Defense against Alchemist Bombs?


Advice


Hey all,

First time posting here. I'm currently GMing a Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign with some friends, and wasn't sure whether to post this in Advice or the AP thread in particular.

The party is all at level 6:
Paladin - Greatsword
Sorcerer
Witch
Dervish of Dawn/Dawnflower Dervish Bard - Melee Focus

They're nearing the end of the second book where upon raiding a temple, the alarm is raised and all or most of their adversaries conglomerate in one room for a final stand. Now they typically do pretty well in most combat scenarios, but this time they were pretty soundly demolished by several lesser NPC alchemists and one boss level alchemist. The ranged touch attacks were just too much damage for them to handle; even though the alchemists had piss poor defenses, they couldn't close to melee due to the presence of lesser mooks crowding the way to a catwalk where the ranged attackers were raining down bombs.

This is less of a particular campaign question and more of a "how do I balance this" question. Being just short of a TPK, they retreated back to the surface and managed to kill most of their pursuers. Looking back though I'm really not sure how else it could've gone down. What are some good ways to defend against a barrage of bombs that typically blow through AC (and DR bc fire damage) by targeting touch? I was sort of at a loss since I've never really overstepped my brutality boundaries :/ any advice?

Silver Crusade Contributor

Resist energy (fire) would be my first stop. ^_^

Maybe have Zellara suggest getting some scrolls (depending on how prominent a role she's played thus far).

Liberty's Edge

Well, IMO, in this campaign specifically all those Alchemists should be Vivisectionists and thus have Sneak Attack rather than bombs. That's both thematically appropriate and much closer to the 3.5 version (where they're Rogues) mechanically. That's certainly how I built 'em when converting to Pathfinder.

That aside, yeah, Resist Energy is the solution here. Communal Resist Energy is a 3rd level spell, can probably effect the whole group in one casting, can be acquired by the Sorcerer as a scroll for 375 gp, and utterly destroys the Alchemists ability to hurt the party (well, their leader aside) in a single action.

Really, in the long term, any PC group is gonna need some Resist Energy or similar spells to deal with elemental damage, and it's not like they're hard to get. Almost every spell casting Class has Resist Energy on their list (Bard, Witch, Mesmerist and Medium are about as Classes that lack it), and it's only a 2nd level spell.

Lantern Lodge

Some more info on the NPC alchemist?

What level are they? And how many?

Bombs don't deal too much damage. So unless there is an overwhelming number of alchemist npcs... it should not be too hard.

Liberty's Edge

Secane wrote:

Some more info on the NPC alchemist?

What level are they? And how many?

Bombs don't deal too much damage. So unless there is an overwhelming number of alchemist npcs... it should not be too hard.

Assuming a relatively direct conversion keeping CRs the same, it's around seven level Alchemist 3 minions and a single 9th-10th level leader (plus 6 or so 3rd level Fighters as meat shields).

That's every encounter on the floor all at once and is supposed to be nasty, though.


Secane wrote:

Some more info on the NPC alchemist?

What level are they? And how many?

Bombs don't deal too much damage. So unless there is an overwhelming number of alchemist npcs... it should not be too hard.

Apologies, I used some alchemist conversions that I scrounged up from Paizo forums, specifically

1. Mook alchemists - http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2kh2d?Alchemy-in-the-Hospice-CotCT-pt-2-Spoiler s

2. Boss alchemist - http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2ph2h?Doctor-Davaulus-the-Alchemist

There were 5 lesser alchemists, with a 2d6+2 bomb at +4 ranged touch, which while not a huge problem initially can be quite a struggle if all 5 manage to hit. What really messed them up was boss alchemist who had fast bombs, with a +13/+8 or +11/+11/+6 Rapid Shot bombs, 4d6+4 damage each. Two of these easily hit the paladin and unluckily brought him down to less than 50%, while the witch who had been previously injured failed the Reflex save and fell unconscious from splash damage.

I tried to sell the point that they should be reaaallllyyyy prepared for what was down the lift before heading there but they insisted that they didn't want the bad guys to get away so they were unrested and not fully healed, plus lacking spell slots from clearing out the hospice. Still, might've designed a slightly too tough encounter.


Part of the issue might be the party's lack of ranged support. From what I gather the issue isn't so much the damage as having to take the damage repeatedly to close the distance. Carrying ranged weapons and grabbing cover definitely seems like a good idea due to short range of bombs. Mind you, I'm not familiar with the encounter so maybe cover isn't viable. Beyond that, protection/resist energy (and maybe wind wall?) is a good idea to have in general as others have noted.


If they were able to run, smart tactics might have included a brief retreat to gorilla warfare: nuke meatshield minions by the doors and then zerg rush an alchemist and get out when he's done. Repeat until dead. But yes, resistance 10 is a strong way to balance it out, likely eliminating the splash damage entirely and dropping 2d6+5 from 12 damage to 2.


Both Alchemist bombs and Gunslinger guns break (or alter) the game phenomenally by doing high damage against touch AC. Scorching Ray is about the only thing that does similarly (one reason it's a common favorite), but as spellcasting it has well-known counters: literal counterspelling, readying to disrupt, grappling, and SR. Also Alchemists tend to be better at hitting targets than ray casters.

There are some other ways to defend. Your players can try to stay in melee and use AoOs or readied actions to sunder bombs. PCs can use total defense or fight defensively to raise touch AC (don't forget 3 ranks in Acrobatics increase the bonuses by 50%), or use shield of faith/protection from evil for deflection bonuses, or spam Cat's Grace on anyone not limited by their armor's max dex. Spread out - as your witch found out, it's the splash that kills in the end as everyone soaks it up.

