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Pathfinder - The Master Chymist Handbook

Disclaimer

I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

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.

Introduction

The Master Chymist doubles down on the Alchemist's mutagen, allowing the alchemist to turn into a hulking melee monster. At the expense of some of the Alchemist's healing and support capabilities, the Master Chymist uses Mutagen to play a Defender and a Striker.

Much like a Barbarian, the Master Chymist has issues with AC due to their light armor. Unlike the Barbarian, the Master Chymist doesn't have a d12 hit die to fall back on when their AC falls short. Be sure to invest in your AC and your Constitution bonus to be sure that you have enough hit points to survive melee combat.

Requirements

Spells: You need at least 7 levels of Alchemist, and there is no way to get around that.

Special: You get Mutagen as a first level Alchemist, and Feral Mutagen is a central feature of the Master Chymist. Infuse Mutagen is fine, but not nearly as useful as Feral Mutagen.

Master Chymist Class Features

Hit Points: d10 hit points is standard for melee classes but remember that you'll be starting from the Alchemist's d6 hit points..

Base Attack Bonus: Full BAB.

Saves: Good Fortitude and Reflex saves, but Will saves will be a problem and Greater/Grand mutagen will add a penalty to Wisdom.

Proficiencies: None, but you get everything you need from the Alchemist.

Skills: 2+ skills, and the skill list doesn't directly match that of the Alchemist. The Master Chymist doesn't even get Craft, which is weird, but since you already have the class skill bonus from your Alchemist levels, it doesn't really matter. Spread some ranks around to pick up the class skill bonuses.

Extracts per Day: The Master Chymist gives up some of the Alchemist's Extracts, but progresses 7 levels over the course of the class's 10 levels.

Bomb-Thrower (Ex): Bombs really don't matter to the Master Chymist, but it's nice that they aren't completely abandoned. If your GM is nice, this might work to advance Sneak Attack if you took the Vivisectionist archetype. Even if you GM isn't that nice, Vivisectionist is still a great idea.

Mutagenic Form (Ex): This is almost entirely for flavor.

Mutate (Su): This allows you to go in and out of your mutagen multiple times per day, which means that you can change your mutagen much more easily, and that Ragechemist Alchemists can recover from their penalties more than once per day.

Advanced Mutagen (Su): The Master Chymist gets some mutagents which aren't accessible to anyone else. They play very well into the Master Chymist's concept, and a few of the options are really fantastic.

  • Burly (Ex): Essential for grapple builds, but otherwise worthless.
  • Disguise (Ex): Buy a hat of disguise.
  • Draconic Mutagen (Su): The energy resistance is tempting, but a single-use breath weapon with such poor damage is worthless at such high level.
  • Dual Mind (Ex): Excellent for Ragechemists, but not particularly important for anyone else. The reroll against Enchantment spells can be very useful against scary effects like Dominate Person, but it's situational.
  • Evasion (Ex): Fantastic on any character at any level.
  • Extended Mutagen (Ex): By the time you can get this, your Mutagen lasts at least 90 minutes, and you can do it three times per day without stopping to make an extra mutagen. 4.5 hours per day probably plenty.
  • Feral Mutagen (Ex): If you have any sense at all you took this as a prerequisite for the class.
  • Furious Mutagen (Ex): Sounds tempting, but the difference between 1d6/1d8 and 1d8/2d6 damage is only about 4 points. If you are enlarged (either by Enlarge Person or Growth Mutagen), the total increase gives you 2d6/3d6 natural weapons, which is a slightly better payoff.
  • Grand Mutagen (Ex): Essential.
  • Greater Mutagen (Ex): Essential.
  • Growth Mutagen (Ex): Being enlarged is fantastic for many melee characters, but by 16th level the gold to be permanently enlarged is pocket change.
  • Night Vision (Ex): Darkvision is great, but you can make a Darkvision extract with hours/level duration.
  • Nimble (Ex): A bonus to natural armor equal to half your class level is fantastic for a feat equivalent, but the bonus also applies to CMD (fantastic for grapple builds), and Dexterity checks and Dex-based skill checks.
  • Restoring Change (Su): Spontaneous Healing is miles better, or you could make Extracts of Cure Light Wounds.
  • Scent (Ex): Great for locating hidden and invisible enemies.

Brutality (Ex): The damage isn't a huge boost, but it's guaranteed to see use, and it closes the damage gap between simple/natural weapons and martial weapons.

