Alchemist Playtest (Rise of the Runelords Spoilers)

Round 3: Alchemist and Inquisitor

Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So, I doubt anyone still hasn't played Rise of the Runelords who plans on it, but if you have, don't read this thread.

I played an Alchemist for the entirity of Burnt Offerings (except we skipped a lot of encounters due to stealth) from the beginning to killing Nualia anyway. I found the Alchemist to be extremely effective when my other party members were down, but when they were awake, they were almost always in the way of my bombs, and they yelled at me not to hit them for the 5 splash damage. Social pressure often forced me to use throw anything to throw somethign inconsequential instead, and miss to boot. I'll go through it fight by fight. Note that the GM updated all monsters and NPCs for Pathfinder and leveled up the NPCs to compensate for our additional party members

1) Goblin Attack--The Barbarian pretty much won this fight, and the crowd of civilians ensured that bombs were a no-go. I threw a chair. It missed.

2) Pyro Goblins--I threw a longsword (as an elf I'm proficient). It missed. Then I did so again and hit thanks to high Dex. Not having Precise Shot was brutal the whole adventure, but the Elven +2 Dex and Int was worth it (the higher AC saved my hide). The Barbarian killed everything. He had Cleave. The other party members contributed little. Our perennial evil player was a Cleric of Lamashtu. Fans of the module, why in the hells he did this, you can well imagine. The GM mentioned that the antagonists worshipped Lamashtu...

So anyway, after the fight we had no healing, of course. They asked me about my potions, and I told them I did indeed have a healing potion....for me only that is.

3) We weren't too badly hurt, so we took on the goblins after Aldern Foxglove. The ones behind the rainbarrel hiding from the dog were splash primetime. Two saved and two didn't, but it wasn't a complete wipe of the goblins. Still, bombing of the commando and dog let the Barbarian Cleave through them.

By the way, it's worth mentioning that the GM ruled that I could prep a bomb on the surprise round and throw it next round, as long as my very next action was the throw. He knew the RAW did not agree with this, but he said that it was in the spirit of the rules, and also was more or less equivalent if you discount the discontinuity of rounds ending after certain actions.

So then we were heroes of Sandpoint. I talked to the Alchemist guy, our Infernal Sorcerer hooked up with Shayliss and then needed a moire permanent way than Charm Person to get Ven Vinder off his back. He concocted a scheme to pretend to save her from Chopper's Ghost, but he couldn't pull off the special effects of having a ghost. I helped him here, having gone to talk to the techies backstage after the Harpy's Curse play (I was impressed by the way they handled the harpy and a fire effect). Considering I was still level 1, I figure that's good RP potential from my alchemist. I crafted Acid every day (getting a vial of it every 2 days).

Anyways, then Ameiko got up and kidnapped. Remember how I said we always bypassed fights? Sometimes it was by mistake. We wound up going straight down the stairs and into Tsuto's room. Surprised, he spun a tale about being trapped down there by the goblins hired by his father after they turned on Lonjiku, and he rolled well on Bluff. He "agreed to accompany us to fight the goblins" and then turned on us as soon as he had a flank. This turn of events dropped the Barbarian, and the Cleric would have been tossed in the furnace if not for a timely Colour Spray from the Sorcerer. The Monk was dropped by Colour Spray while clearing the Goblins attacking him. Meanwhile, since the Barbarian had missed wioth his Greatsword and was down, I dealt pretty much all the damage to Tsuto and took out the remaining Goblins with some spectacular bombs and the small damage from the Lamasthu priestess's Channel Negative Energy (after which the Cleric dropped). Tsuto fled the scene and we rescued Ameiko, getting Father Zanthus to Channel Positive Energy and heal us. My high AC (for a casterish like Alchemist) and good splash damage were crucial to winning here, so I felt the Alchemist shined. However, I dealt 10 splash damage to the unconscious Cleric and would have killed her if she didn't roll a 0 right away to stabilise.

More in a bit--I'm worried the computer will eat this (admittedly longish) post.

Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Alright, more fights and then my final analysis:

So we had finished the Glassworks in one fell swoop. We rescued Ameiko and then checked down the hallway. Sinspawn are the weakest CR 2 monsters I've ever seen with their lacklustre AC and to-hit, so the GM increased their numbers, but we still wiped the floor with the first pair even though I only had one bomb left and saved it. Then the vargouille kissed me and I nearly died but the Barbarian killed it in one hit (we pooled money for a Remove Disease before I turned).

