I just thought of this - but what if, at level 1, we had the choice how we cast these abilities. Similar to how psychics choose where their power comes from.
So for example at level 1, I can choose if I want to use burn 'or' use action tax, or other options in which said overflow abilities are taxing on us.
This, I think, would benefit every playstyle for those that want burn and for those that don't.
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The whole "straining your body to unleash the elements" vibe is completely absent from the playtest kineticist. I really miss it and was why Constitution was necessary in the 1st Edition kineticist.
In my playthroughs, CON as a key ability without a burn mechanic resulted in tanky ranged characters that were equally too safe and too ineffectual.
I do agree that there needs to be an option for those that simply don't want to deal with a burn mechanic. I agree that something like the psychic's subconscious mind would work for that.
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Our playtest kineticist was added temporarily to our ongoing campaign and he has not left the party yet. So we are experimenting with houserules. One houserule returns burn as an option for an overflow impulse.
Whenever Collin uses an impulse with overflow, instead of losing his gathered element and having to regather, he may chose to hold onto the element and risk burn. He will make a basic Fortitude save against DC 36 (i.e roll an 8 or higher), Burn damage is 23 sonic damage for an air impulse and 23 cold damage for a water impulse. Collin's Elemental Resistance ability does not prevent that damage, but other methods of prevention, such as a Resist Energy spell, will work. Collin's Juggernaut ability, which makes a success on a Fortitude save a critical success, still applies, so he will take zero damage on a regular success. On a natural 1, he will have a critical failure for 46 energy damage.
This houserule is not "straining your body to unleash the elements." Instead, it assumes that overflow overexcites the element and the kineticist has to either drop it, control it through Fortitude, or take damage from an out-of-control element.
Collin has used the burn houserule once. He gathered Air and then uses Ferocious Cyclone with burn instead of losing the element. He failed the Fortitude save, took 23 damage reduced to 7 damage by his Major Ring of Sonic Resistance. Risking the burn instead of losing his grip on the element felt like the right move.