Base Classes

The Master Chymist's big class requirement is access to Extracts, which severely limits our options. Only the Alchemist gets both Extracts and Mutagen, so it's really the only decent option. This guide assumes that you will be using Alchemist as your base class.

  • Alchemist: The obvious choice, and the alchemist's Mutagen ability stacks with the mutagenic abilities provided by Master Chymist.
  • Investigator: The investigator gets access to Extracts, but without Mutagen they make for a very poor Master Chymist.

Compatible Alchemist Archetypes

  • Beastmorph: The Beastmorph adds some extra buffs to the Mutagen, and because you can change them every time you mutate it removes the need for the Night Vision and Scent Advanced Mutagen options. Beastmorph also gives you the ability to gain flight with average maneuverability.
  • Chirurgeon: Power Over Death is the only Chirurgeon ability that the Master Chymist would really want, and you won't reach level 10 in Alchemist before switching to Master Chymist.
  • Clone Master: Just use the Doppelganger Simulacrum discovery.
  • Internal Alchemist: Access to Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat is nice for grapple builds, but you get a lot more from the Beastmorph and Ragechemist, and the Internal Alchemist isn't compatible with either of them.
  • Mindchemist: The Mindchemist is the exact opposite of what the Master Chymist is trying to do.
  • Preservationist: Awful, and giving up alchemist levels doesn't help.
  • Ragechemist: If anyone could make use of the Ragechemist archetype, it's the Master Chymist. The drawback of the drawback of Rage Mutagen requires that you put a lot of resources into your Will save, but if you can handle that the bonus strength and natural armor can both be helpful. You won't get Lumbering Rage until level 20 (10 alchemist/10 Master Chymist), but it's terrible so you might consider taking a level of another class just to avoid it.
  • Reanimator: Pets aren't a good choice for the Master Chymist.
  • Vivisectionist: Imagine being a huge, horrifying strength monster. Then add Sneak Attack. Your GM might be nice enough to let Bomb-thrower improve your Sneak Attack damage, but you weren't going to use bombs anyway so it's no big loss if you can't.

Abilities

The Master Chymist is a melee Alchemist, so their abilities fall somewhere between a lightly armor Fighter and an Alchemist.

Str: The Master Chymist is a Strength monster, but much like Polymorph builds you need a good baseline to start from.

Dex: In only light armor, Dexterity is crucial for the Master Chymist's AC.

Con: In only light armor, you need all of the hit points you can get.

Int: Required for the Alchemist's Extracts, but the Master Chymist gives up several levels of the Alchemist's extracts, so you can get away with 15 or 16 Intelligence for your character's career.

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: 16
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 15
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 15
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 8

Races

Bonuses to Strength and defensive abilities are good, and Medium size is helpful because Growth Mutagen allows you to be Enlarged for long periods of time.

Dwarf: The Dwarf's racial traits make the Master Chymist extremely durable. The Dwarf favored class bonus is especially useful because it helps improve the Master Chymist's AC.

Elf: Normally good for an Alchemist, but the Intelligence bonus is wasted and the Constitution penalty is dangerous.

Gnome: Even if you plan to use Poison, the Gnome is problematic due to their Strength penalty.

Half-Elf: The Half-Elf is always good for prestige class builds because of Multitalented, but you might choose to trade it in for Dual Minded to boost the Master Chymist's poor Will saves.

Half-Orc: The Half-Orc works very well as a melee monster. Toothy offers a free natural attack which works with Brutality, or Sacred Tatto provides a nice bonus to saves which you can further increase with Fate's Favored.

Halfling: The Halfling could be viable for a Dexterity build, but most Master Chymists go for Strength over Dexterity.

Human: The flexible ability bonus is nice, but a bonus feat isn't particularly important to the Master Chymist.

Traits

  • Reactionary (Combat): Going first isn't particularly important for melee monsters like the Master Chymist, but it doesn't hurt.
  • Indomitable Faith (Faith): A +1 to your only bad save.
  • Alchemical Adept (Magic): This could save you a lot of money if you plan to craft a lot of alchemical items.
  • Alchemical Intuition (Magic): Charisma is a dump stat for Alchemists.
  • Cross-Knowledge (Magic): Many Alchemist Formulae are also on the Wizard spell list, but 1 extra caster level won't make a huge difference.
  • Enduring Mutagen (Magic): Tempting at low level, especially because the Master Chymist doesn't get Persistent Mutagen.
  • Unstable Mutagen (Magic): Too Random, and once you get Enduring Mutagen one of the 3 good outcomes becomes a bad outcome.

