Last Updated: May 20, 2022
Do you ever want to be such a huge nerd that you could just stab your enemies with sheer big brain energy? Well Soulknife is at least half of that fantasy because for some reason you still use Dexterity to swing your Psychic damage brain blades. Probably balance reasons.
This guide will show you all about the tricks to get the most out of the Soulknife subclass. You’re not just a Psychic Sneak Attack dispenser. I mean, you’re still that, one of the best for doing it at range even, but you’re much more than just that.
As a Soulknife, we have all the fun combat tricks that you think of with a Rogue: sneak attack for piles of d6’s, dart in and out of combat on a whim, sneak around unseen. What we have on top of all the goodness that is Rogue is a reliable pool of bonus dice that can be used to add to rolls and change outcomes to our advantage, from skill checks to attack rolls, as well as spending the dice on unique utility powers.
Table of Contents
- Soulknife Subclass Features
- Optional Class Features
- Soulknife Ability Scores
- Soulknife Races
- Soulknife Feats
- Example Build – Half-Elf Skill Monkey
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Soulknife Subclass Features
If your DM adheres to the Adventuring Day rules, that means you can recharge as many as three dice per day. Across a full day of adventuring that’s a small pool to work with and you need to be cautious about spending your dice rather than burning through them in the first encounter. The Soulknife’s Psionic Energy Dice are much easier to retain than the Psi Warrior’s because they often aren’t expended if you fail a roll, but even so at low levels you’ll need to be prudent about when something is worth a die.
: The most important part of the subclass. Your pool of Psionic Energy
Dice are your defining resource. You get a number equal to double your
Proficiency Bonus and the size goes from d6 to d12 over the course of your
career. That sounds like a big pool, but they mostly recharge on a Long
Rest, and between long rests you can recharge just one die as a Bonus Action
once per Short Rest.
That said, there is the incredibly nebulous definition of “success” with regards to certain skills. If you’re making an Investigation check and you don’t find anything because there was nothing to find, did you succeed or did you fail? This is a conversation to have with your group and deciding the answer is beyond the scope of this article, but I have a suggestion for how to run it: because you choose to roll the Psi-die after you see what you rolled and the results of the initial d20 roll, my suggestion is that the Psi-die is only considered spent if the results are different after rolling it.
Psi-Bolstered Knack This feature is all about being the best skill monkey.
If you fail
a check you can roll a die even if the chances are incredibly slim
that it will make a difference. There’s no waste if you still don’t make it.
Every other ability like this requires you to gamble the
resource on the possibility of success.
Don’t forget: you get this once per day for free, so there’s no reason to not use it.
: So what if your party always had walkie-talkies? Maybe you’re scouting ahead, maybe your wizard wants to tell you where the fireball is going to be before she casts it. Rary’s Telepathic
Bond is a 5th-level spell, and you’re replicating its effects (mostly)
at level 3. Rary’s Telepathic Bond also notably has a 1-hour duration,
and you get 1d6 hours (up to 1d12 hours at 17th level). You’re limited
to adding 2 allies when you get this (you’re in the group for free), but
the number increases with your Proficiency Bonus.
- : Psi-Bolstered Knack This feature is all about being the best skill monkey. If you fail a check you can roll a die even if the chances are incredibly slim that it will make a difference. There’s no waste if you still don’t make it. Every other ability like this requires you to gamble the resource on the possibility of success.
The ability to make a second attack as a Bonus Action if you have another free hand is great. Two-weapon fighting is already a great fallback option and since you don’t need to draw daggers to repeatedly throw them you don’t need to strain your Free Item Interaction every turn to keep your hands full of pointy things. But the benefits go further. The second attack applies your Ability Modifier to damage since you’re not actually using the two-weapon fighting rules. Sure, the second blade uses a slightly smaller damage die, but who cares? That’s such a tiny, meaningless difference that I’m surprised they bothered to print it.
