Alchemist Equipment

Some equipment used in alchemy

"The physical world is a world of tangible things. The magical world is a world of pure energies. We call the application of the application of magical energies upon tangible objects 'sorcery'. Some use and manipulate magical energies for trivial purposes without joining in the search for knowledge. These are the vulgar, little more than charlatans. Some seek to know the nature of magic. These are called wizards. Others seek to understand the physical world. These are nature's philosophers. Alchemists are those natural philosophers who use the energies of magic to aid them in their quest for knowledge."
from the introduction to Rudiments of Alchemy, by Achim Hase[1b]

Alchemy is a blend of what we would call magic and chemistry, although its Old World practitioners view it as one integrated field of study. Though alchemy's greatest scholars spend much of their time searching for great hidden secrets of transmutation and enternal life, in everyday use alchemy is mostly used for creating potions, chemical reagents, and explosives. Most of the spells used by alchemists are of a practical nature and have little Dark magic in them, being concerned with the cooling, heating, and manipulating of alchemical compounds.[1a]

Alchemists tend to take a practical, scientific approach to their subject. Much of their work is not magical at all, being more concerned with chemistry - though the difference between magical ingredients and purely mundane substances is hazy. Some claim to be looking for the Elixir of Life or for a way of turning lead into gold, but most are too busy earning a living to study such subjects in depth. Those who do pursue such higher goals tend to be the ones who leave pure alchemy and gravitate towards further study at the Gold College in Altdorf.[1a]

Goals of Alchemy

There are only three respectable alchemical goals: True Transmutation, the Alkahest and the Elixir. Specializing in other areas is considered vulgar; however, it can be very lucrative. Many an alchemist claims to be researching True Transmutation, while actually spending most of their time making soap for sale to pampered middle-class merchants' wives.[1d]

True Transmutation

Alchemists specializing in True Transmutation research the purification and production of rare metals, particularly gold and its nature. The field is a very narrow one, in which any hint of progress is eagerly grasped, and envious rumours of success are always circulating. Should an alchemist in this field make a useful discovery not related to the Transmutation, most would leave it to more general alchemists to exploit, preferring to continue to search for the great secret itself.[1d]

The Alkahest

Alchemists searching for the Alkahest, or Universal Solvent, carry out research into the purification and production of acids and alkalis as they try to refine the substance that will dissolve anything. These alchemists often have a better grasp of pure chemistry than their colleagues. It is considered very impolite to ask an alchemist specializing in the Alkahest what it could be stored in if it were discovered.[1d]

The Elixir of Life and Medicine

Alchemists seeking the Elixir claim to be searching for the secret of eternal life and good health, and specialize in mineralogy and in creating new potions. They also concentrate on distilling and working with alcohols. Sometimes they become doctors, or work closely with healers.[1d]

Combustibles and Explosives

This area covers the production of gunpowder, naphtha and other explosives, and is the one with which everyone first associates alchemists. Alchemists with knowledge in this area are always in demand and find employment easily. However, they may also find themselves on government lists of people who need to be kept under scrutiny - such skills are all too sought-after by dissidents.[1d]

Elixirs and Potions

As well as pure alchemy using chemicals, many alchemists produce and sell potions that make use of magical ingredients. Alchemists searching for the Elixir are usually the ones who create new types of potions, but those with less skill or dedication can still make a good living manufacturing and selling these potions - or, for those with very few skills, making vile-tasting liquids and claiming that they are potions.[1d]


All alchemists dream of finding the secret of True Transmutation, but the more realistic ones know that their chances are slim. These pragmatists prefer to use their skills to improve the refining of metals and the creation of lighter, stronger alloys for everything from better sword-blades to siege engines. Alchemists at the top of this profession are usually in service to the Empire's army or an Elector's local forces, and are highly valued.[1d]

Pigments, Dyes and Mordants

Some alchemists are employed in the textile industry, producing colours for the cloth and fixing the dye. This fixing is usually done with alum. The different dyes for cloth making are often kept secret by the alchemists, who research new colours from chemical and vegetable sources. Competition between textile manufacturers is intense, and the discovery of a particularly bright or unusual dye may lead to other merchants trying to steal the formula, or even kidnap the alchemist who invented it![1d]

Other alchemists look down on this specialty, but it is still a widespread area for research, as a new dye-colour can be a money-making proposition.[1d]

Pesticides and Purifiers

There are many pests that make human lives unhappy, and alchemists can make a good living concentrating on ways of removing rodents, dry rot, crop pests, fleas and lice. Some find employment making alchemical powders and potions that will cure infestations of vermin and fungus, and some do research to find better versions of them. The problem with killing rats is not in creating a poison that works, but in making a poison sufficiently palatable to the rodent. Alchemists who work in this area are looked down on by others of their profession. All have tales of being offered large sums of money by shady characters to supply certain poisons. None admit to accepting such jobs.[1e]


