[Pathfinder] Review: Secrets of the Alchemist
Open Design has teamed up with the Netbook of Feats to launch a new line of Pathfinder RPG supplements: Advanced Feats. I was fortunate enough to get hold of a review copy of the first product from the line: Secrets of the Alchemist by Sigfried Trent.
If you managed to pick up a copy of Kobold Quarterly 14, you may remember that Trent wrote an article on good feat design principles and announced the NBOF/Open Design plans for collaboration. Since the authors of this blog like to dabble with feat design, I rather enjoyed Trent’s KQ article and was therefore really interested in seeing what he would do with the Pathfinder alchemist.
Originally, I expected Secrets of the Alchemist to contain little more than a list of feats, but Trent went a bit further and included an examination of the class and also discusses various build options. I really liked this aspect of the product, as it makes the advanced class more accessible to non rules experts and novice players.
The feats: Though the feats were designed with the alchemist in mind, many can be used by any character. The feats can be roughly categorised into the following: feats for grenadiers, feats for tanks and feats for item creators/mad scientists. All of the feats are solid choices (depends on your preferred play style or build option), but there are a few that really stand out:
The Lighten Weapon feat tree takes a new look at the old Monkey Grip debate – treating weapons as if they were of a smaller size category. These feats allow you to pull off the two-weapon fighting with two greatswords rather well, making such a crazy build (amongst many others) both viable and not as susceptible to exploitation. I like that Trent takes the time to include design commentary and add rules explanations or examples with the more complicated feats, like Lighten Weapon. This commentary goes along way in helping the reader understand the feats and help formulate intersting build ideas.
Create Wondrous Creature allows you to create your very own lab-grown abberation, magical beast, monstrous humanoid or plant creature. Before I had finished reading the feat entry, I had already started planning my Little Shop of Horrors adventure. This feat works within the existing item creation framework – in terms of cost, time required and so forth – but with a few special considerations, such as creature loyalty, which are all nicely handled. I think that this feat, alone, makes the PDF worth it.
Opportunity Shot, as the name suggests, allows you to make attacks of opportunity with a ranged weapon. There are, of course, a few restrictions, such as threatening only up to 30 ft or the range of your weapon, whichever is the shorter distance. But, what I find really odd (or really cool), is that no particular AoO trigger is restricted, specifically, leaving a threatened square.
The builds: I enjoy reading up on character builds almost as much as I like creating my own. Trent presents 3 builds, the carpet bomber (grenadier), the mighty mutant (tank) and mad scientist (mad scientist). Each build focuses on a different key aspect of the alchemist. I think Trent did a good job of highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the various builds and, as I said earlier, provides a good framework for novice players or players new to the class. Now, the only question left is: taking Trent’s builds, can I come with something better?
The not so nice: I didn’t really like the look and feel of the PDF version I got. Don’t get me wrong, the text is still very clear and readable (with just one or two orphan sentences), but the colour scheme and page backgrounds just didn’t do it for me.
The extra bit of nice: All of the feats are open game content (note: not the entire product), which means that readers can use and expand on the ideas presented. Brilliant. Maybe I’ll write up a build idea or two, using the Advanced Feats line, at a later date.
Final opinion: If I had to assign an arbitrary rating to Secrets of the Alchemist, I’d give it a 4 out 5. It would probably be of most use to a novice player or a player unfamiliar with the alchemist, but, since the feats aren’t restricted to one class, and with more supplements planned, the value of the product is sure to increase as more feat combinations and build ideas become available. I can’t wait to see what’s in line for the fighter.
EDIT: My co-author has already taken another look at Lighten Weapon here.