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Pathfinder 2e - The Alchemist Handbook

Last Updated: August 20th, 2019

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • 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.

Introduction

The Alchemist is an interesting class, serving their party as a Healer, Scout and Striker, and potentially as a Defender or Blaster depending on their Field of Research. The Alchemist's role in the party most closely resembles a Rogue.

In many ways, the Alchemist functions like a Wizard whose spell list is instead a list of items. The Formula Book works much like a spellbook: different levels of each formula must be learned like different levels of the same spell, and you can learn extra formulas from other Alchemists or from their Formula Books.

The way your alchemist employs their suite of alchemical tools dependes heavily on your choice of Research Field: The Bomber emphasizes throwing really cool bombs with a dizzying array of exciting and useful options, the Mutagenist emphasizes using mutagens to make yourself a mutaded monster in combat (but is mechanically an unusable trainwreck), and the Chirurgeon resembles an alchemical medicine vending machine that's empty except for off-brand tonic water.

Alchemist Class Features

Key Ability: Intelligence.

Hit Points: 8+Con per level. Better than a wizard, but don't go into melee without padding your AC and your hit points.

Initial Proficiencies: The Alchemist's only really good proficiency is in skills, though notably they get proficiency with Alchemical Bombs, and unarmed strikes, which are the Alchemist's best weapon options in most cases.

  • Perception: Only Trained, no dependence on Wisdom, and your proficiency doesn't increase until 11th level, making you one of the worst in the game at Perception.
  • Saving Throws: Two good saves, and in light armor you'll want high Dexterity.
  • Skills: Only one fixed skill, but 3+int gets you more total starting skills than any class except the Rogue.
  • Attacks: Only Trained in simple and alchemical weapons and unarmed attacks. Simple and Alchemical Bombs goes up to Expert, but no higher than that.
  • Defenses: Only unarmored defense and light armor, and your proficiency only improves at levels 13 amd 19. Very few classes get worse armor than the Alchemist.
  • Class DC: The Alchemist's class DC only matters for a few Alchemist class feats, but you want as much Intelligence as possible to get extra Infused Reagents so your class DC is going to be fantastic anyway.

Alchemy: The Alchemist's defining class feature.

  • Infused Reagents: Like spell slots for a spellcaster, these are the limiting factor on your most powerful options, and you can only exceed this capability by spending money on items (more alchemical items in your case, or scrolls/wands/etc. for a spellcaster). You get a lot, and at 5th level your Field Discovery will allow you to create some items for free using Quick Alchemy depending on your Research Field, but these are an essential way to create high-level alchemical items without bankrupting yourself. There aren't many ways to get more Infused Reagents per day (a familiar can produce one batch per day), but you may find those options worthwhile, especially at low levels where you have few to spend.
  • Advanced Alchemy: This is your go-to usage for your Infused Reagents. You get two items per batch, and even though they need to be the same item (with some exceptions, depending on your Research Field), that's a better deal than you get from Quick Alchemy. Prepare any staple items you know you'll need (bombs, elixirs of life, mutagens, etc.) at the beginning of the day, but leave a few batches for Quick Alchemy when you need something unusual on short notice.
  • Quick Alchemy: Until 5th level this is a backup option for when you didn't think to prepare some specific alchemical item that you need in a specific situation. Once you get Perpetual Infusions, you can use this to create a small number of items for free depending on your Research Field. These free items are a bottomless supply, and depending on your Research Field they may be important enough that you use them every turn.

Formula Book: This works much like the Wizard's spellbook: You learn a few formulae at first level, then two more at each level, but you can also copy new formulae from other sources, such as other Alchemists' formula books. Like the Wizard, you must learn new version of the formula for each version of a specific alchemical item, so if you want Alchemist's Fire to be a fixture of your toolkit, you'll need to learn each of the four versions as you gain levels.

Research Field: See "Subclasses - Research Field", below.

Alchemist Feats: See Alchemist Feats, below.

Skill Feats: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

General Feats: Standard.

Skill Feats: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

Ability Boosts: Standard.

Ancestry Feats: Standard.

Field Discovery: This presents a significant jump in power for the Alchemist. The ability to create some alchemical items for free every turn allows you to use your signature class feature essentially without limit. The effectiveness of this feature varies by Research Field, but regardless of Research Field this is a central part of how you play your character.

