Here I am taking a shot at the bane of D&D class design from the very beginning – a psionic class. I feel like, deep down, everyone kind of wants one, but psionic classes have consistently been the most problematic in each iteration of D&D. So of course I wanted to take a stab at it.
Design goals: I wanted the psion to be a pure caster class, and to be most similar to the warlock in terms of how it functions. I liked using the warlock’s flexible spell slots rather than the fixed ones that a sorcerer or wizard gets. I also decided ahead of time that psionics would just be another kind of magic – so counterspell and dispel magic and similar effects will all affect psionics. Psionics differ, though, in that they do not have verbal, material, or somatic components. This is a big advantage, and so I balanced that out by requiring most psionic abilities to use concentration – so ideally the psion should have fewer requirements, but will probably always be concentrating on an effect. Overall, I wanted the psion to be more limited than in many past iterations – to be more like what you see in movies or Anime, focusing on the ‘big four’ of telekinesis, telepathy, pyro/cryokinesis, and biokinesis or the physical adept. I also wanted another Intelligence-based pure caster to join the wizard.
Psions are driven by iron discipline and self-mastery. A psion will spend as much time researching her inner life seeking out secrets as a wizard would spend researching new spells and secrets of the outer world in libraries. Through mastery of her inner world, a psion has the ability to mater the outer world as well.
Some psions are trained when they show a talent for one of the disciplines – others manifest innate abilities and are self-trained. In a world like Athas, or Eberron, psions might be members of particular schools where they are taught a particular mental regimen. In other worlds, they might be loners, drawing on inner reserves to accomplish amazing feats.
Creating a Psion
First, make Intelligence your highest ability score, followed by Constitution.
|Psion Level||Features||Cantrips Known||Psionic Spells Known||Psi Points||Slot Level|
|1||Psionic Discipline, Discipline Ability||2||2||1||1|
|2||Discipline Ability, Telepathy||2||3||2||1|
|4||Ability Score Improvement||3||5||2||2|
|5||Strength of Mind||3||6||2||3|
|8||Ability Score Improvement||3||9||3||4|
|12||Ability Score Improvement||4||11||4|
|16||Ability Score Improvement||4||13||6|
|18||Mind Over Matter||4||14||6|
|19||Ability Score Improvement||4||15||7|
Hit Dice: 1d6 per psion level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 6 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d6 (or 4) + your Constitution modifier per level after 1st
Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons
Saving Throws: Constitution and Intelligence
Skills: Choose two skills from Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Religion
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
- (a) a light crossbow and 20 bolts or (b) any simple weapon
- (a) a scholar’s pack or (b) an adventurer’s pack
- Leather armor, any simple weapon, a dagger
At 1st level, you are trained in a psionic discipline and have developed basic psionic abilities. Your psionic discipline grants you special abilities at 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 10th and 14th levels.
Psionic Discipline Table
In order to maintain your psionic abilities, you must discipline yourself. Roll randomly, or choose one of the disciplines below (or come up with one with your DM):
- You must maintain a strict vegan diet.
- You cannot kill (though you need not be a pacifist, and don’t have to prevent others from killing)
- You use pain to focus your concentration
- You must remain fastidiously clean at all times
- You cannot wash in anything but running, natural water
- All of your food must incorporate an incredibly hot pepper that no one else can even tolerate
- You must deny yourself sleep each night, only taking perhaps 3 hours (requiring Con saves to avoid levels of exhaustion, with advantage if you get inadequate sleep rather than none)
- You must deny yourself normal comforts like pillows, blankets, must walk when others ride, etc.
- For 3 days you fast, and then for 3 days you are allowed to eat. You can only drink water
- You must meditate entirely alone for an hour each day – no one can be within 100’ of you, and it must be quiet
- You must abstain from any sexual activity, and can never have a family or children
- You can never own more possessions than you can carry on your person
Psionics is a spellcasting discipline. Psions are arcane spellcasters who access spells and spell-like abilities through inner strength and discipline more than by studying ancient lore or drawing on hereditary power.
You know two cantrips of your choice from the list associated with your discipline. You learn new cantrips as defined by the Psion Table. When you learn a new cantrip, you can also switch one known cantrip for a new one.
To cast one of the psionic spells that you know, expend one psi point. The cost is always one psi point, regardless of spell level, and the spell is always considered to be cast at the highest level possible based on the psion table.
Spells Known of 1st Level or Higher
Your spellcasting ability is Intelligence.
Spell Save DC = 8 + your Intelligence modifier + your proficiency bonus.
