Legendary Hybrids: Kinetic Shinobi
The second of Legendary Games’ hybrid classes clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The kinetic shinobi, if the name was no clear indication, is a hybrid class of ninja and kineticist, which receives, chassis-wise d8 HD, 6 + Int-mod skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus kama, katana, kusarigama, kyoketsu shoge, nunchaku, sai, shortbow, short sword, shuriken, siangham and wakizashi as well as light armor. The class receives 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and 2nd level nets sneak attack, which continues to progress by +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter, up to a maximum of +7d6.
The class begins play with elemental focus and kinetic blast with kineticist levels equal to kinetic shinobi levels, but must either add the physical jutsu or elemental jutsu form infusion to any kinetic blast she manifests. A kinetic shinobi’s kineticist tricks are governed by Charisma instead of Constitution- Both of these form infusions, just fyi, do not have a burn cost.
Unfortunately, the physical jutsu infusion does have a pretty nasty glitch: It is used as part of any attack action, creating a weapon that deals “1d4 + Cha” damage, regardless of level. It can be used with Vital Strike, Spring Attack etc….but for one, I am pretty sure this should be Charisma modifier: RAW, this adds the Charisma score to damage, which is…too much. The elemental version behaves analogue to this, but does not sport the problematic “+Cha” addition and targets touch attack instead.
2nd level provides a ki-pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod. This ki may be spent to enhance physical jutsu attacks by +1 or the damage of elemental jutsu by +2. These bonuses increase by +1 and +2, respectively, at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Additionally, an expenditure of one ki can net them a whopping +20 to Acrobatics for one round, or a +4 to the skills associated with the elemental focus. Beyond these basic uses of ki, the kinetic shinobi also learns so-called Hadou techniques at 2nd level, which remain available for as long as the shinobi has at least 1 point of ki left in her pool. These hadou techniques basically are what lets you generate unique effects with the jutsus. It is here, in the technique that makes the jutsu behave as a katana, that the aforementioned confusion regarding “+Cha” is resolved btw. – here, the wording is correct and notes that it’s the Charisma modifier that is added to the damage-output, which is for 2-handed weapons btw. increased to 1d8. Dual wielding weapons made from jutsu and thrown weaponry are included here as well, just fyi.
Starting at 3rd level, kinetic shinobi become harder to track and better at Disguising and Stealth, emphasizing the ninja-component with scaling bonuses that increase every 3 levels thereafter. 4th level provides gather power, which, considering that the kinetic shinobi pays ki instead of burn, obviously pertains ki expenditure, though gathering power does require concentration -on a failed check, you have a cooldown there. 4th level and every 8 levels thereafter net a substance infusion, with 6th level and every 4 thereafter allowing for the switching of such an infusion. 4th level decreases the ki cost of their combined substance infusions by 1, with further reductions unlocking at 10th and 16th level. Since the burn-to-ki-conversion is stated in another ability, I am okay with the class calling this burn-cost reduction. 6th level provides the option to expend +1 ki to double the duration of effects, with 10th level allowing them to spend 2 points to maximize their blasts. 14th level allows for the expenditure of 3 points for a required second save and 18th level lets the shinobi expend 4 points to have the blast ignore 10 DR or resistance and SR and mitigate energy immunity to resistance 20: Big kudos here: The immunity-to-resistance-transition could have resulted in confusion in the hands of less careful authors: Kudos for the clarifying example!! 7th level nets evasion and, as a capstone, the metajutsu abilities that allow for the expenditure of ki to add metamagic-y benefits is decreased by 1. They may also regain 2 ki when sneak attacking a creature with at least half their HD: Kitten-proof capstone. Nice!
Now, I have consciously not commented so far on the massive array of shinobi talents included here: They represent the biggest unique player agenda component here. The first of these is gained at 1st level, with every 2 levels thereafter providing an additional such talent. These talents provide a blend of active benefits and talents that behave like hadou techniques and include the classic options you’d expect: From a variant smoke bomb to the option to provide one poison’s benefits to his jutsu-formed two weapons to standard action only increased damage blasts, which can be further modified to act as lines or cones. Increased sneak range for sniping, synergy of Spring Attack or charges with the aforementioned standard action damage-increase…there’s a lot here. Higher levels also allow for composite blast jutsu weapons, aligned strikes, applying infusions to full attacks, synergy between ki strike (which can be gained via another talent) and kinetic blast, advanced hadou techniques for dual thrown weapons or splash weaponry. Very cool: Kinetic shadow can add a miss chance to the shinobi in the aftermath of attacks and there even is one that allows for the decrease of sneak attack in favor of a reduced burn cost. Thankfully, the notorious flurry of stars-option has been locked behind an appropriate level, showing that the designers have done their math here. Highest level shinobis may even learn supercharge thus. Have I mentioned the option to gain detect thoughts? In case you haven’t noticed by now: Combined with Legendary Kineticist, this pdf is pretty much “Psylocke the Class” – or all those elemental ninja dudes and dudettes. As a whole, the massive selection of shinobi talents covers a pretty amazing array of options.
This is not, however, where the pdf stops: Instead we get a TON of archetypes: 11 to be more precise. Arsenal snipers modify their proficiency-list to gain access to crossbows and firearms and indeed, that’s what they can create: The rules-language provided for the ability is beautiful in its complexity, addressing several potential stumbling stones and eliminating multiple game-breaker-level issues from the get-go. Beyond increased accuracy, the class also receives an array of unique shinobi talents that include interaction with automatic fire, several investigator talents and replaces sneak attack with studied combat and Ranged combat at 3rd level, with further levels providing range increases. Lethal…but for once not a sniper class that overshoots (get it?? I’ll punch myself later for that…) the line.
The second one would be the Brutal Assassin, who loses a bit of versatility in favor of Strength as governing attribute and increased sneak damage output whenever he expends ki, with fighter-level bonus combat feats and more damage-focused tricks – which remain within the proper levels…so kudos! The archetype does lose much of the shinobi’s stealth and versatility for these, though. Thirdly, the burglar is a quick one: 3rd level safe house instead of a shinobi talent, HiPS instead of evasion. Solid.
The elemental shinobi replaces 12th level’s ninjutsu training and evasion with access to elemental defense , powered by ki, at 2nd level. Their ki expenditure per round is capped, though, and their pool is reduced to 3 + Cha-mod to retain balance and they may also not perform the +20 Acrobatics tricks via ki, though 6th level allows them to take Charisma damage to increase the ki pool for a limited number of times per day. Weird layout glitch, btw.: Starting at 3rd level’s elemental overflow, the whole text that follows, until the second sentence of the next archetype, seems to be bolder than it should be. The ability is btw. pretty impressive, providing bonuses to atk with blasts equal to the ki points expended since the last rest, and the ability even knows thresholds for further bonuses, which makes for a very cool experience of resource-management I enjoy immensely: On the one hand, you want to expend those points, on the other, you don’t this retains a fluidity of options and generates this cool and pretty cinematic feeling. Very, very cool. I am so going to see what I can do with this engine!!
Fading Shadows gets a delayed sneak attack progression and are masters of camouflage, the silent killers and ghost-like infiltrators, with Conceal Spell and vanishing trick. A relatively simple one, but I like it. The hand of the kami would be, surprise, the archetype that makes the class behave like a kinetic unchained monk instead of a kinetic ninja – with quinggong monk ki powers, faster movement, flurry, the like. The Hi-Den Noble would be a similar hybrid-y archetype, but one that would basically represent a vigilante-ish shinobi that makes for a great face of the party, with knowledge and social skills and hidden strikes et al. – Really like this one, as it also has some seriously nice flavor written into the abilities. The metaformer replaces the metamagic-like tricks gained at 6th level and thereafter with extended access to form infusions – basically, this is an engine tweak, designed specifically to allow for kineticist-style meta-magic as opposed to the feat-based metamagic of the base class, making it a useful and cool addition.
Following this sequence, the next one would be the needler, whose ki pool behaves pretty much like a variant panache. Yep, this would be the swashbuckler-multiclass. And before you ask: The reason why I’m not screaming fire and brimstone right now regarding replenishing ki is the restriction that eliminates the elemental jutsu from the equation. The piercing focus can slightly be expanded upon with shinobi talents, one of which allows for the addition of usually bludgeoning-only kinetic blasts that may now inflict piercing or slashing damage. This archetype, while solid on its own, delimits a limited resource, so utmost care should be taken by GMs allowing the archetype to multiclass. The shadow stepper is locked into void and gains arcane spellcasting with slots equal to the bloodrager, but draw them from wizard/sorc and psychic spell-lists, though they are limited in what spells they can learn. The archetype pays for the flexibility that offers with a lot shinobi talents and regular stealth. Additionally, they may cast spells by expending ki and spell slots, drawing from a thematically nice list. The final archetype would be the shikon, whose spell-list and equivalent levels are treated as either bard, hunter, inquisitor, magus, mesmerist, spiritualist or warpriest, chosen at 1st level, rendering them pretty much a catch-all blend of the kinetic shinobi with the black blade of the bladebound magus (they gain a variant of the black blade), making this a pretty significant and interesting departure from the base class. Kudos!
Big, big plus: We get a TON of favored class options: Core races, featured races, uncommon races, and they actually tie in thematically with the respective races: Orcs gain damage upgrades for empowered weapons, dhampirs better negative blasts…nice. The pdf also features 4 feats: Beyond the Extra Shinobi Talent and Favored Shinobi Talent (decrease ki-cost of that talent) to using Cha for one Dex-based class skill to Overflowing Ki, which treats you as always having at least 1 ki and allows for 1 hour of meditation to regain ki…which can be an issue in REALLY grim, low-powered games. In most standard rounds, its meditation duration is long enough to make me consider it to be okay.
The pdf closes with the lady depicted on the cover, Valerie Jette, a level 9 half-elven kinetic shinobi whose colorful history includes a healthy infusion of drow blood as part of being resurrected. Sounds intriguing? Yes, it does! She does come with a boon, just fyi!
Editing and formatting is very good, though not perfect. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf’s artwork has been employed in other LG-books for the most part, though a couple of nice ones are included that I have not seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
N. Jolly, with additional design by Blake Morton and OnyxTanuki, delivers once again in this hybrid class. Now, what do I look for in a hybrid class? For one, if a simple archetype of a scavenging of class ability could do what the hybrid class does, then it has missed its mark. Secondly, and that’s just as important, if not more so, it has to feel unique: It should not play like just a Frankenstein-conglomerate of class abilities that have been stitched together. Thirdly, the class needs its unique identity. A hybrid of hunter and slayer will probably be just another woodsy pet-fighter dude, for example. The kinetic shinobi fulfills all of these criteria with panache. The significant array of archetype support adds some seriously nice customization options to the class as well, making it excel at being the anime-ninja, the Psyclocke-ish character par excellence. That being said, there are a couple of minor issues here and some options that can potentially can cause hiccups in some games. Granted, these are few and far between and can easily be identified by a competent GM, but they’re here. In the end, I consider this a very good hybrid class – one of my favorite 3pp hybrid classes alongside Forest Guardian Press’ savage and Purple Duck Games’ luminary , in fact, but these small imperfections are what costs this my seal of approval. Still, this remains one excellent addition to the game and well worth 5 stars.
You can get this cool hybrid class here on OBS!