Alchemical Weapon Expertise: This is as good as you will ever get at weapons, including alchemical bombs. Improving your profieciency is great, of course, but never getting past Expert means that at high levels you may have trouble hitting with attacks.

Iron Will: Will saves are your worst save, so any bonus is welcome.

Perpetual Infusions: A bottomless supply of some of the most important items in your arsenal. You may still want to spend some of your Infused Reagents on higher-level items and on items which you can't craft for free with Perpetual Infusion, but you may want to save those for when they're really important.

Alchemical Expertise: Always helpful, but the Alchemist Class DC is used for very few things.

Alertness: Always welcome, but you never get better than Expert.

Double Brew: Situational. Generally when you need to create an item in a hurry you only need one, and if you need more than one it's one of the items you can create for free with Perpetual Infusions. It's totally unclear how this interacts with Perpetual Infusions, so I can't tell if you can use this to create two items for free.

Juggernaut: Better saves are always great.

Perpetual Potency: A significant improvement to the items that you can create with Perpetual Infusions. Going from lesser to moderate often doubles the numerical effects of the item.

Greater Field Discovery: Depending on your Research Field, this is the feature that definitively sets you apart from other Research Fields.

Light Armor Expertise: More AC is always great, but you get this very late, which is a problem for Mutagenists.

Weapon Specialization: Weapon Specialization is great, but the Alchemist never gets past Expert so you'll never see the +3/+4 damage bonuses. Alchemical bombs are listed as Martial Weapons, so they're weapons and you get the damage bonus just like you would with other weapons..

Alchemical Alacrity: Unless you took Enduring Alchemy this is probably useless.

Evasion: Better saves are always great, and since many Reflex saves are "basic saving throws" a Critical Success is a significant improvement. It's the difference between half damage and no damage at all.

Alchemical Mastery: Always helpful, but the Alchemist Class DC is used for very few things.

Perpetual Perfection: Roughly a 50% numeric improvement to your favorite alchemical items.

Light Armor Mastery: More AC is always great, but you get this very late, which is a problem for Mutagenists.

Subclasses - Research Field

  • Bomber: Alchemists are the only class trained in alchemical bombs, and if you're not a Bomber you're not using them to their full potential. The biggest drawback to bombs is their disposable nature, which means that they become expensive quickly, and the Bomber gets to make bombs for free using Quick Alchemy. That immediately means that you don't need weapon options beyond bombs (except for extremely long range), allowing you to focus all of your class feats on making your bombs terrifying.
    • Field Discovery: You're going to use a lot of bombs most days, so getting some extra for free is a great way to save money on crafting.
    • Perpetual Infusions: Lesser bombs are your bread and butter. You need to be able to churn these things out as fast as possible. However, you only get to pick two types of bombs which you can do this with, so pick two which you'll use a lot. I recommend fire for straight damage and something with a good debuff.
    • Perpetual Potency: A significant increase in your damage output at no cost. At this level you can start crafting Greater bombs, but they're extremely expensive. If you don't need the extra damage, your free option is now massively more dangerous.
    • Greater Field Discovery: Somewhat underhwleming by this level, but more splash area means more splash damage. And if you're raining cheap bombs over an area with Calculated Splash and Expanded Splash, you're dealing at least 5 splash damage to everything in a 15-foot radius burst even if you miss. Do that three times a round with lesser bombs (laughably inexpensive at this level), and you're doing a sizeable amount of damage at no effort, plus possibly applying effects like clouds of smoke, speed penalties, etc.
    • Perpetual Perfection: Even more damage and bigger debuffs!
  • Chirurgeon: Chirurgeon is great conceptually, but it simply doesn't offer enough to make it worthwhile. The Medicine skill and a handful of cheap alchemical items will do the job just as well, and being able to squander your Infused Reagents on a few extra antiplagues and antitoxins doesn't make you any better at healing than any character with ranks in Medicine who simply purchased antiplagues/antitoxins for the relatively rare circumstances where they're useful. At least you're not a Mutagenist, though.
    • Field Discovery: Getting 50% more items out of your Infused Reagents is pretty great, and elixirs are a good option because they include useful options like Elixir of Life and mutagens.
    • Perpetual Infusions: Lesser Antiplague/Antitoxin cost 3gp each and they're extremely situational.
    • Perpetual Potency: Antiplague/Antitoxing are still extremely situational, and increasing their bonus doesn't fix that.
    • Greater Field Discovery: At this level you can craft a Greater Elixir of Life and heal a guaranteed 92 hit points. In a pinch that's really good, but in-combat healing should be a rare fallback for when things are going badly.
    • Perpetual Perfection: Amazingly, making better versions of an item you only infrequently need still doesn't make them especially useful.
  • Mutagenist: Mutagenists are conceptually cool: Drink some stuff, and mutate yourself to adjust your capabilities. While each individual ability granted to the Mutagenist is fine (with some exceptions), the Mutagenist is absolutely riddled with design issues. Bestial mutagen, your go-to combat option, is redundant with weapon runes which you'll need to remain relevant in combat. Several of the Research Field's features are inoperable for several levels until a later feature comes online, and many of the Mutagenists's signature features are redundant with or worse than options provided by Alchemist Class Feats. The Mutagenist benefits much less from the ability to create mutagens for free than a Bomber does, and you're not any better at actually using mutagens than any other alchemist until you get Greater Field Discovery at 13th level so that you can combine two at once.

