|Gizmo the Enemy of Mankind|
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It ran the same playthrough that I did when testing the Gunslinger, Inventor, Psychic and Thaumaturge, and that's a four character dungeon crawl through the first chapter of Paizo's Doomsday Dawn, the Lost Star. Due to the slim playtest window, I had to run this by myself, filling the role of both GM and players. I had the characters act according to their in-game knowledge, acting cautiously and strategically to emulate how things usually run at my table.
Dwarfy McRocks: a level 1 rock dwarf kineticist with the Dedicated Gate and the miner background, who can channel earth. Cuz dwarfs and rocks, right? The intent was to test the viability of a tank-style kineticist, but it will take until level 2 to be able to dip into the sentinel archetype and build-up that armor proficiency.
- STR 16
- DEX 12
- CON 18
- INT 10
- WIS 14
- CHA 8
Class Feats: Flexible Blasts, Stepping Stones, Stone Shield, and Tremor
Orak: a level 1 waverider tengu kineticist with the Dual Gate and a deckhand background, able to channel fire and water. Dual-channeling fire and water just strikes me as a common build type.
- STR 14
- DEX 16
- CON 16
- INT 10
- WIS 12
- CHA 10
Class Feats: Flexible Blasts, Flame Eruption, Water Dance
Season-Strider Rivuken: a level 1 spindly anadi psychic with the astrologer background, the Gathered Lore subconscious mind, and the Oscillating Wave conscious mind. I made this character because I wanted to try a psychic and wanted a similar spellcaster to compare to the water/fire dual gate kineticist to as a control.
- STR 10
- DEX 16
- CON 10
- INT 18
- WIS 12
- CHA 12
Chosen cantrips: chill touch, daze, shield. Chosen spell: Soothe.
Inspector Gelegor: a level 1 impersonator android with the mechanic background and the Forensic Medicine methodology. I wanted to try out investigator, and a healer/skill monkey was needed for the team.
- STR 12
- DEX 16
- CON 12
- INT 18
- WIS 12
- CHA 8
Class Feat: Known Weakness
The Party traveled down through sewers to find the stolen Star of Desna belonging to Keleri Deverin. Inspector Gelegor Pursued a Lead on the alleged thieves: the Mudchewer goblin tribe and their tyrannical leader, who was supposedly a vampire hobgoblin named Drakus the Taker.
Dwarfy McRocks was on point Scouting since she had darkvision. Inspector Gelegor Investigated the surroundings as the others Avoided Notice. Orak hung in the back with fire gathered, using it as a source for light. He won initiative and noticed a level 1 sewer ooze (trivial encounter) occupying a slimy cistern (A1). Orak used Flame Eruption on it, rolling a pitiful 1 fire damage which consumed his gathered fire due to the overflow trait. The pillar of fire at least continued to emit light for 1 round but proved otherwise useless as hazardous terrain since the ooze doesn't take damage from leaving the square. I didn't bother using Flame Eruption again after this. Season-Strider Rivuken did for more damage with her amped produced flame cantrip.
Inspector took out a torch, which Orak lit when his turn came back around, gathering fire and lighting the torch with an Interact action (I assumed this would work). An Elemental Blast with fire faired better against the ooze than the Flame Eruption, but it was not anything to write home about. Everyone took a little damage from the ooze's Filth Wave, but the encounter was easily won in the end. Dwarfy McRocks did a good job tanking and probably pumped out the most damage with melee earth Elemental Blasts against the easy-to-hit ooze.
The party took half an hour to heal up with Treat Wounds and Battle Medicine, then proceeded through a tunnel and into a charred ossuary (A2: Mudchewer Central), with Inspector Gelegor holding the torch and Orak traveling with water gathered this time. Four level -1 goblin warriors (moderate encounter) were heard arguing in the north end of the ossuary. Orak won initiative and tried sneaking closer to the goblins, but made too much noise and alerted them, so he readied an attack with his remaining actions. Others in the party Delayed, waiting for the goblins to move in as well, which they did. The first two goblins were cut down instantly by a readied water Elemental Blast by Orak and by an amped produce flame cantrip by Season-Strider Rivuken. The water Elemental Blast seemed stronger than the fire blast in most cases.
The last two goblins held back after seeing their teammates cut down so easily, and pulled out their shortbows, firing from behind corners. Inspector Gelegor Demoralized one of the goblins, whom Orak one-shotted in round 2. Dwarfy McRocks used Tremor to deal half damage (2) to the last goblin warrior hiding behind cover, then Season-Strider Rivuken finished it off with a Strike from her anadi fangs.
One thing I do love about Elemental Blast is the ability to choose between a melee or ranged strike without needing to spend an action changing grip or drawing a new weapon, as Inspector Gelegor often had to do.
