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Mind Bending? Quark's Kineticist Guide

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Quark

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Great Adventurer
Great Adventurer
For reasons I am completely bamboozled by, several of the people I play with regularly have expressed bewilderment at how the kineticist works. I feel like this is probably one of the simplest classes in the game to grasp, so apparently I need to write a guide for them. Or, I suppose, anyone who randomly wanders in to the forum.



The Beginning

Let's start at the beginning, level 1.

There are two primary ability scores for the kineticist: Dexterity and Constitution. Despite what you might think it looks like, Dexterity is in every respect as important as constitution. Here's what each of these do for you:

Dexterity: Impacts the DCs of your form infusions, and increases your chances to hit.

Constitution: Impacts the DCs of your substance infusions, increases your damage very slightly, and increases the total amount of burn you can take.

I'll cover what burn and infusions are a little later.



Choosing an element

From here, you need to pick an element. Some elements have multiple options for how you can attack, although you only pick one.
If you're mechanically minded, your basic element will either target touch AC but allow SR (energy), or normal AC but be SR free (physical). Energy does less damage on single targets, but more on area attacks, while the reverse holds for Physical (although SR still doesn't apply on the physical). Single target damage is very slightly affected by your constitution; with an energy element the increase is 1/2 your constitution modifier, while physical is your full modifier. If you're energy based, it's not worth your while increasing constitution for the sake of your damage.

The core options for elements and a brief overview of what they can do are:

Aether: Telekinesis (physical) and later force (energy). Largely you move existing objects around rather than creating new things. Forcefields are things that you can do, as is flight, and being permanently invisible. Overall you have more substance infusions, so you might like to focus on constitution more than dexterity.

Air: Batter people with powerful winds (physical) or zap them with electricity (energy). Most of your powers involve flight and breathing in normally hazardous conditions, but also involve speeding things up, long distance communication and seeing through mist. Overall you have more form infusions, so you might like to focus on dexterity more than constitution.

Earth: Throw chunks of earth (Physical) and later metal (physical) around. A lot of your powers resolve around moving around and through earth, as well as just plain moving and shaping it. Overall you have about as many form as substance infusions, so balance between dexterity and constitution is recommended.

Fire: Burn your enemies to a crisp with jets of fire (energy). Lots of your abilities are combat related, involving burning away magical effects and large area attacks, although you can fly using big jets of flame. Overall you have lots of form infusions, so more dexterity is the way to go.

Water: Crush your foes with a barrage of water (physical) or freeze them solid with unearthly chill (energy). Lots of your powers revolve around moving water or through or on water. Overall, you have more form infusions, so increase that dexterity.



Your first infusion

After choosing your element, you get to pick one special thing that you can add to your attacks. These come in two flavours:

Form Infusions: These change how you hit things with your attacks. Usually, this turns them into area attacks of some kind. Increasing your dexterity makes these work better.

Substance infusions: These add special effects to things you manage to hit, and can range from things as simple as pushing them backwards to as deadly as disintegrating them. Increasing your constitution makes these work better.

Your choice is limited to something related to your element, or else something that is just generically useful that anyone can take. You gain more of these as you level up of course, but here's a quick run down on the options you have at level 1:

Aether: Your only option is Pushing Infusion, a substance infusion. With this, if you hit something, you can push it back a short distance.

Air: Here, you have a split. If you picked air as your attack, you can take Gusting Infusion (substance) or Pushing Infusion (substance); electricity has just Thundering Infusion (substance). For pushing, see Aether's infusion. Gusting Infusion can knock small things over in its path, and thundering infusion may permanently deafen creatures.

Earth: Like Aether, you can only take Pushing infusion, a substance infusion.

Fire: Your have two options, Fan of Flames (form) and Burning Infusion (substance). Fan of flames damages in a small cone, while Burning infusion sets things on fire, dealing continuous damage and making it easier to hit with your attacks while it burns.

