Guide to Potions

Today I want to talk about Potions. The ultimate gamble! Lets see what the Players Handbook says about these things?

Potions and Oils: Magical potions and oils are easily found but hard to identify. They come is small bottles, jugs, pots, or vials and clearly radiate magic if a detection spell is used. However, the effect of any potion is unknown until some brave soul tries a small sample. The results can be quite varied. The imbiber may discover he can float or fly, resist great heat or cold, heal grievous wounds, or fearlessly face the greatest dangers. He may also find himself hopelessly smitten by the first creature he sees or struck dead by a powerful poison. It is a risk that must be taken to learn the nature of the potion.

Well, that is better put then anything that I could write! But lets look further into these things, because often times, we don’t run them correctly. I know that the natural impulse is to just identify them from the get go, but this seriously rips off the mystique which should go with finding these wondrous beverages and oils!


Creating these things is very similar to CREATING MAGICAL ITEMS. A Wizard must be at least 9th level, and a Priest must be 7th level to brew and create his/her own potions. Just because a player knows a spell, doesn’t mean that he instantly knows how to create a potion that does the same thing. He still has to research the potion to find out everything that is involved, and spend some time in his lab to actually brew the stuff up.

The cost should be either the equivalent of the XP listed in the DMG (up to 1000gp), or if you want to make it more available, as low as 200gp. The exact nature of the ingredients is up to you. A wizard spends this money in his lab, and a priest must construct an alter or a shrine. All of the ingredients are burned up during the process.

The exact process is: First we take the price it cost to make, and divide that number by 100. This will give us the number of days that it takes to brew the potion up, infuse it, distill it, decant it, and finally extract the potion. For instance, a potion costing the full 1,000gp would take 10 days of uninterrupted work, breaking only to sleep and eat some here and there.

After the work is done, it is the DM’s turn. He secretly rolls percentile dice to see if the potion worked or not. To determine the percentage chance of success, we start with a base chance of success of 70%. For every 100gp worth of ingredients, we subtract 1%. For every two levels of the spellcaster (round fractions down), 1% is added to the base. Thus, Ruport the 14th level mage has been working on a potion that cost him 1,000gp to produce. Our base is 70%, we subtract 10% (1,000 ¸ 100 = 10) giving us 60%, but we add 7% because he’s 14th level, giving Ruport a 67% chance of successfully brewing the potion. Of course, if the wizard fails, the we DMs get to decide what happened, either the thing has become a Potion of Delusion or outright poison! And the funny thing is that the person who brew it up won’t know if it is good or bad until it’s too late, WA HA HA HA HA!!!!


Opening and drinking a potion has to be announced prior to rolling initiative, as it modifies it by +1. The potion itself doesn’t take effect until an additional initiative modifier delay of 1d4+1 has passed, THEN the full magical effects become evident.

Oils are a bit different. They are poured over the body or smeared on what you want to effect, but they too have a speed factor delay of 1d4+1 to the initiative.


The exact formula can be reverse engineered if the wizard/priest has a sample of the potion that he wants to make, otherwise all spell research rules apply.


This is risky business which never fails to provide hours and hours of good entertainment to everybody who isn’t trying to identify the potion. With just a little taste, not enough to deplete the effect, or last for long, the player must put just a touch on his tongue, from there as successful wisdom check (done secretly by the DM) will either identify the concoction, or mis-identify it. He may not know exactly what it is, but he will have a good hint of what it does.

For example: You feel a bit lighter (Potion of Flying), You feel kind of refreshed (Elixir of Health), Is it cold in here, or is it just you? (Potion of Resistance to Heat)

It should also be noted that not all potions are uniform. A Healing Potion created by a grand gray elf wizard will taste, look, and probably smell much different then the same potion created by a hoodoo lady deep in the swamp. Have fun with it!


Most potions have times listed, but a few don’t. What do you do? Well, the core rules say that if the duration isn’t listed, then it is assumed that the potion will last for 1d4+4 complete turns.


Speaking of having fun with it, one of the things that makes 2e so much good fun is what happens when two potions are actually intermingled with each other. Of course this includes drinking a potion while the other one is still in effect.

  • A potion of delusion always mixes well with anything.
  • A potion of treasure finding always yields a lethal poison.

Any other combination and, if we remember, we DMs will roll a 1d100 and check the results, or we can just pre-set the result if we’ve got a plot hook in mind.

01 Explosion. If two or more potions are swallowed together, internal damage is 6d10 hit points. Anyone within a 5-foot radius takes 1d10 points of damage. If the potions are mixed externally (in a beaker, say), all withn a 10-foot radius suffers 4d6 points of damage, no saving throw.

02-03 Lethal poison results. Imbiber is dead. If externally mixed, a poison gas cloud of 10-foot diameter results. All withink the cloud must roll successful saving throws vs. poison or die.