Spell Attack Modifier = your Intelligence modifier + your proficiency bonus
At 2nd level, a psion is able to use an action to establish a telepathic connection with a willing creature within 30′. This connection does not require concentration to maintain. If the psion and the creature to whom she is connected don’t share a language, they can still share images and impressions enough to communicate basic ideas. This ability automatically fails with any creature with an Intelligence lower than 3. The psychic connection can be ended as a reaction by either character.
Ability Score Improvement
The psion can increase one ability score by 2 or two ability scores by 1 at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th level, up to a maximum of 20.
Strength of Mind
At 5th level, the psion’s discipline has given her resistance to psychic damage. She also has advantage on saving throws against abilities that inflict the charmed, frightened or stunned conditions.
At 10th level, when a psion has no more psi points, she can draw on her physical reserves instead. As a bonus action, she can spend 5 hit points in order to generate 1 psi point.
When the psion reaches 11th level, she is able to augment her attacks with psychic energy. When she hits with a melee or missile weapon attack, she can deal extra psychic damage. For each psi point she spends, she deals 1d8 bonus psychic damage.
Mind Over Matter
At 18th level, a psion’s life of discipline begins to change her body and mind in new ways. She no longer needs to sleep, and can benefit from a long rest simply by sitting quietly and meditating for 6 or so hours. She also no longer needs to eat more than once a week, and can live for much longer without water as well. Finally, as a bonus action she can spend a psi point to enable her to roll hit dice in order to recover hit points even when not taking a short rest.
I need ideas here too.
|Cantrips||blade ward, eldritch blast (?), mage hand, shape water|
|1st level||feather fall, mage armor, shield, tenser’s floating disk, unseen servant|
|2nd level||arcane lock, hold person, knock, levitate, shatter, silence|
|3rd level||conjure barrage (?), erupting earth, fly, melf’s minute meteors|
|4th level||control water (?), fabricate, otiluke’s resilient sphere, staggering smite (?)|
|5th level||animate objects, bigby’s hand, hold monster, telekinesis, wall of force|
As a bonus activation, a telekinetic psion can activate her telekinesis. As an action, she can then attempt to lift or throw an object or, at higher levels, a creature. Maintaining telekinesis requires concentration.
|1st level||At 1st level, a telekinetic psion is able to lift up to 10lbs by concentrating. She can throw objects up to 30’. Her attack roll uses her spell attack modifier and deals 1d4 damage, modified by Intelligence.|
|2nd level||At 2nd level, she can now lift up to 25lbs, and her attack deals 1d6 damage.|
|3rd level||She can now lift up to 100lbs, and her attack deals 1d8 damage. She can also attempt to move up to Medium-sized creatures. They resist with a Strength save against her spellcasting DC. If your target fails their save, you can lift them 10’ with an action, or push them 30’.|
|6th level||500lbs, and her attack deals 2d8 damage. She can attempt to move Large sized creatures, though they have advantage on their Strength save.|
|10th level||Similar to the telekinesis spell: 1000lbs. Thrown objects still deal 2d8 damage. She can also attempt to lift a Huge creature, though a creature larger than the psion receives advantage on their Strength save.|
|14th level||At 14th level, a telekinetic psion can lift 10,000lbs, and can also attempt to lift a Gargantuan creature. Thrown objects now deal 3d8 damage.|
Design Notes: I see the telekinetic as being pretty straightforward until about 10th level, where their telekinesis ability begins to eclipse the telekinesis spell. On the other hand, I’d love to see a PC lift a gargantuan monster off the ground with their mind at 14th level. I can also see the question coming up – what use is the mage hand cantrip when you have the telekinesis ability? In the near future, I would like to update the spell lists with spells from Xanathar’s Guide, like catapult, which fits in with the telekinetic psion perfectly. That would make it more possible to just drop mage hand, or ignore it if it remains on the list.
|Cantrips||friends, message, minor illusion, vicious mockery|
|1st level||cause fear, charm person, command, compelled duel, comprehend languages (spoken only), dissonant whispers, silent image, sleep|
|2nd level||calm emotions, detect thoughts, enthrall, see invisibility, suggestion, zone of truth|
|3rd level||clairvoyance (?), fear, hypnotic pattern, major image, nondetection, sending, tongues|
|4th level||charm monster, compulsion, confusion, hallucinatory terrain (?), phantasmal killer|
|5th level||dominate person, dream, hold monster, mislead, modify memory, rary’s telepathic bond, synaptic static (?)|
As a bonus action, a telepathic psion can initiate a mind link with a willing creature. Even if she and the creature don’t share a language, they can exchange images and impressions well enough to communicate on a basic level. This ability automatically fails if used on a creature with Intelligence lower than 3. This ability replaces the 2nd level ability, which requires an action.
