The onslaught of Unearthed Arcana continues for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, and this time we’ve been presented with Mk. III of a UA subject: the psionic Mystic! The two previous iterations of the Mystic included a limited number of builds and only got as far up the ladder as Level 10, but this time we have all 20 levels and another four builds to work with. Psionics can always be an interesting subject for D&D, and with unique mechanics and loads of new material there’s a lot to mull over here, so let’s dig through it and see what the Mystic has to offer!
As mentioned, this is the third time that Unearthed Arcana has featured the Mystic class. It started with Levels 1-5, and with two different builds, the Awakened and the Immortal. Meet the Party actually built one of each, that time. The second outing tweaked a few things, and took the Mystic up to Level 10. This third venture, however, sends the class all the way up the ladder to Level 20, showing off several more class features. It also adds four new builds: Avatar, Nomad, Soul Knife, and Wu Jen. As I did with the Artificer when it got its full class spread, I’m going to go over the universal class features first, then dig into the various builds.
The first thing in the document is Eccentric Minds, a purely narrative part of the class that’s very similar to the quirks of the Phoenix Soul sorcerer; in fact, it includes a 20 item long list of mental quirks and habits to choose from. Seeing more of this sort of thing is nice; even if a player doesn’t want to use the options available, it can be good inspiration for giving life to your character. More please!
A d8 Hit Die and Light Armor/Simple Weapons proficiencies are basic enough. Saving Throws have changed from the original version to Intelligence and Wisdom, putting the Mystic’s main characteristic in the docket, but there’s a little more to that we’ll address later. The skill list, of which you gain two, is quite varied which will work well with the equally varied builds. Starting equipment isn’t anything flashy, although there is an alternative option which lets you just take gold and pick what you want. Have they done this before? They might’ve, and I just missed it. Anyway it’s a nice touch, and actually might be quite useful for some builds who will want different starting gear to fit their abilities.
Psionic Talents are the psionic equivalent of cantrips, in that they’re of relatively low power but they don’t cost resources to use. I like the idea, but I’m not so sure about the execution. There’s not very many Talents in the article, to start, and many of them could be read as “like insert wizard spell here, but for Mystics”. You also don’t get very many of them to use: the maximum number of Talents a Mystic can learn is 4, and you won’t reach that number until Level 17. Perhaps that is to encourage you to use Disciplines, but overall the Talents section just failed to grab me.
Psionic Disciplines are what it’s all about with the Mystic, powered by Psi Points. A variety of powers with a variety of effects for each one, so that they provide many more options than may be apparent after only looking at the “Disciplines Known” column. You’ll need that variety, because you don’t learn many Disciplines: only 1 at Level 1, and a maximum of 8 by Level 18. However many builds have a feature which gives you additional Disciplines, and the Disciplines are actually divided up by build. Not in what you’re allowed to take, thankfully, but rather what fits thematically with your build. The rate at which you gain Psi Points still seems a little strange to me, especially the fact that you don’t gain any between Levels 11-18, but they haven’t adjusted any of the numbers in Level 1-10, so it’s clearly a design choice.
Psi Limit puts, well, a limit on how many Psi Points a character can use in a Discipline every time they break it out. This puts a cap on how powerful a Discipline can be at lower levels, while letting them feel more powerful as you level up and can pour more points into them. Psychic Focus mimics Concentration, in that every Discipline has a Focus effect; you can use a bonus action to activate it, and it sticks around until you’re incapacitated or choose a different Discipline’s effect to activate. You can only have one Focus effect at any time, but it doesn’t keep you from otherwise using other Disciplines, and unlike Concentration you won’t lose it just because you took a bad hit. And since it’s not actually Concentration, this means that a Mystic can have more than one ongoing effect at a time.
Mystical Recovery kicks in at Level 2, using a bonus action to heal the Mystic equal to the psi points just spent on a Discipline. Telepathy also kicks in at Level 2, and is more or less exactly what you expect – although the range of 120 ft is quite useful. Strength of Mind has been moved to Level 4, and now allows the Mystic to replace their Wisdom saving throw proficiency every rest. A very versatile ability that rewards the Mystic who takes note of what they’re going to be going up against and/or gets lucky, and I think it was a good choice to move it up from a Level 1 ability. I also think that making Intelligence the immutable saving throw this time instead of Wisdom makes a lot more sense.
Potent Psionics adds psychic damage to the Mystic’s weapon attacks at Level 8, with an increase of that damage at Level 14. That’s nice, but some builds are going to love it and some aren’t going to care very much. But it also adds the Mystic’s Intelligence bonus to all Psionic Talent damage rolls, which almost every Mystic will appreciate. Consumptive Power gives the Mystic more power at Level 10 at a potentially dangerous cost. Once per long rest, when activating a Discipline, the Mystic may spend Hit Points instead of Psi Points. This reduces both the current and maximum hit points, and the maximum doesn’t go back to normal until you’ve finished a long rest. It’s a useful emergency measure, but using it too soon may end up costing you your life.
