Usually I just try to pump out as much fresh brain juice as possible, which is fun because I just write about whatever is interesting. But today I was trying to answer the question of "what is the best possible potion list to have in a game"? Which is a surprisingly different process.
I wrote a list of potions, nearly 200. A lot of them were crappy and I deleted them, but it was clear that the best potion list is not the longest potion list. You want to distill the good stuff down and discard the chaff.
Sure, a bloated potion list is good for DMs to steal ideas for their own adaptations. But a system's core potion list should be as high quality as possible. It also needs to be large enough to feel like there's a good variety there.
Anyway, most games have potion lists with about 20 entries, which seems thin to me.
Or they'll have potion lists that are just adapted straight from the spell list. Which is fine, but it makes it seem that potions are just liquid spells, and I want them to be more than that. I want potions to have their own feeling and their own lore.
Besides, spells have to be (sort of) balanced. Potions are things that you find randomly or at the DM's discretion--there's no need to make them psuedo-equivalent in power level. You can go pig wild when writing them.
I had a few goals when I wrote up my potion list:
- Make a list of 20 old-school potions for people who want a more retro potion list, and who want to avoid the weird stuff.
- Make more potions that were useful for exploration, not just combat. (Spells are prepared with an expectation in mind. Potions are just found. Therefore potions can afford to be more situational than spells.)
- Make potions that are good for solving (and creating) OSR-style challenges (especially of the dungeoncrawling variety).
- Make potions that had multiple (but intuitive) uses. Unlike spells, potions are a known substance (liquid) with known properties (liquidity). It has a context and a known behavior (we already know what we can do with 1oz of liquid). Potions should have uses other than just drinking. For example, if a potion of invisibility is poured out on the floor, it should make a small section of the floor invisible, creating a window.
- Make a list of 100 potions.
I wrote too many potions. Please comment on which potions you think are crappiest. Either because they're boring, or you've seen them too many times, or because they wouldn't lead to good gameplay.
|by Alexander Fedosov|
Note: Potions descriptions start with a description of what happens when you drink the potion. ("You heal 1d8+1 HP".) Other uses of the potion are detailed later on in the paragraph.
By designating a location within 100', you can see that location as if you were there. You can look at a different location each round. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
2. Deadly Poison
Created by feeding a chain of poisonous animals to each other. Poison (2d6).
You gain a fly speed of 24. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
4. Fire Resistance
All incoming fire damage is reduced by 6 points. Lasts 30 minutes.
5. Gaseous Form
As the spell gaseous form. Lasts 30 minutes.
6. Giant Size
You triple in size. Your physical attacks deal double damage and you take half damage from physical sources. When making Strength checks, treat your Strength at 24. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
Alternatively, it can be poured on an object or part of an object to make it triple in size. Lasts 30 minutes.
You recover 1d8+1 hit points.
You get +4 to all d20 rolls. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
You are invisible. If poured on a wall or floor, creates a psuedo-window that you can see through. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
You are immune to damage. Lasts 1 round.
All magical attempts to learn about you fail. People forget you exist as soon as they stop looking at you. Lasts 30 minutes.
Turns you into stone. If poured on stone, turns it into flesh.
A piece of a creature must be added to this potion before it can be used. You transform into an exact copy of that creature. Multiple donors creates chimeras. Lasts 30 minutes if same species or 1d6 rounds if different species.
Any poisons in your body are vomited out intact. You can vomit the poison into the (now empty) potion bottle if you wish.
You shrink to a twelfth of your normal size. (Feet becomes inches.) Your Strength is 1, all of your attacks deal a single point of damage, and you take double damage from physical sources. Lasts 30 minutes.
Alternatively, it can be poured on an object or part of an object to make it shrink down. Anything smaller than a couch can fit in your pocket. Lasts 30 minutes.
16. Sovereign Glue
Elemental stickiness. Glues anything to anything, forever. Very difficult to see if spread on a surface.
17. Spider Climb
As the spell spider climb. Lasts 30 minutes.
18. Universal Solvent
Dissolves any adhesive. Neutralizes sovereign glue and sovereign grease. Causes hard materials to become softer. (Stone becomes like clay, adamantine becomes as soft as normal steel.) Don't get it on your hands.
