Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warriors I
This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this pdf with new archetypes, the first of which would be the Halo Knight, who REQUIRES Path of War Expanded – so if you don’t use Path of War alongside psionics due to balance-concerns, this one provides a bit of a conundrum, since the pdf does not replicate the feat on which the core ability of the archetype is based. It should also be noted that yes, the power-level for this one is above what I’d allow in my regular, non-Path-of-War-using game.
The archetype replaces the first-level bonus feat with Tap Animus, which nets you an animus pool at the start of combat, with one point. You continue to gain one animus point each round and the pool lasts for one minute after the last adversary is defeated. While usually, maneuvers can generate animus, this is changed here to instead generate 1 animus for when manifesting psionic powers. Alternatively, he can generate 1 point of animus by expending 2 power points. If the character gains an animus pool later, he can exchange this feat with Extra Animus.
While the character has at least 1 point of animus, he is surrounded by a luminous field that grants 1 point of Wisdom bonus (if any) as a deflection bonus to AC; this field also generates light, but that effect may be suppressed, replacing psionic proficiency. At 9th level, this is upgraded to daylight and also kicks in upon rolling initiative, not upon the first round…and it provides uncanny dodge…oh, and it nets resistance 20 to the active energy type. If the character already has uncanny dodge, he instead gains improved uncanny dodge. This replaces secondary path.
The archetype is locked into the anomalous warrior’s path. This is one of the new psychic warrior’s paths and nets Knowledge (arcana), Perception and Spellcraft as skills, Knowledge (arcana) as the bonus class skill and the trance-effect nets a +1 bonus to saves versus powers, spells, psi-like and spell-like abilities while psionically focused, which increases by +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The bonus is not types as a competence bonus, unlike the bonuses gained by trances in Ultimate Psionics, which makes me suspect an oversight there. The maneuver of the path, gained at 3rd level, allows the psychic warrior to expend his psionic focus as a move action to add 1d4 points of animus to his animus pool, potentially even creating one if the psychic warrior usually does not have one. At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the psychic warrior adds a further 1d4 points of animus when activating this ability.
The two new powers granted by this path would, firstly, be transfer animus: This one, used as a swift action, allows the psychic warrior to transfer animus to the target; via augment-options and additional power point expenditure, this can be done at close range and as a ranged touch attack instead. This becomes a viable strategy with the second power, animus overload, which detonates the animus held by an enemy, causing 5 points of damage (unytped, but considering the set-up, okay) per point of animus held, with a Fort-save to negate, as the animus explodes. Analogue to transfer, this can be augmented to work at range…and is surprisingly cool. Charging and blowing up foes? I can get behind that!
But let us return to the Halo Knight, shall we? Whenever the halo knight would gain a psychic warrior bonus feat, he may elect to take an anima skill instead. Unless otherwise noted, save-DCs are governed by Wisdom, though in a deviation from the usual presentation, the save DC is not reiterated. While it’s not hard to find out, that can result in a bit more book-flipping then necessary…but, before you’re asking, no I’m not going to penalize this file for that. These skills allow for some seriously interesting combos – for example, anima infusion allows the halo knight to use a psychic warrior power with a range of personal as an immediate action by expending 3 points of anima…which should make some of you look up from this: Yes, this allows for more casts per round and as such, is rather potent.
Adding bonus damage to his weapon and ghost touch or an increased enhancement bonus for the weapon can be found. Another skill adds the array of blaster powers to his powers list, which per se would not be an issue – where I get cranky would be when the follow-up skill nets the option to expend psionic focus and three anima to cast such a power as a psi-like ability – no power point cost. Granted, since animus is restricted to combats you won’t have infinite blasts…but it is still something that makes me twitch a bit, considering the other options of the archetype…The ability to use animus to grant fast healing 5 temporarily to allies nearby is similarly only held in check by the combat focus of the resource – without that, we’d have infinite healing. It gets a pass, but should get some GM oversight prior to introduction to a campaign. I know that some folks don’t like the aesthetics there.
