An Endzeitgeist.com review
The first of the much lauded Kineticist of Porphyra-books clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 46 pages of content - however, you should be aware that the layout for this book is that of a single-column one, with the obvious intent of being printed out in A5 (or paperback) content, which means that there is a bit less content herein than you'd expect from the page-count. However, there is still A LOT of ground to cover, so let's take a look, shall we? Oh, one, more thing - this review is based on the fifth iteration of the book, just in case you were wondering.
We begin, after a brief discussion on the discovery of kineticism on Porphyra, with a selection of archetypes, the first of which would be the cerebral kineticist, whose key ability for wild talents, DCs, concentration etc. is not Constitution, but Intelligence. This, obviously, render the kineticist much more fragile and though the archetype gains the Knowledge skills, the archetype does replace its 1st level infusion with the ability to accept 2 points of burn without suffering any negative effects, +1 at 4th level and every 5 levels thereafter.
Now if you're like me, you'd consider this burn buffer to be pretty excellent for characters that do have a decent Con-stat (after all, the kineticist is not particularly MAD), but thankfully, the archetype does have something to reign the otherwise apparent abuse capability in - psychological burn, which means that the kineticist takes an increasing amount of debilitating conditions that last until burn is recovered (OUCH!) from a list that begins at dazzled and ends at comatose. Instead of elemental overflow, they can grant themselves a morale bonus to any mental ability score. Okay, we begin with a whopper - you read mental shield and think WTF. Then you start doing the math and, provided you do not utilize further burn-mitigating combos, it actually comes out rather nicely. Daring design...I like it.
The elemental avatar gets all primary elements as...well...primary elements, but pay for this flexibility with the inability to execute composite blasts apart from via elemental fusion and the fact that the first infusion gained is delayed to 3rd level, while the first utility wild talent is delayed to 2nd level, with additional ones showing up every 3 levels thereafter. On a plus, the added flexibility also applies to elemental defense. Now I mentioned elemental fusion - they gain this type of composite blast at 7th level, with either a combo of three physical damage types (avatar blast) or untyped damage (spirit blast) being the options available.
Both suffer from reduced damage dice (down to d4s) and are considered associated blasts for three elements (air, earth, water for avatar; electric, fire, cold for spirit blasts) for infusion purposes. Instead of metakinesis, these guys may, at 9th level add a second elemental defense per 2 burn accepted, as though they had accepted 1 point of burn for the purposes of its effects, replacing thus metakinesis (maximize). 10th level provides a simple blast wild talent as though it were a 1st level utility wild talent and, as a capstone, he can enter basically avatar-form, with elemental defenses and overflow are treated as though he had accepted 10 points of burn and reduces burn costs of kinetic blasts by 2, but with each round causing one burn and Con-mod being the cap for consecutive rounds spent in this state, being exhausted thereafter. So yeah, in case you were wondering - this is pretty much the avatar-archetypes fans of the franchise have been asking for.
The elemental scions can choose to gain both associated blasts for their elements or increase the damage of simple blasts by one step, altering elemental focus and replacing the infusion granted at level 1. 7th level nets the archetype a composite blast that requires the expanded element of the primary element and is treated as +2 levels for purpose of infusion and wild talent selection, +1 DC. Additionally, they gain +1 utility talent or infusion. Finally, if they elected not to increase damage dice, they may now do so for a simple blast in place of the infusion or wild talent gained and they may choose a simple blast wild talent as a 1st level wild talent; this ability, though, consumes the expanded element class feature. 15th level provides +1 DC for infusions and wild talents as well as damage die size-increase for simple and composite blasts, while also gaining +1 utility wild talent or infusion, eliminating the expanded element gained at 15th level. The capstone replaces omnikinesis with +1 infusion or wild talent and treats all infusions or wild talents as though they had been enhanced by +1 point of burn. Basically, this is the one-element-specialist. Should have been part of the base-class. Not too blown away, but what many people wanted.
