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I'm treating this like a complete homebrew, but really it is just shoring up (as I see them) deficiencies in Tasha's Artificer Alchemist sub-class. There is only one new feature and everything else is just tweaking the existing feature set.

Problem

As a half-caster, it is assumed that the second half would be bolstered by some of your sub-class's other features; like combat, social skills, defense, summoning, or something else. Comparing all the other Artificer sub-classes, they all add combat abilities to take up the other half. You can even see it in the names: Armorer, Artillerist, and Battle Smith.

But the Alchemist does not get any of these boosts. Instead, it just adds a little flavor to the limited spell casting they can perform:

  • Experimental Elixir essentially adds one, two, or three extra low (mostly 2nd level) spell slots with random effects. Beyond that, you're just swapping spell slot for spell as a potion so it's a wash.
  • Alchemical Savant makes you decide between using the alchemist supplies or an infusion (including an infused arcane focus) as a spell focus. Meaning, an Alchemist can use their Enhanced Arcane Focus giving a +1/+2 and ignoring half cover OR using their alchemist tools and getting their Int bonus to healing/damage. While using the tools will generally give a bigger boost, it only helps certain spells (not all) and does not improve attack rolls. But since these are tools, there are no infusions that can be applied. This creates an issue of either choosing a side or shuffling foci around during combat.
  • Restorative Reagents gives a couple of bonuses to healing; a limited-use condition-treating spell (provided you use alchemist's supplies) and a healing rider when someone uses one of the Alchemist's elixirs.
  • Finally in Chemical Mastery, they get another limited-use condition-treating spell (provided you use alchemist's supplies), a limited-use healing spell (provided you use alchemist's supplies), and resistance to two infrequently encountered damage types.

But a lot of this can be accomplished with a full caster like a Wizard with wards, arcane recovery, Potent Spellcasting, and a few other mostly standard features. This leaves the Alchemist feeling "less than" as a sub-class. They are a half-caster, fully-dependent on spells to survive and contribute, yet little to boost the caster-half and nothing to fill the other half.

So I am trying to update some of the features to make the Alchemist a little more formidable.

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Experimental Elixir (3rd level)

Beginning at 3rd level, whenever you finish a long rest, you can magically produce an experimental elixir in an empty flask you touch. Roll on the Experimental Elixir table for the elixir's effect, which is triggered when someone drinks the elixir. As an action, a creature can drink the elixir or administer it to an incapacitated creature.

Creating an experimental elixir requires you to have alchemist's supplies on your person, and any elixir you create with this feature lasts until it is drunk or until the end of your next long rest.

When you reach certain levels in this class, you can make more elixirs at the end of a long rest: two at 6th level and three at 15th level. You may choose the effect for each of these additional elixirs separately. Each elixir requires its own flask.

You can create additional experimental elixirs by expending a spell slot of 1st level or higher for each one. When you do so, you use your action to create the elixir in an empty flask you touch, and you choose the elixir's effect from the Experimental Elixir table.

The first elixir created is still random. However, when leveled up to produce more than one, the Alchemist can choose the effect for elixir two and three. They can still use spell slots to create more elixirs as well and choose those effects. As the Alchemist progresses, these should be less "experimental" and more "purposeful".

Alchemist Spells (3rd level)

As the alchemist levels, they also gain more spells slots available per day. At 3rd level, they gain one additional 1st-level spell slot. At 5th level, they gain one additional 2nd-level spell slot. Similarly, one additional 3rd-level spell slot at 9th, one additional 4th-level spell slot at 13th, and one additional 5th-level spell slot at 17th.

These additional spell slots are cumulative. These levels are based on class level, not character level. So at 5th level the Alchemist will have 1 additional 1st-level and 1 additional 2nd-level spell slot available per day.

Since the Alchemist depends on spells for survival (spell casting and elixirs), they need to get some sort of boost to their spell repository. While adding more spells to the "domain" spells is possible, I don't think the variety/coverage is the main problem. Instead, I recommend they should receive more spell slots.

This give the Alchemist more options on a daily basis, and the number of spell slots for a given level is never greater than a full caster of the same level. For instance, a 3rd level Artificer should have 3 1st-level spell slots, but an Alchemist would have 4. Compared to a 3rd level Wizard who also has 4 1st-level spell slots. This works all the way up to 17th level when both an Alchemist and a Wizard will have 2 5th-level spell slots.

This is the feature change I am most interested in. It helps the character to really lean into being a caster without overshadowing full casters. These extra slots can be used as normal for casting, brewing elixirs, and what have you. My concern would be multiclassing. Would this tip the scales in giving a multiclass Wizard or Warlock an extra slot? Giving Paladins an extra Smite? I don't think a three level dip to gain an extra spell slot is going to be a huge draw. Nor 5 levels to get one 1st and one 2nd.