Psionic Mastery kicks in at Level 11 and gives the Mystic access to a pool of special Psi Points, which can be spent on any Discipline that requires an action or bonus action to activate. You can tap into this pool once per long rest, and any unspent points don’t stack with your total. You do gain more of these special points at Level 15, and extra chances to tap into them at 13, 15, and 17. What’s particularly interesting about these is that, if multiple Disciplines activated with these special points require Concentration, the Mystic can concentrate on all of them at the same time. Along with Psychic Focus, this allows the Mystic to have a staggering number of effects ongoing. It’s a lot of bookkeeping, I think, but potentially very powerful.
Finally, Psionic Body caps the class at Level 20, and grants the Mystic permanent benefits: resistance to bludgeoning/piercing/slashing damage, cessation of aging, immunity to disease and poision, and a chance to discorporate for a few days instead of dying. The first and the last are quite powerful, the two in the middle are a little underwhelming. The chance to get out of death also has problems. First, the chance to effectively undo death on a 10+ result on a d20 might be too much. Even if it’s not, it takes you out of action for 1d3 days. While it’s a nice effort to balance the ability, I can see removing a character/player from the game for 3 days – at Level 20 – causing huge headaches for player and DM alike.
The various Mystic Orders, of which there are six in the article, serve as the different builds for the Mystic. They’re chosen at Level 1, making them like the Cleric, Warlock, etc, who know what to expect from the start. And, like the Cleric’s Domains, the Orders drastically alter what kind of Mystic you’re going to be dealing with.
Order of the Avatar
The Avatar Mystic is the Ardent of 4th Edition resurrected, in that it’s a better armored psionic character who specializes in boosting and healing their allies while hampering enemies. They gain two bonus Avatar Disciplines at Level 1, in addition to proficiency with medium armor and shields. The Avatar of Battle feature at Level 3 projects an aura which improves allied initiative. Avatar of Healing lets allies regain additional hit points equal to the Mystic’s Intelligence modifier whenever they’re healed by a psionic Discipline. Avatar of Speed at Level 14 projects an aura which allows allies to use the Dash action as a bonus action.
The Avatar Disciplines are all either a “Crown of” or Mantle of”. The three Crown Disciplines target enemies, varying between damage dealt, various harmful effects, and some forced movement. The Mantle powers vary a little when it comes to target, but stick with the Avatar theme of using emotions whether it’s using Command to coordinate allies or Fear to send enemies running for the hills.
Order of the Awakened
One of the original orders returns! The Awakened Mystic gains two bonus Disciplines as well from the Awakened list, and two extra skill proficiencies from a broad list. At Level 3 Psionic Investigation allows the Awakened to become a great detective, reading objects or turning them into tracking devices or scrying tools. The 6th Level Psionic Surge uses up the Mystic’s Psychic Focus, but in doing so imposes disadvantage on a saving throw to resist a Discipline or Talent. Spectral Form lets the Mystic turn into ‘a ghostly figure of psionic energy’ with an action at Level 14, one per long rest, allowing them to phase through objects and creatures while resisting all damage.
The Awakened Disciplines have a little bit of utility with things like Aura Sight, some defense with Intellect Fortress, and a number of purely psychic attacks with Disciplines like Psychic Assault.
Order of the Immortal
The second of our original Orders returns and it’s as sturdy as ever, maybe even more so. It definitely still reminds me strongly of the 4th Edition battleminds. It gains two bonus Immortal Disciplines (aha, a pattern seems to be forming), while Immortal Durability grants it an extra HP per level. Immortal Durability also lets the Mystic add Constitution as well as Dexterity to AC so long as no armor or shield is worn. The Level 3 Psionic Resilience grants the Mystic temporary HP at the start of every turn, equal to Intelligence mod (min 0), so long as 1 regular HP remains. At Level 6 Surge of Health lets the Immortal Mystic spend their Psychic Focus as a reaction to halve the damage of a single incoming attack. Finally, at Level 14, Immortal Will grants the Mystic another use for Psi Points: at the end of a turn in which the Mystic has 0 HP, they can spend 5 psi points to regain HP equal to Level + Con modifier.
The Immortal Disciplines largely focus on altering the Mystic’s body in some way for a wide variety of effects: changing size, gaining bestial traits, becoming tougher or faster, or even on gaining poison attacks. Psionic Restoration stands out as being able to heal both the Mystic and their allies, depending on how it’s used. That’s one the Avatar probably wants to pick up too.
At first glance the Immortal seems to suffer from extreme Multiple Attribute Dependency, but that’s not really true: aside from Psionic Resilience, the Immortal doesn’t seem to actually use Intelligence for anything. What you end up with is, well, just like the battlemind: a character who doesn’t kill you with their mind literally, but who kills you with their mind in that they convince themselves that they’re stronger than you. And then suddenly they actually are.
