Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dissector (Alchemist Build)

Human Alchemist (Beastmorph/Vivisectionist)
Slice and dice, rend and bend.  Who needs bombs?

The vivisectionist alchemist, all hulked out on mutagens and buffs, can make a frightening and terribly effective melee characters.  He can out utility the rogue, lay down a ton of hurt, trip and pounce, and still have plenty of tricks left up his sleeve.

Strength > Intelligence > Dexterity/Constitution > Wisdom > Charisma

Strength is our number one concern, followed closely by intelligence. Dexterity and Constitution help keep us alive.  Wisdom gives us a will save, but not much else. Charisma is a comfortable dump stat.

15 Point Buy
Str: 18 (16+2)
Dex: 12
Con: 12
Int: 15
Wis: 8
Cha: 7

20 Point Buy
Str: 18 (16+2)
Dex: 14
Con: 14
Int: 14
Wis: 9
Cha: 7

25 Point Buy
Str: 18 (16+2)
Dex: 14
Con: 14
Int: 16
Wis: 9
Cha: 7

Attribute bonuses go into Strength.  However, make sure that Intelligence keeps pace with your Extract level as well.


Good old Reactionary and Carefully Hidden give us +2 initiative and +1 Will respectively.


1: Dodge & Toughness
2: Feral Mutagen
3: Extra Discovery: Tumor Familiar (Turtle for +1 AC) (Protector Archetype)
4: Spontaneous Healing
5: Iron Will
6: Lingering Spirit
7: Power Attack
8: Preserve Organs
9: Die for your Master
10: Mummification
11: Extra Discovery: Crippling Strike
12: Greater Mutagen
13: Improved Initiative
14: Preserve Organs
15: Improved Iron Will
16: Grand Mutagen
17: Combat Reflexes
18: Elixir of Life
19: Weapon Focus (Claw)
20: Preserve Organs, Dilution, True Mutagen

We shall be self buffing a lot.  Notable Extracts include: Shield, Enlarge Person, Long Arm, Blur, Displacement, Fly, Channel Vigor, Heroism, Ablative Barrier, Greater Invisibility, Greater False Life,  Freedom of Movement, Overland Flight, Heal, True Seeing, and Giant Form I.


Strength, AC, getting natural attacks, and increasing Will are your highest priorities.  To that end, a belt of strength, strong armor, and a cloak of resistance are great.  Helm of the Mammoth Lord is absolutely key, as it provides a gore attack to add to the natural attack nonsense.

What the Build looks like at...
Keep in mind that the below include mutagen, but do not include any extracts.  At higher levels, extracts such as Greater Invisibility,  Displacement, and Giant form will double the build's damage and survivability.

Level 1: At level 1, the dissector is more tank than anything else.  We attack with a spear at +5 for d8+7 (x3) damage.  1d6 sneak attack.  We wear a chain shirt for 19 AC, and has 14 hp.  Not too bad for a spell caster.  We've also got 7 skill points and saves of 4/4/0.
We can buff with Shield, Enlarge Person, and Long Arm.

Level 4:  With Feral Mutagen, we now attack with a bite at +8 for 1d8+5 (x2) and two claws at +8 for 1d6 + 5.  2d6 sneak attack.  Our AC is 20, and we have 39hp, though it is effectively 49 with spontaneous healing. While mutagened, we have dark vision or scent. We also have a tumor familiar. We have 28 skill points, and our saves are +6/+6/+1.
We can buff with blur.

Level 8:  With power attack, we now attack with bite at +10 for 1d8+10 and two claws at +10 for 1d6 +10.  4d6 sneak attack. 75 hp, though Spontaneous Healing essentially adds 20hp, lingering spirit means we can go down to -24, and preserve organs means we have a 25% chance of negating sneak attack or a crit.  Our tumor now protects us, increasing our AC and taking hits for us while regenerating health. We have 56 skill points, and saves of +8/+8/+4.
Our mutagen can give us swim, flight, and dark vision, among other things.
We can cast 5 level 1s, 5 level 2s, and 2 level 3s.  We have added Displacement, Fly, Channel Vigor, and Heroism to our repertoire.

Level 12:  A lot happened in the last four levels.  Die for your Master means we get yet another lease on life, and Mummification makes us immune to cold, nonlethal, paralysis and sleep.  Our initiative has also increased to +8.
We now attack at +13 for 1d8+13, and two claws at +13 for 1d6 + 13.  We have pounce and trip at +13 CMB.  Sneak attack is 6d6 and two Strength damage from crippling strike.
Our hp is 135, with Spontaneous Healing adding 30hp.  AC is 22. With Lingering Spirit, Mummification, Die for your master, and everything else, it's very, very hard to kill us.
We have 84 skill points and saves of +12/+10/+6
When mutagened, gain +6 Strength and +4 Constitution, and +4 AC. We also gain pounce and trip.  These to factors make us truly incredible.
We can case 6 level 1, 6 level 2, 4 level 3, and 3 level 4.  Greater invisibility is the really good 4th level extract for us, but Greater false life and Freedom of movement are also solid.
DPR with sneak attack against an average CR 12 monster is 40 with two strength damage.

Level 16: Our grand mutagen is now in play.  We attack at +16 for 1d8+16 and two claws at +16 for 1d6+16 each.  Trip, pounce, fly, stuff like that. 8d8 sneak attack and 2 Strength damage, and tripping on +16.
195 hp, 26 AC, and all the previous buffs, in addition to 50% chance to negate crits and sneak attack.
128 skill points, saves of 15/14/6, but once a day re-roll of will.
Extract levels 5 and 6 have opened up Overland Flight, Heal, and True Seeing, but also Giant Form I which should be on whenever we can afford it.  We can cast 6/6/6/4/3/1 extracts.