Alchemical Savant (5th level)

  • Whenever you cast a spell using your alchemist's supplies or one of your infusions as the spellcasting focus, you gain a bonus to one roll of the spell. That roll must restore hit points or be a damage roll that deals acid, fire, necrotic, or poison damage, and the bonus equals your Intelligence modifier (minimum of +1).

So like other sub-classes, infusions can work as spell focuses and retain any special feature allowed by the class.

Restorative Reagents (9th level)

You can cast lesser restoration without expending a spell slot and without preparing the spell, provided you use alchemist's supplies or one of your infusions as the spellcasting focus. You can do so a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of once), and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

So like other sub-classes, let the character's infusions work as spell focuses and retain any special feature allowed by the class.

Chemical Mastery (15th level)

  • You gain resistance to acid, fire, necrotic and poison damage. You are immune to the poisoned condition and your hit point maximum cannot be reduced from necrotic damage.
  • You can cast greater restoration and heal without expending a spell slot, without preparing the spell, and without material components, provided you use alchemist's supplies or one of your infusions as the spellcasting focus. Once you cast either spell with this feature, you can't cast that spell with it again until you finish a long rest.

Acid and poison are so rare of a damage type it seemed a little weak. So now it's the same list as Alchemical Savant as well as a touch of necromancy resistance. It might be a little powerful to automatically gain fire resistance, but at 15th level there are a lot of other ways this could be gained. It would also stand to reason that if you're better at casting fire and necrotic spells, you should also be better at handling them. And once again, giving the option to continue the use of either alchemist supplies or an infusion.


Summary

The end results are:

  • Not forced to use Alchemist Supplies as a focus for class features
  • Less "wild magic" feel to their elixirs
  • 5 extra spell slots (over time)
  • Some extra resistances

Are these changes balanced, or giving away too much?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not a balance issue, but a minor wording issue: in general necrotic damage itself doesn't reduce your hit point maximum. The max HP reduction is a rider that says something like "the target’s hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the necrotic damage taken." I'm not sure what would be the "right" way to word immunity to that kind of effect (but not other max HP reductions?). Maybe "effects that deal necrotic damage cannot reduce your hit point maximum"? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5, 2022 at 23:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for clearly defining problem you are attempting to fix, and why you think fixes would work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Oct 5, 2022 at 23:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson, I got the basic wording straight from the necromancer subclass, "Beginning at 10th level, you have resistance to necrotic damage, and your hit point maximum can't be reduced." \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Oct 6, 2022 at 4:35

2 Answers 2

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I would honestly get rid of the necrotic resistance and hp reduction effect. Necrotic damage is not a large part of the Artificer or Alchemist kit. There are in fact no spells or cantrips available to Artificers that deal necrotic damage, only the Alchemist subclass has access to one, which is the blight spell. Fire damage is the most common elemental damage type and resisting it is a powerful buff, necrotic is less common but gaining four resistances as even a half-caster is very powerful. Acid, fire, and poison damage all make more thematic sense, as well as only requiring the change of adding fire instead of switching one of the existing resistances for another. If you playtest and feel underwhelmed by this feel underwhelmed I would give poison immunity and resistance to the other two. Various classes are immune to poison and disease, so it shouldn't be game breaking.

In terms of the foci adjustments, those are rarely common sense adjustments. It does allow for alchemists to never use alchemical supplies. You could achieve the same effect by altering the Enhanced Focus infusion to simply require a "spellcasting focus" instead of a "rod, staff, or wand". This allows for a larger fix to the artificer class as a whole which relies on tools, as seen in the "Tools Required" section of the "Spellcasting" Feature

You produce your artificer spell effects through your tools. You must have a spellcasting focus-specifically thieves' tools or some kind of artisan's tool-in hand when you cast any spell with this Spellcasting feature (meaning the spell has an "M" component when you cast it). You must be proficient with the tool to use it in this way. See the equipment chapter in the Player's Handbook for descriptions of these tools.

After you gain the Infuse Item feature at 2nd level, you can also use any item bearing one of your infusions as a spellcasting focus.

The last paragraph of this section is important because it allows artificers to use rods, staffs, or wands at all, however, you are correct in determining that

The non-combo with Alchemist is clearly an oversight on the part of the developers unless the intended use of the Enhanced Focus infusion was only to buff full arcane casters(not clerics or paladins because they don't use rods, staffs, or wands). Even if that was the intent it ignores that crystals and gemstones can be used as arcane foci, and druids use wands and staffs but also mistletoe and totems. The other alternate intent is the purposeful nerfing of the Alchemist subclass in relation to other Artificer subclasses. Since both of these seem unlikely it would be better for your homebrew to simply edit the Enhanced Focus infusion rather than several Artificer and Alchemist features.

