My friend Don and I hashed out the basic class features and such for a new Third Edition base class, with a working title “alchemist.” It was a fun collaboration exercise — most are — but it reminded me of the many and varied problems of Third Edition character classes. For starters, they’re just boring, almost incoherent.

Third Edition classes are for the most part, a hodgepodge of character elements thrown together without much regard to how they’ll interact with the other game systems such as races, skills, feats, item creation, or spell-casting.

Here are the levels 1-3 of the alchemist (v.01) for your review:

Revised Dungeons & Dragons Alchemist Class (v0.1)

During our collaboration, I tried to focus on the things an alchemist could contribute to combat, though my efforts met with little success. While I’m a strong advocate for the character acting/problem-solving aspects of roleplaying, contributing to combat is one of the important parts of being an adventurer — particularly in Dungeons & Dragons.

One of the concepts we bandied about was how the alchemist represented a convergence of several different magic types — as clerics, druids, and wizards can all create potions, an alchemist would effectively a cross-discipline specialist. This is why the skill list includes both Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (nature).

During our collaboration, we discussed aspects of the alchemist — researching arcane formulas, perhaps decoding fragments of ancient texts, analyzing and testing existing potions, and experimenting with new brews and concoctions.

I think the most innovative thing I contributed to the character class was the detect poison at-will spell-like ability. I was looking at spell lists and trying to reconcile the cleric, druid, and wizard spells when I saw the detect spells. I thought of the paladin’s detect evil power and asked, “What’s most important to an alchemist?”

Right now I think this class has a few powers and abilities that help define what it is and what it does (in vague, Third Edition terms), and those are its eclectic combination of class skills, the fact that it receives Brew Potion and an effective caster level for the purpose of item creation, and its detect poison at-will power.

I think the alchemist has a long way to go before it approaches anything resembling “completeness,” but the important bits are there, and there’s design space to fill.