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Pathfinder - Alchemist Archetypes Breakdown

Last Updated: Mar 22, 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.

Archetypes

The alchemist is extremely versatile, and can fill a number of roles in your party. When considering your archetype, consider which roles you intend to fill, and consider what the archetype's abilities contribute to those roles.

Beastmorph

Beastform allows you add several excellent buffs to yourself taken from the Polymorph subschool, making it a fantastic option for melee Alchemists. Before you look into the Beastmorph's abilities, you may find it useful to read my Practical Guide to Polymorph since there is some overlap in the concepts. You can also combine Mutagen with the small set of polymorph spells available to the alchemist, which offers some potentially really amusing options like flying sharks.

Note: I'm currently withholding a rating on this archetype until I can figure out how it works.

Beastform Mutagen: Alter self gives you access to some very good abilities.

Improved Beastform Mutagen: Beast Shape I expands on the available abilities from Alter Self, and you get to pick two abilities now.

Greater Beastform Mutagen: More options, and you can select up to 3.

Grand Beastform Mutagen: A bunch more options, including great ones like poison and rake. Unfortunately, the archetype fails to specify the DC for abilities like Poison and Web. I would set the DC to 10 + 1/2 the alchemist's level + the alchemist's Intelligence modifier to match the DC for another creature drinking your mutagen.

Replaced Features: Swift Alchemy, Swift Poisoning, Poison Immunity, Persistent Mutagen

Compatible Archetypes: Inspired Chemist, Mindchemist, Reanimator, Vivisectionist

Chirurgeon

The Chirurgeon trades in the Alchemist's poisoning abilities for an emphasis on healing abilities. The abilities are fairly useful, and Power Over Death is fantastic, but 2/3 of the archetype can be replaced by the Infusion discovery and surgeon's tools. Unless your party desperately needs a healer, skip this archetype.

Infused Curative: This greatly reduces the need for the Infusion Discovery. Healing potions aren't the most cost effective healing mechanism, but they're certainly the easiest to use.

Anaesthetic: A +3 bonus to Heal is pretty nice if you're smart enough to use the Treat Serious Wounds option frequently. If you took the Precise Treatment trait, Heal is a really fantastic and reliable option for Alchemists.

Power Over Death: Breath of Life is basically a given. If you can get it and you don't take it, you are throwing your own life away. Allowing Infused Curative to apply to it means that you can pass the potion off to other people, who can then use it to revive you.

Replaced Features: Poison Resistance (+4), Poison Use, Poison Immunity

Compatible Archetypes: Inspired Chemist, Internal Alchemist, Reanimator, Vivisectionist

Clone Master

The only really interesting abilities in this archetype are the Rebirth and Clone abilities. While they are certainly powerful, they can be easily replaced by the Doppelganger Simulacrum discovery, which won't penalize your already low bomb damage.

Bomb: Bomb already isn't a great source of damage, and dropping the die type doesn't do you any favors. I hope you like throwing triangles.

Lesser Simulacrum: Can easily be replaced by the Alchemical Simulacrum discovery, which you can take at 8th level.

Rebirth: You gain access to cloning considerably sooner than Wizards. The 5000gp cost is very high, but certainly less costly than dying.

Simulacrum: Can easily be replaced by the Greater Alchemical Simulacrum discovery, which you can take at 14th level.

Clone: Considerably cheaper than Rebirth, and you can use it on your allies.

Replaced Features: Bomb, Poison Resistance (+6), Poison Immunity

Compatible Archetypes: Inspired Chemist, Internal Alchemist, Mindchemist

Inspired Chemist

The Inspired Chemist borrows the Investigator's Inspiration mechanic. Inspiration is a really fun mechanic which lets the Investigator do a lot of cool things, especially with skills. However, the Alchemist isn't a highly skilled character like an Investigator, so the utility of Inspiration is very limited. The Inspired Alchemist gets access to the Investigator's Talents, but few of the Talents contribute to the Alchemist.

Inspired Cognatogen: Inspiration is a cool mechanic, and this is the best way for the Alchemist to get access to it.

Bonus Feats: The purpose of this archetype is to grant Inspiration to the Alchemist. Instead of wasting feats on Skill Focus, spend Inspiration to boost your skill checks.

Bonus Investigator Talents: Two talents? Sure, the Alchemist can only use them while being affected by an Inspired Cognatogen, but if the Alchemist isn't under the effects of his Cognatogen he's basically useless anyway. Remember that the Greater/Grand Inspired Cognatogen Discoveries give you three Investigator Talents each, so be sure not to duplicate talents by mistake.

