Roleplay Ramblings: Alchemy part 1
While magic items are a big part of the game, there will always be a use for those items that bridge the gap between magic and mundanity, alchemical items!
Alchemy in the real world is a broad term for a variety of philosophical and proto-scientific traditions found throughout the world that focused on understanding the relationship between the individual components of the world with each other and the spiritual. In other words, it was chemistry before the scientific method. Alchemists were often concerned with trying to “purify” metals, transmuting a “base” metal into a “noble” metal, the most famous example being lead into gold; or else they were concerned with some other magnum opus such as immortality, a true “universal solvent”, or even the curing of any disease by way of a universal medicine, or panacea. The idea of the Philosopher’s Stone was born from this, and was often said to be capable of any or all of these feats.
Alchemy also delivers to us the concept of creating life, such as homunculi, or even other constructs, including golems in Jewish folklore, mythos and alchemical/theurgical lore.
Of course, while alchemy did indeed lead to many advancements in how we approach the sciences to this very day, it was still shackled in many ways, such as an obsession with the ancient notion of a limited number of elements from which the world is made, as well as jealously guarding their discoveries behind ciphers and code like its sister philosophy, Theurgy, both of which fall alongside Astrology as the three core sciences of Hermeticism.
In pathfinder, however, alchemy covers the combined magical and chemical discipline that is the alchemist class, which we’ll cover at some point in the future, and the more mundane items they can create. Unlike alchemically brewed potions or the various concoctions that only work for the alchemist that made them, mundane alchemical items can be made by anyone with a sufficient training in the skill of crafting alchemical concoctions, and furthermore function for anyone who carries them.
Such items range from alchemical explosives, enhanced medicines, unique compounds ranging from using chemistry in clever and fantastical ways, to outright breaking physics as well. Of course, these items, just like truly magical items, are meant to be used in a world of fantasy and wonder, and while such items are never quite as powerful as their magical counterparts, they can still perform wondrous acts when used correctly.
Over the next week, we’re going to look at various examples of alchemical items, their uses, and even a neat subsystem devoted to creating alchemical items on the fly!