However, this feature does have some drawbacks. The blades only manifest when you take the Attack action, so you’ll be unarmed after attacking with both blades, which means that you can’t use Opportunity Attacks to get extra Sneak Attack on other people’s turns (unarmed strikes are still possible, but don’t qualify for Sneak Attack) and you won’t benefit from allies using things like a Battlemaster using Commander’s Strike or Order Domain Clerics’ Voice of Authority feature. Remember that Sneak Attack is once per turn, not per round, so you’re giving up a substantial piece of rogue optimization. These also don’t gain attack bonuses like a magic weapon, and you’re locked into a damage type that some things (unintelligent creatures, especially) have unmitigatable resistance or even immunity to.
You can mitigate the off-turn attack limitations somewhat by drawing and stowing a dagger before or after attacking on alternate turns, but that trades your Free Item Interaction every turn for the ability to make meaningful attacks as a Reaction every other turn at most. That’s a hard trade, not to mention how annoying it is. You could also get Fighting Style (Thrown Weapon) which will allow you to draw a dagger as part of the making the Opportunity Attack, but that may not be worth the cost to do so unless you’re really leaning into the ability to Sneak Attack with your Reaction.
Also, since your Psychic Blades can only deal psychic damage, if you run into something immune to it you lose half the functions of your subclass. You’ll need to carry a dagger (ideally a magic one) as a backup.
: This is your primary
combat option. You can attack with the blades equally well in melee and at
range, and with a range of 60 feet your range is much greater than that of a
rogue using daggers, and this is one of the best features if you want to be a ranged rogue. The fact that this deals psychic damage is great, too,
since it’s so rarely resisted and easily bypasses common resistances to
non-magical weapon damage. Oh, and it’s a d6 damage die instead of the
: Two ways to turn your Psychic
Energy Dice into solutions to frequent problems. This is also the first time where your psychic dice are consistently useful in combat.
- : Use this on the last attack of your turn (maybe you don’t want to attack with both of your Psychic Blades every turn; Cunning Action also exists), provided that you can deal Sneak Attack with that attack. If you miss the attack roll, you can try to turn a near miss into a hit. If you still miss, this costs you nothing. If you do hit, you’re trading your Psionic Energy Die for a Sneak Attack. That’s a very good trade a lot of the time. Even so, you don’t want to use this constantly because it will deplete your psionic dice pool too quickly. Use it when you need it to land that crucial blow.
- : A bonus action short ranged combat teleport. Even moving the minimum of 10 feet is enough to get you out of grapples and many area control effects, as well as through many tight openings like arrow slits. However, if you need to cross a large gap you’ll find that the unpredictable range is frustrating. Fortunately, you choose whether or not you want to teleport after you roll the die so you never need to worry about accidentaly teleporting yourself above a pit of acid or something, but you’re committing to spend the die before you roll it so look for other options if you’re not likely to get as far as you need to go.
You can spend a Psionic Energy Die to recharge it, but that’s an easy way to spend your dice very quickly when mundane Stealth checks will often suffice.
: Invisibility for a full
hour, and you get it once per day for free. An hour is a long time, and you
can do a lot of things without breaking Invisibility, including things like
disarming traps and taking the Help action to help allies in combat. Combined with Psychic Whispers and Expertise, you’re an amazing scout.
You get this once per day for free, but spending a quarter of your Psionic Energy Dice to recharge it is very costly, so you want to save this for powerful single foes rather than using this in every encounter.
: Note quite as good as Hold
Monster, but about as close as you can get without casting it. Stunned takes
the target out of the fight and makes it very easy to kill them. Since the
DC is Dexterity-based your DC will match that of spellcasters, and the one-minute
duration is nice.
Optional Class Features
Tasha’s introduced optional features for the base classes. Some classes received more than other classes, but Rogue received a single ability at level 3, Steady Aim. This is a great tool for us as a Soulknife because it requires standing still to gain Advantage and we can simply throw our Psychic Blade as a ranged attack. We have to give up the off-hand attack, but that’s a fair trade if aiming gives us Sneak Attack.
