The Pathfinder 2 Playtest preview process is ongoing, and I was lucky enough to talk with Paizo Senior Designer Stephen Radney-MacFarland regarding the alchemist and how the class is making the move to this new edition in the Pathfinder Playtest (which is being done to test ideas out for Pathfinder 2).
The new alchemist is all about the alchemy. Gone are infusions and spell-like abilities; instead, the alchemist goes all in on making use of alchemical items and class feats to give him an array of options.
Alchemy has been re-imagined for the Pathfinder Playtest, which is a key part of the alchemist. In past D20 releases in Pathfinder 2’s direct ancestry (3.0, 3.5, PF 1), alchemical items existed to primarily fill a niche of low-level magic-light effects. While Pathfinder dabbled with moving away from that, it largely opted not to in the first edition, but with second edition the gates are open. Alchemy is no longer just for low-level abilities, and with his class feats the alchemist can make the most use of it and in fact know the most of it. Alchemists start the game off with 8 alchemical formulae (4 from a free Alchemical Crafter feat, and 4 from class) and get 2 more per level – in addition to whatever you discover or create.
One example of this change in the Playtest is that elixir is no longer part of the magic item vocabulary, instead, the term is only used in reference to alchemical creations. The other side of that, with infusions gone and spellcasting of its sort banished, the alchemist no longer makes potions, nor are potions tied to it in any way. In previous versions, those terms have been used a bit interchangeably but in Pathfinder 2 there is a clear divide – potions are magical, elixirs are alchemical. One of the defining elixirs is the elixir of life, which gives the alchemist the ability to heal himself and others by having folks drink up. While its raw healing ability scales slower than healing spells, it has its own advantages in that it provides resistances if drank when at full HP, and that the Alchemist can further enhance it with class feats. Most notably at high levels, the Miracle Worker class feat can let you resurrect the dead with a true elixir of life.
Of course, if it was just healing that would be boring. Elixirs typically tend to be transmutative, meaning something changes to make them work. A few other examples given were a cheetah elixir that gives you increased speed, an elixir that improves jumping, an elixir that transforms you into the mist, and several others that transform the body.
These ones tend to ride the line of the proto-science that the alchemist uses in this version. In it, he’s using the magic found throughout the world and his knowledge to create things – sometimes on the fly.
While the alchemist gets the most preparation done at the start of the day, Quick Alchemy is a defining ability for the Alchemist in the Playtest. It lets him cobble together alchemical items, like elixirs, poisons, and bombs at a moment's notice – meaning that if you need the right item, he can have it.
Bombs fall under alchemy as well. Bombs are no longer separate special items under their own area, but now are a group of some of the alchemical items you use. Not all alchemical items are bombs, but there is a variety of them and here are a few sample bombs: Alchemist’s fire, liquid ice, acid flask, thunderstone, and tanglefoot bag. The first four all do damage (thunderstones now do sonic damage), but the last one functions as a control item, hinting at the flexibility this brings the alchemist in play as they can mix and match what they use as bombs, especially with crafting them via Quick Alchemy. That being said, starting at third level, damage for bombs increases before eventually capping out at 6x their original damage. There are also ways to up the DCs of items like the tanglefoot bag, ensuring they stay relevant.
So how does the alchemist manage all of his creations? He makes use of the resonance system being introduced for Pathfinder Playtest, which can be read about more here on Enworld who have gathered information on it. Unlike other classes, alchemist’s resonance pool is based on their Intelligence, not Charisma, meaning that it lines up with their primary ability quite nicely. They also get additional bonuses to their pool as they continue to advance throughout the game, helping keep them up to date.
At the start of each day, the alchemist can prepare a number of items using some of his or her resonance pool. The exact amount isn’t known yet, but doing this is going to be more efficient than creating items on the fly via Quick Alchemy, which will also eat out of the resonance pool. Additionally, if an alchemist has crafted items or acquired them in some other ways, they can use them there, giving even more options to how to prepare. In fact, if Batman were a Pathfinder Playtest character, I think he’d be an alchemist with the way money and preparation pay off!
Mutagens also make a return, but they are no longer in a cornerstone position. In an attempt to avoid bottom-loading classes, and also addressing the fact players weren’t using it that much as a defining feature, the mutagen has been pushed back to 5th level as an ability and right off the get-go lets you choose what you want your mutagen to do – boost your body or boost your mind.
Many discoveries will be making their way back, as part of the class feats line up. Class feats are essentially the same thing, only instead of most classes having their own name for it, Paizo opted to call them all class feats and give each class their own. Alchemist’s get class feats every even level and a few examples of them are:
- Delay Bombs (put a fuse on that bomb)
- Precise Bombs (don’t do splash damage to allies)
- Debilitating Bombs (bombs apply debuffs to enemies)
- Combine Elixirs (toss those potions together!)
- Efficient Alchemy (craft more alchemy during downtime)
- Poison Touch (deliver Poisons via a touch)
- Alchemical Familiar (build your own mini-alchemical golem familiar)
- Feral Mutagen (grow claws and teeth when drinking this mutagen)