Sunday, August 22, 2010

Expanded Class Feature 5: Wilder

Class: Wilder
Source: Expanded Psionics Handbook

How it Works:
I’ve worked up an all-purpose ‘How it Works’ article for psionics as a whole, which can be found here.

Last week was the Wizard of the psionic world, so it’s only appropriate that this week be the Sorcerer. Relatively rarely used and not as popular, the Wilder is still more than worth the look. So, look we shall.

Fluffy Bits:
I described the Psion as a synthesis of Sorcerer and Wizard; they’re born to natural power like a Sorcerer, then hone it with Wizard-like discipline. A Wilder is like a synthesis of Sorcerer and more Sorcerer. They’re born to natural power, and then go nuts. If the definitive Psion is Dr. Strange, then the definitive Wilder is Carrie.

A stock Psion is very calm, very controlled and very methodical in her art. A Wilder gets angry and blows your head off. They’re driven by raw, untamed emotion. The concept is simple and iconic, and you can go a lot of ways with it. When making a Wilder, it’s important to give careful consideration to how their emotions relate to their powers, rather than simply cranking out another stock personality since for a character who draws power from their anger or hope or courage or greed or sexual frustrations, their emotional state is very important.

Crunchy Bits:
Wilders get full 9th-level charisma-based manifesting and the highest power point pool along with a d6 hit die, medium BAB, strong will, simple weapons, light armor, shields, and 4+ skill points from an odd mix of skills, with both the stock caster skills and some physical skills, plus Spot, Listen, Bluff, Intimidate, and Sense Motive.

Oh, and they get eleven powers known. Spread across nine spell levels. I’m gonna come back to that. A lot. Also, being the Sorcerer analogue, the class gets their power progression delayed by one level like the Sorcerer for no adequate reason; the Sorcerer’s progression is delayed as a counterbalance for being able to cast spontaneous (whether you agree with that logic or not), but all psionic characters are spontaneous anyways, making it a moot point.

Looking at the frame, the class seems like it’s meant to be a gish, using their full manifesting to back up the rather squishy d6 HD and medium BAB. However, their main class feature suggests a full-on dedicated caster.

At level 1, you get Wild Surge +1. This scales to +6 at level 19. This ability is an emotional supercharge, granting an effective +N power points to the effect of a power, and the points are supplied by the surge itself rather than your own pool. This power is usable at will, any time you manifest a power, and can take you above your normal limit for power points spent on a single power. So, if you’re an 11th-level Wilder, you can effectively spend 15 points on Astral Construct for no extra cost, which is similar to being able to cast Summon Monster VIII instead of Summon Monster VI.

Why, this is an incredible class feature, gamebreaking even, and every Wilder should use it all the time… except… it isn’t and you shouldn’t. You see, it comes with Psychic Enervation. Whenever you actually use your Wild Surge, you roll a percentile die and have a 5% chance per power point added to suffer psychic enervation, which means you’re dazed for a round and lose a number of power points equal to your manifester level. So, that 11th-level Wilder getting four points from the void to beef up Astral Construct then has a 20% chance of losing eleven power points and losing a round, which is a huge deal in combat. Wild Surge is definitely nice, but you must use it carefully.

But here’s the rub. That’s your main class feature, on a gishy skeleton. If you’re a hardcore caster, that tougher skeleton is going to waste and you’re hobbled by your limited power selection. If you’re a gish, then being dazed on the front line is a death sentence and you can’t afford to use your main class feature, giving the class a lack of focus that ultimately hurts it. But, let’s go over its other class features.

Surging Euphoria is the third wheel of the Wild Surge array. When you Wild Surge without suffering enervation, you get a bonus to attack, damage, and saves equal to the Wild Surge boost. This bonus is +1 at level 4, +2 at level 12, and +3 at level 20. A nice boost to melee Wilders, but the daze effect is still a huge risk.

And then, there are two more features. At level two, they gain Elude Touch. It applies your charisma to AC, but only against touch attacks, and it cannot take your touch AC above your normal AC. It’s an odd ability, but it’s… handy. Mainly, it’s a minor defense against spellcasters’ touch attacks, but it guards you from a lot of dangerous stuff. Particularly since a lot of touch attack users simply bank on touch attacks being easy to land, without really emphasizing AB.

And then, you have Volatile Mind. Whenever someone targets a Wilder of 5th level or higher with a telepathy power, it costs an additional 1-4 power points (depending on level). That is all kinds of meh. It only works against psionic characters using a specific subschool of powers? Blah. One should think a spellcaster using Detect Thoughts to peek in on the heart of your magical superangst should leave a spellcaster at least a little perturbed, doncha think? After all, the ability is described as your raging magic emotions being so immensely overwhelming that telepaths trying to break your brain suffer for the effort.

