Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The GLOG alchemist

The Alchemist

"For the alchemist the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter."  C.G Jung

For each template (i.e. level) of  Alchemist, you can use 1 CD per concoction (max 4) You learn two formulas per template (see below).

Starting equipment:  Thick leather gloves, dagger, portable mini lab (1 slot), ingredients (see below), lots of vials.  

A:  Alchemy,  Stabilize, Alchemical tricks
B:  Scrounge, Reclamation
C:  Potion Maker, Precise Measurements
D: Discovery, Immunity

Alchemy:  An alchemist's wondrous abilities are powered by "special ingredients".  They could be gems, special herbs, dragon scales, rare metals or spices... the exact nature of these can be defined with your GM, or stay vague.  A single dose of "special ingredient' is represented by a Chemical Dice, or CD.  These work similarly to Mage Dice (MD) or spell dice, common to many other GLOG magic using classes

An alchemist does not cast spells.  They create concoctions - potions, bombs, ointments - short term, one-use quasi-magical objects that the alchemist uses to create magic-like effects, based on formulas they know.  The more CD the alchemist invests into a concoction, the more powerful it will be.  An alchemist therefore needs time to prepare their concoctions in advance, analogous to a wizard memorizing spells.  An alchemist without concoctions prepared will have to rely on their wit, dagger or feet to get out of trouble.

Using Concoctions:   Most require 1 action to activate - light a fuse and throw, drink, etc.  When a concoction is used, one 1d6 is rolled per CD invested during the concoction's reaction, and the effect (for example, damage, or duration) is based on this result.  On a roll of 1-3, the CD is "returned" to the alchemist - he was stingy with the ingredients, and still has some left.  On a 4-6 the CD is lost - more ingredients were used for a bigger bang. 

Other people can use your concoctions, but it is risky - they roll 2 extra d6 that add no power to the effect but can trigger a mishap or doom (see below).

When rolling CDs, [sum] means the sum of the CD(s) rolled and [dice] the number of CDs rolled.  If two of the dice have the same number, it triggers a mishaps.  If three have the same number, it triggers a doom.

1d6 alchemist mishaps
1.  The concoction doesn't quite work right and there is a minor explosion or acid splash.  Take 1d6 damage.
2.  The concoction worked normally, but regain no CDs on a 1-3 for this one.
3.  Coughing fit for 1d6 round.
4.  A *hideous* smell is released.  People shout in panic, zombies gag.   How embarrassing!
5.  The fumes give you a vicious headache.  You can use concoctions but are in no shape to prepare new ones for the rest of the day.
6.  You drop the concoction and it goes off, to potentially disastrous results.

Alchemist Dooms  (triggered in order)
1.  Countless mishaps have permanently singed your eyebrows.  You smell peculiar.
2.  Exposure to noxious chemicals have affected your health.  Lose 1 HP permanently.
3.  You have contracted a long wasting illness from years of exposure to toxic metals.  Lose 1 HP permanently each month.   There are no know cure... but perhaps the Elixir of Life could save you!  But the formula has been long lost...

Making concoctions:  A concoction takes 1 hour per CD invested to prepare (some take longer).  This is careful work that needs quiet, some shelter and light to do.  Most alchemists carry a portable lab (2 slots) that is sufficient for most alchemical work.  If the process is interrupted the CDs are lost.  Unlike a wizard, there is no limit to the number of concoctions an alchemist can prepare - but it would not be wise for her to use all her CD in advance, as concoctions are not stable - each morning, the concoction has a 1 in 6 chance of losing one CD of power.  A concoction with no CD left has fully degraded and is essentially useless. Some alchemists deal with this problem with stabilization (see below).

Regaining CDs:  An alchemist starts at level 1 with 2d6 CDs, and she gains 1d6 more CDs each time she levels up.  Furthermore, when returning to town to re-supply, a level 1 alchemist *can* regain 1d4 CDs, at a cost of 1 gp per CD.  At level 2 and 3 resupplying will yield 1d6 CDs, and a master alchemist will be able to gather 1d8 CDs.  An alchemist does *not* gain CDs by sleeping or some special ceremony.  (please see design notes below!!!).

