Randal Reads Dark Archive Playtest – Psychic

Welcome back to the continuation of the Dark Archive (Playtest) special review blog! If you missed the beginning, you can find it here where I discussed the playtest in general and an overview / summary of my thoughts. Today, we do a deep dive into the Psychic’s class features.


“The mind can perceive truths hidden to the sharpest instruments, hide more secrets than any tome, and move objects and hearts more deftly than any lever. By delving into both the conscious and subconscious aspects of your inner self, you’ve awoken to the might of psychic magic, allowing you to cast spells not through incantations or a spellbook but by the power of your will alone. While the thin line between your mind and reality means that a single errant thought could have unintended consequences for yourself and your companions, you know that anything is possible, as long as you can imagine it.”

Lifted directly from the opening text of the class, that is a wonderful introduction and peek at what you are about to get yourself into by playing a psychic.

Class Features

As with the Gunslinger and Inventor, this class is marked as Uncommon. I am guessing it is simply due them all being away from the norm for classic fantasy tropes?

Your Key Ability is determined by your Subconscious Mind, and the two choices link to Intelligence (Precise Discipline) or Charisma (Emotional Acceptance). This links up to how I understand the psychic’s place in media, either unlocking the mind or sheer force of will/personality. 6 HP (plus Con) matches up with our other “pure” casters (Sorcerer, Witch, Wizard) and is no real surprise here, and neither are the rest of the initial proficiencies, really. Perception (T),  Fortitude (T), Reflex (T), and Will (E). You get Trained Occultism (obvi) and 3 plus your Int other skills, simple weapons, unarmed attacks, unarmored defense, occult spell attack rolls and DCs, and are Untrained in all armor … which tracks as well.

Psychic Spellcasting

To further separate psychic spells from traditional spells, psychics replace the verbal and material components of spells. The material components are always replaced by somatic components, but the verbal component replacement depends on your Subconscious Mind. They are either replaced by Emotion (Emotional Acceptance) or Calculation (Precise Discipline) components, but either way they include the concentrate trait.

I think this is a nice way to provide a distinction between the styles of magic while not requiring a lot of rules fiddling that can really muddy up the waters. I remember that this was more or less the concept in the 1e occult classes, so it is nice to see that carrying over to keep some consistency in the lore.

Psychics are spontaneous casters, with spells per day, a repertoire, and signature spells. The chart only shows 3 cantrips and a max of 2 spell slots per day of any given level, which puts your repertoire and slots lower than a wizard’s slots … which is well below the spells of a sorcerer. You do get more in your repertoire based on your choice of Conscious Mind, at each spell level, bringing you in line with the wizard’s slots per day … but that is just your repertoire, not slots.

I really hope Psi Cantrips and Amps can do something about this lower number of spells.

Psi Cantrips and Amps

Psi Cantrips are the focus cantrip “unique” to psychics, except that they are really just cantrips that can use focus points. You gain 3 psi cantrips based on your Conscious Mind, two of which are common occult cantrips, and the third is a new psi cantrip just for that Conscious Mind. You will be able to boost or modify these cantrips with your amps, which is why they are separated from your other cantrips. Amps require 1 Focus Point to use, and you start with 2 Focus Points. Refocus allows you to regain 2 Focus Points if you have only used amps (to distinguish using them on other focus spells from other classes).

Subconscious Mind

There are two wolves inside you, and the first one is Subconscious. This determines how you access and use psychic magic. It determines your Key Ability and the Component you use to replace Verbal components with. Each also includes a weakness that it imparts upon you.

Emotional Acceptance – Charisma. The Emotion component description includes your feeling the emotion in some way (such as fear gripping your heart) as well as some manifestation (sense of growing melancholy). The included weakness is that if you are affected by a harmful emotion effect, you cantrips only heighten to 1 level lower than you can normally cast!

Precise Discipline – Intelligence. The Calculation component examples include you doing mental gymnastics (weigh two objects mentally) while manifestations appear (math symbols). The included weakness is that you are flat-footed against disruption attempts and stupefied if disrupted!

I think these are pieces are well described and easy to get a handle on. They each use a lot of words to get the point across, but once you have read it you will really only come back for that weakness during those random times it affects you. It seems like they only plan to have these two options, but I am kind of curious to see if a future product (be it from Paizo or Infinite) adds a Wisdom based option.

Conscious Mind

The second wolf inside you is, well, you. This choice determines your granted spells for each level, as well as your Surface Psi Cantrips and your Deeper Psi Cantrip. The playtest only includes 3 Conscoius Mind options, but I expect there to be more in the future … much as we have seen previously (I specifically remember Oracle, Witch, and Magus having more in release than playtest).

