2nd Edition Potionmaking Skill / NWP

So I recently did a post about a 2nd Edition Scrollmaking Skill / NWP, which is a homebrew skill which allows PCs and NPCs to make scrolls even if they are levels 2 to 8. Normally a mage needs to be level 9 to do either potion-making or scroll-making.

Having the skills however allows the character to do scroll-making and potion-making at lower levels when having such things are more beneficial. However that doesn't mean that the task isn't still difficult.

If you read my previous post about Scrollmaking then you know it is still a daunting task just to make a single scroll, and that you need a recipe to find the necessary ink, quill and special paper to make the scroll. It is still possible to make scrolls without following a recipe precisely, but the PC's chance of success drops considerably.

The same goes with my homebrew Potionmaking Skill.

The goal here is to allow PCs to still make potions if they want to, but they will need to either find a recipe - or they need to experiment.

Unlike Scrollmaking, which can still be successful using cheap materials, Potionmaking must have the materials required for the potion to work. However, without a recipe it is still possible to make a potion without actually following a recipe. The problem is that it is trial and error as to whether their experiment actually works, and if it fails then they wasted both their time and materials and money. In this respect, experimenting with potionmaking is a bit like Wild Magic. There is no guarantee it will work, there is no guarantee it will make something you want. eg. The person might make a Firebreathing potion instead of a Resist Fire potion.

As per the DMG (page 87) creating a potion costs between 200 to 1000 gp, and this cost is associated with the level of the spell the creator is trying to imbue the potion with.

Thus here are the creation costs and brewing times for various potions:
  • Potion of Climbing - 200 gp, 2 days
  • Potion of Healing* - 200 gp, 2 days
  • Potion of ESP - 300 gp, 3 days
  • Potion of Invisibility - 300 gp, 3 days
  • Potion of Levitation - 300 gp, 3 days
  • Potion of Clairaudience - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Clairvoyance - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Flying - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Speed - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Waterbreathing - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Extra Healing* - 600 gp, 6 days
  • Elixir of Health - 700 gp, 7 days
  • Elixir of Youth - 1000 gp, 10 days

* Remember only clerics or druids can make Potions of Healing, Elixirs of Health, Potions of Extra Healing*, etc. Likewise clerics and druids cannot create potions that only wizards can create, unless the potion is part of their domain. eg. A cleric who worships a fire god could still make potions of Firebreathing. Or likewise a priest who worships a water god could create a Waterbreathing potion.

The creation cost is based on the bare minimum needed to create an equivalent magic. eg. A mage needs to be at least 5th level to cast Haste, thus they also need to be 5th level to be able to create a Potion of Speed.

Notice also that this is only the base creation cost. This does not include the cost of any special ingredients or the cost of making a laboratory for wizards/druids (or an altar for priests).

The base cost of a laboratory is a minimum of 2000 gp, + 10% / 200 gp per month to replace broken items. This only covers the costs of furnishings and equipment. The Potionmaker still needs a place to store their smelly creation factory.

The base cost of a special altar (for priests) is similarly 2000 gp + 10% / 200 gp per month for new candle, new incense, repairs, holy water, etc. It doesn't smell so bad, but since some people might worship other deities and interrupt the process it is usually best to build this altar in a place where the priest will not be distracted and interrupted.

eg. Building it in a cave sounds like a great idea until a sleepy bear shows up and wants to claim the cave for its new den.

The Chance of Success

70% base chance
+1% for every 2 levels of the spellcaster
-1% for every 100 gp cost (or days)
+5% for every Special Ingredient collected
+5% for having the Potionmaking Skill

eg. Making an Elixir of Youth (which requires the caster to be able to cast 9th level spells) would have the following chance:

70% + 9% for a 18th level mage -10% for the 1000 gp / 10 days it takes to create = 69% chance of success.

Remember the DM should be rolling in secret for the PC and writing down the number. They could make a cursed potion by accident.

With such a mediocre chance of success (and failure means a Cursed Elixir of Youth which ages the imbiber), the mage should really want to boost their chances by collecting as many Special Ingredients as they can, which is why it would be handy to find a Recipe of Elixir of Youth before attempting this process.

And having the Potionmaking Skill / NWP would also be handy, as it would also provide an extra 5% chance.