Inspector Gelegor took a dogslicer and 40 arrows as loot. No one needed healing, so the party immediately proceeded to explore the vermin den (A3) to the south-west, a chamber full of six level -1 centipedes (severe encounter). Dwarfy scouted ahead again and acted as the tank where the entrance bottlenecked, using Stone Shield to block some damage. I had some confusion as to whether the stone shield is no longer raised if Dwarfy uses Tremor, since Tremor has the Overflow trait. I played through as if Stone Shield stayed raised, but realized afterwards that the rules suggest the stone shield would disappear after using the Overflow trait. So afterwards, I ran through the encounter a second time where the shield disappeared after using an Overflow action.
Ironically, the second combat ended quicker because of how the dice rolled, even though I felt that Dwarfy was severely limited by how easily she could lose her channeled element via Shield Block and Tremor. Basically, she could not use Tremor and Stone Shield in the same round, which was really frustrating as this combat was perfectly situated for both. The Overflow trait essentially always adds another action because it requires you to gather an element again; I don't like the available Overflow feats in the playtest that are two or three actions because they are more like three and four actions in practice, which is pretty brutal for what you get out of them. With Dwarfy, I tended to use Stone Shield more as it was crucial to her tank-build, and began to neglect her overflow abilities.
At one point in the centipede fight, Orak used Water Dance to move Dwarfy back away from the centipedes, which saved her from being targeted by up to 4 potential Strikes. This was a fun way to do something that wasn't an attack but was demonstrably useful (and I like that it does NOT have the Overflow trait). Inspector Gelegor spent the first combat shooting arrows into the room and spent the second combat getting into the room to flank and make rapier Strikes, one of which was a crit that dealt the most damage of the combat. In first combat, Season-Strider used amped cantrips, unleashed her psyche on her 2nd turn, and finished the last three centipedes off with a juiced up burning hands. She probably did the most damage in that combat. This was retconned in the second combat run, Season-Strider only needed to spam daze cantrips for that one, which was over in round 2.
Dwarfy got down to 3 hp in the centipede first combat run. In the second run, she barely took any damage at all due to poor rolls from the centipedes. The kineticist's high Fortitude took them far in this combat as well; it was very difficult to get the centipede poison to take. The Kineticists' will saves are through the floor though, I wonder if it is really necessary to even give them expert fortitude saves when their will is what they desperately needs help. I'd probably even take expert will proficiency over expert reflex proficiency.
After the centipedes, the party healed up and headed into the next room, the Motivation Room (A4). Here, Inspector Gelegor used Forensic Acumen to identify that some goblin corpses left here were drained by a faceless stalker and not a vampire; concluding that Drakus the Taker is a faceless stalker rather than a vampire, and relaying their knowledge of faceless stalkers.
The party moved on to explore the Fungus Bloom (A5) in the next room where Dwarfy became confused by fungus spores despite her high Fortitude bonus.The party struggled to snap her out of it and had to take some time to heal up again after the confusion wore off. Treat Wounds was one of the few things Dwarfy could do out of combat, besides trying to Identify Magic with Nature checks, due to the lack of skills kineticists have that they're any good at.
The party decided to leave the fungus be and look for loot, finding a minor healing potion, an owlbear claw, and a silver ring worth 5 gp in the ossuary before they proceeded to the next room, the Purification Fountain (A6), with Season-Strider taking a turn carrying a torch. In a black, polluted fountain, they managed to find and fish out a small statue totem poisoning the water. This could have been an opportunity for Orak to manipulate or gather the foul fountain water with Adapt Element, but I didn't think of it at the time. I don't like that Adapt element is two actions, especially to Gather it. Why would it take two actions to gather real water but one action to spontaneously generate it? Anyways, the party avoided touching the statue and knew that smashing it would be a bad idea thanks to a series of successful knowledge rolls, so they left the statue for later.
Dwarfy noticed that the east door was trapped, so Inspector Gelegor and Orak teamed up to pick the lock of the locked door to the south, with the Inspector providing Aid while Orak did the checks to Pick A Lock... This was one of the few things Orak could do out of combat, besides identify magic with Nature. Orak broke a pick, but had a replacement and managed to get the door unlocked fairly quickly.
The party proceeded through the door to find a statue of Pharasma (A9: Chocking Sands) where the hall branched off. Dwarfy's stonecunning gave her some extra insight into this statue to deduce it was a trap somehow (level 1 hazard). The Inspector Pursued a Lead as to the nature of this statue, though they were unable to ascertain exactly how it was trapped and instead Clued In Dwarfy who Investigated and found the hourglass was the source of the magical trap. Once again, Orak stepped up to successfully Disarm the trap, with Aid from Inspector Gelegor.
