Guidance – Playing 101: Beginner’s Guide to the Kineticist

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be talking about the basics in regards to the kineticist class.

So on Saturday, I was at an all-day charity convention called Aid Another, raising money to support a local organization called Mighty Writers who helps Philadelphian youth by giving them creative writing classes to help better their writing skills to get into college. We raised about $700, so I’d call the convention a success!

While I was at the convention, I played PFS Scenario 7-13: Captive in Crystal. It’s a pretty good scenario, written by my friend Monica Marlowe, but what really stuck out to me was that one of the enemies was a kineticist. The kineticist is a new class from Occult Adventures, and one thing I took away from the game was that many people have NO idea how the kineticist works. Like, absolutely none. Personally, I don’t think this is entirely their fault. The class’s layout in Occult Adventures is confusing, and information about mechanics isn’t easy to reference.

Luckily, that’s what I’m here for! Let’s talk kineticists on today’s installment of Guidance!

Elemental Focus & Wild Talents

First things first, when you become a kineticist, you choose one element to focus on. Currently, those element choices are aether, air, earth, fire, void, water, and wood. Each “type” of kineticist has a fancy, sciency name associated with it, like telekinetist for aether or pyrokineticist for fire. Those aren’t super important, but sometimes Paizo uses the “elemental focus name” instead of the “class name,” similar to how you sometimes see “diviner” or “abjurer” instead of “wizard,” so its helpful to keep in mind that if you see “–kineticist” in a class name, its referring to a kineticist specialist.

Elemental focus leads directly into wild talents, as you immediately gain a few wild talents as a result of your element choice at 1st level. Wild talents are either spell-like abilities or supernatural abilities, and all of them take a standard action to use unless the talent itself says otherwise. Wild talents automatically have an elemental descriptor (or descriptors) that match its element entry. Yes, that means that there is now an aether, a void, and a wood descriptor, although they do not exist for spellcasters other than the kineticist. Additionally, wild talents that can be used with multiple elements gain all of the descriptors associated with the element(s) that the kineticist uses with the talent. This is a confusing line that basically means, “If you can use multiple elements, you the talent gains whatever descriptor(s) appropriate for which element you use with the talent.”

Wild talents are the bulk of what makes the kineticist tricky, because even though most abilities don’t ~say~ that they’re wield talents, they are. Wild talents come in several different flavors: blast, composite blast, defense, infusion, and utility. We can’t talk any more about the kineticist without talking about these talents, so we’re going to take them one at a time and describe them.

Blast Talents: You get an ability called kinetic blast as a kineticist, and it’s your bread and butter attacking option. However, kinetic blast doesn’t ~do~ anything unless you have blast talent(s) to back it up. When you choose an elemental focus, you also get to pick one blast talent that your element possesses. About half of the elements only have a single blast talent to choose from (aether, earth, fire, and wood) while the other half have two (air, void, and water). Blasts come in two varieties: energy and physical. Energy blasts deal energy damage and target touch AC while physical blasts deal weapon damage and target regular AC. Physical blasts, however, have a better damage progression than energy blasts and energy blasts have to contend with energy resistances and immunities as well as spell resistance, where physical blasts only need to worry about damage reduction (and all blasts count as magic attacks for such purposes). A physical blast’s damage deals 1d6+the kineticist’s Con modifier, and the damage increases by 1d6+1 every 2 kineticist levels thereadfter. An energy blast deals 1d6+half of the kineticist’s Con modifier, and the damage increases by 1d6 every 2 kineticist levels thereafter. Basically, energy blasts are more accurate but are more impaired by creature defenses, while physical blasts deal more damage but have to roll higher in order to hit their enemies.

Composite Blast Talents: These are identical to blast talents, but with two noticeable exceptions. First, they represent either a combination of elemental energies or a refining of the energies of a single element. As a result, physical composite blasts deal 2d6+Con damage, plus 2d6+2 damage for every 2 kineticist levels you possess, while energy composite blasts deal 2d6+1/2 Con damage, plus 2d6 damage for every 2 kineticist levels you possess. In short, extra damage. Second, composite blasts have a burn cost. We haven’t talked about burn yet, but keep that in mind.

Defense Talents: Every element has one defense talent, which functions by giving you a cool defensive power, as well as the ability to enhance that power by accepting burn as described by the talent. Again, we haven’t gotten to burn yet, but keep it in mind. You automatically get your element’s defense talent for free at 2nd level, and you can get any the defense talent(s) of any secondary or tertiary elements that you possess as a utility talent (see below).

Infusion Talents: These are just called infusions by the class, but they function like wild talents. Infusions change the way that the kineticist attacks with her kinetic blast, and they come in two varieties: substance and form, both of which are noted in the infusion’s entry. A substance infusion adds additional effects to a kinetic blast while a form infusion changes how the kinetic blast targets or attacks its targets. You can have up to one of each active on your kinetic blast at a time. At certain levels, you can swap out infusions for other infusions, sort of like a sorcerer swapping spells.

Utility Talents: Also known as the “miscellaneous talents,” utility talents mostly (but not always) function like spell-like abilities, except usable much more often. At 1st level, you get the “basic” utility talent that matches your element, then at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter you may choose from the larger list of utility talents. At certain levels, you can swap out utility talents for other utility talents, sort of like a sorcerer swapping spells.

In short, your talent progression looks like this:

1st (one blast, one utility [basic “–kinesis”], one infusion)
2nd (one defense, one utility)
Every Odd Except 7th and 15th (one infusion)
Every Even (one utility)
7th (expanded element)

What’s expanded element? Glad you asked.

Expanded Element

At 7th and 15th levels, you get an ability called expanded element. Basically, you can choose to either gain a second or third element, or hyper specialize in your current element. If you choose to expand, you get to pick one kinetic blast talent from your new element, gain all composite blast talents whose prerequisites you meet (usually one at 7th level, or two at 15th level if you pick different elements every time), and you gain the basic “–kinesis” talent associated with your new element. If you choose to specialize, you gain the other blast talent that’s associated with your element (if any), any composite blast talents whose prerequisites you meet, and your choice of either an infusion or a utility talent from your element. If you pick your element with both expanded elements, the kineticist gains a +1 bonus to her caster level (meaning better damage), on attack rolls and damage rolls with the kinetic blast, and to the save DCs of all wild talents of her element. If you pick one or more alternate elements, you gain the ability to choose wild talents from those elements’ selections, but you are treated as a kineticist of 4 levels lower when determining which talents you can take (we’re getting there).

For most concepts, I personally think that its better to stick with your first element and choose an infusion with expanded element at 7th level. There’s a simple reason for my line of thinking, but I need to explain how spell levels and prerequisites for wild talents works before I can expand it. Let’s get started.

What Talents Can I Choose?

In the Occult Adventures Playtest, the kineticist’s talents listed kineticist level prerequisites that told you the minimum kineticist level you needed to choose them. That idea got thrown away in the final book, and the “meeting the prerequisites” thing is one of the most common sources of confusion that I see over the kineticist class, so I feel it needs to be tackled separately.

For blast, composite blast, and elemental defense talents, there’s no “meeting the talent’s prerequisites. You gain them when certain class features say you get them (kinetic blast and expanded element for blast talents, elemental defense for defense talents, or expanded element for composite blast talents). Infusions and utility talents, however, all list an “effective spell level;” aka the talent’s spell level in sorcerer/wizard terms. In order to choose one of these categories of wild talent, you need a minimum kineticist level equal to twice the talent’s level, unless the talent is a 1st-level talent;1st-level talents are always available, regardless of level. So, for example, if you want a 2nd-level talent, you need to be 4th level to take it. 5th requires 10th, 9th requires 18th, and so on.

So let’s take this idea and bring it back to expanded element. Kineticists gain infusions at every odd level except 7th and 15th, when they gain expanded element. At 7th level, the kineticist is JUST meeting the minimum kineticist level requirements to pick 3rd-level infusions, and at 15th level she’s just meeting the prerequisites for 7th-level infusions; remember, the maximum spell level that you can learn goes up at every even level, and infusions are gained at every odd level. In short, if you broaden your element choice, you’re basically skipping out on your one shot to pick a 3rd-level talent, because the next time you get a talent will be 9th level, when you’ve just unlocked 4th-level talents. So expanding your element is a good choice if there’s no 3rd level or 4th level talents you want, but if there are, you’re often making something you want take longer to get.

Burn

For our final topic in today’s beginner’s article to the kineticist, let’s talk about their main mechanic; burn. In order to perform infusions, composite blasts, defense talents, and some utility talents, you need to accept burn. Every time you accept burn, you take 1 point of nonlethal damage per character level you possess. NOTHING can reduce or redirect this damage, and if you somehow prevent the damage, the ability FAILS. Ouch. You can take a maximum amount of burn equal to 3 + your Constitution modifier, and there’s a hard limit on the amount of burn that you can accept in a round; 1 point initially, then 2 points at 6th level, rising by 1 at 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter. This limit applies to all things that you do in a round, so you might not be able to combine your composite blast with all of your infusions if the total amount of burn exceeds your limitations. Burn goes away after a full night’s rest.