A skilled alchemist has also ways of obtaining more CDs by careful use of their ingredients.

Formulas:   An alchemist begins the game with two known formulas, each determined randomly by rolling 1d6 and consulting the list (reroll any duplicates).  At template B they gain two more formulas (roll 1d8 twice), at Template C they gain two more (roll 1d10 twice) and at template D they get another two (roll 1d12 once and select another).  An alchemist can also gain further formulas by consulting alchemical tomes and learning their formulas.  Doing so is difficult, taking a day (or more!) per new formula.

Stabilize : To avoid the rapid degradation of a prepared concoction, an alchemist can spend one hour carefully neutralizing it.  The concoction - if kept dry and away from extreme temperatures - will remain inert and stable for several years.  Another hour of work is required to re-activate it.  Once this is done, the concoction cannot be neutralized a second time, and must be used soon or it will degrade (as per standard rules).

Alchemical tricks:   You know one of the following minor alchemical feats (and learn one per template).  These do not require CDs:

- Matches.  You have created small fire sticks, that are useful to start fires.  You can use them to light a fire most circumstances, or provide candle-level illumination for 1d3 rounds.  If the precise number of matches becomes important, you have 2d6*5 matches, and creating a new batch takes 1 hour.

- Small firework display.  A sparkler or 3, a whistler, a half dozen firecrackers, a couple of bottle rockets, a cone fountain... it will entertain the children or make a heck of a distraction.  An alchemist investing large sums and sufficient time could make a display suitable for larger audiences, of course.

- Planetary Charm:  A small plate of lead with protective symbols.  They provide you with a +2 save bonus vs a specific thing (fire, fear, brigand attacks, poison, illness....).  Re-aligning the save takes 1 hour but must be done on the proper day of the week (roll 1d7 to determine which day).

Scrounge:  An alchemist with no remaining CDs can spend an hour searching an area (a cavern with strange mushrooms, a wooded area, an abandoned lich lab, even a small village) and gain 1 CD.  At template C this increased to 1d2 CD, and at template D this increases to 1d3 CD.  This can only be performed once a day.  This search may trigger random encounters.  Scrounging is free, unless in a village or the lich is still around...

Reclamation:  An alchemist can take apart an already prepared concoction and extract remaining CDs from them.  Roll 1d6 per CD, you regain it on a 1-4.  If the concoction is not stabilized, this roll may trigger mishaps/dooms in case of doubles or triples. This process takes an hour.

Potion Maker:   You learn the craft of making magical potions (potions of healing, giant strength etc).  The exact costs, special ingredients, special recipes etc if any, are left to your GM to determine. You can do it twice as fast as a wizard, and probably safer too.

Precise Measurement:   Instead of rolling, you can decide that a CD will be 2 (you conserved on ingredients) or 5 (you didn't skimp).  Not all dice can be determined at least one CD must be random (precise measurement can only be used on 2D or stronger concoctions).   Having multiple 2s or 5s can trigger a mishap or doom.

Discovery:  You rediscover an ancient secret of the past.  You (THE PLAYER) do some research in old grimoires etc, find a formula or spell you like, and transcribe it into the GLOG format.  You can do it - I mean you're playing this class right?   Your character will thank you.

Immunity:  Years of exposure to strange substances and dangerous experiments have granted you a +3 bonus to saves vs poison, gas, fire or acid.


1. Fire Projector   This concoction is a tube that projects one or more fiery projectiles, each doing 1d6 points of damage to target and cast light as a torch (it can be use to set fires).  It shoots [dice] number of projectiles.  Hits are automatic within 30 feet, after that an attack roll is required (treat as a ranged weapon with range increment of 30 feet).  The alchemist can set a fast fuse (shooting all projectiles in 1 round) or slow (shoot one per round).  Also known as the Roman Candle.  You can choose the color of each projectile.