At 4th level, the halo knight stops any pretense and simply gets better in every conceivable way than a regular psychic warrior. He can use animus as power points to pay for the manifestation, delimiting a limited resource. Not WHOLLY, mind you – I very much understand the limitations of rounds and the like…but this is where I’d draw the line for my games – while he won’t be able to operate near full potency, this makes animus behave basically as temporary power points. This won’t hurt the archetype’s functionality in a game that has a high power-level, but it disqualifies it for grittier games that include resource-management as something that actually matters.
Starting at 12th level, the archetype can 1/day (+1/day at 15th and 18th level) as a swift action, cause it to blaze for 1 minute, generating an additional point of animus at the start of the turn and when manifesting and creatures that hit him with melee attacks (reach is irrelevant, which is a violation of how that’s usually handled) take 5d6 energy damage of the active energy type, but only once per round per creature. Problematic for all but the most high-powered of games: When in this mode, he can spend 3 animus as an immediate action to ignore any damage that would reduce him below 0 hit points. While this replaces pathweaving and twisting path, it is one of those abilities that I can see work in Path of War and high-powered games that emphasize super-potent PCs…but not in more down to earth games. (“God hit me with magic of doom? Pff, I can shrug that off at least 5 more times!”) The capstone makes the halo always on and provides an outsider apotheosis.
The second archetype in this book would be the reaver, who gains Bluff, Disguise, Disable Device and Stealth as class skills as well as 6 + Int skills per level. Proficiency-wise, they get simple and martial weapons as well as kama, katana, kusarigama, nunchaku, sai, shuriken, siangham, and wakizashi as well as light armor, but not shields. These guys may choose powers from the cryptic’s power-list IN ADDITION to that of the psychic warrior. At first level, they replace warrior’s path with killer’s claim: As a swift action a creature within close reach can be Claimed and a reaver may maintain up to Wisdom modifier such claimed targets, minimum 1. Creatures claimed provoke AoOs from the reaver when using Withdraw and the reaver knows their location. Claim has no duration. Instead of 3rd level’s expanded path, the reaver gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC and a +1 bonus to Reflex saves while psionically focused, increasing that by +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, but only while wearing medium armor or less. At a later level, he gets +2 to damage rolls versus targets of his Claim, a bonus that increases by +2 at 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter. The reaver may expend his psionic focus to inflict +2d4 bonus damage per +2 bonus to damage instead.
At 9th level, reducing a killer’s claim target to 0 hit points can 1/day instantly recover the psionic focus, +1/day use at 12th level and 15th, replacing twisting path and secondary path. The 18th level ability is really cool: A target claimed can be cursed 1/day, making healing and raising impossible while the curse is not broken. Cool replacement for pathweaving! As a capstone, he can enter a killing trance 1/day as a free action while psionically focused, lasting 5 minutes or until the focus is expended. During this trance, he gets + Wis-mod to atk, skills, ability checks, initiative and AC and 1/round round inflicts +10d4 damage to a target of Killer’s Claim, usually on the first attack. Additionally, he may move up to his movement as an immediate action.
Of course, the archetype also has some choices to offer – so-called reaver insights may be taken instead of bonus feats: Bleeding damage to claimed targets, cryptic insights at -2 levels (excluding ones based on patterns). Slightly odd: One of these insights mentions the ability to maintain a Claim for up to 24 hours…implying that the base ability should have a duration…which it does not have. Penalizing saves and CMD of targets, skill-bonuses and rogue tricks complement an archetype…I REALLY, really like! This is a potent headhunter, sure, but it does not have any abilities I’d consider problematic…though an update regarding claim-duration would be helpful. Still: Two thumbs up for this one, I’d allow that in all my games, not just the high-fantasy/powered ones!
Beyond the aforementioned psychic warrior path, the pdf also offers the hungering path, which nets Intimidate, Knowledge (planes) (that’s the bonus class skills, btw.) and Perception as skills. The trance puts a -2 penalty on saves versus the psychic warrior’s abilities on targets within 10 feet, increasing the range by +5 ft. at 11th and 19th level and the penalty by -1 at 7th and 15th level. Power-wise, it nets corrosive aura and dissipating touch and the maneuver, unlocked at 3rd level, is potent: As a swift action, the psychic warrior can expend his focus when hitting a foe, draining 1d6 power points or one phrenic pool point, gaining 1 temporary power point. At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, this increases by +1d6 for power point loss, +1 for phrenic pool point loss and temporary power point gain. I assume that the temporary power points are only gained when something is actually drained, but I’m not 100% sure there – it can be read either way.