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Might be useful for moving around in combat without drawing attacks of opportunity.
  • Climb (Str): Too situational.
  • Escape Artist (Dex): Too situational.
  • Intimidate (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat.
  • Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills in the game.
  • Sense Motive (Wis): Not useful for the Master Chymist.
  • Stealth (Dex): Helpful for scouting.
  • Swim (Str): Too situational.

Feats

  • Dodge: The Master Chymist's biggest problem is AC, so Dodge is a nice boost.
  • Die for Your Master: If you have a tumor familiar, this could save your life.
  • Eldritch Claws: Great for bypassing DR until you get permanent Magic Fang.
  • Extra Discovery: Alchemist Discoveries are fantastic, and many of them will help you more than most feats. I don't think that you can select from the Advanced Mutagen list, unfortunately.
  • Improved Unarmed Strike: Not useful on its own, but essential for grapple builds.
    • Body Shield: Situational and not terribly effective, but very amusing.
    • Chokehold: Grappling creatures larger than you is hard, but getting them pinned in a Chokehold is probably the safest way to handle them in a Grapple.
    • Improved Grapple: With such fantastic Strength, it's pretty easy to overcome the Master Chymist's slight BAB deficit, making Grappling a viable option.
      • Strangler: With a minimum of 4d6 Sneak Attack from Vivisectionist, you can do quite a bit of damage with Strangler. However, you need to spend a Swift action to do so, so you can only do this once re round, and you can't combine Strangler with Rapid Grappler. Unless your GM allows you to use Bomb Thrower to scale Sneak Attack damage in place of bombs, Rapid Grappler will be considerably more effective.
      • Greater Grapple: Doubles your damage output while grappling.
        • Pinning Knockout: If you have a creature pinned you're already winning the fight by a huge margin. Nonlethal damage won't significantly improve your odds of winning.
        • Pinning Rend: You're not a Monk, so your Feral Mutagen claws are your best bet. If you have enhanced your claws with Magic Weapon, this might be enough damage to justify a feat.
        • Rapid Grappler: Tripple normal grapple damage output.
  • Iron Will: Will is the Master Chymist's wost save by far, and it gets even worse if you take the Ragechemist archetype.
  • Master Alchemist: Create multiple poisons at once, and craft alchemical items (including poison) 10 times as fast. If you really like to create a lot of alchemical items and poison, this can save you quite a bit of time.
  • Medium Armor Proficiency: Until you start picking up Greater/Grand Mutagen, you won't be enhancing your Dexterity much, and medium armor could be a good boost to AC. However, you will eventually be giving yourself a +4 or +6 bonus to Dexterity, and combined with a belt of physical perfection you will likely want to stick to light armor. If you still want to use medium armor, Mithral Kikko is your best bet. However, in the long term this will only amount to a +1 to AC, so Dodge will be a better option at high levels. If your GM allows you to use the retraining rules, retrain this into something more useful.
  • Multiattack: Feral Mutagen gives you three natural attacks, but all three of them are primary attacks so Multiattack won't do anything for you.
  • Power Attack: With ridiculous Strength and three natural attacks, Power Attack is a fantastic choice.
  • Shield Proficiency: The alchemist doesn't have to worry about arcane spell failure, so picking up a shield can be a considerable improvement to the Alchemist's AC. However, you can use a buckler or light shield, remember that the masterwork ACP will be 0, so there is no need for proficiency, making Shield Proficiency essentially a +1 bonus to AC, in which case Dodge is a better choice.
  • Toughness: With at least 7 levels of Alchemist providing only d6 hit points, Toughness can provide a lot of very welcome hit points.

Weapons

  • Dagger: Excellent for a variety of purposes, including stabbing people and throwing.
  • Natural Weapons: Feral Mutagen is a great option for getting natural weapons, and three attacks is more than you can hope for from weapons.
  • Crossbow, Light: Considerably better range than Bomb, but the damage is poor. A nice backup weapon at low level.
  • Javelin: An excellent way to apply your Mutagen-enhanced Strength bonus to damage.
  • Longspear: The alchemist's only option for a reach weapon, and mutagen-enhanced strength can make it passably dangerous.

