Eclipse d20 – Alchemical Creation

There are several ways to handle d20 alchemy. While some of the general ideas were discussed HERE, there have been enough “how to” questions that it’s time for some specifics.

  • Eclipse includes a list of alchemical spells (on page 22) as one of it’s examples. So first up we have Alchemical Spellcasting. It’s effective – and not much of a departure from standard d20 magic – but it doesn’t quite suit the idea of an alchemist in his lab, with hundreds of his creations ready to hand. A dedicated Alchemical Caster could just buy the list multiple times since it’s fairly cheap, but it still won’t be THAT many spells. Obviously enough, given the power level of actual spells, this approach cannot allow that huge laboratory stockpile – or it would allow any alchemist with some time and a Handy Haversack to haul along hundreds of powerful alchemical items and thus be prepared for anything and everything.

If you’re going to allow that, then Alchemy needs some other restrictions to keep it from getting out of control and taking over the game. Thus…

  • Standard d20 Craft (Alchemy) restricts itself to “Low” Alchemy – things that are at least semi-plausible as slightly magical chemistry. That’s reasonable, but a bit boring – and there are plenty of lists out there for things to be made with that kind of alchemy. The major restriction here is that such items really aren’t powerful enough to be more than toys for high-level characters. Sure, there are some very high-end booster feats, but doubling or tripling the effect of a 3d6 alchemical fire attack or grenade doesn’t mean much when the spellcasters are throwing around Meteor Swarm, Gate, and Time Stop. If you really want this sort of thing… buy a trivial variant on “Double Damage” (“Double Effect With Standard Alchemical Items”, 6 CP), Specialized for Increased Effect (Triple Damage thanks to the usual doubling rules) / only works with personally-made alchemical items.

That might actually be worth taking at low levels if you’re making that sort of character. Sure, 6d6 worth of Alchemists Fire Damage to a single target that costs a bit still isn’t really a match for a basically-free Burning Hands (up to 5d4 to a modest area), but it is only the equivalent of a single Feat, and you don’t have to wait until high levels to take it. You might want to buy something like an Immunity to the cost of obtaining raw materials to make alchemical items too; (Common, Minor, Major, for 30 GP off the raw material costs of alchemical crafting, 6 CP). Throw in some Innate Enchantment (Handy Haversack, only for storing alchemical creations, and Launch Item, to let you “throw” them accurately at long range, Dexterous Fingers (Trickster Magi list) to speed up making alchemical items, perhaps a bonus to Craft/Alchemy, and an Inherent Alchemists Lab), plus a little Luck (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for making Alchemical Items, 6 CP) and you have a worthwhile alchemists package for about 24 CP – available to a starting character or over about two levels worth of unallocated character points.

Honestly, 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder I, and any number of supplements already have massive lists of potential alchemical items to make. I’ll throw in a few noncombat suggestions down in the alchemical item lists, but that will let you keep up for a while.

  • Rolemaster used Alchemy to make magic items; it had nothing to do with chemistry at all. On the other hand, Eclipse already offers quite a few different systems for making magical items. There’s really no need for another one system since a would be item-making “alchemist” is simply using a different set of special effects. For this approach I’d recommend the “Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys” package found HERE for the temporary stuff and a few of the usual item creation abilities with appropriate special effects. A character who wants to do this might consider the writeup for the Philosophers Stone, found on this list of sample relics.
  • The Gadgetry Skill (probably specialized in Alchemy) lets you make things like “Oil Of Etheralness” – a substance oil with many possible uses. You might dip arrowheads in it to let you shoot through walls and armor, or coat yourself in it to become ethereal, or apply it to a lock to bypass it, or anoint your eyes to see into the ethereal plane, or apply it to armor or a weapon to temporarily give it the “Ghost Touch” property, or use it to reach inside a locked box and steal the contents without disturbing the box. Go ahead, reduce a Lodestone to a dozen pinches of “Magnetic Essence” and play Magneto Junior for a little bit. The joy of Gadgetry is that you don’t necessarily have to define exactly what whatever it is you’ve made actually does until you use it -and you don’t really need to be consistent between uses. If you’ve made a rocket-launching wristband, you can use them to attack, signal, create diversions, to carry ropes aloft, and for many other purposes.
  • Glowstone Alchemy (Part I and Part II), on the site, is basically a version of “alchemy” / engineering / enchantment that relies on some incredibly dangerous and toxic substance which is a source of mighty and terrible energies. While this generally relies on the availability of such a substance, it can reasonably represent working with intensely toxic radioactive substances, the Weird West’s Spirit-Imbued “Ghost Rock”, older edition’s Red Steel, the Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant’s “Earthblood” (whatever that is), “Dust” from the His Dark Materials trilogy, the Malfean Vitriol of Exalted, Hellfire, the warped materials that have been touched by Lovecraftian Outer Gods, the Residue of Banished Ghosts, and many other outrageous power sources.