19. Water Breathing
You can breath underwater. Lasts 30 minutes.
20. Zombie Blood
You appear to be a cold, rotting corpse but can still act normally. Unintelligent undead will ignore you as long as you ignore them. You count as undead. Lasts 30 minutes.
All incoming acid damage is reduced by 6 points. Lasts 30 minutes.
Plants and animals instantly grow to their adult size and form.
You die and a version of yourself from an alternate reality is permanently summoned to your location to be your new replacement PC. This character is exactly like your previous character except they [d4]: 1 = are a different gender, 2 = are a different class, 3 = have opposite values and Convictions, 4 = are a different age.
You cannot be moved from your location. If poured on an object, it cannot be moved from its location. If poured on a creature, it cannot move from its location if it fails a save. Lasts 30 minutes.
You turn into an inanimate piece of furniture appropriate to the environment; this lasts until the following morning. If poured on an inanimate object, that object permanently wakes up as the spell animate object.
You return to the location of your birth. No save. If poured on a creature (instead of consumed) a save is allowed.
When making Charisma checks to impress people or get them to like you, treat your Charisma as if it were 18. Creatures that might be sexually attracted to you must make a Save or be fascinated by you, unable to look away, as long as no one takes any overtly hostile actions.
Bottle Imp: Black
Answers one question truthfully. Knows everything that Hell knows (which is damn near everything). If you eat it, or if it crawls down the throat of an intact corpse, it can possess that body for 30 minutes. Dies quickly upon contact with air. Can only answer questions that start with “what”.
Bottle Imp: Blue
Answers one question truthfully. Knows everything that Hell knows (which is damn near everything). If you eat it, or if it crawls down the throat of an intact corpse, it can possess that body for 30 minutes. Dies quickly upon contact with air. Can only answer questions that start with “why” or “how”.
Bottle Imp: Green
Answers one question truthfully. Knows everything that Hell knows (which is damn near everything). If you eat it, or if it crawls down the throat of an intact corpse, it can possess that body for 30 minutes. Dies quickly upon contact with air. Can only answer questions that start with “when” or “where”.
Bottle Imp: Red
Answers one question truthfully. Knows everything that Hell knows (which is damn near everything). If you eat it, or if it crawls down the throat of an intact corpse, it can possess that body for 30 minutes. Dies quickly upon contact with air. Can only answer questions that start with “who”.
Nothing you swallow will affect you in any way. If poured on a ground, creates a bottomless hole about 5' in diameter. Lasts 30 minutes.
You gain 50 pounds. If poured on food, it erupts into 3d6 more servings of that food. Copies are delicious, fancy, and have none of the magical properties of the original food (if any). “Food” is limited to human food.
You no longer need to breathe. You cannot speak or cast spells. Lasts 30 minutes.
If you are caught in a breath attack, you can choose to inhale the breath attack, thereby negating it. You can hold it in you for as long as you can hold your breath, then breath out the breath attack normally. Also works on strong wings and gases. You are immune to any negative effects of inhaled things. If you can kiss someone, you can suck out their breath, and they take 3d6 non-lethal damage. Lasts 30 minutes, or until used.
You breath out a 20' cone of sticky pink bubbles. Creatures caught in this area are covered with bubbles, and get -2 Attack, +2 Defense, and move at half speed. No save. These effects last until successfully scrape off the bubbles, which takes a standard action and a successful Dex check. The bubbles remain on the ground for 30 minutes, and behave like a big, sticky pile of mattresses.
You gain a Burrow speed of 6 in dirt (not stone). Lasts 30 minutes. Alternatively, if this potion is poured on the ground, will excavate a burrow large enough for 6 people to sit inside comfortably. Only works on dirt, not stone.
If you drink this, you die (no save). If this potion is broken or poured out, it creates a noxious yellow cloud 20' in diameter. Creatures inside this cloud take 1d6 Con and HP damage each round (Save for half). Creatures with 1 HD or less must also Save or die. Vermin die automatically.
All incoming cold damage is reduced by 6 points. Lasts 30 minutes.
