Guidance – Playing 101: Advanced Kineticists

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 advanced kineticist abilities and tactics.

Welcome back to Guidance, everyone!

About a month ago, we talked a bit about the kineticist: that class that everyone is interested in, but few people know how to play. I spent a bit of time going over how infusion and wild talent selection works, and also compared and contrasted the various kineticist elements. Today we’re going to take a bit of time to talk about some of the more advanced kineticist abilities, as well as some advanced kineticist playstyle tips and tricks. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Gather Power and Supercharge

I sort of fused gather power into a side note about burn in the last article, so I wanted to take the time to make sure I explained the gather power mechanic properly. Gather power allows you to take a move, full-round, or round-and-a-half action to reduce the burn cost of your next wild blast talent by 1, 2, or 3 points depending on how much you want to reduce your blast’s burn cost by. (NOTE: you cannot reduce a talent’s cost below 0. I think its sort of silly that players needed to be reminded of this, but I suppose it’s the world we live in.) Now, when I say “round a half,” I mean you’re using a full round on one turn, then another move action on your next turn. Which is why you’re getting such a colossally awesome reduction to your burn cost, considering that each day you’re capped to a total amount of burn equal to 3 + your Constitution modifier. And since gather power reduces the total burn cost of your blast wild talent, it applies to just about everything that “adds” burn to that talent: infusions and metakinesis are the big two. Gather power cannot, however, reduce burn associated with things that aren’t infusions, like defense wild talents or utility wild talents.

Its important to note that while gather power does not provoke an attack of opportunity, if you happen to be attacked while gathering power (typically because you spent a full round gathering power and have to essentially “hold it” until your next turn), then you have to make a concentration check or lose the energy. This also happens if someone attacks you while you’re gathering power, such as if an opponent readies an action to attack you if it sees you gathering power and it manages to hit you. Since gathering power creates a very obvious visual display in a 20-foot area, its safe to say your opponent will be alerted to what you are doing and will thusly try to maul your face in. If that wasn’t bad enough, you automatically accept an amount of burn equal to the amount of burn your gather power would have normally; this can quickly shut a kineticist down, so its important to be aware of.

Gather power remains fairly constant throughout your PFS career, but at 11th level you get the supercharge ability, which basically makes gather power faster; you get a reduction of 2 with a move action, or 3 with a full-round action. I think that the full-round bit is a little underwhelming (it would be nice if you could have still done a round and a half for 4), but a move for 2 is so awesome that I won’t complain. Ever.

Infusion Specialization and Metakinetic Master

A HUGE part of the kineticist gameplay is to slowly allow you to use more and more high-powered infusions at will as you level up. Infusion specialization is a great example of this gameplay, because it reduces the total infusion cost of your kinetic blast by 1 or more if your blast includes an infusion. This means that you can totally use something like kinetic blade for free starting at Level 5, which is nice. It also means that you can slowly pile more and more infusions onto your kinetic blast whenever you want, between gather power and infusion specialization’s reduction rising from 1 all the way to 5 at Level 20. You’ll probably become increasingly likely to empower or even maximize those kinetic blasts as you gain the ability to make stuff cheaper with infusion specialization.

Although super high-level, metakinetic master is similar, except it applies only to a single metakinesis ability rather than all of them. The kineticist chooses one (like empower or quicken) and reduces its burn cost by 1 permanently. Quicken is exceptionally potent, because you can effectively use gather power as a move action to fully cover the cost of quickening a kinetic blast, meaning that a full-round action for you always consists of two kinetic blasts.

Elemental Overflow

This is a SUPER powerful ability that never gets factored in to a kineticist’s build for some reason. Basically, the more burn a kineticist has, the more powerful she becomes. For starters, a kineticist gains a +1 bonus on attack rolls and a +2 bonus on damage rolls with her kineticist blast for every point of burn she has, up to +1 for every 3 kineticist levels for a maximum bonus of +6. This is FANTASTIC. It basically makes the kineticist a full BAB class and then some while also adding a great damage bonus to the kinetic blast’s attack. In addition, the kineticist can also start gaining size bonuses to physical ability scores when she has elemental overflow. 3 points of burn nets a kineticist a +2 to two ability scores at 6th level, and at 11th level she can get +4 to one and +2 to another if she has at least 5 points of burn. Finally at 16th level, the kineticist can have a +6 size bonus to one ability score, +4 to a second, and +2 to the third.

Generally, people neglect this size bonus because it requires the kineticist to have a LOT of burn, but consider this: boosting Con by +2 gives 1 temporary hit point per kineticist level. This means that at 6th level, the kineticist just “reduced” the amount of nonlethal damage she had from burn (she would have had 3 per kineticist level, but having more Con gives her more hit points, which sort of evens it out a bit). The trade is never linear and is always at roughly a 2:1 ratio, but considering Con boosts the damage and save DCs of your blasts as well as your Fortitude saves, its totally worth it. Additionally, if you’re tired of missing stuff, choosing Dexterity nets you a +1 bonus on attack rolls with your kinetic blast per +2 to Dex you get, which effectively makes elemental overpower’s offensive bonus even higher.

Elemental overflow is a powerhouse when you get it, and managing it is almost completely necessary for some builds. In fact, this seems like a perfect segway into a particularly advanced topic: burn strategies.

Basic Burn Strategy
Depending on the type of blast you have, your burn strategy is going to look different: especially when you reach Level 3 and have access to elemental overflow. Your strategy largely depends on whether your kinetic blast is a physical blast or an energy blast: allow me to explain. Energy blasts are, by and large, probably going to hit. They’re targeting touch AC, so boosting Dexterity via elemental overflow isn’t as important as it is for physical blasts, which target regular AC. Furthermore, boosting Con isn’t as helpful to energy blasts, because they only add half of the kineticist’s Constitution modifier to their damage rolls; effectively, an energy blast needs twice as much of a Con gain as a physical blast to gain a benefit. This is, however, slightly balanced out by the fact that infusions for energy blasts tend to rely more on save DCs, so Con ends up edging out over Dexterity ever so slowly for energy blasts.

As a result, energy blasts typically want to hoard their burn for their composite blasts, infusions, and metakinesis abilities. They want to accept burn only when they have to, but those abilities are MUCH more meaningful in boosting an energy blast’s damage then elemental overflow is. Physical blasts, however, are the opposite. They are much less likely to hit, so they REALLY want that tasty bonus on attack rolls from elemental overflow; most physical blast uses will infuse enough burn into their elemental defense ability to get the highest amount of bonus they can each day, because a blast that misses is a blast that doesn’t deal any damage. Additionally, having the Con bonus is more helpful to the physical blast user because they add their full Con to their damage, rather than half their Con.

Generally, most physical blast users invest enough burn into their elemental defense talent each day to get the bonus they want, and then rely mostly on gather power to use the infusions they want. As a result, physical blast uses tend to have more nonlethal damage on them, but they also have a much nastier bunch to their kinetic blast without needing to rely on infusions and metakinesis abilities for damage.

Whelp, that’s my kineticist tips for this month! I think I’m going to move on to another occult class next time; either occultist or psychic, probably. I still haven’t figured out the mesmerist myself (and as many of you know, I have a huge bias against that class). What do you think? What are some tips and tricks my kineticist readers have used to stay effective? Do you enjoy the kineticist class? What class do you think I should provide information on next? Leave your questions and comments below, and I’ll see you next time at Guidance! 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

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