Zenith Games did not write this guide. This guide was found on http://pathfinder.ogrehut.com/2010/07/alchemist-build-guide/ until the site went defunct in early 2017. The guide has been recorded and stored here.
The alchemist is a strange creature, choice of discoveries and which mutagen you use can greatly alter what role you take in the party. The obvious niche alchemists fit into is the proverbial glass canon, primarily just blasting with damage but with lots of interesting debuffing options. A little less obviously the alchemist can also serve as a backup melee slugger for the party by using mutagens and extracts to self buff himself into true Jekyll and Hyde a monster. This guide separates the two into two separate ‘builds’ and gives recommendations for feats and discoveries for each.
This guide is styled similarly to Treantmonk’s guides (though I am less humorous). It’s a bit lengthy and much of it should be treated as a reference work rather than an article you read all the way through. Items that are omitted are not recommended.
Ideal choices – If you are most interested in building a powerful character you will probably want to select these whenever possible.
Good choices – Maybe not the best choice but they are solid options.
Situational choices – These choices are good for certain characters but not universally useful
Challenging choices – These choices are bit tougher but can be quite fun as role playing options.
Outside combat the Alchemist is a skill monkey, with his high INT alchemists likely have as many skill points as a rogue. Given the class skills list the alchemist can make a decent stand in for a rogue or works well as a knowledge skills person too.
Acrobatics – This is a dex friendly class, particularly at high levels if you have greater mutagen. Unfortunately it’s cross class.
Craft(alchemy) – Almost required. You get some good bonuses in this skill and can use it for crafting a variety of items which are useful for the game. All alchemists should take at least a few ranks in this, particularly at low levels but it’s not important to keep it maxed out throughout the game unless you are doing a lot of crafting items and poisons.
Disable device – A good skill to have all around, particularly if there is no rogue in the party.
Knowledge (*) – Work with your group to cover the knowledge skills.
Perception – Very important skill and you have it as a class skill and the skill points to cover it.
Spellcraft – Needed to learn new extracts, also useful for spotting spell effects so you can target dispelling bombs.
Stealth – Alchemist is a Dexterity friendly class, and the alchemist can make a decent scout.
Survival – Useful for wilderness campaign, in particular if you party lacks a ranger or druid.
Use magic device – All around a good skill, unfortunately as an alchemist your charisma is likely low. Still, worth taking since it’s a class skill. You will likely need to take skill focus to be good a good device monkey before 10th level.
The following equipment is suggested for either build:s
I don’t recommend many wands because they are expensive and consumable. They are an excellent way to avoid cast spells without an attack of opportunity. Some are also better because they affect multiple targets while extracts only affect the imbiber. Suggested wands:
- Cure Light Wounds – Cheapest out of combat healing in the game.
- Enlarge Person – Mostly for Hyde but not bad for a bomber who wants to buff.
- Haste – The only way an alchemist can share this great buff. Expensive and only suggested if your party lacks an arcane caster who can cast this.
- More to come Elixirs
POTIONS AND ELIXIRS
I don’t recommend buying potions or extracts for consuming, instead I offer up this list which you can and should reuse over and over with alchemical allocation. The catch here is they take 2 full rounds to utilize so there are no short duration potions here. When an alchemist gets third level extracts amplify elixir will double the duration of any of these.
These are my favorites:
- Greater Magic Fang – (Hyde only) Long duration enhancement bonus for claws. Use this for enhancement bonus and Amulet of Mighty Fists for other effects to take advantage of overlap. Get it with the highest caster level you can find.
- Heroism – Long duration morale bonus to most every d20 roll. Lasts longer than Good Hope and is usually a better choice even though it lacks the damage bump. Unfortunately they don’t stack.
- Life Bubble (APG) – Available via the ranger list. Immunity to all gas attacks (including your own), and breathe underwater or in a vacuum for 2 hours/ level.
- Magic Circle against Evil – A great defense against mind control, summoned creatures, etc. – Since this is an emanation I don’t believe it works.
- Nap Stack (APG) – Get by with 2 hours sleep, doesn’t let you use more extracts or bombs in a day but useful for recovery or when camping. Apparently with alchemical allocation alchemists can ignore the material component costs.
- Elixir of Hiding – +10 to stealth for 1 hour, extremely nice.
