A placetest (or two) of the Alchemist


Round 3: Alchemist and Inquisitor


I've been playing the Alchemist in a Pathfinder game I'm in, and another player has been trying it out in a semi-Pathfinder game I'm DMing. While we may give the other classes a swing later, alchemist is the one we've all been really interested in. Thought I'd share the results.

Game 1 party: Alchemist, druid (casting), rogue, paladin, sorcerer. Started at level one, currently at level 4 and ending.

Bombs: The first thing I thought I'd notice was that my bombs would go by very fast, at which point I essentially become a rogue who cannot sneak attack or find traps, or a bard who cannot buff others. This was partially the case, though most highlighted at level 1 - rather, depending on initiative and enemy placement, I either used a bomb once in a battle, or not at all. The fact that it takes a move and a standard to use a bomb, and that the range increment is only 10 feet, meant that, often enough, I couldn't hit the enemy on the first round. Worst, after the first round, I couldn't use the bomb for fear of destroying the rogue and the paladin. So instead of using all my bombs and then sitting on my thumbs, I proceeded straight to sitting on my thumbs from the start. I guess every now and then I could throw a chair.

Poisons: Didn't really come up at all. I thought about making a somewhat cool build based around throwing, between bombs and throwing daggers, but it didn't really play out. While I see the link between poison and alchemy, in practice, it's somewhat of an odd duck that either defines the character or is never used at all.

Extracts: For the love of god, make Infusion a level 1 ability. My party just LOVED watching me brew a potion that either the rogue or paladin could really use, and then have me tell them "No, you uh...can't actually use any of my potions." They then taunted the idea of an alchemist who can't make potions for others mercilessly. 1d4 feelings damage ;_;. Aside from that, it...just never came in handy. Like, at all. Well ok, casting cure light wounds once per day (!) came in handy kinda sorta, I guess? But not really.

Mutagens: Can't really cure ability damage at such an early level, so this isn't something that can be used very often. Trouble is, even as an "oh crap!" button, it doesn't do a whole lot. Ironically most powerful at early levels, when you can use it the least.

Discoveries: I've just now finally gotten one, and was the wait worth it? Well...no, not really. Some discoveries are far better then others (Hey, for a thousand gold and 2 int damage, I can choose two different ways to really feebly boost my stats and take MORE ability damage! Or, I can choose to make my bombs bigger, more powerful, and light things on fire. Hmmmm). But NONE of them struck me as being really "The wait was so worth it!" types.

Group 2, in which I DM'd a technically Pathfinder game, though 3.5 material was readily used by others - in fact, more often used, the cheeky dorks. Party: Alchemist, Scout/ranger (Swift hunter), totemist, warlock, and archivist. Started at level 5, currently at level 6.

What the dude has felt: He can't see the purpose of the class. Oh sure, it sounds cool. But it doesn't really have a niche. He's not a blaster, not compared to the warlock who can go all day and never worry about hitting enemies. He's not a buffer because, even after taking the g%$***n mandatory Infusions as his discovery, he just doesn't have the casting power or spell list to really help. He can't really heal for that same reason. He can't find traps, so two or three of his abilities don't really do much. Overall, he loved the idea of an alchemist, but it's fallen very flat.

End Thoughts, or "Man you type a lot":

The class needs work. Infusions is one of the most infuriating things about playing the class: it's flat out mandatory, but you don't get it until level 4, and it rips the already slim number of discoveries you get to being even lower. On that note, discoveries are way too few and far between. Maybe cut out the poisons, make discoveries more often, and allow poisons as more potential discoveries.

The class just doesn't seem to have a niche. It's 3/4ths bab and a semi-caster, so it's supposed to be a sorta-bard, but it lacks bard spells, fighting ability, skills, perform, and buffs. It's blasting capabilities are limited, and even beyond that, as there's no way to control or eliminate the splash, it's very party unhealthy - and the crap range and large number of actions needed means you'll find it very hard to get off on the first round. It's a cool idea for a class, don't get me wrong, but I just don't see where it fits. It's not a front man, not a skill monkey, not a wizzort or a divine dude, and it doesn't make a very good fifth member.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4

I know how you feel regarding hitting the rest of the party. We're at level 4 in Council of Thieves going through the dungeon crawl I keep running into situations where if I hit the enemy directly I'll hit my party for 9 splash damage. Actually since level 2 I haven't hit anyone directly with my bombs. I always have to aim at intersections near them and catch them with the splash damage.

Course, when you're splash damage is 9, and you only have to hit an AC 5...and there's no save it's a pretty reliable source of damage. My bow only deals 1d8+1 damage so I never really use that unless I want to try and poison something.

I went with Point Blank Shot and Grenadier because of how mad the party get's when I bomb them, and that's the only time Precise Shot would help throwing a bomb.

I would really like to see a Shape Splash feat or discovery. For instance instead of dealing damage to
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You could shape it to do
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It would hit the exact same amount of squares.