Level 20:  With true feral, we are attacking at +19 for 1d8+16, and two claws at +20 for 1d6+16.  10d6 sneak attack with 2 Strength damage, trip, pounce, grab, and anything else we want.
We are nigh unkillable.  28 AC, 263 hp (50 more from spontaneous healing), and all the bonuses from before.
160 skill points. Saves at +18/+18/+8, with that Will re-roll.
We can cast extracts at 6/6/6/5/5/5.  Giant Form is on all the time!

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Zenith's Guide to the Alchemist, Part IV: Extracts

Zenith's Guide to the Alchemist
Part IV: Extracts

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 extract in the game. Instead, I'll be covering extract 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 it's probably red or orange, and you better be taking it for fun or flavor.

Extracts can be broadly categorized into three sections:  Attacks, buffs, and utility.  Of the three, attacks are the least useful given that you have almost always better attacks in the form of bombs.  Thus, you should focus your energies more on buffs and utility.

In combat, you are generally going to be throwing bombs or tanking, but an infusion build may want to buff his allies.  If you have other options, try not to spend an action buffing yourself.  Use your extracts primarily outside of combat.

All buff spells are improved with the Infusion discovery, and many should be rated one level higher in that case.

1st Level Extracts

Heightened Awareness (****): +2 bonus on Perception and Knowledge and +4 Initiative for your next initiative.  Combined with a 10 minutes/level duration, this is a great always on buff.  Much better than Anticipate Peril.

Reduce Person (****): Reduce person gives you a +2 bonus to Dexterity, and a +1 bonus on attacks and AC.  A worthy buff for you at 1 min/level.

Shield (****): A whopping +4 bonus to AC is great both for attacking and staying alive in the back.

Targeted Bomb Admixture (****): Here's an interesting spell that could change the way you use bombs.  For 1 round/level, you don't deal splash damage, but your main target takes a little extra damage.  Since you'll often be in the situation where you either don't care about splash or want it removed, this could be a good way to avoid burning a discovering on a bomb splash director.

Comprehend Languages (****): Comprehend Languages is a fantastic low level utility spell that you will use time and again in both metropolises and dungeons.  Or, just get it in a scroll.

Monkey Fish (****): Great utility spell for getting up walls or across rivers.

Cure Light Wounds (***): Others can do it better, but if you don't want to use their spell slots, use yours.  Or, you know, just buy a wand.

Enlarge Person (***): Not great when throwing bombs, great when tanking.  Also great as an infusion.

Expeditious Retreat (***): Don't underestimate extra move speed.  It's better when you can infuse your melee buddies though.

Illusion of Calm (***): Great for getting a surprise round and avoiding opportunity attacks.

True Strike (***): Things can get a bit funky here. Combined with Potion Glutton, here's a good way to always hit (and burn through extracts fast).  It can be useful if you are throwing bombs from a great distance, but you'll hit with bombs so often it's probably not necessary.

Crafter's Fortune (***): For when you aren't adventuring and really want to make that craft check.

Disguise (***): Another classic utility spell, great for subterfuge.

Endure Elements (***): Great when you need it, and even better with Infusion.

Long Arm (**): If you are hulking out with claws, it's a okay bet, but it's really great in infused form for your melee buddies.  Mix with Enlarge Person for best results.

Anticipate Peril (**): +5 initiative ain't bad, but it only lasts 1 minute per level.  Useful if you know a combat is coming, useless if you don't.  However, you should really grab Heightened Awareness instead.

Bomber's Eye (**): +1 to attack is fine, but +10 range is really nice.  Too bad it only lasts 1 round per level, or this would be a simple buff to leave on all the time.

Adhesive Spittle (**): The short range of this attack means you may want to just stick with tanglefoot bags or bombs.

Identify (**): Hopefully you have somebody else to do this, and hopefully that person can take his time with it.  But it you have a rest day and need to do some identifying, then why not?

See Alignment (**): As a GM, I hate spells like this.  But, if you really want to get an idea of a town or person, chug one of these.

Touch of the Sea (**): For most cases where you want this, Monkey Fish will suffice and have better utility.

Vocal Alteration (**): Not as broadly useful as Disguise, but a good compliment to it.

Jump (*): Fun for a few levels, but I'm sure you can think of another way of getting across that chasm.

Firebelly (*): Use bombs.

Invisibility Alarm (*): I'd only grab this if I knew I was off to fight invisible creatures.

Youthful Appearance (*): It's hard to think of a use for this that isn't covered by Disguise.

2nd Level Extracts

Alchemical Allocation (*****): Buy the most expensive potion you can.  Drink it.  Then drink it again.  And again.  This slot is essentially a buff that provides the bonuses of the most expensive potion you can purchase. Feel free to use this out of combat.

Alter Self (****): Multi-use utility spell which can provide dark vision, scent, or swim as well as a small attribute bonus.

Detect Thoughts (****): Great detective work spell, and great for getting the upper hand in conversations.

Focused Scrutiny (****): Between this and detect thoughts, an alchemist can socially buff to a great degree.  Wonderful for talking to kings and commoners alike.

Invisibility (****): Classic, powerful, multi-use.  Not a great buffing spell, but great for both instigating and retreating from combat, as well as scouting and investigation.

Touch Injection (****): The poor man's Infusion, there are a few uses of this offensively but they are mostly extremely cheesy (Skinsend for example).

Barkskin (****): Simple and powerful at 10 min/level, a +2 to AC is wonderful for just about anybody.

Resist Energy (****): You'll use this anytime you fight a dragon, elemental, or anything with obvious elemental predilections.  An incredibly useful and powerful buff.

Restoration, Lesser (****): Don't prepare it until you need it, but you will absolutely use it to keep your party in functioning order.

Vinestrike (****): This is an absolutely excellent buff if you are relying on natural attacks.  Additional 1d6 damage and entangle on every attack means you should start every combat with this cast. It might even be worth casting it first round if charging into the fray.

See Invisibility (***): See Invisibility will mean the difference between success and defeat at some point.  There's going to be an enemy with invisibility eventually, and seeing him will make your life much easier..

Aid (***): Temporary hit points are nice, as are the small bonuses to attacks and vs. fear.  Simple and likable.