This concoction is easier to make than most, CDs are regained on 1-4, not 1-3.

2. Stone Bread  The alchemist uses sawdust, grass, dried leaves or similar materials (even dirt will do) and bakes them into a "delicious" breadish substance that is not particularly nutritious but will keep you going in times of scarcity.  Lunches does with this substance will heal half of normal.  "Bread" made this way keeps twice as long as normal bread (do not use the degradation check).  This process generates [sum] portions of "bread.

3. Celestial Perfume of the Seven Planets  This perfume is most auspicious and pleasant, making the wearer seems interesting, charismatic and worthy of assistance - if a roll is required, it provides a +4 bonus to a charisma check (or equivalent bonus).  It also keeps miasmas and plagues at bay, providing a +2 bonus to saves vs diseases.  Gnomes are particularly fond of the perfume - they know what it is, but its usage is seen as a mark of good character and style.  Once applied, the perfume lasts for [sum] hours.

4. Smoke Pot  Upon ignition, this clay pot emits copious amounts of smoke, generating a cloud of [dice] X5 feet radius, lasting [sum]/2 round (only 1 round in a stiff wind).   By varying the fillers in the pot, the alchemist can choose to generate one of two types of smoke.  The smoke can be opaque, blocking vision - the smoke is unpleasant but mostly harmless.   Or the smoke can be thinner but noxious.  Those inside the infernal stink must make a constitution save or be sickened, suffering a -4 penalty to attack rolls and ability/skill checks while they remain in the smoke and for [dice] thereafter.

An alchemist can choose to have the bomb go off almost immediately after thrown or add a fuse that will delay its activation by up to [dice] rounds.

5.  Vitriol  The alchemist generates [dice] vials of strong acid.  This acid can be thrown at an enemy (10 foot range increment, attack roll required, [sum] damage on round 1 and [dice] damage for the following [dice] rounds).  It can also be used to destroy metals (gold is immune) - a single vial is sufficient to wreck a lock, melt an iron bar etc, in about a minute.

This concoction is particularly stable, and only requires a check vs degradation every month.

6.  Theriac  The alchemist takes a large onion, cuts off the top and carefully opens it up.  Spices, poisons and other exotic ingredients are inserted between the layers, and the whole thing is slowly and gently cooked in boiling honey.  Some alchemists believe that keeping a stabilized Theriac for very long periods of time (years or even decades) enhances the effect - the flavor certainly is something.

This powerful concoction can stop illness or poison dead in their tracks. Upon eating this panacea, the patient may remake a save vs illness or poison with a +4 bonus.  Furthermore, they regain 1d3 hp per CD used.

The Theriac takes two hours per CD to prepare, not one.

7. The Great Petard  A metal sphere or tube (or a very thick glass bottle) is filled with fiery ingredients, a fuse is lit, and KABOOM.  Does [sum] damage in a 20 feet radius.  If well placed against a structure (gate etc) does double damage to the structure (DM should be generous in its breaching power.  Something like 1 D will blow up a solid door, 2D a postern, 3D a stout postern or a small gate 4D all but the greatest gates).  The bomb can be thrown up to 50 feet with a running start.  The fuse can be almost immediate, or burn for  up to [dice]X2 rounds.

This was used by Kerbouchar in The Walking Drum - that guy was pirate *and* a scholar.

8. Sword of St Germain  This concoction is a bit different from most.  A 7 pointed star made of a thin sheet of pure tin is inscribed with potent symbols under the light of the full moon.  This star must then be wrapped around the tang of a single handed sword (preferably a backsword).   The grip is then re-installed over the star.

The star will be inert (and stable) for several years until its power is invoked.  The user will then be victorious in battle.  The sword becomes a +2 weapon for [sum] hours, but only for the alchemist.

