Alchemy RPG made quite a splash when it was first announced and put on Kickstarter. Several popular tabletop RPG systems excitedly announced official support and conversions of their most famous campaigns. The Kickstarter campaign crushed its goals, raising hundreds of thousands dollars for its $10,000 goal. All the buzz got the average user asking “What’s the deal with Alchemy VTT?”
What Is Alchemy VTT?
Alchemy RPG is a virtual tabletop, or VTT, just like Foundry or Roll20. Its main purpose is to provide a shared digital space for people to play tabletop RPGs online. Players sign on using their browser, all seeing the same screen that the Game Master controls. What they see, exactly, is where Alchemy starts to set itself apart.
The most used VTTs tend to put a focus on maps. This is because many were developed with Dungeons & Dragons in mind, as it is the most popular TTRPG by far. And since much of one’s time in D&D is spent fighting monsters or exploring dungeons, much VTT functionality emphasizes ways to enhance that experience. Think dynamic lighting for dark dungeons, animations for combat magic, and grid support for maps. Alchemy instead centers narrative scenes.
When you look at Alchemy’s platform, you instead spend more time seeing animated backgrounds depicting adventuring locations. Music or ambiance is always playing at the GM’s command. Character profile pictures are always on deck, with the active PC front and center during their combat turn. It’s dynamic, and meant to keep your eyes on screen even when it’s not your turn. The traditional battle map is available, but the UI wants you more invested in its fast, fluid scenes.
Free Alchemy Vs Subscription
To use Alchemy RPG, you need to make an account. The actual VTT is web-based so you don’t need to download anything, but you need an account to save assets and upload your own stuff. There are two types of accounts: free and Alchemy Unlimited. With a free account, you can only save three characters and one game room. Great if you only play once a week with friends, but not enough if you GM a lot or have a streaming show.
Alchemy Unlimited gives you, as the name implies, unlimited slots for characters, games, and universes. This allows you to host several different campaigns with different house rules and even in different TTRPG systems. As Alchemy is still developing, an Unlimited account is a cool $8 a month or $88 a year.
Actually making a game in Alchemy is as easy as maneuvering to the menu sidebar, finding your library, and clicking “Create Game.” You’ll see your default scene open up before your eyes. From there, you can use the obviously-labeled buttons to change settings. You can add handouts and lore for players to see and switch scenes. To make a new scene, just click the option on the bottom right. You’ll find toggles for background art, animations, music, and more. You will need to have an active library to pull from, which you can create by uploading your own content or by purchasing items from the marketplace.
Built For Streamers
Alchemy is the only VTT with a built-in streamer mode. While this might only appeal to a specific audience, it serves that audience very well. The visual direction of Alchemy is already focused on big pictures and simple scenes, making it great for actual play shows. But it doesn’t stop there. You can activate a “Streamer Mode” that puts everything on one screen for maximum efficiency.
In Streamer Mode, Alchemy will show your video chat right on top of the background graphics. The scene the GM picks and their music choice is still there as well. Finally, viewers can subscribe to your games and even take part in a spectator chat box that shows up on the Alchemy screen. The task of cutting video feeds out of Zoom or Discord is done for you, with native video used instead and placed naturally within your screen setup.
Again, this might not be the selling point for every GM. But it is a lifesaver for those just getting into streaming. Never mind learning the complicated process of creating layouts and allocating all of your space in OBS. Alchemy puts it all on one sleek screen. Even experienced streamers might find themselves gravitating towards Alchemy just for the simplicity of it all.
Overall, Alchemy is still in its early stages but it presents an intriguing stage for theater of the mind gameplay. A lot of work is going into building a library of evocative art and mood-setting music. The streamer mode looks to be a great budget option for those with big dreams and small graphic design skills. It’s not going to dethrone Foundry, but it’s aiming for a whole different kind of gameplay.