Delay Poison (***): Poisons can be downright deadly.  It's hour/level so don't be afraid to pop this on a melee character preemptively if you suspect poisonous enemies in the future.  If you don't have infusion and kept your poison resistance, then this isn't half as useful.

False Life (***): At hours/level, this is a great way to help the squishy survive past the first volley.

Vomit Swarm (***): The summons are fairly weak, but not irrelevant because A; they are swarms, B; they scale a bit, C: they are bodies on the field, and D: they have distraction and poison.  You can do worse than this when deciding what to do.

Darkvision (***): Darkvision is nice for scouting, but chances are combats are going to be lit up pretty quick unless everybody has it.

Spell Tattoo (***): Wonderful last resort backup.  Tattoo invisibility or alter self or reduce person on your chest - nobody can take it off of you (unless they remove your skin), and you'll have a distinct advantage when captured.  Alternatively, it's a potion that you can activate without having it in your hands.  Too bad it's a bit pricey.

Water of Maddening (**): If you can pull this off, the penalties are fairly decent.  1d4 rounds of sickened, 1d6 Int and 1d6 Dex damage.  However, you must cast the spell, have a place to store the results, throw it at the enemy, hit the enemy, and then he must fail his save.  Too many moving parts.  The good news, is each casting makes 1 draft for every two levels.

Cat's Grace (**): Dexterity does so much for you that a +4 bonus is really a lot.  Initiative, AC, Reflex, Attack and a few skills are all buffed.

Fox's Cunning (**): More bomb damage and increased DC's sound good.  However, you're probably getting some permanent enhancement bonuses of your own soon.

Ablative Barrier (**/**): The armor bonus is likely eclipsed, but the nonlethal damage can help.  The big selling point is the hour/level.  Even so, there are better ways to use your slots.  If you are immune to nonlethal damage, for example, through Mummification, then this is a solid blue.

Cure Moderate Wounds (**): Only if you don't want to waste other's slots - but they likely have slots to waste by this point.

Investigative Mind (**): Fun for becoming Sherlock Holmes for a bit, and the Spellcraft boost helps with identifying items.

Acute Senses (**): +10/+20/+30 to Perception checks is very powerful.  However, it's only for a minute/level, so you are never going to have it up at the right time.

Levitate (**): It's tempting, but wait for fly.

Skinsend (**): This is hilariously awesome flavor, and a decent scouting spell.  Too bad it leaves you so vulnerable.

Spiderclimb (**): You are likely going to be fine with Monkey Fish and use up a lower level extract to boot.

Shadow Bomb Admixture (*): Why?  You are spending an action and a spell slot to buff both yourself and the enemy.

Firebreath (*): Stick to bombs.

Fire Sneeze (*): Funny, but stick to bombs.

3rd Level Extracts

Channel Vigor (****): This spell is haste, or something else if you need it.  Haste alone is good enough to rate this a blue.  Can anybody say one more bomb a round?

Displacement (****): Displacement is a really excellent defensive buff.  If you are getting in there and tanking, you want this up.

Fly (****): Dropping bombs from above will soon be the cornerstone of what you do.  60 foot move speed with good maneuverability is fantastic, but if you decide you are okay with 30 foot move speed, check out Beast Shape or Monstrous Physique.

Beast Shape (****): Access to swim, climb, fly, and dark vision is nice, with the little added bonus of Dex and AC.  Choose either this or Fly or Monstrous Physique.

Monstrous Physique (****): Access to swim, climb, fly, and dark vision is nice, with the little added bonus of Dex and AC.  Choose either this or Fly or Beast Shape.

Orchid's Drop (****): +2 to all saves for hour/level and heal 2d10 points of damage when you mutagen.  An excellent action economy spell to be used at the start of each day.

Paragon Surge (****): Dexterity and Intelligence bonuses are great, and you get an extra feat of your choosing.  Perhaps extra bombs to make this spell essentially give your two more bombs?

Adjustable Disguise (***): A wonderfully versatile spell, excellent for subterfuge.

Air Breathing (***): A life saver when you need it, excellent for utility and underwater combats.

Heroism (***): Straightforward bonuses, but the big bonus is in the 10 minutes/level. Plop it on when entering a dungeon.

Protection from Energy (***): Don't want to get hurt by dragon fire?  Now you won't.

Remove Blindness/Deafness/Curse/Disease (***): If you can't pay somebody else to do it, this can save your party.  But you should save your money and add it to your own formulae book.

Protection from Arrows, Communal (**): Fighting a boss who uses arrows, or a ton of archers?  Save your group's life with Protection from Arrows. It's not as multi-use as protection from energy though.

Endure Elements, Communal (**): Communal is the much more useful version of this extract.  Still, the actual benefits can likely be duplicated with simple preparation and creativity.

Absorbing Touch (**): Days per level is wonderful, but actual applications are limited.

Amplify Elixir (**): It's useful, but is it worth a whole spell slot? Probably not.

Absorb Toxicity (**): If you don't have poison resistance, then this is a decent immunity spell with the added attack.  It's superior to delay poison except for the duration, and worth plopping on a melee character before attacking icky spiders and such.

Arcane Sight (**): Good for seeing invisible NPCs and hidden treasure, but not much else.

Darkvision, Communal (**): A torch will be just as good in most cases.

Delay Poison, Communal (**): From a prevention standpoint this is fine.  But if you are using it after the poison starts, you likely don't need communal.

Lightning Lash Bomb Admixture (**): 1d6 damage a turn, contingent on enemy actions, is minuscule at this level. It does, however, affect up to four creatures, but it's very situational.

Haste (*): Normally it's an excellent spell, but since you can only target yourself it's completely overshadowed by Channel Vigor. There's no reason to take Haste instead.

Cure Serious Wounds (*): We've fallen too far behind healing wise, so stick with the lower level extracts.

4th Level Extracts

Greater Invisibility (*****): Now your bombs attack flatfooted and touch, and even if people guess where you are you have total concealment from them.  Not to mention the utility.  This is my go-to buff spell unless I suspect the enemy can see invisible enemies.

