I have a player who multiclassed as a wizard and an investigator (a rogue/alchemist hybrid; for the purposes of this question, the investigator is functionally equivalent to an alchemist).

Some of the alchemist formulae are also wizard spells. The player wants to know if they can also learn the alchemist spells as wizard spells (so they can then scribe scrolls for these spells). Here's the RAW:

An alchemist can also add formulae to his book just like a wizard adds spells to his spellbook, using the same costs and time requirements. An alchemist can study a wizard's spellbook to learn any formula that is equivalent to a spell the spellbook contains. A wizard, however, cannot learn spells from a formula book. An alchemist does not need to decipher arcane writings before copying them.

RAW, it seems that a wizard/alchemist couldn't learn alchemist spells as wizard spells, even if the spells are on the wizard spell list. But a multiclass wizard/alchemist is an odd combination, and so I want to figure out what the RAI should be. And that hinges, I think, on the question of why wizards can't learn alchemist spells.

Is it that a wizard typically lacks training to read alchemical formulae? If so, I see a good argument for a multi-class character being able to derive a spell from a formula.

Is it that alchemical formulae are missing vital information? If so, then that's a good argument for why they can't.

This particular multi-class situation is fairly rare, so I haven't been able to find much discussion of this question anywhere else.

(From a balance and fairness perspective, multi-classing alchemist and wizard seems like a sub-optimal choice, and so in principle I'm not opposed to house-ruling that it does work; it doesn't seem like power-gaming to me.)


2 Answers 2


The arcane discovery alchemical affinity implies an alchemist/wizard can't normally copy from his formula book to his spellbook

Part of the benefit of the arcane discovery alchemical affinity says, "Additionally, you may copy spells from an alchemist's formula book into your spellbook just as you could with another wizard's spellbook." So Magical Marketplace's author, at least, believed it normally impossible for a wizard to copy into his spellbook a formula from an alchemist's formula book.

(Further, the alchemist's supernatural ability alchemy says, "A wizard, however, cannot learn spells from a formula book," and while Pathfinder isn't as clear as it should be when tossing around a very pregnant word like learn, Adding Spells to a Wizard's Spellbook nonetheless says, "If the [Spellcraft skill] check fails, the wizard cannot understand or copy the spell" (emphasis mine). The text continues immediately after, saying, "He cannot attempt to learn or copy that spell again until one week has passed" (emphasis mine). Parallelism makes understand and learn synonyms here, so a wizard, even after waiting a week, still won't be able to make that Spellcraft check to copy a formula because a wizard can't learn spells from a formula book in the first place. Note that I don't like this ruling as much as I like the anecdotal evidence from Marketplace because whenever the GM must make a ruling based on a rule's syntax there's usually more than one possible reading, making disagreements and hard feelings a possibility, so make of this what you will.)

A house rule could allow copying formulas into spellbooks anyway, despite the existence of alchemical affinity

A GM that makes a house rule that allows the PC to add his handful of appropriate alchemist's formulas to his wizard's spellbook (and still requires time and money to transcribe them) needn't worry that the PC is attempting some kind of crazy power-grab. Under such a house rule, a wizard who, late in his career, decides to take levels in alchemist trades versatility for power… and makes a completely uneven trade.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure that alchemical affinity makes things any more clear than before: I think the original rules text was clear that a wizard cannot copy formulae from an alchemist. But again, I think the thing that is different here is "a wizard" and "an alchemist" are the same person in this case. Then again, I think it's clear that if a wizard and a priest are the same person, the wizard can't scribe a divine scroll and relearn it as a wizard spell by default. In the end, I just decided to houserule. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18, 2016 at 17:15

I'm going to give my thoughts on this : a wizard/alchemist can convert a spell from a spellbook into an extact to keep in a formulae book. But knowing an extract that replicates a certain wizard spell and having it in the formulae book isn't enough to learn it as a spell to cast.

Don't think of spellbooks and formulae books as the same thing written in different languages, think of the formulae book as a ciphered version of a spellbook that cannot be deciphered (yes, coding algorithms that can only cipher and cannot be used to decipher actually exist). Then even as both a wizard and an alchemist, having the formula of an extract that also exists as a wizard spell isn't enough to transcript it as a spell.

By the way, I suspect the original creators of D&D to have been inspired by computer programming when creating the rules of spellbooks : each wizard has her own codes to transcript spells that can be really hard to interpret by anyone else, like in programming where an infinity of methods exist that lead to the same result and it can be hard for someone else than the original coder to understand what a page of coding actually does; and a group of wizards who learned magic from the same teacher are highly likely to use the same codes as their teacher and thus can exchange their spellbooks and read them without too much effort, just like learning programmers get the same coding habits as their teacher and can read each other's codes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like your coding analogy, however, I suspect your suspicion is way off. The developers of D&D were working in the 1970s when computers were the size of a room, cost millions of dollars and were the province of very large universities and companies. I'm not saying they didn't know about coding but it is about as likely as saying they knew brain surgery. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Oct 16, 2016 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ More likely derived from the way spellbooks were described in the pulp 1950s/60s fantasy novels that original D&D was based on. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16, 2016 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I dunno. Given how hard it is to read magic, I just assume the metaphor must be every wizard writes their magic in Perl. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18, 2016 at 0:24

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