    The way mutages are designed further hampers you: the only mutagens that are universally useful in combat (Bestial and Juggernaut) aren't very good unless you invest class feats to improve them, so you're locked several feats if you want to meat a bare minimum amount of effectiveness.

    To add insult to injury: The last paragraph of the Mutagnist entry does literally nothing. Your proficiency with unarmed strikes already increases at the same rate as simple weapons, and mutagens don't need to be crafted for a specific creature.

    The mutagenists only redeeming mechanical quality is that you can use Perpetual Infusion and Revivifying Mutagen to get infinite healing.

    • Field Discovery: Mutagens are a subset of elixirs, so you can't craft as many options while still getting 50% more per batch of Infused Reagents, as a Chirurgeon could,but you get the unique option of crafting any three mutagens rather than 2 or 3 of the same item. Be sure to bring a few different types so that you're ready for anything.
    • Perpetual Infusions: Combined with Revivifying Mutagen, this means that you can repeatedly create a free mutagen, consume it, then end it to heal. Pick you favorite go-to mutagen (probably Bestial or Juggernaut), and make sure that you always have it running unless you're actively healing yourself.
    • Perpetual Potency: Linear improvement to your favorite mutagens.
    • Greater Field Discovery: Combine Bestial and Juggernaut and wade into melee like a horrifying mutated wrecking ball. This is why you play a Mutagenist for mutagen builds rather than any other option. You can do this with Combine Elixirs, but it's not quite as effective.
    • Perpetual Perfection: Another linear increase in effectiveness.

Ability Scores

Conventional Alchemist

Most alchemists are defined by their Intelligence, but they require Dexterity to be successful at their attacks with alchemical bombs, and they require Constitution and Wisdom to compensate for poor Perception and generally poor durability. Expect to invest your 4 ability boosts at every fifth level in those four abilities.

Str: Alchemical items are Light bulk, so you can carry a ton of them. You're also very good at crafting, so crafting a bag of holding is a great option. However, you may want 10 so that you can wear leather armor without worrying about the check penalty.

Dex: Dexterity will improve your poor AC and make you more accurate with alchemical bombs and ranged weapons.

Con: Your AC is bad. If you have less than 14, expect to die.

Int: Sets your ability DC and improves your crafting.

Wis: You need some to boost your poor Will saves and your poor Perception, but it's the least important of the ability scores that you care about.

Cha: Dump. Nothing about the Alchemist involves Charisma.

Mutagenist

Mutagenists work a bit differently from other alchemists. Mutagens offer numerous great ways to improve your durability and to add melee options like claws and bite attacks. However, this means that you need to more heavily invest in Strength and Constitution or in weapons to be a meaningful threat in melee.

Str: You need it for damage output when you move into melee with Feral Mutagen.

Dex: You need it for your terrible AC.

Con: You need it for when your terrible AC fails to protect you.

Int: You need it to craft mutagens.

Wis: You need it for your terrible Will saves and your terrible Perception.

Cha: Dump. You're already MAD enough as it is.

Ancestries

Bonuses to important abilities like Constitution and Intelligence are great, but we can also benefit from other racial options like better weapon proficiencies, and energy damage resistances (especially fire) to mitigate potential splash damage.

Dwarf: Constitution, Wisdom, the Free increase goes into Intelligence, and Dwarfs get more starting hit points than other published races. Forge Dwarf gets you fire resistance, and Strong-blooded gets you poison resistance in case you're exposed to your own handiwork. Unfortunately, none of the ancestry feats are especially interesting for the Alchemist.