Scipion del Ferro wrote:

I know how you feel regarding hitting the rest of the party. We're at level 4 in Council of Thieves going through the dungeon crawl I keep running into situations where if I hit the enemy directly I'll hit my party for 9 splash damage. Actually since level 2 I haven't hit anyone directly with my bombs. I always have to aim at intersections near them and catch them with the splash damage.

Course, when you're splash damage is 9, and you only have to hit an AC 5...and there's no save it's a pretty reliable source of damage. My bow only deals 1d8+1 damage so I never really use that unless I want to try and poison something.

I went with Point Blank Shot and Grenadier because of how mad the party get's when I bomb them, and that's the only time Precise Shot would help throwing a bomb.

I would really like to see a Shape Splash feat or discovery. For instance instead of dealing damage to
[s][s][s]
[s][X][s]
[s][s][s]
You could shape it to do
[s][s][s][s][s]
[ [[s][s][s][ ]
[ ][ ][X][ ][ ]
It would hit the exact same amount of squares.

There's a feat in Races of Eberron that lets you, amongst other things, exclude targets from your splash. I'm thinking of making that and Infusions freely given at level 1

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4

I don't really think the Infusion thing is a big deal. There aren't that many extracts to hand out until later on anyways. The other options for a 4th level discovery are kinda limited if you really look at them.;

Acid Bomb, Not many enemies with fire resistance at level 4-8
Infusion, at 4th level you've got enough enough extracts this is actually useful now
Enhance Potion, right now you don't really have a ton of potions (can't craft them and they are spendy at this point), increasing the caster level of potions is kind of silly really.
Explosive Bomb, you already have trouble not hitting friends!
Extend Potion, same as Enhance potion except the duration on potions isn't ever going to last more then one fight
Feral Mutagen, i really just can't see this being helpful
Frost Bomb, see acid
Infuse Mutagen, 1,000gp is way out of your price range at this level unless you feel like beggaring your gear progression.
Shock Bomb, see acid
Smoke Bomb, not bad, but situational

Grand Lodge

I would have to agree on the Alchemist falling flat. Its my favorite class idea, I really like the ideah of an alchemist. It would be cool if you could choose to go down a Mutagens path, a Bomb path, an Extract path, or even a Poison path. But in our playtest I was the only character that felt useless or heavily overshadowed by everyone elses ability, this has a funny but sad story to go with it.

We were fighting Orcs and I had ran out of extracts (lv 3 Alchemist at the time) and the group said, "I know you don't want to be usin your potions lad and seeing your inner demons, but boy take that mutagen and give those monsters hell!" The Dwarf said as he knew how I was roleplaying the alchemist and I had not used the Mutagen yet. So I take it and the GM describes the affects and has me explain a little of the transformation. Once the party found out what it gave me, it was nothing but face palms and the palyer with the dwarf falling out of his chair laughing, "THATS IT! HAHAHAHAHAH..." and the sorceress going, "and you lose charisma, wow you should have just rolled a Barbarian." Talk about not really making a difference. Then after running out of bombs way to early in the day, I became nothing more than a poorly charismaed dagger thrower with performance anxiety.

So we all as group decided to comeback with Alchemist builds a week later and the party as a whole decided to scrap the alchemist till they fix it and had me roll a barbarian which certainly got me props when I raged. This is just our experience but we all want to see the Alchemist evolved and fixed. One suggested allow the Alchemist to become a customized monster as time progresses, the group liked that. Another suggested More bombs (while cackling I might add).

Keep up the good work and we have faith that you wont let us down.


Some more play testing was done, and I think I've cornered one of the main issues with the Alchemist:

It doesn't have a role.

It is in some ways a combination of the warlock, but with far less utility and blasting, and the bard, but with far less...well, utility. It has bard casting in terms of spells known/castable, but his spells are sharply limited to buffs and healing. But that's ok, he's a buffer right? Well...he can only cast his buffs on HIMSELF. It would seem he's meant to buff himself then fight, except almost all his buffs are defensive in nature, and mutagen doesn't scale. So a tank? Nope, d8 health and low armor. The bombs make him seem like a blaster, but not only are they limited in number, but the splash damage means you often can't use them with your team mates, and it takes a full round to use the ability - ironically, this makes Throw Anything actually useful, but is that really how we see the "alchemist" - as someone who throws chairs? The skills the alchemist can have makes you think "rogue," but with 4+ skills and no trapfinding, he can't use that niche either.

The class seems to suffer from the 3.5 bard issue of "jack of all trades, master of none." Except the bard still had some shining points. He could still help the party. The alchemist is basically "Jack of all trades, but can't really do any of them that well at all."