We went across the wooden platform and got jumped by four Sinspawn, who managed to grapple me and beat the crap out of me before I could do anything. We rested and recovered spells and infusions and bombs.

Koruvus fight: I tossed a bomb at him despite being Sickened by his acid breath. Then the Barbarian tore him apart afetr beign knocked to 4 health. I asked for the +1 Longsword, but they later sold it for a Wand of Cure Light Wounds.

Erylium Fight: This fight, as I've heard, is nearly unwinnable. Erylium didn't hurt us too much (the Barbarian was the only one to drop), but we had to leave because we couldn't hit her...well I was the only one who could hit her, but apparently now Quasits resist both Fire and Acid and are immune to Poison, so all my thrown weapons were useless. So we left.

So not much goodness for me this time around. Perhaps it will improve at Thistletop, especially since I was then level 2 and gor mutagens. The Barbarian led us to the thistly overgrown warrens, where the Monk fell into the Bunyip hole, but I knew I couldn't contribute to this fight based on the logistics, so I did nothing. The Barbarian jumped in and killed the thing himself in two rounds.

We then encountered the Druid--Alchemist's good Ref saves and my high Dex got me out of the Entangle very easily (no failures!), and my readied actions to throw splash damage were our main damage source against the Druid, since he kept popping in and out to Produce Flame at us (the Barbarian beat the animal companion and dropped before anyone else could even leave the Entangled area, and the Sorcerer dropped from the 1 damage per round to everyone's amusement but his own). Then the Monk guessed which square the Druid was going to pop out of and grappled him. We questioned him and tied him up, but he escaped using Wildshape (which he had thanks to being leveled up for the additional characters).

We triggered the bridge trap, but the Barbarian had already crossed. I fell in the water and got KOed by the guards from the towers, and the currents carried me up against the rocks at the base of Thistletop. The Barbarian fought off four goblins and four goblin dogs by himself, then dropped a rope down for the Monk, who created a hiding spot outside the stockade and camped overnight. The ragged remnants of the rest of the team (with me unconscious) escaped to Sandpoint and returned the next day.

The Monk let us in and killed the sleeping pickle thief guards after climbing up the western tower, unlocking the frotn door. The Cleric used Obscuring Mist to stealth our entrance, and we immediately went downstairs to the next floor. We wound up immediately choosing the path to Lyrie, and I stuck her to the ground with an awesome roll on a Tanglefoot Bag. She basically had to surrender at this point, rather than run downstairs. We went down, and the Barbarian dodged the trap. Then we fought Tsuto, Nualia, and the dog. Everyone made the dog's save on the howl, and the Barbarian started the fight with a nearly 30 damage crit on Nualia, which was nice. The trouble was that most of us were level 2 due to skipping so much stuff (except the Barbarian). I could have dropped Tsuto and hurt Nualia quite a bit with my Alchemist's Fire, but I would have needed to splash to two party members, and as I told the GM I was doing that, the actual players threw a coup and literally threatened to beat my character to death if I did that, so I threw a sword that missed. Then Nualia's AoE Negative Energy dropped me. The GM had her use Selective Channeling to avoid hitting unconscious PCs (the better to keep them for ritual sacrifice), which gave those who dropped a sporting chance to live, but I bled to death (being a high-Int high-Dex Elf, I had little room left for a high Con). Nualia's AoE dropped the Sorcerer too, and the Monk pretty quickly. The Cleric eventually dropped, and the Barbarian beat Tsuto and Nualia essentially by himself, causing the Yeth Hound to unsummon.

Next post will be my general observations and thoughts based on all of this.

Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Alchemist thoughts based on the above:

My Tanglefoot Bag awesomeness with Lyrie could have been any PC, it just happened to be me. Tanglefoot Bag is just a great item. So let's only look at the stuff that only an Alchemist could have done.

