Alchemy is a skill which deals with the use of magical energies created by the reaction of otherwise relatively mundane ingredients. The end result of which is an alchemical product which can be used for a lot of magical effects. As a skill alchemy can hardly avoid the comparisons to low magic, both in terms of how it works out of character and how it works in character, the two remain similar.
Comparing Alchemy and Low MagicEdit
Alchemy is, by its nature, considered to be one of the schools of low magic. However, while low magic and alchemy shares some traits, the practise of alchemy is so wildly divergent from any other school of magic that its pursuit is considered a separate practise. In truth, where the schools of magic have evolved from a pursuit of secrets and intense study over thousands of generations, alchemy is believed to have evolved from a series of crafts, growing from experimentation and research.
Where wizards and sorcerers practise the art of manipulating the many ethereal energies present on the Plane of Existence and beyond, alchemists work to trap the energies present on the Plane of Existence and store them for later use. Some of the same techniques are involved, alchemists use similar sigils to the ones wizards do, but they do not use Prime Words or other power sources common to low magic. The sigils are there to contain and direct the power of the items they are using for their recipes. As such, finding sigils written on the apparatus or the floor of the laboratory of an alchemist is far from a rare occurrence.
The power of alchemy comes from transmutation. While low magic has its strength in certain areas, there are few who are as adept at altering a substance as an alchemist. Through their arcane rites they can cause liquid to become flame by the mere breaking of a flask or they can cause a sapling to grow to stupendous size with the mere addition of some of their more potent potions. While neither camp certainly do not share their secrets with outsiders, alchemists have been known to band together in numbers, supporting each other in the pursuit of greater knowledge and skill.
In aid of keeping these secrets, alchemists, like wizards, have taken to concealing their knowledge behind layers of elaborate code. Alchemists are, in fact, especially known for their fanciful codes, where recipes for strange and potent brews may be hidden, not merely in texts but in images and pictures crafted by skilled scribes. To outsiders such codes are all but unbreakable.
The general focus on craft rather than on learning means that the alchemists are generally seen as less important than the wizards and they lack the exalted place in society that wizards will often occupy. Alchemists are therefore often seen vying with the other craftsmen for apprentices at the trade fairs and similar. It is certainly one of the more respected crafts, but it fails to approach a status comparable to that of a wizard.
Learning Alchemy and SpecialisationEdit
All alchemists are separate and different individuals and their skill bears the mark of this. While they are not as reclusive as wizards, their own specialities will mean a lot to the people who are hired to be their apprentices. An alchemist who specialises in metallurgy will ultimately pass this on to his apprentices, though in some rare cases journeyman alchemists have been known to diverge from the paths of their masters.
Typically, an alchemist will start out as an apprentice to a master, spending their days and nights cleaning out the laboratory, ensuring that the master's demands are taken care of and similar, with the alchemist teaching them their trade whenever he has time.
Once they have proven themselves to be suitably valuable students, the apprentices are given the rank of journeyman and they will spend the next couple of years wandering from town to town, picking up tips and ideas from local alchemists as they go, often carrying with them miniature laboratories which allows them to craft simple things they can sell to ensure their own survival.
As the years and knowledge start to pile up, most alchemists will grow weary of travelling and desire to end their journeys. When this happens they will most likely found a laboratory of their own or join or take over an established laboratory. At this point the alchemists usually don the mantle of master alchemist and will take on apprentices of their own.
When they settle down the alchemist will usually cease learning from other alchemists and will learn new recipes through their own experiments, whether in collaboration with the other inhabitants of the laboratory or not. This is also where most alchemists truly free themselves from the yoke of their teachers and truly take what they have learned from others in a direction that is entirely their own.
There are as many specialisations within alchemy as there is within low magic. Some may choose to pursue the healing arts, others may focus on the power contained in nature and these are often named herbologists, doctors or appropriate names, others again may focus their tasks on metallurgy, while still others pursue interests such as dyes and inks, body modifications, soaps and perfumes, poisons and venoms, and so on. The only thing which truly joins them is their method and approach.
