the Immortal is the one who uses normal gear and the Soul Knife uses psionic power for both weapon and armor. And both still have the choice of taking Inertial Armor if they want to go that route instead.

    • I agree on the unarmored AC going to the soul knife, that would be preferable to what they presented for the Immortal’s defenses.

  • Episteme

    I was a bit surprised, given the references to out-of-class psionics, that there was no Wild Talent Feat. One could see a couple ways of building one on the lines of the Magic Initiate feat (instead of 2 cantrips and a 1st level spell, perhaps 1-2 at-will Talent(s) and a short/long-rest Discipline?).

    • Something along those lines would be my guess, yeah.

    • Unexpected Dave

      I like that idea. Give a Wild Talent character a max of 2 PSI points with a PSI limit of 2, and they should be able to pick any discipline they like without breaking the game.

      If/when the Mystic gets an official release, I expect that the book will contain all the other good psionic stuff: wild talent feat, psionic subclasses (for fighter, rogue, monk, etc.) and psionic races like the Gith. But in order to do that, they need to make sure they have a solid handle on the Mystic and its mechanics.

  • crimfan

    This class feels overloaded to me. I hope they eventually break it up more so that it’s not so laden with choices that lead to markedly different characters.

    • Do you feel the same way about wizards, their Traditions, and their breadth of spell choice?

    • crimfan

      No, because the wizard’s role in the party is usually pretty comprehensible. So while there are many traditions and a lot of spells, fundamentally they’re relatively predictable and within meaningful boundaries. Here you have melee combatants, controllers, investigators, and so on, so the roles within the party change a fair bit.

      I’m willing to say a lot of this is the sheer unfamiliarity. The wizard is a knowable and predictable thing in no small part because many of the spells they have are old chestnuts. So while there are a lot, longtime players know what they aren and WotC did their best to recreate it. Here it’s 28 pages of pretty much entirely new system.

      One reason I’d like it more broken up is so that they can have different stat dependence. For instance, a psi^H^H mystic empath or telekinetic who’s not built on rocking Intelligence would be pretty decent but given that Intelligence is the attack stat, that’s not going to be so viable.

    • A mystic psychometabolic – you know, an Immortal – can get a whole lot of adventuring done with an 8 Int, losing only one feature and narrowing the list of viable Disciplines. Of course, when you’re picking 8 out of 40 Disciplines, narrowing is not a big problem.

      In a lot of ways, cleric is probably the better comparison for the breadth of the mystic’s functions, but I chose wizard because learning a huge number of individual spells is a tolerable parallel of learning 8-10 Disciplines and 4 Talents. With some influence from their Domain, a cleric can hang back and heal, mostly buff the party, be a front-line melee combatant, hurl damaging spells, be an excellent investigator, or use controlling spells.

      But then, why would it be important for a class to offer a narrow range of party roles? The mystic can choose to be a jack-of-all-trades or a specialist, though even at their best, they’re not out-damaging a dedicated blaster. On the other hand, they can operate at their own peak efficiency for longer than most caster classes, thanks to their point-based approach.

    • crimfan

      I don’t know that it has to be super narrow, and I wouldn’t want that. It’s a grumble with regards to the warlock with its Eldritch Blast spamming ways unless you multiclass or work very hard to avoid it. But I guess this just feels like it lacks a thematic unity. A cleric can fill many roles in the party but is basically a servant of the gods and the choice of the god gives it its general logic in the game. If you want to be a battle cleric you’re usually serving a god for which that role fits, like Tempus or Kord. If you want to be an investigator you’ll pick a different god. This just feels like a grab back of… I don’t know what.

      Of course, for the “I just want to roll dice” type of player this is the wrong type of character to play, so fair enough on that score. I might find my views changing over time and when it’s further developed, but right now it feels to me like too many different things forced into one chassis, with a whole lot of choices on the part of the player.

    • Oh! I get you now. Yeah, I agree with that. The theme for the Awakened works for me (investigator with a broad bag of tricks, probably heavy on control in combat), and I’m basically fine with the Nomad and the Wu Jen (but change the name), but no one else has thematic clarity or unity. I absolutely agree that this is a problem, and I called it out more than a few times in the article. =)

      I also don’t care for the “everyone’s a hermit, even if they aren’t a Hermit” theme.

