Pathfinder - The Kineticist Handbook
Last Updated: October 15, 2018
I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
So you watched Avatar: The Last Airbender (not the Michael Bay movie; we don't talk about that thing in polite company), and now you want to play a "bender". Enter the Kineticist, and bizarre magic-based class with no spellcasting. Kineticists spend much of their time in combat using a "blast" which is reminiscent of the 3.5 Warlock's Eldritch Blast, especially considering the way Infusions work. Beyond just blasting, the Kineticist's utility talents offer numerous useful options which you would normally get from spells. While these options in no way compete with a full spellcaster, they are still very interesting.
The Kineticist's role is difficult to determine. It's clearly a Striker. With the right choice of element and talents, it's also a Blaster. With a bit of effort it can fill any other role, but it doesn't have the focus to fill any of those roles fully on its own. Kineticists can't replace a full caster in terms of Utility. They aren't durable enough to serve as a Defender. They're not stealthy enough to be a Scout. Expect to supplement gaps in the capabilities provide by the class using Traits to get better class skills and magic items to fill gaps in your magic abilities. Even if you manage to expand your own capabilities this way, it's unclear what role the Kineticist takes in a party. They can't replace any of the four classic classes, and they have no supportive abilities to function as a "fifth man".
Kineticist Class Features
Hit Points: Good for a caster-style character, and with a dependence on Constituition .
Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB may make it difficult to hit reliably with your blasts, but fortunately you don't need to worry about iterative attacks.
Saves: Two good saves, dependent on Constitution, and two dump stats to free up points to spend on your Wisdom.
Proficiencies: Simple weapons and light armor. Kineticists rely almost exclusively on "blasts" to deal damage, so your weapon proficiencies matter very little. Since you don't need to worry about arcane spell failure, consider multiclassing or spending feats to get better armor. However, avoid using shields (except bucklers), as it interferes with Gather Power.
Skills: 4+ skill ranks, but the Kineticist's skill list is disjointed, confusing, and lacks any clear purpose. Remember that your choice of Elemental Focus grants you two additional class skills, but even then it's totally unclear how a Kineticist is intended to spend their skills.
Elemental Focus (su): I'm really impressed with the design on Elemental Focus. Every element has a distinct flavor, and the available talents do a good job of distinguishing each element from the others. While each element has strengths and weaknesses, I don't think any of them are notably better or worse than the others, which is a rare statement in Pathfinder. Typically there would be at least one clearly poor option and one clearly excellent one, but that isn't the case here.
- aether (telekinesis): Aether has the most utility of any element. The ability to move objects around, coupled with options like walls of force, telekinetic invisibility, kinetic healing, provides many useful options. However, on its own aether lacks major offensive options, and has trouble handling groups of enemies. The class skills are garbage.
- air (aerokinesis): The most mobile and probably least direct of the elements, air's talents offer very few offensive options. However, air also has powerful options like Wings of Air which set it apart from the other elements. Fly and Knowledge nature are both decent additions to your skill list. You'll want at elast one rank in Fly for the class skill bonus, but don't get too crazy.
- earth (geokinesis): A good all-around element with some unique defensive options, earth has a lot to offer. You may have issues facing flying foes, but in underground environments earth really excels. Climb is worthless, but Knowledge (Dungeoneering) is one of the most important Knowledge skills.
- fire (pyrokinesis): Do you want to do all of the damage and kill all of the things? Fire. Like other fire-based builds, you will face the most common energy resistance in the game. Fortunately, Kineticist includes some useful options like Searing Flame which will help to overcome resistances. Escape Artist is pointless, but Knowledge (Nature) is a good skill to have. Do not make the mistake of using Expanded Element to expand Fire if you already have it. You get essentially nothing. If you started in another element and want to increase your offensive capability, using Expanded Element to pick up Fire is a good choice.
- water (hydrokinesis): Very well balanced, water offers a good mix of offensive and defensive abilities, access to both physical and energy blasts, good defensive optioins, and a lot of interesting utility options. It also features the most powerful 9th-level utility option. Knowledge (Nature) is a good skill, but Swim isn't especially useful.
Wild Talents: See my Wild Talents Breakdown.
Burn (Ex): The biggest cap on the Kineticist's more powerful abilities. You will need to very carefully manage Burn throughout the day. Be sure to retain enough Burn capacity to use your biggest abilities in a pinch. Gather Power and Infusion Specialization will make managing your Burn a bit confusing later since you'll be constantly recalculating Burn costs, but they'll also let you use costly effects more often. The cap is 3+Con, so assuming an average roll of 4.5 hit points per level you're left with 1.5 hp per level while at full burn. As a side-effect, with so much nonlethal damage you'll frequently find yourself enjoying the relative safety of unconciousness rather than dropping into negative hit points and bleeding to death on the dungeon floor like your friends and that idiot who took Diehard.
