Psionics Augmented: Voyager
This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, ½ a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 16.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This pdf depicts the new voyager base class, which is unique in plenty of ways, but we’ll get to that later. The voyager gets d6 HD, 6 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and one martial weapon as well as light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The voyager may, starting at 1st level, use Disable Device to disable magic traps, and when doing so, may expend psionic focus to roll twice on the Disable Device check, taking the better result. If it#s possible to take 10, the voyager may take 10 and roll the other roll, taking the better result when using this ability. The class begins with one power known, and learns one new power every level, and powers are governed by Intelligence as key ability modifier. The voyager begins play with 1 power point and increases that to 128 at 20th level, with the maximum power-level known being 6th. Said powers are drawn from a custom powers-list. Save-wise, the voyager gets good Reflex and Will-saves, and the class has a ¾ BAB-progression. 2nd level nets evasion, 6th uncanny dodge, 9th level improved uncanny dodge, and 12th level unlocks improved evasion.
The class begins play with the Accelerate ability – which nets the Speed of Thought feat as a bonus feat, and at 3rd level and every 5 levels later, the bonus granted by the feat increases by a further +10 feet, and when expending psionic focus to power the feat, the bonus to movement is doubled instead of providing a fixed increase. The voyager has a momentum engine from the get-go: When moving, the voyager generates 1 point of momentum per 10 feet moved. Unwilling movements (reposition, bull rush, etc.), or e.g. a hostile teleport do not generate momentum. The voyager can hold up to class level points of momentum, and momentum is applied as a dodge bonus to AC and Reflex saves, though thankfully, this caps at Intelligence modifier. When making an attack against a single target, the voyager may spend points of momentum, increasing damage caused by +1d6. This should have a scaling cap per attack. Otherwise, a 5th level voyager could spend momentum to add +5d6 to damage (+5 Intelligence modifier not being uncommon at this level). It should also be noted that the voyager fails to include the caveat that prevents these bonus damage dice from being multiplied on a critical hit. Whenever the voyager spends at least 1 point of momentum on an attack, she also gains a +2 bonus on the attack roll. This should be a typed bonus. This is noted explicitly as not the same structure, as the momentum becomes expanded, allowing for so-called augmented attacks. Momentum is lost each round – half of the momentum gained is lost each round. The pdf fails to specify whether you round up or down. At 8zth level, as a swift action, the voyager may choose a creature within close range and count as having the maximum bonus to AC and Reflex saves possible via momentum.
2nd level provides the manifestation of speed ability, which allows for augmented attacks. These require the expenditure of momentum, psionic power points or both, and are a standard action. The maximum number of combined points that may be spent are equal to the manifester level of the voyager, and the decision must be made before spending. There are two abilities here: The blink ability allows for 5 ft. of teleportation per power point spent on the various augmented attack options, while momentum expenditure allows for 5 ft. of movement per point of momentum spent on the augmented attack. Both of these types of movement generate momentum, which is gained AFTER the augmented attack is made. Formal complaint: A whole paragraph here is printed twice, which should have really been caught in editing. Beyond these base modifications of augmented attacks, additional effects may be added to an augmented attack, though each of them can only be applied once per augmented attack. Power channel lets the voyager manifest a power with a manifesting time of 1 standard action or less taken from the voyager’s list (or via Expanded Knowledge) as part of the augmented attack. The power chosen must have a range of personal or be a single-target power, including touch-based and ray-based powers. Powers with variable targets and Split Ray’d ones may explicitly NOT be used in conjunction with this one, and there is a reason for this: Psionic powers used in conjunction with augmented attacks don’t provoke AoOs. Non-personal powers are channeled via the weapon, on a miss, well, missing. Critical hits don’t apply the benefits to powers, thankfully.
Starting at 5th level, the voyager may use standard action-based combat maneuvers instead of weapon attacks as augmented attacks, which ties in with the Momentous Maneuvers ability also gained at this level. When spending momentum on a combat maneuver check, which the voyager now may, they gain +2 (untyped, should be typed) to combat maneuver checks per point of momentum spent, capping at 2 + ½ voyager level. I assume rounded down here, but the pdf doesn’t specify that. Damaging combat maneuvers now also allows for the application of the momentum bonus damage. Additionally, the voyager is treated as having Dexterity and Intelligence 13 for Combat Expertise, Improved Unarmed Strike and improved combat maneuver feats.
