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So it seems the Soulknife, though its ability to conjure energy blades at will sounds cool, actually sucks. Also, my DM (and possibly many other DM's) aren't particularly fond of Psionic rules. In response, I was considering making a homebrew variant of the Soulknife where its abilities are based in innate magic instead of Psionics (as well as possibly some new abilities that could make it suck less), but first I was wondering if anyone knew of any pre-existing variants like this, or suggestions from more experienced players on why exactly the Soulknife sucks and what could possibly be done about it.

A couple ideas I was considering:

-make its blade enhancement cap at level 10 on 20th level.

-eliminate some of its rather nitpicky restrictions, i.e. making the attack boost take a concentration check as a swift action and make it affect more creature types (limiting it to living things sounds good enough)

-possibly give it the ability to merge its soulblade with a normal weapon to enhance it, possibly reworking the class around this mechanic.

Alternately: make an Incarnum variant of this class that has fewer Soulmelds than some but can invest Incarnum into its blade to add enhancements, possibly allowing bonuses totaling over 10 at high levels and full incarnum.

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This needs more information: what do you want to be special about the Soulknife? Because it currently only has one thing going for it (“I has a magic sword!”) which will never be worth devoting an entire class to. So while you could make a new class that has a Soulknife-esque innate magic sword, you’d need to add more to it because that would just be a little side-gimmick. So, what do you expect from your Soulknife? –  KRyan Feb 1 '13 at 22:22
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It's probably a sign that this question is not well formatted that I've decided to answer it in three separate answers... –  KRyan Feb 12 '13 at 19:30

5 Answers 5

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Response to your Incarnum-related thoughts.

It could work, but it won’t be easy

Incarnum is a fairly obvious system to use and a good idea.

But you would have to work out Essentia, Bind, and Chakra progressions, and figure out a Soulmeld list. The Incarnate’s list is mostly for skill-monkeying, but most of your eventual list will probably come from it. The Soulborn list has one gem (Thunderstep Boots) but mostly overlaps with the Incarnate. The Totemist list is probably not overly relevant as most of it is themed on natural attacks, which won’t work in conjunction with the Mind Blade very well.

Essentia, Bind, and Chakra progressions will probably be based on the Incarnate or Totemist, probably with some slight downward tweaking. Weapons usually use the Hands chakra, which usually comes later, so that will be awkward. Don’t base anything on the Soulborn as it is atrocious.

Worth noting: the Incandescent Champion and Ironsoul Forgemaster prestige classes both have similar themes. The Incandescent Champion is pretty poor, and the Ironsoul Forgemaster is dwarf-only. Still, you might be able to steal ideas.

This solution is similar to a fairly popular one I’ve seen, but don’t like

Some have suggested that a solution to the weaknesses of both Soulknife and Soulborn is to simply combine the two classes à la the Gestalt rules from Unearthed Arcana in a non-Gestalt game (or treat them as one side in a Gestalt game). This shores up a lot of numbers, which is nice, but ultimately neither class has much going for it.

Basically, taking a bunch of near-useless class features and adding in another group of near-useless class features just means you have more near-useless class features; at no point to actually inject something really useful. The Soulborn//Soulknife still has a magic sword (yawn), the craptastic Psychic Strike, and Meldshaping them comes online absurdly late and remains extremely limited throughout the class’s career. I’m neither impressed nor convinced that this combination actually solves anything.

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Ah, ok. Perhaps the Soulknife could have different Chakra progression or be denied access to some chakras to balance its ability to conjure and enhance magic weaponry at will? I dunno, I'll try to look further into it later. Thanks for the tips, though. –  Cobalt Feb 13 '13 at 3:44
    
@Cobalt Opening Chakras is something that probably should be done "on time" (i.e. following Incarnate and Totemist, and not making the same mistake as Soulborn). Doing something like Incarnate, but giving Hand first instead of Crown, might work, but you'd have to check those Hand binds to make sure none of them are going to be a problem for levels 2-5. –  KRyan Feb 13 '13 at 15:23
    
That's kinda what I meant, but yeah, I better make sure that doesn't become too OP. –  Cobalt Feb 13 '13 at 16:56

A while back, I wished to play a Soul Knife in a magic only campaign. These are the mods I made and the GM was satisfied. Hope it's of benefit.

