Alchemist: He rides the ogre.
Alchemist is classified as a melee Strength hero whose roles are all over the place. A mix of high damage, high health, debuffs, and a whole slew of other things make this disastrous duo a versatile hero. Alchemist’s backstory is pretty wonderful if you ask me. The little guy of the pair (the actual alchemist, Razzil Darkbrew) tried to turn a mountain into gold. He instead blew it up and destroyed a ton of stuff. In prison, he buddies up with the big fella (henceforth called “the ogre”). Razzil drugs him into a rage so they can break out of prison, with the ultimate goal of attempting to turn a mountain into gold (again).
A love for gold and a general indifference for destruction puts Razzil into the chaotic alignments, probably chaotic neutral. Of course, there is the ogre part of the equation. If DnD had such an alignment, the ogre would be neutral stupid (after all, it only has one head), but since that doesn’t exist I’d argue chaotic neutral also works best.
That brings me to an interesting problem that is (sadly) not unique to Alchemist: how do you write a character guide for a character who is… two separate people? Well, I’ve elected to solve this issue by dividing this guide in half. The first part of this guide will be creating Alchemist as a character meant to be played with two separate players. The second part of this guide will be creating Alchemist for a single player character (which, trust me, is a real mess). The first method is the recommended way to play: it works better, it’s more accurate, and it offers a unique opportunity to build and play a Dungeons and DotA character (characters?) with a friend.
Without dallying on what is to come, let’s assess Alchemist’s abilities really quickly.
Alchemist’s first ability is Acid Spray, an AOE attack that covers an area in acid, damaging and debuffing enemies who walk over it.
His second ability is Unstable Concoction, a ranged attack in which Alchemist cooks (like a grenade) a potion and tries to throw it at just the right time for the maximum stun duration and damage.
Alchemist’s passive ability is Greevil’s Greed. This passive gives Alchemist a lot more gold from killed units, but I’ll be upfront: there is no easy way to replicate this ability. Don’t get your hopes up. DnD 5e does not have a single spell, ability, or class feature that allows for the permanent transmutation from one material into another of greater value, besides the spell Wish.
Alchemist’s ultimate ability is Chemical Rage, a buff to the ogre he rides that makes him attack faster, move faster, and regenerate health.
With all these abilities, you might forget that Alchemist’s basic attack is the ogre punching things. In addition, the basic attack while using Chemical Rage is with dual swords. So how can you get your hands on a knock-off Alchemist in Dungeons and Dragons 5e? Let’s start with looking at trying to play this hero with two characters, then what it’s like as a single character.
Alchemist is comprised of, as I said, the ogre and the ogre rider. The ogre player should choose either Half-Orc or Orc as their race. Frankly, Half-Orc is the better choice of the two, though Orc provides the lore-accurate Intelligence decrease. The Razzil Darkbrew player should choose to be a Rock Gnome. The small size, bonus to Intelligence, and Artificer’s Lore feature fit with Razzil Darkbrew’s size and genius. For their respective classes, we’ll start with the ogre.
To recreate the Durable/Carry/Nuker parts of the ogre, Barbarian makes the most sense. The d12 hit die is the highest of any class, and Barbarian’s defensive abilities are truly extraordinary (not to mention how well Half-Orc plays as a Barbarian). Of course, Barbarian also gets the unique ability to rage. By adding just a little flavor, Rage can easily explained as being Chemical Rage. This correlation to the DotA 2 ability only furthers in later Barbarian levels: you get Fast Movement at level 5 and Relentless Rage at level 11, respectively emulating the increased movement speed and health regen of Chemical Rage.
In terms of subclass, you’ll want to take up the Path of the Berserker. Out of all subclasses, this one fits the ogre best. Berserker seeks to maximize a Barbarian’s lethality, so there’s no better choice for a dumb ogre that enjoys smashing things.
As far as the ogre goes, that’s all there is for the class, so let’s turn to Razzil (the more complicated of the two).
The “alchemist” part of Alchemist can really only be recreated by Wizard. This fits in what abilities Wizard can recreate as well as with the lore: just as Razzil studied the “sacred science of Chymistry,” Wizards gain their magical powers through studying.
