I'm thinking of giving my barbarian a level in alchemist. The alchemist's mutagen gives a +4 alchemical bonus to strength for ten minutes, so that stacks with rage! Not to mention the natural armor bonus. That is tempting, but is it worth it overall? I have 11 intelligence, so I should also be able to benefit from extracts.

Right now I'm a level 1 dwarf barbarian with 14 strength, 20 constitution using a dwarven war axe. I definitely have a ton of health, but my attack and damage don't seem that great.

The campaign I'm playing in has a serious tone, moves at a relatively slow pace (few encounters/day), and occurs in a dark setting. As far as narrative, my character would take on alchemy as a quick route to more brute strength (kind of like steroids).

My party is a druid, bard, rogue, and myself. I want my role to primarily be as a bruiser that gets in the thick of enemies so the rogue can sneak attack, and the casters can stay safely at range. This is why I took higher con than strength, but again, my damage is not what it could be.


3 Answers 3



You get +4 str and +2 nat armor but at the cost of -2 Int. On the surface this looks good, but that -2 int makes it so you will lose your ability to cast extracts while using the mutagen. The natural armor is good, but will not scale as you level and I'll admit I have not researched it much, but at higher levels there are probably better ways to get more than +2 natural armor bonus.

Extracts are a positive for you. You only have 11 int, but that's all you need to use level 1 extracts. Useful level 1 extracts for a barb include enlarge person & true strike. Casting one of these will need to be done while not raging or under the mutagen effects and will be at the expense of you making an attack.

Taking a level in alchemist should also give you a small boost to your reflex save.

Increase range attack ability with bombs and Throw anything bonus feat. Not bad, but probably not that great for you either. (If you select the vivisectionist alchemist archetype instead of the base alchemist, this would be replaced with sneak attack. Definitely worth considering)


No favored class bonus for that level.

No BAB increase that level.

d8 hit die for that level. Instead of your normal d12

You also slow down your barb class feature progression(cant say much more about this because it is going to be very dependent on which level you decide to cross class at and what your build is like)

In the end only you can decide the pros outweigh the cons, as is depends on your play style and the play style of your group.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have to have 11 int to use the extract, or just to prepare it that morning? \$\endgroup\$
    – Eric B
    Sep 12, 2013 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ It depends on how you interpret this wording: "To learn or use an extract, an alchemist must have an Intelligence score equal to at least 10 + the extract’s level". \$\endgroup\$
    – Colin D
    Sep 12, 2013 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good answer! Two possible additions: one, you may want to consider bumping Int if you go with Barbarian. An IntMod is added to all splash damage and it gives you an extra Extract per day (in addition to retroactive skill points that could partially offset missing your favored class bonus). Two, don't forget potential social/group dynamics that may frown on "dipping". Some groups don't like it for RP reasons and some just don't like the min-maxing it implies. Not a strong determinant because it's still your character, but maybe worth considering. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12, 2013 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that you can also go with the Con mutagen instead. For temporary boosts (which don't affect rage duration), Con's not as good relative to Str as it is with permanent ones, but the Con mutagen doesn't reduce your Int, so you can still use extracts mid-rage regardless of Int-requirement interpretation. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 2, 2013 at 6:13

So for level 2 barbarian you get:

+1 BAB, +1 Fort save, rage power, uncanny dodge, 2 rounds of rage, +1 hit point/skill point/1 rage round (dwarf racial favored class bonus).

For level 1 alchemist you get

+0 BAB, +2 Fort, +2 Will, alchemy, bomb 1d6, throw anything, mutagen (+2 nat armor, +4 stat. -2 stat for 10 minutes), 1 or more extracts (enlarge person probably being the money shot).

The +4 stat gives you a +2 hit/+2 damage for 10m, -1 for the BAB you're losing, and though you're losing 2-3 rage rounds you get 10 minutes of mutagen. Whether that's better depends on how tightly packed your encounters are. If you have 2 encounters/day that are 8 hours apart, the dynamic raging might be better - if it's 2 in 10m then the mutagen boost is better.

It also depends on whether you use the Throw Anything feat to any other good effect, like with the Hurler barbarian archetype or similar.

It seems like a fair trade, depending on what you want your character to be like.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ the vivisectionist archetype for the alchemist trades bombs for sneak attack. This is probably the way to go considering the low int score and the weak power level of bombs from only 1 level of alchemist. \$\endgroup\$
    – Colin D
    Sep 13, 2013 at 3:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Ragechemist might be an even better archetype - At the brink of sanity, but still... \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2013 at 21:30

I never played pathfinder, but I play a weekly 3.5 game. I know most of the rules and mechanics are similar between the two.

How I see it adding 4 to his strength will increase his MAB by 2, thus making it able to things easier and do 2 more points of damage when he hits. Personally I think losing one level of Barbarian is probably not a big deal

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that multiclassin in pathfinder is going to cost him a a bonus skill point oh hit point in addition to everything else and barbarian is slyightly less "1 or 4 level, then multiclass" prone than the 3.5 one, due to lots of extra, small class features. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Sep 12, 2013 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ You would not see a net +2 MAB due to the loss of 1 BAB. the MAB would only be +1. \$\endgroup\$
    – Colin D
    Sep 16, 2013 at 19:21

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