D&D 4E 4e alchemy kinda stinks on toast. Give me something better!

Redshirt

Explorer
Maybe you can make the various levels of a formula cost a multiple of the base cost. (The first increase of the healing poultice costs 5 times the base cost, 10 times the next, etc....). I don't see these items ever being worth those large sums.
 

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Blackjack

First Post
IIRC, the lvl 28 version of the consumable healing poultice gives you a whopping +12 hit points to a healing surge... and costs 285,000 gp.

Not quite -- it's "only" 85,000 gp. But still: 85,000 to get 12 more hit points from a surge. That's 7,083 gp per hit point. You'd have to be swimming in coins Scrooge McDuck-style for that to even remotely be a consideration.

Any Herbal Poultice above the level 3 version simply isn't worth it, unless you are down to your very last healing surge and absolutely must squeeze out an extra tiny handful of hit points. It's really silly.
 

Pour

First Post
I think alchemy could be made more appealing, accessible, and flavorful by requiring interesting ingredients and controlling their rarity. In fact, I'd toss the 85k potion notion right out the window and break down potion BREWING costs into much more affordable amounts, nothing over 3k honestly, even at level 30. The components themselves, whether the scales of this or jelly of that, would then be integrated into certain loot, available through wider exploration, or salvageable from the corpses and strongholds of their enemies.

For example, I've had great success during the last big dragon fight doing something just like this. They'd slain a 500ft progenitor wyrm with a lot of raw material, which I divided into Blood, Bones, and Scales categories. I created a subsystem which allocated a certain amount of 'resource points' given the dragon's size. Then in each category, I provided a magic item list (reflavored some, and including potions) and assigned them each a point value. It was then up to the party to spend the resource points collectively as a new sort of pseudo-shopping, gaining useful items from the corpse itself. It met with great success, and the gravitas of the battle (basically their gateway into Epic) really stayed with them, as it personalized a lot of their new gear. It also required them to seek the work of master artisans, fun side trips in their own right, all of which fed back into the world and increased the immersion factor.

HARVESTED MATERIALS: Reedthagn was a massive wyrm, but even his choicest bits are limited. Below are a list of possible items that could be fashioned from his remains, each given a resource point value. Mix and match as you wish between Scale, Blood, and Bone, but the resource point total for each category cannot exceed 14.

Scales: Reedthagn’s scales are valuable as raw material, worth 525,000 gp if the wyrm’s hide is entirely skinned and plucked; alternatively, Reedthagn could be made into the following armors by a master craftsman:


  • Dragonskin Coat (3 pts)
  • Dragonscale Plate (4 pts)
  • Dragon Membrane Robes (5 pts)

Blood: Reedthagn’s blood is valuable as raw material, and if properly bottled or collected as coagulated powder, could fetch 525,000 gp. However, in the hands of a master alchemist or gifted witch, it could be brewed into the following:


  • Potion of Regeneration (3 pts)
  • Potion of Young Dragonform (4 pts)
  • Elixir of Elder Dragon Breath [Acid or Poison] (4 pts)
  • Potion of Acid and Poison Immunity (5 pts)

Bone: Reedthagn’s blood is valuable as raw material, worth 525,000 gp if meticulously collected. However, in the hands of a master alchemist or master craftsman, the following could be made:


  • Bonegrim Armor (3 pts)
  • Dragonskull Mask (3 pts)
  • Rethagnian Vambraces (4 pts)
  • Wyrmtooth Dagger (3 pts)
  • Dragontooth Shield (10 pts)
I plan on using this system again. PCs now pay much closer attention to where they are and what they might gain from it all, and who they fight and what they might gain there, as well. There's more importance in flora, fauna, and mineral (in so far as prospecting and acquiring dungeons and lairs for their mines, farms, and resources- as well as convincing artisans to come work for them if they prove at all skilled). It adds more to high level play, I find, beyond simply building strongholds and heading organizations- another means of attaining resources, power, and prestige.

I haven't really pushed this concept into the realm of alchemy too much, but I'd probably have a new requisite of creating a level 28 potion a combination of paltry brewing costs, proper equipment (which could be acquired early, and built upon like any other magic item through levels, from a herbalist's enchanted ambulatory to Justice's Epic-tiered scales and Babba Yaga's mortar), and components/ingredients from a level 28 monster or encounter; or conversely level 28 hazard or terrain.
 

Not quite -- it's "only" 85,000 gp. But still: 85,000 to get 12 more hit points from a surge. That's 7,083 gp per hit point. You'd have to be swimming in coins Scrooge McDuck-style for that to even remotely be a consideration.

Any Herbal Poultice above the level 3 version simply isn't worth it, unless you are down to your very last healing surge and absolutely must squeeze out an extra tiny handful of hit points. It's really silly.

But you ARE swimming in coins like Scrooge McDuck at 28th level, lol. 85k is like 1 28th level parcel IIRC. Not CHEAP, but 12 HP is 12 HP, and if that's the 12 HP that is between you and fall down and go dead then it was well worth it (though at 28th level you can probably stand up again from dead anyway, but most people would rather not).