Bombs: This is the meat of the Alchemist class at low levels. Well, that's not quite true. The meat of the entire class at low levels is +Int bonus on all thrown splash weapons. Even if I didn't have bombs, just a million Acid flasks would have been fine. And they take fewer actions too. The Alchemist's damage potential is quite competitive at level 1 compared to a caster; consider that the Sorcerer might do 1d4 AoE with Burning Hands or 1d4+1 to one target with Magic Missile, but Bomb does (for 18 Int, eminently gettable in Pathfinder) 1d6+4 to one target and 5 to splash targets (more than Burning Hands can possibly do even to the splashes). And I had them for more times a day even than the Sorcerer had spells at all. The problem is that those pesky other PCs always got in the way. This actually meant that I couldn't use this to my advantage in most fights. When I could, we dominated those fights. When I couldn't, we had trouble, and the Barbarian had to basically win those fights himself. We would have TPKed in most of the fights without the Barbarian, who did more than half the work for all of us.

Infusions: These were OK, but not being able to help the other characters was painful. They barely came into play, though, mainly due to drinking Shield infusion at the wrong time such that I didn't get the most out of +4 AC. Because 22 AC was very nice the one time it worked out (against Tsuto).

Mutagens: So I was level 2. Since Mutagens don't scale, this is theoretically the apex of their usefulness forever (unless I use up my discoveries on them, which I was certainly not going to do--I was going Cloudkill Poison Bombs and Sticky Poison). The problem was it still wasn't very useful. EVEN THOUGH the Lamashtu Cleric gave me long term care and the Cha damage never built up for me, it still wasn't too exciting. Don't get me wrong--it was helpful. +2 Dex let me hit just a bit more with my thrown weapons (though no more AC since I was already at Max Dex), but the main thing was the +2 Natural Armour, effectively a Barkskin and a half-strength Cat's Grace with a longer duration. This did make me hard to hit.

Now, you may remember that I came up with an idea to use Evo points for Mutagens, and after playing the class, I think it may be too complicated for a non-Mutagen focused Alchemist to have to deal with the bookkeeping, but I'm still convinced that it's better for a full-on Mutagen Alchemist or if the Alchemist class is changed to focus more on the Doctor Jekyll-inspired archetype (I think it should but that as it stands, the poison and bomb Alchemist is better and more interesting to play, if not to RP).

If Mutagens stay as they are, however, the stat bonus type really needs to change from enhancement to something like alchemical (liek the save bonus on Antitoxin). Not stacking with stat buffs and stat raise items is ultra-lame. A +2 that stacks with everything is something I can be a little excited about even at high levels (after all, Barbarians get two +4s that stack with everything, and players will occasionally dip into the class for it, even at high levels).

Okay, so overall? At first it seemed like the Alchemist suffered from having three abilities that all needed Discoveries to scale and that there weren't enough Discoveries (and they come too late) to make that work out. Well, it's not quite that bad. Bombs, at low levels anyway, and everything else that gets the +Int to damage, are a legitimate threat, actually quite potent. In a playtest outside of the campaign, I soloed a Pathfinder Bestiary Ogre that way at level 1 (and using Infusions for AC). But hitting other PCs was a huge issue.

Infusions need to be planned out extremely well due to having the limitations of both Wizard and Sorcerer. Had I lived to higher levels, I would have left some daily uses empty to make on the spot, but as it was, it seemed like Cure Light Wounds and Shield would definitely be my only two all the time. Enlarge Person is good for other sorts of Alchemists, and I considered Reduce Person (it surely would have helped in the Goblin Warrens and to increase my to-hit and AC).

As for Mutagens, I think my assessment is correct and that I would have soon reached a point where I never really used them again (due to having stat items and/or stat bonus spell formulae).

Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Suggestions (or--what would have made me a happy camper):

Infusions: Not being able to use them on anyone else ever is very limiting and seemed a bit forced flavour-wise. How about this: Only Alchemists can use them to their full potential because of their alchemical experiments and countless other imbibed draughts in research, so if anyone else (other than an Alchemist) drinks one of the Alchemist's formulae, they receive effects with a Caster Level equal to their own level / 2. This can mitigate the effect of an Alchemist spreading out all their spells to be used essentially at once by the party. The Discovery could eliminate this penalty. Withour a Good-aligned Cleric especially, I kept feeling guilty for not being able to heal others, and this idea would help with that. After all, the game can hardly expect you to be forced to have a good Cleric when balancing modules, and good clerics are SO good at healing compared to everyone else (except Paladins).

