Psion Prestige Class : Zerth Cenobite

"Time is an illusion that the mind can learn to ignore" - Zerth cenobite saying

The core of a zerth cenobite's studies involve strict meditation on the nature of time and the body's movements through it, culminating in a martial art known as zerthin. Zerthin was first used at a special githzerai monastery called Zerth'Ad'Lun, located deep in the chaos-boil of limbo. The chronal art has since been disseminated more widely, however.

Zerthin teaches that though the passage of time allows events to become chaotic and uncontrolled, a disciplined mind filled with a reservoir of psionic power can view the time stream as just one more dimension of space. This privileged point of view allows a zerth cenobite to see a moment or two into the past and future, thereby gaining insight as to where to place her next blow and how to best dodge the next blow of her foe. Practitioners of zerthin claim to be able to peer into the future, enhancing their martial expertise to unmatched heights.

Almost all zerth cenobites are monks who have gained the knowledge necessary to begin studying the rarefied art of zerthin. Many are githzerai, since zerthin was developed first in Zerth'Ad'Lun on limbo, but after the first zerth cenobite broke the stricture and began teaching zerthin to non-githzerai, all the censure and displeasure of limbo couldn't keep zerthin a purely githzerai psionic ability.


To qualify to become a Zerth Cenobite, a character must fulfill all the following criteria:

Class Skills

The zerth cenobite's class skills are Autohypnosis, Concentration, Craft, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Knowledge (psionics), Knowledge (religion), Listen, Move Silently, Psicraft, Sense Motive, Spot, and Tumble.

Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Class Features

As they advance in level, zerth cenobites gain abilities that allow them to manipulate time. They also gain a measure of psionic power, though not as much as a character who focuses on psionics.

Power Points/Day: You can manifest powers. Your ability to manifest powers is limited by the power points you have available. Your base daily allotment of power points is given below. In addition, you receive bonus power points per day if you have a high Wisdom score. Your race might provide bonus power points per day, as might certain feats and items. If you have power points from a different class, those points are pooled and can be used to manifest powers from either class.

Powers Known: You choose your powers from the psychic warrior power list. At 1st level, you know one psychic warrior power of your choice. Each time you attain a new level, you learn one new power. You can manifest any power that has a power point cost equal to or lower than your manifester level.

The total number of powers you can manifest per day is limited only by your daily power points.

You simply know your powers; they are ingrained in your mind. You do not need to prepare them (in the way that some spellcasters prepare their spells), though you must get a good night's sleep each day to regain all your spent power points.

The Difficulty Class for saving throws against zerth cenobite powers is 10 + the power's level + the zerth cenobite's Wis modifier. For example, the saving throw against a 2nd-level power has a DC of 12 + Wis modifier.

Maximum Power level Known: You gain the ability to learn one 1st-level power when you take your first level in the prestige class. You attain the ability to master more complex powers at 4th, 7th, and 10th level.

To learn or manifest a power, you must have a Wisdom score of at least 10 + the power's level. For example, a zerth cenobite with a Wisdom score of 13 can manifest powers of 3rd level or lower.

Monk Abilities: Your zerth cenobite class levels stack with your monk levels for the purpose of determining your unarmed damage, bonus to Armor Class, and unarmored speed. Your class levels do nor apply to other monk abilities, such as flurry of blows, slow fall, and so on. A monk who becomes a zerth cenobite can continue advancing as a monk.

Temporal Distillation (Su): Once per day, you are able to enter another time frame, moving much more quickly than other creatures around you. This concentrated burst of time essence allows you to take an additional move action during your turn.

At 5th level, you are able to accomplish even more during the accelerated period, and can instead take an additional standard action (or move action) during your turn.

At 10th level, you have gained further mastery of that moment in time, and can take an additional full-round action (or a move action and a standard action) during your turn.

Backslip (Ps): At 2nd level, your mental mastery of temporal flow grows sufficiently large that you can gaze a few instants into the past. Using that knowledge, you can then slightly alter events that have just occurred. Once per day as an immediate action, you can reroll one roll that you have made before the DM declares whether the roll results in success or failure. You must take the result of the reroll, even if it's worse than the original roll.

At 6th level, you can use backslip twice per day.

Timeless Step (Ps): Once per day as a standard action at 3rd level and higher, you can step forward in time a number of rounds equal to or less than your Wisdom modifier (always into the future, never into the past). In effect, you seem to disappear, then reappear the appropriate number of rounds later. You reappear in the same orientation and condition as before. For you, no time has passed at all.