At level one you’ll receive 3 cantrips and a handful of spells to cast. I won’t go through every cantrip and spell you should take, but I will highlight a few. For cantrips, Acid Splash and Poison Spray are obvious choices to partially fit the role of Alchemist’s ability Acid Spray. Of course, there’s much more to Acid Spray then just damage: it also lowers armor in a large area. Sadly, at level one you won’t be able to achieve this effect. The Unstable Concoction ability, however, is somewhat within reach.
In throwing his Unstable Concoction, Alchemist prepares and throws a stunning bomb. The issue is the “stun” status effect isn’t very common in DnD 5e. Only a handful of abilities and spells allow a player to stun an enemy, and none of them available to Wizard at level 1. You can, however, effectively lob flasks with the spell Catapult and a few items from the shop. The Catapult spell from Elemental Evil allows you to chuck an object weighing 1 to 5 pounds 150 feet. The objects you’re going to be chucking are acid vials and alchemist’s fire.
This is a very fun high-damage combo at early levels: you’ll be dealing 3d8 damage from the impact of Catapult and an additional 2d6 acid damage (if you choose to throw an acid vial) or 1d4 fire damage (if you choose to throw an alchemist’s fire). Because you’re using the spell Catapult to fling these items, you ignore the 20 foot throw range and improvised weapon status of both of these items, which is also pretty wonderful. The only downside of this spell is that it’s “save or suck,” meaning if the enemy passes their Dexterity saving throw they take no damage. That being said, when using this method of attack you can line up multiple enemies: The first may pass the saving throw, but will the second and third behind them?
At Wizard level 2 you’re going to take the Transmutation Wizard, obviously. The closest that you’ll ever get to Greevil’s Greed is using the Transmutation Wizard class feature Minor Alchemy. With this ability, you can transmute up to 1 cubic foot of material into another (from a list) for every 10 minutes spent performing the procedure. This transmutation lasts up to an hour or until you lose your concentration. The language here is interesting: not once does it say this effect is magical. Your DM may rule otherwise, but I argue that this effect cannot be perceived with Detect Magic, especially seeing as how it is not an illusion but actually changing the physical properties of the item.
Essentially, you can use this ability to turn wood into silver, buy something with the 100% real silver, then get out of town an hour later in order to not get caught. It’s not permanent, but it’s the best way you can use this class ability to get more gold.
Finally, by Wizard level 5 you’ll get the other half of Acid Spray: the third level spell Slow. This is an amazing support spell overall and it also lowers armor, just like Acid Spray! This spell also works well with the Catapult combo, penalizing Dexterity saving throws in the area. You can also use your level 3 spell slot to cast the spell Haste on your ogre mount. This works well with the ogre’s barbarian rage, giving it doubled movement, an AC bonus, and additional attacks – oh my!
As you continue down the Transmutation Wizard line, you’ll get access to other neat spells. Fabricate fits with the concept of making an actual alchemist, Power Word Stun is a sloppy mimic for the Unstable Concoction stun ability, and with the level 9 spell Wish you can finally create gold!
You’ll also get some Transmutation Wizard goodies, like the Transmuter’s Stone which you could use to give the ogre even more movement speed. Of course, there’s more to creating Razzil than his class – let’s look now to equipment for him and the ogre.
The Half-Orc player doesn’t need anything other than two swords. At first, these will have to be shortswords. If you can get a feat (mentioned later) these will instead be longswords. Because of unarmored defense, you won’t need any armor or really any other equipment.
The Gnome player has a similar small list. If you’re going to use the Catapult combo, you’re going to be spending all of your money on alchemist’s fire and acid vials. Health potions are cool, too, but who needs healing? If you’re playing Razzil, the only answer is your ogre.
In a strange twist, I’m actually going to be discussing magic items. This probably will not happen often in future articles, but Alchemist gets a magic item that I personally recommend. This item is of course: the Alchemy Jug, an uncommon wondrous item. This jug can dispense a variety of liquids to various amounts, recharging at the next dawn. Among these liquids is acid! So, rather than blowing all your money on acid vials, you just blow your money on vials and fill them with acid yourself. You can also fill the vials with mayonnaise, so that’s pretty cool.