With the statue safe to pass, the party explored the door to the south with Dwarfy McRocks in front Defending so that her Stone Shield was raised as she traveled. Here, they crossed the threshold into Drakus's Lair (A12) to find the tyrant in hobgoblin form feeding on a dead goblin on a dais at the opposite end of the room. This was a severe encounter, with Drakus being a 4th level faceless stalker with Attack of Opportunity added as an extra ability (Drakus has this in the original Doomsday Dawn and it seems common for bosses to have, so I kept it). Drakus won initiative, drew his longsword and ran across the room to Strike Dwarfy McRocks. Dwarfy absorbed 6 of the 13 damage with her stone shield block, but this left her armed with only a dwarven clan dagger.
Season-Strider went next, Demoralizing Drakus, then missing with an amped Ray of Frost. Drakus will prove very difficult to hit in this combat due to his AC of 21. Dwarfy Shoved Drakus back into the room, following after him, then Gathered earth and just barely landed a crit on Drakus with a natural 20 melee Elemental Blast, which dealt 10 bludgeoning damage, leaving Dwarfy staring Drakus dead in the face with no actions left to raise her Stone Shield. I forgot that Drakus has 5 bludgeoning resistance and I don't remember until the combat is over, so this critical hit would have only dealt only 5 damage. The party will perform very poorly in this combat, so remembering the bludgeoning resistance would only serve to reinforce the final results.
Orak moved into flanking position, which reminded me that Drakus has Attack of Opportunity, dealing 13 damage to Orak. Orak would have dealt 4 damage with his Elemental Blast, but failed the flat check imposed by the low light in the room (Season-Stider was holding the torch in the hallway). Orak concluded his turn by Raising a Shield, which is something Kineticists are well suited for because, despite having no Shield Block reaction, they usually have a free hand since they don't typically need to wield a weapon.
Inspector Gelegor had Drakus as the subject of a Pursued Lead, so they would Devise a Strategy at the start of each turn as a free action throughout the combat. This one only rolled a 3 in the first round. So, with no one else to Strike, they spent their turn using Battle Medicine to heal Orak, draw a dogslicer (dual wielding a dogslicer and rapier) and Stide into Drakus's lair just in time to witness Drakus Revert Form to his true faceless stalker form, granting him a bonus to attacks, damage and saves for one round. He then rolled a natural 20 on a longsword Strike for a total of 24 slashing damage on Inspector Gelegor, sending the unfortunate android from full HP to dying 2. Drakus followed this up using Blood Nourishment to also impose on the unconscious Inspector the drained 1 condition.
Season-Strider Rivuken responded by using her only spell slot to cast soothe, bringing the Inspector back to consciousness. Orak attempted to recreate earlier success with Water Dance, to have Dwarfy Stride away from Drakus with a +2 bonus to AC against reactions. This failed miserably, Drakus sent Dwarfy to dying 2 with yet another critical hit (only 16 on the die). I think Water Dance would function better as forced movement on a willing creature or something like that, so it doesn't provoke. That, or allow a Step instead of a Stride; or maybe a +4 bonus to AC against reactions.
The seriousness of the situation started sinking in from here. It was a demonstration of just how disadvantaged the kineticist becomes when Attack of Opportunity enters the mix. Orak followed this up with an Elemental Blast that missed. I also don't think it helped that half the party was the under-tuned kineticist class; the party lacked a heavy hitter.
To continue, having recently regained consciousness, Inspector Gelegor rolls a pitiful 4 on Devise a Strategy, so they spend their turn picking up their rapier and using Battle Medicine on Dwarfy while Drakus continues his brutal onslaught. Season-Strider Unleashed her Psyche and misses with an amped produce flame, dealing 3 splash fire damage.
On the next round, Inspector Gelegor managed to finally land 6 damage and heal themself a bit with Battle Medicine, but the conflict essentially continued to spiral downhill from here for our heroes, who rolled terribly and couldn't land any good hits as they spent the combat trying to keep their distance and avoid provoking Attacks of Opportunity. Essentially, the kineticists had to keep Stepping back to make ranged Elemental Blasts, sacrificing any potential flanking bonus. Part of this is due to poor rolls by the part and high rolls by Drakus, but I certainly picked up on some mechanical issues with the kineticist as well, which I will expand on further in the 'Takeaways' section of this post but, to get to the point, Drakus kept knocking the heroes to dying with his high damage output. The heroes either couldn't land any hits or did pitiful damage when they did. The heroes eventually ran out of healing resources, wracked up dire wounded values and had to cut and run. Drakus was still at 30 out of 60 HP by this point. Orak and Inspector Gelegor had to leave Dwarfy McRocks and Season-Strider Rivuken for dead after they were knocked to dying and the team ran out of potions (they had 5 or 6 minor healing potions/minor elixirs of life between them).