At 9th level, the voyager can manifest a psionic power with a manifestation time of 1 standard action or less before or after the augmented attack, which is not delivered through the weapon and needs not target the voyager. Double-cast? Ouch. This would be utterly broken – were it not for the hard cap on momentum/power points spent, which is the thing that keeps this mighty engine in check. At 17th level, this is further delimited, applying for psionic powers with a manifestation time of 1 round or less, before or after the augmented attack. Note that the no-AoO-caveat is global and applies to this second manifestation as well!
13th level nets the ability to expend psionic focus to teleport the distance she could have traveled via the blink or dash base abilities, make an augmented attack versus every creature directly between the start and end points of this movement, making one attack and damage roll versus every target, and momentum to enhance damage applies to the roll (OUCH). The damage decreases by -2 per attack that hits beyond the first. While aforementioned power channeling applies only one creature struck, this ability allows for the use of area or multi-target effects and apply it to every creature struck. This can be REALLY powerful, and looks odd to me. While the manifester level still caps the total points spent, this is one that may require some GM oversight. Personally, I am not confident in the tying of the cap to manifester level, as there are plenty of means to increase this. Tying this very powerful engine to class levels would have probably been more prudent.
Beyond momentum, the voyager also begins play with parallel initiative. When a voyager rolls initiative, they roll initiative for a parallel turn, the second roll at -8. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the voyager gains a+4 bonus to parallel initiative, culminating at +12 at 19th level. Abilities to reroll initiative may apply to either the regular or the parallel turn. Parallel turns may be delayed, as though a normal initiative. Okay, so, do fixed bonuses from class features and e.g. Improved Initiative also apply to the initiative of parallel turns? I assume no, but clarification would have been nice. During a parallel turn, a voyager can use a single parallel action she knows, and these are supernatural abilities, stemming from the alternative past/future/alternate reality selves. They require cognizant thought to use, so e.g. dominate would impede them, and parallel actions do not provoke attacks of opportunity, and movement and teleportation as a result of parallel actions do not trigger AoOs either. They require line of sight unless otherwise noted, though teleportation-based ones don’t require line of effect. Save DCs, if any, are DC 10 + ½ class level + Intelligence modifier, and Ability Focus may be used for parallel actions – for ALL of them. This should only apply to one, analogue to the usual use of the feat. The pdf has a “see page x”-reference left here.
A voyager learns the helping hand parallel action for free act 1st level, which allows for unattended object manipulation as though move/standard action had been spent; alternatively, this allows the voyager to preserve momentum, not losing half of it.
Parallel actions beyond this are grouped in different categories that are level-locked. At 1st level, the voyager gains two combat assistance parallel actions, chosen from a list of 5. The first lets you choose 3 skills from the class skills when gaining this ability; said skills plus AC and attacks may be aided another to the voyager or an adjacent ally. 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter increase the bonus by a further +1, and this bonus may not be affected by other abilities. The second ability allows for 5 ft.-movement or standing up from prone position, escape entanglement or grapple effects. Another allows a voyager to designate an adjacent square as additional origin for flanking purposes and for AoOs, adding class level to AoO-damage; another allows for a designation of a path that she may traverse at full speed, even if they would cost her additional movement. Does damaging terrain still apply? Charges and similar straight line-based movements may be freely changed, and movements in said squares does not provoke AoOs. Okay, can this be applied to 3D-movement? Can the voyager pass through damaging walls unimpeded? This needs clarification. There is also a parallel action that allows for a Will-save or lock the creature out of AOOs, or an Int-based feint.
3rd level unlocks 2 time manipulation parallel actions, chosen from a list of 3: The first is a movement boost at the cost of being temporarily staggered; the second is a rewind to the afterimage’s position, with psionic focus expenditure, including hit points tracked. (Temporary hit points in excess of maximum hp not included.) What’s afterimage? At 3rd level, the voyager may 1/round as a free action create an afterimage in Medium range. This afterimage has no physical reality, but may be treated as a source for parallel actions, and the afterimage may be moved at the parallel turn, with distance scaling. The afterimage may move in any direction, but not through obstacles that the voyager couldn’t pass through. Afterimages are translucent, and may be used to Stealth. While it’s evident from the verbiage, it’d have been nice for the ability to state explicitly that they don’t block line of sight or effect. Thirdly, we have the ability to pause, which duplicates time hop (not italicized properly) for targets adjacent to the voyager for 1 round. These creatures leave a phantom image behind, and, big kudos, targets can’t be kept in a loop, as there is a 1-round cooldown.
