Saturday, September 18, 2010

Expanded Class Feature 9: Divine Mind

Class: Divine Mind
Source: Complete Psionic

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

Okay, back to psionics. This time, we look at the absolute worst psionic class out there (with the caveat that Soulknife really doesn’t count) in my quest to get all the crappy classes out of the way first so that I’m left with the good stuff.

This is the first class from Complete Psionic, which is widely regarded as a piece of trash that overly relies on reprinting old material from XPH with minor (and often unnecessary and often ignored) updates paired with mediocre original content. Which isn’t to say it’s all crap, particularly since there aren’t many other sources of psionic material, but it’s still not a well-made book.

Anyways, there’s actually a bit of history behind the Divine Mind, or at least rumors that I’ve heard. Apparently, Ardent and Divine Mind were originally meant to be one class, but they were deemed to be a bit much, and so they were split. Ardent won out of that divorce, though like the Shadowcaster, on closer inspection, Divine Mind isn’t quite as bad as I thought going in, but it’s still a mess.

Full disclosure: I’ve never actually really used this class for anything. And for good reason.

Fluffy Bits:
The Divine Mind is a psionic Paladin without the alignment restriction and less code-related rubbish. And… that’s really it. Or perhaps a Favored Soul would be a better comparison? Basically, they channel god juice to get stuff done.

Crunchy Bits:
Skeleton! Medium BAB, d10 hit die, strong fort/will, 2+ skill points from a crappy list, martial weapons, heavy armor, shields.

Medium BAB and a d10 hit die. The only other WotC creation I can think of that has that frame is the Soulknife.

For features, the Divine Mind has three things going on; mantles, auras, and powers. While with regards to fluff, they’re psionic Paladins, with regards to mechanics, they’re more like psionic Bards or Marshals, just with crappy skills.

First, mantles. These are similar to domains for Clerics. They have up to nine powers, and an associated special ability (though mantle abilities tend to be comparable to half a feat rather than a full feat like domain abilities tend to be). Mantles are a feature exclusive to the Divine Mind and the Ardent.

However, there’s one big thing that separates mantles from domains; the Ardent and Divine Mind don’t have spell lists. Period. Instead, they can only select powers from their respective mantles. To make up for this restriction, they get more mantles than Clerics get domains. The Ardent gets six mantles over fifteen levels, gaining three in their first two levels, and the Divine Mind gets… three. One at first-level, one at sixth-level, and one at twelfth-level. Also, unlike Ardents who derive their powers from personal philosophies and may choose whichever mantles they please, the Divine Mind is linked to a deity and has her mantle choices restricted by her deity in much the same way as a Cleric. There’s a page dedicated to listing mantles for PHB, Forgotten Realms, and Eberron deities, giving each four mantles in their portfolio. You get three. So your choices are very nearly made for you unless you’re playing in Eberron and can worship the entire Sovereign Host as a single entity gaining access to any of their domains/mantles that you please.

Then, there’s power progression. This one is just bizarre. They go up to sixth-level powers, sure, but they don’t gain access to first-level powers until level five, then don’t get sixth-level powers until level 20. They only get nine powers, ever, and only get 62 power points by level 20, in comparison to the Psychic Warrior- one of the other main manifesting classes that cap out at 6th-level powers- who has 127 power points and 20 powers by level 20. Manifesting is based on wisdom.

Then, there are auras, which are similar to Marshal auras or Dragon Shaman auras or Bardic Music. They start out affecting allies within a whopping five feet and the range increases five feet at a time up to fifty feet at level twenty. This means that at low levels, when you don’t have any powers at all yet thus making your one mantle and its half feat pretty much a joke, when all you really have to set yourself apart is your aura… it only works within five feet. Blah.

You can only have one aura active at any given time (scaling to two or three at a time later) and changing auras takes an hour’s meditation (falling all the way to a swift action by level 18). There are no use-per-day restrictions on auras; you can keep them up all day long.

Divine Minds start with three generic auras- one granting a 1-5 point bonus to AB (scaling with level), one that does the same for AC, and one that grants a +2-6 point bonus to Spot, Listen, and initiative (scaling with level).

In addition to the generic auras, Divine Minds get an additional aura option with every mantle they have. All three of them. Here’s the problem. Most of them are utterly mediocre and a lot of them don’t scale. For example, +2 on bluff checks made to feint! Woo! Or a flat +1 bonus to damage, but only if the target’s already wounded. Or a +2 to overcome spell resistance, but only against outsiders. Admittedly, some are pretty good, like DR1/- scaling to DR5/- at level 20. Admittedly, DR5/- is pretty cruddy at high levels unless you’re facing hordes of nickel-and-dime mooks, but being able to constantly grant that to the whole party at once is nice, and at first level, DR 1/- is actually meaningful.

