I Can See the Future!

The next classes in Pathfinder 2e have been announced. Next year’s summer-book “Dark Archive” will contain the Psychic – a returning spellcaster from 1e – and Thaumaturge – which is sort of returning? I’ll explain that at a later time. You can playtest the class right now by going here and downloading the current versions of the class.

Thaleon, New Iconic Psychic, by Paizo

One great thing about Paizo’s development is that they really take these playtests seriously. The people designing these classes are on the forums reading feedback, they go over hundreds if not thousands of surveys about the classes, and then they use the intervening months to address what they’ve found. Thinking back to Secrets of Magic, which just came out a month or so ago: the playtest for that was nearly a year ago, and one of the biggest complaints of the time – how Spellstrike was a metamagic ability for Magus that took all three actions – was completely reworked based on the community’s response. These playtests really do change how products wind up, and it really helps the developers working on them to create the best possible product. All this is to say: please download the playtest and let them know what you think! Even if you don’t play the classes, you can give your impressions so they know what looks fun to people. I’ve worked with some of these developers personally on freelance projects, and they’re great people. They really do value input!

Rivani, 1e Iconic Psychic, by Paizo

Now, back to Dark Archive. Psychic and Thaumaturge are the new character classes. I originally wanted to go over both classes in a review type post, but just going over one class was longer than some of my other posts. So instead, I’m going to do psychic now and come back for thaumaturge next.

Psychic is a spontaneous occult spellcaster with fewer standard slots but a unique ability called “Amp” which makes their “psi cantrips” quite a bit more powerful using focus points. They have a sort of spell-rage ability called “Unleash Psyche” where they gain some benefit and penalty (like rage does) for a few turns, during which they can more easily upgrade their cantrips.

Since these rules aren’t final and there’s bound to be more options related to the classes in the book, a lot is going to change. However, much like my post on the Magus, updating a playtest character with the full rules can give interesting insight into how the rules evolved. For this post, I’m going to go through the psychic options in the playtest. Once I have a chance to play it more, I’ll share a character build or two.

Psychic Basics

Psychic has a typical spellcaster chassis. A squishy 6 base hit points, expert will and trained fortitude, reflex, and perception, no armor, no martial weapons. As they level they get legendary will saves and occult spellcasting, and expert in just about everything else they get. Pretty basic. Their key ability score and spellcasting score can be either intelligence or charisma based on a class choice (see below). As written they don’t increase their perception proficiency, but that will almost certainly be changed.

A psychic only gets 2 spells per spell level, unlike other spellcasters that get 3 or 4 each. They also only get to choose 3 cantrips, but they get 2 bonus cantrips from their class choices as well as a focus cantrip. They also get bonus spells in their repertoire like a sorcerer’s bloodline. Notably, psychic starts with 2 focus points instead of 1, and it can regain both at once if they were used only on psychic stuff.

The class’s unique action “unleash psyche” is a psychic’s rage-like ability for 3 turns. You have to wait until turn 3 for basically every version of it, and you get some bonus at some cost. A very important part of it, however, is getting one free amp spell each turn it’s active. Regardless of what bonus you get, that is huge. The basic version everyone gets lowers your AC by 2 and increases non-cantrip damage by your level, which is nice. And a lot like rage.

Class Options

A psychic character makes two choices at creation for their ‘class path’ like a bard’s muse or a ranger’s edge: their subconscious mind and their conscious mind. Subconscious determines if you use intelligence or charisma for your spells and two other features.

  • Emotional Acceptance: Charisma spellcasting. Replaces verbal spell components with emotion components (functionally similar, still uses concentrate). If you’re under a harmful emotion effect, your cantrips heighten to one level lower than normal.
  • Precise Discipline: Intelligence spellcasting. Replaces verbal spell components with calculation components (same as before). You’re flat-footed when something attacks you while casting, and if you get disrupted you are stupefied until the end of next turn.
Alakazam, the Psi Pokemon, by GameFreak, The Pokemon Company, Nintendo

There’s a lot of flavor in here too. Each entries explains how their spellcasting components might work, like emotional acceptance funneling their fear into a spell to frighten an enemy, or precise discipline measuring exact amounts of force needed to move an object. Which is neat. There are also some class feats that require one or the other, which we’ll get to later.

Conscious mind (for now) has three options: distant grasp, infinite eye, and silent whisper. These give you bonus psi cantrips, bonus spells in your repertoire, a unique psi cantrip, and some feat options.

  • Distant Grasp: The telekinesis option, also the most damage focused. Lots of force and telekinesis spells. The surface psi cantrips are hit or miss; mage hand seems pretty worthless amped, but adding damage and a push to TK projectile is great. Telekinetic rend is fantastic amped or not as an area damage cantrip with a range. Finally, arrest trajectory is funny and pretty good as a reaction ability, especially when the amped version flings the projectile back at the source.
  • Infinite Eye: The clairvoyance and precognition option. The bonus spells are all solid buffs or information gathering, but lack any sort of combat prowess. Amping detect magic turns it into a small magic resistance, which is neat, but it really only does its job when in combat already. Guidance is super good in that it prevents critical failures on whatever the bonus is used on. No more tripped traps, extra safe saving throws! Mental scan is even cooler to me. Even unamped, it’s a Seek action that doubles as preparing to Aid that you can’t critically fail. Amped makes it like an area aid for your whole party in 30 feet without a check! I love it.
    Then… we come to… future path. For the sake of brevity, I will leave it at “this is awful and you should never take it.” Here’s a whole twitter thread about how garbage I think this spell is.
  • Silent Whisper: The telepathy option that’s sort of like a psychic pretending to be a bard. A wide variety of spells with utility, buffs, and control. Amping daze imparts weakness and a Will penalty, which is cool, but the real start here is message.
    When amped at 4th level, message becomes the most damaging cantrip in the game.
    How, you might ask? Amped message lets an ally in range (which goes from 120ft. to 500ft.) to Strike (and a few other things) as a reaction. So for one action and an ally’s reaction, you add a full Strike with no MAP to the combat.
    Then you get nudge intent which is a cool cantrip version of command with a possibility of frightening or stunning. Shatter mind is very close to haunting hymn, but amping it gives it a massive area and damage boost.

So in the end, distant grasp is the blasty-one, silent whisper is the utility/control-one, and infinite eye is the unfortunate-one.

Psychic Feats

Here we go. The meat and potatoes. Going over every feat in depth would take a long time, so I’m going to limit myself to a sentence or two each (mostly).

  • 1st-Level
    • Ancestral Mind: Make ancestry spells psychic. Really good or utterly worthless.
    • Counter Though: Counterspell but only for mental. Thematic and neat.
    • Mental Buffer: Mental resistance that increases when you unleash psyche. Not the best type to resist, but useful for this class.
    • Unleash Self-Defense: The reverse of your regular one. Less damage, more defense. Super good for some psychics.
  • 2nd-Level
    • Cantrip Expansion: Same as ever.
    • Mental Balm: Amp a friendly-psi cantrip for a bonus against emotions and counteracting frightened / stupefied conditions. Not bad, not great.
    • Warp Space: Amp a ranged-psi cantrip and reduce bonuses from cover, but still limited to the same range. Not bad if you plan to use cover yourself a lot.
  • 4th-Level
    • Psychic Beacon: Amp an offensive-psi cantrip to add faerie fire to it like starlit span magi. Good support option.
    • Spontaneous Ignition: Amp a damaging-psi cantrip to LIGHT THE TARGET ON FIRE! Small damage bonus and damage type-change, plus hilarious potential.
    • Strain Mind: Once per hour trade hit points for an amp when you normally couldn’t. Very useful, especially if you have some extra constitution.
  • 6th-Level
    • Inertial Barrier: Amp any cantrip to give you or a target physical damage resistance. Very nice and usable by anyone.
    • Parallel Breakthrough: Take a different conscious mind’s unique psi cantrip. A.k.a. one more reason you don’t take infinite eye. Take mental scan and run.
    • Sixth Sense: Kinda like trapfinding but… psychic-y? It’s not bad but not all that good either.
    • Thoughtform Summoning: Trade force and mental damage weakness for physical resistance on any creature you summon for no added cost or action. And it can move through enemy spaces. If you plan to summon at all, this is fantastic.
    • Unleash Calculated Reasoning (Precise Discipline only): While in this psyche, you can just average your damage. Take the max, half it, deal it. The end. No downside other than you can’t roll higher. Neat.
    • Unleash Soaring Passions (Emotional Acceptance only): If you succeed with a spell, succeed more. If you fail, fail more. Neat little juxtaposition with the above feat, and not bad since you can change tactics easily enough.
  • 8th-Level
    • Deeper Breakthrough: Grab the deeper psi cantrip from your conscious mind. Such a shame that infinite eye doesn’t get one of those while the other two do. Hopefully they fix that by the full release.
    • Lingering Psyche: Stay in psy-rage for 5 rounds instead of 3. You still can’t enter until turn 3, but this is still a huge help as it’s two more free amps if combat goes that long. And if it goes that long, you’ll want the amps.
    • Mental Static: Punish anyone who tries to mess with your brain. Fun!
    • Mesmerizing Gaze: The 1e psychic class got a full overhaul in 2e. The 1e mesmerist class was boiled down to its base components and put into class abilities and feats like this. And it’s still mediocre.
  • 10th-Level
    • Autonomic Clairvoyance (Infinite Eye only): +1 status bonus to initiative is great, as is deny-advantage. Too bad it’s not enough to make infinite eye worth it.
    • Autonomic Telekinesis (Distant Grasp only): Constant telepathy, cool! Except… it’s only out 5 feet. Like… your regular reach is, probably. And it can’t use fine dexterity. So… no.
    • Autonomic Telepathy (Silent Whisper only): Constant telepathy within 15-foot and a +1 circumstance bonus to detect a Lie (but only when using telepathy for some reason?). Still, constant mind-talk is cool.
    • Signature Spell Expansion: Same as ever.
    • Unleash Dark Persona: Remember the cavalier class’s challenge ability? It’s that but with spells. It’s like the default psyche but works on cantrips and the penalty is smaller. Not bad.
  • 12th-Level
    • Empathic Connection (Emotional Acceptance only): If your allies get an emotion benefit, you take some of it too as a reaction. With the right party make up, this is great.
    • Mantra of Discipline (Precise Discipline only): Use an action for a small bonus to illusion, enchantment, or ‘pain’ effects for 1 turn. That’s… very narrow and small for using an action.
    • Unleash Immediate Gratification: No need to wait until turn 3 or specific circumstances. Just go into psy-rage whenever you want for free amps! Downside is you stupefy yourself, meaning you might fail casting those spells. Still might be worth it for emergency amps.
    • Unleash Reflexive Sustainment: I love effortless concentration, but this is like a worse version of it. Doesn’t work the first time you Sustain, still doesn’t work the first turn you activate it (so you’re down to 1 action that turn), and only works two more times. Hard pass.
  • 14th-Level
    • Conscious Spell Specialization: Get bonus spell slots for your conscious mind spells. Pretty good depending on the spells.
    • Deep Roots: If you Control a creature or use command or something, the creature takes damage when the effect ends. Unfortunately the damage is pitiful, but it is automatic. Good if you’re already doing it.
    • Shatter Space: Amp any psi cantrip to turn yourself or a target into a one-turn vortex of BREAKING THE SPACE TIME CONTINUUM! For… slashing damage equal to a daze spell. The fact that this works with any psi cantrip is great though to add free damage during your psyche.
  • 16th-Level
    • Constant Levitation: PERMANENT FLIGHT! Not really. Permanent ignoring difficult terrain and medium-or-smaller-creatures taking up space. Free flight while psyched up though!
    • Unleash Poltergeist Phenomena: Did you like blasting things? How about automatically blasting everything around you every turn? Including yourself! Unfortunately inertial barrier doesn’t work with this, but if you have a good way of mitigating the damage, this is pretty decent and REALLY COOL.
  • 18th-Level
    • Cranial Detonation: This feat could describe the point of psychic spellcasting all on its own. If you manage to kill something with a psi cantrip, you can explode its head for area damage too. Psychic wants to be the cantrip class. It can do force damage or mental damage, target Fortitude or Will based on the damage type, and can be applied after the spell rather than before. This is a fantastically versatile feat. It also has the best sentence in all of Pathfinder: “If the cantrip reduced more than one foe to 0 Hit Points, choose one head to detonate.”
    • Deepest Wellspring: This is unfortunately super good for psychic. I say that because to take this you need to choose it over EXPLODING A CREATURE’S HEAD FOR AREA DAMAGE. But yeah it’s actually really good.
  • 20th-Level
    • Become Thought: Permanent physical resistance for permanent mental and “spirit” weakness. Fantastic. Cute little flavor option of reincarnating as long as someone remembers you.
    • Dual Amplification: Any time you amp, apply two of them. If you picked an amp feat that can apply to any psi cantrip or just a variety of amps, this is immensely powerful. Light things on fire and explode their heads with daze!
    • Mind Over Matter: Standard issue extra 10th-level spell slot.
    • Multifaceted Psyche: Like fusing stances for psychics. Not bad at all, since the default option triggers on turn 3 every time, meaning this always has the option of extra damage for an AC penalty on top of other psyches.

Conclusion

I wasn’t expecting to like the psychic much, honestly. As the bard enthusiast that I am, another spontaneous occult spellcaster will never live up to it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the class. There’s loads of flavor in there, way more than in 1e, and the mechanics of supercharging cantrips is really neat. The class paths are interesting and thematic, the psyches and amps seem fun, and tons of little interesting things here and there. The class definitely has some rebalancing and reworking to be done (especially the deeper psi cantrip that shall not be named) but it’s surprisingly robust already.

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