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From the SRD:

An alchemist can study a wizard’s spellbook to learn any formula that is equivalent to a spell the spellbook contains

I'm playing an alchemist in a party with a wizard. He can know a bunch of spells that aren't on my formula list. Can I copy spells not on my formula list into my formula book and thus learn them? And if so, do they have to be eligible for Brew Potion or is there any other limit to this?

Basically, is the formula list the definitive list of all formula I can ever learn (without DM fiat)? Or is it just the list of automatic formula I can get by leveling?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

From the SRD (emphasis mine):

Although the alchemist doesn’t actually cast spells, he does have a formulae list that determines what extracts he can create
An extract is “cast” by drinking it, as if imbibing a potion—the effects of an extract exactly duplicate the spell upon which its formula is based
An alchemist can also add formulae to his book just like a wizard adds spells to his spellbook, using the same costs and time requirements. An alchemist can study a wizard’s spellbook to learn any formula that is equivalent to a spell the spellbook contains. A wizard, however, cannot learn spells from a formula book.

Alchemists cannot learn spells, they learn formulae, that are based on actual spells, but are not spells. Thus, if a wizard’s spellbook contains a spell that is the equivalent of a existing formula, you can study the spellbook to add that formula to your own formula book (essentially recreating the formula from the spell). However, the wizard cannot do the opposite.

Also, as a side comment, since alchemist extracts work like potions that must be ingested, makes sense that most formulae mimic spells that are either of personal range, buffs or healing, due that method of application. Attack and debuff spells could not be properly applied with that method (just imagine the consecuences of pouring a fireball down your throat), so it would not make sense that the alchemist could learn any wizard spell.

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Honestly, just for the awesome, or for a particular flavor of magic (like a world where alchemy is the only form of magic), I can perfectly picture a houserule that drinking an extract of Fireball actually allows you to spit said Fireball. – Nigralbus Oct 29 '13 at 15:09
My DM was limiting me to things I could justify rather than things on my list, but we weren't sure if that was a house rule or not. Now we know :) Thanks! – Yamikuronue Oct 29 '13 at 16:50

No, an alchemist is limited to the formulae in their list:

[An alchemist has] a formulae list that determines what extracts he can create.

If it's not on the list, it can't be created.

The text you're referring to is somewhat vaguely written, but in sum it just says that the spell you're studying has to be equivalent to a formula in order to be able to study it. To mean the opposite, it would have to not mention equivalence, and just say "you can learn any spell in the spellbook."

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