Caustic Blood (****): This deals a shocking amount of damage, up to 22d6 across 2 turns at level 15.  Once cast also lasts for 1 round/level, meaning you can get a ton of use from one extract.

Fluid Form (****):  DR 10/slashing, reach +10, and swim speed, as well as some fun utility.  Awesome buffing spell for entering melee or escaping.

Restoration (****): Ability damage, drain, and negative levels become common by this level.  Somebody in your party needs Restoration.

Stoneskin (****): DR/10.  Simple, straightforward, good.  Give it to somebody in melee.

Air Walk (***): A longer duration, less good fly.  You're likely good using your lower level extract for fly, but if you find yourself running out, try this!

Beast Shape II (***): The easiest way for you to get pounce for your tanking self.

Earth Glide (***): Great utility, but also great for retreating.

Echolocation (***): In most cases, see invisibility will be enough. However, this also gets rid of concealment, blur, magical darkness, and lets you see in the dark. At only 40 feet?  Not too powerful. But 10 min/level is nice.

Freedom of Movement (***): Classic, useful preemptively or in response.

Persistent Vigor (***): You'll heal a decent amount in addition to a few other bonuses.  Possibly worth a spell slot if your party lacks healing.  But at this level, you really shouldn't.

Viper Bomb Admixture (***): Finally another good admixture. It's not incredible, but it's an okay damage bonus.  Too bad the vipers need to land hits using your BAB + Int. Otherwise, it's a good use of your action economy.

Duplicate Familiar (**/*): If you don't want to risk your own familiar, why not make a duplicate?  Probably not worth a 4th level Extract though.  If you have allies who use familiars, particularly ones with "Deliver Touch Spells" this is a green.

Mutagenic Touch (*): A lesser version of your mutagen isn't going to help your allies too much or hurt your enemies too much.

Neutralize Poison (*): You are fine with delay poison with a second level extract.

5th Level Extracts

Delayed Consumption (****): Burn a 5th level extract to cast a 4th level or lower extract as a free action. It's days/level, so its always worth preparing on your off days (unless you already have one active).

Magic Jar (****): Magic jar is one of the best spells out there, a complex save or lose spell that also allows possession.  It's essentially an attack, but still definitely worth adding to your repertoire.

Overland Flight (****): Traveling distances is fine, but likely not relevant unless your whole party can do it.  The real benefit here is the hours/level.  Cast this when you wake up, then forget about it.  You fly now.

Beast Shape III (***): Multiuse - you can grab a Dexterity bonus, fly, Strength bonus, pounce, trip, web - almost anything, really.

Languid Bomb Admixture (***): Boy, these admixtures are a bit underwhelming, aren't they?  Still, they help with action economy.  May as well fatigue your enemies while you throw all those bombs.  With the number of bombs you throw at this level, your enemy is basically guaranteed to fail at least one save.  I just wish it was longer than rounds/level.

Stoneskin, Communal (***): Stoneskin for everybody! Over the course of its duration, this spell will often result in an extra 150hp for a few people.  Well worth it, and think of how much you save on healing!

Monstrous Physique III (**): It's not really that much better than II for our purposes.  Perhaps if you want to go huge, or speak with sharks.

Contact Other Plane (**): From a Metagame perspective, this isn't all that powerful, but from a flavor perspective it's loads of fun. You essentially get get chat with a god for a short period of time.   Your results may vary.

Sending (**): Yes, you are probably going to need it at some point.  It just seems like such a waste for a 5th level slot.

Planar Adaptation (*): You can almost certainly mimic these effects with lower level spells and not waste your slot on this extract.

Resurgent Transformation (*): This spell helps with action economy and provides some small buffs and nice healing, but leaves the target with 1d4 Int, Wis, and Con damage.  If not for all these drawbacks, it would be well worth it.  With them, it's a pain in the ass.

Transplant Visage (*): Flavorful, but no idea why this is a 5th level extract when a few 1st level extracts will do.

6th Level Extracts

Twin Form (*****): There's a ton of uses for this.  You can keep one twin outside the battle, then go nuts with the other and simply switch to the safe one when the combat twin dies.  You can tank up and engage as a huge creature, bottlenecking an enemy, and then switch to your twin at distance and bomb away.  You can treat your twin like a summon and send him down a trapped hallway, or to explore a dangerous ravine, or to take a good look at what's under all that lava.  An interesting and incredibly useful buff.

Giant Form (****): The dexterity penalty is a bit annoying, but shouldn't be a problem at this level.  Everything else is golden.  Regeneration is particularly golden, as it means you can't die for hp damage for the duration, and it's several hundred points of healing.

Heal (****): Heal cures 150hp and everything but drain and negative levels.  It's a fantastic cure-all that, if used properly, can double the survivability of your party.

True Seeing (****): A great catch all, very useful for plopping on before a fight with a spell caster or arcane enemy.  I just wish the duration was a bit longer.

Wind Walk (****): At hours per level and you plus one creature/three levels, plop this on your entire party at the start of the day and just leave it up.  It's good in combat and incredibly useful outside of it.

Beast Shape IV (***): In addition to a pretty decent buff for either chucking bombs or tanking, Beast Shape IV is also a tool box of a ton of different abilities, speeds, and forms. A wonderfully versatile spell.

Caging Bomb Admixture (***): Finally, a decent admixture.  Still, it's not going to be useful as you might hope. You can only have one active at a time, and it protects them for the duration.  Nice utility, but I wish there was a more straightforward combat admixture at this level.

Monstrous Physique IV (**): You can get the equivalent with a lower level Monstrous Physique.  Giant Form or Beast Shape IV are better at this level.

Transformation (**): It's a short, okay buff.  The enhancement bonuses are likely covered by this point, but you get a nice little BAB and AC boost.  Still, you have better buffs at this level, mainly due to the rounds/level length.

