Pathfinder - Alchemist Discoveries Breakdown
Last Updated: May 18, 2017
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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.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
Alchemist discoveries are the Alchemist's customization mechanic, similar to Fighter's bonus feats or Rogue Talents. There are startlingly few poor options, and almost every discovery has something unique and interesting to add to the Alchemist.
- Acid bomb*: Fire is the most commonly resisted energy type, so the ability to switch to other energy types provies a lot of versatility. The additional damage doesn't hurt either.
- Alchemical Simulacrum (Su): Create a low level version of yourself. Have it throw bombs and draw attention. Keep in mind that the simulacrum has at most half of your levels, so it's not going to win any fights for you, but if you took the Infusion discovery at sufficiently low level, your simulacrum can be a good source of additonal low level Infusions. However, the Simulacrum only lasts one hour per caster level, so in addition to taking 24 hours to create, it only lasts for part of one day. The components are expensive, so don't expect to use this every day.
- Alchemical Zombie (Su): Undead pets are pretty cool, assuming your DM allows them.
- Blinding Bomb (Su)*: Blinding a target can be hugely effective. The Dazzled effect is basically pointless, but it doesn't make the Blind effect any less awesome.
- Bottled Ooze (Su): Oozes can be very threatening creatures, but the highest CR that you can summon is CR 6 at 16th level. Such a weak creature is unlikley to have a significant effect on combat.
- Breath Weapon Bomb*: This can hugely improve your damage output, but also puts you in a potentially dangerous location. A 15 foot cone is also fairly small, so don't expect to catch more than two creatures in the AOE.
- Cognatogen (Su): If you don't depend on physical ability scores, Cognatogen can be fantastic. Boosting your Intelligence can greatly improve your bomb damage, though the duration doesn't grant you additional bombs or extracts. Greater/Grand mutagen are not specifically mentioned to work with Cogantogen. Instead, use the Grant/Greater Cognatogen discoveries.
- Combine extracts: Fantastic, especially for healing extracts and extracts with short durations.
- Concentrate poison: The biggest problems with poison are price and DC. This helps with the DC issue, but the additional cost may be prohibitive.
- Concussive bomb*: Sonic damage is very rarely resisted, and deafening spellcasters can seriously inhibit them.
- Confusion Bomb* (Su): Confusion is unpredictable, but can be very effective if your enemies has allies that it can attack.
- Delayed bomb: Situational, but potentially very effective.
- Dilution: This is a great way to save money on potions, but by 12th level the cost of most potions should be fairly cheap.
- Dispelling Bomb: Against NPCs, a targeted dispel can be very powerful. Magic items are suppressed, buffs are ended, etc. However, this is very situational and can probably be covered by one of your party's casters carrying a scroll of Dispel Magic.
- Doppelganger Simulacrum (Su): This is like Clone, but miles better. Mail your simulacrums to allies around the world, then transfer your conciousness when you need to talk to them. Keep a few handy at your base if the adventure goes badly. Is your body too wounded? Switch to a spare and wait for your active body to recover. The uses are nearly limitless.
- Elixir of life: Hugely expensive and situational.
- Enhance potion: Squeeze some extra healing or some extra buff duration out of your potions without spending a ton of gold to make your potions higher caster level.
- Eternal potion: There are a ton of potions which this would be fantastic for. Imagine permanent Improved Invisibility.
- Explosive bomb*: The alchemist's signature offensive option is a very small AOE, and the damage doesn't scale terribly well at high levels. Expanding the AOE and adding ongoing damage does quite a bit to address these issues. If you don't need any other effect at the moment, this is the best go-to option.
- Explosive Missile: Sometimes you need a bit more range than Long Shot can get you with the Bomb's 20 foot range increment. If the target has low AC, this might even be a good way to supplement your damage output. However, you are much more likely to hit with a ranged touch attack.
- Extend potion: Great for buffs with short and medium durations.
- Fast bombs: 1d6 per two caster levels will fall behind wizard spells pretty quickly. As you advance in level, the ability to throw additional bombs will go a long way to improve your damage output. The wording is somewhat vague, but you may be able to combine this with Two-Weapon Fighting to throw extra bombs with your other hand(s).
