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Pathfinder - Psychic Disciplines Breakdown

Last Updated: May 23, 2017

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

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Psychic Disciplines

Abomination

The spell options are bad and the features are mediocre.

Phrenic Pool Ability: Charisma

Bonus Spells: Almost all of the options are terrible.

Dark Half (Su): Increasing your spell DCs by 1 is great and the Will save bonus is nice since you'll have relatively poor Wisdom, but the bleed damage is mostly pointless. The number of rounds should be fine so long as you only use this one rounds when you want to cast a save-or-suck spell.

Morphic Form (Ex): Unless you're polymorphing, you should be investing more in not being hit and less in surviving hits.

Psychic Safeguard (Su): Permanent spell resistance is fantastic, but remember that it applies whether you want it to or not, and lowering spell resistance is a Standard Action.

Dream

Dream starts of strong and gets gradually weirder and stranger as you gain levels.

Phrenic Pool Ability: Charisma

Bonus Spells: Dream starts off with save-or-suck spells, but gets into weird utility spells after Deep Slumber. The theme is excellent, and most of the spells are at least usable.

Dream Leech (Su): It's really hard to find a creature that's asleep and that you're planning to talk to in the next 24 hours unless you put them to sleep and interrogate them later. This must be the easiest method for recharging your Phrenic Pool, so it's not surprise that there's such a small limit on how much and how often you can recharge.

Oneiromancy (Su): Oneiromancy is fantastic. Combine it with Dream Leach to effectively use Suggestion on a create that you put to sleep. Use it with Nightmare to convince a hidden enemy to meet you somewhere public. Get clever.

Mind Heist (Sp): Put creatures to sleep, and instead of waking them to interrogate them you can just read their minds.

Waking Dream (Sp): It appears that this effect doesn't end if the creature would normally wake up, like at the end of a sleep spell's duration. If you can put an enemy to sleep, take over its body and use it to fight. If it dies, you return safely to your own body and re-join the fight.

Faith

If your party lacks a cleric, this is a great option. It starts off slow, but really picks up at high levels when you get options like Prayer Aura. You get a little bit of healing, some spells from the cleric list, and eventually you get Miracle.

Phrenic Pool Ability: Wisdom

Bonus Spells: Mostly good options, most of which aren't on the Psychic spell list.

Deity (Ex): Not a huge restriction.

Divine Energy: Very limited access to healing spells, but at low levels before your party can afford a wand of cure light wounds this will make a big difference. You also get to recharge your Phrenic pool when you heal things, which is a nice reward.

Resilience of the Faithful (Su): This will save you a few thousand gold pieces and open up your cloak slot, but cloaks of resistance are inexpensive compared to other defensive items so your resitance bonus may be worse than that of your allies.

Prayer Aura (Su): Prayer is a great buff. Luck bonuses are extremely rare. It's unclear if the penalties against your enemies allow a save, and if they do you could probably just toggle the ability on/off on your next turn to force them to save again. Discuss it with your GM to be sure. Activating this as a free action means that you can turn it on, throw a save-or-suck spell against debuffed enemies, and end an encounter using only one round of the duration.

Lore

A huge missed opportunity, the Lore discipline has a really cool flavor and some really good spells, but the abilities are almost universally worthless. The ability to gain extra Phrenic Pool points doesn't function until 4th level, and doesn't function without spending gold until at least 6th level. You also need to use the Skill Unlocks system to use one of the discipline's abilities. The spell list is good, but locks you into several spells which will very rarely see use.

Phrenic Pool Ability: Wisdom

Bonus Spells: Several absolutely fantastic options, but a few which you'll only use rarely.

Illuminating Answers (Su): It's annoying that this requires you to learn and cast spells which the Lore discipline doesn't give you. The spells which trigger the effect are vaguely defined. The first spell that seems to fit is Augury, which is 2nd level, so you can't get extra pool points until 4th level. It also has a 25gp focus and a 25gp material component, so it can become a problem if you use it constantly. Blood Biography is the first spell without a gold cost, but it's really situational and I don't think I would waste a known spell on it if it didn't get you Phrenic Pool points.

Mnemonic Cache (Su): This is a very difficult ability to use. In real life an ability like this would be immenseley useful, but it's easily replaced by mundane methods like writing stuff down in a journal. The best usage I can think of depends on the telepathic link part of the ability, which allows you to transfer memories to people. Of course, they receive them like normal memories, so it's rare that you'll be able to provide any meaningful detail to your party beyond what you could convey by descibing the event in detail. The second half of the ability is extremely situational, and doesn't apply to symbol traps, which are the biggest thing you would want to use this on.

Superior Automatic Writing (Ex): If you're not using skill unlocks, this is totally useless. Even if you do use skill unlocks, you're forced to invest skill ranks in Linguistics, which is a largely useless skill. Adding Commune to the list of potential spell effects is neat, but you can't guarantee that you'll need to cast it once a week.

Memory Palace (Su): Permanent +2 (+4 if you study) to knowledge checks which your library covers. Not much at this level, but still nice.

Pain

The design of this discipline is exciting. The abilities are fun, the concept is neat, and everything makes sense thematically. Unfortunately, the entire discipline is based around dealing damage (already a weak option for spellcasters), and further handicaps itself by making much of the damage non-lethal.

Phrenic Pool Ability: Charisma

Bonus Spells: Most of the spell list relates to dealing damage, much of which is subdual. Damage is usually a poor strategy for spellcasters, and this discipline doesn't fix that.

