The Problem with Potions

Potions are one of the staple parts of a rpg, but they easy to find and in many ways could be said to be overused. Now, this is not suitable for every game, but for the few in which it might be an issue here are some ideas on how to handle that. Each method has their own set of problems, but this can lead to new and exciting adventures. There are several ways this issue can be dealt with if desired and a few are listed below:

  • Activation
  • Addiction
  • Alchemical Reaction
  • Cartel/Control
  • Diminishing Returns
  • Expiry Date
  • Fragile
  • Rare Ingredients
  • Side Effect
  • Unpredictable



When found, the potion is inert. It requires activation before drinking. Normally, a small drop of blood from the one who is going to be drinking it is enough, but other requirements may be possible, such as the potion is in two parts that need mixing together. There is a short period of time after mixing that the potion becomes viable. After that, it may become useless or require a second activation to work.



Drinking too many potions? Well now you need to drink more of them, every day. The stronger the potion the greater the chance of this happening. Withdrawal or going “cold turkey” is a painful process and drinking even one potion until you are free of the addiction resets any progress.


Alchemical Reaction

If you drink another potion within a certain time period of drinking another, or whilst under the effect of an existing non-healing potion, weird alchemical reactions may occur. They rarely kill you but may make you ill, negate the effect of both potions or something more unpleasant.



Arcane magic users cannot make potions, only those touched by the divine can – EG. the church. Healing “magic” in whatever form that is not controlled by the gods of healing or their allies is considered to be either evil or simply doesn’t exist.



Healing potions only work on one sub-set of the population. You have to get one tailored to you, otherwise, it won’t work or even worse, cause harm. These subsets can range from gender, age, species, those born in a certain region or anything else that would have an identifiable effect on someone’s physiology.


Diminishing Returns

Each potion drunk over a period of time is less effective. Drink one in a day, fine. Drink a second, it becomes less effective. A third is like drinking fruit juice.


Expiry Date

Potions are easy to make, but they don’t last long before they expire and become useless. Drinking an expired potion can have effect ranging from nothing to becoming violently ill. The stronger the potion, the less time they are viable and the greater any side-effects of drinking an expired dose become.



Potion bottles can be quite fragile or the nature of the potion makes the container fragile.


Rare Ingredients

To make even the simplest of potions, certain ingredients are required. This can be quite rare or hard to find so the costs of even a simple potion are x10 what it was before.


Side Effect

Drinking a potion is normally fine, but what if there was a downside. Yes, you are healed of damage, but you are now deaf or blind for an hour. Or a potion of regeneration causes you to think like a troll whilst it is in effect.



Potions are never perfectly predictable in their effects, but these ones are even worse. Two potions made form the same batch may vary wildly in their effectiveness.


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