The Alchemist is one of the more flexible character classes in the Pathfinder RPG: his extracts function as spells, his bombs function as arcane blasts that ignore Spell Resistance, and he can function as a skill monkey whose talents can include finding and disarming traps.
The class is so flexible that Ogre proposed three distinct builds for the Alchemist: a bomb thrower (Dr. Strangelob), a melee build (Mr. Hyde), and a poisoner build. I’ve only played a bomb specialist, but I found that there were enough feat and discover spaces left over to add a separate element to the character. I decided to go with the poisoner, because certain feats the bomb chucker would already have such as Point Black Shot and Rapid Shot or Two-Weapon Fighting, would have natural synergy with the poisoner.
I decided to go with the Two-Weapon Fighting model instead of the Point Blank Shot and Rapid Shot model because it’s very difficult to make use of the sticky poison discovery when dealing with ammunition. They only way around it would be to use multiple daggers of throwing, but coming across such things in a Pathfinder Society setting can be rather daunting. In order to maximize the effectiveness of poison, you need to hit the target multiple times in a round. Each hit adds a +2 to the DC save versus the poison and increases it’s total duration by half. The sticky poison discovery, meanwhile, allows one dose of poison to be stretched to a number of hits equal to your Intelligence modifier- which is quite a cost saver for the poisoner.
Now I know a lot of people will feel that an effective bomber can not be made without Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot, but I disagree. Both feats are helpful, but not necessary. Overcoming a target’s touch AC, is often rather easy- even of a +4 is added to it for firing into melee. Add to that the multiple dexterity buffs that an Alchemist has access to, and often these feats prove rather unnecessary. Granted, they are useful feats, but in this build I an forgoing the utility of those feats in favor of the versatility of adding poison to the mix.
The reason I chose the Gnome is because their racial traits in the Advanced Player’s Guide allow of them to pick up another bomb use every two levels. That ends up being quite a few extra bombs by the time you get the Fast Bombs discovery. So you’ll not run out of them anytime soon. In addition, their smaller size gives a +1 to hit on everything. Given that bombs and poison do not depend on size for damage, it’s a natural choice. Not to mention that, for flavor reasons, Gnomes are typically seen as natural Alchemists.
Alright, let’s get down to stating out our Gnome. Using the PFS 20 point buy, we know we’re going to need a high Dex and a high Int. Strength can be a bit of a dump stat, since we won’t be using it. My proposed point allocation would be to take the 4 points you’d gain for taking a Strength of 7. Let’s make our Wisdom and Constitution 12, with those 4 points. If we leave our Charisma at 10, then we can take the remaining 20 point and give each our Dexterity and our Intelligence a score of 16. After adding in the Gnome racial modifiers, we have: S5 D16 Co14 W12 I16 C12. In addition, let’s substitute our some of the Gnome traits of hatred and defensive training (which I’ve never seen used) for the far more useful trait of Eternal Hope out of the Advanced Player’s Guide. Eternal Hope allows for one free reroll a day, an awesome ability.
The Accelerated Drinker trait, out of the Guide to Cheliax, is really too useful for this class to pass up. So we’re virtually forced to take that trait. As for our other trait, I like Indomitable Faith to help combat the Alchemist’s low Willpower save.
For feats and discoveries by level, here’s what I’d recommend:
|1||Extra Discovery: Acid Bomb||This discovery is huge. It may not seem like it, but Acid bombs are really powerful. The extra 1d6 in damage is increasing your bomb damage at level one by half. More importantly, if allows your bombs to do a different form of damage so that you can mitigate creatures that have immunity to fire and trash opponents who are vulnerable to acid. Obviously, if your campaign is targeting a type of opponent that is vulnerable to some other damage source, then feel free to take the appropriate type of damage. In general, however, the extra +1d6 from Acid is far better than the Dazzled effect from Shock bombs. The Staggered condition from Frost bombs are nice, but multiple Frost bombs don’t stack the way the extra +1d6 acid bombs do. In addition, undead are immune to cold damage, and they are traditional RPG opponents.|
|2||Precise Bombs||This will save your teammates quite a lot of splash damage.|
|3||Weapon Finesse||Since our strength is crap, and since we’re going to need to hit things to poison them, we have to take Weapon Finesse.|
|4||Infusion||There’s just no way around this discovery. It allows the rest of your party to use your extracts, which gives incredible flexibility. Suddenly fighters can be casting “shield” or “true strike” or other “Target: Personal” spells on themselves. It also allows for them to be using your healing extracts, and your Alchemical Allocation extract to use potions such as Cure Disease and Remove Curse which allows you to play at the healer.|
|5||Master Alchemist||In order to be at all cost effective, we’re going to need to start making our own poisons.|
|6||Sticky Poison||Now that we have Swift Poisoning, we’re going to need to get some poison bang for our buck.|
|7||Two Weapon Fighting||We’ve now gained both the Poison Use and Swift Poisoning class ability, so let’s start by using two weapons to double the number of poison applications we can hit our target with at this level. In addition, next level we pick up Fast Bombs, and this feat will really help with that.|
|8||Fast Bombs||At last, you can start to throw multiple bombs a turn. A lot of people recommend the Rapid Shot feat, but I prefer the Haste Extract. It allows you to throw three bombs a turn at level 7, with a +1 to hit on all instead of a -2. It just works out so that you’re wasting fewer bombs with misses and do your damage more efficiently.|
|9||Extra Discovery: Force Bombs||The ultimate in bypassing Damage Resistance. In addition, the save versus prone effect is also a death knell for a lot of melee based opponents.|
|10||Sticky Bomb||These greatly enhance the damage output of your bombs. Nuff said.|
Anyway, that’s my recommendation for the first 10 levels in terms of feats. Now in terms of which poison I’d recommend, poisons like Blue whinnis seem ideal. It’s cheap, and a failed save leads to Unconsciousness which will take the target out of the fight immediately. Since we can craft it quickly at a cost of 40gp per application, it’s very cheap to use. Add in our Sticky Poison ability, and one use amounts to roughly 10gp per strike. Not too shabby.
In terms of extracts, you will need to get the Haste Extract as soon as it become available at level 7. This will allow you to either throw four bombs a turn, or make four poisoned dagger attacks. That can add up to quite a lot of poison. The Reduce Person basically gives a +2 to hit with either bomb or poisoned dagger, so we’re going to need that. The interesting thing about Pathfinder Society Rules are that if you find a potion, you have to pay for it if you want to keep it over the course of the adventure. If, however, you use what you find over the course of the adventure, then it’s free. This makes Transmute Potion to Poison particularly attractive. Didn’t need that potion? Well turn it into a powerful poison which combines with Sticky Poison to get quite nasty. There are many other obvious extracts you’ll need, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.