5th edition Alchemists (Artificer, Metamorph, Poisoner)
[The Alchemist originally appeared at www.gameschangelives.com, and has been updated here to include new playtest information. Five (5) additional alchemical traditions will be posting here in Rich’s Gameroom over the next few months.]
About the Alchemist
The alchemist for 5th edition includes a wide range of archetypes that build, treat, or transform objects or creatures to create magical or semi-magical effects. The alchemist class uses the standard spells from the Player’s Handbook, though their special effects can be modified to represent the style and flavor of each alchemical tradition. Mordenkanin’s faithful hound used by an artificer alchemist is more likely a clockwork creature than a beast made of force, and his mage armor could be a force-field belt or strips of hard but ultra-light metal held together by magnetism. An enlarge mixture created by a metamorph alchemist could make the target more bestial looking, while a jump effect may give them cosmetic insect-like qualities. A poisoner alchemist’s circle of death is likely a cloud of lethal vapor that absorbs through the skin as well as the lungs, while their see invisibility may be the side-effect of a hallucinogenic berry that opens the mind to things the eyes can’t normally perceive.
All alchemists have access to the same cantrips and 1st level spells (called formula), meaning that all alchemists can create minor damaging effects (ray of frost, poison spray), cure salves (cure wounds), and low-level physical and mystical enhancements. From 2nd level on, their list of formula become limited and each tradition has exclusive access to a very tight range of more powerful effects. Artificers create useful tools and helpful effects such as knock, mordenkanin’s magnificent mansion, and arcane gate. Metamorphs transform themselves and their companions with effects like alter self, haste and regenerate. Poisoners not only create mundane poisons faster than other classes, they create blindness/deafness via toxins, cloud the mind with feeblemind, and even induce lethal terror in their victim’s via phantasmal killer.
Though alchemists have 7th, 8th, and 9th level slots, their highest level formulas are limited to the handful of bonus formula from their tradition list. They may still use these higher level slots to power lower level formula and often do. They may also use these slots to power specific tradition abilities like the artificer’s Enduring Creations, metamorph’s Beast Within, and poisoner’s Blighter features.
In exchange for having a highly specialized list of spell effects and few higher level effects, alchemists are able to create mixtures that act as one-shot magic items usable by their party members. For example, an alchemist could use a 1st level slot to create a cure wounds mixture and give it to the party wizard to use later in the day. Mixtures can take many forms, just as an alchemist’s specialized formula. A poison spray could be a perfume-like bottle, a bag of poisonous dust blown into a target’s face, or a rod with a head like a spitting cobra that ejects the poison at the target’s eyes. Players are encouraged to use their imaginations to describe their mixtures’ special effects.
Of course, alchemists are also, well, alchemists, and gain the ability to create non-magical special equipment like alchemist fire and acid faster than other characters.
This article includes 3 alchemist traditions, the Artificer, the Metamorph, and the Poisoner. Five other traditions are under construction and include explosives experts, herbalists, tattoo artists, clockwork mechanics, reanimators of the dead, and more. These additional traditions will appear in later articles.
We’re always looking for playtesters for our races, classes, archetypes and other designs here at Tribality. Wizards had the benefit of 175,000 playtesters over 2 years to get their ideas to the table; clearly we don’t have that luxury. Each of our builds are as balanced as we can design with a small playtest group and decades (over a century, maybe, I haven’t done the math) of gaming XP, and we are always excited to hear when players get these ideas on the table and provide us with constructive ways to make them better.
Alchemy is the study of the fundamental physical and magical forces of the universe, and many believe the precursor to “true magic”. Like wizards, alchemists examine and experiment with the world around them, not only infusing potions with arcane and scientific power, but creating devices that make the world around them easier to survive.