9. Mercury invisibility ring  This ring is made with solidified quicksilver and mounted with a small stone found in the nest of a hoopoe (a type of bird).  To be used, the ring must be worn with the stone facing outwards - by wearing it with the stone hidden, its power is suppressed.  The invisibility granted by the ring lasts [sum]+[dice] minutes, but it can be split up into up to [dice] uses.  A violent action by the alchemist, the use of magic, rapid motion (running vs walking) or even loud speech by the alchemist will disrupt the invisibility for 1d6 rounds.  Despite these limitations, the power of such a ring cannot be overstated, and could even be used to win a kingdom.

This concoction does not expire (i.e. is stable) until it time/number of uses runs out, when the ring melts. This concoction *must* be prepared on a Wednesday.

10. Killing Miasma  In a glass bottle, the alchemist mixes water, salt, distilled vinegar, old urine, styrax and other things, and exposes it to the light of the sun, then seals with with a good cork and bee's wax.  Upon breaking, the vial releases a cloud of noxious fumes, [dice]X5 feet radius, lasting [sum]/2 round.  While a strong wind will disperse the cloud in a single round, a gentle breeze will push it along, moving it 1d3X10 feet per round.  Anyone inside the cloud take [dice] damage.  Furthermore, anyone in the fumes for longer than their hit dice (or level) rounds must make a save vs death (or constitution check) or die.  Woe upon the alchemist who breaks his bottle by accident. It can be thrown up to 40 feet, 60 with a running start.

11.  Homunculus  The alchemist has gained mastery over life itself!   Using clay, bile and a drop of her blood; and with a full day of sculpting and  gentle baking, she has created a new living organism, the homunculus.

The homunculus can speak the creator's native tongue.  It is not particularly intelligent but is cunning and is able to improvise.  It is fairly loyal as long as it's treated reasonably well.  Its life span and potency depends on how many CDs were invested:

1D  Defense zero (AC 10), 3 HP, +0 to hit, 1d4 dmg  All stats 8.  Lives [sum] hours
2D  Defense 2 (leather), HP 5, +1 to hit, 1d6 dmg, +4 to stealth check, All stats 10.  Lives [sum] days
3D  Defense 3,  HP 8, +2 to hit, 1d6 dmg, stealth as above + can use a bow.  All stats 11, Lives, [sum] weeks
4D  Defense 3, HP 12, +3 to hit, 1d6 dmg, stealth and magic as above, can fly mediocrely on batwings, all stats 12, lives [dice] years + [sum] weeks.  Can use your concoctions.

Alchemists hotly contest claims that they are merely hiring small ugly(er) goblins.

I blame Arnold K for this!!

12.  Philosopher's stone.  The Grand Work.  Takes a full month and *must* invest 4 CD for it to work, along with a pound of lead, a pound of silver and one thousand ants, as well as access to a full alchemical lab - a portable one simply won't do.  Through a series of sublimations, condensations, combustions, fermentations, precipitations and paying close attention to planetary alignments, the alchemist prepares the philosopher's stone, the culmination of his art, a golden brown stone the size of a baby's fist.  This stone is stable until used.

But what does it do?!?

Some say that when crushed and mixed with a pound of lead, it will generate a pound of gold.

Some say that if put in the mouth of a creature that recently died (no more than a week ago), the creature will be resurrected.

Some say that if shallowed by a dragon, the stone will allow it to assume human form for [sum] days, and that dragons will grant anyone bringing them such a stone a wish.

Some say that that if dissolved in a perfect alcohol then drunk, it will instantly grant a wizard template to the drinker.

There are rumors of many other alchemical formulas in existence, such as the Ionian fire, the fishing lure, the lighting projector, the fougasse or the ritual to make frogs shut the hell up so you can get some sleep.

Concoction tracking sheet

To assist players in tracking their concoctions, which one is stabilized, reactivated, has lost partial potency etc, I created the following partial character sheet.  It's not pretty, I'm sure many of you could do better, but it should look something like this:

CONCOCTION: CD Used CD remain Stable? Re-activated?