At 7th level, we get 2 manifesting support parallel actions, chosen from a list of 3. One allows for psionic focus regain as a move action or in conjunction with moving up to half her speed, or as a swift action if she has Psionic Meditation. Power echo lets the voyager hold an echo of a manifestation, getting half power points refunded if spamming the psionic power for a second time, but only for the second power. Good call: Doesn’t work with other power point refunds. Finally, we have a sae-penalty for those adjacent to the afterimage and the ability to use powers through the afterimage’ s location. 11th level unlocks one advanced assistance parallel action. Keep watch lets the voyager see invisible creatures that could be seen by both afterimage and regular position, and makes the voyager count as occupying regular and afterimage square for sensory purposes. Paradox shift nets a protection for a creature within 5 ft., granting 50% miss chance – both for attacks versus, but also regarding those executed by the target.
15th level provides one backup plan parallel action, chosen from a list of 2: Emergency stasis allows for the use of the parallel action and expenditure of the psionic focus as an immediate action to prevent the death of a target and place it in stasis for a limited number of rounds. Secondly, there would be the option to basically benefit from advantage on a single d20 roll, which also may be activated as an immediate action. Finally, 19th level yields the single parallel intrusion parallel action, which nets a single round’s worth of actions as though affected by temporal acceleration, wherein she does not get a parallel action, though. Thankfully, this one has a one-minute cooldown, making it just very, very, very powerful, and not utterly broken. Personally, I would have increased the cooldown to hours (plural), but that may be me, as the effect per se is incredibly strong.
Okay, that’d be the base parallel action engine. 4th level nets the ability to store excess power points from parallel timelines. This power point pool contains 1/3rd of her maximum power points (I assume rounded down). Including Intelligence modifier. Weird: Why isn’t this tied to any mechanical specialty? RAW, it just is a power point pool increase, when it kinda looks like it was at one point supposed to be tied into the parallel action engine. Also at 4th level, we have Expanded Knowledge as a bonus feat, and the option to choose a feat instead of a power known when leveling up thereafter, with the total number of maximum feats thus gained limited by class level. The feats available are governed by power-level replaced and are drawn from a fixed list, which is a nice angle. 5th level provides astral voyager, which nets astral traveler as a power known, and astral caravan as a psi-like ability that may be maintained for companions within close range. 10th and 15th level further improve this ability. 6th level nets ½ class level as a bonus to Knowledge checks and allows for their untrained use, and at 7th level, taking 20 no longer distracts the voyager re Perception and halves the time needed to take 20.
At 10th level, the voyager may use her swift action to use a parallel action, though the same action can’t be used twice in a given round. 11th level nets endless, which allows for the willing suspension or restart of the aging process. 14th level nets a separate HP pool equal to maximum hit points, and then allows the voyager to change hit point pools as a full-round action. Healing may be applied to active or non-active pools. At 16th level, we have 1/day psychic reformation that only targets herself, takes 10 minutes and applies no penalties. As a capstone, we have the ability to have a future self come back from an alternate timeline after the voyager dies, allowing for a second chance of sorts. Cool! When a voyager takes a PrC, momentum increases when manifester level would increase.
The pdf comes with a detailed and extensive list of favored class options that include exotic races such as samsaran and sylph etc. The pdf does provide a bit of advice on playing voyagers, and the pdf comes with two archetypes, the first of which would be the crossfire, who gains proficiency with simple weapons and firearms and light armor. The archetype gets gunsmith, and replaces accelerate at 1st level with slowed step, steady aim: This is Amateur Gunslinger and provides access to psionic deeds. Accelerate is instead gained at 3rd level, improving at 5th instead. The crossfire learns custom parallel actions at first level, which allows for mundane ammo rewinding and magical ammo reloading or broken condition negation. Nice: We get a crossfire parallel action that is a ranged maneuver based on Dexterity, which may be applied to multiple targets via psionic focus expenditure. The archetype comes with further customization options, summed up as “Focused Crossfire” – there would be a 3rd level custom parallel action that generates a beacon that can be used for line of sight and effect with the gun. Manifestation of speed may be modified to become bullet time at 2nd level, with the effects allowing for increased range via augmented attacks. Minor problem: RAW, this grants momentum by distance a bullet travels (shoot into the endless portal loop/abyss/air, etc.), which can theoretically be cheesed. It’s not something that’s bound to cause issues in game, but still something that requires an unnecessary interpretation. This should specify a fixed maximum, perhaps based on modified first and or second range increment. There also is a bullet-based area of effect attack. The replacement feat tricks may be replaced with a custom list.