Alchemists come from many traditions of study. Artificers focus on creating mechanical and mystical devices. Metamorphs study the abilities of natural and magical animals, merging them with humanoid forms. Reanimators use their knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and magic to raise the dead. Poisoners hone their craft by creating potent toxins that effect the mind, body, and soul. Herbwardens focus their studies on natural and supernatural healing. Pyromancers are hired by the rich and powerful for both entertainment in the form of pyrotechnics and for defense of their cities in times of war. Irezumi are masters of ink-magic, creating tattoos that manifest magical effects for themselves or their clients. Clockworkers infuse constructs with the spark of life to act as allies, bodyguards, and assistants.
As an alchemist, you gain the following class features.
Hit Dice: d6
Hit Points at 1st Level: 6 + Con mod
Hit Points at Higher Levels: d6 (4) + Con Mod
Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: Alchemist supplies, plus either herbalism kits or poisoner’s kits (your choice)
Saving Throws: Intelligence, Constitution
Skills: Choose two from Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Religion
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
- (a) light crossbow and 20 bolts or (b) any simple weapon
- (a) scholar’s pack or (b) explorer’s pack
- (a) healer’s kit or (b) poisoner’s kit
- (a) one vial of alchemist fire or (b) two vials of acid or (c) one vial of antitoxin
- Alchemist supplies, leather armor, formula book, and a dagger
Spells, Mixtures, and Formula
Drawing on alchemy, science, and arcane magic, the alchemist is able to create substances that heal, poison, explode, transform, and duplicate a range of spell-like effects. An alchemist’s “spells” are referred to as mixtures and the recipes to create mixtures are called formula.
Mixtures include a range of items like weapons, wands, orbs, rods, belts, amulets, and bizarre mechanical and mystic devices in addition to the potions, salves, and teas commonly associate with alchemy. Alchemists keep the recipes for these mixtures in a book similar to a wizard’s spellbook. See below for the list of alchemist formula.
Though alchemists gain 7th, 8th and 9th level mixture slots, they may only use these slots to trigger bonus formula, empower 1st-6th level mixtures, or to power tradition features.
At 1st level, you know three cantrips of your choice from the alchemist formula list. You learn additional alchemist cantrips of your choice at higher levels, as shown in the Cantrips Known column of the Alchemist table.
Preparing and Triggering Mixtures
The Alchemist table shows how many mixture slots you have to create your mixtures of 1st level and higher. To create alchemist mixtures, you must expend a slot of the mixture’s level or higher. You regain all expended mixture slots when you finish a long rest.
Unlike a wizard or sorcerer spell, when an alchemist creates a mixture they may delay the effects. Once you have selected a formula to make into a mixture you may trigger the effects immediately, hold onto that mixture for use at a later time, or give the mixture to another creature. If the mixture requires a choice of effects, such as with enhance ability, that choice is made by you when the mixture is created. You may have a number of un-triggered mixtures active equal to your proficiency modifier.
A creature with an Intelligence greater than 4 who is holding the mixture may use an action to trigger the mixture’s effect. For example, if you create a mixture in the form of a small hand crossbow that fires a ray of frost, you may trigger ray of frost as part of the Action used to create the mixture, tuck it into your belt to use as an action later, or give it to your party’s fighter. The fighter may use an action to fire the mixture at a target up to the formula’s range. Saving throws associated with mixtures use your saving throw DC. Attack bonuses use the Intelligence score of the creature that triggers the mixture plus your proficiency modifier. The target or targets of a mixture are determined by the creature that triggered the effect.
Unlike standard alchemical items or true magical potions, mixtures lose their magical qualities once you regain your mixture slots after a long rest.
You prepare the list of formula that are available for you to turn into mixtures. To do so, choose a number of alchemical formula from your formula book equal to your Intelligence modifier + your alchemist level (minimum of one formula). The formula must be of a level for which you have mixture slots.
You can prepare a different list of formula when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of formula requires time spent studying your formula book and prepping vials, censures, tablets, wands, or other items: at least 1 minute per formula level for each formula on your list.
Concentration and Mixtures
The magic that powers your mixtures comes from both the components you use and your own innate magical powers. As such, when a mixture that requires concentration is triggered, you must maintain concentration on that mixture even if you did not trigger it. If you are already concentrating on a mixture, you may decide which mixture goes into effect. For example, if you are a metamorph under the effects of your mutagen tradition feature and your party fighter decides to trigger the enhance ability mixture you gave her, you must decide which effect is canceled. You are not required to maintain concentration on a mixture until it is triggered.