Elf: Dexterity, Intelligence, and the Free increase goes into Constitution. Arctic, Cavern, and Seer elf are all good options. Elven Weapon Familiarity gets you access to several excellent weapon options like rapiers and bows. However, elves have low ancestry hit points so be cautious at low levels.

Gnome: An increase to Charisma doesn't help us, so use the Optional Flaws rule to get a second Free increase, and to turn the Charisma increase into a net -2. Then you get +2 Dex, +2 Con, +2 Int, and -2 Cha. Sensate Gnome and Umbral Gnome are both great choices. You may also consider Fey-Touched or Wellspring, but innate spells are Charisma-based and we're dumping Charisma, so either rework the ability score spread I suggested or pick a utility cantrip. Animal Accomplice is a great way to get a familiar without spending a class feat, (though its modifiers will be Charisma-based, which isn't great for the Alchemist) and Gnome Weapon Familiarity gets you access to kukris which may be more appealing than daggers.

Goblin: An increase to Charisma doesn't help us, so use the Optional Flaws rule to get a second Free increase, and to turn the Charisma increase into a net -2. Then you get +2 Dex, +2 Con, +2 Int, and -2 Cha. Charhide Goblin offers fire resistance, and Razortooth Goblin offers a bit attack which can fill in for feral mutagen until your mutagens become more powerful. Snow Goblin and Unbreakable Goblin are both great, too, but they don't play to the Alchemist's strengths quite as well. The Burn It! feat is a must-have for goblin alchemists, and Junk Tinker can help to reduce the cost of single-use alchemical items which the Alchemist is heavily reliant upon.

Halfling: Dexterity, Wisdom, and the Free increase goes into Intelligence. Unfortunately, none of the heritage options are especially appealing, but I'm partial to Hillock Halfling and Twilight Halfling. Halflings have several excellent ancestry feat options, including universally good options like Halfling Luck. Halfling Weapon Familiarity gets you access to the Filcher's Fork, which is similar to a dagger with Backstabberm, Deadly 1d6, and double throwing range. At 5th level you can take Cultural Adaptability, allowing you to take great ancestry feats from other Ancestries like Animal Accomplice from the Gnome or Burn It! from the Goblin. Normally this takes two feats, so it's a really great option.

Human: The two Free increases go into Dexterity and Intelligence. If you want more increases, use the Optional Flaws rule to get +2 Constitution, -2 Strength, and -2 Charisma. The Half-Elf and Half-Orc heritages don't offer anything that's especially useful for the Alchemist, but Skilled Heritage and Versatile Heritage are fantastic on any character, and humans get several truly excellent ancestry feats. Natural Ambition is always a great idea, Unconventional Weaponry opens up nearly any weapon in the game, Multitalented lets you explore another class with very little commitment, and if you can't decide you can take General Training to get another general feat.

Backgrounds

Look for backgrounds that offer boosts to Intelligence. If you're building a mutagenist you also want a boost to a physical ability score, but other alchemists probably want Dexterity. For skills, see the Skills section, below. The Specialty Crafter feat is great because the Alchemist depends so heavily on crafting, but it's only +1 bonus (+2 at high levels) so you'll be fine without it.

If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • Artist
  • Artisan
  • Tinker

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Moving past enemies is no longer a problem since Attacks of Opportunity are so rare compared to 1st edition, and you can't fly.
  • Arcana (Int): Your ability scores work, but you can't cast Detect Magic and you can't use spellbooks. You can squeeze some more out of Arcana with Arcane Sense, which allows you to cast Detect Magic.
  • Athletics (Str): A possibility for Mutagenists, but otherwise skip it.
  • Crafting (Int): You get it for free, and since the Alchemist depends so heavily on crafting alchemical items you're going to use it a lot. Increase your proficiency at every possible opportunity.
  • Deception (Cha): Charisma is your dump stat.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Charisma is your dump stat.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Charisma is your dump stat.
  • Lore (Int): With high Intelligence and lots of trained skills, Lore is a great option for the Alchemist.
  • Medicine (Wis): Medicine is really good, especially with a couple skill feats like Continual Recovery and Ward Medic. In fact, Medicine is so good that it makes the Chirurgeon weak by comparison.
  • Nature (Wis): Your Wisdom might be high enough to make this work, but it doesn't offer anything specific to the alchemist. You might consider the Bonded Animal feat, but aside from a pack animal to carry your alchemical stuff I don't know what you would do with it.
  • Occultism (Int): Intelligence-based, and you can use it to identify occult magic and "supernatural creatures".
  • Performance (Cha): You dumped Charisma.
  • Religion (Wis): Similarly useful to Arcana and Occultism, but your ability scores don't work quite as well for it.
  • Society (Int): Knowledge of humanoid societies is crucial in many campaigns, and your Intelligence makes this an easy option.
  • Stealth (Dex): Most alchemists need Dexterity to make their attacks work, so you're naturally good at Stealth.
  • Survival (Wis): Only rarely useful, but you probably have enough Wisdom to make it useful.
  • Thievery (Dex): Like Stealth, you have the Dexterity to make it work, and Thievery provides the crucial capacities to disable traps and open locks.

