D&D 5e: Psi Warrior Fighter Guide
Role in the Party
Fighters in general are solid weapon users that are heavily defined by their subclass; the Psi Warrior Fighter is the sole fighter that has a good reason to have a high intelligence score, and it has similar versatility to a subclass like the Battle Master. There are a lot of similarities between the Psi Warrior and the Battle Master; both of them power limited use features with a pool of dice. However, the Battle Master is more front loaded, while the Psi Warrior gains significantly more power over time.
Despite the unique features, you will still do ordinary fighter things most of the time: making weapon attacks, sometimes taking damage for allies, and unleashing that delicious Action Surge now and then to ruin someone’s day.
Psi Warrior Fighter Features
At 3rd level, you harbor a wellspring of psionic energy within yourself. This energy is represented by your Psionic Energy dice, which are each a d6. You have a number of these dice equal to twice your proficiency bonus, and they fuel various psionic powers you have, which are detailed below.
Some of your powers expend the Psionic Energy die they use, as specified in a power’s description, and you can’t use a power if it requires you to use a die when your dice are all expended. You regain all your expended Psionic Energy dice when you finish a long rest. In addition, as a bonus action, you can regain one expended Psionic Energy die, but you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest.
When you reach certain levels in this class, the size of your Psionic Energy dice increases: at 5th level (d8), 11th level (d10), and 17th level (d12).
The powers below use your Psionic Energy dice.
Protective Field: When you or another creature you can see within 30 feet of you takes damage, you can use your reaction to expend one Psionic Energy die, roll the die, and reduce the damage taken by the number rolled plus your Intelligence modifier (minimum reduction of 1), as you create a momentary shield of telekinetic force.
Psionic Strike: You can propel your weapons with psionic force. Once on each of your turns, immediately after you hit a target within 30 feet of you with an attack and deal damage to it with a weapon, you can expend one Psionic Energy die, rolling it and dealing force damage to the target equal to the number rolled plus your Intelligence modifier.
Telekinetic Movement: You can move an object or a creature with your mind. As an action, you target one loose object that is Large or smaller or one willing creature, other than yourself. If you can see the target and it is within 30 feet of you, you can move it up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space you can see. Alternatively, if it is a Tiny object, you can move it to or from your hand. Either way, you can move the target horizontally, vertically, or both. Once you take this action, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest, unless you expend a Psionic Energy die to take it again.
At level 3, you have five uses of your subclass features per day, not including Telekinetic Movement’s free use after short or long rests. The bonus action to regain a single Psionic Energy die once per long rest is weird and I have no idea why they didn’t add it to the total pool of uses.
Overall, this is a fine feature: you can use a resource to increase your damage by a non-insignificant amount, use a resource to decrease damage taken by yourself or allies by a similar amount, or move an ally or object up to 30 feet. The third option requires the most creativity, but it’s allies and objects only, so you’re not going to cheese grater enemies through a Spike Growth spell. It also stops you from attacking with that action, so you need to find a good moment to use this ability, which can be difficult.
Notably, Psionic Strike works with both melee and ranged weapons, but the range is only 30 feet. If you want to use ranged weapons and are 60 feet away, you will have to move within 30 feet of the enemy, which can put you within walking distance of them. For this reason, most Psi Warriors are likely to be melee characters with a tanking focus.
By 7th level, you have mastered new ways to use your telekinetic abilities, detailed below.
Psi-Powered Leap. As a bonus action, you can propel your body with your mind. You gain a flying speed equal to twice your walking speed until the end of the current turn. Once you take this bonus action, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest, unless you expend a Psionic Energy die to take it again.
Telekinetic Thrust. When you deal damage to a target with your Psionic Strike, you can force the target to make a Strength saving throw against a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier. If the save fails, you can knock the target prone or move it up to 10 feet in any direction horizontally.
Like Telekinetic Movement, Psi-Powered Leap has a free use every short or long rest, and it’s the weakest of the options. Going fast through the air can still be very useful sometimes, especially if you want to position yourself in the proper place on the battlefield without wasting an action. Telekinetic Thrust is not its own feature, but it’s an improvement to Psionic Strike; you get both damage and either the prone condition or forced movement from the same psionic energy die. You could use this on your first attack, then if the enemy fails their save, knock them prone, finish your attack action with advantage, unleash your Action Surge, and make several more attacks with advantage. Or knock someone off a cliff.
