"Magic? Dangerous, fanatical practice. No, my boy, here science prevails over mysticism, and we can do anything they can, but safer." - Vanseer, Elder Alchemist of Hiladrith
The alchemist often serves as the ambassador of magic in Idalos. This is not because alchemy is any less mysterious than other forms of magic-related endeavors. But an alchemist is not an unknown figure in local lore, turning up with flashes of wild powers to astound; and then disappearing back into the exaggerated tales of tavern storytellers. The alchemist has a shop in town, where his craft is not hidden. He is a businessman, and must not drive away customers with overly eccentric behavior. He has accounts with nobles and commoners alike, to provide enhanced materiel for their daily lives. So while the true mage's exploits are soon fed into a population's love of sensationalism, the alchemist is always on hand to display a lifestyle often as mundane as the local basket weaver.
Still, many assume that their local alchemist is as much a mage as any robed spell-caster. But where known mages perform recognizable acts of domain magic, alchemy can be successfully pursued by those with no skill in magic whatsoever. It is likely that the inexperienced would assume that possessing skill in some magic discipline would make an alchemist better. But this is not the case. The nature of a disciplined mage's focus is not properly oriented toward the other aspects of alchemy to ensure this, and is more often a detriment to them.
Basically, alchemy is the combination of magic, chemistry and craftsmanship. Where a domain caster is focused entirely on the shaping and controlling of cast magic, the alchemist is focused on isolating, purifying and transferring the already defined enhancing property of one source, into a stable, changeless form within a new receiving material. This is done with the intent of using these enhanced materials to craft superior items. The alchemist is not generally the one that performs this follow-up craftsmanship, but these early stages are similar to preparations some mundane craftsmen must regularly tend to.
In the simplest of forms, the application of oil to leather, to make it waterproof, would qualify as alchemy. The craftsman is taking the quality of water resistance, not naturally found in leather, and using some means of integrating this property into the leather to improve it. But this basic task is performed by the leather worker himself. As well, a blacksmith will go to extensive effort to blend several metals to achieve a balance of properties that allow optimum performance. This too, would be considered alchemy if it was not more commonly performed by the smith himself.
The primary difference is the presence of magically-sourced materials and the need of reagents to bolster the efficiency of the many stages of his efforts. There is often far more than the single step where the empowering agent is added to the receiving material. There may be More than one step simply to remove the active substance from its original source. Then there may be several steps to modify its character to where it can even BE received by the target material. Then even after it has been imbued into the material, there may be steps needed to ensure that it retains its property permanently, or is able to resist other chemicals that would nullify its benefit later.
It is all these additional factors that constitute the expertise required to be an alchemist. This is especially true of the properties found in exotic and magically charged or created substances. There are innumerable samples of flora, fauna, gas, mineral and liquid that were formed by the powerful effects of uncontrolled ether in the world. Mutations may cause whole new steps to be required to perform the previously listed phases of gathering, modifying and imbuing the desired properties from one source into another. And while the alchemist rarely needs magical skills to glean mystic qualities from one source and transfer them to another, the knowledge of the history, characteristics and reactionary tendencies of these volatile substances can be the difference between life and death. It is, in fact, not unheard of for an active domain mage to "set off" a powerful alchemical reagent just because he got too close, and had it react with some lingering magical residue from a spell he cast earlier.
So the real focus of alchemy is on the knowledge of the reagents involved. The characteristics and uses of these reagents are as varied as the locations in which they are found. And more are being discovered every day. Some confuse Alchemy with the process of enchanting an item through the use of Dustforging. But alchemy does not require an initiation into a magic discipline, nor is it done an a single-item scale. Alchemy is the means to enhance a large quantity of material which is then worked by craftsmen to create many items.
Now it is fair to say that Alchemy CAN be used on the material of a single item for a result similar to Dustforge. But it usually requires preliminary disassembly of the item, is rarely as powerful, and never as cost-effective. A wealthy alchemist may go to a great deal of trouble to refigure all his formulas and equations to do regular work on a single-item scale, and can then achieve result comparable to Dustforge. But the cost of such an approach is prohibitive due to the extra steps required to offset the often detrimental effects of the variable results of alchemical processes on the different materials joined together in most crafted items. One alchemical process that works fine on metal may not work at all on wood, and having the two materials touching each other in some gadget may neutralize the effect, or worse.
Reagents, Steps, and Costs
As a player, you are either going to be a practitioner or a customer. If you are a practitioner you will want the process to be very involved for the sake of amassing knowledges for level advancement. If you are a customer, you want it simple and cheap. Because there is such unlimited creative resource to invent sources and processes, finding a middle ground is going to be difficult. It stands to reason that the more steps are involved, the more costly the end result.
