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I'd like to play as an alchemist in D&D 5E. I'm assuming I need a class or archetype for this but have not found anything official-looking.

I've found some stuff online, but nothing that seems legitimate and useful. The class examples online seem either obviously homebrewed (and not well thought out), under-powered, or come off as more of a prestige class for a wizard (e.g., these homebrewed alchemy rules for 5e).

For the kind of thing I mean by “adventuring alchemist”, I'm hoping for something like the Alchemist class from D&D 3.5e:

Alchemists are powerful scientists who obsess over value of things. They seek to categorize, utilize, and turn magic into a science. They believe magic without rules is a worthless prospect, and avoid sorcerers. Many alchemists spend their time making potions to heal or harm, and often to restore life. Almost every alchemist has the ultimate goal of finding or creating the philosopher's stone.

  • I see an adventuring alchemist as on the opposite end of the "magical spectrum" from the sorcerer: sorcerers would be on the far left end, dealing with wild magic and instinctual use of it; wizards would be in the middle of the spectrum, studying magic and learning how to master it; and alchemists would be on the far right end, trying to order magic, control it, encapsulate it.
  • I envision an alchemist (adventuring or non-adventuring) as focusing more on crafting and creating, than on spells. They would concentrate on making potions, bombs, acids, perhaps Ioun stones, magical traps similar to runes, etc.
    • An adventuring alchemist, specifically, would have more of a focus on crafting things for combat though; whether it be for attack, defense, or support & buffs.
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I play an alchemist myself. Here's how I did it:

Choose the Guild Artisan background. Select Alchemist as your Guild Business. Select Alchemist Tools as your tool proficiency.

Play a wizard, and specialize in Transmutation. Use the Minor Alchemy ability whenever appropriate — crafting an iron weapon into a silver one can be handy through the lower levels, even if it’s just a dagger to throw.

Choose some spells with an alchemical flavor. Acid spells work well. For a little added flair, you can refer to cold spells as “endothermic,” fire spells as "exothermic," etc.

Spend some downtime making acid, alchemist’s fire, or other chemical goodies for the party.

Put alchemy-related things into your character traits. My wizard’s personality traits include delighting in making batches of an “endothermic dairy confection” (ice cream) to amaze the townsfolk and celebrate his victories.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Additionally, the DMG contains a number of poisons and their effects. They could be made via the craft downtime activity. You can use the training activity to gain proficiency with the herbalism kit, it is a tool after all. The DMG also includes a number of magic potions which can be created via the Create a Magic Item downtime activity. *my phone will not allow me to use the enter key. It just saves my entry. Ugh. \$\endgroup\$ – JAMalcolmson Aug 7 '16 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good points @JAMalcolmson, but my Neutral Good alchemist would take great umbrage at being taken for a poisoner. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Aug 12 '16 at 2:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimGrant One man's poison is another man's medicine. (Flavor-wise, at least.) \$\endgroup\$ – JAB Jun 7 '17 at 20:56
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There is an Alchemist in Unearthed Arcana

Since this question was asked, there has been an Unearthed Arcana released that contains the Artificer class, with an alchemist subtype:

Artificers pursue a variety of specializations. The two most common ones, alchemy and engineering, are presented here.

...

An alchemist is an expert at combining exotic reagents to produce a variety of materials, from healing draughts that can mend a wound in moments to clinging goo that slows creatures down.

It's always worth noting that UA material is playtest material, and is thus potentially less balanced and polished than the actually published material.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ And unlike some UA classes, this one goes to level 20. Nice find. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 7 '17 at 21:28
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There isn't an adventuring player character class called Alchemist in D&D 5e. The DMG (p. 285-289) addresses the general method for making new classes and new races. Until further material is released, alchemical activities by players (not NPC's) look to be confined focused on downtime activity. As this answer points out, you could try to port in the D&D 3.0/3.5e class ... but that will take considerable work.

You could play another class with a greater alchemist emphasis, as timster suggests. That may be as close to "alchemist" as you'll get until new material is released.

Alchemist's supplies are in the PHB on page 154. They are handled as a tool. By using a tool proficiency to handle success and failure by an ability check various alchemist actions and options can be addressed by describing what you are doing and getting a DM ruling on its success.

