The way the subclasses work is they are minor abilities that are gained each level. They gain bonus hit points but not bonus hit dice. They get a small increase to saves and base attack and a few more class skills and a couple of skill points a level. There are some good abilities gained with potions crafting and other alchemical processes.
The Alchemist sub class does not come without a cost. Characters have a negative twenty percent experience penalty for taking the sub class. Certain races do have favored subclasses that only impose a negative ten percent penalty. In the case of the alchemist the gnome has it as a favored subclass.
The true power of the alchemist subclass lies in the potion making. At the third level of the subclass the character gets the Brew Potion Feat. It is not automatically at third character level that this would be gained. The subclass can be started later then character level one if the player chooses to do it that way. The Brew Potion feat is special in that the character need not have any magical ability. The character automatically is considered to know all spells for the purpose of creating potions. The limit of what spells can be made into potions though still exists. At fifth level in the subclass and every three levels after wards the character can make potions of a spell level higher. So, at fifth level the character can craft potions of fourth level or lower, at eight they can craft potions fifth level or lower, etc.
I really like the subclass idea. It gives another layer to the characters and it gives options without having to take certain classes or prestige classes and feats. The subclasses do have a hefty price though with the experience point penalty. That will have the character be lagging about a half level or so lower then the other characters. And with the spending of the characters own experience to make potions that discrepancy can get even worse.
<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Interesting way that works inside the level system to add roles to a character<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: I think they could have actually done more with it<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>
[4 of 5 Stars!]