This is usually just an Occult Skill – essentially another version of Gadgetry where the Devices are much more powerful than usual because working with said power source is outrageously dangerous and because the compounds and devices themselves come with hideous downsides and are horribly toxic – greatly limiting how many such items any given character can use and live (at least without turning into a radioactive mutated horror). The exact options may vary, but the Glowstone Alchemy lists (mostly in Part II) should give you the general idea.

For some versions of Alchemy – those with the notion that the “True Goal” of the Alchemist is the purification, transformation, and enhancement of the mind and spirit – you’re probably best off using Mystic Artist. For a somewhat tongue-in-cheek version of this style that I helped someone write up for their character (or was it for someone else’s character?), here we have Mystic Bartending.

  • Mystic Artist, Specialized for Increased Effect (Double the base skill for power-purchasing purposes) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / You must pour your targets a drink, and they must drink it, rather like taking a potion (4 CP). Echoes, Specialized and Corrupted / negates the effects of the initial use of the ability, all three rounds must be expended at once (2 CP).

The result is that you can serve people drinks with various mystical effects, all of which can be triggered as a free action within the next two weeks and will have their effects last for three minutes or until exhausted, whichever is shorter. If not triggered within two weeks the effects are lost – and you’ll just have to come back to the bar for some more drinks. Given that the drinks are built from a fairly limited set of mystic artist effects, similar effects do not stack, but other bits do.

Mystic Bartending School of the Mystic Arts: Effective Skill / Ability Learned:

  • 3+: Drunken Enthusiasm (Emotion, 3). A single draught of your beverages can cause powerful emotions for all who partake.
  • 4+: Sobering Draught (Block, 3). Your beverages can counteract of all sorts of intoxicants for all who partake.
  • 5+ Bartenders Counsel (Fascinate, 3): You may cause your targets to drink massively, at Skill 6+ you can whisper Suggestions to them, albeit only one at a time. .
  • 6+: The Hard Stuff Liquor (Hold Audience). Your beverages can keep all the people you serve fascinated and drinking for hours.
  • 9+: Mead Of The Einherjar (Greatness, 9): Grants those who partake (up to Level/3 targets) 1d10 temporary hit points, +1 to their BAB, Saves, and AC, and 6 CP worth of temporary abilities – although the ability must be set in advance and be the same for everyone partaking in this particular batch (Perhaps Fire Resistance 30, or Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in healing hit points – for a base of 5d8+25 healing).
  • 12+: Drunken Style (Excellence, 12). Grants a single target two +4 Morale Bonuses, these can be applied to attributes, to Saves (all of them), to AC, to Attacks, or to Damage – although, once again, what the boosts are applied to must be determined with the drink is served.
  • 15+: Freyja’s Wine (Amplify, 9). Grant a +2 Caster Level bonus to all who partake of the wine. This does not add to spells known, but does apply to level-based spell effects, caster level checks, and similar items.
  • 18+: Mead Of Suttungr (Harmonize, 12): You may imbue a single draught with any two of your effects, with the number of targets to be affected being limited by the most restrictive effect.
  • 21+: Spirits Of Dawn (Serenity, 18): Your drinks count as a nights rest and refresh uses-per-day abilities. This can be served to an entire party, but only functions once per week.
  • 24+: Drunken Mastery (Mass Greatness, 15): As per Divine Mead, but for up to (Cha Mod + Level) targets.
  • 30+: Transcendent Ale (Mass Excellence, 18): As per Drunken Style but for up to (Level/2 + Cha Mod) targets.
  • 36+: Draught Of Valhalla (Heroism, Skill 30): Doubles the effects of Divine Mead, but only for a single target. Still, for example, a draught that will let someone heal (13+ Level/3) * (d8+5) damage can be quite useful.
  • 48+: Valhalla’s Keg (Mass Heroism, 36): As per Draught Of Valhalla, but affects up to (Level/2 + Cha Mod) targets.
  • 60+: Cauldron Of Aegir (Double, 48): Double any one aspect of any lesser ability whenever you use it.