Painful Reminder (Su): At first and second level this can be significant. It won't matter much at higher levels, but it's a nice way to spend your swift action if you don't have anything else to use it for. It also powers your phrenic pool recharge mechanic. Unfortunately, this requires that you deal damage with spells instead of relying on save-or-suck spells.

Power from Pain (Su): Recharging your phrenic pool based on damage isn't ideal, especially since you have a chance for it to fail if you don't roll enough damage. The scaling damage on Painful reminder will make it more reliable, but it's going to be difficult at low levels where you need the extra points most. The daily uses are limited like every other discipline, but for some reason it's dependent on Wisdom even though the discipline is Charisma-based. Hopefully this is an error, but the SRD has not been erratad yet.

Live On (Sp): This won't be a ton of healing, but you're a wizard-equivalent, so you shouldn't be taking damage frequently. You can also only use this on yourself, so its utility is limited, but this will save your party the trouble of healing you themselves.

Agonizing Wound (Su): Skip the fear-stacking and go straight to panicked for a round. If you use one usage, Frightened is better than sickened (remember that Frighten includes Shaken, which applies almost identical penalties to sickened). If you use two usages, Dazed will prevent your enemy from taking actions or Panicked can provoke a bunch of attacks of opportunity. Nauseated is good, but in no way as good as Dazed or Panicked.

Psychedelia

This one starts off week and gets crazy at high levels. The low- and mid-level options are all mediocre at best, and work better as amusing novelties than actual character options. Then suddenly you get Hallucinogenic Aura and you can't go out in public without sending innocent people into a fit frothing madness in which there is a very real chance that they will deal 1d8+str damage to themselves and bleed out in the middle of the street. If you manage to not be hunted down and murdered for your crimes against society, the high-level spells are fairly good. But you'll need to make it to level 14 with little to no benefit from this discipline just to get some spells when you could just learn on your own since they're already on your spell list.

Phrenic Pool Ability: Wisdom

Bonus Spells: Starts off very poorly, but gets great options at high levels.

Drug Resistance (Ex): Very situational.

Cognatogen (Su): +4 Intelligence for a few minutes. It will boost your spell save DCs, but that's about it.

Warped Brain (Su): Mind-affecting spells include a variety of effects, including scary things like dominate person. This adds a great backlash effect.

Hallucinogenic Aura (Su): The effect is constant, so it takes effect as soon as creatures come withing 30 feet of you. While this is great for deterring enemies, it's really annoying anywhere else since you're utterly unable to turn it off. The ability provides for an antidote which will help your party, but if you walk into a crowded area you're going to cause mass insanity and violence. Walking through a crowded market could be considered a war crime. It's that dangerous.

Rapport

The Rapport discipline is a team player. You provide useful utility and defensive options to your allies, you eventually get teamwork feats which you can then share with Coordinated Effort, and you get the ability to share your Intelligence- or Charisma-based skill modifiers with your allies, opening up all sorts of skill uses to characters with poor skills.

Phrenic Pool Ability: Charisma

Bonus Spells: A mixed bag. Most of the options are decent, and few are bad.

Emotional Bond (Su): A very useful way to keep tabs on your allies until you can cast Telepathic Bond.

Emotional Push (Su): This is fantastic, despite the limited usage. Your allies need to share your daily uses, so be sure to reserve this for saves that are going to really matter. Also be sure to invest in your Charisma to make sure that the bonus is as big as possible. If you start with 14 Charisma and get +6 from a headband, you're granting a +5 bonus, which is a massive bonus even if you only get to use it a few times per day.

Share Memory (Sp): Situational, but a neat flavor. Sharing a memory with someone is much more interesting than simply telling them what happened.

Team Player (Ex): Teamwork feats are great, but they need a lot of coordination with your allies. You can cast Coordinated Effort to share your teamwork feat with your allies, but until you've gained a few more levels it's a poor way to spend your 3rd-level spell slots. See my Practical Guide to Teamwork Feats for further guidance.

Shared Skill (Ex): The possibilities here are great. Use Magic Device is a good fallback if you don't know what else to use.

Self-Perfection

The Self-Perfection discipline borrows from Monks in many ways, and the result is a little bit weird. Still, the abilities and spells are good.

Phrenic Pool Ability: Wisdom

Bonus Spells: Several fantastic options spread throughout the list.

AC Bonus (Ex): AC isn't especially important for a dedicated spellcaster, but this is still a nice bonus. It could be especially useful for multiclass builds like cleric/psychic/mystic theurge or something.

Physical Push (Su): Not especially useful, but it's pretty easy to use to recharge your phrenic pool. Find something heavy and make a Strength check to lift it.

Bodily Purge (Su): Some self-healing and the ability to remove many frustrating effects which normally require a cleric.

Pure Body (Ex): Many high-level monsters use poison and disease, but as a spellcaster you should have options to prevent enemies from hitting you rather than attempting to survive attacks.

Tranquility

Tranquility does a lot of stuff involving stopping emotion effects. While that can be useful for psychic spellcasters who depend on "emotion components", very few foes use emotion-based effects, so the abilities will rarely matter.

Phrenic Pool Ability: Wisdom

Bonus Spells: Great options early and late, but the middle is a huge dead zone.

Mental Placidity (Su): The bonus is fantastic, but unless you throw yourself against enemies with effects which call for Will saves you'll have trouble recharging your Phrenic Pool.

Calming Presence (Su): Very situational.

Purge Disquiet (Su): There doesn't appear to be a limit on how often you can do this, so you can refresh the effect whenever it wears off. I recommend using Shaken as your go-to since many fear effects start by making the creature Shaken.