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10 Top Alchemists in Fiction to Use as Inspiration for your Characters in 5E

If you don't play tabletop roleplaying games, you may not realize it but there are several "classes" your characters can be. Which one you choose highly depends on what kind of character you want to make. Do you want to swing swords at your enemies while wearing armor? If so, you could play a Fighter. But what happens if you want to concoct potions and play sort of a mad scientist type of character? Well, an Alchemist would be perfect for you. However, there is no *official* class for an Alchemist in D&D 5E. To play one, you'd have to play an Artificer and use the Artificer variant or just create your own version of the Alchemist class to use. But what is an Alchemist, exactly? Are there any Alchemists in pop culture to draw inspiration from? You bet! We're going to showcase ten of the most recognizable characters from popular culture who are known Alchemists.

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Before we get to the characters, if you're unsure what an Alchemist is, here are some basic questions about Alchemists that most people ask when it comes to D&D:

  • Can You Be an Alchemist in D&D? The beauty of D&D is that you can really make up whatever you want, so technically yes you can. However, there are no official character classes for D&D that are Alchemists. The closest you can get is playing an Artificer with the Alchemy specialty. However, you can play an Alchemist in Pathfinder.

  • Which 5E Sourcebook is the Artificer Class Found In? You can find the Artificer class and the specialty focus of Alchemist in Eberron: Rising from the Last War.

  • What Is an Alchemist? An Alchemist is somewhat of a blend of magician and scientist. An Alchemist is an expert at blending reagents to produce mystical effects.

  • Which 5E Races Make the Best Alchemists? If you're looking to min/max your character's stats, then Forest Gnomes probably make the best Alchemists. They get +2 to Intelligence, and a super-useful +1 to Dexterity as well. Not only that but they receive the cantrip minor illusion. High Elves are also useful because they get an automatic +2 to Intelligence. Don't balk at Humans, though, because they get a bonus of +1 to any stat and can take feats.


Now, these characters are pretty much the most recognizable from popular culture. As you're making an Alchemist character for Pathfinder or D&D - just try to cherry pick the coolest aspects of your favorite among these and apply them or change them to suit your character.


Now, if you're someone who enjoys video games, and especially fighting games like I do - you may recognize Ivy Valentine as Ivy from the Soulcalibur series of fighting games. What you may not know about her is that she has a background in alchemy. Isabella "Ivy" Valentine came from a wealthy family. Her father was an Alchemist and dedicated his life to finding the secret to immortality. He failed. However, to honor her father as an adult, Ivy began to study Alchemy using her father's research and discovered the true nature of the evil sword Soul Edge. She's last on this list because generally people only recognize her for her trademark sword-whip weapon and iconic outfits rather than her alchemy skills. She did use her alchemy skills to try to infuse her sword-whip with sentience, but failed. Still, your character could create a cool weapon just like this in your 5E campaign.


Now, whether you're a movie buff or an avid reader or even a gamer, you must know of Count Dracula - the most iconic vampire character ever created and the inspiration behind Strahd from D&D lore. What you may not have known, however, is that Dracula was once an accomplished Alchemist. In addition to Alchemy, he studied the Black Arts at the academy of Scholomance in the Carpathian Mountains. Count Dracula's cunning and vast intelligence sometimes makes him more fearsome than his vampire qualities and abilities do, which is something you should think about with your own Alchemist character. To Dracula, is his vampirism a curse? Or is it a boon to his acquisition of knowledge? Would your character seek out immortality no matter the cost?


Perhaps overall not as well-known as Dracula, but very well-known to fans of the DC Comics Universe, and especially the Christopher Nolan Batman films - Ra's Al Ghul in the comics is a human cusping on the edge of immortality. He uses the Lazarus Pits to extend his life and is now growing close to 1,000 years old though he looks, in his own words, like "a vigorous fifty". In that time, Ra's Al Ghul has acquired a vast fortune, become the head of a guild of assassins, and has learned how to master several forms of combat and also further his scientific knowledge and research including alchemy. Ra's Al Ghul actually puts his knowledge to practical use whenever he can, which pushes him a bit above the previous two entries. Ra's Al Ghul wears no real "supervillain" costume and yet is one of Batman's most dangerous adversaries and one of the most popular comic book villains of all time. How would your alchemist character differ?


A bit less known probably to mainstream audiences, but at least known to fans of Marvel Comics, Diablo's entire powerset revolves around alchemy and alchemical practices. Esteban Corazón de Ablo was a powerful alchemist in 9th century Saragossa who sold his soul to the demon Mephisto to lengthen his lifespan far beyond that of a human mortal (are we sensing a theme here, yet with Alchemists?). Diablo is insanely skilled as an alchemist and his concoctions border on actual magic, and their properties would elude most scientists. He has potions to keep himself free from harm, to melt stone, to knock people unconscious - you name it. Many of the characters on this list are villains, but how would your character use their alchemical arsenal for good?


