I have seen conflicting answers to this question online, so I'd like some help nailing down a somewhat more definitive answer.

For characters with 1 BAB or higher, are alchemical weapons (tanglefoot bags, alchemist's fire, thunderstones, etc) treated as weapons that can be drawn as part of movement?

Can you take Weapon Focus (acid flask)? Weapon specialization?

Or is "alchemical weapon" just a subset of "alchemical item" and doesn't actually mean anything in terms of mechanics?


2 Answers 2


They are treated as alchemical items, not weapons

This is something that has caused confusion ever since the Core Rulebook and Quick Draw came up, which excluded alchemical items such as alchemist fire and acid flask from being able to be drawn as a swift action.

Alchemical items, potions, scrolls, and wands cannot be drawn quickly using this feat.

However, the release of the Advanced Class Guide clarified this up, as they printed a rogue archetype, the Underground Chemist, that is able to draw alchemical items as if drawing a weapon during a move action.

Chemical Weapons (Ex)

At 2nd level, an underground chemist is able to retrieve an alchemical item as if drawing a weapon. She adds her Intelligence modifier to damage dealt with splash weapons, including any splash damage. She adds 1/2 her level to Craft (alchemy) checks.

While alchemical weapons are treated as weapon-like in the rules, they are not weapons per se. Alchemist's bombs specifically call out that they gain benefits as if they were weapons.

Bombs are considered weapons and can be selected using feats such as Point-Blank Shot and Weapon Focus.

But whenever the rules specifically call out "a weapon", they do not qualify. From Combat:

Draw or Sheathe a Weapon

Drawing a weapon so that you can use it in combat, or putting it away so that you have a free hand, requires a move action. This action also applies to weapon-like objects carried in easy reach, such as wands. If your weapon or weapon-like object is stored in a pack or otherwise out of easy reach, treat this action as retrieving a stored item.

If you have a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, you may draw a weapon as a free action combined with a regular move. If you have the Two-Weapon Fighting feat, you can draw two light or one-handed weapons in the time it would normally take you to draw one.

James Jacobs (Creative Director) has answered this when asked if the Grenadier archetype could infuse a splash weapon with it's Alchemical Weapon ability.

Are Alchemist's Bombs considered weapons for the purpose of the Alchemical Weapon (Su), Grenadier ability? Can I infuse alchemical liquid/power (like acid) into an Alchemist's Bombs?

As per Alchemical Weapon (Su) being able to be used on weapons. Grenadier wrote:

Alchemical Weapon (Su): At 2nd level, a grenadier can infuse a weapon or piece of ammunition with a single harmful alchemical liquid or powder, such as alchemist’s fire or sneezing powder, as a move action. This action consumes the alchemical item, but transfers its effect to the weapon in question. The alchemical item takes full effect on the next creature struck by the weapon, but does not splash, spread, or otherwise affect additional targets. Any extra damage added is treated like bonus dice of damage, and is not doubled on a critical hit. The alchemical treatment causes no harm to the weapon treated, and wears off 1 minute after application if no blow is struck. At 6th level, a grenadier can use her alchemical weapon ability as a swift action. At 15th level, this ability becomes a free action. This ability replaces poison resistance.

Nope; you can't infuse a splash weapon like a bomb.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So the description of them as "alchemical weapons" is just fluff? \$\endgroup\$
    – OzzyKP
    May 21, 2019 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OzzyKP I explained in the answer. Just because it has "weapon" in the name, doesn't mean that every mechanic that affects weapons should affect them. Just like "spell"-like abilities are not spells, or a breath "weapon" is not a weapon either. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    May 21, 2019 at 19:30

Alchemical weapons are both alchemical items and weapons

Alchemical weapons are just that, weapons. It’s right there in the name, and nothing in their description says “despite the name, they aren’t actually weapons.” Unless something says otherwise, rules-as-written, anything you can do with a weapon can be done with alchemical weapons. That includes drawing them, and selecting them for feats which require you to select a weapon.

They are, for exactly the same reasons, also alchemical items, and anything that applies to alchemical items also applies to them. Specific trumps general, so, when Quick Draw says you can draw weapons faster, and then later specifies that you cannot use it to draw alchemical items faster, the ban on drawing alchemical items would also block drawing alchemical weapons faster with the feat (but you could still draw them normally for weapons).

For drawing, this is probably moot: unlike Quick Draw, the regular draw action can apply to “weapon-like” non-weapons

Where Quick Draw explicitly bars various magic gear like wands and alchemical items from its benefits, the regular move action to draw an item does quite the opposite. It actually explicitly applies to non-weapons:

This action also applies to weapon-like objects carried in easy reach, such as wands.

So since alchemical weapons are weapons, tautologically they are also weapon-like, and so the rule even-more-certainly applies to them. The free-action drawing at BAB +1 does not repeat the weapon-like rule, but in my view, “this action” here refers to the idea of drawing a weapon, not to the move action specifically, and so this rule would still apply. If you don’t buy that, well, alchemical weapons, at least, are still weapons, but I see no reason why drawing a wand from your belt should be harder than drawing a sword.

