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I am helping a PC improve his character. He is a Halfling Fighter 2/Rogue 8/Psion(Telepath) 3 and he is about to take Shadowmind. He is very concerned about his mobility and has taken the feats Run and Fleet of Foot. I think he should retrain these and found that the power Hustle (1 move action for a swift action) would enhance his options in a way that these feats never could. But he is a Telepath and for roleplaying reasons wants to remain one.

I found that the Freedom Mantle (Complete Psionic) provides Hustle. But I would counsel against dipping into yet another class. (Going Shadowmind is overdue to get a reasonable combination of two of his three base classes.)

So: How could this character get the power Hustle?

Other options (based on character development, not items) to make his running feats obsolete are welcome.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The character took the not-so-terrible regional feat Fleet of Foot (PG 38) rather than the terrible general feat Fleet of Foot (CW 99), right? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 4 '16 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, he got the terrible version. That's why I thought retraining would help. \$\endgroup\$ – Giorin Dec 4 '16 at 17:30
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Expanded Knowledge feat

The Expanded Knowledge feat literally exists for this purpose. It allows you to learn any one power from any list, but it has to be at least one power level less than your maximum power level. So once this character is capable of manifesting 3rd-level powers, he could use Expanded Knowledge to learn hustle as a 2nd-level power.

Note that Complete Psionic also has the dimension hop power, a short-range swift-action 1st-level teleport. This character can already manifest 2nd-level powers, so using Expanded Knowledge for dimension hop is already possible. Hustle is better in many ways (real move action that could be used for other things, longer distance when actually moving), but dimension hop is cheaper and is teleportation, which can be useful.

Alternatives

Note our Q&A on moving while still full-attacking—the section on swift movement could be very useful to this character. The best way to do this is the Travel Devotion feat from Complete Champion—and the best way to get that is through a single-level dip of the cleric class. May not work for this character, but a cleric level is excellent—easily worth trading in a level of fighter or rogue for.

Rebuilding/reconsidering shadowmind

Generally, shadowmind is a very weak prestige class. Its unique class features are exceedingly weak, it has a lot of dead levels, and the levels when it gets sneak attack, it doesn’t get manifesting—you could literally do better just alternating levels of rogue and telepath. You would get better class features and far more skill points.

Similarly, rogue does not offer much beyond its sneak attack progression until 10th level—taking 8 levels of it is kind of pointless. Other classes get sneak attack, and better class features. A few levels of rogue—say, 1-4 levels, since 1 and 3 give sneak attack and 2 and 4 give OK class features—is closer to what this character should be aiming for. In particular, the penetrating strike ACF in Dungeonscape replaces the 2nd-level evasion feature with the ability to deal half your sneak attack damage against things normally immune to it. That is very nice. Uncanny dodge, at 4th, is... OK. Not great; I probably wouldn’t bother.

I’m not sure what the character is using the fighter class for, but unless absolutely desperate for feats, it’s probably not a great pick. Even if the character is absolutely desperate for feats, two levels of psychic warrior, instead, give the same bonus feats (off a list expanded to also include psionic feats!), plus a couple of powers known and extra power points (note that all manifesting classes share power points, so those power points can totally go towards your telepath powers).

Thus, for a manifesting sneak, other options could be better. Telepath is fine; egoist or nomad might arguably be superior, but telepath certainly has quite enough going for it.

Now then, what to take instead?

Well, first of all, note the existence of the psychic rogue. It’s Intelligence-based, has its own powers and power points, and still gets sneak attack. Somewhat slowly, but it’s there. An 8th-level psychic rogue has all the relevant class features of an 8th-level rogue, at the cost of somewhat fewer skill points and 1d6 sneak attack damage. In exchange, six powers known (three 1st-level and three 2nd-level). Psyrogue even gets hustle as a power, albeit sadly as a 3rd-level power (could have it if you took that 9th level). Note, however, that the 8th level itself gets very nearly nothing—no class features, no powers known, just 2 PP.

If the character can justify any religious or spiritual devotion at all, dipping cleric for Travel Devotion should definitely be considered. Since the 8th level of psyrogue is pointless, you could easily change Fighter 2/Rogue 8 into Psychic Warrior 2/Cleric 1/Psychic Rogue 7 and lose almost nothing. This allows the character to move, as with a move action, as a swift action for 1-3 minutes per day (depending on the character’s Charisma, since it is powered by Turn Undead).

But we can go further. Since Fleet of Foot and Run are terrible feats, and we’re getting better maneuverability through psionics and/or devotion, we can free up two feats—which means we don’t need fighter or psychic warrior at all. This could easily be replacing the Fighter 2/Rogue 8 with Cleric 1/Psychic Rogue 9; that gets us a 3rd-level psychic rogue power, which could be hustle. Alternatively, two levels of regular rogue gets us more sneak attack, more skill points, and that excellent penetrating strike ACF I mentioned earlier.

Swordsage, from Tome of Battle, is also an excellent option, particularly if taken at exactly 9th (character) level: you can take the assassin’s stance for +2d6 sneak attack damage in one level. It’s got lots and lots of other goodies, too, like cloak of deception (greater invisibility for one turn), shadow jaunt (50-foot teleportation as a standard action), and mountain hammer (ignore all DR and Hardness for one attack that gets +2d6 damage).

You could also use ardent, which with Practiced Manifester can actually select higher-level powers right from 2nd level (not 1st because you need a level of ardent in order to select it with Practiced Manifester). Not the best way to get hustle, but it could get you dimension hop at the same time, which is nice.

