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In Monster Manual 1, a core source, Ability Focus feat applies to special attacks, and psionics are defined as a special attack in the Stat blocks and as a spell-like ability in the glossary. Most psionic powers allow saving throws.

In Monster Manual 4, psionics is defined as spell-like abilities with a saving throw. Ability Focus Feat is the same as MM5.

In Monster Manual 5, the updated version of Ability Focus feat applies to any special ability with a saving throw, and psionics are defined as a spell-like ability in the glossary. Most psionic powers allow saving throws.

In the Expanded Psionics Handbook, a core source for psionics, BOTH psionic powers manifested from a class AND psionic effects manifested from a non-class ability are defined as psi-like [p.65] (and elsewhere as spell-like) Special Abilities. Most psionic powers allow saving throws.

Thus the question is if the Ability Focus feat can affect a character's manifestation of psionic powers as a whole and grant the +2 to all manifested powers that allow a saving throw?

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2 Answers 2

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Probably not, depending on DM

There are a few caveats as to eligibility, but assuming the feat is allowed at all, the interpretation will hinge on what constitutes a special attack.

Benefit

Add +2 to the DC for all saving throws against the special attack on which the creature focuses.

  • Is a Special Ability and a Special Attack the same thing? Probably not.
  • Would all attacks made by facets of a Special Ability count as Special Attacks? Maybe.
  • Would they all count as the same Special Attack, and thus all be covered by the feat? Probably not.

However, the terms are ill defined and thus (to the best of my knowledge) in the domain of DM interpretation.

As DM, I would allow the feat for any one Psionic Power, per purchase of the feat. Allowing it for all Powers (or all Spells) would be significantly more powerful than most feats.

Opinion, however, vary. Have a couple of threads discussing the matter (albeit with a focus on Spellcasting rather than Psionic Powers).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I note that for both manifesting and spellcasting there are already feats which grant a large across-the-board boost to ML/CL, so why would you decline this one, out of curiosity? \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    May 1, 2023 at 17:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko Caster/manifester level boosts the effect, usually in a pretty linear fashion, while DC makes the effects harder to resist. I consider DC boosts "more powerful" than caster/manifester level boosts, and judging from the (Greater) Spell Focus feats, that boost the DC of one school by +1, Wizards seem to agree with me. \$\endgroup\$
    – From
    May 1, 2023 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see, that helps me to understand your answer better, thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    May 1, 2023 at 18:15
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Actually, it is theoretically possible, rule-wise.

But it is also obvious that it is going to break the system quite quickly.

As @From mentioned, Special Ability and Special Attack are not the same thing, and this feat specifically mentioned it only applies to Special Attack.

But let's see this example from MM:

BLUE

Blue, 1st-Level Psion (Telepath)
Small Humanoid (Goblinoid, Psionic)
Hit Dice: 1d4+2 plus 4 (10 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 16 (+1 size, +1 Dex, +4 inertial armor), touch 11, flatfooted 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +0/-6
Attack: Quarterstaff -2 melee (1d4-2) or light crossbow +1 ranged (1d6/19-20)
Full Attack: Quarterstaff -2 melee (1d4-2) or light crossbow +1 ranged (1d6/19-20)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Psionic powers
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft.
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +3
Abilities: Str 6, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 17, Wis 12, Cha 8
Skills: Concentration +6, Hide +7, Move Silently +5, Psicraft +7, Ride +5, Spot +3
Feats: Psionic Body, Psionic DodgeB
Environment: Temperate plains
Organization: Solitary, gang (1 plus 4-9 goblin warriors), band (2d10 plus 10-100 goblin warriors plus 100% noncombatants plus 1 3rd-level sergeant per 20 adults and 1 leader of 4th-6th level), warband (2d4 plus 10-24 goblin warriors with worg mounts), or tribe (4d10 plus 40-400 goblin warriors plus 100% noncombatants plus 1 3rd-level sergeant per 20 adults, 1 or 2 lieutenants of 4th or 5th level, 1 leader of 6th-8th level, 10-24 worgs, and 2-4 dire wolves)
Challenge Rating: 1
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Usually neutral Evil Advancement: By character class (usually psion)
Level Adjustment: +1

Blues are a subrace of goblins with an innate knack for psionics. A blue is often smaller than an average goblin, standing just about 3 feet tall and weighing about 40 pounds. Blues have noticeably blue-tinged skin, and their eyes are less dull than those of a common goblin. Otherwise, they resemble their kin. They generally dress in short leather robes, dyed black.

Blues speak Goblin and Common.

Most blues encountered outside their homes are psions; the information in the statistics block is for a psion of 1st level.

COMBAT

Blues support goblin warriors in combat and are often called upon to lead a gang of goblins (from the rear) into battle.

Psionic Powers: The blue described here is a 1st-level psion.

Typical Psion Powers Known (power points 3; save DC 13 + power level): 1st - inertial armor, mind thrust (DC 14), psionic charm (DC 14).

Manifester level 1st. The save DCs are Intelligence-based.

*The blue shown here has already manifested inertial armor; its reserve is normally 4 power points.

Skills: Blues have a +4 racial bonus on Move Silently checks and Ride checks.

The blue psion presented here had the following ability scores before racial adjustments: Str 8, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 12, Cha 10.

So it turns out WOTC considers power manifesting is one example of Special Attack.

The same applies to Spell Casting, which you can check Solar Angel as an example.

On the other hand, let's see what would happen if we allow this:

If we take a look at the effect of this feat and compare it with what feats the PC is allowed to access (those feats in PHB), we can see that the Ability Focus feat, if it can be applied to Power or Spell as a whole, is obviously overpowering Spell Focus, which only applies to one single school of spells and can only increase DC by 1. Hence, allowing this will cause Spell Focus to become a completely underpowered option.

It is also worth mentioning that, in MM, "Spell-like Abilities" is also only noted once as a single item in the "Special Attack" section of any monster who has it, even if it has multiple Sp Abilities. Yet, no one will allow such a monster to be able to apply Ability Focus to all of its Sp Abilities in one go.

Personal suggestion:

"Sure, you can use Ability Focus on your Psionic Power. But only on one of them. Choose wisely, will you?"

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