Drakus took off chasing after Orak and Gelegor, Gelegor ran out of view and managed to Hide while Drakus continued after Orak. Drakus eventually caught up to Orak in the sewers when Orak tried to Hide. Drakus finished him off with yet another critical hit. In the meantime, Inspector Gelegor courageously snuck back into Drakus's lair to drag the unconscious Dwarfy to safety. Dwarfy had a hero point left to stabilize, but Season-Strider did not, so she was dead by the time Inspector Gelegor returned to the lair.
Our survivors will return in session two as second-level characters, joined by two new level two heroes, to avenge their fallen comrades. I will continue with that session's results in a second post in the near future.
The final combat revealed a few issues with the kineticist. When faced against a foe with Attack of Opportunity, the kineticist has limited options because virtually everything they do has the Impulse trait and will provoke; they can either Step back and used a ranged impulse action, or rely on a Strike with a simple weapon, which will mean less damage. I'm realizing now that Elemental Weapon addresses this, but I'm not sure if it works with Stone Shield. Plus, Flexible Blasts is just a better, more attractive and practical feat to take at level 1. It's practically mandatory for a multi-ability-dependent class like the kineticist. It might be simpler just to change Elemental Blast into a regular unarmed attack which does not provoke AoOs in melee. Frankly, the text for Elemental Blast saying it acts exactly like an unarmed attack but is not an unarmed attack, which seems convoluted and unnecessary.
This relates to the other issue with the kineticist, a low damage output. This is largely because their key stat does not translate to their attacks, so they are less accurate and do less damage than a martial character with an 18 in their attack stat. Personally, I'd prefer that Elemental Blast worked like cantrips, keying off of con for the attack roll and adding con to the damage. It would still work as a balanced single action rather than two actions since it would still have the attack trait to curb the effectiveness of spamming Elemental Blasts.
One thing I enjoyed about the kineticist was their ability to switch seamlessly between melee and ranged Elemental Blasts; it's an advantage you don't really think about until combat breaks out; your range motivates your actions.
What I enjoyed the most about the kineticist was the ability to do spell-like actions without tracking some pool of resources to do so. It feels like a TTRPG feature ahead of its time, making full use of the action economy in place of arbitrary resources. But the trade off that this came with was also a source of frustration, specifically the Overflow trait. At times the Overflow trait completely deterred me from using certain Impulse abilities, even when they made sense strategically, because it was just too punishing on the action economy. Dwarfy McRocks should have made much more use of the Tremor feat to target Drakus's fortitude so that she could build up reliable damage on Drakus a little bit at a time, but Dwarfy didn't do this because it meant that she couldn't use Stone Shield on the same round; so she opted to keep swinging and missing with her Elemental Blast, a +6 ranged attack against an AC of 21. The results of this poor strategy speak for themselves.
I would like it if Stone Shield didn't lose the gathered element from blocking, perhaps it could just loses some of its mass and so that the remaining mass of gathered earth could continue to be used for other impulses, just not for Stone Shield until earth is Gathered again. Even better, you could still gain a shield bonus with the diminished gathered earth after blocking, but you just can't use the Shield Block action again until you've gathered more earth element. Or each block consecutive block could reduce a Stone Shield's mass from a +2 circumstance bonus to AC, to a +1, to 0 (in which case the element dissolves and needs to be Gathered again).
Certain feats absolutely did not need to have the Overflow trait or, if they did, needed their action cost lowered by 1 action in order to offset the cost of the Overflow trait. This includes Tremor and especially includes the Flame Eruption feat, which is excessively weak and possibly the single worst kineticist feat.
I should also mention that having half the Elemental Blasts constrained to Bludgeoning damage was a bit limiting. It seems like water should have versatile slashing and the Elemental Weapon feat should obviously deal the same physical damage as the weapon it forms. There is otherwise no method to deal piercing damage with an element, and I see no reason a stone spear can't do piercing damage.
First level play shows that the mechanical bones for channeling elements are pretty cool and promising, but feats with the Overflow trait need to be more usable within the action economy, and the class needs a holistic bump in its offensive power level.
|Gizmo the Enemy of Mankind|
With a few encounters remaining, I decided to level the surviving investigator and dedicated gate kineticist to level 2, and team them up with two new level 2 characters: a magus and universal kineticist. Wealth and new equipment was distributed to simulate leveling up, including a +1 rapier for Inspector Gelegor and +1 handwraps of mighty blows for Dwarfy McRocks.
Dwarfy McRocks: a level 2 rock dwarf kineticist with the Dedicated Gate and the miner background, who can channel earth. I gave her the Sentinel archetype to give her medium armor training. This should help her tank better. If we continued to level 3, she'd take the Armor Proficiency general feat for heavy armor training. I also gave her Battle Medicine to spread out healing resources.