This is considered below the consideration of a university alchemist, but many working alchemists find they can make good money from the production of high-quality soap from potash or soda, animal fat and scent. In lean times even serious alchemical scholars have occasionally stooped to soap-making, although if their colleagues ever learned of this they would be a laughingstock.[1e]

The Laboratory

Alchemists need a laboratory in which to experiment, or to prepare their potions and distillations. Away from a lab, an alchemist is limited to what he can prepare in advance and carry with him. Many alchemists are reluctant to leave their labs, practically living in them. In fact, some do - or at least, in tiny rooms at the sides of them.[1e]

While most alchemists aim to settle down with a well-equipped laboratory of their own, very few can afford such a luxury. Some attached themselves to a university where they can share a well-equipped lab with colleagues, although this often leads to arguments and accusations of sabotage, and sometimes - as in the case of the feud of Gerber and Grafstrom of Middenheim - to alchemists detonating unexpectedly in public places.[1e]

Others alchemists spend their time wandering from place to place, trying to find someone rich and gullible enough to finance their experiments. These wandering alchemists generally have a cart of some kind, laden down with all of the alchemical equipment they have picked up over the years, as such a cart can be set up as a small traveling lab with little preparation. Others will have nothing but the (scorched) clothes on their backs, having been forced to flee an angry patron after an unfortunate accident.[1e]

Some towns have regulations against the practice of alchemy within their walls. Although alchemists will rarely admit it, this regulation is very sensible in crowded urban quarters. In cities where magicians and their supporters have a strong influence on the local council or ruler, as the Wizards and Alchemists Guild does in Middenheim, researchers are generally allowed to work within the city. In other places they may be forced to do their experimentation in the slums, or in secret, or even outside the city walls where the their smells and fires can do less harm.[1e]

Only a few alchemists live in the countryside, partly because of the difficulty of obtaining the necessary supplies, and also because they are more likely to be blamed by peasants for blighting crops or frightening the cattle. The difference between Nurgle's Rot and the accidental poisoning of a village's water supply is not important to the peasants suffering from the malady - both are considered evil and may lead to the lynching of the person thought responsible, be he daemonologist or alchemist.[1e]

Most alchemists would prefer to design their own labs; unfortunately only the richest have the opportunity. University laboratories are usually laid out as they have been for generations. Some towns have alchemists' houses that were built decades ago for some long-dead alchemist which are passed from one practitioner to the next. Sometimes alchemists only get to design their own labs when their old one blows up and has to be rebuilt from scratch.[1e]

Laboratories are generally long, well-lit rooms. They may have rows of windows and sometimes skylights to let in as much light as possible and let out the numerous noxious vapours that build up in a laboratory. The stereotypical image of an alchemist working in a darkened cellar is a false one, as practicalities mean that it is not worth the risk - unless they are up to no good, of course. There are always workbenches, and at least one furnace. If there is only one furnace it is always of the 'two chambered' design, suitable for heating metals for purification. A well-designed laboratory will have good ventilation, but will never never lose a certain noxious chemical odour.[1e][1f]

Laboratories are generally cluttered with shelves of alchemical equipment. These are generally made of glass and ceramics, and will made by the alchemist himself or be specially commissioned from skilled craft-workers. This equipment includes, but is not limited to: clay crucibles, a bellows, several copper or brass cauldrons, a collection of stills, a mortar and pestle, at least one alembic, a water-bath, an ash-bath, an extremely large lamp, dishes, beakers, jars, phials, filters, strainers, ladles, stirring rods and several pairs of hinged tongs of various sizes. There will be glass bottles containing chemicals, in the form of liquids, unguents, and powders. This would be considered the absolute minimum of equipment for a working alchemist.[1f]

A laboratory set up in a cart will naturally be much smaller; racks around the walls will hold potions and reagents and prevent them from tipping over as the cart lurches about. A small iron furnace with a chimney will give the cart something of the appearance of a gypsy caravan from the outside. It generally takes at least azn hour to get such a traveling lab ready for use, as much of the equipment is packed away safely in cupboards to prevent breakage. The same is true when work is finished - an hour must be spent packing things away, or the equipment risks being damaged when the cart is moved.[1f]

Alchemical Books

As well as equipment, an alchemist will have a shelf of books and copies of the latest research papers, usually stored on the high wall out of reach of any ill effects. These books are all hand-copied - the market for them is not large enough to justify the cost of printing - and rare volumes of them can sell for hundreds of gold crowns. particularly sought-after alchemical volumes include:[1f]