If for some reason you’re not able to use this feature, it’s not the end of the world. We still have plenty of uses for the bonus action. Again, you could simply use the bonus action second psychic dagger. Mathematically, this is the same odds as aiming to gain Advantage on one attack, with the bonus of getting more damage if both rolls are good.
The drawback is that we can’t just have Advantage for a free Sneak Attack. Or can we? With Cunning Action, we can Hide as a Bonus Action, which is not completely free and we do need some way to actually Hide, but assuming we can have the right conditions we’ll gain Advantage.
Soulknife Ability Scores
The thing about being a skill monkey is that you have some options here. Dexterity will be your highest stat here of course, since that’s your combat effectiveness. I would advise against dumping Constitution because dying is suboptimal.
After that, we look at your party and see what kinds of skills we’re lacking. If you need to be the face and pick up those pickup lines, Charisma. If you need to be the Scholar, then big-brain that Intelligence score. If you don’t like surprises, Wisdom will ruin all those nice parties your DM is planning to throw for you.
: This is your damage. This is your AC. Also three skills and usually Thieve’s Tools. Put your big number here.
: We like not dying. I would suggest either your second or third highest here at least, depending on if you’re wading into melee or throwing the mind daggers.
: If you’re gonna be the knowledge and investigation guy, then pump this up, Detective.
: If you’re gonna be the outdoorsy scouting guy, you’ll want some of this, Woodsman.
: If you’re gonna be the socialite with a silver tongue, put some points here, Negotiator.
|Point Buy||Standard Array|
We’re going to make some assumptions here in the races section. We assume you are using the Customize Your Origin rules. The reason for this assumption is that all races published post-Tasha’s Cauldron have had this rule baked in for ability scores.
Beyond that, however, we are taking advantage of the second part of those rules: that you may freely trade the default skill proficiencies granted to a race for other skill proficiencies of our choosing. The main reason this is important is that not every skill is on the Rogue’s class list, so even though we get four proficiencies from our class, we can still benefit from a race which expands our skill options.
: I’m just putting this blanket note here as a catch-all for anything I don’t call out in particular later in the section.
: Same as above. This is most of what we’re looking for, but there are a few notable exceptions.
PHB: It’s worth noting that these can all be traded in for tool proficiencies, which are another way to use Psi-Bolstered Knack. Depending on your campaign, you might find these useful. For example, Sea Vehicle proficiency in a nautical game.
PHB: We want to take advantage of Psi-Bolstered Knack, so why not have two more skill proficiencies to put wherever. The other unique advantage here is the stat spread, +2/+1/+1. If you’re point buying, turning your pair of 14s into a 13 and a 15 allows the pair of +1s to become a 16 and a 14. Half-Elf also grants access to the Prodigy feat later on, a source of further proficiency as well as an extra Expertise, as well as the Elven Accuracy feat for doubling down on Advantage.
PHB: You really can’t go wrong with a bonus feat. We’ll discuss feats in depth below, but like Half-Elf above, Humans also have access to Prodigy. Note however, that a Hybrid feat (a feat that grants +1 to a stat) stacked upon your +1/+1 is a generally solid plan.
MMoM:We gain two skill proficiencies and PB times per day we can give ourself Advantage on a skill we’re proficient in. We’ll ideally already be gaining plenty of proficiencies to use Psi-Bolstered Knack more, so this is just extra synergy.
ERLW: The dragonmarks offer us something unusual even though they don’t grant Skill Proficiency. Instead, each mark adds 1d4 to a pair of skills or tools. Consider browsing that list if you want to lean even harder into some skills.
GGtR: We can pick up a skill and a tool, but then we can always add 1d4 when rolling these two proficiencies, similar to the Dragonmarks but granting actual proficiency.
