Blog Archives

Deep Dive: The PF1 Mindblade (Magus Archetype) Revised

Sometimes, specific things about how classes, archetypes, and rule subsets work together in the first edition Pathfinder Roleplaying Game come to my attention. Sometimes it’s due to my own research or design work. Sometimes it’s from a forum post or social media. Sometimes it’s from someone in my gaming group. A lot of these I can incorporate in other articles, or do a quick determination and move on.

Sometimes, it needs a Deep Dive.

So, today, I’m taking a look how the magus class, its mindblade archetype, and the psychic magic rules from Pathfinder Occult Adventures, all blend together. For this article to make sense, you likely want to be familiar with all those elements first.

So, here’s the magus class progression chart, as it would look after taking the mindblade archetype, without the spells/day and spells/day info:

Mindblade

LevelBABFort SaveRef SaveWill SaveSpecial
1st+0+2+0+2Psychic poolcantripsspell combat
2nd+1+3+0+3Spellstrike
3rd+2+3+1+3Magus arcana
4th+3+4+1+4Psychic access
5th+3+4+1+4Bonus feat
6th+4+5+2+5Magus arcana
7th+5+5+2+5Psychic access, dual weapons
8th+6/+1+6+2+6Rapid manifest
9th+6/+1+6+3+6Magus arcana
10th+7/+2+7+3+7Fighter training
11th+8/+3+7+3+7Bonus feat, psychic access
12th+9/+4+8+4+8Magus arcana
13th+9/+4+8+4+8Dual manifest
14th+10/+5+9+4+9Psychic access
15th+11/+6/+1+9+5+9Magus arcana
16th+12/+7/+2+10+5+10Counterstrike
17th+12/+7/+2+10+5+10Bonus feat
18th+13/+8/+3+11+6+11Magus arcana
19th+14/+9/+4+11+6+11Psychic access
20th+15/+10/+5+12+6+12True magus

Okay, that looks pretty good. But, there are some hidden problems in there. Let’s look at each archetype class feature in turn.

Psychic Magic

The first is that this is clearly build on the idea that psychic magic and arcane magic have the same value for the magus build. At a glance that seems fair — each arcane component of a spell is replaced with a different component for psychic magic — emotion for somatic, and thought for verbal. And that’s fine, as far as it goes. But built into thought components is the need to either have the DC of concentration checks be 10 higher, or to take a move action to negate that penalty.

And neither of those works at all well for a magus.

The core power of the magus is spell combat, which allows a magus to take a full round action to make all their normal melee attacks and cast a single spell. Since you can only do this in melee, it obviously requires you to cast defensively… for which the DC is 10 higher. And the magus can’t lower the DC back to normal with a move action while using spell combat, since spell combat is already a full-round action.

That’s not the only potential issue, either. The core magus is carefully built around starting with light armor, then gaining medium and heavy over time. The mindblade, however, can load up in full plate (yes, without proficiency) and cast a shield spell at 1st level (or as soon as they have the money, which is likely to actually be 2nd level), and be fine. Which isn’t great for a straight magus build… but is awesome as a 1-level dip for cavaliers, fighters, and paladins. Those character likely don’t even care what their other spells are, though picking enlarge person and magic weapon certainly gives a cavalier 1/mindblade magus 1 with time to prepare a great one-combat combat loadout.

When a design works better for a 1-level dip for a different class than to support it’s own core ability, it’s an issue.

So, what if we rewrite how their psychic spell power works? Allow them to cast psychic spells in light armor without the DC of their thought spells increasing by 10. Then, add the ability to do this in medium and light armor at the same level a standard magus gains those armor proficiencies. That lets a mindblade use spell combat the same way a standard magus does, and makes the archetype a less-attractive 1-level dip for heavy armor combat classes. Okay, one problem solved.

Psychic Pool

Psychic pool basically replaces the ability to enhance a melee weapon with magic, with the ability to summon one that is magical as a standard action. There are some tradeoffs here. On the up side you are safe from losing a valuable piece of gear since you can always just summon a new sword; you can spend money standard magi would use for buying magic weapons for other magic items; you can use a two-handed weapon or twin weapons (really a function of being a psychic spellcaster, but most relevant here); you end up getting +7 bonuses worth of benefits over the course of the class, rather than just +5. On the down side, it starts as a standard action (again negating the usefulness of spell combat); you can’t combine the bonuses with those of an existing weapon; you can’t throw it; it ties up 1, 2, or 3 or your psychic pool points (yes, you get them back if you lose the weapon, but you can’t spend them on other things if you don’t want to be without your weapon in later rounds.