You comprehend all written languages. You are mute. Lasts 30 minutes.
Whenever you spend a standard action laughing, all creatures that can hear you must save or spend their next standard action laughing as well. Once a creature saves against this ability, they are immune to it. Lasts 30 minutes.
You are immune to fear. If you would normally roll a save vs fear, you instead gain +2 Attack vs the source of that fear (non-stacking).
You can see in the dark. Range 30'. You cannot see colors, just shapes. Lasts 30 minutes.
You sleep for 30 minutes and cannot be awoken by any means. This refreshes you as if it were a full night's sleep.
You receive 1d6 visions of death. Your DM describes different ways that you might die in the near future, beginning with more likely deaths. If you are in a dungeon, this can be as simple as describing the monsters (briefly but accurately) and how they kill you, as well as some traps.
You immediately gain 5 points of drunkenness. You must make a Con check every 10 minutes or fall asleep. Lasts 30 minutes.
You become flat and two-dimensional. You can walk through cracks, behind bookshelves, and most closed doors. If you turn your body so that you are facing someone edge-on, they cannot see you. You weigh one pound. You take double damage from piercing and slashing. Lasts 30 minutes.
You gain echolocation 50'. You are blind. Lasts 30 minutes.
You become ethereal (basically an invisible ghost). Roll a random encounter check for ethero-pelagic fauna and demons. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
You teleport out of the building or dungeon, arriving near the main entrance. If poured on an object, teleports it out of the building or dungeon. Teleported objects have a 50% chance to end up somewhere awkward, such as in a tree of beside a band of bandits. No effect outdoors.
You grow an extra arm. It is awkwardly placed. If you use it to attack, it gets -4 to hit and deal half damage. Otherwise, it can do anything an extra arm could do.
You gain 2d8+2 HP, exceeding your maximum HP, if applicable. Your HP cannot be restored by any means for the rest of the day. Multiple uses of this potion stack (both HP increases and duration of no healing).
You teleport to a point within sight. At the end of your next turn, you teleport back.
You can breath out a 30' cone of fire that deals 3d6 points of damage (save for half). If the potion is not drank but instead contacts air, it explodes, dealing 2d6 points of damage in a 20' diameter (save for half).--
You fuse with the next creature you touch.
You appear to be a ghost. Additionally, you may be incorporeal for 1 round at any point during this duration. Lasts 30 minutes.
The next thing you say will be believed by the creature you are talking to. No save. This effect ends as soon as the creature sees or learns something which contradicts your statement. (So “I am a pterodactyl” wouldn't be believed, because you don't have huge leathery wings. But “Your house is on fire” would be believed, unless your target was currently looking at their house and could see that it was not on fire.)
You have a brief vision of all of the treasure hoards in the dungeon, with all of the major items described briefly but accurately. If poured out on the floor, it creates an illusion of a small pile of treasure, which lasts for 30 minutes.
Don't fucking drink it.
Your clothing, armor, and weapons are instantly repaired and polished. You are instantly cleaned and styled. You get +2 when attempting to impress people. If you are at full HP and not doing anything undignified, creatures with fewer HD than you must succeed on a save whenever they wish to harm you.
|by Alexander Fedosov|
You take an extra round at the end of every round (after everyone else's initiative count). Lasts 1d6 rounds. You age 1 year for every round that Haste lasts.
You hate the first person you see after drinking this potion. You must succeed on a Cha check to avoid attacking them whenever you see them. When you attack them, you fly into a Rage (as barbarian). Permanent.
Hide From Animals
Animals cannot see you, hear you, or notice you by any means. Lasts 30 minutes or until you do something (except movement).
Hide From Dragons
Dragons cannot see you, hear you, or notice you by any means. Lasts 30 minutes or until you do something (except movement).
Hide From Undead
Undead cannot see you, hear you, or notice you by any means. Lasts 30 minutes or until you do something (except movement).
Dispels any negative emotions. You automatically succeed on your next save.
As a poison (2d6) except the damage is cold. If poured out into a body of water, it will freeze the surface of the water a foot thick, 50' in diameter. If poured out on a creature, treat is as a poison (1d6) except the damage is cold.