Soulknife

Alignment Any.

Hit Die d10.

Class Skills The soulknife’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are: Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Spot (Wis), and Tumble (Dex).

Skill Points at 1st Level (4 + Int modifier) ×4.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level 4 + Int modifier.

Class Features All the following are class features of the soulknife.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency Soulknives are proficient with all simple weapons, with their own mind blades, and with light armor and shields (except tower shields).

Mind Blade (Su) As a move action, a soulknife can create a semisolid blade composed of magical energy. The blade is identical in all ways (except visually) to a short sword of a size appropriate for its wielder. For instance, a Medium soulknife materializes a Medium mind blade that he can wield as a light weapon, and the blade deals 1d6 points of damage (crit 19-20/×2). Soulknives who are smaller or larger than Medium create mind blades identical to short swords appropriate for their size, with a corresponding change to the blade’s damage. The wielder of a mind blade gains the usual benefits to his attack roll and damage roll from a high Strength bonus. The blade can be broken (it has hardness 10 and 10 hit points); however, a soulknife can simply create another on his next move action. The moment he relinquishes his grip on his blade, it dissipates (unless he intends to throw it; see below). A mind blade is considered a magic weapon for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. A soulknife can use feats such as Power Attack or Combat Expertise in conjunction with the mind blade just as if it were a normal weapon. He can also choose mind blade for feats requiring a specific weapon choice, such as Weapon Specialization. Spells that upgrade weapons can be used on a mind blade. A soulknife’s mind blade improves as the character gains higher levels. At 4th level and every four levels thereafter, the mind blade gains a cumulative +1 enhancement bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls (+2 at 8th level, +3 at 12th level, +4 at 16th level, and +5 at 20th level). Even in places where magical effects do not normally function (such as within a anti-magic field), a soulknife can attempt to sustain his mind blade by making a DC 20 Will save. On a successful save, the soulknife maintains his mind blade for a number of rounds equal to his class level before he needs to check again. On an unsuccessful attempt, the mind blade vanishes. As a move action on his turn, the soulknife can attempt a new Will save to rematerialize his mind blade while he remains within the magic negating effect.

Weapon Focus (Mind Blade) A soulknife gains Weapon Focus (mind blade) as a bonus feat.

Throw Mind Blade (Ex) A soul knife of 2nd level or higher can throw his mind blade as a ranged weapon with a range increment of 30 feet. Whether or not the attack hits, a thrown mind blade then dissipates. A soulknife of 3rd level or higher can make a eldritch strike (see below) with a thrown mind blade and can use the blade in conjunction with other special abilities (such as Knife to the Soul; see below).

Eldritch Strike (Su) As a move action, a soulknife of 3rd level or higher can imbue his mind blade with destructive magical energy. This effect deals an extra 1d8 points of damage to the next living, non-mindless target he successfully hits with a melee attack (or ranged attack, if he is using the throw mind blade ability). Creatures immune to mind-affecting effects are immune to eldritch strike damage. (Unlike the rogue’s sneak attack, the eldritch strike is not precision damage and can affect creatures otherwise immune to extra damage from critical hits or more than 30 feet away, provided they are living, non-mindless creatures not immune to mind-affecting effects.) A mind blade deals this extra damage only once when this ability is called upon, but a soulknife can imbue his mind blade with magical energy again by taking another move action. Once a soulknife has prepared his blade for a eldritch strike, it holds the extra energy until it is used. Even if the soulknife drops the mind blade (or it otherwise dissipates, such as when it is thrown and misses), it is still imbued with magical energy when the soulknife next materializes it. At every four levels beyond 3rd (7th, 11th, 15th, and 19th), the extra damage from a soulknife’s magical strike increases as shown on the Table above.