- STR 16
- DEX 12
- CON 18
- INT 10
- WIS 14
- CHA 8
- Class Feats: Flexible Blasts, Stepping Stones, Stone Shield, Tremor, and Sentinel Dedication.
- Other feats: Stonecunning, Terrain Expertise (underground), and Battle Medicine.
Inspector Gelegor: a level 2 impersonator android investigator with the Forensic Medicine methodology and the mechanic background.
- STR 12
- DEX 16
- CON 12
- INT 18
- WIS 12
- CHA 8
- Class Feats: Known Weakness, and Athletics Strategist.
- Other feats: Nightvision Adaptation, Quick Repair, Battle Medicine, Forensic Acumen, and Continual Recovery.
Jaspur Smeby: a level 2 versatile human magus with the Inexorable Iron hybrid study and the academy dropout background. I chose the magus in order to bump up the party's damage output.
- STR 18
- DEX 10
- CON 12
- INT 16
- WIS 12
- CHA 10
- Class Feats: Magus's Analysis, Expansive Spellstrike.
- Other feats: Armor Proficiency, Natural Ambition, Dubious Knowledge, and Arcane Sense.
Notaang: a level 2 wintertouched human kineticist with the Universal gate and the Chosen One background. Any similarity to other characters in popular animated shows is completely coincidental.
- STR 14
- DEX 16
- CON 16
- INT 10
- WIS 12
- CHA 10
Class feats: Flexible Blasts, Aerial Boomerang, Fair Winds, and Deflecting Wave.
Other feats: Natural Ambition, Quick Jump.
After a couple says to heal up, find reinforcements, and equip themselves, the heroes dove back into the Ashen Ossuary to avenge their fallen comrades (see previous post). Unknown to them, Drakus found the idol to Lamashtu that the heroes left on the floor in the Purification Room (A6). He handed it to a goblin warrior and posted him in the ossuary (Mudchewer Central: A2) with instructions to break it open if the escaped heroes returned to the dungeon. And so, the goblin hid in the entrance to the Vermin Den (A3) and did as instructed as soon as the hero's entered the ossuary. The goblin threw the idol and it smashed open to reveal two aggressive level 1 quasits (when paired with the level -1 goblin warrior, this comes just 5 xp shy of a moderate encounter).
Dwarfy McRocks started the combat with Tremor, dealing 5 damage to one quasit, and 2 to the other, before Dwarfy Gathered earth again. Notaang, who traveled with air Gathered, used Fair Winds to generate a kinetic arua, which proved useful for getting team members into flanking positions later. Notaang finished his turn out with a ranged air Elemental Blast, dealing only 2 damage.
Jaspur used Notaang's speed bonus to move into flanking position and unleash a Spellstrike with a halberd and electric arc, dealing 12 damage in total. One quasit responded with Abyssal Healing to regain 2 HP, then Changed Shape into a wolf but missed with its jaws attack. The other quasit was already very injured by this point, so it cast invisibility on itself and snuck behind a pillar to heal up with Abyssal Healing over the next couple rounds. Inspector Gelegor critically failed their free Recall Religion action while Devising a Strategy, relaying faulty information that the quasits are resistant to fire. However, Gelegor's die roll was just high enough to land a +1 rapier Strike, dealing 8 damage.
From the sidelines, the goblin warrior fired arrows and Hid around the corner. With the quasits taking to the air, Dwarfy McRocks changed tactics to unleash melee Elemental Blasts followed by raising her Stone Shield, while Notaang fired an Aerial Boomerang at the goblin warrior to avoid a flat check against the Hidden foe, dealing 2 slashing damage. At this point, I realized that the Aerial Boomerang is a 60-foot line even if you don't want it to go that far. This is a little odd, though not uncommon, but it also begs the question as to what happens to the boomerang when it hits a wall that's closer than 60 feet, and what happens when the enemy is in the same space as the boomerang's apex, does the Boomerang it hit them again upon its return on the next round, or is the return line measure from the edge of that apex square?
Next, Jaspur Smeby entered his Arcane Cascade stance and wrecked the wolf-form quasit with a critical hit using a Thunderous Strike. This rolled maximum weapon damage, 28 piercing and 2 electricity (no sonic damage due to a critical success on the fortitude save, not that it mattered). So that flattened the quasit in wolf form. Dwarfy caught 2 sonic damage, but it was worth it.
The goblin was killed by someone shortly after this and the invisible quasit eventually came back around to attack with its claws, poisoning Jaspur. With Notaang channeling water, the entire party ganged up the last quasit and made short work of it. As soon as it was dead, someone Treating Poison on Jaspur to help him recover.
