Saturday, January 2, 2016

Retro Review The Compleat Alchemist: Fantasy Role-Playing Supplement By Steven Cordovano & Stephan Michael Sechi For Your Old School Campaigns

Once upon a time alchemists in D&D were simply NPC's who adventurers went to see and divine out potions, create minor effects and had very limited interaction with as retainers and an urban encounter in the Expert set. But from the Erol Otus artwork there was far more going on with them then simply a few lines in the Expert rule book sure there were a few pieces of third party products that sort of breathed life into the workers of wonder. Well in 1982 that all changed ten fold with the release of Bard Games Compleat Alchemist.

This was the first of the Compleat Series and it was a great revelation under a simply understated cover, those gamers who picked it up soon learned that it was far more then it seemed on the surface. Suddenly the alchemist was a playable character with actual goals and ideas who at higher levels could become a patron to adventurers gathering the ingredients he or she needed. Yes that's right she, there were historical legendary lady alchemists scattered throughout occult lore and mythology another side effect of this book was that history suddenly got a whole lot interesting to a young gamer.

The PC class wasn't overly powerful and enabled a player to actually begin their journey on the path of alchemy and it was a very well done book for its time, so well done that a mini version of it was incorporated into the Arcanum. The Compleat Alchemist never my campaigns in the Eighties, one of the reasons were because the gathering of ingredients for the operations of the PC class was an adventure unto itself. The book featured lots of interesting little tables and cool little tid bits that made this book a cut above the usual rabble of Eighties third party products. It covers everything from minor potions to making constructs and humonculi (sentient creatures grown in vats). Basically everything you need to make the alchemist work as an adventuring PC is contained within this book and it makes it a well oiled addition to an adventuring party.
My first copy burnt up in an apartment fire along with a huge collection of my Eighties gaming material. That wasn't as much of a worry as one might think because there was a reprint that pops up all over the place from time to time . The question isn't if this book isn't useful but where isn't it, I've used it across the spectrum of OD&D, AD&D1st edition and other gaming systems including Ars Magica and others. Now I've used this system at least three times in play with both Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Dark Albion the material in The Compleat Alchemist has become both timeless and still right by my side at the gaming table. How I miss Bard Games these days. My recommendation is to pick up the Compleat Alchemist if you get the chance.

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