D&D 5e: Soulknife Rogue Guide
D&D 5e: Soulknife Rogue Guide
Role in the Party
The Soulknife Rogue is the only rogue with psionic powers built into the subclass. Originally, the Soul Knife was a subclass of the Unearthed Arcana playtest Mystic, but the Mystic has been more or less abandoned and some of its theming and mechanics were recycled for use in new subclasses.
The Soulknife focuses on stabbing people with magical psychic blades that damage the minds of their foes but otherwise tend to be ordinary rogues. You can expect to do normal rogue activities, but optimizing a Soulknife is a lot different than optimizing a standard rogue.
The Soulknife Rogue subclass is found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Click here to pick up your own copy of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything!
Soulknife Rogue Features
Starting 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.
Psi-Bolstered Knack. When your nonpsionic training fails you, your psionic power can help: if you fail an ability check using a skill or tool with which you have proficiency, you can roll one Psionic Energy die and add the number rolled to the check, potentially turning failure into success. You expend the die only if the roll succeeds.
Psychic Whispers. You can establish telepathic communication between yourself and others — perfect for quiet infiltration. As an action, choose one or more creatures you can see, up to a number of creatures equal to your proficiency bonus, and then roll one Psionic Energy die. For a number of hours equal to the number rolled, the chosen creatures can speak telepathically with you, and you can speak telepathically with them. To send or receive a message (no action required), you and the other creature must be within 1 mile of each other. A creature can’t use this telepathy if it can’t speak any languages, and a creature can end the telepathic connection at any time (no action required). You and the creature don’t need to speak a common language to understand each other.
The first time you use this power after each long rest, you don’t expend the Psionic Energy die. All other times you use the power, you expend the die.
This feature is quite the chonker, but basically, when you fail an ability check you’re proficient in, you can just add some extra dice to it, and you only lose dice if it turns failure into success. You have 4-12 dice a day. You can also use these dice to do telepathy, and you get a free use for that.
This makes sure that you will rarely fail an ability check you’re proficient in or have expertise in. Rolled a 2 on a DC 15 stealth check? Have +12 on your modifier? Add a psionic energy die and succeed. Even if success isn’t guaranteed, you should still roll a psionic energy die; worst case scenario, you still fail and don’t spend it. It’s difficult to burn through these dice if you’re trying, so just roll one of these whenever you fail an ability check.
This feature does have one problem; what about ability checks without defined success or failure? You can’t use this to try and get a higher degree of success on a check you succeeded, and it’s unclear how it’s intended to work if you don’t know if you succeeded or failed, since the results of ability checks aren’t always obvious.
Still, this is an amazing feature, and it’s even more amazing since it’s not your only feature at this level. Everyone picks this subclass for Psychic Blades, but you just get this for free in addition to that.
Also at 3rd level, you can manifest your psionic power as shimmering blades of psychic energy. Whenever you take the Attack action, you can manifest a psychic blade from your free hand and make the attack with that blade. This magic blade is a simple melee weapon with the finesse and thrown properties. It has a normal range of 60 feet and no long range, and on a hit, it deals psychic damage equal to 1d6 plus the ability modifier you used for the attack roll. The blade vanishes immediately after it hits or misses its target, and it leaves no mark on its target if it deals damage.
After you attack with the blade, you can make a melee or ranged weapon attack with a second psychic blade as a bonus action on the same turn, provided your other hand is free to create it. The damage die of this bonus attack is 1d4, instead of 1d6.
You can manifest magical shortswords with the thrown property that deal psychic damage. The biggest benefits are that you can do two-weapon fighting with them at range without dealing with object interactions, and also that this isn’t normal two-weapon fighting; you just get a bonus action attack and can add your ability score modifier. At low levels, this is a substantial boost to your damage.
The second benefit is both a blessing and a curse: you don’t need magic weapons because you already have one, but magic weapons might sometimes be better than this. Lastly, remember that because these deal psychic damage, you can’t usually damage creatures like constructs, so carry a backup +1 dagger.
Remember that you can’t use your Psychic Blades with the Booming Blade cantrip, because you must take the attack action to use these. Even if you took six levels of Bladesinger, it’s unclear if it would work since Booming Blade requires the weapon to have a cost, and it’s completely up to the dungeon master if Psychic Blades have value. Lastly, you can’t make opportunity attacks with these; opportunity attacks aren’t the attack action.