Languages: A Discovery is roughly equivalent to a Feat, and three skill ranks in Linguistics is not worth a Feat.

Replaced Features: Mutagen, Bonus Feats

Compatible Archetypes: Beastmorph, Chirurgeon, Clone Master, Internal Alchemist, Preservationist, Psychonaut, Ragechemist, Reanimator, Vivisectionist

Internal Alchemist

I really don't understand why this archetype exists. The most interesting feature is the ability to put yourself into suspended animation. Put another way: the most interesting feature is the ability to do absolutely nothing for huge amounts of time. The other abilities really don't seem to line up with the concept of the archetype or what an alchemist is generally supposed to do.

Breath Mastery: How often do you find yourself holding your breath? Or starving? Putting yourself in suspended animation could be cool, but it's not going to come up a lot.

Bonus Feats: Alchemists' discoveries are what make them interesting. The list of bonus feats has a few decent options, but places a weird amount of emphasis on unarmed strikes.

Disease Resistance: Diseases aren't particularly common and generally won't affect you for a day or two, but immunity is nice.

Uncanny Dodge: Almost never useful, but doesn't hurt to have. If you don't plan to poison weapons in combat, this is a minor improvement.

Replaced Features: Throw Anything, Swift Alchemy, Swift Poisoning

Compatible Archetypes: Chirurgeon, Clone Master, Inspired Chemist, Mindchemist, Preservationist, Psychonaut, Reanimator, Vivisectionist

Mindchemist

If you plan to depend on bombs, which depend on your intelligence for damage, the Mindchemist is a solid bet. It improves your abilities as a blaster, and the Perfect Recall ability allows Alchemists to serve as a Librarian despite their lack of knowledge skills.

Cognatogen: If you don't plan to use the Mutagen for physical enhancement, this is basically a given. The improved intelligence helps with Bomb damage, but won't get you additional bombs per day.

Perfect Recall: Alchemists only get two knowledge skills as class skills, but you can gain extra my multiclassing or with traits. Adding your intelligence bonus twice will probably exceed the class skill bonus, which can make you just as effective as a Wizard or a Bard.

Bonus Feats: Skill focus is rarely the right choice, and your discoveries are considerably more interesting.

Languages: You get Comprehend Languages and Tongues as extracts, which basically removes the need to actually know languages.

Replaced Features: Mutagen, Poison Use

Compatible Archetypes: Beastmorph, Clone Master, Internal Alchemist, Psychonaut, Reanimator, Vivisectionist

Preservationist

The Preservationist trades his ability to use poisons, the persisten mutagen ability, and a very high level discovery for the ability to cast Summon Natures Ally. Summoning can be very effective, but Summon Natures ally pales in comparison to Summon Monster. These summons can serve as short-term front-line characters, but don't expect them to solve every problem you come across.

That said, the Preservationist does allow some neat tricks. Because using an alchemist extract is a Standard action, you can cast a summon spell much faster than most spellcasters. If you pick up the Infusion discovery, you can share your bottled allies with your party members, allowing your entire party to summon creatures at a moments notice.

Bottled Ally I: See archetype description.

Bottled Ally II: See archetype description.

Bottled Ally III: See archetype description.

Bottled Ally IV: See archetype description.

Bottled Ally V: See archetype description.

Bottled Ally VI: See archetype description.

Replaced Features: Discovery (18th), Poison Resistance (+4, +6), Poison Use, Poison Immunity, Persistent Mutagen

Compatible Archetypes: Inspired Chemist, Internal Alchemist, Reanimator, Vivisectionist

Psychonaut

The Psychonaut is a support archetype. It gives up a considerably amount of Bomb damage in order to add several very powerful divination spells and buffs to the Alchemist's formulae list. If your party needs a divine caster, this can be an excellent way for you to fill the gap.

Bomb: Bomb already isn't a great source of damage, and dropping the die type doesn't do you any favors. I hope you like throwing triangles.

Precognition: Situationally useful.

Psychic Senses: Add a bunch of excellent divination spells to the formulae list.

Remote Consciousness: Some more excellent divination spells.

Greater Precognition: Moment of prescience is fantastic. Giving up more bomb damage sucks, but hopefully by now you have learned to compensate for your already lousy bomb damage.

Master Precognition: Giving up bomb damage again is annoying, but Foresight is a really good buff.