Our Rogue Handbook details most of the feats that might be good for any Rogue, so we’ll discuss the options that focus on improving the Soulknife’s features.
- PHB: If you want to bump your Intelligence or Wisdom a little bit and get bonuses to your passive Perception and Investigation, this will do it. The lip reading thing isn’t bad either for some espionage gameplay.
- XGtE: You want to be even more of an expert when you’ve already taken Skill Expert? Well sure, this will do the trick, and even grant a tool and language as well. But remember this is not a hybrid feat, so no +1 here. Skill Expert is almost certainly a better choice.
- TCoE: A good little hybrid feat granting a skill and expertise. It doesn’t hurt to expand your proficiencies and gain more expertise, but proficiency in three skills from Skilled may be a better choice because it expands the number of things which can benefit from Psionic Knack.
- PHB: We get a little more out of skill proficiencies from our Psionic Knack than most rogues do.
- PHB: With the ability to Hide as a bonus action thanks to Cunning Action, Skulker is an effective way to create suitable hiding conditions. On top of that, if we miss while hiding, we stay hidden for the follow up attack. And having better perception in the dark is always good.
We have our Psychic Blades, and those are going to be great most of the time. However, we will want some backup magic weapons just in case we come across something resistant or immune to our Psychic damage.
If you wanted to do some two-weapon fighting with your Psychic Blade and a dagger, the important thing to remember is that the bonus action follow-up Psychic Blade can only follow an Attack with the primary Psychic Blade, meaning the dagger has to be swung second and unless you acquire the Two-Weapon Fighting style (first level Fighter, second level Ranger, or Fighting Initiate feat) that attack will not add your Dexterity modifier to damage.
See our Rogue Handbook.
Most of what was said in the rogue handbook applies, but we have a few extra things to consider. Because of the limitations of Psychic Blades, dipping into a caster to gain a weapon cantrip like Booming Blade doesn’t work.
- rogue handbook, three levels in Bard for College of Eloquence does get you expertise in two skills and puts a rolling floor of 9 on Deception and Persuasion if you’re playing a Face. Keep in mind though that 11 levels in Rogue gives the same floor to all skills you’re proficient with. : As explained in our
- : For less of an investment than Bard, one level in Ranger will give you one Expertise (if you’re using the Ranger’s Optional Class Features) and a skill from the class list, as long as you choose to take the Deft Explorer Optional Class Feature from Tasha’s. Take a second level if you want a fighting style. Blind Fighting or Thrown Weapon Fighting would both be good choices, leaning more towards Blind Fighting so you can Sneak Attack things you can’t quite see, especially if your party can cast Fog Cloud or otherwise block line of sight.
Example Build – Half-Elf Skill Monkey
We’re going to use point buy and go for an Intelligence skills heavy build. A real educated Detective type. We’re not the most damaging Rogue, but we bring a wide skill assortment to a party. I recommend this build if your party lacks a Scholar.
If your party has a Scholar caster and lacks a Face, you could easily adapt this build towards Charisma skills by just swapping the ability scores and choosing the Charisma skills in place of the Knowledge skills, while not changing any of the Wisdom choices.
If those are both covered, or you want a little more damage and a little less skill, consult the feats section below for suggestions on what to alter for a little more in-combat oomph.
We’re customizing the ability scores to move the +2 to Dexterity, and putting our other +1s in Intelligence and Wisdom. For this example I’m going to pick Intelligence as the highest of our three mental ability scores.
Note that if you’re not picking Wisdom as your highest mental ability score, we still like Perception or Insight, so don’t dump Wisdom to 8.
Half-Elf. We gain two skills, Darkvision, and an extra +1 to an ability score over functionally every other race. For the skills, we grab 2 of Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion because they do not appear on the Rogue list.