Feats

Alchemist Feats

1st Level
  • Alchemical Familiar: Familiars are really good for a lot of reasons.
  • Alchemical Savant: Extremely situational.
  • Far Lobber: Essential for Bombers, but other alchemists might prefer to rely on weapons when range becomes a problem.
  • Quick Bomber: Absolutely crucial if you intend to us bombs as a frequent part of your combat options.
2nd Level
  • Poison Resistance: Damage resistance to a common damage type is fantastic.
  • Revivifying Mutagen: For the Mutagenist or the Chirurgeon, this turns into infinite free healing. For everyone else this is an expensive way to turn a mutagen into a healing potion.
  • Smoke Bomb: A great way for the Bomber to control the battlefield, but try not to abuse it too much or your'll find whole rooms choked by smoke to the point that you and your allies can't see your enemies.
4th Level
  • Calculated Splash: A must-have for the Bomber. Even Major bombs max out at 4 splash damage normally.
  • Efficient Alchemy: If your campaign features strictly limited donwtime and you spend a lot of time crafting extra alchemical items, this might be worth it. But this won't help you much when you walk into a fight.
  • Enduring Alchemy: Normally if you're using Quick Alchemy you're planning to use the item immediately, but if you find that you often end a turn with an extra action and nothing good to do with it (which should literally never happen), this is an option. You may also like this for poisons created using Quick Alchemy since it may be difficult to craft the poison and hit the target in the space of a single turn.
6th Level
  • Combine Elixirs: Too situational. If you have an ally in need of healing, a single Elixir of Life will suffice. You can also use this to combine mutagens, but the Mutagenist can do this with Greater Field Discovery starting at 13th level, so they should retrain this feat at that points. Other Alchemists might enjoy this if they want to dabble in mutagens, especially once you can get Persistent Mutagen to turn four Infused Reagents into two all-day mutagens.
  • Debilitating Bomb: A must-have for the Bomber. Dazzled applies a 1 in 4 chance of a creature missing any single attack, Flat-footed is great if you're planning additional attacks or if you have a Rogue in the party. You can also apply a speed penalty, but if you want that you should just use a Tanglefoot Bomb. Deafened is mildly annoying, but after combat starts it's not significant enough to justify.
  • Directional Bombs: In most cases where a cone would be a solution you can just throw the bomb at a creature or space behind or adjacent to your target to avoid hitting an ally.
8th Level
  • Feral Mutagen: Bestial Mutagen's attacks aren't great on their own, so adding a little extra damage and Deadly (d10) does a lot to improve them. However, adding an extra -1 to AC feels like an unnecessary attempt to balance an attack which is now very slightly better than a nonmagic weapon.
  • Powerful Alchemy: Essential for poisons. Granted, you can do just fine going your whole life without using poison, but it's nice to have the option.
  • Sticky Bomb: Calculated Splash means that your splash damage at least equals your Intelligence, so a Bomber is probably adding +4 or more to the continuous damage from any bomb that they throw..
10th Level
  • Elastic Mutagen: Quicksilver mutagen is really situational, and since it costs a big pile of hit points to use it can't be a go-to option without some serious shenanigans.
  • Expanded Splash: Instead of replacing your bombs' splash damage, you now add your Intelligence modifier to the existing splash damage. That's at most 4 extra damage, but the real draw here is doubling the splash radius.
  • Greater Debilitating Bomb: As far as i can tell none of these debuffs stack with themself. I think Debilitating Bomb is better.
  • Merciful Elixir: Very situational.
  • Potent Poisoner: Powerful Alchemy is better unless you're crafting a bunch of poisons beyond what you can do with Quick Alchemy.
12th Level
  • Extend Elixir: Generally this means mutagens. Mutagens, and by this level they have hour-long durations and you can craft a small horde of them using Advanced Alchemy during your daily preparations.
  • Invincible Mutagen: Absolutely essential for Mutagenists, but worthwhile for any alchemist.
  • Uncanny Bombs: Your bomb range now matches that of a shortbow, and you can use Smoke Bomb without inhibiting your own attacks.
14th Level
  • Glib Mutagen: You dumped Charisma, and until this point there has been no reason for you to try playing a Face. Your best use for a Silvertongue Mutagen is to give it to someone else.
  • Greater Merciful Elixir: Finally a good feat for elixirs! Of course, you had to take Merciful Elixir to get here, but if your party doesn't have access to spellcasting that can remove things like Blinded you may need this,
  • True Debilitating Bomb: For some reason you lose Clumsy as an option. Doubling the penalties from Greater Debilitating Bomb is nice, but still not as effective as the flat 1 in 4 chance of failure from being Dazzled or Deafened.
16th Level
  • Eternal Elixir: Combine this with Invincible Mutagen and you have permanent resistance to physical damage. Even if you're not using mutagens for anything else, this is a really good feat. However, it doesn't get you past the limitation of one mutagen at a time unless you use something like Combine Elixirs.
  • Exploitive Bomb: Typically you can address resistances by changing types of bombs, but it's nice to be able to stick to your favorites, especially if you can create them for free with Quick Alchemy.
  • Genius Mutagen: Better than Glib Mutagen by a lot, nad you get telepathy.
  • Persistent Mutagen: Eternal elixir has a longer duration, no usage limitation, and affects all elixirs rather than just mutagens. The only use case I can think of is for a Mutagenist because they can have two mutagens running at the same time.
18th Level
  • Improbable Elixirs: This includes fantastic options like Invisibility Potion nand Potion of Flying.
  • Mindblank Mutagen: Too situational.
  • Miracle Worker: Carry a few True Elixirs of Life just to use with this feat.
  • Perfect Debilitation: Effectively increases the DC to resist Debilitating Bomb by 10, but Debilitating Bomb's effects only last one round so this may not be worth a feat.
20th Level
  • Craft Philosopher’s Stone: Conceptually the coolest option, but mechanically not all that interesting. It does allow you to bring recently dead creatures back to life, but at this level you can use rituals or hire NPC spellcasters to do that. It does't give you the option to extend your natural lifespan, which I find terribly disappointing.
  • Mega Bomb: Because the bomb needs to be Infused, you need to use Quick Alchemy to create the base bomb, then Mega Bomb to upgrade it to a Mega Bomb, then your third action to Interact and throw the bomb. This is only a go-to option if there are multiple enemies in the target area, but if you can hit 2 or more enemies this will be more effective than throwing multiple bombs. Because Additive feats like Debilitating Bomb and Sticky Bomb both trigger when you use Quick Alchemy, you can use them to modify your bomb before you make it a Mega Bomb, allowing you to further improve your bomb.
  • Perfect Mutagen: Mutagens drawbacks are usually a minor annoyance, but some like Bestial Mutagen and Quicksilver Mutagen feature drawbacks which make you easier to kill.