About the Quick Draw feat

The ban on various “magic” gear from Quick Draw’s benefits is a Pathfinder addition to the feat, relative to the version found in D&D 3.5e. That ban included alchemical items. If alchemical weapons weren’t weapons (or weapon-like) and couldn’t be drawn with the version of Quick Draw that lacked the ban on alchemical items, that line wouldn’t be necessary. Redundancy isn’t completely implausible, of course, but it’s hard to argue that Quick Draw’s explicit ban—which would be unnecessary if the answer were “no”—is evidence that the answer should be no.

On the subject of Quick Draw, it is worth noting that there was absolutely no balance concern here; there never had been one in 3.5e and Paizo’s stated reason for the change was because “it didn’t look right.” See this Q&A for more details. I personally recommend ignoring this change entirely; I think it damages the game by making the rogue et al. less able to pull out the right tool for the job at the right time, when really that’s supposed to be a big part of their whole schtick.

About the underground chemist’s chemical weapons

Well after the CRB was published, Paizo published the Advanced Class Guide which included the underground chemist archetype for the rogue class. It gets a chemical weapons feature that grants, as part of its benefit, the ability to draw alchemical items as if they were weapons. As an archetype ability for a particular class in a supplement, generalizing outward from it to the rest of the system would have been a no-go, at least RAW-wise, but you could make an argument that it indicates that Paizo considered alchemical items to be not-weapons as far as drawing was concerned.

Except that the feature says you can draw “alchemical items,” and not all alchemical items are alchemical weapons. The un-weapon-like ones would not be eligible for drawing as weapons under the default rules—thus the benefit of the chemical weapons feature, which allows the underground chemist to do so.

About “prepare to throw a splash weapon”

The actions in combat section of the rules lists various actions, and under full-round actions, it includes “prepare to throw a splash weapon.”

This is, unfortunately, not backed up by any text anywhere outside of that entry. We have an entire Q&A dedicated to this conspicuous absence. As a result, we have no idea what it means to “prepare” a splash weapon, when or why you need to do it, how long the weapon remains “prepared” once it is done, whether or not preparing includes drawing the splash weapon, whether or not it includes throwing the splash weapon. This is a full-round action that we know nothing about, as far as I can tell. I can find no clarification of it anywhere—and that entry comes from D&D 3.5e, which also had zero information about it.

Ultimately, from a RAW perspective, rules text is generally seen as primary, while tables are secondary. The D&D 3.5e errata rules explicitly defined this; Pathfinder doesn’t have as detailed rules about conflicts, but it’s a reasonable position to take there, too, particularly since this table entry is a 3.5e relic anyway. Since the rules text never mentions any need to prepare a splash weapon, you never need to take this full-round action, and if you did it would do nothing because splash weapons don’t need to be prepared.

Anyway, it does not provide any meaningful elucidation on our question here.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So, you could poison an alchemical weapon? Or enchant it to be +1, +2, Flaming? Cast Greater Magic Weapon on it to get bonus to hit and damage? Create masterwork acid flasks? \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    May 17, 2019 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Yes, yes though it would be hugely wasteful, yes though it would be somewhat wasteful, and yes though it would be fairly wasteful. I see absolutely no problem with any of those, from a rules-text, narrative, or balance perspective. How the splash is affected or not by each is under-defined, but it’s not exactly unheard of for the rules to allow you to do things the rules don’t precisely cover the handling of. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 17, 2019 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've seen some comment elsewhere that "weapon-like" makes sense to apply to a wand, since it has a handle and is shaped generally like a weapon. But a glass vial, or a sack of glue are harder to describe in that way, which seems reasonable. Of course, if they are defined as weapons then whether or not they are 'weapon-like' or not is moot. \$\endgroup\$
    – OzzyKP
    May 17, 2019 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OzzyKP Not all weapons have an easy handle either. I mean, shuriken have to be gripped pretty carefully, all things considered, for example, and drawing and chucking those as quickly as possible is their raison d’être. Alchemist bombs, and using the modern/future tech rules, grenades, are certainly drawn as weapons—explicitly so—and those are rather similar to vials of acid or alchemist’s fire. So while maybe those things are somewhat more difficult than drawing a sword, but not more difficult than “weapons” are in general. Some are harder than others but they’re all lumped under one rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 17, 2019 at 18:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Also, for the record, my wife owns a rapier—a replica of an antique German design—and even though it’s on the shorter side for a rapier, with a 36-in. blade, for a man of my height, 6 ft. 2 in., it’s not at all trivial to draw the thing from a sheath. For my 5 ft. 4 in. wife—for whom it’s supposedly about the right size—it’s fairly difficult to draw indeed. Neither of us has any kind of training, but then that’s kind of the point—D&D characters do, and they can handle this.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 17, 2019 at 18:17

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