The natural home of any alchemist is the laboratory. It is where they set up their strange experiments and even stranger equipment. It is said, in some circles, that an alchemist moving into a town is the best thing that can happen to its local glassblower and this is not far from the truth. Most alchemists use a great variety of glassware for their experiments, it should be noted that exactly what equipment an alchemist uses depends entirely on the individual alchemist, their particular specialisation will define what equipment they need. A metallurgist will have little use for an alembic, but it is nonetheless a staple of most alchemical laboratories.
Alchemists make use of many strange devices, vats, cooling spirals, alembics, athanors, distillation apparatus and all manner of things ranging from the mundane to the outright peculiar. Accomplished alchemists may even have unique pieces of apparatus where they themselves have imbued them with alchemical properties.
Of course, an important part of conducting alchemical experiments are the sigils, these can often be found written on the surface of the equipment, on the floor of the laboratory or anywhere the alchemist believes that they may serve a purpose.
As a by product of their strange experiments and their equally strange ingredients alchemical laboratories will often be a place suffused in strange and powerful odours. Failed experiments can often have violent results, leading to everything from intelligent slime to potent explosions and bursts of flame. As a result of this alchemists often invest heavily in protective gear, heavy leather aprons and gloves, fire-retardant cloaks, and so on.
All alchemical production takes place in part because of the ingredients used, these, in conjunction with the sigil, create the end product. Naturally these are often strange and wondrous things, drake teeth, lion claws, wolfsbane, broken hearts, the kiss of a dying man, the alchemist’s blood, rat skulls, all these things and many, many more are used in alchemy. Ingredients should fit the item they are being made to, a rat’s jaw would not fit very well in a love potion for instance.
For the player they are primarily props, for the alchemist they are the lifeblood of their craft. A shortage of ingredients would mean a decided halt to an alchemist’s endeavours in whatever field they are pursuing, keeping them coming is therefore an important aspect of alchemy and creating connections that can procure these things, as well as gathering them personally is a vital part of being an alchemist.
Ingredients too play a part in the role of an alchemist, some might just use herbs and be a goodwife or healer in a village somewhere, dabbling in alchemy to aid the villagers. Others might be the type to draw their ingredients from the local cemetery as they search for the key to creating life from scratch.
The Object of AlchemyEdit
There is no such thing as an ultimate goal for alchemy, because of its many bifurcations there exists in alchemy a multiplicity of goals. Some may simply be pursuing alchemy because it puts food on the table and it’s a respectable trade, though it should be noted that these seldom go far. Others seek spiritual perfection, granted these are considered somewhat amusing to wizards who actually have the tools to attain the goals these alchemists set out for. Others seek nothing less than knowledge of the world around them and are hugely successful in this pursuit.
Where alchemy wins out is in its manipulation of matter, as compared to low magic it excels at manipulating the body, metals, fluids and all manner of other material things which would be an extremely difficult process for low magic to do. However, alchemy lacks the casual interaction marked by high magic, comparatively high magic is better at manipulating its chosen element than alchemy, but high magic is much more limited.
Weaknesses and Strengths of AlchemyEdit
Alchemy is an art which uses the material as its medium. As such its effects must, at all times, be contained through these mediums. Alchemy cannot effect someone unless they are in contact with the alchemical product. As it is very dependent on the material, alchemy is fairly clumsy when it comes to manipulating mental and spiritual matters. While alchemists can create emotions in others through the use of potions or similar, this method is neither very subtle nor good for fine control. It is possible for an alchemist to implant an emotion in someone’s head, but planting a thought, or a wiping out a specific memory instead of the whole lot is near impossible.
