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I've been toying with the idea of making a kineticist for a bit, now. The class is quite flavorful, with some interesting options and a nice set of utility.

...That said, its core sucks.

Like, really sucks.

While it has a nice group of stuff to do, most of its abilities are locked behind Burn costs. Burn, on itself, is a conceptually interesting idea: you cause some damage to yourself in exchange to do bigger, greater stuff. However, the amount of damage the kineticist takes is, honestly, ridiculous:

At 1st level, a kineticist can overexert herself to channel more power than normal, pushing past the limit of what is safe for her body by accepting burn. Some of her wild talents allow her to accept burn in exchange for a greater effect, while others require her to accept a certain amount of burn to use that talent at all. For each point of burn she accepts, a kineticist takes 1 point of nonlethal damage per character level.

and

A kineticist can’t choose to accept burn if it would put her total number of points of burn higher than 3 + her Constitution modifier (though she can be forced to accept more burn from a source outside her control).

Emphasis mine.

This mechanic makes it so that the Kineticist can't really contribute that often in meaningful ways in combat by doing the coolest thing in her kit - blasting - without getting herself really close to dropping unconscious at the first lucky attack that manages to land. Plus, even if the Kineticist has a hefty HP pool and can handle all that damage without issues, the number of Burn points it can take is limited by that other clause (3 + Cons mod), which further hinders its usefulness.

So, I decided to do some changes - the fewer the better - to it, in hopes of pushing it to the goldylocks Tier 3. So far, those are the changes I'm thinking in doing:

Take away the "per level" clause.

For each point of burn she accepts, a kineticist takes 1 point of nonlethal damage per character level.

Burn was theoretically a mechanic introduced to keep the kineticist in check and preventing it from going overboard. This class, however, isn't that strong to begin with, so I think that 'nerfing' Burn won't make it too overpowered.

Secondly, just remove the entire con-based limitation.

A kineticist can’t choose to accept burn if it would put her total number of points of burn higher than 3 + her Constitution modifier (though she can be forced to accept more burn from a source outside her control)

This limitation makes no sense. Other classes can use their options several times per day, or have several different options to pick from. The Kineticist has a single pool of resource as it is, and it is far too limited to provide good gameplay. This needs to go.

Third, change how Gather Power works. Instead of offering a discount of Burn costs...

Gathering power in this way allows the kineticist to reduce the total burn cost of a blast wild talent she uses in the same round by 1 point. The kineticist can instead gather power for 1 full round in order to reduce the total burn cost of a blast wild talent used on her next turn by 2 points (to a minimum of 0 points). If she does so, she can also gather power as a move action during her next turn to reduce the burn cost by a total of 3 points.

...Make it so that Gather Power gives the Kineticist a nice (and much needed) damage buff:

Gathering Power in this way makes the Kineticist Empowered for a number of rounds equal 3 + its Con modifier. While Empowered, the Kineticist's adds +1 damage to the damage of her Kinetic Blast, plus +1 for every 2 levels above beyond the 1st. The kineticist can instead gather power for 1 full round in order to increase the damage of her kinetic blast by 1d6, plus +1d6 for every 2 levels beyond the first.

I'm also thinking in bumping the Kineticist skills to 6 + int per level and giving it more or less the same class skill list the Magus has, but I'm not sure if this is needed.

Are these changes reasonable? Are they enough to push the Kineticist to Tier 3?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @lfusaso Personally no, but that's because I'm usually the DM. That said, I had a few players on my table that did, and their characters were quickly replaced because of that Burn mechanic crippling their characters. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Jan 14 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Yes. I'm using Tiers to measure play-ability because it sucks for my players to be stuck without much to do, because their classes are very bad at what they are supposed to do. A blaster that is very bad at blasting or a controller that is very bad at controlling make for a poor gaming experience. Tiers are a good measure about how effective classes are at doing stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Jan 14 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: What tier is the kineticist? Beyond confirming your thoughts on the kineticist as is, it offers thoughts on a better way to build one—which might give ideas on improving what’s there. The author also wrote a “gambler” archetype for kineticist for Dreamcarred Press, which if I recall correctly, had “what the kineticist should have been” as a design goal—might also serve as inspiration, if not a solution. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 14 at 18:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Tiers absolutely are intended to be used to determine “playability”—for groups with similar optimization levels, keeping to a narrower band of tiers can make the game play better. That isn't remotely equivalent to recommending T1 classes exclusively—in fact, the definition of T1 would seem to subtly dissuade using them, since that description does not match the usual idea people have for PF characters and what they should be capable of. See this Q&A for details. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 14 at 18:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Please don't trivialize playstyles with false and misleading information-- that incrementally dissuades their userbases from participation. We don't do that here. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jan 14 at 21:56
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No, because the proposed changes do not address the reasons for its tier placement.

I've played multiple kineticists with different builds, elements, and party compositions across different levels of play. The

The first two suggestions (removing burn cap and reducing nonlethal damage to negligible levels) essentially allow the kineticist to nova all the time. The third increases their damage in a way that seems better accomplished if you simply buff Elemental Overflow. All three of these suggestions will simply increase the class's damage output and allow them to apply combat maneuvers and/or area-effects almost at-will. But damage is not the reason this answer designates them as Tier 4.

It does not get enough things to do, and can’t fight or utility well enough to be called tier 3, but I think that the options I’ve outlined here are enough to consider it "capable of doing many things to a reasonable degree of competence without truly shining" for some element combinations, or "capable of doing one thing well, but often useless otherwise" for others.

Now, consider this answer's Tier List, which emphasizes that often the difference between Tier 3 and Tier 4 is how good they are outside of their specialty.

Tier 3: .. Good at one thing & useful outside that, or moderately useful at most things.

Tier 4: .. Good at one thing but useless at everything else, or mediocre at many things.

Aside from punishing novas, the biggest issue with the kineticist is that they provide little value beyond a reliable single target blast. Usefulness outside of single target blasting requires the kineticist to lockdown their choices. They have no capacity to swap out talents or diversify. Even a high utility build like a telekinesis aetherkineticist eats up the character's action economy and forces them to take options sub-optimal for damage and possible ways to contribute to a party. Kineticists are also really, really terrible at skills. Even giving them more skill points won't help with that.

If you want to raise the tier of the kineticist, you need to do more than simply buff their damage numbers and let them AoE and CMB all day. You'd need to let them diversify. You'd need to let them swap out talents or give them more talents.

You'd need to give them more tools to handle different situations. Not make a single tool bigger.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that just making a single tool bigger could save the kineticist from being tier 5/6, though. As the excellent linked answer states: "Basic combat competence isn’t the only part of being tier 4, though. Some classes (like the barbarian) can get into the tier by smashing everything in their way, but the kineticist, even after all of this, doesn’t ever get the ability to reliably one-round enemies." The fixes might make you able to play a kineticist straight (i.e. not the way outlined therein) and reach tier 4 rather than tier 5-6 like the kineticist played as in this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jan 16 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer. Yeah, after reading your post I'm starting to think that the issues with the kineticist run deeper. I wonder if a rework to make the class use a larger number of "Wild Talents Know" would help. Hm... \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Jan 16 at 4:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ The kineticist would definitely benefit from having more talents or a way to swap them as needed and could benefit from a rework as it has messy mechanics. As someone who has played kineticists for years, I don't think it's as bad of a class as you say. However, I fully agree it does not suit super optimized play, especially when its greatest strengths (reliability, decent sustained damage, and range of options) are irrelevant in such a level of play. \$\endgroup\$ – Cyrad Jan 17 at 12:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I recommend taking a look at 3rd party options for inspiration such as Legendary Kineticist and Kineticists of Porphyra \$\endgroup\$ – Cyrad Jan 17 at 12:15
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A cap on burn is absolutely required if the cost itself is not very high. If you do not want the total burn to be capped, you will need to go through every ability that isn't currently capped and ask yourself "is this broken if somebody can use it as many times as they have hit points?" Two things that clearly are not are Elemental Overflow and Force Ward (the aether element defence).

Elemental overflow passively gives +1 attack and +2 damage per burn you have accumulated, starting at 3rd level. Everything you do that adds burn also adds to this. I hope I don't need to explain why it is well past worth it losing 10hp for +10 attack and +20 damage in addition to whatever it is you spent the burn on.

Force Ward gives regenerating temporary hp equal to half your level, and boosts the regen speed for every 2 used. If you are at least level 4, this is literally free hit points when burn only costs 1. If you don't manually insert a cap, it's also infinite. Eventually the nonlethal damage will exceed your normal max hp and become lethal, but that doesn't matter when you have an ever-growing stack to take it out of (additionally, a particularly aggressive reading of the rules suggest that the regained temp hp is not technically healed, meaning burn is actually free at this point).

On another point, the change to Gather Power seems more trouble than its worth. The old version was a free Empower as a move action, or an average of +1.75 per 'step,' larger than the +1 per step you suggest. Similarly, a full-round Gather Power could be used as a free Composite, which comes out to +1d6 for energy blasts, and one more for physical blasts. While this is longer-duration than the old version, it also had the ability to be used for other purposes (e.g. infusions), which your suggestion lacks. I also notice you haven't modified Supercharge, despite it being an increase in the efficiency of Gather Power. Keep in mind that cheaper burn also means higher numbers out of Elemental Overflow, which is an always-on damage boost. The old version also helps with the limit on burn use per turn, which does not appear to be altered either.

I would tone it back to cheaper burn and possibly a loosened (but not removed) cap, keeping Gather Power how it is in the book.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey, actually Elemental Overflow has a separate cap of level/3 so that wouldn't actually break unless changed. Force Ward and similar abilities do still break, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jan 16 at 3:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your suggestions. I'll give considerations to your answer and change my plan accordingly. You made some good points there. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Jan 16 at 4:09

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