Into the Breach: The Alchemist is part of a series of PDF only crunch-focused supplements produced by The Flying Pincushion focusing on the classes from the Advanced Player’s Guide.
The purpose of this review is to inform a interested customer if the product is worth the content.
Firstly, this ~34 page document is almost all crunch. But the things that need it, mainly the new archetypes and prestige classes, contain a sufficient amount of fluff to indicate how they were inspired and what they aim to do. For the rest of the content the author/designers do a nice job developing the flavor within the ability text. For example, the Botanist Archetype’s Plant companion (which replaces all the poison features of the alchemist) is an awesome little druid-like plant buddy that comes along with you and shakes it’s vines or whips its thorns at your foes. And that’s awesome, and they make it sound awesome, right in the description.
Secondly, there are a lot of ‘cool’ features and ideas. Sometimes when you’re looking at new content, you end up just looking for the versatility or raw power of the feature (Looking at you, Daring Champion), but much less often, I’m reading along and find something that just tickles my fancy (like the terrible Card Caster magus thing). This product is full of them, from super-smart alchemists who place bomb-traps and have factotum-like intelligence, to super poisoners who can on-the-fly whip up something to really ruin the baddies day, little spell-carrying oozes for those who want to play with Zerg in Pathfinder, really interesting synthesist type alchemist + (other cool base class here) prestige classes and more!
My third point is one that is probably one of the most important but has to go here because it can only follow after you’ve set up the other two. The features in the product are both well written and well designed. See, if I told you, hey there’s this Alchemist archetype that replaces normal bombs with bomb-traps, you might think that sounds immensely complicated to implement, but in this case it’s a mere couple of paragraphs (no longer than the original bomb mechanics) and it sufficiently answers all the major questions you may have about it. And that’s really impressive.
Alright, so what about the detractions?
Basically, like any book of additional content, it boils down to the fact that there’s a possibility that some of the content will be sub-par and never played, some will be more of the same, and some could be especially useful, abusable, useful, what-have-you. This book does not escape that blanket accusation. Things like the poisoner bombs and terra-cotta/pottery based crafter who purposefully makes sub-par weapons and armor and the cute little oozies are too impractical to likely ever see play without shenanigans being applied to make them pigeon-hole broken (Butterfly sting and auto-confirmed crits could be awful). Things like the synthesist summoner/alchemist prestige class are neat in concept and could help you do what you were looking for, but likely only if you were already looking in that direction. And things like the discovery where you can apply two bomb discoveries by using twice as many bombs makes me fear terrifying exploding bombs with extra high DCs coming my way from a fairly vanilla alchemist. But everyone’s individual use will vary and what I find uninspired someone else will see as a god-send for how they want to play the game, and that’s good.
Overall, the product introduces a whole bunch of new content - which made me me go ‘oh, cool,’ multiple times - to one of my favorite classes, and since I’m in the middle of a spree of trying out 3pp content, I’m excited to actually try some of it out. The value of the product is also held in the clear and concise writing that shows an acceptable grasp of system mastery as well as an appreciable knowledge of real-world historical and mythological understanding of other alchemist-like concepts and inspiration. Overall it’s a product that if someone said ‘I kinda want to play an alchemist, but I want to try something different’ I know exactly where I’d point them.