Just read any messageboards or comment threads, and you'll realize this truth about people: some of them love to throw bombs and blow things up. It's a visceral thrill. Lobbing bombs is dramatic and fun, and every so often all of us love to watch something burn. If you enjoy this activity more than most, do we have a class for you!
So far we've previewed the fighter and the rogue. You might have thought we'd showcase one of the original spellcasting classes next, but that involves talking a bit more about spellcasting, so instead, we decided to unleash the secrets of the alchemist in our newest preview of the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook.
In the early days of Pathfinder First Edition, the alchemist saw release in the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player's Guide. Since then, the alchemist has proven to be very popular. Unsurprisingly, when we surveyed the player base about what classes see the most play, the alchemist rose right to the top (along with the oracle, but more on that in a later preview). That alone would have promoted the class into the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, but tackling the alchemist early on during the design process was beneficial for another reason: it allowed us to take a hard look at alchemical item design with the alchemist in mind rather than as a later add-on.
While anyone trained in Crafting can take the Alchemical Crafter skill feat and craft their own alchemical items, the alchemist is much better at this crafting discipline. At 1st level, he gains Alchemical Crafter and a formula book for free, along with four bonus alchemical item formulas (for a total of eight, including the four from Alchemical Crafter). Each time he levels up, he gains two more formulas. This is on top of ones he either discovers or invents. Not only does he gain more access to alchemical tricks, by way of advanced alchemy and the quick alchemy action, but he can also spend resonance to create alchemical objects on the fly, though such hasty concoctions are potent for only a short period.
Crafting is all well and good, but what about bombing potential? The alchemist's bombs are now the basic alchemical items you are familiar with: things like alchemist fire, thunderstones, acid flasks and so on. He crafts these items and lobs them. At 3rd level, he gains the empower bomb feature, which allows him to multiply the damage of the bombs he creates. This multiplier increases with level until it reaches six times the alchemical bomb's base damage at 19th level.
But that's only the start—at 5th level the alchemist learns the secrets of mutagens, and as he progresses his ability to craft alchemical items on the fly becomes both greater and faster.
Tying these features together is the selection of alchemist class feats. As with other class feats, they allow the alchemist to either focus or diversify his features and talents. In the case of the alchemist, class feats come in a few broad categories. If the alchemist wants to make the most of his crafting, he might choose Efficient Alchemy or Enduring Alchemy at 4th level. The former allows him to craft larger batches of alchemical items during downtime, while the latter extends the amount of time he can use alchemical items that he creates with the Quick Alchemy action. When he reaches 6th level, Powerful Alchemy allows him to increase the DCs of his alchemical effects, while the 18th-level Improbable Elixirs feat enables him to craft elixirs with the effects of magical potions.
Making stuff is great, but destruction is much more fun. Most alchemical bombs are splash weapons, which means that when the alchemist hits an enemy, those nearby take a bit of damage. At 4th level, an alchemist with the Calculated Splash feat can deal splash damage equal to his Intelligence modifier instead of the normal 1 splash damage. At 6th level, the alchemist can take the Precise Bomb feat, allowing him to hit everyone but his allies with the splash damage. Taking both feats increases the hurt he puts on enemies while saving his allies the pain. Of course, there are also plenty of feats that affect the primary target of a bomb. Debilitating Bomb at 6th level and its greater counterparts at 10th and 14th levels allow the alchemist to apply different types of conditions to the primary target of his bombs.
After an alchemist gains the mutagen crafting feature, he can take feats that modify how those powerful elixirs interact with his internal chemistry. For instance, the 8th-level Feral Mutagen feat boosts the alchemist's Intimidate checks and morphs his teeth into frightful jaws and his hands into rending claws. Other such modifications are subtler. The 10th-level Stalker Mutagen feat grants the alchemist Stealth as a signature skill and allows him to move up to his Speed when he sneaks. While all mutagens grant some bonuses and drawbacks, the Perfect Mutagen feat at 18th level allows the alchemist to ignore the drawbacks when under the effect of a mutagen he crafted.
All of this is only a small sample of what the class has to offer. The alchemist is also a master of poisons (which he can craft for free each day just like other alchemical items), has easy access to a number of skills, and can act as the party's trap disabler or healer if necessary. The diversity in the class allows you to pick and choose exactly how you want to manifest your particular brand of alchemical discoveries.