As a general rule, each alchemical step, for each item enhanced, should cost 5gn. The blade of a sword is one item, the hilt is another. But it is likely that the hilt does not need the treatment that the blade does. However, a suit of armor is far more than one item. But it may be that not every item needs the desired effect. If someone wants a piece to be able to shine a light in a pitch black cavern, he probably only needs a single gauntlet enhanced. If a maritime man-at arms wants a suit of plate armor to be light weight AND buoyant, it needs to be the entire suit, and is going to run into some serious cost.
However, these are both simple, novice level types of alchemical enhancements, whose sources can be found in nature. If this sailor also wanted it to create an illusion of him being a cowering disarmed child, for strategic surprise; or to give a supernatural burst of speed, this is going to require a magic source and will double the cost. If obtaining the alchemical material from its source is a perilous undertaking, it will triple it. If it is also rare, quadruple it.
There is no way to suggest that there will ever be a complete list of all sources of all materials, modifiers and reagents. We want to encourage players to be inventive in their discoveries, short of outright exploitation of this non-rule. We have all encountered this type of power-gaming, and though a player may get away with it for a time, don't forget that the city's moderator can always decide that a meteor just happened to fall out of the sky and reduce his shop to rubble, for the sake of game balance. Hopefully, this will never be necessary. It never hurts to ask a mod ahead of time about an alchemical proposal.
So generally, basic cost is 5gn for a single step on a single item. Every additional consideration adds another 5gn.
1) Number of items.
2) The step of obtaining the raw alchemical material.
3) Rarity of the material.
4) Hazards of obtaining it.
5) The step(s) of purifying it for shop use.
- repeat all potential cost effects for each reagent used -
6) The step(s) of preparing the target material to receive modification.
7) The application(s) of the modifying agent(s).
8) The step(s) of fine-tuning the exact nature of the modification(s) through reagent application.
As an hypothetical example:
As a mercenary that is not always welcomed wherever he goes, Eddrick wants some leather armor that is hard as steel and can be made to change color easily to blend in with crowds. Because the color change property will require "Mirror Dust", which must be melted into the surface of the leather, this can not be applied to an already-built outfit, unless Eddrick is willing to risk gaps in the effect.
Eddrick wants it done right, so he has to start with the finest flat, uncut leather. Now this is not very hard to obtain, so the initial cost will simply be the prices of the leather armor items listed on the "Knowledge Base" price list. There are five items (not including "padding") totaling 30gn. Eddrick is in luck that there is no alchemical "primer" reagent required to apply the Mirror Dust, so applying enough dust to account for all five items is another 25gn. But Mirror Dust is both rare and of supernatural quality, so you'd add another 50gn for both those considerations. Fortunately, once found, it is not dangerous to acquire, so that cost is saved.
Because the color change property needs the ability to be changed often, there must be a "Triggering" reagent applied. Eddrick wants this change to be instantaneous, so an "Accelerator" is also desired. For example purposes, let's say these two reagents will negate each other without the use of a "Binding" reagent. Furthermore, the Triggering reagent, in order to work properly, needs to be made into a powder form, so it can be melted into the leather at the same time as the Mirror Dust. Eddrick has now added 4 more considerations for an additional 100gn - Triggering, Accelerating, Binding, and processing the Triggering reagent.
At this point, Eddrick has spent 175gn to initially treat the material for his armor. Because the material must be cut and built into armor before the "Hard as Steel" property is added, he must now take the material to the leather worker, for the 30gn listed above. Note that this does not include modifiers for "Masterwork" quality, which is always going to hold alchemical enhancements longer and more effectively. Money is no object, so Eddrick pays the full x8 Masterwork cost and has now invested 240gn for the leather work, and 175gn for the first enhancement, for a total of 415gn.
He brings the completed leather suit back to the alchemist to have the "Hard as Steel" quality applied. Since this will be a permanent effect, there are no reagents to fine-tune activation or variations. However, the addition of this property will ruin the Mirror effect unless that is first safeguarded with a "Sealing" reagent. This done, the leather now needs a "Primer" to allow the alchemical "Steel-Hardening" agent to work. So when the suit is finished, three more considerations have been added to the cost - Sealant, Primer and Hardener - for 75gn more. The total cost of this extremely versatile and protective masterwork suit of leather is only 490gn.
However, the alchemist heard that Eddrick is a deserter, and as a veteran he doubles the cost to 1000gn...