General Feats

  • Adopted Ancestry: If you run short on interesting Ancestry Feats, this is great. Consider Goblin so you can get Burn It! and Junk Tinker.
  • Armor Proficiency: Always a trap. It's too easy to get enough Dexterity to fill out any armor your in, and there's no way to improve your proficiency beyond Trained so your upgraded armor will fall behind in a few levels.
  • Canny Acument: Alchemists have low Will saves and poor Perception, and this is a great way to address that. Unfortunately, you can't take this twice.
  • Toughness: Mutagenists either spend their time in melee trying to survive their 8+ hit points or fight at range trying to survive the hit point loss form Quicksilver mutagens. In either case, any Mutagenist needs as many hit points as they can get. Even with good Constitution, Toughness is still a good option.
  • Weapon Proficiency: If Bestial Mutagen doesn't look like a good option, any alchemist except the Bomber may want a better weapon option than a crossbow. Many races offer racial access to interesting weapons, but if yours doesn't Weapon Proficiency is a good way to get access to bows.
  • Ancestral Paragon: A handful of races have several excellent 1st-level Ancestry Feats, and at this level you may not have a lot of good General Feat options. If you're a Human, you can use this to get an Ancestry feat, then take General Training later to get a General Feat instead of an Ancestry Feat when you qualify for more feats.