Water: If you selected ice as your attack, you don't have any options here; check the universal infusions instead. Water however has access to Pushing Infusion (substance; see aether) and Quenching Infusion (substance). Quenching infusion automatically puts out non magical fires.

Universal: These are infusions that anyone can take. Your options are Draining Infusion (substance), Extended Range (Form), Kinetic Blade (Form) and Kinetic Fist (Form). Draining Infusion allows you do damage things that might be otherwise immune to your attacks, such as allowing you to injure fire elementals with a fire attack (This is strongly not recommended). Extended range allows you to attack things from further away. Kinetic Blade lets you treat your attack as a melee weapon rather than a ranged one, allowing you to attach things in your face without taking attacks of opportunity. Kinetic Fist does away with your basic attack and simply adds some extra damage to an unarmed strike or natural attack.



Summary so far

You've done your ability score allocation, and picked an element. Your element will either hit touch AC and do a little less damage or hit full AC and do a little more. From there, you picked an infusion to add something special to your attack.



You in combat

Most of the time, you have the following options in combat to utilise your attack (more formally known from here on as your blast)


  • Use your blast without an infusion as a standard action

    • Take 1 point of nonlethal damage that can't be healed until you sleep to also use your infusion


  • Take a full round action to use your blast with the infusion without taking damage


There are a few special considerations to be aware of:


  • As a ranged attack, you provoke attacks of opportunity with your blast
  • As a spell-like ability, you provoke attacks of opportunity when you attempt to use it unless you cast defensively

    • The DC for this is 15 + (1/2 kineticist level) x2, and your bonus is your kineticist level plus your constitution modifier. Yes, I know mathematically it's redundant, but because of rounding it's not technically the same




The exceptions to this are using the Kinetic Fist and Kinetic Blade form infusions, which specifically don't provoke for being a spell, and are no longer ranged attacks (although you might still provoke using kinetic fist if you lack improved unarmed strike)



Bonus Extras

In addition to all of what you've already done, as a freebie you have a limited and basic control over your element in non-combat ways. You'll learn to manipulate your element more and in different ways as you continue to level up, as you'd expect, but for now, these are the sorts of things you can do:

Aether: Do limited, basic movement of objects, such as open or close doors, pick up small objects or piles of objects/liquids.

Air: Make small breezes that can give you bonuses against heat/inhaling things/breath weapons, or make it harder to smell you.

Earth: Move rocks and loose earth as a move action, and search through earthy stuff.

Fire: Replicate the Flare, Light or Spark cantrips

Water: Dry creatures off, make water and purify water.



Changes beyond Level 1

Easy so far, right? Good. Now, there a few things that happen when you level up to 2nd that are important changes, most notable of which is burn.

Burn is something that fuels a number of your abilities. In order to use them, you need to take some burn. Every point of burn you take deals nonlethal damage to you equal your total level. That is, if you're level 2, you take 2 points of nonlethal damage, and if you're level 8, you take 8 points of nonlethal damage. This nonlethal damage cannot be healed, but all just goes away when you sleep for the night.
Also, you can take a maximum number of burn points equal to 3 + your constitution modifier, and can spend at most 1 burn per round per 3 kineticist levels (with a minimum of 1)

Happily, you can prevent yourself from taking burn (when you use your blast at least) with a nifty thing called Gather Power.

Gather Power allows you to decrease the amount of burn you'd otherwise take when using a blast by 1 as a move action. If you spend your whole turn gathering power, you can reduce the burn of a blast on your next turn by 2. If you've spent your last whole turn gathering power, you can gather power again as a move action to reduce the burn by a whole whopping 3 points.
Gathering power also allows you to bypass the maximum burn per round limit.

An interesting side effect of the burn system is that it's actually relatively difficult for you to die, particularly at high levels. While you might fall unconscious more easily than your constitution might suggest, you're at no danger of bleeding out, or just outright dying from your damage. If you've got 40 points of damage from burn, it takes that much more damage to kill you outright.