|1st level||Establish a mind link, as the kalashtar can do in Races of Eberron. If you are a kalashtar, the range on your mind link extends to 90’.|
|2nd level||Your mind link now has a range of 120’|
|3rd level||You can establish a group mind link with up to 6 intelligent creatures at a time within 60’ of you.|
|6th level||Group mind link 120’|
|10th level||Group mind link 300’|
|14th level||You can establish a group mind link with up to 6 intelligent creatures anywhere in the Material Plane, as long as they are known to you and willing.
Design Notes: the mind link ability is not exactly game-breaking. I can see it being very useful, but doesn’t have the drama of the other psion abilities. On the other hand, the spell list for the telepath is fantastic. And with a willing creature, the mind link still enables basic communication with anything that is intelligent, even if you don’t share a language – not as powerful as the tongues spell, but still super useful at low levels.
|Cantrips||chill touch, create bonfire, frostbite, produce flame, ray of frost|
|1st level||burning hands, chromatic orb (cold or fire), ice knife, searing smite|
|2nd level||continual flame, flame blade, flaming sphere, heat metal, pyrotechnics, scorching ray|
|3rd level||elemental weapon (fire or frost), fireball, flame arrows, protection from energy (fire or frost)|
|4th level||fire shield, ice storm, wall of fire|
|5th level||cone of cold, flame strike, immolation|
At will, a pyrokinetic psion can ignite flammable material or freeze about a square inch of liquid with an action.
|1st level||A pyrokinetic psion is able to heat metal as the spell, but it only deals 2d4 damage to begin. She can also generate a 10’ aura of comfortable temperature – cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. This temperate aura does not require concentration, but the psion must be awake.|
|2nd level||Heat metal, as the spell but 2d6 damage. Temperate aura 20’|
|3rd level||Heat metal, as the spell. Temperate aura 30’|
|6th level||Heat metal, 2d10 damage (non-magical metal loses shape). Temperate aura 60’|
|10th level||Heat metal, 2d12 damage (metal begins to melt). Temperate aura 90’|
|14th level||Heat metal, 3d12 damage (metal turns to slag). Temperate aura 120’|
Design Notes: I would have to see this one in play to see whether it became too much of a one-note build. I might actually want to add an alternate ability to chill metal dramatically, and attempt to shatter it. It would be cool to deal frost damage to an enemy wielding a sword, and then have them make a save when they hit with the sword to avoid it being destroyed. Like the telekinetic, the real fun here is putting this in the hands of a creative player and seeing what they come up with.
|Cantrips||blade ward (?), primal savagery, resistance, true strike|
|1st level||expeditious retreat, jump, longstrider, mage armor, thunderous smite|
|2nd level||alter self, barkskin, blur, enhance ability, enlarge/reduce (?), misty step (?), pass without trace (self), spider climb|
|3rd level||aura of vitality (?), blinding smite, gaseous form, haste (self), thunder step, water breathing, water walk|
|4th level||aura of life, freedom of movement, polymorph (self), staggering smite, stoneskin|
|5th level||far step (?), passwall, skill empowerment, swift quiver|
Physical Adept Abilities
Actually I need some ideas here.
|1st level||Your unarmed attacks deal 1d4 damage (?). Your range with thrown weapons increases by 5′|
|2nd level||You become proficient in Acrobatics, Athletics, Sleight of Hand or Stealth if you are not already. Thrown range +10′|
|3rd level||You gain expertise in Acrobatics, Athletics, Sleight of Hand, or Stealth (?). Thrown range +15′|
|6th level||Additional ability score improvement (Str, Dex, or Con). Thrown range increases by 20′|
|10th level||Your unarmed attacks deal 2d4 damage (?). Thrown range +30′|
|14th level||Additional ability score improvement (Str, Dex, or Con). Thrown range +45′|
Design Notes: the physical adept is the least finished of the four, but I felt like it’s a cool option that I had to add. Compared to the others, the ability list is a bit monochrome, with just proficiencies and ability score improvements. I see this psion competing somewhat with the monk, but having fewer attacks and hit points, I hope that the spell abilities compensate for that. One way I might redesign the physical adept is to be a melee ‘glass cannon’ type character whose survival would depend on self-healing, outside healing, and maybe a high AC, but who deals high melee damage, or ranged damage with thrown objects.