Replaced Features: Bomb, Bomb Damage (15th, 17th), Poison Resistance (+4, +6), Poison Immunity

Compatible Archetypes: Inspired Chemist, Internal Alchemist, Mindchemist

Ragechemist

The ragechemist trades the Alchemist's normal ability to use poisons for a better Strength mutagen. However, the addition strength comes at a cost; every time you take damage, you lose intelligence and take a stacking penalty to Will saves. This is a high risk, high reward archetype. To be successful, you need to have enough Intelligence that you can afford to lose some when you get hit, and you need good enough defensive stats to avoid damage as much as possible. Because the features of the mutagen center around Strength, this is most likely either a melee or thrown weapon archetype. Because the penalties to pile up so quickly, this archetype is absolutely worthless unless you can hit a DC 15 will save reliably. Invest in your Wisdom and in a cloak of resistance, and strongly consider taking Iron Will and the Indomitable Faith trait.

Rage Mutagen: At this level, the total bonus to Strength is +6. This is an impressive bonus, but it's not enough to turn you into a melee monster by itself. This level also introduces the Ragechemist's big drawback, which is hard to mitigate at such a low level. Be sure to invest heavily in your Will saves, which are the Alchemist's only bad save. The penalties don't expire until an hour after you mutagen ends, which means that they last longer as your level increases.

Sturdy Rage: The -4 penalty to Intelligence makes the difference between 16 and 17 Intelligence very large. This additional +4 natural armor bonus can help reduce your incoming damage, but you are still very vulnerable to touch attacks, even those with extremely low damage like Acid Splash. Be sure to focus down enemies who make touch attacks, and invest in things which add to your touch AC (rings of protection, Dodge, dexterity, etc.). Note that since this is a natural armor bonus, it will stack with enhancement bonuses to natural armor from sources like barkskin or an amulet of natural armor.

Lumbering Rage: Temporary bonus to constitution are scary, but because the duration of Mutagen is so long, you won't have as many problems as a Barbarian. Failing your Will saves when you take damage also penalizes your touch AC, which is your biggest weakness. Use with caution.

Replaced Features: Poison Use, Swift Poisoning, Poison Immunity

Compatible Archetypes: Inspired Chemist, Reanimator, Vivisectionist

Reanimator

The Reanimator enjoys creating undead and just letting them wander the world doing as they please. Unlike a normal necromancer, the Reanimator has no method for controlling undead, which means he is essentially creating undead wild animals.

Bomb: Bomb already isn't a great source of damage, and dropping the die type doesn't do you any favors. I hope you like throwing triangles.

Simple Reanimation: You gain the ability to raise the dead two levels behind Wizards and Clerics, and you give up some of your already poor Bomb damage.

Create Undead: You are again two levels behind everyone else, and the undead created is uncontrolled. You're basically creating an enemy for yourself. Oh, and you sacrifice bomb damage.

Create Greater Undead: Two levels late, still uncontrolled, and you give up bomb damage. With not method to control undead, this is totally useless.

Replaced Features: Bomb, Bomb Damage (7th, 13th, 15th)

Compatible Archetypes: Beastmorph, Chirurgeon, Grenadier, Inspired Chemist, Internal Alchemist, Mindchemist, Preservationist, Ragechemist

Vivisectionist

Adding Sneak Attack to an alchemist is a frightening prospect. Sneak Attack is a much more abusable source of damage than Bomb. On top of that, you get some weird surgical-ish abilities and access to a couple of Rogue talents. The Torturous Transformation is a potentially campaign breaking ability, so use it with caution, and only with your GM's permission. If you prefer to stray away from Torturous Transformation, this would make an excellent class dip for Rogues looking to pick up some Discoveries.

Sneak Attack: Giving up Bomb might make you sad, but you get Sneak Attack damage as fast as a rogue, you have just as much BAB, and you have your extracts to back it all up.

Torturer's Eye: Sometimes you can use this to tell if someone needs a coup de grace, or if they're a zombie in a clever disguise.

Cruel Anatomist: This will save you ranks in a skill, and your Intelligence is likely higher than your Wisdom.

Torturous Transformation: Awakening animals is always a difficult prospect in a campaign. Adding the ability to turn animals anthropomorphic certainly doesn't make things any less complicated. You can do hillarious things like create diminutive mouse wizards, and send them to fight your enemies. Consult your GM heavily before making use of these abilities. You eventually get Regenerate, which is situationally useful.

Bleeding Attack: Not the best Rogue Talent, but it can add up to a lot of damage if you're clever with it.

Crippling Strike: Very good Rogue Talent.

Replaced Features: Bomb

Compatible Archetypes: Beastmorph, Chirurgeon, Grenadier, Inspired Chemist, Internal Alchemist, Mindchemist, Preservationist, Ragechemist