Starting at 10th level, the psionic energy flowing through you has bolstered your mind. You have resistance to psychic damage. Moreover, if you start your turn charmed or frightened, you can expend a Psionic Energy die and end every effect on yourself subjecting you to those conditions.
Being charmed or frightened as a fighter is terrible, since it either gives you disadvantage on all your attacks or keeps you from attacking at all, or worse, makes you attack allies. This prevents that. You can still get paralyzed, so watch out for that: Resilient (Wisdom) may still be useful if your dungeon master likes paralyzing/stunning wisdom save effects. Also, resistance to psychic damage is circumstantial but nice.
Bulwark of Force
At 15th level, you can shield yourself and others with telekinetic force. As a bonus action, you can choose creatures, which can include you, that you can see within 30 feet of you, up to a number of creatures equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of one creature). Each of the chosen creatures is protected by half cover for 1 minute or until you’re incapacitated.
Once you take this bonus action, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a Psionic Energy die to take it again.
+2 to most or all of the party’s AC depending on the party size and your intelligence modifier. Everyone loves free armor class with a bonus action and no concentration. The first use is even free! This may be the best use of your dice so far.
By 18th level, your ability to move creatures and objects with your mind is matched by few. You can cast the Telekinesis spell, requiring no components, and your spellcasting ability for the spell is Intelligence. On each of your turns while you concentrate on the spell, including the turn when you cast it, you can make one attack with a weapon as a bonus action.
Once you cast the spell with this feature, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a Psionic Energy die to cast it again.
Telekinesis is a very strong and versatile spell, and having up to thirteen uses per day (if you really felt like it) with no short rests needed at all is a unique feature that nobody else in the game has.
The problem with this feature is that using Telekinesis completely destroys your damage output by using your action: you can Action Surge to attack and use Telekinesis, and you have two Action Surges per short rest at this point, but that still could have been two attack actions. However, this gets an Epic rating because this is the actual Telekinesis spell up to thirteen times per day, and even if this is only a moderate increase in versatility, it’s still incredibly fun.
You have psionic powers, and at high levels, you have many options for your Psionic Energy dice, as well as large dice and a lot of dice. You can move people, reduce damage, increase damage, and so on. Even if you want to play a Psi Warrior as a simple fighter, you’re still getting some bonus damage. A new player might have a blast with the Psi Warrior, since they can do simple options when they’re unsure what to use their dice on, and then go into tactical movement options at their leisure. The Battle Master also doesn’t get thirteen uses of a powerful 5th level spell at 18th level, and neither does anyone else who isn’t a warlock abusing the short rest mechanic.
The Battle Master gets its dice back on a short rest, so with one short rest, they have almost twice the number of uses as the Psi Warrior at level 3. They also get to pick their abilities from a large pool of options, so they can take the best options like Menacing Attack and Bait and Switch. The Battle Master also has an option that’s very similar to Psionic Strike + Telekinetic Thrust at level 3, and the Psi Warrior needs to wait until level 7 to get that. The Battle Master doesn’t get much at higher levels; it just gets slightly more uses and bigger dice, but it’s so front loaded that it beats the Psi Warrior easily at low levels.
Your resources will also be heavily taxed at tables that use a long adventuring day. You need a long rest to get all your stuff back, and you’re already less powerful at low levels than at high levels in numerous ways since you have fewer options and fewer dice and smaller dice.
Best Race Options
The flavor text for the Psi Warrior mentions that Githyanki train to be Psi Warriors, and both it and the Githzerai are strong and thematic choices. Both of their features have some redundancy with what a Psi Warrior can already do, and they don’t have the spell slots to use spells like Shield effectively, but the thematics work perfectly and the second level spells associated with each race (Githyanki get Misty Step and Githzerai get Detect Thoughts) are great. Now your psychic warrior can teleport or read minds!
If you’re playing a high level campaign, you’ll have a multitude of limited use bonus action abilities, including Second Wind. You can always reject infinite use bonus action feats like Polearm Master and fill in the gaps with more limited use bonus actions, such as the ones from the Monsters of the Multiverse Hobgoblin. A bonus action help action 5-6 times per day with an added buff on top of it? Excellent. Fortune From the Many is good too.
If you’re in a low level campaign that only goes until about level 5, you’ll only have one bonus action. Nothing will let you deal more damage than Variant Human/Custom Lineage, and Crossbow Expert is likely the optimal choice for a feat here. The normal range of a hand crossbow is only 30 feet, so if you’re trying to avoid disadvantage, the 30 foot range on most of your Psi Warrior abilities doesn’t matter at all anyway. You can also fire your hand crossbow in melee thanks to the feat, so you could be better in melee than a lot of melee characters. This strategy is less effective at higher levels though. A bonus action attack contributes less to your overall damage output when you’re making 3-4 attacks with your action.