- Elixir of Vision – Use this when you are travelling or scouting, perception is one of the most important skills.
- Elixir of Tumbling – +10 to acrobatics for 1 hour, not quite as good as the others because it’s harder to plan for.
- Elixir of Shadewalking (Campaign Setting) – An elixir that lets the drinker and up to 11 people shadow walk. This would be questionable as a one shot at 3,500gp but when you can re-use elixirs it’s awesome.s
- Headband of vast intellect – Intelligence is the bread and butter of an alchemist, these are almost mandatory, in particular for Strangelob.
- Handy haversack – Strangelob is a gear hungry guy, this is where extracts and mutagens go.
- Portable hole – This is ideal mostly for crafters. A compact alchemists lab fits into one of these.d
- Holy Water – Probably the biggest advantage of holy water is the only splash weapon that against incorporeal undead, alchemists get to keep their INT bonus to damage here also which is nice. Keep a half dozen (or more) of these for shadows or other incorporeal nasties. Once you get force bomb it’s not as important.
- Acid Flasks – A good alternative damage type for low levels, craft these to save gp.
Equivalent to spells in most ways extracts give alchemists a tremendous amount of versatility and power.
Using an extract is just like using a potion except it is a free action to retrieve an extract. This means it’s a bit different from normal spellcasting.
Mainly, when drinking an extract the alchemist:
- Can’t ‘cast’ defensively to avoid an attack of opportunity.
- Can never apply metamagic feats or rods to extracts
- Never needs a concentration check to ‘cast’ including: when deafened, while you are burning, or taking on going damage, grappled (only extracts in hand), ‘distracted’
- Can drink extracts even if they would be incapable of preparing them due to ability damage or other impairing effect (even if drained to an 8 INT you can quaff any of your extracts).
- Can quaff extracts while raging
Unlike casters most of your extracts are generally not used in the spur of the moment so it’s a good idea to only prepare extracts required for the next combat. In the morning prepare long and medium duration extracts (hours and 10 min per level respectively) and only enough short duration extracts for a single encounter. Try to quaff the long and medium duration extracts so that you can benefit from them all day, or if uncertain try and time it so they are active during the most dangerous encounters.
During combat action economy is king, if an encounter is going to be short taking an extract can be half the alchemists actions. Keep an extract (maybe two) in hand so you can quaff it in the first round without having to retrieve it and consider items and feats that allow you to quickly retrieve potions.
Learning new Extracts
Alchemists can learn new extracts in 2 ways, either as part of leveling up, or by learning from a scroll or wizard’s spellbook. To learn from a scroll or a spellbook an alchemist makes a simple DC 15+spell level spellcraft check and if he passes he can copy the spell to his formulabook. Grab formula whenever you get the chance, they are few and far between.
To keep things simple there is only one section on extracts for both Dr. Strangelob and Mr. Hyde. If the rating is different for the two builds there is a second rating for Dr. Strangelob in parens after since Strangelob is likely much less reliant on extracts. All the new extracts appear on the list but core spells only appear if they are at least situationally useful. If they don’t appear they are not recommended.
1st-Level Alchemist Formulae
Ant Haul – Occassionally useful for getting big loads home. Probably best as an infusion given to the party dwarf or maybe a horse :D.
Bomber’s Eye – Throw bombs long distances, only interesting because it enables bombing accurately at 90’+ ranges.
Crafter’s Fortune – Not a daily spell but alchemists will be using this a lot.
Cure Light Wounds – Good low level healing and gets the alchemist access to the wand of cure light wounds.
Disguise Self – Lots of uses for this outside of combat. This is why you don’t prep all your slots in the morning.
Endure Elements – For those campaigns where extreme weather is a routine issue.
Enlarge Person (DS) – A great buff for any melee character. If you are Mr. Hyde that’s you, if you are Dr. Strangelob you need the infusion discovery for this to be useful.
Expeditious Retreat – Short duration means this is usually only good for a single encounter you know is coming.
Identify -This is your lowest level detect magic spell spell and helps you identify items. It’s a must have spell but you won’t prepare it most of the time.
Keen Senses – Short duration low light and small perception bonus…
Negate Aroma – Stealthy adventurers will love this hours per level destink.
