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I would like to build a 13th level NPC Ranger-type, i.e. nature and stealth themed warrior, with psionics instead of spellcasting. Are there

a) guidelines to adept spellcasters to psionics b) existing Alternative class features or Ranger variants allowing for psionics c) feats that would allow fullscale psionics (i.e. more than wild talent) d) prestige classes that would allow an effective combination of ranger class features and psionics in 13th level?

Losing spellcasting is not mandatory, though preferred to a build that merely adds psionics to a ranger for roleplaying reasons.

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Simple, straight-forward third-party psionic ranger

Dreamscarred Press is primarily a third-party publisher for Pathfinder these days, but they started in 3.5e, and they produced a psionic ranger for 3.5e. So that’s a simple, ready-made answer.

Soulbow: official psionic archery, but not so much stealth or nature lore

A more official, but less ranger-y, approach would be the soulbolt prestige class from Complete Psionic. It’s probably one of the best things to come out of that book, and certainly one of the best things you can do with a soulknife, but those are both really low standards (Complete Psionic is one of the worst official books for 3.5e, and soulknives are a really, really weak class).

Backporting DSP Pathfinder material offers some options

Reaching farther, Dreamscarred Press’s Pathfinder material can be readily back-ported to 3.5e, and is often of higher quality. The marksman is pretty good, for example. Their Pathfinder soulknife is also improved over the 3.5e one, and has a soulbolt archetype—though, I should warn you, even with improvements it’s still not a great class unless you’re using one of the newer, higher-power archetypes like war soul, psychic armory, or living legend, which aren’t yet available on d20PFSRD.com (Psionics Augmented: Soulknives and Psionics Augmented: Living Legend or Psionics Augmented: Occult are the places to find those, if you are interested—disclaimer, though: I worked on some of the other content in Psionics Augmented: Occult, so I have a vested interest in that book).

An ardent might be able to cobble together a PhD in rangering

Finally, if you want to frankenstein a build together out of official 3.5e parts, you’re almost-certainly going to be looking at ardent (Complete Psionic again, and probably the only thing in it that I’ll say is, without reservation, quality material—well, almost without reservation, the magic mantle is a mess).

The ardent is a psionic philosopher to the cleric’s magic priest, and gains powers by tapping psionic “mantles,” which are fairly similar to a cleric’s domains. Unlike a cleric, an ardent gains several such mantles, and can even take opposing mantles (e.g. an ardent with both good and evil mantles could specifically be interested in the interplay of good and evil, rather than necessarily espousing either alignment on a personal level). An ardent takes on several mantles as he levels.

The reason you’ll want ardent are two-fold: one, there’s a natural world mantle, and it’s just about the only reference to nature in official psionic material. And other mantles like conflict, elements, life, or physical power, are available to fill up the rest of your choices. Two, the ardent has a unique, multiclassing-friendly system of powers known, since the ardent has no max power level known. Instead, you just can learn a power of any level you have high enough manifester level to afford the power points for, which means any bonus to manifester level—like Practiced Manifester (the third and final quality material in Complete Psionic)—can allow you to learn higher-level powers. That makes multiclassing (at least, so long as you don’t take more than four non-progressing levels) far less painful than it is for other manifesters.

That means ardent can be a useful means for improving your “ranger-ness” with some judicious multiclassing, when otherwise psionics struggles to offer very much of that. One of your four non-progression levels should probably be slayer 1st, since slayer is a great, full-BAB psionic-progressing class. For the other three levels, you could be a 3rd-level ranger just for favored enemy, Track, wild empathy, the initial combat style feat, and Endurance. If lawful good, or otherwise in an alignment-flexible game, a couple levels of paladin—with the Serenity feat from Dragon Compendium—could be even better, since you can get favored enemy through this Unearthed Arcana variant or the holy judge variant in Champions of Valor, and divine grace is so good. Barbarian is on a similar narrative level to ranger, and though any kind of rage is problematic for psionic powers, one level can get you pounce (Complete Champion, lion spiritual totem) as well as ferocity or whirling frenzy, which are fantastic for ranger combat styles.