If the space from which you departed is occupied upon your return to the time stream, you appear in the closest unoccupied space, still in your original orientation. Determine the closest space randomly if necessary.

Precognition (Ps): Once per day at 4th level and higher, you can glimpse fragments of potential future events. This imperfect foreknowledge is good enough to grant you a +2 insight bonus that you can apply to an attack roll, a damage roll, a saving throw, or a skill check. You can elect to apply the bonus to the roll after you determine that your unmodified roll is lower than desired.

At 7th level, you can trigger your precognitive ability twice per day.

Temporal Strike (Ps): At 8th level and higher, once per day, when you damage a foe with your unarmed attack, you can attempt to send that foe reeling through the continuum of time. Declaring a temporal strike is a swift action that follows a successful melee attack. The target of the strike must make a Will saving throw (DC 10 + 1/2 your character level + your Wis modifier). If your foe fails his saving throw, he is hurled forward in time in addition to taking damage normally.

The subject is propelled 10 rounds forward in time by the violence of the strike. In effect, the subject seems to disappear through a hole punched in space, then reappears 10 rounds later. The subject reappears in the same orientation and condition as before. From the subject's point of view, no time has passed at all.

In each round following the strike before the subject falls back into the time stream, on what would have been the subject's turn, it can attempt a DC 15 Wisdom check. Success allows the subject to return. The subject can act normally on its next turn after returning to the time stream.

If the space from which the subject departed is occupied upon its return to the time stream, it appears in the closest unoccupied space, still in his original orientation. Determine the closest space randomly if necessary.

Precognitive Surge (Ps): At 9th level, you gain a powerful sixth sense that can be called upon once per day. This extraordinary precognition grants an insight bonus equal to your combined monk and zerth cenobite levels (maximum +25) on any single attack roll, opposed ability check or skill check, or saving throw. Alternatively, you can apply the insight bonus to your AC against a single attack (even if you are flat-footed). Activating this ability is an immediate action. You must choose to use a precognitive surge before you make the roll it is to modify.

Timeless Body (Ps): When you reach 10th level, once per day as a standard action your body can shift its biological processes to a static time stream where no time passes. While timeless body is active, you ignore all harmful (and helpful) effects, beginning when you trigger this power and ending at the end of your next turn. While this state, you are invulnerable to all attacks and powers.

Zerth CenobiteHit Die: d8
CLBABFortRefWillSpecialPP/dayPowers knownMax Pwer lvl
1st+0+0+2+2Monk abilities, temporal distillation (move action)111st
2nd+1+0+3+3Backslip 1/day221st
3rd+2+1+3+3Timeless step321st
4th+3+1+4+4Precognition 1/day532nd
5th+3+1+4+4Temporal distillation (standard action)732nd
6th+4+2+5+5Backslip 2/day1132nd
7th+5+2+5+5Precognition 2/day1543rd
8th+6+2+6+6Temporal strike1943rd
9th+6+3+6+6Precognitive surge2343rd
10th+7+3+7+7Temporal distillation (full-round action), timeless body2754th

Playing a Zerth Cenobite

Understanding that the flow of time is just one more dimension to be conquered and moved through by volition, just as one can take a step forward or back, is a central tenet of reality for you. In day-to-day life, you might choose to set aside your more theoretical pursuits in favor of practical applications, especially if you have chosen to expand your experiences through adventuring.

Some zerth cenobites strike out alone, seeming to be merely monks of a particularly austere monastery. Most recognize the value of a team, however, for even a student of time can't be everywhere at once or fill every need.


You use your ability to affect time to defeat your foes, as well as the limited access you have to manifest melee-oriented psionic powers. As with any combatant, speed and precision are important ingredients in winning a fight. Taking feats and powers that decrease your chance of being hit (such as the Dodge feat and the inertial armor power) are good choices at any level, presuming you do not have a magic item or psionic item that duplicates the effect of inertial armor.

When you reach 4th level and have access to precognition, it is important to utilize the bonus early in a conflict, lest the melee end too soon (or worse, you become incapacitated) without the bonus being utilized.

At 8th level, when you gain the temporal strike ability, you have a choice: Try to weaken a group of attackers by attacking the weakest opponent and knocking him into the future, or try to punch a tougher opponent into the future so that the weaker opposition can be mopped up first. Generally, it is better to knock a weaker foe into the future - when the foe drops back into the time stream several rounds later, you and your allies will not be too debilitated to deal with the threat and can concentrate your efforts on him.