As GM, remember a crit bomb only adds 1d6 (and double int/etc) - I've died from that mistake. Also be sure to use the right range increment modifier.

Sovereign Court

I would think that a sorcerer or witch should be able to demolish an NPC alchemist at range fairly easily. Alchemists have questionable Will saves (especially if using mutagen to boost Dex), tend to have only 1-2 types of energy damage on their bombs (Lesser Metamagic Rod of Reach -> Communal Resist Energy).

Then again, for every meh-built alchemist you'll sometimes run into a cleverly built one with extreme defences and massive damage output. Alchemists are a nova class, which means that as NPCs who only have one fight in their life that matters, they get to unload all of that very fast. They rank just behind magi as NPCs that can be way OP because nothing that balances the class for PCs matters to NPCs.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Deflect arrow will deflect a bomb harmlessly.
If they had snatch, they can throw the bomb back at enemy.


Ascalaphus wrote:
I would think that a sorcerer or witch should be able to demolish an NPC alchemist at range fairly easily. Alchemists have questionable Will saves (especially if using mutagen to boost Dex), tend to have only 1-2 types of energy damage on their bombs (Lesser Metamagic Rod of Reach -> Communal Resist Energy).

It sounds like they started at a good distance (beyond Hex/Close range), and depending on the layout the Witch and Sorcerer, with poor Reflex, are having to deal with up to 44 points of just *splash* damage per round, let alone actual hits. Also, as someone pointed out, Witch's don't actually get resist energy, and a 6th level sorcerer to pick communal resist energy as their *only* 3rd level spell would be very odd.

You're totally right about NPCs vs PCs - they can be quite crazy.

Great reminder Starbuck_II!

Sovereign Court

Scroll of Obscuring Mist? 25gp

If you can't handle ranged, don't allow the other team to do it either.


Ascalaphus wrote:

Scroll of Obscuring Mist? 25gp

If you can't handle ranged, don't allow the other team to do it either.

Great idea, although it wouldn't slow down the splash damage.


Majuba wrote:

Both Alchemist bombs and Gunslinger guns break (or alter) the game phenomenally by doing high damage against touch AC. Scorching Ray is about the only thing that does similarly (one reason it's a common favorite), but as spellcasting it has well-known counters: literal counterspelling, readying to disrupt, grappling, and SR. Also Alchemists tend to be better at hitting targets than ray casters.

There are some other ways to defend. Your players can try to stay in melee and use AoOs or readied actions to sunder bombs. PCs can use total defense or fight defensively to raise touch AC (don't forget 3 ranks in Acrobatics increase the bonuses by 50%), or use shield of faith/protection from evil for deflection bonuses, or spam Cat's Grace on anyone not limited by their armor's max dex. Spread out - as your witch found out, it's the splash that kills in the end as everyone soaks it up.

As GM, remember a crit bomb only adds 1d6 (and double int/etc) - I've died from that mistake. Also be sure to use the right range increment modifier.

Thanks for reminder. I tend to forget to ask my players about this and feel most of my players probably don't think to add it in.

Sovereign Court

Majuba wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:

Scroll of Obscuring Mist? 25gp

If you can't handle ranged, don't allow the other team to do it either.

Great idea, although it wouldn't slow down the splash damage.

Depends on whether they can correctly guess which square/vicinity to aim in. Splash radii aren't that big, a lot smaller than obscuring mist.


Ascalaphus wrote:
Majuba wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:

Scroll of Obscuring Mist? 25gp

If you can't handle ranged, don't allow the other team to do it either.

Great idea, although it wouldn't slow down the splash damage.
Depends on whether they can correctly guess which square/vicinity to aim in. Splash radii aren't that big, a lot smaller than obscuring mist.

Yeah, but battleship is only fun if you can shoot back haha


All great advice so far. Think it was a combination of a really tough fight designed by me versus a relatively unprepared PC group. I'll certainly suggest getting some elemental resistance both for this fight and the long term.

Mike, Matt, Ben, Alex if you're reading this STOP NOW PLEASE :))))

Slightly unrelated, but I figured I'd ask what's a good way to play a second trip to the temple? There's no real back exit, and the Guard is too sapped to really conduct a full investigation of the site, so there's nothing stopping reinforcements from heading to the temple should they leave to rest elsewhere. I'm afraid that if I fully replenish the ranks of the enemies down in the temple they'll face yet another near TPK, but they did manage to take down quite a lot of lesser mooks. Possibly meet somewhere in the middle?

Sovereign Court

Re: fog tactics;

In my experience, most gamers aren't the tactical geniuses they think they are. More specifically, they're not good at Plan B. They have a very finely tuned Plan A but sometimes you run into an enemy that outguns you so much that Plan A is suicide. People are often bad at going to Plan B.

Spellcasters aren't much better; they tend to pick some spells and then often try to solve everything with those spells. "Physical" solutions might not even occur to them anymore.

Going for fog tactics is a good example of this. Concealment would give the party a 20% miss chance. It would give the enemy a lot MORE disadvantage, but that bigger picture may get overlooked by players who see the fog frustrating their Plan A. But in this case it's worth it because the enemy's Plan A was scarier.


Another counter against bombs is to somehow bring the battle out to a game of attrition. Alchemists don't get too many bombs per day. Looking at your numbers, the level 5 alchemists have 7 bombs each, and the boss alchemist probably has 13 or 14 bombs. That means the mooks can only attack 7 times, and the boss can only full-attack 5 or 6 times.

If you fight under this assumption, one strategy is to fight with illusions or summons to soak the bombs. Alternatively, you can even run in, face-tank 1 round of bombs, run away to heal, and then run in again for the next wave of bombs (healing with wands are cheap).

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / Defense against Alchemist Bombs? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.