There Is No Spoon
Ever since their early introductions to the game, psionics have been something of a dirty word in D&D. Psychic powers were a cool idea but they were built as a sort of separate thing that got dropped into an existing finely tuned machine. The end result was like trying to add a new engine part to a car by firing it out of a cannon at the engine block. Since that bad impression countless failed attempts to bring psionics into the game have been made, and mystics well… didn’t end up working out either. Still, they exist now in 5e as an unearthed arcana, and if your DM is game you’ve still got the opportunity to adventure using the power of your mind as the enigmatic mystic. So, center yourself and clear your mind as we go through everything you need to know.
What Are Mystics?
Psychics, wisemen, mentalists, mystics are masters of mental disciplines that distort and control reality through sheer force of intellect and will. They form secretive orders or isolate themselves as hermits, travelling an inner journey of the mind. They constitute their own unique class of adventurers, unraveling mysteries through telepathy, smashing foes through telekinesis, and solving problems through old fashioned wit. Mechanically they are hard to fully describe as they are very customizable but tend to play almost like a mixture of sorcerer and warlock, with numerous selectable features and a pool of points that power your better abilities. They can function as magic (ok psychic) damage dealers, party buffers, or with a bit of work can even be tanks and frontline fighters. It’s important though to reiterate though that mystics have only been published in unearthed arcana, which is meant as a testing ground, and it seems that WotC has largely abandoned them to the cutting room floor. This means that most DMs will take a heck of a lot of convincing to allow them.
Mystic Class Features
To take your adventure of the mind you’ll first need to understand the fundamentals of the class and how its features function. Here we’ll go into each unique feature gained by the mystic and how best to utilize them.
Hit Points and Proficiencies
To start with the mystic has a d8 hit die, and proficiency with light armor and simple weapons. This makes you a bit less squishy than a wizard and most pure casters, but you’ll need some work to do anything on the front line.
A TON of features get wrapped up in this core feature you gain at 1st level. I find that their structure and wording can be very confusing and difficult to parse with a half-dozen different parts each somehow starting with “psi”.
To start with, the class spends a lot of time explaining that your psionic abilities aren’t spells, but then proceeds to reiterate a ton of the parts of spellcasting as if they were spellcasting. To summarize:
- While you’ll do a lot of things that look and function like spellcasting, they’re not technically spells for things like counterspell or anti-magic fields.
- Your psionic abilities are Intelligence based for your “not-spell” attack bonuses and “not-spell” saving DCs.
- Your powers will use a lot of spell terminology like duration or areas of effect, all that stuff works exactly the same.
With that established, let’s get into all the many things that start with “psi” that you get with psionics:
These are halfway between cantrips and invocations and they’ll likely be your primary source of damage in the early levels. You start with 1 and gain a few more as you level up. We’ll go into them further but for now treat these as powered-up cantrips.
This is the resource that you’ll be spending to use most of your abilities. You get more points as you go up in level in honestly bizarre increments, starting with very few to tons of the things at later levels. You regain all your spent psi points on a long rest.
You pick out one discipline to start and get another one every two levels, and you’ll also get one or more bonus disciplines based on your mystic order. Each discipline is a set of features, including a psychic focus which is a “static” bonus, and a slew of both low and high tier abilities you can activate by spending psi points. These disciplines are going to be some of your main features and the source of a lot of your customization. They’re also divided into categories similar to magic schools, which matter for bonus disciplines you can pick up from your order.
Each of those psionic disciplines has a static bonus called a “psychic focus”. They don’t cost you anything to use but you can only have one of them active at a time, and you can switch between them as a bonus action without any cost.
Each discipline technically gives you access to every single feature in it, but soft locks the stronger ones with “psi limits”. You start with a psi limit of 2, and that slowly increases as you gain levels. Your psi limit is the maximum amount of psi points you can spend on a single ability, even if you have the points for it.
These are your class archetypes, and they offer a LOT of customization options, they will give you a lot of flexibility in your battlefield roles and flavor. Let’s briefly touch on each of them and what strategy they work towards:
Order of the Avatar
This order grants you medium armor and shield proficiency and is overall geared towards turning your mystic into more of a frontline fighter and party buffer similar to a paladin or bard. The avatar disciplines mirror this, and most of them either work to buff your allies or debuff your enemies.
Order of the Awakened
This order is more technical and gears you more towards a skill monkey/ utility caster. You pick up your choice of bonus skill proficiencies and the combat utilities are mostly control based. The awakened disciplines are on the same themes, with mostly skill and investigation-based abilities.
