Yesterday I proved (to my own satisfaction) that 4e alchemy doesn’t work, and suggested using Gamma World ammo rules as a fix. Today, let’s tackle problem 2: that 4e alchemy is not enough fun for the type of people who want to be alchemists.
There are two reasons to use alchemical items:
1) to fill out your party’s abilities with a few situational attacks, for instance burst attacks or attacks with a certain damage type
2) because you want to play a giggling experimenter, like Dragonlance gnomes or Warcraft goblins
The first group is pretty well served by the existing alchemy rules, which basically provide wizard-like powers to anyone who can throw a vial.
The second group is going to be disappointed by alchemy. It’s a predictable power level? I don’t mix anything? I won’t accidentally cause an explosion, from which I will emerge, comically sooty, and pronounce “IT WORKS!”? What kind of alchemy is this, anyway?
If ever there’s a character archetype who needs random charts to roll on, it’s the alchemist.
Let’s try this:
People with the Alchemy feat get access to a new encounter minor action called “Tinker”.
Tinker: You try to improve the formula of any alchemical item in your possession, of your level or below, for which you have the recipe. All successfully-tinkered items are extremely volatile and decompose after 5 minutes.
Tinker Results Table (roll a d20:)
20: Eureka! You improve the item so that it becomes a version of the same item 10 levels higher. Furthermore, it is a permanent item, instead of lasting 5 minutes.
10-19: Success! You improve the item so that it becomes a version of the same item 5 levels higher.
5-9: You create some sort of clear liquid, but you won’t be sure what it does until you try it, typically by drinking it, testing it on your skin, putting it on a weapon or item, or throwing it at an enemy. (If applied to a weapon, the weapon applies its effect only on the first hit.) The DM secretly rolls on the Unknown Alchemical Substance table (below).
4: You create the intended item, and immediately activate it on yourself (making an attack roll if required). Depending on the item, this may be good, ineffective, or very bad.
3: Your vial pours smoke into a burst 2. The burst is a zone in which everything is totally obscured. You can drop the vial, or throw it up to 5 squares, but the smoke must be clouding your sense of direction. If you throw it, you do so in a random direction (roll a d8).
2: You create an inert green lump of something totally useless.
1 IT WORKS! But not quite as intended! You cause a massive explosion: burst 2, 1d10 + 1 per level of the intended item, targets every creature in the burst. If you are hit, you take half damage. If the intended item is associated with a damage type, the explosion damage is of that type.
Unknown Alchemical Substance table (roll 1d12)
1: Alchemist’s Accidental Acid. If thrown, acts like Alchemist’s Acid of the intended item’s level or lower. Applying it topically or drinking it it counts as an attack on the tester. If applied to a nonmagic weapon, the weapon melts.
2: Mysterious Liquid with Interesting Medicinal Properties. Acts like a healing potion if drunk or applied to the skin. If applied to a weapon, attacks with that weapon do half damage.
3: Bad Batch. Foul-tasting but otherwise powerless liquid.
4: Firewater. If applied topically or thrown, acts like alchemist’s fire. If applied to a weapon, the weapon does +1d6 fire damage. If drunk, the drinker gains a feeling of reckless invulnerability, and all melee attacks by the drinker gain the Fire keyword.
5: Poison Concoction. If drunk, thrown, or applied to skin, does 5 ongoing poison damage (save ends) per tier of the creator. If applied to a weapon, does 5 ongoing poison damage on a hit.
6: When applied to a creature or weapon, acts as a bright, non-removable dye that lasts for the rest of the day. If drunk, the drinker changes color. Nonmagical items are permanently dyed.
7: Sovereign Goo. If applied to a weapon, adheres to the first creature it hits. If drunk, the drinker’s lips are glued together, and he or she cannot talk or cast spells. If applied to a creature, the creature will stick to whatever touches it. All effects end in 5 minutes.
8: Philosopher’s Water. If applied to a single nonmagical metal item, turns it permanently to gold. Maximum GP value is 50 times the item’s weight, or the price of a magical item of the intended alchemical item’s level, whichever is less. If applied to nonmetal, covers it with a beautiful gold leaf (worth about 1gp if scraped off).
9: Sunrod Juice. Whatever touches or drinks the liquid takes on the illuminating qualities of a sunrod, and gets a -20 penalty to Stealth checks.
10: Alchemist’s “Acid”: Anyone who touches or drinks the liquid, or is hit by a weapon coated in the liquid, is Dazed (save ends).
11: Eau de Otygh: Any item or creature doused by the liquid gives off a pungent smell. For the rest of the encounter, any creature who starts their turn within 2 squares of the smell’s source suffers a -2 to attack rolls and skill checks. At the DM’s option, select monsters may be immune to the smell or find it incredibly alluring.
12: Strength Potion: If the liquid is applied to a creature (topically, by drinking, or by being hit by a thrown or weapon attack) the creature gains a bonus to melee damage equal to the level of the intended item.