Monday, December 16, 2019

A Take on Healing Potions

There are two types of healing potions in my campaign.  Those that are made from natural ingredients that can be harvested and mixed into healing concoctions.  These come in two forms. a drinking potion or a salve. And then the magic healing potion.

Natural Healing Potions
These potions are relatively cheap and much easier to find.  When the party is looking to buy a batch of healing potions these are usually what they are purchasing.  The ingredients are not that difficult to find, most are grown in gardens or harvested from the local fauna.  Each culture has their version of healing potion.

One of the drawbacks of natural healing potions is they spoil.  Because they are made of natural ingredients they have a self life.  There is a chance that when a character takes a swig he discovers the concoction has turnedAnother issue is a healing potion cannot be used on an unconscious person. The character just chokes and spits it out. So if Igor the Meatshield is down after a battle, trying to revive him with a natural healing potion won't work. And lastly, natural healing potions can only be consumed once a day. Drinking multiple doses has no additional affect.

I use these types of healing potions for my gritty games, where its a low-level grind and resources are scarce. Magical healing potions are rare and expensive.

The Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Can be purchased in large quantities 
The Cons
  •  Since they are made of natural ingredients the potions can spoil
  • Cannot be used on an unconscious person 
  • Multiple uses don't equal more hit points
One of the rules I used to have with natural healing potions was it enhanced the healing when resting. So the healing would be rolled after a night's rest. This was a bit problematic. So I dropped that requirement. 

Magical Healing Potions
Magical healing potions are what most think of when reading the game books. A swig of instant healing. Of various strengths. These types of healing potions don't have to be imbibed to work, they can be poured over the wounded area to seal a nasty chest wound.

Drawbacks. First off the components to create magical healing potions is not easy to come by. Some sort of regenerative creature's blood is required. Such as imps, ogre magis, quasits, trolls, and vampires just to name a few from the 1st edition Monster Manual. Trolls are preferred. Some shops keep a troll imprisoned and bleed him when they need more for potions. This practice is frowned upon. Not because of troll rights activists, but the damage the trolls cause when they get loose.

Alchemists put the supply of healing potions back on the adventurers, "You want the healing potions, go get me some good blood. Now stop bothering me." Evil mages bleed an imp or quasit familiar for a drop or two without it getting too pissed.

 The Pros
  • Heals instantly
  • Doesn't need imbibed, can be poured over wounds
  • Can drink multiple potions throughout the day
The Cons
  •  Expensive
  • Ingredients are difficult and dangerous to obtain
  • Limited quantity
Side Effects
I sometimes implement side effects with healing potions. The natural potions not so much, but for magical healing potions here are a few of the side effects I have used. These are to give the potions a little more character in game play and some add to the usefulness of the potions. 
  • The healing potion has a warming affect, not unlike a shot of alcohol
  • The character gets tired, especially if several does are drank in a single day. The body's metabolism is running high to heal those wounds thus draining the strength from the imbiber.
  • Some healing potions can do additional things, such as neutralize poison or eliminate parasites (such as rot grubs). 
  • There have been occasions where a healing potion has caused hallucinations. The character is unable to define reality making him or her a danger to others and/or themselves. 
Lastly, I do like to vary these common items from culture to culture. Even among races their version of what heals are different. Or their magic formulas will vary on how to concoct the perfect healing potion. 

Thanks for reading.


  1. Great ideas, I'll implement them in my campaign.

  2. I have something similar in my AD&D games, but non-magical potions are made by alchemists.
    These have the benefit of magical healing potions, but are more like super caffeine and in 2d6 turns after their use, the consumer will fall exhausted for 1d6 turns, and need a full night's sleep to do more than the most basic of tasks.

    1. Yeah, that's one version I've used also. Do you find serves the game well?

    2. It usually means the players are desperate to live through a battle, or have found a safe place to hole up until they've rested enough to move on.
      Players aren't guzzling them, as they have to deal with the crash a short time later.

  3. Seems to me that making non-magical potions would be a nice skill for Rangers and Druids to have.

  4. You mentioned salves in the first paragraph. Can those be used on unconscious party members? Is the drawback that it takes longer to apply them than it does drinking a potion? Do you have a mechanic for the spoilage time? Did you have a particular effect for spoilage?

    Regarding dropping your requirement for a night's rest: what if it provided an additional benefit when consumed as part of a night's rest?

  5. The healing salves are the alternate healing I've used in the past. They are applied to the wounds, the target does not need to be conscious, but won't become conscious until a night's rest.

    Thanks for the comment!

    My mechanic for spoilage is roll percentage dice, and depending on which merchant you bought them from it could be a 10% to 25% chance of spoilage. No effect other than it tasted terrible.

    Additional benefit could always be worked out. My games are bargain sessions with my players. If they would like to attempt it, and it seems like a good idea we run with it.