Level 2: Defence Talents

Now you're at level 2, you've got access to a little more stuff. This level, you get a little bit of defence related to your element, and a new way to play with your element out of combat. In combat, you'll mostly be doing the same thing as before, but you're just taking 2 points of damage when you want to use your infusion without gathering power instead of just 1.

To begin level 2, let's look at the defensive ability you get. This is dependant on your element, and can often have a special effect if you're willing to take burn.

Aether: Gain temporary hit points equal to your kineticist level, and these slowly regenerate. You can take burn to get more HP and speed the recovery rate, with no limit. If you take burn, this ward recovers hp equal to your level.

Air: 20% chance of physical ranged attacks missing you, which slowly increases with level. You can take an unlimited amount of burn to increase the miss chance, and if you take burn, the miss chance works on non-magical ranged attacks too for a round.

Earth: Get DR/adamantine equal to half your level, and you can take burn to increase it (but a max of your whole level). When you take burn this changes to DR/- for a round.

Fire: Things that hit you take a small amount of fire damage, and you can take burn to increase the damage. Take burn and this doubles.

Water: You get armour/shield bonus equivalent to a chain shirt/heavy shield. Take burn to improve AC bonus by 1. Take burn and both apply for 1 round.

A lot of the time, it's ultimately up to you whether it's worth your while to take burn to enhance your defensive talent. Fire is the only one that is actively not worth taking burn for at this level (and there's a strong argument that it is never worth it).



Level 2: Utility Talents

After noting your free and useful(?) defensive ability that you can't change, it's time to look at the things you can pick. Unlike the infusions at level 1, you've got a lot more choice here. Here's a little rundown:

Aether: You've got three options: Kinetic cover, Kinetic Healer and Telekinetic Finesse. Kinetic cover allows you to create a small wall; the wall lasts indefinitely, but you can only have so many around at once. Kinetic healer allows you to heal things an amount equal to your blast damage, at the cost of 1 burn to either you or the target. Telekinetic Finesse allows you to perform more intricate tasks at range, such as disable device or sleight of hand.

Air: Lots of options here. Aerial Adaptation gives immunity to altitude sickness and a small amount of electricity resistance based on your burn. Air Cushion prevents you dying by falling. Air shroud allows you (and friends if you take burn) to breathe underwater. Air's leap gives you a bonus to acrobatics and doubles your jump distance. Air's reach gives a passive range double on your blasts. Voice of the Wind allows you to whisper to anyone nearby and be heard almost exclusively by them.

Earth: Just the two options here, Kinetic cover (see aether) and earth walk. Earth walk simply allows you to ignore difficult terrain based on earth.

Fire: Several options here again. Cold/heat adaptation gives you resistance to cold/hot environmental conditions and token cold/fire resistance proportional to your burn. Fire sculptor lets you move fire around. Fire's fury will currently do nothing for you, but will give you an extra 1 damage per 3 kineticist levels on fire blasts.

Water: Many options here, most of which are duplicates from other elements, such as Kinetic cover (Aether), Kinetic Healer (Aether) and Cold and heat adaptions (fire). Icewalker allows you to ignore any difficult terrain caused by water or ice. Slick replicates the grease spell, causing things to trip or drop items.

Universal: Only the one utility talent is available to kineticists of any element: Skilled Kineticist. This gives you a scaling bonus to the skill checks associated with your element.



Level 3

At this level, you pick another infusion from the your initial list. This is the part where things can potentially get a little more edgy in combat, but for now, I'll draw your attention to a nifty little class feature called Elemental Overflow.

Elemental Overflow turns the annoying little bit of damage from burn into something of a boon; you get a bonus on attack and damage with your blasts. +1 attack and double that to damage for every point of burn you take, capped to a maximum attack bonus (and corresponding damage bonus) equal to 1/3 your kineticist level. At higher levels, you'll get nifty extra stuff to go along with this.

