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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Non-Magical Potions

Jeff Rients has a table of random non-magical scrolls (with some pretty good ideas) up on his blog. The first item is instructions on making a potion. For a brief moment, I conflated this with the title and came up with "non-magical potions". Which seems like a good idea...

Non-magical potions do some of the same things magical potions do, except they do it in a non-magical manner. The shortcut I would use is to look up a spell effect and translate it into a mundane equivalent: the equivalent of a Light spell, for example, would give low-light vision for a while. Spell effects that are impossible to explain in mundane terms can't be duplicated with non-magical potions. Some spell effects will require equipment or specific situations to implement as mundane effects: the equivalent of a Knock spell would boost finger sensitivity when picking locks, for example.

A key fact for non-magical potions is the delay: mundane effects take much longer to kick in. These guidelines use the intended duration:
  • effects that last 1-6 turns take effect 2d6 turns after consuming the potion;
  • effects that last 1-6 hours take effect 2d6 hours after consuming the potion;
  • effects that are meant to be permanent must be taken daily for 2d6 days.
The last can be used with things like growth serum, which speeds up or increases growth for immature animals, or for healing salves, which heal extra damage but do not replace normal healing.

Here's a couple quick d20 tables for you:
  1. Brain Enhancing Draught: enables heightened powers of recollection for 1d6 hours, improving the chances of figuring out treasure maps or remembering obscure details.
  2. Delusion Poison: feels like another potion, but has no real benefit; equal chance of Brain, Lethargy, Stimulant, Tactile Acuity, Sensory Acuity, or Physical Acuity.
  3. Tactile Acuity Draught: improves the odds of finding traps or secret doors by feeling surfaces and sensing wrong or unusual features, lasts 1d6 turns.
  4. Food Purifying Spirits: kills bacteria in tainted food or water for up to 1d6 turns.
  5. Lethargy Draught: duplicates effects of maximum encumbrance for 1d6 turns.
  6. Sleeping Draught: makes victim feel drowsy, keeps sleeping victim from being awakened by normal means for 1d6 hours.
  7. Paralytic Poison: prevents movement other than slurred speech and minimal muscular twitches for 1d6 turns.
  8. Heightened Mood Draught: victim reacts more positively to any other person for 1d6 turns.
  9. Nimble Digits Draught: heightens manual dexterity for 1d6 turns.
  10. Hallucination Poison: acts like Sensory Acuity (randomly roll for object or monster only the victim can "see") for 1d6 turns.
  11. Sensory Acuity Draught: recognize visual distortions for 1d6 turns, improving the chance of seeing through illusions or noticing invisible enemies/objects.
  12. Physical Acuity Draught: improves attack and defense by 1 for 1d6 turns.
  13. Low-Light Vision Draught: doubles apparent range of candles/torches or allows 30 foot range in nearly-dark settings for 1d6 hours.
  14. Stimulant Draught: increases move by 3 for 1d6 turns; 1 in 6 chance of Lethargy after effect is over.
  15. Healing Salve: heals an extra d6 hit points during a week or two of healing.
  16. Medicinal Spirits: improves the chances of recovering from a disease, requires daily doses.
  17. and above: See Powerful Non-Magical Potion Table.
Powerful Non-Magical Potion Table (d20):
  1. Cerebral Poison: prevents reading, spell casting or spell preparation for 1d6 hours.
  2. Deadly Poison: death in 2d6 hours unless resisted.
  3. Total Hallucination Poison: victim sees different terrain and is no longer certain of movement for 1d6 hours; for example, some obstacles will be invisible, others will be displaced (and appear as a different kind of obstacle,) and direction/distance moved will be random.
  4. Food Poison: causes vomiting for 1d6 hours.
  5. Long-Term Deadly Poison: death in 2d6 days unless resisted, administered daily.
  6. Sensory Poison: causes random behavior and confusion for 1d6 turns.
  7. Poison Antidote: counteracts effects of non-damaging poisons and prevents up to 1d6 damage from natural venoms or toxins ingested within the next 1d6 turns.
  8. Harmful Poison: 3d6 damage in 2d6 hours.
  9. Nutrient Draught: removes feelings of hunger for 1d6 hours, 1 in 6 chance that it counts as a single meal.
  10. Depilatory Draught: causes all hair to fall out in 1d6 turns. Will grow back at normal rate.
  11. Plant Serum: speeds up plant growth when used daily as a plant fertilizer.
  12. Growth Serum: adds an extra potential hit die to a growing animal.
  13. Stunted Growth Serum: subtracts one hit die from potential when administered to a growing animal.
  14. Physical Alteration Serum: alters one of six physical characteristics (different potion for each): Hair Growth, Baldness, Long Limbs, Stunted Limbs, Fattened, Skinny. Other potions for altering colors or odors may exist.
  15. and above: flavored/colored water.


  1. Some of these map pretty closely with effects I have in mind for drugs in my campaign. So you get some of the good of potions, but they all have a chance of addiction. (based on Chris Hogan's rules)

  2. @Telecanter: I haven't seen Chris Hogan's rules on addiction, to my knowledge...

    When you were coming up with drug effects for your campaign, did you use the existing spell lists for ideas? The way I came up with the non-magical potions was: spell levels 1 through 3 became potions on the first table, levels 4 through 6 became "powerful" potions on the second table. Spells that I didn't have an immediate idea how to turn into non-magical effects were skipped. The Polymorph spells were broken up into individual minor physical alterations (the Physical Alteration Serums, as well as the Depiliatory Draught.)

  3. The addiction rules are in small but vicious dog at vaults of Nagoh.

    My inspiration was more mundane: I just tried to think of mechanical advantages players would want bad enough to risk addiction. Well, and also seem to fit the archetypal drug effects: speed, strength, ignoring pain. But looking back at your list there are some interesting ones I hadn't thought of and might use now.