Playing the Duo
Just like in DotA, playing the duo involves the person playing Razzil, the Gnome, to use the person playing the ogre, the Orc or Half-Orc, as a mount. This is allowed by the rules as written: “A willing creature that is at least one size larger than you and that has an appropriate anatomy can serve as a mount, using the following rules. . .” You can check page 198 in the Player’s Handbook for additional rules about mounts, but the basics are as follows:
- The character being ridden has the rider count against their carry weight
- The riding character must be of a smaller size than the character they are riding
- The riding player cannot control the movement of the player being ridden
There’s a whole lot more to mounted combat, but these rules are particularly important. Ultimately, it’s up to your Dungeon Master whether or not this is allowed (but if they don’t allow it they are certified lame).
I recommend a few feats if your DM allows them at your table:
For the Half-Orc player, Dual Wielder is excellent. It provides a bonus to armor and better damage output while engaging in two-weapon fighting. The armor bonus this feat provides also stacks with Barbarian unarmored defense. This feat also lets you use one-handed but non-light weapons in two-weapon fighting, so to be the most accurate to the character, you could dual wield longswords (making use of that weapon’s versatile trait).
For the Gnome player, talk with your DM about using the Mounted Combatant feat to give your ogre friend a big bonus to Dexterity saving throws. Technically, this is allowed in the rules as written. Besides this, there are no feats I really recommend for Razzil.
If you’re playing the ogre portion of the duo you’re going to want Strength and Constitution as your highest scores. If you’re worried about saving throws for spell effects, Dexterity or Wisdom are good choices for a third-highest score. In fitting with the lore and the Barbarian stereotype, Intelligence should be your lowest score.
If you’re playing the Razzil Darkbrew portion of the duo you’ll want Intelligence as your highest score along with probably Dexterity for the sake of damage avoidance. When you’re riding a massive, hasted, raging half-orc… you really don’t have much to worry about.
If you’re playing Alchemist alone, you can only pick one race – but which one? In creating alchemist for one player, I recommend going with Half-Orc or Orc to recreate the ogre. I say this because the Ogre does all the heavy lifting. Movement, basic attacks… other stuff. It only seemed fair. Of these two, I recommend Half-Orc due to the multiclass we’ll be using.
For a single character, no single class can really do what Alchemist does (though I’d love to be proven wrong). You’re going to be doing a strange multiclass of Wizard-Barbarian to achieve the most Alchemist-like abilities. By the end, I recommend taking 14 levels in Barbarian and 6 levels in Wizard, starting with Barbarian. Of course, after going into Barbarian you can take the levels in any order you please. You’re probably thinking: “Wait a minute, Barbarian and Wizard is a horrible multiclass!” And you’d be right! Like I said, I strongly recommend you play this hero with a friend and as two characters.
As a Barbarian, you’ll be going Berserker just like you would if using the two-player guide.
Going into Wizard for a few levels will lower your health quite a bit, but, due to the Unarmored Defense feature from Barbarian, you shouldn’t be in too much trouble. Do keep in mind that you cannot cast spells, including cantrips, while raging. In fact, you can’t even concentrate on spells while raging. Just as before, assuming you aren’t raging, you’ll be using the Catapult combo. Still do get spells like Slow and cantrips like Acid Splash and Poison Spray.
Equipment and Feats
With this build, you won’t need any armor thanks to Barbarian. You will need two short swords (to dual wield like the ogre does) and as many acid vials and alchemist fires as you’re willing to carry. Besides these items, there’s really not anything else you need (unless you want that Alchemy Jug for acid… and mayonnaise).
For feats, again I recommend you take Dual Wielder. Because you’ll at least sometimes be casting spells, you’ll also need War Caster to complete a spell’s somatic components while two-weapon fighting.
For this single-player build to work, you’ll need high Strength, Constitution, and Intelligence. Some players refer to this as MAD: Multi-Abilityscore-Dependent. The single-player build being MAD only accentuates how clunky it is.
Whether playing the two-player Alchemist duo or the clunky, lonely, single-player version, you’ll be brewing potions and laughing maniacally in no time! Unless you have any particular requests for which character to do next, I plan on continuing down the roster of heroes alphabetically. Let me know if I missed anything or if there are any other spells you’d take as Razzil Darkbrew. And as always: failure is just another kind of success. The wrong kind.