Zenith's Guide to the Alchemist
Part III: Feats and Traits
Part I: Introduction, Attributes & Races
Part II: Discoveries
Part III: Feats & Traits
Part IV: Extracts
Part V: Equipment, Multi-Classing & Builds
I won't be going through every feat in the game. Instead, I'll be covering feats that either benefit the alchemist, or look like they benefit the alchemist but really, really don't. If it's not included on this list, you better have a good reason for taking it.
I'm going to be avoiding feats that give skill bonuses. As an alchemist you get lots of skills, and not too many feats, so the trade off is weak.
I'm also not going to talk too much about pure combat feats like Power Attack or any Combat Maneuvers. These aren't really for you unless you desperately want to tank. In general, anything that takes advantage of your high Dexterity (like Agile Maneuvers or Combat Reflexes), is a good thing and the classics are also fine. But you should really focus on other things.
There are only a few feats that are as good for you as Extra Discovery and Extra Bombs. Even if you choose to tank heavily, most of your feat slots should be converted into one of those two options.
Balancing Attack Modifiers Feats
Lets talk quickly about balancing attack modifiers. There are a few feats that allow you to improve your attack modifier (Point Blank Shot, Weapon Focus, Precise Shot), and there are a few feats that allow you to sacrifice attack modifiers for extra attacks or damage (Deadly Aim, Rapid Shot, Two Weapon Fighting). Since you are attacking touch, your target AC from levels 1 - 20 stays about the same: 12. Since your Dex and BAB go up with levels, this means that you should grab a few attack modifier bonuses early on, and then load on the attack modifier penalties when you hit +10 attack bonus on your full attack. Here are the Attack Modifier feats to Consider.
Rapid Shot (*****): Yum. Take this in conjunction with Fast Bombs to get the Party Started.
Two Weapon Fighting (*****): Take this in conjunction with Fast Bombs and Rapid shot to throw three bombs a -4 below your top BAB.
Point Blank Shot (****): Many bombs you throw will be within 30 feet, so a simple +1 to damage and attack at all times is good. Even better are the other feats it opens up.
Precise Shot (****): As a ranged combatant you are often going to be throwing bombs danger close. A -4 penalty is pretty big even when attacking touch. Let's get rid of it.
Splash Weapon Mastery (***): An improved version of far shot that just applies to splash weapons. As an added bonus, you get to designate an additional square for your splash damage. Take this over Far Shot, but's it's not the biggest priority.
Improved Two Weapon Fighting (***): Three bombs a turn from Rapid Shot and TWF is probably enough, but if you really want to nova at high levels you can take this.
Weapon Focus (***): This will help your bombs connect. It's good to take at lower levels, and it can counteract some of the Rapid Shot/TWF penalties.
Far Shot (**): The small bonus isn't really enough to justify this feat. A range of 30 feet is enough in most combats.
Greater Two Weapon Fighting (**): You don't really need to get out bombs this fast. Do something else with your feats.
Bullseye Shot (*): By the time you qualify for this, you should be throwing multiple bombs, and you should be hitting all the time. No need.
Many shot (*): This doesn't work with bombs. Don't bother.
Arcane Strike (*): Unfortunately, you don't qualify for this as an Alchemist. So it does nothing.
Deadly Aim (*): Deadly Aim doesn't work with bombs, so no need.
Other Relevant Feats
Extra Discover (****): Discoveries are almost always better than feats. If you are considering a green or weaker feat, instead take a Discovery.
Extra Traits (****): There are plenty of Traits well worth your time. See below. Firebug is of particular note, given that it is strictly better than weapon focus (bomb).
Improved Initiative (****): Going first means you can buff quickly, debuff quickly, or just destroy clumped enemies. Always a solid choice, but slightly less so for an alchemist than for, say, an archer or ninja. Also grab a tumor familiar that will give you an initiative bump. With your high Dexterity, you should be starting (and ending) most combats.
Die for Your Master (****): You should get a tumor familiar for the familiar bonus (initiative or similar), so Die for Your Master is the logical next step. This ability will save your but multiple times, even though you'll have to pay for a new one. Hey, your life is worth 200gp per level, right?
Leadership (xxxx): Right. Only take this is everybody is on board with the headache and unbalance.
Ability Focus (xxxx): This is dubious at best. If your GM lets you apply Ability Focus to your bombs, then go for it. But it's going to unbalance you real quick.
Extra Bombs (****): I know it's only two more bombs, but that's essentially your level times d6 plus two different debuffs each day. Each time you take this, you can feel more confident about throwing more bombs and get less and less stingy with them. If you don't have a discovery in mind, and you've taken every feat you want, take Extra Bombs.
