I have a homebrew campaign idea simmering on the back burner that centers on a society that does not believe in magic and merely tolerates religion so long as it stays quiet. Of course this society sits squarely in the middle of a medieval fantasy world filled with magical creatures and spellcasters.
As characters, spellcasters are extremely useful, but how do you play a game without one? Easy. Enter the Alchemist.
Well, not so easy. How do you make the Alchemist an interesting player character? How do you make them useful during combat? How do you NOT get bogged down with the endless bookkeeping of gathering and using ingredients?
So far, in my years-long thought experiment, my alchemist is little more than a re-skinned spellcaster, replacing magical components and handwaving with more practical descriptions. This might work for my homebrew but might not be as compelling in a traditional D&D campaign. I’d like to make the alchemist stand a little more apart from a wizard.
I’ve run across a few solutions recently. A friend of mine (and college DM) came up with a lightweight solution: http://strangedice.com/2014/11/22/alchemy-in-dd/
Instead of creating a whole character class, he added a proficiency with Alchemist’s Tools and an Alchemist Feat to put some alchemy tricks up any character’s sleeves. This idea has some merit, and I’ll have to get some feedback from him on how it has worked at his table.
Yesterday I found this link to a fully developed Fifth Edition style Alchemist character class: http://middlefingerofvecna.blogspot.com/2016/01/alchemist.html
At first glance, and without the benefit of playtesting, this seems to be a very playable character. I’m impressed by the author’s thoroughness and how well it fits the 5E style. As a class, it definitely stands apart from any spellcasters out there. However, it seems to pigeonhole the alchemist as a maker and thrower of bombs. Perhaps this was the author’s solution to simplifying the bookkeeping?
For now, the thought experiment continues. I do have answers to some of my earlier questions and I will get around to sharing them here.