Especially with the potion concept, Alchemist is a natural choice for secondary healer class. Consider--a party with an Oracle and an Alchemist probably doesn't have a Cleric too, and even with this proposal, they would have less healing than a party with just a good Cleric. Perhaps consider more healing (giving CLW as a free infusion known?) if you think this is a good idea. As for me, loosening the restriction on parties to either have a Cleric or fall far behind in healing is always a good thing (but I guess you can tell that since I love to play the more off-beat classes like Alchemist when I can...though I'm thinking of replacing my dead Alchemist with a good Cleric now...).

Mutagens: Make the bonus to stats Alchemical (or use Evo points if there is to be a significant rewrite). Makign the Cha damage into a penalty during the transformation instead would be nice, but isn't strictly necessary

Bombs: Powerful as is but hard to actually use. Especially higher levels, the damage won't be so impressive (the key is the +Int bonus to damage, which never scales unless Int raises). I can foresee it becoming weaker and weaker at higher levels, particularly as enemies with resistances crop up. Consider adding an option to lessen the catalyst to only blow up in oen square (instead of 9) to allow more flexibility. Another thought to help out bombs at higher levels is to put in Int bonus x2 starting at level 10 (when Skill Focus and the Skill feats double in their bonus as well).

Discoveries: Some of those discoveries (not aging and other ones like that) were REALLY cool RPwise but no Alchemist would take them (or if she did, she'd be crippled in combat). This is because there are only four discoveries ever. To get my poison bombs and sticky poison, I'd already need to be level 12 if I used every single discovery ever just for those. Perhaps there could be Discovery Points, with the less dominant discoveries costing fewer. And we could take a page from Mutants and Masterminds (and their alternate abilities) and perhaps make a discount for an Elemental bomber learning many new elemental bomb discoveries. After all, once you have Force, say, it's much less useful to add Lightning, etc than it was to add Force when you only had Fire. Obviously, high-level discoveries would require a certain number of Discovery Points worth of previous discoveries, rather than simply a certain number of previous discoveries.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or criticisms--if I missed anything you'd like to know, I'd be happy to talk about it.

Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So, I know its a pretty long post, but I was hoping at least somebody would respond.

The more I look at the class, the more I think that it just does not have enough focus; I cannot really tell what i am supposed to do as an alchemist.

I am starting to think more and more that the alchemist should focus further on mutagens, and I just cannot see a situation where an alchemist will truly shine except maybe at very low levels.

Good posts, and I suspect when they update the all the playtest classes, the alchemist, as well as several of the others, will have been worked on based on the results you and others have posted. However, given that they were probably starting from scratch on the alchemist, it needed to be loose to begin with, otherwise the cries of nerf when the corrections were made would have overwhelmed any constructive criticism people might have been able to give.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4

I really don't see them completely re-writing the alchemist at all. He's got a couple wiggly parts but over all they did a great job.

Temeryn you might consider throwing things other then your sword or bombs. Such as longbow arrows from a longbow, flasks of acid, or even wonderful tanglefoot bags. Much of your sadness appeared to be from "I throw sword, it misses" instead of "I throw tanglefoot bag, party cheers at -2 attack and -2 AC"

I've gone with Point Blank Shot, Percise Shot, and Grenadier (PHB II) so far for my guy in Council of Thieves. They're working out pretty well.

Feats are going to be your friend right now, especially Vital Strike to increase bomb damage. If you take Vital Strike and Improved Vital strike your damage will scale nicely, and it's always a standard action to throw one anyways so no loss there. The way bombs are worded that will even increase the splash damage as well.

My first discovery will be Infusion, just so I can hand out all those vials to the rest of the party and let them deal with buffing themselves. I prefer to blow things up. Next will be Sticky Poisoning in order to poison the entire parties weapons.

The splash damage is especially bothersome at low levels and a discovery like Intense Bomb (Your bomb only deals damage to the direct target, increase it's damage by 50% rounded down) would be very nice.

Edit: ah, reading through I see you did use a tanglefoot. Umm...moar tanglefoot!

I didn't mean to imply that I expected a total rewrite; what I believe is that due to the newness of the class concept, they probably kept the bits as a whole fairly loose until they saw where the tightening up was required. I love the concept and cannot wait to see not only the final class, but the feats and items developed to support the class.

Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I am not exactly clear on the use of vital strike, but my gut instinct is telling me that should not work.

On the note of tanglefoot bags: I just did not have enough money, which is the same reason I threw longswords, a mighty composite bow was just too expensive. Well, I also thought it was so cool that i could do that to begin with.

