I am puzzled by the 1st-level psion/wilder power disable [telepathy] (Expanded Psionics Handbook 93), which says

You broadcast a mental compulsion that convinces one or more creatures of 4 Hit Dice or less that they are disabled. Creatures with the fewest HD are affected first. Among creatures with equal Hit Dice, those who are closest to the power’s point of origin are affected first. Hit Dice that are not sufficient to affect a creature are wasted. Creatures that are rendered helpless or are destroyed when they reach 0 hit points cannot be affected.

Further, every 2 psionic power points spent augmenting the power's range and save DC also increases the power's Hit Dice cap by 2. (The power must be augmented in 2 power point increments.)

But the power has a duration of 1 min./level and affects an area: a 20-ft. cone-shape emanation centered on the manifester. I'm not making that up.

The power is untouched by errata.

How disable may work now…

The creature takes a standard action to manifest the power disable, and on the creature's turn any number of creatures make saving throws if they're within the cone and if they possess 4 Hit Dice or less (or more Hit Dice if augmented) and if they're subject to the power's effect. (And in most cases constructs and undead will be doubly immune to the power!)

Thereafter, until the duration expires, each round—either at the manifester's turn's beginning, throughout the round or the turn, or at the manifester's turn's end (really, I don't know when)—additional creatures may be affected.

Failure on the saving throw means that, unless the creature does something to free itself from the effect, until the power's duration expires the DM roleplays the affected creature as if it thinks it's disabled, the power's guidelines suggesting such a creature usually surrenders or attempts to heal itself. (The power's description barely considers the idea that a hardcore foe may want to take a PC with it before it goes, a disappointing oversight.)

The weirdness of this power is its 1-min./level duration and cone-shaped emanation. Roaming around the battlefield projecting an aura that convinces foes they're dying is pretty awesome, especially since the maximum Hit Dice the power can affect scales so generously.

I'm mainly looking for confirmation: Is this really how this power works?

(Since it's a cone-shaped emanation, the power by default affects the manifester (as I think do most emanations but not all), but even if the manifester fails the saving throw, it's probably safe to assume the manifester knows how the power works and will continue to take actions normally!)

…And how it worked originally

The Psionics Handbook has the power function sort of like the 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell color spray [illus] (PH 210), the power's Range entry being instead medium, and its Area entry being Several living creatures within a 15-ft.-radius burst (therefore explaining the Creatures with the fewest HD are affected first in the XPH description of the power, for instance). Not really necessary for a good answer, but I am curious: Is there any developer commentary explaining the change made to it by the Expanded Psionics Handbook?

Note: The campaign's psychic rogue just reached level 2, and she's looking for a power. Psionics aren't really my bailiwick. Alternatives would be appreciated but absolutely are not required. She has vigor and has used the Expanded Psionics Handbook feat Hidden Talent (67) to acquire astral construct.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a weird power... I honestly have no idea how a creature-affecting cone-shaped emanation is supposed to work in a game with no facing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Dec 6, 2016 at 7:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik There's precedent for 1/round spinning a cone-shaped emanation, although the disable power lacks similar text; however, the when of the effect remains a complete mystery. I think it's likely that it's supposed to be a burst or spread rather than an emanation, but I'm waiting for someone more well versed in psionics than I to take a look. It's usually the 1st-level stuff that's the subject of analysis; surely someone else must've noticed this in the last decade! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 6, 2016 at 14:34

2 Answers 2


You're Almost Correct

Based on just reading through the SRD (this entire answer references this), while this power does move with you, it stays facing the same direction for the duration given "[y]ou make all pertinent decisions about a power (range, target, area, effect, version, and so forth) when the power comes into effect" and you determine direction of a cone at that time.

Additional targets would be affected when they enter the area of effect. (see "Subjects, Effects, and Area" under "Duration")

I'd Also note that in this case, the manifester would not be affected since point of origin for areas are based on intersections on the grid and squares affected are only those where the farthest edge of the effect touch. (see "area")

The bits about the order of who is affected is kind of confusing given the wording of how many creatures are affected. It sounds like it could be interpreted as being one of those spells where the HD total is distributed amongst monsters in range but the first line specifically says "creatures of 4 Hit Dice or less". This spell may have been intended to work this way given the spell level but I haven't found anything official one way or the other.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You're absolutely right about it being based on the foes entering the area. Damn. In actual play that is so difficult to run! However, I'd argue against an emanation centered on the manifester targeting a crosshairs; read literally, that could put, for example, a 10-ft. emanation that's "centered" on the manifester within a larger manifester's own space (and not extending beyond it) rather than around the manifester's space. Unfortunately for both of us, so far as I'm aware, the game never clarifies either way. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 10, 2016 at 2:13

I see 3 ways to play it:

(1st) It's probably an error (emanation instead of burst).

(2nd) But if you want to be pedantic (nothing wrong with that) about it, you can rule that the cone activates once per turn to a facing chosen by caster, usually do this on his turn.
In any case the spell ends when a total 4 HD have been affected. It's like Sleep.

(3rd Alternate reading) Or maybe you have to keep focusing the cone on the creatures you disabled. If you fail to do that one turn, they get better (un-disabled). But you can also target new enemies. This way the duration of 1 minute per level, applies to you, as the spell emanates from your person outwards each round. Enemies could be rolling a save each round, or just once when first affected. The total affected enemy HD (per round) can never exceed 4 (plus augment).

This 3rd version of ruling is a lot more complicated (and muddy at places, DM still has to decide parts) and I suggest going with the first ruling (burst instead of emanation) even though it's a houserule. I find even the second ruling cumbersome in actual play and the third even more so.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Limiting the total number Hit Dice affected (rather than limiting the effect to all creatures of certain Hit Dice or less) isn't supported by the text, though. That is, the whole Creatures with the fewest HD are affected first. Among creatures with equal Hit Dice, those who are closest to the power’s point of origin are affected first. Hit Dice that are not sufficient to affect a creature are wasted is so much nonsense if the reader doesn't make the (ahem) mental leap to sleep's text! Even the spell's Augment entry makes it sound like any number of creatures can be affected. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 13, 2016 at 7:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Psionics is inherently power creepy material. Every other power that mimics a spell is a level lower and more versatile (energy walls, repair constructs power, etc). Since the power text is obviously contradictory as you point out in your comment, it's up to the DM to balance it as he sees fit. You can throw away an entire 3 sentences of balancing text and make it even more imbalanced than any of my 3 suggestions if you want. It depends on the kind of game and other players at the table. Personally I go for balance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Simanos
    Dec 13, 2016 at 21:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also want to say that they added the "text" from Sleep almost wholesale. It's not a giant mental leap. Sleep is a spell from the first version of the game and everyone knows about it. If you don't read the sentence "You broadcast a mental compulsion that convinces one or more creatures of 4 Hit Dice or less that they are disabled." as meaning a total of 4 HD then the text is obviously contradictory (so much for psionics being well written as some people believe). Then in that case why throw out the 3 following sentences instead of adjusting the first? \$\endgroup\$
    – Simanos
    Dec 13, 2016 at 22:13

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