The Art of Potion Brewing

Copyright Thomas A Stobie, SFO © 2004

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"It is necessary to consider the quantity and potency of each ingredient and how the ingredients interact."

Introduction

This article discusses the creation of potions in the Rolemaster System. It explains how herbs and other substances can be useful in magical potions, introduces the potion brewing skill, and expands spell mastery options for potion brewing.

Table of Contents

Herbs and Magical Potions

Certain herbs have properties that affect living creatures. When correctly prepared, these herbs may mimic effects normally produced by magic or natural forces (such as healing).

By incorporating herbs in a magical potion (with similar effects), it becomes easier to craft magical potions. Certain minerals, non-herbal plants, and animal parts (particularly magical animals) can have similar effects. The way in which the substance is raised or cultivated will influence its potency. Likewise how the substance is prepared and mixed with other substances will impact its potency.


Potion Brewing Skill

Potion Brewing is a new skill in the Crafts Category focused on brewing potions, magical and non-magical. It entails understanding how to select components for a potion based on their properties and the desired effect of the potion, how to mix the components to best gain the desired effect, how to incorporate alchemical magic into the process, and how to make multiple doses simultaneously.

For non-magical potions, Potion Brewing augments herb preparation (and possibly alchemy) to properly create a potion from ingredients. A successful potion brewing maneuver indicates an effective mixture of ingredients that achieves the desired effect. Higher results indicate greater potency, usually in the form of additional doses. Non-magical potion brewing takes at least twenty minutes and possibly several hours depending on the effects desired.

For magical potions, Potion Brewing expands the options available to Alchemists. Ingredients can be used to produce multiple doses or to decrease the brewing time. Tomes containing known potion formulae can also be very useful in the brewing process by providing specific directions and lists of ingredients, and may list alternative components that can be used if the desired component is not available.

When brewing potions, it is necessary to consider the quantity and potency of each ingredient and how the ingredients interact. The Potency Table indicates the value of ingredients based on their applicability to the potion. To use this table, the GM must determine the applicability of each ingredient. Multiply the potency of each ingredient by its quantity (usually 2-3 ounces of raw material corresponds to one unit). Then, add these values to determine the final potency. The Potency Benefit Table indicates the benefits gained.

Note that the Herbalist Talent gives a special +20 bonus to the Potion Brewing skill.

Skill Modifiers:

  • Successful secondary skill use: +5 - +50; see the Applicable Secondary Skills/Spells Table)
  • Equipment Quality
    • Excellent: +20
    • Good: +10
    • Fair: +0
    • Poor: -10
    • Very Poor: -20
  • Proven Formula (exceptional quality): +40
  • Proven Formula (normal quality): +20
  • Proven Formula (poor quality): +10
  • Unclean conditions: -10 (or more if applicable)

Applicable Secondary Skills/Spells Table
Secondary Skills/Spells Use Effects
Alchemy skill Helps in the preparation and mixing of substances to achieve particular results. Can also serve as a lore skill concerning non-organic substances and their properties. Can improve substance preparation and the potion brewing process.
Fauna, Flora, & Herb Lore skills Provides information regarding the properties of animal, plant, and herbal components and how they can be varied under different developmental conditions and preparation methods. Can improve substance preparation and the potion brewing process.
Herb Mastery spells May help herbs grow and nay increase the potency of herbal ingredients. Can increase the potency of crops.
Horticulture skill Needed to raise plant components effectively (and in some cases, under special conditions, to achieve certain properties) May be necessary to achieve certain special properties. Can increase potency of crops.
Prepare Herbs skill May improve the applicability and potency of herbs. Can improve substance preparation and the potion brewing process.
Spell Mastery skill Can be used to shorten the time needed to create magical potions. see Additional Uses for Spell Mastery.

Potency Table

Applicability Potency
Excellent 1
Good 0.7 - 0.9
Fair 0.3 - 0.6
Poor 0.05 - 0.25
Neutral 0
None 0 or negative

Neutral Substances can be used to improve the flavor, change the color,change the texture, etc.,but do not influence the potency. Magical enhancement of an ingredient can improve its potency (based GM discretion).