One of the big reasons for this is the discoveries, and how they compare with a rogue's talents. Right off the bat, the rogue gets far, FAR more talents then the alchemist does discoveries. Now, the rogue talents are not as powerful as the alchemist discoveries - but this is, in fact, a BAD thing. A player trap. You see, rogue talents are nice, whereas alchemist discoveries are a neccesity. In other words, an alchemist without discoveries is sorta, well, useless, whereas a rogue without talents is still a complete class. And with so few discoveries, you have to choose very, very carefully which ones you take - and some are very clearly worse then others, and others are flat out neccesary.

Take bombs for example. If you want to focus on bombs, you can't just buy an item that changes their damage type so you can do something to fire immune or resistant enemies - you NEED a talent. But you have only four talents, so that drops you to three left. You want to actually help the party, so you take Infusion, which I still state is mandatory for EVERY alchemist (which is, incidentally, a bad thing). Two left.

You now have two talents to build yourself up and make yourself stand out from others of your class. Fighters have tons of feats, rogues have tons of talents, you have...two.

Most maddening at all, the class has nothing to do with being an alchemist. No craft: Alchemy bonuses or abilities. No Brew Potion. It has a splash attack and self-only buffs. Change the names of bomb, extract, and mutagen, and there's no longer anything left tagging him to being an alchemist.

I want to end with something: I love the idea of the alchemist. I think he was made to be a low armor, moving around, throwing bombs when and where he sees openings. But the mechanics just fall flat on their face, and hard. Please, please give this class a much bigger look when it comes time for finalization, because right now, it reminds me of the soulknife - an idea I love, but mechanics that cripple it.


Well, nobody in my group wants to play one, for pretty much the reasons you've outlined. Just to give them a test, I'm thinking of throwing in a couple as adversaries, just to see how it comes out. I'm going to play one as a "team player" who avoids hitting his buddies with collateral damage when possible, and one as a ruthless 'mad bomber' who doesn't care who he blows up as long as he gets plenty of explosions.

It'll be interesting to see if the wacko attitude makes the class more combat-effective or not. ;)

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8

ProfessorCirno wrote:
Most maddening at all, the class has nothing to do with being an alchemist. No craft: Alchemy bonuses or abilities. No Brew Potion. It has a splash attack and self-only buffs. Change the names of bomb, extract, and mutagen, and there's no longer anything left tagging him to being an alchemist.

To be fair, the Alchemist gets a bonus to Craft (Alchemy) equal to his Alchemist class level, and Craft (Alchemy) is the skill used for poison crafting in pathfinder. Poisons being something the Alchemist is good at using.

I agree with a lot of what you say regardless.

I'm multiclassing into a single level of Witch at level 5 with my Alchemist, for the sake of her Cauldron hex (Brew Potion feat for free, +4 to Craft (Alchemy)). Sigh...


Flak wrote:
ProfessorCirno wrote:
Most maddening at all, the class has nothing to do with being an alchemist. No craft: Alchemy bonuses or abilities. No Brew Potion. It has a splash attack and self-only buffs. Change the names of bomb, extract, and mutagen, and there's no longer anything left tagging him to being an alchemist.

To be fair, the Alchemist gets a bonus to Craft (Alchemy) equal to his Alchemist class level, and Craft (Alchemy) is the skill used for poison crafting in pathfinder. Poisons being something the Alchemist is good at using.

I agree with a lot of what you say regardless.

I'm multiclassing into a single level of Witch at level 5 with my Alchemist, for the sake of her Cauldron hex (Brew Potion feat for free, +4 to Craft (Alchemy)). Sigh...

I had forgotten about the bonus to craft (Alchemy) when I made that.

...Except...

...With none of his abilities using craft (alchemy), this more or less just means that the alchemist can make 1d6 alchemist fires REALLY fast.

Um, go him?

Honestly, you'd probably be better off just going full witch. They make better potion crafters then alchemists do :(


i found it the best class class for that player that ether has every book or a unbelievable knowledge of the gam. when i made mine i use some where around 12 books finding all i could do with the class there is quit a bit if you do the reach.as a pick up class its hard to see a new player using it it dose need some work but mostly i fell it has some great idea.as far as where it fits in the party its a fifth wheel like a factotum (dungeonscape) or monk its not focus to a point it can fill a spot as a standard class

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8

ProfessorCirno wrote:

I had forgotten about the bonus to craft (Alchemy) when I made that.

...Except...

...With none of his abilities using craft (alchemy), this more or less just means that the alchemist can make 1d6 alchemist fires REALLY fast.

Um, go him?

Honestly, you'd probably be better off just going full witch. They make better potion crafters then alchemists do :(

Yeah.

I've talked to my DM and he's letting me use all the alchemical items from 3.5 supplements, so I'll have -slightly- more to do, but the fact is that in Pathfinder the alchemy is wanting.

I'd like to see Grenadier and Mad Alchemist ported to Pathfinder, too. They wouldn't only be useful for Alchemists, the allies of an Alchemist could take them in order to use his products more effectively.

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