Kinetic Blast (Sp): This is your default attack mechanism. If you're ever uncertain about how to spend your turn, spend it doing damage. The scaling is decent, especially considering you can use your blasts without limit. Your choices of blasts are extremely limited. You get one a 1st level, and you don't get another until 7th level. For help selecting your kinetic blast, see my Wild Talents Breakdown: Kinetic Blasts. Keep in mind that some of these are regular ranged attacks (physical blasts), while others are touch attacks (energy blasts). Unfortunately, because touch attacks are so insanely better than regular attacks, it means that physical blasts are almost universally awful by comparison. I also want to point out that the text of this ability is very meticulously written, thereby preventing all sorts of ridiculous rules discussions. Well done, Paizo.
Gather Power (Su): This only works for blasts, but it can still open up some wonderful options that would otherwise be prohibitively costly. If you don't need to move, you could do much worse in a turn than gathering power as a move action and blasting as a standard action, especially when you start getting costly infusions.
Infusion (Su): Infusions are what makes your blasts interesting. Without infusions, your blasts are just plain damage. And while plain damage is fine, it's also not very exciting. For help selecting your Infusions, see my Wild Talents Breakdown: Infusions.
Elemental Defense (Su): The defense talents are mixed bag, but some of them are excellent. For help selecting your Elemental Defense, see my Wild Talents Breakdown: Defense Wild Talents.
Elemental Overflow (Ex): An excellent incentive to accept some Burn early in the day, the size bonuses can go into your Dexterity and your Constitution to boost your Defenses. Strength is basically useless to you, so the choice is easy. You also get bonuses to attack rolls and damage with your blasts. To recap: better saves, better AC, better attacks, better damage, and a scaling Fortification effect.
Infusion Specialization (Ex): This allows you to use gradually more powerful Infusions at no Burn cost, giving your blasts a nice scale in effectiveness without increasing their cost. Combine this with Gather Power when possible.
Metakinesis (Su): Extremely powerful and versatile. Using Gather Power as a move action will offset the Empower option's Burn cost, which makes it an easy go-to option.
Internal Buffer (Su): A small reservoir of functionally free Burn. Fill it before you rest for the night. Of course, this may also encourage you to adventure every other day so that you have time to charge your bugger without risk.
Expanded Element (Su): Choosing extra elements allows a huge amount of utility which the Kineticist sorely needs. Locking yourself into a single element means that any time you meet a resistance you're largely out of luck. Adding a second element, even if it's weaker than your primary, means that you have reliable backup options. Remember that diversity is key to overcoming the rock-paper-scissors game of resistances. Selecting your own element to enhance it locks you into a single damage type, severely limiting your ability to overcome resistances, and the bonus for selecting your element twice is truly pitiful.
Supercharge (Su): Gather Power gets even better. This makes composite blasts functionally free, and combined with Infusion Specialization you can achieve some exciting effects at little or no cost.
Composite Specialization (Su): Composite blasts cost 2 Burn before considering Infusions, so any reduction is welcome.
Metakinetic Master (Su): It's hard to know which option to pick, but Empower for free on every blast you ever do isn't a poor choice.
Omnikinesis (Su): The cost is too high to use this frequently.
The Kineticist needs Constitution almost exclusively, though Dexterity is important both for your AC and for your Form Infusion DC's.
Str: Dump to 7. Several talents allow you to perform Strength-based things with your Constitution score instead.
Dex: AC, Reflex saves, and Form Infusion DC's.
Con: Perhaps wholly unique in this aspect, the Kineticist's primary ability score is Constitution. It expands how much Burn you can take, sets the DC of your talents, and even affects your blast damage.
Int: Dump to 8. All you need is skill ranks, and the Kineticist's skill list is garbage.
Wis: Get some for your garbage Will saves.
Cha: Dump to 7.
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A Constitution bonus is huge for a Kineticist. Since they don't typically weapons, small size is also helpful both offensively and defensively. Most races' favored class bonuses are terrible, so expect to spend your favored class bonus padding your hit points so that you can survive all of the Burn you'll be taking.
Dwarf: Bonuses to Constitution and Wisdom mean you're getting the crucial Constitution bonus and a bonus to your worst save. The favored class bonus adds a tiny bit of damage to your earth blasts, but the damage scales too slowly to make a big difference.
Elf: The Constitution penalty is prohibitive. If you can get past that hurdle, such as by taking the Overwhelming Soul archetype, Elves have some tempting options. +2 to spell penetration checks is very helpful since Spell Resistance is a huge problem for Kineticists, and the favored class bonus applies to any blast so you're not pigeon-holed into one element by your race.
Gnome: Bonus to Constitution and small size, so you're great at your talents, you can absorb more Burn, and you get a bonus on attacks and to AC. The alternate racial traits offer access to some useful cantrips which supplement the Kineticist's own abilities. Unfortunately the favored class bonus is awful.
Half-Elf: Several of the best parts of Elves without the Constitution penalty. Drop Adaptability for the Dual-minded alternate racial trait to compensate for the Kineticist's poor Will saves. The favored class bonus is the same as the Elf's, allowing you to add a small bonus to any of your blasts.
Half-Orc: The flexible ability score bonus is nice, but that's really all that the Half-Orc has to offer.