Ability: Intelligence
Check Modifier: 0
Prerequisites: Must be at least level 2 spellcaster, Mages/Bards must have Herbalism or Alchemy*, Druids must have Healing or Herbalism, whereas Clerics must have either Religion, Herbalism, Astrology or Healing.

* Alchemy isn't listed in the PHB, but there are other sources. Some DMs may allow Alchemy as a skill by itself, which is useful for making acid, glue, alchemist's fire, and various other alchemical creations.

Note - Unlike Scrollmaking, being literate isn't necessary. Although being able to read/write is handy if the Potionmaker finds a recipe and needs to be able to read it.

  • The potionmaker can make potions, philters, oils and elixirs starting at level 2 instead of the normal level 9 requirement. (They may want to leave a skill slot empty so they can take this skill at level 2, otherwise they may need to wait until level 3.)
  • The potionmaker gains +5% to their potionmaking check for each proficiency slot spent on their Potionmaking skill.
  • At levels 2, 4, 6 and every 2 levels afterwards the potionmaker chooses 1 new spell for which they have learned a new recipe for creating potions.
  • The potionmaker can find recipes for how to make scrolls at the DM's discretion. Libraries, sages, seers may be able to provide recipes, at the DM's discretion.
  • By sniffing a potion or daubing a tiny sample of it on their skin, the potionmaker can attempt to identify an unknown potion by making an Potionmaking check. If successful, they have guessed its usage. (Potions of Delusion and similar cursed potions may still confuse them however.)
  • The potionmaker can attempt an experiment to create a potion recipe using rare ingredients. Their base chance to succeed is 5% at level 2, which improves to 10% level 3, and improves 5% at each level thereafter. eg. A level 11 mage would have a 50% chance of discovering a new recipe. They still pay all the costs associated and the number of days conducting the experiment is still spent, regardless of whether they fail or succeed.
  • Even if their experiment failed, there is a 5% chance (96 to 100 on percentile dice) of creating something potentially useful. eg. A Firebreathing potion if they were trying to make a Resist Fire potion. Or perhaps they invented a new kind of poison.
  • Potion Recipes can only improve the potionmaker's chances by a combined maximum of 15% if they manage to collect all the ingredients (usually there is 3 or 4 ingredients).
  • Making a successful Potionmaking skill check can allow the potionmaker some useful knowledge when dealing with certain creatures. eg. They might remember that Su-Monster meat is mildly poisonous, and thus useful for making ingested poisons.

Sample Potion Recipes

Philter of Love Recipe
  1. Nymphs Tears*
  2. Sweat from a Noble Lamia
  3. Essence of a Blue Mountain Rose
  4. Potionmaker must have Charm Monster in their spellbook and be able to cast it.
* Page 270 of the Monster Manual, under Nymph Ecology "The tears of a nymph can be used to as an ingredient in a Philter of Love.

Paralyzing Poison Recipe
  1. The proboscis of a jungle stirge
  2. Ground wolfsbane or monkshood
  3. The poison glands of a desert heway
  4. Potionmaker must be at least level 7.
Note - All 3 of these things are already paralytic poisons, but combining all 3 together successfully will make a poison that has a -4 saving throw, and thus is more potent and useful. Furthermore it will have a better shelf-life than normal poisons which lose their potency over time. As a magical potion, this will never lose its potency.

Potion of ESP
  • The ground brain of a mindflayer
  • Boiled slime from a gray ooze
  • Two eyes from an elven cat
Note - Some PCs may object to taking the eyes of an elven cat, so remember they don't always have to follow the recipe completely. Having all 3 ingredients gives a +15% to the chance of successfully making the potion, but having only 2 ingredients will still provide a +10% chance of success.

Advanced Alchemy and Advanced Herbalism

At the DMs option they may also allow PCs to create specific alchemical recipes or herbalism recipes.


The players find both Belladonna flowers and Xarsian Red Turnips, both of which are poisonous when eaten. By mixing them however and making a Herbalism check they might be able to make an ingested poison with a -2 saving throw which has a combined dire effect and a better shelf life than other poisons (although not a permanent shelf life like a magical poison would have).

Likewise, an alchemist could find some magnesium, naphtha, tar and other chemicals which they can use for making alchemist's fire (Greek Fire was a closely guarded secret recipe). If they combine the ingredients using an Alchemy skill check they manage to make a jar of the stuff which can be thrown at enemies.

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