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The Pathfinder 2 alchemist class can prepare alchemical items if they have the item's formula in their formula book. However, the class features never explicitly say that the alchemist needs to read the formula book, or have the formula book nearby, when crafting these items during their daily preparations.

Alchemy

You can use this feat to create alchemical items as long as you have the items’ formulas in your formula book.

Advanced Alchemy

... choose an alchemical item of your advanced alchemy level or lower that’s in your formula book ...

Quick Alchemy

You create a single alchemical item of your advanced alchemy level or lower that’s in your formula book...

As a point of comparison, the wizard class explicitly requires that wizards must study their spellbook daily in order to prepare spells. So a wizard can't feasibly go adventuring without it.

At 1st level, you can prepare up to two 1st-level spells and five cantrips each morning from the spells in your spellbook...

You start with a spellbook worth 10 sp or less, which you receive for free and must study to prepare your spells each day.

But the alchemist class has no such wording. Taken literally, this would mean that the alchemist can prepare items as long as (1) their formula book exists somewhere and (2) the item's formula is written in the formula book. They could leave their 1-bulk formula book in a safe location and go adventuring without penalty.

In terms of rules-as-written, is this interpretation correct? Or do they need their formula book on hand during their daily preparations?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you talking about Downtime Crafting of alchemical items or just the Alchemists' unique ability to create items daily? \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jul 9 '20 at 22:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso The daily preparations only. I've edited the question to clarify this. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Jul 9 '20 at 22:37
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In general - crafting requires a formula, but not a formula book

Let's start more generally than the alchemist. Crafting an item requires that you have the item's formula (Core Rulebook, pg. 244):

Craft: ... To Craft an item, you must meet the following requirements: ...

You have the formula for the item;

You don't have to have it in a formula book or any particular form. You merely need the formula in some fashion. That being said, formulas are typically in a written form (Core Rulebook, pg. 293):

A purchased formula is typically a schematic on rolled-up parchment of light Bulk.

The description of the item formula book on page 290 clarifies that no formula book is required to craft something. It merely holds formulas:

... there's no need for you to copy [formulas] into a specific book as long as you can keep them on hand to reference them.

This is the core answer to your question: in general, crafting requires that the crafter have an item's formula. It need not be in a formula book, but it must be "on hand to reference".

Some alchemist features require a formula book.

There are two reasons the alchemist is worth mentioning specifically: it has a class feature called formula book, and it has other class features which reference formulas.

The formula book class feature changes nothing about how to craft items. It only provides a bunch of formulas at level 1 and more as you level up.

The Advanced Alchemy class feature allows alchemists to create items as part of the morning preparations. Because of your comparison to wizards, I believe this is the feature you are referring to. Advanced Alchemy does not require a Craft roll or Crafting task, and therefore skips the previously mentioned requirements for crafting. However, it explicitly requires that a formula be in your formula book, not merely available (pg. 72):

... choose an alchemical item of your advanced alchemy level or lower that's in your formula book, and make a batch of two of that item.

There is no mention of having to consult the formula book while creating these items, but the formula must be in there.

Quick Alchemy is different, in that it's requirements explicitly mention that you must have the formula for the alchemical item available:

Requirements: You have ... the formula for the alchemical item you're creating ...

This matches the requirement in the Craft activity, but is different than the requirement from Advanced Alchemy of requiring something to be in your formula book. In one way it's broader - you can "have" a formula on a scroll, or note, or some other medium perhaps that isn't your formula book.

On the other hand, it's more restrictive: you must "have" the formula, regardless what medium it is recorded in or on. If it's not on your person or reasonably close vicinity, there's no reasonable sense of "having" it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The last part seems to contradict the usage of Quick Alchemy (essentially allowing you to quickly cobble together items to be used within one turn, slightly different than true alchemical items). Could you quote why it's different than the other ones? \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jul 10 '20 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Agreed. I edited the tail end of this answer to address that. \$\endgroup\$ – indigochild Jul 10 '20 at 20:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd consider removing all the references to the Craft activity, since nothing in the relevant Alchemist class features calls out that it works like that activity - it just happens to do something similar. Adding reference to Craft just serves to muddy the waters. \$\endgroup\$ – Delioth Jul 14 '20 at 13:19

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