|17 people marked this as a favorite.|
Wrapping up some playtest experience and sharing some questions, cool stuff, comments, and concerns based on some actual play. Some notes on the setup: There were two groups, one with four kineticists (earth dedicated, fire dedicated, air/water, and air/fire) and one with three kineticists (air/fire, water dedicated, and earth dedicated) and a cleric. We play with free archetype, so some of our experiences will be altered by that from the game's baseline. Everyone was 15th level, starting gear included on-level magic weapon and armor.
-How does Elemental Weapon Work? If you use an Elemental Weapon, does it lock you out of a Stone Shield? If you create a Reload weapon with Elemental Weapon, does it form loaded or do you need the first action to be reloading the weapon? Does the Elemental Weapon inherit runes from Elemental Blasts? If yes, does a Shifting Rune allow for turning your elemental weapon into anything? Are 1+ handed weapons a type of one-handed weapons eligible for summoning with this feat, or are they their own category of weapons? A thrown weapon can be used as a melee or ranged weapon, can it be used for melee or ranged blasts or does it lock you into only one kind? Lastly, aside from mechanical questions of the feat, do kineticists need to be limited to one-handed weapons with Elemental Weapon?
-Stone Shield, Can you do this with Elemental Weapon? Narratively it feels like you can, it feels narratively counterintuitive to say the nebulously gathered quantity of element which can produce infinite elemental blasts can only be shaped into one thing. Mechanically, from what the document says, it is unclear if the gathered element can only be one thing or not. Mechanically, from a game design perspective, it feels like splitting one resource (gathered element) into two resources (weapon and shield) feels like something that needs to be spelled out.
-Can I just Stoke Element as the third action of my turn? It says you can't use another impulse this turn but it has no requirement that you haven't already done so. So does the restriction apply retroactively, or can I do a two-action impulse then Stoke Element?
-Does the last sentence of Deconstruct Element matter? It's an impulse for dedicated gate only, so you have element gathered before you can use the feat. It's not an overflow so you have element gathered after you use the feat. So it looks like the last sentence is superfluous.
Cool stuff: These were things that stood out as cool, innovative, fun abilities the players were using.
Aerial Boomerang - This is cool, innovative, and fun to play with on the map. It was used several times and, power aside, was a cool tactical move trying to setup the best line expecting it to move twice.
Rock Rampart - Me and the player using this were both pretty impressed by this. The balance of needing to sustain it (which also implies it can be dispelled since it has a duration?) works against the generally OP nature of Wall of Stone, and when earth kineticists were carving up the battlefield to control enemies it gave an opportunity for fun strategic moves.
Wings of Air - We were at the level where the whole party got it, mass flight for the party quickly was incredibly useful as I intentionally staged the encounters on maps where land-based move speeds would be trouble. It was a very good buff that opened up a lot of mobility options.
Horrid Ignition - Overall, a very fun blast move. It was a cool non-overflow ability that felt like the signature move for the fire dedicated kineticist, persistent damage and enfeebled were cool debuffs, it was a good 2-action attack. The dedicated fire kineticist thought it was the coolest ability they had.
Kinetic Auras - Auras are a cool focus for a class. Winter's Clutch was the most powerful ability in our games easily, doing 15 damage automatically for everyone. Dust storm was also pretty cool to encourage people to attack the tank instead of concealed allies. I really hope this stays in the final version, and even that the class leans in harder to the aura theme.
Chain Blast - Being able to bounce attacks around the battlefield made for very fun AoE combat. Had a surprising rate of success too, usually it was used against enemies lower-level than the party and we saw 2-3 times where it hit every enemy on the map, and only twice did it fail to hit more than 1 enemy.
Extract Element - Narratively fun, mechanically cool, giving a penalty to AC and Saves is great as is getting to beat enemies up with elements pulled from their bodies. I'm concerned it is too limited for the amount of print space it occupies, since if I hadn't intentionally built this playtest to give lots of opportunities against elementally natured creatures I doubt it would be usuable in a majority of fights. I'd rather it be something more broadly applicable, because it's really fun and I'd hate to see it as something only usable every 6th session.