Overall, this is a lot like using a hand crossbow and having the Crossbow Expert feat for free. Being a ranged character also solves your defensive problems, and you always have the option to attack people in melee if you need to.
Starting at 9th level, your Psychic Blades are now an expression of your psi-suffused soul, giving you these powers that use your Psionic Energy dice:
Homing Strikes. If you make an attack roll with your Psychic Blades and miss the target, you can roll one Psionic Energy die and add the number rolled to the attack roll. If this causes the attack to hit, you expend the Psionic Energy die.
Psychic Teleportation. As a bonus action, you manifest one of your Psychic Blades, expend one Psionic Energy die and roll it, and throw the blade at an unoccupied space you can see, up to a number of feet away equal to 10 times the number rolled. You then teleport to that space, and the blade vanishes.
Rogues normally can’t teleport, and Psychic Teleportation lets you do it, albeit with a random maximum range. This is decent utility and mobility, but it’s unclear if you can throw the Psychic Blade through a barrier like a Wall of Force. I would personally rule “no”.
More importantly, you have Homing Strikes. It’s like your great Psi-Bolstered Knack, but for attack rolls instead of ability checks, and it even only consumes dice if it turns a failure into a success. Unless conserving resources isn’t important, I recommend using them only if you haven’t landed Sneak Attack yet this round, since turning a 6d6+5 damage attack into a hit is more important than turning a 1d6+5 damage attack into a hit. Remember that this also only works with Psychic Blades, so no using this with a +3 shortsword.
The ability to turn misses into hits is phenomenal when you have a powerful hit, and you have powerful hits. Great feature. Remember that your psychic energy dice have scaled up, so now they’re d8s and will soon become d10s.
At 13th level, you can weave a veil of psychic static to mask yourself. As an action, you can magically become invisible, along with anything you are wearing or carrying, for 1 hour or until you dismiss this effect (no action required). This invisibility ends early immediately after you deal damage to a creature, or you force a creature to make a saving throw.
Once you use this feature, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a Psionic Energy die to use this feature again.
This is the Invisibility spell without concentration. Casting spells doesn’t break this on its own; it only ends if you choose to end it early, deal damage, or force a saving throw. If you have a cantrip like Guidance or Minor Illusion or any other spellcasting, you can use it just fine. I wouldn’t count on a level 13+ Soulknife rogue having powerful spells to use with this, but the option is there. Invisibility is also just good in general.
When you reach 17th level, you can sweep your Psychic Blade directly through a creature’s mind. When you use your Psychic Blades to deal Sneak Attack damage to a creature, you can force that target to make a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Dexterity modifier). If the save fails, the target is stunned for 1 minute. The stunned target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
Once you use this feature, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend three Psionic Energy dice to use it again.
Stunning Strike is one of the best things a monk gets, and you have a bootleg version of it. However, I wouldn’t expect this to work on boss-type enemies you’re fighting at this level since they all have high wisdom save bonuses and legendary resistance. You might stun a particularly tough non-boss enemy once per day though, and that’s nice.
The free use is great, but the three-die cost to use this is pretty steep, even with twelve dice per day. I would only expect to use this once or twice on most adventuring days, and I wouldn’t count on it working that often.
Psi-Bolstered Knack turns you into the ultimate skills rogue, and you can deal consistent damage from up to 60 feet away; you’re a rogue with a free Crossbow Expert feat. You also have telepathy and can eventually teleport and can become invisible.
Magic weapons, constructs, and a handful of strange spooky monsters are problems for you. If you find a +8 Dagger of Tarrasque Deletion, you have to choose between it and your Psychic Blades. You can’t even attack with the dagger and then a bonus action psychic blade, or even the other way around, since the psychic blades don’t have the light property and the bonus action blade attack is dependent on you making an attack with the dagger.
Most constructs are immune to psychic damage, but not all of them; try and ask your DM if you can make a check to determine if this particular construct is immune or not, maybe Arcana or something. Some non-construct creatures, particularly aberrations, are sometimes immune or resistant to psychic damage.
