Everyman Options: Kineticist (Revised Edition)
This review of the revised Everyman options-book on kineticists clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial,5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this pdf, as always will Everyman gaming’s offerings, with a little anecdote, a ToC and a list of design goals that a given pdf was created to tackle.
This pdf begins with a new kineticist element, namely dream; practitioners of dream using this element are known as psychokineticists and add Knowledge (local) and Diplomacy to their list of class skills. Their blast talents are dream blast and mind blast: Dream blasts let you determine blast type (energy or physical) and damage type, chosen from acid, cold, electricity or fire for energy blasts and the three basic physical damage types for physical blasts. The first time a target is hit by a dream blast, a shadow blast (one of the new composite blasts) or a simple blast modified by phantasmal composite blast (here somewhat unluckily called “infused”, which isn’t too smooth considering the existence of infusions), the target may make a Will-save to disbelieve the attack; on a success, it only takes 20% of the damage. Dream blasts are illusion (shadow) effects and if you can execute the type of the blast and its damage type anew for subsequent attacks. On a minor nitpick pertaining rules-language consistency, here we once refer to “type of kinetic blast” and once to “blast type” which potentially creates minor confusion in an already complex set-up. The second blast, mind blasts, causes untyped energy damage, with a Will-save to halve, but said save may only be attempted only once per round – this would be an mind-affecting divination effect. As always in such a context -I am not a fan of untyped damage. In similar untyped blast damages, you have decreases in damage-die-size, but the save-reduction in conjunction with mind blasts being declared SPs and thus subject to magic inhibitors and SP-rules do prevent the blast array from being overpowered. Still, as a person, I avoid untyped damage like the plague whenever possible.
Composite blast-wise, phantasmal boost (at 2 burn, +1 optionally at 15th level to deal simple blast damage instead of the usual successful save proposition) combines dream’s flexibility with aether, air, earth, fire, water or wood and has a means to disbelieve the dreamstuff-related component of the composite blast, with disbelief potentially also decreasing the potency of infusions attached to the composite blast. Also at burn 2, phrenic blasts, consisting of pure dream energy, cause untyped damage, half on a successful save, for some reliable damage output. Aforementioned shadow blast, similarly at burn cost , combines dream blast with negative energy blast – which is per se a nice idea. On a nitpick: A part of the rules-information for the dream blast has been cut-copy-pasted here since it does contain all the relevant information for the shadow blast and talks about dream blasts instead of shadow blasts, making this one at first glance slightly more confusing to read as usual for Alexander Augunas’ writing.
2nd level nets the dream ward defense wild talent, which provides a 20% miss chance for all attacks that require an attack roll to hit you, but unlike concealment, it does not allow for Stealth check/HiPS-use, though it is counteracted by true seeing. By accepting 1 point of burn as a standard action, this defensive cloak and its miss chance can be increased by 1/2 your kineticist level, up to a maximum of 75% until you next time regain burn. When accepting burn from a dream wild talent, you temporarily increase the miss chance by 5% until the start of your next turn per point of burn accepted. This talent is treated as an illusion (glamer) effect. I really like this defense wild talent – it is weird, powerful, has an Achilles heel and provides a unique playing experience…so yeah, kudos!
The pdf next offers 8 new infusion wild talents: The fearsome infusion, at 2 burn, lets you render a foe shaken, with another blast covering the sickened condition. Unlike these, the fatigue-causing burn 3 infusion does not stack with itself, but considering the limiting effects on some builds, this still can be considered to be pretty powerful. The exhausting infusion, at burn 3, causes exhaustion (non-stackable) and an analogue exists for the nauseated condition, while malleable blast modifies dreamstuff blasts (and dreamstuff-infused blasts and shadow blasts), at burn 3, classify the mimicked elements as the proper element for the purpose of infusion classification, which is neat. A mental burn 4 explosion.