Distant Grasp

  • Granted Spells – magic missile, telekinetic maneuver, levitate, fly, telekinetic haul, wall of force, force cage, earthquake, and implosion
  • Surface Psi Cantrips – mage hand, telekinetic projectile, and the unique telekinetic rend
    • Telekinetic Rend (Cantrip 1) is a 2 action cantrip that lets you target a 5 ft burst within 30 feet of you, dealing 1d6 (either bludgeoning or slashing) damage to all within, with a basic Fortitude save. The damage increases every 2 levels.
  • Deeper Psi Cantrip – arrest trajectory
    • Arrest Trajectory (Cantrip 4) is a reaction that stops a projectile midair, providing a bonus to AC for the target.
  • Amps
    • Mage Hand – You can use Mage Hand to draw potions or weapons for you or an ally, assuming it is within range and Bulk.
    • Telekinetic Projectile – The damage becomes a d8 instead of d6, and on a crit you push them 5 ft away from you.
    • Telekinetic Rend – You add a second 5-foot burst within 30 ft and the damage 1d6 bludgeoning and 1d6 slashing
    • Arrest Trajectory – If you cause the projectile to miss, you can use telekinetic projectile to attack the attacker.

Ahh, yes, telekinesis. That old chestnut … but one I would very much expect when dealing with a “psychic” themed character. I think the granted spells/cantrips are spot on the theme, as well. Does telekinetic rend, and the amps for it, mage hand, and telekinetic projectile make up for the lowered spell slots (as compared to a wizard)? I am ignoring arrest trajectory in this, as it requires a feat to access it. I think the Mage Hand amp is really cool and flavorful, but possibly rarely used. The damage increase from TK Projectile is handy, and the push on crit is nice, but ultimately I can’t see using when TK Rend is right there (unless of course you are dealing with close quarters fighting).

Ok, time to put on my analysis hat. TK Rend is area damage (up to 4 creatures realistically) and choice of damage type (B/S) for two actions and unlimited uses. That’s nice. Compare it to a 2 action magic missile. 2d4+2 is roughly (2.5+1)*2 or 7 “average”. Never misses. If you TK Rend two targets at 1d6 each, you get 2d6 or 3.5*2 or 7 “average” as well. You do have to deal with the basic Fortitude, though. You can, possibly, target two more creatures with proper placement, making the numbers increase, but it is also less effective against a lone target … but it is a CANTRIP and thus usable all day long. Now, amp it up and you get to double the area AND double the damage!? And you can theoretically do that twice an encounter?

I am leaning on the side of optimism here, but I think TK Rend is likely good enough to count as a spell slot for the purposes of “balancing” spell slots with a wizard. Arrest Trajectory is a fun, well themed, option … but I feel like the simple +1/+2 AC is a tad “whomp whomp” for the great flavor and potential counter attack described.

Infinite Eye

  • Granted Spells – true strike, augury, clairaudience, clairvoyance, prying eye, true seeing, true target, unrelenting observation, and foresight
  • Surface Psi Cantrips – detect magic, guidance, and the unique mental scan
    • Mental Scan (Cantrip 1) is a 1 action cantrip that lets you seek a 30 ft cone and also enhance an Aid check to help an ally attack a target, automatically succeeding at the concealed flat check and possibly getting a failure instead of a critical failure on the Aid check.
  • Deeper Psi Cantrip – future path
    • Future Path (Cantrip 4) is a two action cantrip allows you to avoid reactions during a Stride.
  • Amps
    • Detect Magic – +1 save against magic you sense for 3 rounds, at 3rd you get +2 against a school detected, and at 4th you detect the exact location of the strongest magic.
    • Guidance – Critical failures using guidance are only failures.
    • Mental Scan – You learn highest/lowest save of your target, gain bonus to attack/damage, and a bonus on the Aid reaction.
    • Future Path – Stride twice. At 8th you can use this on an ally.

Ok, I really enjoy the flavor here, be it 3rd eye, intuition, or something else … I think the divinatory nature of every option here work together to build the theme. Again, I like that the amps for the “standard” psi cantrips are helpful but certainly situational; I don’t see myself needing to always use it, but I can really see situations that I would be glad to have it. Mental Scan … can it work to make up for another spell slot? I don’t know. I do feel like not critical failing is a good thing to have at will … but only for Aid attacks means you have to be built to aid others in combat, which I am not sure my untrained in armor 6 HP a level character will wanna do. The amp that provides a bonus to attack and damage against the target *is* nice, though it requires actually hitting the target by multiple allies to rack up the equivalent of another spell slot.

