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Basic Information

An Alchemist is someone who practices or researches alchemy.

Just as alchemy occupies a strange niche between magic and science (and is similar to both), the Alchemist is a curious fusion of scientist and witch.

Seeing as how the main goals of alchemy are the transmutation of lead into gold, and the achievement of immortality, you can probably assume the Alchemist has strong motivations. Greed or Pursuit of Power may be strong factors, and the alchemist may fall into the tropish domain of the mad scientist. However, it may all be more complicated than that old trope - after all, Sir Isaac Newton was an alchemist.

Alchemists tended to be secretive and their writings were often shrouded in poetic and symbolic language making them harder to interpret. This was partially because they believed that earlier writings were Coded Myth in which the fables and tales of the Ancients hid secrets of Natural Science.

The other possible interpretation of alchemy is as a mystical tradition to do with purification of the self and the search for wisdom in the same sort of vein as the various gnostic traditions. This would make far more use of coded myth and make many of the "great works" of alchemy actually allegories of various revelations and purifications.

Notable Alchemists:

A few famous alchemists of history and legend:


2. The Alchemist by Ben Johnson — An Elizabethan Era play about a con man posing as an Alchemist running several simultaneous swindles based on the various goals and claims of the Alchemists.

Game and Story Use

  • Probably makes a better NPC than PC.
    • While an Alchemist can probably brew potions, decode myths, and perhaps make some greek fire (or other pyromantic goodies), he's not really a front-line fighter.
      • Mind you, that could change if he's found the secret to immortality. Suddenly he goes from artillery/support to front-line tank.
    • Alchemy is a crime in a great many times and places. Supernatural production of gold can destabilize currency, and the trade was rife with con men and charlatans looking to do a little goldbricking. So, you face a certain peril being an alchemist - even in settings where a wizard would be tolerated, the alchemist might not be.
      • Although in at least one case, Nicholas Flamel pretended to be an alchemist because the real source of his wealth, banking, had an even greater stigma!

Building This Character

It's hard to categorize the Alchemist. Depending on the nature of the campaign and the needs of the plot, he could range from conman to wizard to sage to healer or apothecary to bonafide scientist.

  • Character Class could be cleric as easily as wizard.
  • May be rich (from all the gold) or poor (wasting his fortune on further experiments).
  • The alchemist may be the darling of the royal court or a wizened and reclusive hermit.
  • He may be modeled on intellectual luminaries like Sir Isaac Newton… or on that crazy guy who talks to himself in the alleyway downtown.
  • A con artist might pretend to be an alchemist, and a genuine alchemist might pretend to be something else entirely to avoid the law.
  • Could be possessed of perfect health and immortality, or could be a wrecked and poisoned soul from years of neglecting safety practices while experimenting with toxic chemicals.

Regardless of interpretation, Mental Attributes should be rated high. This is not a career for the dim-witted.

See the Alchemy page for more ideas on what it's all about, and for a list of items you're likely to find in the Alchemist's Laboratory.

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