The first installment of Divergent paths clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, what is this guy? The short reply would be that this is a kineticist archetype employing the Path of War rules.
As such, the roil dancer’s power-level adheres to the increased power assumed by Path of War and obviously is intended for high-power gameplay. Low fantasy/power-rounds need not apply. The pdf assumes that you have Path of War Expanded and if you do like the Path of War system, there is frankly no reason you shouldn’t have that one already.
Roil Dancers add Perform and Spellcraft to their class skills and, discipline-wise, may choose Elemental Flux, Mithral Current, Solar Wind and Thrashing Dragon. A roil dancer begins play with 3 maneuvers known, all of which may be readied. He learns up to 15 maneuvers and may have 7 readied at any given time. 4th level and every even level thereafter allows for the retraining of a given maneuver and roil dancers may learn maneuvers of up to 6th level. Roil dancers begin encounters with all maneuvers readied. At 1st level, he knows once stance and learns another one at 4th, 7th, 11th and 13th level, replacing thus the infusions gained at 4 level and every 4 levels thereafter.
The presence of elemental flux has pretty much made that clear, but the archetype also receives animus equal to 1 + initiation modifier (minimum 1) at the start of his first turn. Each turn after that, the archetype gets +1 animus. Roil dancers receive an additional animus in every round in which they initiated a maneuver. Animus vanishes 1 minute after hostilities have subsided. When the roil dancer initiates a maneuver with his kinetic blade, he may expend animus to reduce the number of burn he takes – 2 animus reduce burn by 1. Additionally, maneuvers that allow for the execution of multiple attacks may be enhanced by spending 3 animus, gaining 1 additional attack with his kinetic blades.
We need to talk about those: 1st level provides kinetic blade as a bonus wild talent and may use it as part of initiating martial maneuvers that use weapons and also reduces burn cost by 1 when doing so. If a given maneuver allows for multiple attacks, his kinetic blade obliges to accommodate the maneuver’s requirements and additional blades may be employed, potentially with different effects. Full attack maneuvers allow for two kinetic blades. In the case of ranged maneuvers, the blade can be thrown 30 ft. and the benefits may be used in conjunction with kinetic blade.
Okay, got that? Great, for I do have a minor question: The animus expenditure that allows for extra attacks when using a maneuver: Do these additional attacks also benefit from the effects of the maneuver? Or are they vanilla kinetic blade attacks? I assume the ability to allow for the execution of multiple kinetic blade attacks to conform with multiple-attacks-granting maneuvers, but since the ability does not specify whether the number of attacks is still capped by the maneuver (or neither does it say anything about full BAB or the like), it could be read as meaning that you can exceed the number of attacks granted by the maneuver with extra, animus-powered kinetic blades. Beyond that, maneuvers that feature an animus augment can be further enhanced – by accepting 1 point of burn, he can augment the maneuver further, even beyond the usual limits…which frankly is nasty, even for Path of War’s power level.
The elemental focus chosen by the kineticist component of the archetype carries over to both Solar Wind and Elemental Flux – regardless of active element, the damage is defined by the element chosen: Aether deals slashing damage, wood positive energy damage ( See Seventh Path…or a sidebar for that one…), etc. – it should be noted that physical damage types are treated as magical and subject to DR and that any resistance ignoring benefits instead reduce DR appropriately.
The roil dancer’s gather power is tied into the animus ability: it costs 1 point of animus to gather power as a move action, 2 to gather it as a full-round action. In the former case, he regains one expended maneuver; in the latter, he regains his initiation modifier expended maneuvers, minimum 2. Roil Dancers with supercharge recover an additional maneuver. The significant power of the maneuvers he receives is somewhat reduced by the decreased progression of kinetic blasts -a roil dancer begins play with the default value, but only increases kinetic blast’s power at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Metakinesis, thankfully, only applies to the blast itself, not any damage caused by maneuvers or stances used in conjunction with it. Roil Dancers also lose the ability to quicken kinetic blades/whips.
The pdf also provides 8 feats: Augmented Elements nets you a simple blast from any element, but at a burn cost increased by 1. It also grants you the psionic subtype, unlocking psionic feats etc. for you and may be chosen at 1st level. Inner Fire is pretty nasty and frankly, I’m not sure I’d allow it near my game: For the expenditure of your psionic focus, you reduce the action needed to alleviate burn: If you take a swift action, you count as though you had used a move action. if you take a move action, you’re treated as though you had gathered power for a full-round. Sure, it’s a robbing Peter to pay Paul kind of situation, but it uses an infinite resource to significantly enhance the action economy of a conservation method of a limited one. In the context of Path of War, it works, but in less high-powered games, this should receive a bit of scrutiny, considering its 1st level availability. Kinetic Duelist nets you TWF kinetic blades. AWESOME! Mind Afire is also cool: If you use a non-Con-attribute to determine hit points, you may now use it for burn, DCs, blasts, etc. Ripple in Still Water lets you stack kineticist levels with ki pool-granting class levels for purposes of ki pool-size and for kinetic blast base damage. Basically the monk/ninja/kineticist multiclass feat.
The pdf also features three feats with the Gather Power-descriptor: Number one is awesome: After gathering power, blast adjacent (or 10-ft. away if you gathered as a full-round action) foes with burn. Solar Flare adds a dazzle/blind to your power gathering and Syphon Vitality (shouldn’t that be “siphon”?) offers the sickened condition – the durations/saves are feasible, balanced and cool and make gathering power more rewarding…can we have more?
Finally, the pdf also sports a magical item, the flicker gauntlet, which costs a paltry 1000 Gp and may hold an item of up to 20 pounds for up to 1 minute…oh and they match your active elements with appropriately colored swirlies! Fashionable!
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – in spite of the significant complexity of the subject matter, there is not much to complain in that regard – kudos! Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ nice 2-column full-color standard and the original piece of artwork is nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity and with a second, more printer-friendly iteration – nice to see that level of consideration.
Forrest Heck’s Roil Dancer is an impressive, precisely oiled machine that manages to blend two complex subsystems almost seamlessly. Apart from the one ambiguity in the animus-options, I have found nothing worthy of complaints. Balance/power-wise, the roil dancer should fit seamlessly within the high-powered gameplay assumed by Path of War. The feats deserve special mentioning as supplemental material, for while I consider some to be problematic in more conservatively-balanced rounds, they do feature some serious gems that will see use in my games beyond the confines of Path of War. They need scrutiny when employed in less powerful games, but as a whole, even divorced from the pdf, can offer some serious fun – particularly the gather power feats are a concept worth expanding upon.
Now usually, I’d frankly round down in this case, since the one ambiguity I found is pretty crucial to judging the power of the archetype…but at the same time, I am pretty sure I have deduced the proper intention from context AND the level of crunch-density and complexity offered here makes this inexpensive pdf very much worthwhile. It is thus due to the overall difficulty and the ambition (and execution to match it!) of the designs here that I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.
You can get this inexpensive archetype here on OBS!
You can directly support Dreamscarred Press here on OBS!