This followed with a period Treating Wounds, before the party proceeded deeper into the dungeon. Inspector Gelegor picked the same locked door as the previous session and the party found themselves in front of the same menacing closed door to Drakus' Lair (A12). They listened through the door and Inspector Gelegor heard commotion inside, so the party pre-buffed themselves this time, before going in. Jaspur Smeby cast magic weapon on his halberd and Dwarfy McRocks applied an oil of potency to her armor and raising her Stone Shield. Notaang began with air channeled.
Upon entering, the party found Drakus (a level 4 faceless stalker with Attack of Opportunity) once again in hobgoblin form gorging himself on the blood of another dead goblin. Two living goblins watched on in horror, cowering in the corner hoping they weren't next. The goblins are a level 1 goblin pyro and a level -1 goblin warrior, making this 5 xp over a severe encounter.
Drakus won initiative again, with a natural 20 on an Intimidation check. As he did in the previous encounter, Drakus drew his longsword, approached Dwarfy and slashed her for 10 damage, 6 of which Dwarfy blocked. Notaang snapped into action casting [are we calling it casting? Maybe channeling? Air-bending?] Fair Winds to establish a kinetic aura to boost everyone's speed before missing Drakus with a ranged air Elemental Blast.
Inspector Gelegor will once again Devise a Strategy against Drakus as a free action at the beginning of each turn, since Drakus is a Pursued Lead. Gelegor succeeded on the free Occultism check that Known Weakness provides; at this point the party knows pretty much everything they need to know about Drakus. Gelegor knew that their first Strike would hit Drakus, but only if they caught him flat-footed, so Inspector Gelegor raised their main-gauche to buff their AC and ate 14 slashing damage from an Attack of Opportunity as they moved into the room and Struck Drakus in the back for 9 damage with their +1 rapier. This proved to the crew that Drakus was indeed a mortal and could be killed. Jaspur took this to heart and just barely managed to score a critical hit, channeling a shocking grasp spell through his halbert (which was also buffed with magic weapon). This dealt a whopping 24 Piercing damage, 10 electricity damage and 1d4 persistent electricity damage, bringing Drakus's HP lower than it ever got in the entirety of the previous combat.
Jaspur rounded his turn off slipping into his Arcane Cascade stance, as Dwarfy McRocks jumped into action, Gathering earth, raising her Stone Shield, and stabbing with her clan dagger (because it's now known that Drakus has bludgeoning resistance and Dwarfy needs to rely on weapons for anything beyond bludgeoning damage). Upon witnessing this, the goblin pyro saw her chance to get back into Drakus's good graces (he was pretty pissed that the goblins in A7, Goblin Headquarters, didn't even know the lair was infiltrated the other day until after the skirmish was over), so she cast burning hands on Inpsector Gelegor and Dwafy McRocks, then stepped behind a statue. The Inspector took half damage, 5 fire, but Dwarfy actually got a critical success thanks to the item bonus from oil of potency (every +1 matters!).
The goblin warrior followed the pyro's lead, drawing a shortbow and firing arrows at Dwarfy and landing one. Even with this tiny victory, Drakus can see the writing on the wall, the combat is not swinging in his favor this time, so he decided to Revert Form, revealing his true nature as a faceless stalker in front of his horrified goblin subjects. This beefs up his attacks, damage and saves for one round, which allowed him to knock Inspector Gelegor to dying 1 with a claw Strike. Drakus then took 3 electricity damage just before this persistent damage wore off on its own.
Notaang Gathered water to enable Deflecting Wave, raised his wooden shield, and moved into the room, using his speed boost for a better position. This provoked an Attack of Opportunity from Drakus's longsword, as expected. It would have been a critical hit without the shield bonus to AC (every bonus counts!) but was instead 8 slashing damage, lowered to 6 damage thanks to the Deflecting Wave reaction. Notaang ended his turn with a water Elemental Blast that barely missed. I'm now realizing that Deflecting Wave has the Overflow trait, so Notaang actually would have had to spend his last action Gathering an Element again or making an unarmed fist Strike (which would have been a bummer turn).
Jaspur used Magus's Analysis to Recall Occultism, but failed, and so did not recharge his Spellstrike. He followed this failure up with a failed halberd attack before casting shield.
Dwarfy shifted tactics, bringing Inspector Gelegor back to consciousness with Battle Medicine and casting Tremor on the goblins, dealing 14 damage to the goblin pyro and 3 damage to the warrior. With 1 HP, the pyro retaliated with the grease spell, causing Dwarfy, and Notaang to join Gelegor prone on the ground.