The third path would be that of the outrider, who gets Acrobatics, Ride and Handle Animal – the latter being the bonus class skill. Powers-wise, we get astral construct and skate. The path also has a really unique trance, one that creates a quasi-mount – this mount may be sped up via swift action expenditure as maneuvers and scales its potency, ignoring temporarily difficult terrain at 7th level and at 11th level, he can even move through creatures with it – pretty interesting.
Beyond the two powers already covered, one ties in with a reaver insight I deliberately didn’t mention before: You see, reavers can assume the identities of those killed, with a variety of mental semblance a power that allows for the extremely potent impersonation of a target. Pretty cool! The final ability, steal animus, does pretty much what it says on the tin – once again with the option to augment it for close range action.
Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – while a I noticed an errant “t” that should have been capitalized, though the absence of the killer’s claim duration, pretty clearly implied by an insight, is not cool. Similarly, I find it problematic, particularly for fans of psionics who don’t like Path of War, to not include the feat that’s the base-line for more than half of the content herein – usually DSP is pretty good at avoiding such guffaws. And YES, I am aware that the feat can be found in “Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warriors II” (alongside supplemental material for this pdf that would make more sense in this pdf…), but the content-distribution still sucks. Layout adheres to Dreamscrred Press’ nice two-column full-color standard and the halo knight’s artwork, as seen on the cover, is damn cool. The pdf comes with rudimentary, very basic bookmarks. As always, we get a second, more printer-friendly version – kudos there!
Chris Bennett, with additional design from Forrest Heck, provides some highly complex and unique archetypes herein; both halo knight and reaver offer distinct playstyles based on concepts introduced in Path of War, though they do so in exceedingly different ways: The halo knight, I’d situate closer to the very high-powered non-stop gameplay one associates with Path of War: The archetype delimits power points, a primary spellcasting resource, and while it doesn’t *completely* delimit it, in combination with the other potent options it provides, that’s enough to disqualify the archetype in all but my most high-powered of games.
The reaver, on the other hand, takes a cue from the harbinger and takes the claiming engine and molds it to instead apply to concepts assigned to the cryptic, without infringing on the signature moves of the class, creating something thematically thoroughly unique – very potent, but also rewarding. I have absolutely no concerns regarding this one – while the added power-selection is very potent, the loss of flexibility regarding path choices etc. does somewhat make up for that. This is still a strong option, mind you – but not one that will lead to issues in most games.
The supplemental material is solid for the most part, with only minor hiccups like aforementioned missing bonus type – and these are few and far in-between. That being said, as a reviewer, I am not 100% sure to whom to recommend this – folks who’ll love the vast power of the halo knight will probably shrug at the reaver…and vice versa: People who’ll love the reaver most likely will consider the halo knight to be over the top and OP. The absence of the Halo Knight’s very fundamental feat, the literal foundation on which the archetype is build, can also be…kinda jarring. This makes the pdf something of a mixed bag in my book – and yes, for lower power-levels, the halo knight can be nerfed pretty easily…but still. For me, as a person, I’ll take the reaver out of this pdf…and that’s it. As a person, I’d rate this 3 stars.
As a reviewer, however, I have to take into account that the halo knight will most definitely find its fans…which leaves me with the split focus and the flaws of the pdf as detrimental aspects. I thought long and hard and ultimately, I feel justified in rating this 3.5 stars. If you want lower-powered gameplay on par with Ultimate Psionics, round down; if you want more power à la Path of War, you’ll probably want to round up. Still. This lacks the feat on which more than half of the content of this pdf is based on. As long as that feat’s text is not reprinted herein, I cannot round up. As soon as it’s included, I’ll do just that for my official verdict as well.
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