Analyze Dweomer (*): A 6th level extract for improved identify?  There's got to be a better use of your slot.

Form of the Dragon (*): Assuming you can't throw bombs in this form, it has little use for you.  Still goddamn cool though.

Shadow Walk (*): Wind walk has a similar result, and far more use in combat.  I'd stick with that.

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Zenith's Guide to the Alchemist, Part III: Feats and Traits

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.

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.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Zenith's Guide to the Alchemist, Part II: Discoveries

Zenith's Guide to the Alchemist
Part II: Discoveries

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

Discoveries are what distinguishes one alchemist from another. They are gained at every even level, and are usually augments to bombs or mutagens, with a few more novel discoveries thrown in for good measure. There's a lot of really good discoveries in here, so do your best to pick wisely. And discoveries are, by and large, better than feats, so feel free to pick up "Extra Discovery" whenever you feel compelled (which should be often).

There's a few things to consider when picking discoveries:

First, Elemental Alternatives: You want one, possibly two types of damage that you can deal besides fire for those fire resistant enemies. Frost bomb is great from the get go, and force bombs are great upon hitting level 8. Note that most elemental alternatives are debuffs in addition to just dealing different damage.

Second, Bomb Debuffs: You want two to four types of debuffs that you can inflict on enemies. When you are throwing bombs, you never want to hit the same enemy with the same debuff twice. If the enemy is already nauseous, knock him down. If he's already nauseous and knocked down, entangle him. If a single enemy already has all the debuffs you can give him, move onto the next.  It's also worth noting that you should try and pick up a debuff for each save:  One for Fortitude, one for reflex, and one for will.  That way, you can more easily target an enemy's weaknesses.

Third, Splash Directors: You need a way of avoiding your allies with splash damage, as you will be targeting enemies they are adjacent to. There are three main bombs to do this: Precise Bombs, Strafe Bombs, and Directed Bombs. Make sure you have at least one. Precise bombs is the most straightforward option, but Directed Bombs is another great bet.

Fourth, Everything Else: You can only stack one modifier on a bomb at a time (in general). So while variety is good, once you have a critical mass of bomb modifiers (1-2 element alternatives, 2-4 bomb debuffs, and 1 splash director, ), grab some other discoveries. Consider what you want your sub role to be and focus on that. The Simulacrum tree is interesting if you are in to that kind of thing, but improvements to your mutagen are always going to be helpful. Cognatogens, on the other hand, are not worth your time.

Elemental Alternatives

Boneshard Bomb (****): You deal lessened piercing damage and bleed, but any enemy killed immediately raises from the dead under your control with the skeleton template. Lovely for turning the tide of battle. (Alchemical Zombie)

Frost Bomb (****): Frost bombs are available from level 1. Cold damage is a good alternative to Fire damage, and staggered is a great debuff. Best yet, you don't suffer any damage penalties for using it!

Void Bomb (****): If you are a Drow, then you want void bombs, no question. Void bombs change the damage type of the bomb while knocking the enemy prone and slowing all enemies in splash. This is a great choice, though not as uniformly useful as some other elemental alternatives. (Drow, 6th Level)

Force Bomb (****): If you can wait this long, force bombs should be your alternate damage type. Nothing is resistant to force damage and incorporeal enemies take full damage. Furthermore, the debuff, knocking the enemy prone, is as good as any other debuff you can get at this level. Well worth the damage hit. (8th Level)

Acid Bomb (***): Variety in your bomb damage type is good, and the additional 1d6 points of damage per bomb (1 round later) isn't too bad. If you just care about damage, this could be your damage type alternative.

Shock Bomb (**): Electricity damage is decent, but dazzled is very lame. Choose another energy alternative.

Concussive Bomb (**): Sonic damage is nice, but deafened isn't the strongest debuff. Useful against spell casters, useless against everybody else. (6th Level)

Holy/Anarchic Bomb/Axiomatic/Profane (*): How often do you attack a certain alignment of creature? The good news is that it's a damage type change and a debuff in one. Your milage will vary depending on the campaign, but you're likely better off grabbing some other damage type bomb. (8th Level)

Bomb Debuffs

Tanglefoot Bomb (****): A beautiful low level debuff that's potentially your very first discovery. Deceptively powerful, entangled is useful from level 1 to 20.

Blinding Bomb (****): Blinding is one of the better debuffs out there. A worthy addition to your repetoire. (8th Level)

Confusion Bomb (****): Ah, the good old confusion bomb. Originally the discovery did not require a save, but the developers realized this was incredibly broken. It's now just a very good debuff available at level 8. The hit in damage is well worth the effects. (8th Level)

Cursed Bomb (****): Bestow curse is another fantastic debuff, either causing the target to suffer a -4 penalty on everything or simply do nothing for half of its turns. This could easily be your go to bomb upon hitting level 12. Another bonus: you can hit the same enemy with this bomb again and choose another curse. (12th Level)

Explosive Bomb (***): Explosive bomb is a nice, simple bomb buff available from the get go. It extends your splash radius and lights creatures directly hit on fire for extra damage. Just make sure you have precise bomb to go along with it.

Healing Bomb (***): It takes a bomb and a potion or extract to use, but you can now throw healing potions at people. If you've invested in potion making, or prepare healing extracts a lot, then this is a good bet for healing at range. Of course, clerics can do it better, so maybe you should stick with what you know?

Grease Bomb (***): You can cause a whole bunch of people to maybe fall down - if they fail an acrobatics check and then a reflex save. Nice for area denial, but usually not as handy as some other debuffs. (6th Level)

Sunlight Bomb (***): Normally I don't recommend enemy specific bombs, but this one is hard to pass up. +2 damage die per die and staggered against a wide variety of enemies is really quite excellent. You have better options for these levels, but it's something I would definitely consider by level 14 or 16. (10th Level, Blinding Bomb)

Blackstar Bomb (**): The effects of a void bomb, and all enemies within 5 feet of the target get bull rushed away. It's cool, but I struggle to think of the actual combat applications. (Drow, Void Bomb)

Ectoplasmic Bomb (**): Nice for damaging incorporeal creatures, with a bonus to seeing invisible undead. While it's great against incorporeal, you likely aren't going to see enough of them to justify a valuable discovery slot.