Halfling: Small size and a Dexterity bonus will make your blasts accurate, but the halfling doesn't have much to offer otherwise. The extra Internal Buffer is tempting, but you don't get enough for it to be a big benefit. If you take the Overwhelming Soul archetype, the halfling shoots up to blue because you get bonuses to both of your important ability scores and a penalty to your dump stat.
Human: A flexible ability bonus and a feat are always a big deal. On top of that, the favored class bonus gets you extra talents.
Kineticists are sorely lacking in useful class skills, so I strongly suggest using your traits to get some. What you select is largely up to you, since the class's skill list is so unfocused. Here are some other notable options:
- Indomitable Faith (Faith): +1 to your bad save.
- Pragmatic Activator (Magic): Excellent if you want to use Use Magic Device heavily and dumped Charisma.
Your choice of Elemental Focus also adds two class skills. This section only covers the standard Kineticists skill list.
- Acrobatics (Dex): Too situational.
- Heal (Wis): With little need for Wisdom you won't be able to use Heal to its fullest. Get a wand of Cure Light Wounds and use UMD.
- Intimidate (Cha): You are not a face.
- Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game.
- Stealth (Dex): Kineticists aren't scouts.
- Use Magic Device (Cha): The most powerful skill in the game. The Kineticist's utility capacity is severely limited compared to a wizard, so expect to use this heavily to solve problems.
- Deadly Aim: Most of your damage output comes from ranged attacks, so this offers a significant damage boost. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with touch attacks, and with only 2/3 BAB progression you won't get the full benefit of the feat and giving up attack bonus may be difficult for you.
- Delay Blast: Situational, but if you have the luxury of ambushing an enemy it can be very effective. It's especially nice if you can use Gather Power for a full round plus a move action to reduce the Burn cost by 3 (5 if you have Supercharge).
- Extra Wild Talent: Your talents are your most important option. They're the tools in your tool box. Get as many as you can as fast as you can so that you can solve as many problems as possible. This also allows you access to higher spell-level talents several levels before you would normally be able to get them from the Kineticist's normal talent progression. Unfortuantely, you're limited to Infusion and Utility Wild Talents
- Kinetic Counter: Too situational.
- Kinetic Leap: Find a way to fly or buy a potion of Jump for 50 gp.
- Improved Critical: At only 2/3 BAB this will take a long time to get, and most of the time you'll only make one attack per round, so this is difficult to get with a very small pay-off.
- Interweave Composite Blast: Unless you're playing in a very unusual campaign you're unlikely to have another Kineticist in the party.
- Medium Armor Proficiency: A hefty boost to your AC, and reduces your reliance on Dexterity.
- Heavy Armor Proficiency: At this point you should probably just take a level dip.
- Parting Blast: If you die often enough to waste a feat on this, you have much bigger problems than whatever you're trying to solve with this feat.
- Point-blank Shot: Only applies to attacks made with weapons.
- Precise Shot: Only applies to attacks made with weapons.
- Improved Precise Shot: For some reason, this applies to all ranged attacks even though the prerequisite feats only apply with weapons. Still, this isn't good enough to justify three feats since two of them won't help you.
- Precise Shot: Only applies to attacks made with weapons.
- Spell Penetration: Your blasts allow spell resistance, and if you can't get past spell resistance you are completely ineffective.
- Greater Spell Penetration: A total +4 bonus is very helpful.
- Toughness: It's rare that I recommend Toughness, but considering how much of the Kineticist's abilities depend on using Burn to eat into your own hit points, adding another hit point per level can be a big boost.
- Weapon Finesse: Potentially important for melee kineticists since you're in light armor.
- Weapon Focus: You are going to spend almost every turn making attacks with your blasts, and without the benefit of enhancement bonuses on a magic weapon, you need every attack bonus you can get.
Kineticists have essentially no use for weapons. Blast will exclipse your weapon damage almost immediately, and even melee kineticists depend on their blast for damage.
- Leather: Starting Gear
- Chain Shirt: Probably your permanent armor.
- Mithral Shirt: Your permanent armor unless you get past 22 Dexterity somehow or decide to get proficiency in heavier armor.
- Animated (+2): You need your hands free, but don't suffer an arcane spell failure chance. At high levels, this can provide a useful AC boost at a reasonably low cost.
- Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my Practical Guide to Celestial Armor.
It's difficult to recommend specific staffs without knowing your individual character, so instead I want to make a general endorsement of the concept of magic staffs in Pathfinder. If you are a 3.5 native, go read Pathfinder's rules for staffs because they have improved dramatically.
Staffs are a reliable, rechargeable source of extra spellcasting that can give spellcasters easy and reliable access to spells from their spell list which they might not want to learn, or which they might like to use so frequently that they can't prepare the spell enough times in a given day. On days when you're not adventuring (traveling, resting, etc.) you can easily recharge any staff even if you can only cast one of the spells which the staff contains.
- Reduce Person: Elemental Overflow can override the ability scores penalty/bonus from Reduce Person, but won't affect the actual size change. Get a size bonus to all three of your ability scores!