Potency Benefit Table
Total Potency Benefits
> 0.5 Multiply potency by 4* (round down) to determine Brewing options.

Brewing options can be used as follows:
  • Brewing time reduction - Divide the standard brewing time by (1 + [# options spent to reduce time]/2) to determine the actual time required.

  • Extra dose - An extra dose is produced for each option spent.
* GM's can lower this factor from 4 (to 3 or even 2) to make mass potion brewing more difficult.
0.2 - 0.5 Brewing time is reduced by 25%.
0.1 - 0.2 Brewing time is reduced by 10%.
< 0.1 No special benefits

Potion Brewing Static Manuever Table

Result Non-Magical Potions Magical Potions
-26 down
Spectacular
Failure:
You have failed miserably in potion brewing. However, you are so oblivious you do not even notice the horrible odor produced and so self-absorbed that you are convinced you have suceeded admirably. Your bumbled efforts generate results similiar to Absolute Failure, below, but you will defend your work until irrefutable evidence is presented that you have failed. You have failed miserably in potion brewing. However, you are so oblivious you do not even notice the horrible odor produces and so self-absorbed that you are convinced you have suceeded admirably. Your bumbled efforts generate results similiar to Absolute Failure, below, but you will defend your work until irrefutable evidence is presented that you have failed.
-25 - 04
Absolute
Failure:
Your inept attempts at potion brewing have resulted in a poisonous substance and have damaged much of your equipment, which must be repaired or replaced before it can be used again. Your inept attempts at potion brewing have resulted in a poisonous substance and have damaged much of your equipment, which must be repaired or replaced before it can be used again. You spend 90% of the time required before realizing your failure.
05 - 75
Failure:
You know something has gone wrong and that all your time and ingredients have been wasted. About a half the way through the brewing process, you realize something has gone wrong and that all your time and ingredients have been wasted.
UM 66
Unusual Event:
In the middle of the process, you notice something strange happening and realize that one of the components has additional properties that you did not allow for that have ruined the potion. It may have been poor preparation or just a variation in the component itself. After about a quarter of the process, you notice something strange happening and realize that one of the components has additional properties that you did not allow for that have ruined the potion. It may have been poor preparation or just a variation in the component itself.
76 - 90
Partial
Success:
You are not achieving the desired result, but can salvage the materials and continue (try again) after some rest (at least a full day). You are not achieving the mesh of craft and magic you desired, so you postpone the work for two days to consider how to better interleave craft with magic.
UM 100
Unusual
Success:
During the successful brewing process you make certain observations that permit you to make a improvement in the formula you were using. This results in a better proven formula for later use. During the successful brewing process you make certain observations that permit you to make a improvement in the formula you were using. This results in a better proven formula for later use.
91 - 110
Near
Success:
It takes a couple hours longer than expected as you failed to allow for certain ingredient interactions. Maybe next time, you will prepare and mix the ingredients better. Apparently the ingredients were not as potent as you thought. The brewing time is 20% longer than expected.
111 - 175
Success:
The process goes like clockwork. No problems at all. The brewing and magical infusion mesh nicely. All desired effects achieved.
176 up
Absolute
Success:
Wonderful! The process went perfectly and the resulting potion should last a very long time. When imbibed, the potion even tastes good. Your fame continues to grow. You find that not only did everything go well, but the magic seemed to be absorbed faster due to the excellent process, resulting in an additional 40% reduction in the brewing time.

Additional Uses for Spell Mastery

Using Spell Mastery, a caster can reduce the apparent level of a spell (to a minimum of half its original level). This makes it easier for other spells to interact with it. In the context of potion brewing, this means cheaper versions of the Imbed and Potion spells may be required.

Using Spell Mastery on an alchemical spell can increase its potency so that one day of item creation counts as multiple days. The same potency modifier must be applied to each alchemical spell required.

Note: These uses of spell mastery can be applied to non-potion item creations as well. Reduced spell level can be useful in the context of other spell interactions as well.

