By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Super Genius Games is 9 pages long, 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, leaving 7 1/3 pages of content for the new discoveries, so what do we get?
After a short discussion of the alchemist-class and the literary tradition of the trope, we are introduced to 29 new discoveries, 7 of which belong to two new sets of discovery-trees, which I’ll elaborate later. From bombs that blind, deafen and splitter bombs, explosives get a plethora of cool new options, two of which I particularly liked: Minibombs and High Explosives use half a bomb slot or two respectively, but are less/more effective than regular bombs, adding to the set of tactical options for bomb-focused alchemists. Even better, alchemists can learn to expand their range by creating rockets and expand the threat range – nice! Via essence discoveries, mutagens can be modified to add e.g. scent, greater invisibility etc. Extracts also get a cool expansion, by enabling them to heal minor amounts of damage, extracts that have a higher duration etc.
The second part of the pdf deals with alternate alchemy and introduces the concept of spagyric devices and metamorphosis, for which the alchemist must give up one of his alchemical areas of interest . The devices are particularly interesting: The field enables the alchemist to duplicate magic items with a certain GP-limit with his alchemical devices. Before you start screaming about magic inflation, let me elaborate: Apart from a very restrictive GP-limit-pool to create these devices from, they require maintenance and at best have a durability of 2 days when separated from their creator. Furthermore, they take up 2 item slots and are very fragile. 6 sample names for such devices are given and all said, I consider the field a gold-mine for roleplaying, offering players a very cool opportunity to develop their very own devices and come up with justifications for their usage. Three new discoveries for these devices are presented, one making his creations harder to break, the second enabling the alchemist to select spells not on his spell-list and create items necessitating these spells. The final one lets the alchemist create more items with his gp-limit.
The second new field of alchemical expertise is metamorphosis, which belongs to the field that seeks to create gold from lead, focusing on the transformation of both materials and persons, enabling the alchemist to duplicate polymorph-effects via the 4 discoveries. While an iconic idea and not unbalancing (turning lead to gold works, but takes forever…), mechanically, it can’t hold a candle to the cool spagyric devices.
The problem of the relative scarcity of low-cost magic items is also addressed and I’d like to add Necromancers of the Northwest’s “Into the Armory” (available for free) to the list of recommended material to expand it, SGG’s recommendation being, of course their loot 4 less-series, which I’ll hope to buy and review sometime in the future.
The pdf closes with 2 feats granting extra devices and metamorphosis.
Editing is good, though is noticed a missing “e” in the metamorphosis-section. Layout adheres to the 3-column standard. The artwork is stock art and rather often used pieces at that. The pdf has no bookmarks. The new discoveries for bombs, mutagens and extracts all rock and I had no balance concerns with regards to them. The new devices also offer a neat and easy way to play a tinkerer and showcase Owen K.C. Stephens’ mastery of concise crunch-writing. Paradoxically, I think this pdf would have been better off if it were a bit shorter (or larger, of course!), as the new metamorphosis ability, while iconic, is simply not too rewarding and seriously needs more options to become a viable choice for all but NPC-alchemists. As written, transmuters will still mop the floor with these poor chaps and there simply is not that much going for them due to lack of support material. 2 additional pages of discoveries would have been either a viable options for the new field or a nice space for more discoveries. While these gripes are there, I still consider this book to rank among the finest of the advanced options-line and due to the quality of the crunch, will settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.
Advanced Options: Alchemists’ Discoveries is available from: