Soulknife Skirmisher

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By Proven Paradox at Divided by Zero.

The Soulknife is a neat idea. A character producing a weapon from the power of one's mind or soul is a compelling and fairly common theme in fantasy. The DnD 3.5 equivalent is the Soulknife, which is an incredibly weak class. The commonly agreed upon problems are as follows:

  • The defining class feature--the Mindblade--is utterly sub-par. If the weapon is the focus of the class, it should be noticably and obviously more powerful than the weapon of another warrior of equal level. It's also restrictive. If you want to make anything but a sword, you have to take a feat for it. The enhancements you can give it are also artificially and needlessly limited. Switching between different enhancements is also a stupidly time-consuming affair, unless again, you take feats.
  • Psychic Strike. It's a neat trick at low levels, but when full attacks become available, Psychic Strikes become less useful.
  • Low BAB. This one is perhaps debatable. I see Soulknife as a skirmisher class like Rogue and Scout, which means that full BAB isn't necessarily suitable. However, if one is making a weapon with one's mind, one likely wants to focus on using it. A warrior Soulknife is needed.
  • Armor Proficiency. Again, this is debatable for the reasons above, but when viewing Soulknife as a front line warrior, light armor is not sufficient.
  • Psionics. Soulknife is a 'psionic class' that doesn't have anything psionic about it other than a worthless feat that gives it a couple of power points at first level so it can have psionic focus. This is nonsense.

A few players for an upcoming game have expressed interest in playing something with Soulknife involved, and in each case the class would work out well for them thematically. You can use the Soulbound Weapon ACF for the Psychic Warrior, but it doesn't have quite the same feeling to it, and it runs into problems with the Psychic Warrior's very limited power point pool. As such, I have decided to re-write the Soulknife as two separate classes. To see the other class, check out the Soulknife Battlemaster.

Contents

The Soulknife Skirmisher

Hit Die: d6

Class Skills The Soulknife Skirmisher's class skills (and the key ability for each) are Autohypnosis (Wis), Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Int), Gather Information (Cha), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (psionics) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Open Lock (Dex), Profession (Wis), Psicraft (Int), Search (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Spot (Wis), Use Psionic Device (Cha), and Tumble (Dex).

Skill Points at 1st Level (6 + Int modifier) ×4.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level 6 + Int modifier.


The Soulknife Skirmisher

LevelBase Attack BonusFort SaveRef SaveWill SaveSpecialPP/DayPowers KnownMaximum Power Level Known
1st+0+0+2+2Mindblade (Masterwork), Throw Mind Blade, Trapfinding0*11
2nd+1+0+3+3Psychic Strike +1d8111
3rd+2+1+3+3Mindblade (+1), Mind Blade Enhancement, Bonus Feat221
4th+3+1+4+4Enhancement Set (2)321
5th+3+1+4+4Mindblade (+2), Psychic Strike +2d8431
6th+4+2+5+5Bonus Feat642
7th+5+2+5+5Mindblade (+3), Enhancement Set (3)842
8th+6/+1+2+6+6Psychic Strike +3d8, Swift Strike1052
9th+6/+1+3+6+6Mindblade (+4), Swift Manifestation1252
10th+7/+2+3+7+7Bonus Feat, Enhancement Set (4)1462
11th+8/+3+3+7+7Mindblade (+5), Psychic Strike +4d82073
12th+9/+4+4+8+8Knife to the Soul2673
13th+9/+4+4+8+8Mindblade (+6), Enhancement Set (5)3283
14th+10/+5+4+9+9Psychic Strike +5d8, Bonus Feat3883
15th+11/+6/+1+5+9+9Mindblade (+7)4493
16th+12/+7/+2+5+10+10Enhancement Set (6)52104
17th+12/+7/+2+5+10+10Mindblade (+8), Psychic Strike +6d860104
18th+13/+8/+3+6+11+11Bonus Feat68114
19th+14/+9/+4+6+11+11Mindblade (+9), Enhancement Set (7)76114
20th+15/+10/+5+6+12+12Psychic Strike +7d8, Living Weapon86124
*The Soulknife Skirmisher gains no power points from his class at 1st level. However, he does add any bonus power points he gains from a high Charisma score, his race, and feats or other sources to his reserve. He can use these points (if any) to manifest his power.


Class Features

All the following are class features of the Soulknife Skirmisher (henchforth referred to simply as Skirmisher).

Weapon and Armor Proficiency Skirmishers are proficient with all simple and martial weapons. They are proficient with light armor, but not with shields.

Power Points/Day A Skirmisher’s ability to manifest powers is limited by the power points he has available. His base daily allotment of power points is given on Table: The Soulknife Skirmisher. In addition, he receives bonus power points per day if he has a high Charisma score (see Table: Ability Modifiers and Bonus Power Points). His race may also provide bonus power points per day, as may certain feats and items. A 1st-level Skirmisher gains no power points for his class level, but he gains bonus power points (if he is entitled to any), and can manifest the single power he knows with those power points.

Powers Known A Skirmisher begins play knowing one Skirmisher power of his choice. He unlocks knowledge of a new power as indicated on Table: The Soulknife Skirmisher.

Choose the powers known from the Soulknife Skirmisher power list. (Exception: The feats Expanded Knowledge and Epic Expanded Knowledge do allow him to learn powers from the lists of other classes.) He can manifest any power that has a power point cost equal to or lower than his manifester level.

The total number of powers a Skirmisher can manifest in a day is limited only by his daily power points.

A Skirmisher simply knows his powers; they are ingrained in his mind. He does not need to prepare them (in the way that some spellcasters prepare their spells), though he must get a good night’s sleep each day to regain all his spent power points.

The Difficulty Class for saving throws against Skirmisher powers is 10 + the power’s level + his Charisma modifier.

Maximum Power Level Known A Skirmisher begins play with the ability to learn 1st-level powers. As he attains higher levels, he may gain the ability to master more complex powers.

To learn or manifest a power, a Skirmisher must have a Charisma score of at least 10 + the power’s level.

Mind Blade (Su) As a move action, a Skirmisher can create a semisolid weapon composed of psychic energy distilled from his own mind. This can take the form of any melee weapon with which the Skirmisher is proficient, including exotic weapons. For simplicity, "mind blade" refers to any weapon created this way, included weapons that are not actually bladed. The Skirmisher chooses what shape the mind blade takes every time he creates it.

The weapon can be broken: it has hardness 10 and hit points appropriate for whatever form it currently takes. Should the weapon be broken, a new one can be made on the Skirmisher's next move action. The moment he relinquishes his grip on his weapon, it dissipates (unless he intends to throw it; see below). A mind blade is considered a magic weapon for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

A Skirmisher can choose mind blade for feats requiring a specific weapon choice, such as Weapon Specialization. He gains the benefits of said feat no matter what form the mind blade currently takes, but the effects of taking such a feat for a mind blade and for a mundane weapon do not stack (i.e. Weapon Focus (Mind Blade) and Weapon Focus (Greatsword) do not both function if the Skirmisher's mind blade takes the form of a greatsword). Powers or spells that upgrade weapons can be used on a mind blade.

A Skirmisher’s mind blade improves as he gains higher levels. At first level, the weapon is of masterwork quality. At third level and every two levels thereafter, the blade gains a cumulative +1 enhancement bonus. See Mind Blade Enhancement below for more details.

Even in places where psionic effects do not normally function (such as within a null psionics field), a Skirmisher can attempt to sustain his mind blade's power by making a DC 20 Will save. On a successful save, the Skirmisher maintains his mind blade as normal for a number of rounds equal to his class level before he needs to check again. On an unsuccessful attempt, the mind blade loses its enhancement bonus, though the basic blade (still of masterwork quality) remains.

The Skirmisher may shape more than one mindblade for use in two-weapon fighting. Doing so requires more power, causing the two shaped weapons to be less powerful individually. Whenever a Skirmisher shapes two mind blades, the enhancement bonus on both is reduced by one. He can shape more than two weapons (such as for multiweapon fighting) but each additional weapon shaped reduces the enhancement bonus on all weapons by one. If shaping additional blades would reduce the weapons from +1 to +0, the weapons are masterwork. Shaping an additional weapon when the blade(s) shaped is of masterwork quality causes all weapons to become non-masterwork, and no more additional blades can be shaped thereafter.