Off the top of my head, I would probably look at something like this:

\begin{array}{l|l} \textbf{Level} & \textbf{Class} & \textbf{BAB} & \textbf{Special} & \textbf{Feat} & \textbf{Power} \\ \hline 1^\text{st} & \text{Paladin} & +1 & \text{Favored enemy (devils)}^1 & \text{Serenity} & - \\ 2^\text{nd} & & +2 & \text{Divine grace, favored enemy}^2 & & - \\ \hline 3^\text{rd} & \text{Ardent} & +2 & \text{Natural world mantle,} & \text{Practiced} & {1^\text{st}}^3 \times 2 \\ & & & \quad\text{conflict mantle} & \quad\text{Manifester} \\ 4^\text{th} & & +3 & \text{Physical power mantle} & & 2^\text{nd} \\ \hline 5^\text{th} & \text{Ranger}^4 & +4 & \text{Favored enemy, wild empathy} & \text{Track}^B & 3^\text{rd} \\ \hline 6^\text{th} & \text{Slayer} & +5 & \text{Favored enemy +2,}^5 & \text{Point-blank} & 3^\text{rd} \\ & & & \quad\text{enemy sense} & \quad\text{Shot} \\ 7^\text{th} & & +6/+1 & \text{Brain nausea} & & 4^\text{th} \\ 8^\text{th} & & +7/+2 & \text{Lucid buffer} & & 4^\text{th} \\ 9^\text{th} & & +8/+3 & \text{Favored enemy +4}^5 & \text{Zen Archery}^6 & 5^\text{th} \\ 10^\text{th} & & +9/+4 & & & 5^\text{th} \\ 11^\text{th} & & +10/+5 & \text{Cerebral blind} & & 6^\text{th} \\ 12^\text{th} & & +11/+6/+1 & \text{Favored enemy +6}^5 & \text{Rapid Shot} & 6^\text{th} \\ 13^\text{th} & & +12/+7/+2 & \text{Breach power resistance} & & 7^\text{th} \\ \end{array}

  1. Holy judge variant from Champions of Valor, officially requires worship of Tyr.

  2. Unearthed Arcana variant, “may only select aberrations, dragons, giants, monstrous humanoids, evil outsiders, or undead.”

  3. Technically, you choose your feats as the last step of leveling up, so for the first level of ardent you still have manifester level 1st when you choose your powers, so you have to choose 1st-level powers even though you end up with manifester level 3rd by the end of the level.

  4. If ignoring the stupid paladin multiclassing rules that say you must start as a paladin if you are to ever become one, it’s best to start with ranger in order to apply the ×4 skill point multiplier to the ranger’s (6+Int) skill points.

  5. Whether, and how, slayer favored enemy stacks with ranger favored enemy is really unclear. Unlike most sources of favored enemy, the slayer version makes no mention of offering a +2 bonus on some existing type of favored enemy. The improvements to it also seem mandatory, rather than being applicable to other favored enemies. But the issue is murky. Stems from the fact that originally the class was the illithid slayer, in Expanded Psionics Handbook, and only became the slayer in the SRD where illithids aren’t allowed because they’re product identity.

  6. Complete Warrior feat, use Wisdom for ranged weapon attacks.

Officially, holy judge requires worshiping Tyr and thus LG alignment. If not playing in Faerûn, though, that requirement could easily be waived, and alternate paladins for each alignment are readily available. But ditching holy judge is no major loss anyway; Unearthed Arcana paladin with Serenity remains an excellent choice.

If paladin really is too problematic, though, you could go with another level of ranger—and you could consider the moon-warded ranger from Dragon vol. 340 for Wis-to-AC even in light armor, since we’re already getting critical archery feats. The other level is kind of wide-open, as long as you are using fractional BAB (if not, you need something with BAB +1 at 1st, but seriously, you should use fractional BAB). The aforementioned barbarian could work, or if you don’t mind being strongly neutral good, you could try to sneak a couple levels of stalker of Kharash into the build for the astoundingly good favored enemy—evil.