For some possible drinks, consider…

  • Mead Of Odin (Harmonize – Emotion and Serenity, 21+): The imbiber may glimpse the great feasting hall of Valhalla, and be revived as the spirits of the dead are there revived to battle!
    • Acts as a nights rest and refreshes uses-per-day abilities (only once per real week though). User gains Immunity to Fear and a +5 Morale Bonus to Hit and Damage for the duration.
  • Draught Of Völuspá (Harmonize – Greatness and Amplify, 18+ for a single target, 24+ for groups): Once during the next two weeks the imbiber may hear the voices of the spirits speaking, and channel their power into his or her magic.
    • Provides +2 Caster Levels, 1d10 + Con Mod temporary hit points, +1 to BAB, Saves, and AC, and+7 Bonus Standard Actions for Spellcasting only (maximum of one per round, not compatible with other reflex actions) (Reflex Training (extra actions variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Spellcasting only).
  • Wine of the Valkyries (Harmonize – Greatness and Excellence, 18+ for a single target, 30+ to affect groups): The user hears the voice of the Valkyrie, chanting runes of battle and inspiring him or her to even greater heroic deeds!
    • Provides +1d10 + Con Mod temporary hit points, +1 to BAB, Saves, and AC, user heals (1d8+5) damage up to once per round as needed six times during the duration (Greant of Aid with Bonus Uses, Specialized in Hit Point only), user gains a +4 Morale Bonus on Saving Throws, and a +4 Morale Bonus (and +2 Temporary HP per Hit Die, +2 Fortitude, Etc) to Constitution.
  • Winterfire Brandy (Harmonize – Greatness and Excellence, 18+ for a single target, 30+ to affect groups): In freezing cold, ice may be skimmed from freezing ferments until only the purest essence remains, a draught of burning fire.
    • Provides +1d10 + Con Mod temporary hit points, +1 to BAB, Saves, and AC, and 3d6 Mana with the Unskilled Magic Option, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Unskilled Fire Magic, DR 4/- and Energy Resistance (All) 4.

Admittedly those are fairly high-skill drinks, but Mystic Artist is actually one of the most overpowered abilities in the system – capable of providing a wide variety of powers at relatively small expense. The problem is, of course, that the user has to define the combinations of abilities to be used, specify their individual effects, and set them up – making it quite complicated to use. Secondarily, the fact that it tends to provide party-level boosts means that it’s perceived as a support power, rather than a personal power – and support powers tend to be cheap in any case.

  • Modern thought sometimes treats Alchemy as just another branch of Ritual Magic – it’s just that your rituals mostly involve making complicated glassware, mixing stuff, distilling it, reducing it to powder, subjecting it to days of slow heat, and using many other elaborate procedures. Your magic circles are mostly engraved on your equipment, you meditate on philosophical mysteries rather than invoking mystical beings, and so on. Your effects, of course, come in the form of potions, powders, oils, incense, alchemical beasts, and materials with strange properties – most of which eventually fail, although you can raise the ritual DC to let you store them longer.

As usual, rituals which are repeated over and over again tend to set their patterns in the structure of magic. They become easier. Mystic symbols and circles can be drawn in paint or chalk rather than being inlaid in mystically-significant metals. Complex sigils are simplified, unpronounceable names are abbreviated and given vowels, and – eventually – they turn into common rituals or even into near-immediate spells. In the end… they may not even be recognized as magic at all. Quite a few “folk remedies” and even technological processes fall into this category – their channels worn so deep into reality that the necessary elements are no longer even recognizable as parts of a ritual. Repetition has power. In d20, all those urban legends that saying a creatures name three, or seven, or thirteen, or whatever, times will cause it to appear? Those are well-worn rituals, reduced to such a simple act that any idiot can do it.

This variant is quite effective – but I find it kind of disappointing. Making Alchemy just another branch of ritual magic – entirely divorced from chemistry – just seems to take a lot of the fun out of it. Moreover, Ritual Magic is intentionally designed to be unreasonably difficult, otherwise it all too easily becomes a universal solution – and that means that your master alchemist may wind up not using much alchemy because it takes far too long.

  • A Ceremonial Magic version of Ritual Magic works for minor alchemical items, and is fairly classical, but is pretty inconsequential unless you’re playing a low-magic level-limited game. This system wasn’t even written for d20, but would work just fine for it with a few minor terminology changes.
  • “Full Metal Alchemist” style “Alchemy” is available through the Create Item / Transmutation line of abilities – and, in fact, Edward Elric is among the sample characters – but this kind of “alchemy” has little or nothing to do with classical alchemy outside of a few words like “transmutation”. Real world would-be alchemists never tried to repair radios or suddenly create arrays of big guns using magical circles. They were people puttering around in laboratories and looking for funding, not adventurous near-superheroes.

Of course, if you actually want to be a real-world alchemist, you want a selection of craft skills (for making alloys, faking precious metals and gems, compounding dubious medicines, and even a bit of genuine chemistry), a bit of basic medical knowledge, some knowledge of herbalism, and a good deal of skill at talking people into supporting your “research” and spinning negative results into something positive. If you’re consciously conning people some Sleight Of Hand will come in handy as well. In-game this isn’t “Alchemy”. It’s just a con artist specialization.