Unless I have miscounted, I have seen a total of 24 utility wild talents, including the simple blast, which would be basic psychokinesis, which provides a simple, shared-language-dependant form of telepathy and also allows you to use daze and ghost sound. Alternatively, mind scan allows you to detect thoughts, with burn accepting as a means to maintain the affect or gain immediate information. Dream-style communication (or dream messenger via burn), minor image/ventriloquism, command/suggestion…pretty interesting in that a lot of the mental manipulation/illusion-trickery stuff can be found here. The tricks very much reminded me of a legendary telepath PC in my games. Gaining Con-mod to Will-saves is not something I’m too big a fan of, but it’s not per se broken. I have been a fan of the mindscape concept ever since the days of 3.X, when Bruce R. Cordell wrote the book of the same name for Malhavoc Press, so it should come as no surprise that yes, I do like the wild talents interacting with the concept. Hold person/monster at burn 2 save or suck infusions on the other hand…less of a fan. The sheer spamming potential, in spite of the burn cost, is pretty nasty, particularly when used in conjunction with some of the optimization tricks for the kineticist. A variation of telekinetic invisibility and a mesmerist’s touch treatment as a utility wild talent is similarly a nice idea. Ona nitpick: The old (and more powerful/broken) sickening infusion remains here, displaced as a relic in the update; it should be removed.
Next up would be the archetype section, which begins with the elemental blade – which thankfully does not do the same thing as N. Jolly’s wielder of blade-shaped blasts, but instead can be pictured best as a kineticist magus, providing basically a modification of spell combat for use in conjunction with kinetic blasts in lieu of the 1st level infusion and allowing for gather power while holding weapons. Until higher levels, this ability counts as a form infusion and the archetype does feature the means to defensively utilize kinetic blasts and needs to choose wisely which type of attack to employ first. At higher levels, the ability is no longer considered to be a form infusion, but does increase the burn cost of such infusions applied to blasts. Elemental Overflow’s bonuses are applied to attacks made with the weapons wielded as well.
The second archetype would be the harbinger,who gains a passenger (see Paranormal Adventures), basically an inhabiting spirit instead of a 1st level infusion. Instead of the 2nd level utility wild talent, the archetype gains the option to accept 1 burn before rolling a d20 to roll it twice and choose the better result…or accept 1 burn to reroll a d20. 3rd level replaces elemental overfloweth with the vessel’s grace overfloweth ability. I *like* the vessel-connection very much, but the nigh infinite 2nd level reroll/roll twice ability is overpowered compared to almost all classes that utilize such mechanics: The lack of an action to activate it makes it spammable and for the very low burn cost, really brutal. As written, as much as I like the archetype’s concept, it won’t get near my table.
The next archetype would be the kinetic marksman – and in case you haven’t figured, that would be the kinetic blast/sniper – instead of gaining a regular kinetic blast, the archetype adds variable bonus damage to ranged weapon attacks, basically making the application of the blast a type of form infusion and prohibiting the marksman from using an array of form infusions that would allow it to ignore these restrictions; similarly, no Con-bonus is added to avoid double attribute addition to damage. In a nut-shell, this is the elemental archer trope and it does its job well, replacing the 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level infusion gained with mundane combat feats. Analogue to this one, the kinetic trickster takes the skill unlocks championed in Pathfinder Unchained and uses them instead of infusion specialization as well as a generally more pronounced focus on skills – the price paid for this is relatively moderate.
Metabolic elementalists can assume elemental form when they have at least 1 burn, but pay for this ability with a lot of their utility wild talents. Finally, the wu jen gains arcane spells as a bard, but only elementalist spells, but does lose all utility wild talents and elemental overflow and can’t even get these via the Extra Wild talent feat. In order to use infusions or metakinesis, the archetype must lose one or more prepared wu jen spells, with the combined spell level equal to or greater than the total burn cost. Wu jen may not accept burn unless the infusion would normally allow it. Defense wild talents are fueled by spell slot sacrifice during spell preparation. Instead of expanded element, spells and simple blasts/composite blasts and the basic wild talent are gained for the element chosen at 7th and 15th level, respectively. I *like* the general idea here and the execution is restrictive enough to make a kineticist/caster worthwhile, but at the same time, this archetype, mechanically interesting though it may be, is simply…well, I don’t know…no that wu jen-y? I should like this archetype and I appreciate its mechanics from a craftsmanship point of view, but at the same time, I’d rather have a full elementalist or full kineticist.
