A level 7 evil cleric that I play frequently casts on himself the spell delay death (Spell Compendium 63). I want the cleric to be able to use the psionic power hostile empathic transfer.

Is there a magic or psionic item that enables the cleric to use this power? Furthermore, is there a way he can attach the power's activation to a deadman's switch?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. I edited your question to include some references so folks could more easily find the stuff you're talking about. I think it would be useful to add what you want the interaction between these two effect to be as maybe a similar effect could be created using a different combination of abilities. Further, the more information about the character folks have, the better an answer can be (what sources the campaign makes available is almost always useful, for instance). Have fun, and thank you for participating. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2015 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the edit. I did however notice you removed the part about me using this as a bad guy in a campaign I DM for. I'm worried that folks will possibly see this question in the wrong perspective. Not sure if that matters very much. I'll be sure to include more info on the character. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2015 at 19:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ The affect I'm going for is way to have my players feel like they're winning only for them to find out that this is a fight they should run away from. In the story, the city is being overrun by an invading army, and the party needs to escape. I want them to have a good encounter as part of this escape. How I see these two abilities working is as follows: 1) The cleric casts Delay Death on himself. 2) The cleric's health goes below 0 causing him to fall unconscious. 3) The cleric's dead man switch triggers causing him to activate Hostile Empathetic Transfer, which heals him back to above 0 hp. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2015 at 19:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's... a pretty specific scenario. Have alternatives been explored? For instance, is there a reason to do this instead of having a few ranks (maybe just 1 given the spells a cleric can use to increase skill checks) in the skill Use Magic Device and the spell contingency? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2015 at 19:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I didn't consider Use Magic Device, but that's a really good option. Scroll of Contigency (1,650gp) + a custom psicrown with enough power for one full Hostile Empathetic Transfer + Use Magic Device could work right? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2015 at 20:34

2 Answers 2


Get a prayer bead of karma and dip a single level of ardent, taking the Pain and Suffering mantle.

The ardent has a unique form of learning new psionic powers that allows him to choose any power he’s capable of manifesting (i.e. he has no explicit maximum power level, it’s just based on his manifester level). A prayer bead of karma can be activated by any divine spellcaster (which a cleric obviously is), but then gives a generic +4 bonus to caster level (not specifically divine caster level). By default, Psionic-Magic Transparency means that items that give a bonus to caster level also give the same bonus to manifester level.

So your cleric/ardent has a manifester level of 5th when using a prayer bead of karma, which is high enough to choose hostile empathic transfer off of the Pain and Suffering mantle. Taking the Practiced Manifester (ardent) thereafter allows you to maintain that manifester level 5th without the prayer bead, so that hostile empathic transfer does not require the use of it.

If choosing your power during the effect of the prayer bead of karma is too cheesy for you, Practiced Manifester (ardent) can be taken after the first level of ardent, and then a second level of ardent would benefit from it and allow you to choose hostile empathic transfer.


Just Give it to Him

As the GM, you don't need a specific rule to justify it. The NPC is a villain you created for story-purposes, there is no reason to restrain yourself to the rules used for creating PC characters. Especially since this is going to be a one-off usage, it isn't worth going through the mechanics to justify it.

GMs vary in how much they stick to the rules. In this case, there are no rules constraining your choice. The spell lists and class features are rules for creating player characters. They should not be constraints (but possibly rough guidelines) for creating challenges.

Defense Against the Rules Lawyer

Rules lawyers present a different challenge. An astute player might wonder how it's even possible for a cleric to be using a psionic ability, given that they don't have any levels in a psionic class.

Don't get sucked in to the lawyering. The abilities in player class descriptions are not the sum of everything possible in the game universe - just the options that players are allowed to choose from. There's a reason it's called the "Player's" handbook.

A second defense against the rules lawyer is to remind them that you are the judge. The GM is tasked with creating the game world and deciding what is reasonable. Basically, you are the authority - not the rule book. Of course, if you are going to deviate from the core rules significantly it is good etiquette to let everyone know ahead of time.

In-Game Justification While using class mechanics to justify an ability isn't that important, an in-game explanation is. Did the cleric receive the ability as a boon from an evil deity or supernatural creature? Maybe it comes from an artifact he retrieved from the ruins of an ancient psychic civilization. If your storytelling-reason is compelling, players won't need to look under the hood.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't want to bend the rules here. Normally, I'm a highly improvisational DM, but I always go into encounters with a clear idea of what the character's limitations are. Even though my players go wherever they want and face challenges on the fly, I try very hard to adhere to the rules while making it fair and challenging. Also, I already have this character very fleshed out since I play him in another campaign. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2015 at 20:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ What is the concern you are trying to avoid? I'd like to address it in in the answer if I can. This character isn't a PC and so isn't constrained by the character-making rules. There just aren't any rules that apply here. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2015 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ One of my players is a bad rules lawyer. Building the NPC within PC rules helps me avoid the lawyering while keeping the subsequent loot explainable (in the unlikely event that they win the encounter). Also, I didn't know NPCs aren't subject to the same rules. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2015 at 20:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ While you might have a point there, there is a reason why character creation is the way it is. If you give clerics psionic abilities without any mechanical way to back it up, you might throw off the balance of the NPC, thus the balance of the game. While the GM is allowed to bend any rule he wants, I personally wouldn't be too hot about a cleric "who happens to be able to do this". \$\endgroup\$
    – Joninean
    Dec 4, 2015 at 16:08

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