Presuming you enter the class as a 7th-level character (6th-level monk/1st-level zerth cenobite), your opportunities to take additional character feats present themselves at cenobite levels 3rd, 6th and 9th. If you haven't previously taken psionic feats, these might be good opportunities to take the feat chain that includes Psionic Fist, Greater Psionic Fist, and Unavoidable Strike.

On the power side of the equation, you only have a limited number of powers that you'll ever be able to know. As taught by the philosophy of Zerthin, a good offense is a good defense - that is, avoiding taking damage allows you more time to deal it out. This philosophy is borne out in the following suggestions:

A 1st-level cenobite should consider learning inertial armor. At 2nd level, dissipating touch. At 4th level, psionic lion's charge is excellent. At 7th level, mental barrier is an excellent defensive power. Finally, at 10th level, inertial barrier is a solid choice.


One of the best resources available to you is the monastery where you received your training. A zerth monastery, at the least, provides every zerth cenobite with a place to sleep and basic shelter. Where cenobites have some standing and in turn take on some of the duties and quests handed our by a monastery, you can expect aid in the form of information. On some occasions, monks in training to be cenobites provide aid on short-term missions.

Zerth Cenobites In The World

"She never spoke, but there was an eerie glint in her eye, as though she could see more than you were wantin' her to." -Gunther Darkmeral, dwarven adventurer

If psionics play a part in a particular world, sooner or later a zerth cenobite will appear on the scene, hunting illithids or set on accomplishing some other austere task. PCs who treat a cenobite kindly might discover a whole new dimension to time and psionics.


Zerth cenobites are trained in monasteries that teach zerthin, the philosophy of time-like consciousness first developed and taught in a githzerai monastery called Zerth'Ad'Lun. Luckily for martial artists who are not native to Limbo, that knowledge has been disseminated, and several monasteries have sprung up in the material world. Cenobites who received their training in the original monastery have come to treat members of non-githzerai monasteries with respect, seeing them as sibling followers of zerthin.

A monk who joins a zerth monastery separates himself from the ordinary study of martial arts training and meditation to embrace fully the study of time. This is represented by the prerequisite necessity of Concentration ranks, as well as the Wild Talent feat. A character must also petition the monastery masters for membership. Depending on the monastery in question, the trial to determine suitability can be as simple as living within the monastery for a period of up to one month under a vow of silence, or as difficult as accepting a quest to slay a terrible marauding beast.

If the trial is successful, the supplicant is allowed to join the order. After a period of training, she is initiated into the order in a formal ceremony, called the Awakening, the rites of which are secret.

NPC Reactions

Most NPCs already suspect the average monk of following strict philosophical paths to enlightenment and martial mastery. NPCs who know of zerth cenobites specifically are still of a similar opinion, thus holding a starting attitude of indifferent toward characters of this prestige class.

Zerth Cenobite Lore

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (the planes) can research zerth cenobites to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including the information from lower DCs.

Zerth Cenobites In The Game

Because zerth cenobites are essentially monks, it's easy to add them to most games as NPCs.

For players, the prestige class appeals to monks who want to open their mind to psionic power while at the same time using that openness to enhance their combat ability through temporal adjustments.


In some ways, the zerth cenobite prestige class is closely tied to the existence of githzerai, if nor concurrently, then at least their existence at some time in the past. Githzerai have become enough a part of general campaign lore that their existence in some shape or form is likely. However, in those games where githzerai do not exist, or where they are considered irrevocably evil, the focus of this class can be shifted away from githzerai. The new focus could be some entity or deity (or item) that deals in time, or merely a single monastery (such as Zerth'Ad'Lun, sans githzerai) where temporal arts are taught.

Sample Encounter

Any time the PCs are near a portal that leads to other planes, or if they have a monk in their group, they might be accosted by Keziah the Repudiator.

El 13: Keziab the Repudiator, a zerth cenobite githzerai, has taken it upon herself to slay all non-githzerai zerth cenobites. If she doesn't find any non-githzerai cenobites, she'll settle for any non-githzerai who catches her eye. She feels that those learning zerthin who are not githzerai threaten the purity of the discipline, and despite the censure of the order, continues her crusade unabated.

Source: Dragon #281
Complete Psionic

Psion Prestige Classes