If you’ve been keeping up with my review series on the Deep Magic: Alkemancy supplement for 5th Edition from Kobold Press, you know that last time was rough, but we’re not done yet! This supplement also contained a whole new school of magic: Alkemancy. Of course, this was accompanied by an Arcane Tradition subclass for wizards. As a note before we dive in, I was provided a free copy to review. This in no way skews my opinions. With that out of the way, let’s dive in!
Arcane Tradition: School of Alkemancy
Since it’s presented first, let’s talk about this wizard subclass. We open the subclass with some flavor text I enjoyed pretty well. I think it missed the mark a bit, because this was an excellent opportunity to differentiate your standard “alchemy” from “alkemancy.” With just a few textual tweaks, this really could have had me going, “Okay. I dig that alkemancy name, now. I see where they’re going with this.”
As with all “school of ___” subclasses for the wizard, their initial feature makes them better at copying spells of their chosen school into their spellbooks. Pretty straightforward, if I do say so, myself. Good start.
This feature begins my concerns with this subclass. I won’t beat the proverbial dead horse, talking about why this whole thing should be called “alchemy” instead of “alkemancy.” I will briefly mention that the name for this ability doesn’t feel incredibly evocative. It’s serviceable, but I would have liked a pinch more flavor. I think this would have been an excellent opportunity for the authors to really dive into what makes alkemancy different from alchemy. Like much of this supplement, there’s a lot of good here, and the mechanics are pretty solid, but missing that flavor mark hurts it for me.
This feature boils down to letting you use alchemist’s supplies and making you better at damaging things with potions. As I discussed in my last review, there are no such things as alchemical weapons explicitly given in the book, so an entire part of this feature can be ignored. But let’s say we assume that wording includes potions thrown as improvised weapons. This feature suddenly feels just about perfect for what it is, when compared to other wizard subclass features.
My only confusion here is that the wizard isn’t also getting proficiency with an herbalism kit. The reason this is important is because potions of healing are made with an herbalism kit, not alchemist’s supplies. This becomes an issue in their 10th-level feature, which specifically calls out potions of healing and their being made by characters with this subclass. Otherwise, I like this feature. Slap an herbalism kit proficiency into it as a bonus, and I’m sold.
Here’s where this subclass gets good for me. Options are exciting and fun, and if you have a wizard player at your table, chances are they love crunching numbers or coming up with inventive solutions to problems. This feature gives the wizard some new and interesting tools to play with, and I really like how this is the first time the subclass dives headlong into the theme of alkemancy. It works on every level.
This feature initially struck me as being a touch overpowered, if only a hair. A lot of that reaction was based on the fact that, in the 5th Edition system more than others, options equal power. That lends to my gut reaction presuming this is power creep-ish.
Then I looked at the School of Necromancy wizard and realized this wasn’t near that level. So, it’s good, and considering it leans so heavily into the theme of this entire document, I think this is a great feature; rule of cool and all that.
Craft Minor Elixir
Here we have an example of how important it is to ensure your subclass absolutely provides the tools to make use of its previous feature tiers. This feature builds on previous tiers, especially that initial 2nd-level feature. I won’t harp on what I said before, but this ability pretty much requires proficiency in an herbalism kit to work as intended. That being said, this feature feels solid to me, comparable to what other wizards get at this level.
Path of the Golden Glower
While this feature might feel overpowered, I think it isn’t nearly as much as it appears. Resistance to acid and poison simply makes sense here, and the rest could easily be managed by the Game Master.
This feature showcases the philosophy behind this subclass, which puts a lot of the power or lack thereof into the GM’s hands. Much like everything surrounding this document, alchemical concoctions and potions possess very liquid balance (pun intended). What I mean by this is a lot of the availability of necessary ingredients is dependent on the GM and their worldbuilding.
For this reason, I think this subclass is a fun and fascinating option for players, and especially for those who like to delve more into the mechanics side of things, this will be a real treat. However, I would caution inexperienced GMs from allowing this subclass, as much of it depends on materials and cost. Anyone wanting to run a game for this character will need to have a moderate grasp of core mechanics and in-game economics.
Don’t let that scare you away, though. This subclass offers an opportunity to learn said principles, and I think GMing for a character using this class would offer insight into these areas of balance rather quickly. The GM might just need to have bandits or other greedy curmudgeons show up to steal some excess at times… >.>
If I were to cover every spell, this article would get out of hand. What I will say is these spells fill a niche I never realized was so lacking in the current system until I read them. They’re good. None of them feel game breaking, as their balance compares to existing spells.
I actually love some of the creative things these spells do, and while I could absolutely see an argument for reflavoring existing spells in some cases, when compared with what’s here, each offers a unique spin that other spells simply don’t provide.
Additionally, these spells (finally) convinced me of why this would be called “alkemancy” instead of just “alchemy.” The blending of other schools of magic with potion and ooze themes is wonderful, and the spells section was what really breathed life into this document for me.
Picking a favorite is really hard here. If I had to, I’d say my favorite in terms of flavor is probably bottomless stomach, which enables a character to consume vast quantities of food and beverage. It also enables consumption of hazardous materials, such as acid, and I never realized how much D&D needed this spell until I pictured my skinny gnome wizard guzzling a hefty tankard he can barely lift, full of toxic ale. Just let that image sit for a minute.
What’s the verdict?
Needless to say, this section has a lot of good things in it. I especially loved the spells, which were so flavorful and fun that I literally changed my mind about the naming and flavor of the document. However, if you’re looking for a final verdict on the whole, you’ll have to wait just a bit longer, as I’ve got one more article to cover this. Next time, we’ll be talking about items, both magical and mundane! So, y’all come back now, y’hear?
You can pick up your own copy of Deep Magic: Alkemancy by Kobold Press here.