«It’s good to learn from your failures, but I prefer to learn from the failures of others.»
Jace Beleren is a powerful blue mage in Magic: the Gathering. Wizards’ website offers a biography of him, which we reproduce below. If you know his background already, you can skip until the image for the description of what he would look like as a Dungeons & Dragons character under 5e rules (in our opinion, of course).
Brilliant, curious, and always in control, Jace is a master of mental magic: spells of illusion, deception, and mind reading. His powers allow him to manipulate enemy mages by countering their magic or using their spells against them. An adept analyst, he has an optimized plan (and a backup plan) for every situation.
Growing up as a magical prodigy on his home plane, Jace Beleren sought out the training of the mysterious sphinx Alhammarret. Under the sphinx’s training, Jace learned to control his abilities. However, when Jace discovered that Alhammarret had been using him for political manipulations, he confronted his master in a fierce mental battle. The battle badly damaged Jace’s memories and caused him excruciating pain. This distress ignited his Planeswalker spark, tearing him away from his home plane.
Jace awoke on Ravnica, his memories shattered and his former identity forgotten. During this time, he formed a romantic attachment to Liliana Vess, only to learn that she too was manipulating and deceiving him. Jace’s absence of memory now fuels his insatiable appetite for knowledge and truth. His need to uncover and understand the unknown has lead him to Zendikar and back to Ravnica, where he solved his greatest puzzle yet: the Implicit Maze. His achievements earned him the title of Ravnica’s Living Guildpact, where he serves as the magically empowered arbiter between the city’s many guilds.
After aiding in the defeat of two of the Eldrazi titans on Zendikar, Jace took an oath to keep watch over the planes of the Multiverse as part of the Gatewatch. The Gatewatch offers him the opportunity to think and act on a larger scale, which intrigues him as a mental challenge in addition to appealing to his sense of responsibility. Jace can’t walk away from an unsolved mystery. He believes everything that exists can be understood, and he dreams of one day knowing everything there is to know.
On Zendikar, he learned the history of the Eldrazi from Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and he burned with the desire to know more about them—which brought him to Innistrad in search of Sorin Markov. His visit to the plane is complicated by his relationship with Liliana Vess, who has a close connection to Innistrad. Given their past romance, he is attracted to her and cares about her, but he doesn’t trust her at all.
Building Jace in 5e
Jace Beleren is, at his core, a mentalist, with powers including telepathy and illusion. This places him way closer to psionic classes than to arcane ones. Jace has shown many different powers, as he’s been a main character for almost every single Magic storyline since Zendikar. Among the most notable ones are mind-magic related ones, such as telepathy, body swapping, mind blasts, thought probing and memory alteration. In the cards, most of his signature spells are related to illusions, counterspells (which will be represented as spells) and card advantage (which flavorfully is linked to a high intellect and ability to strategize adequately). At his pinnacle, Jace can make someone forget how to breathe or erase memories and replace them with whatever he wishes, essentially rewriting that person’s life.
Since we only have one psionic class in 5e, the Mystic, we’ll focus on that one, particularly the Mystic Order of the Awakened. Alternatively, we can also try to build him as an Enchanter/Illusionist, but that requires a lot more effort… unless we do all of it, treating him as a multiclass character.
Let’s start with the basics. Jace is human, and we’ve selected his classes as Mystic and Wizard. Looking through the abilities for these classes, in order to represent Jace’s abilities as best as possible, we’ll need many disciplines and just a handful of spells, so we’ll build him as a Mystic with the Magic Initiate feat (pick some thematic illusion cantrips and spell, such as Minor Illusion and Silent Image). His highest ability score will be Intelligence (base 15), followed by Wisdom (base 14) and Constitution (base 13).
Being driven by a thirst of knowledge and at the same time embodying the Guildpact, we think Jace would be of NG alignment.
- Alignment: NG
- Personality Trait: «I can’t leave a mystery unsolved.»
- Ideal: «Knowledge is power, and power is what is needed to stop threats to civilization.»
- Bond: «For the sake of the Multiverse, I will keep watch.» (the Gatewatch)
- Flaw: «My plans are overcomplicated because they must account for every possibility.»
- Background: Sage (Researcher)
Choosing the Awakened as his Mystic Order turns Jace into a good detective. He gets more skills and Psionic Investigation, which is super useful. Psionic Surge will never be the best use of psionic focus, but that depends on the circumstances. About Spectral Form, we can re-flavor it as a powerful illusion in order to fit the character.
Most of the disciplines in this Order makes a good fit for Jace Beleren. We’ll list them in the order you should pick them as they are more or less relevant to the skills Jace has in the novels and MtG storyline:
- Telepathic Contact gives you with your focus telepathy with six people at once (the Gatewatch, maybe?). Broken Will and Psychic Domination turn your Jace into full Professor X + Jean Gray + Emma Frost mode.
- Intellect Fortress is the bread and butter of the character. Psychic damage is not common in 5e. Even if Psychic Backlash doesn’t scale at all, the advantage on half your saves provided by Psychic Redoubt gives huge resilience to the character.
- Psychic Assault is all about the offensive power of Jace, which he has shown many times in different storylines. Psionic Blast, Ego Whip, Psychic Blast and Psychic Crush can be brutal as long as you have power points to spend. Id Insinuation is not bad either, but Ego Whip is simply better.
- Psychic Phantoms will complement the cantrips you’ll get from Magic Initiate to give Jace access to some illusions. He is a blue mage, after all. Distracting Figment, Phantom Foe, Phantom Betrayal and Phantom Riches are all about tricking the mind of the masses.
- Psychic Disruption also encompasses many of the skills we have seen Jace using through the years.
- Psychic Inquisition gives you also good interrogation techniques to revel into mysteries, just as Jace likes to do. Between the focus, Forceful Query and Phantom Idea turn you into a Jedi Master, but are also (up to some extent) abilities that Jace has shown in Agents of Artifice.
- Aura Sight gives advantage on Insight checks when spending your focus, which is always good for intrigue campaigns and mystery campaigns. Assess Foe, Read Moods and View Aura offer serious perks for interaction encounters and Perceive the Unseen makes everything unable to hide from you.
Precognition and Mantle of Awe don’t reflect Jace’s powers, so we left them off the list.
Now, about the talents, you’ never get as many as you’d want,so you need to be careful how to pick them. In this case, we’ll just list them in alphabetical order. Basically, you need to keep a blance between being Jace and surviving long enough to become Jace.
- Delusion: picking Minor Illusion with Magic Initiate is better, though.
- Mind Slam: Dealing force damage is very useful at first levels. It doesn’t scale, but there are few challenges resistant to force damage.
- Mind Thrust: Good and effective offensive power.
- Mystic Charm: Very similar to the cantrip Friends, but with no drawbacks.
- Psychic Hammer: Also very effective as it pushes the target and deals some mild damage.
Finally, unlike other Planeswalkers, Jace doesn’t have any particular items with him all the time beyond his usual blue cloak, which he is almost always depicted with. We’ll treat this cloak as a legendary magic item that combines the properties of a Cloak of Invisibility and a Cloak of Protection (there must be a reason why he never takes it off, right?).