Armor

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

  • Studded Leather: Your starting gear.
  • Masterwork Buckler: A masterwork buckler is one of the cheapest and easiest AC bonuses available, but it won't work while you're using your claws from Feral Mutagen. Fortunately, the Alchemist can take the Vestigial Arm discovery to get a third hand in which to hold a shield.
  • Mithral Shirt: If you stick to light armor, this is your best option for your whole career.
  • Breastplate: If you pick up medium armor you will use a breastplate until you pick up Greater/Grand Mutagen and a belt which increases your Dexterity, at which point you should spend the money to upgrade to Mithral Kikko.
  • Mithral Kikko: If you use medium armor and use the +4 Grand Mutagen bonus for Dexterity, Mithral Kikko will allow you use a +6 belt of physical perfection to bring your Dexterity to 24 and just hit the Maximum Dexterity Bonus.

Magic Items

  • Permanent Magic Fang: Feral Mutagen gives you natural weapons, but they are non-magical, making them bad at bypassing even the most basic DR. Magic Fang provides bonuses to attack and damage, and you can bypass DR/magic. If the enhancement is good enough, you can also bypass other forms of DR. A permanent +5 enhancement bonus costs 8100 gp (600 for a level 20 caster to cast magic fang, and 7500 for permanency), less than the cost of a +2 weapon, and can bypass all forms of DR. Be sure that your GM is comfortable with you having a 20th-level caster handy to cast spells for you. If not, you can

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

A one-level dip into other classes can grant a lot of useful proficiencies, feats, and abilities.

  • Barbarian: Rage is tempting, but you won't have enough Rage rounds to make a Barbarian dip worthwhile..
  • Brawler: One level gets you Improved Unarmed Strike and Martial Flexibility. You won't make use of the Brawler's other 1st-level abilities, and even Martial Flexibility won't be particularly useful.
  • Fighter: Bonus combat feats are always great for melee monsters, and the Mutation Warrior's archetype's Mutagen stacks with the Alchemist's and the Master Chymist's.
  • Monk: You get Improved Unarmed Strike, bonuses to all three saves, Stunning Fist, and a bonus feat which you can use for Improved Grapple. However, your the Master Chymist is unlikely to make use of Flurry of Blows or the Monk's AC Bonus, and your BAB doesn't increase.
  • Ranger: The Natural Weapon combat style seems tempting, but it's not worthwhile. Fighter levels will be considerably more useful.

Example Build - The Mutagenic Strangler

SURPRISE!

This is a grapple build intended to capitalize on the Master Chymist's insane Strength and on Vivisectionist's Sneak Attack damage. While the Master Chymist lacks the BAB of traditional grapplers (Brawlers, Fighters, Monks), the raw Strength can make up for much of the deficit.

This build honestly isn't that great, but I really wanted a way to use Strangler, and this is the best way I could think to do so.

Abilities

We will assume the 25-point buy abilities suggested above, but the other suggested abilities can also use this build without any problems.

Race

Half-Orc. We're going to use the Ragechemist archetype, so the Orc's Sacred Tattoo is a big help for overcoming our Will save problem. The flexible ability bonus will go into Strength.

Classes

Alchemist will be our entry class, and we will use both the Ragechemist and Vivisectionist archetypes. Beastmorph would work in place of Ragechemist, but I think that Strength will be more helpful for this build than the Beastmorph's abilities. I will assume that Master Chymist will increase Sneak Attack the same way it increases bombs, but be sure that you consult with your GM to be sure, as this build depends heavily on that assumption.

Skills

Skills aren't particularly important to the build. Take whatever you need to help your party.

Traits

Fate's Favored and Indomitable Faith. This will give us a whole bunch of bonuses to saves.

Levels

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
Alchemist 1
  • Alchemy
  • Sneak Attack +1d6
  • Brew Potion
  • mutagen
  • Throw Anything
  • Feat: Improved Unarmed Strike

First level is hard. Rely on your Infusions to buff yourself a bit, and try to bring Sneak Attack into play as much as possible by using thrown javelins. With Mutagen your Strength will be 22, which is great, so you might get into melee with a two-handed weapon like a Spear or Longspear. Remember that Mutagen adds +4 natural armor, so even in studded leather your AC will be a perfectly respectable 19.