We’re taking a customised background for flexibility (remember that the PHB allows you to do that). We opt for two skills and two tools. For the skills we’re going to pick the other two of Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion that we didn’t take as Half-Elf skills. For tools, we take Cartographer’s Tools and Navigator’s Tools because your choice of tools is mostly flavour, but now we can both read and write maps.
Skills and Tools
As a Rogue, we’re granted Thieves’ Tools, and we choose from our class list Acrobatics, Investigation, Perception, and Stealth.
In summary, for skills we start with basic Proficiencies in History, Arcana, Religion, Nature, Acrobatics, and Perception, while we have Expertise with Investigation and Stealth. For tools, we took Proficiencies in Cartographer’s, Navigator’s, and Thieves’ Tools.
An alternative start for more scouting and combat but less investigation and knowledge would move the Expertise from Investigation to Perception and replace a Knowledge skill of your choice with Survival.
Starting with a seventeen in Dexterity allows us to hybrid feat at fourth level, and push to twenty at eighth. As a Rogue however, we can choose to take a feat at tenth, sooner than most other classes.
For those feats, because this build is about being the best at half of the skill challenges in the game, we’re taking some non-traditional feats, sacrificing a few more combat-focused options in favour of skill boosting feats.
At fourth we’re taking Skill Expert, giving us proficiency in Survival and Expertise in Perception. If instead we’re going with the more scouting and combat setup detailed in the skills section above, we would choose Elven Accuracy here at 4th to add a little more consistency with every Advantageous attack.
At eighth we just take two points in Dexterity. We want that 20 in our primary stat.
At tenth Skulker expands on our ability to Hide, but also improves our Perception in poor lighting. I need to point this out, Darkvision is not Night Vision. In Darkness, Darkvision lets you see as if it was Dim Light. Dim Light gives Disadvantage to sight Perception, and Skulker removes this Disadvantage.
At twelfth we take Skilled for Animal Handling, Insight, and Sleight of Hand, but if you’re looking for more combat options, Mobile or Alert are fine choices. If you want to focus more on the scouting skills, Observant is a good choice.
At sixteenth we take Prodigy, something we couldn’t take if we weren’t a Half-Elf, Human, or Half-Orc. If you took Elven Accuracy at fourth, but are still leaning into the Skills, this would be a fine place for Skill Expert instead, especially if you took Observant at twelvth as both are Hybrid Feats.
|Level||Feats and Features||Sneak Attack||Notes and Tactics|
|1d6||For starting equipment, just take the rapier as the highest damage option and the rest of the starting package can be your choice.|
We’ll put Expertise into Stealth and Investigation which gives us a +7 to both of those skills.
|2||Cunning Action||1d6||At this level, the war for our Bonus Action begins. With Cunning Action we now have three options: Dash, Disengage, and Hide to use as Bonus Actions on our turns.|
We mostly focus on typical rogue combat tactics for now, moving in to get Sneak Attack when the front line is positioned for the assist.
|3||Psionic Power: Psi Bolstered Knack, Psychic Whispers|
Steady Aim (Optional)
|2d6||Here we can finally switch to our Psychic weapons and gain access to our Psionic power dice. We also gain the Steady Aim optional feature from Tasha’s.|
Together these features change our whole fighting style from hit and run to knife sniper. When an ally is in position to grant Sneak Attack, we can just throw two psychic blades, but if positioning is bad or the target has a tough AC, we can just Aim for Advantage.
If we don’t get Steady Aim, Cunning Action Hide as a bonus action is a less reliable way to achieve the same effect.
The main point here is that Soulknife being able to freely throw infinite Psychic Blades is a somewhat unique way of keeping us out of the dangerous melee.
|4||Skill Expert: +1 Dexterity (18 Total), Survival, Perception Expertise||2d6||For our first ASI, we take the hybrid feat Skill Expert and gain Proficiency in Survival and Expertise in Perception.|
With our Psychic Whispers from third level, we pick up Perception Expertise and Survival to become a better scout with a bit of rugged self-sufficiency as well.