Free Draw (Su) At 5th level, a soulknife becomes able to materialize his mind blade as a free action instead of a move action. He can make only one attempt to materialize the mind blade per round, however.

Shape Mind Blade (Su) At 5th level, a soulknife gains the ability to change the form of his mind blade. As a full-round action, he can change his mind blade to replicate a longsword (damage 1d8 for a Medium weapon wielded as a one-handed weapon) or a bastard sword (damage 1d10 for a Medium weapon, but he must wield it as a two-handed weapon unless he knows the Exotic Weapon Proficiency (bastard sword) feat). If a soulknife shapes his mind blade into the form of a bastard sword and wields it two-handed, he adds 1½ times his Strength bonus to his damage rolls, just like when using any other two-handed weapon. Alternatively, a soulknife can split his mind blade into two identical short swords, suitable for fighting with a weapon in each hand. (The normal penalties for fighting with two weapons apply.) However, both mind blades have an enhancement bonus 1 lower than the soulknife would otherwise create with a single mind blade.

Mind Blade Enhancement (Su) At 6th level, a soulknife gains the ability to enhance his mind blade. He can add any one of the weapon special abilities on the Table: Melee Weapon Special Abilities that has an enhancement bonus value of +1. At every four levels beyond 6th (10th, 14th, and 18th), the value of the enhancement a soulknife can add to his weapon improves to +2, +3, and +4, respectively. A soulknife can choose any combination of weapon special abilities that does not exceed the total allowed by the soulknife’s level. The weapon ability or abilities remain the same every time the soulknife materializes his mind blade (unless he decides to reassign its abilities; see below). The ability or abilities apply to any form the mind blade takes, including the use of the shape mind blade or bladewind class abilities. A soulknife can reassign the ability or abilities he has added to his mind blade. To do so, he must first spend 8 hours in concentration. After that period, the mind blade materializes with the new ability or abilities selected by the soulknife.

Blade Speed (EX) The soulknife gains a bonus of +10 feet to his base land speed at 6th level. This benefit applies only when he is wearing no armorm or light armor, and not carrying a heavy load.

Bladewind (Su) At 9th level, a soulknife gains the ability to momentarily fragment his mind blade into numerous identical blades, each of which strikes at a nearby opponent. As a full attack, when wielding his mind blade, a soulknife can give up his regular attacks and instead fragment his mind blade to make one melee attack at his full base attack bonus against each opponent within reach. Each fragment functions identically to the soulknife’s regular mind blade. When using bladewind, a soulknife forfeits any bonus or extra attacks granted by other feats or abilities (such as the Cleave feat or the haste spell). The mind blade immediately reverts to its previous form after the bladewind attack.

Greater Weapon Focus (Mind Blade) A soulknife gains Greater Weapon Focus (mind blade) as a bonus feat at 9th level.

Knife to the Soul (Su) Beginning at 13th level, when a soulknife executes a eldritch strike, he can choose to substitute Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma damage (his choice) for extra dice of damage. For each die of extra damage he gives up, he deals 1 point of damage to the ability score he chooses. A soulknife can combine extra dice of damage and ability damage in any combination. The soulknife decides which ability score his eldritch strike damages and the division of ability damage and extra dice of damage when he imbues his mind blade with the eldritch strike energy.

Multiple Throw (Ex) At 17th level and higher, a soulknife can throw a number of mind blades per round equal to the number of melee attacks he could make.