Order of the Nomad
As the name might give away, Nomad Mystics are all about traveling. Two bonus Nomad Disciplines as expected, but Breadth of Knowledge allows for a rotating roster of skills. At the end of a long rest the Nomad Mystic gains proficiency in two skills, two tools, or one of each, and can instead replace one or both of those choices with a new language. Those benefits stick around until the start of the next long rest. Memory of One Thousand Steps kicks in at Level 3 to provide the Mystic with a reaction that, when hit with an attack, lets them teleport to a space they previously occupied and force the attack to instead miss. This recharges every rest. Superior Teleportation starts adding an additional 10 feet to all Discipline-granted teleportation at Level 6. Effortless Journey begins at Level 14: once per turn the Nomad Mystic can forfeit up to 30 feet of normal movement to instead teleport that same distance.
The Nomad Disciplines are smaller in number than most, making it easier for the Nomad Mystic to get every power of their build before shopping around; they also tend to have ‘Nomadic’ in the name, aside from Third Eye. Unsurprisingly most of them have to do with traveling, whether that’s the teleportation of Nomadic Step, the mental projections of Nomadic Mind, or the stealth of Nomadic Chameleon. Overall the Nomad looks like a lot of fun, and is sort of the rogue/ranger of the Mystic world.
Order of the Soul Knife
This order is unique in that it doesn’t gain any bonus Disciplines, and in fact there are no Disciplines specifically classified for the Soul Knife. Instead this build gains proficiency with medium armor and martial weapons, and gains the Soul Knife. This ability conjures a blade of psionic energy in each hand with a bonus action, with each qualifying as a martial melee weapon with light and finesse that deals 1d8 damage. As a bonus action you can prepare a parry, which gives +2 to AC. Hone the Blade at 3rd Level lets the Mystic spend Psi Points to enhance their Soul Knives, spending a bonus action and granting a bonus to both attack and damage rolls for 10 minutes. By 9th Level, with the Mystic Psi Limit at 7, the Soul Knives can gain a +4 bonus. At Level 6 Consumptive Knife lets the Mystic regain 2 psi points after killing an enemy. At Level 14 Phantom Knife gives up the second attack granted by the build’s second Soul Knife to make an Attack action that treats the target’s AC as 10.
While it will have fewer Disciplines at its disposal, the lack of any that it was has to take ensures that the Soul Knife build could be quite different depending on the character. I can see the Soul Knife needing some tweaks, though; a +4 from Hone the Blade will make the build’s primary feature quite deadly, particularly with Potent Psionics in play, and Phantom Knife will make it comically easy to hit even a god.
Order of the Wu Jen
The Wu Jen Mystics are masters of the elements and the natural forces of the world around them. Surprise surprise they gain two bonus Wu Jen Disciplines, while Hermit’s Study grants an additional two skill proficiencies that will either cover academic knowledge or practical sense survival skills. Elemental Attunement lets Level 3 Wu Jen Mystics and up spend a psi point to let a Discipline ignore a target’s resistance, although it can’t if the extra point would pass the Psi Limit. Arcane Dabbler teaches the Mystic three wizard spells at Level 6, which can be of the 1st through 3rd spell levels. It also allows the Mystic to spend Psi Points to create spell slots, up to a 5th Level spell slot. Finally, the Level 14 Elemental Mastery lets the Mystic, as a reaction, spend 2 psi points to turn any resistance they have into a temporary immunity.
The Wu Jen Discplines are even more tightly organized than the Avatar’s, with each being a ‘Mastery of’ one thing or another. Air, Fire, Force, Weather, etc., are all options. This build reminds me strongly of a certain variety of monk, although that monk still focuses on punching people while the Wu Jen Mystic is definitely a caster first and foremost. If you ever wanted to play the Avatar from Avatar: The Last Airbender or Legend of Korra, though, I think we’ve got your build.
You know, when I was unearthing the artificer I commented that you probably couldn’t find two more different builds within the same class than the Alchemist and the Gunsmith. I . . . stand corrected. As you can see, by virtue of their different features and especially their predisposition towards certain Disciplines, each build has the potential to both feel and look like a very different character indeed.
Overall I think this article is a success. There are lots of cool things, the variety is top notch, and none of the builds seem any less useful than the others. Still, it definitely needs to be put through the playtesting wringer. There’s just a lot of new material to cover, between features and Disciplines, and nothing short of play time will reveal all the cracks.
That’s why I didn’t do a deep dive for every single Discipline: there’s just way too much to examine everything in detail, because even the simplest Discipline has three options counting the Focus one. Most have more. It’ll take research in the field to establish if any of them are broken one way or the other, and that will take characters.
Which is why a special Meet the Party will be presenting a Level 14 character for each build on Monday. Keep your minds sharp, and I’ll see you then!