At 9th level, you may allow one creature who triggered one of your mixtures to maintain the concentration for that mixture in your place. Once that creature stops concentrating or the effect ends, you may grant a new (or the same) creature the same benefit. If a second creature triggers a mixture that requires concentration while the first is in effect, you may cancel that effect, maintain the concentration yourself, or cancel the first effect to allow the second effect to trigger. At 15th level, the number of creatures who may maintain concentration on your mixtures at one time increases to two.
Intelligence is your ability for your alchemical mixtures, since you learn formulas through dedicated study and experimentation. You use your Intelligence whenever a mixture refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Intelligence modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a mixture you trigger and when making an attack roll with one.
Mixture save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
Mixture attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
You can trigger a formula as a ritual if that formula has the ritual tag and you have the formula in your formula book. You don’t need to have the formula prepared nor do you need to expend a mixture slot.
Components and Spellcasting Focus
All alchemical formula have Somatic and Material components in place of the listed components for the spell. Alchemist cannot use an arcane focus in place of the material components of a formula.
Learning Formula of 1st Level and Higher
Each time you gain an alchemist level, you can add two alchemical formula of your choice to your formula book. Each of these formula must be of a level for which you have mixture slots, as shown on the Alchemist table. On your adventures, you might find other formula that you can add to your formula book (see Spell Scrolls, Spell Books, and Formula below).
Alchemists and Magic Items
Spell Scrolls, Spell Books, and Formula
Any spell scroll or spell book that includes a spell on the alchemist formula list may be translated and transcribed into a formula book. This process is similar to transcribing a spell. The spell scroll contains enough information about the magical process that creates the spell for the alchemist to duplicate its effects using their own techniques. Alchemists cannot, however, trigger spell scrolls of any kind.
Magic Item Attunement
Alchemists may attune magic items that are normally limited to the sorcerer and wizard classes, as well as items that require attunement by any spellcaster.
Starting at 2nd level, whenever you use downtime to create items using an alchemist kit (items determined by your DM, but typically include alchemist fire and acid) you create a number of items equal to your proficiency modifier instead of a single item. This ability does not apply to poisons or items created using an herbalist kit, such as antitoxin and potions of healing.
When you reach 3rd level, you choose an alchemical tradition that hones your chosen area of study. The alchemical traditions presented here are Artificer, Metamorph, and Posioner. (Additional traditions, including Clockworker, Herbwarden, Irezumi, Pyromancer, and Reanimator, will be presented in upcoming articles). Your choice grants you bonus formulas and tradition features at 3rd level and again at 6th, 10th, 14th, and 18th levels.
Each tradition grants an alchemist bonus formulas that are automatically added to the alchemist’s formula book when they gain mixture slots of the appropriate level. These bonus formula are considered alchemist mixtures for their tradition only and must be prepared normally.
At 20th level, you can allow three creatures who have triggered your mixtures to maintain concentration on those mixtures in your place. In addition, you may have any number of 1st level or higher mixtures un-triggered at one time. Un-triggered cantrip mixtures are still limited to a number equal to your proficiency modifier (6)
Alchemical traditions include the Artificer, Clockworker, Herbwarden, Irezumi, Metamorph, Poisoner, Pyromancer, and Reanimator. The Artificer, Metamorph, and Poisoner are presented below. The other traditions will be presented in upcoming articles.
Artificers are the blacksmiths and artists of the alchemical traditions, creating unusual devices that allow characters to fly, counter magical effects, or even gate to other dimensions.
The artificer’s formula often take the form of techno-magical devices. Arcane lock, for example, may be a small physical device attached to a door. Move earth may take the form of a set of plow handles that project a force effect. Instead of a weapon made of force, mordenkainen’s sword may be a clockwork weapon that hovers around the artificer.