Skirmishers proficient with shields (which requires a feat or multiclassing) can shape their mindblade into a shield. Doing so counts as an additional weapon, and has all the effects described above. A mindshield can be used for shield bashes, but cannot be enhanced as a weapon for that purpose.

Throw Mind Blade (Ex) Skirmishers are able to throw their mind blades. The range increment depends on the size of the weapon: light weapons have a range increment of 30 feet, while a one handed weapon's increment is 15 feet, and a two-handed weapon's is 5 feet. If the base weapon type has a range increment, use whichever of these is better.

Whether or not the attack hits, a thrown mind blade then dissipates. A Skirmisher of 2nd level or higher can make a psychic strike (see below) with a thrown mind blade and can use the blade in conjunction with other special abilities (such as Knife to the Soul; see below).

Trapfinding (Ex) Skirmishers are able to find and disable magical traps. This functions exactly as the Rogue ability of the same name.

Psychic Strike (Su) As a move action, a Skirmisher of 2nd level or higher can imbue his mind blade with destructive psychic energy. This effect deals an extra 1d8 points of damage to the next target he successfully hits with a melee attack (or ranged attack, if he is using the throw mind blade ability).

A mind blade deals this extra damage only once when this ability is called upon, but a Skirmisher can imbue his mind blade with psychic energy again by taking another move action.

Once a Skirmisher has prepared his blade for a psychic strike, it holds the extra energy until it is used. Even if the Skirmisher drops the mind blade (or it otherwise dissipates, such as when it is thrown and misses), it is still imbued with psychic energy when the Skirmisher next materializes it.

At every three levels beyond 2rd (5th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 20th), the extra damage from a Skirmisher’s psychic strike increases by 1d8.

Mind Blade Enhancement (Su) Starting at third level, a Skirmisher's mindblade gains an enhancement bonus of +1, which improves by one every two levels after third. A Skirmisher may distribute these points freely between granting an enhancement bonus to attack and damage rolls or granting his weapon special abilities excluding those that are limited by daily uses (such as Stunning Surge), Spell Storing, or Power Storing. He may choose any weapon enhancement he pleases (or, if he has a shield shaped, he may apply any armor enhancement he wishes). Unlike with mundane weapons (and armor), he does not have to have a minimum enhancement bonus of +1 before he applies special weapon abilities, nor does he have a maximum enhancement bonus of +5. Altering which weapon enhancement his blade currently carries requires half an hour of uninterrupted meditation, after which he may re-assign his enhancement bonus any way he chooses.

Note, a mindblade whose enhancement bonus exceeds 5 does NOT penetrate DR/epic. At 21st level, the Skrimisher's mindblade does this automatically, regardless of the weapon's enhancement bonus.

Bonus Feat (Ex) At third level, and again at sixth level and every four levels thereafter (10th, 14th, 18th) the Skirmisher may select a feat from the following list for which he meets the prerequisites: Adamantine Mind Blade, Align Mind Blade, Combat Manifestation, Dodge, Expanded Knowledge, Far Shot, Improved Psionic Sidestep, Mental Leap, Mind Strike Focused, Mobility, Narrow Mind, Psionic Body, Psionic Charge, Psionic Dodge, Psionic Meditation, Psionic Sidestep, Quick Draw*, Run on Air, Silver Mind Blade, Speed of Thought, Spring Attack, Up the Walls, Weapon Focus (Mindblade), Greater Weapon Focus (Mindblade).

  • The Quick Draw feat allows Skirmishers to shape their mind blade as a free action. This means that they can throw their weapon as many times as their BAB will allow during a full attack, and they can also reshape their weapons during a full attack. This means that each attack may come from a differently shaped weapon. Some Skirmishers like to re-shape their weapons as they fight to keep their foes off balance.

Enhancement Set (Su) Beginning at fourth level, a Skirmisher may quickly switch between a limited number of pre-determined mindblade enhancement configurations. At fourth level, he may have two such enhancement sets. Every three levels thereafter (7th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 19th), the number of sets the Skirmisher can have prepared increases by one. Switching between these sets is a swift action. A Skirmisher may chose to re-arrange all of his sets after thirty minutes of meditation. It is not necessary for different sets to have different arrangements. Abilities must be listed in the order in which they would be lost to effects that would reduce the Skirmisher's enhancement bonus (such as manifesting multiple weapons). In the case of manifesting multiple mindblades, each blade uses a different enhancement set. Skirmishers who shape shields can have that shield default to providing its entire enhancement bonus as AC, or dedicate one of their enhancement sets to containing shield properties.

