Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Alchemist’s Supplies are a particularly useful toolset that can provide a ton of fantastic and unique benefits to your whole party.
For players who enjoy itemizing for every situation or crafting and tinkering with the world, Alchemist’s Supplies are the door to a whole world of fun and carnage.
What are Alchemist’s Supplies?
As with all toolsets, there’s often some vagueness in players’ understanding of what “Alchemist’s Supplies” entails. If a player has “Thieves’ Tools” written on their character sheet then they’re probably aware that they have lockpicks but do they know that they also have a small mirror on a handle?
The latter has more open usage but may see less use because you simply don’t know that you have it.
A set of Alchemist’s Supplies contains:
- Two glass beakers
- A metal frame for holding a beaker over a flame
- A glass stirring rod
- A small pestle and mortar
- A pouch of common ingredients. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything specifically mentions that this includes salt, iron powder, and purified water
What Can I Use Alchemist’s Supplies For?
There are a few suggested uses for Alchemist’s Supplies in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything but your imagination shouldn’t be constrained by these suggestions.
Bonuses to skill checks
You can use Alchemist’s Supplies when making arcana checks that relate to potions and magical chemicals. This allows you to discover more information that’s specifically relevant to the substances involved.
Similarly, if you’re proficient with Alchemist’s Supplies then making an investigation check may reveal extra information regarding the chemicals and substances present in the area you’re investigating.
Other example uses
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything contains a few example uses for Alchemist’s Supplies. These all require a skill check with Alchemist’s Supplies.
You can use Alchemist’s Supplies to create a puff of thick smoke. XGE doesn’t state how large a “puff” of smoke is so this is up to your DM’s discretion.
This won’t produce enough smoke to blanket an area but some DMs might allow a significant enough quantity of smoke that you could use it as cover when moving stealthily across a hallway or use it to signal for help.
You can identify a poison or other substance. This is useful in a ton of situations. In intrigue-heavy campaigns, your Alchemist’s Supplies may give you insights into how a poisoning was carried out and help you avoid poisoning yourself.
In dungeon-focused games, Alchemist’s Supplies will allow you to identify potions that you find while exploring, which allows you to confidently use those potions in combat.
Alchemist’s Supplies can be used to start a fire. Why would you, though? For most players who focus on utility through items, a tinderbox is one of the first items you’ll pick up.
Alchemist’s Supplies requires a skill check to achieve something that a tinderbox can do without one. The primary advantage of Alchemist’s Supplies is flavor so some DMs might allow you to forego the skill check here.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything also suggests that you can use Alchemist’s Supplies to neutralize acid. Various traps and monsters in D&D use acid as a way of dealing damage and neutralizing the acid may, situationally, be a way of handling those encounters.
This is at the DM’s discretion and it’s unlikely that many DMs will allow you to neutralize the acid of a Black Pudding that you’re currently fighting. In the case of acid-based traps though, neutralizing the acid may be an effective way to disarm them.
If you’re dealing with a large pool of acid then some DMs may question how you were carrying enough base chemicals (like lye or similar chemicals) to neutralize that quantity of acid so be prepared for this use of Alchemist’s Supplies to have very niche usage depending on your DM.
For most players, this is the big one. This is why you took proficiency in Alchemist’s Tools – because you want to craft potions. There are two distinct ways to craft using Alchemist’s Tools: you can use their Alchemical Crafting feature during a long rest or you can use them to craft magic items. The latter usually happens during extended periods of downtime.
Alchemical Crafting During A Long Rest
Alchemical Crafting is a feature of Alchemist’s Supplies that allows you to craft one of several specific things during a long rest.
Listed in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, these are:
- Acid – Throw if for damage, burn through locks?
- Alchemist’s fire – Burning damage over time, setting things ablaze
- Antitoxin – Great to have versus venomous Creatures.
- Oil – Slipping, extra fire damage, and more
- Perfume – Great for social situations – Maybe your DM will give Charisma bonuses?
- Soap – Keeps you clean!
To craft these, you need to first buy raw materials. These cost 50gp for each pound you buy. You can then use these raw materials to craft a single “dose” of one of these substances during a long rest.