Mixtures such as ray of frost often take the form of projectile weapons (slings, hand crossbows) that fire the effect. Mage armor could be a belt that projects a force field effect or that magnetically stiffens metal threads in the artificer’s clothing.
2nd: arcane lock, find traps, knock
3rd: fly, leomund’s tiny hut, water walk
4th: dimension door, mordenkainen’s faithful hound, mordenkainen’s private sanctum
5th: animate object, creation
6th: arcane gate, move earth
7th: mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, mordenkainen’s sword
8th: antimagic field, antipathy/sympathy
9th: gate, time stop
When you choose this tradition at 3rd level, you receive proficiency with any three tool kits.
Jack of all Traditions
At 6th level, you may add any 3 formulas from the Bonus Formula lists of other alchemical traditions to your formula book. The formulas chosen must be of a level for which you have mixture slots available. These formula are not considered bonus formula for you and must be prepared normally.
At 10th level, you can ignore class, race, and alignment requirements for attuning a magic item. This ability does not apply to legendary items or artifacts.
In addition, you can choose not to regain a mixture slot after a long rest to maintain the potency of a mixture you created before the long rest. For example, if you created a belt that allows the bearer to trigger the fly spell, had given it to a party member, and that party member is now in another city, you may choose not to regain a 3rd level mixture slot to maintain the belt’s magical abilities if the party member has not yet triggered the mixture.
At 14th level, when you use a 7th level mixture slot to create a mixture of 4th level or lower, that mixture may be triggered twice before being expended; both uses are lost whenever you take a long rest. If the mixture has a duration longer than instantaneous, the second use may not be triggered until the duration of the first use has expired. For example, if you use a 7th level slot to create a 4th level cure wounds salve, that salve may be used to trigger cure wounds as a 4th level spell twice before you take a long rest. If you create a magical stone that triggers conjure minor elemental, the stone may not be used again until 1 hour has expired, the elemental is destroyed, or concentration is lost.
When you gain access to 8th level mixture slots, you may expend an 8th level mixture slot to create a mixture of 5th level or lower that is usable twice before being expended.
At 18th level, when you use a 9th level mixture slot to create one of your bonus formulas of 7th level or lower, that mixture’s duration increases to 10 days, if it it less than 10 days. If the formula has a duration of instantaneous, as with find traps or knock, the mixture may be triggered a number of times per day equal to your Intelligence modifier. If the formula creates an object, as with animate object or creation, the duration is 10 days or until the object is destroyed. If the formula requires concentration, as with move earth or mordenkainen’s sword, you may voluntarily stop concentrating on the effect as a bonus action, and may use an Action to resume concentration and restart the effect. Should you lose concentration involuntarily, such as by failing a concentration check after taking damage, the duration ends.
Arcane gate: When used to create an arcane gate, resuming concentration reopens the gate in the same location as originally triggered.
Not all alchemists search for answers in the outside world. Some resort to personal and “professional” experimentation to improve the humanoid condition. Metamorphs learn techniques for enhancing the abilities of their companions as well as transforming their own bodies.
Most of the metamorph’s formula are easy to imagine. Alter self, enhance ability, jump, expeditious retreat, and regenerate are often potions, salves, or patches, and may cause minor cosmetic effects in their users. Cantrips such as poison spray, ray of frost, or fire bolt could be potions that grant the breath weapons of dragons or other creatures. Not all mixtures are required to be born from nature; metamorphs are alchemists just as any other tradition and can create mixtures that duplicate a range of effects.
2nd: alter self, enhance ability, enlarge/reduce
3rd: feign death, gaseous form, haste
4th: giant insect, polymorph, stone skin
5th: awaken, modify memory
6th: flesh to stone, true seeing
7th: simulacrum, regenerate
8th: animal shapes, clone
9th: shapechange, true polymorph
At 3rd level, you can expend a 2nd level mixture slot to trigger alter self, enhance ability, and mage armor as a single action. All spells activated by this action must be prepared and are considered a single magical effect with a duration of “Concentration, 1 hour” and a range of self. Should you fail a concentration check or trigger an additional mixture that requires concentration, all spells activated by this Action end. See Concentration and Mixtures above for more information.