I get why having a “free” weapon seems like it has to come with huge drawbacks, but this doesn’t pan out as balanced at mid- and high-levels. Even at low-level, doing something like sacrificing 3 psychic pool points to have an effective 2-handed melee weapon is a big cost, and that’s in addition to needing to take a standard action to create it. Now, the ability gets better over time, but does so as stand-alone abilities that replace things like improved spell combat… and it never gets as good enough you could take Quick Draw and pull your weapon and make a full attack action in the same round, which again cuts back on the mindblade’s ability to do core, iconic magus things.

Also, being able to create dual weapons or double weapons later at higher level… sucks in play. Dual weapon wielding only works well if you have a ton of feats to back it up. That means you either have to take those feats early, before you can use them with you psychic weapon, or you wait until you can summon dual weapons at which point you are behind the curve compared to any other 2-weapon fighter.

Pretty clearly, this ability is too restrictive and too likely to frustrate players without giving nearly enough back in terms of either raw power or alternate tactical options. We can fix it by allowing characters to create dual weapons or double weapons at 1st level (by tying up 3 psychic pool points, just like with 2-handed weapons, and dividing their bonuses between them). That currently leaves some blank class levels but that’s okay. We’ll get to them.

Psychic Access

Okay, here’s the biggest one — psychic class spells! Sure, you give up (deep breath) spell recall, knowledge pool, improved spell recall, greater spell combat, and greater spell access, but it’s worth it, right?! I mean, you get more spells!

Except sadly, you don’t.

What you get is to add some spells from the psychic class list to your mindblade class list. But you *don’t* add them as additional spells known. Over the course of 4th to 19th level, you add 10 psychic spells to your mindblade spell list. You don’t end up with any more spells known, and you give up 5 features each as powerful as a magus arcana to do it, including greater spell access. greater spell access literally gives you 14 extra wizard spells for your magus class list, and lets you automatically know them and have them scribed into your spellbook with no time and no cost.

So, psychic access gives you fewer spells than greater spell access alone, and gives you less of a benefit with the spells you do know, and takes up 4 more major class features to do it. That’s objectively worse than the magus. This might make sense of the psychic spell list were massively more effective for a mindblade than the wizard is for a magus… but looking at the lists that is clearly not the case.

Also, as worded, it causes the spell blending arcana to not only grant you psychic spells rather than wizard spells, it doesn’t change the wording of them being added as “spells known.” That’s fine for a preparation spellcaster, where spells known doesn’t impact how many spells they have to choose from in combat (as that’s determined by what is prepared). But as a spontaneous spellcaster, the mindblade suddenly can expend every magus arcana and typical feat (for Bonus magus Arcana) to gain another spell known, and (using various “blending” arcana) can do it from the bard, psychic, and witch class lists.

Giving up knowledge pool, all by itself, is PLENTY of cost for any edge a mindblade might pick up from their psychic blades and the psychic spell list. it is, in fact, an enormous blow to any 7th-level or higher mindblade. Similarly, not having some ability to boost spells-per-day the way spell recall and improved spell recall do is similarly a *vast* cost. Not only should the archetype not also give up a slew of other core magus powers after losing spell recall, knowledge pool, improved spell recall, and greater spellacces, they actually need both some powerful options added BACK, and more ways to spend theirpsychic pool points.

A spontaneous caster doesn’t gain as much from having a bigger class spell list as a preparation spellcaster. It doesn’t increase the potential number of spells they can have ready at one time, or that they can use to meet prerequisites, or craft items. The hunter hybrid class, for example, gets the whole ranger class spell list and 0-6th druid class spell list, and clearly hasn’t had to give up a ton of other cool options to do so.

Given how much overlap already exists with the magus and psychic class lists, it seems obvious that like the druid, we should just give the mindblade access to two class spell lists (magus and psychic), starting at 1st level. Then, to fill the holes left by spell recall, improved spell recall, we add some phrenic amplifications from the psychic class, which both ties into the “mind” part of mindblade, and gives the class something to spend their psychic pool points on.

Here’s the revised class feature chart, and the rewritten mindblade powers.

(Art by Warmtail)

Deep Dive Mindblade

LevelBABFort SaveRef SaveWill SaveSpecial
1st+0+2+0+2Psychic poolcantripsspell combat
2nd+1+3+0+3Spellstrike
3rd+2+3+1+3Magus arcana
4th+3+4+1+4Psychic access
5th+3+4+1+4Bonus feat
6th+4+5+2+5Magus arcana
7th+5+5+2+5Medium armor, psychic access
8th+6/+1+6+2+6Dual weapons, improved spell combat
9th+6/+1+6+3+6Magus arcana
10th+7/+2+7+3+7Fighter training
11th+8/+3+7+3+7Bonus feat, psychic access
12th+9/+4+8+4+8Magus arcana
13th+9/+4+8+4+8Heavy armor
14th+10/+5+9+4+9Greater spell combat
15th+11/+6/+1+9+5+9Magus arcana, psychic access
16th+12/+7/+2+10+5+10Counterstrike
17th+12/+7/+2+10+5+10Bonus feat
18th+13/+8/+3+11+6+11Magus arcana
19th+14/+9/+4+11+6+11Psychic access
20th+15/+10/+5+12+6+12True magus

Spell Casting

A mindblade casts drawn from the magus spell list and psychic spell list as psychic spells. She can cast any spell she knows without preparing it ahead of time. To learn or cast a spell, a mindblade must have an Intelligence score equal to at least 10 + the spell’s level. The saving throw DC to resist a mindblade’s spell is equal to 10 + the spell’s level + the mindblade’s Intelligence modifier.

