12 June 2021


I'm still here, real life has just been a bit demanding lately. Now that I do have some time again, I've started reading the Dresden Files and immediately, there's a game-able idea in there. The potion-making in the books would make a nice ad hoc alchemy system for player-made potions.


If you follow traditional mage-craft, then potions are made with seven ingredients and an alchemical base. If you follow the new trends in magical research, then potions are made of eight parts. Now that this academical debate that changes nothing is out of the way, the following ingredients are needed:

  • Five to engage the five senses.
  • One for the mind.
  • One for the spirit.
  • A liquid base to bind them all together.

You also need a cauldron.

The ingredients do not need to be expensive or magical of themselves. They form a symbolic medium that is then filled with magic through the ritualistic alchemical process, influenced by the alchemist's intentions. Except for the alchemical base, they also need not be physical. If you wish to add moonlight, for example, you can brew outside on a clear night, or when you need a child's first cry, get yourself a woman in labour.

Therefore, there are no set recipes for potions. Each part should symbolize the required outcome, but things with similar symbolism are interchangeable. The players should think about the effect they want their potion to accomplish, and then justify the ingredients they are using to the GM. If the ingredients make a lot of sense/are funny or clever/are expensive or rare, the potion will be more potent.

Brewing a potion always takes several hours* of stirring the cauldron, keeping the fire properly lit and mumbling arcane phrases from old books. It's a ritual, the alchemist cannot just let it bubble and go do something else. Afterwards, no matter the ingredients used, everything will have melted and mixed together into a smooth potion. The potion will also be safe to drink, no matter the ingredients used.

Potions do not have a long shelf life, they go bad after a day and a night. Brewing permanently potent potions takes a month, expensive ingredients, an alchemical lab built over a ley line, and in general should be left to the NPCs.

Drinking a stale potion is a VERY BAD IDEA. Drinking a potion while still under the influence of another is slightly less bad idea.

d6 Oops! I Drank a Stale Potion

  1. Vomit for d4 minutes.
  2. Gain a horrific mutation, or one based on the potion's effect. Equal chances.
  3. Drop to 0 hp and Save vs poison.
  4. The potion has a random effect instead.
  5. Nothing happens, at first. The potion's effect will kick in at the worst possible time in the next 24 hours.
  6. You didn't get to drinking the potion. As soon as you uncorked the bottle, it started to boil and overflow. Everyone nearby has to Save or get scalded.

d6 Oops! I Drank Multiple Potions

  1. Save or immediately vomit for d4 rounds. On success, vomit only after the effects wear off. The potions work normally, though.
  2. Gain a mutation for d6 hours. Save afterwards, or it's permanent.
  3. One of the potion's effect is inverted.
  4. One of the potion's power is increased hundredfold, dangerously so.
  5. The potions' effects combine in an inconvenient manner and quadruple in duration.
  6. The potions' effects suddenly stop. No potions will work for you for d6 days.



Here are several example recipes from the Dresden Files:

Escape Potion
BaseEnergy drink
SightFlickering of shadows
SmellMotor oil
TouchBird feathers
TasteCoffee beans
MindBus ticket
SpiritBroken chain

Love Lust Potion
SoundAroused sigh
TasteDark chocolate
SpiritLove letter

Stimulant Potion
SightSunshine at dawn
SoundCock's crow
SmellFresh soap
TouchWash cloth
MindA to-do list
SpiritCheerful music

Inconspicuousness Potion
SightClear plastic
SoundLight wind
TouchWhite cotton
TasteLettuce leaf
MindBlank paper
SpiritElevator music
A potion can be made only with water,
meat, vegetables and spices.
From Charmed.

*) One watch, just like foraging for food or setting up a camp would take. The time doesn't change if you're making more than one dose, you just need a bigger cauldron and more of the ingredients.

**) Though apparently enough cash also works.

***) If you like something else for breakfast, you would use that instead.


  1. An interesting idea: can't believe I never thought about game-ifying the Dresden Files' methods of potion-brewing, especially as I'm rereading the series right now.

    This is also a good system, because it could enable your Magi to cobble together a potion from random ingredients they have lying around and hope for the best, instead of a situation where you find your players saying, "We need another health potion, so we have to go get more Giant's Foot Mushrooms from the Forest of the Screaming Antelope." Though the latter has it's advantages too, of course.

    What I would do is add a Brew Check mechanic.

    You have to roll 1d20 to roll a potion, and get bonuses or penalties based on what preparations you do or do not do. For example, if a $50 bill a sufficient replacement for a Diamond? That's +2 to the DC. Or are you brewing this potion in a place rich with natural mana, that's a -1 to the DC.

  2. Very nice. In the books Dresden is capable of bottling up sounds and sights, while I imagine a novice alchemist would have some trouble distilling such substances.

    It also encourages shelves upon shelves of weird ingredients, and fossicking for Weird Stuff!