Alchemical Items

Items in this category are crafted with the Alchemy skill. Alchemical items include alchemist's fire, smokesticks, and the like, as well as various potions, dusts, elixirs, salves, ointments, and similar creations. The effects of most alchemical items can't be dispelled, and don't allow spell resistance, although many alchemical items don't function in a dead magic zone.

Alchemical item recipes

Every alchemical item has a recipe for its creation. An alchemist generally has to know the recipe for an item in order to create that item.

A crafter may attempt to create an alchemical item without knowing the recipe, if he has a written copy of the recipe to consult while crafting (working "from the book", so to speak), or if he is being instructed during the crafting by an alchemist who knows the recipe. (This even allows characters untrained in the Alchemy skill to attempt the crafting of alchemical items.) When doing so, the character cannot take 10 on the crafting check, all of the recipe's ingredients are always ruined on a failure, and the chance for a mishap (if the Alchemy check is failed by 5 points or more) is doubled (to a maximum of 100%). See the Alchemy skill description page for more information on mishaps and other consequences of a failed check.

Selling Recipes?

Writing down a recipe costs nothing (besides the the negligible cost of ink and paper or parchment). Do written recipes have any market value? Can they be sold?

It depends on the item's rarity. Common recipes for simple alchemical items are generally found in alchemy textbooks. Aspiring alchemists may purchase these books for their own use, or get access (for a price) to a library which contains them. Characters who learn alchemy through apprenticeships with more experienced alchemists are usually taught all the common recipes by their teachers. There is thus almost never a market for common alchemical recipes. Uncommon (and rarer) recipes for alchemical items are more likely to be in demand. Likewise, there will certainly be a demand for any recipe developed by an alchemist through research, especially if the item is entirely novel.

The price that a character will be able to ask for written copies of alchemical recipes will vary, and is determined by the DM. Depending on the recipe, a character may initially be able to charge two to three times the gold piece value of them. However, as alchemists to whom the recipe is sold can easily resell it to others, the recipe's market value will soon drop. The DM will likely downgrade the rarity of an alchemical recipe, as knowledge of it spreads throughout communities and worlds.

An alchemist can write down any recipe he knows; doing this requires an Alchemy check against the crafting DC of the item + 5 the first time that an alchemist writes down a particular recipe he knows (this check represents the difficulty of formulating one's procedural knowledge of technique, and intuitive sense of the process, into a verbal explanation). No check at all is required every subsequent time an alchemist writes down the same recipe, nor is a check needed if an alchemist is simply copying a recipe that he knows out of a textbook or another written source. (See the Technical & Magical Writings page for information about copying writings that a character does not fully understand.) Writing down an alchemical recipe requires no special materials beyond what is necessary for any other sort of mundane writing. A handwritten alchemical recipe takes up 1d8 pages, with more difficult recipes usually (but not always) being longer. After an alchemist writes down a recipe that he knows, other alchemists may use the written recipe any number of times, whether to study it and learn the recipe, or to craft the item by following the recipe without learning it. A written alchemical recipe has no magical properties; it is simply mundane written text.

Learning recipes

A crafter who does not have at least as many ranks in the Alchemy skill as the item's level cannot learn the recipe for the item. (The Master Alchemist feat lowers this requirement by 3 ranks.) Each item's level is listed in its description, on the Alchemical Items listings page.

There is no limit to the number of recipes that an alchemist may know. A trained alchemist automatically knows how to make acid. Recipes for other alchemical items may be learned in one of several ways, which are listed below, from the easiest to the most difficult.

Alchemical Research

Alchemists conduct research in order to analyze a substance (to learn what it's made of and how it's made, and learn how to craft it themselves) or to develop new recipes. Alchemical research involves experimenting with new processes or variants of existing ones, and combining substances in untested ways. It often requires consulting textbooks on alchemy and discussions with other alchemists, or even with scholars and specialists in other fields (for example, an alchemist might consult with a necromancer cleric if he were researching a new elixir to fortify the flesh of undead creatures).

An alchemist needs to make research checks when analyzing a substance (see Deformulation in the Learning Recipes section) and when developing a recipe, either by reconstructing one or inventing one wholesale (see Reconstruction and Invention, respectively, in the Learning Recipes section). An alchemical research check is simply an Alchemy skill check; however, a number of circumstance modifiers apply to this kind of check, as listed on the table below. All listed modifiers are cumulative unless specified otherwise. (Alchemical research checks are also modified by having appropriate equipment and skilled assistance; see the Alchemy skill description for details.)

Table: Alchemical Research Check Modifiers

No test subject used (for research that requires a test subject)–8
Inappropriate test subject used–4
Researcher has knowledge of relevant subject1
(relevance determined by DM)
Researcher consults with specialist in relevant subject2
(relevance determined by DM)
Researcher consults scholarly works on relevant subject3
(relevance determined by DM)
+1 to +4
Researcher consults basic alchemy textbookt4+1
Researcher consults advanced alchemy textbook5+1
Researcher already knows recipe for similar item6+2
Researcher has previously conducted research of same or greater difficulty+2

1 Researcher must make Knowledge check against research DC – 10
2 Specialist consulted must make Knowledge check against research DC – 10
3 Bonus depends on comprehensiveness of works consulted; a single relevant text grants a +1 bonus, while an entire collection dedicated to the subject, containing all the best works in all the world, would grant a +4
4 Applies only if researcher has fewer than 10 ranks in Alchemy
5 Applies only if researcher has fewer than 15 ranks in Alchemy
6 Only applies once, even if researcher knows recipes for multiple similar items

"Researcher" refers to the alchemist conducting the research. Bonuses due to knowledge possessed by the researcher do not stack with bonuses due to consultation with specialists, if the knowledge is in the same subject; however, bonuses from knowledge of multiple different relevant subjects do stack (regardless of source).

Note on test subjects: Many sorts of alchemical research, especially that which concerns potions, oils, elixirs, etc., require having at least one test subject, and experimenting on that test subject. In cases where the alchemical item being researched is a potion, elixir, or another sort of item meant to be consumed or used by a creature, the test subject must be a creature; in cases where the alchemical item being researched is an oil or other sort of item meant to be used on an object, the test subject must be a suitable object. (Some alchemical items, such as incenses and candles, do not need test subjects.)

If an alchemist omits the use of a test subject (due to concerns of safety, cost, or lack of availability), he may still conduct the research, but takes a hefty penalty to the research check (see table above). Evil alchemists often experiment on unwilling subjects; good alchemists use only willing creatures as test subjects, or (for the more dangerous research) use themselves as the subject. The DM determines whether a test subject is required for researching any particular item, and what creatures or objects make appropriate test subjects.

Learning from another alchemist. Any alchemist can teach another alchemist of sufficient skill any recipe which he knows. The learner makes an Alchemy check against the crafting DC of the item; if the check succeeds, he now knows the item's recipe. If the check fails, the alchemist cannot attempt to learn the recipe again from the same teacher until he has gained a rank of Alchemy (though he may still try to learn the recipe from a different teacher, or in some other way). (See the Alchemy skill description for more information about learning alchemical recipes from another alchemist.) Alchemists usually charge twice the gold piece value of an item for teaching another alchemist the item's recipe (plus any costs incurred during the teaching process, such as the ingredients for a "demo run" item); for particularly rare or powerful items, this price might be much higher.

Learning from a written recipe. An alchemist can learn a recipe from a book, scroll, or other written description. Doing so requires reading the recipe carefully, then attempting to create the item. (For the purpose of this crafting attempt, the alchemist is considered to not yet know the recipe.) If the alchemist successfully crafts the item, he must make another Alchemy check against the item's crafting DC; if this check is successful, he now knows the recipe. (Remember that an alchemist's lab, and having assistance, provide no bonuses on Alchemy checks made to learn recipes, but do provide bonuses on checks made to craft items.) If either of the Alchemy checks (to craft the item or to learn the recipe) fails, the alchemist must try crafting the item again; rereading the recipe before making the new attempt grants the alchemist a cumulative +1 bonus on the Alchemy check to learn the recipe (although not the check to craft the item). Books containing common alchemical recipes may be bought in most major cities, or found in well-stocked libraries. Written recipes for rare items are harder to come by.

The following three ways of learning alchemical recipes make up alchemical research. Few alchemists have the skill, time, and resources to conduct such research; such activities are typically limited to powerful alchemists' guilds, court wizards, or retired high-level adventurers.

Deformulation. If an alchemist has, in his possession, an alchemical substance for which he doesn't know (or have) the recipe, he can attempt to perform research on it, to discover its secrets and learn how to craft it. This is a multi-step process; if successful, it ends with the alchemist knowing the recipe for the item.

First, the alchemist must identify the substance. Successful identification allows the alchemist to proceed to the next step. (Note that identifying the substance may reveal the item as one for which the alchemist has, or can easily acquire, the written recipe, or find another alchemist to teach him the recipe, making the rest of the process unnecessary.) If the results of the identification are inconclusive, the alchemist can't proceed with the rest of the deformulation process until he successfully identifies the substance. If the alchemist gets a false identification result, he may proceed with the rest of the process, but takes a –10 penalty on all research checks. (As usual, the DM should make the identification check in secret, and not inform the player whether he's received a true or false result. See the Alchemy skill description for more information about identifying substances.)

Second, the alchemist must analyze the substance. This step is the heart of the research process, and takes the bulk of the time required for the entire process. Analyzing the substance takes one week, plus one additional week for every 10 points by which the substance's crafting DC exceeds 10.




Crafting an alchemical item requires two different kinds of ingredients. The first kind is reagents: various common organic or mineral substances, tinctures, catalysts, herbal extracts, and other such ingredients which are common to many different alchemical processes and techniques. Reagents required to craft an alchemical item cost 10% of the item's gold piece value, and are readily available for purchase in most communities.

Optional Rule: Easier Spell Item Crafting

If you want spellcasters to be able to easily craft potions and other items that closely resemble or duplicate the effects of spells that they can cast, this rule provides a way to do that. In this variant, spellcaster alchemists can create certain alchemical items in an alternate way, one that involves imbuing a spell into a specially prepared solution which is latent with magical energy, and may hold the effects of a spell in it.

The nature of the special solution depends on the class of the spellcaster: a sorcerer might have to use dragon's blood, a cleric might use concentrated holy water, a druid might use dew collected from leaves of plants in a dryad's grove, etc. Regardless, the total value of solution required is equal to the normal cost of the special ingredients needed to craft the item the "normal" way.

Crafting an alchemical item in this alternate way takes the same amount of time as crafting it the normal way; on each day of crafting, the appropriate spell must be cast (except that instead of having its normal effect, the spell is absorbed into the item being worked on). An Alchemy skill check must still be made to determine whether the item is successfully crafted (with the usual chance of mishap on failure, etc.). However, an additional check must be made, using the crafter's caster level for the spell being imbued, plus his spellcasting ability modifier. This check must also beat the crafting DC, but it gains no benefit from the aid of an assistant, nor from favorable facilities (i.e. an alchemist's lab). It is this second check which determines the results of the crafting (see Table: Crafting Check Results in the Alchemy skill description). Failure, again, carries the chance of mishap.

A spellcaster can use this crafting method to craft any of the following items (see table) associated with spells which he can cast. Learning recipes is not required for crafting items in this way. Only spells cast by the alchemist may be used, not spell-like abilities, or spell effects from items, etc. Spells cast by other characters likewise don't suffice.

darkvision eye drops of darkvision
barkskin potion of barkskin
fly potion of flying
invisibility potion of invisibility
cure light wounds potion of healing
cure serious wounds potion of extra healing
breath of life potion of super healing

The ability to craft an item in this way doesn't confer knowledge of the item's recipe for crafting it the normal way, nor can the alchemist teach another character how to craft an item using this alternate method.

The second kind of ingredients for alchemical items is special ingredients (also known as special components). Such ingredients are specific to each item; one item might require a roc's heart and the tears of a woman of noble birth, while another item might call for an ounce of crushed hellwasp wings, a shard of rusted mithril, and a bottled banshee's wail. Special ingredients are often rare, and may not be available for purchase in any particular community or at any given time (it may be possible for adventurers to acquire them personally, however; the heart of a roc, for instance, may be gotten by killing a roc and cutting out its heart). When available for purchase, the special ingredients required to craft an item cost, in total, 40% of the item's gold piece value. (Some particularly simple alchemical items, such as acid, are listed as required "Special components: None". This means that the ingredients required to craft such items are common materials which are readily available for purchase in most communities, and are not worth specifying — they are merely "ingredients for acid", etc.)