- Feral mutagen: If you play your alchemist as a melee monster, or if you use the Vivisectionist archetype, this can be a fantastic option. Unlike two-weapon fighting, primary natural attacks apply your full Strength modifier, so if you use a Strength mutagen, you can throw a ton of strength behind your new attacks.
- Force bomb*: Force damage is basically impossible to resist, and it affects incorporeal creatures. The damage is slightly reduced, but the Trip effect is very handy.
- Frost bomb*: Fire is the most commonly resisted energy type, so the ability to switch to other energy types provies a lot of versatility. The Staggered effect can also be very helpful, especially at high levels.
- Grand Cognatogen (Su): Far less essential for Cognatogen users than Greater Cognatogen. The bonus to Charisma isn't going to get you much, and penalties to Constitution are scary.
- Grand Inspiring Cognatogen (Su): More Defenses, and three more Investigator Talents.
- Grand mutagen: If you use the Mutagen often, this is essential.
- Greater Alchemical Simulacrum (Su): Unlike the Lesser Alchemical Simulacrum, the Greater version creates a permanent simulacrum. It makes a good servant, assistant, and source of additonal Transfusions. Keep in mind that the Simulacrum still has at most half of your levels, so don't expect it to win fights for you by itself.
- Greater Cognatogen (Su): Essential for Cognatogen users. Boost your Intelligence to improve your bombs, and boost your Wisdom to improve your Will saves.
- Greater Inspiring Cognatogen (Su): Additional defenses are nice, and access to three Investigator Talents is great.
- Greater mutagen: If you use the Mutagen often, this is essential.
- Healing Touch (Ex): The ability to heal other creatures is nice, but doubling your daily healing is what makes this good.
- Immolation Bomb*: This is most useful for dealing ongoing damage to spellcasters to force Concentration checks. Also note that the ongoing damage applies your intelligence bonus every round. If your Intelligence is high, this can turn into a huge amount of damage very quickly. In fights with enemies that have huge pools of hit points that you can't drop in a round or two, this could be a great option.
- Infuse mutagen: Situational and expensive, but may be worth it at higher levels when that 1000 gp doesn't hurt quite so badly.
- Inferno bomb*: An extra 6d6 damage to anything stuck in the cloud, and it obscures vision. Excellent area control effect. If your allies can keep enemies in the cloud for its duration, this can really rack up a ton of damage. Try combining this with Tanglefoot bags.
- Infusion: Share your extracts with your allies. Essential if you don't have a decent support caster handy.
- Inspired Bomb (Su): You can't get nearly enough inspiration to waste it on 1d6 damage.
- Inspiring Cognatogen (Su): You only want this if you plan to take the Inspired Chemist archetype, which gives you this for free.
- Lingering Spirit (Ex): Very situational unless you spend a lot of time dying.
- Madness bomb: The diminishing return on Wisdom damage really sucks. This mgith be good for nerfing enemy wisdom-based casters or weakening enemy will saves, but don't expect to beat things by dropping their Wisdom to 0.
- Mummification (Ex): Immunity to cold is arguably worth a discovery. Nonlethal damage is hardly worth noting, but Paralysis and Sleep effects are as close as you can get to death without actually dying. Also, immunity to sleep likely means that you don't need to sleep, which leaves lots of time for things like staring at your sleeping party members.
- Mutagen (Su): If you gave up Mutagen, you probably didn't want Mutagen. But if you're indecisive, here it is.
- Nauseating Flesh: Very situational, and counts on you being hit.
- Parasitic Twin (Ex): A once per day reroll against a vaguely defined set of effects is hard to judge. The effects specified are generally very debilitating, which is nice, but you only get a reroll, and only once per day.
- Plague Bomb (Su)*: AOE Blinding Sickness makes the Blinding Bomb look like a firecracker. Very versatile, very powerful.
- Poison bomb*: Cloudkill is only useful because you can move it around to murder swarms of low level enemies. You probably can't move the cloud, and you will almost never be in a fight where this is helpful.
- Poison Conversion: Turn all of your poisons into injury or contact poisons, concentrate them with Concentrate Poison, and use Sticky Poison to get a whole mess of uses out of it. Ingested poisons tend to be the best, but the hardest to use, so abuse them heavily.
- Precise bombs: Essential, especially if you take Explosive Bombs.