I definitely think there should be some sort of option to only hit one target with a bomb,because the splash damage REALLY annoyed my party, but I feel like if there were so many other things to do with the alchemist, it would not be that bad to only be able to throw a bomb a few times. Which means at least something needs to be made more powerful, whether it is the bombs, mutagens, or formulae.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4

Temeryn wrote:
I am not exactly clear on the use of vital strike, but my gut instinct is telling me that should not work.

Vital Strike (Combat)

You make a single attack that deals significantly more damage than normal.

Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +6.

Benefit: When you use the attack action, you can make one attack at your highest base attack bonus that deals additional damage. Roll the damage dice for the attack twice and add the results together, but do not multiply damage bonuses from Strength, weapon abilities (such as flaming), or precision-based damage (such as sneak attack). This bonus damage is not multiplied on a critical hit (although other damage bonuses are multiplied normally).


Throw Splash Weapon

A splash weapon is a ranged weapon that breaks on impact, splashing or scattering its contents over its target and nearby creatures or objects. To attack with a splash weapon, make a ranged touch attack against the target.

Nope, works like a charm. Don't steal my scaling bomb damage O . o

*bolded for coherence

Temeryn wrote:
Bombs: Powerful as is but hard to actually use. Especially higher levels, the damage won't be so impressive (the key is the +Int bonus to damage, which never scales unless Int raises). I can foresee it becoming weaker and weaker at higher levels, particularly as enemies with resistances crop up. Consider adding an option to lessen the catalyst to only blow up in oen square (instead of 9) to allow more flexibility. Another thought to help out bombs at higher levels is to put in Int bonus x2 starting at level 10 (when Skill Focus and the Skill feats double in their bonus as well).

I like your doubling at 10 idea. As for the more focused bomb, I thought of a similar, but less extensive, one. Call it...

Directed Explosion: The Alchemist throws his bomb in such a way that the splash damage emanates in a specific direction. He may choose to exclude any one square from splash damage, but is not required to use this ability.

Not a discovery or anything, probably just part of the core ability, but I wanted to format it pretty.

Scipon, I believe I saw in another thread that Deadly Aim/Vital Strike do notapply to splash weapons, but I'm not sure where I saw it, sadly.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4

Tim4488 wrote:
Scipon, I believe I saw in another thread that Deadly Aim/Vital Strike do notapply to splash weapons, but I'm not sure where I saw it, sadly.

You're right, Deadly Aim doesn't work because it excludes touch attacks. Vital strike just says when you make an attack you can choose to make one attack instead and roll double damage. There's no exclusions for splash weapons on this.

Couple of suggestions.

1. Throw your bombs at grid intersections. Those are not in melee so no -4 to hit and you only need to hit AC 5, and you get full splash dmg on all adjacent squares. May require some maneuvering to get a line of sight, but very effective to hit 2-4 gobbos with 5 pts dmg each.

2. In the surprise round, Delay. Then when the first real round starts, take your turn immediately. You effectively lose your surprise round action, but that's of little consequence and you get to throw a nasty bomb while no one is engaged in combat (hopefully).

3. Go ahead and throw that bomb the first round no matter where your fellow party members are. Your fellow players will learn to let you soften up the enemy before foolishly charging in and removing one of their group from the fight.

Totally agree on the mutagens, without them being Alchemical bonuses they are nearly useless pretty quickly.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4

Mutagens suffer in almost the exact same way that the druids Wild Shape did in Pathfinder Beta where it was an enhancement bonus as well, and was eventually changed to a size bonus.

Eberron book actually had Shaped Splash (or something like that) as a feat to make splash weapons more party-friendly, but it's not only 3.5 AND from a setting book, it was halfling only.

I'm trying an alchemist right now myself, and I might make a big post on it later, but for me, the biggest issue with bombs is range. The range of bombs is downright crippling. Unless I missed something, the range is 10 feet, which means I need to be middle line, not back line. Unfortunately, with AoO and splash, I have to be very sure to maintain a distance from the enemies. ...Except, bombing uses up my move action, so I can't move and bomb at the same time. It essentially means that I can choose between missing, being hit by an AoO, or not throwing a bomb at all.

At higher levels it might get better as my attack bonus goes up and I stop caring about distance modifiers, but right now, I'm basically spending my entire turn to hurt the rest of the party and myself.

I think something to slightly increase the base damage, while giving those who recieve splash damage a save would be good.

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