Your skin becomes metal. Reduce all incoming physical damage by 3 points. If poured on an object, turns it to metal. Lasts 30 minutes.
Teleports you to a random room (if in a dungeon/building), a random building (if in a city), or a random location (if on the overworld). If poured on an object, does the same thing.
Your eyes emit light as if they were a bullseye lantern (narrow cone 60'). At one point during this potion's duration, you can choose to have X-ray vision for 1 round. Lasts 30 minutes.
You can a Fly speed of 1, but only when you concentrate, and only vertically (up and down). Flying horizontally requires a flat surface to push off from. If poured on an object, the object becomes weightless. Lasts 30 minutes.
All incoming cold damage is reduced by 6 points. Lasts 30 minutes.
You turn into a boat. The type of boat is relative to your size and cultural maritime history. You are sentient, but have no way of communicating or doing anything. No save, permanent. If this potion touches water, it immediately expands into a full-size sailboat. If rationed out in dribbles, can also be used to create 4 small rowboats.
You fall in love with the first person you see after drinking this potion. As charm, except romantic. No save.
You contract lycanthropy.
Your punches and kicks count as magic weapons +1. If applied to a weapon, it becomes a magic weapon +1. Lasts 30 minutes.
All silver objects within eyesight are teleported into your backpack. All local birds are enraged and will convene at your location to attack you (4-in-6 chance of a hostile swarm of birds arriving in 10 minutes, 100% chance of aggressive poop-bombing campaign for the week to come). This also works on very large silver objects, with potentially disastrous results.
You learn the number of floors in the dungeon, the number of secret doors, and how many rooms/hallways are connected to your current room. If poured out, the potion will turn into ink and attempt to make an accurate map of the surrounding countryside. The map uses pictograms, not words.
1d4+1 mirror images of yourself appear beside you. They mirror your movements perfectly. When an enemy makes an attack against you, they strike a random target (possibly you, but probably one of your images). Images vanish after being targetted.
One of your memorized spells mutates.
You gain a random mutation. Alternatively, can be poured on a mutation to cure it.
You pause time for 3 rounds. During this time, you cannot move from your location or interact with anything except yourself. After these three rounds, you must return your limbs to their exact position, or you will die.
While this potion is active, HP damage that you take is postponed until after the potion elapses. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
As the barbarian ability.
You die. You will return to life unharmed after 30 minutes. If poured in the mouth of a corpse, it permanently returns an a zombie. It is not under anyone's control.
You remember one of the spells that you have cast earlier today.
Nothing, not even inanimate objects, want to be near you. Creatures must succeed on a morale (or Cha) check in order to approach you. If they fail this check, they will not approach you for the rest of the potion's duration. You get +2 Defense against small ranged attacks (such as arrows). If poured on an object, it has the same effect. Lasts 30 minutes.
Gravity is reversed for you and all of your inventory. If poured on an object, it has the same effect. Lasts 30 minutes.
You lock away your soul in the prisons of your limbic system. You are effectively soulless. You are immune to emotions, level drain, and necromantic death effects. You feel no kindness nor compassion, but you know what your soul wants you to do, so you generally act the same as you would when you had a soul. You will have no memory of this afterwards. Lasts 30 minutes.
Cannot be drank; it is literal silver dust. Contains enough silver dust to spread across a doorway. (Demons cannot cross lines of silver.)
You vomit out a tiny fetus, which quickly grows into a clone of yourself. Your clone has a 50% chance to have a random mutation. Your clone will live for 1d6 minutes, but if you roll a 6 on this your clone is instead permanent. Your clone knows that it is a clone and that it will probably die soon (chest pains). Your clone has a morale score of 1d20. Unlike normal hirelings, you clone can sometimes be persuaded to do suicidal tasks. It has no clothing, gear, or memorized spells.
You can see through smoke and fog perfectly. If broken or poured out, creates a prodigious amount of fog—a 100' sphere, or enough to fill approximately 5 dungeon rooms.
Your arm turns into a python. If you attack with it, it has Attack 14, Strength 14, and deals 1d8+1 damage + grab. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
You can shoot vipers out of your fingertips. You can shoot one per round. Treat this as attacking with a bow, except the arrows are poisoned (1d6) and leave angry vipers where they land. The snakes and the shooting ability last 1d6 rounds.