As for your extra spell slot idea, I like it. Artificers are already advantaged over other half-casters in terms of spellcasting through the use of cantrips so this kind of spell advantage given to otherwise weak class options is not unheard of.

I also support the changes to the "Spontaneous Elixer" feature. Even wild magic sorcerers take out some level of randomness by the time you reach higher levels(Specifically with the 14th level feature of "Controlled Chaos"). Free choice is what a free flowing adventure is all about and homebrew that gives players more autonomy over their characters is generally good(with some exceptions).

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Adding more spell slots is janky, consider recovery instead

As far as I know, there is no published class or subclass that deviates from the "standard" spell slot progression for either full caster, half caster, or 1/3 caster. Instead, if you want to give more spell slots, I would probably homebrew something similar to the wizard's Arcane Recovery, which allows regaining used spell slots on a short rest. This sticks to established mechanics rather than trying to balance a "slightly-more-than-half caster", and it also gives the player more flexibility in which spell slots to recover.

However, as you consider giving an artificer more spell slots, you should note that at 11th level, artificers basically get 10 extra daily castings of one 2nd level spell of their choice via their Spell-Storing Item feature. (This also effectively gives +1 spell prepared, since the stored spell doesn't need to be prepared.) Sure, it's only a 2nd level spell, but 10 castings is a lot, enough to do things you wouldn't normally do with spells. If you have a party of 5, you could cast Invisibility on each of them twice per day, as long as they can do their sneaking one at a time. Or you can cast it on the rogue before every combat encounter for a free 1st-round sneak attack.

Side note: you say that your suggested change ensures that "the number of spell slots for a given level is never greater than a full caster of the same level", but this is incorrect. With your proposed change, a 3rd level Alchemist has 5x 1st level slots, more than a wizard ever gets at any level. Similarly, a 7th level artificer has 4x 2nd level slots, again more than the wizard ever gets.

You can already get both tool and infusion bonuses at the same time

Enhanced Arcane Focus doesn't require you to use the focus to cast spells in order to gain its bonus. You just need to be holding it. So you can hold the focus in one hand and your alchemist supplies in the other in order to get both bonuses on the same spell. Admittedly, this means you won't be able to equip a shield at the same time, so there is still a trade-off.

However, this trade-off can also be mitigated by allowing the alchemist to acquire an all-purpose tool. They can transform it to alchemist supplies to get the subclass bonus while still getting the item's bonus as well. (They can also drop the enhanced arcane focus infusion in favor of something else.)

That said, I don't really see a problem with allowing the alchemist's infusions to be used in place of their alchemist's supplies, including gaining any associated subclass bonuses.

The elixir choice is fine

I don't think there's a huge balance implication here to allowing more control over which elixirs you get. I personally enjoyed the challenge of finding uses for my random elixirs and was fine spending my low-level spell slots when I really wanted specific ones.

Overall, you seem less than impressed at the elixir feature, but I think you're selling it a bit short. First of all, you effectively have 6 more prepared spells. For example, you don't need to prepare Levitate as long as the slow flight granted by an elixir of flight is good enough to get the job done. Second, elixir effects are distinct from potion or spell effects, which means that even if an elixir and a spell produce equivalent effects, you can stack them for interesting results, e.g. a "double bless" effect. Third, elixirs work more like potions than spells, which means you can "cast" them ahead of time, they don't require concentration, and you can hand them out to other people to use. This is especially good at higher levels because your 1st level spell slots tend not to be very useful during combat and you always have something else to concentrate on, so being able to use them before combat to provide you and your allies with combat buffs is really useful. And you can think of the buff from restorative reagents as adding the Healing elixir effect to every elixir, turning them all into double elixirs where one of the 2 effects is healing.

I have no comment on the damage types for Chemical Mastery

I'm not an expert on the relative usefulness of different damage types and their resistances, so I won't comment on the balance implications of adding more damage resistances here.

It's fine for some subclasses not to be combat-focused

In my opinion, the Alchemist subclass doesn't need to match the other subclasses in raw combat power. This subclass has a stronger focus on out-of-combat utility as well as indirect combat boosts and buffs, such as the elixirs, Healing Word, restoration spells, etc. My experience is that this subclass rewards planning ahead, e.g. by handing out appropriate elixirs before a big battle. (This is doubly true because in battle, creating and using an elixir takes two actions instead of one.)

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