The second archetype would be the metronome, who does not roll a separate initiative, instead rolling her own at -4, which improved by +2 at 4th and 7th level. Parallel actions occur on the metronome’s initiative count, either entirely before or after her regular actions. The pdf concludes with 9 feats: Amplified Momentum adds a bit of bonus damage to momentum-empowered attacks (note: When/if the crit-issue’s resolved, this should also specify here) and slightly increases the defensive options. Backtrack nets you a parallel action you don’t already have. (of your level or lower). Blink Ambush doesn’t work, as I couldn’t find the Slipstream Feint feat it’s built on anywhere in my psionic library. Bookmark requires the rewind parallel action, and allows you to rewind to a set location, with maximum distance governed by class level. Divert Perception and Fade from Memory allow for movement and hiding, and, with the latter feat, make nearby targets forget you. Faster and Faster increases accelerate’s speed-increase. Focused Swiftness nets you basically an extra psionic focus (!!!) that may be used for abilities taken during movement or ones that change position. What keeps this from being broken is simple: It does, thankfully, NOT provide synergy with Deep Focus et al. Independent Action lets you use your parallel action to reroll a save vs. mind-affecting abilities and allows you to retain control over the afterimage while under hostile control.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, though not perfect. On a rules-language level, the same can’t unfortunately be said: While, for the most part, the voyager is precise when dealing with highest echelon-level complexity rules constructs, there are quite a few snafus – missing “rounded down”-s are the least of them, with crit-multiplication, 3D-movement, missing feat and a couple of other hiccups adding to that. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with awesome full-color pieces, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a second, more printer-friendly version.
Michael Shih’s voyager (additional design by Forrest Heck) is not a stroke of genius, but a series of strokes of genius. It tackles not one (which would have been enough for most designers) high-complexity concept, no, it seamlessly blends multiple ones into a unified whole that actually manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. It also is easily the most frustrating class I’ve ever reviewed.
Why? Because this would be, no hyperbole, one of my, perhaps even THE favorite class of mine for the entirety of PFRPG, were it not for the hiccups and the fact that a developer should have hit this fellow a couple of times with the nerfbat. In the hands of even a halfway capable player, the voyager can be an extremely deadly class that most definitely, as written, wouldn’t make its way into my games, unless I was already playing a super high-powered Path of War-style game.
And this is such a pity. A few “either/ors” instead of “ands”, particularly at higher levels, a bit of streamlining in the rougher parts, and this could be the crowning jewel of psionic class design. I mean it. The angle is complicated, inspired and unique; the voyager can skirmish like no one’s business, but in its cool engines also invalidates classes beyond the obvious (no one is going to complain about surpassing the vanilla rogue), but this fellow is also kind of a psionic magus on speed (Get it? …Sorry, will put a buck in the bad pun jar…) that makes both the dread and cryptic weep. In a way, much like the highlord surpassing the previous commander classes, the voyager invalidates the skirmishing/skill classes – only that the power-discrepancy is even more pronounced. And usually, I’d just provide some advice on how to nerf the fellow, but here, there is so much to account for, that it honestly would require a pretty long dev-pass by someone well-versed in the intricacies of class-design to tinker with the class.
Which leaves me torn. The class has a couple more glitches on the rules-side than usual for Dreamscarred Press, but I can see groups favoring high-powered games, particularly ones wherein players enjoy complex classes, considering this guy to be a pure work of art. Heck, I do consider the voyager to be brilliant – Top Ten material, in fact. However, as presented, I can’t recommend the class as unanimously as I desperately want to. The voyager is frustrating to me, because it has all the makings of being my favorite class ever. Sooner or later, when I have some time on my hands, I will sit down, flex the ole’ dev-muscles, and tinker with it until I’m happy with it, but as a reviewer, I can’t rate a hypothetical. One of the reasons this review took so long was that I was desperately hoping for an update to ease my concerns and sand off some of the rough spots.
I still hope this update comes, and I’ll be the first to heap the praises on this class that its unique and amazing concepts deserve. As written and presented, though, it is a flawed masterwork, a class that needs nerfing, and that needs some polish in the intricacies of its mechanics. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars…and while I should round down, I honestly can’t bring myself to doing so. This class is anything, but it is neither common, nor mediocre. It is exceptional, and I hope, with all my heart, that it gets the polish it deserves – as provided, it is a piece of artful design, drunk on its own power.
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