Kind of a jarring transition after Diablo to go to the wholesome visage of the kindly Papa Smurf of Smurfs fame, but here we are (and there's more than one character who is an Alchemist from the Smurfs, which we'll address next). Papa Smurf leads all the other Smurfs and protects them from the likes of the evil Gargamel. Being around since 1958, having a cartoon and several movies, Papa Smurf is one of the most well-known Alchemists on this list. His favorite hobby is creating alchemical potions and concoctions that he uses to help his fellow Smurfs, and even though he's over 500 years old, he still messes up sometimes and his potions can have disastrous side effects. What kind of quirks is your Alchemist character going to have?


Well, if you know Papa Smurf then you know his main antagonist was Gargamel. Gargamel is one pretty serious Alchemist and wizard, and he stumbled upon the Smurfs originally when attempting to make gold - a frequent use he wishes to cultivate the Smurfs for, and a valuable component in the Alchemist's legend of the Philosopher's Stone. To battle or capture the Smurfs, Gargamel constantly creates potions and elixirs with powerful properties, but is usually outsmarted by the resourceful Smurfs. One of the downplayed abilities of Alchemists is their penchant for turning things to gold.


Being a witch, Sabrina has enjoyed many incarnations of her character including a comic strip, comic books, and a few television shows. In all of these incarnations, she is a half-witch at least and is skilled in the use of making various potions and concoctions with her alchemical skills. She learned from fully-fledged witches, so her concoctions are powerful and sometimes infused with magic. As a witch, Sabrina also has other powers to supplement her alchemical skills. Think about whether or not you wish your character to be solely science-based, or have a magical background.


When it comes to potions and alchemical mischief, one of the most memorable moments in film comes when The Evil Queen from Snow White creates a poison apple with her extremely powerful "Sleeping Death" potion. The Evil Queen is yet another magic-using character who infuses her concoctions and supplements her magic with alchemical brews. The Evil Queen is one of the most iconic Disney characters ever made, and that's in no small way due to her creation of the poisoned apple in Snow White. Will your Alchemist have a trademarked potion or concoction?


Albus Dumbledore is one of the most well-known characters in pop culture at this point, whether you love or hate Harry Potter or its author JK Rowling. However, most people only think of Dumbledore as a straightforward wizard when in actuality he is one of the most accomplished Alchemists out there. In fact, he worked alongside Nicolas Flamel, the only known Alchemist to have truly created the Philosopher's Stone. As an alchemist, Dumbledore is also pretty accomplished in his own right and somewhat famous as the discoverer of the twelve uses of dragon blood. The hallmark of a great alchemist is a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to experiment. How will your Alchemist character apply those things in their everyday existence?


You can't have a list about Alchemists in pop culture without mentioning Fullmetal Alchemist at least once. To be honest, several characters from Fullmetal Alchemist could almost comprise this list in its entirety, but I wanted to include a range of time periods, mediums, and fandoms from which I pulled while at the same time including mostly well-known characters (Smurfs had two because, I guess, for the sake of it haha). Edward Elric is very well known in anime/manga circles but largely unknown among the everyday audience, but that still, in my opinion, garners him enough status as an Alchemist character in popular fiction that I believe he warrants first place.

For one, the entire premise of Fullmetal Alchemist is built solely around alchemy and its applications, as used by the various characters in the show's lineup. Edward is hot-headed, sensitive about his height, and sometimes brash but he's also quick-thinking and has a ton of abilities other than his alchemical prowess, including combat training, the use of powerful prosthetic appendages, and slightly heightened senses. However, in addition to regular application of alchemical skills like others on this list, Edward can unbelievably transmute matter with a simple clap of his hands. He also has use of a transmutation circle which enables him to perform alchemy without having access to the actual elements at hand. These things combined place him at the head of the others on this list.

You've seen my list. Do you agree? If not, are there other Alchemist characters I missed? Hopefully these characters can help inspire the creation of Alchemy-Focused NPCs for your campaign if you're a DM, or maybe even inspire your own player characters if you're a player. Alchemists are an underrated character archetype in most TTRPGs and I feel they should be used more often. As always, thanks for reading! - Joe

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1 Comment

Samurguybri Yongtan
Samurguybri Yongtan
Jul 11, 2023

At first I was thinking non fiction alchemists and Sir isaac Newton care to mind. So strange that the discoverer of so many scientific principles was into the strangeness and perhaps falseness of alchemy. Perhaps her was more of a spiritual alchemist, but it seems like many of the techniques of alchemy would help him with scientific pursuits as well.

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