Reduce Person – Pretty situational all around. Strangelob’s damage isn’t size dependent which makes it a touch better for him.
Shield (DS) (Infusion) – Duration is short but it’s a good spell if Mr. Hyde is going to tank. Strangelob is probably using other defenses.
Stone Fist (DS) – A low level alternative to feral mutagen, you are generally better off with using a weapon instead.
Touch of the Sea – Swim like a champion.
True Strike (DS) (Infusion) – This is ideal for poisoner builds to ensure delivery. Decent for Dr. Hyde but Strangelob is all about touch attacks so he won’t need this.
2nd-Level Alchemist Formulae
Alchemical Allocation – Amazingly good, spend 2 full rounds to gain the benefit of any potion or elixirwithout consuming it. Not a combat spell but amazing for buffing or out of combat healing. Some good choices good hope, greater magic fang, cure serious wounds, elixir of vision, elixir of stealth, elixir of tumbling. This is likely filling a good percentage of your daily second level extracts.
Alter Self (DS) (Infusion) – A decent short term strength buff that stacks. More important you can use it to get scent, darkvision, or swim (including water breathing)
Barkskin (DS) – A nice duration AC buff that stacks with Mutagens.
Bear’s Endurance – A short term hit point buff until you get an item that boosts constitution.
Blur (DS) – A miss chance turns every attack into double jeopardy.
Bull’s Strength (DS) – This is a good low level strength buff but it’s only useful for a few levels until strength boosting items are common.
Cat’s Grace – Doesn’t stack with magic item bonuses. Somewhat useful before you get a dexterity belt.
Cure Moderate Wounds – Situationally effective for in combat healing.
Darkvision – The hours/ level duration makes this a good spell for scouting.
Delay Poison – Immunity for poison for hours/ level, stop an active poison for a similar amount of time.
Detect Thoughts – Detect thoughts of unseen creatures or through walls. Useful for scouting or interrogation.
Elemental Touch (DS) – Elemental damage can complement other damage and you can apply a status effect or light them on fire.
False Life – Pre-healing, all the benefits of in-combat healing but cast in advance to avoid lost actions. Longer duration makes this better than Aid.
Fire Breath – Spend 2 actions to get an effect comparable to a single bomb? Optionally waste more actions to do even less.
Invisibility – The ultimate scouting spell. Not quite as useful for Dr. Strangelove but as an infusion it’s better than the spell by the same name.
Levitate (DS) – A great defensive spell for Strangelob, levitate up and nuke them from orbit.
Owl’s Wisdom – Sine you are likely not getting a wisdom boosting item for a while this could be useful for a bit longer. Quaff it when you are fighting a spellcaster to get a +2 on Will Saves.
Perceive Cues – A decent medium duration perception buff, using alchemical allocation with an elixir of vision is almost always better.
Protection from Arrows – Protection from non-magical ranged attacks. The value of this tapers off but it’s still useful against giants stones and maticore spikes.
Resist Energy – Excellent protection from energy damage.
Restoration, Lesser – Ability damage is common enough this is a goto spell. This is also makes a good wand.
Note: I am aware it doesn’t say “lesser” in the spell list, since there is another “restoration” listing at 4th level I assume this is intended to be the level appropriate lesser version. If your GM lets it slide as ‘restoration’ is in every way better.
See Invisibility – An alchemist’s defense against invisible foes. In campaigns where invisibility is uncommon consider crafting a few potions instead.
Vomit Swarm – Vomit up a swarm that you can leave on cruise control or control as a move action. The swarm type scales with level so this spell can be relevant for a long time. This is a great way to occupy an enemy spellcaster.
3rd-Level Alchemist Formulae
Note: Third level extracts are a bit thin, not a lot of really useful stuff here, hopefully Ultimate Magic will get some better options. Look at the bottom for some combined extracts as an alternate.
Absorbing Touch – The obvious use of this is for smuggling items, the limitation to non-magical items is the big problem here.
Amplify Elixer – Empower or extend all potions or extracts you manage to suck down over a duration. Looks like you will mostly be extending but there are a few spells you can empower. Gets more useful at higher levels.
Bloodhound – Long duration perception bonus and scent ability.
Cure Serious Wounds – In combat healing.
Displacement (DS) – Nice defensive spell for tanking but duration is limiting.