      I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but I get the impression that it might help your concern a lot if, say, characters had to keep 50% of their overall Discipline picks inside their Order’s Discipline. (With, of course, some other handling for the Soul Knife… but remind me why the SK isn’t a roguish archetype?)

    • crimfan

      Yeah I think we’re in the same chapter if not necessarily on exactly the same page.

      Yes, it would make sense thematically if their picks were a bit more channelled. They get A LOT of flexibility as it stands, so some choice focusing would help.

      Just as you say, the Soul Knife should be a rogue archetype and it would make sense for a fighter archetype that’s also a psi type to be there, let’s call them the Mind Hammer just to have a name. That way their limited disciplines fit in with the way the Arcane Trickster and Eldritch Knight work. The Mind Knight would be potentially really cool if implemented in a creative way, for instance using their psi powers to use Telekinesis-enhanced strikes and protection or mobility. Or maybe they’re more leader types. There are a number of possibilities. Someone who wants to be psi first can choose to take the full path but if you want to dip your toes in it, the fighter or rogue archetype is a good way to do it.

      I also think they miss some opportunities by making Intelligence *the* stat. You’re right you can get by without it, but many players won’t really think of that or it won’t be obvious anyway. I’m sure the reason they picked Int was they looked at the list and saw Bard, Sorcerer, and Warlock all using Charisma, Clerics and Druids using Wisdom, and only the Wizard (and the newly proposed Artificer) using Intelligence, so there was a hole to fill… hey let’s put the mystic there, that’ll neaten the org chart?

      I also don’t care for the “everyone’s a hermit, even if they aren’t a Hermit” theme.
      Yeah that’s annoying and really uncreative. I mean, why not psi schools? Or an organization? Where would I put them in the campaign? I mean, the campaign just cries out for yet another mad hermit in the woods or on a mountaintop… not.

    • Marashir Khan

      I must say that one of the things I like the most about the Mystic is precisely that: with 40 (I think) disciplines one might easily have two Mystics in a party and have very little overlap in power selection and totally different play styles for each.

      Well, except for the problem (well elucidated in your excellent rundown) that there are clearly some disciplines that are clearly superior to the others.

      The improvements of this iteration are impressive, leaving me (as a fan of Psionics since Dark Sun first came out) really looking forward to the final, published item.

  • Wyvern

    “I expect a fair amount of decision paralysis on how to spend your bonus action each round.”

    I don’t think it’s as bad as you make out; unless I’m missing something, in any given round you basically have a choice between using your off-hand soulknife to attack or to parry, with the caveat that you can’t do either on the first round of combat. (And I agree that requiring a bonus action to dismiss the blades is odd, but it does prevent players from “dropping” them while continuing to benefit from the +2 parry bonus.)

    Btw, you may already be aware of this issue, but the “Part Two” link up there doesn’t work — it just leads to the homepage of your new site, as apparently do all other links to your former blog.

    • Yeah, we’re still working on the redirects from Harbinger of Doom to brandesstoddard.com. Apologies – the link is fixed now to point directly to the post in the new blog.

      What you’re possibly missing about bonus actions is that a LOT of psionic powers are bonus actions. Round by round, the Soul Knife is having to make choices that sacrifice a probably-excessive amount of throughput. Consider Disciplines that, in theme at least, should be very SK-friendly – Celerity, Brute Force, Diminution, Giant Growth, Nomadic Step, Psionic Weapon… these are all packed with bonus-action powers. The SK has to choose between using their central feature and playing like a mystic, which is… less true, anyway, for other Orders.

    • crimfan

      What you’re possibly missing about bonus actions is that a LOT of psionic powers are bonus actions.
      Yeah this is a really big issue. Action economy as the limiter can be really frustrating to players and have a lot of non-obvious issues. For instance, WotC got rid of was the minor action from 4E, which used to be used for things like weapon drawing or switching. They incorporated it into the regular action, which is a nice simplification. However, the fact that you can’t demote a regular action to a bonus action can really make for some tricky circumstances, such as not being able to cast Healing Word twice. HW can’t be doubled up because it’s a Cantrip anyway, but the basic principle holds.