Choosing the Right Skills
Normal skills usually taken by fighters like Athletics (if strength focused), Acrobatics (if dexterity focused), and Perception are always useful, but you have unique opportunities that no other fighter has. Your intelligence is probably decent, so you can be a specialist in intelligence-based skills, a role normally filled by the Wizard or Artificer.
Of the four intelligence-based knowledge skills, Arcana is the most commonly used, then Nature, Religion, and History are all below it, but sometimes one of these skills can be as useful as Arcana in the right campaign. The usefulness of Investigation depends on your dungeon master, since sometimes Perception is used instead of Investigation, or Investigation is used instead of Perception.
Telekinetic is redundant with some of what you can already do, so Telepathic might be the better option. It’s a thematic feat that gives you telepathic speech that you can’t get through your subclass, and it’s a half feat so you can boost your intelligence. You can also read minds. This is a great feat for a Psi Warrior who wants to participate in some espionage, interrogation, or political intrigue.
Some of your features already focus on protecting allies, so you can deep dive into that by taking the Sentinel feat if you’re a melee Psi Warrior. When you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, they can’t move for the rest of the turn; combine with Polearm Master to lock enemies in place, and then use your Telekinetic Thrust to push them wherever you want, possibly far away from anyone they’re able to attack, including you. Sentinel does compete for your reaction with Protective Field though.
Great Weapon Master is stellar with Telekinetic Thrust. Knock someone prone with your first attack and then unleash a barrage of additional attacks, all with advantage and +10 to damage. You don’t get that many feats even as a fighter, so you will have to choose between this and Sentinel/Polearm Master unless you’re very high level. Decide if you want to lock down enemies or deal more damage.
Soldier is a standard background for a lot of fighters. It makes sense that the fighter who’s good at fighting used to do a lot of fighting. Also, this gives you the Military Rank feature, which will cause some people to respect you or defer to you. You can also flex your psionic powers on all of your old military friends when you meet them, or maybe if you started the campaign at a higher level, all of your old military friends are also Psi Warriors…
Pirate is an excellent background since with this subclass, you’re now a psychic pirate. You don’t need anything else if you’re a psychic pirate. Bad Reputation is also a fun feature to use, but make sure your party is fine with you using it.
Far Traveller is a good idea if you want to play as one of the Gith and have your character come from an actual Gith settlement.
Your intelligence is probably at least decent, so taking wizard levels later on in your career shouldn’t be a problem for you. You can gain the Shield spell and/or slots to fuel it, and most subclasses offer something useful to you. Bladesinger is a trap since your armor proficiencies and most powerful weapons don’t work with it. Divination gives you two portent dice a day that requires no reaction or bonus action or action to use, and portent dice are extremely strong, so it may be your best option.
Three levels of Battle Smith Artificer early on will let you use intelligence on attack rolls when you attack with a magic weapon, and you have infusions and spells, including the Shield spell. You also have a robot companion who won’t scale at all with your level, so they’ll be less useful when you start taking Psi Warrior Fighter levels. You will also get Extra Attack at level 8 unless you take five levels of Battle Smith instead or take your Battle Smith levels after living with a low strength/dex for five levels, and you also delay those great high level features. Still, this is a viable option.
One to three levels of Barbarian will give you all of the delicious melee benefits Barbarian offers. All of your psionic abilities except for the level 18 Telekinesis can be used while raging, so these work fantastically together, especially if you take the Path of the Ancestral Guardian barbarian, who gets features that protect their allies. Give enemies resistance to attack damage and then reduce that damage with your reaction, and they will take no or almost no damage from some attacks.
Would I recommend playing a [SUBCLASS] [CLASS]?
The Psi Warrior is an excellent subclass for anyone wanting to play a fighter. Although it starts off slow, it’s still decent, and at mid and high levels you will have some fantastic abilities. With or without multiclassing, you should contribute very well to most parties.
You will especially want to play a Psi Warrior in a campaign where Mind Flayers or similar enemies will be prevalent since a high intelligence and eventually resistance to psychic damage will help a lot against their abilities.
I would recommend the Battle Master more for a low level campaign; however, in a campaign going to high levels or starting at high levels, the Psi Warrior is likely to give you much more in the long run.