Additional Areas of Alchemy
Explosives: This field of alchemy is a fairly obvious concept. It's primary challenge is learning the four different forms, and developing them into a stable, potent and applicable form, without blowing yourself up in the process. An alchemist must be Competent before attempting to learn to create these compounds. The explosive capability can be developed in four different mediums.
Powder: This is essentially gunpowder. The aim is to find the exact blend and ratio of elements to achieve optimum destructive capability. This is a very stable medium, but the ratio has to be near exact, or it's force is significantly reduced. Level advancement is what achieves the optimum blend. Packing increases blast yield, but reduces stability. Fire ignition is most effective.
Liquid: Think Nitro-Glycerin. This is a medium with tremendous blasting power, but is highly unstable. It is best that the alchemist keep his experimentation to very small amounts. Level advancement is what achieves increased stability. Friction or impact are equally effective means of ignition. Fire can also cause detonation, but often some of the compound will burn up before actual detonation occurs, resulting in a loss of power.
Gas: Think Natural Gas. Decent destructive force, but difficult to control application without some vessel to enclose it and prevent dilution with air flow. Level advancement achieves the ability to achieve comparative gas weight to make the gas settle at ceiling or floor level without loss of power. Alchemical modification can also neutralize it's odor so it can be used in a room to asphyxiate as well as explode. Fire is the only method of ignition.
Solid: Think Plastique. Achieving the consistency of clay is part of the goal. It requires a great deal of testing to avoid loss of power at the same time. This medium allows custom shaping and an adhesive quality that makes this form ideal for specific blast "shaping". This is a very stable form, and even requires a small exterior charge to ignite detonation. Level advancement is all about achieving malleability while maintaining optimum power. Because this medium requires outside charges to ignite, this can not be the first form of explosive an alchemist learns.
Potions: Where most uses of alchemy involve the infusion of special or magical properties into otherwise mundane materials, infusing such properties into liquid form creates potions. This new application becomes available at Competent level. Up until Expert level, potions can only infuse enhancements to normal mortal attributes. One can make a potion to make oneself resistant to heat or cold, bring significant improvement to their vision, buoyancy to aid in swimming, thick skin to help deflect weapon strikes, greater strength, speed, agility, etc. Greater degrees of modification can be achieved as the alchemist advances in Competent level. These can bestow actual temporary immunity to some harmful effects, or supernaturally quick healing, or having the enhancements last longer.
But the most important detail to develop is the lack of toxicity to the one who drinks these potions. An equal-leveled background in Medicine, Chemistry or Attunement (or combination of the three) is required for the alchemist to achieve this safety factor. These are the three "Protective" skills.
At Expert level, the alchemist can learn to glean domain magic reagents for his potions. If not gleaned from extremely dangerous supernatural beasts, which will be very limited in scope, the alchemist can glean capabilities from the blood of a mage. The same Knowledge requirements apply to gaining higher and higher leveled domain abilities as they do for the mages themselves. These potions will not allow the imbiber to actually "cast" these magic spells. But they can trigger the boon effects from such spells as one might cast on himself. However, this ability falls short of ever being able to glean Grand Master level reagent abilities from any Domain.
At Master level, this same boon is gained in regards to Divine magic. Again, Knowledge requirements directly limit the advancement of obtaining higher and higher level Blessing abilities. Champion level blessing abilities will never be able to be gained, regardless of how cooperative the Blessed subject giving up his blood may be. In addition, the Immortal that granted these blessings may not appreciate their devotee making these capabilities available this way, and may enact revenge against both the alchemist and the beneficiary of these blessings for this blasphemy.
The benefits of advancement into Grandmaster level of potion-making is essentially the same as that described in the primary Level Advancement section below.
Blood Magic, Divine Magic and Backlash
As has just been stated, Blood magic reagents are best obtained by gleaning these properties from the blood of a practicing mage of the appropriate Domain. Likewise, Divine magic reagents are gained from the blood of one blessed by the appropriate Immortal. Unlike Domain magicians, alchemists risk no Overstepping penalties from using their finished potions or alchemically modified materials. Their products simply have a certain level of capability; and when this capability is spent, the effect ends. This is true of both Domain and Divine magic reagent-infused abilities.
But in the case of carelessness, or simple miscalculation, while processing Domain magic reagents, or while infusing them into potions or materials, Backlash can occur. Again, a background of study that has given the alchemist an equivalent level of the "Protective" skills of Medicine, Chemistry and Attunement (or any combination of the three) helps prevent both the likelihood and the severity of magic Backlash. The level and effect of Backlash depends on the nature and level of the magic ability attempting to be infused.