From an Out of Character PerspectiveEdit
Alchemy is a skill separate from low magic, though it will occasionally overlap. It is different from low magic in that instead of resting on a series of spells which are gained with experience, alchemy bases itself in a series of Components. Components are an entirely out of character concept to make sense of how alchemy is taught. Instead of being based in fixed potion recipes or similar (though it is entirely possible to find recipes for such through in character actions) is based on these Components. Components can be pretty much anything your mind can conjure up, however, it should be noted that they tend to be mixed together to make a successful potion or other alchemical item. A Component has a certain function in the alchemical process, it can be the form of the end product, for example a draught, its effect, discerning the truth, or its intended area of effect, the eyes. With these three Components you might create something like a Potion of True Sight, which allows the wearer to see through magical illusions or something similar. The exact end effect is up to the player, the idea is just to mix these into a series of alchemical items which fit your idea for an alchemist. For example, if you have an Alchemist who is primarily interested in perfumes, you might mix the Truth Discerning Component with a Perfume Component and get a perfume which smells sour when it’s sprayed on something which is fake.
Keep in mind that Components are entirely out of character concept, when roleplaying your character, the things you mix to make your potions, draughts, perfumes and who knows what will be entirely different. Some may mix drake teeth, virgin’s blood and scarabs or all manner of strange and bizarre ingredients to get their recipes right. Particularly potent ingredients for potions will often be extremely valuable to your alchemist character and searching for these may often be an important part of why your character would venture from the relatively safe confines of the laboratory. The important part is to keep the recipes you create true to the character you are making, if he is an alchemist who is very interested in the nature of truth for instance the Discern Truth Component would be vital, with several form Components to complement different ways and means of ferreting out the truth. Whereas if the alchemist is preoccupied with perfumes, he would have relatively few form Components and instead using several effect Components to complement this.
Naturally, certain Components will work differently together, Perfume and Love will cause anyone smelling the perfume to have feelings towards the person wearing it, whereas Draught and Love will cause only the person that is drinking it to have those feelings, although the effect may be stronger. Keep in mind that not only the particular recipes you want your character to come up with is up to you, but also how their effects take place. If you’re making a Potion of Flight, for instance it may cause the imbiber to simply hover, or it may make them sprout wings and have to go through the much more laborious task of physically flying. Think about which would make more sense for the character.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that putting two Components together may turn into more than one type of item. Taking, for example, Love and Draught, you could create a Love Potion, which made anyone drinking it fall in love, or you could make a Friendship Potion, which just made the person drinking it feel more amiable towards whomever it was.
A character with the alchemy skill gains one Component per skill level. The player can freely choose what Component this will be and should note this in their Character Sheet or profile.
It’s important to note that alchemy is far from a perfect science. Alchemically created items can often have unforeseen side effects, sometimes these may be beneficial, usually they are not. For the most part this will be up to the person playing the alchemist to decide upon, side effects will probably be relatively common at low levels and reduce as the person advances in their studies. Side effects may range the gamut from hiccups, to turning purple, to horrible rashes, to temporarily gaining mental insight into completely unrelated matters, to serious poisoning and everything in between.
Another, less welcome, side effect of alchemy is that its practitioners may end up rather unhealthy. Alchemical laboratories tend to be filled with noxious fumes and other things and often have poor air circulation, resulting in poor health among its more experienced practitioners.
List of ComponentsEdit
Please note that this list is by no means intended to be conclusive, it is just suggested as an aid to the prospective alchemist and the player can make their own as needed.
Acidic – Has a tendency to give chemical burns and corrode stuff.
Alter metal – Changes the properties of a metal.
Anger – Fills the imbiber with anger.
Blind – Turns the imbiber temporarily blind.
Colour – Turns the imbiber a certain colour.
Combustible – Potential for explosive combustion.
Darksight – Allows the imbiber to see in the dark.
Dazzle – Makes the imbiber seem so much more interesting, it’s impressive just how many qualities that person has that no one has noticed before, really.
Discern Truth – Can be used to see through lies, illusions, etc.
Flesh Grow – Grows flesh into to fit into the mould it is in, requires living tissue to start with.
Flight – Allows the imbiber to take flight, temporarily.