  • MaxXimenez

    I was really hoping the “Order of the Invisible Hand” would be all about manipulating the economy.

    At some point they did mention that there would be a psionic sub-class for the fighter, the mystic equivalent of the Eldritch Knight.. Maybe the Order of the Invisible hand (or the lurk) will be a rogue subclass, the Arcane Trickster equivalent.

    • It’s possible, of course, but as I suggest above, I would assume that “Invisible Hand” means roughly the same thing as mage hand, because… well… telekinesis for cryin’ out loud.

      I do expect to see a Psychic Warrior, Mind Knight, or something along those lines as a fighter, just as they have hinted. I kiiinda don’t understand why the Soul Knife isn’t a rogue. It will be weird if there isn’t eventually a mystic monastic tradition.

    • Unexpected Dave

      I think that Soul Knife would work better as a monastic tradition than a psionic order. Without Extra Attack, they lag behind other arcane-based melee characters (like blade pact Warlock) and still need to rely on psionic disciplines to deal damage. They can’t even use the Action Surge discipline to get an extra attack (it requires a bonus action).

  • Tony Russo

    “But also, what’s the archetypal image here? A person in plain clothes with a dagger that is inexplicably impossible to kill? Are they seriously intended as villains from slasher films?”

    I know you meant this as a joke, but I immediately rolled up a Jason Vorhees character. When focusing on iron durability he’s got 17 ac and 12 health at level 1, which seems good for now. He wields a kitchen knife, always wears a mask and never sleeps.

    I figure I’ll slow-roll the psionic stuff with my party; start out only doing stuff that seems physically plausible for a scary dude. As I level up, I’ll slowly start peppering in the mantles of fear and the short range teleports and the other powers that could just be chalked up to an overactive imagination. It won’t be until the midgame when I really let loose with the psionic blasts and ‘Ransack Minds’ and really turn into an eldritch abomination. It’ll blow their minds.

  • Terry Tsopanos

    Level 1 immortal discipline. Take the level 1 discipline from mastery of air, for the focus to not take falling damage. Take brute force discipline and giant growth discipline. For bonus action use ogre form. Then use grapple as an action, then use your move action for mighty leap to power slam your grappled enemy. At level 9 you are essentially using giant growth to become category huge, grapple a dragon, and mighty leap
    140 feet in the air and slam down for 1d6 per 10 feet= 14d6 damage. Leveling up this would be crazy fun, especially with the tavern brawler feat.

  • José W

    Ummm, I may be wrong, but where did it say that soul knives dissipate after attacking? I mean, it says you summon them, they are a martial light finesse weapon that deals 1d8 psychic dmg on hit, just don’t get where it says they dissipate on a hit, it also doesn’t talk about what happens if you give them to other party members…

    • They don’t dissipate on a hit – that’s not really in debate here. There’s no mention one way or the other of transferring them to other characters, and the for you of the second paragraph strongly implies that they are NOT martial light finesse weapons that deal 1d8 psychic damage on a hit in someone else’s hands. There’s no indication of what they ARE, then, in someone else’s hands, but I think a DM would be 100% justified in ruling that they are not transferable to other characters – you spend a bonus action to transfer them and oops, that was actually a dismissal.

    • José W

      So, after you summon the blades that feature it’s not competing for bonus action anymore (only on first round) I think it’s important to note that. That helps a lot to the action economy after the first round. I’m of the opinion that you should “draw” your soul knives as much as any weapon, so you get to draw one for free and the second should be a “interact with an object” action, or be drawn on your next turn.
      You are right about the “For you” I may have skipped it on my read and now that you point it out, it really seems that in hands of another the weapon may not have any meaning.
      My first reply was made because I thought that you were saying that you should use the bonus action to summon your knives every round and made it seem super critical like you had to choose between not using your knives or using a discipline on every turn, I’m sorry if I’m/was rude, not my intention, I’m just very blunt and more often than not people yell at me for that.

      thanks for your answer.

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