Now, it must be clarified that there is much more versatility in what can be infused into inanimate materials through alchemical processing than what can be infused into a living body through the use of a potion. For example, a potion can not infuse the triggered capability for a living body to become a Rupturing portal. But at a high enough level, an alchemist with the right knowledge could infuse the ability to generate a portal into a sheet of metal, or the bricks used to build a wall.
Because of this increased capability, there is more potential danger of Backlash with material alchemy than with potions. In the case of aggressive magic, like the kind you would cast against an enemy, the backlash IS that the spell is, in effect, cast on the alchemist. There is also an infliction of Overstepping penalties. If the level of the spell is Novice, the detrimental effect is equal to light Overstepping. If the spell is of Competent or Expert level, the Overstepping penalty is medium. If the spell is Master level, the Overstepping penalty is heavy.
If the alchemist has combined "Protective" skills equal to 1/4 his Alchemy skill level, the Overstepping penalty is reduced one level. If his protection equals 1/2 his Alchemy level, the effect of the spell backlash is also reduced, by half. If his Protection equals 3/4 of his Alchemy level, either the Overstepping or the spell backlash is entirely ignored AND the other effect is reduced as previously indicated. If Protection equals Alchemy, there is no penalty. The likelihood of a Backlash mishap follows this same general probability, but is also largely a judgment call on the part of the appropriate moderator. The other effect of a Backlash mishap is the loss of the reagents involved and the possible magic contamination of the target material.
This is the term for the various differing consistencies of both the sources and receiving materials of both reagents and finished products of Alchemy. Some are more likely to be one than the other, but none are completely exclusive. Some are also more likely than others to be the recipient of certain types of infused abilities. It should be noted that once a material is enhanced with an alchemically-infused property, that same property can not later be removed to be used in a different material. But it can be destroyed.
Powder: Many reagents are purified to a powdered form for easier storage and greater shelf life. While there is virtually nothing built from powder, there are a number of good reasons for alchemical properties to be imbued into powders as a final result of a long process. Explosives are just one. But other aggressive or defensive reactions, magical and otherwise, can be triggered with the flick of a pinch of alchemically enhanced powder.
Metal: The more conventional use of alchemy often finds metal to be its target. Enhancing armor and weapons, as well as building materials is one of the most common uses of alchemy. A sword that will not dull, armor that wards against pain, an iron portcullis that sends electrical attacks at any that ram it; these are just the barest hint of the potential of alchemy. Rarely is metal involved in any step of an alchemical process except as the receiver of transferred properties. But there have been such cases.
Stone: Like metal, stone is most often the recipient of alchemical treatments. Try laying siege to a castle that floats in the middle of a lake and you will come to appreciate the benefits of large-scale alchemy. However, it is often the source of properties as well. Many soils have absorbed ether from freakish events. The stones in the soil where a mighty battle of mages has occurred may well hold surprising capabilities. The Stone Bubbles of the Orm'Del Sea are a perfect example of bizarre powers formed in stone. And wells themselves, the ether-formed stones found in fractures, are as a pure a form of potential power as anything found on Idalos.
Wood: Wooden weapons and construction are common beneficiaries of alchemy. But like stone, wood and plants are frequent sources of properties that can be imbued into other mediums, either as the end result of an enhancement process, or as a means of storing the property for later use, as in the case of powders.
Hide: This term covers basically any external animal product that can carry a desired property. This can be anything from the source of a property, like the chameleon's camouflage ability, to the receiving material, like the leather from a common cow being being enhanced to deflect a sword strike like plate armor. This term also covers things like bowstrings made from gut material, which can be both source and/or receiver of extraordinary properties.
Cloth: Unlike Stone, metal and wood, cloth is never a naturally-occurring material. So it is never the source of an infusible property. It is often the recipient of enhancements however.
Glass: There is a particularly rare source of glass that holds an extraordinary ability that could possibly be imbued into an alternate material. But this is glass that was formed from the sand of the Hotlands during a supernatural event. And the property that this glass holds is really best exploited in its glass form anyway. For the most part, glass is the recipient of alchemical enhancement. But it should be noted that glass is unusually resistant to alchemical processes; which is why so many reagents are kept in glass enclosures.
Liquid: This mostly refers to the liquid receiving alchemical enhancement in the process of potion-making. But it is not uncommon for liquids to carry special properties. This can be anything from the wondrous, sparkling water flowing through a fracture zone, to the less appealing source of say, some supernatural creature's urine. Processes that are nearly identical to potion-making are not that uncommon as an alternate means of storing reagents.
Gas: This is very uncommon, both as a source, and a recipient, of alchemical enhancement. It is exactly what it sounds like, flowing wafts of air-like matter, often colorless, sometimes odorless. There are not many uses besides poison and explosives for this sort of medium. But a truly creative alchemist may try to use it just for the very reason that few would ever suspect it.