The next chapter depicts a whole array of advanced composite blasts, which allow the respective kineticist to directly infuse blasts with the energy of the upper or lower planes. I am not a fan of these…not due to mechanic reasons per se, but due to the concept: When pathfinder got rid of holy/unholy damage, it did so without being consequent; instead of using rules-language to codify unique damage types or within other damage types (5e’s necrotic/radiant come to mind), they remained kinda-untyped-but-not-really; so yeah, That never really worked for me. In a minor layout hiccup, a box from the new feat (which further marginalizes Linguistics and lets you, for 1 burn, speak any language of aberrations, outsiders, etc. until it is removed) has bled over into the text of blasts. Oh, and there are internal inconsistencies in the blasts that seem odd to me: Holy Fire and Hellfire, for example, are exact good/evil mirror images, but hellfire costs 1 burn more, when if anything the opposite would make more sense. The burn 3 seems to be a typo, considering all other cost 2…but it would imho be the better choice here. Sorry, rambling. More discrepancy in effects between the good and evil blasts would also have been appreciated by yours truly, but that may just be me.
Aforementioned feat also doubles as a prerequisite for the scion of the elements 10-level PrC that can be taken around 5th level. The PrC gets 2+int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression as well as 1/2 Ref-save progression. The PrC stacks its levels with kineticist levels for the means to determine when he gains supercharge and for the purpose of prerequisites stacking. The scion of the elements may use a move action to gain a wild talent she meets prerequisite wise for 1 minute, usable 1 + class level times per day, with 4th level expanding that to two wild talents per use or 1 as a swift action and 3 at 6th level, with action economy further decreasing, meaning that 2 can now be gained as a swift action, 1 as a free action…you get the drift. And yes, these may be used to generate talent-trees; i.e. they can act as prerequisites for one another. Starting at 8th level, the ability gets a bump and 1 wild talent can be gained as an immediate action, 3 as a swift action. At 10th level, things get confusing: “At 10th level, a scion of the elements can use this ability to gain the benefits of any number of wild talents as a swift action. Each talent selected counts towards her daily uses of this ability…” Häh?? So, the ABILITY has uses. Each use of the ABILITY grants a number of wild talents…and suddenly, the wild talents “count towards daily uses”? At this level, one swift action activation of the ability would net me 3 wild talents…so how do I “count” here? 11 x 3 = 33 total wild talents? Or is this ability intended to allow the scion to exceed the 3, i.e. gain 5 wild talents as one activation, but burn 5 uses of the ability instead of 1? This is pretty puzzling and opaque and needs cleaning up. Also, even for the capstone, that is pretty unpleasant in either way, considering the nova-potential.
Also at 1st level, the scion automatically reincarnates after dying within 1 day unless defeated by a death effect or in scion state. 1st, 5th and 9th level provide expanded element, though the expanded elements are treated as -4 kineticist levels for the purpose of learning wild talents. Composite blasts or elemental defenses of the elements aren’t gained thus, but at 2nd level and 7th level, the -4 level restriction is eliminated for one of the elements chosen. 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the scion gains a scion wild talent, which translates to an infusion or utility wild talent chosen among elemental focus and expanded elements or alternatively, a composite blast. I mentioned the scion state: Beginning at 3rd level, when benefitting from elemental overflow, the scion may enter this state via accepting one burn as a move action. While in this state, any size bonuses are increased by 2 and elemental overflow’s attack roll bonus is added to CL and concentration prompted by wild talents; additionally, and this is where I draw the line, half of the bonus is added to the DCs of the wild talents. Granted, the state only lasts a minute (enough for most battles) and thereafter leaves the scion exhausted for 2 minutes, fatigued for an hour, thankfully with a no-alleviation caveat…but still. Oh, and for accepting 1 burn, the state can be expanded by 1 minute, with a similar extension of the fatigue afterwards. Accepting burn to prolong the state does not note an activation action, though I imagine it either being move or free. At 10th level, element5al flexibility no longer requires an action when in scion state – it can even be done on an enemy’s turn without expending an immediate action. So yes, this is very much Avatar – the PrC. It is a competent representation of the concept…and it is slightly too strong and nova-y for my tastes.