Like other spellcasters, a mindblade can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. She knows the same number of spells and receives the same number of spells slots per day as a bard of her magus level, and knows and uses 0-level knacks as a bard uses cantrips. In addition, she receives bonus spells per day if she has a high Intelligence score (see Table 1–3 on page 17 of the Core Rulebook).

At 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, a mindblade can learn a new spell in place of one she already knows, using the same rules as a bard. In effect, the mindblade loses the old spell in exchange for the new one. The new spell’s level must be the same as that of the spell being exchanged, and the new spell must be at least 1 level lower than the highest-level spell the mindblade can cast.

A mindblade need not prepare her spells in advance. She can cast any magus/psychic spell she knows at any time, assuming she has not yet used up her allotment of spells per day for the spell’s level. A mindblade who takes the spell blending magus arcana selects additional spells from the occultist spell list, rather than wizard, and none of the “blending” magus arcanas grant the spells added to the mindblade’s class list as bonus spells known.

A mindblade in no armor or light armor can cast mindblade spells with thought components without increasing the DC of related concentration checks by 10. Like any other psychic spellcaster, a mindblade wearing medium or heavy armor, or using a shield, has the DC of related concentration checks increase by 10 if the spell in question has a thought component. At 7th level, the mindblade gains proficiency in medium armor and this ability extends to medium armor. At 13th level, the mindblade gains proficiency in heavy armor, and this ability extends to heavy armor.

This ability replaces the magus’s spellcasting, and the medium armor and heavy armor magus class features.

Psychic Pool (Su)

A mindblade gains a psychic pool, similar to a normal magus’s arcane pool. At 1st level, a mindblade can expend 1 point from her psychic pool as a standard action to manifest a light melee weapon of her choice, formed from psychic energy, and by spending 2 points, the mindblade can manifest a one-handed melee weapon. By spending 3 points, she can manifest a two-handed melee weapon, two light melee weapons, a light melee weapon and a 1-handed melee weapon, or a double weapon. This psychic weapon can last indefinitely, but it vanishes if it leaves the mindblade’s hand. The mindblade can dismiss a held psychic weapon as a free action. When a psychic weapon vanishes, the mindblade regains the psychic energy used to create it. She can maintain only combinations of weapons listed above (and thus cannot, for example, manifest two one-handed melee weapons).

At 1st level, a psychic weapon counts as a magic weapon of whatever type the mindblade selected, with a +1 enhancement bonus. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the weapon’s enhancement bonus increases by 1, up to maximum of +5 at 12th level. Starting at 5th level, the mindblade can add any of the weapon special abilities listed in the arcane pool class feature in place of these bonuses, although the weapon must maintain at least a +1 bonus to benefit from any weapon special abilities. At 15th and 18th levels, the weapon gains an additional +1 enhancement bonus, which the mindblade can spend only on weapon special abilities.

At 4th level, the mindblade can manifest her weapons as a move action. At 8th level, the mindblade can manifest her weapons with the same effort needed to draw a normal weapon from a shealth.

If the mindblade has two weapons, or a double weapon, she must divide her total enhancement bonus and weapon special abilities between them. Until 3rd level, this means one weapon (or one end of a double weapon) counts as a magical weapon but has no enhancement bonus. From 3rd level on she must maintain at least a +1 enhancement bonus on each weapon (or end of a weapon), and beginning at 9th level she can divide her remaining enhancement bonuses and weapon special abilities as she prefers.

This ability replaces arcane pool, and counts as arcane pool for the purpose of feats, abilities, and class features.

Psychic Access

At 4th level, and again at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the mindblade gains a phrenic amplification drawn from the psychic class feature of the same name. The mindblade uses her psychic pool to power these (rather than a phrenic amplification pool), and treats her mindblade level as her psychic level for all purposes regarding these amplifications.

Want More Professional Pathfinder 1st Edition?!

Hey folks! I know there’s less-and-less material being produced for Pathfinder 1st edition by people who worked on the game as Paizo developers. If you want to encourage me to keep creating new options for this rule system, please consider joining my Patreon (or buying a cup work of support at my Ko-Fi) and letting me know!