However, since you have so few mantle options, already restricted by deity, and they’re your only source of a spell list, there’s just so much stacked on mantle/deity selection in order to simply not suck eventually. You need all your limited supply of powers and auras to be top-notch at all times in order to just be decent, but that’s nigh impossible given the constraints.

Oh, and there is a series of feats- Tap Mantle, Don Mantle, and Extra Aura- that can grant you access to the power list, granted ability, and aura of another mantle. The feats must be taken in order. Unless you’re worshipping a pantheon, if you go that route, these three feats essentially grant you access to a fourth mantle that you chose not to take in the first place because it’s the least useful mantle your deity offers. Woo.

Oh, and they get Divine Grace as a Paladin at level four.

Put the Divine Mind side-by-side with a Bard, and it comes up short on almost every level. Divine Mind auras don’t really keep up with the more versatile Bardic Music, their manifesting is less effective and far more constrained than bardic casting, and that’s really all they have; no skills, no secondary perks, just a bigger hit die and heavy armor/weapons. Meh.

But, the class is salvageable. First and foremost, it needs the same power point/power level progression as the game’s other two manifesters who cap out at 6th-level powers- the Lurk and the Psychic Warrior. Powers available from level one, power points topping out at 127. I’d also give them two mantles at level one, for a total of four (all their deity’s mantles), and a total of twelve powers (two per power level).

I’d also be open to stepping up some of the crappier, non-scaling auras to make them… well… stop being crappy.

Then, as more of an aesthetic move than anything, I’d probably switch them over to charisma-based manifesting. The Psychic Warrior’s already a medium BAB melee class that gets up to 6th-level powers, and it also shares company with the more casting-centric Ardent from whence it’s spawned; putting a little more distance between the two is a good thing. There’s room for a more melee-oriented charisma-based manifester to sit next to the Wilder. I’d also probably make the aura a flat 30’ aura, maybe bumping it up to 60’ at level 10 or 15, simply because the itty bitty aura sizes at low levels are very annoying.

There’s still the problem of having your power selection restricted by your mantle selection, usually resulting in a hideously crappy makeshift spell list, but that’s kind of a balancer to the class. It may be such a big deal, however, that tossing full BAB into the mix may be appropriate.

Divine Mind is pretty much a melee class. You don’t have the power point supply or power selection to be much of a caster, you don’t have skills, and while you could do archery in theory, it really doesn’t work out well unless the party’s built around you; your auras don’t reach very far, and they’re most useful on the front lines, so you need to be suitable for the front lines.

To that end, strength and constitution are your main stats, and you don’t want a penalty to dexterity. You need wisdom, of course, since it’s your casting stat, though it has extra importance here; you don’t have much of a power point pool, so you need all the bonus power points you can get. I probably wouldn’t raise it above 16, but it may be wise to pair that with a wisdom-boosting item for more power points. Your skill list sucks and you only really need Concentration, so you can dump intelligence. Charisma fuels Divine Grace, but you have a lot of other stat demands, so you may only be able to manage, like, a twelve in charisma if you’re not forced to dump it outright.

Also, a lot of your auras- including your three generic auras, which could well be your best- are morale bonuses that don’t stack with other morale bonuses. If your team has other significant sources of morale bonuses, you’re pretty much useless and should probably consider something else, like Psychic Warrior.

However, by and large, I’d almost classify this as a misfiled NPC class, the same category I put the Marshal, Healer, and Dragon Shaman in, though it’s not quite as bad. It’s not very good, can’t do much, and they’re mainly an aura-meister who can’t do much themselves. Not very interesting as PCs, but they can work as NPC leader units, particularly since aura types are really only any good when they have a group of allies of a type and size that PCs rarely have. If the party has two people in melee, one being the Divine Mind and the other the Rogue, then that +2 AB aura just isn’t as good as it is for the NPC leading a group of five gnolls and an ogre. Also, as an ally, Divine Mind tends not to be a glory class, so it’s a good ally to give to back up the party.

Buffing auras
Um... has powers, eventually, kinda...
Um… not much else

Very slow to start
Ridiculously small auras at low levels
Late and stunted casting
Lots of auras either don’t scale or outright suck
Mantles tremendously limit power selection

Remaining classes: Ardent, Artificer, Crusader, Dread Necromancer, Empyrean Monk, Erudite, Exorcist, Lurk, Muse, Occult Priest, Pact Warrior, Psychic Rogue, Psychic Warrior, Ravaged Soul, Rookblade, Soulborn, Swordsage, Soul Weaver, Spirit Binder, Templar, Totemist, Unbound Witch, Warblade, Warbinder.

Next Time: Probably Warblade. Really, this time.

Postscript: Due to the amount of time writing these things takes, some installments may shift to biweekly, depending on how much time and energy has to go into them. Some are quick, some aren't, and of course, sometimes life's busier than other times. This next installment's probably two weeks away.

No comments:

Post a Comment