For now, in order to take advantage of this, you'll likely find it worth your while to dump a point of burn into your defensive talent.



Combat when you have multiple infusions

Things get a little trickier here, potentially. Whenever you use a blast, you can use one form infusion and one substance infusion (although there's no obligation to use either). The thing is, both of these will cost a bit of burn, and they stack. At the moment, all of your infusions will cost 1 burn, so using both a form and substance infusion will give you a total burn cost of 2. This is more than your gather power can cope with, unless you spend your whole turn gathering power.

This gives you the following combat options with your blast:


  • Use your blast as a standard action and...

    • ...Use no infusions
    • ...Use a form infusion and take 1 burn
    • ...Use a substance infusion and take 1 burn


  • Gather power as a move action, then use your blast as a standard action with an infusion and...

    • ...Don't use another infusion
    • ...if you used a form infusion, use a substance infusion and take 1 burn
    • ...if you used a substance infusion, use a form infusion and take 1 burn


  • Gather power as a full round action, then on your next turn, use your blast as a standard action with a form and substance infusion, taking no burn.


There is a risk involved in the full round gather power, in much the same way that a spell with a 1 round casting time has a risk: If you are injured while gathering power, you need to make a concentration check (DC 10 + damage taken + 1/2 kineticist level) or not only lose the gathered power, but take burn equal to what you would have prevented.



Level 4

Not much changes this level, beyond access to a new utility talent. You can take any of the talents you could previously, or one of these new ones:

Aether: The only new one here is Telekinetic haul. This lets you move around much heavier objects.

Air: You don't get access to any new ones, so you'll need to look at either the universal talents here or take one you already had access to.

Earth: The only new one is Earth Meld, which gives you a climb speed when you're on Earth or Stone surfaces.

Fire: Searing flame is your only option here, and it requires you to have burning infusion. This decreases a foe's fire resistance by the amount of damage it would have taken from burning infusion.

Water: Your new option is Veil of Mists, which allows you to disguise yourself for a few minutes.

Universal: If you have skilled kineticist, then you can grab a greater version. This lets you pick a class skill and give it a bonus that scales with level (hint: perception is a class skill).



5th level

This is the last level I'll deal with, because beyond here, you ought to have a good idea of the basics of how this works, and this is where a lot of the last big things come in.

Big thing number one: Infusion Specialisation. This nifty little thing reduces the total cost of your infusions by 1, whatever they maybe be. This really saves you on the gather power front, particularly if you're looking at the potential of full attacks with Kinetic Blade.

Big thing number two: Metakinesis. For now, this is just empower, and, for the cost of one burn (reducible with gather power) you can increase the damage of your blast by 50%.

Big thing number three: Don't like an infusion you've picked? Now you can swap it from something of the same power level. Also, you get a new infusion, which you can pick from the new options here or from one of the old ones way up above. The new infusions, as a notable change, cost 2 burn to use, and are all substance infusions. They are also technically 2nd level infusions, while your initial ones are 1st level infusions

Ather: Your new option is bowling infusion. This can knock things over as a trip attempt.

Air: Nothing new here for you; you'll have to pick another 1st level infusion.

Earth: Two infusions are new, Bowling Infusion (see Aether) and Entangling infusion. Entangling can inflict the entangled condition, which slows things down and makes it harder for them to hit and easier to hit them.

Fire: Nothing new here. You're going to need to pick another 1st level infusion.

Water: You can take Entangling Infusion (see Earth).

Universal: Nothing new here.



Combat at 5th level

Burn management can be a bit of a pain to manage here, so here's a breakdown of your options at this point:


  • Use your blast as a standard action and...

    • ...Use no infusions
    • ...Use a 1st level infusion for no burn
    • ...Use two 1st level infusions for one burn
    • ...Use a 2nd level infusion for one burn


  • Use your blast as a standard action, using metakinesis to increase damage by 50% and...

