Is there a method to change damage from psionic powers to nonlethal?

I am looking for answers in the 3.x/d20 material from Official WotC sources (published by WotC or by authorized 'official' sources such as Athas.org and similar. By this metric, Pathfinder and Dreamscarred don't count.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it might be better to just assume there will be answers for 3.x rather than asking about any edition ever-- I'm not sure you realize how different psionics is across different editions, as well as how different the dealing of subdual damage is. I guess the reason I feel that way is because an answer that works in OD&D is not going to work as a good basis for a house rule in 3.5. And a thing that works in 4e will be just as completely inappropriate. If something were appropriate, answers could easily base an answer off of useful different-edition text without that broadening. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 7:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ That said, you've said you prefer 3.x answers, so I'm not VTCing or anything. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 7:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question is about using this in a 3.5e game, so that's the subject — potential sources or answers don't get tags, only the actual question's topic does, so I've removed those. It's fine to say that other sources are useful, they're just not the topic and dilute the purpose of tags (finding questions on a topic). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 8:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Thank you for the concern. I do happen realize the differences since I've played them all. I'm trying to see if it was ever an idea. I could always borrow from metamagic if I had to.... \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ What's does “WotC-officially approved d20 source material” actually mean? I understand the words separately, but I don't understand what set of materials you are trying to define with that combination of words. For example, is Wheel of Time RPG official WotC approved d20 source material? (I would say “yes”, but you might say “no”.) Is something with the d20 STL logo official WotC approved d20 source material? (I would also say “yes”, but maybe you'd say “no”.) Is OGL material? (I would say… it depends on who you ask, and therefore answer-writers won't all agree.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 3:12

2 Answers 2


There is, so far as I'm aware, no general official way of making a power deal nonlethal instead of lethal damage. However, some guidelines are provided for turning some metamagic feats into psionic feats by the SRD section "Epic Feats" on Epic Psionic Feats that says

Translating epic metamagic feats to epic metapsionic feats requires that Spellcraft prerequisites be replaced with Psicraft. It also requires a little math—instead of casting a spell at a higher level, a psionic character pays more power points. For every spell slot one level higher than the spell’s actual level the metamagic feat requires, the metapsionic feat requires a character to pay a power point cost equal to its standard cost +2. Likewise, when a feat allows a spellcaster to “pay” one less level to use a metamagic feat, the psionic version allows a character to pay 2 power points less for a given metapsionic feat.

Assuming a similar process can be used for nonepic psionic feats—and in this case I can't really see a real reason not to—creating the homebrew feat Psionic Nonlethal Substitution based on the metamagic feat Nonlethal Substitution (CAr 81) would look something like this:

Psionic Nonlethal Substitution

You can modify an energy power to deal nonlethal damage.
Benefit: Choose one type of energy (acid, cold, electricity, or fire). You can then modify any power with the chosen descriptor to deal nonlethal damage instead of normal energy damage. The nonlethal power works normally in all respects except the type of damage dealt. A nonlethal power costs a number of power points equal to its standard cost +2.

Then it's just a matter of getting the feat approved by the DM.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I suppose in that case I could just covert the Nonlethal Spell metamagic feat over to psionics. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko (Um… there is no feat Nonlethal Spell. I think the feat you're thinking of is this one! :-)) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah there is, it's in d20 Urban Arcana. We use 3.x + d20 (official sources) interchangeably in our games since 3.x is d20 based. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 20:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko Huh. Cool, and fair enough—I tend to ignore other d20 sources even from Wizards of the Coast when D&D questions are posed. (But using d20 Modern stuff must get awfully complicated when D&D firearms are involved!) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 20:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ It just depends on the campaign setting. Are we doing modern characters lost in a fantasy world, or fantasy characters stuck in modern times, or some mix'n'match craziness ala Palladium's Rifts? All for the fun of it, really. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 18:54

There is no Nonlethal Power or Merciful Power feat.

There is, however, a Nonlethal Substitution metamagic feat, found in Book of Exalted Deeds and Complete Arcane, which allows a spell to deal nonlethal damage instead of energy damage. As HeyICanChan’s answer indicates, Epic Level Handbook suggests that a metamagic effect can be translated to metapsionic by converting the spell-level increase to a 2 power point increase.

My answer, however, is that Epic Level Handbook is wrong about that conversion, or at least is not telling the whole story. Many metapsionic effects with metamagic analogues did not use that conversion. Here are some examples:

Meta Effect Spell Level Increase Power Point Increase Uses ELH formula
Chain +3 +6 Yes
Empower +2 +2 No
Enlarge +1 +0 No
Extend +1 +2 Yes
Energy Substitution +0 +0 N/A
Energy Admixture +4 +8 Yes
Quicken +4 +6 No
Reach +2 +2 No
Repeat +3 +6 Yes
Sculpt +1 +2 Yes
Transdimensional +1 +0 No
Twin +4 +6 No
Widen +3 +4 No

So there are actually more metapsionic effects that don’t use the Epic Level Handbook formula (7) than those that do (5) (I am leaving Energy Substitution out since it has no adjustment). Those that don’t use the formula all use the same formula:

$$\left(\Delta L_{spell} - 1\text{ spell level}\right) \times 2\ \frac{\text{power points}}{\text{spell level}}$$

Where \$\Delta L_{spell}\$ is the spell level increase of the metamagic effect. Why do these effects count as a spell level less when metapsionic? To my mind, there is an easy answer to that: because metapsionics also require the expenditure of psionic focus. In this formula, that cost “covers” a spell level’s worth of cost for us.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of rhyme or reason to which effects get this discount and which do not. It’s not as though Expanded Psionics Handbook and Complete Psionic used different formulas, or that there appears to be a particular attempt to rebalance things by apply the discount to the weakest effects (Quicken is one of the discounted effects!). So there isn’t a lot to go on here.

Now, Nonlethal Substitution is a pretty good meta effect—because it replaces the energy damage with “nonlethal damage,” that is untyped damage that is nigh-impossible to resist. Constructs, swarms, and the undead are immune to nonlethal damage, but other than those things resistance or immunity to it is fairly rare. But you also have to spend a feat on it, plus expending psionic focus is a pretty big deal. And blasting is sub-par.

So personally, my choice would be for a Psionic Nonlethal Substitution metapsionic feat to cost 0 extra power points, just require expending psionic focus.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice comparison! Very informative; I like the detailed research. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 20:23

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