If you believe something is true, it is true for you. This allows you to walk across a chasm by imagining a bridge, or open a locked door by imagining that it is unlocked. This only works if you fail an Int check, and only works on environments and local objects. Lasts 30 minutes, or until you use it once.
Creates an invisible, intangible bubble around you with a 10' diameter. Sound cannot pass through this bubble..
Elemental acid. Will melt through anything except glass and adamantine, and will eventually melt a hole all the way down to Hell. If poured on a stone floor, hole is 1' wide and narrows as it goes down. Lethal (and messily so) if drank.
Elemental Slipperiness. Surfaces coated with this become perfectly frictionless. Coats an area about 5' in diameter. Nearly invisible when spread thin. If drank, negates the effects of anything you ingest for the rest of the day; food, edible poisons, and potions will have no effect—they just pass right through you.
The next spell that targets you fails. Lasts until you go to sleep.
Speak With Beasts
You can speak with all non-swimming, non-flying, non-crawling, animals for 3 minutes (use a timer). Smaller animals tend to be smarter. Carnivores tend to be demanding.
Speak With Birds
You can speak with all flying animals for 3 minutes (use a timer). Birds are usually very smart, very stupid, or very smart and pretending to be stupid. Migrating birds are the primary source of gossip in the world, especially modern gossip.
Speak With Crawling Things
You can speak with all crawling things (such as lizards and slugs) for 3 minutes (use a timer). Reptiles tend to be careful, pragmatic, and stubborn. They usually know the deep history of a place. Insects know many useful things, but they struggle with human concepts of time and identity.
Speak With Dead
You can speak with a corpse as long as it has an intact mouth (or if you reattach the jawbone) for 3 minutes (use a timer). They tend to be incoherent, obtuse, and prone to reminiscing.
Speak With Fish
You can speak with swimming things for 3 minutes (use a timer). Cetaceans want to know all about you so they can fit you into their theories and stories. Fish tend to be amazed by everything, forgetful, and a little awkward. Sharks talk of nothing else except eating things, often times you.
Speak With God
You can speak with a god of your choice, who will answer one question, and optionally a follow-up question. But gods also ask questions of the querent (mostly pertaining to morality or their domains) and will not help you if they don't like your answer. Greater gods tend to be more accurate, but are also more likely to convert you to their religion.
If a god converts you to its religion, you must change one of your Convictions to reflect this. If you would be converted but already worship that god, you are instead compelled to donate to their cult or perform a small quest at that god's behalf at the earliest opportunity. Gods don't speak with words, just crystal-clear impressions, like ideas that someone else plants in your mind.
- Dead gods that dwell in the ashes of the earth are accurate 50% of the time. They are beyond caring about your moralities. You must be underground to speak with them.
- Lesser Slave-gods (such as Briga, the goddess of shoes) and great souls (popular heroes from folklore) are accurate 70% of the time, and have a 10% chance of converting you.
- Greater Slave-gods (such as Brigadoon, the most powerful of the many competing harvest gods), saints, and dead popes are accurate 85% of the time, and have a 30% chance of converting you.
- Zulin, Prince of the Upper Air, is accurate 100% of the time and has a 50% chance of converting you. However, he only speaks to royalty, since he is royalty himself (king of the gods).
Speak With Metal
You can speak with metal for 3 minutes (use a timer). Metal tends to have a pretty good knowledge of everything that has directly happened to it since it was forged, but not things that happened to it. Weapons speak of their kills; locks speak of what they guard. Cursed and trapped metal objects tend to be liars.
Speak With Plants
You can speak with plants for 3 minutes (use a timer). Plants often have either a deep-seated hatred towards things that eat them and cut them down, or resignation. Trees tend towards the hateful side of things, and sigh a lot. Flowers tend to be optimistic idiots and/or sexually graphic. Grasses are nearly impossible to talk to because they all shout at once.
The next thing you say is a suggestion, as the spell of the same name.
