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Old Screeds

The Mentalist [7 March 05] A prestige class for games without psionics.

I play online in a persistent message board game called The Wold. The campaign has a few quirks, including a redeemed race of Surface Drow, no oriental influences, witches, and no psionics. But even without psionics, I think that there is a place in the game for a character who specializes in the powers of the mind. Seeking to create a magic-based mentalist, I started with this prestige class proposal.

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Mentalist Prestige Class

When the Surface Drow returned to the upper Wold, they brought with them customs and lore that had never before seen the light of day. That hidden knowledge included the rigorous mental disciplines practiced by mind flayers and other super-intelligent races. Surface Drow, however, have sought to weaken the power of these creatures and remove the evil associations of this knowledge by teaching it to those of good faith who ask to learn it. Now mentalists among the noble races can stretch their minds with strict practices that unleash the power of the brain.

Mentalists are always spell casters who link brains to transfer their secrets. Wizards, sorcerers, witches, bards and clerics with the Knowledge domain are all capable of perfecting mentalist techniques through the min-to-mind contact of the Detect Thoughts spell.

As NPCs, mentalists are self-reliant, sure, and confident in their own powers. Though few in numbers, they tend to share Surface Drow generosity in that they are always willing to tell others about their lore, and to teach any who can learn.

Hit die: d6


To qualify to become a mentalist, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.

  • Spell Casting: Can cast Detect Thoughts
  • Skills: Concentration (8 ranks)
  • Feats: Spell Focus (Enchantment or Divination)

Class Skills

The weapon mage's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Bluff (Chr), Concentration (Con), Diplomacy (Chr), Gather Information (Chr), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Chr), Knowledge (All) (Int), Listen (Wis), Perform (Chr), Search (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), and Spot (Wis).

Skill Points per level: 4 + Int modifier

Table -- The Mentalist

Lvl...Att.....Will...Refx...Fort...Special Abilities
.1....+0.......+2.....+0.....+0.....Mental Prowess
.2....+1.......+3.....+0.....+0.....+1 level spells/day
.3....+1.......+3.....+1.....+1.....Lesser Split Brain
.4....+2.......+4.....+1.....+1.....+1 level spells/day
.5....+2.......+4.....+1.....+1.....Split Brain
.6....+3.......+5.....+2.....+2.....+1 level spells/day
.7....+3.......+5.....+2.....+2.....Improved Split Brain
.8....+4.......+6.....+2.....+2.....+1 level spells/day
.9....+4.......+6.....+3.....+3.....Greater Split Brain
10... +5.......+7.....+3.....+3.....+1 level spells/day

Class Features

Weapons and Armor: Mentalists gain no new proficiency in using armor or weapons.

Spells per Day: At every second level gained in the mentalist class, you gain new spells as if you had also gained a level in your spell casting class (choose one if you can cast spells with more than one class). In this way, you gain new spells per day and access to higher level spells. Mentalists do not, however, gain any other benefit from advancement in that prior class, such as familiar advancement, bonus feats, or turning undead. A druid/wizard mentalist can improve spells per day only as a druid or a wizard, for example.

Spells Allowed: Mentalist spells are grouped into four concentrations (see below). A first level mentalist must select two areas of concentration, one major and one minor. All mentalists must take either Extrasensory Perception or Mesmerism as amajor or minor area of concentration (in line with the mentalist’s Spell Focus feat). Right handed mentalists refer to the major concentration as the Left Concentration, and the minor as the Right Concentration (reverse that for southpaws). A mentalist may only cast spells from your two concentrations. Witch and cleric mentalists can also cast domain spells; cleric mentalists can also cast cure or inflict spells spontaneously; and the very rare druid mentalist can spontaneously cast Summon Nature’s Ally. When a bard or sorcerer becomes a mentalist, reselect spells known so that they only include those from allowed concentrations. Note that the restriction on spells allowed applies to all spellcasting classes the mentalist has. A druid/wizard mentalist cannot cast flame strike or fireball, for example.

Items Allowed: The mentalist can only use spell trigger and spell completion items (wands and scrolls) if the item's spell is in the mentalist’s major concentration, minor concentration, or domain.