The benefit you gain from the enhance ability mixture may be selected from: bear’s endurance, bull’s strength, or cat’s grace. In addition, select one mental ability score (Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma). You gain disadvantage on all ability checks using that ability score for the duration of the effect.
Additional mixture slots expended after Mutagen is triggered resets the duration to “Concentration, 1 hour”.
At 6th level, you have developed potions, pills and treatments that enhance your health and endurance. You may add your Intelligence modifier to your hit point total at each level, as well as when expending Hit Dice to recover hit points, instead of your Constitution modifier. This effect is retroactive to 1st level.
At 6th level, you can expend a 3rd level mixture slot to use your Mutagen class feature instead of a 2nd level slot. If you do, you gain the following additional benefits:
- Alter self: You may select two features and gain the benefits of both. You may end one or both options to gain the benefits of one or two different options as an Action.
- Mage armor: Your AC equals 14 + your Dexterity modifier.
At 10th level, you may expend a 5th level mixture slot to use your Enhanced Mutagen class feature instead of a 3rd level slot. If you do, you gain the following benefits in addition to those:
- Add stoneskin to the list of formula activated by the use of the Mutagen class feature.
- Enhance ability: You select any two physical benefits of the enhance ability spell (bear’s endurance, bull’s strength, cat’s grace) and gain the benefits of each.
At 14th level, you can expend a 7th level mixture slot to use your Superior Mutagen class feature instead of a 5th level slot. If you do, you gain the following additional benefits:
- Add regeneration to the list of formula activated by the use of the Mutagen class feature.
- Alter self: The damage you inflict using the Natural Weapons option increases to 1d8 and the bonus to attacks and damage increases to +2.
- You gain advantage on concentration checks you make as the result of taking damage.
- The duration of the spells associated with this feature becomes “Concentration, 2 hours.”
The Beast Within
At 18th level, you can expend a 9th level mixture slot to use your Enduring Mutagen class feature instead of a 7th level slot. If you do, you gain the following additional benefits:
- Alter self: You can gain the benefits of all three options offered by the alter self mixture. The attack and damage bonus to your Natural Weapons increase to +3 and your natural weapons are considered both magical and silvered.
- Mage armor: Your AC equals 15 + your Dexterity modifier.
- Enhance Ability: You gain the benefits of bear’s endurance, bull’s strength and cat’s grace.
- The duration of the spells associated with this feature becomes “Concentration, 4 hours.”
Poisoners have been sought after for as long as there has been conflict. Alchemists of the poisoner tradition create mixtures that affect the body and mind, creating lethal hallucinations, inhibiting mental faculties, weakening the body, or outright killing their foes.
All of the poisoner’s bonus formula are poison effects (see Poisonous Formula below), so the image of gases, dusts, darts, and ingestible poisons are easy to imagine. The somatic components of these formula typically involve firing a small projectile, blowing a powder into someone’s eyes, or simply giving a potion with subtle or cosmetic side effects to a companion. Formulas like weird and phantasmal killer twist the mind of the affected, confronting them with their own nightmares. As with metamorphs, it’s important to remember that poisoners are alchemists just like any other and their mixtures can take a range of forms. Only their Bonus Formula are considered poison effects, so standard alchemist formula will only be poison effects if the formula indicates so (or the DM and player decide otherwise, which can be interesting).
2nd: blindness/deafness, protection from poison, ray of enfeeblement
3rd: bestow curse, feign death, slow
4th: blight, confusion, phantasmal killer
5th: cloudkill, contagion
6th: circle of death, harm
7th: finger of death, symbol
8th: feeblemind, trap the soul
9th: power word kill, weird
At 3rd level, when you take this tradition, you gain four doses of basic poison. In addition, the mixtures listed under Bonus Formula are considered poison effects if they aren’t already.
At 3rd level, you gain proficiency with Sleight of Hand and Stealth checks. You may apply poison to a weapon (or 3 pieces of ammunition) as a bonus action.
