Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Potion Traits

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the fabulous potion shop. Step right up, roll all your dice, and find out what the marvelous concoction you're about to partake of is like.

I had a heck of a time fitting enough colors, features, and flavors to satisfy me into this chart. Because of this I eventually decided to add a d30 to the mix. I hope this doesn't reduce the number of people that will find this useful.

If you don't have a d30 you could delete the current d10 (side effects), move colors down into its spot, and then decide whether you want to cut features down to d12 or flavors down to d20.

Another difference with this chart is that the font is smaller to accommodate the 30 flavor entries. It may be fine to use at it's current size, but if you want to shrink it down to digest size or something similar it becomes an issue.

Because of that and the new problem that you might not want players generating flavor and side effects (how would they know if they're just looking and swirling the liquid in its bottle?) I pulled those two categories onto a separate page and made everything a little easier to read. If you prefer this format you can have your players roll up potions using chart A with no worries, and then when they taste/drink the potion roll the results on chart B.


I've blogged a lot about giving players information with which they they can make decisions. And traditionally potions were the same way, you sip the potion of levitation and you suddenly feel lighter. Otherwise, you would have to identify every potion to make them useful. So how do we use a random potion generator in game?

I can think of five ways:
  • Don't. Give your potions hints that are logically related to their function. Aww, but I just made this cool chart!
  • Roll away and make every potion as random as Zagyg's heart. Potions might be less useful in your campaign.
  • Roll for every potion type as DM. Do this ahead of play and then be consistent. That way players know the fishy-smelling, black syrup is actually a greater potion of healing.
  • Roll randomly on the first encounter of any potion type. I like the idea of players rolling these (if there aren't too many in a batch), they're fun. So, the first time any potion type is encountered let them roll and after that be consistent in the qualities - "Well, there's one fishy-smelling, black syrup and 2 potions you need to roll for."
  • You could roll ahead of time and trump one of the qualities with one more logically related to its function.
Enough blathering, shall we try it?

2, 2, 8, 7, 10, 16, 26

Translucent, thin, full to the brim, no side effects, silver, sparkling, pepper.

Okay, it's thin, which is the consistency of water and the most common result. It's full to the brim, which doubles the potion, and has no side effects. Both of these qualities impinge on the potion in play the way a color doesn't, you could always ignore them. Sparkling in the features category is literal, it twinkles or sparkles in light. So, basically we have a watery, silver potion that sparkles and tastes of pepper.

4, 1, 8, 7, 11, 16, 1

Opaque, evaporative, full to the brim, no side effects, gold, sparkling, putrid

By evaporative I was thinking a volatile fluid like alcohol that, well, evaporates off of your tongue. Putrid may take some interpretation it's basically foul, but you might roll again on the flavor chart if you want to know if the foulness is specifically staleness, rottenness, cloying, or whatever.

1, 2, 7, 5, 5, 17, 15

Transparent, thin, full, belching/flatulence, green, iridescent, anise.

Pretty straight forward, a thin greenish potion that tastes of black licorice and gives you gas.

There you have it. Of course all the categories can be edited to your taste. Let me know if you have any suggestions. I hope you and your players get some enjoyment out of this.


  1. Nice charts. I'll for sure be using these!

  2. Who doesn't have a d30?

    Report them to the Order!

  3. Thanks! These must have been fun designing. I think I'd probably be in the "Roll for every potion type as DM" although I'm also conflicted a bit and inclined towards "Give your potions hints that are logically related to their function." A Polymorph Self potion probably tastes different everytime... And to think that Control Undead might be purple and taste fruity! ;)

  4. Fantastic, thanks yet again.

  5. Even if I don't use all of your charts, I still cherry-pick the parts that I find useful for my campaign - keep them coming!

  6. Thanks folks. Just realized I forgot "frothy"! Ah well, I can always revise it after more use.

    At one point I almost went for a percentile flavor listing, but liked the more abstract iconic list of 30.

  7. In my games, I like to roll multiple dice at the same time -- attacks, saving throws, etc. I let the position OF the dice tell me which monsters, PCs, NPCs, etc. got which roll. You'd be surprised how quick this is and how easy it is to figure out once you do it awhile. All my players understand how it works and none of them ever cry foul. Why did I tell you this? Well, if you don't have a d30, roll an extra d10 or d20. Whatever die is closest to the d10/d20 sets the stage for the die. For example, if a d12 rolls closest to my d10, I'd use it to figure out which band of 10 I'd use for the d10 roll. Hope that's not confusing. Just my $0.02.

  8. Jim, I'm intrigued by using the dice positions. I'm not sure I follow though, are you saying whether a nearby die is odd or even will determine how you read the d10?