Editing and formatting are still good, but not as good as I’ve come to expect from Everyman Gaming. I waited for the revised book and e.g. the remnant from the old organization the layout bleed of the feat-box…that type of thing can easily be caught. On a rules-language level, Alexander Augunas does not fail in applying the complex terminology of the kineticist, but he does not reach the crisp level of precision I have come to expect from him as one of my favorite crunch designers. Layout adheres to Everyman Gaming’s two-column full-color standard with nice original full-color artwork by Jacob Blackmon. Yes, kitsune included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
This revised edition is not a bad pdf, let me make that abundantly clear. For the low price, this is a valid offering. It also is pretty much what I expected when I saw the kineticist the first time: I liked the engine, but not so much what was done with it. As you all may know, Avatar never really clicked with me; it’s a good series, I *get* what people like about it…but I never got into the mindset that made everyone demand it. It just does not resonate with me. I can’t help it. I watched it. Never clicked. The KOP-series, to me, was a huge blessing, because it unfettered the kineticist from these thematic chains. This book does something similar and goes into a territory that feels more occult; if anything, if your complaints with the class were that it did not feel occult-y enough to be part of Occult Adventures…well, there you go. So this pdf does something right – I just wished it went further in that direction.
So yeah: Avatar fans and those of you who want e.g. more skill-monkey-ish kineticists, casting ones…this should deliver.
And still. It’s hard to put into words. It’s the small hiccups that accumulate. It’s the fact that usually, Alexander Augunas has a knack for making me like things I usually hate. Not so this time. For me, as a person, this hits all the wrong tones. I really dislike the alignment blasts; the slightly too strong avatar PrC does nothing for me as a person and similarly, the archetypes…don’t work for me either; as a person, I don’t want to play those characters. So if what I mentioned above regarding my pet-peeves evoked similar responses from you…well, then you won’t get that much out of this either. Scratch that…they do work regarding mechanics and the like. Let me make that abundantly clear: The material here is NOT bad – I just happen to dislike a lot of it and it hits a lot of tones that, on their lonesome, would disqualify it in my main-campaign.
The dream element is interesting and I really, really like the defense. But as a whole, this left me less impressed than I hoped I’d be and while I’ll allow dream with some modifications, I didn’t get as much out of this pdf as I’d expected from a theme as evocative as dream.
This is just me as a private person, though: If the number of dice rolled for disbelieving blasts and the 20% mechanic don’t faze you, then this will provide some interesting experiences indeed. Similarly, if you wanted a skill-monkey kineticist, a casting kineticist or the like – there you go! And if you wanted a PrC, crafted by an ardent fan of Avatar to reflect the powers implied in the title…then this will do it for you! Sure, the PrC is pretty strong…but that’s how you want to feel as Quasi-the-Avatar, right? This is hard for me, because it is really difficult to separate my own tastes from my reviewer’s stance with this one. I am honestly not sure whether it just managed to hit all my pet-peeves in the wrong way or whether I’m on to something here.
I’ve agonized about this for quite a bit and in the end, I decided to rate this while completely disregarding my own desired power-level, concepts and the like. Once I do that, I am left with a neat kineticist expansion that provides some creative material, but suffers from less precision in some components of the rules-language than usual for Everyman Gaming. Similarly, the editing and formatting aren’t as tight. My official final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.
You can get this inexpensive pdf here on OBS.