Does not appear to be a martial: I get it, master weapon proficiency, no spellcasting, the class is a martial. Except, I don't think it really filled a martial role. Single-target damage wasn't impressive, defenses were not impressive (other than basically being immune to fortitude saves), and the auras that encouraged people to target the Kineticist and thus would make it more of a tank were not super impactful. It was a very versatile class with a lot of options, and the damage wasn't non-existent, but it really did not feel like it slotted into any martial niche. It also doesn't feel like a caster, it feels like its own thing. Sorta like alchemist, but easier to play.
Fights take a long time when damage is coming from kineticists: We went through 2 moderate fights, a low fight, and a severe fight. The shortest battle we had was a 7 round severe battle, the other three were 8+ and we called them short for time constraints. I felt confident the party would win the encounters, they had the enemies well under half HP and were not hurting for health, while still possessing an abundance of healing. But it took a long time to carve through enemy HP. For context, usually we go 3-5 fights for any sub-severe encounter, and even severe don't often go longer than 8 for our groups.
Attack of Opportunity didn't seem too bad: I don't like that even the basic melee attack kineticists get provokes attack of opportunity. Two of the fights we ran had AoO, the party took a beating from it but none of the abilities were disrupted and the party still prevailed. It actually felt perfectly usable with Attack of Opportunity provoking on basically every class ability, even coming from a creature lv+1 against the party. I'd rather it didn't, but I don't think it feels too bad.
Kinetic Blasts don't feel great. They're strong weapons on a class that is not particularly good at using weapons, so they don't feel terribly good to use. Maybe my players felt differently, but I know the dedicated fire kineticist was consistently unimpressed by regular fire blasts, and the air/water kineticist bought a bastard sword to use in melee with AoO from an archetype, rather than relying on blasts or elemental weapon. It kinda feels like a cantrip more than a main feature of the class. They're not terrible, but they do seem mediocre on the class.
Solar Detonation was an outright disappointment. I didn't realize how little it actually did until late in the playtest, because I didn't read it in depth. I get that it can't be at-will fireball, but it did very little damage, at short range, with incapacitation and requiring 4 actions to successfully use. The area debuff would be neat, unfortunately it was the last round of the game before there was a decent setup to try it. It just felt bad to use at level 15. It also was the most fire-mage type ability the fire dedicated kineticist had IMO. Other aspects are cool but launching fireball-lite feels like what the draw of pyrokineticist would be, and the only way to do that was an ability that was utterly underwhelming without much real upside in combat. I'd really like to see a better AoE in fire gate in the final.
Assume Earth's Mantle is weird and counterintuitive and hard to pull off. It's a strong offensive buff. It's a strong defensive nerf. It requires wasting a full turn of the fight to apply. It feels like it ought to be a defensive buff because you are surrounding yourself in armor but shutting off runes runs counter to this. I want to like this ability, but it was used once and made very little difference. In the other fights, there simply wasn't time to use it. 3 action abilities are really hard to use for our group.
Action economy feels bad for the payoff. The party had enhanced mobility from Wings of Air, but rarely moved around much despite this because the class demands too many actions. Gather Element is aesthetically cool but feels like wasting an action. The only abilities that were conveniently usable and didn't require careful positioning/planning were the kinetic blasts, which felt mediocre. The Overflows didn't feel like they had much of a payoff at all. When the party had to engage with the fight beyond their class actions, like getting Grabbed or needing to move, they were severely hindered. The fight where people got slowed as the least fun one of the players had ever had in a game of Pathfinder 2e, because it was such an overwhelming nerf on kineticist's ability to function.
Constitution feels bad. The class has no way to use it, so pumping it all the way really only impacts impulse DCs. That and the passive defensive boost to HP/Fort Saves. And HP doesn't even seem impressive since Barbarians can keep pace with Kineticist with only moderate investment. I'd like a way to actively use Constitution or barring that a way to actively use excess HP for something. I wouldn't really like to see the Key Ability Score be anything else conceptually, I just want high constitution to open doors for kineticist and make them feel more kineticist-y, and I don't get that feel.
Conclusion: The class has style and interesting new mechanics, I like a lot about the new direction for the class, but I feel it has slight conceptual problems with constitution as a key score and significant points that feel bad regarding the payoff of core abilities. I'm super excited to see the final version and Rage of Elements more broadly.