Otherwise, this build is pretty flexbile. Kalashtar from Eberron Campaign Setting are a particularly good choice of race for their extra power points (1 per level, rather than the flat +2 most psionic races get), and lesser aasimar might be an overly-good choice of race (thanks to +2 Wis with no drawbacks), but any race can work (a penalty to Wisdom would hurt a lot though, since this build adds Wisdom to so many things).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for this incredibly detailed, excellent answer. I will have to evaluate thoroughly, but especially the Dreamscarred ranger and the Slayer solution appeal to me. Thank you for this work! \$\endgroup\$ – Giorin Apr 4 '18 at 8:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ If one uses BoED (for Stalker of Karash), then the excellent exalted feat Nemesis (BoED, p. 44) should worm its way into the build => (1) automatically pinpoint any favored enemy within 60 ft., even beyond doors and walls and (2) +1d6 vs Evil representatives of favored enemies. Also, might be worth mentioning Enemy Spirit Pouch given the number of favored enemies you worked in the build; +2 to the favored enemy bonus is pretty neat, and the +1 Competence AR vs them is even better. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Apr 5 '18 at 18:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ The psionic Ranger of Dreamscarred Press in your link does not give out manifester level. Is it safe to assume it is 1/2 ranger level as the caster level of a spellcasting ranger? \$\endgroup\$ – Giorin Apr 9 '18 at 21:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Giorin I would actually go with full class level, rather than half, but that’s mostly because I despise the half-level caster level of rangers and paladins. I can assure you that this won’t be overpowered—regular rangers are a pretty weak class, and spells are better than powers. And I mean, look at that ardent build—vastly superior manifesting, only one missed BAB, similar feats, etc. But half-level will work if you insist. Practiced Manifester can get back 4 of that, too, but is a painful feat tax (and at 13th, 4 still leaves you 3 under where you should be). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 9 '18 at 22:01
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There are several possibilities for a character like you're describing. Which one you choose will depend on which Ranger features are most important to you, what power level you're shooting for, and how attached you are to having character levels in the actual Ranger class (as opposed to refluffing other classes).

Multiclass Slayer

The Slayer prestige class is probably the most straightforward fit for your requirements. It's a prestige class designed for psionic Ranger gishes, and requires BAB +4 (easily obtained with early Ranger levels), the Track feat (which Ranger gets for free), and a power point reserve (which can be gained with the psionic class of your choice).

In addition to its good chassis (full BAB, 9/10 psionics advancement), it has various cool and flavorful class features, including granting you additional favored enemies and granting you extra abilities related to favored enemies, like the ability to psionically sense them if they're nearby.

That said, although it's a great fit with Ranger, the class isn't particularly nature-themed (it's based on an earlier version called "Illithid Slayer," and some of the aberration-hunting fluff has remained), and it doesn't advance your animal companion at all.

If you go with this option, Ranger 3 / Psion 2 / Slayer X would be a good level split, but feel free to replace Psion with a different psionic casting class (like Wilder or Ardent) if you like one of the others better. This split would result in 12 BAB and access to level 5 psionic powers at level 13, perfectly respectable for a psionic gish.

Psychic Warrior with a la carte Ranger extras

Another option would be to use the Psychic Warrior class, which is an excellent psionic gish-in-a-can, and then add Ranger flavor piecemeal. Depending on exactly which Ranger things you want, you might consider:

  • The Track feat
  • The Wild Cohort feat, which acts much like an animal companion
  • The Two-Weapon Fighting feat line, or archery-related feats like Rapid Shot, to mimic the Ranger's fighting styles
  • A dip into Beast Heart Adept (Dungeonscape, p. 48) for additional companion features as well as access to an ability that works like Wild Empathy

Homebrew Ranger variant

Finally, if your DM is game, there's the option to just say "heck with official variants, how bad can it be to just replace Ranger's spellcasting with equivalent psionics progression?"

If you're trying to match the official spellcasting progression of the Ranger, you'd need to work with your DM to come up with a progression of maximum power level and power points that maxes out at level 4 powers.

However, in my opinion, the Ranger's spellcasting progression is way slower than it needs to be anyway. If I were creating this variant, I would just replace the Ranger's spellcasting with the Psychic Warrior's psionics as a one-for-one swap and call it a day. This will result in a solid tier 3 class that should be fun to play and won't rock any boats power-wise. I would expect it to be fairly close to the Mystic Ranger variant (Dragon #336), except without the weird front-loading of Mystic Ranger's spellcasting progression.

If you're up for a little more effort, you might work with your DM to adjust the power list to match the Ranger's fluff more closely. For instance, Touchsight and Trace Teleport seem like they would fit well with the Ranger's "tracker" theme.

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