Kevin has been playing tabletop games for almost as long as he can remember and currently edits for Jon Brazer Enterprises.
An Overview of the Mindchemist Alchemist
Generally, there are two paths you can take when you’re making an alchemist: you can focus on your strength score, use your mutagen to boost it, and become a brute-like hulk, throwing tables and chairs and bashing things in the face with weapons; or you can concentrate on the more mental aspects of the class, maximizing your Intelligence to increase your number of bombs per day, and being more of a scientist (and probably a mad one, at that). If you go the Intelligence route, you often don’t get much use out of your mutagens (generally, you’d boost Dexterity to increase your chance to hit with bombs, but since they’re already touch attacks, you don’t need too much of a boost). That’s where the mindchemist archetype (Ultimate Magic 19) comes in.
At the first level, instead of learning how to create mutagens, the mindchemist learns to create a cognatogen instead. A cognatogen (see the discovery on page 15 of Ultimate Magic ) is essentially the opposite of a mutagen—it boosts a mental ability score at the cost of reducing a physical one. This allows you to increase your Intelligence and reduce your Strength—and if you’re not planning on hulking out often (or if you never plan to do it), this is a wonderful trade-off for you. Cognatogens are available to all alchemists as a discovery, though, so the mindchemist has a few other abilities to round out the archetype.
At the second level, the mindchemist trades poison use (and since he’s probably not using physical weapons very often, he didn’t need it to begin with) for perfect recall. Whenever the mindchemist makes a Knowledge skill check or an Intelligence check to remember something, he gets to add his Intelligence bonus twice. That may not seem like much, but when you remember that your primary ability score is Intelligence, and you can use your cognatogen to boost it further, that’s a pretty hefty increase, especially because it applies to every Knowledge skill.
Just to prove how devoted they are to mental pursuits, mindchemists can also, in place of a discovery, take Skill Focus in Disable Device, Disguise, Heal, Knowledge skills, Sense Motive, and Spellcraft, and they can also decide to learn three new languages in place of a discovery.
With all of these little bits combined, the mindchemist can make some seriously impressive Knowledge checks with just a single rank. At the first level, with a 17 Intelligence, a mindchemist is looking at a +10 bonus to Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (nature) checks just with a single rank. That’s pretty impressive, giving the alchemist a sizeable advantage over the bard and the wizard in specialized knowledge, though he can’t really compete with either in a breadth of knowledge.
Here’s a sample mindchemist build, designed to take advantage of the perfect recall ability to tackle those really tough questions and also reliably identify any constructs, dragons, and magical beasts he might run into. Switching the focus to Knowledge (nature) maximizes your ability to identify animals, fey, and monstrous humanoids instead. If you’re so inclined, you could always take Skill Focus in both, though.
Elven Alchemist (Mindchemist): 5
Ability Scores (15 Point Buy): Str 8, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 17, Wis 13, Cha 10
Feats and Discoveries:
1 Point Blank Shot
2 Precise Bombs
3 Precise Shot
5 Skill Focus (Knowledge (arcana))
At level five, this mindchemist will have a whopping +19 bonus on Knowledge (arcana) skill checks, assuming you put your ability score increase at the fourth level into Intelligence. When his mutagen’s up, that bonus increases to +21. This guy’s got about a 50% chance of identifying the abilities of a CR 20 dragon, just off the top of his head. It’s only going to go up from there, as the mindchemist increases his Intelligence and gets a headband of intellect. A human mindchemist can spare an extra feat for Skill Focus in Knowledge (nature), giving him the same expertise in that field, as well. It’s worth noting that a single rank in a Knowledge skill will grant a +9 bonus at level five, so if you want to have a wider breadth of Knowledge, it’s really easy to pull off.
Of course, that’s not all he can do. He’s got the infusion discovery to pass around buffs to his party members, his Knowledge skills can provide crucial information about difficult enemies, and he can avoid hitting his allies with splash damage from his bombs, so he’s still quite able to contribute in combat.
That’s the mindchemist in brief. It’s definitely a worthy archetype for an alchemist that wants to really play up the mental aspects of the class and downplay the physical ones. Personally, my only complaint is that they don’t gain all Knowledge skills as class skills.
Kevin C Morris (author) from SOUTH BEND on October 14, 2011:
That'd definitely work well for the mindchemist. Being able to make Knowledge skills untrained would really help them out. Nice find!
JontyB on October 14, 2011:
Excellent guide: I may well try this for next character.
Just thought the "Breadth of Experience" feat from the APG might be better value than "Skill Focus: Knowledge"... +2 bonus on ALL Knowledge AND Profession skill checks, and youcan make checks with those skills untrained.Possibly a little bit overpowered, really.Only for elves, gnomes or dwarves over 100 mind!