Additional Spell Mastery Modifiers
Reduced Effective Spell Level
This effect makes a spell behave as if it were lower level. The maximum reduction is 50% of the original level.

# Levels & Modifier
Increased Alchemical Potency
This effect makes alchemical spells more potent to speed the construction of magic items. The spells still have a 24 hour duration, but the total construction time is reduced based on the potency.

Increased Potency & Modifier
-1 -10 -4 -100 -7 -280
-2 -30 -5 -150 -8 -360
-3 -60 -6 -210 -9 -450
x1.5 -20 x3.0 -95 x4.5 -215
x2.0 -40 x3.5 -130 x5.0 -265
x2.5 -65 x4.0 -170 x5.5 -320


Different Forms of Potions

Potions are normally liquids but can be prepared in other forms as well.

  • Gas: This represents a gaseous potion that is inhaled. This requires the Gaseous Potion spell to be part of the enchantment process.

  • Salve: This represents a lotion or paste, like burn cream, that is applied directly to the area to be affected. Magical salves need only be applied to some part of the area to be affected. Non-magical salves must be applied to the entire area to be affected.

  • Solid Consumable: This represents a solid (cooked) food, such as bread, wafers, etc., that must be consumed, instead of a liquid that must be drunk. For magical solid consumables, the magical effect is delayed by one round. For non-magical solid consumables, digestion can significanly delay effect onset.


Potion Recommendations

  1. To permit lots of healing potions, herbs associated with specific healing effects should be available to those who brew healing potions (both magical and non-magical).

  2. Herbs with non-healing properties should generally be much rarer than those with healing properties, so that non-healing potions are correspondingly rare.

  3. Remember that most herbs require or prefer specific growing environments and will be much rarer away from their natural environment. Many gaming worlds provide a list of normal herbs, what environs they may be found in, and how rare they are.

  4. Remember that if the brewer is attempting to make multiple doses, that he needs to use more ingredients to increase the potency. By limiting the availabilty of ingredients you limit the number of doses that can be produced.

  5. Finding a Tome of Potion Formulae can make an entire adventure worth the effort.

  6. Likewise, finding a Tome of Alchemy that lists the properties associated with various substances can be a good find as well.

  7. If a character wants a specific potion made, part of the cost can be acquiring the special components needed to make it work.


Sample Potion Brewing

  1. Hilda the Animist is brewing a batch of her "Stop Bleeding" (non-magical) potion. She is using potency-enhanced Fek and Harfy, as well as other ingredients. She has sized her batch with enough ingredients to get a potency of 9.75 which allows her to produce 40 doses (1+9.75*4). She has cultivated and prepared the herbs well (+50), is using a proven formula of normal quality (+20), is using fair equipment (+0) in her clean workshop. Her skill bonus is +65 and her static manuever roll was 37. She succeeds (172), a bit disappointed that it doesn't smell a little bit better. She now has 40 doses of her "Stop Bleeding" potion which takes 1 round to take effect, but permits the patient to move after the bleeding stops.

  2. Ludwig the Healer (who has some Alchemical spell lists) is brewing a Major Fracture Repair True Potion. This is a 9th level spell on the Bone Ways List. He is using a proven formula (normal quality) that uses a number of different herbs that affect bone healing as well as a potion base designed for rapid absorption of healing spells by the drinker. He has good spell mastery ability, and will spell master the Major Fracture Repair True spell to act as a 5th level spell, permitting him to use Potion V and Imbed V spells. He also chooses to spell master these to increase alchemical potency to 3.5 times normal. The ingredients used give him a potency of 4 (16 options). He uses 8 options on time reduction, and 8 options on additional doses.

    His expected time is (15 (Potion V) + 11 (Imbed V) + 9 (Major Fracture Repair True) = 35/4 weeks (per Treasure Companion). This is divided by 3.5 for alchemical potency, and divided by 5 for the potion potency options spent on time reduction, resulting in an expected 3.5 days to brew and magically enchant the potion.

    He spends his 3.5 days working on the potion and succeeds in his potion brewing. He now has 9 doses of a Major Fracture Repair True potion.