I'm playing an alchemist in PFS, and I'm interested in using poisons. I'm familiar with the rules for poisons but still confused in a few areas, and would like some help in decided what poisons to seek out and use.
Since this is for PFS, I can only choose from those poisons available to PFS characters. Assuming I have access to any of those poisons allowed, what should I start using?
My delivery method of choice is a crossbow, though I'm open to other methods when out of combat.
What have others done with poisons, either as a player or a GM? I've never really used poison other than as a creature's special ability so this is new territory for me.
Additional question for other PFS players: Can I buy any poison which costs less than what my Fame allows, like with magic items?
How do poisons work in Pathfinder Society Organized Play?
Any character with the Poison Use class ability can purchase and use poisons. For now, they are the only classes that have a list of “always available poisons” (those noted below)—no other class may purchase poisons unless they appear on a chronicle sheet. Alchemists, ninja, and poisoner rogues may only purchase the following poisons from the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook:
Giant wasp poison
Large scorpion venom
Medium spider venom
Small centipede poison
Paladins, per their code of conduct, may not use poisons, but they don’t necessarily view the use of poisons as an evil to be opposed—it’s simply something their code prohibits them from doing themselves.
Alchemists and rogues with the poisoner archetype and the Master Poisoner ability can use Craft (alchemy) to produce poisons (see "How can alchemists craft in Pathfinder Society Organized Play?").
How can alchemists craft in Pathfinder Society Organized Play?
Alchemists can use the Craft (alchemy) skill to produce items with their Alchemy ability. Follow the Craft rules on pages 91–93 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook as well as in the alchemist’s Alchemy ability description. Any item created must be properly noted on that scenario’s Chronicle sheet. Under "Items Bought", note the amount of gold spent and the item created. Alchemists are assumed, for Pathfinder Society Organized Play, to carry the necessary items and tools with them to use available resources to create alchemical items. If they have a base of operations from which to do so, they may use an alchemy lab to gain the +2 bonus on their Craft (alchemy) check. Alchemists may never sell any of their created items nor may they trade them to another PC. However, they may allow other PCs to borrow or use items they’ve created (so long as the alchemist class ability being used allows them to do so).
So your Alchemist can buy from those 5 poisons as always available or craft poisons. You can also craft other poisons from the full list of poisons.
The problem with poisons is that they're inefficient in terms of A: The cost, B: action economy, and C: The save they target.
Potions are very expensive and one dose is one use. I think the best bang for your buck in terms of poisons is Purple Worm Poison. It costs 700g a dose, so ~233g if you craft it. It has a save DC of 24 and does 1d3 STR damage and requires 2 saves to cure.
If you want to extend your potion usage, you can take the discovery Sticky Poison, which makes poisons you create last for a number of hits equal to your INT modifier. That is very good if you have a high INT. However, this is useless if you are using arrows, as the ammo is destroyed.
As for action economy, as an alchemist, you're probably the best at this, and if you have Sticky Poison, it won't really be a big problem.
Finally, when it comes to saves, Purple Worm Poison is pretty good. You can also take a discovery that allows you to combine two of the same poison to get one dose of said poison with a DC of +2. That's rather expensive though.
Ultimately though, your problem is that poisons are only really good at lower levels. At higher levels, most stuff you fight is gonna have a good Fort save, or be immune to poison.
I would love to use a more efficient weapon than a crossbow, but as an alchemist I'm limited to simple weapons. I had considered the grenadier archetype because it gives me a martial weapon, but it loses out completely on poison use. Not that I want to be a dedicated poison user, but the rest of the archetype didn't appeal to me all that much.
Excellent advice and thank you, Elamdri.
Sticky poison sound like a good choice, though I'm not sure I'll hit all that often in melee.
Purple Worm Poison looks awesome, but... wow 700 gp is 7000 sp, or 2333 sp in materials cost. Not bad in the cost department. But the DC is 24, and assuming I make it on the nose, I've only accomplished 576 sp of work for the week. Assuming I can manage an average roll of ~30 I'm barely averaging 700 sp, and taking 10 weeks or more to make a single dose of poison. Can I actually spend that much time between sessions? How many rolls am I allowed to make for crafting each scenario? I'm assuming one. If so, crafting poison is out and I'll have to buy it. Still seems kinda expensive.
I'm considering dropping the idea as a standard tactic, but I might pick up a few doses of something and keeping half a dozen poisoned bolts around in case an opportunity arises I could use it.