Skill Feats

  • Assurance: If you select this with Crafting, you can use it reliably craft items during downtime, and since alchemists rely heavily on alchemical items you can expect to do this to product single-use alchemical items like antiplagues and antitoxins which you won't need to use frequently or in large quantities, but which you still want on-hand when they're useful. Scoring a Critical Success isn't a big improvement when crafting items. Being able to score a reliable success is considerably more important. Plus, you can pick up Impeccable Crafting to always get a Critical Success without rolling.
  • Experienced Smuggler: Most alchemical items are Light Bulk, so you can use Experienced Smuggler to reliably hide most of your arsenal on your person.
  • Specialty Crafting: +1 or +2 on all of your Crafting checks to make alchemical items is great when you're crafting alchemical items frequently.
    • Impeccable Crafting: Combined with Assurance you may be able to guarantee a Critical Success when crafting.

Weapons

  • Crossbow: Your best bet for long-range combat. Bombs are great, but their range is only 20 ft. (30 ft. or 60 ft. once you get some feats), so using a crossbow is a great way to remain effective at extended range.
  • Dagger: Probably your go-to melee weapon unless your using Bestial Mutagen.
  • Gauntlet: Doesn't take up a hand.

If your Ancestry feats give you access to other weapon options, look for options which work similarly to the options above. A regular bow may work better than a crossbow because you can make more attacks with it in a single turn, and something like a filcher's fork can be a great option for Mutagenists.

Armor

Wear the heaviest light armor you can manage without the check penalty. Of course, the check penalty for light armor is never worse than -1, so you may be fine with 8 Strength in a Chain Shirt. You're never going to get more than a total of +5 between your armor's base bonus and your Dexterity, so there's very little variance between armor options, and you're unlikely to exceed a +5 Dexterity modifier so dropping light armor likely isn't going to be worth the effort..

Archetypes

  • Barbarian: Rage is potentially useful for the Mutagenist, but that's the only interesting thing you can get.
  • Bard: Charisma-based
  • Champion: You get heavy armor proficiency from the base feat, but that proficiency never improves so with a trivial amount of Dexterity your AC in light armor will be higher than in heavy armor. You can take Diverse Armor Expert at 14th level, but that's two feats to get a total of +1 to AC (assuming that you're in heavy armor), and at 19th level your light armor will exceed the AC from heavy armor.
  • Cleric: Wisdom-based spellcasting is the big draw.
  • Druid: Wisdom-base spellcasting. Wild Shape is tempting, but it's a Polymorph effect so you can't combine it with Mutagens.
  • Fighter: Access to martial weapons is nice for anyone except Bombers, and you can take Diverse Weapon Expert to increase the proficiency to Expertise, which will match the best proficiency the Alchemist normally gets with any weapon. Mutagenists will enjoy the Fighter's various melee options, including great options like Opportunist and Snagging Strike.
  • Monk: Powerful Fists is a great replacement for Bestial Mutagen, and options like Crane Stance can make a Mutagenist much more effective in melee. Flurry of Blows is a great way to get an extra attack every turn, and since Bestial Mutagen and Crane Stance both add the Agile property to one of your unarmed strike options, either option will help mitigate the multiple attack penalty.
  • Ranger: Hunt Prey is neat, and some of the Ranger's feat options are interesting, but without Hunter's Edge they're simply not as effective as they need to be to justify the feats to get them.
  • Rogue: The base dedication feat is already really good. Suprise attack, Trained in two new skills, and a Skill Feat is a lot for one feat. Sneak Attacker is tempting, but 1d4 or 1d6 damage per attack simply isn't enough extra damage to justify the feat, so the only major reason to take this route is for Poison Weapon. If you're going for a poisoner build, you definitely want to multiclass into Rogue, but otherwise skip it.
  • Sorcerer: Charisma-based casting.
  • Wizard: Intelligence-based casting is agreat addition to the Alchemists capabilities, especially for non-Bombers who lack quality long-range combat options. If you go beyond the base devotion feat, leveled spells offer you a wide selection of powerful utility options which you otherwise couldn't address with alchemical items alone.