Dispelling Bomb (**): Dispelling is great, but you lose all damage when using it. That's a tough sell, particularly when you can debuff in other ways while still dealing damage. (6th Level)

Madness Bombs (**): 1d4 points of Wisdom damage is alright, but reducing the bomb damage by 2d6 is unnecessary and there are much better options at this level and earlier. Curse or Confuse the enemy instead (ideally both) (12th Level)

Immolation Bombs (*): Want to deal your damage slowly, instead of all at once? No? Good. Skip this discovery. (3rd Level)

Psychoactive Bomb (*): Big eh. A very measly bonus to a few DC types against the target. You're better off with madness bombs or something stronger. (6th Level)

Lingering Plague (*): Diseases generally are fairly underpowered compared to the other ailments you can inflict. Stick with other debuffs. (8th Level)

Smoke Bomb Tree

Inferno Bomb (****): For when you just want to damage a lot of enemies. The key here is that Inferno bombs first deal normal bomb and splash damage, and then deals 6d6 fire damage to all creatures within double splash radius. So essentially, it's a simple way of pouring an extra 21 damage onto all of your bombs. Is it as good as a debuff? Maybe not. But it's really great against groups of enemies. (16th Level, Smoke Bomb)

Stink Bomb (****): Nauseated is one of the best debuffs in the game, and imposing it on a large area makes it that much better. There's no damage involved, true, but you can end combats before they have even begun with this discovery. Here's the reason to take Smoke Bomb. (Smoke Bomb)

Plague Bomb (**): The onset time is immediate, but it's not as strong as other debuffs of this level. Diseases, by and large, aren't as strong as your alternatives, though they will pick up a larger space. (8th Level, Smoke Bomb)

Poison Bomb (**): While satisfying (and classic), any creature with 6 or fewer HD at this level simply isn't going to be a threat. The 1d4 Constitution damage is nice for real threats, but pales in comparison to the normal damage and debuffs you can do with bombs (12th Level, Smoke Bomb)

Smoke Bomb (**): Smoke bomb in and of itself isn't too hot, but it does lead to some fun discoveries. You probably will use this once or twice for the novelty, but never again.

Greater Plague Bomb (*): Diseases rarely have debilitating effects. Even as an area effect, this is one of the weaker debuffs you can manage, particularly for level 16. (16th Level, Plague Bomb, Smoke Bomb)

Plague Vector (*): This is great if you love the flavor of infecting whole areas. From a combat to combat perspective, and for 99% of campaigns, there's simply no need. (14th Level, Plague Bomb)

Splash Directors

Directed Bomb (****): This is certainly useful - instead of a 5 foot radius burst around the bomb, your splash damage becomes a 15 foot cone. It can also be combined with other bomb enhancers, and it's a good alternative to Precise bombs.

Precise Bombs (****): Precise bombs is the most straightforward splash exclusion discovery. If you don't feel comfortable with directed bombs, then grab this one.

Strafe Bomb (**): It's more likely that enemies are going to be grouped together than in a line, and it's also reasonably likely that a line will contain an ally or two in combat. Of the three bomb directors, this is probably the hardest to use, and easiest to misuse. Still definitely better than nothing, and it could be a fun challenge for an experienced player.

Bomb Stackables
Bomb Stackables are discoveries that you can add to bombs in addition to the standard one discovery per bomb limit. As a result, they are slightly more valuable than alternatives in theory, though in practice there are a bunch of duds.

Fast Bombs (*****): See rant on first page. Everybody should get Fast Bombs, it's an incredible jump in power. Despite all the competition, this is your level 8 discovery. (8th Level)

Scrap Bomb (***): It's not terribly powerful, but you can stack it with everything else. For that reason alone it's a good pick when you get the chance. (Goblin)

Sticky Bomb (***): Sticky bombs deal extra damage, but do not take up the "one discovery per bomb" slot. They are a nice way to add a bit of power to your attacks, but the damage isn't enough for an automatic blue. (10th Level)

Rocket Bomb (**/**): Your bombs go farther and have a greater splash radius, but cannot target individual enemies. As a result, you can't use most debuffs. HOWEVER, if you are planning on using a bunch of smoke based bombs, then this is excellent due to the increased radius. (6th Level, Goblin)

Syringe Stirge (**): This is an interesting ability on a number of levels. It allows you the pre-load a bomb or two before combat begins, and it can provide a distraction and flanking against enemies. On the flip side, it burns through bombs and can potentially waste them. If you've got bombs to spare this is a really fun choice, but probably a less optimal way to use them than fast bombs. Unfortunately it gets outclassed pretty quickly at higher levels as the stirges stats don't increase. (6th Level)

Defoliant Bomb (*): This bomb deals more damage to plants. Unless you have a vendetta against foliage, you really don't need this.

Inspired Bomb (*): Two uses of inspiration for a measly 1d6 points of damage? Inspiration might be a little weak, but it's certainly worth more than this.

Underwater Demolition (*): Just grit your teeth and bear those one or two underwater combats in your campaign.

Delayed Bomb (*): Flavorful, but not terribly optimal. (8th Level)

Explosive Missile (*): You can basically increase your range by losing out on interatives and losing touch. Losing touch is the big misstep here. You're usually better off attacking at several range increments away rather than attacking normal AC. Don't bother. (4th Level)


Feral Mutagen (****): If you want to embrace your secondary function as a melee tank, check out Feral Mutagen. It gives you two claw attacks and a bite attack while in mutagen. With your 3/4 BAB, three attacks at full attack bonus is likely to be better than any weapon you could wield.