Lastly, your damage isn’t as potent at high levels, since you’re likely not benefitting from things like Booming Blade unless you want to give up your Psychic Blades sometimes to use a rapier, and your dependence on Psychic Blades means you can’t make the most out of multiclassing to get Shield proficiency.
Best Race Options
Kenku have two skill proficiencies, letting you apply Psi-Bolstered Knack to more skills. Their ability to generate advantage on proficient skill checks whenever they want is probably overkill for you, but you might love it for use on those high DC skill checks.
If you suspect a floating skill proficiency would be useful, Astral Elf is another great choice; pick a skill at the end of a long rest, become proficient in it, and you can add a d6 to a d12 whenever you fail a check with it. Excellent. Don’t forget about the free Perception proficiency too.
Starlight Step is redundant with your teleportation ability, but that was more of a minor feature of yours anyway, and more teleports = more gooder, especially consistent ones.
Want to just have proficiency in all the skills? Custom Lineage and Variant Human have options for that; you could possibly get four extra skill proficiencies with these races and the Skilled feat.
Choosing the Right Skills
Remember that you can add an extra die to most skills, so skill proficiencies are more valuable to you than anyone else. Even your worst, most niche skills are just a Meh; even the rarely used Animal Handling will benefit a lot from an extra d6 to d12. Every skill proficiency is on the table for you, and you want all of them.
Perception is your most important skill proficiency; get proficiency in it at a minimum, and strongly consider Expertise in it. Stealth is also an iconic rogue skill, but if someone in the party has Pass Without Trace, expertise in stealth may be overkill; proficiency will be enough.
Dexterity skills like Acrobatics and Sleight of Hand are also useful, and rogues tend to be slippery fellas, so Persuasion and Deception are also handy.
Consider Athletics proficiency even if you already have Acrobatics: adding a die and proficiency makes you about as good at it as the fighter, and parties often don’t have strong people to make these checks.
Skill Expert is a half feat that can boost any ability score, give Expertise, and give proficiency in another skill. Excellent for Variant Human and Custom Lineage. You can boost both your damage, chance to hit, and utility by taking it. Skilled is a less good but still solid option since it gives three proficiencies and nothing else, but you might still consider it at high levels to suddenly add +5 and a d10 to those skills.
The Lucky feat will let you reroll anything; you’ll be built for success if you take it, especially for saving throws since none of your subclass features boost them.
The only psychic powers you can’t do are mind-reading and telekinesis: the Telepathic and Telekinetic feats will let you do both of these things, but Telekinetic is probably better since it doesn’t have redundant telepathy.
Wildspacer is a thematic and incredibly powerful choice, but not all tables use feat-granting backgrounds. Perhaps you got your psychic powers from Wildspace, or maybe you learned them from Astral Elves. Either way, you have the Tough feat for free.
Urchin is a classic rogue background; you grew up on the streets and learned a bunch of roguish skills, and then maybe you realized you had psychic powers and went adventuring to develop them.
Criminal is also a classic rogue background, and after you hit level 3 in the campaign, you can flex your incredible psychic power on your Criminal Contact and make them jealous.
One level of Fighter is a solid choice for armor proficiencies, a fighting style, and Second Wind. You might consider taking three levels for the Psi Warrior subclass at high levels since it’s an easy way to get a completely separate pool of proficiency bonus-based psychic abilities. It’s an okay choice, but Rune Knight and Echo Knight are probably stronger choices.
Three levels of Ranger for Gloom Stalker will give you a pile of goodies and make you much more powerful in the first round of combat and whenever you’re in darkness.
Why not take 1-3 levels in Wizard at high levels? You might consider using Booming Blade instead of your Psychic Blades at these levels, especially with a good magic weapon, and the Shield and Find Familiar spells are handy too. Divination and Bladesinger could also possibly be useful depending on your intelligence modifier: if it’s high, pick Bladesinger, and if it’s low, go Divination.
Would I recommend playing a Soulknife Rogue?
I would absolutely recommend it. Your damage is good, your skills are overwhelmingly stellar, and you have a few neat abilities in general. You can overcome the weaknesses of Psychic Blades by just pulling out a normal magic weapon when necessary, and you can be effective in melee and at a distance.