Monday, July 19, 2010

Magic Potions

A question for my fellow DMs:

The way you do magic potions, does each type of potion have a specific appearance/flavor/etc? Are all healing potions a deep amber and burn when you drink them? Could a translucent purple potion and a milky blue potion both be potions of levitation?

On one hand, consistent potions let the players become experts on something in your world. It also saves them some time and trouble. You can also still introduce confusion... perhaps potions of healing and heroism are both red.
"Hmm....amber colored and burns going it's either a healing potion...or else it's hard liquor." (Both, I suppose, relieve pain)

With my current Cyclopedia game, I might rule that potions are consistent when made by the same magic-user. (Alternately, magic-users trained by the same mentor might brew similar potions.) Who says that every potion of healing has the same ingredients? If different mages have their own way of notating spells (thus necessitating the need for read magic in the rules as written), might they not make potions in such an individual fashion?



  1. I tend to make them consistent after the players suss out which is which. I have multiple versions of healing potions though -- 1d8, 2d8, 3d8 etc. so that keeps them guessing for awhile.

  2. I go with trends. Anyone who studied a particular recipe will get a similar looking potion. Some are pretty common (healing) others less so.

    Also, monsters often have different recipes.

  3. No.
    --There's more than one way to reach the same destination, 99% of the time, thus, Humanoid potions are different from Dokirin, or Western Isles quasi-Victorian Alchemy, which is also different from the Psionic Transmutation of draughts by the Psychic Deacons of the Hierophantic Church, etc.

  4. I like to use colour & flavour to signal not the type of potion, but rather to identify some of the ingredients (ie a burning taste for dragon's blood, oily texture for troll toe). This gives potions a "vintage" angle that allows tasters to determine the region where a potion was produced, the time period (during the great cockatrice infestation of '03 obviously!) and perhaps the alchemist / monastery responsible.

  5. I have always had the same schtick for potions. Healing is alway blue, feather fall has bits of feather in it, inviso has invisible liquid. I'm not really into PC's "taste testing." I make it easy on them to determine what it is.

    BTW I usually have 4 doses per vial.

  6. Since they are utilitarian items that sometimes need to be used under stressful conditions potions IMC are usually labeled, granted sometimes in foreign or exotic languages. They can look or taste like anything and come in many different kinds of container

    Also Wizards or an alchemist can make a roll (d20 vs INT) to identify them with an examination. someone who can make potions can do this without a roll or without using any of the potion.

  7. I've always gone with either a skill/characteristic test (or bring them back to town to identified by the Clurichaun who works in the local adventurers' tavern). If a stupid player wants to player a wise scholar of the magical arts, then I try to use the system to allow that just as we allow weaklings to play hulking brutes.

    But in descriptive terms, the appearance and taste of potions is consistent only when produced by magic users from the same tradition/education.

  8. Ugh. This is one of the ancient quandaries of D&D. I've done both ways over the years with mixed results. Also, when pre-gen characters start the game with a potion or two (generally a healing potion) do they know what it is? How? Often it is beyond these beginning characters to brew potions.

    While the consistent taste/look of a potion (call it "the Harry Potter School of Thought") provides a way to reward clever players, it's always proved to be too much record keeping (for me as the DM!) for my taste. Plus, I personally agree with Time Shadows...there's more than one road to Rome and who's to say different healing potions can't look differently. After all, poison potions are all different looking right?