The DMG (p 127-131) covers downtime activities from the DM's perspective. This includes adjudicating how a player might set up a money making venture, or engage in attempts at crafting.

For example:

  • If a player chose the "Sage" background, and chose the Alchemist specialty, then the downtime activities of an alchemical nature would be a perfect fit. What are your trying to do, research, or make, and what does it cost? Work with your DM.

  • If a player chose the Guild Artisan background, and chose the "Alchemists and Apothecaries" Guild Business (p. 133 PHB) then your downtime could be spent

    making finished items from raw materials, reflected in your
    proficiency with a certain kind of artisan's tools
    .

    What can you make and what can you sell it for? Work with your DM.


If your DM accepts the use of Unearthed Arcana play test material, you can try playing an alchemist based on this recent UA article. (credit to @Icyfire for dropping that hint!)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Recall that we do one question per post; the question no longer contains a second, bonus question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 6 '16 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gotcha. I didn't read all the responses at first. I thought I had posted, made a mistake, and forgot to add the "bonus question". I went back and deleted it after I read your post. \$\endgroup\$ – umgcoder Aug 6 '16 at 21:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ That would be great. Where should I go on the site to find that? \$\endgroup\$ – umgcoder Aug 6 '16 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @umgcoder did a search on the search bar up there, upper right hand corner of the page. with the tags homebrew and dnd-5e come up with anything? This question addresses your general request ... \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 6 '16 at 22:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a better, more thorough answer than my little “testimonial” above. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Aug 12 '16 at 2:38
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I managed to make a convincing enough Alchemist from utilizing different class and background mechanics;

First - Select the Sage or Guild Artisan Background and select 'Alchemist' as your focus.

Second - Choose Ranger as your first class, level this class to level 6. Nature, Investigation and Survival should be your Choice Skills. Choose whatever Fighting Style, Natural Explorer and Ranger Archetype you prefer, But when it comes to your Favored Enemy choose Oozes and Plants (The most common quarry for Alchemists).

Ranger represents your Alchemist's abilities to utilize the wild to their advantage, as well as their ability to forage supplies for alchemy and have knowledge of alchemical creatures.

Third - Choose the 'Skilled' Feat whenever first available to you. When selecting this skill, choose proficiency in Herbalism Kit, Poisoner's Kit, and Alchemist's Supplies.

These tools will be your 'lab' of sorts, allowing you to make virtually any alchmical item the DM permits.

Fourth - Once you'd leveled Ranger up to Level 6, Multiclass into Wizard and select Medicine and Arcana as your next two skills. This will further your expertise into the field of medicinal healing and arcane reagents. Then, select Transmutation as your Arcane Tradition, and make use of the 'Minor Alchemy', 'Transmuter's Stone' and 'Master Transmuter' abilities wherever possible.

Other Notes - If you are stuck for what Race you would prefer to play, I would suggest Rock Gnome for their Artificer's Lore ability, and their affinity for nature and crafting. If that does not suit you, Dwarves may suit for their resistance to poison and their proficiency with Brewer's Tools. Dragonborn of the Fire, Poison or Acid variety also may prove helpful in overcoming alchemical dangers.

If you are stuck for weapons, daggers and hand-crossbows are suitable means of inflicting poison via Piercing damage, leaving a hand free to draw and use other alchemical weapons. If you find any means of becoming resistant to poison, acid or fire, I suggest utilizing it, representing you knowledge of reactive substances that you might encounter (creature poison, alchemist's fire, acid vials, etc.)

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I'd say take these options:

  • Classes: Rogue (any archetype will do), maybe Transmutation Wizard for flavor, Cleric or Paladin if you wanna make Holy Water
  • Proficiencies: Alchemist's Supplies, Herbalism kit, languages, Arcana, Medicine, Nature
  • Feats: Tavern Brawler (adding proficiency bonus to your alchemist's fire and acid vial attack rolls, and they are ranged weapon attacks so you can add Sneak Attack damage), Skilled for the proficiencies above, Sharpshooter for damage bonus
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