Sunday, March 29, 2009

Alchemists of the Rainy City

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'll probably want to include an Alchemist character class in the campaign. Because so many spells and magic items will be unique, I like the idea of having a few magical effects that are reliable. Potions, produced by alchemists, are a good fit. So I've gone through and reviewed the various versions of the class available in Dragon Magazine articles (issues 2, 45, 49, and 130). I was a bit surprised (though maybe I shouldn't have been?) to find that the best version of the class for my purposes turns out to be the oldest, written by Jon Pickens for issue 2 of Dragon Magazine. I may want to borrow this or that trait from the later classes (the version in issue 130 has a good treatment of alchemical equipment and materials), but the Pickens version seems to be the best starting point for what I'm looking for. 

The alchemist can do things like detect and neutralize poisons, identify potions, and neutralize paralysis (non-magical paralysis only, though I'm personally inclined to allow any paralysis to be neutralized with a successful roll), as well as being able to craft known potions at a rate and cost of 1 week + 200 gp per level of the potion. This latter ability reminds me of the Holmes D&D rules for wizards scribing scrolls, which require 1 week + 100 gp per level of the spell scribed. 

The full class is a bit idiosyncratic, with a fighter's saves (+2 vs poison and paralyzation), a cleric's attack levels and hit dice, a maximum AC of 5 (chain mail, presumeably),  and the use any one-handed weapon (but not magical swords). The alchemist may use those magic items that are available to all classes, with a few exceptions, and its XP progression is close to that of Thieves, at least until name level is reached. It's a bit of a grab bag set of characteristics, and this is one place where the other three versions of the class are more coherent (all three other versions treat the Alchemist as essentially a "subclass" or relative of the Magic User). 

In summary format, Pickens's alchemist has the following abilities:

The Alchemist
Prime Requisite: Wisdom
Hit Dice: 1d6 per level up to 9th, +1 per level beyond 
Armor: Leather and chainmail only, shield not permitted
Weapons: Any missile weapon; any one-handed melee weapon
Saves: As Fighter, +2 vs Poisons and Paralysis
Attacks: As Cleric

Abilities
LEVEL 1: Read Langauges (80% chance, one attempt per week per item), Prepare poisons and drugs, prepare a Potion of Delusion
LEVEL 3: Prepare potions and acids
LEVEL 5: Prepare Blade Venom
LEVEL 7: Read Magic (and hence, scrolls) as Thieves
LEVEL 9: Prepare potions from samples

The Alchemist's level progression can be found here

I'm tempted to mess with this a little. In particular, I prefer not to have to make the distinction between "magical" and "non-magical" paralysis. I'll just allow the alchemist to deal with paralysis of any sort. As far as larger changes go, I'm tempted to say that the alchemist's hit dice, attack ranks, saves, weapons, and armor should just default to those of a core class (Thief seems like a good fit to me, not least because it has a similarly fast XP progression). I'm open to persuasion otherwise, though.