The hybrid nature of Skill Expert grants us a +1 to round out Dexterity to 18.
Psionic Power d8
|3d6||Uncanny Dodge makes you take less damage. Since we can’t make opportunity attacks with our Psy Blades, we weren’t using our Reaction for anything else anyway.|
|6||Expertise: Survival, Thieves’ Tools||3d6||We get our second Expertise at this level, allowing us to pick Survival and Thieves’ Tools. We’re becoming more skilled in leveraging the long range communication of Psychic Whispers into an effective scouting tool.|
|8||Ability Score Improvement: Dexterity +2 (20 Total)||4d6||Here we take the reliable option and max out our Dexterity to a +5 bonus.|
|9||Soul Blades: Homing Strike, Psychic Teleportation||5d6||Soul Blades give us more uses for our eight d8s, particularly combat uses. A bonus action teleport and the ability to roll and add to an attack roll after we miss, potentially becoming a hit.|
|10||Skulker||5d6||We’re taking Skulker here to improve our ability to Hide in combat. Next level when we have Reliable Talent this becomes free advantage, even beating out Steady Aim by allowing us to retain movement.For now it’s still very reliable Advantage and worth using if we need to move.|
Psionic Power d10
|6d6||When Reliable Talent comes online at this level, we can no longer roll below a 9 on the d20 for any of the skills or tools in which we are proficient.|
Notable at this level, our lowest possible total roll for Stealth is 22 and our Perception and Investigation floors are 19 and 20 respectively.
We can move unnoticed and unseen, observing all before striking with blades that leave no visible wounds.
|12||Skilled: Animal Handling, Insight, Sleight of Hand||6d6||Here at twelfth level, Rogues gain another ASI, which we use to take the Skilled feat and grant us more proficiencies. We use this to collect the last Dexterity skill and most of the remaining Wisdom skills.|
|13||Psychic Veil||7d6||An hour of Invisibility every day, with the option to spend our dice to gain more uses. Another handy tool for our belt.|
|14||Blindsense 10’||7d6||And now we can tell where we are when we use Psychic Veil because now we can see our invisible self. All jokes aside, this is a decent ability. It’s not Blindsight so we can’t see the hidden target, but we know where it is.|
|15||Slippery Mind||8d6||Proficiency on Wisdom Saves. Our Wisdom is pretty good so we’ll have some nice saves with the proficiency bonus.|
|16||Prodigy: Medicine Proficiency, Insight Expertise, Vehicles (Water), Language (Your Choice)||8d6||At sixteenth we grab Prodigy, the Human and Half-Human exclusive feat. We take the final Wisdom skill, Medicine, Expertise in the last skill of the passive sense trio, Insight, and to round out our tool choices, Water Vehicles joins our Cartographer and Navigator tools, giving us some kind of ocean themed flavour. The language choice depends on what you need.|
Note: This is being written right after Spelljammer was announced so in the future if Vehicle (Spelljammer) is an option we’d take that. Because Space.
Psionic Power d12
|9d6||Rend Mind. It’s not bad. The free use once a day is great. But using it again means we’re giving up 3d12 from our pool of 12 dice.|
That’s right, at 17th level our Psionic power dice pool is now filled with d12s.
|18||Elusive||9d6||This ability is really kind of ridiculous. Nobody can ever have advantage while attacking us now. It’s a great defensive boost, especially when playing with optional Flanking rules, but also good in general.|
|19||ASI: Wisdom +2||10d6||We’re bumping this up to make our Wisdom Skills match our Intelligence Skills.|
|20||Stroke of Luck||10d6||By some Stroke of Luck, your campaign made it to 20th level. And then you got a capstone.|
To be honest, this is what we already had Psychic dice for. Turning Misses into Hits, and Fails into Success. Not the greatest thing to add, but it’s once per short rest and it’s guaranteed, as opposed to rolling the Psi-die.