Body: This is similar to "Hide" sourcing, in that it refers to special properties gleaned from the bodies of creatures. Unlike "Hide", this refers to internal animal parts, like the capability to "see" air currents, found in the optical systems of an Avriel. Or the psycho-hallucinogenic effects gleaned from the twin brain of the Fogan Salamander. It is a fact of alchemy that living body parts can be neither source nor recipient of alchemical properties. It is the living body's constant process of self-replenishment and repair that denies this. This is also the reason why the benefits of potions are only temporary.
Starting out, the alchemist is really still just a chemist. He is only beginning to understand that there are treatments and processes involving exotic and enhanced substances that can result in reagents that carry properties beyond the scope of what would be considered "natural". He risks severe backlashes during this early experimentation which can, however, be considerably reduced by two things: A background of plain "chemistry" to learn basic precautions and signs of an impending, unexpected reaction; and restricting his dabbling to only mildly powerful sources of reagents. By the time he becomes Competent, he will have learned to apply a single magic effect to three types of mediums, not including liquids. He may have learned sources of more than one type of reagent effect, but has not learned to blend them. The source of the active reagent must be found in nature, and must be consistent with it's source. For example, one can gain a fire-ward ability from the hide of a Golden Salamander, but not the capability to cause hallucinations on sight.
Now we're getting underway! The alchemist will learn to apply his novice-level magical effect to all types of mediums now. This means he has learned the basics of making potions. He has also discovered methods of blending two magical properties into a single medium. These can result in either a hybrid, single blended property, or just the simple existence of two distinct and different types. Potions however, are limited to one property. He has also been fortunate to survive a learning experience where he discovers a whole new kind of property: Explosives! By the time he reaches Expert level, he will have gained the required competence to infuse this capability into one of three types of mediums: Powder, Liquid or Gas. It is not especially efficient, but the alchemist can envision the potential.
Now again, it becomes important for basic "chemistry" knowledge to safeguard the alchemist's eager headlong rush into experimentation. There are bound to be accidents, with ever-increasing levels of backlash, that can only be reduced by high levels of chemistry. Without this, the alchemist can expect to suffer penalties equal to medium level "Overstepping" effects, or worse. But given that he takes care, the alchemist will be able apply all he has learned of naturally-sourced reagent properties, including wards, to any listed medium. Potions are the one exception, as they are still limited to only two blended properties. He has had the good fortune of encountering a mage that was desperate for money and discovered Blood Magic Alchemy. It has allowed him to learn more than just the "natural" types of alchemical enhancements. He now realizes the potential inherent in gleaning new properties from the mage's blood and of infusing some of the capabilities of an entire domain of magic into his mediums. By the time he reaches Master level, he has learned to infuse the properties of one domain's Expert-level capabilities and another at Competent. His chosen explosive is far more potent now, and he is developing a second medium as well, which can now include Solid.
The alchemist begins learning to create wards against the types of domain magic he knows. There is no longer a risk of toxicity in his natural potions, and he can blend all manners of properties in them. However, he is only capable of Competent level domain potions, and only in the one domain he was previously able to infuse Expert level properties from. In all other mediums however, his growth in new domains of magic will branch into two new schools. By the time he finishes this tier of skill, he can infuse Master level properties of one domain into any medium but liquid, which can only reach Expert. He can likewise infuse Expert level domain properties from his second choice, potions again coming up one level short at Competent. And his two latest domains are able to be infused at Competent , with potions at novice. His chosen explosive is now completely stable, and highly destructive. His second choice slightly less on both counts, and the others must be handled with care and are not very efficient.
This is truly a figure capable of godlike proportions. It is not so much that there is any great difference in power between a long-standing Master and a new Grandmaster. It is the fact that there is virtually no limit to the number of domains this man can eventually learn to infuse into ANY medium, including potions. The Grandmaster alchemist does not begin this tier with any new capabilities, but with the requisite accumulations of appropriate knowledges, and willing sources, this alchemist could learn to infuse Master level domain magic, in any and all combinations, from every school! His only shortcoming is that he can not ever obtain Grandmaster domain magic from any source, however willing. But he makes up for this in the newfound ability to glean Divine Magic from willing, Blessed characters. Again, this will require huge amounts of knowledge for each mark, as well as once again falling short of ever achieving Champion level mark abilities. Potions as well as explosives as well as wards are all capable of being improved to full Mastery with the accumulation of enough knowledge. And though it is doubtful that any man could ever master everything, a Grandmaster alchemist has surely mastered a great deal.
Credit to Maltruism