Dodge (***): An extra AC never hurts, both when you are tanking and trying to avoid enemy fire.
Master Alchemist (***): This is only worth taking if you love your poisons. Being able to craft multiple poisons at once in a fast moving campaign can be a godsend. If you don't craft poisons, don't bother.
Planar Preservationist (***): If you have the Preservationist archetype, then your range of summons is increased. Monsters typically have more versatility than animals if you know what you are doing.
Close Quarters Thrower (***): You no longer suffer attacks of opportunity when throwing bombs, but you can usually just step out of the way, right? Still, once you get to higher levels and fight enemies with long reach, it can be worth it (though if you are tanking you should be able to take the hit).
Arcane Strike (**): Alchemists don't usually qualify for Arcane Strike, but with the Spell Knowledge Discovery they get CL = Alchemist level. The additional +5 damage over 20 levels is nice, but unfortunately you have to burn a discovery on Spell Knowledge when there are far better options out there. If you are taking Spell Knowledge anyway, then by all means grab this. If not, then it's likely not worth your time.
Potion Glutton (**): Does this work with extracts and mutagens? Probably not. Drinking potions becomes a swift action, but making or retrieving extracts and mutagens stays the same. Still, if you love your potions it's worth something.
Opening Volley (**): If you are embracing your tank self, then you do have worse options. But a more consisted bonus is better, even if it's just Weapon Focus.
Improved Critical (**): Doubling your critical range to 19-20/x2 isn't nothing. With the number of bombs you are throwing out there, some are going to hit it, and you are almost certainly going to confirm. The rest of the critical chain, however, isn't worth thinking about.
Diehard (**): This feat is only worth taking with Lingering Spirit. Though the synergy is great (and fun), it's ultimately not worth the two feats to get here.
Toughness (**): Extra HP is fine, but there are better discoveries to improve your lifespan.
Remote Bomb (**): Take this one more for fun than anything else. It'll be extremely satisfying when you use it, but it's doubtful that it will be better than an alternative.
Ricochet Splash Weapon (**): It's not too frequent that two enemies are standing next to each other, and it's really not too frequent that your bombs would miss. You're better off with Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, or anything that will help your hit chance so you don't miss in the first place.
Adder Strike (*): If you've somehow made a build that uses unarmed strikes (not natural attacks), then this is fine. And I'd love to see it. Otherwise, skip.
Clustered Shot (*): Energy damage isn't affected by DR. This does nothing for you.
Nimble Moves (*): Your milage may vary with how much your GM likes difficult terrain. I personally don't think this is used enough to justify a feat slot.
Implant Bomb (*): This is so situational it's not worth taking. Besides, a nice GM will let you do something like this without the feat anyway.
Deceptive Exchange (*): Or, you know, just throw the bomb at them. You are good at that.
Hammer the Gap (*): This is going to deal an extra 1, 3, or 6 damage a turn. However, the amount of damage that you are dealing to get that is so substantial that those meager increases don't even really register.
Snap Shot (*): Taking attacks of opportunity with bombs would be really excellent, except that you can't do it. Unfortunately, bombs can only be crafted and thrown on your turn. Oh well.
We're just going to talk about a few Traits that really benefit the Alchemist. Beyond that, all the standard traits suffice.
Firebug (combat) (*****): Here's weapon focus (bomb) and splash weapons in trait form. If you don't take this during character creation, grab it with Extra Traits.
Student of Philosophy (social)/Clever Wordplay (social)/Bruising Intellect (social)(***): This is likely to translate into a +6 or so bonus for a Charisma skill. The most common uses of Diplomacy and Bluff if you take Student of Philosophy. Well worth a single trait.
Reactionary (combat)/Warrior of Old (race)/Elven Reflexes (race)(****): +2 Initiative is well worth a single trait. Combine this with Improved Initiative, an initiative boost familiar, and a high Dex score and you are looking at +15 or so initiative.
Focused Burn (magic)(****): +1 damage per 2d6 per bomb is a nice little damage buff, and well worth a trait. By level 7 it's equivalent to Weapon specialization, and by level 15, it's equivalent to two weapon specialization. Whenever you use a tanglefoot, confusion, curse, blinding or the like bomb, it will apply. Not bad for a trait!
Pragmatic Activator (magic)(***): If you plan on using Use Magic Device, certainly let it key off of Int instead of Cha.
Accelerated Drinker (***): If you find yourself with a lot of potions, then sure. However, if you are in the situation where this looks appealing, the feat Potion Glutton is so far superior that it's worth going for. This doesn't work with extracts.
Armor Expert (***): This trait lets you wear a Mithral Breastplate without needing the medium armor proficiency. If you are tanking, it's a great place to be.