Thursday, November 26, 2015

Zenith's Guide to the Alchemist, Part V: Equipment, Multi-Classing & Builds

Zenith's Guide to the Alchemist
Part V: Equipment, Multi-Classing & Builds

Part I: Introduction, Attributes & Races
Part II: Discoveries
Part III: Feats & Traits
Part IV: Extracts
Part V: Equipment, Multi-Classing & Builds


There's a lot of equipment to consider, so I'll just be touching on pieces that disproportionately benefit the alchemist, or pieces that are truly must haves.

    Belt of Dexterity (****): Dexterity does the most for you, so you may want to take this all the way up to +6. If you really love tanking, then adding some Con or Str does the most for you.

   Any of the standards will do.

    Sipping Jacket (***): If you love your potions, changing one into a swift action is good.  If you don't love your potions, then don't bother. (5,000gp)
    Vest of Stable Mutation (**): You might want to take this if you choose to get true mutation, but otherwise you aren't going to be tanking Int and throwing bombs at the same time.  There's no need, especially for the cost. Even if you do like using a Strength Mutagen, you might be better off just upgrading your headband of intelligence for this price. (20,000gp)

   Any of the standards will do.

    Boots of Speed (****): Free action haste for up to 10 rounds a day?  Grab these as soon as you get fast bombs. (12,000gp)

   Poisoner's Gloves (***): A good boon for an infusion build, and decent for everybody else. Once per day, you can use an extract as part of an attack routine.  If you buy two, you can do it twice!  (5,000gp)

    Helm of the Mammoth Lord (****): If you are going the natural attack route, an extra gore attack is shiny. (8,500gp)

    Headband of Intelligence (****): Intelligence up, all the way.  The attribute does too much for you to really consider anything else.
    Headband of Aerial Agility +2 (***): Or, for only 500gp more, you get a slight bonus to your flying abilities.  Too bad the price scales so horrendously.  While the +2 version is only slightly more expensive than a headband of intelligence, the +4 version is twice as expensive.  Save yourself some gold and go with the normal headband.

    Cloak of Resistance (****): To help with your Will save, really.

    Ring of Inner Fortitude, Minor (***): This ring makes Cognotogens much more appealing, as it virtually negates the ability damage.  However, it's far too expensive to expect before 8th or so level, so Cognotogens are still unappealing until that point.  After that, feel free to pick it up though!

   Any of the standards will do.

   Any of the standards will do.

     Bombchucker (*****): 12gp to increase the range of your bombs by 10 feet?  Every alchemist should have this, no question.
     Bandolier (****): You can by two of these for 1gp, and they can store up to 16 items for easy access. (5sp)
    Spring Loaded Wrist Sheath (****): At 5 gp a pop, you can retrieve a single stored item as a swift action.  Well worth your time. (5gp)
    Hybridization Funnel (****): Double the effectiveness of your thrown alchemical weapons!   Fun while it lasts, but even this can't save the items from obscurity at high levels. (200gp)
    Boro Bead (****): The extract version of a pearl of power.
    Preserving Flask (****): A less flexible Boro Bead, but it doesn't require an action to use.
    Admixture Vial (****): Drink two extracts at one time!  Wonderful for action economy.  Pick your two favorite buffs and drink them in one turn. (4,000p)
    Formula Alembic (****): It's rare that you will get to use this (perhaps once or twice a campaign), but at only 200gp there's little reason not to carry it around.  You can pick up a bunch of new extracts this way.

    Your Primary weapons are bombs, which can get no enhancements.  If you aren't using natural weapons for tanking, then you might want to consider purchasing a nice melee weapon and enchanting it with one of the below.  However, don't spend too much money on it.  This isn't your forte.
    The standard +X are good here, but again don't waste too much money on it.
   Agile (****): If you aren't using natural weapons for tanking, you can dump strength and still do decent damage with weapon finesse and Agile. (+1)

    A mithral chain shirt has a Max Dexterity Bonus of +6, so that's a good call.  However, if you take the Armor Expert trait, you can wear a Mithral breastplate without any issues.  It's a bit pricey, but well worth it if you are tanking.
   The standard +X are good here.
   Comfort (****): Combine Comfort, Mithral, and Armor Expert, and you can wear some heavy armor without the proficiency (5,000gp).
   Determination (****): I get to come back to life once a day?  Sure, thanks! Stick this on your shield and armor for twice a day. (30,000gp)

   You should wear a buckler when you have the chance. The downside is nonexistent before you go TWF, and even when you do a -1 to attack is nothing for bombs at that level.
   The standard +X are good here.
   Determination (****): I get to come back to life once a day?  Sure, thanks! Stick this on your shield and armor for twice a day. (30,000gp)

Alchemical Items
    While flavorful, alchemical items lack scaling DCs and so become useless past level 5 or so.  For those few levels, Ghost Retch Jars, Holy Water, Tanglefoot and Tangleburn Bag, Acid are fine.
     Unstable Accelerants, on the other hand, are useful from level 1 to 20.  Grab a ton of these, and increase your bomb damage by +d6 (at least for bombs that deal fire damage).
     Beyond that, all the classics should do.


Unless you are a vivisectionist, multi-classing really sucks for the Alchemist.  Everything that makes you better - Bombs, extracts, mutagens - scales with your alchemist level, and no other class gives it to you.  If you are focused on bombs, you want Alchemist straight from level 1 to 20.  That's it.