As the goblin warrior behind the statue continued to fire inaccurate volleys from his shortbow, Gelegor grabbed their rapier and stood up to make some room on the floor before stabbing Drakus for 8 damage. This didn't stop Drakus from breaking through Jaspur's shield cantrip with a critical longsword hit, sending Jaspur to join the others prone on the floor, with the dying 2 condition.
Notaang wasn't willing to take this lying down. He managed to Stand, Step out of the grease and make a water Elemental Blast on Drakus for 3 bludgeoning damage (I think I forgot about Drakus's bludgeoning resistance again). Dwarfy followed suit, Crawling out from the grease, Standing and attempting to treat Jaspur with Battle Medicine, but failing. The goblin pyro seized this opportunity to cast burning hands with her final spell slot on the whole party, dealing only 2 fire damage to Notaang, Gelegor and Dwarfy, but increasing Jaspur's dying condition to 3.
The goblin warrior felt bold enough now to draw his dogslicer and engage in melee combat, but this would prove to be a fatal mistake. Inspector Gelegor assessed their strategy for Drakus and didn't foresee an opening, so they finished off the goblin warrior instead, with a quick flourish. Gelegor proceeded to revive Jaspur with Battle Medicine just in time for Drakus to knock Jaspur out again, before turning and grabbing Notaang in his claws. Notaang deflected some of the claw damage with his Deflecting Wave reaction (before I realized it has the Overflow trait) and passed his flat check to use a melee water Elemental Blast on Drakus, finishing him off with a critical hit for 14 bludgeoning damage, which was enough despite Drakus's bludgeoning resistance.
As Drakus collapsed to the floor, Notaang offered the remaining goblin pyro one last chance to surrender, but rolled a crappy Diplomacy check, so he just finished her off with 3 bludgeoning damage from another melee water Elemental Blast, ending the combat. Orak and Season-Strider Rivuken were avenged.
The heroes took several hours to heal themselves, loot the lair and identify all of the items. I won't get bogged down in the details. There was still a bit of dungeon left to playtest with, so I took the party to the Room of Ruined Repose (A8.) to fight eight level -1 skeleton guards (a severe encounter).
As usual, Dwarfy took point, going down a narrow flight of stairs into a circular chamber, where she was met by piles of bones that formed themselves into eight skeletons armed with scimitars. Dwarfy won initiative and decided to try her Stepping Stones for the first and only time, creating a path creeping up the wall and walking up it to avoid being surrounded. At this point, I realized that it is not specified if the stones must be placed in an unoccupied square, even though that is probably the intent of the feat.
The first skeleton drew its scimitar and slashed Jaspur, who absorbed most of the damage with a block from his shield cantrip (he was Defending as they traveled down the stairs). Jaspur retaliated with a Spellstrike, channeling a scroll of burning hands (that he got as loot from Drakus's lair) in one hand through Drakus's +1 longsword in the other hand, which turned out to be a waste; the sword Strike missed and minimum damage was rolled on the burning hands, so no fire damage got through the skeletons' resistance. Jaspur figured this was a good time to use Magus's Analysis to try to Recall Religion, but he rolled a natural 1 so he figured Slashing damage was the way to go about taking down a skeleton. "Hack at their joints!"
Notaang took this to heart. After casting Fair Winds, he landed an attack from the stairs with a ranged air Elemental Blast, rolling 2 slashing damage, which was negated entirely by the skeletons' slashing resistance. "Um, no, maybe slashing isn't the way to go here..."
The skeletons continued to draw scimitars, move in and engage in melee combat, one landing a critical hit for 14 damage. Inspector Gelegor could tell that it was not a promising start for our heroes as they assessed the situation, deciding to drop their +1 rapier, heal Jaspur with Battle Medicine and draw a different weapon, their nunchaku!
The skeletons piled up like swarms of ants as more moved into engage the intruders. The skeletons in the back resorted to throwing their own heads in Screaming Skull attacks. Dwarfy Sustained her perch on her Stepping Stones and swung down at a skeleton within reach with a melee earth blast, obliterating the skeleton with a single hit. The skeletons were not invulnerable after all. Dwarfy raises a Stone Shield as the skeletons mindlessly continued to swing away.
Jaspur took heart, dropping the longsword in favor of his maul, he smashed another skeleton with a Thunderous Strike before slipping into his Arcane Cascade stance. Several other skeletons were also softened up by Thunder Strike's sonic wave, which inspired Notaang to move into melee position, using a hero point to re-roll a melee air Blast, smashing another skeleton to fragments for 5 bludgeoning damage.
Inspector Gelegor Devised a Strategy for one skeleton but thought better of it, attacking another for 2 bludgeoning damage with the nunchucku. The remaining skeletons retaliate, landing more blows with their scimitars while the skulls of their back-seated comrades rolled to their prospective bodies.