Alchemist 2
  • Discovery: Feral Mutagen
  • poison resistance +2
  • Rage Mutagen
  • Torturer's Eye

Feral Mutagen allows you to start using natural weapons. With 24 strength, you get three attacks dealing 1d6+7 or 1d8+7, which puts many two-weapon fighters to shame.

Rage Mutagen improves the Mutagen Strength bonus to +6, but at the cost potentially losing Intelligence and Will Save bonus every time that you take damage. Between abilities, traits, and class bonuses you have a total +5 to Will saves at this level, which is only enough to succeed 50% of the time. Be sure to pick up a Cloak of Resistance as soon as possible, and enhance your AC so that you won't take damage frequently.

Alchemist 3
  • Sneak Attack +2d6
  • swift alchemy
  • Cruel Anatomist
  • Feat: Improved Grappler

Improved Grappler is fundamental to this builds long-term strategy, but don't feel compelled to start grappling if three natural attacks is working better for you. With +2d6 Sneak Attack damage, three attacks can be a big pile of damage while you're flanking. If you do choose to grapple, you can apply natural weapon damage (such as your 1d8 bite) when you take a standard action to maintain a grapple. Grapple also has the added benefit of making it difficult for grappled enemies to deal damage to you.

Alchemist 4
  • Discovery: Vestigial Arm
  • Ability Increase: Strength

Vestigial Arm isn't particularly exciting, but it allows you to pick up a shield. a +1 Buckler is 1165 gp, and provides a very welcome +2 to AC. Coupled with Chain Shirt and the natural armor from Mutagen you should have at least 22 AC. By this level you can probably also afford a Ring of Protection and/or an Amulet of Natural Armor. Get as much AC as you can manage. It's doubly important with only d6 hit points.

Alchemist 5
  • Sneak Attack +3d6
  • poison resistance +4
  • Feat: Strangler

Strangler dramatically improves the effectiveness of grappling, but if you can flank you will probably still have better damage output with your three natural attacks.

Alchemist 6
  • Discovery: Spontaneous Healing
  • Sturdy Rage

Spontaneous healing allows you to heal yourself a bit every round as a free action. This dramatically improves your pool of hit points for the day, and makes you able to quickly counter bleed effects.

Sturdy rage adds another +4 natural armor, making your AC truly impressive. However, you are still extremely vulnerable to touch attacks regardless of how little damage they deal. Be sure to invest in Dexterity boosting items and Rings of Protection.

Alchemist 7
  • Sneak Attack +4d6
  • Torturous Transformation
  • Feat: Power Attack

Combat Maneuver checks are attacks, so you can use Power Attack with them, including on Grapple checks. Against enemies who you can grapple with relative ease you can give up some of your CMB (only -2 at this BAB) for a bit of extra damage.

Master Chymist 1
  • Bomb-thrower
  • mutagenic form
  • mutate 2/day
  • Ability Increase: Strength

Our first level of Master Chymist brings us Mutate 2/day, which allows us to mutate a total of 3 times. This triples the amount of time that we can spend mutated, but also allows us to wait for our Mutagen to expire so that we can recover from the penalties inflicted by Rage Mutagen.

Master Chymist 2
  • Sneak Attack +5d6
  • +1 level of alchemist
  • Advanced mutagen: Burly
  • Feat: Greater Grapple

Greater Grapple adds a lot of reliability and extra damage. If you fail to maintain the grapple, you can try again in the same round. If you succeed both times, you get extra damage. Don't forget to use your swift action to use Strangler. 5d6 damage is nice, even once per round.

Burly adds a nice scaling bonus to CMB/CMD which will make grappling easier.

Master Chymist 3
  • +1 level of alchemist
  • Brutality +2

Brutality will improve your natural weapon damage, including on grapples. Power Attack also scales at this level, giving you another two damage for another -1 penalty to attacks.

Master Chymist 4
  • Sneak Attack +6d6
  • Advanced mutagen: ANY
  • Feat: Rapid Grappler

Rapid Grappler hugely improves your damage output by allowing you to make a total of three grapple checks in a single turn. With 6d6 Sneak Attack damage, you can do a huge pile of damage to whatever you're strangling.

Beyond Level 11

At this point we have everything we absolutely need for the build. Continue taking levels of Master Chymist until you get all of the good Advanced Mutagen options, then consider returning to Alchemist or consider multiclassing to pick up style feats like Grabbing Style.