It is true, Alchemical items, and consumables in general seem on the face of it kind of questionable, but they really do have the potential to give you that extra edge, and TONS of Alchemical items have really interesting non-combat uses. Blast patches, sovereign glue, acid, smoke sticks, etc are all pretty fun and give you some little extra capability that you can't easily get some other way or would pay a lot for and maybe not use again.

The lackluster alchemical items are really the ones that do damage and other strictly combat effects (though clever PCs have been known to make fun use of some of them). Even those aren't bad at low levels, but it is really true that once you hit 5th level or so you've got better attack options most of the time.

However, there are still interesting uses for things like Alchemist's Fire. "When shattered, this flask fills an area with alchemical flame." Hmmm, now I can't think of ANY way to make THAT happen besides throwing the pesky thing, can you? ;)

Considering you get Alchemy for a feat and most of the item's costs really are pretty close to pocket change, even considering you bought the formula (all trivially cheap by level 3) it delivers OK. It just isn't a big route to major power in 4e. Still, I've seen a goodly number of clever uses of alchemical items.

Beefing it up to a more significant subsystem of course is perfectly fine. Just remember, you will have to pay for what you get. There are some ways to beef up alchemy some too. The Alchemist theme from Dragon 399 is nice, it gives you a free alchemical item every short rest, etc. There is an Alchemist Savant PP too in Ebberon (not a really hot PP, but fun). There are some cute feats too. Basically you can gear up to be a brewer and a shaker, but it takes some resources.
 


TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
In the right circumstances...these items can be a lot of fun. When else would, say, the rogue be able to make a breath weapon attack vs fort, and without using a power?

But, big problems in the details. The costing and tiering are pains. Just keeping track of which level of, say, alchemist acid is a problem. And that system means things don't age well at all. The gps involved seem to be on the same non-sensical scaling as other magic items, but for these it matters, as they are much more likely to be made or bought.

(The items in MME I think are well executed given the framework, but still basically suffer from the noted problems).

I looked hard at the Gamma World approach (letting the items scale with level and or abilities) and it may be the best approach, though I remember, again, getting the details right and in-sync with other thing seemed like a pain.

Oh well. Fun idea.
 

Blackjack

First Post
But you ARE swimming in coins like Scrooge McDuck at 28th level, lol. [...] Just remember, you will have to pay for what you get.

It doesn't matter if you're swimming in money -- the bang for your buck is simply not there for the higher-level alchemy items. A level 3 poultice gives 1 hp per 15 gp; the level 13 version gives 1 hp per 65 gp. And the level 28 poultice gives 1 hp per 7000gp! Even if you have piles of money, wasted cash is still wasted cash.

Consider: for the price of one high-level poultice that gives back 12 hp, I could buy 2,833(!) poultices that give me 2 hp instead. That's like spending $12,000 on a really good candy bar -- I'd rather buy literally thousands of perfectly decent Mars bars with that same money.

Unless you're truly desperate to maximize your hit points per healing surge, you're better off just buying the cheap, low-level poultices, and saving your money to buy other things that will help keep you alive (e.g. items that will improve your defenses.) And that makes me filled with sad-face.
 

It doesn't matter if you're swimming in money -- the bang for your buck is simply not there for the higher-level alchemy items. A level 3 poultice gives 1 hp per 15 gp; the level 13 version gives 1 hp per 65 gp. And the level 28 poultice gives 1 hp per 7000gp! Even if you have piles of money, wasted cash is still wasted cash.

Consider: for the price of one high-level poultice that gives back 12 hp, I could buy 2,833(!) poultices that give me 2 hp instead. That's like spending $12,000 on a really good candy bar -- I'd rather buy literally thousands of perfectly decent Mars bars with that same money.

Unless you're truly desperate to maximize your hit points per healing surge, you're better off just buying the cheap, low-level poultices, and saving your money to buy other things that will help keep you alive (e.g. items that will improve your defenses.) And that makes me filled with sad-face.

Any hit point can be the difference between life and death. You may not care ALL of the time, sure, but you'll feel kinda dumb that you saved yourself 7k gold only to have to spend 50k getting rezzed instead. Anyway, the poultice is really the most extreme case. Most of the other items have effects and uses that are just not attainable or easily attainable other ways.
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
Any hit point can be the difference between life and death. You may not care ALL of the time, sure, but you'll feel kinda dumb that you saved yourself 7k gold only to have to spend 50k getting rezzed instead. Anyway, the poultice is really the most extreme case. Most of the other items have effects and uses that are just not attainable or easily attainable other ways.
I think we'll agree to disagree on this one. I don't want to sidetrack the thread on this, since it's already full of good ideas. Let's just say that my group considers this to be inefficient due to the wasted opportunity cost, that not everyone in the world agrees, and to move the thread forward with that as a basis.
 
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Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
The other night I planned to have the new elementalist sorcerer skinned as an alchemist, with an ever-full bag of reagents that he threw instead of casting at-wills.

I wonder if something like that be adapted to other classes. Pick a damage effect and/or a controller effect, pick a damage level, and the item is costed accordingly. Heck, use p.42 of the DMG as your baseline.
 

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