Draconic Reservoir – A defensive spell that lets you store up elemental damage for your own use. The problem is creatures who damage you with elemental damage and the things that are around them have a great chance of being immune to it. Can potentially be used as a long duration attack buff (stand in a fire for 10 rounds to charge up then attack the frost giants). Probably the most interesting thing about this spell is the possibility to use it in combination with Detonate.
Elemental Aura (DS) – Punish people for being close to you. Decent until reach is common since attackers have to save every round to avoid a status effect.
Fly – Utility, defense, offense, just a great ability. Particularly good for Strangelob.
Gaseous Form – Utility and defensive extract.
Haste (DS) – Self only makes this a bit less appealing but it’s still great.
Heroism – Long duration buff to attacks and saves. Stacks with most other effects you have to this point. Quite good but consider using Alchemical Allocation with a potion instead.
Rage – Heroism is a vastly better buff.
Remove Blindness/Deafness – Consider crafting a potion of this and labeling the stopper in braille.
Remove Curse – Fairly uncommon condition. Keep a potion and use alchemical allocation.
Remove Disease – Slow onset and fairly uncommon condition. Put this in the formula book and forget about it until you need it. Keep a potion and use alchemical allocation.
Seek Thoughts – A slightly impoved version of detect thoughts useful for information gathering.
Tongues – Keep a potion and use alchemical allocation.
Thorn Body (DS) – Enemies take damage for attacking the caster and Mr. Hyde gets bonus damage. It also stacks well with other types of bonus damage like draconic reservoir. Would be blue but duration is terrible.
Water Breathing – Keep a potion and use alchemical allocation.
Good 3rd level Combined Extracts
Shield and enlarge person (DS) (Infusion) – A good combination of defense and offense. For those unexpected encounters.
Enlarge person and true strike (DS) – Maybe not worth a third level slot but a good way to start an encounter with a bang.
Shield and reduce person (DS) – A good combination of defense and offense buffs (+6 AC, +2 on attack rolls) for Strangelob. For those unexpected encounters.
Bomber’s eye and reduce person (DS) – +3 on attacks with bombs, 50% greater range; lob bombs 150′ and hit.
4th-Level Alchemist Formulae
Air Walk – Many of the benefits of fly but long duration.
Arcane Eye – A good spell for scouting.
Beast Shape II (DS) (Infusion) – A decent size bonus that stacks with mutagens, plus some nice forms. Check Treantmonks Druid guide for some good Beast Shape tips. It’s notable that alchemists infusions are the only way polymorph can be shared around the party until higher levels.
Cure Critical Wounds – Not a great use of a 4th level spell for clerics and even worse with the alchemists slow spell progression.
Death Ward – Short duration kills this. If you know you are fighting vampires and when the encounter is going to be good I suppose.
Detonate (DS) – Marginally better than fireball and you have to take half damage. Better if used in conjunction with amplify and/ or dragonic reservoir.
Dragon’s Breath – The alchemist is great at blowing things up already, this is useful mostly because you can choose the shape and energy at casting.
Fluid Form (DS) – Start with DR 10/slashing, which is decent. Add a 10′ increase in reach and a great utility form, toss in some swimming stuff and most likely get out of grapple free. The reach bonus is pretty awesome, medium creatures get 15′ reach, large creatures 20′. With combat reflexes a melee character is going to get plenty of attacks of opportunities. Most ranged weapons do slashing or bludgeoning damage so this is also a great extract against ranged enemies.
Freedom of Movement – Immunity to a variety of effects, duration is good.
Invisibility, Greater (DS) – Duration is poor, situationally useful if you can use it immediately before an encounter.
Neutralize Poison – An alchemist getting this at 10th level… you have to wonder if this is a subtle joke.
Restoration – You remember when I said not to prepare all your extracts in the morning? Save one so you can fix what the damage the wight or specter did to you.
Spell Immunity – Great under a few fairly rare circumstances, a waste otherwise.
Stoneskin (DS) – Save this expensive extract for critical fights, consider the 250gp the cost of pre-emptive healing.
Universal Formula – Having the right extract in a pinch is a life saver. Whether it’s work having an expensive extract holding your 4th level slot the rest of the time is the big question.