Level B.A.B Fort Ref Will Special 1st +0 +0 +2 +2 Mind blade, Weapon Focus (mind blade), 2nd +1 +0 +3 +3 Throw mind blade 3rd +2 +1 +3 +3 Eldritch strike +1d8 4th +3 +1 +4 +4 +1 mind blade 5th +3 +1 +4 +4 Free draw, shape mind blade 6th +4 +2 +5 +5 Mind blade enhancement +1, Blade Speed 7th +5 +2 +5 +5 Eldritch strike +2d8 8th +6/+1 +2 +6 +6 +2 mind blade 9th +6/+1 +3 +6 +6 Bladewind, Greater Weapon Focus (mind blade) 10th +7/+2 +3 +7 +7 Mind blade enhancement +2 11th +8/+3 +3 +7 +7 Eldritch strike +3d8 12th +9/+4 +4 +8 +8 +3 mind blade 13th +9/+4 +4 +8 +8 Knife to the soul 14th +10/+5 +4 +9 +9 Mind blade enhancement +3 15th +11/+6/+1 +5 +9 +9 Eldritch strike +4d8 16th +12/+7/+2 +5 +10 +10 +4 mind blade 17th +12/+7/+2 +5 +10 +10 Multiple throw 18th +13/+8/+3 +6 +11 +11 Mind blade enhancement +4 19th +14/+9/+4 +6 +11 +11 Eldritch strike +5d8 20th +15/+10/+5 +6 +12 +12 +5 mind blade

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Separate from my response to your ideas:

My own suggestion

OK, so Soulknives are lightly-armored, highly-mobile strikers with a Wisdom focus and something of a “secret order” and “highly disciplined” flavor. Trained in special arts and lore, etc. etc. It’s pretty much the Psionic version of the Monk.

Actually, let’s call a spade a spade and a Jedi a Jedi. That’s what they are.

Well, anyway, I do know a class that’s highly-mobile, an effective striker with a bit of pseudo-magic tricks up its sleeve: the Swordsage from Tome of Battle. I recommend simply using a Swordsage and swapping Stone Dragon for the homebrew Sleeping Goddess discipline. Sleeping Goddess includes a number of boosts that create Mind Blade-like weapons, and the Swordsage is, itself, a great class.

If you really don’t want to have anything that’s even vaguely Psionic, trading a Swordsage’s Discipline Focus class features for a Mind Blade, as a Soulknife of its level, also seems reasonable. I would definitely add the Discipline special ability from Tome of Battle to the list of things a Soulsage (I just made that up) can take, though, and maybe even give a couple of them for free.

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Doing this separately from my own suggestion:

Response to your thoughts

  1. Another +1-equivalent isn’t even remotely enough. Sure, toss it in there, but it will not make much difference.

  2. I assume you’re referring to Psychic Strike with this; having it as a swift action and making it apply to more creatures would make it better, yes, but so long as it’s only applying to one attack it’s barely worth remembering to use. If it applies to all attacks, it seems a fair bit better than Sneak Attack (especially if it continues to use d8s), but then Rogues get other things, so eh. You’ll still have a class that cannot do anything but deal damage, and there are much better classes for that.

  3. This is a nice idea, and worth doing with whatever avenue you pursue, but ultimately it’s still not going to make the class much good. The best sword in the world does not make a good class if that’s all it has.

Basically, what it comes down to is this: If all you’re going to do is damage, you are extremely shallow as a combatant. Giving the Soulknife mobility, debuffs, crowd control, something, would help. So would giving it things to do outside combat, which is sorely lacks.

And your competition in the realm of “dealing maximum damage” is absurdly stiff. An ubercharger can one-shot just about anything that has an HP score and that he can reach. That doesn’t make him a good character; it actually makes him incredibly boring to play because he either cannot do anything because his trick doesn’t work (frequent), or he destroys everything because it does (less often, but just as boring).

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The 3.5 Soulknife is not really salvageable. The Soulbound Weapon Psychic Warrior is usually recommended as a replacement.

The Pathfinder Soulknife is touted as being better, you may be able to backport it into a 3.5 game. Here's a handbook for it.

Here's a (2009) list of suggested Soulknife fixes, both WotC and homebrew. A cool homebrew solution that's more recent than the list is Person_Man's War Soul.

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The Pathfinder Soulknife is a port of Dreamscarred Press's older Soulknife variant for 3.5 from Hyperconscious. You can find that here. I do not know if they did any more than just updating it for Pathfinder. –  KRyan Feb 1 '13 at 22:20

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