I've been thinking about making a build that prioritizes the use of explosive missile and mercurial oil to fire off highly damaging single shots at long ranged basically becoming a mini ballista.

That said I'd rather the character in question have a low str score to focus on int and dex so I was considering a crossbow, but I'd be very stationary and visually it would just look weird, reloading.

So, I was thinking about investing in a repeater crossbow at level 3. Since my main focus is single shots, I can fire off 5 shots before needing to reload and I can put off rapid reload until later which would allow me to reload while moving and I was wondering what other feats I could take to make this work or if I'm better off just getting a longbow despite having a low strength score?


2 Answers 2


Repeating crossbows are Exotic weapons, which means that unless you are willing to take the -4 to attack rolls for not being proficient, you're out a feat either way regardless of your crossbow type (Rapid Reload for a light crossbow, Exotic Weapon Proficiency for a repeater). The longbow also takes a feat by default since regular alchemists only have simple weapons, but it's much easier to get a free martial proficiency (such as either version of the Grenadier archetype, which may be useful to your concept regardless) than for an exotic weapon or Rapid Reload. In other words:

  • Light Crossbow requires the lowest investment to work at all
  • (long or short) Bow requires the lowest investment to reload as a free action
  • Heavy Repeating Crossbow offers the best burst damage without any bombs attached

I would probably take the longbow personally since the intention seems to get damage from explosives rather than the weapon itself.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Honestly the burst is the most important thing to me.So yeah I think I'll stick with the repeater easiest way to justify making it a wheel crossbow \$\endgroup\$
    – Masakan
    Commented Mar 11 at 16:25


A low STR score is not recommended for bow users, as you'll want that extra damage from using a Composite Longbow & Composite Shortbow. You might ignore the lack of damage with explosive ammunition, but usually an Alchemist's amount of explosives is very limited (at early levels).

Furthermore, Alchemists only get simple weapon proficiences, while longbows & shortbows are martial weapons. Though you can overcome this with special abilities like the Elven Weapon Familiarity racial trait.

Simple Crossbows

The Alchemist is proficient with simple weapons, which include the Heavy Crossbow & Light Crossbow, which you could use. Reloading these is a full-round or move action respectively.

In order to reduce the reloading time of a crossbow you can take the Rapid Reload feat. This feat works only with that one type of crossbow you have selected, e.g. Heavy Crossbow.

Elves can trade their aforementioned Weapon Familiarity for the Crossbow Training alternate racial trait, to reduce reload times:

An elf with this trait can reload a light crossbow as a free action and a heavy crossbow as a move action, provided that she is proficient with the weapon. If she selects the Rapid Reload feat for a heavy crossbow, she can reload the weapon as a free action.

An Elf Alchemist (with that trait) needs no further investment to reload a light crossbow as a free action & a heavy crossbow as a move action, or he can take Rapid Reload (Heavy Crossbow) to load a heavy crossbow as a free action as well. If you want to save feat investments, then choosing Elf as race is a good choice, as it can get you this trait and gives you a bonus to the DEX & INT scores that you prioritize.

Exotic Crossbows

Non-simple crossbows are all categorized as exotic crossbows, which includes the Hand Crossbow & Repeating Hand Crossbow, the Repeating Light & Repeating Heavy Crossbow, and the Dwarven Light & Dwarven Heavy Pelletbow.

The dwarven pelletbows are usually chosen for their higher crit multiplier (19-20/x3) over repeating crossbows (19-20/x2), and that they benefit from the same feats & special abilities as their simple crossbow counterparts, e.g. Rapid Reload (Heavy Crossbow) or Elven Weapon Familiarity.

The exotic weapon proficiency for a repeating crossbow can be acquired by Half-Elves with their Ancestral Arms alternate racial trait without spending a feat. They can also obtain proficiency in hand crossbows with the Drow-Trained alternate racial trait, providing them with the Drow Weapon Familiarity trait (hand crossbow, rapier, & short sword), or the Elven Crossbow Training alternate racial trait through retraining an earlier obtained Elven Weapon Familiarity (or similar trait).


Elves provide virtually free access to quicker reloading of light & heavy crossbows for an Alchemist and add +2 bonuses to both DEX & INT.

Half-Elves provide virtually free access to proficiency with repeating crossbows as well as all the options available for Elves, but receive only a single +2 bonus to DEX or INT (your choice).

Free action reloading without a feat is possible for an Elf using a light crossbow, and a Half-Elf using a (heavy/light) repeating crossbow or (heavy/light) dwarven pelletbow.


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