Dwarfy smashed another skeleton out with a melee earth Elemental Blast, and Jaspur another with the maul, leaving only one injured skeleton remaining.
Notaang gathered water and obliterated the last skeletal guard with 3 bludgeoning damage from a melee water Blast, ending the campaign with a terrible one-liner, "You look parched, have a drink!"
The day is won, the dungeon is cleared. I already farmed out most of the goblins from the next room (A7: Goblin Headquarters) to increase the xp for the other encounters, so I'm skipping that room with the assumption that any goblins remaining would surrender or would have already abandoned camp and fled to the sewers. The Heroes found the Star of Desna and returned it to their benefactor, Keleri Deverin.
A level 3 boss is not nearly as dangerous as a level 4 boss, even with minions bringing the xp up to par, lol. But, specifically for the kineticist, level 2 didn't reveal too much more than level 1 revealed. Get handwraps of mighty blows as early as possible, I guess.
I would like to see clarity for Stepping Stones clarified if it requires placing the stones in unoccupied spaces and, if not, how would it interact with a creature in an occupied space. Could I slide a stone under the feet of a willing creature?.
Aerial Boomerang needs clarification as to what happens with the boomerang when if comes to a wall less than 60 feet away and whether or not it damages a creature on the next round if that creature is in the same square that the boomerang starts it's return path from.
Air Elemental Blasts have very low damage output. Their range, reach, versatile S and agile traits are cool and certainly welcome, but it's still really low damage for a martial attack that isn't adding the class's key stat to damage.
This brings me back to something I mentioned in the other post, I think I'd still prefer that Elemental Blast worked more like a spell attack roll, or at least added CON to damage. Finesse-built kineticists like Notaang and Orak have especially low damage output. Dwarfy had more respectable average damage output, but sacrificing Dex meant I had to lean heavily on feats to keep her AC competitive.
The kineticist at low levels didn't really have a strong defining talent. They have below average damage, poor skill proficiencies, and haven't collected enough feats to become versatile in other ways yet. Their most defining talent was actually Fortitude saves, they have the best fortitude saves, lol.
I like Fair Winds and Deflecting Wave. Unfortunately, I overlooked the Overflow trait once again when I did used Deflecting Wave (Aaargh!). I admit that I still have some animosity to the Overflow trait. I still think it should stay in the game though, because it provides a potentially useful vehicle for power balance. I just want it to crop up less often, in a less constraining way and, when it does apply, I want it to apply to an ability that's actually worthwhile of the action economy tax that the Overflow trait entails.
Here's an idea: what if we took a page out of the inventor's handbook? The inventor class has certain feats like Megaton Strike, that don't have the Unstable trait but can be augmented with the Unstable trait. It dealt a certain amount of damage, but you could bump the damage up voluntarily by adding the Unstable trait at the risk of malfunction. That sort of concept sounds perfect for several of the kineticist's abilities, like Tremor, Flame Eruption, Deflecting Wave, etc. They deal a certain amount of damage by default (or block it, or whatever) but you have the option to add the Overflow trait to it for an extra damage die or some other bonus. It would also hearken back in some sense to the old burn point pool without adding an actual pool of points to track. I would love that.
Speaking of pools of points, I'm actually not opposed to bringing in focus point abilities for the kineticist, I think that would fit quite snugly with their class concept. Maybe Paizo has a strong justification as to why only mental abilities are used for caster stats that draw from a focus pool? The focus pool could be Constitution-based just this one time... Or Paizo could just change the entire class to be Wisdom-based and abandon constitution as the key stat. I'm not emotionally attached to either, I guess we'll see what the general consensus comes out as in the surveys.
It's a bit tricky choosing feats for the universal gate kineticst. Not just because you have less free impulses at level 1 but because it still takes an action to switch between elements. In practice, I ended up just falling back on air and water, because those were the ones I had feats for. My universal gate kineticist would have performed virtually identically if he were a dual gate kineticist instead.
At level 1, there was a fair bit of overlap in the benefits that the earth and water elements came with. Notaang could channel water to do pretty much anything and more that earth could do. So earth became redundant. Fire never came up either, and that's simply because nothing in this dungeon was weak to it. Obviously it would have been more useful if we were fighting a tree.
I notice that none of the Elemental Blasts can do piercing damage, I'd buy it if air could do piercing and bludgeoning while water could do slashing and bludgeoning. This would provide better range in choice.
That's all I have for now, I'm sure I could answer any more specific questions about this playtest experience if someone asks. Thanks.
The Kineticist seems to grow more stable with second level play as more feat options become available, but they still lag behind in general damage output and the Overflow trait still needs tweaking to avoid black-balling certain feats. An option to add the Overflow trait at the player's will in exchange for extra effects sounds like something I'd like a lot more.