5th-Level Alchemist Formulae
Beast Shape III (DS) (Infusion) – For Strangelob this is a utility spell. Dr. Hyde has a few decent forms to choose from though he will probably find BSII as useful.
Delayed Consumption – Awesome in a can. Release a single extract as an immediate action. Take this as soon as it’s againable. I don’t see anything that would prevent you from chaining this with universal extractallowing you to use any of your third level extracts as an immediate action. The days/ level duration means the first use every day is free, but I can see using this multiple times in a day to ‘quicken’ a buff or as a life saving ‘get out of dead free’ card. Beast shape II and fluid form seem like a good mix with this.
Dream – Longer message than sending but otherwise worse.
Elude Time – While under the effect of this spell you are outside everything… this is quite cool but it’s hard to see it being commonly used. Suggestions?
Magic Jar (Infusion) – Magic jar is a great spell, what makes this truly great is the fact that it’s available as an infusion. Now your entire party can enjoy the fun of magic jarring into a group of enemies and causing mayhem with little or no risk.
Overland Flight – Sacrifice a 5th level slot to fly pretty much constantly. It’s a tough call when you have air walk available with a good duration and one level lower.
Planar Adaptation – 99% of the time worthless and in that 1% of the time your cleric has it as a much lower level ability.
Plant Shape I – Possibly interesting with Bestiary II, for now stay away.
Polymorph (DS) (Infusion) – Alchemists can already access and share many of these forms. The only advantage here is it’s a bit of versatility.
Resurgent Transformation – This is potentially a great spell, it falls a bit short since the buffs it triggers are exceptionally common. The expensive material component also detracts for the usefulness here.
Sending – Most likely available to the party wizard or cleric at a much lower level. Nice to have for those once in a while situations but overall not your stick.
Spell Resistance (Infusion) – If you absolutely know there is a wizard on the other side of that door. Otherwise the 1 min/ level duration makes this a tough choice.
6th-Level Alchemist Formulae
Beast Shape IV – Prance around as a unicorn to pick up on virgins? Most of the interesting magical beasts are huge and the large ones just don’t compare well to form of dragon or giant form below.
Form of the Dragon I (DS) (Infusion) – It’s hard to say which is better, this or giant form. Dragons get lots of attacks and a raft of special abilities you can use including a natural armor boost, breath weapon, and energy resistance.
Giant Form I (DS) (Infusion) – Regeneration and a good rend paired with stat bonuses that stack are great for any melee character. Bombers benefit mostly from the regeneration but the extra constitution doesn’t hurt either and this is the only polymorph where gear is retained. It’s worth mentioning that while using regeneration creatures can only be killed with fire or acid.
Heal – Late in the game and competing with a lot of really good extracts. Useful mostly to get access to spell trigger items.
Mislead – This is a great extract but falls short in most every way of twin form.
Shadow Walk – Travel spell for alchemists. The random exit point makes this of questionable value in combat but it’s useful for escaping a bad situation. Entering the plane of shadow ends any twin form spell.
Statue (DS) – Maybe the ultimate turtling spell, Strangelob can use this to be immune to a lot of effects when not bombing. Stricktly bad for Mr. Hyde he can’t use attacks of opportunity while turtling.
Transformation – The BAB increase gets a +4 – +5 on attack rolls and an extra attack per round for weapons and bombs (with fast bomb). The other bonuses don’t stack with stat boosting items or many common extracts so are questionably useful. This isn’t near as good as giant form or form of the dragon for Hyde but it does stack with those extracts.
True Seeing – Slow progression and late entry means alchemists get this very late in their progression and it’s competing with some really amazing extracts. This is almost red.
Twin Form (Infusion) – The alchemists splits himself and his and gear into two identical clones and transfers his consciousness between the two as a free action. The clone without consciousness only gets move actions but the alchemist can transfer consciousness as a free action. Use one form to lob bombs and move to your other form as a free action to hold the door with attacks of opportunity. Effectively more than doubles your hit points and you are immune to a ton of things that would otherwise kill you. Twin most of your party for a suicide assault…
Wind Walk – An alternative transportation spell to Shadow Walk. The long duration and multiple uses in a day are both great but it’s no use in combat because it takes 10 rounds minimum for a single ‘hop’. This is a good extract to have available but not one which will be prepared every day.