The quantity of raw materials required for crafting is determined by price rather than weight. Standard prices for these chemicals are double the cost of their raw materials so crafting 100gp worth of a chemical requires 50gp worth of its raw materials.
This leads to some strangeness. For example, one pound of raw materials can (over a very long timeframe) be used to produce 2,000 pints of oil. This isn’t a problem from a balancing perspective though.
These items have a ton of uses and there’s very little cost associated with crafting them.
Acid has an array of potential uses. A vial of acid deals 2d6 acid damage if thrown. This is significant at low levels and may help in dealing damage to creatures that are resistant to your other attacks.
Notably, acid damage prevents trolls from regenerating health so acid may be useful in troll encounters if you have no other sources of acid or fire damage.
Acid also has various problem-solving applications outside of combat, although this may vary depending on the extent of realism that your DM insists on. Acid may be able to quickly corrode through metal, destroying locks and manacles. It might also be useful for sabotaging weapons, armor, or machinery.
Alchemist’s Fire can be used in combat to light an enemy on fire. This deals 1d4 fire damage when it hits and subsequently deals 1d4 damage each time the enemy starts its turn.
This isn’t very useful. At lower levels, where 1d4 damage might make a significant difference, combat is likely to only last a couple of full rounds because all characters’ HP is so low.
Alchemist’s Fire might be useful for troll encounters because the automatic application of fire damage will prevent the troll from regenerating for the entire encounter but this probably won’t be your best option in most cases.
Alchemist’s Fire might be a good way to set buildings on fire. Splattering a building with sticky burning liquid will set it on fire more reliably than some other methods.
Additionally, because Alchemist’s Fire ignites on contact with air, a bottle of Alchemist’s Fire might be useful as a constituent part in some traps.
Upon being drunk, antitoxin grants you advantage on saving throws against poison. The uses of this are fairly obvious – use it if you’re fighting poisonous or venomous creatures and use it if you think someone’s trying to poison your food.
Oil can be used to fuel lanterns.
You can also use oil to douse a creature and, if that creature takes fire damage within a minute, the oil will ignite dealing an extra 5 damage. This isn’t a great use of your turn in combat, even at lower levels.
More usefully, you can use oil similarly to the Create Bonfire cantrip. You can pour oil on the ground to cover a 5ft square. If lit, the oil burns for two rounds and deals 5 damage to creatures in that area each turn.
This is a way of dealing AoE damage at lower levels, which might be very useful to some classes. You can also set up oil-covered terrain ahead of combat and then light that oil during combat, so this is particularly useful for defending an area or fortification.
Perfume and Soap
These are unlikely to be useful in combat, except perhaps in very niche situations. They come in handy during social situations though. If your band of ragged and road-worn adventurers is trying to sneak into a high-society gathering, smelling like nobility might make their disguises more convincing.
Perfume and soap can be strong roleplaying props within the party. If you’re playing a snobbish noble character then one of their quirks could be that they insist on comforts like soap and perfume.
Crafting Substances During Downtime
You can create non-magical chemicals and substances during periods of extended downtime. These can be produced in much larger quantities and much more quickly than those produced using Alchemical Crafting.
In order to produce chemicals in this way, you need access to the appropriate equipment, which is defined at the DM’s discretion. The time taken to produce a chemical or substance is a number of workweeks equal to a fiftieth of the substance’s value in gold pieces.
For example, 100gp worth of oil would take two weeks of downtime to produce.
Raw materials used in this form of crafting are left entirely to the DM’s discretion but the raw materials required for Alchemical Crafting may provide a rough guide.
There’s no specific list of items you can create using this form of crafting. It’s implied to be broader than Alchemical Crafting and it allows you to collaborate with other characters who are proficient in other tools.
You can also craft magical potions. These range enormously from Oil of Sharpness which grants a temporary +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls with a weapon to Potion of Animal Friendship which allows you to cast Animal Friendship at will for an hour.
You can find a list of potions here but this may not be exhaustive. Many DMs include homebrew magic items and you may be able to find recipes for potions that don’t exist in D&D’s published material.