Fighter (**): If you really want to focus on tanking, then you can take a 1 level dip into Fighter.  This dip gives you a feat and a BAB, but more importantly it gives you proficiency in martial weapons and all armor.  If the fighter has the Unbreakable Archetype then you get Endurance and Die Hard, useful with Lingering Spirit.  If you love combat maneuvers as a tank, then a two level dip into Lore Warden gives you combat expertise.  Still, not recommended.

Monk (**): The other option for tanking is the monk.  Two levels in Monk give you a nice buff to all saves and plenty of feats, particularly with some archetypes (Sohei and Master of Many Styles for example).  Still, losing out on that BAB and delaying everything else really sucks.

Wizard (*): Wizard is at least talking about.  You get a bunch of cantrips and a familiar, and your will save increases.  If you are huge fan of cantrips, then think about it.  But you can do similar things with extracts.

Leave the multi-classing to the martials.  And the vivisectionists.


There are a range of possible builds for the Alchemist, and you should use these as a starting point

Classic Alchemist (****):  Bombs are your biggest priority, but it doesn't hurt to dabble. You go beastmorph and grab infusion and feral mutagen to stay relevant as a buffer and tank.  You do not neglect Alchemy and crafting, perhaps even creating a poison or two, but bombs are still your go-to.

Mad Bomber (****): Bombs are your one and only priority, and everything you do is focused on more and bigger booms.  Your feats go to Extra Discoveries and Extra Bombs, and you probably want the Grenadier archetype.  You take the whole TWF/Rapid shot/Fast bombs route, and grab PBS and Precise shot to make up for it.  Very little attention is paid to the extract side of things, but you buff yourself when you get the chance. You may find a full build here or here

Bomber Buffer (****): You aren't going to be as good at buffing as a cleric or wizard, but you can certainly chip in.  You take infusion early, wear poisoner gloves, and carry around an admixture vial.  Other than that, you follow the classic bombing route.

Bomber Tank (****): You embrace your subrole of tanking and melee.  You burn through bombs quickly, then mutagen and step into the fray.  Beastmorph and natural attacks take over at this point.  You take all of the mutagen discoveries, as well as many of the ones that increase life and good health, such as mummification and elixir of life.  If you've used your extracts well, then you should be seeing some truly excellent damage.

The Dissector (****): I know we didn't talk about it, but it's worth seeing a build anyway.   Beastmorph and vivisectionist, then buff yourself for some truly excellent damage. Feral mutagen is where you get your natural attacks and pounce, and then this build resembles the bomber tank without the bombs.  Who needs a rogue anyway?  You can find a full build here.

Bow Alchemist (****): What to do when you run out of bombs?  Well, pick up your bow, of course! Be an elf or pick up the bow proficiency with the Grenadier archetype.  You may have to devote some feats to making the bow more effective, but you'll save on needing survivability by staying at range.  Grab a compound bow for the strength benefits you'll get with mutagen and your extracts.

Smokeman (***): You focus more on the smoke bomb line of things:  Inferno, stink, disease, that sort of thing.  You are great at area denial and large groups of enemies, but less strong against bosses.  If you are a goblin, you definitely pick up rocket bombs to further increase your area of effect.

Minion Master (***):  The whole simulacrum tree, that's your business.  Alchemical Zombies too, and certainly the boneshard bomb. It's messy, it's complicated, but you can handle it.  Other than that, bombs away!

Poison Master (**):  Poisons aren't the best thing in the world, but you're determined to make them work.  Poison Conversion, Malignant Poison, Concentrate Poison, and Sticky Poison are all necessary to stay relevant.  Keep in mind, however, that you are going to be putting in hard nights slaving over the alembic (and many discoveries) to achieve similar results as the Mad Bomber.

Cognatogen Junkie (**): Despite my best efforts, you have chosen the cognatogen.  Well, fine.  Your Bomb DCs will be nice and high, and you may have plenty of options when it comes to skills.  However, you better get some way of dealing with that attribute damage.

Zenith's Guide to the Alchemist
Part I: Introduction, Attributes, Races & Archetypes
Part II: Discoveries
Part III: Feats & Traits
Part IV: Extracts
Part V: Equipment, Multi-Classing & Builds


  1. couple of things with the discoveries, (ref to anaylis vs paralys in mummification for example) but Rogue archetype underground chemist is nice, add sneak dice to bombs, get to treat alchemy items as weapons (so can full attack them). with the rogue build, the missile discovery can be very good when sniping, loose iteratives, but can resteath, and use the right bomb or alchemical item for particular situations.

  2. I would like to point out that the tumor familiar discovery is amazing with the familiar Archetype protector. 5 fast healing....... Split damage..... Aid another to increase AC... All good stuff for any build really.....

  3. Ring of Inner Fortitude makes Cognatogen much more attractive.

    1. Great call! Added! Too bad it's so expensive.

  4. Would the Bombchucker not interfere with Two weapon fighting of throwing bombs with both hands?

    1. Good question! Probably? In any case, it's still great up until fast bombs, and then you should ask your DM.

  5. Here is one item I feel should defiantly be included.

    Question is whether you can use it and Hybridization Funnel to supercharge a alchemist flask that has been doubled. If so, then you can get some more mileage out of items, especially with the Grenadier archetype.

    That is, if you can convince your GM :P