Friday, 23 January 2015

The Elder Scrolls Conversion Project; Alchemy

Alchemy in the Elder Scrolls Games always played an important role. Potions and poisons were an important part of gameplay and tactics, characters could either boost themselves with powerful potions or put their enemies in tough situations by using them. Drinking potions is also an important way of regaining health and Magicka for adventurers when resting is out of questions. In this regard, the Elder Scrolls world is much more high magic than a default D&D setting, so a rework for potions and poisons is much needed.


To classify potions and poison, I will use the default rarity system presented in 5th edition. The rarity levels are the following:
Very Rare

As mentioned above the world of Tamriel is more high magic, so most of the potions are either Common, or Uncommon, and only in a few cases will be different.

Buying/Selling potions and poisons:

Potions are useful, even commoners could use potions to heal their wounds and injuries, and alchemists figured this out. Almost all cities and towns have alchemist shops where the commoners and adventurers could buy the necessary potions for a fair price of septims. But creating potions is a time consuming process and they don't last forever, so most alchemists won't have a large supply ready all the time. Adventurers can likely buy their necessary draughts, but they couldn't stack up too much of it. It is a fine way to limit your players from carrying hundreds of phials around.
Buying poisons is a bit trickier. Most alchemists won't sell dangerous poisons due to imperial regulation. The most dangerous poison found at an alchemist is most likely rat poison. Shady alchemists and criminals will probably have some more powerful poisons available.
Selling potions and poisons is usually much more difficult. Since they spoil easily, alchemists won't buy large quantities of potions, unless they have a sufficiently large circle of steady buyers. Selling poisons is near impossible.
For prices of potions see the table below.

Spoiling potions and poisons:

Potions will spoil in about 2 weeks from the day they were made. Most alchemists sell fresh potions only, but some shady deals could result in buying spoiled brews, or soon to be spoiled ones.
Drinking a spoiled potion could have no effect, or some random magical effect depending on the GM's discretion. As a rule of thumb, most spoiled potions will give 1 level of exhaustion and have no positive effects.
Spoiled poisons will have no effect at all, or some random magical effect depending on the GM's discretion.

Creating potions and poisons:

Creating potions and poisons requires ingredients (see below), expertise, time and tools. Any character proficient with alchemist's tools can create potions and poisons. Each hour a character spends brewing potions will progress 5 septim towards the finished product. When the price of the potion is reached, it is finished.
To determine the price of a potion consult the table below. The price of the potion represents the price of the ingredients used up during the brewing. If you want to enhance one of the effects of the potions, simply multiply it in price. A Restore Health potion that restores 3d4 health, costs 30 septims for example. Similarly if you would want to create a potion that grants an advantage on attack rolls for 2 minutes, it would cost 80 septims.

It is not uncommon for a potion/poison to have multiple effects. To create a potion/poison with mutliple effects, simply add the prices of the effects together. A potion that grants advantage in both the Stealth and Sleight of hand for 1 minute (Could be called Potion of Thieves) would cost 80 septims. If you also want to have stronger effects, use the previous rule on multiplying the price, then add them together.

There could be other effects you want in your game, if you want to create something, consult this table, and create a price category that you think would be fitting.

Important! These prices represent the prices of the ingredients and creating the potion itself. Most merchants and alchemists will have their prices increased by 50%  to 100% percent. While a player character can create a Potion of minor healing, restoring 1d4 health in two hours, using ingredients worth 10 septims, he can also buy it at a store for the price of 15 to 20 septims.

Restore Health per 1d4 Health
10 septims
Restore Magicka per 1d4 Magicka
20 septims
Damage Health per 1d4 Health
10 septims
Damage Magicka per 1d4 Magicka
20 septims
Grant advantage in a skill or attack rolls for 1 minute
40 septims
Grant disadvantage in a skill or attack rolls for 1 minute
40 septims
Grant resistance against 1 element for 1 minute
40 septims
Grant vulnerability against 1 element for 1 minute
40 septims
Cure non-magical disease
40 septims
Cure magical disease
80 septims
Grant invisibility for 1 minute
120 septims
Grant dark vision 60 feet for 1 minute
40 septims
Grant water breathing for 1 minute
40 septims
Grant water walking for 1 minute
80 septims
Grants magic resist for 1 minute
120 septims
Grants increased movement speed by 5 feet for 1 minute
40 septims


To create a potion, a character needs ingredients. Normally, these can be bought in an alchemist store, in this case the player pays some coins to create a potion. For ease of play, this can be simplified in a way that a player spends an amount of gold at an alchemist for "Ingredients" which can be used to create any type of potion the player wishes to create, using a pool of septims. For example, the player of Fadril buys ingredients worth of 200 septims. Everytime Fadril creates a potion, the price of the ingredients is substracted from the pool of 200 septims. When the pool is gone, the ingredients have ran out.
If Fadril gathers ingredients, while the game uses this method of tracking ingredients, the GM should announce how much septims worth of ingredients Fadril managed to gather.

However, if you wish to play in a more realistic way, you can keep track of individual ingredients, and only allow players create potions, they have the ingredients for. Gathering ingredients from the natural world should be done by a roll of Intelligence, proficiency from Herbalist's kit applies, while gathering ingredients from magical creatures and Daedra would require an Arcana roll.

Optional rule: Side effects for potions. 
Not all (in fact, almost none) ingredients have only positive or negative effects. Most of them have mixed effects, and unless the potions are being brewed by an especially skilled alchemist, the side effects will show. As an optional rule, the you can introduce side effects into potions easily. If you use the money pool solution for tracking ingredients determine randomly a negative effect, or pick one of your choice.
If you use the ingredient tracking, determine positive and negative effects for each ingredient, and have them apply when they are being used.
Warning: Potions wouldn't have a side effect that cancels the primary effect unless the brewing fails! A Restore health potion wouldn't have damage health side effects.

Example potions:

Restore minor Health
Price: 15-20 septims

This red colored clear liquid comes in a small phial, and it smells healthy and somehow full of life. Consuming it instantly restores 1d4 health to the user.

Restore minor Magicka
Price: 30-40 septims

This blue misty liquid swirls around in its bottle, and smells of strange, indescribable smell. Consuming it instantly restored 1d4 Magicka to the user. If the user is not a magic user nothing happens.

Potion of minor Deft Hands
Price: 60-80 septims

This potion smells of dust, and it has a neutral, grey color. Consuming it grants an advantage on all Sleight of Hand checks for 1 minute.

Restore major Health
Price: 60-80 septims

It looks and smells like a restore minor health potion, but the liquid is heavier and flows a bit more slowly. Consuming it instantly restores 4d4 health to the user

Potion of Invisibility
Price: 180-240 septims

The container of this liquid seems empty, if not for the weight, people wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Drinking it instantly turns the user and all of its equipment invisible for 1 minute.

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