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I'm trying my hand at homebrew. Specifically, I'm making an Alchemist class, but can't think of any archetypes - which prompted this question.

If I need to be a little more specific, a class that centers around potions and potion crafting.

Do I need to build subclasses into this Alchemist class?

(Just a heads up, I can't contact anyone by comments. My phone won't let me.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Would there basically just be one always-chosen archetype? I assume there wouldn't simply be levels with absolutely nothing? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 22 '19 at 12:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 22 '19 at 23:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you looked at the Dungeon Masters Workshop in the DMG? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 23 '19 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you want ideas for alchemist archetypes, there are dozens of them (bomb maker, Dr Jekyll, etc.) available in other systems such as Pathfinder: d20pfsrd.com/classes/base-classes/alchemist/archetypes/… \$\endgroup\$ – user56480 Dec 23 '19 at 22:19
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Necessary? No, but...

No, it is not necessary; a class will certainly function and be playable without any archetypes. For any one character, it won’t really even be noticeable.

The purpose of archetypes is to give a clear way in which different members of a class are, in fact, different from one another. They also provide an easy route to expansion—if there is already a defined archetype “slot,” and you think of some new, related ideas, you don’t need to create a whole new class from scratch, you can just create an archetype.

Leave yourself an opening

My suggestion is, if nothing else, leave yourself an opening here by creating an archetype “slot”—say some of the features are from an archetype. So your class has archetypes, it just has only one at the moment. That means you can create more later. That gives you the second benefit of archetypes, and that benefit lets you get the first benefit more easily as the class gets played more.

Alternatively, maybe you should widen your scope

Maybe, if you can’t think of archetypes for an alchemist class, you should think of alchemist itself as an archetype of a broader class. This is actually what Wizards of the Coast did—they have “alchemist” as an archetype of their “artificer” class.

Real-world alchemy was pretty varied

Just for the sake of ideas, the history of alchemy in the real world is pretty interesting and has a lot of variety. For example, some alchemists were much more mystics and philosophers, barely dealing with physical substances at all (a spellcaster archetype maybe?), while others were really proto-chemists, with barely any mysticism (an archetype with less supernatural elements, but more reliability, perhaps?). Still others weren’t either of those things—they were just charlatans, conning some lord. That could be (along with some default middle-of-the-road case) four archetypes, perhaps.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Exactly right on the last point. This is how all the archetypes work. "Rogues" in our world are pretty varied - you have your stereotypical organized crime "goons" who treat crime and their gang as their career, your casual opportunistic pickpockets and shoplifters who might otherwise be law-abiding, people who commit crimes as a result of mental illness, Robin Hood-type freedom fighters, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Columbia Dec 23 '19 at 16:56
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Improve homebrew attempts by comparing to published classes

In this case, there is an Alchemist sub class of the Artificer in the latest setting book (Eberron: Rising From the Last War) or in the Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron. The two examples embody refinements from the Unearthed Arcana Artificer/Alchemist that was available for play test. We used the play test version in our Saltmarsh campaign.

Another way to approach "Alchemist" is to build it as a subclass off of a Wizard shell and make it a "school" of magic where you provide special talents and abilities at levels 2, 6, 10 and 14. If you review the special skills for Transmuter (PHB 119) and Conjuration (PHB p. 116) there's a way to fit that into "alchemy" as an overall magical theme in your game.

It will be easier if you use the Class/Subclass model

I'd recommend starting with the Artificer/Alchemist UA example as an easier approach; it worked for us last year. Making this a "school of magic" might be a little trickier in terms of the "feel' that you are looking for.

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