The final archetype would be the kinetic duelist, who gets an expanded list of proficiencies and may channel his power in the form of a kinetic blade, allowing the duelist to make AoOs with it, with the lack of range (apart from via the ranged blast infusion) and a restriction of infusions available for their melee kinetic blast in blade form paying for this. The aforementioned ranged infusion is btw. potentially available from 1st level onwards, with 10th level unlocking kinetic whip mastery as a utility wild talent, allowing you to treat your blade-shaped blast instead like a whip-shaped blast - i.e. the signature kinetic blade mastery is instead applied as though it was used in conjunction with the kinetic whip infusion. 11th level allows the duelist to gather power as part of a full attack. 13th level provides a brutal trick: Kinetic Assault lets the duelist charge for 4 burn via the universal form infusion, not provoke AoOs...and increase DCs AND DOUBLE damage. OUCH. Considering the kineticist's damage output, that's pretty savage. Oh, and at 17th level, you can have two such blades...which is cool and all and has the proper rules-language to work...but still. These powers, btw., come at the cost of metakinesist and supercharge. I like this more melee-centric kineticist since it offers the most radical departure from the playing-style of a vanilla kineticist, but personally, I would have elected for a fixed value damage increase for the charge - flat-out doubling tends to be brutal in actual gameplay, when buffs, other archetypes, etc. come into play.
So far, so basic, right? These archetypes would not be, at least to me, the main meat of this book, though - that honor would be reserved for the new elements that can be seen as a liberation strike that frees the kineticist from all too restrictive elemental theme. Yeah, I know...avatar-fan--the-class, but personally, I wanted to play other guys...so what do we get? Well, the first element would be light, practiced by photokineticists, who gain Disguise and Knowledge (nature) as class skills and basic photokinesis as basic manipulation. light deals half damage when used in conjunction with the eruption form infusion. Defense-wise, the wild talent sports illusory duplicates that act like regenerating mirror images. The blasts inflict your choice of the three physical damage-types, with composite blasts allowing for the inclusion of cold or lightning damage, combination of physical damage-types etc. Things get a tad bit more interesting in the infusions, where you can basically make attacks that help hit a foe outlined by your light, dispelling magical darkness (hooray for non mathfinder-y abilities!) or faerie fire them -you get the idea.
The second new element provided herein would be sound, which nets Diplomacy and Knowledge (local), basic vibrokinesis and either sonic blast (sonic damage, one damage die step lower to account for scarcity of damage-type - NICE!) or vibration (bludgeoning) blast as simple blasts, with elemental defense, victorious aria, providing bonuses to all saves that increase for accepted burn. I am not 100% sold on auto-deafen when you accept burn for a sound wild talent, but the range of only 5 feet mitigates the no-save power of that effect. Now obviously, sound also gets new composite blasts. Infusion-wise, this is where things get...unique. Attuning infusion lets you treat the target of a successfully damaged target as origin of your own subsequent kinetic blasts and composite blasts, provided they include sound among their elements. This lasts for 1 minute and would be cool...however, you can ALSO reduce the damage dealt to 0 to double the duration to 2 minutes, allowing you to attune your whole group, if need be - why? Well, because there is no maximum number of attuned creatures; the only limit is the time-frame. Granted, the 30 ft. maximum range is an inhibitor, but one that a clever group can use. Still, it's this short range that keeps me from yelling OP here, just sayin'. ;)
Breaking down DR or hardness with sound, penalizing and disorienting foes - the massive infusion-chapter has quite a few tricks we've been waiting for...but you want to know what the third element does, right? Well, that would be time and chronokineticists get Appraise and Knowledge (history) as class skills, basic chronokinesis and an unytped blast that has damage reduced by one step...which imho could have been another step, considering the inability to defend against it...with anything. The elemental defense nets you increasing miss chances that can be strengthened by accepting more burn and wild talents render you temporarily incorporeal when accepting burn for them. Time lets you increase the damage dice of the composite blast alteration amplification by one step or deal nonlethal damage to the target. Level 5 daze infusions, Con-damage, forcing to roll twice and take the worse result...pretty cool. Now, where the pdf overshoots the target a bit is with hindering infusion, which, as a, level 1 burn 1 infusion, allows you to keep foes from executing AoOs for one round....which can be very nasty, if done properly. On the other hand, I can see people enjoying the tactical option this provides...so yeah. Personally, I would have made this one a tad bit more expensive.
