The fifth installment of DSP's "Psionics Expanded"-line is 45 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 42 pages of content, so let's check out what this installment has to offer!
After the by now obligatory one page of introduction, we're introduced to the new base-class of this installment, the Dread. I have to admit something here. I'm a bit biased with regards to this class. Its 3.5 predecessor, the Morphean, was one of my all-time favorite psionic classes and the PC in my Ravenloft-campaign one of the most iconic ones to ever be created. But can the new incarnation hold up to this expectation? Well, the Dread gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor, simple and martial weapons, but not shields, 3/4 BAB, good ref- and will-saves, up to 128 PSP and learn up to 20 powers of to 6th level. But that's not what they're about: The very first level provides them with a touch attack that deals 1d6 + class-levels damage against living foes by channeling FEAR. Dreads are about TERROR and harnessing powers other would consider dark, but without necessarily being evil. Every even level, they can choose from a list of so-called terrors, essentially dread talents. A Dread can use a total of class-level + cha-mod terrors per day that range from keeping enemies from retreating to gaining concealment and even striking creatures at high levels dead with fear! The obvious options like striking someone with fear, shaken them etc., are of course also covered, as are more exotic abilities like the power to gain hp when dropping foes and even drain power points and spells from the victims of the terror-attack. One of the more intriguing options is the mindlock, which enables the dread to hit the mindlocked target without fail with his touch and intimidate the target, even without line of sight. The usages of the ability and its story-telling potential is vast. Also intriguing: The option to teleport short ranges via shaken targets.
If you're thinking: "Who cares, too many foes are immune to fear." - enemies within 10 ft. of a 3rd level Dread lose that immunity! Ouch! The dread has another iconic ability available at 11th level: The Shadow Twin! Essentially, the shadow twin and the dread are one person and can flank etc. - if one is healed, so is the other, but if an area-effect hits both, only one is hit. Otherwise, detrimental and beneficial effects that affect one also affect the other. The higher the level, the farther away an the twin go. If this does not fill your head with all kinds of neat strategies, especially when combined with the fear aura and the shaken teleportation, then I don't know what will. All in all - vastly superior to the 3.5-iteration and one cool, iconic class with truly ingenious signature abilities.
Following the format of the line, we also get new options for the core psionic classes with the new soulknife archetype "Armored Blade", which replaces enhanced mind blade with the option to get a soul-armor much like the knife. The "Deadly Fist" is essentially a soulknife-monk channeling his powers into his unarmed strikes, while the "Shielded Blade" gets a mind shield. With 34 new blade skills to choose from, the soulknife can be considered a definite winner of this pdf and is developing into one rather versatile class - from additional stored soulknife configuration at your beck and call to absorbing lesser powers and spells by expending the psionic focus, imposing penalties instead of damage on foes and even several blade skills for the archetypes, this selection is guaranteed to be enjoyed by fans of the class. Psychich Warriors also get new material: The agile Dervish and Interceptor paths, while wilders get the new Pain surge.
The fighter gets a new archetype, the psionic fighter, who gets access to psionic feats. A bit wonky, though, as to take psionic feats, one needs PSP or the ability to manifest powers.
EDIT: The archetype GETS Wild Talent as a bonus feat. My bad. BUT: The bookmark for the archetype, at least in my version of the pdf, doesn't work.
After that, we are introduced to 39 new feats, of which a significant selection deals with advanced version of psychic warrior paths and options to enhance the usability of the new Dread-class via e.g. "Broken Dreams Style", which lets you deliver your wracking touch attack via unarmed attacks - neat and oh so painful for your foes! Psionic improved versions of several combat maneuvers like shield bash, trip etc. also ensure that your psionic fighting character won't be restricted to bashing at the foes via regular attacks.
The section on new powers includes a new descriptor, the [Trigger] - powers with that descriptor go off once a specific set of criteria is met. After full power-lists for Dread, Gifted Blade, Psychic Warrior, Marksman and similar classes, we are introduced to a total of 44 powers, which range from a temporary banishment of the subconscious to overloading a foes senses with sensorial cascades to swapping positions with the next foe you hit with a melee attack. Many of the powers gain additional benefits and cool second effects depending on the triggers. I love the descriptor and frankly, I think that more powers/spells should provide tactical options like this. While there are some powers I can recall from other PE-installments, the majority is new and more importantly: Exciting.
Racial favored class-benefits for the Dread are covered next for 2 psionic races from PU and 3 Core-races.
This installment provides us with 2 PrCs, the "Adaptive Blade" (10 levels, d10, 2+Int skills, )/10 manifester-progression, good BAB, medium fort-and ref-saves) is truly intriguing - being able to analyze foes while focused, they can not only find holes in the fighting styles of their adversaries, but also mimic skills, proficiencies, block attacks, mimic feats etc., making this the first truly interesting super-analyst defensive fighting-PrC I've so far read for PFRPG. And we know the type from literature and personally, I love it! The Second PrC, the "Telekinetic Weaponmaster" is only 5 levels long, comes with d10, 2+Int skills, 4/5 manifester-progression, medium ref-saves, good BAB and the ability to add telekinetic reach to his weapons, throw them, block attacks via force and, at the peak of its mastery, telekinetically wield a weapon in addition to his own and make improved telekinetic whirlwinds!
Finally, the pdf provides us with a new psionic weapon quality as well 5 new crystalline focus items.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: I noticed an instance of a superfluous "x" as well as the lacking information in the archetype. Layout adheres to a beautiful full-color 2-column standard that remains printer-friendly and artworks present a concise style. This pdf is on par with its predecessor in that it is a must-have - the new class is stellar, the PrCs rock, the descriptor is genius and all the feats and new tools for soulknives are awesome as well. In fact, I loved just about everything herein apart from the few glitches and will thus settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars - as soon as they've been taken care of, I'll gladly round up to 5 and add my seal of approval.
[5 of 5 Stars!]