I am neutral to meh on this choice, at this time. Perhaps sitting down and building one out will change my mind, but I feel like I would end up with a niche character that is just “meh” the rest of the time.

Silent Whisper

  • Granted Spells – mindlink, remove fear, heroism, telepathy, synaptic pulse, sending, visions of danger, uncontrollable dance, and telepatic demand
  • Surface Psi Cantrips – daze, message, and the unique nudge intent
    • Nudge Intent (Cantrip 1) is a 2 action cantrip that lets you tell a target to do something (Strike/Cast/Skill) and it can either do the action or attempt a Will save to avoid, gaining various levels of Frightened based on the result.
  • Deeper Psi Cantrip – shatter mind
    • Shatter Mind (Cantrip 4) is a two action cantrip 15 ft cone that deals 3d6 mental damage (Will)
  • Amps
    • Daze – if the target fails its Will save, it gains weakness mental damage (1 or 3) and might be stunned. This value goes up every 2 levels.
    • Message – The target of your message and use a Reaction to Step or Stride. At 4th+ they can Shove, Strike, or Trip.
    • Nudge Intent – A target that fails the save is also stunned.
    • Shatter Mind – You can increase the cone to 30 or 60 feet.

The name made me think that this would be a debuffer, but there is quite a bit of marshaling that can be done here, thanks to the Message Amps. I can see those being quite helpful. Daze … is an enigma to me. It has lower damage than most cantrips, but it is mental damage at 60 ft. The amp lets you apply a weakness before dealing damage with its own casting, and makes it weak until the end of your next turn … so you can hit against the weakness twice, at least, which you will want with the weakness being so minor.  Nudge Intent is pretty cool flavor, and for me it is more interesting to see play out than anything else … they either do what you want or become frightened. But, you can’t tell them to do something they can’t (can’t make a fighter cast a spell), so I see a lot of this being telling somebody to try to jump or trip or otherwise move around to waste actions, cause they have to do the requested action “that turn” not their first action.  Shatter mind seems pretty straight forward, and I approve of the amp doubling the damage increases while also letting you choose the cone that is right for you.

This one has me intrigued, but cautious, with the feeling that it will grow on me were I to play it more. As with the Infinite Eye, I think this is a niche / specific option that you really have to be motivated to build a character for and really want to play, as opposed to Distant Grasp that seems to have a little bit more broader appeal and requires less work to be useful in a group.

Unleash Psyche

What have we here? My first quick pass through the pdf didn’t even catch this section until just now … There are “Psyche” actions that you use to Unleash your Psyche. This lasts for 3 rounds, during which time you can amp 1 psi cantrip each round without using a Focus Point. So, this is how they are making up for the lost spell slot and limitations of Focus Points for Psi Cantrips!!! In addition to gaining ways to unleash your psyche via feats, all psychics gain Unleash Focused Intent.

Unleash Focused Intent [A] – This 1 action ability can only be used on the 3rd round or later (weird, but I guess you gotta build up some mental charge to avoid blasting away immediately). Benefit Instantaneous damage spells using spell slots gain bonus damage. Drawback -1 AC while unleashed.

Ok, so we now have a way to get some free amps that also can boost spells. This is making me much less worried about my earlier perception of lack of spells / firepower.

Level Up Improvements

Class Feats, Skill Feats, Skills, all “normal”
5th – Reflex to Expert
7th – Expert Spellcaster
9th – Fortitude to Expert
11th – Will to Master, Simple/Unarmed to Expert
13th – Unarmored to Expert, Weapon Specialization
15th – Master Spellcaster
17th – Will to Legendary
19th – Legendary Spellcaster, Infinite Mind

Infinite Mind

Two common 10th level occult spells to your repertoire, and one 10th level slot.

These increases are also pretty on par with Wizard, except that here you don’t increase Perception while your Will becomes Legendary. I would also swap that out for the Infinite Eye, I think it should be better at Perception, but that’s just me. Let’s see what feats are in store for us.

This takes care of the Psychic’s class features. Tomorrow I will be doing a deep dive into all of the class feats included in the playtest. As always, please join us at our Discord server https://discord.gg/Rt79BAj to let me know what you think or simply have a chat!

Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him endless ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, gaming, or playing with his kids, Randal is likely working on improving Sage (his Discord bot for immersive play-by-post gaming that you can see in action on Know Direction's Discord in the Know Direction Societous PFS channels) over at https://www.patreon.com/rpgsage!