  • Notes on Diverse Arts
  • Recipes for Colouring
  • Book of Fires for the Burning of Enemies
  • On the Ingredients of Medicine
  • The Seven Different Types of Furnace
  • The Manticore's Eye: Potions and Alchemy
  • Seventeen Years in Search of the Alkahest

Types of Compounds

Alchemical compounds are divided into several categories. Some are more likely to be of use to adventuring alchemists than others.[1g]

Alchemists gradually learn about various types of compounds after their apprenticeship.[1g]

Acids and Alkalis

These are liquids (and occasionally gases) that burn upon touching an object or person. They can be used for a variety of purposes, but most of them involve damage of some sort. A bottle of acid can be dripped onto a rope to eat through it, or thrown across a room to shatter with devastating effect on an enemy.[1g]


These are liquids that, when drunk, cause changes in the body of the imbiber. They are often used for healing or for temporarily increasing attributes, but some can also be used for harmful purposes. In some way they resemble potions but their nature is chemical rather than natural, though the effects of an elixir can be cancelled by spells that destroy the effects of magic. These elixirs are byproducts of the search for the elusive Elixir of Life, but are quite useful in their own right.[1g]


Soap-making is a useful way of making a living, but is unlikely to be of much use in adventuring.[1h]


Dye and ink-making is a useful way of making a living, but is unlikely to be of much use in adventuring.[1h]


See its own page.[1h]


Combustible substances include gunpowder as well as a whole range of other fast-burning and explosive chemicals. They are often used for making bombs, but can also be used for blasting (in mining) and are, of course, used in guns and cannons. Many of the more powerful explosives are unstable and may go off if shaken, stirred, struck or dropped.[1h]


Alchemy is an ancient system of magic, but is compatible with the study of battle-magic. Any Battle wizard is able to use these spells, although most of them are generally considered to be of little use outside their specialized field and are normally only taught by alchemists.[1i]


  • Channeled Shock – This spell creates a small electric current which lasts for an hour. It is not enough to cause any harm, but it can be used in a laboratory to perform simple electroplating. Unscrupulous alchemists will sometimes use it to electroplate cheap jewelry with gold or silver and pass it off as the real thing, to fool gullible patrons into making them think they’ve discovered the secret of True Transmutation.[1i]
  • Cool – This spell cools a multiple of 6 cubic inches of material approximately 10 degrees Centigrade. It is often used in alchemical experiments. In warm weather, this spell can also be used to manufacture lumps of ice.[1i]
  • Create Vacuum – This spell removes a multiple of 6 cubic inches of air from any given space. This is useful for removing the air from glass vessels for experimentation purposes. If the spell is used outside a closed vessel it creates a loud, distracting bang.[1j]


  • Distil Homunculus – This spell is used by alchemists to create a familiar. The familiar can be of any form, humanoid, animal or fantastical, but it is typically made from clay, often to the form of a manikin, and fired in an oven.[1j][1k]


  • Essence of Air – This spell creates a small blast of the alchemically active portion of air. This puff can be used for various alchemical processes, but is most often used to cause small fires to flare up and burn hotter for a few seconds.[1j]


  • Freeze – This spell instantly chills a multiple of 6 cubic inches of material to a temperature below the freezing point of water. It is mostly used in alchemical processes but has other uses as well, particularly with the more savvy traders in perishable products.[1j]


  • Heat – This spell creates a small, intense flame about 3 inches long, which burns for 2 hours from the wick of a normal candle. It is used in alchemy for heating retorts (much like a gas burner). The height and heat of the spell can be increased or decreased with concentration.[1j]


  • Impervious Hand – This spell makes the caster’s hands impervious to heat, cold, corrosive chemicals and contact-poisons for one minute. It is useful for picking up hot flasks, handling noxious substances, etc. It does not make the caster immune to sharp objects or crushing damage, and cannot be cast on any other part of the body.[1j]


  • Maintain Temperature – This spell maintains the temperature of any one inanimate item up to 3 cubic feet in size, no matter how hot or cold the outside temperature. The wizard must specify the desired temperature at the time of the spell’s casting.[1j]


  • Pressure – If cast on a vessel no more than 6 cubic inches in volume, this spell increases the pressure within it to four times normal. This is enough to make a sealed thin glass vessel explode, and can force thicker ones to pop their corks or stoppers.[1j]


  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 1st Edition - Realms of Sorcery
    • 1a: pg. 15
    • 1b: pg. 71
    • 1c: pg. 72
    • 1d: pg. 73
    • 1e: pg. 74
    • 1f: pg. 75
    • 1g: pg. 76
    • 1h: pg. 77
    • 1i: pg. 208
    • 1j: pg. 209
    • 1k: pg. 210

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