Greater Mutagen (****): Simple buffs to ability scores and AC, a nice way to stay relevant in melee and alive at all times. (12th Level)

Grand Mutagen (****): It kind of sucks taking the -2 penalty to Intelligence, but the bonuses are incredible. +6 AC, +8 Dex, +6 Constitution, +4 Strength (or some other variation). You can embrace your tank side with this discovery, improve your bomb throwing capacity, and not worry about getting killed anytime soon. (16th Level, Greater Mutagen)

Mutagen (***): This discovery is for those archetypes that give up Mutagen. I like mutagen, but if you are giving up mutagen for something else, you should probably focus on that.

Elemental Mutagen (*): If you could choose a different resistance each time, then this might be a worthy addition to mutagen. As is, it's probably not worth the discovery.

Infuse Mutagen (*): Mutagens take an hour to brew, so it's you'll often find yourself without one. A second mutagen to carry around would be great, but it costs 1,000p and 2 points of Int damage. Not worth it.


Collective Memory (**): A hefty bonus to all Knowlege skill checks doesn't outweigh the pain of the cognatogen. (Cognatogen)

Greater Cognatogen (**): A slightly better cognatogen with 4 points of ability score damage this time. Additionally, you now need to hurt either Dexterity or Constitution when drinking these, both of which are useful in combat. The Intelligence boost could make this worth it, but only if you didn't have to invest a discovery in getting it. (12th Level, Cognatogen)

Grand Cognatogen (**): The bonuses are really nice (+4 damage per bomb and +4 DC per bomb), but 2 points of ability damage to each physical ability score is really obnoxious. If you could get this without climbing the whole tree it would be something worth considering, but it's not worth the steps. (16th Level, Cognatogen)

Inspiring Cognatogen (*): Eh. If you didn't have to give up a discovery for this, then it might be an interesting choice for the off time that you really need it. As is, you want to focus on discoveries that will certainly be useful frequently. (Cognatogen)

Intuitive Understanding (*): Another ability based off the cognatogens, and one that gives you a small bonus to caster level and augury. Leave this type of stuff to the wizards. We have bombs to brew. (4th Level, Cognatogen)

Greater Inspiring Cognatogen (*): Flavorful, but not worth a discovery. (12th Level, Inspiring Cognatogen)

Grand Inspiring Cognatogen (*): Flavorful, but ultimately there's much better options at this level. (16th Level, Greater Inspiring Cognatogen)

Simulacrum & Summons

Alchemical Simulacrum (****): Access to a Level 7 sorcerer spell at level 8 is nothing to sneeze at, but you have to judge if this is the path you want to go down. It's fun for some people to track doubles, and a pain for others. Optimization wise, it's very good. (8th Level)

Greater Alchemical Simulacrum (****): This is the pinnacle of the simulacrum tree, and it comes in at only 14th level. A simulacrum for 1/5 the standard cost. If you like managing this type of thing, then ti's all yours. (14th Level, Alchemical Simulacrum)

Promethean Disciple (***): If you want to craft constructs, this is for you. If you don't want to deal with it, then skip it. (6th Level)

Alchemical Zombie (***): Similar to the Simulacrum tree, your milage will vary. If you like tracking followers, then having a zombie follower is great. (8th Level)

Doppelganger Simulacrum (**): More simulacrum goodness, but this time a bit too pricey. (10th Level, Alchemical Simulacrum)

Bottled Ooze (*): Summon an ooze! Summons are always good. But you can only summon a maximum 6th level ooze. Low level oozes are bad. Really bad. (6th Level)

Pickled Quasit (*): A 4th level extract to summon a CR 2 demon that you don't control? Definitely not. (10th Level)


Poison Conversions (****): This is a must-have if you are a poison connoisseur. You can transform injested poison into inhaled or contact to make them combat actually relevant. Combine this with malignant poison and you can do some damage with poisons. (6th Level)

Malignant Poison (****): This is an incredible buff to poison, and an absolute necessity if you are going this route. It changes poison from a bad option to a very reasonable option. If you like poison, this discovery keeps it relevant at higher levels. (10th Level)

Concentrate Poisons (***): If you absolutely must use poisons, then this helps out your poisoning abilities quite a lot. However, you need to use the poison within one hour of creation, so brew before a dungeon crawl and hurry through.

Sticky Poison (***): Another must have if you are using poisons. You are significantly increasing your chances of poisoning an enemy if the poison stays on the weapon past the first swing, and with several attacks a turn you have a good chance of poisoning the enemy. (6th Level)

Deadly Excretions (**): If you are a grippli, then this is a fairly good improvement to your poison. However, it might not merit an entire Discovery. (8th Level)

Celestial Poisons (*): Your poisons can affect undead and evil outsiders that are normally immune. Too specific. No thanks.  Only take this if you suspect you'll be fighting a ton of these enemies. (8th Level)

Everything Else

Infusion (****): Infusion can be the crux of your secondary role. This very handy discovery allows you to use your extracts on others. You'll never be as good as normal spell casters in the buffing others department, but it helps.

Tumor Familiar (****): The tumor familiar is essentially a more powerful familiar with fast healing 5 and the ability to attach and reattach itself at will. Thinking about taking improved initiative? Instead, just take extra discovery and tumor familiar, and grab a familiar which increases your initiative.
The Protector Familiar Archetype is an incredible, somewhat game breaking choice.  Given the tumor's fast healing 5, splitting damage with him at level 5 and beyond is a no brainer. If your GM lets you take it, take it.

Elixir of Life (****): Okay, not only do you get true resurrection, but you also get the ability to drink it and have it automatically activate if you die within a few days. Awesome. (16th Level)

Mummification (****): Excellent, excellent permanent defensive bonuses. Immunity to cold and nonlethal is excellent enough, but you also get immunity from paralysis and sleep. These are absolutely incredible, and for only one discovery it's amazing. (10th Level, Preserve Organs)

Spontaneous Healing (***): It's not a huge amount of healing, but it's a free action and it activates once you are down. Due to the ease of use, this is similar to an extra 2.5 hp per level. It's a powerful defensive discovery that has nice synergy with lingering spirit.