Order of the Immortal
This is the option you take if you’re looking to TANK. You get an insanely strong alternate AC that adds both your Con and Dex modifiers, and you essentially get half the tough feat for free (and this ability will also stack with toughness if you take it). Every part of the order comes together to make you downright hard to kill and a surprisingly effective tank.
Order of the Nomad
The core of the order is focused on mobility and teleportation, but the disciplines let you divert into a bunch of different playstyles. Nomad can work if you’re building more towards a stealthy scout build, a ranged psychic archery build, or flatly focusing on mobility and hit and run strategies.
Order of the Soul Knife
It’s pretty telling that soul knife was eventually reworked into a rogue archetype as the order shifts your mystic into the rogue dps role fairly well. You get a psychic knife, and you can pour psi points into it for bonuses to attacks and damage, and then get some points back whenever you manage to slay something.
Order of the Wu Jen
Thematically the order is all about elemental effects and to a certain extent pushes you towards the ranged dps wizard role. This order relies heavily on its disciplines and you’ll really need to focus on the elemental damage to get the best use out of it, though you’ll have some versatility in mixing and matching which elements.
At 2nd level you can use a bonus action to regain hit points when you activate your discipline abilities equal to the number of psi points you spent. Early on this is a bit of a token feature, but mid-tier it can be a decent buffer that can keep you in the game.
At 2nd level you also become straight up telepathic. No cost you can freely communicate telepathically with creatures within 120 feet and you don’t even need to share a language. This flatly and easily overcomes language barrier issues and can lead to some diplomatic solutions to situations your DM may not have thought of.
Strength of Mind
At 4th level you gain the strange ability to “swap” your proficiency in Wisdom saving throws to another ability during rests. It can be useful if you know what threats are coming up and you can essentially tailor your saves to match the threat.
At 8th level your combat abilities gain a massive boost, and you get to add psychic damage to any weapon attacks you make, and your Intelligence modifier to damage dealt by your talents. The weapon attack damage upgrades again at 14th.
At 10th level you get an emergency button that lets you spend hit points as if they were psi points. This would be abusable if it didn’t also reduce your hit point maximum, which makes it extremely dangerous to use. Think of this feature as permanently encased in glass that reads “break in case of emergencies”.
You gain this feature at 11th level, and it is poorly written to the point of outright confusion, but essentially this allows you to concentrate on additional psionic powers that require concentration. You get 9 “bonus special psi points” that you can spend on your disciplines, and the powers you activate don’t count as the one you’re “concentrating on”. At the very least, you can think of it as a bonus 9 psi points you can keep in your pocket for when they’re needed, and you’ll get more points and more uses of the ability at much higher levels.
Finally, at level 20 you get your capstone that makes you extremely tough and gives you a solid chance of reviving yourself if somebody manages to kill you.
Building a Better Mystic
Trying to lay out the best way to build your mystic is difficult, though I’d estimate the class overall is a tad overpowered so you don’t need to worry much about optimization.
Step one is always going to be prioritizing Intelligence. It’s your spellcasting (or psionics technically) ability and no matter what you work towards you’ll want it high.
Past that literally any other ability scores may be vital depending on your build.
Mystics can put evocation wizards to shame with a seemingly endless supply of FIREBALLS. Simply select the order of the wu jen, take the mastery of fire discipline, and select fireball as one of your spells gained through the arcane dabbler feature. Now at level 6, you can pour your psi points into 6 whopping castings of fireball compared to a wizard’s measly 3, each with a +2 damage bonus AND you have psi points left over to negate two creature’s fire resistance.
Order of the soul knife was strong enough to actually make it into the game as a rogue archetype, and quite frankly the final version was a nerfed form of what you see here. You get medium armor for a start, and by prioritizing Dexterity after Intelligence you can easily create a solid frontline fighter / scout. I recommend taking the brute force and the celerity disciplines to stack up speed and a quite frankly disgusting damage output.
Mystic TankMystics can make for surprisingly tough tanks. Select the order of the immortal and get your Dexterity and Constitution as high as possible. You should also take the iron durability discipline to push your AC even higher and a parry style block with the iron hide ability. At level 1 with a 16 in both Dexterity and Constitution you can have 17 base AC with the ability to “parry” up to 19 AC. All with a bunch of other psionic toys to play with.
Last updated: January 27, 2019
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