Concentrations: The four possible areas of concentration are given immediately below. The use of The Hypertext d20 SRD Spell Filter is highly recommended in creating lists of spells for each concentration.

  • Mesmerism: Includes all spells that have the “Mind-Affecting” descriptor.
  • Extrasensory Perception: Includes all spells from the Divination school.
  • Psychokinesis: Includes all spells with the Teleportation descriptor as well as Mage Hand, Levitate, Fly, Overland Flight, Telekinesis, and the varied Bigby’s Hand spells.
  • Biofeedback: Includes all spells with the Healing subschool.

Caster Level: When casting spells in your major concentration, all mentalist levels stack with other levels to determine caster levels. When casting other allowed spells, only even-numbered mentalist levels stack with other levels. A druid/wizard mentalist adds his mentalist level to both druid and wizard spells in his major concentration to determine caster level; the character adds helf his mentalist levels, round down, when calculating caster level for all other spells

Class Abilities

Mental Prowess: The mentalist gains the Eschew Materials feat. When casting a major concentration spell, the Silent Spell and Still Spell feats apply without requiring the use of a higher level spell slot. When casting a minor concentration spell, use either Silent Spell or Still Spell without requiring a higher level spell slot; appling both requires the use of a spell slot that is just one level higher.

Lesser Split Brain: The mentalist can use one half of his brain to give a +2 Aid Another bonus to the other half when attempting a skill check. When the use of a skill is attempted, make two skill checks: if the first beats DC10, then add +2 to the second check.

Split Brain: The mentalist can use one half of his brain to concentrate on a spell or effect with a duration of "concentration." The mentalist may act normally and still concentrate on the effect with a successful concentration check vs DC 15 + spell level, rolled every round of concentration. The mentalist cannot take ten on this check.

Improved Split Brain: If the mentalist suffers a mind-affecting attack, make two saving throws. The attack succeeds only if both saves fail.

Greater Split Brain: As a single standard action, the mentalist can cast two spells, one with each half of the brain. Both spells must have a casting time of a standard action. Both spells must be Still and Silent with no material component or focus. One must be from the mentalist’s major concentration; the other must be from the minor concentration. These spells cannot be cast on the defensive, and both are lost if the mentalist is interrupted. The mentalist must also make a concentration check, with the DC equal to 30 plus the sum of the two spell levels; if this concentration check fails, both spells are lost. For example, casting two second level spells in this way (a second level major spell and a first level minor spell cast in a second level slot due to being still and silent) has a concentration DC of 30+2x2=34. Casting two fifth level spells has a DC of 30+5x5 = 55. The Lesser Split Brain Aid Another ability cannot be used to boost this concentration check. The mentalist cannot take ten on this check.

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Designer notes: I pondered two other areas of concentration: Mind over Body, with Enlarge Person, Stoneskin, Resist Energy, etc, and Pyrokinesis, with Heal Metal, Pyrotechnics, and Chill Touch but no Fireballs. On an unrelated note, I also pondered an ability giving a save bonus based on major concentration -- +2 Will for Mesmerism, +2 Fort for Healing, +2 Reflex for Psychokinesis, and +1 on all for ESP. Maybe later.

The Spell Filter is such an invaluable tool that I had to link to it despite a few bugs I have turned up. Like filtering all Mind-Affecting spells does not include any Mass spells, like Mass Hold Person. And you cannot filter for the Teleportation descriptor. Well, this slightly flawed tool still beats no tool, that's for sure!

I like divorcing caster level adds from spell per day adds, and applying the former to all spells cast in all classes. It's no Mystic Theurge, but this PrC offers something to the PC with two spellcasting classes. I fear that I've made the PrC too weak, though, with the restriction in spells that can be cast and the spells per day progression only adding every even level. Maybe I could compensate by giving wizards Spell Mastery for all major concentration spells, and have major concentration spells count for only half a spell known, so when you get spells per day of 10th level, for example a sorcerer mentalist could know two fifth level major concentration spells or one lesser concentration spell.

Well, this is a work in progress. I'll edit this screed in the archives to reflect later changes.

Home | This page last modified: 7 March 2005