Which of these potions you can craft is entirely at your DM’s discretion though, since you need a recipe to craft them.
Creating A Magical Substance
The rules for crafting potions and other magical substances are more complicated.
If you want to create a magical substance then you need:
You first need to find a recipe for whichever potion you want to make. This recipe will contain a list of ingredients (including an exotic ingredient) and steps required to make the potion.
This recipe could be found anywhere and might be acquired through adventuring. If you want to find a particular recipe though, a library might be a good place to start looking.
This recipe is for a magical potion and may include very weird elements, at your DM’s discretion. You might be required to brew your potion in a certain geographic location, during a particular phase of the moon, in the presence of royalty, or subject to many other conditions.
An Exotic Ingredient
You’ll need an exotic ingredient for your potion, which will require that you go on an adventure to acquire it. This will have thematic elements that are relevant to whatever you’re trying to craft and will require that you encounter a creature of a certain CR, depending on the potion’s rarity.
For example, crafting a Potion of Fire Giant Strength might require a few strands of hair from a fire giant.
Critically, these exotic ingredients are things that cannot simply be purchased like other raw materials.
Everything You Need For Non-Magical Crafting
You also need standard raw materials with a specified value and a specified amount of downtime. Plus, proficiency in Alchemist’s Tools and access to any relevant equipment.
|Potion rarity||CR range of creature to face for exotic ingredient||Gold value of other raw materials||Downtime required to produce the potion|
|Very Rare||13-18||10,000gp||12 weeks|
Potion of Healing
There are specific rules for crafting potions of healing in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Bizarrely, these rules specifically require the use of a Herbalism Kit and not Alchemist’s Supplies.
Some DMs may rule that you can use Alchemist’s Supplies instead. You should ask your DM whether you’ll be able to craft Potions of Healing with Alchemist’s Supplies during character creation.
The rules here are very simple. Each tier of Potion of Healing requires a specified length of time and value of raw materials to produce:
|Potion||Healed HP||Downtime required||Value of raw materials|
|Potion of Healing||2d4+2||1 day||25gp|
|Potion of Greater Healing||4d4+4||1 week||100gp|
|Potion of Superior Healing||8d4+8||3 weeks||1,000gp|
|Potion of Supreme Healing||10d4+20||4 weeks||10,000gp|
Overlapping Use With Other Tools
If you’re considering taking proficiency in Alchemist’s Tools in character creation, there are a couple of other tool proficiencies that you may also want to consider.
These tool sets have either thematic similarities or overlapping usage with Alchemist’s Tools.
If you’re considering Alchemist’s Supplies as a proficiency, there’s a reasonable chance that’s because you want to make Potions of Healing for your party. You can do that with a Herbalism Kit and, depending on your DM, you may not be able to with Alchemist’s Supplies.
The Herbalism Kit can also be used to produce antitoxin during downtime, which is arguably the most useful thing that you can produce using Alchemical Crafting.
Additionally, the Herbalism Kit allows you to forage for potion-making ingredients in the wilds. This may help to cut down the cost of raw materials.
Poisoner’s Kit can be a better thematic fit for some intrigue-focused uses of Alchemist’s Supplies. Poisoner’s Kit helps you to identify poisons and treat poison victims.
Poisoner’s Kit proficiency also enables you to create poisons, forage for raw materials used in creating poisons, and handle poisons safely.
The Alchemist subclass for Artificer has a lot of thematic elements which you may be drawn to if you’re considering taking proficiency in Alchemist’s Supplies.
Alchemists are often thematically flavored as having flasks of potions to represent their spell slots and throwing alchemical flasks to cast their spells. They can create Experimental Elixirs when they take a long rest which have various magical effects, similar to potions.
Alchemists pick up proficiency with Alchemist’s Supplies at level 3 and Artificers also gain Tool Expertise at level 6 which doubles their proficiency bonus when making ability checks with tools.
If you’re hoping to create a character that’s focused heavily around the use of Alchemist’s Tools then Alchemist is a great mechanical and thematic choice.
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].