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Publisher sheds light on Pathfinder 2E Kineticist playtest

Pathfinder publisher Paizo shares the outcomes of the Kineticist 2E playtest and where development of the tabletop RPG class will go next

Pathfinder Kineticist playtest analysis - Paizo art of a Kineticist

Tabletop RPG publisher Paizo released a playtest for the upcoming Pathfinder 2E Kineticist class back in August, and the results are officially in. Pathfinder lead designer Logan Bonner shared the main takeaways of the playtest in an official Paizo blog on October 5, as well as where Paizo plans to take the class next.

In Pathfinder’s first edition, the Kineticist class is able to channel elemental energy to perform strange feats. They often specialise in a particular element (think fire, air, earth, and water), and their powers manifest as spell-like Wild Talents. Combat-wise, Kineticist players can expect to “blast” their foes with elemental energy. If this sounds a little bit like the Eldritch Blast 5E cantrip from D&D, you’re not far off.

Paizo received exactly 1,000 survey responses when playtesting their new version of the Kineticist class. The first of Bonner’s key takeaways is that “respondents vastly preferred the impulses of the playtest over expressing elemental powers as spellcasting of any kind”. To translate – Kineticists aren’t the same thing as spellcasters. Instead of spells, the playtest gives them ‘impulses’, which involve expelling elemental powers.

Bonner says Paizo plans to increase the damage Kineticists deal, as well as “reduce the overall number of overflow impulses while dialling up their effects”. Bonner also acknowledges the class is currently very combat-focused, so further options for exploration and downtime are on the horizon.

Pathfinder Kineticist playtest analysis - Pathfinder art of a Kineticist

Simplicity seems to be a big priority for Paizo. “We did have a small number of respondents who wanted many different mechanics in the class at once (like having impulses, focus spells, cantrips, and burn)”, Bonner says, “but we’re not looking to go in that direction so that we can keep things streamlined”.

Bonner assures us the post-playtest Kineticist will have “a clearer identity while still allowing variety” as the different elements they can choose from become more distinguished. Additionally, the class’ Elemental Blast will likely be changed to function like an attack cantrip (making it more Eldritch Blast-y than ever). Constitution will also apparently become a more obvious top choice for character stats.

“There was plenty of disagreement among playtesters about whether the class should be primarily a single-target damage dealer or be built around more varied effects”, Bonner says. “Much of this had to do with whether the player believed the Elemental Blast or the other impulses were the core mechanic of the class. Going all-in on single-target blasts can lead to extremely stagnant, repetitive play, so we aren’t planning to make that the sole focus.” “However, we will be exploring what room we have for boosting single-target damage as an option for those who want it”, he adds.

In the playtest, all Kineticists have an inner gate that allows them to connect to one (or more) Elemental Planes, and Donner says to expect more tweaks to be made to these in 2E. “We’re currently leaning toward having a dedicated gate or dual gate option at first level”, he says, “with class features later on that let a Kineticist either further specialise in an element they can channel or to expand to a new element.”

Pathfinder Kineticist playtest analysis - Paizo sketch of a Kineticist

Some of the playtest’s features – namely the Manipulate trait, Gathering Your Element action, and Burn – seem like they’ll be dialled back heavily in future versions of the class. Bonner also says other content could be trimmed to streamline the class – and keep things short. “The Kineticist is a very big class, as we want each element to feel fun and distinct, and keeping it within the book’s page count is pretty difficult”, he says. “As we add more elements to the class for the final version, there’s a high likelihood we’ll have to condense and trim back some other options.”

The Paizo blog post shares more detail on how the Kineticist has been designed for 2E, and you can still find the Kineticist playtest materials online. The final version of the class will make its debut in 2023 in the Rage of Elements rulebook – and there’s still plenty of time for the class to change.

For more Pathfinder news, check out the six products Paizo just announced for May 2023. Or, you can take a look at our Pathfinder classes guide.