The alchemist has been knocking around the fringes of fantasy games for ages, generally - if codified at all - as an NPC that your characters can go to for a range of useful items to take on their adventures, with alchemy itself as a sideline skill practised in your 'Craft' spot. Now Paizo's Advanced Player's Guide has brought him out of the workshop to become a playable character in his own right, with skills useful down the dungeon or out on the road, and this product seeks to expand on this and make him an even more attractive option.
The alchemist PC has several notable skills, which are mentioned in the Introduction - he can throw bombs, make and use extracts, brew potions and use poison. However, to hone such a character, he needs appropriate feats and here a grand total of 30 are presented for the budding alchemist to choose from. Many could be taken by any character, espcially one who has taken alchemy as a craft skill sideline to his main class. One that catches the eye is Organised Inventory, which allows the character to extract a non-weapon item as a free action during combat: very useful if you want to make use of something other than a conventional weapon mid-brawl... you hardly want to stand there frisking yourself for what you want. (Consider this, can you place your hand on your car keys right NOW without having to think about where they are?) Most of the feats either improve the alchemist's lab work or enable him to use his special combat skills even better. Suicide Bomber is not, however, recommended unless you really do want to go out in a blaze of glory as it involves walking up to your opponent and letting off every bomb you've got.
Next comes some character builds, with the comment that a bit of thought and planning about how you want your character to develop is well worth it, helping to ensure that you meet the requisites for whatever feat you want to take. Each is provided with level-by-level suggestions for what to develop in order to maximise your potential. The builds are an elf 'carpet bomber' who is particularly good at the explosive aspects of the alchemist class, a half-orc 'mighty mutant' who develops himself, and a human 'mad scientist' who should be fun to play and entertaining for everyone else around the table... he's really better at making things than brawling, but if he does get into a fight people may be surprised at just how well he handles himself!
This is a neat supplement providing tools to enhance alchemist characters and make the most of the possibilities inherent in the ruleset. It may feel rather a calculating approach to some... but remember that just as many people in the real world will take a specific qualification or career move just to further a long-term goal, so may your characters plan their progression through the game, even if they themselves don't quite see it in terms of the feats and stat blocks that we players use to describe them!
[5 of 5 Stars!]