However, it's not just the new elements that get material herein - the infusions also extend to the established elements, with e.g. the option to imprison targets à la ice tomb, full damage to incorporeal creatures (again, imho underpriced) or, and that would be pretty awesome, gravity-manipulation for void. You could also afflict foes with overload infusions, which penalize those hit for taking standard or full-round actions...ouch. (And yes, save to negate, thankfully!) I also particularly enjoyed the option to delay the onset of damage you caused by a couple of rounds.
Now where the pdf comes even more into its own, at least for me, would be in the significant array of utility wild talents that range from silence to mending or tree stride, generate auditory illusions, charm foes, delay the onset of negative conditions for yourself and allies (within limits), gain echolocation, create exploding illusions (now this is fun!), catapult allies around, create a doppelganger from light that may act as your point of origin for light-including blasts (and swap places with it via light speed travel)...pretty cool. The level 6 burn 1 immediate action micro-time stop called temporal interruption may be a bit too much, though - even with the caveat of not being capable of affecting other creatures or their objects, an additional standard action at only 1 burn is underpriced. Hard. Similarly, stealing swift actions, thanks to Will-save and SR, is fine with me at high levels (though 1 round per level is too long a duration and burn 0...not seeing it- that ability can literally break whole builds!), but also gaining a second swift action for only 1 burn as an additional trick... is too strong. It's also, paradoxically, less powerful than its greater version, which steals move actions. Move actions will generally break no whole build asunder. They'll cripple movement and damage-output, yep...but that's it. As a nitpick: I assume the stolen move action does not prevent full attacks, but clarification would be nice since there are instances when it does and when it doesn't.
The pdf also contains a huge array of feats, which allow for e.g. action expenditure to set up lower burn costs in the next round, which is nice. There seem to be some minor glitches here and there - Adaptive Utility, for example, reads "You treat the level of all utility wild talents have their effective spell level treated as 1/2 your kineticist level for determining their DC" - I think something went wrong here....as written, I can guesstimate what that one does, but I'm not 100% sure. better range, specialization, less burn for an infusion - the pdf's feat array covers the specialization options I actually expected from the core book...so kudos indeed, particularly for the much required feat to gather energy silently (only perceivable within 10 ft.)!
The pdf concludes with a sample character.
Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good; on a rules-level, they are similarly precise, juggling the intricate framework of kineticist terminology with ease and panache. Layout adheres, as mentioned before, to a 1-column standard and the pdf sports some nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes with exceedingly detailed bookmarks for EVERYTHING. Each blast, each infusion. Kudos!
Jolly's Kineticists of Porphyra I is basically the required expansion for the base-class, the 3pp book that covers all the things the base class ought to have. And it does so in a refined, precise manner! I certainly understand the amount of praise this has received from its fanbase and the accolades, particularly for a construct of this complexity, are justified. This is high-difficulty design and NOTHING close to the design of the last book by N. Jolly I've read - the growth of the author is truly impressive. He and team KOP (Jacob McCoy, Mort, Onyx Tanuki) did a rather impressive job here.
After reading, testing and digesting this, I certainly get where all the love is coming from - there are no filler-options in this book. Each piece of crunch has serious use in game. At same time, I do wholeheartedly believe that some of the components are underpriced for what they allow the kineticist to do - no problem for high-powered groups, sure, but for grittier rounds...well. That can be a bit problematic. Not unmanageable, mind you...but yeah. There are some options I'll nerf for my game...but I'll get to that component more in detail in the review of KOP III, where I'll provide a preliminary conclusion to my tests of the KOP-material.
There's another component here I'd ask you to bear in mind: I have a hard time separating this from its follow-up books (reviews, as mentioned, forthcoming!) since I playtested them all at once. And in direct comparison, this one feels more like the "make the kineticist a properly working class beyond a very narrow take on a niche"-book, like the "basics that need to be finished before the mind-boggling stuff begins." This is basically the book that lets you do the whole Avatar-shticks, with some cool additional material thrown in, whereas book II and III go more than one step further. It is hence, I arrive at a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for me as a person.
However, as a reviewer, I have to take my audience into account and know that a lot of you have significantly more love for the elemental-themes than I do...and you get what you asked for. While I'd consider caution regarding some options, my official verdict as a reviewer will hence round up from 4.5 for the purpose of this platform.
[5 of 5 Stars!]