Swift Strike (Su) Starting at 8th level, a Skirmisher may charge his blade to make a Psychic Strike as a swift action, allowing him to both charge a Psychic Strike and make a full attack in the same round.

Swift Manifestation (Su) Beginning at 9th level, whenever a Skirmisher manifests a power that enhances his mind blade, if the manifesting time was a standard action, it decreases to a swift action.

Knife to the Soul (Su) Beginning at 12th level, when a Skirmisher executes a psychic strike, he can choose to substitute Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma damage (his choice) for extra dice of damage. For each die of extra damage he gives up, he deals 1 point of damage to the ability score he chooses. A Skirmisher can combine extra dice of damage and ability damage in any combination.

The Skirmisher decides which ability score his psychic strike damages and the division of ability damage and extra dice of damage when he imbues his mind blade with the psychic strike energy.

Living Weapon At 20th level, a Skrimisher has honed his psionic abilities to the point that his mental power causes him to undergo a physical transformation into a living weapon. He gains DR 10/Adamantine (which stacks with DR provided to him by any powers he manifests) and treats his mindblade (whatever form it currently takes) as one size larger when determining its damage dice.

Once per day as a free action, he may enter a state of psionic overdrive, which causes his mindblade to glow with a brilliant light. While in this state, his Psychic Strike ability is constantly charged, requiring no action from the Skrimsher to maintain. This state lasts for one minute. While in overdrive, he may only utilize his Knife to the Soul ability once per round.

Soulknife Skirmisher Powers

First level

  • Burst
  • Catfall
  • Chameleon
  • Compression
  • Distract
  • Float
  • Force Screen
  • Inertial Armor
  • Metaphysical Weapon*
  • Prevenom Weapon*
  • Synesthete

Second level

  • Animal Affinity
  • Body Equilibrium
  • Concealing Amorpha
  • Darkvision, Psionic
  • Dimension Swap
  • Dissolving Weapon*
  • Energy Adaptation, Specified
  • Hustle
  • Levitate, Psionic
  • Wall Walker

Third level

  • Concealing Amorpha, Greater
  • Dimension Slide
  • Ectoplasmic Form
  • Escape Detection
  • Evade Burst
  • Keen Edge, Psionic*
  • Ubiquitous Vision

Fourth level

  • Dimension Door, Psionic
  • Energy Adaptation
  • Freedom of Movement, Psionic
  • Truevenom Weapon*

[*]These powers affect a Soulknife's mindblade. A Soulknife can only affect his or her own mindblade with these powers, not other mundance weapons. They are also quickened by Swift Manifestation when the Soulknife gains that ability.

Analysis

So, with this version, several things happen. First, it's much clearer that this character is supposed to be a light fighter more like a Rogue or Scout than a frontliner. With expanded skill selection, a Soulknife Skrimisher can replace the party Rogue.

The weapon isn't strictly stronger--both this version and the original cap out at an equivalent to a +9 weapon--but it still comes out better because it can break the rules others have to deal with. Yes, a level 20 Fighter will be using a +1 <Horrid String of Special Abilities Totaling 8> weapon with Greater Magic Weapon cast on it in the morning, but a Soulknife can switch between a +9 weapon (which that Fighter will never see pre-epic) and <Horrid String of Special Abilities Totaling 9> weapon as the situation calls for it. It gains power not in the form of pure strength, but in versatility. It also loses the problem of being so restricted on weapon choices. Any other class with martial weapon proficiency can pick up a greatsword from level one. Now, so can the Soulknife. In addition, it's no longer arbitrarily limited to a few rather weak enhancements.

Psychic Strike now does a bit more damage, and can be used on a full attack. A rogue getting sneak attack on multiple strikes will still do a lot more damage, but the Soulknife can at least compete now.

And finally, the Soulknife is properly psionic. It doesn't have the power points to manifest strong powers that often, but it does get a few good powers to enhance mobility and make its attacks stronger.

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