Also, your eleven powers? They don’t include the best powers available. You don’t have access to any Psion disciplines. This is a big blow to a class teetering on the brink, but… read on.

First of all, in their Mind’s Eye series, WotC has released some alternate class features for the Wilder. One of them is called Educated Wilder. If you are making a Wilder, TAKE IT. It replaces that useless Volatile Mind with Expanded Knowledge at each step. That’s four instances of Expanded Knowledge, a feat that lets you learn any power up to one lower than the highest level you can cast. So, you just went from 11 powers known by level 20 to 15 powers known by level 20 (less if you PrC out, but you come out ahead no matter what. That is huge. These additional powers can be chosen from any discipline or class, as well, meaning you get access to a lot of the cool stuff you normally couldn’t use.

Meanwhile, Mantled Wilder pretty much just sucks. It locks a lot of your very limited power selections into what’s pretty much doomed to be mediocre power choices you can’t afford to make.

After that, there’s one big choice. Do you want to be a gish, combining melee (or archery, if you can swing the proficiency), or do you want to be a dedicated caster? In either case, the most important part of making a Wilder is power selection. Every power you take needs to be useful all the time. If a power is remotely incidental, get a power stone of it and hold out for something that will always be useful. You’re not gonna have very many options available to you by full caster standards, so those options have to be damn good.

If you’re going the full caster route, pump charisma through the roof as you would any dedicated caster. Constitution and dexterity are next in line. If you intend to use metapsionic feats regularly, or the Psionic Endowment line (which is the psionic equivalent of Spell Focus, instead increasing DCs by expending focus), then you may want to invest in 13 wisdom to qualify for Psionic Meditation. Otherwise, you can safely dump wisdom. Strength and intelligence are your dump stats, but you may be able to bump them up a bit. Because of the way augmentation works, your Wild Surge can boost save DCs for your powers, so Psionic Endowment and vast amounts of charisma, possibly along with Ability Focus in your favorite save-or power can be a very good thing.

Use your Wild Surge sparingly, as if you suffer enervation, you lose a turn and lose a painful stack of power points. For that reason, you have to be even more cautious than a Psion when it comes to managing your power point reserves. That said, Wild Surge is pretty much the only reason to make a dedicated caster Wilder instead of a Psion, so when picking powers, keep an eye out for powers that benefit from the caster level boost, like Astral Construct. Also, remember that even if you do suffer enervation, you still successfully manifest your power, so if that boost is the last little bit you need to clinch a win against the big bad, go for it.

For a melee Wilder, your main stats are strength and constitution. You may not even need much dexterity, but you need lots of constitution to make up for that d6 hit die. Even charisma doesn’t need to be very high. You only need 14 or 15, maybe even as little as 13. Charisma-boosting magic items can get you the stats you need to cast higher-level powers when the time comes. You should be able to easily afford them by the time you need them. Also, you may want 13 wisdom for Psionic Meditation as well. The Deep Impact feat lets you expend psionic focus to make a single melee attack as a touch attack. With Psionic Meditation, you can still get off one attack every round, and it can always be a touch attack. Pairing that with things like Power Attack (the penalty means little when you’re making a touch attack) and damage boosting powers (hello, Expansion) means that, while you’re only making one attack per round, that attack HURTS. If you do it right. Of course, this also means you care about every single stat except intelligence, which you’re pretty much forced to dump.

Most likely, you’re going into the Illithid Slayer prestige class, since it gets full BAB, almost full manifesting, and both martial weapons and heavy armor (which is part of the reason you don’t need dexterity as much, but even if you’re aiming for mithral heavy plate, you’ll probably want 14 dexterity one way or another). This costs you a lot of Wild Surge, but you can’t afford to use that much anyways unless you’re some sort of archer; being dazed is pretty much death on the front lines.

For your powers, you mainly want buffs, especially swift action buffs, but a few powers outside that range can be useful, so long as you’re not going with the save-or powers. Astral Construct (through Expanded Knowledge), Dispel Psionics, things that are always useful. Vigor is a solid power, giving you huge piles of temporary hit points for its duration, really helping to shore up your hit die problems, even if it does take a standard action and only lasts a minute per level. Heck, it’s nice enough to consider on a dedicated casting Wilder.

And of course, low charisma means few bonus power points, meaning you have to be even more careful when manifesting your powers. But, since your main shtick is ultimately hitting people with a pointy stick, you shouldn’t need to use powers quite as often.

Full manifesting is always good.
Stronger skeleton than ye olde squishy Wizard
Wild Surge can clean house.

Limited access to discipline powers
Cripplingly few powers known
Lack of focus

Remaining classes: Ardent, Artificer, Binder, Crusader, Divine Mind, Dread Necromancer, Erudite, Incarnate, Lurk, Psychic Rogue, Psychic Warrior, Soulborn, Swordsage, Totemist, Warblade.

Next Week: Binder

No comments:

Post a Comment