Sunday, October 16, 2016

Corrupted Potions

Another bit of rumination on Potions and their sensitivity to the environment around them, in contribution to Of Dice and Dragons' October RPG Blog Carnival topic.

Part 1 here.

While there are a number of spell failure tables and mechanics are available, I don't know if there are any for potions (or I'm just lazy and never looked).

I would theorize that, although potions are typically treated as infallible 'magic bullet' items in game-playing, that in 'reality' they may be more unreliable - concoctions brewed by sketchy alchemists, or enchanted by second-rate mage's assistants...

Additionally, if the potion is considered a distillation enchanted with a spell effect, would the fluid be susceptible to magical influences?

So... A consideration of a few things, in no particular order, that may have an effect on a lowly potion, minding its own business in its flask or vial....

  • Sharp knocks or shaking
  • Exposure to magical attacks on bearer
  • Exposure to magic use by bearer
  • Chaos forces
  • Dragon fire
  • Proximity of magical critters or constructs
  • Environmental contamination or corruption
  • Fungi
  • Poor seal on container leaking fluid or magical essence
  • Exposure to light
  • Improper preparation
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Chemical/alchemical interaction with improper container
  • Cross-contamination with other potions or liquids
  • Fermentation
  • Exposure to the aether during planar travel
  • Exposure to abyssal creatures/beings
  • Divine intervention 
  • Elapsed time since the potion was created
After all, the world is a big, scary place...

I'm not going to formally estimate what proportion of portions may be corrupted by one variable or another.  Perhaps the potion fails a save vs the hazard.

It just depends on how scary and random magic is in the particular game-world of the players.  Something to add a bit more uncertainty before quaffing that potion of cure light wounds, or fly....

Potion corruption effects (d100):

1-2: Poison (save vs death or damage, dependent on 'level' of potion magic)
3-6: Coma (1d8 days)
7-9: Paralysis (limb 80%, full 20%, save vs permanent)
10-15: Potion effect reversed (if applicable)
16-19: Light sensitivity (-1 to actions in full light, similar to goblins)
20-23: Anaphylactic shock
24-26: Blinded (save vs permanent)
27-29: Mute (save vs permanent)
30-34: Drowsy to asleep (1d8 hours)
35-39: Sleepless, hyperactivity (1d3 days)
40-45: Hallucinations (1d6 hours)
46-49: Numbness of limb, face, lips (1d8 hours)
50-53: Sense of taste, loss or hypersensitivity (1d4 days)
54-58: Ringing ears (1d8 hours)
59-61: Hair falls out
62-64: Hair grows everywhere
65-70: Delayed effect (1d4 hours)
71-74: Skin becomes scaly, hardened (Improve natural AC 60%, decrease Dex 1pt 40%)
75-81: Potion ineffective/inert
82-85:Potion effect halved
86-89: Potion transmuted into another potion entirely
90-94: Potion has secondary potion effect (random)
94-98: Potion effect doubled
99-00: Permanent effect, usable once per day

(Feel free to add to or mod up the table, or simply use it as a starting point or shopping list for potion randomness...)


  1. Potions don't come with labels, and aren't color coded.
    Much like magic items require an "Identify" spell, with concomitant risk of a curse, "taste-testing" potions is similarly risky.
    There's a reason Alchemists are expensive hirelings, going in as a one of patron foe them to through a sample of the unknown Potion in a gas chromatograph under a fume hood, or spin it in a centrifuge, should be costly.

    1. I do allow the taste-test, although often with ambiguous results, and in my campaign, there is a wandering alchemist of dubious skills who the party occasionally comes across for possible IDs and sketchy potions...

  2. Wow, thanks blogspot. "...going in not as a real patron, but just a one-off customer for them to throw..."