  • If you want to create a cross between a potion-maker and a mad bomber, there’s the Pathfinder Alchemist – but honestly, they don’t really have much to do with alchemy either.
  • You could also pull some pieces from the first “Ninja” build over HERE – simply selecting the alchemically-related options for their Tricks. In fact, the “Tricks”may be all you need.
  • If you just want to make a wool sweater that acts like chainmail or something… Craft Appearances isn’t even an Occult Skill: it’s something that anyone in a magical world can learn to use. It can be used to make stuff look different.

Craft (Appearances): Each point of this skill total allows the user to select a piece of personal equipment and describe it’s appearance as they wish. This has no mechanical effect on the item however. An additional +2 points will, however, cause an items encumbrance to match its appearance OR allow the user to disguise a larger item, such as a vehicle or structure.

If you REALLY want your base to look like a crumbling ruin, or decorate for Halloween, go right ahead. This doesn’t really cost anything outside of your skill investment since appearances have no cost.

Then there’s High Alchemy, sometimes known as Philosophy. This is the stuff where you cheat on chemistry and physics – sometimes quite outrageously – with Reality Editing, Magic, Immunities, or Skill Stunts. It’s a subtle branch of magic, dressed up with a lot of chemistry and some physics – but it is still a branch of magic. For conveniences sake, I’ve split up the reputed products of “Alchemy” into four basic levels – Low, Middle, High, and Grandiose – and a variety of subcategories.

  • Doing it with Skill Stunts requires a very high skill (or some method of boosting your alchemy skill checks beyond all reason, such as Luck with Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Skill Checks, only for Alchemy, 12 CP. This will let you “Take 60” when you need to), Skill Focus (+1 or better, 2+ CP), Skill Stunts (6 CP), and some Mana and (likely) Rite Of Chi to power them – although it can be Specialized and Corrupted to make it pretty cheap. If you want to pull get to the level where you can do things like manipulate the lifecycle of stars, create endless sources of magical elixirs, and call on cosmic forces, you will want Epic Skill Stunts (6 CP) and a lot of cash with which to develop epic level effects. The time-reducing effect might be a good idea as well. The GM will have to set the DC of making various alchemical devices and improvements thereof.
  • You can also do it without stunts by just taking Immunity to the normal limits of the skill – although you will need to once again attain those absurd skill checks, so the luck purchase may still be in order. That’s (Uncommon / Major), with a Major Immunity allowing for easier Low Alchemy, Great Immunity allowing for Middle Alchemy, Epic Immunity covering High Alchemy, and Legendary Immunity covering Grandiose Alchemy. At a cost of 6/12/18/24 CP. That’s expensive. Unless you plan on using a particular skill a LOT, Stunts is probably a better choice.
  • Access to suitable spells or powers – perhaps a Greater Invocation (Per The Practical Enchanter) of Alchemical Manipulation or Alchemical Rune Magic or some appropriately specialized Witchcraft or some such – is yet another way to cheat. As a rule, Low Alchemy doesn’t require such things, although effects equivalent to Cantrips or Level One Spells will make it much safer, faster, and easier. Middle Alchemy calls for effects of Level Three or below, High Alchemy calls for effects of Level Six or below, and Grandiose Alchemy often calls for effects of up to Level Nine. This tends to be the most expensive option, but it offers access to a variety of quick magic as well as handy effects like Alchemic Mist (See Haagenti, the Infernal Alchemist).
  • Reality Editing is probably the most straightforward method. For this you’ll want Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized for Increased Effect (the products it is used to produce are stable for lengthy periods) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only for Reality Editing, only for Alchemical Manipulations, must have purchased at least 1d6 per level of reality manipulation (4 CP per d6 of Mana, you’ll want at least three or four dice eventually, for about 16 CP). You’ll also want Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to restore the “Alchemy Pool” above, requires at least half an hour of some chosen type of intellectual effort per die recovered (the form the players have most commonly encountered so far requires reading new books and contemplating the new knowledge therein, 6 CP), requires an appropriate setting – a sitting room and supply of scholarly texts, a laboratory, a school, etc. .

Those are all relatively cheap simply because Alchemy is generally fairly slow – and so making it effective in combat is a job for foresight, stockpiling, and carrying around loads of vials, flasks, and pouches full of exotic substances. That’s a lot of trouble for the player, uses up much of their downtime, and can be fairly readily taken away. Ergo buying alchemical talents has to be a relatively modest investment of character-building resources, or no one will bother.

Next up; the alchemical products list.

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One Response

  1. […] Alchemy/Philosophy – Various levels of alchemy, including Philosophy – believed to be the basis of Sith Alchemy […]

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