Or we could just go with more/earlier telepath levels. Losing some sneak attack for better manifesting is a rather-good trade, though we also lose a lot of skill points that way. But even just the two more levels of telepath means that Expanded Knowledge could get get us hustle as a telepath power.

Complete Scoundrel has the uncanny trickster, as well as the magical trickster which has a psionic adaptation. These can progress your telepath manifesting (on two out of three levels each) while granting some class features and far more skill points.

Alternatively, the cognition thief is a weird prestige class from Player’s Guide to Faerûn that progresses manifesting (poorly), has some fairly-solid class features—including the ability to poach some powers from the telepath discipline list. This could replace telepath altogether, allowing you to run as a pure psychic rogue who picks up some telepath powers this way.

Other prestige classes worth considering include daggerspell mage (Complete Adventurer includes a blurb about adapting it for psionics, though this is going to take a bit more work than the author suggests) and ebon saint (Complete Psionic). The shadowmind... is easy enough to enter, I suppose, but it gives so little. If you were taking concealing amorpha anyway, one level is basically a free power, even if it’s not a great one...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that a rebuild is the thorough way to solve this characters problems. As I am the DM I will make it available soon. \$\endgroup\$ – Giorin Dec 4 '16 at 17:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the player made a lot of choices without thought. Why the fighter levels? Because he wanted to play some sort of "fighting rougue" but not for specific reasons. The most important result: The PC can use the Small longbow. The player does not like researching the rules. I did not question this approach, but now I feel the PC is becoming a "waste -of-space" and this is no longer fun. This certainly will never become a strong character, but the player should have fun. \$\endgroup\$ – Giorin Dec 4 '16 at 17:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Giorin Yeah, unfortunately, 3.5 (and really, all of d20) is really bad for that. The heavy use of prereqs, the wild imbalance between options described as being equally valid choices, the extremely discrete multiclassing system, they all contribute to a system that rewards preplanned characters to an absurd degree, to the point where it’s fair to also say it punishes unplanned characters. There is not really any great solution to this, though I will recommend Tome of Battle —the classes in that book are much, much harder to mess up; you can just pick whatever sounds cool at the time. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 4 '16 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ As to the improvements before rebuild: I understand your criticism of Shadowmind, it is much weaker than the arcane/rogue prestige classes, but I reckoned it to be better than continuing with Rogue and Psion seperately, especially as the PC would have to get a (basically useless) Fighter level before gaining a new manifester level. The Shadowmind offers 70% manifesting and 60% of sneak compared to Rogue, which is better than 50%/50%. I think if the PC wants to get anywhere soon he must develop his psionics. \$\endgroup\$ – Giorin Dec 5 '16 at 21:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Giorin Yeah, that was probably hyperbole. It’s still really poor by the standard set by arcane trickster, to say nothing of the (far superior) unseen seer. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 5 '16 at 21:07
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He can get the power through Independent Research.

Independent Research

A psion also can research a power independently, duplicating an existing power or creating an entirely new one. If characters are allowed to develop new powers, use these guidelines to handle the situation.

Any kind of manifester can create a new power. The research involved requires access to a retreat conducive to uninterrupted meditation. Research involves an expenditure of 200 XP per week and takes one week per level of the power. At the end of that time, the character makes a Psicraft check (DC 10 + spell level). If that check succeeds, the character learns the new power if her research produced a viable power. If the check fails, the character must go through the research process again if she wants to keep trying.

Of course, this hangs on the caveat of "if characters are allowed to develop new powers ..." in your campaign at all. If you are the GM then you can just tell them to go ahead, and if not then you'll need to speak to your GM and ask. It'll take 400XP and some downtime to do, but at 13th level you shouldn't even notice the loss really!

Alternatively, the Expanded Knowledge feat works too (eventually).

Prerequisites Manifester level 3rd.

Benefit Add to your powers known one additional power of any level up to one level lower than the highest-level power you can manifest. You can choose any power, including powers from another discipline’s list or even from another class’s list.

Unfortunately, this means that you'll need to be able to manifest at least 3rd levbel powers before you can learn Hustle this way, but it could be a worthwhile long-term plan.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Power research should be for new effects, not for getting out of tanking the feat and getting the power sooner. No DM should allow that, it takes away unique abilities for the psychic warrior and diminishes that class’s purpose. Why take psywar when psions can just pay their best tricks, at an earlier level and at no cost to themselves? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 4 '16 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It doesn't seem like the player is overly optimising their character so cutting them some slack may be warranted. Either way, it does specifically allow you to duplicate existing effects and not just create new ones \$\endgroup\$ – Phlyk Dec 4 '16 at 14:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It really says, "A psion also can research a power independently [that] duplicat[es] an existing power," so I don't see a problem with that. I am concerned that "the character learns the new power," yet the text doesn't say the character also loses an equivalent old power! That seems a little wacky. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 4 '16 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Phlyk, @HeyICanChan I would argue it says that only because it was a barely-considered copy-and-paste of the same text for spells, which don’t have the option of Expanded Knowledge. Nonetheless, I maintain my position that allowing psions to poach other manifesters’ unique powers so easily is bad for the game. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 4 '16 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan In the long-term abstract, probably? But to draw that hard a line against an individual campaign making a one-power exception for one unoptimized character? I don't think that DM will be damaging the game's integrity on the quantum level or anything. (Also, to my relief, the actual text continues: "The number of powers that all psionic classes can know is strictly limited; manifesters can never exceed those limits even through the research of original powers" (XPH 64).) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 4 '16 at 14:40

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