Healing Touch (***): Sharing your healing with others is fine, but the real bonus is that it ups your Spontaneous Healing to an extra 5 hp per level. If you have discoveries to spare, this is an excellent way of staying alive. (6th Level, Spontaneous Healing)

Eternal Potion (***): A potion you drink becomes permanent. The downside is you can only make one potion permanent at a time, and at level 16 you can probably get enough buffs in other ways. Not quite worth the other discovery needed to get it (extend potion). (16th Level, Extend Potion)

Chameleon (**): +4 to Stealth which enhances to +8 at 10th level. The bonus is nothing to sneeze at, but don't forget you can just make yourself invisible with an extract.

Enhance Potion (**): If you really dig potions, then making them stronger is good. But I'd shy away from them if I had the choice. Which I do.

Lingering Spirit (**): 10 extra hp before death is fine, but the extra 5 constitution drain or damage is something fairly unique in all of Pathfinder. Used in conjunction with Spontaneous Healing and your tanking abilities just got that much better.

Preserve Organs (**): A chance to avoid sneak attack and critical hits is a relatively weak defensive option for a discovery. However, it's well worth taking to qualify for mummification.

Breath Weapon Bomb (**): This transforms your bombs into a 15 foot cone, hitting everybody within the cone. There's a few aspects that make this not worth your while. First, it is a standard action, so it has no synergy with fast bombs. Second, you can't apply any lovely debuffs to your bombs when using this. Third, the range is likely less than what you want, and it won't actually be that useful in combat. (6th Level)

Wings (**): Lazy enough that gaining the fly extract at 7th level isn't good enough? Just like the flavor? It's not optimal, but don't feel too bad about taking it. (6th Level)

Combine Extracts (**): It saves some action economy, but costs a extract slot two levels higher. You are probably going to want to stick with the normal, high level extracts. (8th Level)

Dilution (**): You get more potions! Not for free, but once a day you get one for 1/4th the cost. If you absolutely love using multiple of the same potions then go for it, but I'm not a fan of them in general. (12th Level)

Extend Potion (*): Potions last twice as long. While this might be useful at the first few levels, potions with CL 5+ almost always last for as long as you want them to, and doubling that amount won't help.

Fire Brand (*): You want to keep your bombs for other purposes. Like throwing.

Material Mastery (*): This is super situational and rare for a moderate bonus for a skill you should be passing anyway.

Parasitic Twin (*): This is essentially a weaker, flavorful version of Improved Iron Will that takes two discoveries to unlock and another to take. There's absolutely no reason to take except for the flavor. (Vestigial Arms)

Psychokinetic Tincture (*): Incredibly flavorful, but it's all too likely that your deflection bonus is already going to be covered.

Rag Dog Mutagen (*): Goblins only, and mostly funny, flavorful bonuses. Nothing actually useful. (Goblin)

Ranged Baptism (*): I'm not a fan of alchemist weapons, though holy water is fine as these things go. Instead, just grab something to improve your bombs and grab the extra bombs feat. It will assuredly be better.

Sandstone (*): Hmm. There's really no circumstance where this would be a the best option.

Spell Knowledge (*): The variety is nice, but you only get up to 6th level extracts and casting a spell two levels below that isn't going to be relevant in most cases.  This could possibly give you access to Arcane Strike, if your GM allows it.

Tainted Infusion (*): Really awesome that one time per campaign that you get to use it. Useless otherwise. (Delayed Bomb, Infusion)

Tentacle (*): Grab is nice, but you can't throw bombs from within it. It might make sense for a vivisectionist, but not for us.

Vestigial Arm (*): There's very little purpose to these. Don't bother.

Demolition Charge (*): Or you could just attack an object normally. This discovery does next to nothing. (8th Level)

Phantom Limb (*): The only benefit to this is it's a touch attack. Otherwise, it's just an extremely weak melee attack that can't be added to an attack routine. (8th Level)

Change Alignment (*): Funny and fun, but I have a difficult time thinking of a real use. (12th Level, Infusion)

Nauseating Flesh (*): What? This is so absurdly specific it's hilarious. There's no reason to take this, particularly at 12th level. (12th Level)

Siege Bomb (*): Boy is this going to be fun for the one combat per campaign where you use it. But you'll never use it again. (12th Level, Explosive Bombs)

Grand Discoveries

Awakened Intelligence (****): Awakened Intelligence is probably the least interesting, most straightforward grand discovery, but that does not necessarily mean it's the worst. In fact, it's probably the best grand discovery for most alchemists. +2 Intelligence increases bomb damage and splash damage, bomb DC's, extracts number, and extract DC's all by +1. At level 20, you also get 20 extra skill points and a +1 bonus to all Int based skills.

Philosopher's Stone (***): Money and true resurrection? Lovely lovely. Not as generally useful as Awakened Intelligence, but a fun, flavorful option.

True Mutagen (***): Your top pick if you are a tanker, and a very decent pick even if you aren't. +8 to Natural Armor in addition to +8 Dex (+4 AC, CMD, Init, Reflex, Bomb Attack), Con (+80 hp, +Fort), and Strength (+4 CMB & CMD), is really a superb option. It does lower your Int by 2 though (and your Wis and Cha), which makes it not quite a full blue.

Fast Healing (**): At the rocket tag levels of 20+, fast healing 5 is unlikely to make a huge difference. If it were regeneration 5, then we'd be talking. But it isn't. A decent choice if you really love tanking though (or if you are going vivisectionist).

Change Alignment, Greater (*): By level 20, people important enough that you would want to do this to will probably have access to wish and miracle to undo the effects. It also plays with the wonky alignment mechanics, so you probably want to avoid it in any case.

Eternal Youth (*): For most campaigns, aging never becomes relevant. If your campaign is ending here, and you like the flavor, then perhaps this is what you have been working to this whole time. I really can't recommend it from an optimizing perspective though.

Poison Touch (*): Mimicking a 4th level spell isn't my idea of a capstone, even if it is permanent.

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