    • ...Use no infusions, taking one burn
    • ...Use a 1st level infusion and take one burn


  • Gather power as a move action, then use your blast as a standard action and...

    • ...Use no infusions
    • ...Use a 1st level infusion
    • ...Use two 1st level infusions, taking no burn
    • ...Use a 2nd level infusion, taking no burn
    • ...Use a 2nd level infusion and a 1st level infusion, taking one burn.


  • Gather power as a move action, then use your blast as a standard action, empowering it to deal 50% more damage and...

    • ...Use no infusions
    • ...Use a 1st level infusion, taking no burn
    • ...Use two 1st level infusions for one burn
    • ...Use a 2nd level infusion for one burn


  • Gather power for a full round, then use your blast as a standard action, applying any infusions you wish for no burn.
  • Gather power for a full round, then use your blast as a standard action, using metakinesis to make it do 50% more damage and taking no burn unless you use a 2nd level infusion and a 1st level infusion, in which case you take 1 burn.
  • Gather power for a full round, then again as a move action before using your blast as a standard action, in which case you take no burn, even empowering it to cause it to do 50% more damage.




Determining burn costs

This kind of list is getting cumbersome, so at this point I will pull out the formula that has been lurking behind the scenes this whole time for you determine how much burn you take.

Form infusion cost + Substance infusion cost = Total infusion cost
Total infusion cost - Infusion specialisation bonus = Effective infusion cost
Effective infusion cost + Metakinesis cost = Total burn cost
Total burn cost - gather power reduction = Burn Taken

Don't forget that your burn taken is limited to your level divided by 3 (with a minimum of 1)!



Practical use

As you gain levels and consequentially more options, it will often be useful to do one or both of the following options.


  1. Note the details of each infusion and briefly summarise them
  2. Note effects of commonly used infusion combinations, how much burn they cost and what they do


Here are some examples of each of these that I might use:

Code:
Bowling Infusion (S,2B) - Trip attempt, CMB = level + Con
This indicates that it is a Substance infusion that costs 2 Burn.

Code:
Extreme Range (F,2B) - Range = 480 ft.
This is a Form infusion.

Code:
Explosion (F,4B) - 120ft. range, 5-20 ft. radius burst. Blast damage, R Half.
As a more complex example, this higher level infusion can target anywhere in 120ft. and is a burst with a radius anywhere between 5 and 20 ft.. It deals full blast damage, with a Reflex save for half.

Code:
Iron Maiden (2B) - Impale, Entangling Infusion, Earth - 30 ft. line, one attack roll for all targets. Entangled, R20 negates
This combination blast is an earth blast that combines the impale and entangling infusions, and has a name included to make it more memorable. It costs 2 burn to use in this instance (the kineticist using it has infusion specialisation 2), and also details its effects.

Code:
Clinging Cloud (5B) - Cloud, Grappling Infusion, Comp - 120 ft. range, 20 ft. spread, 6 rounds, 16d6+30 div 4 auto damage NS, 16d6+30 div 2 when enter/end turn in cloud NS. Grapple, CMB = 23
This substantial high powered combo probably requires a lot of gather power prep with that burn cost. It has some numbers filled in, since they're practical reminders. The main things here are that it has No Save and it uses a Composite blast. The composite blast is something a little past what I'm going to do here, but is a fusion of multiple elements, and in this instance, is probably the only composite blast this kineticist has available.



The End

Phew, this has been a huge long thing. It really ought to have been longer and more complete, but this felt like a good start. I might continue this and move onto at least level 7 so expanded element can be a thing, since that's the last really big thing to care about.

I'm feeling like I might just need to do a more useful page than anything online or in the book for easy referencing, and to fully gather my own power thoughts.

If anything here needs clarification, or anything else explained, or you have any feedback in some form or other, please leave a something in the comments below.


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