burning through your flaming oil

I’m reconsidering last week’s post about making alchemical items into encounter powers. Maybe part of the charm and flavor of flaming oil, holy water, and the rest are that they are expendable resources, like potions – part of the long-term resource management aspect of the game. In old school D&D, you’re like, “I have some money… I’ll get some chain mail, and some iron rations, and… let’s say 3 flasks of oil.” I dunno. Is the expendability an integral or nonessential property of a flask of oil?

What’s more fun:
a) “Holy crap, this is a dire situation! I’ll use my flask of oil to set these guys on fire.”
b) “It’s round 4 of combat and I’ve used my encounter powers. I’ll use my flask of oil to set these guys on fire.”

Keep in mind that in situation b) you get to set a lot more guys on fire.


5 Responses to “burning through your flaming oil”

  1. Seth says:

    When Alchemy first dropped, I immediately switched a wizard I was playing over to using it because Rituals left me cold.

    I never once made, or even considered making, an item. Part of the problem was the opaque language associated with the attack bonuses for alchemical items; part of the problem was well-explored in your previous post.

    To address the question in this post, I don’t feel that 4e (or even 3e, to a similar extent) sees a lot of option A. Back in the 2e days, man, my players were lighting everything on fire. Fire as an at-will option was much harder to come by (and thus they also spent a lot of time lighting their weapons, and even themselves, aflame as well) but there were so many reasonable ways you’d see it coming into play: maybe we’re fighting mummies, maybe we’ve got our enemies in a choke point, maybe we just don’t have any other good options for damaging the creature. Given the way DR worked back then as well, sometimes you had an easier time burning a monster to death than finding the appropriate weapon to stab him.

    I think that expendability is a key element of alchemical items, but that the cost-benefit rarely works out in such a way that you’ll actually see that as a positive. Instead of kissing the dusty bottle of Greek Fire and saying “When the time comes, this baby’s going to put a hurt on those zombies,” the wizard is snapping Scorching Bursts out of thin air and scoffing at the shelf version.

    Moving alchemical items to being encounter powers—or even a subset of encounter powers, more akin to Artificer Infusions, that require an extended rest to refresh but provide x uses over the course of the day—is a step towards making them more appealing to the types of character they’ve traditionally appealed to; that is to say, martial characters who lack access to elemental attacks. However, I tend to feel that the damage would still need to be increased to offset the fact that you can’t really build a character to be awesome at alchemy; or at least, do so in a fashion that isn’t inferior to just building a Sorcerer and flavoring all of his attacks as flask-based.

  2. paul says:

    Hmm, reflavoring a chaos sorcerer as an alchemist might, in fact, be the best way to handle alchemy.

  3. Seth says:

    Sure; or you could take a wizard with Scorching Burst and Thunderwave and have him flinging alchemist’s fire and thunderstones, launching bigger flasks of solvent for his Acid Arrow, and so forth.

    I’m just now remembering that the only time I did make heavy use of Alchemy was for a 3.5 Soul Knife/Warlock. I stocked up on a ton of those Complete Adventurer oils that gave weapons elemental properties, but since his sword was an extension of his will, everything was pills and powders he snorted or swallowed to alter his mind blade.

  4. modus666 says:

    as it stands i do not think that converting alchemy into encounter powers will make things unbalanced. to be honest i dont think alchemical items are any more powerful than the encounter powers that the pc’s will be packing at the apropriate levels (early on they are barely more powerful than the @ will powers). now, with the inclusion of alchemy you WILL be expanding greatly the amount of encounter powers your friendly neighborhood alchemist will have available to him at any one time, but i dont think it would be too bad.

    as an alternative to encounter powers… you could treat alchemical items as items with a daily power instead… however you might want to consider boosting damage or efficacy just slightly if you want to restrict them to being ‘dailies’ ranther than encounter powers.

  5. modus666 says:

    with regards to the loss of ‘charm’. in my experience pc’s who really enjoyed alchemy would typically keep a lot of it around. so the “holy crap” scenario would typically result in more than just ONE flask being tossed anyway (can you say ‘go for broke’?

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