Alchemy and the players . . .

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
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Alchemy and the players . . .

Post by Michael » Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:35 pm

So help me get my mind straight about the alchemy skill and players using it.

IMHO I believe that the skill for the most part is a time sink that takes away time from just about anything else an adept could be doing. Circling, raising an attribute, talents, research for thread items and so on. However, as I told my players, what I think is irrelevant.

Setting aside that its a skill that takes a long time to raise, cost SP and LP, and that they had to buy/learn the patterns to created the items, here are the points that I need the community to help me understand and change my mind to love the alchemy skill . . .

1: I could have swore that somewhere I read that you can only create booster/heal potions in the lab, not with the kit. Did I just image that?
2: If you can use the portable kit to make these things, with a -3, is really the only point of owning the alchemist shop which costs 2k to not have the -3?
3: As we read the rules, for the most part, traveling for adepts is 8 hours on the road, 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours of rest. In these last 8 hours the adepts can raise talents or other downtime stuff. However, when Alchemy says a day, is that 8 hours or longer? And is using the kit in the wild reflected in the -3?
4: I know you need the alchemy skill to create common magic items, consumables and blood charms
5: P135 has a run on description to the next page about making things and I'm not sure it it means that you lose the materials in the standard attempt or only when you try for multiple creations at the same time.
P135 These items are created with Alchemy. The enchanting character may attempt to make more than one item at once, with no additional materials required. Only identical items may be made in this way, with each additional item adding +3 to the Enchanting Difficulty.
P136 Creating consumables takes one day. Each additional success on the test produces an additional dose, with no added material cost. If the test fails, all materials are lost (except for the base alchemy kit or shop).

So the other reason the players take the alchemy skill is to make and use poisons, where do we stand on that?

1: Is using poison looked down on, like "bad adepts" or just another weapon to be used in the world? I know the description in the skill says that those who make poisons keep it under wraps,, doesn't say anything about those that use it.
2: In other games (not going to say it) people untrained in the handling of poisons run the risk of poisoning themselves. We don't have that problem in ED?
3: Then we get into the whole discussion of how long does it take to apply say to a weapon, how long does it last, does it degrade over time?


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Re: Alchemy and the players . . .

Post by Lursi » Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:26 pm

Very good question! I am also keen on the answers.
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Re: Alchemy and the players . . .

Post by ChrisDDickey » Sat Sep 14, 2019 5:43 am

I personally agree with you about Alchemy not being a worthwhile pursuit for PCs. The PCs are supposed to be adventurers, not trades-persons. And you are correct that the LP and SP costs associated with a trade like Alchemy only make financial sense if you spend 8 hours per day every day doing it.

And I agree with you that PCs trying to do a solid 8 hours of work in the evenings is BS. I don't think that the players walk 8 hours without rest, then spend 8 hours working on their side projects without helping setup camp, take down camp, forage for firewood, nor take part in the watch schedule, nor taking time to eat, then 8 hours sleeping, and upon getting up, immediately set off again without having to take time to pack up the camp or eat.

I believe it is much more likely that part of their rest is interspersed with their walking time. So over a 10 or so hour period, they walk about 8 hours. Then they forage for firewood, make camp and eat, which probably takes almost 2 hours. By then everybody except the first watch will want to turn in. The sleeping shift is not an 8 hour period, because everybody who is going to take a watch needs to account for that. A person who has a 2 hour watch needs to account for that. A 3 or 4 hour watch is pretty hard to squeeze in. In the morning, lets say at least an hour for everybody to eat, and repack the camp. Unless a person is excusing himself from all camp chores and watches, there is no way to squeeze in more than a very few hours of hobbies.

I mean yes it sometimes can be done that somebody can squeeze in an 8 hour meditation, if everybody is OK with him not doing any camp chores, and he is OK with missing out on some of his sleep for one night. Arrive at camp, sit down and meditate for 8 hours, afterwords grab a quick bite and maybe still get maybe 5 hours of sleep before being awakened at the last minute to grab another quick bite. But such a schedule would not be routine thing for any one person to do more than once a week or so.

Beyond that, and to your specific questions.
  1. I don't recall, but I think that most things can be made with the kit with a -3 penalty.
  2. The -3 penalty is actually rather huge. Failure does mean ingredients are wasted, so this means a fair amount are going to fail. Also, even when you succeed, you are greatly likely to get fewer extra doses. Once again, if you have invested all the time, LP, and SP to get the skill to a level that you can make potions and have invested the time and energy to find or buy the ingredients, you don't want to mess around with a -3 penalty.
  3. Yes, I would think that Alchemy would take a full 8 hour, mostly uninterrupted day. See above for my comments upon it being very difficult (almost impossible) to do that while also traveling. But yes, I think that somebody who did attempt it in the wild next to a campfire would do it without any further penalty than imposed by using a kit.
  4. As you noted, for each different item of common magic item, consumable and blood charms the enchanter needs to obtain a different pattern. These are so expensive that it really only makes economic sense for a specialist to do them. One specialist makes one thing, year after year, and supplying a whole region with that thing.
  5. My understanding is that whatever the final target number of your attempt, any failure ruins all ingredients. You may attempt to get additional doses by adding 3 to the target number, but for each additional success over the final target number you get a bonus dose. So lets say the base target number is 10. Lets say you are using a kit, so your roll is at -3 steps. Lets say you are attempting for a single dose. If you roll a 9, you fail and your ingredients are ruined. If you roll a 10 to 14, you succeed with one dose. If you roll a 15 to 19 you succeed with 2 doses, etc.
    If you try for 3 doses, then the TN for 3 doses is 16. If you roll a 15 or less, you fail and the ingredients are ruined. If you roll a 16 to 20, you succeed and get 3 doses. If you roll 21-15, you succeed and get 4 doses, etc.
So for all the reasons above, I personally think that PCs practicing Alchemy is uneconomic. They are better off adventuring and buying their alchemical supplies from the tradesmen. Of course players are free to pursue uneconomic time wasters if they want to.

Re Poison:
  1. it would depend upon the society. Windlings are known to employ poisons more than most other races. I would think that most highland trolls would think it highly dishonorable.
  2. None listed in the RaW. On the other hand, there are always the fumbles. When a GM is wondering what form the fumble will take, it might be good to not have any poisoned weapons around.
  3. A table could worry about stuff like that, but most don't. They are always going into dusty, 100 year old labs and finding stuff that everybody just assumes is good. If you want to worry about it, fine. If not, also fine.

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Re: Alchemy and the players . . .

Post by Lursi » Sun Sep 15, 2019 9:49 am

Maybe Alchemy is...
...better suited as a downtime occupation.
...suitable to assess the quality of stuff you buy.

(With my regulars I created a small card with the name of the shop and threw dice how skilled the guy is, then threw a simple quality roll. Especially poor quality healing potions can be a nasty surprise making players to travel back and demand answers)
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Re: Alchemy and the players . . .

Post by Moonwolf » Sun Sep 15, 2019 10:14 am

There is also the advantage that weaponsmiths get, of having alchemy alongside every other crafting skill. They still need to find out design patterns though, but being the only people who can spend karma on all forms of alchemy makes them much better at making some in a gap between adventures. And the player in my game who's playing a weaponsmith wants to do enchanting too.

Saying that, I'm still broadly encouraging them to not try to use alchemy as a cash source, just as a way of lowering costs, because they don't have a shop to sell stuff out of.

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Re: Alchemy and the players . . .

Post by Mataxes » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:04 pm

The "Craftsman" ability is broad, but I wouldn't consider Alchemy to fall under it's purview, since alchemy isn't noted as being a "craft" skill in its description.
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