Special Ingredients

parts of creatures: eyes, hearts, teeth, claws, etc.

parts of magical or mystical creatures (fire weirds and other elementals, ghosts/undead, other weird shit)

creations of magical or mystical creatures (phase spider silk)

mystical or metaphorical ingredients (moonbeams, tears of woman of noble birth, etc.)

symbolic components (coffin nail for death or killing; coffin nail from someone important? etc.)

metals and other special materials

minerals (gemstones, semiprecious stuff, ores, purified minerals)

elemental matter

plants - tree bark, flowers, roots, etc. (some of which are magical/mystical/etc., only grow in certain places, only work if they were tended by druids/other specific people/beings, etc.)

captured effects (bottled banshee's wail, etc.)

modified (possibly in weird ways) other stuff: rusted mithril, etc.

live ingredients (an actual live spider, a swarm of apocalypse frogs, etc.)

planar or arcane effects (a sphere of annihilation, lol)

other magic items!

technological jokes

modified some ingredients by acquisition method: "freely given" vs. "taken by force" vs. "taken in battle" vs. "stolen unbeknownst" vs. "tricked out of" etc.

crystals - naturally found (incl. in unusual/planar/elemental locations, or ones with/near specific magical/etc. effects/phenomena), and specially cut/etc.

(the ingredients should come from sources with a CR commensurate with the level of the items they're used in, and should have a cost that matches the recipe, and that is appropriate to appear in treasure of the creature - correlate with, and add to, treasure tables)

Costs and quantities

Crafting costs for any alchemical item (i.e. the cost of ingredients) is equal to one-half the gold piece value of the item. For simple and wondrous alchemical items, that gold piece value (also called "price" or "market price") is given in the item's listing, on the Alchemical Items page. The gold piece value of a potion is equal to its spell level · its caster level · 50 gp.


Given the low price of some alchemical items, and the daily output that an alchemist can create, it would seem that an alchemist could create massive quantities of, say, alchemist's fire, or healing potions, in a very short time. Is this the case, or are there any limitations that prevent such large-scale production?

Creation of alchemical items in bulk is limited by availability of ingredients. Special ingredients for alchemical items may not be available for purchase (see Ingredients, above). Even when common ingredients for alchemical items such as acid are available for purchase (this is usually true in larger towns and cities), there is not an inexhaustible supply of them. The quantity of such ingredients available for purchase in any given community is determined by the DM, and depends on many factors, such as the size of the community, its location, and various difficult-to-predict factors of economics, natural resources, and more. A character can usually acquire [INSERT COMMENT ON COMMUNITY SIZE HERE].

A journeyman alchemist can create up to a total value of 1,000 gp of alchemical items in one day's worth of work; a more skilled alchemist can create alchemical items more quickly. An alchemist can create up to 2,000 gp of alchemical items per day if he has at least 10 ranks in the Alchemy skill, and up to 3,000 gp per day if he has 20 ranks. This assumes 8 hours of crafting over the course of the day, which is the most time an alchemist can spend in one day on crafting; crafting a lesser total value of items in one day than the maximum takes proportionally less time.

Crafting DCs

The Alchemy check DCs for crafting alchemical items are given in the item's listing, on the Alchemical Items page.

Superior versions of an item

For some alchemical items, extraordinary success on an Alchemy check made to craft an item — beating the crafting DC by 10 or more — allows an alchemist to create superior versions of the item. Such items might do more damage, provide higher bonuses to checks, last longer, or might be more powerful than the base version of the item in some other way. The superior versions of alchemical items, if any, are described in the item's listing on the Alchemical Items page. Although superior items do not take any longer to craft, and consume no more ingredients, than the base item, they are substantially more valuable; determining the market price of such an item is left to the DM's discretion, as superior items are almost never found for sale to the general public.

See the Alchemical Items page for a complete list of alchemical items, and information about their effects and their crafting requirements.


Creating Items