Now, there are ways of reducing the amount of burn you spend with your abilities and actions. One of those ways is gather power, which lets you reduce the burn cost of your next kinetic blast + infusions by 1 if you spend a move action to gather power, 2 if you spend a full-round action, or 3 if you spend a full-round action, then another move action. If you’re hurt gather gathering power, you have a decent change to “lose” the banked burn you generated. Another option is the infusion specialization ability, which removes a flat amount of burn from all infusions you use, up to a total reduction of 6 at 20th level. Finally, internal buffer gives you a small amount of “burn not burn” that you can spend by investing burn into your internal reservoir to use later.

Metakinesis

I want to mention this quickly before the end of the article. Metakinesis is a class feature (not a wild talent) that allows you to modify your kinetic blast with certain metamagic feats by accepting burn. Its very useful, but its not considered a blast or an infusion, so your cool burn reducing abilities don’t lessen the trauma caused to your body by metakinesis.

There’s a lot more that we can (and will) talk about involving the kineticist, but this is a fairly thorough guide that should take some of the new powers and mechanics of the class and make them a little bit easier to comprehend. So, readers, tell me in the comments or on the forums: have you played the kineticist yet? If so, what did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it? What questions do YOU have that you’d like ME to tackle the next time I talk about kineticists? In the mean time, I’m signing off for the day: I’ll be back with another kineticist build on Friday! Take care. 😀

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC. If you like Alex's writing and are interested in supporting him while getting professional-quality material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game while doing so, check out the Everyman Gaming, LLC catalog, which is listed under Rogue Genius Games at the following locations: http://drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/6101/Rogue-Genius-Games/subcategory/19574_25289/Everyman-Gaming-Catalog

4 Comments

  1. Hey Alex. Nice article. There’s a couple of typos in the text I will highlight them to make the text better. I believe they append ‘kinetist’ instead of ‘kineticist’ and it’s a Wild talent instead of of Wield talent.

    Other than that good job on explaining the basics.

    For the next article what sort of stat spread would you use? Priorities being con and dex? Str when you use melee talents?

    • If it helps, I can give you the gist of it here.

      Dex and Con are to stats of rouhly equal importance, since Dex determines both accuracy and the Save DCs of your Form infusions, while Constitution determines your hit points, maximum Burn, and the Save DCs of your Substance infusions.

      If you rely on physical blasts, Dex edges out ever so slightly for the sake of accuracy. Energy blasts hit more often, so slightly favoring Con helps to boost your slightly lower damage.

      Wisdom is an important tertiary stat. It boosts your Perception rolls and Will saves, two things critical to success during your adventuring career.

      For Melee, assuming you went Kenetic Blade (and eventually Kenetic Whip?) you will actually want to take Weapon Finesse and just key attacks off Dex. Str doesn’t add to your Kinetic Blast/Blade damage at all, and the fewer stats you have to worry about the better you can be at the ones that are really important.

  2. Nice article, Alex. It does a great job of breaking down the class into bite sized chunks. I sure wish I had it available when the book dropped!

    I have two flaws to point out, however…

    1) Gather Power can totally lower the cost of Metakinesis. It’s how your damage stays competitive.
    Source: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2st1r?Gather-Power-Infusions-and-Metakinesis

    2) A quick search shows that Elemental Overflow is not mentioned. This is a pretty critical feature, serving as your replacement for otherwise inaccessible magical weapon enchants. Plus, it eventually starts giving you those delicious size bonuses to physical stats of your choice.

  3. Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

    The only issues I have with the kineticist is some of the arbitrary restrictions for balance reasons. Like being unable to use kinetic blade/whip with vital strike for no real reason other than balance, or being unable to use gather power with utility talents. The other main issue I have, is the lack of certain types of talents or abilities that should be included, for example, a telekineticist is unable to levitate anyone. I mean, lifting someone up in the air and just holding them there should be an intrinsic part of the telekinetic, but it’s not.

    Other than that, I love the class. I haven’t had the chance to play it in a game organically, but I’ve messed around running it through mock scenarios on my own. I’ve found it to be a great addition to a party, but not overwhelmingly powerful, except in certain niche situations. Like fighting against swarms, the kineticist is amazing. Or a hydrokineticist can do some scary things at sea, such as with the water manipulator utility talent.

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