You are possessed by the spirit of Braddon the Breaker, a legendary hero who was eventually devoured by an alchemical ooze. He is honorable, cheerful, and boastful. Your Attack becomes 14 and you replace all of your class abilities with those of a level 6 Fighter. This lasts 30 minutes of until you fail to roleplay Braddon.
The Great Gambler
You are possessed by the spirit of Amashak the Evergreen, the greatest gambler who ever lived, and who was eventually devoured by an alchemical ooze. She is pragmatic, calculating, and flirtatious. Your d20 rolls are instead handled by coin flips. On a heads, treat it like a natural 1. On a tails, treat it like a natural 20. Lasts 30 minutes or until you fail to roleplay Amashak.
You are paralyzed. During that time you can use telekinesis once every 1d4 rounds. You cannot use telekinesis to move your body. Lasts 30 minutes or until something ends your paralysis.
You are possessed by the spirit of Mingola the Thrice-Vanished, a legendary villain who was eventually devoured by an alchemical ooze. She is sarcastic, quippy, and despises heroics. Your Attack becomes 14 and you replace all of your class abilities with those of a level 6 Thief. Lasts 30 minutes or until you fail to roleplay Mingola.
Your eyes glow blue. Glass objects vibrate near you. Your voice becomes a hollow reverb. Dogs flee from you. Cats are attracted to you. You can convince domesticated animals to kill themselves by succeeding on a Charisma check (once per target). Lasts 30 minutes.
You turn into a swarm of bees. You can speak with insects and flowers (who adore you). Your gear transforms with you. Lasts 30 minutes.
You turn into a cat. You can speak with felines. Your gear transforms with you. Lasts 30 minutes.
You turn into a dolphin. You can speak with air-breathing, swimming animals. Your gear transforms with you. Lasts 30 minutes.
You turn into a tiny gecko, 2” long. You can climb on walls and speak with reptiles. Your gear transforms with you. Lasts 30 minutes.
You turn into a seagull. You can speak with flying animals. Your gear transforms with you. Lasts 30 minutes.
You turn into a troll (including all its special powers: regeneration, darkvision, multiple attacks). You can shout any language you know, poorly. Your gear transforms with you. Regenerated HP remains after you transform back. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
You switch places with the object that you are staring at. Creatures get a save to resist.
You have two-way telepathy, 200'. Lasts 30 minutes.
You jump 6 seconds backwards in time. If used in combat, this potion can only be used to redo your turn (but remember that drinking a potion counts as your action for the turn); you cannot use this potion to redo other people's turns. Outside of combat, you can use this to undo everything that happened in the last 6 seconds.
You leap exactly 24 hours forward in time, reappearing in the exact same place.
You can speak all languages spoken by people (but not read them). This potion also makes you voluble, and when you speak to someone, you have a 1-in-6 chance of saying something you'll regret. If there is something you don't want the other party to know, you'll say that. Otherwise, you'll merely insult them.
You can see through all illusions and disguises. You can see the true form of transformed objects and creatures. Lasts 1d6 rounds.
Metal becomes intangible to you. If poured on an object, it becomes intangible to metal. This potion passes right through metal objects. Lasts 30 minutes.
Wood becomes intangible to you. If poured on an object, it becomes intangible to wood. This potion passes right through wood objects. Lasts 30 minutes.
You treat water as if it were solid ground. Lasts 30 minutes.
You can make your voice emerge from any point within 50'. You must still move your lips. Lasts 30 minutes.
|by Alexander Fedosov|
Use more potions.
They're situational tools with lots of different applications. Lots of them encourage lateral thinking. They're (a) usable by anyone, and (b) all single-use.
(These are basically the features that define Monte Cook's cyphers in Numenera, and everyone loves those. With good reason.)
They fact that anyone can use them leads to more tactical thinking. If you find a scroll you give it to the wizard. If you find a potion, you need to think about who gets it.
And because they're single use, you don't need to worry about balancing them so much. A potion is never going to break your game. Who cares if they use a potion to finish your boss battle in a single round? It probably took some clever thinking, and there will be more boss battles when they don't have the perfect potion at the perfect time.
Let me know which potions you think are the weakest links. I appreciate it.