04-08 Mild poison causes nausea and the loss of 1 point each of Strength and Dexterity, no saving throw. One potion is cancelled and the other is at half strength and duration. (Determine randomly which potion is cancelled).

09-15 Potions can’t be mixed. Both potions are totally destroyed—one cancels the other.

16-25 Potions can’t be mixed. One potion is cancelled, but the other remains normal (random selection).

26-35 Potions can’t be mixed. Both potions function at half normal efficacy.

36-90 Potions can be mixed and work normally, unless their effects are contradictory and cancel each other out.

91-99 Compatible result. One potion (randomly selected) has 150% its normal efficacy. The DM can rule that only the duration of the augmented potion is extended.

00 Discovery. The mixing of the potions creates a special effect—only one of the potions will function, but its effects upon the imbiber are permanent. (Note that some harmful side effects could result from this at the DM’s discretion.)


Well, maybe new potions. With so many products out there, and the inferior method of which they are cataloged whose to know for sure?

ELIXIUM OF NEUTRITIUM: This potion, once drunk will allow the user to live with neither food or drink for 1d4 weeks. If food is eaten before the effect is worn off it is rejected and the character spends 1d2 rounds throwing up. This includes other potions. 500XP

OIL OF DISMISSIVENESS: This oil causes whatever it coats to become ignored. The item isn’t invisible, it simply isn’t looked at and if somebody attempts to look at it they get distracted by something else and forget to try to look at it again. The oil can either coat up to the following items or weapons; 4 size L , 8 size M, 12 size S. If armor is coated, the person themselves is instantly dismissed. Persons under the effects of the oil of dismissiveness are always allowed to surprise an enemy, however once an attack is made, that person is noticed until he stands still for one round, or if there is another target for the enemy to attack nearby, he will chose that target instead. Worth: 200XP

POTION OF THE BLACKEST DEATH: This potion is easily misidentified as Potion of Undead Control 50% of the time, those who drink it transform into an undead creature, willingly taken, the drinker must make a saving throw vs. polymorph. Success means that they still turn into the undead, and possess all of its powers but their personality remains their own, failure indicates that the drinker becomes that undead in mind as well, and controlled by the DM until the potion wears off.

0th level Characters become Zombies
1st level: Ghoul
2nd level: Shadow
3rd level: Wight
4th level: Ghast
5th level: Wraith
6th level: Mummy
7th level: Spectre
8th level: Vampire
9th level or higher: Ghost

The new undead monster attacks exactly as dictated by the Monster Manual, with all of the bonuses and negatives that go with it until the potion has expired. Characters instantly destroyed by turning attempts receive a saving throw vs. death or be slain instantly, success means that the potion expires and the person is polymorphed back to normal instantly. Polymorphing back to normal, even upon the end of the duration, requires a successful System Shock check, failure indicates death and the character remains undead.

Low level undead characters receive a saving throw to ignore any orders from higher level undead who can normally control them, failure means that they are effectively charmed by the master until the master is slain or the potion expires. Worth 200XP


Timeshadows said...

Nice potions. :D

Brooze the Bear said...

I am against the concept of "level" as unnatural. Currently I don't have any players really into Magic, but if I did. I'd have an "Alchemy" proficiency. Normal range of success 18-30% at 1st level. Treating potion making as a 9th olevel spell, a daring 1st level wizard would have 1/9th of his Alchemy skill %ile chance of making anything active. Critical fumble would mean an explosion or another lab accident. Also factor in the level of the spell that the potion is trying to replicate. Potion of shocking grasp would be 1/9th, potion of invisibility, a 2nd level spell, would be 1/18th for the 1st level and 1/9th forthe second levek wizard, to the minimum 1% chace of success for a wizard, provied all the facilities and resources are in place. This way, any player can attempt - to duplicate the existing potions or ceate their own.

Big question, what's the use of Alchemy skill? Brewing potions aside, a successful sue of an alchemy skill can ID a potion without tasting it (straight skillchance modified by the commonality of the potion). Alchemist can brew non-magical substances - greek fire, lubricants, and acids. Also, if an Achemist gets his hand on an Alchemical cookbook, and has all the proper ingredients, a character wioth an Alchemy skill can brew exactly rhat potion at his or her base chance of success. Modified by the purity of ingredients. Thus, if gold uis required and a gild piece is used, typical 14 karat gold, that's only about 65% effective, they would need to go to some wizard or a jeweler and requets 99% pure elemental gold, which will fecth a pricey sum. I believe that AD&D will be greater fun if players can ATTEMPT these things without the artifical level restictions. Incidentally, RuneQuest rules have a great critical success/fumble result table based on %ile dice throw and how high or low the base skill is. Critical succes and fumble percentiles will be different for a base 28% or 15% or 40% base chance of success skill. It changes with each single percentile increment. Nearly continuous flexibility and changing development.

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