- Preserve Organs (Ex): Gain the equivalent of a +1/+3/+5 magic item property. Excellent if you're scared of critical hits or rogues.
- Shock bomb*: Other energy types are great, but Dazzled is a worthless status effect.
- Siege Bomb*: Very situational.
- Smoke bomb*: Good area control, but somewhat situational.
- Spontaneous Healing (Ex): On-demand fast healing as a free action is pretty great. 5 points per two levels isn't much, but it's a bit like taking Toughness 2 and a half times. The added benefit that the healing kicks in when you fall onconcious makes this even better, because it makes you functionally immune to bleeding out.
- Sticky bomb: At 10th level when you can get this, the extra damage is 5+int. That Assuming a modest intelligence of 16, that's 8 more damage per bomb, totalling 104 additional damage in a day. Ask the fighter if Weapon Specialization pays off that well. Also, because the damage takes place a round later, it counts as ongoing damage and forces concentration checks from spellcasters.
- Sticky poison: OH. OH GOD. A number of strikes equal to your intelligence modifier. Buff your intelligence with Cognatogen (or at least fox's cunning or something), and get a whole mess of poison uses. Heck, do this for your party's rogue. Combine it with Concentrated Poison, and you can get a poison with +2 DC and at worst 3 uses with a perfectly reasonable 16 intelligence.
- Stink bomb*: Nauseated is a hugely debilitating status effect, and it persist for 1d4+1 rounds after targets leave the cloud.
- Strafe Bomb (Su): Lines are generally less useful than circular AOEs.
- Sunlight Bomb (Su)*: Useful in undead-heavy campaigns, but otherwise very situational.
- Tanglefoot Bomb (Su)*: Tanglefoot bags are great, but are limited by their DC and stop being useful at high levels. Tanglefoot bomb solves this issue very nicely. The Entangled condition is very effective, especially if your party uses Combat Maneuvers, and gluing a target to the floor is very powerful if you can then hit them with Inferno Bomb.
- Tentacle (Ex): The Tentacle trades the utility of a full arm for a tentacle attack. Note that "The tentacle does not give the alchemist any extra attacks", so you can't get extra attacks on a Full Attack. It's an either-or situation. Personally, I would take Vestigial Arm over Tentacle every time.
- Tumor Familiar (Ex): Familiars are astoundingly useful as scouts, messengers, and assistants. The ability to use Share Spells to share your mutagen lets you do silly things like boost your viper familiar's constitution by 8 for a better poison DC, or give your cat familiar +8 strength and set it loose in a room full of level 1 human commoners. A monky familiar can run around delivery infusions to allies or wearing Poisoner's Gloves. A mutagened owl could probably carry enemies into the air and drop them. The possibilities are immense. See my Practical Guide to Familiars for additional guidance.
- Vestigial Arm (Ex): The wording is somewhat confusing, but the intention of the ability is not as abusable as people hope. If you use Two-Weapon Fighting, you can't weild a third weapon in your additional hand. You could technically dual-weild greatswords, though this wasn't the intention. You may be able to use a shield in the additional hand, though that hasn't been addressed to my knowledge. You also can't wear additional rings or gloves, so you can't do fun things like wearing an extra set of Poisoner's Gloves. However, you can use the additional hand to reload crossbows, so you can do silly things like Two-Weapon Fighting with hand crossbows or you can apply poison to a weapon. Vivisections can make abundant and effective use of the reload tactic. Even so, I would only take this discovery once.
- Wings (Ex): Flight is fantastic, but I wouldn't take this more than once. Use one or two minutes of duration to get through a fight, and you should have plenty to get through the day.
You only get one, so choose carefully.
- Awakened Intellect: Not very exciting, but undeniably effective.
- Eternal Youth: Little mechanical effect unless you are taking advantage of the aging rules, but certainly cool for flavor.
- Fast Healing: Fast Healing 5. Amazing.
- Philosopher's Stone: Print money, or mix with a cheap potion for True Resurrection.
- Poison Touch: Constitution damage is great, and your save DC will be respectable. However, touch attacks are often dangerous for alchemists, and by now you should have much better options than a 4th-level spell.
- True Mutagen: A +8 bonus to your physical abilities is enormous, and the bonus to natural armor is great. However, Grand mutagen is probably providing enough enhancement to your main ability score that his won't give you any meaningful improvement.