In addition, you may create a number of doses of basic poison equal to your proficiency modifier in the time it would take to create one dose. See Player’s Handbook for crafting rules and statistics for basic poison.
At 6th level, the save DC of any basic poison you use (whether purchased or crafted) is equal to 10 + your proficiency modifier. In addition, basic poisons you use increase their damage to 1d6 poison and the duration of potency to 1 hour once applied to a weapon.
When you successfully harvest poison from a creature, you gain a number of doses equal to your proficiency modifier.
At 10th level, you may create a number of doses of any poison equal to your proficiency modifier in the time it would take to create one dose (time varies by poison) See the Dungeon Master’s Guide for information on unique poisons and Player’s Handbook for information on crafting.
Targets that fail their saving throw against basic poison that you create (not purchase) take 1d8 poison damage and gain the poisoned condition for 1 minute. Basic poisons you create have their potency increased to 8 hours once applied to a weapon.
In addition, whenever you make a saving throw against poison that would inflict half damage against you on a successful save, you instead take 0 damage. If any other affects are associated with the failed save, they are also negated.
At 14th level, you may intensify the effects of poisons and inhibit creatures’ immune systems. When you expend a 7th level spell slot or higher and touch either a creature or a dose of poison, you may choose one of the following effects:
- Creature: The creature touched gains disadvantage on saving throws against poisons and diseases for 1 hour. This effect can only be ended by a remove curse, protection from poison or similar effect that is cast using a 7th level spell slot or higher. Expending an 8th level spell slot increases the duration to 1 day. Expending a 9th level spell slot increases the duration to 1 week.
- Poison: The creature(s) affected by the targeted poison makes all saving throws against that poison at disadvantage. In addition, the poison ignores poison resistance (but not immunity). Expending an 8th level spell slot affects 2 doses of poison and the doses treat poison immunity as poison resistance. Expending a 9th level spell slot affects 3 doses of poison and the doses ignore both poison immunity and poison resistance. This increased potency lasts for 24 hours. Note: one dose of poison is defined as an amount enough to coat one melee weapon or three pieces of ammunition in the case of injury poisons, or effect one creature in the case of ingested poisons, or fill one 5 foot square in the case of inhaled poisons.
At 18th level, you may trigger any of your bonus formula of 7th level or lower using a 9th level mixture slot. If you do, all creatures make saving throws against that mixture at disadvantage for the duration. In addition, the poison or disease inflicted by that spell can only be negated by natural saving throws, a legendary item, an artifact, or by a magical effect 2 or more levels higher than the original level of the spell. For example, a disease inflicted by the 5th level contagion mixture that was triggered using a 9th level mixture slot cannot be dispelled by lesser restoration, unless lesser restoration is cast using a 7th level spell slot.
Spare the Dying
Ray of Frost
Detect Evil and Good
Detect Poison and Disease
Purify Food and Drink
Ray of Sickness
Protection from Good and Evil
Tasha’s Hideous Laughter
Locate Animals or Plants
Nystul’s Magic Aura
Pass without Trace
Protection from Poison
Zone of Truth
Glyph of Warding
Protection from Energy
Conjure Minor Elementals
Leomund’s Secret Chest
Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere
Contact Other Plane
Rary’s Telepathic Bond
Wall of Force
Drawmij’s Instant Summons
Find the Path
Globe of Invulnerability
Guards and Wards
Otto’s Irresistible Dance
Wall of Thorns
7th, 8th, and 9th level
Alchemists only gain formula of 7th level or higher as bonus formula from their traditions.
Other Alchemists for 5th Edition
An Artificer class (with subclass of Alchemist) was posted over at Giant in the Playground and looks fascinating.
- Bonus formula being automatically prepared each day in addition to other formulas may be stronger than I intend. Changing that would require the Metamorph to use at least three of their slots to prepare their mutagen mixtures each day, but that may balance out some of their strengths. This consideration is now part of the core build.
- Limiting the number of mixtures per day that can be triggered by another creature to Proficiency per day, instead of “number of mixtures at any one time” being limited to Proficiency. This may prove necessary after more playtesting.