Design Notes

A *LOT* of things lead to this class - my interest in old grimoires, and my quest for a "component based" character... and I feel like I've combined the two here.  The formulas/spells are inspired by various Grimoires I have read but also this ancient D&D supplement.  I  sincerely hope I have been successful - it feels like an achievement, but I may be deluding myself.  Depending on how I look at it, I have been working at this for a few weeks... or several years.

I also feel that the class is important because it introduces a lot of "dice manipulation" techniques, that might work for other class concepts.  This is appropriate because the alchemist doesn't get MDs every day - the CDs are harder to come by.  They therefore need more ways to retain or re-use these dice.  On the other hand, I wanted to make sure that an alchemist couldn't stockpile an arsenal, hence concoctions expiring, preparations times etc.  I hope I struck a proper balance.

Speaking of balance:

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION:   Is the class getting enough CDs?   I don't know, this hasn't been play-tested, and I hope that someone will. Feedback is appreciated!  This is probably something that the GM will have to adjust during the campaign, as it will be pretty setting/pacing dependent.

I'm also not sure if I went too far on the concoction preparation time.  The class is complex, I must concede that, but the player willing to play an alchemist will probably not mind too much I hope.

Lastly, there is a ... peculiarity with the CDs returning to you *after* you use the concoction.  You are out of ingredients, you use the concoction, and oh would you look at that, I had two CDs at the bottom of my bag, silly me!   It's not great, but I'm willing to live with it.

Sincere thanks to Words for Yellow for their very valuable assistance, as well as input from Phlox and the OSR discord server community.

“Know this: I, Mercurius, have here set down a full, true and infallible account of the Great Work. But I give you fair warning that unless you seek the true philosophical gold and not the gold of the vulgar, unless you heart is fixed with unbending intent on the true Stone of the Philosophers, unless you are steadfast in your quest, abiding by God’s laws in all faith and humility and eschewing all vanity, conceit, falsehood, intemperance, pride, lust and faint-heartedness, read no farther lest I prove fatal to you. For I am the watery venomous serpent who lies buried at the earth’s centre; I am the fiery dragon who flies through the air. I am the one thing necessary for the whole Opus. I am the spirit of metals, the fire which does not burn, the water which does not wet the hands. If you find the way to slay me you will find the philosophical mercury of the wise, even the White Stone beloved of the Philosophers. If you find the way to raise me up again, you will find the philosophical sulphur, that is, the Red Stone and Elixir of Life. Obey me and I will be your servant; free me and I will be your friend. Enslave me and I am a dangerous enemy; command me and I will make you mad; give me life and you will die.”  Patrick Harpur, Mercurius: The Marriage of Heaven and Earth


  1. I like the mix of historical flavor and contemporary GLOGigness you've got going on here, both for the tricks and formulas specifically, and really for the class as a whole.

    The one aspect that has me scratching my head a little is that you roll the CD when you use the item, rather than when you make it. It feels like that could get weird after 1st level?

    The basic idea of CD as generic "components" seems like a good innovation though, and I like the roll kind of representing the "amount" you used to make the thing.

    If you get the chance to playtest it, I'd be curious to hear it works out!

    The quality-degradation mechanic is neat, and I like scrounging and reclaiming as ways to recover a smaller amount of components.

    1. Thank you for your kind words!

      The rolling when using the concoction vs when creating. Yeah... it's not ideal. But rolling in advance has odd consequences too. Should you know in advance the exact result of your spell? Some of the misshaps don't make sense rolled in advance either. So I left it like that.

      Right now my group is using Troika! and I think it's a much better fit for my players than the glog.

      ... unless I somehow mixed them together... hmmmm

    2. There's probably nothing preventing you from using GLOG-like magic in Troika...

      Also, yeah, I think I understand the reasoning behind rolling as you use the item, it just seems like it could occasionally produce strange results in practice.

      I could also imagine a slightly more abstract version of this, where (within the fiction of the game) you prepare all your potions overnight, then use them during the day, basically just like spells. The downside there is that you could never confirm which concoctions you had on your person at any given time.

      But I think this is worth trying out to see if you can get the timing and the CD amounts working as intended.