Golden – Turns a metal temporarily into gold.
Harden – Makes something or someone more difficult to damage.
Hate – Instils feelings of hate in the imbiber temporarily.
Heal – Closes wounds, potentially both mental and physical.
Identify – Allows the alchemist to figure out what ingredients something consists of.
Lengthen Life – A potentially very powerful Component that lets someone live longer.
Love – Instils feelings of love in the imbiber temporarily.
Melt – Can melt certain objects, though probably not all objects.
Memory Master – Allows a person to remember things very easily indeed.
Memory Wipe – Removes someone’s memories temporarily.
Intelligence – Increases or instils intelligence in the imbiber.
Invisible – Can make the imbiber invisible or very hard to spot.
Knit Bone – Makes shattered bone whole.
Paralyse – Paralyses the imbiber temporarily.
Plant Grow – Causes a plant to grow at a highly accelerated speed.
Poison – Harms the imbiber, potentially lethal.
Sleep – Makes the imbiber sleep for a certain duration.
Smoky – Turns into smoke. Lots of it.
Strength – Makes the imbiber stronger temporarily.
Weary – Drains the imbiber of strength, makes them tired and sleepy.
Eyedrops – A fluid designed specifically to be dripped onto someone’s eye.
Draught – A fluid to be drunk.
Dye – A concoction designed to transmit colour and potentially other qualities to objects.
Flesh – A squishy solid which is hopefully alive.
Gas – A gas, usually as the result of a volatile effect, for the most part gases are the cause of reactions which take place when it is employed, alchemical equipment lacks the necessary air tight compartments to keep gas contained in any satisfactory fashion, making it a very difficult Component to work with.
Glass – A solid which has been imprinted with alchemical effects during its making.
Incense – A solid designed to release its effect through the slow burning.
Ink – A fluid designed to imprint itself on other things.
Metal – A solid often used for weapons, tumblers and many other things.
Oil - A viscous fluid designed to be smeared across a surface.
Perfume – A fluid which has an alluring scent and may have effects depending on that scent or simply on the skin of the one sprayed with it.
Pill – A small pill to be swallowed.
Powder – A powder which can be consumed or otherwise used.
Salve – A viscous fluid which is to be applied to the body in some form.
Soap – Intended for washing, may be liquid, may be solid.
Suppository – A rather larger pill that is not to be swallowed at all.
Particulars – Causes the effect to only happen to be limited to only certain parts of the body.
Directed – The effects will only centre on one particular person.
Reverse – Creates the opposite effect of the one intended.
Each skill level adds 1 Component of the player’s choosing.
0 - Someone without any skill in alchemy has little idea of the processes involved and are generally woefully ignorant of anything but the most common knowledge and legends concerning alchemists.
1 - At this level an alchemist has just started their tutelage and remains little better than those without any skill at all. While they may know some of the terms involved they will rarely be allowed to do any actual work around the laboratory, beyond sweeping or cleaning at least.
2 – At this level the alchemist actually starts becoming useful.
5 - At this point in their training the alchemist will be relatively familiar with the majority of the equipment of the laboratory and will probably be allowed to use it too.
10 -At about this level an alchemist has reached the point where they are ready to go out into the world as a journeyman alchemist.
15 - At about this level the alchemist is ready to start their own laboratory and give up their travelling ways and adorn themselves with the title of master alchemist. Of course, many spend several years yet travelling the roads learning from other alchemists.
20 - At this point an alchemist may as well be considered something of a celebrity in their own circles, they will only very rarely come across an alchemist more accomplished than they are. Alchemists around this level are considered respected authorities in their field and may often be visited by other alchemists seeking advice and knowledge from them.
25 - An alchemist who manages to reach this level has reached the absolute pinnacle of what is possible with alchemy. They have become the very stuff of which legend is made and their alchemical items are without compare. For those few who reach this exalted position, the field of alchemy itself may seem cramped and they may branch off into other things, or redefine alchemy entirely.