Content of the article: "Homebrew Potion Crafting System"
So, I’m running a campaign where one of my players took a proficiency in Alchemist’s Tools and is interested in crafting potions. I’ve run a couple campaigns where I have players with an herbalism kit, and the rules for crafting healing potions work fine, but this is the first time I’ve had a player looking to make actual potions. I’ve been looking through the rules and I don’t feel that the crafting system in the core books is well suited to crafting potions. Your mileage may vary with crafting regular magic items, but it doesn’t make sense to me that it would take you months to brew a potion based on the prices given in the DMG.
For example, a Potion of Speed replicates Haste, a Level 3 spell, and is technically a very rare item. If we take the price suggestions given in the DMG, the Potion of Speed is going to take exponentially longer to craft than a +1 sword, or even a Level 3 Spell Scroll.
Given all that, I’ve homebrewed a reworked crafting system that gives the players an opportunity to actually craft potions without needing to spend months for something they will use for one fight. This system allows players to create potions that replicate a spell, with reasonable restrictions, that can affect an ally or yourself. For example, you could craft a Potion of Speed (hereafter referred to as a Potion of Haste, which is what I call it in my game since it replicates the Haste spell). On the other hand, you wouldn’t be able to craft a Potion of Commune or Silent Image. In my system crafting takes two steps, brewing and distilling, and allows characters to either spend money on ingredients, or use ingredients they’ve harvested from monsters.
I mentioned earlier how I think basing the potion costs on the rarity provided is ridiculous. Consumable items should cost much less than a permanent item. Even the half cost for consumables is still a lot of money. At the low range, that makes a Very Rare Potion of Haste 2,500 gp, compared to a 500gp +1 sword. Maybe it is worth more, but it’s not 5 times more valuable.
My recommendation is that the ingredients for a potion should cost 200gp X the level of the spell replicated. This would make crafting potions within the financial reach of characters, but if they spend all their money on crafting, then they will lose out on the opportunity to buy other magic items. Your mileage may vary depending on how many magic items are available for sale. In my game at least, there is usually a store selling magic items in most cities, and there are usually at least one or two pretty good items for their level, but they are expensive. Under this pricing formula for potions, players have to make a trade-off between buying a magic item or buying the materials to craft potions and risk having that money go to waste.
A level 5 character looking to make 3 Potions of Haste would have to spend 1,800gp in total, 600gp for each potion. This money is spent at the Brewing stage, and if they fail a check, either at the Brewing or Distilling stage, they lose the ingredients.
This is the step where the player has to spend the money on the ingredients and begin the crafting process. Narrative wise, at this step the player takes all the ingredients, crushes them up, mixes them around in a big pot, and creates a brew. That brew then has to sit for a number of days to allow the ingredients to ferment and become potent enough to use.
Mechanically, the brewing requires an alchemist tools check of DC 10 + the level of spell and takes 1 day to brew + a fermenting period equal to the level of the spell it is replicating.
A player who wants to spend the money on the ingredients or has them in their inventory (we’ll get to that later) to make multiple potions can make enough brew to create a number of potions equal to their proficiency bonus. This requires only one check to make the brew.
So, our level 5 character looking to make a Potion of Haste would need to pass a DC 13 check and could make brew large enough to create 3 potions, which would take a total of 4 days. At this stage the character will expend the ingredients, in our case 1,800gp worth, and if they fail this check, they will lose all 1,800gp
This is the step where the player takes their brew and turns it into a usable potion. Narratively, they’re boiling their brew to separate the liquid from the solid and allowing the condensation to form a concentrated potion that can be used.
Mechanically, the distilling requires an alchemist tools check of DC 10 + 2 X the level of the spell and takes one day. The skill check and the distilling time is required for each individual potion that the player wishes to create. So, if the player made enough brew for 3 potions, they would need to make three checks, over 3 days.
So, our level 5 character would have to pass a DC 16 check three times over 3 days to create their 3 potions. At this stage, players will only use enough of the brew to make one potion for each check. If they fail their first check, they will lose that portion of the brew, but will still have enough left for the other two potions if they pass those checks.
As an alternative, players can also use ingredients harvested from monsters to replace the cost of the materials. In general, materials harvested from monsters with a defining ability or trait that is related to the specific spell can be used in the potion to replicate that spell. If a player wanted to make a Potion of Haste, they could use something like Quickling blood. I am going to generally base how much they get off of passing a Medicine check, which can be performed by another player who is proficient in Medicine. Maybe a 12 gets them enough for 1 potion, a 20 enough for 3. Your call though.
In this case maybe our players are in the Feywild and they kill a Quickling. If they harvest its blood, they could use it to replace the ingredients cost for their Potion of Haste
Players need to have a “recipe” for a potion in order to craft it. Players can learn recipes for potions that replicate spells of level up to their proficiency bonus. Players can learn recipes for new potions by making an Alchemist Tools check. If the player has access to a library, or someone willing to teach them, this check is relatively easy, just DC 10 + the level of the spell. If the players kill a monster and harvest materials from it, a DC + 2 X the level of the spell will reveal what kind of potion the ingredient can be used for.
If our player is in a city and has access to the library at the mage’s academy, they can pass a DC 13 check to learn the recipe for the Potion of Haste by reading. Alternatively, when they kill that Quickling, they would need to pass a DC 16 check to learn how to use it.
Anyways, the moral of the story is I think this is a better way to handle potion crafting. I’m always looking to tweak things and improve them, so give me your feedback and I’ll post any changes I make.
Here's a link to a PDF version: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1X8m3j8yjv-9RsP0UXi601GnH4yJng5s4/view?usp=sharing
- Are there actual rules on how to make healing potions?
- I made tables for magic item prices
- What can we learn from older editions? And how can we improve mechanical deficiencies with the help of older editions? (Crafting and base building)
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