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Pathfinder - The Alchemist Handbook

Last Updated: May 18, 2017

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Introduction

The vanilla Alchemist is a weird class. The Alchemist has the ability to fill a variety of roles: blaster, healer, striker, and support. The Alchemist's most iconic abilities are Bombs and Mutagen, but without some serious work neither of these abilities are particularly useful to the Alchemist.

Alchemists notably gain access to all of the same polymorph spells which Sorcerers and Wizards get (up to 6th-level, that is), which is an exciting option when combined with Mutagen. Be sure to read my Practical Guide to Polymorph if you plan to make use of Polymorph spells.

Alchemist Class Features

Hit Points: d8 hit points is good for a primarily magical character, but not great if you spend a lot of time in close combat.

Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB.

Saves: Good Fortitude and Reflex saves, but Will saves will be a problem, especially if you use your Mutagen to boost your Dexterity.

Proficiencies: Simple weapons and light armor. Barely better than a Wizard.

Skills: 4+ skill ranks, and Craft (Alchemy) is basically required. The Alchemist is Intelligence-based, so they should have plenty of bonus skill ranks to pick up the few good skills available to the Alchemist, and you might consider picking up additional class skills using traits.

Alchemy (Su): The Alchemist works a bit like a 2/3 prepared caster, but they drink all of their spells. Be sure to pick up the Infusion Discovery so that you can share your Extracts with the party.

Bomb (Su): An excellent blast at first level, the Bomb's damage drops off quickly compared to spells. If you plan to use bombs, be sure to invest some Discoveries to improve Bomb. Also consider "Bomb Admixture" spells which supplement the effects of your bombs.

Brew Potion (Ex): Potions aren't fantastic in terms of item crafting, but it never hurts to hand out cheap healing potions to the party.

Mutagen (Su): 10 minutes per level will last a reasonably long time. The bonuses to your abilities are fantastic, and stack with enhancement bonuses. Be careful of which ability you choose to increase: improving Strength will improve damage with thrown weapons, but will handicap your Bombs and Extracts. Dexterity will improve AC, attack rolls with ranged weapons, and Reflex saves, but will handicap your already low Will saves.

Throw Anything (Ex): The Throw Anything feat won't really help much unless you like throwing garbage or non-ranged weapons, but the bonus damage with splash weapons dramatically improves the damage of alchemical weapons like Acid. Note that this bonus damage doesn't get added to the Alchemist's Bomb damage because Bomb already adds the Alchemist's intelligence bonus to damage.

Discovery (Su): Alchemist Discoveries are powerful and unique ways to customize your alchemist, and a class dip into Alchemist is a common choice for many builds (especially those that need an extra arm to reload weapons). For help selecting Alchemist Discoveries, see my Alchemist Discovery Breakdown.

Poison Resistance (Ex): Situational, but poison becomes common at high levels where your bonus is substantial.

Poison Use (ex): The Alchemist isn't a big weapon user, so it's difficult for them to find a way to make use of poison. However, if you have someone in the party who doesn't mind using poison you can poison their weapons for them and send them into combat.

Swift Alchemy (Ex): Crafting alchemical items more quickly further improves your access to alchemical items like Acid which you will expend quickly. Poisoning weapons as a move action is nice in combat, but the Alchemist still isn't combative enough to be notably scary with poison on their own weapons.

Swift Poisoning (Ex): Poison weapons even faster! Of course you probably still need to pass them to someone who's good enough with weapons for it to matter.

Persistent Mutagen (Su): The Mutagen's biggest limitation is its duration, and multiplying the duration by 6 is a huge improvement.

Instant Alchemy (Ex): It's pretty rare that you need to whip up an item in the middle of combat, and the only reason to poison a weapon as an immediate action is to use it for an attack of opportunity.

Grand Discovery (Su): Grand Discoveries are amazing. For help selecting Alchemist Discoveries, see my Alchemist Discovery Breakdown.

Abilities

The vanilla Alchemist is a ranged character with 2/3 Intelligence-based spellcasting. Focus on Dexterity and Intelligence. If you want to use polymorph, or plan to go into melee combat, you may instead want to focus on Strength.

Str: Only important if you plan to use conventional thrown weapons.

Dex: The Alchemist is primarily a ranged character.

Con: Hit points are always important.

Int: Required for the Alchemist's Extracts, but not quite as crucial as it is for a full spellcaster. You can get away with starting with 16 if you want to emphasize other abilities.

Wis: Only required for Will saves, but don't dump it.

Cha: The Alchemist has no social skills, and no abilities that depend on Charisma, so dump it to 7.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 12
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 16
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 12
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 16
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 16
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 15
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 8

Races

Bonuses to Intelligence are great, but not essential.

Dwarf: The Dwarf could make for an interesting melee Alchemist, especially with the racial favored class bonus contributing to the Mutagen natural armor bonus. However, a conventional alchemist will have trouble making use of the Dwarf's abilities.

Elf: Bonuses to both of the Alchemist's primary abilities, and the other Elven racial abilities provide some interesting bonuses. The Elf favored class bonus gets you some extra formulae known, but you can purchase extra formulae.

Gnome: Despite lacking useful ability bonuses, the Gnome's Knack with Poison alternate racial trait and the Gnome racial favored class bonus can make for a decent Alchemist. Small size is also helpful.

Half-Elf: The Half-Elf is an interesting option, and the Alchemist can actually justify making use of Adaptability. The Half-Elf favored class bonus improves the relatively poor range of alchemical weapons, but Long Shot will be more effective (though the two stack nicely), and with ranged touch attacks you should rarely have problems hitting even with a few range increment penalties.

Half-Orc: Beyond the flexible ability bonus, the Half-Orc has very little to offer the Alchemist. The Half-Orc favored class bonus adds a little bit of extra damage to your bombs, but it's not enough to make the Half-Orc a particularly good option.

Halfling: A bonus to Dexterity and small size make the Halfling great at throwing alchemical weapons, but the Halfling doesn't add anything else particularly useful for the Alchemist.

Human: Always a good option, the human works for any Alchemist build. The Human favored class bonus is the same as the Elf, and should be largely ignored.

Traits

Skills

Feats

Weapons

Armor

Alchemists don't care about Arcane Spell Failure since they don't cast spells, so wear the heaviest armor that you're proficient with.

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.

Extracts

This section won't address every spell on your spell list, but it will point out some especially notable options.

1st-Level Extracts

2nd-Level Extracts

4th-Level Extracts

5th-Level Extracts

6th-Level Extracts

Magic Items

Rings

Wondrous Items

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes